Atheists In Church

I once went to a wedding at a Greek Orthodox church. It ended up just being a religious ceremony with a nervous couple waking around in a bazillion circles in front of a priest for 90 minutes. I wasn’t bothered by it. (Though, 90 minutes in, they guy said he would cut the service short. REALLY, dude?!!!) I didn’t feel I was endorsing some kind of religious activity by going. I just wanted to see my friends get hitched and have some free wine.

As a rule, I stay as far away from church ceremonies as possible. Unless someone is getting married or has died, I’ve no use for the place. And even on special occasions, my episodic attendance could at best only be labeled a concession. I’ll attend such rituals to honor my friends and spend time with them. But I think it is well known I myself do not ascribe to such beliefs.

But is there some line in the sand to be drawn between times one would sit through a church gathering, and times one would not? For instance, a wedding is ceremony symbolic of two people’s shared love. But, a christening is ceremony symbolic of committing a helpless child to christ (a long dead being of questionable existence). I feel that is very coercive. I certainly do not endorse religious indoctrination of babies.

But I don’t know that I would refuse to attend a christening simply on principle. I’d have to take on each situation as it arose. What if I was asked to be a godmother? I wouldn’t want to abandon my friend’s child. I could certainly be a spiritual guide for a child, though maybe not in the sense a religious person might want.

Knowing this is the only life I get to enjoy, I plan to make the most of it. I don’t need to spend ridiculous quantity of my scant time on Earth inside of four walls praying to nothing. But I love spending my brief time with my friends and family. And if I have to go to a church every once-in-a-while to be in on the party, I’ll do it.

Advertisements

Why Do You Hate The Things of God

I hate this question. Seriously? You are asking an atheist why she hates a god. Those who don’t see the ridiculousness of such a question are incomprehensibly thick headed.

An atheist, by definition, is someone who does not believe in the existence of deities. Atheism is not a religion, it is a state of being. In just the way that I am brown, I am atheist. I don’t believe I am brown. I know I am brown. I reject any assertions I am not brown (unless, of course, you are calling me some fancy synonymic word for brown). In the same way, I don’t believe I am atheist. I am atheist. Atheism is not a belief or a religion. Atheism is the rejection of the existence of deity in exchange for an evidence-based existence.

Atheism is NOT believing that there is no god. Here is an analogy. I don’t believe there is no god in the way I believe I will make it to work on time Monday. Believing I can make it to work on time implies that I also believe there is a chance I could be late. In that case, the logical thing to do would be to wake up and leave the house earlier than usual.

But a person who believes no god exists also may believe there is a chance a god may exist. That is agnosticism at best. I am NOT agnostic. I am an atheist. I know there are no gods. There is zero evidence of any deity. Therefore I reject the hypothesis altogether.

So why would you ask an atheist why they are mad at something he or she does not believe even exists? That’s like asking me why I am afraid of gryphons. It’s a completely illogical question because GRYPHONS DO NOT EXIST!

Gryphon

Seriously. Stupidest question ever.

Faking Persecution

Yes, bibles are allowed in public school. No, bibles are not banned from public schools. Anyone who tries to tell you bibles are banned is selling you something: that is a flaming bag of malodorous fakery.

idiotic bible meme

Bibles ARE allowed in schools. Just because a kid might feel embarrassed to bring a bible to school is not proof of any claim that the kid is prohibited from doing so. Peer pressure and prohibition are not the same things. Kids can have bibles in school. Kids can talk about religion in school as it may relate to history or literature. If such a discussion goes off on a tangent, I can see how a teacher would want to bring the discussion back onto topic. I can see how a teacher or other students might feel uncomfortable about talking about it. But that doesn’t make it against the rules.

Additionally, I hold that attributing the increased incarceration rate to lack of bible reading is not wholly truthful. Consider the role institutionalized racism has played in increasing the incarceration rate in this country. I believe that racism is the most influential factor in our increased prison population. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics‘ report “Prisoners in 2010,” Black men are imprisoned at 7 times the rate of white, non-Hispanic men. Black women are imprisoned at 3 times the rate for white, non-Hispanic women. Racism stymied education. Racism motivated the War on Drugs, which is singularly responsible for the imprisonment of nearly 20 percent of today’s prison population. Racism drives people to the streets and to crime to earn a living.

Racism is built into our social and government institutions. Urban centers with majority Black populations tend to have poorer schools, higher teacher-to-student ratios, higher teen pregnancy rates, and higher dropout rates. If one cannot get a job because because he or she lacks the necessary education, what does one do? Many people take the easy way out: sell drugs, become a prostitute, go on welfare, join a gang (all of which are arguable harder than taking the high road in the end). Sure, some people can and do turn to a church. But the church doesn’t have jobs for everyone. And joining a church won’t magically earn one a diploma.

Injecting religion into schools serves only to violate the rights of those – like me – who choose not to observe any religion as well as those who observe a different religion. The solution to every problem may seem simple when ones solution to everything is more religion. But religion doesn’t make racism go away. (Heck, religion even motivates bigotry in some cases.) And the fact that a simple claim of religious piety does not elicit the blind respect of yesteryear does not prove that our society needs to dump the First Amendment.

Personally, I’ve got no problem discussing the role religion played in shaping our society. But I draw the line at using lies to support giving religion a higher priority in public schools.

no bible meme

Dealing With Death

Common knowledge predisposes us to the ups and downs of human existence. The mere coincidence that we live puts each being on this Earth at the mercy of forces beyond control. One day you may be working and playing, minding your business. And the next? The earth could shift and destroy your home. A storm could sweep away everything you cherish. A wrong turn could end your lucky streak. In a day, an hour, an instant, your mood, your health, your well being, and even your life could change.
I think one of the most difficult experiences a person can feel is knowing death is imminent. I do not speak of the inevitable death we all will share. I certainly do not spend my days thinking about my own demise. (Though I spend much of it attempting to prolong my life.) I mean watching a friend die slowly. When you know the end of your days together is too close, when every word, every nod, every touch brings back the horrible memory that this friend’s body is failing him for the final time, the sadness can overtake you.
It can be so hard to put on the happy face. You can try not to think about it. Other people may try to cheer you up. You might over-compensate, forcefully constructing new memories between you at the end. But spending the extra time cannot slow down or stop the ascent of nothingness – the end of consciousness.
image

It doesn’t matter if this friend is human, feline, or canine. Life’s most precious gift can also be its curse. Years of unconditional love and friendship make the end of it all so much more tortuous. The greater the years, the freer the tears. And there are just so many of them.
I know that death is a part of life. But does great knowledge ease the pain of losing a friend? Can immense wisdom alleviate this affliction the specter of death has brought upon me?
Death is life. We don’t have to like it. We don’t even have to accept it. We just have to deal with it.

An Atheist and a Heretic Were Staring at a Christmas Tree

Every year I go through the same set of boring, old thoughts, “Should I try to talk my husband into putting up a tree this year? Why do I celebrate Xmas? I don’t believe the Christmas story. People get all weird about it too, when you say “Happy Holidays.” [insert eye roll] Why even bother? Though, it is fun to exchange gifts. And I like ham. Mmmm, ham.”

Besides the fundamental absurdity of Christmas, the holidays are a special time for most people. For me, getting together with family is an irresistible draw. I love my family (even the in-laws). Babies. Martinis. Puppies. Beer. Kittens. Wine. Children (even the bratty ones). More beer. Though I prefer Thanksgiving because of it’s general religiouslessness and edible focal point, my Xmas holiday is generally accompanied by copious paid time off and expiring vacation days  – the better to stare at my freaky family with.

That being said, holidays are for relaxing. I never go to church services on Christmas, or any other holiday. (The last time I was at a church service, someone had died. It was unavoidable.) Church on the holidays is antithetical to the holiday philosophy. I do not appreciate being annoyed. Therefore, I avoid things that annoy me. But Christmas annoys me. So why do I bother?

There are innate pros and cons to celebrating Xmas. Pro: presents! Con: people wishing you “Merry Christmas” Pro: ham. Con: religious songs. Pro: Santa. Con: fairy tales posed as reality. (insert irony here) Pro: FAMILY. Con: tremendous amounts of dirty dishes.

And if you don’t celebrate Xmas? Pro: not being annoyed. Con: constantly being annoyed with questions about why you won’t celebrate Christmas. So, you see, there is a net gain to embracing the holiday spirit! Mmmm, ham.

The only remaining question is, “To wreath, or not to wreath?”

The Incredulous Assertion of Heaven

How many times have we heard that old story, “I thought I’d died and went to heaven?” Well,  Newsweek and academic neurosurgeon Dr. Eben Alexander wants you to think he has – literally. In a classic example of proof in spite of fact, Dr. Alexander is using an uncanny (but not uncommon) experience during his unfortunate brush with death as proof that heaven exists without actually offering any evidence at all. But that, of course, is subjective.

Alexander’s evidence that heaven exists consists of fervent hope, evocative imagery and self-praise. Alexander first tries to paint himself as an objective, skeptical observer writing,

“I grew up in a scientific world… I had always believed there were good scientific explanations for the heavenly out-of-body journeys…

“Although I considered myself a faithful Christian, I was so more in name than in actual belief.”

Alexander attempts several times to gain the trust of his readers by touting his own prestige as a neurosurgeon, as if that gives him an edge in authenticating supernatural phenomena.

“I’ve spent decades as a neurosurgeon at some of the most prestigious medical institutions in our country.”

However, his only explanation for his “out of body” experience is mere subjective story telling.

According to current medical understanding of the brain and mind, there is absolutely no way that I could have experienced even a dim and limited consciousness during my time in the coma, much less the hyper-vivid and completely coherent odyssey I underwent.

Um, yes there is Mr. Alexander. It’s called brain activity. Despite your claims to the contrary, you were not brain dead while in your coma. I doubt your doctors put electrodes in your brain to measure brain activity. Rather than risk further brain infection by introducing a foreign object into dome, they most likely attached EEG contacts to the outside of your scalp, which explains the lack of evidence when you were truly conscious and when you were not. The cortex does not “shut down,” except in death. And with the level of chemical activity experienced by your brain during this bacterial onslaught, your medical treatment and recovery, the fact that your brain relayed such vivid experiences is not unexplainable or unexpected.

There is no scientific explanation for the fact that while my body lay in coma, my mind—my conscious, inner self—was alive and well.

Suddenly Mr. Alexander has an intimate understanding of the origin and nature of human consciousness? Questions on human consciousness – how it materializes, what parts of the brain enable it, and where it goes when we are unconscious – has puzzled scientists for centuries. But one guy gets knocked out, wakes up with a personal epiphany, and we are suddenly to believe he can explain what consciousness really is? I’ve solved engineering problems in my sleep; but let’s be realistic!

“Out-of-body” experiences are today’s Rubik’s Cube: tunnels of light, angels, darkness – the near-death experiences run the gamut in variation. We don’t understand the brain well enough to pinpoint why they happen, but there are some very interesting theories of consciousness. Rather than take the word of a doctor with great hopes, I think I’ll keep my skepticism in tact.

For more perspective, check out Sam Harris’ take on these heavenly shenanigans.

Does your state discriminate against you?

Imagine you want to run for public office. Maybe the state senator for your district just went to jail for corruption charges, or has resigned amidst a scandal. Or maybe you are just sick and tired of listening to the incumbent gas-bag who always votes party line and refuses to collaborate with his or her counterparts in the legislature.

You have an impressive CV – B.S. and Masters of Science degree, decades of business experience, student government positions, volunteer work. Your platform? You are pro-choice, support paycheck equality, increasing education funding, investing in infrastructure and emerging markets, diversifying energy supply, protecting the environment, push for Medicaid and Medicare reform, preventing religious instruction in public schools, protecting religious freedom & etcetera. You get all the necessary signatures, file all the necessary papers, build a website, rent a headquarters, shake a zillion hands, kiss a thousand fat-cheeked babies and……

But WAIT! You are an atheist, meaning you do not acknowledge the existence of a god.

And then someone files a lawsuit to block your candidacy on the grounds you do not believe in their god. The Constitution of the United States of America states that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust.” The Supreme Court of the United States of America also reaffirmed in Torasko v. Watkins that the states cannot require a person “to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion.”

But that may not matter. Your candidacy could be rejected or your appointment or election to public office revoked. And then could follow the court battles.

It’s a simple equation. While laws affirming religios tests exist in state constitutions and laws, the subversion of atheists’ rights prevails. Arkansas, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas all prohibit atheists from holding public office. Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion.

We are not free.