Wednesday, March 17, 2010

An Itemization of Problems for the Everyday Atheist

Hello to those few who have kept up with my poorly updated blog!

Lately, as I read other atheist blogs and learn about the many experiences that other atheists (typically more prominent ones) have in their very real world, I've come to realize that we sometimes have little in common as atheists. Our cause might be the same, but our views on certain subjects might be dissimilar. This entry will itemize and discuss some of those issues.

1. The assumption that all atheists are completely liberal: Let's be honest with ourselves, being atheist automatically places us outside of most political boundaries. Like any demographic, atheists can fall in any place on the political spectrum. As a former Republican, I can attest to this. I still retain many of my conservative views fiscally, but my social views have changed dramatically. I've been an atheist longer than I've been political. Sadly, both major parties seem to shun those who are irreligious in favor of the popular vote. It's quite hard to find bloggers who profess any kind of conservatism, as the title "conservative" seems to carry with it many preconceptions. I would wish to eliminate any blanket statement about atheists as liberals or conservatives, as it ignores the idea that any common person in every walk of life can refuse belief in the spiritual.

2. Smugness: Many of the more aggressive atheist bloggers tend to have a strong anti-religious attitude that may be shocking for many people to read. I'm numb to most of it now, but I can't help but wonder what it would be like to be a religious person reading a scathing remark about a religious point of view. We should always be there to hold harmful religious ideas in check, but if those same ideas can make people happy and don't hurt non-religious or disagreeing religious people alike, why not live and let live? I think many atheists would agree with this stance, as we'd all like to be respected for our beliefs and are fighting for that level of respect in our current socio-political situation. I love people like Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers because they hold nothing back when it comes to religion, but for the sake of garnering our own respect from them, I think that we should follow the golden rule.

3. Social atheism: I would love to meet fellow irreligious folks, and I have. I've gone to local events related to getting like minded people together. I only take issue with the fact that many of us seem so lackadaisical when it comes to organizing events, or simply apprehensive about attending them. For one, I can say that I'm afraid to meet those other atheists. Many of them are super smart, and intimidatingly so! Many of them are involved in the sciences or have PhD's in complex fields that would go over most of our heads. Many are great at articulating their points of view and may have something to say beyond the scope of anything the "common" atheist might wish to fathom. Some of us are shy, and fear the smugness of more up-front opinions of aggressive atheists. Many of us simply wish to enjoy good, like minded company without discussing the many issues that plague the non-religious. Atheist events can be that unsteady boat full of holes that nobody wants to fish from.

4. Assuming that we've all "rejected" religion: Again, it all has to do with blanketing a group of people with similar views with a similar blanket. I'm definitely one of the guys who flat out rejected religion, but there are many of us who were (luckily) raised outside of religious teachings. The feedback from these kind of people can be extremely important, as it can give us insight on how/how not to raise children in a non-religious environment. As atheists, we are not immune to flaws simply because we refuse religion. Anyone can commit a crime, and anyone can do harm, regardless of beliefs and/or demographic origin.

5. We "believe" in evolution: We trip hard and fall flat on our faces with this one. The word "believe" should never be used to describe our views on evolution. Evolution is a scientific theory, not a belief system. As materialistic empiricists with a need for information, believing in something does us no good. It is either true, partially true and in need of refinement, or false. Personal preference has no bearing on the facts. To interpret beyond a fact is a complete error. If we are to hold scientists to the same rational thought, then we must do to the same with ourselves.

I'll continue this list when I come up with more items and have more time. Please post your thoughts! I love hearing them!

Friday, November 28, 2008

My Lesbian Friend.

A really cool conversation occurred between me and a friend today. It all started when we were hanging out in the back of the store to load items for customers. As you know from the title of this post, my friend is an out-of-the-closet lesbian. We've discussed it before, but we never got as deep as we did today.

It turns out that her father volunteers as a pastor and is a fairly religious man. Knowing what I know about religious views on homosexuality, I asked her how her family reacted when they found out that she was a lesbian, and the response really made me feel good. She said that her siblings really didn't have a problem with it, and her parents (while in "disagreement" with her lifestyle) were accepting of it as well. I was surprised by this, simply because of the many horror stories that I've heard about coming out as homosexual. The worst of those stories usually involved religious parents.

It was nice to see that good people who are also religious can be so unconditional with their love, instead of falling in line with the fundamental hatred that religious people typically bring to bear on those who defy religious teachings.

On a side note, my friend confirmed what I had always thought about homosexuality; that it is a feeling just like heterosexuality. Homosexuals feel a strong attraction to those of the same sex. Its not a switch that they turn off and on at will. Gays and lesbians don't want to be on the fringes of society, they just are because of how they feel.

I'm proud to know this person. We shared so much with each other today, and it was an amazing experience. I learned that good parents, religious or not, love their children regardless of sexual preference. I learned that homosexuality is not a cry for attention, but a genuine feeling that is suppressed and frowned upon by most of the world's societies. Good and bad people exist in every aspect of society, whether we like it or not, but I'm glad to see that my friend's father was willing to put aside his religious convictions in order to love his daughter.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Open Letter to the Democrats

I wrote this same kind of letter to the GOP in a previous post, and while on this topic, I decided to be just as hard on the Democrats in relation to the non-religious.

Dear Democrats,

I'm writing you in order to ask important questions pertaining to the current elections. Before I start, I'd like to introduce myself. I'm Jim, age 24, a photographer, a hard working retail inventory person, patriotic American, troop-supporter, artist, son of a loving mother, fiscally conservative, atheist. Yes, I'm an atheist.

May I ask, does the word "atheist" make you cringe? Does the thought of a person rejecting religion for the sake of realistic explanation of our world appall you? I hope not. I'm just an average, lower middle-class, hard working American. I donate to charity (even Church charity), I volunteer for common causes, and I work hard to help my fellow countrymen and countrywomen. With all of that aside, I have a political bone to pick with you:

Why won't a party that is traditionally secular carry a secular attitude towards religion and government?

Why won't a party strongly supported by non-religious people provide the same support in return?

Why are atheists still being slandered to cover Kay Hagan's supposed "association" with atheists?

Why is association with atheists considered a negative in an election campaign?

Why are there still so many loopholes in government healthcare for middle-class Americans?

You've told us so much about healthcare for all Americans, but you haven't told us how we would pay for it. How will we pay for it and how much will it cost?

Why are the discussions about the future of social security benefits all talk and no walk?

I would die for our Constitutional rights, and I support the causes of a free Democracy. Any atheist that lives in this country would more than likely tell you the same. Atheists can be Democrats, Libertarians, Socialists, and all things in between; even Republicans. My point is that we're all Americans, and we can all be labeled different things and still act as a civilized and unified nation.

Why are you doing so much to spread the divide, and not doing enough to close it?

Your concerned-for-his-own-rights friend,

Jim

Open letter to the GOP.

I know of many different versions of these so-called open letters, but despite their common use, I still see them as a powerful way to make a point.

Dear Republicans,

I'm writing you in order to ask important questions pertaining to the current elections. Before I start, I'd like to introduce myself. I'm Jim, age 24, a photographer, a hard working retail inventory person, patriotic American, troop-supporter, artist, son of a loving mother, fiscally conservative, atheist. Yes, I'm an atheist.

May I ask, does the word "atheist" make you cringe? Does the thought of a person rejecting religion for the sake of realistic explanation of our world appall you? I hope not. I'm just an average, lower middle-class, hard working American. I donate to charity (even Church charity), I volunteer for common causes, and I work hard to help my fellow countrymen and countrywomen. I feel that your malignment is a strong misaccusation that is forcing many non-religious people to wonder if our rights might be threatened by those who wrongly malign us. I fear for my rights as an American under a non-secular government.

Why is Kay Hagan being slandered by the Dole campaign?

Why is any relationship or political partnership with non-religious people even considered wrong?

Why are perfectly good fiscal rebuttals to liberal positions on gay rights, environment, and freewill stomped by religious empirically unsupported rhetoric?

Why is a party celebrated for small government policy trying to find ways to govern and micromanage the social structure of American life?

Why is a party that is supposed to be against high government spending responsible for one of the largest national debts in American history?

I would die for our Constitutional rights, and I support the causes of a free Democracy. Any atheist that lives in this country would more than likely tell you the same. Atheists can be Democrats, Libertarians, Socialists, and all things in between; even Republicans. My point is that we're all Americans, and we can all be labeled different things and still act as a civilized and unified nation.

Why are you doing so much to spread the divide?

Your concerned-for-his-own-rights friend,

Jim

Friday, September 5, 2008

Creationism

I had a debate recently with a good friend of mine. It erupted after discussion about the recent nomination of Sarah Palin for Vice President. My friend was excited about the nomination, and I told him that I thought she was a nut-case. He asked me why, and I replied "She thinks the Earth is 6,000 years old."

He seemed stunned that I would say such a thing, and I was stunned that someone as smart as he is could even be sympathetic to an idea that is so idiotic and anti-progressive. He then spouted off about how carbon dating was inaccurate, after stating that he didn't believe that the Earth could be "millions and millions" of years old.

I hate getting into debates like this, but I had to use the courtroom analogy. Basically, I gave him a hypothetical courtroom situation in which he had to choose between evidence on one side, and hunch on the other. He refused to respond, and I told him that I thought the Flying Spaghetti Monster made the Earth at a ridiculous date only a few years ago, and that I was right because I "believed" it. That pretty much ended the touchy subject, and he proceeded to say that he's heard both sides and that he's made up his mind.

First of all, carbon dating can't be used to find the age of the Earth, as its half life is approximately 5,730 years. Carbon-14 dating is used almost solely for archaeological dating, and not ancient geological dating. Secondly, had he actually studied the issue beyond creationism, he would know that all scientists estimate the Earth to be more than "millions and millions" of years old; it is instead approximately 4.5 billion years old.

The best way to figure out the age of Earth is not carbon dating, but radiometric dating done with molecules that have much longer half-lives. Let me quote Wikipedia for you:

"Two other radiometric techniques are used for long-term dating. Potassium-argon dating involves electron capture or positron decay of potassium-40 to argon-40. Potassium-40 has a half-life of 1.3 billion years, and so this method is applicable to the oldest rocks. Radioactive potassium-40 is common in micas, feldspars, and hornblendes, though the blocking temperature is fairly low in these materials, about 125°C (mica) to 450°C (hornblende).

Rubidium-strontium dating is based on the beta decay of rubidium-87 to strontium-87, with a half-life of 50 billion years. This scheme is used to date old igneous and metamorphic rocks, and has also been used to date lunar samples. Blocking temperatures are so high that they are not a concern. Rubidium-strontium dating is not as precise as the uranium-lead method, with errors of 30 to 50 million years for a 3-billion-year-old sample."


In closing, I must say that I worry about the nomination of Palin, since if McCain wins, her opinion on the age of the Earth could end up being the "science" taught in our tax funded public schools.


Scary.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Being Atheist is not an -ism.

My viewpoint as an atheist is a rare one, but I find myself even more lonely when it comes to how I describe my lack of belief. Sometimes people ask me what I believe in, and I state that I'm non-religious or atheist, though I never say that my religious belief is "atheism".

Many atheists seem to describe themselves on singles sites as atheists, but the website authors seem to refuse to put the word "atheist" or "non-religious" as an option; instead, we're given "atheism".

The "-ism" at the end of this word implies that it is a structured format. Being atheist should assume no belief structure in the same way that religion does. An atheist can claim a belief structure outside of religion, but an atheist is simply a non-believer. I know many atheists feel the same way I do about the subject and have probably written about it, but it bugs me that people still acknowledge the word 'atheism'. I think the word should be dropped completely, as it simply gives ammunition to the religious, and completely misrepresents what the definition of atheist truly is.

May it also be known that the phrase "believing in evolution" is just as detrimental, as it brings science and religion into the same arena. Science and religion shouldn't even exist as comparable material, and as long as anyone uses the "believing in evolution" phrase, we take more steps back than we take forward.

I'm not lecturing, but the best way to present your side in any debate is to keep from misrepresenting your views, so that they may not be misinterpreted.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

An Experiment for the Religious

As a person who grew up without a left hand, I've been involuntarily slapped with labels that people feel depict my status in modern society. I'm not talking about economic, political or social status... I'm talking about my state of mind in relation to those "normal" ones around me. People assume that I need to be pitied, or that my self esteem is at a point where it almost can't be saved. People also assume that I'm vulnerable, as if I've never explored spiritual fulfillment.

The truth is that I have explored a lot of things, and that my life has had many of the same ups and downs that anyone might have. Some were worse than others, but I don't think life is meant for competitive comparison of such things. Upon suggestion of friends and family, I explored the possibility of religion with them. At a young age it was imposed upon me, and as I got older, I still tried to explore it until I realized that when I reached out to the church, I wasn't reaching for an invisible crutch, I was reaching for the friends that were level headed and were sane enough to realize that earthly friendship and caring are far better than a false sense of security from faith. They were realistic enough to know that advice and will to listen went further than the spewing of scripture or the random interjection of false hopes (ex: "God is here for you!", "Always put Jesus first in your life, and you'll have no problems!", "You need to pray more, son.").

As I've explained in previous posts, I've received all kinds of explanations as for why I'm the way that I am, and they all seemed bogus. People see me as a vulnerable person, as someone they can easily claim as part of a religious army. This has lead me to believe that the religious tend to rely far too much on their god to take care of things for them, rather than taking problems on themselves. Passing responsibility onto invisible friends to help your real friends is just wrong, unproductive, and idiotically hopeless.

Any thoughts?

For the religious: defend yourselves. Tell me why relying on your invisible friend is better than relying on someone elses, or even you.

For the non-religious: Have you ever copped out of helping a friend who really needed it by sending them to someone else (a blog or a book, professional therapist, whatever)?

For the fellow amputees: Have you had similar experiences or any truly different ones?