Posts tagged ‘atheist’

Being An Atheist

Americans have a hard time with this concept.  If you announce you are one, kiss public life goodbye.  I mean what happens to you if you don’t end every speech with God Bless America*? People expect a religious basis for your fundamental principles and if you don’t have a religious one, my God, you are rudderless. “Cry havoc and release the dogs of war!”  Nothing could be further from the truth, but that is the conventional wisdom.  One might ask, what or who was Jesus, except for his philosophy for living our lives?  One might also ask, do you need a heaven or hell so you hold to those ideas when it gets hard?  History has shown us all kinds of beliefs very similar to Christian beliefs or basic philosophy (without the God figure) that came out of reason and thinking about the human condition.

I can be just as principled and founded as the most religious person, but my basic principles are not based on faith or dogma from a book, but observation of the world around us.  And my observation is that there is no God.  Better writers than I have documented the observable problems with religion (Dawkins, Harris). That doesn’t make it true and my beliefs are not like a faith-based belief, it can be changed by observation, data, and science.  However, my experience is that my observations and science reinforce  my view that most people’s beliefs in some all-powerful being involved in their lives is not supported by everything I see around us.

Now here is another thing most Americans can’t get:  I don’t need you to be an atheist.  I don’t care what you are or what you believe, especially if it works for you.  Atheism, at least for me, is not a religion, just an observation.  It is true that once in a while when someone says something religious and remarkably stupid, I do respond, like the hurricane survivor who thanks God for their survival, forgets about the first responders who deployed to pull them out of the flood, and do not hold that same God accountable for the destruction and death all around them.  Sometimes that kind of thinking when it leaks into political thinking gets dangerous to our democracy. See my last blog.  The Constitution was trying to make us free from religious persecution, not free religion to dominate our lives.

One other thing that most Americans do not get is the difference between spirituality and religious belief.  I think we are all connected, not by a supreme being, but by nature itself and the processes that created us.  In a way, one with the force.  Now other than the fact that the very important elements that make up our bodies were created in exploding stars, I have no proof for this, except maybe we all evolved from the same genetic material, which we also have proof for.  I feel a connection to the universe, the sun, the planet, and life on this planet (sadly that includes the FF).  That is my spirituality.  We are in this together and the human condition is universal. And I observe nothing that tells me otherwise.  On the other hand, I see no God anywhere unless you define God as nature itself which is quite different from a guy who wrote a book of rules, and is checking if you were naughty or nice.

Last, let me say that a philosophy about life and the human condition is so much more efficacious than a religion.  See the problem Evangelicals are having when they find a gay person a loved son or dauther.  Reality does not match their faith. Faith makes coming to grips with reality almost impossible.  Watch the Catholic Church try to modernize to reality today about women, love, marriage, and childbirth.  Philosophy, on the other hand, is based upon logic and can be adjusted when we find it no longer reflects reality as we now know it.  It makes our belief and ideas about right and wrong, morality, and justice based upon rational analysis not a book written before the birth of Christ, and rewritten (New Testament) to be more palatable to a changing world.

So there you have it.  Atheism, at least mine, is not a religion, it is just an observation, but one based on science and data.  Your belief is just as valid as mine in the sense that we own it and have a right to it.  The problem I have is when I recognize that right, and most religions do not.  And that is what the Founders were trying to prevent in our Constituion, our intolerance that makes debate and governing impossible.  And it would appear we are losing our grip on that.

*One might also wonder what happens to you if you don’t wear you flag pin everyday.  It would appear that the flag (and flag pin) have become a religious symbol that is required in public life.  Once again we have lost our way.  It is the principles embodied in the Constitution that we can debate that are what we owe our allegience to, not some symblol or flag that has no defined meaning other than a loyalty test to something.

 

If There Were a God, I Would Think He is Trying to Tell Us Something

Devastating hurricanes in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Houston, and now massively destructive fires in California.  So when’s the big quake? I don’t want to point this out, but the pain and suffering is spread around between both partisan sides of the political spectrum.  The only constant through all of this is the President of the United States, who a minority of the people elected and then shit happened.  Could this be a sign?

Of course all of this could look benign compared to what could happen if the Dotard In Charge (DIC) starts a war on the Korean Peninsula, withdraws from the Iran agreement, hastening their nuclear program, kills Obamacare so millions are once again left without healthcare (oh, they have access, they just can’t afford that access), while his EPA Chief allows the raping of the environment again, all, of course, in the name of reducing regulations and letting the market place work.  There is nature’s fury, and then there is man made damage caused by the DIC put in place by ignorant and ill informed voters, and enabled by power hungry Republicans. If I believed in God, maybe a sacrifice, say the DIC himself, would appease him.

Speaking of God, the other day I was sitting in my truck in the grocery store parking lot waiting for she who must not be mentioned here to get her coffee (we were on our way to the big city to get my Lupron shot for my prostate cancer, maybe another sign), when a nice young lady tapped on my window and asked my about my decal on my truck (a fish sign with legs and the words Darwin written across it).  She said in these troubled times (no shit) she was using her religion to try to comfort people.  She asked directly if I was an atheist, which I said yes, and she asked why.  You try to answer that in 10 words or less.  She asked if something had happened to me to reject God.  I thought about saying I think he has rejected us, but I did not.

I did try to explain to her that being an atheist does not mean, even in these times, that I do not have both spirituality and hope.  Isn’t life a gift enough without a fairy godfather?  But I also explained to her that I respected her faith and would never try to change that.  Atheism is not a religion, and I do not need converts, it is just my personal observation.  I know that faith and religion greatly helps some people and who the hell am I to try to take that away.  The nice thing about this encounter was that she was not trying to proselyze me, but to offer encouragement to someone who she thought may need it.  Her way was through her religious beliefs and some of the wisdoms she found in her Bible.

I bring all this up because when shit happens, people mostly seem to come together and try to help each other whether they are gay, transsexual, immigrant, conservative, liberal, black, white, atheist, Christian, Muslim, well, you get the gist.  God is not a player in that we want to help each other because it is innate in the human condition.  One person who was standing in the dust and ash of what was left of everything they owned, said, you can either stand here and grieve or help others.  What we should learn from these disasters is that either God doesn’t exist, or he doesn’t give a shit.  Either way we are left to our own devices and what I have seen is that those devices in most people are something to be proud of.

In this world we live in, a lot of us define ourselves by our possessions so when we have a devastating loss, well, we are devastated.  And then we seem to be able to rise above it.  And the lesson in a world created right now by the DIC and Republicans is, they have it wrong, we are all in this together and shit happens.  It has nothing to do with how hard we work, or what or who we believe in,  We live in a world where chaos is becoming more prevalent because of man’s selfish actions.  Time to maybe understand we really are our brother’s keeper.  And that my friends, from an atheist.

One other thing as I watch disaster, man-made in action.  A Republican was being interviewed by Andrea Mitchell about what is coming out about the DIC, the meeting where he wanted to know why we weren’t expanding our nuclear stockpile, the shock of those around him, the fucking moron comment by Rex Tillerson, and the tweet storm.  This guy tried to normalize it as well this happens in all administrations and needs to be kept behind closed doors.  No it doesn’t you Little Dotard (LD).  This is not normal.

In the same vein, on CNN they were discussing NBC’s reporting of the above and the DICs tweet this morning:

Some pundit when asked about the DIC’s threat to revoke the license on NBC because he does not like the story, said he was probably joking, to which the host, who had a clue, said president don’t joke about attacking the fundamental value to our democracy of the free press, and the pundit replied, well this is the new normal.  NO IT IS NOT YOU MORON! This is absolutely abnormal and it is how we lose democracy if you start defining it as normal.  We have to understand that our democracy is under attack from the Oval Office and we had better start coming together to fight it because the Republicans are normalizing it.

Religion or Republican Dysfunction?

I picked Religion today, Republican dysfunction tomorrow.  Why? After the 24/7 coverage of the Pope turning most of our news media into the Catholic Channel, maybe we need a little balance.  Well maybe not balance, but an alternate point of view.  I am not talking about the basic issue the Pope put forward, empathy for your fellow man of which I have no argument, but the whole idea of God.

We as a nation are so steeped in religion that we never just step back and look at it and ask why?  Let’s take the 9/11 ceremony which involved most of the great religions of the world.  Almost every one of them told us how great and wonderful God is, and each had elaborate ceremonies around that worship.  Why?  It is an old argument, but if he is so good, why do bad things happen?

Some cultures used to see bad things as God being mad. Those were tough times for virgins. Of course that strain of thought still runs deep in many conservative Christian religions. Remember Katrina was because God was mad at us for accepting gays. I wonder how he felt about Hitler or ISIS. What did the Jews or Shiites do to piss him off? Well you get the drift. It’s nonsense.

If we give him thanks for the bounty, why do we not hold him responsible for the famine?  Yeah, right.  God works in mysterious ways, or if you think about it, does not work at all and we just infuse everything we see with our mystical God. Maybe the ceremony part is to add mystery and weight to the belief.  Maybe it is to give a hierarchy of those who perform it.  Maybe they are to lend the perception of power to the church.  Maybe all of these.

But here is the real issue that bothered me throughout all of the religious observances and 24/7 Catholic propaganda:  Good only comes from God.  God gives us the power to be good, therefore without God, good does not exist.  We are too weak to do good things on our own.  I found that a very disturbing message hammered home again and again in this coverage.  There was this continuous drum beat that the good we can do in this world only comes from God.  It is really a pretty negative message about us.

So what we had was a six day infomercial on the existence of God and your need to believe in him to do good in the world when everything around tells us this is not so.  Here would be my counter question:  If you need God to gain the strength to do good, how come so many people use God to find the strength to do evil?  The Pope’s underlying message was that we are all in this together and we must have empathy for our fellow man and help him along the way.  So why do we need God for that message to be true?

We don’t.  We need our good sense, logic, and a healthy respect for our fellow man and that is all.  Whether you do good and help your fellow man through this adventure called life for God or for you is really not relevant.  It is the doing good that is the real issue.  By continuously reinforcing the belief that is only comes through the belief in God, religion was self promoting itself and no one was asking the hard questions about the down side.

One of the downsides is absolutism. If you believe in God then you have his word that is inviolate.  So then when his word is questioned by science or the reality of the evil the belief facilitates, your only recourse is to reinterpret the word. Must have misunderstood the Gospel and then we have facilitated the ultimate power wielder, the interpreters.  Why not just do away with all that (Kim Davis) and examine the belief in terms of logic and reason? Well back to the infomercial so that the power of the church and the belief in God can be wielded over you.

So I do not expect a 24/7 look at a life without God, but once in a while during all this hype, we might have stopped and paused and thought about those who do not believe and yet do good.  We might have asked why we need all this pomp and ceremony to really bring us a very simple message, we are our brothers keeper.   Remember some of those God thumping priests have done amazing acts of evil in his name and use the belief and ceremony to hide behind.  We should have been asking some of these questions too about where the belief in God can take us and whether the church should be our ultimate moral guide. In fact we should be questioning some of the Church’s beliefs to show it is anything but infallible.

But in a country steeped in religion, what we got was very little questioning and whole lot of fawning.  Well, I have questions.

Morality (?) or Logic From an Atheist

I thought maybe I would explain why I am opposed to the death penalty.  It is a mix of morality and logic.  One may come from the other, but in reality, they are complementry.  Some would ask how an atheist could be moral.  Doesn’t morality come from God?  I hope not, because even a cursory reading of the Bible (either Old or New Testament) leaves one reeling from the violence, cruelty, and just general vindictiveness of God justifying all sorts of behavior I would not classify as moral or just.  In fact if you define morality coming from God, then it is based upon whatever capricious mood God is in.  

So how does an atheist have a moral objection to the death penalty?  Well you start with what we would all agree with, murder is wrong.  Life is  precious.  She who must not ever be mentioned here said something the other day that bears directly on this discussion.  She said when she was younger, stepping on a bug, or other acts of destroying insect or animal life did not bother her much.  But now, well life really is something very special.  Maybe add to that that as an atheist, this is it.  When it’s over, it’s over.  This moment of sentient being is really all there is.  That we can experience the universe around us for barely a flicker of a moment in the chronology of existence is remarkable.  To deprive other living beings of that amazing gift is, well, immoral.

Now that does not mean that I don’t believe in self-defense or war under certain circumstances.  Resisting Hitler, trying to prevent genicide, fighting for your very survival (again self-defense) certainly can justify deadly force.  You really have no choice.  But when you take another’s life when you have other options, that is just wrong and that gets to the logic part of my argument.

We get that murder is wrong.  Yet we say the state can murder if certain protocols and procedures are followed, and the crime is a defined heinous act.  To be specific in Dzhokhar Tsarnaev case, he use a WMD, killed multiple people, showed no remorse, in an act of terrorism (heinous act).  He was tried by a jury of his peers, found guilty, and the special circumstances for capital punishment were met (procedures and protocol).  The question then becomes on what basis do we determine the heinous acts that qualify, and the protocols and procedures to be applied?  This is the logical problem.  

Here is the immutable fact:  Murder in this process is sanctioned.  And the problem is who has the power to sanction it.  If I believed in God and he talked to me, and he told me to murder someone, is that not the ultimate sanction (see abortion* doctor murders).  Once we have gone beyond the logical step that murder can be sanctioned, then it is open season.  If it is okay, then what prevents me from deciding that some act has met those two standards (protocols and procedures, heinous) and then carrying out an execution? While I may be in violation of current laws, can I not appeal to a higher law since the state is simply the current legal construct?  And note that those standards for legitimizing state murder keep changing.  The logical conclusion is that if the state can sanction murder, then an individual can too.  Sanctioning is allowed.

But if murder is wrong, it is wrong whether the state performs it or not.  If that were the standard, then there could be no justification in any demented mind to murder.  It is simply wrong.  The state has no right to do it and neither do you.  So in my little universe, murder is just simply wrong if there are other options.  And those other options provide for the potential of a life redeemed.  Murder by the state serves no purpose either in deterence or in revenge.  If it is not a deterent, and the data tells us it is not, it is simply an act of retribution.  And again we are sanctifying behavior that gets more retribution.  They murdered so I can murder.

Of course there are practicle arguments also.  Can it ever be applied fairly? No. Is it cost effective? No. Can we find drugs and ways to administer it that is safe and humane? No. Do innocent people get executed? Yes. Does it deter murder? No. So from any practical point of view while it makes people feel like there is closure, it realy just reinforces the arbitrary nature of state sanctioned killing.  

So why do we do it?  Revenge, preceived retrobution, perceived justice.  And it fails all these tests except it sanctions murder and revenge in the general society.  So yes, this atheist sees it as immoral.  Life without parole is more than enough.  And maybe in that long sentence, real redemption and remorse is possible.  But in life without parole at least we have not stooped to their level and justifed taking of life because of some perceived 

*One could take my words and say then you must be against abortion.  I am not.  I am also not for abortion which is the great fallacy in the leap of logic most anti-abortionist make.  I find abortion distasteful at best.  It should never have to happen in a society where we could make contraception and the morning after pill readily available.  But life is complex and rape, incest, domestic violence, lack of access, and many other circumstances I did not consider can leave a woman pregnant with few options and I believe that she has the right to control her body.  

I do see a problem with the current laws limiting abortion after viability outside the womb.  As I have written earlier, as medical science advances, viability outside the womb could shrink to a zygote right after fertilization and is problematic to define the limit this way.  We need to establish a period in the prenancy when we can agree there is no real person there, just the potential.  And before you go all postal on the potential starts at fertilization thing, soon we will have the ability to clone so the potential is any cell in your body.  No, it is not easy.  But relying on some law from a God that does not exist is to abdicate our most precious human characteristic, reason.  And real morality flows from reason.

Atheists – The CNN Special

As an Atheist (maybe it is small case atheist), I watched CNN’s interesting look at atheists and it was entertaining and informative.  It is really hard to have a conversation with a nation which bases most of their social structures around religion and then talk about people who think all of that God stuff is nonsense, but they did a fairly good job.  They started with a very religious evangelical Mom and Dad whose son has become an atheist.  It brought many of the issues that I talk in this blog about home by personalizing it.

First of all atheism is not a religion.  Sure there are those who have made it such, but condemning those who believe is kind of a dead end.  It is also not Satanism, because if we don’t believe in God, we certainly don’t believe in Satan.  We just take the world as it is without magic and magical people.  That’s it and that is kind of what the show exposed for the religious.  What most of us atheist complain most about in religious belief was on display with parents of what I thought was really a neat, smart, kind, and thoughtful kid who was an atheist.  His dad said that they still talk, but he is dead.  He didn’t feel that, that is what scripture tells him.  His brain is checked at the door, but his son’s brain wasn’t.  And it made his son sad.  God help them if they had a gay kid.

The most interesting thing about this young man is that as his intellect told him there was no God, he found others who felt the same way.  And they formed a “secular group” (atheist scares people), and just tried to inform those who were interested what he and others were about, not some satan loving evil being, but a person asking questions about the world around him and wanting to be accepted for his questioning mind.

And the most interesting part was the ex-minister who was shunned from his community when he professed his belief.  Actually his aunt posted a picture of him and his son with Richard Dawkins on the internet and shunning broke out.   But what was neat about this guy is that he was a natural preacher.  What he wanted to do was to develop the community, brotherhood and sisterhood, and the striving to live good life, just without all the God nonsense.  He understood that spiritualism could exist without magical beings and a magical world.  And that is what he was doing.  It was not about convincing others they should be atheists, just providing an alternative to those who are with the benefits of community of the church.

Apparently there are more and more of us who just don’t accept the concept of God anymore.  There just is no evidence for most of us and even the indoctrination from childhood is losing sway with those who open their minds to other kinds of ideas and ways of seeing the world.  We should not condemn those who do believe, until their beliefs enter the secular world in causing injustice and cruelty, which of course they do all the time.  But hopefully those of us who want a world based more on science, data, and rational thought, and not blind belief in deities and their rules will eventually take over the world.  For those who still want the community and spiritualism of the church, that is there too.  Heck, I feel connected to all living beings.  But I don’t need a creator or rules from sand people to feel that.

One last thing.  How can people who don’t believe in God be good?  Is stoning your daughter for losing her virginity good?  Should you ostracize your child because he is gay?  Or as depicted in this special, because he doesn’t believe as you.  Isn’t your most important responsibility to a child to love and nurture your children?  Well we atheists think so and good and evil have very little to do with what religion you believe in and everything to do with how you treat your fellow-man and the steward the world around you.  So far the religious have failed on all accounts.

But I am a godless atheist so don’t let your kids get too close.  Rumor has it, it is catching. Next thing you know they may want to be astrophysicists, and live a life based on science, data, and reason.

 

 

What She Should Have Said: CNN and Wolfe Blitzer

It is no surprise that I am an atheist and after a horrendous event like the tornado in Moore Oklahoma, you get a lot of thanking God, which assumes everyone believes in some fairy godfather. But the best was from Wolfe Blitzer on CNN who asked an Oklahoma tornado survivor if she “thanked the Lord” on live TV and she responded “I’m actually an atheist.”

What I wish she would of said was, “and should I thank him for the destruction and the taking of 24 lives?” You can’t have one without the other. Oh, but he works in mysterious ways. It is amazing that they never get that they are shoving their religion in our face 24/7 or how inane and illogical it is.