Category Archives: Uncategorized

Raising Responsible Citizens

My son has always been with me whenever I voted, and we discussed how it was important to always participate in the political process, to know and research the candidates and issues. As he got older, Arizona had the Permanent Early Voter List and when I would get the ballot, we would research the candidates, including the local City Council people and the propositions together, so we were informed and would discuss the issues. I asked him for his opinions and never told him that he was wrong, but would ask questions about the opposite side of the issue. Even if he was already on the side that matched what I was going to vote.

My son was so sad when he couldn’t vote for Obama the first time in 2008, but he registered to vote as soon as he was 18, has voted in every election since, and last year, attended his first political rally for Bernie Sanders. As we were leaving, I asked him for his thoughts. He stated that the best way he could describe Sander’s speech was to quote Spock “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one”, that’s what Bernie Sanders wants to do.

Considering my son is a logic-driven Star Trek fan, and I joke that he is half-Vulcan, it was a huge compliment to Bernie Sanders.

When we got our permanent early voter ballots for Arizona’s “presidential preference election” he already had his filled out for Bernie Sanders and as soon as I got home, he handed me mine, and once I filled out mine, we put them in the blue mailbox that night. 

We have been paying attention to the clips from debates, and some of the stump speeches from all candidates on both sides, and we are both bothered by all candidates on the Republican side. Not just those running for president, but also those running for the House and Senate, and state legislatures. Those must change soon, and term limits must be put in place for House and Senate congressmen. Until there are term limits in Congress, we will continue to see obstructionism, backdoor deals that only help the richest people and corporations, banks and CEOs, not average citizens and certainly not anyone living near the poverty line.

I am so happy to see young people like my son, and others, who are paying attention and getting involved, it is their future that I worry about.

Religions are just security blankets

To understand that all gods were created by man, is the first step to understanding that there are no gods. Every god and goddess imagined by man was shared within a person’s family or tribe as a means to give reason to chaos, to help the members of that family or tribe to sleep better at night. In the most ancient times, when earthquakes, hurricanes, tsunamis, tornadoes, wars,  cyclones, mudslides, sickness and wild animals killed beloved family members, the stories of an all-powerful god calling that person “home” to wherever that God lived was a way to help the survivors sleep better at night.

It has always been a security blanket for the mind, and that is okay. Some people always need that security blanket to deal with death of loved ones, and especially in dealing with their own eventual death. Some people grow out of needing their security blanket and seeing it for what it is, and a few were raised with no security blanket at all.

There are many different patterns and sizes of security blankets in the world, and not every blanket is right for every person. Each person must find the security blanket that is the most comfortable for themselves, usually the same blanket as their parents and neighbors, because it is the one they grew up with. That too can be okay, but forcing every person to use only one type of blanket is wrong, just as forcing everyone to discard their blankets and grow away from needing them.

Unfortunately, some people see that their security blanket must be the best fit for everyone and use their power of persuasion or threat of violence to strangle other people with their blanket, using their blanket as a means of control of others around them. The more people who give them power, give in to being suffocated by that person’s blanket, the bigger and more suffocating that blanket becomes. Most Fundamental blankets are this smothering, strangling whomever they can.

Forcing women to give up their voice, their rights of equality is one manifestation of an overreaching stranglehold of what was once a security blanket but now a stranglehold of vile hatred and control of mind and body. This is not just the blanket that becomes a burka, but the blanket of fundamentalist Christians and fundamentalists of any other religion that forces capitulation.

I would have no problem with people having their own security blanket to help them sleep at night, but as long as people keep trying to change one another’s minds, especially through threat of violence or death, to change from one blanket to another, there will not be peace. This is disheartening, but true. What can be done? Recognize and accept that there are lots of patterns and sizes of security blankets and it is only a matter of personal opinion and one’s own comfort that determines which blanket they hold onto at night, or none at all.

To have no need of a security blanket is refreshing, enlightening, and once unencumbered, it is easier to see just how restrictive that blanket has become, to realize just how much it blinded the view of the wider expance of the world, galaxies and the universe, and to feel true freedom for the first time.

Whatever helps you sleep at night is okay, as long as you don’t smother someone else with your blanket.  Trying to debate or convince someone into wanting a piece of your blanket is NOT evangelizing, it is suffocating, strangling, and inexcusable.

Proselytizing Atheism…

In my last blog post, I had a very intriguing question posed by a reader:

“Thanks for sharing your views on atheism.  It’s very interesting to hear a first-hand perspective of how you view God and religion…. Do you see they [sic] need to proselytize as an atheist?

As I can only specifically talk about my Atheism, but I can generally speak to Atheism in America, I have given this some thought and a s it turns out, a very lengthy reply . So, instead of putting that reply in the comments, I have brought it forward to a new post.

As Atheists, we feel the need to make certain that the fundamental evangelical Christians do not continually try to oppress and trivialize our freedom of speech and the freedoms of other non-Christians in this country.

First, let me tell you a little bit about myself, and where I’m coming from. I grew up in a small rural town in the Northwest, my parents never really talked about religion, and as a kid, going to church with Grandma was more about getting to spend the day with Grandma. She is a moderately Christian person, as are my father and his three sisters. My mother’s older sister and her husband are Catholic, and her brothers are all religious to varying degrees. My grandma says everyone has free will, therefore only I can choose my own path, though my father, who may not have attended church in my lifetime, has certainly more conservative views. My first cousin has a daughter in a Christian college, though I am not certain what she is learning there.

I would never consider trying to actively convert anyone even within my own family to my viewpoint, though I have the hardest time reconciling the fact that the man who taught me the scientific names of all the trees in the woods around us before I started first grade, and who taught me about plants, animals, evolution, dinosaurs and ice age mammals, would now tell me that I am going to hell for not believing in a God that he never even talked to me about as far back as I can remember. I don’t see how he could be surprised that both my brother and I are Atheists.

When my last husband was alive, and was so sick from untreated diabetes and knew he was dying, we were in church every chance he could be there. He went from a laid back, easy-going hippy kind of person to a Paul Crouch & James Dobson quoting conservative person within the span of 3 months. I loved him and would do anything I could do to help him feel better, physically, mentally and emotionally. I understand why he was devoting all his waking moments into prayer, and his need to be at church services every possible moment. The truth, obviously, was that he feared dying, as most people do.

In fact, I quit a very stable job that had great medical benefits (so he could finally have insurance coverage) because they would not change my schedule to have Sundays off. I was our only income, meager as it was, but his mental and emotional health was more important at that time.

I realized that the drastic change in his words and actions was due to fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of death. Fear that there may really be a hell waiting for him if he didn’t “get right with God.” I knew that his fervent prayers were not going to actually heal him, but at least it would ease his mind, so we went to church, tithed money we really needed for food and utilities, and even participated in the pastor’s local radio ministry.

So, where was his God? His God, just like all 6500+ other gods and goddesses that have been described since the dawn of written languages, does not exist any more than Zeus, Odin, Baal or any other deity, all of which have also been revered, prayed to, offered sacrifice, and worshipped throughout history. My ancestors’ gods are just as invalid as the Christian God, no matter how much I would prefer someone telling me that Odin & Thor were real. (Just for a nice twist of fate).

Regarding preaching, proselytizing, etc, we (Atheists) only started  getting vocal when we saw the way the fundamental Christian community has been increasingly hateful against anyone different from themselves. There have been non-believers throughout history, and there have been many who vaguely tbelieved in possibly an impersonal deity who set the whole universe in motion then left, no personal god to pray to for guidance or intercession, they were the deists, like Thomas Jefferson. Even the most devoutly religious, John Adams, knew that there MUST be a clear line drawn between the government and any form of religion.

In the last 50-75 years, there has been a very well planned interjection of religious belief into our country’s laws. It has been slow, deliberate, and insidious. It gained traction during the cold war and McCarthyism’s “Red Scare” of communism, and has only gained momentum in the last 10-15 years.

McCarthy and many of the government leaders of the House & Senate started linking a type of government, communism, with the scariest thing they could imagine, “godless heathens”. They had been listening to their very charismatic preachers, ministers and reverends who preached fear and distrust of anyone who was not a “God-fearing Christian”. The interesting thing is that Russia, per Wikipedia, has 41% Orthodox Christian, 4.1% unaffiliated Christian, 25% “spiritual but not religious, 4.1% other orthodox, 6.5% Muslim, 5.5% undecided and 13% Atheist. Their Christianity goes back to the Kievan Rus’ in the 10th century. So much for godless.

Americans were duped and lied to about the “godless Russian communists” as we were taught to fear them throughout the last half century. This lead to a revival, a push for more Christianity in the US, and more evangelicalism to feel superior to the country we feared the most – Russia. Then, a more pragmatic approach prevailed for a while and the cold war ended. As a culture, though, Americans, especially American Christians, still tie communism (politics) with Atheism (lack of religion), and tie Capitalism with Christianity.  This is in error, but still are tied together by Christian leaders in this country.

The laws passed in this country over the last 20-50 years have been increasingly religious-biased. For our nation, founded on secular principles of keeping any religion out of Government, to start passing state and federal laws that are so blatantly Christian is disturbing, to say the least. Laws that restrict access to healthcare for women, laws that define “traditional (Christian) marriage”, laws that remove empirically-proven scientific knowledge and attempt to replace it with religious beliefs in creation, laws that try to put religion in public schools and in government buildings, and many more – these are some of the many reasons Atheists, and even religious Secularists, have had to become more vocal about this disturbing trend and our demand to make it stop.  

Back to proselytizing… My brother and I are both ordained Ministers with the American Marriage Ministries and the First Church of Atheism. This does NOT mean we have an actual church, nor do we go evangelical and start trying to convert people. Other Anti-theists and Atheists may actively try to get religious people to start thinking rationally and critically, but that isn’t quite the same thing as evangelizing to non-believers like some Christians do. 

We are both Ministers for one reason only – to perform marriage, baby-naming, and possibly even funeral services for people who do not have a religious belief or don’t have a house of worship that will perform these services for them, particularly when it is a same-sex marriage. I don’t even charge anything for my services, though I will accept tips.

Other ministers with the AMM & FCA do actually charge for their services. That’s certainly fair, since most theist ministers do charge for these same marriage services as well, or at least request a donation to their church/synagogue/mosque/ashram.  We don’t “Preach the gospel of science and Darwinism” as some Christians seem to think. We encourage rational, logical, skeptical thought. We request evidence. We cannot take it on faith that a new drug may cure or treat a disease, we want to know that there were double-blind tests, that those tests were not biased in any way, and they were successfully replicated by other scientists and they all followed the same scientific method for that peer-review. We ask for more than blind faith, because we have tested the “power of prayer”, and the evidence shows it was non-existent. Prayer will not reattach a severed limb, no matter how steadfast and fervent the prayers are offered.

There have been too many children who have died slow, painful deaths at the hands of prayer by their very devout parents and religious leaders. There have been too many people who have been willing to give their last dime to a televangelist, fervently hoping to make up for their past choices so they can buy their way into heaven, based on their fear of death. This belief and fear of a fire & brimstone hell has made many Christian preachers, ministers, and reverends very wealthy. 

Megachurches are one example of this, as is the Roman Catholic church. With that wealth comes power to impose their beliefs upon their politicians. And their tax-free status makes them even more wealthy and powerful.

Atheists and secularists see this trend and are horrified by the implications. For example, when looking at countries of this world, I see a distinct trend, based on their importance of religion in their everyday lives and their country’s actions, both in how they treat their own citizens and their neighboring countries. Here a few notables from Wikipedia and the percentage of people who believe religion is important:

Sweden – 16.5%
Denmark – 18%
Czech Republic – 20.5%
Norway – 20.5%
United Kingdom – 26.5%
Australia – 32%
Russia – 33%
United States – 65%

Now, at the other end of the spectrum, these countries all have at least 95% of their citizens who say religion is important:
Rwanda, Bahrain, Cameroon, Malaysia, Nigeria, Philippines, Cambodia, Comoros, Yemen, Burma, Jordan, Laos, Pakistan, Senegal, Tanzania, Afghanistan, Guinea, Zambia, Burundi, Djibouti, Egypt, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Morocco, Somaliland, Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Then there are the two who report 100%, Bangladesh and Niger.

The countries who have the better record of taking care of all their citizens, of quality education, and are known for being peaceful neighborly countries have very low percentage of people who believe religion is important in their country. The countries who do place a greater importance on religion are generally considered third-world countries and we see them in the news often, due to wars, genocide, and civil strife. Whether there is a direct correlation between the two or not, it is a  disturbing trend, especially given our country’s current religious push towards a more theocratic government. The risk is too great, so we must speak out. That is what the Friendly Atheist videos are attempting to do, and what my blog post was trying to share.

Watch “How to talk to religious people about atheism?” on YouTube

How to talk to religious people about atheism?: http://youtu.be/oUeY3NB4TK8

My preferred line of discussion with theists, especially Christians, is to first talk about children they know who sometimes need a favorite blanket, stuffed animal or something else that is a security item for them to help them sleep at night.

Now, with that in mind, think about what it must have been like to live three, four or even ten thousand years ago, with wars, and diseases, and natural events like a mudslide, earthquake, or massive storm. How would a parent help their children to be able to sleep at night after suffering a cataclysmic event like that, they need something to help make sense of what just happened. Why did their loved one die in this horrific manner?

The parent looks away, trying to think of something to say, and looks outside, sees all the stars in the night sky, and being the storytellers that came about with the refinement of language, starts to tell their children about some supernatural force must have needed such a loved and wonderful person or people as the ones who died. Or maybe it was to help a child overcome their nightmares of thunder & lightening, or whatever kept their child awake at night.
Through generations of these stories being passed along and shared, from adults to children, they grew rituals and ceremonies to go with the stories. That was the birth of various religions.  They were born from a need to alleviate fears about the world around them that they didn’t understand. Religion is a collection of stories told to their kids, their loved ones or to themselves to help them sleep at night.

As for Jesus, I doubt that there was only one man born back around then that may have believed he was a son of God. In fact, there were many false prophets at that time in history, there were many people who did truly believe they have heard the voice of their gods. The man called Jesus may well have been one of those people, or an amalgamation of many of those men. So, how did this story of “his teachings” survive where others did not?

First, we don’t know for sure that all of the things attributed to Jesus were actually spoken by him, just like modern day quotes are often attributed to the wrong person. Many stories of Jesus are plagiarisms of previous stories.

Second, this man called Jesus had a better marketing team, not just the 12 apostles, but all of the other followers, they kept relaying these stories to their families, friends, neighbors and nearby countries. They may have wrote letters to nearby countries and their leaders, and had the first wildly successful marketing campaign.

But, son of God? No. That is just fantasy. Just hopeful, wishful, delusional fantasy.

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Yesterday, a Facebook “acquaintance” of my brother sent me a friend request. The first post I noticed on his wall was about a California school who had a Cinco de Mayo Latino/Mexican day, and  asked some students (who were not Mexican) to turn their American flag bearing t-shirts inside out that day. The reason was simple, the racial tensions in this school were already high, there had been violent altercations in the past, and the school knew that these kids were trying to taunt the Mexican students. The parents of the flag design t-shirt wearing kids took the school to court on the basis of freedom of speech. The judge did rule in favor of the school, which was the right thing to do. Freedom of speech does not mean you can yell “fire” in a crowded area and create panic where innocent people will get hurt, and it certainly doesn’t allow a few (racist) teens to wear clothing that is obviously worn that particular day to start fights.

Having seen this article quoted, and the “send them all back to Mexico” vitriol, I commented that the Mexicans were here first, not only in California, but also here in Arizona, where this Facebook person was located. All of the sudden, some woman, and the “friend” whose wall this was posted on, started laying in to me, about how I didn’t know history, that the only ones that lost everything when the US bought CA and Arizona were the Native Americans. That is not true, California has a rich history of Mexican and Spanish culture from long before the US Government acquired California or Arizona.

The point was then made by my brother that America is a melting pot, but I think that is outdated and not quite how we should see the people of this country.  We are more like a rich stew. In a melting pot, (I’ll use crayons) every color is combined, mixed together and becomes one bland color, one monotone amalgamation that you can’t see what colors were originally melted together. We end up homogenized, and that is depressing. I don’t want to live where everyone is the same, that is NOT what America should EVER strive to become.

Now, imagine a wonderful, aromatic stew, with a bunch of different vegetables, some meat and barley,and some spices. You can still see each part of the stew that combines, and works together to create this wonderfully delicious and rich stew. This is not soup, this is chunky stew. You can see the grain, the meat, and each type of vegetable. There is a diversity that makes that stew healthy, that makes it beautiful. This country has a wonderful diversity of people coming from all over the world to this land of opportunity. Some xenophobic people cry out for everyone to assimilate, speak English Only, and melt into the pot of homogeny. This is the wrong attitude to take. The better route is to learn more about where the person has come from, learn about why they chose to come to America, learn about their heritage and culture and find a way to incorporate their ingredients into the stew of American life. Retain the best parts of their own culture and appreciate that for what it is, it is part of what makes that person an individual worth learning about.

A final note, the comment was also made that when arriving in America, the newcomer must learn English. Well, American English is another amalgamation of many different languages, and we keep gaining more all the time. Recently, the monsoon dust storms have been called “Haboobs” by the Weather Channel and many other news outlets. We brought back this word from the middle east, after our military was there during the Iraq War.  The saying “You’re in deep kimshe” came to us from the Japanese side of World War II or the Korean War.

The point is that our American language is not just English, and as such, it is a bloody difficult language for even some Native speakers to learn correctly, and yet some Americans demand that newcomers to this country immediately learn to speak this language and never speak their own again? Reality check. It isn’t that easy. Also, science has proven that when yound children are raised bilingual, they develop more neural connections in their brain, they are laying the groundwork, the foundation, to be able to learn new concepts faster in every subject, it gives them the same advantage as children in other countries who are surpassing us in nearly every educational metric. Math, Science, English & Foreign languages.

It is a real disservice to our children to let them wait until after their brain is finished growing to then expect them to learn a second language. Yes, many students learn a second language in high school, but it is not nearly as easy as if they started to learn it in kindergarten or first grade. Consider this as a chance to start making attitude changes for the better, so that our country can raise children able to compete in the global marketplace, to be able to communicate with others easier, and to have a wider base of knowledge they can readily expand upon.

California pastor outraged to find Bible filed under ‘fiction’ at Costco | The Raw Story

http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/11/19/california-pastor-outraged-to-find-bible-filed-under-fiction-at-costco/

I posted the above article on my facebook page, and a reply mentioned how Atheists are so hypocritical because they have beliefs, too. This was my reply:

I think it’s more like Atheists are able to see the oppression caused by religion (any religion) and we are willing to call them out on it. As for Atheists “beliefs”, they are as varied socio-politically as you can imagine. And, the atheists like myself, who are science-geeks, or scientists, are fully able to accept that we may be wrong, but the more science discovers, the less “unknown” there is for any god to exist.

If there comes a time that science is able to prove that a supernatural entity does exist, we will review that proof and accept it as we have accepted gravity. We seek verifiable proof, not just some ancient texts written when man still believed the earth was flat and we all came from Adam & Eve, instead of Lucy the Austrolopithicus afferensis.

Besides, creationists think the earth is younger than our domestication of the dog, which did just get another nudge further back in time to about 30,000 years ago. (Or was it 300,000?)

Either way, it is further back than Fundie Christians seem to believe, even when incontrovertible evidence proves otherwise. It is in the fossil record, it is in your DNA and mine.  

It isn’t that we are slamming religion just to be hypocritical,  it is that we see it for what it really is, a mental security blanket, started by someone having to explain to the members of their family/tribe why some tragedy happened, so that they could all sleep better at night. The stories grew and evolved over time, then they were written down and became locked into that point of the story’s evolution.