Thursday, May 5, 2016

Destroying hope

So. Browsing through Netflix, I decided - for some reason - to start watching "Waiting for Armageddon." It's dealing with peoples' beliefs about the Rapture and the "End times." And the things I've seen in just the first... maybe twenty minutes? of this are just - sickening and saddening.

For those who, for whatever reason, have no idea what I'm talking about, the Rapture is basically Jesus coming back and snagging his followers to - quote - "live in the clouds." Which I've always been inclined to take poetically, versus "Crap, run guys, 747 coming through." After which we get teh Antichrist ruling, rivers turning to blood, etc. and then a final battle.

But it's not just that BS (and that if people actually looked, their "end times" describes... all of history, and the return was supposed to be in the disciples' lifetimes) that bothers me. No. It's this mother and her daughters.

She's talking about how one won't get married, how another (who might be a grandkid, I just haven't watched that far in) will never get their drivers' license - and the absolute crushing of these girls who are upset that their grandparents had all these stories to tell, had nice long lives, and yet "I'll never be able to see the world, to have a family, to have these stories to tell them, because Jesus is coming."

How fucking twisted. When an atheist - or a-religionist, I suppose, even antireligionist - talks about religion being child abuse? This is the sort of crap that is being talked about. These kids *have no hope* of a long life. They expect to be gone before they're in their mid-20s.

And really, think about it - how does this affect someone's view of the world? Global warming? Not a problem, we'll be gone soon and the devil will make it worse! Conservation? For what? Save for the future? Why, when there is no future?

I look back and I used to believe in this. Fervently. I probably mentioned being part of a decidedly fundamentalist Baptist church. I *believed* this... but at least I still planned for the future. I wanted a wife and kids, a good career, someone to grow old with. But my view at the time was "Yes, it could happen at any point... but until then, I need to live my life as best I can." Not ... this.

I just can't understand how people can do that to their kids. Or themselves. And they'll likely still turn around and say "Religion gives hope." What I hear in these families is not hope. And it's heartbreaking.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


Been a while since I posted. But today's a good day to do so. 

No, it's not (directly) about what a loss John lennon was, the tragedy, or even that there have been over a million shooting deaths since 1980. No, this is far more personal. 

I've mentioned it before, but at this time in 1980, I was... young, and very religious. Deep in my fundamentalist pastor's sway, and yeah, Chick Tracts made sense. As did the whole "Rock is evil and a tool of the devil." And, of course, Lennon was one of the "high priests" of this depravity and evil. (I believe - though it's been ages since I've read it, for obvious reasons - something similar was repeated, if not about him than about multiple other bands, in "Backward masking unmasked." A typically hyperbolic, proof-light (especially in the days pre-internet) book about the evils of Rock Music.) 

Regardless. As a contrast between then and now. With that background, when Lennon was killed, I was actually happy. I thought it was good news, even if "the world" was blinded by his satanic was, blah blah blah. 

Yeah. I look back now and wander just what was wrong with me - and realize just what sort of path the people who kill abortion doctors and the like are on. 

Atheism freed me from many things... zealotry being one of them.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"First I came to God...

While doing dishes today, a phrase came to me that I'm... admittedly rather pleased with. As a soundbite type phrase, it does explain things rather well.

"First I came to God. Then I came to my senses."

It really does work that way, for myself as well as many others. Many of those who call themselves atheist started off as believers, to one degree or another. (And not just to Christianity, though it's what we in the US are most familiar with.) We went to church, were "saved" one way or another - because, face it, there is really no agreement among the sects on how "saved" you are, and they insist the others are wrong. We "brought God into our lives" or "invited Jesus into our hearts."

Then something happened. Things didn't make sense. Many of us went out and actually did more than the Sunday Skip - you know, "read Romans I... now back to Ezra... now over to II Corinthians... a verse from Deuteronomy... and let's throw in some Revelations for spice." This is not reading the Bible (or any other book, "holy" or otherwise.) No, many of us *read* the bible, or perhaps the Qu'ran, and found it more than just wanting, but even vile. Hardly a moral book. Definitely not consistent. And searched...

Eventually coming to "I cannot believe in God, not as described. God and religion do not mesh with reality." Maybe we drifted through other religions, seeing them with a critical eye, before settling on atheism - a lack of religion, a lack of belief in a deity, because the world works the way it does without the intervention or need of one.

So, yes. First, I came to God. Then I came to my senses.

How true it is...

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

So what is it the atheist doesn't believe in?

Or to put it another way, "What is a god?"  (Remember, "Ray, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say yes!" )

Hopefully this one will last a while... Generally, believers tend to see atheists as being "against" their god and/or belief system - a popular question being "why do you hate God?" And the answer, "We don't hate what we don't believe in," tends to be looked at oddly. 
After all, "How can you not believe in God?" 

Well, let's do something here, and take that capital G away. "god." Making it nicely generic, and still true. Atheists don't believe in a god or gods. Why?

Well first, what *is* a god? 

If you ask someone that, they'll likely go into whatever the specifics of their chosen deity or deities are... but that's not the question. Atheists don't just not believe in *your* god, it's the entire class of beings known as gods we're disbelieving at. 

But why? I mean, we have to believe in *something,* right? Maybe it's the specifics that turn you off! 

Let's step back. I think if we look at the species as a whole, we can agree, generally, on what a cat is. Not if one's better than the other, but just what it *is.* Everything from the little fuzzy kitten in the pet shop to the lions and tigers most of us will never get closer to than a TV set or the zoo - they're all *cats.* Similarly, with a few outliers, we all have general agreement on what a "car" is, or a "tree." 

So if a god or gods are so fundamental to the universe, why don't we agree on what they are? About the only thing that can be agreed to is that something labeled a god is "divine." Which... is defined as "coming from a god" or "being godlike." 

Well, that's a fairly useless definition. Well, "Deity" is another word for a god. But it's defined, via Mirriam Webster, as... having the rank or essential nature of a god. Or someone exalted or revered as supremely powerful... which itself doesn't work, as there are plenty of examples of  gods who were decidedly not "supremely" powerful. (The defeats of Set and Osiris, Ragnarok, the fear of sun gods dying and thus requiring sacrifice and more.) 

We could just call a god the "supreme something," which allows usage like calling Clapton a "guitar god." But that's simply a rank. It works, honestly, but as a top rank, nobody worships a general (usually.) 

How about something "more than human?" It's a vague phrase, but understandable - that said, there have been plenty of everyday humans worshipped as gods (generally kings,) and plenty of natural phenomena with gods assigned to them. Not to mention plenty of tales of humans outwitting and defeating gods. So as part of the definition, it's kind of useless. 

How about "Having a supernatural component?" (Or more specifically belief that there is one.) Well, we'll start ignoring the use of things like "Clapton is a guitar god" then. The problem is defining what this "component" is and what it does. It's not innate - there are, after all, tales of humans being raised to the level of gods. There's no real definition of what this component is. It's certainly not the same between every one. But the belief it exists - sure. So we've got a "supreme something" with a "spiritual component." 

How about all knowing? No. Here we get into specifics of deities. And all it takes is a quick browse through mythology - including the bible - to show gods being taken by surprise. So they definitely aren't all knowing. 

All powerful? Nope. For the same reason. It doesn't take much looking for anyone to find stories of gods being overpowered or being unable to do something. Honestly, we can throw out almost everything that starts with omni- or all - ... because it's not consistent. 

 How about immortal? Again, no. There are plenty of acknowledged gods dying and not coming back in their myths. Though the idea is popular.

 We can't use definitions that include just (as there are plenty of unjust gods, tricksters, liars, cheats and the like,) or wise (different from all knowing, and there are plenty of gods that do stupid things.)

Which leaves us with what? A "something divine?" 

"I'll know it when I see it?" 

Just what is it that makes a god a god, other than belief that it is one?

Saturday, July 5, 2014

"People with dementia see ghosts, should I get a priest?"

Yes, it's been a while since I've posted, thanks to the job and nothing really jumping out as an "I have to write about this!" subject.

Until now.

See, I do tech support for a company that supports long term care and nursing homes. Which means I get to utilize my knowledge in a way that, generally, is helping take care of some of the most vulnerable members of our society.

A lot of what I hear in the background, as these older citizens deal with the problems of getting older, some of the mental illnesses, etc. is heartbreaking. Of course, there's a lot of bingo playing and karaoke (I kid you not here) going on, as well - sometimes very loudly. And there's the people who just need a bit of help but otherwise are sharp as a tack and in great spirits - which always brings a smile to my face.

But it's not the older folks that have me writing here - though someday I may get to thoughts on mortality. No, this is a nurse. I won't say who, not that it would matter, or what facility, only that it was one down south.

They were discussing some patient in the background and how she was walking - apparently keeping her head bowed or some such. The patient could hold her head up if she wanted, but apparently she believed (from the comments of the nurses) "that ghost makes her walk like that."

This led to some discussion among the nurses (apparently it was a mean ghost, easily angered, and a lesbian to boot, which caused much tittering among the staff.) However, in the course of the discussion, the nurse who had called for tech assistance was talking about how ghosts, spirits and demons can cause problems.

Not "They can believe it," but saying it as seriously as if she were discussing medication delivery or how warm it was outside. This, to her, was a fact. Ghosts, spirits and demons can cause problems... like it's the tenth century.

Now, I was professional and said nothing - they're not calling for help with THEIR delusions, only their computer. But the fact this medical professional, educated in first-world schools, entrusted with the care of these people, was saying this... just floored me. But that itself wasn't the kicker.

Within a minute, she also mentioned "People with dementia often have supernatural experiences." Way to go, girl. You've just pinned down the cause of this poor woman's "ghost." She has mental issues (she did, actually, this is not my opinion.) End of discussion. You may "humor" her, sure. But someone with dementia seeing things and believing things that aren't real? Of course!

... Except not four sentences later, she was asking if she should call her pastor to perform an exorcism. And not in the "to make her feel better" sense - which I would fully understand. Given tone and wording, she was asking if the woman needed her pastor (not priest, not catholic) to perform an exorcism like she was asking if they should call the doctor to adjust medication.

... We have a long way to go before this sort of superstitious nonsense is eradicated. Listening to this... I honestly, despite my past, cannot wrap my head around this sort of belief any more. And it made me very glad I was not entrusted in this woman's care.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving and the American Atheist

I say American Atheist because, well, it's a bit late for our friends in Canada, who don't have as big an issue with this as I understand. :)

For us down here in the US of A, though, the first of our real family  holidays show up. Yes, we had halloween, but we don't typically have people joining together for halloween dinner or the like - it's more a time to let the kids dress up (or go to a party yourself.) So the first one - Thanksgiving - is on its way.

Thanksgiving is the first one that can be awkward for an atheist. Especially a new one. I don't know about your home or family, but mine had everyone together (or everyone local, depending) and giving thanks meant praying. It's not a religious holiday - though I'm sure some will paint it as one. But it still can lead to this awkward moment where you're asked to give thanks. Or the fact you're an atheist may come up.

If this is when you expect to out yourself... I'd generally suggest another time. It's easier, to me, to approach people one or two at a time when you think they can deal with the news and say "Hey, by the way" than stand up in the middle of everyone and go "Guess what, folks!" You don't want to be that person remembered for "ruining" thanksgiving. (Which some may see it as.)

You might mention it to one or two people at this time, though - that's up to you.

So what if it happens? What if you're all sitting at the table and they look at you and say "Hey, Phil (or Susan or Eddie or Jasmine or whatever your name is,) would you say grace?" Some of us are going to have *that* moment where we ask ourselves just what we do?

You can say no, of course, but that's awkward. You'll be "that guy," again.

Or you can think about it ahead of time, just in case, and when they ask you to give thanks, say sure - and then *give thanks.* This doesn't mean praying! This doesn't mean giving up who you are and what you believe (or acting like you believe in something you don't.) Remember, thanksgiving is not a religious holiday, or even act. Just *give thanks.*

Something like...

"Instead of praying, I'd like everyone to just think about the last year. This day, today, that we're together is called thanksgiving - and we have a lot to be thankful for. That we're here at all to be thanksful, and to spend time with each other. That we have a roof over our heads and heat (or air conditioning, depending on where you are.) That we are fortunate enough to live in a country where we aren't fearful to leave our homes, we're not wracked by civil war or invasion. That we didn't have to go out day in and day out to farm the fields and raise the food we're gathered to eat tonight - someone did, and we should be thanking them, and the people who delivered and thanked it, but that despite recent times we're prosperous enough to be able to go to the store and buy the fruit of their labor...."

And so forth and so on. Just get people to think about what they *are* thankful for. Go with whatever your situation is. There's no need to mention a god at all.

And if you're not the one saying it? Sure, hold hands... they're your family. But keep your eyes open. Look around.

... Then get ready for hannukah or christmas.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Just something that needed to be shared. From Home on the Strange via Facebook.