Friday, May 20, 2011
The third talk?
It has been quite some time since I updated my prestigious readership on my personal struggles with “coming out”, so I thought that I would do so now. First, some background, I’m not what you would call an extrovert. I rarely say things which I’m not completely sure of either. In short, I really suck at verbal bullshit. So, I don’t go around as any type of militant atheist willfully spouting out verbal diarrhea when I’m not 100% clear on what I’m saying. I also don’t necessarily retain a lot of information through book reading unless I reread the book many times. More often than not, I might gain one piece of information that stays with me after reading a 300 page book. It’s kind of like when I was in grad school and the professor told us that we would only remember 10% of what we learned throughout the program (I sometimes wonder why I bother reading at all!). I tend to process much better in writing and am less distracted by environmental factors. To be perfectly lucid, most of my family still doesn’t know much more about my stance than they did a year ago. Some of them still don’t know that I’m an atheist at all unless I’m just unaware. This is why I write this blog, to get my thoughts out in a clear and precise manner.
I did have a brief conversation with my mother about my lack of faith while waiting at the hairdresser’s. She accused me of being involved in witchcraft, emphasizing this whole good versus evil thing. She said something to the effect of, “You must be working for the devil then.” I said, “Well, I don’t actually believe in hell so I must be doing it unknowingly.” Surprisingly, she had nothing further to say and, after a rather awkward silence, I just changed the subject. On another occasion, after an occurrence of several health problems, my mom suggested that I was no longer under god’s protection, so I was succumbing to these demonic health related intrusions. There’s this whole notion in certain Christian circles, particularly of the charismatic evangelical variety, that people are impervious to illnesses when they are walking closely with god, and his trusty sidekick, Jesus. When someone does get sick, the person is blamed for a lack of faith so, conveniently, god can never lose. It was actually the “miracles” of modern science which nursed me back to health from some annoying skin conditions, and I was back to my ole’ hedonistic ways in no time. Or, perhaps, it was those prayers that my father-in-laws church was sending out to me *wink**wink*.
I really don’t mind if people pray for me or even pray in my presence. I just sort of stare into space and wait for the wasted time to be over. I’m also not the type of atheist or person, for that matter, to correct people when they say, “bless you” if I sneeze. It really doesn’t bother me, and I recognize it for what it’s worth, an ingrained cultural phenomenon.
You know how I used to talk about worrying about death and hell? Well, most of those feelings have subsided but they creep up in the dead of night from time to time. It is a less frequent intrusion though. I still have a problem saying the “A” word in public when someone queries about my religious convictions or lack thereof. I found myself telling someone that I essentially “lost my trust in religion” instead of saying that I simply became an atheist.
Along with becoming an atheist, I became much more liberal in most of my beliefs, aside from abortion—but, even that has changed a bit as well. I think that there are good times for early term abortion such as cases of incest and rape. I think that late term abortion should almost never be accepted though. Bottom line, it needs to be done EARLY or not at all.
My brother-in-law now knows that I’m an atheist, and he really wasn’t too disappointed. He actually congratulated me on my blog and thanked me for “educating” him on things that the church fails to say. I’m starting to wonder if he isn’t “turning to the dark side” himself. But, he can surely examine the evidence himself and come to his own conclusions. I’m not here to convince anybody of anything. I want them to really read the Bible, especially some of that O.T. ass kicking god does. And, then, I want them to give science a try even though it can be a boring pain in the neck at times. I have certainly struggled mightily with books on astrophysics and cosmology but I try to endure! I’d much rather be playing a game of Bad Company 2 at times but I think that it’s a healthy and worthwhile endeavor.
My wife still hasn’t listened to the Sam Harris clip I wanted her to listen to. So, I feel no obligation to indulge her or explain myself until she does so. He highlights all the repugnant aspects better than I can and I agree with him 100%. Other than the above, my life really isn’t that much different. I still play video games, work in the same field and enjoy a good workout. There are days where I think very little about science and religion, and there are days where it is at the forefront of my mind. One of the best things about this whole atheist venture is that it got me back to writing, and it gave me something to write about. My family and teachers always said that I had a knack for writing, but I just didn’t have anything substantive to say. So, I finally have that, and it’s been a grateful journey thus far. I love expressing myself artistically and on an intellectual level, as tiny as it may be. I've also learned to stop acting like I know it all. When I first became an atheist, I was like a child with an AK-47. I was out to destroy everybody and to invoke as many arguments as possible. But, I was pretty much as uneducated when it comes to science as many of the evangelicals I was arguing against. I've since backed off from debating with people until I feel like I have enough respectable knowledge to really argue with them. I still try to persuade people to look at their religion differently, just not so voraciously.
Lately, I’ve been reading Hector Avalos’, Fighting Words: The Origins of Religious Violence. I may write a brief review on it at another time. Basically, it argues that religious violence is the result of scarce resources, resources based on sacred space, salvation, inscripturation and group privilege. These resources can be real or imagined, but they still create a situation of scarcity. Other groups don’t have access but the in-group is claiming that they have the genuine article. Avalos’ sometimes uses examples from the Bible to show cases where violence was evoked as a result of scarce religious resources. This was kind of confusing because I wasn’t sure if Avalos was suggesting that these were real historical examples illustrating his central argument, or if he was suggesting that violent events in history have occurred because of these stories. Anyway, I may continue to flush out my thoughts on this at a later time.
Well, please be sure to check out Skeptics if you haven’t yet. There’s three excellent bloggers combine forces over there and give us all a great education on a routine basis!