I’ve been asked a lot over the years about how, or more often why, an atheist celebrates holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. Considering they are big social events in the US, I didn’t really understand the question until this year.
Since today is Thanksgiving, I thought I might focus on that holiday. The current vibe of thanksgiving in the US is to give ‘thanks’ for what we have, who we are with and all of our ‘blessings’. Now, I obviously don’t feel there is a creator or an all controlling master of the universe. So this current culture of needing something to thank is difficult for me. But this year I think I figured it out. I don’t need to be thankful to a god for the things I have I need to be thankful for things and to the people I have. So, to keep it short because I know we all have family we would rather be spending time with than reading my blog, here is my list of Thanks.
Thanks to the people who have supported me, I couldn’t go on without you.
Thanks to the people who have doubted me, as you have strengthened and educated me.
Thanks to the people I work with, you have made the time I spend at my job better each day.
Thanks to Amy and Summer who have shown me how to be me just that much more.
Thanks Mom and Dad. I wouldn’t even be here if it weren’t for you.
Thanks to the soldiers who have volunteered their time and possibly their lives for doing the best they can in protecting this nation we call home.
Thank you to m Ex’s. That one sounds odd I know, but without my ‘failed’ relationships, I would not have been able to grow into who I am today.
Thanks to my ‘family’. Tom, Michael Shane, Monkey, Todd, Frank, Angie/Mark, Anthony/Stacy, Jack, Shane, et al. You are too numerous to mention you all, but please know I am so thankful for you all.
Thanks to those in the humanism and atheism movements who have help myself and so many countless others to shed the cloak of religion, you are my heroes and I hope to give back what you’ve given to me. Too many to name again, but a few I would like to call out are Matt Dillahunty, David Smalley, Russell Glasser, James Randy, Chase Littlejohn, Ben Schuldt, Jennifer Zuniga, Hitch (we miss you hitch), and so so many others…
Lastly, I am thankful in general for this world/universe/life. I have a chance to be, in a time I mostly love, in a universe that fills me with wonder and astonishment daily. I’m thankful that I get to meet, love, help, and learn other people. I’m thankful that I have a house that isn’t being bombed. I’m thankful that MOST of the people I come in contact with aren’t trying to kill me.
I’m sure there is more, but I hope after reading this that you can see what is important to me. What makes me thankful, and how I can just as easily celebrate this holiday as anyone else.
Cheers, and Happy Thanksgiving.
It appears that Rod Parsley, no not the guy from Veggie Tales, has cancer. Rob Parsley for those of you who do not know has spent a career scamming people out of money while performing ‘faith healing’, also known as ‘bullshitting sick people because you are and asshole’.
Now, it’s very common for the faithful to get sick. I mean, they are only human after all. But what happens when one of the Lords chosen gets cancer? Surely its just a phone call to the big guy… no? Okay, maybe just a visit to a Benny Hinn show… Nada? What about a hundred likes and shares on Facebook… damn…
Looks like the faithful actually have to ultimately rely on the same healing power of Hospitals that the rest of us do. Rod Parsley is taking radiation treatments at his local hospital. But, dont think for a second that the irony and obvious lack of Godly intervention made an impact on Parsley one little bit.
“Whatever medication I take, I stand against any side effects. I say, “This medication will do exactly what God and my doctors purpose it to do, and will harm me in no way.” The Bible says, Mark 16—and I’ve stood on this, “If they drink any deadly thing, it shall not harm them,” meaning whatever comes in to my body to help bring healing will not harm me, for I’m a child of God.”
I hope Rod gets better. I do.
But a dark part of me might be just a little glad that after all the people he has steered away from effective medical treatments so that he can buy another car, boat, or house that he gets the chance to realize how worthless he has really been to people all these years. Good luck Rod, and you really better hope you are wrong about hell.
What? They don’t? But I saw this on Facebook.
Let’s say you are an everyday American. You are a person who gets up every morning and gets a pot of coffee started for the house. You make sure everyone gets up and is off to work / school. You go to work. You pay your taxes. You keep in line with the law and you LOVE your country. Now let’s say that you, this quintessential American, decided to go to Church on Wednesday. You drive over to your church and there is a small group of men in masks carrying weapons pacing in front of your church. Well, this is happening. Today. In AMERICA, where one of the fundamental concepts is freedom of religion.
Oh wait, it gets better. Guess where this is happening. The SAME place where cops arrested a child for making a clock that was a ‘hoax bomb’ which through their own actions and procedures was shown to be almost completely racially/religiously motivated. A town where Van Duyne made a name for herself by fighting against a non-existent threat that Muslims were bringing Sharia law. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you Irving, TX.
The thing that’s not ‘honest’ about my description, is that they are doing this in front of a Mosque, not a church. If that in any way changes your feelings you had about the situation you were reading above, then maybe you can start to see the problem. If this were to happen somewhere like, Bellevue Baptist, the outcries would be UNREAL. I would wager that the fervent ‘good ole boys’ that call that house their home would return with their own firepower. However the privileged Christians in this nation think they can just walk in, and stomp on peoples Constitutional rights (the thing they pretend to hold oh so dear) and have no repercussions. The other groups should just be thankful they let them live here at all right?
This is a time we need understanding, patience, education and calm. Not knee jerk fear biting dogs that have been let loose to run unchecked in the streets. Don’t become the thing you are trying to protect against. City Councilman David Palmer seems to share my view.
My initial impression was they were using them for intimidation,” Palmer said. “I doubt that they’d be happy if some of the Muslim churchgoers here showed up at their Christian church, their Baptist church, their Methodist church tomorrow morning with rifles slung over their shoulders.”
Fear can be useful, its a feature thats evolved in almost every animal on the planet. However, fear based in ignorance, hate or irrationality is something that can cause well-intentioned people to make horrible mistakes. Take a moment this week and pay attention to your reactions. Think about why you feel the way you feel. Don’t ignore the fear that comes up, because that’s okay. What you DO with the fear and how you react to it is what really matters.
People constantly ask me, “why do you (or Atheists/secularists/etc) care so much what other people believe? Why can’t you just let everone believe what makes them happy? What’s the harm?”. Well. This. This is the harm.
Murder in the name of your imaginary friend.
This is the harm.
My God can beat up your God.
This is why I care what you believe and WHY.
If you are willing to believe irrational, superstitious, ignorant, fanciful bullshit, you are much more likely to be capable of using the same faulty reasoning and beliefs to do something in the name of your fanciful beliefs. We all have beliefs. We all think a thing is either true or false.
We, however, do not all use good reasoning tools. We are not all prepared to take the stories of our childhood and the mythologies of our parents and put them to rigorous evaluation. Evaluation of biases and faulty logic. We are not all willing to accept those beliefs as false and face the world head on, no safety net. I care what people believe and why, because people can murder for their beliefs. Do I need any more reason than that?
That’s right! What do you get when you let two thousand year old moral systems run a country? Keep voting Christian Republican and we all might find out.
I received a message the other day from a secret admirer. The following image was attached and it made me automatically laugh. But then I reread it. And reread it. And… reread it….
I have been one of the first people to toss stones at the ridiculous claims that religions make. I LOVE to rip on people in the public eye who try to push these claims with no support or evidence. But this picture made me think for a while about how we (the atheist community in particular, but people in general) approach the people who hold these beliefs as truths. Whether or not the claims of the religion are accurate, the believer holds them to be just as true as gravity, germ theory of disease or evolution are to an adherent of sciences.
I’m quickly reminded that we need to be addressing why the belief is wrong, not how stupid the believer is for having the belief. We all have wrong beliefs. Whether its belief in a religious tenet, belief in an incorrect theory, belief in a story you were told from a friend… We have many reasons for holding the beliefs we do. Biases, fallacious reasoning, personal experience, an emotional need for a belief to be true, and indoctrination are just a few of the causes. Ali Almossawi published An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments a little while back and it is PACKED with fantastic explanations of why certain lines of reasoning are fallacious. This may help with arguing against a friend at the bar, in a debate or in a facebook argument but can it help us look at our own individually held misbeliefs? I would like to think so, but putting ones own closely held views on the impartial chopping block of reason is much harder than beheading someone else’s beliefs.
To start to understand why smart people believe dumb things we need to go to deeper. This topic deserves a much better treatment than I am able to give it here, but I would like to give you a few resources to start your own research into this fascinating topic. Michael Shermer’s books How We Believe and Why People Believe Weird Things changed the way I look at beliefs.
So what do I want you to take away from reading this article? For all of us (yes, me included and almost especially) to keep in mind that belief in a silly idea does not automatically make the believer stupid. Indoctrinated? Uneducated? Maybe. Susceptible to biases? Almost certainly. Understanding WHY someone believes what they do is ultimately more important than WHAT they believe. To take the Ark story full circle, belief that an all powerful god could have Pengu and his girlfriend travel thousands of miles to hop a ride on an extremely crowded canoe sounds plausible if you have bad reasons for believing in the god, or the flood story to begin with. Sacrifice all of your trusted beliefs on the alter of logic, reason and evidence and see which ones hold up. Give it a shot, its terrifying, exciting, educating and ultimately freeing.
The journal Current Biology recently published a study showing Religious children to be less generous and empathetic than their non-religious peers. In an utterly fascinating, if not completely expected, addition the religious parents from the sample children were much more likely to consider their children to be very empathetic to the plights of others.
OregonLive.com explains how the study worked:
Researchers asked kids to play a game which required them to decide how many stickers to share with an anonymous peer from the same school and similar ethnic group.
In their report, the researchers noted it was important for the anonymous stranger to be similar to the child so that other biases didn’t get in the way.
Researchers also measured how children perceived interpersonal harm and what degree of punishment they thought was appropriate. Religious children judged others’ actions as meaner and more deserving of punishment than kids in secular homes.
The study concluded that in this way religious children tend to come across as more judgmental, while also being less altruistic.
Nearly 1,200 children from the U.S., Canada, Jordan, Turkey, South Africa and China participated. Most of the kids came from Christian, Muslim or non-religious households, with a small number from Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu and agnostic homes. Their ages ranged from 5 to 12.
The United States is 80-something percent ‘religious’ in some way. That number is, thankfully, falling. Reading a study like this one makes me think of two things.
- Here is more evidence that secular morality is more balanced, more altruistic and more empathetic than religiously dictated morality. This is more proof that we can be good, or maybe even better, without gods and scary stories of infinite torture for finite crimes.
- With more evidence like this showing up each year, I find it increasingly unsurprising that religious nations are so violent, war torn, and unable to coexist with other human beings. Maybe its time we started calling a spade a spade?
Be sure to CLICK HERE to get the source journal. Please, don’t my word for it, read the study and evaluate it for yourself.
Everyone, I need to stop with all of the fun posts, the Dr. Carson ribbing, the religious rants and the general nonsense that constitutes my facebook page. Today I received some very sad news that one of the most wonderful people I have ever known has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.
While this is a terrifying diagnosis, I believe Gina Hollenbeck will be able to win this fight. I would like to, in all seriousness, encourage EACH of you to drop by Gina’s gofundme page : https://www.gofundme.com/GINASARMY and donate. This is about to be the wildest ride this family has ever been on. And while your positive thoughts, prayers, and well wishes carry with them ‘good vibes’ its your donation that can really make the difference in their daily lives as they struggle to come to terms with this new situation and all of its implications. Please, if you were going to give to my MoVember cause, dont. If you were going to get get a second latte today. Dont. Please do as little or as much as you can, but please do SOMETHING. There, that’s all got, I hope it helps.