Friday, December 30, 2011


This is my first holiday season since coming out as a not-christian and non-religious person. It probably would have no impact on my impressions of the season if not for the fact that I have new friends and acquaintances online who are very openly atheist (and even anti-theist, as one woman likes to put it). So I find myself puzzling over the question of whether or not the use of the word "christmas" is a big deal.

On the one hand, let's admit it; this country may not be an explicitly christian country in legal wording, but in population and history it often may as well be. This is, in my opinion, rather unfortunate, but unavoidable nonetheless. I personally do not think it should continue to be one, but that isn't the debate I want to focus on right now. The real problem in the question of the use of the word christmas is that in a country that claims to offer its citizens freedom of religion there seems to be a very special preference for the judeo-christian brand of religion. Because obviously the history of christianity in this country is the reason that christmas is a federally recognized holiday.

On the other hand, though, there is no mandated religious expression associated with the celebration of the holiday. For the most part government buildings and institutions are still prohibited from showing a christian preference through nativity scenes or other depictions of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and company. In American christmas mostly means trees and lights, presents and food, family and time off of work (none of which are strictly religious observances; indeed, many of them have roots in paganism). So is it a problem to celebrate christmas? Is that somehow caving to some social pressure, to agree to call our American holiday by a name rooted in religion (Christ-mass; take that protestants!).

Perhaps I'm just too much of a chicken to touch this fight, or perhaps it's because christmas has always been a secularized holiday to me, but I really see no reason to mess with it. I mean, if people really want to be P.C. about the names of everything, we might want to rename the vagina too. After all, the word basically means sheath, which is kind of a degrading name for a woman's genitalia (especially non-hetero females). One could come up with a nearly-endless list of names that ought to be changed because of their history at some point or another. So, perhaps a better solution would be to continue to change the meaning of the words through our practice than to try to force everyone to use different words. At the least, it seems like a good choice in the interim between now and whenever it would be possible to institute a wide-range use of whatever new word one had in mind.

So on that note, merry christmas, happy hanukkah, have a good kwanza, a great new year, happy solstice, merry whatever-holiday-you-celebrate, and just a great happy holiday season.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

In Preparation (Atheism Pt. 1)

Yes, I anticipate several intense and long conversations in the next week or so (probably longer). While I feel certain that these debates (discussions? conversations?) will maintain an amicable and friendly tone (because I know my Dad and I can tell his passionate/excited voice from his mad/personal voice) I still would like to be prepared for some of the questions we will be discussing. While I have done and intend to continue to do research on the subject of atheism v. theism, I find it helpful to write down (or type out) my thoughts before hand to sort things out into neater categories in my head. So here goes (this may turn into multiple posts, FYI).

First, the question of whether atheism is just another religion. Man, I could probably do a whole blog just on this subject. Well, to begin with, it is very hard--nearly impossible--to sum up the beliefs of a demographic of people who believe widely differently from each other. And I certainly do not claim my opinions to be indicative of the entire group. With that digression aside, we plunge ahead.

Also, sorry if I sound like I'm from another century. I grew up on Dickens, Austen, Bronte, Doyle, etc, and I just can't help myself sometimes.

Ahem. Atheism is really only a belief when viewed through the lenses of those who are not atheists. It's kind of insulting to tell atheists that they just have a different set of beliefs or follow a different cult or religion because to atheists, that simply isn't true. Atheism is about not believing for most atheists. This is really hard for people who believe in any sort of religion to understand, because to them if god is real than not believing in god is an active belief choice. To atheists, this is like saying not believing in santa, the tooth fairy, or the smurfs is an active choice and belief. To atheists, this is simply facing the facts of life; nothing more and nothing less. To an atheist not believing in god is like believing in germs, atoms, canine biology, and the fact that the rent is due next week.

Now, part of the problem with this is that atheists are labeled by what they don't believe. This does present an awkward problem, as it gives the idea that atheists are all about what they don't believe (which, as any of the many christian denominations can tell you, quickly becomes a religious-type belief). And the argument can be made that some atheists--and certainly some of the most visible and vocal of them--do tend to define themselves by their disbelief and make it their mission to "de-convert" as many people as possible. Of course, even this, from an atheist perspective, is not a religious thing, but a saving-the-world-from-the-horrors-of-religion thing. But, to be fair, it can look very much like evangelical atheism. But to get back to the main point, why are atheists labeled by what they don't believe, and is this non-belief a central non-belief for most atheists?

According to Wikipedia's page on atheism (I know, I know, wiki-haters are bashing their keyboards right now) the word originated as a pejorative term (read, insult) to those who did not worship the gods every one else did. In fact (still according to Wikipedia) no one really referred to themselves as atheists until the 18th century (1700s, for those who get confused). And, it isn't hard to believe that back in history when everyone believed in and worshipped some kind of god, that atheism would be used as an insult (think godless, godlessness, paganism, heathenism; all insults at one time or another). And, if one continues to read the etymology section on atheism at Wikipedia, one will discover that some atheists feel that the word atheism isn't even necessary. So, arguably, the only reason we need the word or use it (for now) is because people who do not believe in the existence of god or gods are so rare and many or most religious followers feel a need to classify them somehow into an other.

The idea that atheism doesn't need a name makes perfect sense from an atheistic perspective. After all, to an atheist, we are born with no notion of god, and it is only as we are raised in a religious environment that we begin to have some concept of a divine being existing. Arguably, though, from an atheistic perspective, this adoption of religion is a disturbance of the natural state of non-belief. It's a bit like not believing in the existence of the evil overlord Fwim and his minions of urglems that rule the moon and are planning on taking over our planet in the year 2309 (and I apologize if I've accidentally referenced some scientology or new-age belief; I was trying to make something up). One simply isn't born believing or disbelieving in something that does not exist, so it makes more sense to make a name for those who believe in imaginary things than for those who don't believe in imaginary things.

Now, naturally in a world mostly populated by people who are religious or spiritual to some degree, it is impossible that this lack of faith or belief could go unnamed. Impossible. And this can put atheists in an awkward spot. To call one's self an atheist is to bow down to the ruling ideology that not-believing is "weird" "different" and often inferior in morals, attitudes, behaviors, and of course numbers. It is admitting to being a minority in a world and a country where minorities do not receive the warmest of welcomes. But, on the other hand, in a world and especially a country that values individuality, the self, beliefs, and values (yes, even the religious tend to value these things to one degree or another) it feels false not to stand up and identify as not being mainstream.

In other words, the point of identifying as atheist isn't to say that the most important thing in the world is that god continues not to exist. The point is to refuse pressure to conform, to fit in, or even just to stay silent. The point is to speak one's opinion on a subject where individual non-conformist opinions are not very welcome. The point is to say, "that may be the most important thing in the world to you, but that doesn't mean I have to agree." The point is freedom to live however one wants to live as whomever one wants to live as. And, for many, the point is to live as one's self in an authentic way that can hopefully lead to finally finding community that understands (rather than having to live one's entire life in a community where all one has to offer is dumb silence and dull nods).

So, while I'm sure many--if not most--atheists would be up for a re-branding (or un-branding) for now I think that the term is heavily affixed in our culture and the best thing we can do is remember that no matter what a person believes, that person is still first and foremost a fellow human being. Have a marvelous day, fellow persons!

P.S. Thank you to for being an excellent source of quick knowledge any time I need you. BFFs! ;)

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Was I Really Like That?

I just had an awkward facebook debate with a man I barely know. I wasn't going to get involved, except that he was kind of rude to a friend of mine, and those of you who know me know how I get when people are rude to a friend of mine.

It was about love, of all things, but love seen through the spectacles of the "christian religion." I already knew I wasn't going to win, and I didn't have any intention of winning. I guess mostly I have this idea of solidarity and not letting people barrel down my friends and family in conversation without at least putting up a fight (argument rather). This is not to prove a point to the bulldozer in question; they are usually blind to such points unless you are as rude back to them as they were to begin with (something I would rather not do). No, I stand up for my friends to let them know that someone else sees what happened and appreciates the breach of etiquette. I sometimes question this philosophy of mine, but that hasn't stopped me yet.

But back to the debate in question. It was about love, as I said. The original statement, one I agreed with, was that saying "I love you" in response to an "tangible action" seems (and this is in my own words here) insincere at best, manipulative and lying at worst. And I think we can all agree that "love" that has to be earned isn't really love at all, but praise and reward for behavior (kind of a behavior salary, if you will). My friend replied to this in agreement and affirmation, and then at the end said something to the effect of, "of course, tangible actions do demonstrate love." Also, in my opinion, a true statement. She did not say that "if you love, you have to do x, y, and z." She just said that tangible actions can and do demonstrate love. This vital word may have been missed or confused by the original poster, who basically replied to her saying that Jesus's action in dying on the cross for us was the best way to show love, and then said she was wrong. Which, frankly, confused the shit out of me.

You agree with her by saying that a tangible action was the ultimate gesture of love then tell her she was wrong? What the fuck, man? Are you on acid or something? Your own statements do not agree with each other! Now, he tried to say something about "since life is not tangible, Jesus gave us the coolest [implied untangible] gift." Okay, I'm sorry, but life is tangible and measurable. Unless you are talking about "eternal life." In which case, why are you switching topics? You started the topic about "people who..." and suddenly it's "Jesus who..." which would be okay if you believe Jesus to be a person, but you changed topic from people to god to make a point? That's low man.

Especially considering he then proceeded to argue with all of my statements as "ignoring his original statement." Which, I'll admit, was partially true, as I was trying to defend my friend from his rude reply to her, not from his seemingly harmless original status. (Btw, for those concerned for my mental health in regards this person's annoying status; to avoid further altercations I unsubscribed from his facebook feed. Future problems solved).

But, I'm going to skip over the silly word games he played to argue with every defense I had and go right to the completely insane bit at the end. After he claimed that I had "given him the victory" by "ignoring his original point" (a completely rude and arrogant way to try to take back a conversation) I attempted to soothe the troubled waters by saying, in essentially, "You're both right. You are right, love should not be given for actions, but freely to people, but she was right that true love is often demonstrated and manifested in actions." Then I went to the spousal example. If my husband never acted lovingly to me, how would I know that he loved me?

I will have to give his reply verbatim (ish) to give the full effect, partially because it's so full of male ego and partially because I had trouble deciphering what the hell he was talking about.

I would ask this next. Why does he have to do anything? He married you? That's add ferry social problem. People expect things. You shouldn't expect anything. But when it's done you should be grateful and humble enough to admire the action.

Yeah. If you can figure out that bit in the middle about "ferry social problem" let me know. I googled it and got nothing. But really?! "Why does he have to do anything?" Because it's a fucking relationship! That's how they work! If you never talk, never do things for each other and with each other, never communicate with each other, then you don't have a relationship! If you're going to say you do, well then I guess you have a relationship with every person who is or ever has been on this planet (good job, that's pretty damn impressive). And really? I should just "be grateful and humble enough to admire the action"??? Maybe that's how your relationship with your god works, but in a marriage that's called an abusive relationship. Women (and men) who actually behave that way in relationships typically are walked all over and treated like dirt. And while I can see the argument for being that way with an all-loving god, who is not going to walk all over you and treat you like dirt, you don't do that with people! Have a little self-respect! Have some expectations!

Oh, yeah, that was the other thing. "You shouldn't expect anything"? Really? I shouldn't expect my husband to do things like listen when I talk, respond in a loving and respectful way, do his fair share around the house (except when his hip is broken), accept me for who I am, be honest with me, not cheat on me, spend time with me? Really? I should settle for a marriage that doesn't have any of those things "if I really love my husband?!" Well, you know what, maybe if I really loved my husband I would, but if I really loved my husband and myself I would know that it is not good for either one of us to be in that kind of relationship.

Oh, and the kicker. When I said, in response, that people need to see physical, tangible manifestations of love because we can't psychically experience love, do you know what his response was? "That's so sad." Wow. Because my husband can't psychically make me feel loved while being a complete slacker husband this single guy feel sad for me?! I feel sad for you, mister, as you clearly have never been in a healthy, functioning romantic relationship that lasted more than two dates.

I wish christians would stop feeling sorry for me. They're wasting their time, because I'm pretty damn pleased with my life right now, and pretty damn happy. Don't even get me started on the woman married to the drug- and sex-addict who feels bad for me because I "lost my faith." Sigh. Oh well, no skin off my back.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What's Wrong With the Christian Religion

I would like to just some up, partially for myself, the major flaws within the christian religion. I will be specifically relating to the ways that religion creates dysfunction in its members. So, here goes.

1. Sexual dysfunction. This is largely reinforced by the "virgin worship" that protestants like to accuse catholics of, but really are just as guilty of themselves. No, really, I don't even know how much I need to argue about this one, because we all know how christians feel about those little whores with their birth control, abortions, and live-in boyfriends. The real problem, though, is that this leads to an idea that all sex is bad, and even though marital sex is obviously encouraged for reproduction, it can lead to less enjoyment (and yes, I do know plenty of christians for whom this is true, if you would like some sort of citation here). While I, myself, managed to escape feeling this way about my sex life, per se, that was only because I was prettty much outside of christianity by the time I married. Yes, I did wait until I got married. But I certainly felt a lot of shame and guilt for my pre-marital sexual desires and self-exploration/pleasuring. (Now might be a good time to mention to the sexually-prudish that they may want to stop reading my blog entirely; no, seriously). And let's not even get started on homophobia. Seriously, people.

2. Family dysfunction. Okay, I know everyone has dysfunctional families to some degree, but let's be honest; a system that encourages that one person in a group have all of the power and leaves the rest disenfranchised generally does not work well. On a larger scale we call it dictatorship (and I don't know why we don't call it that on a smaller scale to). Even in the most benevolent christian families (and yes, I know some) it just leads to buildups of resentment in the hearts of the ruled because no one can stand up to the dictator. And if the dictator is human (which I'm pretty sure most fathers are) they are bound to mess up sooner or later. Probably with some regularity. And when no one can tell them that they have, several things happen: 1, the wrong never gets corrected; 2, the leader never learns from his or her mistakes; and 3, anger and resentment tends to build up and also never get dealt with. I mean, come on people! Women and children are people too!

3. Intellectual dysfunction. I can't even tell you how many debates I have had that seem to fizzle out right about the time certain phrases or quotes are introduced into the debate. They include some of the following; "god's ways aren't our ways," "god wants us to have faith," "our minds are too small to understand god," "god doesn't want us to know/we're not meant to understand." I mean, really, if god didn't want me to know/understand/demand intellectual integrity in my beliefs then why the hell do I have such burning curiosity and intelligence that demand answers? Why would god create a universe with questions and creativity if god didn't like them or had no intention of answering them? The only way that I ever managed to have faith and intelligence simultaneously was by keeping the two of them far apart. Otherwise they would start fighting and my intelligence would get the upper hand and then I would have to put her in time-out for a while until she calmed down and my faith had time to heal her bruises from the quarrel. In other words? It didn't work out too well.

4. Emotional dysfunction. Oy. There are so many illustrations of this, including the aforementioned sexual dysfunction. Feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and lonliness are so fucking pervasive. Wanna hear something really special? When I was a kid I used to feel guilty for not feeling guilty enough about my sins. True story. I never felt as much need to repent, to pray to god for my sins and apologize, and I used to feel guilty thinking that that made me extra prideful or something. Bear in mind, I was a really fucking well-behaved kid. Oldest of six, got nearly all A's through school, almost never fought with my siblings (except when they were breaking the rules), I helped around the house, babysat, and I was the most religious of all my siblings. In many ways I was the standard my siblings were held up to (which I, and I think my parents, regret). Then of course there was the worry, because everything that happened was somehow part of god's plan and we had to figure out what god wanted us to learn or do in that situation. Outside on a beautiful day? Time to contemplate god's beauty. Driving through the rain? Time to pray for god's providence and learn to trust god. Late for work? God wants you to learn patience (ha ha). Friend betray you? Probably means god wants you to trust that god will always be there for you and protect you, or maybe god's convicting you of betraying the christian cause and not being enough of a "Jesus freak." This obsession/compulsion to always attribute god to everything that happened in life made it impossible to actually enjoy most moments because I always needed to know exactly what I was supposed to be enjoying, or I should be enjoying it as much as humanly possible because it's god's gift to me. After all, if I don't enjoy this sunset enough then I'm not grateful enough to god so I'm going to spend the next thirty minutes trying to work myself up to enjoying it as much as possible! And now that I've worked myself up to an emotional frenzy...the sun is already down. You see what I mean? Then there's all the worry about the afterlife, what it's going to be like, what if my friends and family don't make it in, etc.

Have to go to work now, but I hope this gives you a general idea of why I was so fucking happy to officially declare on facebook that I am not christian!!!

Monday, December 5, 2011

I Did It (For Definition of 'It' Read Last Post)

I did it. I came out of the a-religious closet and into a bright, glorious future of no longer having to try to be non-religious without actually denying or accepting religion (a bizarre and unpleasant tightrope to try to balance on, for those of you with no personal experience). I didn't receive quite as much flack as I thought I would (yet). In fact, mostly I received pity, sympathy, and lots of "we're praying for you." Ugh. If I wanted your prayers, if I thought I was just 'doubting' christianity, I would have asked for them and said that, respectively.

The toughest part, though, are the people closer to me who are genuinely worried that I might be giving up on god entirely. While, as a person who strongly, genuinely, and emotionally pursued the christian god for many years, I can understand that, it has led me to the question, what reason is there for me to believe in a god, any god? And, of course, its sister question; what reasons are there for me not to? So far, I'll be honest, the answers I'm coming up with aren't impressive. But I'll share them anyway.

First, and honestly, the hardest one to get past, is the past, tradition, familiarity, whatever you want to call it. One time I put it to my friend like this; "When you are raised with religion, no matter how much you reject it later in life, it kinda feels like you're married to god, and you know how god feels about divorce." While I was mostly jesting in this statement, in many ways it's true. I spent most of my life being afraid of god's disapproval, god's wrath, god's judgment, hell, the afterlife, and 'losing fellowship with god.' Even when I deliberately remove myself from christianity, these fears and concerns still haunt me, no matter how much I argue with myself that they are a load of bullshit. And I find myself struggling to believe in god, ultimately, because of the fear I was raised with (which is a shitty reason to believe in anyone or anything).

Which brings me to my second point; I was indoctrinated to believe that if your god doesn't match up to the god of the bible then you are delusional at best, blaspheming at worst. This means that I often end up feeling like believing in god is an either/or proposition; either you subscribe to all of christianity, or you are an agnostic/atheist. I don't really see a lot of middle ground. As someone raised as a christian, anyone who believed in god without christianity was probably in a 'cult.' Well, hell, I don't want to be in a cult. So I find myself see-sawing back away from religion and even god.

Then, of course, there is the double-edged sword of my 'religious experiences with god' that I have had in the past. Arguably, these could either have been genuine experiences of god, or products of the emotional environment that encouraged these kinds of responses to god (i.e., moving music, religious services, the fervor of others, the beauty of the natural world, etc.). I honestly couldn't give you a good reason to definitely label them one way or another, so for right now these 'experiences' are weighing in pretty much as a neutral. Yes, there were times that I cried for god and praised god and thanked god and loved god and felt close to god. But those were always the 'good times' that probably would have felt good to me with or without a firm faith in a god. And the other times, the times when I cried out with an aching heart for a god that didn't seem to hear me, the times I couldn't reconcile myself with the god that was supposed to be and the god that made sense to me, the times that I thought my heart was going to explode (not in a good way) those could be seen as being evidence for my firm belief in god or evidence that god doesn't exist. The problem with the question of god is that no matter what you belief everything comes down to confirmation bias. We pick our position and then pretty much everything defends it.

And, of course, closely related to the emotional experiences is the whole "creation echoes god's majesty" argument, which is said about people, nature, music, art, math; hell, even science sometimes. Quite frankly the argument is so non-compelling to me that I don't even have much of a rebuttal for it. I will point back to my confirmation bias above, and move on.

A large part of me wants to believe in god; I am familiar with the concept of god, it is a comfortable one. The idea of leaving something behind that has been so integral to my life for such a long time is, quite frankly, a terrifying one. But, surprisingly enough, the idea of there not being an afterlife does not scare me. To me, if there is an afterlife it will be so very different from this life that it would be an entirely different life and existence, and consequently the me I am now and the life I have now would cease to exist anyway. So it really makes little difference to my life now if there is or isn't an afterlife. Everything dies, everything ends, we just make the most of this beautiful, crazy, random life that we have now.

Mostly I want to believe in god, I want a reason to believe in god, because I can't imagine my life without it. I have been reared since my infancy to attribute supernatural meaning and significance to my life, to believe that there is never a moment that I am alone, to feel that I always matter and I am always infinitely loved. While I feel that I can actually satisfactorily achieve most of these things without a god (who, quite frankly, feels just as absent from my life as any human most of the time), I still feel like I need god or I'm supposed to have god. Which is weird, because I don't know if I actually believe it; I just feel it.

I'll be brutally honest here though; my other big reason for wanting to be able to continue to believe in god is that I honestly don't know what it would do to my spouse and my marriage if it didn't. Oh, I have no doubt that he would still love me, and I really don't think it will lead to a divorce or even a lessening of intimacy, but I know that it would tear him up inside. Now, I would never lie about who I am for the sake of someone else's peace of mind (at least not someone I want to have the deepest intimacy with) but at the same time, I really wish I could just believe the things that would make him happy. Fortunately, though, I don't think he wants me to give up who I am for him any more than I want to. It's just hard to realize that your path can really shake the foundations of someone else's life.

But right now, I just can see no reason, no evidence, no argument, no statement that makes me believe in god. I don't actively disbelieve in god (i.e., I am not convinced that we can be certain of the non-existence of a deity). But I see no reason to believe that god is actively pursuing a relationship to me, especially when the only 'evidence' for it that I can see are self-manufactured emotion experiences and biased opinions on science and art. No one who believes in god can give me an unbiased opinion on why I should, and no one who disbelieves in god can give me an unbiased opinion on why I shouldn't. It's all really quite frustrating. In this age of science, reason, logic, and information it's really annoying to just have to arbitrarily pick your position and defend it, with nothing but your own convictions to defend you.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Coming Out (of the Proverbial Closet)

Yes. It happened today. I know it's a pretty small step, considering the relatively minuscule e-footprint that I have, but I needed to do it anyway. For me. So I took a deep breath, clicked the keys, and hit enter.

I am not a Christian.

I think my twitter peeps already know (how could they not?) but then I have always been very selective about how I follow (and consequently allow to find me) on twitter. I don't want to be known by my facebook friends on twitter. They're all Christian. I don't want to have to defend every other tweet I send out into the twit-o-sphere.

But I digress. I tweeted it, and as of this writing I've had one 'like' and one kindly worded message inquiring further into my brief status update. I really want to have the conversation, to get it all out there with many of my Christian friends and relatives, but it seems like the more and more I try to put myself out there the less people pay attention to me. Perhaps the worst thing that can happen after coming out of the a-religious closet is not confrontation, but abandonment.

I'll update more if I do get any more conversation from this status update (well, if it's interesting anyway).