The Skeptic's Guide to The Universe

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What is an "A+" atheist?

I guess this is a growing movement. I heard some about this from a recent podcast and really have been dealing with it ever since I have been trying to be in some sort of organized atheist movement back in 2009. I see flames and arrows going back and forth. It is odd that when compared to the mountain of religious issues we have to deal with as atheist that how you act as an atheist is really becoming such a major issue.

But as I have learned, no two atheists are the same.  Here are some concepts I “believe in as an atheist.

Me and "Jesus" Reason Rally
·         I believe that according to the Constitution that the right to bear arms should not be infringed, but in keeping with the Constitution they should also be regulated.
·         I believe abortion is non-negotiable option for woman and that it is a right inalienable to all women.
·         I believe that the right for labor to organized as a sacred as the right to vote and should be encouraged and supported
·         I believe that the global climate is changing; however I have yet to see conclusive evidence that shows humans are the primary or significant cause.
·         I believe that food ‘lifestyles” such as vegetarian, vegan, raw food, organic and etc. are simply a way for people to have a “one-upmanship” toward other people that do not share their view. No data or study has concluded that any on these diets are healthier than any other reasonable diet.
·         I believe that one of the major purposes of the government is to “provide for the General Welfare”, which means that as citizens we are obligated to support our country with our taxes. This means those that benefit most have a greater burden to serve the country with the prosperity.
·         I believe that when able, a person should help others and leave people alone when harm could result. TO me, one example is donating blood.
·         I think it is reasonable and responsible to recycle, and conserve energy, to dispose of waste properly and do your best to care for the environment.
·         I believe that gender equality is required and respect is the norm. As men and woman, we have many interactions, the goal is to make them positive, and make it right when we make mistakes.
Hemant Mehta FreeOK
·         I believe that human sexuality should not be a barrier to forming legal relationships with consenting adults. Marriage is a legal contract and as long as the parties agree, government has no business intervening.

None of these views are dependent or driven because I am an atheist. None of them are related to me having a past history as an evangelical Christian. I know atheists that have opposite views of each and every view I share. Does that mean we have nothing in common, of course not. It means we are a group of dynamic people that have a manifold of views that represent about every idea and concept of human existence. Should we alienate someone because they do not share our view on promoting our concepts concerning God and the supernatural?

I recall in 2010 at the Skeptic on III conference a panel discussion concerning accomidationalists and confrontationalists.  This was the first time I had come across these concepts. However, it wasn’t the first time I had dealt with them.  In 2009, when living in Ponca City, OK, I and a friend started a meet up group called Northern Oklahoma Freethinkers. By the second meeting we already had divisions starting. Those members that wanted to “bash” religion and those that just wanted to talk about science and positive concepts. There were those that felt that being a atheist meant you were associated with a certain political party.

PZ Myers, Richard Carrier and D.J. Grothe, Skepticon III
t was clear that we had to limit the topics or qualify the topics to not offend some people. Personally, I loved the rigorous discussions and found them very engaging. But it was respectful, or at least we tried our best to be. It isn’t perfect. But what is the goal? What are we trying to do?
We have maybe as many answers to this as we have atheist.

For me, as an ex-evangelical Christian, it is to point out the futility of their faith. I find it perfectly
Me as a Christian DJ, circa 1990
acceptable to ridicule someone that thinks their make believe faith in something should be respected. But I know this isn’t the way everyone wants to be, that is fine. I have many personal reasons for my view. My past has brought me to this point and how I view religion is based upon many years of seeking and study on the subject.

I have learned that many people raised in a secular family find the confrontationalist point of view to be quite aggressive. And for them, that is right. But there are many of us that are ‘victims” of the dogmatic indoctrination of religion. I respect those that want to take the quiet and gentle approach. To me, it isn’t a matter of A+ or A- or anything like that, it is a matter of making the idea of God less acceptable by a wide range of methods.

I agree with people that have different tactics than I do. But should I be marginalized because I like to confront adherents in their churches? Should I be ridiculed for thinking crosses all over the country are as offensive as seeing a hangman’s noose or a guillotine?

I have my point of view and it is different than yours, I get that but I also share the same goals and ideas. What is the “best” way to be an atheist?

I don’t know and neither do you.

What I do know is that I wish I had someone like me to help me come out of my religious delusion when I was entrenched in it. We need all of us.  As I see it, by all means possible.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

What I learned in Sunday School

Sometime it takes longer for concepts to soak into head than others. Like when I talk to someone about construction, I have a history working in this field and so I can normally keep along with the conversation, likewise with many automotive principles, while complicated can be understand at least in concept and talked about as an intelligent customer or consumer.
However, today was the first time I think the real driving and motivating force of Christianity came through my head. I had an atypical day off one recent Sunday and took advantage of the time to go and check out a local “Sunday School” class. The main issue with finding a Sunday school class is that there is no unifying time for them to start. So you have to drive around and look at the signs or go up to the door and see when this or that church decide it is time to learn about their God and the Bible. This particular day took me past four options before 9:20 am. The first place didn’t have anything posted, which I always take as a sign that they really don’t care what you know only that you believe what they say. This was a more Charismatic church, go figure. The next two were Lutheran, about two blocks apart, one was Missouri synod, the other was Wisconsin Synod, and the first one was having Sunday school at 9:30 and the other and 9:45 am. Across the street near both of these church is a Catholic Church and School; it seems that is one religious road. Since it was just after 9:00 I decided to look a bit further, this took me to a Baptist Church. Not like Westboro Baptist Church but I would guess a more typical Baptist church. I got there about 9:20 am and they started at 9:45 am, of course. Three churches three different start times.

I spend a few minutes in my care listening to “Ask an Atheist” podcast before I go into join them. I walk around and use the toilet before the class to get the only relief I will find in that place, more than likely. Of course this being Sunday at church, people tend to “dress up” well I wore shorts and a polo shirt, you know, typical clothes. I saw they had three CO-ED classes. So I had to look at the rooms and guess which one I thought would give me the best “bang” for my buck. [No money traded hands during the making of this story.] So I saw a classroom with some questions listed concerning the Gospel of John. I thought, A-ha, questions, I’ll be able to speak. So after making my choice I went into the room and in typical Baptist fashion, no one was sitting on the front seats, so I did. “I ain’t no Baptist.”

Prior to the class starting some older woman came up to me to get me to fill out a card with my name and personal information. I asked her, “What is this for?”

She said, “It is so we can have a recorded of your attendance.”

“I really don’t see any reason for that.” She looked at me oddly and went back and sat down.

Now, one thing that has soaked through my head is that Church is the place to tell stories about other people and pretend you’re doing something. You know, prayer requests. Well they mentioned a few and some other shit that really wasn’t anybody else business. So this is my conclusion on prayer, it is the way people can find out about other people’s lives while acting like they care about them.

Back to the class, the teacher was about in his mid-60s and was what you might think about an older gentleman, raised in the church Baptist member, short hair, and hearing aid and in an old but nice suit. I have noticed that if you “break” a social norm in church, you either get totally ignored or much more attention than you desire. This day I got ignored.
The leader of the class began by stating that he would have to leave after 20 minutes due to some baptism. Hearing this made me so sad to hear such news.

“Crap, I thought non-believers are growing faster than this.”

So the leader of the class began his discussion of John the book, There were several topics mentioned including Nicodemus, spiritual mysteries, physical mysteries, salvation, titles, and several other issues, not to mention, John 3:16, which oddly didn’t come up. But the discussion of salvation sure the hell did.

But as I listened to the lecture, because the only questions, which were few, were answered with the “whisper” voice you hear if you attend Sunday school, you don’t want to be WRONG in Sunday school. That might mean you’re learning something.

As the leader of the class continued his lecture I could tell that it wasn’t the content that he was getting wrong as much as failure to see the illogical connections he was making.

Picking and choosing from this story or that story of the Bible or just simply taking a story out from life and incorporating that as support for a the statements of foolishness. That is when I realized, they don’t care about facts, and they just care about their story.

It is like living with role playing people but these people think their game is real.

This was the church: