Two Cent's in your Mail

Monday, February 14, 2011

~Yet another pondering moment...but a good one~

 Well, I have to say, I never have really sat around and said, "I am an atheist", nor have I ever really said that I don't believe in God. I simply have lots of questions. I never understood why having questions was a bad thing, but for some reason, it pisses people off. I think that questions are good. I think that searching for answers is good. I have to thank Chad for this article. It's great. It really has some valid points. I don't believe that it is meant to offend people. I am sure that it will...but oh well...get over it.

 Why don’t you believe in God? I get that question all the time. I always try to give a sensitive, reasoned answer. This is usually awkward, time consuming and pointless. People who believe in God don’t need proof of his existence, and they certainly don’t want evidence to the contrary. They are happy with their belief. They even say things like “it’s true to me” and “it’s faith.” I still give my logical answer because I feel that not being honest would be patronizing and impolite. It is ironic therefore that “I don’t believe in God because there is absolutely no scientific evidence for his existence and from what I’ve heard the very definition is a logical impossibility in this known universe,” comes across as both patronizing and impolite.
[UPDATE: For more from Gervais, go to Does God Exist? Ricky Gervais Takes Your Questions]
Arrogance is another accusation. Which seems particularly unfair. Science seeks the truth. And it does not discriminate. For better or worse it finds things out. Science is humble. It knows what it knows and it knows what it doesn’t know. It bases its conclusions and beliefs on hard evidence -­- evidence that is constantly updated and upgraded. It doesn’t get offended when new facts come along. It embraces the body of knowledge. It doesn’t hold on to medieval practices because they are tradition. If it did, you wouldn’t get a shot of penicillin, you’d pop a leach down your trousers and pray. Whatever you “believe,” this is not as effective as medicine. Again you can say, “It works for me,” but so do placebos. My point being, I’m saying God doesn’t exist. I’m not saying faith doesn’t exist. I know faith exists. I see it all the time. But believing in something doesn’t make it true. Hoping that something is true doesn’t make it true. The existence of God is not subjective. He either exists or he doesn’t. It’s not a matter of opinion. You can have your own opinions. But you can’t have your own facts.
Why don’t I believe in God? No, no no, why do YOU believe in God? Surely the burden of proof is on the believer. You started all this. If I came up to you and said, “Why don’t you believe I can fly?” You’d say, “Why would I?” I’d reply, “Because it’s a matter of faith.” If I then said, “Prove I can’t fly. Prove I can’t fly see, see, you can’t prove it can you?” You’d probably either walk away, call security or throw me out of the window and shout, ‘’F—ing fly then you lunatic.”
This, is of course a spirituality issue, religion is a different matter. As an atheist, I see nothing “wrong” in believing in a god. I don’t think there is a god, but belief in him does no harm. If it helps you in any way, then that’s fine with me. It’s when belief starts infringing on other people’s rights when it worries me. I would never deny your right to believe in a god. I would just rather you didn’t kill people who believe in a different god, say. Or stone someone to death because your rulebook says their sexuality is immoral. It’s strange that anyone who believes that an all-powerful all-knowing, omniscient power responsible for everything that happens, would also want to judge and punish people for what they are. From what I can gather, pretty much the worst type of person you can be is an atheist. The first four commandments hammer this point home. There is a god, I’m him, no one else is, you’re not as good and don’t forget it. (Don’t murder anyone, doesn’t get a mention till number 6.)
When confronted with anyone who holds my lack of religious faith in such contempt, I say, “It’s the way God made me.”
But what are atheists really being accused of?
The dictionary definition of God is “a supernatural creator and overseer of the universe.” Included in this definition are all deities, goddesses and supernatural beings. Since the beginning of recorded history, which is defined by the invention of writing by the Sumerians around 6,000 years ago, historians have cataloged over 3700 supernatural beings, of which 2870 can be considered deities.
So next time someone tells me they believe in God, I’ll say “Oh which one? Zeus? Hades? Jupiter? Mars? Odin? Thor? Krishna? Vishnu? Ra?…” If they say “Just God. I only believe in the one God,” I’ll point out that they are nearly as atheistic as me. I don’t believe in 2,870 gods, and they don’t believe in 2,869.
I used to believe in God. The Christian one that is.
I loved Jesus. He was my hero. More than pop stars. More than footballers. More than God. God was by definition omnipotent and perfect. Jesus was a man. He had to work at it. He had temptation but defeated sin. He had integrity and courage. But He was my hero because He was kind. And He was kind to everyone. He didn’t bow to peer pressure or tyranny or cruelty. He didn’t care who you were. He loved you. What a guy. I wanted to be just like Him.
One day when I was about 8 years old, I was drawing the crucifixion as part of my Bible studies homework. I loved art too. And nature. I loved how God made all the animals. They were also perfect. Unconditionally beautiful. It was an amazing world.
I lived in a very poor, working-class estate in an urban sprawl called Reading, about 40 miles west of London. My father was a laborer and my mother was a housewife. I was never ashamed of poverty. It was almost noble. Also, everyone I knew was in the same situation, and I had everything I needed. School was free. My clothes were cheap and always clean and ironed. And mum was always cooking. She was cooking the day I was drawing on the cross.
I was sitting at the kitchen table when my brother came home. He was 11 years older than me, so he would have been 19. He was as smart as anyone I knew, but he was too cheeky. He would answer back and get into trouble. I was a good boy. I went to church and believed in God -– what a relief for a working-class mother. You see, growing up where I did, mums didn’t hope as high as their kids growing up to be doctors; they just hoped their kids didn’t go to jail. So bring them up believing in God and they’ll be good and law abiding. It’s a perfect system. Well, nearly. 75 percent of Americans are God-­‐fearing Christians; 75 percent of prisoners are God-­‐fearing Christians. 10 percent of Americans are atheists; 0.2 percent of prisoners are atheists.
But anyway, there I was happily drawing my hero when my big brother Bob asked, “Why do you believe in God?” Just a simple question. But my mum panicked. “Bob,” she said in a tone that I knew meant, “Shut up.” Why was that a bad thing to ask? If there was a God and my faith was strong it didn’t matter what people said.
Oh…hang on. There is no God. He knows it, and she knows it deep down. It was as simple as that. I started thinking about it and asking more questions, and within an hour, I was an atheist.
Wow. No God. If mum had lied to me about God, had she also lied to me about Santa? Yes, of course, but who cares? The gifts kept coming. And so did the gifts of my new found atheism. The gifts of truth, science, nature. The real beauty of this world. I learned of evolution -– a theory so simple that only England’s greatest genius could have come up with it. Evolution of plants, animals and us –- with imagination, free will, love, humor. I no longer needed a reason for my existence, just a reason to live. And imagination, free will, love, humor, fun, music, sports, beer and pizza are all good enough reasons for living.
But living an honest life -– for that you need the truth. That’s the other thing I learned that day, that the truth, however shocking or uncomfortable, in the end leads to liberation and dignity.
So what does the question “Why don’t you believe in God?” really mean. I think when someone asks that they are really questioning their own belief. In a way they are asking “what makes you so special? “How come you weren’t brainwashed with the rest of us?” “How dare you say I’m a fool and I’m not going to heaven, f— you!” Let’s be honest, if one person believed in God he would be considered pretty strange. But because it’s a very popular view it’s accepted. And why is it such a popular view? That’s obvious. It’s an attractive proposition. Believe in me and live forever. Again if it was just a case of spirituality this would be fine.
“Do unto others…” is a good rule of thumb. I live by that. Forgiveness is probably the greatest virtue there is. But that’s exactly what it is -­‐ a virtue. Not just a Christian virtue. No one owns being good. I’m good. I just don’t believe I’ll be rewarded for it in heaven. My reward is here and now. It’s knowing that I try to do the right thing. That I lived a good life. And that’s where spirituality really lost its way. When it became a stick to beat people with. “Do this or you’ll burn in hell.”
You won’t burn in hell. But be nice anyway.

I really love the last line. Your motives for being good should not be because you are worried about AFTER you die. Be good now. Do it because you want to be a good person NOW. Do it to be nice because it is the right thing to do. I also agree that the Bible is a good moral code. I think at the time that it was written, a book of its nature was needed. If God had actually written it, and not men, then I believe that certain thoughts would not have been missed, and others would not have been in there at all. Petty issues, such as "contempt for neighbors belongings" over harm to children, or rape, or speaking of God being jealous, an emotion that even humans can overcome. And exactly why couldn't Jesus have been married? Who would that have harmed? These things make no sense to me.

I think it is best to not put all of your reasons and hope into what someone else is telling you to believe. Most religions are based on the teachings of someone who just made things up as they went along. Not good. Just take a little bit of this, and a little bit of that. I have read up on most religions. They all have something to offer. It is when you get too wrapped up in it, that you get into trouble. Too much of anything is bad. Too much fat, too much sugar, too much Jesus. None of this is good. Moderation. Always a good thought.

Just breathe people. Sit back, do what is right. Stop treating those around you like dirt under your shoes. Not one single person on this planet is better than anyone else. Wait...maybe a few are cracked. You know what I mean though. Don't try to take away the basic rights of anyone simply because they are different. Don't try to FORCE your beliefs on someone else, because you damn well know you hate it when they try to do that to you. Don't sit around and believe that your faith is the one and only. That's a load of crap. How arrogant do you really have to be to believe that? Get over it people. Live and let live. Thank you and drive through. :-)

Friday, February 11, 2011

~Survey Says~

I haven't had much spare time lately to write anything, and tonight, I am wide awake. Carl is sleeping and snoring away next to me, and I couldn't fall asleep no matter what, so I read a couple of things online, then I glanced at some posts on my Facebook. One in particular made me think about some things, and I got up and brought in my laptop, and here I am, typing away at 12:30am, while "Zombieland" plays on our TV, for about the 20th time. Yeah, we like this movie...a lot.

I am sincerely hoping for honest responses to this, because it is something that is very personal to me, being that it has actually happened to me. It is also something that has occurred in Carl's life, and affects him quite profoundly, and I really struggle with why, and how it can possibly continue when it must surely be very well known that it is morally wrong, and hurtful to do.

How is it that a parent can so easily, so passively, so calmly, turn their back on their own child, for such a simple, or stupid reason, and never look back? How can a parent deny their own child because of an argument? How can a parent or grandparent deny the existence of a child or grandchild because they are worried about what the neighbors might think, or because their church forced and adoption? I am just amazed at some of the stories I have heard, because I know others that have gone through problems with this. It happens entirely too much, and I see and I hear of families being torn apart over the most ridiculous things, yet other find ways to stick together through addictions, and murder, and abuse, and horrific conditions. ???

In my case, it has been very confusing, yet not so surprising, all at the same time. My parents were very dysfunctional as parents, and as man and wife. The physical and mental abuse was enough to cause damage beyond repair. There had been such damage in my fathers past from his parents, so I don't really think he ever knew how to really show emotion, or how to be a father. He never talked to me, he never showed concern, or emotion, or really did anything except go to work, come home, sit in his chair, and watch TV. Then of course, he was the one to discipline us, so he played that role. When I got married, and wound up in a very abusive situation, my parents pretty much reacted completely opposite to what most parents would. They did nothing. My mother told me to stay. My father did absolutely nothing to protect me. There were no "I will kill him if he ever hits my daughter again!!". No...not for me. No, when I got divorced, I was told, I was dead to them. I was pronounced dead. Yay....

Carl became a father when he was a teenager, and was pretty shocked, since he learned of this on the day that Claire was born. He was informed that he would be signing adoption papers, and that was that. She was placed with a family, and Carl, being a minor himself, really had no say in the matter. Over the years, he has had contact with her through letters, and pictures. All of this time, Carl has never hidden the fact that he is a father. He carries her picture in his wallet. Her picture is on our living room wall. His family, however, acts like they have no idea of her existence. When he tried, as a teen, to speak to his Grandfather about Claire, his Grandfather told him to NEVER tell his Grandmother. Carl was broken hearted. When Carl's mother came to visit us, she saw Claire's picture on our wall, and didn't say one single word. She simply acted like she had no idea who it was. Carl has explained to me that this is part of their faith. Again, I don't get it. My brother and his wife have acted in this manner as well. They get angry with someone, cut them off. Get mad at me...I am dead. It's okay. I am not a person. I am nobody. I am not someone who attends their church, so I don't matter. Most religions condemn Judas for denying Christ, but yet they can go around and deny or disrespect their own family members? How is this alright? Sounds like good old hypocrisy to me.

Is this kind of behavior even necessary? It causes so much pain and agony. It causes resentment, and anger, and anguish. Suicide, addiction, depression...all of these can result from such things. Why would family treat you this way? I have been treated in a kinder manner by total strangers than I have by my own parents. Do you have any idea what that does to a person? Do you have any idea how a person suffers when they know that their parents, their mother, their father, looks on them with such discontent? Such hate? To be denied, to be thrown away like is something that burns you every single day of your life. It is a hurt that you never can recover from. No amount of therapy, or hugs, or "it's going to be okay", can ever make it better. You always wonder "what in the hell did I ever do to you?"

How can these people walk around and look themselves in the mirror? How can any of them believe in their hearts that they have been good people, good parents? To be such a selfish, cruel and insensitive inflict that kind of pain on your own family....really? For what purpose?