Sunday Blasphemy: Unabashed Atheist

Sunday Blasphemy: Unabashed Atheist

 

unabashedatheist-copy

Credit to the Freedom From Religion Foundation for the image.

It’s OK to be an atheist. In fact, it’s pretty great to not live in fear of a mind-reading, ever-present tyrant. It’s incredibly freeing to follow your thoughts and learnings to their rational conclusions and not worry about being punished for it.

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My Favorite Benefit of Atheism

Breaking away from a religion with compulsory beliefs means you no longer have to be afraid of doubt. This is incredibly important, because you cannot really reach out and learn about the world as it is unless you are unafraid to doubt what you think you know for sure. Unafraid of the possibility that you might find out that you are wrong. Now there is some normal fear at the prospect of being proven wrong (that’s just human nature, apparently), but not the paralyzing phobia that compulsory belief gives it. Not the agony that comes with the idea that if I were to disbelieve this thing, whatever it is, that I will be punished severely either in this life or in the next. The fear of a freethinker is one that is mixed with the exhilaration of the possibility of making an amazing new discovery.

Here is a lovely old song about what I am talking about that I first heard Dan Barker sing at the FFRF convention last weekend. Enjoy. 🙂

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‘God’s Promises’ are not real promises

‘God’s Promises’ are not real promises

When I was coming to terms with what it meant to live a Christian life, I wondered about God’s promises. I had a Teen Study Bible that highlighted “God’s Promises” in the margins, and it made me wonder. Are these promises for me, or for someone else who lived long ago? Is this Bible verse spoken as a promise in the context where it is found? How would I be able to tell if this promise has been kept? If I think a promise has not been kept as spoken, what does that mean? What would it mean if God broke a promise? What’s the point of a promise anyway if you can never verify whether or not it has been kept?

In the normal sense of a word, a promise is a commitment from one person to another to do something. Ideally, when a promise is made the recipient of the promise can assume that the other will do what they said, and so they can plan their day around the assumption that the promise will be kept. When someone makes a promise, it means you can count on them to do it.

But the idea about “God’s Promises” confused me about the meaning of promises when I was young. Believers praise God for keeping his promises even though they cannot say with clear certainty what exactly God promised to do for them, so they cannot verify with certainty if that promise was really carried out. Even if the promise was “apparently” not kept — for instance if they find themselves in a situation where their basic needs are not being met (see Philippians 4:19) — they will still say God keeps his promise. It would be as if someone promised to meet you for a date at a time and a place, but then don’t show up. But then you blame yourself because you have the idea that this person always keeps their promises. In fact they couldn’t not show up. If they ever broke a promise your entire world would crumble to the ground and that is just too horrible to be possible … it must have been you who misunderstood or got the time or place wrong. Or they must have a special plan in not showing up. Maybe they are trying to teach you something by their absence.

Anyway…

A promise made with no accountability for the promise-maker is not a real promise.

 


 

Just after I published this post, I decided to explore the idea further by Googling the phrase “can Christians starve to death.” If you are interested in seeing multiple examples of the behavior I describe above — all the rationalizations and excuses and reasons made up by believers for why God does not ‘apparently’ breaks his promise to take care of all the needs of his followers — I highly recommend it.

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I am going to church tomorrow and here’s why.

I am going to church tomorrow and here’s why.

ssa_uofl

Over the past few weeks, the Secular Student Alliance at the University of Louisville held a fundraiser called “Send an Atheist to Church.” Here is the basic idea. There is a fundraising jar for four different religious groups: Baptist, Mormon, Muslim, and Catholic. Anyone could “vote” for groups with their dollars and whichever group had the most money in their jar at the end of the fundraiser would get to have some atheists attend a service at their place of worship. The money the fundraiser will be donated to the Kid’s Center for Pediatric Therapy.

The chart below shows the progress of fundraising from the start to the end of the fundraiser. The line at the top is a total of funds raised, and the other four lines correspond by color with groups listed below. End the end, $170 dollars was donated to the Kid’s Center for Pediatric Therapy and the Baptists came out on top. Tomorrow is the planned day for a few members of the SSA at UofL to uphold their end of the bargain and attend  Sunday services at a local Baptist church.

SendAtheistToChurchGraph

I graduated from UofL several years ago, before there was a Secular Student Alliance there, so I am not a member of the SSA myself. However, as they have invited members of the Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers to participate I have decided to join in. I have pretty clear expectations for what the service will be like, because I was raised in The Church of the Nazarene which is very similar in service style to the Baptists. I expect the service will go something like this: announcements, then song service, offering, about a 30-40 minute sermon, prayer, and benediction. I expect the people will generally be friendly and welcoming. What will make this church visit different than all the previous times I have gone is that I will be going as a known atheist and I expect that will have some effect on the tone of interactions with the people there. I wonder if the paster will make any changes to the sermon in light of the fact that there will be a handful of open atheists among the congregation. In fact, I expect the people will probably be extra friendly for that reason in order to put on a good impressions and make sure we know that Jesus loves us.

I’ll post an update tomorrow on how it goes.

 

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Out at the Y

Out at the Y

I had a conversation with my personal trainer that touched on religion. It wasn’t intentional on my part, though I figure it probably had something to do with the fact that I was wearing my Kentucky Freethought Convention t-shirt. I had thrown the shirt into my bag for the previous Monday, but then didn’t go to the Y on Monday. So, that just happened to be the shirt I had in my bag when I went to my appointment Wednesday. I had a feeling in the back of my head that it might get a reaction, but I decided that was something I was fine with. I’m so used to being an out atheist I don’t even worry about getting outed much anymore.

And really there wasn’t an issue with the shirt. He did inquire about what it said (Kentucky Freethought Convention on front, listing of freethought and atheist groups in Kentucky on the back.) He made no comments about my shirt directly. (And just for context, we banter and talk about all kinds of different stuff during the sessions so this discussion was nothing really out of the ordinary.)

Near the end of the workout when I was finishing up with ten minutes on the stationary bike, he put it on the “Random Hills” program, making a comment that although the program is called “random hills” it’s always the same hills every time. And I’d read not long ago about how people see patterns in randomness and are really bad at telling randomness from non-randomness, so I couldn’t resist commenting on that fact (yes, I was letting my geek flag fly). People see patterns in randomness and think those patterns are there on purpose, while if you show them a non-random array of dots they will think it is random because they can’t find patterns. And somehow from that we got into talking about “how did they build the pyramids” and about the existence or not of aliens and the size of space and about when and how humans first became conscious. I can only speculate that evolution came into the conversation because my shirt shows an image of Darwin on the

2001: A Space Odyssey (comics)

2001: A Space Odyssey (comics) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

front. My trainer mentioned that he thought the original spark of consciousness would be like in *2001 A Space Odyssey* where the ape suddenly became aware of itself. I pointed out that it was not just *a* moment, but a progression of many, many changes over time–a gradual blending of one species into another. He seemed shocked to hear that I think other animals have at least some consciousness and that there is not a strict, total divide between humans and other species. And then he made some comment about his god and asked how I thought Intelligent Design worked into all of this? I said I don’t think it does, and pretty much just left it at that.

I just never know what kind of conversations I am going to get into next. I wonder if any of this will come up in future sessions? I wouldn’t mind, because I really enjoyed this experience and I love having these kind of conversations. One thing is sure, even though the word “atheist” never came up in conversation, I am definitely out at the Y now.

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