There is a dark sadness when you think of a life unlived, but there is an immense void of sorrow when you start to think of all the dreams that were never even dreamed because a mind was never given the chance to find its voice through knowledge. The creativity and simplistic wonder of discovery and imagination are but shadows upon the wall of so many lives. This is the tragedy of ignorance and the indescribable burden of pain that those who break free of indoctrination must come face to face with.
It wasn’t just time that was stolen from us; it was all the dreams we never dreamed, the ideas lost to faith and obedience. It is a treasure that can never be regained and a loss that will always be with us. We walk through the world with our eyes now open and see the graveyard of human achievements all around us. The unwritten songs flood our minds with a hollow melody and the ideas lost to ignorance and bigotry fill the empty canvas of the unlived and dreamless lives of so many potentially brilliant people. They speak and sing to us with words we will never hear and that echoing silence breaks my heart in two.
I am the child who, after the flood swallowed my parents and my siblings, clung to the side of rock as the waves took me and I drowned in fear and terror.
I am the mother clutching her newborn trying to run as the force of a spear entering my rib cage throws me forward and sends my child tumbling onto the ground screaming. My last memories are of watching my sweet child scream out for his mother as a sword silenced his voice and then mine.
I am the woman that was stoned to death for being raped and not screaming loud enough for help, according to the Law of Moses.
I am the child whom David’s God caused to suffer in agony and sickness for seven days and then killed to teach my father a lesson.
I am the Amalekite child who watched as my family was slaughtered.
I am the Canaanite girl who was carried off into slavery and forced to marry my family’s murderer.
I never heard of this thing called mercy. I never received a message of love and kindness. There was no forgiveness for me, no golden rule. If I could wonder, I would ask myself what it might feel like to be chosen by God. To have babies that aren’t plucked from their mother’s arms and put to the sword.
If I could see the Christians praying to this God, I would stare in disbelief at the sight. I would ask them how they could ever worship such malevolent evil and call it good. With bewilderment I would ask in angered horror how you could ever imagine that you needed the forgiveness of such a monstrous affront to human decency and goodness.
My blood cries out from the pages of that Book you read with such devotion. I scream and you do not hear. I cry and you fail to see my tears. I was a person. I was a mother, a father, a son, a daughter, a wife, and husband. I mattered to someone and I loved and was loved. I wanted to live, but your God commanded my death and the death of my children. Now you quote the scriptures that glorify the violence of my death and call it inspirational.
If this is what you call love, no one can save you.
I go back and forth on this. I mean, saying “Good luck” or “I’ll be thinking about you” or “I’ll pray for you” - none of them really DO anything, but they can express that you care and that, I think, is a good thing.
But if you’re in a position to donate supplies or money or time or advice to someone and instead offer nothing but “I’ll pray for you,” well then… yeah. Obnoxious.
It’s an unpopular topic in many circles, but in the aftermath of the devastating tornado that ravaged Moore, Oklahoma (and the countless Facebook posts that have followed), I want to say something on the subject of prayer.
I completely understand why so many people invoke God and prayer during these terrible times. When I was a Christian, it was a reflex, and had I witnessed such destruction and loss of life, I would have undoubtedly encouraged others to pray.
“Pray for the wounded, that they’ll all be found and delivered from harm. Pray for the grieving families, that God will help to heal their broken hearts. Pray for the rescue workers as they navigate dangerous piles of debris in their search for survivors. Pray for the city, as it once again faces a long recovery and rebuilding.”
And of course, whenever a battered but breathing child would be pulled from the splinters, or when a family walked away from a leveled house, or whenever an elderly woman would be reunited with a pet (which is a hugely moving video circulating the web right now https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=653577151323552), I would say “Thank God. It’s a miracle.”
I understand it. Humans grope to find (to construct) mechanisms of hope and healing, and in our helplessness, we continue to invoke the One who can be the unmovable pillar that supports our wavering hearts. For many, the idea of enduring this terrible moment alone is too frightening to bear.
“Pray for Oklahoma. Thank God it wasn’t worse.”
I watched the elderly woman’s reunion with the dog she had written off as lost only minutes before, and I was deeply touched by the moment, as were so many of you. It was a much-needed interjection of relief and joy into the horror, and it warmed the heart. But although you and I would never seek to detract from her ebullience, as agents of reason, we must bring an uncomfortable truth to light.
If the rescue of the dog was indeed God’s divine hand of protection at work and a genuine answer to prayer, that reveals several key things:
1) If God exists, he has the power to miraculously intervene, and he has the will to (at least occasionally) do so.
2) God used his divine powers to rescue a dog while allowing the horrific deaths of human beings, many of them children.
3) God is now receiving the prayers to comfort grieving families whose deceased loved ones enjoyed a lesser level of divine protection than the dog.
We must address this rationally. If God is omniscient, he saw the tragedy in advance and said nothing. If God is omnipotent, he watched the tornado form and did nothing. If God is benevolent, he did not warn his precious children, nor did he see fit to prevent the violent deaths of at least 24 of them by redirecting the tornado or dissipating it into harmless vapor. The Being who spun the cosmos into existence sat on his hands as the structure of Plaza Tower Elementary School collapsed upon the heads of terrified and screaming children.
So as our Facebook pages fill with pleas to “pray pray pray,” we as rational people lament that so many good people are calling down favors from the very savior-deity that was invisible, inaudible and undetectable only hours before when he was truly needed.
How can one pray to God for help in grief recovery when God elected to do absolutely nothing to prevent the grieving? Why would a father so uncaring about his children at 6pm be suddenly fervent about helping them at 7pm? And why would any moral person bind his/her allegiance so completely to a God that would allow a tornado to strike an elementary school?
Again, it’s unpopular to say these things in a culture that seeks comfort above all, and I don’t begrudge the faithful for calling out (and up) to their deities in desperate moments. But I am convinced that there’s something alarmingly and terribly broken about this whole scenario, and while my concerns don’t fit as nicely on the posters, the placards, the banners, the ribbons and the mountains of prayer-warrior posts coloring today’s social media, they do have merit and should be considered by those giving up thanks and calling down divine favors.
Finally…one last thought about the dog. As the reporter noticed the traumatized animal under the rubble, you’ll notice human hands reaching down, lifting up the debris, pulling the dog from its trap and holding it close in a gesture of gratitude, relief, love and pure joy.
As has always been the case in good times and bad, human hands are the things we see in action. They’re the agents of true intervention and rescue. Human hands pull us from the rubble. They bandage our wounds. They carry us to safety. They wipe our tears. They hold us close. And they will again rebuild.
To Whomever It May Concern:
When you ask me to respect religion because people believe in it, I want you to remember something. I want you to remember that long ago your ancestors were not Christian or Muslim. They had their own culture and customs native to their heritage. Through military conquest religion spread itself through the Old World, and those distant relatives were faced with a choice: either accept Christianity/Islam or die a painful death. This was how most major religions today achieved their position of respect.
After Europe had been fully indoctrinated, the papal Doctrine of Discovery gave the authority to all good Christians to conquer the native peoples of the New World and claim that land for God and the Church. Millions died mercilessly and were even tortured by Christian heroes like Christopher Columbus.
Now, thousands of years later, when we no longer have to respect these beliefs upon pain of death, we are told that we should respect religion. We are told by those within even the non religious community that we should show respect to these ideas that have gained a place of vaunted privilege in our societies which are built upon the graves of any who dared question or challenge the authority of divine providence.
You think you are being rational. You think you are being reasonable. What you are really doing is propping up the last leg of human slavery to bad ideas and providing intellectual cover for religion to keep a place of honor and respect it never earned.
Please, stop protecting religion in the guise of false humility. Be honest and firm with your beliefs and never expect anyone to respect your ideas unless they earn it, and always be willing to be wrong. That is what it means to be a free thinker.
This article is so poorly written and researched that it made me suspect it was a troll. But then you see the source - published in Psychology Today and being promoted by the AHA on their tumblr and facebook pages. Bizarre.
First, the author seemingly misunderstands the terms atheism and agnosticism.
Second, he concocts a straw man of the “dogmatic atheist” which the following people might fall into: … err… no one. Even “strident” atheists like Hitchens and Dawkins don’t meet the author’s definition of the “dogmatic atheist” and I know of no one more outspoken about their disbelief in a deity than those two.
Third, the author of this article seems to have gleaned most of his information about atheists from a book written by someone who admits to wishing there was a god. This is quite a large clue that he might be a bit biased and perhaps not a great source for learning about atheists at large.
Fourth, the author concludes with “If you know of anyone who might be interested in this approach to better understand atheists, please consider sending them the link.” I would highly recommend NOT forwarding this onto grandma unless you wish to deliberately promote the misunderstanding of atheism and atheists. Which I’m guessing you do not.
Shame on Psychology Today and shame on the AHA - an organization which I usually respect and admire greatly. ~JJ
Yup. All of this. If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, I copied a few of my favorite paragraphs below. ~JJ
I’ve been asked by some of my own Christian peers if it would bother me if my kids grew up to be Christian. I guess the truth is that yes, it would bother me. To accept such big, profound “truths” that have no evidence to back them up – well, some people call that faith. But the fact is that buying into Christianity requires a departure from rational and critical thinking. In any case, if my kids make up their own minds and Christianity is the conclusion they come to, then of course I’ll have to accept it. But I certainly hope it doesn’t come to pass as a result of peer pressure or wanting to fit in.
It’s very sad to me that kids even think about this sort of thing – god and hell and sin and all of that. It robs them of some innocence, I think. Kids should be able to get through the growing up phase of life with their exuberant curiosity about everything intact – without being burdened with thoughts about some invisible, all-knowing, all-powerful being who demands devotion and doles out favors and punishments at his whim.
I’m glad he’s questioning things, I really am. But it’s made me realize that it’s possible that he (or any of my kids) might eventually adopt Christianity out of a sense of peer pressure – in order to fit in. Because we live in the Bible Belt of Southern California – it’s a very conservative, predominantly Christian, right wing community. At their tender young ages, a couple of my kids have already been told by their friends that it’s a sin to not believe in god, and that they will go to hell. That pisses me off.
So freaking annoyed today…
1) Stumbled upon a “Letter to my Son” written by a fundamentalist Christian saying, basically, that he hopes his son will a) be exactly like him and b) be hated because he follows God’s law and not Man’s law (which he then elaborates to include hoping his son is hated for being “homophobic” and “sexist” because of his beliefs in God’s Perfect Plan for man and woman) and c) gain his identity only from Jesus (WTF does that even mean??)
2) The stupid “But the Bible says I have to stay with my abusive husband!” issue I mentioned earlier… because, Yeah. It does. Because the Bible was written during a time when women were valued as slightly more than property. A man would have paid handsomely for a wife during those times. He would have OWNED her, so of course the MALE writers of those passages would discourage divorce. Not because a “god” demanded it, but because society did.
3) That ridiculous atheist-baby-in-the-womb thing is going around fb again.
Secular Parenting and Discussing Religion
*This is a work in progress, but I’m throwing it up now in case anyone has any feedback (positive or negative!) or thoughts they’d like to share. I’ve gotten a bunch of requests to expand the “secular parenting” link on my blog so people can use it as a resource, but it’s taking a lot longer than I thought it would. :-/ ~JJ
How do you show your children the ridiculousness of religion so that they won’t fall into its trappings, but then also instill the necessity of tact when discussing it with people that hold their faith to be the most important aspect of their life?
How do you explain to a child that yes, Grandma DOES believe that 2 of all the animals in the world did voluntarily climb into a boat right before God flooded the entire world? (“But Mom, the story says that FOURTEEN of all the animals, the clean ones, got on the boat… not TWO.”) And yes, that story is absurd and untrue, but don’t tell Grandma that or you’ll hurt her feelings.
Secular parenting requires you to teach a child to be cautious of certain topics but NOT to be afraid of discussion (many subjects need to be handled delicately, but no subject should be avoided entirely); to be respectful of people but NOT to be respectful of all beliefs (beliefs SHOULD be questioned!); to be agreeable/easygoing if you wish but NOT to be compliant (it’s okay to go along with something if you simply don’t feel like arguing about it, but not at your own expense).
So that being said, I have never told my children that they SHOULDN’T talk about religion or myths or science with relatives or religious people. I think making a topic off limits makes it seem like there is something to hide or be ashamed of, and that is certainly not what I want to instill in them.
The only thing I ask of them is to question. Question everything. Question all that is asserted as Truth. If someone can’t answer a “why” or a “how” question thoroughly, don’t trust the source. And if they don’t feel comfortable asking the questions at the time, bring it back to me and I’ll always answer honestly.
And that’s usually what they choose to do. ”Grandma said this, is that true?” Then we’ll talk about why she might believe whatever it is that she asserted, what (if any) evidence there is regarding the assertion, and then we come to our own conclusions.
In short - Evidence before Acceptance. ~JJ
National Ask-An-Atheist Day
Common Questions Answered!
1) No, we don’t eat children. Or pretend crackers are flesh. Or pretend wine/grape juice is blood.
2) No, we don’t hate god. Or Santa. Or the storks that bring the babies.
3) No, we don’t think we should believe Just In Case. And neither do you. (See HERE.)
4) No, our lives are not meaningless. We can enjoy the garden without believing it’s filled with fairies. (Thanks, Douglas!)
5) No, we don’t need to believe in a god to be moral. Beliefs don’t matter. Actions matter. (See HERE for more on that.)
6) Sure, feel free to pray for me if it makes you happy. Placebos can be excellent drugs.
7) Yes, I truly do hope you have a good day. ;-) ~JJ
Today is National Ask-An-Atheist Day!
The Secular Student Alliance describes it as this:
National Ask An Atheist Day is an opportunity for secular groups across the country to work together to defeat stereotypes about atheism and encourage courteous dialogue between believers and nonbelievers alike. The event is intended to be an opportunity for the general public - particularly people of faith - to approach us and ask questions about secular life. It is our hope that encouraging participation on a national level will raise awareness of the event and We’re encouraging all SSA affiliate groups to participate at whatever level they are able!
If you are out as an atheist and willing to answer questions, please consider posting the above image in tumblr, fb, or whatever other social networking sites you use.
Hope you all have a great day! ~JJ