a reluctant atheist

I'm an atheist who wishes she wasn't. Life would be so much easier!


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Agnostic? Atheist? Believer? Who Am I Today?

Some days, I’m an atheist. Other days, I’m an agnostic. But I lean more toward atheist because I can no longer wrap my head around the thought that there is some kind of mystical “other” or “God” that transforms our lives in so many ways and who has control over our entire, vast universe. Sometimes, however, some kind of miracle occurs and I wonder…What if?….Could I be wrong?….Am I missing something?

I’ve had people who do know that I’m no longer a believer tell me that an agnostic is simply someone who can’t commit. But I disagree! It’s not that I CAN’T commit to either believing in God or believing that there is no God. Rather, I admit that I JUST. DON’T. KNOW. Some days are like that. Agnoticism is modest – we know just how much we don’t know. We aren’t going to espouse a creed, faith, manifesto or believe system – or lack thereof – until we know more. And we are willing to admit that this means we may never be fully atheist or fully religious.

While the article is  out of date (it’s from 2010), author Ron Rosenbaum clearly explained the differences between most agnostics and most atheists in his article, “An Agnostic Manifesto.” If you know what you don’t know, but aren’t sure whether you’re agnostic or atheist (it’s okay to not be sure, despite what radicals on either side of the fence say), I encourage  you to read Rosenbaum’s article.

Do you always identify as atheist or agnostic? Does your world view (or view of the universe) shift from time to time? I’d love to hear from any of you who feel like I do that belief and non-belief can be fluid over time and circumstance.

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Not So Good Friday

There are days when I really miss the traditions and rituals of the church. At Easter in particular I miss the joy, the music, the sense of hope and possibility. Then I read a blog post like, ‘The Parents Who Ruined the Easter Egg Hunt‘ by the very talented blogger Jen at “People I Want to Punch in the Throat” (Go there, you will be amused and full of admiration for her). She wrote about a Colorado Easter Egg Hunt that was cancelled because so many parents got competitive about it last year that they ruined it for the kids. Her blog post reminded me that so many people celebrate the secular, greedy aspect of Easter and have completely stripped it of any truly religious meaning. They’ve reduced even the secular version of Easter to grubbing for something for themselves and their children.

Not that I hate the Easter Bunny or anything. Far be it for me to condemn the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus – I think they are wonderful examples of selfless giving when presented in the right manner. But I also know that they are fictional constructs, not real, living beings. Much the way I feel about God these days. My problem is when people strip them of even their fictitious status as models of giving and turn an event that was supposed to be fun-filled and turn it into a competition. And a pretty vile grab for gifts as well.

I’ve seen so many churches that act the same way over the years. Competitions about who gave the most or who got the most people to give their lives to the Lord….it shouldn’t be a competition! But I know churches do it. They keep score and if their attendance is up, they assume they are doing something “right.”  But putting a cappuccino bar in the vestibule to entice visitors is more about keeping the numbers up than it is about saving souls in most cases.

Lets get back to the act of giving for its own sake. Don’t give because you’re supposed to, or because God will punish you if you don’t, or because you think it will help buy your way into heaven. Give because you know in your heart and soul that it’s the right thing to do. Give because you want to help others and feel true compassion for their plight. Give for the sake of others, not for your own sake. And do it all year round, not just at the prescribed holidays. Make it your life, not your religion.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Free Speech, Protests and Morality

I know that the Atheist Ethicist can be a bit of a dry read sometimes, but his posts always have some gold in them. In his latest post , Freedom of Speech and Interrupting a Presentation,” he explains in clearly and precisely just why so many people confuse freedom of speech with freedom to rant and disrupt others. During this year’s campaign cycle, the article should be required reading for all political protesters, particularly the ones that use intimidation and “shouting down” as a tactic.

Let’s remember that everyone has the right to speak, but we also have a moral imperative to listen when others are speaking. I hope the candidates will keep this in mind.


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Razing the Church

Church DemolitionA Catholic Church was recently torn down in my community, and the uproar has been amazing. It was a lovely building of various shades of sandstone and limestone. At one time, before the soot of decades of steel mills and factories dulled the color, it was a warm, golden color. More recently it had become a darker version of its original glory, but was still a beautiful little church with a rose window and some stunning stained glass. But it had sat empty for years. The Catholic diocese had closed it a decade ago because there weren’t enough people attending and they couldn’t afford the upkeep. The remaining members began attending another church just a few miles away, where they joined an active congregation and got on with their religious lives.

Which is why I’m so astounded by the outcry over tearing down a building that was standing empty for years. At one point, it was sold to someone who was going to convert it to office space. That fell through. Then, someone invested a lot of money into turning it into a restaurant. That fell through as well. Finally, a large chain store bought the property and surrounding homes so that they could raze the whole thing and build a big box store. Not that I’m a fan of those big box stores, but the property had been vandalized numerous times and the weeds were overgrown and the place looked terrible.

As soon as the announcement was made that they church was going to be torn down, residents of my town were up in arms. “Why?!” the cried. “Who will save our historic, beautiful church?”  They had several arguments, which I’ll list below with my own thoughts on this issue. I am just baffled by the whole situation.

The church is historically significant.

No, it isn’t. I’ve been to the local historical society. I’ve combed the archives of the local libraries. I’ve done Internet searches. The church is not historically significant. Just because it is old and a church doesn’t mean it is historically important. Hundreds of churches are consolidated, closed or moved every year. And let’s remember that the “church” is not supposed to be the building – it’s supposed to be the people. And they’ve moved on.

I was baptized there/My children were baptized there/I was married there, etc.

This goes back to the concept of “historically significant.”  Are you the President? A famous preacher? A history maker on a national or international scale?  No? Then it doesn’t matter that you were baptized or married there to anyone except you and your family. Tearing down the church shouldn’t make your sacraments any less valuable to you. This kind of reaction also smacks of self-centeredness – the building should stand forever even though it is empty and rotting where it stands simply because you feel nostalgic about it.

Someone needs to save it for the community.

When the church closed, everyone cried that someone should save it. Two different groups tried to by repurposing the building for offices and/or a restaurant. But each time, they got push-back from the community. The didn’t like the interior being divided up, they didn’t want alcohol to be served by the restaurant, and the list went on. So if the protestors don’t like the solutions offered, they should have either stepped in with their own money or been a little less critical of others. Many people have rejected every proposal for repurposing this building. I suspect they would protest ANY idea put forth for the building unless it was to simply keep letting it be a monument to their personal past that would have continued to crumble until it fell down on its own.

It’s important to our community.

This is the easiest thing in the world to refute. The church is the body of the congregation (at least in the church I was raised in), not the building. While I agree it is sad that a lovely old building couldn’t be saved, I feel that way about any older, beautiful piece of architecture, whether it is an older home, a community center or an apartment building. But if no one can repurpose them, it’s important to the community to provide new services and opportunities, not let a pile of stone and glass sit abandoned and neglected.

Frankly, if this church had been important enough while all of these people were growing up and then raising their own families, they would have been filling the pews every Sunday, not just for special occasions. The church would still be a thriving religious community and the diocese would not have closed it. The fact is, many people who are in an uproar over this will admit when asked that they hadn’t attended services there on a regular basis for years before it closed. Their religious objections to taking down the church were based largely on nostalgia, not religious conviction.

If your church is truly important to you, be there. Otherwise, please don’t make your community carry the burden of guilt because that particular building is one you used to visit for major holidays and the occasional wedding. That is a lip service religion at best, or the force of generations of habit. But it’s not enough to keep a dead, empty church standing.

 

 


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The Creation Museum: Harmless or Horrible?

If you’ve visited here before, you know that I’m a “live and let live” kind of atheist. I don’t mind others who worship, pray, praise, etc. in the name of God. I still miss attending church on Sundays and still go with my family when I go back to my hometown. I can take away the sense of community and friendship and leave the Christian rhetoric behind. But the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky scares the hell out of me.

Dinosaur

Is this the first pet? Comedian Lewis Black once referred to some Creationists as people who “believe the Flintstones is a documentary.” He may not be wrong.

This is a museum that has impressive dioramas, interactive displays and more that focus on supporting the “young earth” theory of certain conservative forms of Christianity. This is the belief, based on the Bible, that the planet is less than 10,000 years old. Among the many instance of Creationism parting from the actual science of our earth’s history are the beliefs that Adam and Eve coexist with dinosaurs (you read that right, I’m sorry to say), the Grand was carved by Noah’s flood and that there is (of course) only one path to saving the earth and society. It doesn’t really explain how becoming a Christian will save the planet, but the Creation Museum isn’t long on real science.

Being a Christian doesn’t bother me. Being conservative doesn’t bother me. As long as you aren’t trying to brainwash whole families into turning away from scientific fact. There are many Christians (and Muslims and Jews, for that matter) who strongly believe in God, but don’t turn their backs on science. You can be both a Scientist and a Believer, unless your faith is of the Ken Ham variety. Ham, the founder of the Creation Museum, stresses that the Creation Museum is designed to give visitors the tools they need to defend against “attacks” on the Bible’s authority using geology, anthropology, biology and more. He even claims that science actually confirms the Biblical story of creation.

What alarms me is the pseudo-science and the platitudes of the Creation Museum’s message. It’s too easy to say that our culture is crumbling, disease is rampant and social ills are mushrooming because we’ve turned away from God. The Museum infers that if only the world would turn back to Christ, the ills of the world would fall away. That’s just too damned easy. It relieves future generations from having to actually do anything to save the world or improve the human condition. It also turns future generations against science so that scientific inquiry dies.

If the Creation Museum succeeds in its purpose, while the earth may be much older than it says, it could well die in less than 10,000 years. And who will there be to blame then?