The Unknown and Spirituality

Back when I was a religious person, I considered me and my family spiritual. This was, and still is, a sort of an out. It is that last ditch effort by the liberal minded to escape a lot of the stuff we just don’t like about religion. Turns out I fell the rest of the way out, but there are a lot of people out there who have taken on this ‘spiritual’ point of view.

It isn’t bad when you really consider it. I mean, most of us are not science minded. I grew up taking only a few science classes, and then my time at university was spent nose-deep in books about fantastical gods and witty Brits insulting each other. Even though I believe I understand evolution, anti-theist arguments, string theory, I really don’t. I take what I can, and I draw connections for the rest. It would be just as easy for me to drop those concepts and live my life without ‘atheism’ or religion.

Religion is hard. It is an easy mental escape, but it requires a ton of mental space to remember rituals, sayings, mythology. On top of that there are the social obligations that are nearly impossible for someone like me. No, I don’t want to go to the church BBQ, there have been four of those this month, stop! 

On the other hand, atheism is a mental struggle with little to no social obligations. It takes on the opposite space within our culture. Atheism requires first and foremost the admittance of mortality and oblivion. There is no do over, no second life, no after-party. 

Why deal with either of them? The world is full of so much in between. We have believed in gods, spirits, aliens, karma, mojo, curses, hexes, magic, all without needing the overbearing religions we have today. Some of these things feel good to think about, the idea that doing good will echo good in your life, that a terrible accident wasn’t your fault but instead a curse from some harmless action. It is all the mental escape of religion without the social weight. These terms and ideas have become so ubiquitous that you can mention them without any follow up questions.

“That must have been bad karma.”

“That is some good mojo.”

“Thank god we made it.”

Done, no background needed, everyone understands what you mean. Whether you truly believe in the details or not, that isn’t important to the conversation. 

This sort of ‘spiritualism’ doesn’t mean the person doesn’t consider themselves Christian, or any other faith. Far from that, it allows them to mix their knowledge of their faith with other concepts that they come across. The christian that believes in karma has an easy answer to the problem that doesn’t require questioning the motivation and frequency of divine intervention. 

This is fueled by our history, and the power of the unknown. There are things that we don’t question because it allows us to pad what we just don’t know. If you don’t know how probability functions, recurring bad luck can seem like fate instead of odds that just didn’t go your way. All of my knowledge of probability comes from rolling 1s when I need my little plastic soldiers to win me battles against other nerds. I know the sting of probability, and even I cry out in anguish to the dice gods. It is that easy to get swept up in what seems hard to explain, even if it actually is simple.

Even with education on the topic, it is easy for people to still believe in the supernatural solution. Knowledge of evolution hasn’t stopped millions from believing in a god, they just rewrite god’s process. That is good though. I would rather have someone rewrite their idea of mojo to account for odds, than have to deal with someone who thinks god plays dice.

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When You Just Have To Be Right… Christian Movies

I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t grow up in the church. I’ve never been like, an altar boy, or the pastor’s favorite. That wasn’t my life, and I have my mother to thank for that. I can’t imagine what my existence would be like if my split from religion was nearly as painful as some of the stories I’ve heard. For me I just woke up one day and decided to be salty on the internet.

That said, I’ve put up with a fair bit of Christian related entertainment throughout my days. Most of this was through the Lifetime channel, but that is just the tip of the Made-for-TV-movie iceberg. 

I’ll note right now that I don’t see a lot of harm in Christian entertainment. Actually, I find it kind of amusing. If you’ve been in America long enough you’ve probably heard whispers, whether joking or from actual wingnuts, that the Jewish people control the media and negatively influence society through it. Considering the percentage of Christians in this country, and the sheer number of movies they create every year to celebrate their own religion, I can’t help but imagine people wearing tinfoil hats when they say the media is anti-Christian.

It is hard to make it through the year without watching some movie with at least a small Christian message to it, especially since Christmas is a thing. This isn’t bad though, this is just a matter of audiences getting what they want. If more than 50% of your audience can be pleased by having an angel give a woman a backrub, you better hand that angel some KY because things are about to get slippery. That is how business works.

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We’ve come to the point where big movie releases, like the upcoming Noah, can just scoop up biblical stories and mutate them for the audience that wants to feel a little biblical, but also wants to see someone be impaled. Some kid is going to see this movie as an action flick, in the way that I watched movies like Terminator, and it will be a formative part of their youth. That is strange to me.

I’m pretty sure the most impact Christian imagery had on the movies of my childhood was watching Nick Cage be a creeper in City of Angels.

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Actually, this could explain a lot about my childhood, and dealings with women.

Still, the untold story here is that these movies create an atmosphere with one religion prominent. Sure the angels in City of Angels are a little on the Edward Cullen side, but it makes a nice stepping stone for a parent to justify real angels to their kid. Sure Noah probably wasn’t as undeniably handsome as our friend Russel Crowe, but he makes a better story than pseudo-moses building an impossible boat to house varying numbers of animals. It is pervasive. That isn’t me being angry or annoyed by it, just stating the fact. When you grow up watching movies where squeezing your cross real hard and holding on to your good Christian values saves the day, you don’t see much of a need to question that attitude. 

I wish this was a conspiracy, but it is just good old hollywood fun. It helps highlight that even the figures we respect, great actors and directors, are likely Christian. They enjoy these messages, and will create shows/movies/video games/snappy post cards with that imagery implanted. Even if they aren’t, the population of our world will, on average, respond better to a Christian message. 

Heck, even I’ve made use of this fact.

Ritual, Religion, and the Superb Owl

The Super bowl is upon us. On February 2nd, my home team the Seattle Seahawks will go up against the Broncos. It is a pretty big deal around these parts, with many in my own family ready to watch a game that could change Seahawks football forever.

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I think.

Personally, I don’t watch a lot of football. I used to play when I was little, so I don’t get the same rush from watching other people do it. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t influence me though, I still have flashbacks to the energy that a football game creates, the stands can explode with the sort of dynamic human emotion that you can only find in a stadium, or in a church.

With that clumsy segue, according to a survey, more than 50% of American’s believe that the supernatural is at work to effect the outcome of sporting events. Let me repeat that for you, 55% of American’s think that angels, demons, god, or curses, are influencing whether football team A bests football team B.

I like sports. Unlike many of my nerd-kin, I was quite the athlete. Not a good athlete, I just did a lot of sports. Ran track, played football, baseball, basketball, and I was even a wrestler for about two weeks (no homo). While I understand people’s complaints about sports, and there are some serious ones to be laid against sports, I think a lot of people miss the point. This survey, done by the Public Religion Research Institute, has some insight into why that is.

The world is dangerous. Many of us, including me, live in a relatively safe place and don’t face that danger. That doesn’t change that as humans, we are adapted to a world of struggle, physical and mental. I’ve always considered sporting events to be the complete replacement for more gladiator-like affairs of the past (ignoring that sports and games would have existed well before gladiator combat), and wargames. We want to see battle, we want to let out something primal, listen to those base instincts. For the players, and those viewing, sports let that happen. You use your body and mind to best those around you, sometimes in single combat, sometimes in small unit tactics, and winning the day means conquest for you and your tribe (that would be the fans, if this metaphor has gone too far). 

So, as people have prayed for victory in war in the past, asked oracles for signs, or performed rituals for favor, so do humans now for sporting events. It may seem silly to think that an all powerful deity would care what teams win a game about pushing an odd-shaped ball from point A to point B by arbitrary rules of progression, but it is only slightly more silly than thinking that same all powerful deity would care which tribe of humans slaughters and enslaves another. I guess what I’m trying to say is, same shit, different game. 

Now there is another aspect of this that we haven’t talked about, which is that we ARE in the middle of wars, with real fighting between real people who really die. So why isn’t there nearly as much prayer and ritual to win that battle? Well, the moral and physical aspects of winning a war are complicated, football isn’t. Hockey is also complicated, but screw that sport, no one plays it but Canadians.

Good luck to the Seahawks in the Superb Owl 2014. To assure your success, I’ll finish my taxes, and browse the internet. It is secret code between me and god.

 

Carl Sagan and Proving a Negative

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I’m in Canada today for Thanksgiving (the Canadian version), so I don’t have a lot of time to do my usual vomit of atheist thoughts. So instead, I wanted to link something that Jerry Coyne brought up a few days ago on his awesome blog, Carl Sagan’s Parable of The Dragon In My Garage. 

People who grew up with Sagan love the man, his wonder at the natural world around him, and his love for science, speaks to a lot of people whether they are atheist or not. He has a book that is often recommended to ex-theists, The Demon Haunted World (my reading plate gets full), and I still haven’t had a chance to give it a read. 

In that book he brings up the story of a man who says he has a dragon in his garage, but every time the skeptic asks for proof of this dragon, it turns out the dragon has some nature to it that makes it impossible to detect. 

“A fire-breathing dragon lives in my garage”

Suppose (I’m following a group therapy approach by the psychologist Richard Franklin) I seriously make such an assertion to you.  Surely you’d want to check it out, see for yourself.  There have been innumerable stories of dragons over the centuries, but no real evidence. What an opportunity!

“Show me,” you say.  I lead you to my garage.  You look inside and see a ladder, empty paint cans, an old tricycle — but no dragon.

“Where’s the dragon?” you ask.

“Oh, she’s right here,” I reply, waving vaguely.  “I neglected to mention that she’s an invisible dragon.”

You propose spreading flour on the floor of the garage to capture the dragon’s footprints.

“Good idea,” I say, “but this dragon floats in the air.”

Then you’ll use an infrared sensor to detect the invisible fire.

“Good idea, but the invisible fire is also heatless.”

You’ll spray-paint the dragon and make her visible.

“Good idea, but she’s an incorporeal dragon and the paint won’t stick.”  And so on.  I counter every physical test you propose with a special explanation of why it won’t work.

The rest of the story is available here, and was also linked on Coyne’s blog. The story is important, I think, because it speaks to a truth that we often forget to realize. Sure, if you are just talking about the general idea of an entity that we don’t know about, it is hard to say that it doesn’t exist, but when we are talking about a creature that should leave great heaps of evidence in its wake, it takes a lot of work (and back-pedaling) to justify saying that it exists without any proof of it.

This is why we have things like Russel’s Teapot, and the Flying Spaghetti monster, these are entities that show the ridiculousness of the ‘you can’t prove it doesn’t exist’ stance. My personal favorite is the Galactic Space Fish, which is so large that we can’t detect it, but it swims through space. Sure it could exist, but why posit for its existence? There are two easy answers, you were already told that Galactic Space Fishes exist, or you really want Galactic Space Fishes exist.

All we can do is leave out some Galactic bait and see what happens, but in the meantime, I think it is safe to say that fishy smell is coming from somewhere else.  

I’ve never been one for confrontation – Creative Non-fiction

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I remember when Darell used to talk to the Mormons at the Glenbrooke apartments. They would come by our house every few days, bibles in their hands, asking if he was home. They didn’t seem to realize they were fighting a losing battle, that the man they were trying to convert was converting them in hand. He saw them as targets, minds ready to be debate with the little facts that made their faith difficult.

I’ve never enjoyed confronting believers.

Once an old Black woman approached me while I was at the bus stop. As soon as I saw her car pull up, I knew there would be trouble. She came out with several booklets in hand, asked as she approached, “Excuse me, do you believe in Jesus Christ?”

You should know I’ve been an atheist a long time, still I answered, “Yes.”

Something about old people draws out the liar in me. I wasn’t raised without respect, and somewhere along the line that turned into comforting those who would be troubled by the realities of the present. Sex, drugs, rock & atheism. Maybe, I just wanted to escape what came next, though I knew that was impossible.

She handed me a pamphlet, a copy of Watchtower, her particular brand of christianity’s particular publication of doom and damnation. I couldn’t think of anything that would make my hour plus commute more comfortable.

Of course, I know better than to assume comfort is their goal. I am a proselytizer as well. Whenever I write, I try to craft a world worth living in, try to twist the reader to some new point of view. It doesn’t always work, rarely works at all, but it doesn’t stop me from trying. I knock on their door, dressed in a white shirt and black slacks, another piece of fiction in hand. I hope that maybe, this batch of readers will feel something, want to know more. I understand the impulse.

Once when I was at their Puyallup fair (recently renamed) with my friend Rhea, I was caught by a man with an urge to preach. Already Rhea was angry at me because every inch that I moved, I would find cause to apologize to someone I passed. Sorry for bumping your shoulder, sorry for stepping on your show, sorry for cutting you off. So it could not have been a surprise when a tall man in a suit stopped me with the question, ‘are you going to heaven?’. He kept talking, kept promising answers, and more than an answer to his question, I didn’t want to cut him short.

I answered his questions, yes I did what was right, no I didn’t sin, my family was christian and I did as I was told. I watched as he tallied my score, and calculated my odds of divine rescue at the end of days. Rhea, more clever than I, could have guessed the man’s answer.

I was going to hell. Even as a young boy, this struck me as a bad story. Back then I already spent nights writing fiction, filling notebooks with mythology of my own. It made no sense to me for a hero to complete his journey, save the day, and still leave the common man doomed. In this story, the one this man found fit to produce for young children at a public fair, Jesus was the only answer, yet his heroic power seemed stunted.

At home, I created better gods. In my worlds, god was real, present, helpful. God was flawed, but this was known, and everyone took it into account. God was our friend, and had the power, and the will, to fight his enemies. I created a god that was worth meeting, one that was worth allying with.

Then I threw away my gods altogether. As I created stories, I found better stories. I found allah, zeus, thor, the buddha, rama, and many more beings of make believe. Each as believable as my own Jesus, and therefore not believable at all.

In retrospect, when I see Darell flagging down those Mormons and sitting with them and a book of Mormon, I think he was doing what I did. It is a process, working through the pantheons, finding what could be true, separating it from what we wish to be true. There are kernels of good stories in the many bad stories we tell, and those bad stories will be told again and again so we can get the satisfaction of that little shred of comfort.

While I’ve never been one for confrontation, I can’t abide a bad story.

Isn’t it easier to just feel good?

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A Just God

I’ve heard a few different reasons that people hold on to their religion. Some of them are rationalized reasons, and those can all be argued using their own merits. There are a few arguments, emotional ones, that are nothing more than attempts to hold on to a good story.

While scouring the internet there is a stance you will hear now and again. Usually it comes from those who haven’t fully considered atheism, or fully considered their religion. It is, in a way, an argument from ‘what feels good’. That is to say, it doesn’t sound pleasing to me, therefore it can’t be true.

“If this is all this was, this difficult life, I don’t know what I would do. So I believe there is something better after.”

This isn’t really an argument, it is just an emotional place. It is where you go when you realize the world is dark, scary, and doesn’t care whether you grow up to be president or die in an alley in a pile of your own feces. The idea of a cosmic force, whether a personal god or something as simple as karma, establishes the feeling that maybe it all has purpose.

Because lets admit it, life has terrible moments. For some it is worse than others. Illness, poverty, death, strife of all sorts, the world does not feel like a benevolent place, it can seem impossible to do that whole ‘pursuit of happiness’ I always hear the president jabbering on about. 

At first glance, maybe a younger me, would imagine that a world with such trials and tribulations would lead to a decrease in religious people. If the world is clearly crap-sack, if everything sucks, shouldn’t you realize that there isn’t a kind deity over your shoulder, giving you fist bumps and solving your life problems?

No, says research. Quite the opposite, the more poverty and strife in a region, the higher the religiosity. Here is a gallup poll for poverty and religiosity, and research continues to echo this. If life sucks balls, real swollen and sweaty ones, you turn to god. In retrospect, it makes sense. Gods don’t promise to keep you away from swollen sweaty balls, they promise you a life hereafter without swollen sweaty balls. A ball-less haven, where the highfather is the only one who can teabag you. (Can god ban all teabagging, then teabag you anyway? A conundrum for our time.)

When I hear statements like the one above, people say that they believe because they cannot imagine a world without, I take a step back and ponder the life they have lived. Behind those words, there is fear. Those words say to me, a life of anxiety, pain, and and dread, cannot be all. 

Maybe I have an unfair advantage when it comes to skepticism, happiness. My joy has never been linked to a church community, my glee has never required the validation of a deity, and my blissful moments can clearly be tracked by to completely human elements. 

All warm-fuzzy feelings aside, I would challenge everyone to understand this element of the religious response. Especially when talking to older people, their life may not have been quite as smooth. When the going gets tough, there is no other solution, when it seems like the cosmos is kicking you from every direction, it can make trusting your invisible friend seem like a great solution. Even if the best he can do is threaten to send you to an eternal torture dungeon. 

(Because that is an improvement, or something.)

The Relativism Crisis

I used to be a relativist. I guess I should say I used to be more of a relativist. For those who don’t know, this means I used to bandy about the moral decisions of other groups and ancient groups as okay because they were just that, not me. 

For example, do you blame someone who lived during slavery for owning a slave? Surely they should have known better, but all at once, can we judge their level of education, interaction with their slaves, and the social education they received that justified owning slaves to them? I’m not going to make you answer now, take notes, there is a test at the end of this free internet blog.

Dawkins Himself

I bring all of this up because one of the atheist Four Horsemen, Richard Dawkins, is under fire for a little moral relativism of his own. This is being covered all over, but I’m going to link The Friendly Atheist. Lets see what Dawkins says that has caused all the hubbub.

“I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild paedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today.”

There is more, much more, in which Dawkins notes that he was sexually abused by a few people as a child, and that he recognizes that it is terrible, but that it didn’t really effect him any. The part that is a crisis though, is the pass being given here on pedophilia. 

Of course it isn’t really a pass, as much as it is a relativistic statement. 1) Pedophilia is worth condemnation, 2) people viewed it differently in the past, 3) Dawkins has trouble condemning those who performed pedophilia at a time where it was seen differently. 

I think you can identify the problem. Especially since to a casual read it sounds like he is saying ‘being a pedophile is okay, if you did it in the past’. To me, Dawkins has tried to perform moral relativism, assigning different moral weight to a different group of people (in this case, a temporal distance), and undershot. Since you can imagine Dawkins isn’t 400+ years old, he is giving a pass to pedophiles who acted less than 50 years ago. Since Dawkins isn’t the only voice of authority on ‘pedophiles within that time period’, there have been plenty of people to call him out on this bout of stupidity.

I don’t want to waste my time figuring out exactly how many lashes to give Dawkins, it isn’t my place or worth my time. It does bring up a good question on how valid relativism is. On the one hand, I have seen a few comments across the internet that have called Dawkins out for the practice, and I can understand why. Moral relativism is one of the highest claims that religious people make against atheism.

The claim goes, ‘if you are willing to judge people differently for the same moral crime, then how can we say that anything is wrong?’. Which is simple to answer, but that won’t stop it from being repeated a billion times on the internet by junior apologists. 

If you were going to be a relativist, a red blooded moral absolutes fearing relativist, the crime is judged by the society. This is true, now, and has been forever. I can even show you.

Is it a crime for a woman to show her face in public? No, say most, but yes say some particularly religious regions. So who is right? Then we begin a long list of arguments about why it is a crime, if it should be a crime, and probably more than a few mentions of oppression and sexual objectification. We don’t get an answer though, just arguments, from two different groups. 

Without a species-wide agreed upon set of morals, there is no moral absolute. Even the things we see as absolutes for the species, like no incest, no polygamy, no cannibalism, no bestiality, have not been a crime in one or many human societies. To me, this isn’t a problem. We already live with relativism in our day to day lives. If you think hard enough, your family had some rules or law that your friends did not have to follow. That small culture shock, which happened so long ago for you, was your first realization that moral absolutes are not true.

I remember meeting my first friends who could cuss without getting in trouble. My jaw nearly imploded when I saw them cursing at their parents. These experiences continued to happen, watching friends smoke weed with their parents, drink with their parents, catch the bus by themselves, go to the store by themselves. All these things that I wasn’t allowed to do for reasons that only time would illuminate. 

Now the counter-message here, in the religious argument for moral absolutes, is that religious holy books set a moral absolute that should be eternal. To use christians as our constant example, the bible even argues against changing the words of the bible since they are ‘for this generation forever’. 

Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. (Deuteronomy 4:2)

God’s law has a never-spoil seal on it, and we shall never diminish it. Unless of course, it is convenient to do so, you know, because it would make life harder for us.

If you want to watch a christian backpedal from moral absolutes, you only need to mention slavery, rape, and incest. You will either find out some uncomfortable interests of your christian friend, or they will become a relativist. I predict a reply similar to this: “The old testament was the old covenant with god, Jesus created a new one. So the old laws do not apply.”

Translated, the morals of the old testament were for those living in that period of time, and now there are new moral absolutes. I don’t know about you, but if I want to count something as an absolute (and I don’t, seriously), it shouldn’t change just because the bosses beatnik son-self comes to visit.

Here is the rub though, if the idea of moral relativism makes you feel all squirmy inside, don’t worry about it. You live in your moral values, and you will judge everything based on them. You don’t have to allow any crime based on another society’s morals, you simply need to be aware. 

When some foreign guy judges your insatiable hunger for pork rinds and police procedural marathons, you would ask them to judge you through the lens of ‘Murica. 

Atheist Evangelizing: Something to think about

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As I continue to read and interact with atheists, I’ve found an interesting situation that I’ve wanted to investigate. That is, atheist evangelizing.

If you’ve been an active atheist, politically, you have been approached with the idea that atheism is just another religion. It is a constant in dialog with theists. Likely you’ve heard some form of, “I think atheists are just as religious as any christian.” or maybe the classic, “Atheism is just another belief, they believe there isn’t a god.”

If you hang around religion debates long enough, this is something you have to approach, and it is annoying at best. The grounds for the idea are weak, and meant to make atheism seem like a weak and fanatical position. For the theist, it is important that atheists are seen just as religious as them.

There is another part to this though, and that is the one that interests me today. Atheists have an aversion to spreading their ideas.

If I had to guess, this comes from their history. A tip for my theist brothers and sisters out there, most atheists you meet were once religious, that is how they became atheists. We know our own religion to a degree that we disagree with it, and with that we know the society born from that religion. This often creates a fear of brainwashing, conditioning, and their friend evangelizing.

Any attempt for an atheist to say, ‘I think others should be atheist’, is treated as crossing the line into militant atheism. Now you are violently atheist, ruining the happiness of others, and even your fellow atheists will turn against you. You took a dump in the middle of the atheist bedroom, and it doesn’t matter who you ask, it smells like shit.

This creates a problem for secular groups, humanist groups, atheist groups. When your actions are seen as proselytizing rather than progressiveness, it becomes difficult to get things done.

True, the situation is never as simple as ‘come and be an atheist’. For example, trying to protect women from patriarchal religions by secularizing a society is a complicated task full of metaphorical and sometimes literal landmines. I can tell someone their life sucks because of men, and they may accept that, I could tell them their life sucks because of society, and they will definitely accept that. As soon as you tell someone their life sucks because of their religion, you are the bad guy. Who cares if their religion is why they had to marry their rapist, why they cannot go outside alone, and why they had to undergo painful and nearly deadly rituals, you keep that to yourself Mr. Douche-atheist.

This is all fine and dandy when its just theists deciding to wallow in their own beliefs, but it has a negative effect on atheist communities. That is, we avoid them. The idea of an atheist community is often seen as laughable. Many will say, “Why create a society about what you don’t believe?”

That is a sound attack on the idea, but it is pretty flat, and built on an outsider’s idea of what it means to be an atheist. There are many sections of society where we get together simply because we agree on certain concepts, or wish to be comfortable. In that same way, I could summarize all Black community groups as “Groups dedicated to not being White”, which would be fine enough with me but would be untrue.

When you are an atheist, despite different backgrounds and upbringings, you have certain things in common. Especially ‘ex-theist’ atheists. While the overlap isn’t perfect, most atheist are progressive on social issues, left-leaning, for secularism, and science-minded. That sounds like awesome grounds for a community to me. Even now, as people laugh at the idea of atheist get togethers and groups, atheist social groups on websites spread information about scientific discoveries, give warnings to members about the actions of companies to avoid, and give life advice for difficult times of life (what do you do when a family member dies, how do you handle your wedding if your family is religious?)

There are even a growing number of atheist churches, which I personally think is a little beyond the mark.

But I know that humans need social connections, and I fear what happens if atheists don’t realize that associating with other atheists isn’t ridiculous, it would be healthy.

There may come a time when being atheist is the default of society, where we don’t need to create groups just to be safe around fellow atheists, but that time isn’t now. Don’t laugh, one day you may need an atheist by your side, to remind you that the human connection gets us through the hardest time, and gives birth to the greatest times.

The Curse of the Moderate Christian

The Curse of the Moderate Christian

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This is a perfect storm of things that enrage me. Take LGBT issues, cross it with Christian oppression, and sprinkle censorship on top. The only way this could get worse is if someone kicked a puppy on their way out the door.

For those who aren’t here for deep reading, let me summarize the story for you. This guy here, David King, works together with another author, a Michael Jensen, to create a book. Blam, done, book finished, for all I know it is the next great American novel. Fast forward to a publisher finally signing on with them, except they edit the final sentence of Michael’s biography. Three guesses what was in that final sentence, and it wasn’t heil hitler! He mentions his partner, as in he is one of those gays you’re always hearing about. After bringing up the unfortunate bit of censorship, their contract gets dropped altogether.

This is all happening in Utah, of course.

Nothing against Utah (this clause means I’m lying), but it would take a healthy bit of cash to ever get me there. Though I guarantee you it is one of the nicest places in the United States, because Mormons all act like that guy from the Enzyte commercials.

Now this is all bad enough, and David has done (most of) the right thing in standing behind his friend, colleague, and fighting against bigotry. It doesn’t make sense that in this day and age, a publisher would block a writer from telling the truth about who they are. Worse, the reason for the censorship was that it was believed it would hurt sales in particular markets.

Sometimes I call myself a New Atheist, which means now and again I like to look at another human being and describe to them why the things they just said to me are utterly ridiculous. So when I see something like this, my imagination pulls up some Mormon nanny state, where everyone can quietly believe that Jesus is waiting around the corner to make his big return, the big horns are just about the blow, and all those Muslim people they see on TV are just a little confused, and can’t wait to join the Mormon church. No one is really gay, and the only people who have sex before finishing their mission definitely imploded and were never heard from again.

This is me exaggerating, some of the best people I’ve ever known, Mormons. That said, the way they and other Christians act, allows stupid incidents like this to happen.

You may have heard this said before, the silence of the moderates gives permission to the radicals. You may have heard it said about Islamic extremists. The same concept applies.

In the linked blog post, David talks about how this isn’t an act of the LDS church, and that is true. Unfortunately this did happen in the middle of Mormon-ville, and the odds that this wasn’t religiously motivated are slim to none. So when David King goes on to say that not all Mormons think this way, and that some believe theirs is a religion of love, that doesn’t mean much in the face of acts performed in the name of his religion. Cool, you think everything is hunky-dory, and we’ll all go flying into M-space and enjoy our own planets with green alien babes for all (note, this is not what Mormons believe, so don’t comment on it), but when your views are moderate/liberal compared to the central platform of your faith, I have to ask why you still subscribe to that faith at all.

And lets face it, with Mormon tithing, it is a subscription. It is a lot like a gym, but your knees hurt more in the end.

Yes, I understand that every movement will have radicals. Feminists do not have to answer for those who call to kill all men. Atheists do not have to answer for those who want to burn churches (Is this even a thing? I bet). Mormons and Christians alike do not have to answer for the worst among Christianity. Unless, the radicals are using central tenets of that faith or group.

How do you condemn rape and pillaging when your own bible has your god commanding the same? How do you condemn homophobes when your bible says gays are an abomination? It isn’t radicals you are fighting, it is your own faith.

But that is the curse of the moderate; they love the greater faith, and have to take the rape with loving embrace.

Do I have to say why this isn’t impressive?

Do I have to say why this isn’t impressive?

pope-francis-voices-support-for-protestors-in-brazil

Slow clap for Francis for saying out loud what anyone could tell you.

Many people applauded this stance, I’ve heard it called progress, and I’ve seen posts crying out in favor of the new pope, again. Of course he hasn’t actually done anything. Pope for 5 months and the most he can do is talk, and not even a good talk.

At the end of the day he can only reiterate what the church has already said many times before. Gay people are fine, as long as they don’t act gay. Genius work, I’m sure gay people will jump on that hook and ride it off to divine acceptance.

Lets not ignore the other little detail in here.

“We cannot limit the role of women in the Church to altar girls or the president of a charity, there must be more.

But with regards to the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and says no… That door is closed.”

Well then, glad we could have this talk Pope Francis.

Be sure to call me when you move beyond faux progress.