What a prison

This week I spent some time on Twitter having discussions with believers.  It’s quite interesting and well…fun. I actually do learn, having to look up facts and understand my position more on different topics related to religion.

One thing that I try not to do is respond with my emotions or frustration. Sometimes this can be very difficult. Especially when you hear the same things over and over, like “if we came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?”

But what I try to do more than anything is just ask question after question to the believers. By asking basic questions about their faith and religion, it becomes quite clear that some of them have done little to no research and all of them believe for no good reason their holy book and god is real. Ultimately it just falls on faith. Of course those of us who do not believe already know this about the religious. Its nothing new. “It’s true because the bible says! I know..that I know..that I know! You’ll never change my mind!” Says the faithful.

Another thing I find disturbing, (other than the fact that these Twitter believers think we atheist chatting with them are satan worshipping heathens. Then again, maybe my little dragon logo doesn’t help. Haha!) is how some refer to themselves. They call themselves wretched sinners, filthy rags, not worthy to live, not worthy of their gods love and grace. Yes, this is how some of the believers on Twitter speak about themselves! It is all certainly from the bible. How degrading.

When I see these people on Twitter credit themselves in such a way, it makes me think of the prison they live in. I feel genuinely sad for them. It is sad that the only value they place on themselves and others is what an imagined god holds for them. I lived like that for many years. Its just sad to think about really. I’m so glad I’m out of that bondage. It really is like breaking free of chains.

Another thing that I have to shake my head at that most christians do is give credit to their god when they accomplish deeds with their hard work or achieve goals. They will stand there after busting their ass on a project, or getting a job, etc and say, “god did this”. It couldn’t possibly be that you spent months, years or a lifetime hitting the grindstone to get where you are. Give yourself some credit folks!

The experience of either debating or simply discussing religion with believers on Twitter has been educational. I don’t expect to change anyones belief or minds and certainly I doubt anything will be produced to change my mind. I guess I see it as good practice in having the discussions in general and developing my own style of debating. Plus like I said, it forces me to know exactly how I see things and find evidence that I find convincing by doing the research for myself. I can say what I think and why I think it. Whereas, a couple of christians on Twitter that I’ve tried to pin down what they believe, why and where is the evidence just pointed me to other websites or just ended the conversation with their god is the one true god. End of conversation. They didn’t seem to care to tell me what THEY thought, but what others thought or just that god did it. Which I understand. I used to be the same way when I tried to believe, but had no good reason to.

One additional concern I have when talking to christians on Twitter is they consistantly seem to want the (I win) button, instead of furthering the conversation. They seem to want to end the questioning as soon as possible, let me know their god is the real god over all and can do anything. Bam done. Most of the questions I present don’t get addressed, which is not surprising. Or as I said earlier, they send me to some other web link instead of giving the answers of what they think themselves.

I will continue being open to conversations with christians or people of other religions. It really is fascinating. If anything interesting comes up, I’ll make sure to write about it here.

 

 

 

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A sad dinner

After several weeks of thinking on it and discussions, my wife and I have decided to put our dogs down. It’s sad but for the best.

Last night at dinner we decided to let the kids know and discuss it. It was quite emotional. Everyone was crying by the end of it as we talked about how the process is done and how we will miss them. We also talked about times that we had over the past ten years with them.

On into the evening, the kids wanted to share their beds, pillows and blankets with the dogs. It was very cute. They pet the dogs a little extra. And they talked about getting a hamster or a fish tank as replacement pets. I think in attempts to move past the saddness. We’ve decided against any more dogs in the future.

At bed time, my 5 year old daughter wanted to talk more about the dogs with my wife. She wished they didn’t have to get a shot and that they could live forever. We have believers in the family that still tell our kids about christianity and living eternally with god after we die. We aren’t the type of parents that tell our kids what they must believe or not. We allow them to discover things on their own, though we do let them know that we don’t believe and why.

My daughter asked my wife if they could pray for the dogs to live forever. And so she did that with her. She didn’t preach to our daughter in that moment that their probably is not a god there to listen. Didn’t tell her there was no point in praying. She let our daughter have her moment of coping how she wanted to and to have “the faith of a child.”

Its amazing being able to be open and honest with our kids about this stuff. We don’t have to pretend that the stories in the bible are true with them. We don’t have to worship a god that there is no evidence for. Yet, we can still let them make those determinations and decisions for themselves. I love talking to my kids about it.

Needless to say, our childs prayer for our dogs will be another one gone up in the air. We will still have a very sad day coming next month. This experience with my family is unique for us and one I wouldn’t trade for anything.

We finally made it through dinner all teary eyed. However we left the washing up for later and chose to go spend time with the dogs instead.

The understanding of Atheism

As I scour the internet on Twitter and various blogs on the subject of faith, religion and atheism, it seems I learn something new practically every day. Either some new fact about science, evolution, the bible, family issues.  Also from time to time I see tweets, articles and blogs from people who clearly have a misunderstanding about things like atheism and evolution.

Almost daily I see a re-tweet of some one that either doesn’t understand the evolution theory or just wants to reject evolution based on their religious beliefs. I see the same thing, “If we evolved from monkeys, whey are there still monkeys?” Granted, some of these people may not really understand what evolution says or are just making condescending remarks just to be annoying. I don’t pretend to understand evolution fully by any stretch, but I understand the basic premises of the theory. (I’ve included a link to the definition of theory. It shows the rigorous process that takes place in science for an idea to become a theory.)

Another misunderstanding that I frequently see from believers is what an atheist is. An atheist is nothing more than a person who is without a belief in a god or gods. That’s it. We say that there is no evidence proving the existence of any claimed god.  Atheism does not make the claim that no god could exist. We don’t know, and neither does the believer. There is not any evidence whatsoever that can prove the existence of god. Atheist do not declare that they can prove that god does not exist as this blog post goes on about. And no atheist claims to be all knowing or a god. The first argument in this blog comes from ignorance in the understanding of what an atheist is.

Yes there are a few rough edges in the atheist movement. But from what I’ve witnessed it is a small portion out of the rest of the reasonable people.

Their second argument for intelligent design is easily thrown out, as it has been time and time again with science. But the most damning fact is that 99.9% of the worlds species to ever live has gone extinct. This is the Folly of any idea of an intelligent designer that is absolutely not required for natures natural selection.

Of course christians and people from other religions will ignore the facts and insist on believing anyway. To them it is more important to just believe that to pay attention to real scientific facts.

Thanks to @perth_atheist on Twitter for bringing the Candid Apologetics site to our attention. Its still fun stuff to read and see what science REALLY says about the claims of those believing on faith.

A new step in the right direction

Well, it finally happened. I got to talk openly this week to someone about my de-conversion and steps towards atheism. Its been about a year since I let go of religion once in for all. Over the course of the past year I’ve read books, listened to hundreds of hours of podcasts, attended my first free thought and atheist convention, read the bible critically and had many chats with my wife who is on her second full year of un-belief. But I’ve never talked to any one else close to me about it all.

I have been dying to talk to others about where I am at now with christianity and religion. But have been cautious about how to go about it. It is still quite a scary thing. Especially when it comes to talking to family about it. Which is who I had the opportunity to talk to this week. I had lunch with an in-law who is christian. And it was he who brought it up.

He started by asking me if my wife was still on her “atheism thing”. It kind of took me off guard, but I said, “yes..yes she is.” Then he asked if I was going in that direction as well. I knew it was on then. I stretched my arms as I thought of what to say. But I gave the simplest answer that I could. “Yes, I am.”

He asked what was leading me in that direction. I explained to him how I became a christian in the first place. It was out of fear of hell. When I was in high school, I had a few friends I hung out with that I had no idea were christians. I partied with them all the time. Then for some reason one night the subject of god came up. They asked the usual fear tactic question, “if you were to die tonight, would you go to hell or heaven.” Hell certainly didn’t sound like a desirable destination. So they lead me through the “sinners prayer” and evidently I was “saved”. Then we went back to partying.

So I lived the next 20-25 years as a blind faith christian, with the “fear of the lord” and fear of hell. I constantly had doubts that I just pushed back and lived on faith alone. I read the bible occasionally, but it was usually a laborious task. I constantly asked myself if I really believed it was the word of god and if god was even real. I never wanted to talk to or “witness” to anyone out of fear they might ask me questions about why I believe. I knew I didn’t have any good answers other than I just have faith.

Then, after about eight years of marriage, I watched my wife become honest with herself and began to question religion. I wanted to still be a christian (mainly because all our friends and family were) so it was difficult to see her go down that road. Over a period of a year or two, she decided she didn’t believe anymore. In our conversations about it, what she would say always made more sense. All I could say was, “I have faith.” That’s all I had.

I told him how I had read the bible more over the past two years than I ever had. I explained that it doesn’t quite make sense that these books were so hard to understand. At this he kind of shrugged his shoulders as if to say (whats so difficult to understand?). I talked about how so many people interpret things in the bible so differently. I told him how I might read a questionable passage and how someone might say, “well, what is REALLY meant by that passage is…blah blah blah.” But the passage clearly says this, and someone else says it means that? How am I to make sense of it all? If my eternal soul is dependent on whats written in the book, it shouldn’t take some scholar, who also makes mistakes, to interpret the whole damn thing for me. I can read. I can see what it says, and it doesn’t make sense.

Another thing I talked about is how it became time for me to search for myself honestly about what is real and what is not. No longer could I simply have faith in what my friends and family had faith in. No longer could I believe just because they all did. In all my years as a christian I never had an “encounter with god” or “felt his presence”. I certainly made claims that I had been touched by god, but it wasn’t true. I wanted it to be true, but in all honesty, it wasn’t. It was just the christian lingo, to be in the presence of god. It’s all just atmosphere and emotions.

The conversation then turned to him telling me a story he had heard the night before at his bible study group. It was another story of a guy getting diagnosed with cancer and given only weeks to live. However, the cancer somehow leaves his body, he gets all his strength back and continues living. The man credited god with this miracle and tells his tale as proof for god. And I guess it was somehow supposed to be sufficient evidence to prove to me that it couldn’t be explained, therefore god DID heal him.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am very glad the guy is no longer living with cancer. Who knows, maybe there is a god who saw fit to heal this particular man of cancer. But it can’t be proven and therefore isn’t evidence. I can’t take this story, and many many stories like it (from more religions than just christianity by the way) and just say, “Ok, I believe it now because you said so.” This is exactly what I am trying to get away from. I would be starting at square one again.

Even if I were to get cancer, given a short time to live, then all of a sudden become free of it all, I wouldn’t take it as evidence for a divine healer. I would be happy as hell, but not convinced of a god.

What would it take for me to believe? Evidence that is testable, verifiable and probably not just some incident that only I can see. But is witnessed by more than myself.

Our 30 minute conversation came to a close by switching the conversation to business and work. I felt pretty good about how I made my points. No one got heated. It pretty much happened the way I played out in my thoughts several times before. I just didn’t know who the exchange would take place with. I’m sure there will be many more to come and with other family and friends as word starts to spread.

Just one more small step on the journey.

Skepticon 6 Day 2

It was very difficult to get up and around this morning as the day started out grey, cloudy and rainy. But Seth Andrews and Aron Ra were going to be speaking first thing, so we got up and got our coffee.

As we walked up to the convention center, we could hear someone squawking out of a mega-phone/ loud speaker type thing. I knew immediately it was some dude, preaching hell fire and damnation rubbish. As we walked closer he was going on about the brainwashing of universities. How they were teaching the lies of evolution. He also wailed on about how the fool says in his heart there is no god. As I held the door open for my wife, a lady said welcome and handed me a piece of paper. I said thanks and politely accepted. I glanced at it and sure enough it read something about accepting christ. So I then politely threw it away.

We were a bit late for Seths talk. But what we did hear was nice and encouraging. Atheists, non-believers and skeptics surely have a reputation for being obnoxious, rude, immoral, etc. But as Seths talk was about and what I for the most part witnessed so far at the convention, the person yelling at us just outside the convention doors was a great deal more rude and obnoxious.

Yes, I acknowledge that there is a certain number of non-believers that can be obscene and insulting to believers. But I believe I am witnessing before my eyes a group of skeptics that I can relate to in a more mature and rational way. And this is what Seths talk was about. The love and respect for humanity. It was awesome.

Next up was another of my hero’s, Aron Ra. I am amazed at how much is known about the fossil records. Here again, I admit that a lot of what he talked about, I don’t completely understand. But I do get the gist of the evolutionary records and science. I understand that the data puts the nail on the coffin of creationism. Yes, I don’t grasp most of it now, but look forward to continuing to learn about it. It is fascinating. Its not that evolution is so difficult to understand, its that there is so much information, its going to take time for me to take it in.

The next highlight of the day for me was getting to see Richard Carrier. The room was nearly full for his presentation. He talked about good and bad philosophy. Again, a lot of information about a discipline that I have looked very little into. But it was really cool seeing how good philosophy comes about. Just more stuff I look forward to studying up on.

Richards talk was the last one before dinner. So after it was over, about 1000 people were making their way out of the auditorium. It was very slow going and my wife made the comment, “man, this is like leaving church.” I had to laugh because it was true. We used to go to a mega-church and it is always slow walking out of the building.

We didn’t make it back to any more presentations after dinner. My wife needed some rest as her pregnancy was getting the best of her. So we just relaxed in the room and talked about the day. Its been awesome getting the opportunity to experience Skepticon with her. Having conversations about religion, evolution, science and raising our kids in it all has been good for us.

Still a newbie.

I have been a doubter, skeptic and critical thinker now for just over a year. So only recently have I been looking at the bible without my god glasses. It has been a new perspective to say the least. I remember as a christian reading the bible and skimming over or just accepting ignorance on the tough passages and mainly paying attention to the more “encouraging” verses. I looked for the scriptures that made me feel good. The ones that were easy to digest.

I can tell you over the past year, even though I had doubts and was thinking more critically about the bible and religious claims, there were times I still tried to hang on to faith. But the more I read, the more I had questions and doubted. It was very tough being around christian friends. Especially when they would pray. I tried to avoid praying as much as possible around others. Something about it just felt silly. Like we were just talking to ourselves. Now I know we were.

I do have to admit that I am still grateful to some of my christian friends who helped me through some tough times over the past year. I’ve not been able to talk to any of them about my unbelief.

I know I have a lot to learn. I still spend a lot of time reading the bible. However, I read it with a critical mindset. It has been quite fascinating. Seeing the flaws and contradictions. Seeing just how wrong the bible is and understanding the human errors it presents. It has become more clear that it is not an inspired text from some deity. Maybe the authors believed some of what they wrote about. But a lot of the new testament reads like it was written by factions with certain agendas in mind. Over all, the bible is not a book to follow for good morals. It fails in so many ways.

I have also been slowly learning about evolution. This is a topic that can get overwhelming, but is also quite captivating. It is clear to me that science is well on its way to discovering and has discovered so much about life. I am very new to studying and acquiring knowledge about evolution. I don’t see how anyone can ignore the evidence of fossil records and the science of evolution.

I get up every day and look forward to learning something new. I try to keep an open mind to what is truth. So far religion hasn’t shown anything that leads me to believe in a god. But I can conclude that if there is a god, it certainly isn’t the god of the christian bible.

God works through people

Last night, my wife was telling me more about her conversation the other day with her mother. Her mom was giving most of the usual reasons why she believed. When my wife had an answer or response, her mom might come back with more, but would also say, “I can see your point.” or would just move on to the next thing, likely because she had no answer back to my wife.

Then the big one came. Her mother made the comment, “God works through people.” Another argument that is supposed to be convincing I guess. To which my wife responded, “Of course, he has to, because he’s not there.”

Now I’ve heard a lot of things in my recent search and listening to podcasts that make me stop and go, “Wow, never thought of it like that.” But this was probably the most profound thing I’ve heard in a while. It hit me hard. It her her mother hard too. Her mom had a look of shock and probably could see how far away from being a christian my wife was. And unless better evidence comes along for god, she likely won’t be going back.