Category Archives: Atheism, Agnosticism, Humanism, and Religion

Posts dealing with Atheism/Agnosticism/Humanism and Religion

My Journey

I was given the freedom to make my own choices on matters of my personal spirituality.  Most people had religion pushed on them since they were toddlers, so I was lucky.  The fear of Hell wasn’t instilled me.  I wasn’t told that my dead loved ones were in Heaven looking down upon me and saving me a spot.  I was lucky.  I didn’t have a bunch of made up crap pounded into my brain.  There are other things that I also didn’t have.  I didn’t have a sense of community or the social network that comes with a shared delusion.

When a person hits their early teens, an uncontrollable longing to be a member of a tribe arises.  I had to search for my tribe.  Lots of trial and error, but I eventually found my people congregated around a bong.  I found acceptance and belonging.  The details of my ‘career’ as a drug addict are a story for another forum, so I won’t go into that, but the end result was that I spent my 21st birthday in a mental hospital.  After two weeks, I was transferred to a drug and alcohol treatment facility.  In 1990, AA based treatment was all there was, so I reluctantly started my spiritual journey.  I was taught that drugs were a substitute for God and that the only way to free myself from my addiction was to let God into my life.  They told me of the Catholic version of God.  I didn’t buy it.  I played along just long enough to complete the program and get back to what I was doing after my nice little vacation.  Again, a story for another forum, but a personal tragedy made me change my mind and I elected to never touch drugs or alcohol again.  Two months after treatment, I finally decided to take it seriously.

So, it seemed that I needed to find a spiritual life in order to maintain some semblance of sanity.  The Christian version of spirituality was quickly scratched off the list.  Some of the worst people I had ever met were ‘Good Christians’.  There was no way that I was going to align myself with that particular cult.  I researched every religion that I could find.  Hindu, Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, etc.   To this day, I have a deep reverence for Buddhist and Taoist principles and try to incorporate them into my life.  The teachings, I have found, are great, I just couldn’t quite get on board with the ritualistic aspects.  Just like I can’t believe that a guy survived in a whale’s stomach, I can’t believe that a monk’s soul will reincarnate itself into another person.

I became ‘Spiritual but not religious’.  I found comfort in the teachings of many of the religious texts that have been written throughout the ages, but I couldn’t align myself with just one.  Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha all had the same general message and my opinion was that when people got involved with interpreting what the divine taught, things went bad.

L. Ron Hubbard published ‘Dianetics’ and in the early 90’s there was a huge ad campaign surrounding this book.  It was touted as ‘The owner’s manual for the human brain’.  I read it.  Three times.  It resonated with Fruedian psychology and I know that ‘normal’ people are completely dismissive of the book, but I found a lot of things within that I could really get on board with.  It wasn’t until a year or two later that I learned that a religion emerged from this book.  And it wasn’t just any religion.   It wasn’t ‘love thy neighbor’ type of stuff.  It was a full blown Jim Jones type of thing.  Did I delve into Scientology?  Absolutely not.  The reason that I’m bringing it up is because that book/religion is what made things click for me.  L. Ron Hubbard was a science fiction writer.  His entire career was making up outlandish stories to entertain his readers.  Science fiction writers have always had the gift of prophecy….writing things that later come true, but how exactly did it happen that L. Ron Hubbard suddenly became a religious prophet?  There were a lot of correlations between him and Joseph Smith.  Scientology and Mormonism are two religions with rather large followings that we know are just made up.  What’s to say that other religious texts don’t have the exact same origins?

I made the conclusion that all religion was man made.  There was no divine intervention in their constructions.  Whatever.  I have found inspiration in a great many authors.  The authors of the Bible, the Koran or Dianetics don’t necessarily have to be any different.  I can search those books for words of wisdom and I have no problem with that.  It doesn’t mean that I am accepting that a deity tagged some dude to write stuff down.  It simply means that the author wrote a little gem that I like and find truth in.  There’s no harm in that.  Over time, I’ve come to find that there is harm in it.  Some people have taken it upon themselves to interpret these religious tomes in an effort to further their own agendas and to manipulate people into subservience.

Often times in our stories, there are ‘click’ moments.  A bit of information makes its way across our brains and things just ‘click’ into place.  I’ve had plenty of those.  And then I can think of a moment when it wasn’t a ‘click’ I was experiencing, but rather a ‘snap’….An incident where I just snapped.  When my daughter was 4, her mother found a babysitter that would watch her in the evenings.  On Saturdays, this babysitter would take her to church with her and her family.  I wasn’t a big fan of that, but finding daycare providers that work nights is close to impossible, so I swallowed it.  One day, my daughter says that they are going to go to Heaven because they are the ‘chosen ones’.  I don’t know why that hit me so wrong, but I snapped and came unglued on my daughter’s mother for letting this babysitter fill my child’s head with stuff like that.  I did calmly explain to my daughter that it doesn’t work that way.  If a plane of never ending bliss exists, it isn’t reserved for the people who belong to one group or another.  You have to be a good person.  Who you hang around with has nothing to do with it.  And that is when I recognized that one of the biggest problems in the world is that we have a large population of people who will have their sins forgiven and get eternal rewards not for what they do in life but for what club they belong to.

 

Tragedy, religion, and real solutions.

Pray for Paris.

There are so many things wrong with that statement I do not know where to begin.

So, let’s start with : who are you going to pray to? The god who let it happen or the god who caused it to happen? What exactly are you going to pray for? The dead? The wounded? The lives affected? The lives unaffected?

I get it. “I will pray for _________” is the catch phrase the religious fall back on when they don’t know what else to do. It makes a person feel as though they are doing something. It is akin to saying: “I am sorry for your loss.” or “Our thoughts are with you.” It shows solidarity. Like imposing a French flag over your Facebook profile picture.

Which is a new can of worms.

So, why the French flag? There were at least half a dozen more countries attacked that day by the same group. Those countries not white enough for you?

Showing solidarity for one country’s tragedy is still showing solidarity for a tragedy. It should not diminish the fact that other countries were attacked on the same day.

Speaking of white: Donald Trump

Yes, it has to be said. Donald Trump spewed enough anti-immigration venom that some of it turned out to be on the mark. So we all need to close down our borders and shut out all those terrorists coming to our country, right?

Terrorists are – literally – one in a million. IF you let a single terrorist through your borders you have helped a million more in return. If you are not a jerk to the ones you have helped, maybe you can keep others from becoming terrorists.

Which brings us to religion. You knew it was bound to happen. I am The God Fearing Atheist after all.

“Islam is the problem!” says the Christian.

So you think more religion is going to solve issues caused by religion? There are plenty of examples of terrorism done by white Christians. Grab a world history book and you will see something called the “Crusades” where the Christians were the terrorists.

“Religion is the problem!” says the Atheist.

So you think that people need a religious excuse to be jerks to one another? These guys are filled with hate for anyone not like themselves. Religion is the catalyst. People hate what they fear and they fear what they do not understand. Assuming that is true, an education is what they need.

Why don’t you do something meaningful?

What, like donate to the Red Cross? A group that is demonized when there isn’t a tragedy for its high CEO pay, questionable business practices, and ineffective relief efforts?

Ok, smart guy.  Exactly what can we do for the victims?

STOP.

STOP looking for a simple answer to a complex problem.
STOP being a jerk to those who are as powerless as you are during times of tragedy.
STOP being racist and Islamaphobic.
STOP electing those who pander to racists and Islamaphobes.
STOP pretending like what little you are doing is better than the little anyone else is doing.
STOP contributing to anti-intellectualism.
STOP using tragedy to further your own agenda.

Do what you can and don’t judge.

SkepDakota!!!

skepdakota
Steve, our mascot. 🙂

Siouxland Freethinkers is hosting its own conference on August 29th! It’s going to be a fun weekend with social events, amazing speakers, vendors, networking, and all around awesomeness.

We’ve managed to put all this together for some really good prices, and are offering a special VIP experience as well. But here’s the deal – earlybird pricing ends April 30th.  So that means that you’re going to want to buy your ticket in the next 24 hours or so to get the very best deal possible. How? Head over to http://skepdakota.com/ and click on the “tickets” link. There’s also a link to a special on hotel rooms there as well.

We are so excited to be hosting the first conference of this kind in South Dakota! We hope to see you in Sioux Falls in August!

Atheist Questions

Continuing along the lines of getting to know me, these are questions from an online christian site that dared Atheists to answer the questions. The thought was by the time you got into it, you would realize Atheism is just silly and go back to the Church.  These were my answers.

1.       How Did You Become an Atheist?

Through reasoning, critical thinking and skeptical analysis. Studying the Bible from a historical perspective also helped.

2.       What happens when we die?

Apart from the obvious, we will either cease to exist, or something else. Either way, I’m good.

3.       What if you’re wrong? And there is a Heaven? And there is a HELL!

What if we are both wrong and you will be reincarnated? I just do my best to be kind to others and live an honest life. If I am judged for my sins in some afterlife, I should do ok.  As an Atheist, I am not living for an afterlife, I am living for the life I have now.

4.       Without God, where do you get your morality from?

Same place you would get it with God. Parents, peers, and personality. Consequences of my actions are as immediate as anyone. When I wrong someone I can’t just pray to a god and be forgiven. I actually have to speak to the person I have wronged and ask forgiveness. There are two things hard to do: 1. Admit you are fallible then 2. ask forgiveness from another being that isn’t in your head.

5.       If there is no God, can we do what we want? Are we free to murder and rape? While good deeds are unrewarded?

Even if everyone is believes the same these all will happen anyway. The difference is that you are less likely to get involved when things like this happen if you believe “someone else” will punish them or “someone else” will help the victims. You, as an individual, have more effect on the lives of those around you than any deity.

6.       If there is no god, how does your life have any meaning?

My life has more meaning without God than with. Because I do not believe in reward or punishment after death, how I live and treat others is more important now than it will be later.

7.       Where did the universe come from?

I don’t know. There is no shame in admitting that. Maybe we will find out someday but pretending we know all the answers only gives us wrong ones.

8.       What about miracles? What all the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus? What about those who claim to have seen saints or angels?

Why must we believe in supernatural miracles done 2000+ years ago but not put our faith in the people who do the impossible everyday – right now? I tell people who make extraordinary claims that they must have extraordinary proof to back these claims up.

9.   What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?

I don’t like Dawkins methods and many of his views on Atheism. I have barely heard of Hitchens but my views seem more in line with his. Who the heck is Harris? I have my own views on Atheism and no one person speaks for me.

10.   If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?

Belief in something bigger than ourselves is not only innately human, but it gives us comfort and the illusion of knowledge in the absence of information. Why did you stop believing in Santa Claus? Because you got new information. Modern mythology is no different, yet even in the presence of overwhelming information to the contrary, some people still insist that their belief is more true than any fact.

I am an Atheist

I am an Atheist, but I haven’t always been.

I was raised Catholic (mother’s side) with a non-practicing Lutheran father. My Catholic upbringing was a positive experience and I regularly went to catechism classes (called CCD in my day). I was even an altar boy for many years but must have been one of the ugly ones because nobody ever touched me inappropriately.

When it comes to Christianity, I have been around. I was married Methodist; divorced; married Lutheran; joined a southern Baptist church in Texas; moved back to South Dakota; joined what I call a Baptist revival; studied several different versions of the Bible (yes, there are different versions); divorced again; married Episcopalian and even baptized my first child as such.

I have stories from each of these chapters in my life. My blog posts will have more on those later as well as what Atheism truly means while weighing arguments for and against Atheism.

Everyone’s experience is different but, becoming an Atheist is a long process that takes many years. People often think we wake up one day, see something bad on the news about religion and say “That’s it! I’m an Atheist!” This is almost never the case.

It was easier having faith than not believing in God. The message was positive, many questions were “answered”, and it was very comforting to “know” that I wasn’t ever truly alone. Ignorance truly is bliss.

So, why would I want to become Atheist? Because the evidence didn’t support my beliefs. It’s not that I looked around and didn’t see God, but many of the things that the church teaches from the Bible is either false, misleading, or suppressed. There is far more to it than I can write here and I will write more about this at a later time.

Becoming an Atheist doesn’t change who I am. For those who know me, I am the same person I always have been though, I have never had more friends who I share so much in common with and accept me for who I am.

Many will be relieved to know that, as an Atheist, I take no issue with what you believe nor will I try to recruit you as an Atheist. The decision to become Atheist is personal process and not for everyone.

However, if you try to recruit me into your belief system or use said belief system as justification to oppress, discriminate, spread misinformation, or do harm to others, I will oppose you with every fiber of my being.

In conclusion, I have repeatedly mentioned that becoming an Atheist is a process. Part of my process was letting go of God with a final prayer which went something like this:

Dear God,

I have been told by those who represent themselves as religious authorities that you are an omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing) and omnipresent (existing everywhere) sort of being. Therefore, if I were to ask you for the things I think I need, not only would you know better than I what my needs truly are, but what arrogance would that demonstrate on my part to presume upon such a being as yourself?

Therefore, whether or not you see fit to intervene in my life, I am good with whatever you decide. As my personal spiritual needs are fulfilled, I reserve this one last and only prayer:

I pray that the prayers of others are answered.

Sincerely,

A God-fearing Atheist.

 

Harry Potter and the City Council Meeting

The past 48 hours have been a complete blur.

Following the Greece v. Galloway ruling, I had contacted the SF City Council about the possibility of doing a secular opening to a Council meeting. It was simply a matter of scheduling, and so we did.

Tuesday night, August 5th, I  opened the Sioux Falls City Council meeting with the following statement:

“Thank you Mr. Mayor, Council members, citizens of Sioux Falls, and all those present for this opportunity to provide an inspirational opening to your meeting.

Often at this time, you are asked to bow your heads. Instead, I ask you to lift your head up and look around. Turn your attention to this room – a room that has heard countless discussions, frustrations, and successes; a room where important decisions regarding your city are routinely made.

Now take a moment to soak in the presence of the men and women in this room, gathered here at this time and place to engage in their civic duty, to contribute and work towards creating a better community. Think of the hundreds and thousands of others who are also affected by the ideas shared here. Let all voices be heard and understood equally.

It is also often customary to read from a book during an invocation, and tonight will be no different – I’ll be sharing a quote from J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” in which Professor Albus Dumbledore said:

“Differences of habit and language are nothing at all if our aims are identical and our hearts are open.”

Although our differences may be many, we are bound together in similarity as members of the human species. As humans, we have the capacity to appreciate and thank each other; to utilize compassion and reason in our decision making. I ask those present to join me in showing gratitude  to the men and women that serve the great city of Sioux Falls. We need only look to each other for guidance, and work together to overcome any challenges we may face.”

Today, I got off work to be met with the news that the story about “Harry Potter and the Atheist of Sioux Falls” was being shared on not only local media – KSFY, KDLT, KELO AM, KSOO, and The Argus Leader, but also was on Daily Kos, Addicting Info, The Friendly Atheist, CFI, The Raw Story, and The Christian Post.

The best part is that most of the feedback and comments have been overwhelmingly positive.

I am absolutely overcome by the outpouring of support shown to me by so many. I can’t tell you how much it meant to see so many familiar faces in the crowd at the meeting – the Council woman I sat next to asked if I brought some friends since the room was so full, and I was pleased to tell her that so many members of Siouxland Freethinkers were present. In addition, all the lovely comments on Facebook, text messages, emails, and private messages wishing me good luck, letting me know that people were tuning in online from afar, or congratulating me on a job well done have just been absolutely amazing.

And my husband Eric – I couldn’t do any of this without his support. He is the best cheerleader and confidence builder in the world.

To all of you: thank-you, a million times over.

– Amanda