Browsing Archives for Journey to Atheism

I’ve been thinking about the ten commandments lately and how god really missed a spectacular opportunity with this trim little list of rules.  Just think about it.  If the ten commandments had actually been intelligent laws, the world could have advanced so much sooner.  Instead the ten commandments are weak, short sighted, lacking the type of insight one would expect of a god and completely undeserving of making any top ten list for anything.  Yet these rules continue to be touted and engraved and memorized and etched into stone monuments in public parks and taught to little kids as if they were the most valuable laws in all of human history.  Which they are not.

The first four commandments…

1  Do not have any gods before me.

2.  Don’t make idols of other gods.

3.  Don’t take the lord’s name in vain.

4.  Remember the sabbath and keep it holy.

None of these commandments have anything to do with how to treat other people, live morally, or make the world a better place. Instead they focus entirely on god.  It is almost as if the god who laser beamed these commandments into the stone tablets is a paranoid control freak who lives in terror of losing his power.  Did this god forget to take his meds on the day he wrote these laws?  Was he feeling lonely… neglected… ignored… insecure… fat?  Was he suffering from a pimply breakout?  Had his girlfriend just dumped him?  Talk about your high maintenance god!   Oh well – there are six more to go – I am sure god will make up for his hyperactive control issues with some radiantly brilliant laws that will point all of humanity towards a perfect life.  Let’s see what god came up with next!

Commandment Five –

5.  Honor your mother and father so that the days may be long in the land that the lord is giving you.

Uh… okay…

But what if your parents are abusive?  Criminals?  Addicts?  Amoral?  Immoral?  Raving Lunatics?  Bloggers?  Must one still honor them?  There is also a nice little promise that follows this law. Evidently, the person who honors his or her parents is granted longevity and land.  Awesome!  So where is this land?  What about all the people who faithfully honored their parents their entire lives, and yet lived out their days in crowded tenement squalor dying of the German measles when they were nineteen?   Honoring one’s parent’s is a nice idea, but should it really make the top ten of all time?  Really?  How about outlawing genocide instead?

Commandment Six…

6.  You shall not murder.

I have no problems with this particular commandment, but I do wonder why god encourages his people to break it over and over again.  In the old testament, god is constantly leading the Israelites out to annihilate neighboring tribes (including the babies and the children) and also requiring death for breaking the most minor of laws such as working on the sabbath or disobeying your parents.  Then there is the troubling scene where god asks Abraham to murder his own son. I guess god can make the laws and god can break the laws.  Because that teaches people that… uh that… um… that.. uh… what does this teach people again?

Commandment Seven…

7. You shall not commit adultery.

Um okay… this is a good rule to live by.  But is it really more paramount than say – outlawing child abuse?

Or forbidding pedophilia?

I know that unfaithful spouses are the source of much heartbreak and misery, but adultery rarely leads to mass death, horrible destruction or the sexual torture of a child. Outlawing adultery seems a mite weak when you consider a few of the options god could have chosen instead.  Like maybe – don’t burn people at the stake if they have brilliant scientific ideas or if they practice a different religion.  Oh but wait… that goes against #1 and #2.  Nevermind.

Commandment Eight…

8.  You shall not steal.

This law is also okay.  It might be somewhat problematic if you are a starving parent with a houseful of kids taking only a few apples from your selfish neighbor’s tree.  Or a slave that over the course of twenty years manages to steal enough pennies to finally buy a bus ticket to freedom.  If god had insisted that no one can starve or if god had outlawed slavery this would be a moot point.  But god didn’t outlaw starvation or slavery… did he.

Commandment Nine…

9.  You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

We are taught that this law is supposed to mean ‘don’t lie’, but upon closer examination (without the rose colored lenses of faith)  it doesn’t really seem to be about lying at all. It seems to apply to some type of a courtroom situation.  As if someone has been implicated in a crime and god is insisting that the neighbors of this person must testify honestly in court.   I actually think testifying honestly is a better law than the more simple and austere ‘do not lie’.  There are clearly situations when lying is a good thing.  For instance…

Never tell a woman that her jeans make her butt look big – even if they do.

Never tell grandma your true feelings about her sauerkraut surprise – even if it tastes like stump rot.

Never tell your small daughter that her drawing of a platypus looks nothing like a platypus.

Never tell the plantation owner that you are hiding seventeen escaping slaves in your well house.

Etc, etc etc…

Honest testimony is a good thing, but overall I think the guarantee of a fair trial is probably better.  But I’m no god so what do I know?

Commandment Ten…

10.   You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

So no coveting.

Really?

Really god?

You are going to end with this?

This is your big finish lord?

You are going to outlaw desire?

You are making wishful thinking criminal?

Why?

Why does this matter god?

Why does this make the big ten?

Why not outlaw SLAVERY!

Or how about RAPE!

Or maybe CHILD ABUSE FOR CHRIST’S SAKE!

Do you realize how much good you could have done god?

How much pain you could have prevented?

How many lives you could have saved?

How much misery you could have stopped?

It is almost as if these laws were written by a barbaric tribal overlord who was using the idea of god to control his people.

WAIT!

No Way!

Holy shit!


And so – since the ten commandments were clearly written by a person and not by a god, I thought I would attempt my own version.

The Ten Commandments

By Rechelle

1.  Never hurt a child.

2.  No war.

3.  No slavery

4. No murder.

5. Basic human rights for all people regardless of sex, race, IQ level, eye color, hair color, political affiliation, and yes, even if they are K-State fans.

6. Learn

7. Share

8. Everyone gets a vote.

9. No gods at all.

10. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (Which did not originate with Jesus, but with ancient Chinese Confucianism, further promoting the theory that Jesus visited China during the problematic ‘missing years’.)

I would love to hear other versions of the ten commandments.

Off to tackle the beatitudes.

CDW Gets Committed!

February 11th, 2010

I was very anxious to read Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Committed, because I loved her last book, Eat, Pray, Love.  My old songwriting buddy, Forrest Whitlow, had emailed me about Eat, Pray, Love and it was so unusual to hear from Forrest that I charged right out and bought the book. And I loved it! More than once, while reading that book, I actually had to put the book down and sob for five or six minutes at a time.  Then I would pull myself back together and read a few more pages, stop, sob, pull self together, read a few more pages, stop, sob, pull self together, etc,etc…

I don’t really know why I had such a visceral reaction to Eat, Pray, Love, except that it offered up a picture of god that was so refreshing.  Gilbert’s idea of religion is basically – love life, enjoy life, love people, enjoy people, meditate, help and eat lots of good food.  I could deal with this god.  This god was sending no one to hell. This god loved everyone.  No, really loved everyone and not just the ones that believed in a specific version of a specific creed. This god was about making the most out of what you had, having adventures, being curious, seeking truth, making friends, pizza, ice-cream and sex on the beach.  I could totally deal with this god.

If I could only find that god in christianity, I might never have left.  But that god wasn’t to be found in christianity, so I moved onto atheism. Which is nice because now I can make the most out of what I have, have adventures, be curious, seek truth, make friends, eat pizza and ice cream while having sex on the beach without god!  Which is good, because with god would be kind of awkward.

When Committed came out, I snapped it up.  It’s a good book – a quick read.  Gilbert wrote a lot about the history of marriage and how different cultures approach it.  These stories were the most interesting parts of the book for me.  She also wrote a lot about her own impending nuptials which involves her ‘then boyfriend’ getting deported and how she had to decide if she could face down marriage again to get him back after her disastrous first go-round and subsequent painful divorce.   Committed is no Eat, Pray, Love. I did not break down and sob a dozen times nor even blink back a single tear, but I did enjoy the book.  Which is part of Gilbert’s manifesto on god and part of my manifesto on atheism.  I may have to add it as an eleventh commandment.

Thou Shalt Enjoy Good Books!

A few months ago when I finally admitted to myself that I no longer believed in god, I knew I was going to need some support.  So I did what every brand new non-believer does in the era of cyberspace. I googled ‘atheism’.

The first few times I typed the word ‘atheism’ into my google search bar, I felt certain that a thunder clap from heaven would descend upon my quivering hide and immediately smelt me into a blackened crisp.  Just the word alone –  atheism – is such a thorny term.  You can literally feel the pointed horns, see the flicking barbed tail, and smell the charred flesh.  I have noticed that a lot of people prefer the terms ‘free thinker’ or ‘skeptic’, ‘secular humanist’ or even ‘infidel’ to the disagreeable snarl of the word ‘atheist’. I don’t like the word ‘atheist’ either. Not because it is a bad word, it’s just the images that the word tends to summon. It seems to describe someone who rejects goodness and light, someone who has a stone in place of a heart, someone who spits on bibles and urinates in churchyards laughing maniacally all the while.  I too had this idea in my head and panicked at the thought of one of my kids coming up behind me while I was watching Mr. Deity or a video of Richard Dawkins interviewing Ted Haggard I mean JESUS!  What if my entire family finds out that I not only don’t believe in god anymore, but that I am actually looking for OTHER PEOPLE that don’t believe in god EITHER!  

But I was desperate.  So I kept up my secret searches when the house was empty or everyone was asleep.  And Lo!  In the midst of my searching a new heaven and a new earth did descend.  And a world of atheism opened up before my very eyes.  AND GUESS WHAT!!!  It turns out that I am not the only person who has ever lost their faith and then looked on the internet to find other people that were in the same boat.  

AND GUESS WHAT ELSE!!!!  

None of these sites were coated in pure evil!  

I know!  

It’s so totally weird!

There were no melting humans or smoldering cauldrons.  No gnarled fingers, poisonous apples and toothless rag pickers muttering curses under their breath.  I must admit that I was mildly disappointed in the benign appearance of the various atheism sites.  I mean if you are going to be an atheist on the internet shouldn’t you at least take a photo of yourself with a large ’666′ on your forehead and stick it up on the header?  But these people weren’t scary at all!  And once I started to read, listen, watch and participate in their sites, I discovered that they are actually quite sane! 

MAYBE THE MOST SANE PEOPLE EVER!

But there is MORE!

Because there are a lot of intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate atheism sites out there.  

A LOT!  

No.  

You don’t understand.  

There are more intelligent, thoughtful and influential atheism sites on the internet than you can imagine!  And best selling books, world renowned comedians, clever skits, powerful debates and riveting videos.

It is almost like a quiet revolution is taking place.  

ON THE INTERNET!

Where once atheism was such a reprehensible idea that no one felt free to utter their disbelief aloud, the internet has allowed atheists to find each other.  To talk to each other.  It offers safe zones and communities where fellow unbelievers can discuss issues freely amongst themselves without worrying about a social stigma.  There are also believers on those sites.  Their dissent is tolerated and their debate is welcomed, but for once they do not have the crushing power of the majority.  The success of these sites, books, videos and other resources honestly makes me wonder if the belief in any kind of a god will come to a complete end in my own lifetime.  

I know!  

It’s a crazy thing to say!  And probably completely wrong, but once you have participated in these groups, seen the sanity of the way they think, understand that humanity is so much better at taking care of themselves than any imaginary deity – you begin to see such incredible potential.  

Potential for war to just dry up altogether because if people aren’t fighting over god, they really aren’t fighting that much. 

Potential for people to take full responsibility for the here and now because there is no golden eternity with wings and a halo waiting for them on the other side.  

Potential for the focus of life to change entirely from  grab, grab, grab, and go.  To care, care, care and prepare.  

I wanted to make a list of the resources and sites that were critical for me especially during my first few weeks of disbelief. Thanks to everyone who writes, creates, and keeps these sites going.  They helped me greatly when I really needed it and they continue to help and provide support for me in this brand new way of looking at life.  

 

Atheist Blogs 

Unreasonable Faith  – Written by Daniel Florien, a former evangelical christian who attended bible college and worked in christian ministry.  Daniel was just never able to completely shut his brain off and he kept thinking, reading, thinking, reading and in the end, god had to go. There is also a forum that accompanies his blog on such topics as evolution, creation science, close minded relatives, and what three movies would you take with you on a deserted island (assuming a DVD player is available). I also found a great interview where Daniel addresses all that guilty sex before marriage that christians can’t seem to stop having even though it is so, so, SO bad.

The Red Headed Skeptic – A former Baptist Minister’s wife lost her belief and then her marriage and writes about her journey. This is a very compelling and often sad story, but Laura is determined to keep moving forward with her new life.

The Friendly Atheist – Written by a Chicago math teacher Hemant Mehta, the same guy who sold his soul on Ebay.  People often write to Hemant and the contributors on his blog seeking advice on how to handle various issues that occur when one does not believe in god.  Everything from how to escape from a country with unbearable religious tyranny to how to deal with angry relatives that can’t cope with an atheist’s disbelief. His blog also covers a variety of other issues.  

Why Doesn’t God Heal Amputees? – If you are a person of faith or diminishing faith and have never asked yourself this question, the time has come. I don’t know how many hours of my life I have sat in church services while the prayers of the people were lifted up one by one almost all of them asking god to heal various illnesses throughout the congregation. Miraculously, many of those people were healed – cancers, heart attacks, more cancers, even more cancers, EVEN MORE CANCERS, but never once did a person ask god to re-grow an amputated limb. Why is that? I mean if god can make a tumor disappear, why can’t he re-grow a leg?  God Is Imaginary  is another site that appears to be written by the same author who chooses to remain anonymous. This site is a great collection of essays and videos that look at christianity and the bible from a perspective of hard core reality.

Julia Sweeney’s Blog – Okay, I just found this one and Holy Crap! I am going to go leave a comment on Julia Sweeney’s blog right now!…  Okay, I’m back….  Julia Sweeney is the actress that was ‘Pat’ on Saturday Night Live.  Surely you remember Pat! How can you forget Pat?!  She also wrote the wonderful movie “And Then God Said Ha!”  which is a must see.  I have also linked to her show ‘Giving Up God’ in the video section of this post.  If you want a gentle approach to understanding how a true believer can become a true unbeliever this is the show you need to hear. Beautifully, humorously, carefully, and tenderly done.  I think even my mom would like it.  

 

Thought provoking videos/films

 Mr. Deity – Oh Lordy – You have to watch all of these. You will never look at your faith the same again. A reader of my blog directed me to these videos many months before I officially gave up my faith and it became even harder to keep up the last bits of my farcical belief after I watched them.

God Is Imaginary  - This video forces people to examine what they really believe if they think the bible is ‘god’s word’.

Ricky Gervais on the bible. - Hilarious! You can’t watch this video and not be forced to look at the insanity of what christianity requires people to believe. Unless you are insane yourself.  Or completely devoid of a sense of humor.  

Julia Sweeney’s Letting Go of God - As I mentioned above, this is the show to listen to if you can’t comprehend someone giving up god after a lifetime of belief. Funny, thought provoking and bittersweet, only Julia could make us laugh and cry over her loss of faith.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - Four of the world’s most well known and extremely brilliant atheists from various fields of study (biology, journalism,neuroscience and philosophy)  sit around and talk about religion, politics, morality and atheism. An absolutely fascinating film.  

 

Some Truly Riveting Debates.

I spent entire days watching famous religious apologists like William Lane Craig go head to head with brilliant scientists and journalists like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins.  It’s amazing to see how defensive the theists are and how relaxed the atheists are.  After all, it is the believers that have the burden of trying to prove that an interested, caring god exists.  By the way, has anyone ever asked why they are called ‘christian apologists’?  Is that because they have so darn much to apologize for?  

Christopher Hitchens (atheist or anti-theist, best selling author and political commentator) vs. the Reverend Al Sharpton(former presidential candidate, civil rights activist and devout christian).

Richard Dawkins (one of the world’s foremost evolutionary biologists and avid atheist)  vs John Lennox ( Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science and devout christian)

Christopher Hitchens (journalist, best selling author, anti-theist) vs William Lane Craig (professional and excruciatingly uptight, christian apologist)

There are hundreds of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins videos that are wonderful to watch.  They are both great speakers with tremendous wit and sparkling intellect.  You can literally feel your mind expanding just by listening to them. ‘Tis a good cure for anyone who may have spent too much time over at Pioneer Woman (har har).

Please feel free to add more great resources in the comments.  

Or not.  

Peace Out,

Rechelle