The reason this shocked me so much, besides the fact that this neck of the woods is pretty quiet in regard to religiousness in general, is the fact that this is the 12th year this has happened here. It makes me wonder the extent of my separation from the religious community. I don't feel like I do this on purpose, but I am one of those people who will answer the door to a Mormon, smile and say 'I'm an atheist, but thanks!' and immediately close the door so that I don't have to have that uncomfortable moment of having to reassure the proselytizer that yes, I really am atheist and no, I really don't want to try your belief system out.
I think most people avoid things which make them uncomfortable and while I know a good amount of atheists are not uncomfortable in the least in regard to religion, I am. I am because I don't want to go out of my way to offend anyone and I don't find any joy in being disrespectful. I feel like my position on religion - that it's complete bullshit - means that I ought to avoid religious confrontation as much as I can in my day to day life. If I were to engage in a conversation with the door to door Mormons, for example, I know there is a good chance I would offend them because I find their belief system ridiculous to a laughable degree. I feel it's better to politely but firmly close the door rather than engage in a conversation where I know one or both of us may get upset.
Some of my fellow atheists are inclined to call me out as a coward for this, but I say that the way you conduct yourself when living your private life will always be different than the way you conduct yourself when you are putting yourself in the public arena. No, I'm not inclined to debate on my front porch but yes, I am inclined to participation in activism. I think very little can be done in the way of helping the evolution of atheism into a publicly accepted belief by creating excessive strain within my personal life.
So - 'rock' on, Creation Fest. I only hope someday I'll be able to go to 'Atheism Fest' - an imagined mirror of what Creation Fest seems to be except probably more fun and with bands I've actually heard of.
Let's address first the fact that most of what can be said regarding atheist parentage can also be said of religious parentage. The religious says that atheists will brainwash their kids to reject god, damning them to eventually burn in hell. Atheists can say that the religious will brainwash their kids to be closed off to anything outside of their religion, damning them to a lifetime of slavery to an unquestioned and unsubstantiated doctrine. It continues back and forth, you can fill in the rest.
The arguments that may seem only applicable to atheists are equally matched by arguments only applicable to the religious. The point being that this fashion of argument is equatable to a ideological pissing match between groups who are being defensive and exclusionary - as any parent is when their ability is in question.
Take the statement - "atheists are bad parents" and replace the word atheist with any other group of people and see how ugly of a statement that is. No matter what group you apply that comment to, it's a horrible judgment to make on an entire group of people.
I did appreciate the intention behind the comments – I realized a lot of people don’t have any other way to deal with the finality of death except to ignore it and focus on an afterlife. I wasn’t mad at them for trying to help me deal with my dad’s death in the same way they must deal with death, it just made me uncomfortable because I thought everything they said was total BS but I didn’t want to be disrespectful in response to their way of mourning.
I think a huge amount of strength in regard to the power of religion comes from the comfort it seems to give people during mourning. If I were religious I probably would have appreciated all the mentions of him in heaven, doing his thing – smoking weed with Jesus or whatever. However, I don’t believe in an afterlife or Jesus or any of that, so really all that talk did for me was drive home the fact that he was dead and never coming back and that people seemed more interested in making themselves feel better than facing the reality of his death.
It didn’t make me mad that people were expressing what they felt were comforting words, but it didn’t make me want to join in that kind of comfort either. What these comments did do was solidify in me the belief that people can convince themselves of anything if they need comfort enough, even conclusions like heaven and an afterlife which I feel are entirely delusional, but that doesn’t add any validity to the delusion from which they derive comfort.
When theists pose the question, "What about death?" in regard to atheists, all I can really respond with is, "I'm dealing with life right now. When I get to death, if you're around, I'll tell you how I feel about it."
Incidentally, my dad is the only one so far that I’ve found in the cemetery that has the atheist symbol on his niche. That makes me proud - like the daughter of a pioneer.
The issue of how exactly the establishment clause of the constitution is logically implemented is a debate which never seems to take a break. Recently on the American Atheists blog there was a post concerning a judicial ruling that a library would have to allow a christian group to use a conference room to meet for religious service - a room which existed to provide the public with a place to gather free of charge. The library had a pre-existing rule that none of the facilities were open to religious services.
What I find interesting is the debate which followed - a debate among atheists - as to whether or not this was a fair ruling. At one point the issue of freedom of speech came up, but I honestly have no idea how you could turn this into a freedom of speech issue unless you were specifically trying to complicate things. However, in regard to separation and the establishment clause - this is a great issue for debate.
In defense of the decision:
The library rooms are publicly funded and as such are supposed to be open to the entirety of the public. Religious groups comprise part of the public and so should be able to use the rooms just like anyone else. To keep them from being able to use these rooms is actually a kind of discrimination and is inappropriate in regard to publicly available resources.
Because the library is a publicly funded institution over which the government has direct control, the allowance of any religious group to use the public rooms is a violation of the establishment clause because by allowing religions to use public facilities as places of worship, the government is funding these religions by proxy. The establishment clause exists to maintain a clear an distinct separation of church and state, so allowing religious groups to use state funded spaces is a clear violation of that separation.
I honestly feel somewhere in the middle between these two arguments and I'd like to get other people's opinions on the subject. The interpretation of the establishment clause is constantly being debated between theists and non theists and the propensity for non-theists to claim that theists are trying to purposefully interpret the clause to fit their god-agenda is common. However, this is not the first time I've witnessed atheists arguing among themselves regarding the scope and depth of what church and state separation really means which seems to lend weight to the theist argument that the establishment clause is more widely interpretable than non-theists claim it to be.
More information has come to light regarding the incident and the youth who was filmed which makes me wonder - what exactly about this kind of behavior is at all acceptable to anyone? This is shocking to me. First of all, the kid in the video is only 16 years old. Can you imagine being at that awkward age and going through something like this? According to the article, this is the third time he's requested this kind of 'treatment' regarding his homosexuality and the third time it's been given to him. At some point do none of these people see this as the combination of a person who is not at all well and people who are willing to take advantage of anyone they can to push an agenda?
They refute the term exorcism, preferring the term 'casting out'. Isn't that just a simple argument regarding terminology? I'm almost sure if you label that cultist activity 'homosexual casting out' rather than 'homosexual exorcism' people will still have the same issues in regard to what is being done to that boy.
On the other hand, the kid (and presumably his parents or guardians support him in this) has himself requested the treatment. Perhaps he thinks it really works and perhaps he feels that this kind of activity is just an expression of his religious beliefs.
That seems to be the case - though the kid has expressed an unwillingness to communicate with the media "citing the advice of his pastor" which causes me to question again whether this is the activity of a church or the activities of a cult.
Regardless on where you stand on the subject, it seems obvious to me that this kind of treatment of a person, especially at this age facing the stressful and emotional issue of sexuality, is wrong. It may be protected under freedom of religion and it may not be considered cultish behavior, but it's still wrong to put a kid through that, even if he asks you to.
It's already old news that South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford has publicly admitted to having an affair with a woman in Argentina and it seems the public has already shrugged this off as yet another conservative proponent of the family values agenda who has failed to live up to the standards he so passionately demanded of the American public.
Why is it that this kind of hypocritical behavior is so common among conservatives that when a news story like this pops up the only surprise expressed is that he was having an affair with a woman and not a man, and yet the conservative 'family values' platform still holds some considerable clout in the political ring?
Conservatives (I should point out that by conservatives I mean religious conservatives. This to me seems redundant but as there are a few non-religious conservatives out there and those few would undoubtedly find this blog were I not to make this distinction.) love to establish reputations of being pious and moral. This conservative morality is meant to be viewed as a superior kind of morality because it has the will of a creator god behind it - as if to insinuate that a moral atheist by definition cannot be "as moral" as a christian. When one of their flock is exposed as being just as human and just as prone to behavior that most would consider immoral it seems the attitude shifts quickly to one of shame and guilt. The paramount of morality becomes the picture of a repentant sinner and the person in question remains just as useful, simply painted in a different light.
No doubt the reaction from the christian community will be one that completely disregards the glaring hypocrisy and irresponsibility of Sanford's actions and will instead focus on the regretful man himself. Prepare for a barrage of 'Love the sinner, hate the sin.' and a soon to be announced 're-affirmation and strengthening of belief' coming from Sanford.
As a kind of intro to this blog I'd like to talk about Kurt Vonnegut. What better subject matter for the initial post of an atheist blog then to talk about the greatest influence in my life in regard to atheism. Interestingly, I had no idea that this was the case until just recently - a good 13 years after I began reading my first Vonnegut novel. It wasn't until Vonnegut's death that I realized that 1 - he was an atheist and 2 - I truly am an atheist as well.
Let me give a bit more personal back story for myself as reading that realization/affirmation scenario in and of itself makes me a skeptic of the validity of my own beliefs.
I was raised by a passive agnostic (recovering Catholic?) and a passionate atheist. I refer to my upbringing as being one of "atheist environment" rather than being raised an atheist because I was never directly spoken to regarding the subject until I was older and had already began to explore my own beliefs in regard to God in an environment completely outside the influence of my parent's opinion. I was not sent to atheist camp as a child, I didn't pray to mighty Atheismo each night before bed, and I had no doctrine of atheism which I was expected to learn and adhere to. The reason I make this distinction so clear is that I feel there is a big difference between being the kid of an atheist and being an atheist kid. Replace the term 'atheist' with any other belief/non belief system and the concept stands.
My attitude toward religion has consistently been an anthropological one, I never bought into it but I always found it fascinating. I collected rosaries for a while when I was younger and for a solid year I was dedicated to drawing oil pastel sketches of churches. I have always found profound beauty in the products of people who would consider themselves profoundly religious. As for religion itself - there is nothing more awful, more hateful, more exclusive and isolating. Given all of this, I still didn't consider myself an atheist even though an outsider's opinion would have probably placed me in the center of the atheist crowd without question.
Back to Vonnegut. Kurt Vonnegut died April 11th 2007 and it hit me hard as my own dad had died two months earlier. When my dad died I thought a lot about religion. Indeed it's difficult not to think about religion when every other person you talk to is trying to cheer you up with stories of an imagined after-life which the person who died didn't even believe in. I thought about my dad and about how angry he was in regard to religion and by proxy, the religious. Considering this, I realized that I didn't want to become that 'angry atheist' that people (often religious people) bemoaned and caricatured. I didn't want to be defined and categorized by my atheism so I decided that I must not be atheist.
When Vonnegut died I thought about his writing. I thought about how kind of a person he seemed, even when being scathingly sarcastic or even overtly critical, and how I would love to be remembered in the same light. I decided after his death to look into Kurt Vonnegut the person. While the man was alive I fully enjoyed Kurt Vonnegut the author and had no interest in what I would consider invading his personal life by snooping around interviews which the man freely and happily gave. In death, I felt it more appropriate to learn what I could about his beliefs, his past, everything. It was when I learned that Kurt Vonnegut, the man I personally regarded as an example of the best you could be in this world, was an atheist that I realized that I was an atheist as well.
I'm not the same kind of atheist as my dad - I don't disregard people of faith as idiots because of little more information about them besides the fact that they are people of faith. I'm not the same kind of atheist as Vonnegut either - he himself said that he was an atheist who spent far too much time being dragged to church and that is something I could never do at this point in my life as I regard all of organized religion to be a negative influence on society. What Vonnegut taught me, or perhaps what I realized in reading about Vonnegut and seeing the vast contrast between him and my dad, is that while belief is well known to be as personal and exclusive to the individual as a fingerprint, lack of belief follows the exact same pattern of individuality.
This is not an atheist blog to represent atheism or even atheists - this is my atheist blog and a representation of my atheism being presented as a means for communication and expansion of thought. Welcome.