Ask an Atheist Day 2014.

17 04 2014


Thanks for joining me on another Ask an Atheist day. I’ll admit that I’m saving this one pretty much til last minute. But I’m sure you don’t mind.

This year I have only received two questions. I plan to tackle them both in the following order.

1- Is it necessary to label yourself that you don’t believe in any kind of religion? Or would it be easier just saying no that’s not for me?

2- How will you deal with your son with religion/god/spirituality etc when the time comes? Will you allow him to explore other concepts that differ from yours?

As usual. Any further questions, please post below, or contact me with whichever method you have available. If you know me, you have facebook, twitter or email etc. If you don’t know me, you’re pretty much limited to commenting below.

So here we go for 2014. I’ll first start off with a side note. Completely unrelated. I recently celebrated my 1 billionth second anniversary on April 13th. It was a weird yet satisfying moment. I really used it to help appreciate the number itself. The number really is a mind boggling thing to comprehend, and yet in the scheme of the universe it’s such a small thing. 1 billion seconds is close to 32 years on earth, yet in the scale of the universe that’s just a tiny fraction of a blip. Anyways, now to the heart of the matter.

Is it necessary to label yourself that you don’t believe in any kind of religion? Or would it be easier just saying no that’s not for me?

This is actually a great question. I’m really surprised I haven’t had this one yet. There are two sides to this viewpoint that may or may not answer the question right off the bat. So I’ll list the two sides and then continue.

Side A from Sam Harris: “I think this whole conversation about the conflict between faith and reason, and religion and science, has been, and will continue to be, successfully marginalized under the banner of atheism,” he said. “So, let me make my somewhat seditious proposal explicit: We should not call ourselves ‘atheists.’ We should not call ourselves ‘secularists.’ We should not call ourselves ‘humanists,’ or ‘secular humanists,’ or ‘naturalists,’ or ‘skeptics,’ or ‘anti-theists,’ or ‘rationalists,’ or ‘freethinkers,’ or ‘brights.’ We should not call ourselves anything. We should go under the radar — for the rest of our lives. And while there, we should be decent, responsible people who destroy bad ideas wherever we find them.”

Side B from Richard Dawkins: “The moment you talk about a supernatural creator, designer, or anything; you are advancing a scientific hypothesis that is either right or wrong.”

Where do I stand? I’d say I’m kind of in the middle. I know that’s an easy way out of answering, but to be fair I’d say I lean more to the Dawkins fence post than the Harris post. I love Sam Harris for his clear statements and explanations. He never fails to make his points absolutely sharp and clear with solid logic and reason. But Dawkins just seems to hit the nail on the head for me. It’s like comparing Carl Sagan to Neil Degrasse Tyson. They both are hosts of the Cosmo’s show, both science communicators extraordinaire, but they are in the same position as Harris and Dawkins on this matter. Neil is not bothered by religion so much as Carl. Neil just points out bad ideas and backs up his reasoning. Carl will do that but also explain why the religion is a bad idea in the first place.

So where is your answer!?!? Ok, here goes. Dawkins points out the fact that in making a claim you have to be either right or wrong. There is no in between in science. We either accept it as truth as best as we can know until further evidence proves otherwise, or it’s wrong. Harris makes a great point that choosing the label only makes us anti something and carries a negative connotation which may not necessarily help us in the end. I think this is where the question is really looking to go anyway. Correct me if I’m wrong, but you are wondering why bother with the negative assertion when I could just ignore it and go about my day peacefully. After all I’m not publicly announcing my anti wrestling status, or anti pineapple status and defending it or promoting it daily. So why the difference here?

As both Sagan and Dawkins have asserted time and time again, Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. If I was to tell you that the sun is actually made from marble cheese, it wouldn’t affect the daily lives of most poeple. But if you were to try to figure out why that marble cheese heats the earth as it does and causes global warming effects to continue to worsen, there would be a problem. Promoting a false truth as fact is where I base my decision to be on that verge of activist atheist, or militant atheist. I may not be that forceful in my delivery, but I do like to share the fact that if you promote a false claim, there is a good chance I am going to challenge you on it to show you how wrong it is to do that, and if you can best me at that and show me how wrong I am I will concede and accept this new evidence. This is not just religion that I’m up against, it’s any supernatural or pseudoscientific claims out there that I come across. (Astrology, homeopathy, voodoo, ghosts, bigfoots, end of the world, conspiracies, etc) So you could call me a skeptic, or atheist in the same breath.

With religion in particular there is the issue of the personally structured belief system that so many people seem to flock to. While I understand the benefits of a religious belief such as being good, or trying to do things to the benefit of your fellow man etc. But the problem lies in the beliefs being based on someone who wrote a book 2 thousand years ago with the knowledge they had at that time. If we are ever to progress as a species we need to stop sticking with these old beliefs especially when we are picking and choosing which parts to believe and not believe. If we used a book from even 500 years ago to figure out how the world worked, we wouldn’t have any of the technology we have today, from vaccines, to airplanes and cars, to electric appliances etc. So why make the exception for understanding the rest of the universe based on a book about a poof there it is genie that made everything we see in the world?

For example I’ll pick on Christianity because we’re in north america and that’s the popular following of choice here. Some believe in the god of the bible and that jesus died for sins and they follow that part well. But when it comes to the ark, and Adam and Eve they look the other way and call it a story to teach us something. I have a major problem with this. How can someone pick a religion that is based on a story, and then pick and choose the parts they like and ignore the rest and then use that belief system that they personally configured to guide how they view the world. That’s like me picking and choosing which sciences to accept and saying well I don’t like chemistry or math so physics you’re out too. I like biology though so I’ll live my life to the max as long as biology says my decisions are ok. By that logic, I would be ok to jump off a building because physics isn’t any way to guide my understanding of the world, biology doesn’t tell me that jumping off a building will accelerate me towards the ground at a speed enough to splatter my insides across a 3 meter area. Science as a whole is either accepted or not accepted. You either accept the process or you don’t, there is no half way point. So don’t do it with religions claims either. The whole is true or the whole is not true. Harry Potter is real, or he isn’t real. Godzilla destroyed Tokyo or it never happened. I’m sure you see where I’m going with that.

So where am I going with the rest of this? I am dragging on I know. So people make their own religion based on their own person ideas and borrow pieces here and there, and then base their ideas on how the sciences have determined the world to be based on these old assumptions. Times have changed and so has the understanding for the worlds operations. We don’t need the ideas of gods to explain the sun moon and stars anymore. We understand the expansion of the universe and how planets and stars are formed now. We understand evolution and natural selection, DNA, and genes now. We don’t need to think that a supernatural force just made all the animals appear then get on a boat to survive some massive flood of the earth. We know Zeus isn’t throwing lightning at us for being horrible people. And on that note, if you are going to assert your belief that your god is real because their book tells you, then why not the thousands of other gods who assert the same. So many religions saviours have been based upon the same story plot line for thousands of years. Look it up. Jesus isn’t the only one with that story. He’s just one of the most recent.

This is why I am a proud atheist. I stand up to fight against the ignorance that is being spread by these beliefs. I may not be the scientist doing the studies but I can do research. I am not afraid to challenge my beliefs either and look at the evidence for new claims. If something new comes along I will change my views to adapt to the new evidence.

And last but not least, our children and future generations depend on this. You can argue that religions can help people be better people overall. But this is just not always the case. There are too many people who use beliefs in old books to be prejudiced towards cultures, sexuality, or any number of differences they can find a reason to dislike. The bible has been interpreted in so many ways that you really can use it to defend any point you wish if you want to assume it really means anything at all. And this goes for any religious text, not just the one. So if this book can be interpreted in so many vile ways, how can it be good? So to bring this all around in full circle, why bother with this negative assertion when you can just ignore it and go about your life in peace while allowing scientific discoveries to push our species beyond our wildest imaginations.

I hope that answers the question. Next question up.

How will you deal with your son with religion/god/spirituality etc when the time comes? Will you allow him to explore other concepts that differ from yours?

No! My son WILL be an atheist. LOL. No, I do have plans to introduce him to the many cultures and religions of the world. I want to make sure he understands that there are these other ways of life all over the world, and to understand just how diverse the human species can be. There is no reason for me to prevent him from whatever he chooses to believe or accept. I can only hope he decides based on the information he finds, and not because I have told him what to believe.

I want to make sure he asks questions and challenges things the best way he knows how. And if he ends up being a muslim, christian, or hindu, then that’s just what he chooses. Of all the religions or beliefs, buddhist would be probably my top pick for him, other than the obvious atheist, or humanist etc. But as long as he’s not mormon or scientologist I’m happy.

I don’t want to be that parent that chooses the life for my kid. I wanted freedom to express myself and to make decisions for myself when I was growing up and I would expect my son to have those same desires. Making decisions on your own is a very important thing in my opinion. When I see people who have grown up under the complete guidance of their parents decisions, they never seem to be truly happy with themselves, or who they are. They seem fake, and often times seem to have real psychological problems with identity. Or they are just so blind to the world around them because they’ve lived a life of “do this and don’t think about doing anything else unless you’re told to.”

This really is a simple answer compared to the first one but I don’t think there is much more to say about it. I want to make sure my son has a solid education and I that’s the most important thing to me at this point. If he has some way to justify gods and ghouls with science and math, then that’s just how it’s going to be.

Thanks again folks for participating. As always, if you ever have questions about anything, I love to write these blog posts about things. I love to research things that are interesting or start long deep discussions on random topics. So don’t ever hold back. I’ll always give you my 100% honest opinion. And if I don’t want to talk about something, I’ll still say something and then say I didn’t want to talk about it but…. LOL.

Cheers, until next time.


The Meaning of Life

18 06 2011

In an attempt to really explain some things I accept as my opinion, I think I need to talk a bit about what I think the meaning of life is. Or what the purpose of reason we are here might be. I will likely stray from this point a bit in hopes of explaining what my view on the matter leads me to believe about some things in the world.

To sum up my idea of the answer, there is no purpose or reason that would explain an answer to “why” we are here or exist. To apply a reason or purpose to life on earth in that respect is to accept the idea of a god or creator. Now beyond that, you may be asking “why do you want to live in a world that has no purpose of living?”

But I’m not saying that there is no purpose that a person can apply to their own life. I just do no believe that humanity or life in general has a reason or purpose in its existence. It simply exists because the specific events that had to occur naturally did occur and so here we are asking the question. I talked before about what I believe to be true as an atheist, and some people might call me a naturalist because the views I have on the world comes mostly from a natural view.

While to some it may seem almost like a sad way to live and view the world, to me it’s a very beautiful way to see things. The things in this world that have happened to cause life to spring to action and continue to amaze us everyday are magnificent and beautiful. It’s an unfortunate thing to see how many people cannot see things for what they really are because they cannot explain how it happened and so they’ve jumped to a supernatural explanation to explain it and make it easier to derive a reason to continue living. I continue to live because I’m alive, and I’m glad to be alive. But I do not thank anybody but my parents for that life.

So let’s take this a little further. When I think about the popular question “Why am I here?” I can’t help but answer it with “Because I am.” Everyone’s heard the quote “I think therefore I am” by René Des Cartes. I think he was using it to refer to something a little different, but it still sort of applies to the way I think about why I’m here. It’s as simple as my answer of because I am. There is no other reason “why” unless you want to answer with the biological answer of because I was born. Or the physical answer of because I walked here. Or the philosophical answer of because I’m not over there. But I don’t think the answers that religions provide do any real justice to anybody other than making things easier for them and causes them to ignore any other answers that may come along and answer the question better. I don’t understand why people can’t grasp the ideas that science has unfolded for us to answer these very questions.

However, even though it may frustrate me, and make me upset to think about the number of people who fall victim to the “easy route” I have to respect their freedom to choose whatever view they like. The only part where I feel I have the right to be angry is when these people begin to push their beliefs onto the education systems by either attempting to have their views taught as facts, or if they try to remove the alternatives that science has spent so much time and effort understanding. There is a freedom to believe what you want to believe, but I don’t think there is a freedom to teach false facts in an education system that is already having a hard time teaching kids who are too impatient or distracted by other things to pay attention in class. This just fills the kids heads with something that is useless and potentially dangerous to their education and mental health. If a child in a school honestly wants to learn about the origins of the universe from what science has uncovered and learned so far, they have the right to that information, and that right should not be blocked by a religious viewpoint that has decided that the easy route is the right answer for everyone and anybody who doubts them shouldn’t get to learn the alternatives to their preaching. If that child is questionable about the answers science has, then they can choose to look for alternatives, and if the religion answer puts them at ease better than the science route, then they are free to go to church and continue that belief. But the education system is for learning, and religion is not about learning, but the prevention of learning.

If they really want to inform everyone of what they are preaching is the answer, and that science is wrong, I think they should keep that information spreading to their churches or other places of worship. I’m beginning to get off topic here, which is usual for my writing style, but I’ll try to get back to my views.

The natural process of evolution that brought humans to where they are is a much better way of understanding why we do the things we do in everyday life. From things like gang violence, to adultery, to homosexuality. These are all things that have varying degrees of opinions of whether they are a good or bad thing. I don’t think they are really that simple.

Obviously, gang violence is horrible and unnecessary for the most part, but is it really so different from countries at war. That’s simply a larger scaled version of it. But these territorial displays of force and power fall right back to natural animal behaviors that have stuck with us in our genetic code and behaviors even as early humans and hominids. We had a local area or village that we would protect at all costs from other areas and villages. Sometimes that meant just protecting against attacks, and sometimes it meant attacking others. And in other scenarios we may have held alliances with nearby groupings because of a mutual trading relationship and would help each other in times of need, sort of like the United Nations, which again is a much larger scaled version. Those earlier groupings of early humans may have dressed or talked with a certain characteristic in the same way gangs today wear certain colors, or have gang signs made of hand gestures, or slang, or graffiti displays. Also, our militaries have varying uniforms and methods of displaying who they are.

Next we have adultery. Many would view this as a bad behavior. Look at the recent american political scandals. A man who didn’t actually perform any physical acts of adultery, but simply chatted over the internet with women was pretty much forced to resign. President Clinton years ago was impeached because of the physical act of adultery. And yes I will agree again that adultery can be a horribly devastating thing that can have huge mental repercussions on both parties involved. However, it is again a natural behavior which goes back to not only the times of our recent ape ancestors, but also our more recent early human and hominid behaviors when we would have many sexual partners. Marriage or monogamy is still a fairly new behavior that cannot be expected to work 100% of the time. Some peoples instincts to mate are stronger than others. This doesn’t make it right in todays society, but to punish people so severely in some examples is going a bit far in my opinion. To me it’s an issue that the people involved need to work out privately and apply their own personal views on the situation. To allow a nation of people to enforce their opinion on how they should behave in their personal life is too far and imposes on their personal rights and freedoms.

Before I get massive hate messages about that one being taken the wrong way, I am not condoning the individuals who force themselves on others in the form of rape or sexual abuse. I do not think that even though that persons natural instinct to mate is so strong that they have been pushed to the act of rape, makes it right. I think those individuals have deeper psychological issues that pushed them to that non acceptable behavior, and it is exactly that, not acceptable. While the instincts to mate are natural, and our previous ancestors may have “raped” more freely, our current society does not share that behavior as acceptable, and we have decided as a whole that the right to mate with people who are consenting is the proper way to go about your business. I’m just explaining that the adultery side of things where there are two or more consenting adults is not really as bad as many make it out to be, and typically these people who’s instincts are stronger will exhibit signs of this kind of behavior and their partners should acknowledge that before hand. But I realized that someone might try to flip things on me so I had to mention this.

Next we have homosexuality. I’m still shocked and amazed that this is even an issue in todays society. But again there tends to be religious motives at play whenever we hear about hate or negativity towards homosexuality. Homosexuality is not only a natural behavior in our species and ancestors, but is also natural in many other animals and species that are far far removed from our area of the tree of life. Some may not be as negative towards it but try to argue the point that they are not contributing to the human species because they are not creating new life. This may in a technical sense be true, but that doesn’t make it the horrible negative thing that many people make it out to be. It’s a behavior that they cannot deny. It’s a part of who they are and it’s not something they choose to be. No different than someone who is heterosexual. They did not choose it, they were born that way. These days we hear a lot of celebrities, politicians, and other public figures still opposing same sex marriage. My question to those people is “How does another persons choice of life partner really affect your life so drastically that you feel you have the right to use your public persona and powers to spread the idea that they should not be allowed to have that person as a legally married partner?” If you want to use an analogy, for example, the recent sports figure who said same sex marriage would lead to anarchy. Would they be upset if politicians said that people in major league sports cannot get married because of the likelihood they will receive damage to their reproductive organs and they may not be able to have children. It’s equally as advantageous to the human race. Homosexual partners can’t reproduce naturally, and a sports person who has damaged their reproductive organs can’t have kids either. I know it’s a stretch of a comparison, and something that would never likely happen, but the reason it would likely never happen is because there is no religious book or writing that says that sports players can’t be married if their testicles or ovaries are broken.

Again, before I get some angry messages. I’m completely FOR same sex marriage. My comments about not contributing to the human race are strictly from a biological view that means two people of the same sex do not have children and pass along their genes in the same way that heterosexuals would. I don’t mean it in any kind of negative way. I’m not saying they would be less of a person, in fact I believe all people to be equal. And I’m sure with the advancements science is making, there will soon be a way to implant two same sex individuals DNA into a sperm and egg so that those two same sex partners can have children. Whether or not the religious forces of the world will allow it is hard to say. But I hope that in the near future, and sometime in my life it will happen and I can say that I witnessed a truly beautiful sign of growing acceptance of a large portion of our worlds population. With that said, I’ll move on.

My last piece of information that I will tie into my natural view will be races and cultures. I plan to talk more about race in a later post because of the part it’s played in my life, but I’ll save that for later. Race and culture. How do I plan to stick this into my natural view of the world? Easy. Race, although it’s not the technical definition, is basically socially defined by peoples skin or appearance. If we look at many animals in a grouping such as dogs or cats to keep things simple, we will see a great number of varying colors, and appearances. This is how I look at races of the world. Culture is kind of a hand in hand relationship to race. Many races have a specific culture because of the segregated way they have lived for such a long period of time before we really started intermingling. We have Asian culture, and African culture, and so on. You can divide each of those into many smaller cultures based on local differences. But todays society, despite coming a very long way, still harbors such a hatred towards people of different races or cultures. Again, some of this comes from our natural territorial protection instinct, which is why you hear many racist people saying things like “go back to where you came from”. But races are a natural feature of the evolution of a species. Evolution works through natural selection, and before we had spread out to vastly different parts of the world we all would have been very similar in color and culture. But because of the areas we migrated to we slowly began to adapt to our new environments, passing along those differences through the generations, then after many many generations we have arrived to our many different appearances of today. But with only slight variation in biological differences like allergies, we are all the same living animal known as a human.

Even now, we can begin to see that our races are beginning to be combined into what some might call a new race, and some might call a future race. Because we are now so multicultural in many parts of the world, we are passing along characteristics from one race or culture to another and so on. Eventually, evolution will work it’s magic and we may have either a new race to add to the list, or one big new race that is equally able to survive in most habitable areas on the planet. This natural origin of racial and cultural differences is what really makes me sad to see that people cannot accept people still. Like I said there are many people who have become aware of the equality between all humans regardless of race or culture, but the number of people who are still of the opinion that other races or cultures are negatively different, massively outweighs them.

So in closing, while I may have slightly wandered from my original point of how there is no reason behind why we are here, I hope I’ve somewhat explained the way that my natural existence view helps me to see the world for what it really is. And the reason I see the answer to the age old question of the meaning of life as a pointless question.

I could talk equally as much about things like the planets and stars that have formed through equally amazingly natural ways. Or about how I see things like days as a simple label we put on the spinning of the earth to measure time which is also something we just labelled to measure intervals between the past present and future which again are labels of things that happened, are happening or will happen, etc. But I think the origins of the cosmos is slightly more accepted by people, and the natural story behind life itself is what many have a hard time accepting because at first glance it seems so complicated and different all over the planet that it appears to have been placed by a creator.

To summarize everything I’ve said. We are here because we are. We are here because we were born. We are here because we are the result of a long line of ancestors that stretches back through many different animals and species of living organisms. We are here because life has not yet been wiped clean from the planet we are on. The meaning of life is to explore what exists and how it happened and learn what we can about it, and not accepting what is found is defeating the only purpose you can possibly derive from being alive.

Thanks again for reading my long rant of endless sentences. But I hope you will comment below with something. Tell me if I’m crazy, or if you think I’ve possibly missed something. Ask me to further explain something I’ve touched on. Or tell me I changed your life. Whatever you want to comment, put it below. I want to hear from people.

Choosing the “Hard Road”

24 05 2011

Been a while I know, but I’ve been having a bit of writers block, even though I’m not a writer. But I’m back, so buckle your seat belts.

What is the “Hard Road”?

I guess the easiest way to explain it is to say life as an Atheist is a hard road. It’s kind of strange to hear that coming from an atheist I guess, so this is today’s topic. Explaining why I find it difficult to be an atheist. First! DO NOT take my statement as a sign of weakness, or a sign of changing my stance on things. You will hopefully come to that conclusion after reading the rest, but had to put that disclaimer to avoid those comments from building in the mind in the first place. Also, please read through to the end before sending any angry comments. But please do comment. Maybe you can change my mind on something.

What is an “Atheist”?

I know you probably already know very well what an atheist is, but for those who may be a little confused, or lack the definition I will explain it anyway. By brief definition an atheist is; “a person lacking faith or belief in a god or deity”. This is what I call the easy answer, because it sums up the basis of the most common point of what atheist’s as a whole are in agreement with. We agree that there is no god or deity no matter the religion in question. The further definition can get messy and usually becomes more of a personal definition. A better way to explain this version is when you think of a new born child. They do not believe in a god or deity because they have no understanding of the concept no matter how hard the parent might try. But they are susceptible to believing in monsters or ghosts or other strange things they believe they are experiencing until they are older and able to understand things around them. However, an adult may call themselves an atheist and their definition could include things such as ghosts and other paranormal activities.

What is “My Atheist”?

My use of the word atheist is in reference to many things that I consider simply non existent, and some things that I accept as fact. Many would include a large part of these things under the category of skeptic, but I find that word just sounds negative. Even the definition sounds negative, “a person who habitually doubts or questions generally accepted conclusions.” I hope you see why I try to avoid the word skeptic, because it could be used against me to make the assumption that I just disagree with things for the sake of it. That is not me. I will admit to questioning many things at the first moment I hear of it, but not always in a negative “that’s not true” manner. I genuinely want to learn more about how that conclusion was found, how they tested it, who did it, who are they, what other studies have they done, how credible are the sources, etc. Once I accomplish the validity of the conclusion, I then try to figure out more about what they discovered, what does it mean, how does it affect other scientific conclusions and studies, etc. Many things fall under the common sense category, and I can almost certainly skip the validity stages, unless it’s a touchy subject that involves gains to a specific side in a current debate.

A perfect example of a “hidden gain post” is a person I have on my Facebook who posts very regularly, and the things they post almost always have a political undertone hidden amongst the article or video they post as well as false information. Some examples are medical marijuana, one world government control, mind control, or governments poisoning the public and their food supplies. These are the topics, but they will post things like, “New study proves air is poisoning us” or “Scientist reveals proof that Marijuana heals all diseases.” While many people would immediately see that these are likely false claims using the name of science to attempt to fool people. I actually take the time to read it anyway, see who the study is done by, research that person, look into their methods, if they actually talk about it, which in these types of cases usually shows that they either don’t exist, or are not actually scientists as they claim and many times never list any facts or results of any tests. This is why I don’t consider myself a skeptic. I try to actually think about the things I consider to be true and false. In my opinion, skeptics just assume they know and go with the assumption regardless of the source or facts.

So now that I’ve managed to swerve from my topic a bit, I will continue my atheist explanation. I have a lack of, or to be more exact, non existent belief in things like gods, ghosts, spirits, monsters, psychics, magic, astrology, mythology, afterlife, Ouija boards, paranormal activity, doomsdays, curses, voodoo, and just about any other thing that claims to be extraordinary and unexplainable. Then on the flip side, my use of atheist would mean I do believe the following to be fact, evolution, big bang, possible life elsewhere in the universe, earth age to be approx 4.5 billion years, etc. I could list everything, but I’d be here all day. Basically, I do not let a belief in a god or other spiritual and otherworldly invisibles prevent me changing what I consider as fact.  So my personal definition of atheist is a bit further than some others.

I understand that the definition of the word doesn’t actually change, but wanted to clear up the way I look at the world with a single word. I also understand that atheist is generally accepted to only refer to god and religion, but just know that when I use the word atheist, I’m referring to a larger group of things as well that I do not believe to exist and a group of things that I do accept that many religions do not.

Why is it “Hard”?

Ok, so we’ve arrived at my reason for writing. Why do I find it difficult to be an atheist. Well, it just comes down to a few things that frustrate me. Many people have no patience for atheists if they aren’t one themselves. What am I referring to? For example, let’s say I’m bored, so I watch a video about evolution that inspires me to quote it, and I post that quote onto my Facebook status. It’s very likely that I will receive at least 1 negative comment about how it’s wrong, and that humans were created. That’s fine, I accept discussion, and this isn’t my point. That comment will go on my post, and nobody will bat an eye at it, or think twice about the message it sends. But if that person was to watch a video about creation, and become inspired to quote on their Facebook, and I commented with how it’s wrong and humans evolved from apes, guaranteed, I would get negative comments about how I shouldn’t interfere with people’s beliefs and that it’s not polite or acceptable.

1- So my first issue is the double standard that exists all over. Religion is expected to receive a courtesy that atheists aren’t expected to receive. This topic is discussed in just about every book about atheism, and drives the frustrations that you may encounter when you see the two sides debating or even just discussing in private. We atheists have to tip toe around certain topics or else we are considered mean or crude. I think this one needs to change ASAP. Without this change, we cannot get anywhere with the huge debate publicly, and have to rely on the celebrities from each side to do it for us, and we all learn nothing in the exchange, and continue to wave the flag of our favorite debater regardless of the outcome of the debates. If we allow public discussion among friends, and obviously only if both parties are willing to remain civil and calm, we can both learn more about each others positions on the topics at hand.

2- A second reason being an atheist is hard is the way people who are religious will just plain deny facts. They will deny it regardless of how much evidence is there for them to see with their own eyes. They deny because it will mean that some part of what they currently believe is wrong, and they aren’t willing to change what they believe. That is actually my one of my biggest problems with religion, that it controls people so effortlessly and blindly. If a person is unwilling to change their beliefs or opinions on any topic when given the proper information to show them that it is the correct view to have on it, that person is essentially unwilling to learn. And any person who is unwilling to learn should not be taken seriously nor given a chance to have any type of position of power. Yet many countries leaders are chosen based on their faulty views of these very topics.

Any person can see that a society that has a population, let alone their leader, that is mostly religious cannot easily advance because it’s “immoral” to do the things that the religious people don’t like, even though it’s better for humans as a whole. For example, stem cell research. This allows other areas around the world that are less religious to advance while the more religious parts will start to fall behind. It also affects education. Teachers are forced to either not teach a full course and leave out the “touchy topics” to avoid the religious parents outrage, or to teach both the “touchy topics” and the false information to give the students the opportunity to decide for themselves. But students have teachers for a reason, they are there to teach the students what is correct, if the teacher isn’t allowed to express the validity between two options, that leaves the teachers powerless. Imagine a teacher telling students they can either add or subtract when they see the + sign, but they can’t tell them which is correct. That student is not going to do well in life if they choose the wrong option.

3- I find it hard to see children being affected by religion in any way. Whether it’s their education suffering a lack of information, or it’s parents forcing their child to be part of a religion because they think it’s best for them. As I mentioned earlier, all children are born atheist, and it should stay that way until the child decides for themselves. Religion shouldn’t play a part in a childs life until they are of age. They cannot make proper life decisions when it comes to most things like politics, alcohol, smoking, legal issues, yet they are expected to have a religious view by the time they can walk and mumble a few simple words.

My “Hard” Closing.

So by now, anybody who is religious is probably very upset with what they are reading. So I’ll say this. What I’m saying, is an opinion. I respect all other opinions, and am willing to accept that there are people who do believe in gods, and ghosts, and goblins. I’m not going to try to take that away from anybody, nor do I expect anybody to give up their beliefs because of a few words from a person they don’t know. This is what I do expect. I expect that same sense of acceptability when I comment or talk about subjects I consider personally accepted. If I comment about evolution, I’m fine with someone saying they don’t believe me, but I want that person to explain to me how they can deny things that are proven. And on the other side, if I comment on something about creation, call me on it and ask me to explain myself. Also what I don’t want is for anybody to continue to expect a safety zone to surround religion but not atheists. Religion preaches about fairness, do to others as you would have them do to you. So practice what you preach and let me discuss things without calling me crude or mean.

4- My last hard part of being an atheist. People assume too much about atheists. We are viewed as evil hating people. Some think we believe the things we believe as a way of being against religion. Or that we do not like to be happy and or be safe ourselves. We do have morals, and we do want the best for humanity as a whole. We want peace on earth, and we want poverty and hunger to end. We want war to be something we battle through words and reasonable compromise from both sides. We want to share the resources of the world with each other to ensure we all have what we need and aren’t being greedy at someones misfortune. We want to understand as much as we can about how the world works, and what we can do to make it better for us. We want to end diseases and we too want to live long healthy lives free of the horrors that we currently see all over the globe. We just want these things naturally because it benefits the well being of all people, not just the ones who agree with us. And lastly, we don’t need a god, book, or virgin born son of a god to tell us that this is what we want. It’s what we’ve always wanted since we were born atheists like you.

Attempting a Touchy Topic

20 04 2011


I want to make sure this is very clear. I am in NO WAY AGAINST what Alcoholics Anonymous does for the most part, and I support their efforts towards helping those in need of help 100%. Alcoholism is a horrible problem in society, and people suffer from it all over the world. I’m for the most part supportive of what they do, have done, and likely will continue to do into the future. So if there is only one thing you take from this post, it should be that above all else. I support their main objective of helping people who suffer from this huge problem.

Now that I have gotten that part clear, I want to try to put things into perspective of what my purpose of writing this post is all about. I’m the first to say I was completely oblivious of this until a few days ago when I saw a video on YouTube from a person who battled with alcoholism for a large part of their life, and in trying to seek help they went to AA and the rest of the story is where I jump in. I’ll post the video below for you to see for yourself, then I will continue my piece.

My discovery of an issue.

The video covers more than the topic at hand, but I felt it was a needed piece of testimony from a person who experienced what I’m referring to.

OK, so you have hopefully watched the video clip. And hopefully have figured out where I come in. The woman brings up the topic of AA and how they say to her that without accepting “God” she cannot recover and become sober. Now at first, being the skeptic I am about just about everything, I decided to learn a bit about it to see if maybe she was just unlucky and attended a local AA that might have different sets of guidelines, and views from most. So I went straight to the source. The website of AA itself. On there, I found that they try to address this issue by saying the following;

“AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization or institution;”

With that they are almost addressing it. This would imply that they do not designate a specific religion, I continued to dig and found this sentiment repeated a few times throughout the literature available. So I tried to dig up the 12 steps and what they call the 12 traditions. They do provide somewhat of a disclaimer saying that no member NEEDS to accept them but that experience shows that recovery depends on them understanding and accepting them.

The 12 steps.

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
  5.  Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The 12 traditions

  1. Our common welfare should come first; personal recovery depends upon AA unity.
  2. For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.
  3. The only requirement for AA membership is a desire to stop drinking.
  4. Each group should be autonomous except in matters affecting other groups or AA as a whole.
  5. Each group has but one primary purpose—to carry its message to the alcoholic who still suffers.
  6. An AA group ought never endorse, finance, or lend the AA name to any related facility or outside enterprise, lest problems of money, property, and prestige divert us from our primary purpose.
  7. Every AA group ought to be fully self-supporting, declining outside contributions.
  8. Alcoholics Anonymous should remain forever non-professional, but our service centers may employ special workers.
  9. AA, as such, ought never be organized; but we may create service boards or committees directly responsible to those they serve.
  10. Alcoholics Anonymous has no opinion on outside issues; hence the AA name ought never be drawn into public controversy.
  11. Our public relations policy is based on attraction rather than promotion; we need always maintain personal anonymity at the level of press, radio, and films.
  12. Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.

So by now you can see that the above first quote is almost pointless for them to make. They say they aren’t allied with any sect or religion, yet here in the very core of what they teach they make reference to God and religion repeatedly. Here lies the foundation of my issue. As mentioned above they don’t designate or necessarily suggest a specific religion, but it makes sense to accept people of different faiths, since choosing one would push others away, but they are still choosing specific religions by bringing the use of an acceptance of “God” into the equation at all. This would imply that you have to be a part of at least one to receive help, therefore pushing away anybody who doesn’t subscribe to the whole idea of a “God”. The listed set of “steps” and “traditions” almost suggest that the very fact that “a God” regardless of what one you choose must be involved in your recovery. I know I’m being repetitive, but I really feel the need to emphasize my point.

As an atheist, I almost feel like I’m being slapped in the face with this. Here is an organization that potentially could have a huge impact on my life should at some point whether it’s myself or a friend or relative who is an atheist, and I’m sure there are many atheists who do battle with this issue, and obviously the woman in the video was one of them. So saying things like “turn our will and our lives over to the care of God.” is a bit too far in my honest opinion. This shouldn’t be a step that is used as a general guideline for a person looking for help if you are going to state that “God” is in fact not a requirement. To a person who does believe in god already that’s fine, but for an atheist it would seem that they are forcing a false reality that they “have to” accept this step. Otherwise it’s only 11 steps now. But that’s not the only step to bring about the God issue.

Rule or Not?

The issue of “God” is mentioned in steps 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 11, 12. So we are only left with steps 1, 4, 8, 9, 10. So the  12 steps to recovery end up only  being 5 steps, which is a huge difference and could potentially turn this person away leaving them with the problem, and possibly making things worse for them. To a person who has come to this point through a struggle with depression, it could push them further, leaving them feeling rejected by the only extended hand they may have had.

Now we turn to the 12 traditions, where you would think the issue might not pop it’s head out as much, however, of the 12 traditions, we have #2 still stating “For our group purpose there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God as He may express Himself in our group conscience. Our leaders are but trusted servants; they do not govern.” which would again imply the only person who can help you is God, and the people who are actually there are just working for him.

My Purpose

Tradition #9 also caught my attention in stating that AA should never be organized, yet the web address is leading me to believe it has been organized. But that is not part of the issue, just a little irrelevant observation. So what is my point for this post, what do I hope to achieve through it. I guess my only hope is that there is a person out there who sees this, and who has some kind of connection to the AA higher ups. I would beg of them to please at least think about the idea of removing the “God” role from the steps and traditions. Or even at least offer a second set of steps for someone who is not a follower of any religion.

It’s one thing to suggest it as an idea in your literature, or even in person on a person by person basis, but to include it in the very core of what your members will be required to do in order to recover is almost a form of abuse and discrimination. Even though it is expressed through small brief statements on your website and likely other literature that it IS NOT a requirement, and that the only requirement is to want to stop drinking, having “God” as a major part of the core of your method counteracts it by making it a requirement regardless of intent. Take the video testimony as proof that it is being practiced in such a way, maybe not in all locations, but in some, and likely a large majority. I think an organization such as this has a great importance in today’s society of addictions, and to remove a percentage of the population from becoming potential members at a time of need is a horrible way to go about it.

Last Disclaimer

Again, I do support helping people who have a problem with alcohol, drugs, abuse etc. There are people who really need these types of places to help them if they don’t have the support available in other forms. I do not want to bash AA in any way at all. I simply feel that they are allowing a piece of discrimination to remain in their method and I think it needs to be addressed if they are to continue helping people the way they have been for so long. As well, I want to state for the record that even though I am an atheist, I do see the benefit that religion can have in helping someone who DOES believe in a “God” of whatever religion they follow. But to enforce it as a step to recovery is leaving out so many people and forcing them to deny who they are inside for the sake of a problem that is not related to that personal belief whatsoever.

Now here is where blogging becomes great as a tool to discuss ideas of the many people. Begin the blog comments. Please at least read this before commenting, I don’t want to have to delete comments from people who obviously haven’t read more than a few words and just want to yell.

Thanks for reading. And hope I got my point across.

Ask an Atheist! Today’s the day.

13 04 2011

Feel free to ask away. I’d rather not debate things, or argue, so try to not get too worked up and keep things somewhat civil. But I’m open to almost any questions.

Nobody Posted??!!

Well, I will post the 3 questions I got on a new post.