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
I LOVE THIS. Seriously, go read the whole article if you have time. If not, I’ve copied a few of my favorite paragraphs below. ~JJ
# Secular Parenting
Yup, my kid’s an atheist. And she pretty much has been since she was 5.
It’s not for lack of exposure to God or god or even gods and spirituality, because she has attended Church and church and a UU “church” and it has made no impact. We’ve prayed together. I talk about God sometimes, in a good way. When I asked her recently why she doesn’t believe in God she told me, succinctly, “Because I know too much about science!”
And there you have it — an evangelical’s worst nightmare. Science trumps God. My daughter is like a mini-Darwin who had a spiritual awakening before she was old enough to stop having potty accidents. And she was able to do so not because she was indoctrinated by the Church of the Holy Dissected Frog, but because she wasn’t fully indoctrinated by the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Because the idea that a man lives in the sky who can see everything you do hasn’t been pounded into her head since birth, she thinks the whole concept is just silly.
I so admire my daughter’s scientific mind. I’m an artist, and an emotional one at that, which is not to say that my daughter isn’t an emotional person, because she is. But I love the way, at such a tender age, she’s able to make a decision like that for herself. To own her thoughts so fully that they are her feelings. “I don’t believe God exists.” Unquestionably. Because she hasn’t been taught to need God to get through her daily life. In spite of the fact that she struggles with things, she has this great understanding that the person she must learn to rely on is herself.
I love that.
I only wish I had been taught self-reliance as a child. Instead I was taught that there was no one in my family that I could rely on, in fact no human in the world I could expect reasonable treatment from. I had to look to God in order to be treated well, to be forgiven, to be embraced and to be loved. God, some phantom father in the sky was the man who loved me, and so of course I spent my life chasing phantom people with half-open or fully-closed hearts, seeking from them what only ghosts can give: nothing. A fantasy. A fallacy. A lie.
What if, by raising my daughter well, by giving her the attention and fortification she needs, by teaching her to trust her instincts, by letting her know help is always there and that she should feel free to ask a real live flesh-and-blood human being for it, what if that means she won’t need God? Because the shit won’t catastrophically hit the fan? Because she has coping skills and can get through life without it being a horrible tragedy that is only made significant by eating the body and blood of a dead dude and then going to heaven at the end? Yeah. How ’bout that?
The link above is an interview with Susan Jacoby. In it she lists the five books she considers essential to understanding the merits of atheism:
Confessions by Saint Augustine
The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
36 Arguments for the Existence of God by Rebecca Goldstein
Mortality by Christopher Hitchens
The whole interview is great, but I copied two of my favorite sections below. Enjoy! ~JJ
What do you think about the critique of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, not necessarily the book by him you’ve chosen, but God is Not Great, for example – that they put too much blame on religion? I’m in China right now, you’ve got a lot of friends in Russia, what about this argument that countries that have really embraced atheism have seen some of the worst excesses of human nature? Even if you don’t believe in God, don’t the teachings of, say, Christianity – for example loving your neighbour as yourself – help make the world a better place?
Yeah, right. That’s why everybody was so tolerant in 16th and 17th century England, because they were Christians. I’m really glad you asked that question. The idea that some of the worst things happened under countries that were officially atheist, well firstly, lots of people never embraced atheism. The salient point about the Soviet Union, like Hitler’s Germany (which was not officially atheist), is that when secular ideology is treated as something that cannot be challenged and that need not be proven, then it becomes a religion. Stalinist Communism was every bit as much a religion as Roman Catholicism at the height of the Inquisition. Why? It was a religion because its tenets could not be challenged. And if they contradicted the laws of nature, they couldn’t be challenged either. An entire generation of Soviet biologists and agronomists were destroyed because Stalin had a favourite biologist named Lysenko, and Lysenko’s basic belief was – and this went right along with Communist ideology – that you could change species by changing their behaviour, in other words a new Soviet man, or a new Soviet cow, could be made genetically different by the teachings you gave them. Scientists who said no – and everything we know and have proved about science including Mendelian genetics says that it is not true – went to the gulags and were killed. Soviet science was two generations behind the West when it emerged from this era in the mid-1960s. So what I say is that in fact what is often used as proof that religion is good is proof that religion is bad, because religion doesn’t have to call itself Christianity, or have Yahweh or Jesus as its idol, it can have secular idols. The characteristic of a religion is that no evidence-based challenge is allowed. Soviet Communism fit that model perfectly, and as soon as evidence-based challenge was allowed, it took just 30 years to collapse, which may seem long, but as historical time goes is not long at all.
But this Christian idea that all this suffering is intrinsically valuable because of this reward in heaven: you tell me what kind of a comfort belief is if what you’re believing in is a design for living and dying in which the most horrible pointless suffering is justified by saying “It’ll all be made right when the last trumpet sounds!” I find that vision, of a ruler of the universe who does that, far more grim than the reality, which is that all things that live die. We have our time on this earth, we have to use it in the best possible way, because it is limited. I don’t find that grim at all.
Are there any differences between a superstitious person and a religious person?
Besides the obvious ones like churches/schools that promote the beliefs, I mean?
Just a Few Steps
There are just a few steps from the belief that “there is a god existing in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Christianity) to “there is a god existing in all deities” (Universalism) to “there is some type of deity existing in all things” (Pantheism) to “there is no evidence for a deity” (atheism).
There are just a few steps, but the journey can be slow and painful.
It can feel very, very lonely.
But please know you’re not alone. There are millions making the same journey (or a similar one) and there are millions of us ready to welcome you with open arms when you get here.
We’re just a few steps away. ~JJ
A tiny bit of background info: Due to some unavoidable family issues, my 8-year-old son ended up spending this past weekend with my in-laws who, of course, took him to the Easter service at church on Sunday.
Me: So, how was the church?
My son: I liked it! They sang funny songs, we got to stand up and sit down a bunch, they gave me cookies and juice, and the guy at the front told a cool story about a fish.
Me: What kind of funny songs?
My son: Well, not funny REALLY, but funny because they believe it. Like… “come into my heart oh god.” They were SERIOUS. They wanted a god to come into their heart! And there was one that went “my god is your god is our god is my god” or something. That one made me laugh because it just sounded funny.
Me: And what was the fish story?
My son: Glory? The guy said to think about things that bring glory? What’s that mean again?
Me: He probably meant things that make you very, very happy.
My son: Yeah.. that makes sense. He showed a picture of a mountain and said we get glory from seeing the mountains that were made by god. Even though mountains are made from volcanoes or tectonic plates…maybe he didn’t know that?
Me: Maybe he didn’t.
My son: And then he showed a picture of himself holding a HUGE fish and said it was one of the most gloryests moments - is that the word?
Me: Probably most gloriOUS.
My son: Most glorious moments of his life. And he said that god gave him glory by helping him catch the fish! Like he believes in a fish god or a sea god! Poseidon, maybe!
Me: Ha! Can you image like… Thor… going “here fishy fishy fishy…go bite this guy’s hook!”
My son: No way! I think Thor would have better things to do.
Me: I think you’re right. ~JJ
I received a message asking for recommendations for books on atheism, reason, or criticisms of religion. The “big four” are obvious, of course (Hitch, Dawkins, Harris and Dennet), but I’m hoping y’all have some additional authors/books/sites to suggest?
OR, if you or someone you know has already compiled a list of “must reads” for atheists, I’d love the link to that as well.
Thanks in advance! ~JJ