The Internet Killed God.

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People just don’t realize it yet. You can see it, however, chipping it away at probably two religions at once more so than the rest: Scientology and Mormonism. That’s because the creator of each NEVER envisioned the Internet. They created the religions with “need for secrecy” that simply cannot be maintained with the Internet. There are even videos INSIDE OF AN LDS TEMPLE DURING MAJOR SACRAMENTS on YouTube! And the amount written on Scientology, specifically by Rolling Stone? Because of them, everybody knows what a Thetan now is and who Xenu is.

Another thing the Internet does is answer questions. It’s important to know if your sources are credible, but when people from either are going online, if they’re having doubts (and even though both are instructed not to read anything critical of their religion) and they find so many stories of people who once felt just like them who have now left the religion, and that’s bound to lose some adherents. In addition to that, people can network and form communities for people wanting to transition out. There are even those organizations for the Amish! The Amish understand there is a need for a transitional period out of their religion. They’re a good microcosm of what both LDS and Scientologists fear–losing contact with your loved ones. While the LDS I know would never shun their children to the degree Amish people do, they still lose the support of people they have loved their whole lives. In the case of Scientology, a person who does not adhere is non-theta. Basically? Even though Scientologists can still technically interact with non-thetas (I hope I’m getting that term right) they cannot form intimate attachments with them. So if a child leaves a Scientologist family, they’re basically cut off. In either case, they can form new attachments to people they meet through the Internet, and that can help them bridge between worlds.

So you’re not a Scientologist or a Mormon? Think you’re safe? Not so fast.

I am an atheist, but for the average balanced person, I have no problem with them having religion. You know, the really cool, sweet Christian people that also know that it’s not okay to hate and it’s not okay to discriminate. They live in the true spirit of Christ. If people are balanced, nice and kind, we’re all good. Muslims. Jews. Their religion does not dominate them to the extent that they hate the other. What I can’t stomach are the extremists (and that goes for atheists, too. It’s a process. We’re evolving out of the God Gene. But, like, tongue-rolling, some people have it, and some don’t. Or maybe a lot of very good people are just afraid. If that’s what it takes for them to keep going, I wouldn’t want to take that away from them. But here’s the thing…I think there are a lot more atheists out there than scientists will EVER get people to admit. Even to say it, if you were raised in a religious home, it’s not a happy thing. It’s more of an admission. Something to internalize. Because many of us, we’ve disappointed parents we otherwise love. We have caused them stress because they just want to see us in Heaven. But it is the truth, and if you read people’s silent truths? You’ll see a whole lot more than polls would show. Over the Internet, they can admit it. Then there’s validation, then finally the courage to “come out.”

Parents find support and encouragement from other parents that are raising their kids without religion. They talk about how to fend off well-meaning but spiritually and philosophically overbearing grandparents? One by one, people move along their path of being honest.

But what I really wish? That people in your life would just stop always talking about their beliefs. It’s drawing lines. We’d support each other so much better if we didn’t know each other quite so well.Image

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God and the Internet

ImageSomething horrible happened last week. A pit bull female was found, barely alive in Quincy, MA, near Boston. The woman who found the dog, tossed along a roadside, thought she had been hit by a car, she was so mangled. What the vet discovered was far more sinister.

The dog, whose name was posted as Puppy Doe until further information came along, had cigarette burns, she was emaciated, a knife had been dragged across one of her eyes. But the worst was yet to be revealed, as xrays showed that she had no fewer than 17 fractures and she had been drawn and quartered repeatedly. That means people played tug-of-war using her limbs. In addition, her vertebrae were crushed from being beaten with a bat, and her skull was crushed, from the same type of beatings. This poor baby girl had gone through the worst of torture. Because she was no longer able to walk, and her injuries were so grievous, she was put down with a full belly of kibble and pain medication on board.

Of course, the animal-loving community from around the world is furious. Through initial publicity of the case, it was discovered that the dog’s name was Kiya. She had originally been a loved pet with two other dogs, not Pit Bulls. But because of her breed, the woman’s landlord said she’d have to rehome her. Which she did. Through Craigslist. And this was the final result. 

As everyone down the line is asking questions about the lax animal cruelty laws in our country, and as people are rightly rallying to have Craigslist remove free pet ads from their site, the threads are bursting at the seams with Judeo-Christian babble. 

“She’s in Jesus’ arms now,” read one, which I’m sure made her feel better. 

“There is a place in Hell waiting for the person who did this to her,” said another.

This is one of those times where it’s unfortunate to be an atheist. Because I get no such sense of justice. If this person is never caught, then I know he or she or them got away with it. Just like anyone who has murdered someone and buried them in a grave that has never been found. 

The truth one has to swallow as an atheist is that people get away with horrific things all the time, and probably always will. Whether or not the torturers of little Kiya are caught or not, I have to accept that she is dead. That is her reward.

For this reason, I think it’s been harder on me than the many Faithful I have seen online. I can’t offer it up to a god and let it go. And I know there is zero point in trying to ask them the tough questions that they don’t want to answer, like where their god was when that little dog was screaming in pain, as her body was being pulled apart and those with her laughed. Just like I asked where that god was when Polly Klaas was being raped, or as flies lay eggs in the eyes of starving babies not quite dead all over this planet, every day. The answer to me is obvious. There is no backup plan. It’s us. I don’t get that peaceful image of Kiya, healthy and happy once more “playing over the rainbow bridge.” Kiya, like so many other animals, like so many other humans, died a horrific, painful, prolonged and terrible death. Her suffering is over. 

But in order to protect those who are suffering right at this moment, counting on a Hell that doesn’t exist, or self-soothing with images of puppies playing in the Heavenly sun (all while many religions don’t even let animals into Heaven anyway) often takes the wind out of people’s sails. It retards, if not stops, action. Because there is no question that many changes need to be made in our justice system for those who do get caught. The woman who tortured, starved and then threw Patrick the Pit Bull down her NY garbage chute got off without jail time. She’s totally free at this moment. 

Knowing that there was no other-worldly reward for Kiya, just as there was none for anyone snuffed out in such a fashion, it’s something that sticks with you if you don’t have the god crutch. But in that sadness, I think. I puzzle. I join up with those who are mobilized and are searching for ways to actually solve the problem. Here. On Earth. I don’t pray for a fix. I don’t soothe myself in the knowledge that Hell is awaiting this sick person. I was mobilized for animal rescue before, but this, this particular incident is a crucible. It’s something that is galvanizing people on social media, and already there is a bill calling for increased penalties for animal abusers drafted in Massachusetts by a Democratic senator there. It’s not enough, but it’s moving in the right direction. Petitions are being signed going to not only state representatives but to President Obama himself. Millions of names have been added. Rewards are being raised to encourage someone to come forward and stop this particular sadist from doing this again. These are things that will move things in the right direction.

Further down on the same feed, however, is the page for another recently-found abused Pittie girl who is in very poor shape. She has taken a turn for the worse, and prayers were asked for. They were offered, in spades. Which has nothing to do with an actual solution. But it probably made a lot of people feel as if they were doing something, and better. 

But not me. Sometimes reality sucks. But it IS reality. And it’s that reality that puts a fire in my belly to solve these problems, not the sugar-coating of them.

I’m not required to follow your rules.

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Last weekend, I was at a wedding. It was a typical summer affair, outdoors under the trees with a radiant bride, happy groom, cake. Like most of the people there, I was snapping photos on my phone. Throughout the ceremony and the reception, I had vaguely noticed there was one large family that was different. The father was stoic, the women and girls almost in a uniform of white shirts, black skirts to the ankle, and no smiles. They also had on headscarves, but not the Muslim kind. After I got home, I researched their type of head scarf. Though I had asked a friend at the reception what sect they were, she only knew they were Christian of some sort, but nothing she’d ever heard of. After finding an online store that sold Christian head scarves. Turns out, any Christian woman who follows a Corinthians verse (which I can’t recall), is morally bound to cover her head. 

All this would have been fine with me (I have no desire to change other people) except for something that happened while I was running around, snapping photos. At one point, this man’s table was in the background, and he gruffly ordered me to not get his family in the photos. “No problem,” I said, “I didn’t know.”

“Well,” he said, crossing his pudgy hands over his gluttonous gut, “you should have asked me.” I stared back at him, hard, and right in the eyes, silent. His stern-looking wife nervously placed her hand on his forearm. I turned on my heel and walked away.

I should note that this was a Christian wedding, but it was a typical mix of everyone. Different colors, spiritual philosophies all over the map. Nobody really discussed them, they were just there to support the bride and groom, dance a little and see old friends. Except for this one sad little oasis of this man and his many children. Even the tiny ones didn’t venture from the table to play with all the other kids their age, running under the trees with each other. It was obvious they were not “of” our sinful world but guess what? I am not part of your little Chauvinistic club. And no, I don’t respect whatever philosophy he whipped up to subjugate his women and children. But even more than that, his assumption that he was such a center of the universe that people from a much greater majority would be so drawn to his magnetism that they would command an automatic questioning by a total stranger as to what behavior I should partake in in front of His Highness. 

In the end, I was able to shake off my contempt for this arrogant, controlling man and enjoy the event. But the encounter sticks with me because it reminded me, yet again, that those who feel they are ordained to unflinchingly demand certain types of behavior, regardless of who surrounds them. This is the same human trait that causes men to whip women with car antennas if they dare flash a wrist in some parts of the world. Women on the street that they don’t even know. 

But I don’t live in that part of the world, and I don’t operate under many of this man’s assumptions: that I am less because I am female, that I should be awed in the presence of a penis-possessor, or even that I should be humbled and terrified that there is an angry deity watching my every move. 

I never found out what actual religion this man was, and he sure never bothered to ask what mine was. But with one look on my part, the raised eyebrows, the set jaw, I let him know that his magnetism stopped as his own table. Of course, I don’t doubt for a second that he learned nothing from this encounter. Instead, I was just an insolent, uneducated harlot, and to him that is what I will remain in his memory. But what I will remember is that, for all of his self-aggrandizement, I saw him for what he really was–just another religious bigot, control freak and a real asshole. 

Situational Religion.

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I’m not horribly fond of my mother in law. I realize this is not an unusual complaint. She’s manipulative, gossipy and has a mean streak a mile wide. It helps we live in another state and she’d rather spend money on a kitchen remodel than visiting her grandchildren, so that helps.

Part of her gift of manipulation involves her Facebook traffic. If her middle-aged son is doing something great, she sidles on in a tacit attempt to share some of the credit.

My father in law I like much more, in spite of his neutered status. Over the last few years, he’s run into a few health problems. He’s fine now, but it was worrisome while it was going on. His ticker isn’t the greatest, and we’re grateful he’s stabilized.

But, lest you think the health crisis was about him, guess again. My MIL managed to make it all about her. Whenever anyone started to pay more attention to FIL, MIL would try to wrest the conversation back to herself. And to do this, she brought out the big guns. She brought out God.

Keep in mind that my husband never went to church as a child. Once, he and his siblings were shipped off on a bus to a Bible summer camp, but when they begged not to go back, and the Baptists literally banged on their door, shouting that they were going to Hell, that pretty much ended any religious affiliation for their family.

So it’s bewildering to me that as soon as things start to get really bad for my MIL, all of the sudden, she remembers the power of prayer, and not only asks for them, but lets it be known how much praying she’s been doing. Those who don’t know her better would assume from her posts that prayer and God are regular parts of her life. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Until my FIL had his heart problems, I had never even heard the woman mention God. There was never a Bible, cross, or painting of a gazing Aryan Jesus anywhere in sight in their house.

But surgery was indicated, so out she trotted God. And her friends responded with promises to fervently pray along with her.

Because they decided to use surgeons as well as prayer, my FIL did recover and, as I said before, is stable. He’s back to doing things he loves. All of his former symptoms have disappeared. So, too, has any mention of God or prayer from my MIL’s Facebook postings, conversations or life.

Until the next crisis.

Merry Atheist Christmas.

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I grew up in a lax Catholic household. We mostly went on the high holidays, if at all. My mom has an old nativity, but really, Jesus wasn’t much mentioned during the holidays. What were were giving, holiday events like our school concerts and the fantastic baking my mother and grandmother would do just that time of year.

So, now that we’re living in an atheist/secular Buddhist (which is, for all intents and purposes, atheism) household, you bet we still celebrate Christmas!

I have many friends who have stopped celebrating Christmas, because they’re not Christian. I have a Buddhist friend who has a Solstice tree. She is attempting to cultivate traditions outside of the Christmas ones.

I, however, don’t see the need to toss Christmas altogether. Why should I, when much of it was stolen from the Druids, and their own Winter Solstice celebrations, to make it easier to bring them into the Christian fold?

What we celebrate at our house is predominantly Christmas, but we acknowledge the roots of that tree and the lights. We have a menorah, and educate the kids each year about the story behind Hanukkah. We’re all about learning the traditions of all people.

Celebrating Christmas means we get to keep the best of everything, without the baggage. It’s a season that refocuses people’s thoughts towards giving. And, I hope, that might spur a few more each year to make that giving spirit a part of their life pattern year-round (I know we do, which is why I like the holiday season so much. All that good will).

And while the consumeristic aspects that seep further and further back into the year (our local store now puts out merchandise in August), the lessons of giving, and thought about what to give, and why to give are important lessons. True, while the kids were younger, it’s all about what was under the tree for them on Christmas morning. But even as far back as Kindergarten, they took pride in the adorable gifts and cards they would make for us. We have learned that we are not helpless in the face of advertising and what the big corporations want us to do. We can choose the extent to which we would like to spend. It also offers an opportunity to discuss what we really need, and how things we may want impact the earth, and the people on it who may manufacture those things in poor conditions. So, we try to make the gifts more about doing or making things, if possible.

We are trying to build the fun of the holidays around the dinner we have every year where all are invited. There’s lots of good food, laughter, tons of people crammed around our table on mismatched chairs. There’s the smell of baking and pine in the air, along with cinnamon-coated pinecones. There’s a fire in the stove. The lights are beautiful and twinkle. The fact that we don’t go to church doesn’t diminish the friendship, fun and cheer in our home during this time when people seem to get along slightly better than usual.

This year, I am going to learn to can, but each year, I have used my limited sewing skills to make homemade gifts for people near and far. I don’t purchase gifts anymore for anyone other than my own kids and my husband. Conversely, I love it when I get homemade preserves, baked goods, crocheted scarves and whatever else my friends and family come up with. We all can go to Target and buy things. For this reason, we also avoid Black Friday like the plague it is.

Making cookies, holiday crafts, school events, maybe some snow if we’re lucky, the pretty tree with the ornaments that come out like old friends year after year, those are the things that our Atheist Christmas is made of in our home. Since Christmas itself has become an amalgam of many different traditions, even those of the non-Christians, it somehow seems fitting.

Imaginary Wars.

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There are wars going on. Right now. In America. Didn’t you know??? You probably heard about it the most during December, when the assertion that “Happy Holidays” might be an acceptable greeting threw literally hundreds of thousands of people right over the edge.

But it’s not just limited to Christmas. Apparently, there’s a war on religion that is being waged (secretly by that closet Muslim, Obama) all over the country by Godless Liberals who want to kick prayer out of public school (it hasn’t been, you can pray silently whenever you please), or by those who would deign to suggest that perhaps, maybe, there shouldn’t be a massive monument to the Ten Commandments on PUBLIC property.

The war on religion is yet another fear tactic brought to you courtesy of Fox news and paranoid denominations to further divide the nation and alienate anyone who would not follow the deity du jour in lock step. Much like the myth that it’s the poor who are the problem with our budget, the God-fearing have been fed the Kool-Aid that every single time someone points out where THEY are overstepping their boundaries, it’s a war.

Because nothing gets short-sighted Americans in Bubbles fired up more quickly than the assertion that there’s violence to be done and that, from their armchair they can be warriors! Americans love a good battle, especially when there’s really no risk to them.

So, the news pundits keep lining their wallets by promoting this Rovian idea that there is a war on Christianity. The fact that perhaps we don’t want to hear “have a blessed day” or that not everyone celebrates the birth of Christ is something they cannot bear. Because it’s bad enough that they can’t evangelize and save us all. It’s bad enough that they are wrongly convinced that this is a Christian nation (read Jefferson’s writings on religion–he’s hardly the model of “Pious Christian Founding Father” that the religious right brings up on a regular basis.

My kids, who go to public school, recite the pledge every day with “under God” in it. People are so ignorant to history that they think those two words have been in the pledge the entire time, instead of being added in a McCarthyistic-era paranoia by those wanting to smack down the Godless Commies. As if rejecting an afterthought to the pledge means we hate America.

When people suggest that perhaps God should not be on our secular, public currency, it’s war. When stores have the nerve to also sell Kwanzaa decorations during the time of year (which now starts in August) that we’re supposed to be celebrating the Prince of Peace with rampant consumerism, that’s war. When the owners of Hobby Lobby experienced a boycott because they refused, as Christians, to pay for family planning insurance for their staff, it was a war on religion.

Yet, when their tax dollars go to something they don’t believe in, they can’t see the double standard. According to the New American:

“One of the new president’s first executive orders following his inauguration on January 20, 2009 was a repeal of the “Mexico City” policy that forbade the disbursement of U.S. taxpayer dollars to any organization in another country that performs abortions. The idea of requiring taxpayers, many of whom believe abortion to be a grave moral evil, to subsidize the practice not only violates the conscience of abortion foes, but also makes a mockery of the argument that abortion is strictly a matter of personal “choice.” The Obama policy expands “a woman’s right to choose” to include a “right” to have that choice paid for with other people’s money.”

How is that different for the atheists who paid for the school where the valedictorian read the Lord’s Prayer during a public commencement without any consequence? How is that different than taxpayer money that goes into the maintenance of roads, utilities and sidewalks that lead to every church in this country that doesn’t pay a dime in taxes? How is that different from paying for and maintaining a religious display on courthouse grounds when you don’t believe in that religion?

The answer is, it isn’t. And when discrepancies in logical thought (which are shocking from people who believe there’s a Daddy in the sky watching them, I know) are pointed out and they’re not in the favor of the religious right, all of the sudden, it’s a war.

There is no war. And you’re not victims. And the growing assertion that you’re not allowed to live your faith is crap. Because when you refuse service to a gay couple for a wedding cake, or threaten to fire all your employees because you don’t want to insure for the morning after pill, you’re forgetting that your customers, the ones who pay your bills and whose money is actually going into the collection plate each Sunday? They sometimes have your beliefs, but many times do not. And just because everything is no longer going your way in an Ozzie and Harriet world does not mean you’re at war. It just means you’re throwing a tantrum.

 

Not My Hero.

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Roy Costner the IV made headlines last week when he tossed the approved valedictorian speech he had submitted, and started, instead, to recite the Lord’s Prayer. Immediately, he was thrown up on my Facebook feed, and even the news, as a hero.

But he’s not my hero. I think he’s self-centered, inconsiderate and rude.

To the Christian Facebook fans, he was a young man so brimming with his love of God and Christ that he risked everything to proudly state his faith (he was not disciplined by the school). To me, he’s just another pushy evangelizer determined to drag God into every last public arena possible. 

To begin with, this was a public school commencement. PUBLIC. And while it has been upheld that students may pray silently in public school, or may form student-led religious-based clubs on campus, and while many school board meetings AND while there was probably a prayer to start the commencement off in the first place, this was not enough. And it never is for these people.

Did this “hero” consider there might be Jews in the audience that don’t believe Christ is the Messiah? Didn’t care. Any Muslims in the audience? Doesn’t matter to this brave boy. Buddhists? Hindus? Agnostics? Satanists? Atheists? No. He had been so indoctrinated to wear his faith like a shield that he simply did not give a shit about anyone in that crowd who had a differing belief.

One of my FB friends posted the video of him pulling this and posted, “I’m tired of not talking about my faith because it might offend someone who doesn’t believe the same!” I didn’t suggest there, but will here, that the two could not be farther apart. She is welcome to talk about her faith all she wants–AS LONG AS IT’S NOT AT A SECULAR EVENT. 

At a religious school, I would get it. But this is public. And this school, the chairs the people were sitting on and even the electricity that Roy’s microphone was hooked up to was paid by taxpayers. Taxpayers of all stripes, which is why there is supposed to be this separation. 

There are plenty of places to talk about religion…more than there should be legally. But we let it slide, because they demand so much, we figure something is going to slip under the radar. But not only should someone this rude be praised as a hero, he should have been handed some form of consequence. 

But he wasn’t. And now the floodgates are open for any other defiant faithful that want to earn points with their church, the media, their Creator. Which leaves the rest of us to squirm uncomfortably in their taxpayer-subsidized folding chairs while the taxpayer-subsidized sound system reminds us, once again, that we’re not the majority. Gee. Thanks for that.

Atheism and Your Facebook Friends.

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Facebook. It’s a conundrum. Ostensibly, you choose your friends. But, at the end of the day, many of the people on your friends list aren’t ones you feel you can be yourself with. And I don’t have to go into the politics of unfriending, when it’s your mom, your beloved elderly aunt, even your best friend from high school that you can’t be upfront with.

I’ve got a vast array of people on my Facebook account, from all spiritual and philosophical stripes. The Christian friends, in particular, tend to post a whole lot of glurge. Photos of flying doves with quoted scripture. This is their choice, it’s their page. And, besides, I can hide them without unfriending them.

The same doesn’t work the other way around. As a secular Buddhist, I do not believe in reincarnation or an after life. I study Buddhism to help me cope with the finality of life here on Earth–particularly after being fed a bunch of hooey in my formative years. So, as I browse, I have a lot of people on my feed (Tyson, Nye, Americans Against the Tea Party) that people on my friend list don’t have. So, when I like or share something, because I think it’s so dead-on, it can cause mass hysteria. This is why I have to start this blog. I need somewhere to speak freely about my true beliefs, which is here we are, this is it, make the most of it, do your best, but don’t plan on seeing Grandma in an afterlife. 

Facebook is a microcosm of the eye-rolling things I hear on a daily basis. I have zero problem with people believing what they want to believe as long as it doesn’t impede on my rights in a secular society. I feel that most people can’t handle a life without a big, loving Heavenly Father monitoring their every move. I also think many people would misbehave horribly without the fear that they were being watched and/or would spend eternity in a really hot place. So, I’ve never been out to convert anyone. And if I am in a private home, or private situation, and the people call for a prayer, then that has to be respected.

What I’m hoping for is something that’s as impossible as eternal life in a place with ice cream-lined streets: and that is tolerance. Because it is beholden on many faiths that evangelizing is part of their duty as a believer. From the people who knock on my door too early on a Saturday, to the kids at school who insist on sharing “The Good News” with my children during their public school day, I feel as if we are constantly dodging and weaving and, at the same time, keeping our mouths shut. Why? Because if I were to post what I really thought on my Facebook page, my kids would be disinvited to parties, I would lose business in my small town, and a variety of other punitive things. And since I’m well aware of reality, I also treat it with kid gloves.

I have lost friends on Facebook because of what little of my beliefs I do allow to be represented in likes and shares. I’ve lost friends because of comments I’ve posted on news articles about religion. Done and done. I expect to lose more, and that’s not even with being totally upfront, just skirting the edges. 

Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media are minefields for those who are not part of the majority. Fortunately, blogging still provides enough anonymity to speak comfortably.Image