I was just reading Crommunist’s post, The terrible burden of religious persecution, and it brought a smile to my face. The post references the comment that Jamaican preachers have made that not being allowed to evangelize on public transit in that country infringes on their freedom of speech and religion. And I’ll get to my thoughts on the topic shortly, but first, the story it reminded me of…
I take public transit. I’ve never even taken the test for my learner’s permit. In all that time, I’ve seen plenty of people reading their Bibles, but only on a very small number of occasions have I had someone cross the line between reading and jubilantly expressing their faith. The most recent experience was a few years ago, a woman on the C Train who suddenly started telling us that Jesus saves, and that we needed to pray because we were all filthy, disgusting sinners. What makes me fondly remember the story was that something important came of it. I bit my tongue. And afterwards, I vowed never to do that again.
Every year, Christians target Atheists on Carl Sagan Day. Where we are merely paying homage to a great man who inspired so many with his passion for science, the Christians want to make it illegal to simply wish someone a Happy Carl Sagan Day. It is disgusting that these people are so mean-spirited, and we need to be aware of this for what it is.
Most people didn’t realize when the opening salvo was fired, but in a church in Maryland, the pastor of St. Paul’s Divine Church Of Divinity held a sermon in which he described the tradition of Cosmos Carols as an immoral acceptance of moral relativism. Soon, the movement spread, with schools throughout the West renaming Carl Sagan Day Festivals to “Winter Festivals”. Remember, schools are where our children go to learn, and the lesson being taught here was perverse.
No, I’m not misspelling. I want to encourage JesusWean, a brand new secular holiday to take place on October 31st every year. That just happens to be the day every year of both Halloween and JesusWeen, the lesser-known festival that involves the religious handing out pamphlets to share the love of Jesus with us. You may think I’m joking, but this is for truesies.
Now, normally I’d give a celebration like this a pass. I don’t give a crap if Christians want to door-to-door-sales their faith. Despite what some might think of me, I am the guy who enjoys engaging in non-abusive dialogue with the religious. When people come to my house, which is usually limited to the Jehova’s Witnesses for some reason, we talk politely. I express my atheism quickly, and then engage in their conversation. I like doing that. It’s fun. If Christians wanted to come to my door, I would engage them in the same fashion, with the same courtesy, and with the same outcome.
In this post, I am speaking solely for myself. I don’t know where Skinnyhead sits on the topic, though I imagine that he aligns with me, but without having had that conversation, I don’t want to put any words in his mouth. The only things I like putting in his mouth are beers, and he and I haven’t had the opportunity to do that in far too long. Stupid busy lives…
Now, some of you might not know what Atheist Plus means, so I’ll put up a link to their page and you can see for yourself. The short and skinny of it is that Atheism Plus is about saying, “I’m an atheist and I believe in social justice”. And I do. So I am.
When I was going through my fall from grace, I wondered about the various ministers I have known. I mean, I’m a smart guy, but it’s not like I’m Johnny McBrilliant here, and these are people whose whole job is to look at this book and understand it. If I was having questions, how could they not? How did they manage to wrap their heads around a book that begs out for dispute and accepts none? What did they get that I was somehow missing?
Later, I got jaded. I figured that some of those ministers probably didn’t question anything, or were content with the cognitive dissonance required by the Bible. I figured that others lost their faith and their livelihoods. And I figured that there was a segment of the population that just didn’t care about the fact they had come to believe that there was no God. They had a trade, and they were making their way in the world. It really seemed that black and white to me, which probably reflects more on how angry I was at the time than anything else.
I’m about to piss off a lot of armchair historians, but I don’t care. However, let me start off by saying that I am not advocating removing this section of the lyrics from O Canada. I don’t like that they are there, but I think this would be stupid. This is not like removing “In God We Trust” from money, which can essentially be done any time one feels like it by changing the design of the coin presses (or whatever the appropriate terminology is).
The national anthem is different, at least the way I see it. It isn’t re-written every year, it was written in 1880 for the Saint-Jean Baptiste Day ceremony, though the lyrics have been tweaked a time or two since then. And to my Anglophone readers who are now saying to themselves (in a haughty voice, no doubt) “Yeah, like when they translated the damn thing into French to make the goddamn Quebecers quit their bitchin’!” allow me to inform you that it was originally a French song which was translated into English in 1906, some 26 years after its first performance, and it wasn’t made the national anthem until 1980. Don’t believe me? Read the wiki!
Many years ago, I lost my faith. This was a good thing. In fact, this was a great thing. I didn’t realize it at the time, and it was in many ways an awful and unpleasant journey, but I’m happy where I ended up. The trouble is that today is a bad day. It’s a bad day for a myriad of reasons which I won’t get into, but no one thing is the reason today is shitty. It’s just shitty.
As a boy, I handled shitty days better. I knew that God had plans for me. I knew that God would care for me. I knew that everything was according to His Super Big Plan, and that everything would work out all right. It was a foolish certainty, of course, and one that theoretically could have landed me in no end of bad situations, but it was a certainty nonetheless. So what do I do now that I don’t have that faith to bolster me when the times get tough?
Wow, I didn’t realize there was an Ask The Atheist Day, and it turns out it’s today. Big thanks to WWJTD for pointing it out to me. Well, I’m an atheist, and I like to answer things. How shall I celebrate this auspicious day? I suppose I should ask an atheist some questions. Hey, I’m an atheist! I’ll ask me some questions and see what answers I can come up with! Or better yet, you could ask me a question in the comments here or through email and I could respond. But only if you want to…
Question 1: Why don’t you believe in God?
I’ve actually answered this a few times, like here, for instance, but I’ll do the short answer here. I used to believe in God. I was raised to believe in the Christian God, or more to the point, the loving hippie Christian God my parents believe in. But as I grew up, I saw things that confused me. How could the happy, loving God of my childhood be responsible for so much of the truly attrocious crimes he commits in the Bible? How come the book of God’s word is so inconsistent and factually flawed? That freaked me out, and I began to try to find proof of God’s existence. Long story short, I didn’t.
There is a common complaint about atheists, especially us New Atheists, which it seems to me merely means “people who are atheists and aren’t dead and buried”, and that is that we just accept the new dogma of our leaders, particularly Richard Dawkins, and we hold onto it as tightly as the religious hold theirs. This seems to me to be a ridiculously weak place to stand, especially as they then cast stones, saying that their dogma is better than ours, but it is weak for another reason, it’s wrong.
Now, I happen to like Richard Dawkins and the other New Atheist voices, but that hardly means I agree with them dogmatically, which is to say absolutely and with nary a question to the authenticity of their claims. I began my fall from false-grace long before I ever heard of the New Atheists. I began seeing holes in my religious upbringing that caused me to doubt. The more I explored, the more really glaring those holes became, and the more I was embarrassed by what I had always believed. It was long after I finally admitted to myself that there was no God that I ever read anything by any of the modern day atheist authors.
It has its faults, there’s no denying that, but for all those faults it really is a great place where a prick like me can calmly say that there is no God. Not so in Indonesia.
A government employee who runs an Indonesian atheist’s group posted that God did not exist on his Facebook page. He was met at work by a mob of his coworkers, who beat him and had him arrested. He is, according to the police, under protective custody for now, but they are investigating his blasphemy. If he doesn’t repent and accept one of the six appropriate religions, he can be jailed.
And people wonder why I am so quick to defend free speech, even if it’s a message I don’t agree with…