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Been Gone May 1, 2011

Posted by jetson in Personal.
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I’ve been away from the blog lately. I’m still a heathen, but I’ve been busy on different forums doing the good work of the outspoken non-believers. One of my activities is somewhat of a private forum, where I was debating and discussing with people I see every day! That is weird, to say the least. But, we’re all good friends, and we really try hard not to get too abrasive. I will say, it is very difficult, and I can feel some pressure from both sides, which tells me we are edging closer to a fatal point where no useful dialog can actually occur.

After thinking about that last sentence a bit, I am inclined to ask myself why I debate with theists. It seems that there really is no point, when both sides are sure they are right, and seem unwilling to consider the other side. But that’s how it goes in our human world, I suppose. As an atheist, I would not accept the reality of a god without something tangible. And if that showed up, I like to think that I would simply accept that there is a real god. I can’t say what that would do for my specific approach to gods and religions, but I won’t deny that which is demonstrably true, through observation, evidence, and facts.

I am not certain at all what would cause a theist to abandon their beliefs. My instinct tells me that it would require a specific and thoughtful journey of research, rational thinking, and stepping outside of the faith. I have heard that some people are looking for a true support group to switch to, which is very difficult to find if you live amongst a highly religious group of neighbors, and work mates. The power of family, friends, and neighbors is strong, and difficult to escape from when matters of religion, and sometimes other world-views are prevalent. When enough guilt or shame is “in the air”, many people will elect to just go along, and stay quiet.

One thing that has surfaced for me recently, is the idea of writing a book. It seems daunting, and I am certainly not a professional writer, but it could be an interesting project. The focus, without giving away the full idea, would be on the differences between believers and non-believers. I’m still tossing the idea around in my head, so I won’t say any more right now.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the respect of ideas in the debate between belief and non-belief. I was thinking just today, that I have been called out, almost directly, but not quite, on what my goal is in “attacking” a belief system that I don’t even believe in myself. After some thought, I decided that it is certainly a fair question. And I have an answer. But what I would like to know, is why it is seemingly OK and/or socially acceptable to assume that believers are correct, and to give their ideas respect, just because. After all, this debate only has one answer; there is a god, or there is no god (yes, there could be multiple gods, but I’m going for simplicity).

In the end, atheists think they are right, and believers think they are right. So, technically, neither side deserves more respect than the other. But it seems apparent to me that the non-believer side is far less socially accepted. As I watched a clip from Christopher Hitchens recently, he was talking about believers who sent him messages asking if he was now ready to accept Jesus (he has been in the hospital in cancer therapy). And Hitchens basically said that it would be unbelievably rude for atheists to go running into hospital rooms to convince the dying patients that the whole religion thing was a scam. And that’s only one example where belief in a god is given special status as more socially acceptable than non-belief.

Anyway, I’m going to start writing some more – even though no one is listening! (Except for you three…)

What About the Failures? October 19, 2010

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You simply cannot have it both ways. For almost every miracle, there is a failure, or more often, massive failure. When a bus goes over a cliff, and a single person survives, God gets the credit for the miracle. But why does God not also get the blame for the other deaths? The moment you give credit to God for a miracle, you are by default stating that God is also responsible for the tragedy as well. Even the Chilean miner accident had tragedy.

Sure, all of the miners were saved – thanks to the rescuers, and everyone else involved. But a miracle from God? Are you kidding me? Someone even claimed that God was the 34th person in the mine along with the miners! Seriously? What was he doing down there? If God’s miracle saved the miners, why were they stuck in the mine for more than two solid months? How much more incompetent can the creator of the universe actually be? And how is the collapse not the fault of God in the first place?

Anyway, it sure gets old hearing about all of the miracles of God, while conveniently ignoring the disaster that required the miracle in the first place! It’s disgusting. And many people do this without giving it a second thought. God, they say, was the reason that there were survivors in a particular disaster. But simultaneously, God certainly is not to blame for the tragedy and untimely and horrific deaths of the rest of the group. And no one seems to notice, nor care. The last thing on the mind of miracle thumpers is the fact that the miracle was even necessary.

I suppose that if California ever experiences a massive earthquake, one that has long been feared and seems as likely as all of the prior earthquakes, God will get all of the miracle credits, while perhaps hundreds of thousands will surely die as the ground swallows them whole, or perhaps a large chunk of the coast crumbles into the pacific, forever reshaping the coast line. But who will actually blame God for the disaster? Did God create the earth, and all of it’s natural disasters? There are certainly plenty of Christians who have no problem blaming tsunamis and earthquakes on sinners. I guess we’ll never know for sure, since God is conspicuously absent from modern times (assuming you believe he physically interacted with ancient humans some 2,000 years ago and earlier.)

As one who is quite certain that many modern humans are simply unable to abandon imaginary gods, I have to say that I am wholly unimpressed by miracle claims where credit is given to God. This god, who is also given full credit for actually creating the entire universe, and everything in it, is apparently incapable of managing the world, and the universe in such a way as to allow his beloved humans to live without fear of getting buried alive by a volcano, or be drowned on an otherwise beautiful beach by the sudden appearance of a tsunami. There is even a ready made excuse for such ineptness – free will! That’s right – free will is the reason that suffering is allowed by God.

Yeah, I tried to understand that one, and I was left with the same bewildered feeling. Pathetic.

Creationists, You Were Lied To February 6, 2010

Posted by jetson in Personal.
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I feel sorry for some of you, but not for those of you who remain steadfastly ignorant, on purpose, of how life has evolved on our planet. The ones I feel sorry for are young children who are being deliberately lied to by people who think that the stories in Genesis reflect the actual truth about how the world and its life came to be, by the hand of their god. As a parent, I find it reprehensible that some parents allow their children to be dogmatically and religiously indoctrinated into a system of mythology and superstition that requires absolute suspension of disbelief, in order to hold on to their warm blanket of God.

Richard Dawkins has said that believing that the earth is less than ten thousand years old is equivalent to believing that the distance between New York and San Francisco is less than ten meters. That is a scale of ignorance that defies logic, even to a young child. Yet every day, children are lied to, on purpose, by people who think they are doing right by their god, that they are somehow defending the honor of their god by plugging their ears whenever observable reality steps in and say’s hello.

If you still want to believe that a god worked its magic and created everything, I can’t stop you, nor would I want to. But I will actively voice my opinion and concern when you deliberately lie to children by teaching them that something written by an unknown story teller, thousands of years ago, before humans learned what shape the planet is, is a fact. And when you teach them that science is wrong, and that science is atheist, or that science hates gods, or any other conflation between what real scientists have learned and contributed to humanity, you show your willingness to actually lie to your own children. For these things I will always speak out, and remind creationists that they were lied to by someone.

We can remove the ignorance that has spread over the most powerful and free country in all of humanity if we just stop allowing mythology and superstition to insert itself where it does not belong. If parents want to take their children to church, and teach them about their religious beliefs, I have no problem at all with that (although I think that children should always be allowed to decide about religion when they are old enough to decide on their own.) Just keep your religion out of the public education system, stop worrying about what science is doing if you don’t care to embrace it, and don’t lie to your children on purpose just to defend your personal superstitions. It’s embarrassing as a fellow human to see this happening.

Religion, Science, and Conflation January 10, 2010

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As a new blogger, and as one who takes great interest in science and its contributions to human knowledge, I felt it was time to address the topic of what I perceive to be a serious problem. Namely, the conflation of topics, theories, and fields of study related to what we have learned, using the scientific method, about our universe, and our planet and its life. What exactly is going on? Well, for one thing, when one attacks a scientific theory because it conflicts with their religious beliefs, it seems they will stop at nothing to confuse and conflate the theory with a series of arguments that really have nothing to do with the theory they are attacking.

For example, the theory of evolution. This theory is an attempt to discover and understand how life forms have, and continue to, evolve over time. From the earliest evidence of life, up to the current range of life including plants and animals. The theory of evolution does not give an account of how life on planet earth got started. Since there is evidence that the planet was once devoid of life forms, the assumption is that life “somehow” got started. Given that evolution does not attempt to answer the specific question regarding how life got started, then using that fact against the theory is, to put it plainly, pointless. To be sure, there are scientists spending plenty of their valuable time and effort on abiogenesis, the study of how life on our planet first got started.

Regardless of how life got started, it is evolving. There is little doubt or disagreement about this. There is certainly plenty of disagreement about the ToE among outspoken believers that life was placed here by a god. But it is quite clear that it stands today as the only scientific explanation over the evolution of life on earth. To claim that it is not is nothing more than admitting ignorance of the theory, misunderstanding what the theory is telling us, or outright refusal to accept it, usually on religious grounds. If there exists any scientist out there with a genuine study that refutes the ToE to the extent that it no longer stands, they have yet to come forward and prove it.

Another example of conflation between science and religion is the idea that science is atheistic. Hogwash. There are many scientists who have done great work, who are Christians. There is no conspiracy between science and religion. There is no group of atheist scientists trying to shut down religion. There are no atheistic scientific theories. To put it clearly, science is how we discover how the world works. Religion, on the other hand, is how we used to explain how the world works. Before science came along, people relied on religious leaders to explain things. Science has been attacked ever since.

To conflate issues between science and religion, is to deliberately mislead and confuse people with incorrect information. While it is always ones right to reject science, it is hardly appropriate to claim a better answer than we have through science in favor of a religious answer, especially when you don’t have evidence to support it. If you think you have a better answer to a scientific theory, you have every right to present your evidence, using the proper scientific method. You are also quite obligated to understand the theory, why it is important, and what the theory actually means. Anything less will get you the ridicule and derision you deserve. There are far too many honest, hard working scientists around the world to have to stoop to a level of ignorance that keeps them from doing good work that actually helps humanity!

Are You a Christian? January 4, 2010

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If you believe that Jesus was the son of God, and is also God, then you are more than likely a Christian. There are billions of Christians in the world today. Because of my religious background, I refer to Christianity more often than other religions. I was once a Christian in the Catholic Church and I was baptized and confirmed, so there is really no denying my official status. According to the Catholic Church, I am still A Christian! Obviously, I have decided not to be a part of the Christian Church, but I’m hardly willing to go through the trouble that it takes to get removed, or as they call it, ex-communicated.

I would like to say that I have no reason to think that all Christians think alike, or that all Christians believe the same things, or that all Christians are anything more than, at the very least, believers in Jesus Christ, the son of God (god of The Bible, of course.) I have more Christian friends than I do friends of other religions, as far as I can tell. I do not have very many atheist friends, as most atheists keep their disbelief to themselves. Most of my friends don’t know that I am now calling myself atheist. The main reason for this is because it doesn’t really come up, and I am exactly the same person I was before I made the claim of my disbelief. I don’t feel it needs to be announced to all of my friends, but at the same time, I’m not going to go out of my way to hide it if it comes up.

So, even though I have chosen to withhold my belief in God, and I am willingly deciding that I may end up burning in hell for all eternity, I am still exactly who I was before I started this blog. The one exception is that I feel very strongly about speaking out against belief systems that directly challenge my freedoms, and my right to believe whatever I want, and my right to associate with anyone I choose, no matter their beliefs. I will not sit by and watch young earth creationists attack the scientific knowledge gained from the hard working people around the world who, by their very efforts, are helping billions of people in various ways as a result. I will not stand by while religious believers try to stamp out my ability to freely speak out against ideas that I don’t agree with. I refuse to allow religious believers to wage bigotry and hatred against homosexuals and their human rights because their god told them it was evil. And I will not sit quietly while some religious believers use their beliefs to attempt to impart their morals on everyone around them.

For the many millions of Christians who are not actively engaged in those activities, please do your part to speak out against those that do, or find another church or denomination. As well, don’t allow anyone to misrepresent the messages of compassion that Jesus was spreading when he walked the earth. Help the rest of the world by allowing others to disagree, and to find their own beliefs, or their own ways of dealing with their lives and the lives of their families and communities without interference from anyone. This world needs more tolerance of opposing ideologies and beliefs – there is literally no other way it can work.

If my blog is offensive to you as a Christian, then I suggest you point it out to me in the comments, and allow me to respond. Or, if you are one of those religious believers that I am speaking directly to, then stand up for your beliefs and let me know that as well. If you believe homosexuals are sinners bound to burn for all eternity, then say so. If I call it bigotry, then at least you were bold enough to say it yourself and I know exactly who I am dealing with.

Are you a Pretender? November 22, 2009

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Do you pretend to believe in God? I used to. When I stood in Church on Sunday mornings, after being dropped off by my parents, I could barely understand anything the priest was saying. I’m sure most of it was scripture from various sections of The Bible, but it was so difficult to understand, and impossible for me to remain interested as a young boy. I wonder how much more interested I would have been as a child if The Bible had been presented as ancient mythology? As I remember back to those times, I was definitely hiding my disbelief to some degree. What I can’t quite figure out though is, why was I doing that?

Why did I find it necessary to pretend to listen and care about God and Jesus and all of the other mythology I was being taught? None of it mattered to me, really. But there was something causing me to pretend, and not to speak out about it. I wonder if it is the same phenomenon that causes people who know that Santa is not real, to keep it a secret for those who still believed? Somehow, it feels the same, but there was definitely more mystery behind the God belief, as well as a Church full of adults who could have been blindly believing in something they had no way of knowing was real or not. Did these adults examine the idea at all, or did they just swallow it all without question? Why does religion have such a stranglehold on the human brain? I won’t claim to know the answer, as I am not qualified to speak authoritatively on such matters. But I am free to talk about the issue from a personal perspective. I was simply afraid to speak out.

There is a brief period in the lives of many children where they are afraid to talk openly about Santa Claus in front of their peers. I think it is based on the fear of ridicule. Most of us outgrow Santa, and we realize that what he is supposed to accomplish every year is physically impossible without magic. So we are reluctant to mention it at some point among our friends because we are afraid of being ridiculed, and even afraid of being the one who ridicules. If my best friend still believes in Santa an I was the one who broke the news to him, I might cause him embarrassment or shame. If that same friend already knew that Santa was a myth, then I would be the one embarrassed if I mentioned my belief. That period though, doesn’t last that long.

So it could be with religion as well. It is entirely possible, and very likely in my opinion, that many people inside the Churches every Sunday are simply pretending to believe. They are afraid to drop the pretense based on fear of ridicule. They are well aware of the social system of out-casting non-believers, and they are not about to risk such ridicule. So they pretend. What’s the harm in pretending anyway?

If God were real, you would never get away with pretending anyway. What a sad conundrum for people – force yourself to believe, because it’s impossible to trick God – to be in a state where they must suspend disbelief in order to please a non-existent, mythological character from an ancient book. After all, Hell awaits those who don’t believe. How much more powerful can the message be if it doesn’t hold your eternal happiness hostage? Just keep pretending.

I have told my kids to pretend to be happy. It wasn’t exactly original, but it came to me as an interesting experiment. I would tell them that they did not have to actually be happy, they could stay as angry as they wanted, but they had to “pretend” to be happy. This way they could be angry and no one would have to know that they were actually angry. When they were younger, it worked fairly well. It didn’t take them too long though to discover that I was tricking them. To pretend to be happy was satisfying enough to get them out of their funk. Maybe that’s all that religion really is.

If an adult can pretend to believe in God, then the only possible way this could harm them is if God were real, and He knew they were merely pretending. Family and friends would never know the difference, and when death finally arrives, there will be no witness to the final destination of the pretender. The person died a “good Christian”, and no one was the wiser. I wonder if it is worth it to spend your life pretending though?

With the experiment I used on my children, I ended up telling them that I was only trying to get them to realize that being angry was a state of mind, and one that they can turn off and on as needed. They could choose things that are worth getting angry over, and ultimately control their anger so that it doesn’t control them. I believe it is healthier to distinguish between pretending and reality, so that the two don’t remain ambiguous when it comes to who you actually are. When I “let go” of pretending God was real, I was finally free from hiding my feelings. I didn’t run around screaming about it, but I was definitely freed from the bonds of religion and its grip on skepticism. I no longer worry about what others think. I am getting more comfortable as time goes by.

It may not be easy to stop pretending to believe, but it is not impossible. You have to consider questions like: What would the universe and world look like of God were not real? If God were real, would he really allow such suffering as we see today? If God were real, and He held the title of all-loving creator of humans, would He allow innocent babies to be slaughtered for the gain of one group of “selected” humans? If God were real, would you even need to pretend? If God were real, wouldn’t you know without a doubt – wouldn’t everyone know without a doubt? If God were real, would atheists still exist?

Think about it – and stop pretending, you’ll feel better when you come out of the closet and free yourself from the mythological stories and beliefs of people who had no idea what the universe is, or that the earth was not flat, or that gods didn’t control lightning, love, nor require sacrifices from petty humans. Let go, now.

Do You Fear Atheists? November 21, 2009

Posted by jetson in Personal.
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What does the term “atheist” mean to you? Does it conjure up a specific image, or definition? Have you ever investigated the term objectively? Since I have attached the term to myself, I have heard all sorts of definitions and descriptions, as well as hatred and fear of the term, and anyone who calls themselves atheist. This is a major problem.

My family, as well as some of my closest friends know very well that I do not believe in any gods, including God of The Bible – even though I was raised and indoctrinated into Roman Catholicism. I say indoctrinated simply because I had NO choice in the matter as a young boy. While growing up, I had enough doubt that I never took religion very seriously. Neither did my parents as far as I could tell. But today, I use the term atheist, and even within my own family, I can tell there are some serious misconceptions about what the term actually means. Brace yourself for this completely objective definition of the term: a disbelief in a god or gods.

Surprised? Many people, given this simple definition, are still concerned simply because society has granted religion and its gods a very special privilege over thousands of years. This privilege is not well warranted however, if you consider what has happened in the last 100 years. Even well before serious scientific discoveries, religion provided the “answers” to everything. It was granted immunity to any investigation into its claims. It stood alone as a sole authority on anything it wanted to claim absolute knowledge of, and anyone who disagreed was considered either immoral, or blasphemous.

A disbelief in a god or gods say’s almost nothing about the person who holds this view. If I were able to say that anyone who holds a Christian view is stupid, or immoral, then I would quickly be labeled as completely ignorant, a liar, and probably some form of hateful bigot. And that would be correct! So it goes that if someone has a disbelief in a god or gods, that person may be one of the kindest, most trustworthy people you ever meet. Even if it turns out that there is a real god out there, there will be people who don’t believe. That would only make them ignorant, or incapable of accepting a fact. It would not make them a bad person.

So why are atheists, people who don’t believe in a god or gods, considered to be one of the least admired “groups” in the world? Because the most popular religions have decreed, on their own, that those who do not believe are somehow bad, or destined to hell, or an infidel worthy of killing in extreme cases. Unfortunately, this consideration of non-believers is completely without any supporting facts.

There is absolutely no evidence anywhere that would support an assertion that non-belief in a god or gods makes someone bad. There is not even evidence that a believer is inherently better, simply because he believes. The dichotomy between belief in a god, and disbelief is simply a matter of what the person thinks is true or not. A person takes in the information provided regarding the Christian god, for example, and then decides on their own whether the god is real or not. Many people just cannot accept the evidence, or the writings, or any of the arguments in support of a god. When an atheist gets into a debate with a Christian, the only good outcome will be that they remain friendly with each other, and agree to disagree.

I am living proof that atheists are not bad people, and there are literally millions more just like me. There is NOTHING at all to fear about atheists. They are simply people; people who have no more power or influence over anyone else than any other group. We do not hate, we do not incite violence, we do not commit immoral acts, nor do we condone illegal behavior. We don’t “worship” science, or scientists. We do not all agree with each other on everything. We are not a cult. We don’t hate Christmas. We are not any more or less sinful than a Christian. We have no agenda outside of speaking out against any and all forms of religious based laws placed on us as citizens of the United States.

I have many friends and colleagues that I care about and respect. I have not shared my disbelief with all of them simply because there really is no reason to. I don’t have many friends and colleagues who tell me about their religious beliefs, so I offer the same level of respect by keeping my non-belief to myself. However, I have felt compelled to share my atheism with some of my closest friends because I feel like I would be lying about who I am. This is purely a matter of how close I am with someone though.

I believe that if my friends and colleagues were to write a few sentences about me as a person, there would be almost no evidence about my religious beliefs, or lack thereof (with the exception of a few who know exactly how I feel.) Those few might mention my disbelief, but I doubt they could make any claim that would show me as a bad person, or somehow less moral than a believer. I have close Christian friends who might go as far as to say that I am lost, and that I will eventually find my way back to God.

To be sure, atheists are in an uphill battle, much like blacks who used to be considered “less human” than whites, and much like gays, who are still considered to be immoral, bad, or confused about their sexuality (although gays have made awesome progress.) Atheists have to continue speaking out against religious bigotry (from extremists.) They have to continue to speak out against the idea that they are not good people, as well as speak out against religious oppression through laws that are not purely secular.

I can tolerate all sorts of cultural rituals and habits that society drags along through tradition. Most of it doesn’t bother me so much that I feel I need to act. But looking at the United States for example, we still have a very long way to go if we are to maintain the freedom of religion that our country was founded upon. Even if the majority of the people are religious, they do not hold a special right to impart that religion on the rest of us. No one has that right, and our founding fathers gave no such special status to any religion – no matter how popular.

Don’t be afraid if someone doesn’t believe. Just state your opinion, why you believe, and respect the opposite opinion from an atheist. Help spread the word that atheists are sitting in the next cubicle, they are sitting in the next foxhole, and they are walking past you in the streets, serving your meal at a restaurant, and depositing your paycheck into your bank account. They number in the multi-millions, and they do not seek to destroy everything you believe in. They simply want to be a part of the human society that allows freedom of thoughts, beliefs, and the freedom to disagree. That’s what we all want, isn’t it?

My Journey to Atheism October 4, 2009

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Mine is not an unusual story, nor is it a particularly fascinating one, but I find it useful to share so that others can see how people shed their religious beliefs.  Yes, people do shed their religious beliefs – they even switch religions altogether!  That fact alone should shed some light on the problems we have as humans who think that a particular religion is the correct one.  I remember going to church when I was about six years old.  I went to church and to Sunday school with my sisters – we were in different classes though, because of our different ages.  We had books, with pictures and stories, just like regular school.  As we got older, we were taught about the Catholic sacraments and that we would eventually complete them all.  I can’t remember what the goal was, I guess it was to become a permanent, card carrying member of the Catholic church.

The difference for me was that my parents were not particularly religious.  They weren’t always in church with us, and they would drop us off at Sunday school and run errands.  Needless to say, they did not push religion on us in our daily lives.  I guess I am happy about that!  We were overseas when I was young, and when we moved to the states and settled, my mom’s goal was to make sure we were confirmed.  I even picked Mark as my confirmation name!  After that though, we stopped going altogether, and I was thrilled – church services were quite boring as far as I can remember.

That was thirty years ago and I can’t remember ever going to church for anything other than the occasional wedding or funeral since then.  I never really gave religion much thought along the way, other than the discussions that come up occasionally among friends.  Every now and then, I would wonder why people would cling to religious beliefs, so I guess I was agnostic at the time.  I had heard the term atheist back then, but, like everyone else, I thought it meant something terrible.  How wrong I was.

Most recently, within the past year or so, I picked up a copy of “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins.  I took it home and within the first few pages, I was intrigued.  Midway through the book I was enthralled, and by the time I reached the end, I was an atheist.  Yes, it was that easy.  So I didn’t leave religion kicking and screaming, nor did I endure any emotional emptiness or sadness for leaving behind God.  I did however, run smack into the wall of hatred and bigotry that is espoused towards atheists by the fundamentalist believers of various religions.  Man, was that ever a wake up call!  It actually made me nervous and concerned that I would be scorned at and ridiculed.  Sadly, it is all too real.  I have never been personally attacked because I don’t run around screaming out loud that I am atheist.

As I dug deeper into the atheist worldview (which is bizarre enough given that atheists are only defined by their non-belief in a god or gods status), I noticed a very strange similarity between atheists and the gay and lesbian cultures in the United States.  There is a strong negative emotional element towards both groups, and sadly, atheists are even more reviled according to a recent survey.  I even read a quote from former president George H.W. Bush where he said “No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”  Ouch.  This negative emotional tendency seems to be grounded in religious beliefs, as opposed to rational thought.  I do not personally have a sexual attraction to other males, but I am in no way concerned that some males have that preference.  Nor do I have any concerns over anyone’s personal religious beliefs.

I have since read many other books including “Letter to a Christian Nation” by Sam Harris.  I have also joined various web groups and bloggers who share their stories, and who write and argue in defense of non-believers everywhere.  I can say with great certainty that I completely support everyone’s right to hold their own beliefs – including non-belief!  Sadly, I have not seen too much tolerance for non-belief, rather I see an onslaught of messages and attitudes that cannot imagine a world without God.  These same people are certain that people like me will surely end up in Hell (something that I don’t believe is real.)  What a lovely thought as I walk among people around my city.  What is even more sad is that there are competing religions that have the same convictions, which means that all but one group may have it right, but everyone else – to Hell with them all.

I have honestly never felt better about who I am.  I treat people with respect and courtesy, I help people in any way that I possibly can, and I donate to charities each year.  I treat my children well, I don’t try to force my beliefs on anyone, and I respect those who are willing to discuss issues with an open mind, meaning they are willing to admit they could be wrong.  I do get a bit more frustrated when I run into people who use their religion to replace things that science has done for the world.  I get frustrated when people claim to know their god in ways that no one ever could – unless their god has chosen them and given them special knowledge, of course.  I get frustrated when fundamentalists attempt to get religious texts inserted into public science curriculum’s as an alternative to current scientific theories such as evolution (these same people have no problem taking anti-biotics, a direct result of evolutionary theory.)

Anyway, that’s my story, not exactly a journey I guess.  I have much more to say, and I will add more blogs as I can.  I am still on my journey as I read The Bible – yes, I have never actually read it.  And I don’t think very many Christians have read it either, nor do they concern themselves too much beyond what their pries, preacher, or pastor reads in church.  I keep a copy on my iPhone so that I can refer to it in discussions, and read passages to better understand them.  I have found that the atheist community in general have more knowledge on The Bible than many Christian apologists who claim to know what it all means.

The Bible – A Series of Passages (I) September 3, 2009

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I am a new blogger!  I’m just a regular guy with no particular expertise on life, other than my almost 47 years of living it!  My journey has brought me to consider that humans have no particular reason to consider that religion, its gods, or its tenets are required to live happy, healthy and fulfilled lives.  I am an atheist (please look up the definition before you claim to know what it means!)  It is not easy to say this publicly given the stigma attached to the term.  To save you the trouble, atheism is simply the belief that there are no real gods.

I do not believe in any of the thousands of gods through human history.  I am fairly certain that all gods are man-made, as a method of explaining the unknown, and of filling minds with a reason for our existence.  I also believe that gods were created as a method of controlling large groups of people through fear, shame, and guilt.  Notice I said, fairly certain – which means that I have no way of proving that a god does not exist, and I will never be absolutely certain.  It does not mean that I am entertaining the idea that a god is possible either, so it is safe to say that my atheist view is going to remain intact for the rest of my life.

Before I start my series on Bible passages, I would just like to add that I have no desire to promote atheism in particular, this is about my personal journey, and what I have come to believe thus far in my life.  I have many friends and colleagues who are Christian, Muslim, and Jewish, for example.  I respect their individual journeys and beliefs, and I will only speak out when specific religious beliefs are forced upon myself or others.

I spent my time in Catholic churches and Sunday schools, I went through the Catholic Sacraments, and never did I believe or consider that what I was being taught was actually real.  I knew little about religion or Christianity in general, heck, I used to think the Pope was in charge of Christianity!  I took much of it as metaphorical, and much of it as mythological – just like the religions and gods of ancient cultures and societies, as I was taught in public school.  Perhaps I was somehow predisposed to rational or logical thought – like a Vulcan (when I was a baby, I did have sharp ears – no kidding!)  The only thing that ever made me nervous was being surrounded by adults in church who seemed to believe that God was real.  I was nervous because I was afraid that not believing would hurt me, somehow.

I would like to present some passages from The Bible that I never heard when I was young.  Passages that I firmly believe are withheld from Sunday masses and services across the Christian communities simply because they would likely raise a lot of questions, as well as present a message that is not exactly loving or peaceful.  My reason for presenting these passages is to share my thoughts, and to invite people to share their own views on the purpose or meaning of these passages.  I am certainly not an authority on scripture, but I can read and comprehend the messages, so that works for me.  Besides, given the vast number of different interpretations of Biblical passages and stories, my interpretation is certainly as valid as the next person.

Genesis 6:5-7

6:5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
6:6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
6:7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

I did hear this story when I was young, but not in such dramatic and cruel detail as the actual words from The Bible.  It’s so easy to tell people that were not around at the time that God was angry, so he flooded the earth, and allowed Noah and his family, and a bunch of animals to live.  When I heard the story, I literally thought that there were a few people around who were being “bad” in Gods mind.  I also took it as pure mythology.  It never occurred to me that God killed hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people, as well as every other living thing that creepeth on the earth, including birds!

Which brings me to the cruelty and violence of this passage.  I’m picturing people of all ages, going about their daily routine of living, the youngest being hardly aware of God, all unaware of their pending deaths by flood.  I’m picturing people desperately grasping to their children and their loved ones, trying to stay alive, only to be overwhelmed and cruelly killed by the relentless flood from God, the one who was so unhappy with man, which He, Himself created.  God created man, man chose to be evil according to God, so God decides to kill all humans and animals?  I am a father myself, and it has never crossed my mind to kill all of my children, and their pets, and every living thing in my backyard, because they disobeyed me or somehow angered me.  But who am I to judge.

I find it odd also, that Noah was the single man on the entire planet who was “with God”, such that God chose Noah and his family as the only ones allowed to survive.  Apparently God wasn’t in the mood to really start over, so he chose Noah to keep the human race going.  That’s not exactly starting over now is it?  The god of The Bible was always described to me as all loving, all knowing, and the one who created everything, including man.  It disturbs me to think that a god so powerful as to create the universe and all it contains, and then to create humans in his image, only to discover that those humans were not so great after all, and instead of truly starting over, He relegates the responsibility to Noah.  Apparently Noah was perfect enough, even though he came from Gods original mold, or so say’s The Bible.

So, God kills everyone in order to restore the earth, and remove the continuous evil perpetrated by all men (and women and children and birds?)  The story comes across as a soft, loving story of a god who was merciful to Noah and his family, and specific pairs and sevens of clean and dirty animals, such that he spared them their very lives and made the world a much better place.  There are even beautiful toys sold in most major retail outlets that depict the story – a nice, colorful boat, filled with cute little animals, and Noah and his wonderful family of good people. Strange how the toy sets don’t contain the dead people and animals as well, you know, so the children really know what was going on.  As it is, most children are never told that there were obviously innocent people killed in the flood.  We have to assume that every single person, and every living animal, was guilty and deserved to die.  I for one, find this extremely cruel and unnecessary.

I’m not sure what God’s goals were, but I’m assuming He wanted everyone to worship, praise, and love Him as the one and only god.  I think it is clear after thousands of years, that nothing even close to that goal was accomplished.  In fact, I consider it a monumental failure on Gods part.  Maybe God will try again in the future to kill everyone who is evil…