Monthly Archives: August 2011

Another Bennetch in the media

Miss Emmalee is a cover girl on a local paper this week.

So far I’ve gotten compliments both on the cute kid and on the tasty-looking carrot. (note: both of which I grew!)

What he said:

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

Jack Layton, July 18, 1950 – August 22, 2011

 

Sad today, because Canada lost one of its best politicans — and someone who I would have loved to have voted for.

Go read his last letter to Canadians, and you’ll see why.

grrrl meets UK Christian radio program programme

The interview is online now at the Unbelievable? website.  Here’s the program’s description:

This week on Unbelievable : “Losing my religion – dialogue with an ex-Christian”

Rebekah Bennetch lives in Saskatoon, Canada. She grew up in a Christian family. Her dad is a pastor, and other family members are involved in Christian ministries. She professed faith from a young age, went to Bible college, atteneded church and went on mission trips. But in 2007 she “came out” as an atheist and now describes herself as the “black sheep” of her family. Sheridan Voysey is a writer, speaker and broadcaster on contemporary spirituality. For many years he presented “Open House”, a nationally-syndicated Australian radio show on life, faith and culture. He now resides in the UK. They discuss what led Rebekah to abandon her faith, how Christians can best treat their “apostate” friends and family, and what lessons can be learnt for fruitful dialogue between believers and atheists.

Here’s the link for the interview — it’s a little over an hour long.  Right now I’m buried in end-of-term marking of student reports and finals, but later this week I’m planning to reflect on the exchange I had with Justin and Sheridan. In the meantime, check out the interview, and make sure to read the latest comments on the blog here (and here, and here), by my old youth group pal Alison — she’s always good for a laugh, and for a reminder of why I rejected the faith system she represents.

Hi there.

If you’re visiting here after listening to this week’s Unbelievable? broadcast, welcome across the pond!

This weekend I’m off camping with a bunch of families with the Saskatoon Secular Family Network, so I won’t be around until late Sunday night.  Feel free to check out the entries I’ve had about my interview experience, and leave some feedback.  If you don’t see your comment posted right away, it’s probably because I’m off in the woods, and haven’t gotten your comment out of moderation.

I’m not the praying type, but if I were, I’d be praying for no rain this weekend!  ttfn

 

What he said:

Penn Jillette on Piers Morgan’s show (watch the first 10 minutes):

Wow, go Penn!

I love this example of atheist/Christian dialogue.  I thought Penn hit the perfect tone — approachable and friendly, yet still able to openly disagree with Morgan.  It’s funny to see how flustered and angry Morgan gets as he tries to bait Penn in the various traps believers like to lay out for nonbelievers (ie., the arrogance of atheists, the beginnings of the universe, death, etc).

I’m going to watch this clip again — and I’ll be buying Penn’s book, too.

On atheist “evangelism”

[more on my Unbelieveable? experience]

Sheridan Voysey, the Aussie Christian broadcaster I spoke with last week, has posted the first of a couple posts on his podcast experience.  This first post is one worth checking out, as he gives 5 specific tips on how to talk to an atheist (or a Christian).  It’s good advice for anyone to take, especially if you are interested in building up positive relation between yourself and whoever you’re speaking to. I don’t have much to add to what he wrote about in his post, but in reading it, there were a couple points I thought needed a little more clarification.

Here’s how he describes me to his readers:

Rebekah’s story is an interesting one. Growing up as a pastor’s kid, with many members of her family in active missionary work or Christian service today, Rebekah went through two Bible colleges and umpteen churches before announcing herself an ‘apostate’ (her description) after a series of life events. Today she is a something of an evangelist for the atheist cause. She runs atheist small groups for former believers, runs secular holiday camps for kids, writes on atheist/skeptic/freethinking parenting and contributes to atheist blogs.

The part that stood out to most to me is Sheridan’s description of me as “something of an evangelist for the atheist cause.” After getting over the triggering qualities I usually associate with the word “evangelist,” I don’t think it’s an accurate way to describe my involvement in the atheist movement.

I looked up evangelist in the OED, and nearly all of its definitions refer to religious teachings, preaching, and spreading of the gospel to the unconverted.  That said, in 1993, an additional definition was added: “A zealous advocate of a cause or promulgator of a doctrine.”  Even so, I don’t think I should be counted as an atheist evangelist, because I don’t see my end goal to be one where I deconvert others to the “good news” of nonbelief.

Now I’m sure there are several people who will regard me as “zealous,” due to the subject matter of what I write about online and what I talk about in person, if only because I tend to get a bit passionate in talking about certain issues. [I recently discovered my Bible college roommate on FB cut me off from connecting with her -- it's not the first time someone from my past-believer life has chosen to end friendship with me]  But I don’t think of myself as on a mission to get everyone to see the world the way I do (I left that goal behind when I rejected Christianity) — and if having passion equates one to being an evangelist, then the word itself is going to get diluted in meaning pretty fast.

The motivation behind my involvement in the atheist movement isn’t to spread nonbelief, but moreso to foster community amongst people who are already nonbelievers.  For me, it’s not enough to call myself an atheist, because I’m so much more than that label. If I were only involved with specifically “atheist” endeavors, I could see myself getting bored pretty fast — because one can only dissect religion and other illogical beliefs for so long.

So, I find other ways to get involved.  For example, I meet with other irreligious parents in our Secular Family Network, and trade ideas about how to raise our children without the influence of a religious institution.  This weekend, in fact, is our annual freethinker summer camping trip! I’m already looking forward to spending time enjoying the outdoors with the friends I’ve made as a result of being in this group.

For me, it’s more about the community and not so much the spreading of ideology.  I know that I can’t persuade anyone out of their faith, and so it’s not my main goal. This isn’t to say that I’m not happy to talk about religious issues, raise questions, and occasionally poke fun at the hypocrisy and absurdity of some religious dogma — but that’s not the same thing as saying my intentions are to convert others to nonbelief.

good without god.

[more on my recent podcast interview]

Part of our discussion on Wednesday touched upon morality.  At one point, I ended up talking about where I find a basis for morality, since I no longer believe in a divine moral lawgiver.  I’ll readily admit that I’m not a philosopher, so talking about objective vs. subjective morality not an easy discussion for me to have. (part of me thinks believers get off a little too easy when it comes to answering these kinds of complex questions, because they can just say “God.” and be done with their answer.)

I ended up talking about the ethic of reciprocity, and how most ethical systems can be boiled down to this principle of doing good to others, because you would like to have good done for you.  I don’t think my answer was too radical of a concept, but then our conversation drifted into implications of individual selfishness and reciprocity.  (ugh)

Well, I wish I could have steered the talk of morality in a different direction.  I wish I could have brought up Psalm 14:1, and asked them about what they thought of the verse.  Psalm 14:1 reads:

The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
there is no one who does good.

Now here’s a verse most atheists will recognize, because it’s one usually hurled in our direction. It’s the last part of the verse I would have wanted to talk about — the notion that the godless are corrupt, full of vile deeds, and up to no good. There aren’t many Christians out there who would admit to agreeing with the last half of the verse — but I know many people who still hold onto the idea that god is a necessary prerequisite to being good. But is it true?

Not according to evidence.

Part of my reading prep for the interview involved me reading the peer-reviewed article “Atheism, Secularity, and Well-Being: How the Findings of Social Science Counter Negative Stereotypes and Assumptions” by Phil Zuckerman. This article compared different societies’ levels of religiosity to their levels of violent crime, happiness and well-being indexes, health care services, standards of economic equality, education, and several other categories.  The result?

… societies with higher percentages of secular people are actually more healthy, humane, and happy than those with higher percentages of religious people.

The author was sure to point out that the amount of secularity doesn’t necessarily cause these positive factors in society, but being irreligious does not seem to be a hinderance to having a good and happy life.

I guess this brings me back to another point I wish I could have pressed the two Christians on — why do I need to be a Christian?  If evidence shows societies to function just fine (if not better) without religion, why do I need to be religious?  If I can find meaning and significance in the natural world around me, why do I need to add a supernatural belief on top of it?  If I can be good without god, why do I need Christian faith?

Still waiting for the answers to these questions.