Tag Archives: atheists

Christianity is a philosophy, not a religion.

4 Dec

Bill O’Reilly is an idiot. In other news, water is wet.

The other night Bill’O had atheist David Silverman on again to discuss Bill’s annual attention grab war on Christmas. The last time Silverman was on, Bill admitted that he, and probably most of his viewers, failed basic high school science and are unaware of the scientific explanation for tides. On this show, however, Bill said that Silverman was a facist for trying to keep the government to enforce its own laws, and that Christianity is not a religion. (A statement that he later recanted on after it was clear that nobody was going to march of the cliff with him.)

Yes, trying to get the government to remain religiously neutral is the same things as fascism.

Since Bill seems to be so confused, here is the definition of fascism:

Fascism (play /ˈfæʃɪzəm/) is a form of radical authoritarian nationalism. Fascists seek to unify their nation based upon suprapersonal connections of ancestry and culture through a totalitarian state that seeks the mass mobilization of the national community through disciplineindoctrination, and physical training.

Fox News has a lot more in common with actual fascism than any campaign to keep the government out of religion. The claim that what Silverman and his ilk are trying to do is fascism is just  mindbogglingly absurd. Unfortunately, every year we go through the same crap. Christians somewhere try to erect a Christian display on government grounds and then cry oppression when they’re told they can’t be plastering their crap all over government property.  I don’t understand why it’s so hard for them to understand that not being given special treatment does not equal oppression.

But on to Bill’s other blunder: Christianity is not a religion. Jon Stewart has a good little bit in response.

On his show, Bill’O goes on to say that while Christianity is not a religion, groups like the Methodists, Catholics, and  Baptists are. What Bill is describing are sects within a religion. A sect is a subset of a religion, a strain of the religion, yet still part of that religion.

Jesus-Facepalm

Unfortunately, Bill’s not the first to try and pull this “Christianity is not a religion” crock of shit. In the past I’ve heard people try and claim that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. Quit trying to manipulate and muddy language in order to protect your position. The fact that you have to resort to attempting to obfuscate the meaning of words is a dead give away your position is shit to begin with. No, your religion is a religion. What you believe in is, by definition, a religion. Call it what you like, it is what it is. Don’t want to be part of a religion? Fine, then give up all the privileges that come with being a religion, starting with your tax exempt status.

Man arrested for plot to firebomb churches

12 Oct

Last week Gregory A. Weiler II was arrested in Miami, Oklahoma for plotting to firebomb multiple churches in the surrounding area. Police found 52 Molotov cocktails in the man’s home. Weiler kept a journal and one of his entries read “Self-promote for the next 4 years while beginning list of goals written out in Oklahoma having to do with destroying and removing church buildings from US a tiny bit at a time, setting foundation for years to follow.”

So far that’s all we know.

We don’t know his motive. We don’t know his religious affiliation.

But the fact that we don’t know any of this won’t matter to people who will jump on the chance to go “Aha!!! Evil atheists trying to burn churches!!!1″

Weiler might not even be an atheist. We simply don’t know. What he does appear to be is crazy. According to Weiler’s cousin, his parents committed suicide, he suffers from drug addiction, and he has a history of mental illness. (All of which people are sure to claim stems from his atheism)

Let’s talk about crazy for a moment. There are crazy people out there in the world that do things for crazy people reasons. Unfortunately sometimes these crazy people are aligned with ideologies also held by non-crazy people. When a crazy person linked with an ideology does something horrible, it then makes all the other non-crazy people connected to that ideology look bad as well.

Proponents of said ideology will always point to the crazy person and say “they did this because they were crazy, not because of our ideology,” whereas opponents of the ideology will claim they did it precisely because of the ideology.

I think it really depends on the situation and the individual. There are situations when sane people do horrible things because of ideology and when crazy people do horrible things just because they’re crazy. Someone is not simply just “crazy” because they do something horrible. To write off every act of violence in the name of an ideology as simply the work of a crazy person is overly simplistic.

Timothy McVeigh, the deadliest domestic terrorist prior to 9/11, was not crazy. He was calm and had rational reasons for wanting to kill people. In his case it was in retaliation for the government’s crackdown on the religious cult at Waco, TX.

The 9/11 hijackers were not crazy either. Many of them were college educated and had rational reasons for attacking the US; primarily a combination of religious and political, like McVeigh.

It’s really up to a trained psychologist to examine an individual to determine if they are crazy, but most people, especially those in the media, don’t want to wait for that. It’s much easier, quicker, exciting to just write the person off as crazy or driven by ideology and then make wild assumptions and accusations from there.

The speed and impetuousness at which people point fingers at atheists whenever anyone possibly connected with the ideology does something wrong paints a picture of the situation for atheists in the US.

We’re in the situation of having to be perfect all the time, every time, constantly having to prove ourselves against a hostile population. It doesn’t matter that we make up 16% of the population but less than 1% of the prison population. It doesn’t matter that many atheists are philanthropists, leading scientists, and performers. It really doesn’t matter what good things atheists do for the country. The rest of the population is hostile to us and the moment someone seemingly linked with our ideology missteps all our accomplishments are washed away and ignored.

It’s the same situation any under-represented minority has to go through. Women breaking into the workplace for the first time had to prove themselves by being perfect all of the time. Blacks had to do the same thing. Regardless of the group, the pattern is the same:

Unreasonable, impossible, and unfair expectations followed by only scorn and disgust when any member of the group in question fails in the slightest. Eventually you overcome them through persistence, but the temptation to say “fuck you” and give in to all their stereotypes out of spite is always there.

Personally I’m inclined to just tell the critics of atheists to go fuck themselves, but I’m not planning on sticking around here anyways, so it’s not really fair to the atheists who do have to try and make a life in this place. Unfortunately there are just some people who you can’t win with. It doesn’t matter how nobly you live, they’ll always despise you.  Trying to please them is futile.

 

Trying to find a job while being an atheist

8 Jun

Looking for a job is always stressful. It is even more stressful when you’re the most maligned and mistrusted minority in the country, looking for work in the most hostile part of the country. Being an atheist and looking for work in the South can be a tricky predicament.

I found that out first hand over the past two days.

I’ve been looking for work since March when the company I worked for went under. I was really excited to get a call back from a company three days ago, asking if I would come in right that moment for an interview. I grabbed my stuff and drove 45 mins to the next town over. During the course of the interview the boss said I didn’t have all the experience he was looking for, but that he was in really bad need of somebody and wanted to see how fast I could pick things up. He mentioned a salary figure which I agreed to, then asked me to come in at 7am the next morning to shadow him. Throughout the interview he was giving me things to write down and to study.

I went home, extremely excited about the prospect of finally working again, and for somebody from whom I felt I could learn a lot. Then I started to explore the company’s website more in-depth as I had only a few moments quick glance before I was out the door rushing to the interview. He explicitly states on their website that it is a Christian company.

“Meh, whatever, I don’t care what they believe as long as I’m working and getting paid” I told myself. I got up at 5:30 the next morning and went to meetup with my prospective employer. We spent the morning going to a meeting and then it was off to make service calls.

The question came while we were in the car.

“This has no bearing on you getting hired, but what do you think about Obama?”

“Um…I don’t know…”

“Well do you like him or not like him?”

“Um…I’m not really a big fan?”

“For what reasons?” (I wanted to reply “Well, because he’s a center-right corporate whore parading as a progressive” But I didn’t for obvious reasons)

“For a variety of reasons, but I rather not say.”

“Ok, good, I don’t like him either. His taxes are going to crush my business.” (I wanted to point out that the president doesn’t control taxes, that congress does, and congress is republican controlled, but I doubt those facts would have either made me look good or mattered to him.)

“Can I ask you some questions about religion?” (The knot in my throat grows tighter)

“Only if you don’t mind if I don’t answer.” (“Damn I’m must sound like some secret-agent wannabe wacko” I thought.)

“Again, this is just out of personal curiosity, it doesn’t have any effect on you getting hired. What religion are you?”

“I rather not say.” *nervous laugh*

He then launches into a bit explaining how he and his wife are Christian, and that he came to realize God’s plan for his life when he almost died, was airlifted to the hospital and lived, how that got him to change his business around, etc etc…

We get to a service call and I get a reprieve. I’m extremely uncomfortable but I need this job. I need the experience and I need the skill set it will give me. So I bite my lip.

Two weeks ago my uncle almost died when he fell off a rough while working and was airlifted to a hospital. I was curious what happened to him, so I explained what happened to my uncle and asked him what happened to him. He explains how he had some rare condition and how the emergency crew in the helicopter didn’t think he was going to live, but he got to the hospital in time and Christ spared his life.

I didn’t say anything, but the whole time I was thinking: “Oh, Christ saved your life? Not the doctors with years of training? Not the paramedics and the helicopter, developed by science, that enabled you to be quickly rushed to a hospital, staffed with the fruits of scientific labor that kept you alive and saved your life. No, it was none of that, but the iron age God of the desert came down, skipping the 16,000 children that die of starvation everyday to save your butt and show you the way while you were conveniently in a first world country’s hospital attended by a swarm of doctors. Oh I see. Of course!”

But I obviously had to hold my peace.

Later I ended up driving him in the company car to a service call an hour away. He mentioned how he met his wife on eHarmony. I had tried eHarmony before in the past. I spent 45 minutes filling out their survey only to be rejected. eHarmony is a Christian oriented dating site. Atheists don’t do well on there.

Without thinking much, I mentioned how I tried eHarmony but that they rejected me.

“Why did they reject you?”

“Oh, erm…They reject you if you don’t match up with their ‘values’ system.”

“Why’s that?”

(In my head: “Shit shit shit….whatever. Fuck it. I don’t care.” Did I mention that sometimes I have a self destructive streak?)

And so I explained that I was, in fact, an atheist, that I do stuff with my local atheist community (even though I’ve been kinda off the radar for the past bit), that I used to be an evangelical as an early teenager, that religion is a interest of mine, that I’m pretty well read in it, and that I’ve been working on app development for atheist counter-apologetics apps.

The cat’s out of the bag now…

He was just kinda like “Oh…..ok…” Later he asked me “So what made you become an atheist?” I’m sure he was expecting that some disaster had befallen me and that I now hated God, or that I just wanted to lead a sinful lifestyle.

The problem with this question, besides all the problems with the situation, is that it is a trap. Most likely inadvertently, but a trap nonetheless. Let me rephrase the question and you’ll see exactly what I mean:

“So what made you abandon and discredit everything I hold dear, everything that is intimately intertwined with how I see myself and my world?”

There is absolutely no possible way I can answer that question without being offensive. There just isn’t. It’s a loaded question.

“Um…it was more of a journey for me over time.” (I wanted to say “Well, because I grew up, I read books, I experienced things outside of the narrow world view the church taught.”)

He mentioned how he never really knew any atheists, that he had come in contact with a few, and that they were all really big jerks. I mentioned that there are all types in every group, and that I’m very non-confrontational (in person) and live and let live. Oddly, he didn’t really understand what “live and let live” meant so I had to explain it to him. We really didn’t talk much the rest of the trip. He was busy working and making phone calls from the passenger seat. Throughout the day, before atheism came up, he was making me write down all the things he wanted me to study. “On Friday I’m going to have you do X, on Monday I’m going to have you do Y.” He didn’t really give me too much more to study after religion came up.

At 5pm I finally started the long drive home. I had been up for twelve hours and rushing around town with him for ten. I was exhausted. When I got home, I spent the rest of the night studying my ass off. He said I could take Thursday off to study, because it was more important that I pick up the concepts fast for when he tests me on Friday than for me to shadow him for another day.

I took a short break to get a few hours of sleep in the wee hours of Thursday morning, then was back up and studying some more. At the end of the day on Wednesday he said he might have me come in again later Thursday to do some stuff, but that he would call and let me know.

I sent him an e-mail around noon on Thursday telling him how far I’d gotten studying. (I really did learn a shit ton really fast). About an hour later I got a response:

“…My wife and I, as well as the other people in the office are discussing it, but we are thinking we need to find someone that already has extensive experience. You are doing a great job on all of this studying as far as I see it, but I am thinking a history of experience would serve us better at the moment. I am getting busier and busier by the second and I thinking it would be best for us to find someone who can hit the ground running, who would require no shadowing…

If you don’t mind, if there are any reminders on your note pad that I needed, I would really appreciate you sending them to me. I am in with a few other companies as far as passing along resumes, and I will certainly pass yours along. You have great potential!
Thank you in advance for understanding.”
Rejection.
I’m fucked. I didn’t get the job I desperately needed in order to give me the skill set, background, and money to accomplish my goals. I was, am, depressed. What about the ten hours I spent running around with him? I had other things I would have liked to do that day too. I probably won’t see a penny for my time.
I really do think he rejected me because I didn’t have the experience he was looking for, but part of me wonders. Even if he says that it has no effect on my getting the job, it does have an effect subconsciously in how he perceives me.
Before atheism came up, he did mention that his wife was coming on board with the company and that they would have to have dinner with me so she could meet me before they hired me. She apparently has a good sense about people, or so he told me. I wonder if his wife put her foot down at the idea of hiring an atheist. I can just imagine her asking how they’d be able to trust such a deviant, someone without morals. How could someone like that represent the family company?
Yet I have no proof of this, so it’s pure fantasy and speculation.
I would like to hope I was rejected just because of my skill set, and not that I was discriminated against based on my religious stance.
I’ll honestly never know for sure. Such are the perils of trying to find a job as an atheist in an often fundamentalist Christian south.

Launching the Columbia Coalition of Reason!

21 Nov

Today marks the first day of the Columbia Coalition of Reason campaign! We’ve launched two billboards around town that you can see here:

“Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.” Is the message. We meant for it to be non-offensive (if that’s possible) since we are trying to let other atheists out there know that we exist. We’re not saying your god doesn’t exist, we’re not calling people stupid for holding such beliefs, we simply want to reach out to others like ourselves who might feel isolated and alone.

It will be interesting to see how the public reacts.  A Charleston group did the same thing earlier in 2009 and recieved a big out pouring of support. Hopefully the Columbia community will be just as supportive!

How would you feel if there was no god?

30 Dec

This is directed at theists who might stumble across this post.

One of the most common accusations leveled against atheists are that they’re angry, so angry. For many of us that’s true, we are angry. Yet in order to understand why we’re so angry, let me ask you something.

Lets pretend for a moment, a little thought experiment if you will. I promise it won’t hurt or do anything to your faith, it’s just an experiment.

Imagine that you died, it doesn’t matter how, only that you’re now dead, and the afterlife is not what you were promised. Instead of heaven or closeness to some deity, you are made aware of the fact that their is no god, there never was. You look down at the earth, all the people on it, all the things we do to ourselves and each other in the name of a god; a god you have just learned never existed.

How would you feel? How would you react to the magnitude of the consequences and implications?

Sure you would see some good things being done in the name of this mythical god, but what about all the suffering? Suffering that is needlessly prolonged by those claiming to act in the name of a god you just learned never existed.

How would you react to this revelation’s implications? Think of all the time spent in pointless prayer instead of action, all the money spent building monuments and structures to a nonexistent being. All the money that lines the pockets of those who claim to speak for this being. What about all the wars, genocides, book burnings, shootings, suicide bombings, the death in perpertrayed in the name of this non-existent being? What about all the people who are forced to marry those they don’t love because of religious prescriptions? What about the millions of people who have their genitals cut in keeping with religious commandments? What about the honor killings? What about all the people who were forced to live in a miserable marriage, perhaps where they were even beaten, because their faith frowned on divorces?

How would you feel?

What about your life? What if you spent a large amount of time, effort, and money investing in something you later found out to be a scam? What dreams could you have accomplished if those energies were directed elsewhere? What about those things you denied yourself that you could have enjoyed? What about foods or drinks you refused to try for ultimately pointless religious reasons? What opportunities to live did you turn down in preparation for death, only to find now that you’re dead, those preparations futile, those opportunities gone forever?

Hypothetically, as all these realizations hit you like a tsunami, how would you feel as you slowly fade to nothingness?

I’m willing to bet you would feel an intense anger, possibly betrayal.

Hold that feeling in your mind for a moment. Now imagine that you weren’t fading to nothingness, that you weren’t dead. Imagine you were still alive, yet with this knowledge, and now you had the chance to do something about it. How would you feel? What would you do?

If you answered that you’d be angry and outspoken in your efforts to make the world a better place and end suffering, then you now understand where a lot of “angry” atheists are coming from.

Christmas, the worst time of the year

26 Nov

Thanksgiving was yesterday, the last finger holding us onto the ledge has slipped; we now freely fall into the Christmas abyss. Over the course of the next twenty-eight days we will reach terminal velocity, culminating in an orgasm of commercialism and religious fervor. Ah…Christmas in America. This truly is the worst season to be an atheist.

Atheists are always aware of how different they are in a country as awash in Christian privilege as America; December is the month that the rest of the believing populace becomes aware of this difference too. This is the time of year when the separation of church and state comes under the heaviest attack. Tis the season when the willfully ignorant come out in droves to proclaim the marriage of America and Jesus. Defiantly they make their stand against political correctness. Through their eyes they are the majority, the only ones who matter. America is a Christian nation founded by god himself! The non-Christians should be grateful that they are allowed to live in such a wonderful country, and they must humbly show their respect by being quiet during this most Christian time of the year.

To the rest of us, they come off a belligerent and rude, like a man wearing a offensively sexist t-shirt to meeting of professional women. This is the time of year they will demand that nativity scenes and Christian signs be placed on government property, to the exclusion of other faiths. Never mind the fact that there are conflicting accounts of the nativity story and that the government must remain neutral in matters of religion (heaven forbid they actually read the bible or the constitution). When the secular stand up and call foul, we’re accused of having a “war on Christmas.”

In the past, people have gone so far as to organize boycotts of stores that instruct their employees to say “Happy Holidays” as apposed to “Merry Christmas.” Belligerent ignorance. I’m sorry you’re unaware that there are, in fact, other holidays going on in the same general time frame, thus “Happy Holidays” would be more appropriate. But again, to them this is a Christian nation, and Christmas is the only holiday of importance. Nevermind the fact that Christmas is actually an old Pagan holiday.

Despite this minor historical point, this is the time of year signs like this start popping up all around the country:

I have no problem with Christians celebrating Christmas. I have no problem with them decorating their homes, or erecting nativity scenes on their lawns, or on their church lawns. While I would prefer that people realize that not everyone is Christian and said the more generalized “Happy Holidays,” I’m not overly offended if someone says it to me with the best of intentions. I don’t even have a problem with Christians erecting a Christian display on government property for Christmas, as long as everyone is then allowed to erect a display. In order for the government to remain neutral, as it serves everyone, not just Christians, it must allow all or none. Unfortunately the belligerently ignorant insist on preventing some groups from displaying signs depicting beliefs contrary to their own. This is the time of year that the belligerently ignorant go out of their way to make you feel like a second class citizen. The nonbeliever is not only constantly bombarded by visual messages reinforcing this, but by audio ones as well. This is the time of year that the radio stations and stores switch over to playing almost exclusively Christmas music. You cannot listen to the radio, or enter a place of business without hearing some Christmas tune.

This bombardment will last for the next twenty-eight days. The only thing an atheist can do is hunker down, stay in doors, rent some movies, crank up the secular podcasts, and wait for the frenzy to pass.

Religious scientists

15 Nov

Every so often a religious conservative will pull out a list of all the famous scientists who believed in god. Sir Isaac Newton is one of their favorites. Newton is perhaps the smartest man to ever have lived, yet he believed in god. The religious person will take this “evidence” and go “A HA! Look! Even famous and brilliant scientists believe in god, therefore my religious faith is justified and true!”

There are, however, several things wrong with this assumption. A keen observer will quickly notice that many of the religious scientists the modern day religious zealots will try to claim lived and died a long time ago. Newton got as far as was possible in his day an age. He developed the theory of gravity. He had no knowledge of the theory of cells, or atomic theory, the theory of evolution, or the theory of relativity.  Of course he believed in god, there was nothing else at the time to fill in the gaps that would be filled by later generations of scientists.

You see, the major flaw in the believer who advances this list makes is in the assumption that his definition of god is the same as those scientists he claims are on his side. The definition of god and attitudes toward worship have changed over the years. Centuries ago churches and monasteries used to be centers of scholarly research. Indeed, many of the great early scientists were religious men from this tradition.  Unfortunately, over those centuries the prevailing attitude in the church has shifted from one of intellectualism and study to one of anti-intellectualism and the wild emotion. (I say prevailing attitude because this is how popular religion currently acts. There are still religious believer who hold to the older more honorable tradition of scholarship)

In short, the faith of the scientist a religious person is attempting to claim “as one of their own” in no way resembles the modern day religious person’s faith. In fact, I’d go so far to say that the believing scientists of old would be appalled at the willful ignorance of the modern believer attempting to claim them.

But what about modern day scientists? Unlike in times before biology, nuclear physics, molecular biology, psychology, neuroscience, etc, the majority of modern scientists are atheist or at least hold some type of liberal belief system.  There are, however, plenty of scientists, some very brilliant, who believe in god. A perfect example is Francis Collins, head scientist in charge of mapping the humane genome. I must point out that these modern religious scientists do not hold the same faith as our hypothetical religious conservative attempting to claim them. In fact, if they did hold that type of fundamentalist faith, they would not be scientists.

You may be quick to jump up and shout “No true Scotsman! No true Scotsman!” but let me explain. In order to be a scientist and to do science you must follow the scientific method. The scientific method requires that conclusions come last, and are only reached on the basis of sound empirical evidence. If the physical evidence does not conclude what we want it to conclude, then we must abandon the conclusion we want for the conclusion that is. This is antithetical to religious faith that starts with the conclusion “god exists and he made everything” and then goes about trying to cherry pick evidence to fit this conclusion. (For this sole fact alone is why religion and science are incompatible, regardless who anyone might wish to dress the two up)

But what about those scientists who are scientists doing real science who yet believe in god like Collins?

One word: Compartmentalization.

People compartmentalize many things, sometimes consciously, sometimes unconsciously. It helps deal with cognitive dissonance by separating the conflicting concepts into two separate spheres. Everyone is capable of doing it, and it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, just that you’re not being intellectually honest. A brilliant scientist might put on his science hat and go to work on Saturday, only to take off that hat and put on the “good christian” hat and go to church on Sunday. This doesn’t change the fact that he is a brilliant scientist, only that he is not applying the same mental vigor to what he believes. People can do this for a number of reasons, though I suspect the most common one is that they are afraid to look behind the curtain for fear of what they might find. Their life as a believer suits them just fine. They have the support and respect of family and friends, and they are comfortable in the community. Not wanting to jeopardize that by examining their faith too closely, like they would examine anything in the lab, they put it in a special mental box and mark it “out of bounds.”

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 59 other followers