Monthly Archives: September 2007

Lake of Fire

A new documentary about the abortion debate:

Variety.com’s review
NYTimes overview

Here’s hoping this’ll make its way to Saskatoon. Who’s up for a coffee discussion afterwards?

Hitchens is not great?

One of my favorite stops on the internets is Newsweek’s On Faith. Here is where a panel of people from all sides of faith (both believers and non) meet to answer a weekly question. This week’s question was:

Best-selling atheist Christopher Hitchens wrote: “Religion is violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism and tribalism and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children.” Why is he right or wrong?

As you can imagine, the answers are quite varied. Brian McLaren acknowledges the truth of Hitchen’s statement, but cautions that its generalization can be applied to both the religious and irreligious. Chuck Colson’s response is brief and a little too easy to shut down, plus there are other responses which include the predictable slams/deflections to Mao and Stalin. Also included are a humanist chaplin responding, along with a female Muslim cleric.

However, my favorite panelist response is from Susan Jacoby. When I read her essay aloud to Jerry, he said he could recognize a lot of me in her voice and reasoning. Here’s my favorite part of her essay:

The real question is why so many religion fanatics are threatened by the fact that some Americans, albeit a minority, are paying attention to what secularists and atheists have to say.

The chief insulting comment about atheists, repeated ad nauseam on this thread and elsewhere, is that they are amoral or immoral. To be an atheist, in this view, is to be a member of the devil’s party. Without a God to strike us dead, we must all be potential murderers. This strikes me as a form of projection, in the clinical psychological sense of the term, on the part of religious fanatics who are so terrified about what is inside them that they cannot imagine behaving decently without a vengeful God to keep them in line. While I reject the theology of all religions, I would never claim that goodness or evil has anything to do with whether people agree with my own views. There are good people who believe in all sorts of gods or no god. Why are atheists so threatening to so many Americans that the only way to deal with — or, more precisely, to not deal with — our arguments is to demonize us as human beings?

[read the rest of her essay here]

Amen, sister. (she says, ironically)

I suppose my answer to the week’s question would be that Hitchens’s statement is a bit of an extreme generalization — yet part of me wants to think that this was on purpose, if only to inspire people to talk about the dangers of fundamentalism and blind dogma. Give him credit, it’s a statement that won’t be easily ignored or disregarded.

I’ve also been perusing some of the comments on the various threads, and this is — by far — my favorite:

Yes Hitchins is foolish if he thinks a little logic will stand bteween me and my God.
The reason my faith is so secure is that I know it is on another level from logic and reason and overrated rationalism.
There’s more to life than making sense. Sense is for the weak and unsteady.
The highest virtue is accorded those who believe in the least likely,and the most seemingly silly.
Any fool can believe in logic and earthly common sense.
It takes a man of true Faith to believe in the apparently ridiculous.

Can you guess why I love it?

In and out

This past week has been an interesting one for me, personally. You see, this week I made an admission that hasn’t come as much of a surprise to many in my life, but my vocalization of it has inspired all sorts of reactions — ranging from the positive to the not-so-positive.

This week I “outed” myself as not having any beliefs in the supernatural — in other words, I’m pretty much an atheist (as in someone without any beliefs in a God — aka without theism ["a - theist"]).

I can already hear the cries of “blasphemer!” and “heretic!” arising from the masses, and I expect that. The thing is, this personal admission of mine has been a long time coming, and isn’t a decision I made overnight (or at any particular atheistic altar call). I guess I’ve been taking small steps away from the faith I was raised in, away from God and church culture — until I realized that I didn’t need to keep up the facade anymore. So, yeah, I don’t believe in God anymore — but I don’t think that necessarily makes me a kitten-kicking, baby-eating immoral monster.

Jerry and I sat down together and wrote out a manifesto that outlined for ourselves, and our family members, where we stand when we identify ourselves as nonbelievers. Here’s an excerpt of what we wrote:

Despite the social connotations that are attached to the word itself, “atheist” simply means we are without a theist belief. We are not against God or his followers (despite the periodic rant or two about some of the scarier fundamentalist types), nor are we simply rebelling against bad experiences in the church. Likewise, this is not inspired by dysfunctional relationships in our past – be it in the church or with family members.

Our disbelief did not occur overnight. This has been a process of slow disengagement with church culture and a growing distrust of biblical standards. Through our spiritual explorations (both as individuals and as members of various faith communities), we consistently found the image of a biblical God lacking in morality and compassion. We also find no evidence to support the belief in God’s literal existence, beyond that which is experiential and sentimental.

Our pursuit is a rational one, and is no longer satisfied by a theory that explains everything (but really explains nothing). We’re tired of having honest and difficult inquiries be silenced by referring to the mysteries of God, requiring more individual faith, or relying solely on prayer to resolve concerns. Please understand, we aren’t expecting you or any other believer to have all of the answers to our questions.

As we started letting go of God, we discovered that we remained the same – only now we no longer called ourselves “Christian.” We had the same intrinsic morals, the same hopes in life, and the same desire for authentic relationships as before. Only now, we didn’t have to continually subdue our doubts and be devoted to a belief system that contradicted our convictions.

Many times when people hear the term atheist, they envision a bitter militant nihilist who is determined to stamp out religion and deter its followers. Just as I can’t paint all Christians with the Jerry Falwell/Pat Robertson brush, it’s not fair to color disbelievers as anti-God. We’re not against God or people who choose to believe in the supernatural.

What we are against is the image of a vindictive God who punishes those who don’t subscribe to the particular tenets of one belief system. We are against the fostering of a culture of fear in order to assure the obedience and perpetuation of an idea, a theory in how the world works. We are against viewing the limited messages of the Bible as unquestionable and timeless truths, and are tired of the contortions required to make a first-century male perspective fit a twenty-first century democratic culture.

This past week, after I’ve finally started admitting my disbelief outloud, I’ve experienced a range of response. From some people I love, I’ve had to calm down some tears and misplaced fear. From others in our life, we’ve had non-responses, where our frank admission was simply ignored (or gossiped about). From a friend, I’ve had to face several misconceptions that were directed toward nonbelievers (specifically ex-Christian atheists), where stereotypes of arrogance and short-sightedness were lobbied — both repeatedly and unapologetically.

I’ve always been attracted to debate, and now that I’ve publicly outed myself as an atheist (or secular humanist, which isn’t quite as scary sounding to some), I’m sure I’ll attract even more debate — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. As my excerpt above stated, I’m not out on an active campaign to deconvert believers. I’m still fascinated by religion, and I can never deny my Christian background — though it no longer defines me.

What I find interesting is that many believers seem to think that my nonbelief disqualifies me from entering into any discussions about religion. Whereas before, when I was a member of the club, my contributions were viewed askew because of me being a woman, now I’m viewed suspiciously because I don’t necessarily share the same tenets of faith. This is something I’ve encountered in several discussions, and it’s a topic I plan on revisiting in future posts.

I’m not posting this personal topic because I’m looking to debate anyone about faith, or because I owe anyone an apologetic of why I don’t believe. I’m still very much in the process of asking questions and looking for answers — and I can’t confidently say that I’ll always not believe. I can, however, be confident in saying that I will always have questions, and I’ll be on the lookout for evidence that will answer them adequately.

[Comments are open for this post -- for now -- but if they take an ugly turn, I may close 'em off or work my delete button. Thanks.]

Flip this

My latest TV show obsession is TLC’s Property Ladder, a show that features amateur house renovators attempting to “flip” a house to make money. I need a show like this, because after watching pros easily do it on other shows, I get an uncanny optimism that I could do something like that, myself. Property Ladder serves as my reality check.

Take tonight’s show, for example. Three guys bought a house that only needed minor facelift renos done, but their ineptitude tripled their timeline and put them over $20,000 overbudget.

I suppose watching this show is akin to watching a homeowning train wreck, of sorts. Usually there’s all sorts of unexpected things that go wrong in the rebuilding/updating process, and every now and then the renovators screw up so badly that their house doesn’t sell (like tonight’s episode).

Maybe I’m so intrigued by this show because I’ll not be owning a house in Saskatoon anytime soon, the way housing prices are so crazy right now.

A positive negative statement

But, this “This I Believe” thing seems to demand something more personal, some leap of faith that helps one see life’s big picture, some rules to live by. So, I’m saying, “This I believe: I believe there is no God.”

Having taken that step, it informs every moment of my life. I’m not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it’s everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I’m raising now is enough that I don’t need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day.

Believing there’s no God means I can’t really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That’s good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.

Believing there’s no God stops me from being solipsistic. I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I’m wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don’t travel in circles where people say, “I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith.” That’s just a long-winded religious way to say, “shut up,” or another two words that the FCC likes less. But all obscenity is less insulting than, “How I was brought up and my imaginary friend means more to me than anything you can ever say or do.” So, believing there is no God lets me be proven wrong and that’s always fun. It means I’m learning something.

Yeah, what he said. I’m also a little wary of religious debates lately.

Make sure you catch the rest of his essay here.

Why can’t I be whipped?

(oh the search engines will have fun with this title!)

So I was thinking still about this, when I realized something. Has a woman ever been called “whipped?” Why is this only used in reference to men in relationships with women?

What would you call a woman in a seemingly authoritative relationship? (in a biblical marriage? I kid, I kid Ephesians.)

UPDATE: “hen-pecked” is another one to add to the list.

New Rule:

Maybe a President who didn’t believe our soldiers were going to heaven might be a little less willing to get them killed.

From last week’s Real Time with Bill Maher
[watch it here]