Saturday, March 31, 2012

Joining the A to Z Challenge

Just a quick note today to let you all know I am joining the A to Z Blogging Challenge.

I am already doing this over at my other blog, The Other Side, but I felt that this blog could also gain from the exposure and it would help me collect my thoughts some on what I think this blog should be about.

So please join me as I go through the A to Z of atheism, skepticism and free thought.

If you are coming here from the Challenge, then please leave a link back to your own blog.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Read the First chapter of Greta Christina's book

I have to admit. She has made some very, very valid points on why atheists should be angry.

While I still rather think of myself as a disgruntled atheist, I have certain have been (and surely will be again) an angry one.

I am still reading the book and of course still looking for the voice for this blog.  Somewhere between the Angry Atheist and the Friendly Atheist to be sure.  Maybe I should open this place up and do talk about the things about religion and the religious that piss me off.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Defending the Faithful...or not

One of the things I want to be sure of  with this blog is I am making out and out attacks on the faithful and people of faith just because they are faithful.

I will attack people for being idiots, for being hate-filled assholes, and for be general shit-heads.

I do want to be clear that there has been good done by religious people, but there is also plenty of bad.

One only needs to look at the number of hospitals, charities and the like to see that religious folks can do well.  The problem arises when places like this start to deny their charity to others that don't share their beliefs.  For example Catholic Charities in Illinois denying adoptions to gay couples.

I am not going to beat the dead horse of the Crusades, wars, the Holocaust, 9/11 or all the other killing done in the name of your/their/a specific god.

As I evolve this blog and learn more about what I want to say and how I want to say it I am sure my ideas and my writings will also evolve.

A couple things I want to look into.

1. The Evolution of Morality.  How do we have morals. What do they do? How are they tied to religion?
2. The Anti-Evolution Debate.  I am a strong proponent of the Theory of Evolution (and I know what a Theory actually is) there is too much evidence for it.  Yet people still seem to think that it is not possible.  So I want to read/hear their side so I know my own arguments better.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

How I discovered I was an Atheist, Part 3: What about those African* babies?

*and Asian and Austrian and other non-Christians.

I remember when I was younger having a conversation with an adult.  I am going be vague about who this adult is because who she is isn't really important.  Suffice it to say that she was someone whose opinion on things about religion and god I felt was authoritative.   I was very curious about this whole "being saved" deal.
She told how it worked and what it meant and that was fine, but of course I get to a point where I ask about other people.
"Can anyone be saved?" I asked.
"Yes, of course." She said. "As long as they hear the word of god."
"What if they don't hear it?" I asked.
"Then they can't be saved." she added. "But everyone knows about god."
"What about babies in Africa or China (which were the far away places to me then), what if they don't hear it because they can't read English or don't have TVs and they don't know." I asked, I was worried about innocent babies burning in hell.
"Well they won't be saved." she said. I think she knew where I was taking this.
"That's not fair, what about people in the Dark Ages in Japan that never heard this and never would have? Did they all go to Hell too?" I was not happy.
"I don't want to talk about this anymore." She finally said.

Babies. Burning in hell.  That's what I learned about a so called loving and caring god.

Now before you assume this was a one off deal, I had the same argument with friends in high school and then again (only with more agreement) with friends in college.
I remember asking people variously about Ghandi, or other ancient "good" people or kids that never did anything wrong.  Yup according to Christians, each and everyone of them is in Hell getting ass-raped by Beelzebub.

My first reaction was one of typical pre-teenage/teen rebellion, fuck that shit.  If this so-called god wants me to bend over and kiss his ass he can kiss mine!

Of course later, when I got over that, I realized that this whole idea of hearing the word of god to be saved was made back in the time when the world was different place, where the only people you wanted "saved" were the ones near you.  The early Christians really didn't care about their neighbors and then could only think in terms of a few hundred miles, not the size of the world as we know it now (though the Greeks did know back then).

Christianity fell apart for me on it's hypocrisy.  Once I looked into it then the other religions also began to fall apart for equally valid reasons.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

You Are Here

Love these posters.

No need for make believe worlds or heavens, these are spectacular enough.

Images from Calvin's Canadian Cave of Coolness.

"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring." - Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World. 1995

"Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever it has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved?"   - Carl Sagan, Interview with Charlie Rose, 1996

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

How I discovered I was an Atheist, Part 2: Who's afraid of the Dark?

When I was small I was, like many small kids, afraid of the dark.
Not because of what I knew, it was because of what I didn't know.  Was there a monster under the bed? Was Dracula or Barnabas in my closet? Was Bigfoot standing outside my window?  It was the 70s there was a lot shit to be scared of when you are a kid.

When I turned 10 I made a conscious decision. Another one of my "freeing" moments.
I decided I was not going to be scared of the dark anymore.  I was upstairs in my room, it was Christmas break and I had been playing with a set of paint by numbers I had gotten as a gift  (yes, yes I am going to into how can I be an atheist and still celebrate Christmas...later).  While painting (I am a terrible painter and my parents got a picture of a car to paint, I would have preferred an X-Wing or something like that) I kept thinking that if there is no God, no Santa (I had figured that one out as well), no nothing, then there were no ghosts, no vampires, no bigfoot and certainly no devil.

So I turned off the lights. And I waited.
And waited.
And waited.

And eventually nothing happened.

I just sat there in the dark. I listened to my parent house creak and groan. I looked out into the dark, sitting on the floor with my back to the bed and I waited till something happened.

I was good. My little test had proven to me, or at least in it's limited fashion to the 10 year old me, that there was nothing in the dark.

The learning here is that once you let go of one set of irrational beliefs the rest also fall away.

My discovery of my Atheism was gradual and had some fits, stops and detours along the way, but it was always a positive experience.  I can't say that all my interactions with organized religions were also positive.

The "Angry" Atheist

I don't consider myself an "Angry" Atheist.

Sure there are a lot of things about the religious that irritate me and even piss me off: the mind blowing hypocrisy, the smugness, the assumption that they are always right, the sense of privilege and entitlement. I could go on. (and don't get me started on what they do to science...)

Generally speaking I don't see myself as angry.
As the name of this blog indicates I have feel more a sense of freedom because of my atheism than anything.  The worries other have, the pressures, the guilt. I have none of those.

But that doesn't mean there are not good reasons to be mad.

First things first.
A lot of times people hear "Angry Atheist" and assume that their anger must be directed towards God or Gods.  And to be fair, this is sometimes true.
A true Atheist is not angry at God any more than you can be angry at the tooth fairy.  Why? Because neither are real and we know it.

When we do get angry our anger is directed at situations and sometimes, regrettably, at people who have decided that their world view is the only way things can be.

To this end blogger Greta Christina has a new book out called "Why Are You Atheists So Angry? 99 Things That Piss Off the Godless".  I have not read it yet, but I read her blog on a regular basis so I am expecting this to be good.  Look forward to a review or at least an overview here.

Later today more on how I discovered I was an Atheist.

Monday, March 19, 2012

How I discovered I was an Atheist

I say discovered, because like how Columbus "discovered" America, I feel my Atheism was always there, I just had not had the words to define it yet.

Lets go back to a to world before the Internet as we know it and even before personal computers, back to a time when to me The Information Superhighway was "South West St." in my hometown of Jacksonville, IL.  Why West street?  Because that was the street I rode my bike down to get to my local public Library.

It was here that I discovered "D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths".  This was a great find for someone interested in astronomy but had no idea (yet) who the constellations got their names.  I read this book and others like it and became fascinated.  And troubled.  I can recall at about age 10 or even younger reading this book and putting it down thinking 'people used to believe these tales.  they thought they were all real.'  and 'people used to pray to these gods and they thought their prayers were answered'.  They built temples, they told stories, they Believed.

And today we don't.  And we take this for granted.

Obviously the next jump in logic for me was. If they believed this stuff and we don't, then why is the stuff we believe is true?

Of course the reason is very simple.  None of it is true.

Those were stories, told to amuse, to teach to warn.  It didn't matter that gods were Greek, Roman (and the Romans just adopting an entire set of gods for themselves is a different post!), Norse or Christian; none of them  were any more true that the others. All were equally as false.

My 10 year old brain was a crucible of ideas and a lot of things came together for me either at just the right time, or just the right way.

Astronomy lead to an interest in Greek Myths which lead to an interest in Dungeons and Dragons which led to reading more myths and their contemporary guise, religion.

None of these "caused" my atheism, they just gave me words to better describe what I was seeing all around me every day.  There is no God. Never had been.  And I am OK with that.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A Week

This upcoming week, March 18-24, is "A Week".

I'll have to find something to talk about.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Evil Little Things

Kids today have it hard.

My sons have more homework in grade school than I ever recall having.  There are so many clubs, cliques and activities it is hard to keep up.

Now add on top of that being an atheist.

I don't have to guess, I know a couple.  Jessica Ahlquist currently at Cranston High School and Damon Fowler, formerly of Balstrop High School.  Both of these brave kids sued their schools.  Jessica for a prayer banner in her school and Damon for a school-led prayer at graduation.

They both did the right thing, and of course suffered for it.

Jessica was called an "evil little thing" by RI State Rep Peter Palumbo. Damon was disowned by his family (more or less, his older brother is helping him) and called horrible things by his former teachers.  Of course in every case the adults look like fools and as adults we can mock them, deride them and point out their ignorance and general lack of understanding.

The kids though are still hurt by the remarks.
I have had the chance to become Facebook friends with both of this young people.  If for no other reason to offer my support.  Others have come through with more than just words, they have set up scholarships for them.  Both have been brave, but they are hurt like kids will be when they are bullied.  Make no mistake, the adults were bad in this, but the other kids were much, much worse.

I never had it rough.
Sure I was, what I thought, the only atheist in my high school, though now I know that is incorrect.  But no one ever really treated me different. I made no attempt to hide what I felt.  When religion was talked about or mentioned I usually had a comment or two.  I never felt oppressed.

Sometimes I do wonder what it would have been like to have been more open about what I believed in. To do the things that Jessica and Damon did.  Hard to say really.  It was a different world back then.  The big monster under the bed was not people of other religions, it was still people of different color, or sexual orientation, or even the Soviets still.  Maybe because in the world of Ronnie Reagan people didn't think atheists existed.  Maybe that is a thought for another time.

To the Damons and Jessicas that are and the Tim that just didn't quite get there, keep your head up kids, one day you will own the future.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What is "The Freedom of Nonbelief"?

This blog comes from a thought I had after reading one of Richard Dawkins recent books, most likely The God Delusion.  I was reading this and making the logic steps of when one doesn't believe in one magical thing, the others are very easy to dismiss as well.

This was something I had done naturally at age 10 when I "became" an atheist, but it was still refreshing to read it.  I recall putting the book down and thinking to myself that being an atheist was rather freeing.
There was so much non-sense I could easily dismiss.  Though I deeper reflection I realized that of course that means I had to think everything through.  Sure there are logical leaps that could be made, but I didn't want to always rely on them.  After all, I get mad at the faithful for their adherence to a priori conclusions.

So yes.  Being a skeptic and an atheist is actually a lot of hard work.  You need to ask the questions others won't ask or are too afraid to ask.  You need to be able weigh data and arguments very carefully.  And as a skeptic you need to be willing to say "I was wrong" and find something that fits the data better (and not the otherway around like the faithful do).

Being an atheist is hard work.  But it is also freeing to know your mind and your conclusions are your own.
Not dogma.
Not some Bronze Age set of rules.
Not superstition.

Just freedom of thought.
The Freedom of Nonbelief.

Design, when you know what your are doing...

Progress is moving along here at TFoNB.
The differences between this blog and my other blog, The Other Side, will be numerous, but there is one that is the most important.

This time I know what I am doing.

The Other Side has been, and will continue to be, a great learning experience for me.
This blog though benefits from all those years and posts so that I get started off right away with a vision in mind and the ability to make it happen.

I am hoping that in the future both blogs will help each other, even if I don't seem much if any overlap between them.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Something new

This is a new endeavor of mine.

This is going to be a blog based on my thoughts of on atheism, theism and the culture I have found myself in during the 21st century of the most powerful country on the planet.

More to come soon.