Enter The Fragile Ego – No Bubble!

Since when did we lose our ability to hold complex discussions without acting like children? No really. It’s near impossible to have a real conversation anymore. When did that happen? There has developed a barrage of rules about when certain topics are forbidden conversation:

  1. Don’t discuss sex or politics at dinner parties.
  2. Don’t discuss politics or religion at the bar.
  3. Don’t discuss diet at the dinner table.
  4. Never discuss personal matters at work.
  5. No sex or race or politics or religion on Facebook, please. (Cat pictures only!)

With all these rules, when can we ever really, seriously talk about anything at all?

It seems one cannot bring up thought provoking topics anymore without someone else becoming offended or throwing around accusations. Dare you state the obvious, and you are just being mean. Dare to infuse racial-sociological context, and you are being a troll. “You’re talking publicly about your disbelief in my god – that’s RELIGIOUS DISCRIMINATION!” “How dare you analyze my personal experiences in a political context you contentious bitch!” We’ve become so afraid of rocking the boat that even calling oneself a feminist has suddenly become controversial.

It’s hard to pin down from whence this fragile egotism originated. Is this a product of the white, fluffy cloud concept of political correctness? Are we so motivated by etiquette that we feel the need to censor face-to-face, written, scholarly and even web speech? Or is this inane treading on the shallow end of conversation pool manifest of a collective need not to pop our own comfortable bubbles of correctness?

The dumbing down rampant in our education system (along with a host of other problems) could be partially to blame. When education funding is razed, the first education programs to disappear with that funding tend to be the courses that facilitate independent scholarly reflection: literature, art, sociology or current events. When people do not get the well rounded education needed to autonomously think outside the box, how can we expect people to approach complex social or political issues in a constructive way?

Where do we land at the end of this tryst with superficiality? The result is a bedazzled populace more concerned with who Miley Cyrus is twerking on than whether extending unemployment benefits is beneficial to our economy. Such is a populace that also avoids discussing the influence of racism on our social-economic institutions, or how the exaltation of female virginity degrades and hurts women.

A culture of avoidance facilitates ignorance. Ignorance breeds isolation. Isolation breeds extremism. And goodness knows we’ve already too much of that. It’s high time to take off the rose glasses, pop the comfy bubble, and commence with the discourse of our lives.

Thanksgiving Thanks

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of the year. There just isn’t much not to like about Thanksgiving. And there is so much around to remind a person of how good they’ve got it.

Hence, the month of November brings with it a gravy wave of people expressing thankfulness. Some people make a daily public expression. I know one guy who makes a daily hate list. Some folks wait for the turkey’s last gobble before airing their laundry list of things to be thankful about.

I’m so thankful for my family and friends, the food on the table, this free country we live in, and etcetera.

Whence originates the conundrum serving as muse to this shenanigan of a post – thankful to whom? Thankful to what? Thankful to a god that likely doesn’t exist?

Uh, I don’t think so.

It is against my better nature to deny thanks where thanks is due. So instead of regaling my readers and friends with a diatribe of ethereal gratefulness, I’ve chosen a more direct approach.

I’m thankful to my wonderful parents for working so hard to provide for my sisters and me.

I’m thankful to my little sister for remembering all of the ways that I tortured her and my other sister when we were little. (Those are some funny stories.)

I’m thankful to my littlest sister for always skyping or calling me long distance.

I am thankful to Appa for scratching my back and being my best friend.

I’m thankful to whomever invented beer. (VERY thankful!)

I’m thankful to the engineers, scientists and doctors who’ve made it their life’s work to heal disease and improve the quality of life on this planet.

I’m thankful to my cats for showing me what a good bed I am, rubbing that cold, wet nose on my hand, shedding crap loads of soft fur all over my black pants, catching vermin and being so damn entertaining.

And I’m thankful to Shweeb for consistently picking me up when I am feeling beat down.

To whom are you thankful?

What Atheists Are Missing

For a long time, I was so unsure of myself. I questioned whether I was good enough. I questioned whether what I wanted was the right thing to want. I questioned whether I was being selfish, whether I was being prideful. I felt if God wasn’t answering my prayers, it was my fault for being jealous, or hateful or secretive.

For a very long time, I thought I was doing it wrong. I wasn’t believing hard enough. I wasn’t singing hard enough. I wasn’t focusing all my energy on God. That’s why I had doubts. That’s why I looked around in church to emulate what others were feeling. That’s why I always went to the altar to recommit myself, to repent. That’s why when the preacher puts his big sweaty hand on my head, I fell down with the rest of them.

I remember the last time. I feinted a blessed swoon and lied still on the floor, only to realize I had lain there too long and was the last one to “wake.” It was the last time I sought what I now consider a very duplicitous act.

I remember loathing myself. I loathed my body. I loathed the body that wanted to be with boys. I hated that I thought all those nasty thoughts the teacher warned about in Sunday classes. I was jealous or other girls. I wanted to kiss boys, and more. I was a bad person. I would surely go to Hell.

I hated being a girl. I was dirty, filthy, unclean. My blood was a curse. And I brought sin onto others for not being clean or virtuous enough.

I was afraid I would burn in hell. That I would be ripped asunder over and over again for all of eternity because I wasn’t good or virtuous or obedient enough.

And now…

Now that I am an atheist, I am missing so many things. I am missing the doubt. I’m missing the sense of loneliness. I am missing the self-consciousness. I’m missing the pretense. I’m missing the self-disgust. I’m missing the self-loathing. I’m missing the fear.

I dropped the heavy burden of religion that I was holding onto for dear life and an eternity from hell.

And I don’t miss any of those things.

I am an atheist.

And I am free.

Why Atheists Should Care About the Pope

Like many other atheists, I’m sure, I emitted a distinct air of indifference about all this pope selection business. I did think it was wise of the old guy to step down. Popin’ aint easy, ya know. And it is not like I could have had any influence whatsoever over the outcome of that conclave thing. Though I did think the @SistineSeagull thing was hilarious.

But in hindsight I find myself actually caring who becomes the next pope. Not because he is a spiritual leader. Not because he is the first non-European pope in eons. I care about who becomes pope because the man who assumes this position is given a very lofty soapbox. And what he uses that soapbox for can be really scary.

Will he use his soapbox to spread a message of love an tolerance? Will he use his soapbox to spread a message of respect and equality for women? When he dons that big white tiara, will he advocate for the freedom of homosexuals to live their lives as they see fit and experience love without persecution or violence? 

Atheists should care about these things. The pope has a billion faithful (to some degree or other) hanging on his every word. And these Catholic people run our schools, sit in our government (though, thank goodness we got rid of that Santorum craziness), and work on our police forces. A pope that uses his pulpit to bully and demean atheists as confused, contemptuous children who have been duped by Satan is a detriment to us all.

Here’s hoping he uses that soapbox for something constructive.

Merry Atheist Christmas

Happy Holidays to all my godless brothers and sisters. The next time someone chides you for not being Christian and celebrating Christmas “just because,” or tells you “Since you are not Christian, why are you celebrating Christmas? You can just skip it,” let that person know what the season is really all about. Or you can just explain to what the holidays mean to you.

People who don’t believe Christian dogma aren’t celebrating Christmas “just because.” We celebrate because we want to be included in our family traditions. We celebrate because we love to see our loved ones’ faces light up when they open up that mystery package. We celebrate because every day of our brief existence is worth celebrating. We are not pretending to be something we are not or usurping a ‘taken’ holiday “just because.” Atheists just want to celebrate life without all the nonsense.

And if we wish someone a Merry Christmas, it doesn’t mean we believe Jesus even existed. It just means we want that person to enjoy the holiday. Christmas means whatever we want it to mean.

Remember that.

Happy Holidays!

The REAL Reason for the Season

Take your Bah Humbug elsewhere!

Christmas is about longer days, iced cookies and family shindigs. End of story.

The real reason for the season.
The real reason for the season.

Oh, and that sciencey obliquity stuff too. Yeah.

 

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.