The uplifting story of an Evangelical Christian turned sane.

Ill preface this with a little background on how I met this man, and why I think his story is powerful, and exemplary. I do not profess to know this man well, and in fact I’ve just met him, but I am greatly excited to have run into someone with such a hopeful story! During perfunctory introductions on the “No God” group on Facebook, Daniel mentioned that he was once a devout Evangelical Christian, but that he had found his way to Atheism and critical thought through academic exploration, as well as self-analysis. At this, I immediately asked if he wouldnt mind sharing his story, and he did not disappoint! Here is what he said, reprinted with his permission:

“‎@Jeremy I’d be happy to share with you and anyone else that is interested.

From birth I was steeped in Christian mythology. I didn’t live in a practicing Christian home but my parents believed in Christianity and my Mother’s parents took my sisters and me to church twice a week. When I was in my mid twenties I was in a real crisis situation and had what Christians call a supernatural “born again” experience (delusion).

I had always accepted that the Bible was the true, reliable “word of God” but I had never read it much until I had my “born again” experience. I began reading the Bible voraciously and soon decided that I wanted to—I had to—become a servant of this Jesus. I attended an intensive Christian discipleship ministry for six months and then left to study on my own via correspondence courses through an accredited university, while working fulltime. I spent a lot of time independently studying comparative theology by reading seminary theology books from many different denominations/sects/cults and watching thousands of hours of doctrinal debates. The whole while I was only interested in what the true message of the Bible was, and what was true (I assumed the two would be the same).

I was what you would call a fundamentalist. For five years I didn’t own a television, didn’t listen to secular music, and didn’t “waste” my time on “idolatrous” entertainment. These were things I refrained from because I saw them as incompatible with being a servant of Jesus Christ. I really didn’t desire any of these things because I saw them as a distraction from what I really wanted: to serve the Lord. I believed in living as if Jesus would come back at any minute, and that meant living the gospel 24/7 and also sharing it with everyone I could. If I wasn’t working, studying the Bible, or sleeping I was effectively spreading the delusion (it makes me ill to think of how successful I was at spreading the disease).

I had been assured that all seemingly contradictory statements in the Bible could be answered and I believed it for a time, but after a while I started noticing small contradictory details that could not be explained away. I tried to forget them for the time being (they were small contradictions after all) and hoped that I would find a way to reconcile them later. This became pretty frequent and eventually there was a mountain of these “small” unexplainable contradictions that I had forgotten about (intentionally?). But when I encountered a big textual problem and couldn’t find any theologian, professor, or pastor who could give a rational explanation to the problem, I began to think about all of the other smaller problems in the Bible I had encountered over the past five years. I suddenly began to fear what I thought was impossible: it was all a lie!

I was absolutely crushed and felt like I had been violated in the worst way possible. I spent the next couple weeks visiting websites that discussed Bible contradictions and historical and scientific errors. (By the way, this was actually pretty difficult because there are so many websites that give very poor and sometimes dishonest arguments against the Bible.) I learned about the plagiarized Nativity story which is an adaptation from Horus and other more ancient deities. At this point I was sure that the Bible could not be considered reliable, but I didn’t know what to think about…well, anything! The Bible had dictated what to think about everything for me: theology, philosophy, science, politics, morals, etc.

Comparatively speaking, I don’t think I was a judgmental Christian but must admit that I always shuddered at the thought of Richard Dawkins. But I gave him a shot and read his book which I thought I would never read: The God Delusion. Much to my surprise, Dawkins is my new favorite author! I can now say with no fear or reservations that I am an atheist…I am free from the god delusion. I have the rest of my life to look forward to living the way I want to live it, and that’s pretty exciting! If you’ve read this far, I hope it answered your question and gave you some insight. Peace!”

Thank you Daniel! If  I could find 1000 stories like yours, I might begin to have wild hope in our future, or something equally as absurd. Peace, right back at you.

A rebuttal, whether you asked for one or not.

I write in response to the “Open Letter to the Atheist Community”, written by Rabbi Adam Jacobs, for the Huffington Post. The original article can be found here.

This man is quite intelligent, well spoken, and is fairly rational and reasonable for a man who also believes in God. It is unfortunate that his talent should be spent here, and not in pursuit of higher reason, and on behalf of the intellectual curiosity he may well be starving himself of as a result of adhering to doctrines of faith.

I applaud what he frames his underlying point (hands off, we have big guns too) with, which are fairly reasonable calls to end conflict between groups of people, making the overall tone one of presumed righteousness, which is effectively an attempt at a tactical defense. Above reproach? I think not. Agreeable? Certainly! I, also, wish very much to end conflict, but until we begin to see any actual success in this, my Atheist rhetoric will contain sharp edges, so I recommend putting on your thick-skin.

He launches into bold claims, such as “there are no true Atheists”, and illustrates these claims by providing one side of the falsifiability concept, or seems to, but neglects to finish the concept with the equal and opposite side to the coin. I counter with that side: “There are true Atheists”, which is, in fact, provable, because to be a TRUE Atheist, one does not have to have total knowledge of the universe, but one must have the firm BELIEF that there is no god. If you had to have knowledge of the whole universe to be a true Atheist, then by that logic, a vegetarian might be required to have knowledge of every single plant species that exists, or an auto mechanic would need to know everything about every automobile in existence. Therefore, this is an irrational line of thinking which plainly concludes that only God himself would be a true Atheist.

An Atheist is someone who believes that there is no god, so yes, there are true Atheists. You are reading one. This counter-point is aimed at his first point, and also makes the rest of that entire paragraph pointless to respond to, as its premise is now moot. Though I must once again compliment this man on his persuasive writing ability, and his creativity. This reads well, and to the non-confrontational, non-critically thinking mind, seems soothing and just.

Ill pause to respond to his assertion that there is anything published anywhere which is a “great” rebuttal to Dawkins’ “Ultimate 747 Argument”. My response? tl;dr
Dont know what that means? Google. Ive spent enough time on that.

Yes, there are many great scientists, philosophers, etc who are also theists. History and reality shows us this. Lets not forget, even some of the greatest scientific minds in history also held odd superstitions or believed in very unlikely things, such as Sir Isaac Newton, who was a devout Christian and wrote millions of words of Biblical commentary, but also handed science one of its greatest discoveries. Newton strove to achieve total conviction in God by understanding the laws of science and of the universe. He actually believed the laws of physics were the direct implications of a God, and so worked tirelessly and brilliantly to prove what eventually(and ironically) turned out to be useful, not in proving the beauty of his imagined God, but as one of the many bits of ammunition found within the canon of scientifically motivated Atheism. My point here is that smart people can also be a part of the God delusion, just like any other type of person. Drawing attention to the many great theists in society is unnecessary and does nothing to move the argument forward. This isn’t really an argument at all.

The author moves on to admit that he has taken steps backward from Atheism, to Judaism, which is a fairly humiliating thing to admit among some circles. He then questions the motivation of Atheists to, in so many words, do the things that we do for our cause. Ill take a second to address his question of “Wouldn’t it make much more sense to just chuckle knowingly to yourselves and shake your heads at our folly in the way you might with children who believe they have magic powers?” You are partially correct. It would be much more sensible, or much easier, to just shake my head. However we both know it is *not* that simple. Am I taking a more difficult path in living my life as an outspoken Atheist? Indubitably! The business of urging the world towards a more rational future is not an easy business, but it is my business, and the business of those like me. There are too many reasons why just shaking my head doesn’t cut it, and those reasons are too obvious and apparent to need mentioning here. Its almost insulting to be made to consider them, still.

All in all, I find this ‘Open Letter’ to be not as open as the title suggests, and I find the author’s desire to be seen as magnanimous and righteous to be more patronizing than persuasive to his points. I respond now to his well written closing, which asks for acceptance and consideration of religion based on the fact that Darwin himself made notes which illustrate his own fear of God. This goes back to my earlier point, and that is that many smart, successful, creative, and powerful people have also been believers in the great lies fed to us by religion, and while they were champions among men, towering in intellectual capacity and creative output, they were all, still, nothing but human beings, and just as susceptible to fear and imbalance as the rest of us. It is not fair, nor even reasonable to cite this as a persuasion to open our minds to accepting the existence of religion. Let me remind you, accepting religion means accepting it as a whole, and I for one cannot swallow the side effects of that pill. Thank you, no.

Should Evolution ALONE be taught in schools?

An interesting and provocative question, to which I am more than happy to offer an opinion.

This post is in reply to a question posted in the ‘FB for Science’ group on Facebook, and also the title of this post.

Should Evolution be the only [what] taught in schools? Faith? Or the only science?
Because if we are talking anything besides science being taught in science class, I take issue and assert that no other legitimate, differential, scientific theory exists with which to explain the origin and development of species on earth. There exists observable, measurable, and empirical evidence to support Evolution, so I would think no other theories would suit the educational tenants of our government funded public schools. If we are talking about private or religious education, who cares?

If we are talking about philosophy, or indeed theistic views on the origin of our species, it seems logical that this should be taught within subjects like anthropology, history, philosophy or even psychology. I throw psychology into this mix as a result of my belief that religion is a form of mental illness, so the canon of modern psychology might cover the topic in some way, one can only hope.

I do not know of any other philosophies, theories, or scientific disciplines which are even 1/100th as credible as Darwin’s theory, so if any acceptable alternatives actually exist, Im all ears. If you want to teach anything besides Evolution to explain our origins, teach in church, your cult, or in the privacy of your home. Keep it out of our public schools.

Secret of life lies herein

Yep
I have discovered the secret of it all.

One must stop focusing on the metrics of things. You have to stop measuring distances.
Once you focus only on whats enjoyable, here and now, and forget to compare whats happening now to what happened in another, more perfect moment of your life, the more *truly* perfect everything becomes. More specifically, once you learn to lose all or most sense of measuring the spaces between events, coupled with that unilateral understanding that comes from true, inexorable, inabstroyable[1] thought………………………….

Pause.

[1]inabstroyable: [adj] complete disconnection from reality, and also irrefutable, empirical evidence of reality. See also “drunken bloggery”

Forget the ephemeral shit, and the intangible shit, and the shit we cant replicate or mitigate or instigate or correlate or, pretty much ameliorate. Forget it all. Transition to reason, logic, and a gorgeous outlook on life, I beg of you. There *is* a place where lies do not define existence. Hi.
Im jeremy.

Why women should plow fields in the nude

This is not a new story, but still something I felt needed to be shared. This Reuters article briefly describes a most regrettable religious tradition carried out by farmers in the eastern Indian state of Bihar.

http://www.reuters.com/article/newsOne/idUSTRE56M3G020090723

Allow me to provide helpful commentary and suggestions!

As regions of California experience heavy drought over the years, Im going to suggest this as a means of ending the next drought that occurs. Farmers: Please send your daughters to plow the fields naked so that the gods will become embarrassed and send us water in the form of rain. My proof that this is a successful strategy is the fact that all the local villagers in that area of India trust this tradition and stubbornly stick to it. Also, there are people still living in the village. My proof, you see, requires no real results, but facilitates women getting naked and running around outside for the benefit of Men. I mean God.

I respect all cultures and make no claim to try to change local traditions in rural India, but for fuck’s sake, its 2011! Could a male dominated culture express itself any worse? Wait, don’t answer that silly, silly question…

What would any good, loving father do with his innocent young daughter during a time of drought? send her to plow fields naked, of course! Maybe its my brainwashed western mind that is telling me this is wrong. I mean, at least the farmers had the decency to make the elderly women help the young women with that naked plowing. Maybe Im being too harsh, or too closed minded.

What the FUCK!

My philosophical background and personal opinions are screaming bloody murder at this. No – wait – strict theocracy is the way to go. Chain your women to ignorance and relegate them to specific tasks, as dictated by a philosophy authored BY men, FOR men, back when men were Men! I think I might know a couple women who could benefit from being chained to ignorance and relegated to simplicity, but then again, I know a few men who could use the same.

“This is the most trusted social custom in the area and the villagers have vowed to continue this practice until it rains very heavily.” STAY THE FUCKING COURSE. I sometimes feel like I live in a world surrounded by madness and madmen. Why do I have this sinking feeling my species is going to eradicate itself long before interstellar travel is close to happening? If we dont become extinct, we will probably evolve into a type of species that we are so fond of making science fiction about. Clouds of locusts moving from planet to planet, consuming all natural resources, destroying or indoctrinating the indigenous, then moving on to the next planet.

I want to have more faith in my species, really I do, but in a world where parents and other adults teach their children to become “soldiers for god”, where nations become immune to their own brand of evil while viewing everyone else as evil, and where soldiers commit atrocities on the battlefield with hearts hardened and cold from the warmth of their fabulous spiritual faith, I find it sadly difficult to have faith in my fellow man.

This article and the behaviors detailed within it are just a couple of reasons why I do what I do. And my goodness did this age well! (EDIT: 2020)

Our brains on stuff

Im thinking there is some common denominator in the heads of people who are religious, conspiracy theorists, alien abductees, birthers, etc, you get the picture. There is something there… something that they become addicted to or fixated upon that keeps the blinders on with vigor. What is it? Im guessing its chemicals secreted by our brains, and Im vaguely aware of there being research that agrees with this, but Im far too high to look that up right now.
Enjoy your free drugs, ya fools.

Can anyone corroborate this?

Atheist rantings pt.1 – my feelings on the holidays and how I came to be an atheist

I would like to write on something that Ive been mulling this holiday season, and for many seasons before it. The main topic is, naturally, my trouble with the holiday season. Secondarily, I describe how I became an atheist. This is less confrontational than much of what I write on atheism, but we have plenty of time for that later.

This season, I finally cut the very last of the cords binding me to the guilt-laden, materialistic, capitalistic, bastardized religious holiday of Christmas. Why would I give up such a warm, fuzzy, tradition you might ask?

Well. At a very young age, I was indoctrinated into these traditions, religions and culture without many other options. In fact, no choice was given at all. I was simply told that “this is how it is”, and if I questioned these traditions I was sternly scolded and told that baby jesus was sad, I might burn in hell, or that I would get my mouth slapped for saying something so blasphemous. So, I never said much of anything about how I really felt, despite being a full-fledged atheist by age *7*.

Now, if you are the average, traditional, religious conservative, by now you are already imagining that something horrible had to have happened to me, or that I have some form of mental illness that caused such an unfortunate thing at a young age. After all, so unfortunate it is that a child would grow up free of the mental shackles of religion. Something terrible must have caused this fall from grace, right? Maybe what creates an atheist is similar to how childhood sexual abuse is often suggested as the “cause” of homosexuality.  Right?

Well, you wouldn’t be totally wrong as my young life did have one great tragedy, but I became an atheist 4 years before losing my mother to cancer. However the assertion of those conservative Christians closest to me is that, because my mother passed away right before my 12th birthday, this must obviously be that heart breaking event that stole god from my life, caused me to grinch up on Christmas, and was probably responsible for my tattoos and my strange taste in music. Right?

What *actually* happened is that my mother strictly controlled the television programming I was allowed to watch and put a strong emphasis on reading and education in my young life. As a result of this good parenting by my Catholic mother, I became an atheist. What she didn’t realize was, all those years spent reading and watching National Geographic, Carl Sagan, PBS television series like NOVA and Wild America, and all the educational media she provided during that time was causing me to intensely question what I perceived to be bizarre, scary, boring, totally pointless rituals which involved sitting, standing, sitting, kneeling, listening to people mumble, and a man telling stories from a fiction book that made me giggle. Of course, every time I would giggle, I ran the risk of ‘five across the eyes’, if you know what I mean.

I lived inside a little cage in my mind for probably 15 years, from age 7 until roughly 21-22, as a result of an increasingly contrary, blasphemous view of the universe that I knew I could not share with my family for fear of retribution, derision, anger, and alienation. Year in, year out, I was dragged to churches, made to write thank-you letters for gifts sent at Christmas, sent to Catholic catechism, and *made* to take part in traditions that seemed confusing and bizarrely compulsory, all the while silently protesting the constant pressure to conform to these archaic and backwards philosophies that made no sense to me.

You might be thinking, “Shit kid, how hard was writing thank-you letters at Christmas??”

Its not hard, in theory, but when your heart is not in the letter, the gifts, the expectations, and the year long guilt trip placed upon you any time you did not partake, it is hard indeed. For a while, it was easier to just go along with all the tradition than to fight it, and so I did, disingenuously, for decades.

By the time I got around to standing up for myself, I had already moved out of my family’s care and had been labeled a “tightwad” for not buying gifts at Christmas, as opposed to someone who had differing opinions on what healthy traditions are. I also became infamous for being the guy who shows up to christmas dinner wearing a t-shirt adorned with “Unsaved” or “Arrest the Pope!”

And here we are, all these years later, and its 2011. Whats changed in my life? 100% of the guilt is gone. I had the long talk with my son, who is now almost 13 and a burgeoning young freethinker himself, regarding why dad has removed Christmas from our to-do list every year. This was the hardest part for me, and the hardest part for many atheist parents around Christmas time. I explained to him as carefully as I could how Christmas is no longer about the holiday spirit, or rather that the holiday spirit itself has become corrupt, in addition to a little history on our family and how embedded this tradition is within it. Holiday spirit, like love and care, is now monetized. Advertisements tell us “Love starts with diamonds”, buy great gifts to show your children and family you love them, and you had better get a move on because time is short! Santa Claus tells us that all children get gifts for Christmas unless they were bad, so parents trapped into this tradition who are trying to get out are faced with yet another hurdle- how to deal with their young child who may have heard this Christmas contract somewhere before. Wont they think they have done something wrong if I don’t rush to the store alongside a hundred million other rabid parents to capture the latest fad toys? Wont they feel bad when their classmates brag of all the presents they received?

All in all, I feel quite good to know that Ive finally removed this(Christmas) and other judeo-christian traditions from my life and my home, however I am not content to let things lie silently without further comment. Today’s holiday “spirit” is driven primarily by consumerism and capitalism, and I wish to bring that message into the light where more people might consider its implications. Hell, our economy would probably melt down (further) if, suddenly, everyone stopped splurging at Christmas. This is why large corporations spend more and more money blanketing the entire world with their message of cheer and spending.

I am an atheist, I matter, my thoughts matter, and there are plenty more just like me. Seek out your fellow atheists and network with them for the purpose of creating social bonds and support. The churches have had thousands of years to create networks, institutions, charities, and propaganda to support and mold their members. Now, its time for atheists and non-theists to do the same.

Cheers

Text based communications vs. voice or face to face – What do you think?

A little background on why I chose this subject:

This is something I wrote a while back in a private Livejournal of mine, but never published anywhere else and never really finished. Story of my life.

The reason this topic is significant to me is that I have spent a great deal of the past 15 years living my life online. I play games online, I socially network, I use p2p apps, I job hunt, and Im generally someone who is expected by friends and family to wind up meeting someone online for a long term relationship, or to at least continue his habits unabated. As a result of my hobby/addiction, Ive periodically been confronted by others who do not share my love of the internet, and in fact attempt to judge my online relationships (platonic or no) as unreal or invalid. Ive encountered people who simply cannot imagine having a satisfying relationship of any kind with another human being without sitting down face to face for coffee a couple times a week. While I respect our differences, I cannot imagine having missed out on all the great people and great experiences Ive had online, so I find this thinking to be out-dated and narrow, but I do respect it since the world is a very different place today than even just 20 years ago before this great internet found its way into most of our homes. I do not fault the generations before me for not sharing in my enthusiasm for the net.

You might think that someone as much into the online lifestyle as I would take offense to such adverse points of view, but its really not hard to see how folks might question such behavior. Even the science of psychology seems to label the behavior of an individual who spends much time online as aberrant and antisocial, and this is primarily because psychology is still evolving within this modern world. Current definitions of aberrant behavior might benefit from a little critical review, within this context. Online gaming and online lifestyles are, without a doubt, not antisocial at all, but a new type of socializing which is admittedly more shallow in some ways, but rich and varied through modern technology and is simply a new type of human social interaction that must be recognized. If you are thinking “Well, what about exercise??”, this goes without saying and hopefully I wont have to spend a whole lot of time explaining that balance in life is good. ; )

I have always been a fan of electronic communication. Ive lived a virtual life for as many years as its been possible for me, and Ive surrounded myself with technology. But here I am at age 34, beginning to feel the need for a more human method of communication with those I care for, and also recognizing the limitations of my preferred medium.

I think, for gaining understanding and knowledge, sharing of factual concepts and other concrete forms of communication, there is no problem at all with text.
Folks can even locate compatible partners in love and begin relationships this way – no problem. I am personally a little biased towards this idea due to the online relationships Ive had, as those who know me will recall.
However, I think even the greatest of writers can still only place a small percentage of the emotional connotations into their written words as is instantly felt when viewing or hearing a live human being. Words are a conduit and through them, a good writer can definitely bring out emotions in his or her reader, but its never the same, and I speak of good writers…

I can say “I love you” in text, and it is known that I love you.
If I say it to your face or at the very least your ear, you FEEL this in a way that is impossible to convey otherwise, regardless how you dress it up.

Our poetry, biography, theater, history, and virtually all literature are drenched in such electric humanity and passion… yet our current form of written communication, technically, is but an instrument to be mastered by us slowly as we grow, and by some, never mastered at all. I do not seek to call into question the talent or skill of our great writers, but how many of us can profess to truly knowing what the author meant with each word? With each idea?  Accurately expressing the human spirit with words is a challenge and great writers are few, so should we be aware of the increased potential for miscommunication in relationships that are primarily text based?

And yet it seems that even a novice of literacy is still a natural born master of a more fundamental language without even realizing it- the language of expressive, face to face emotion through body language, posture, and vocal intonation. Not everyone feels they are necessarily *good* at this sort of thing, but without being normally conscious of this fact, they are providing a wholly more visceral and enduring memory of their personality and character. I was about to start babbling about science, vocal communications between higher life forms, sociology, anthropology, and evolutionary science, but Im going to keep that to a minimum. Plus, Im not well enough educated on the subjects to do this without referencing heavily. I just write stuff.

And so, this is a genuine invitation to debate/discuss this topic, however I will not try to veil my motivation for asking by claiming my interest is purely rhetorical. It is certainly related to my own past, present, and future internet relations and I am curious about how others feel, and what they have experienced. I also do feel that I should attempt to pass down some small, personal insight to those younger than me who might conceivably have even more net-centric lifestyles than I, and who might communicate through text an even greater percentage of the time. Can you think of any conflicts or drama that you have been through that might have been avoided if the people involved were face to face?

Have you ever observed your own written communications not living up to how you really feel, despite toiling over something in the hopes you could reach out to someone? Have you ever felt unfulfilled that what you said was only read, and not heard or felt? Have you ever read your writing and felt bottled within a limited scope of adjectives, despite having the wealth of the internet at your fingertips? Have you ever felt dehumanized by electronic communications in the context of our modern internet? Or, through rich, realtime content and audio/video conferencing technology, might it be possible to connect with people in ways that drastically lower the chances of being misunderstood, and in fact magnify the probability of 2 people getting to know each other in a far deeper, less pretentious way, prior to meeting in person?

I doubt Ill be altering my chosen method of communication nor my online lifestyle anytime soon, but I am interested in the topic and I am a critical thinker. What do you have to say?

A post to define what this blog might be about, and a little about me

Today is a good day, for it is the day Ive decided to buckle down and begin writing. I have toyed with this idea for a long time but suffer chronic procrastination, apathy, and an inability to stay interested in one topic for more than 10 seconds at a time.

Through my blog, I hope to channel the significant quantity of often passionate, yet mostly disjointed, unfocused communication (babbling) that I generate constantly into something productive, something representative of who I am, something fun, and something that might challenge the reader’s own opinions on matters of society, philosophy, politics, etc that will inevitably pass through my agenda and onto these pages.

I welcome challenges and controversy,  I welcome mockery and satire, I welcome contributions and corrections, and I welcome your thoughts into my own discussions and debates for the purpose of mutual enlightenment, as well as a few laughs  if we should both be so lucky.

On the subject of laughs, I believe that one of my primary goals in life is to remind people not to take themselves or the world around them too seriously. If you read what I write here, over time, you will undoubtedly find a common, recurring theme of satire and notice my tendency to try to use humor to defuse potentially angry responses from readers who have been offended by my challenges to the tiny, monochromatic worlds in which they live.

Im not totally sure what will come of this space, but I welcome you to check back to find out, though I would appreciate a complete lack of expectations. That is all.

JS