Browsing Archives for Journey to Atheism


Oh boy!  I am really asking for it this time aren’t I?  It’s like I am a naughty two year old who just CAN’T keep my fingers out of that boiling water!

But let me back up a bit, before I dive straight into the seething pit of vipers I probably just uncovered.

This weekend we went to Wichita because my son Ethan made the state honor choir for the second year in a row.  Yeah!  That’s right!  I have a kid who can sing!  Like an angel baybee!  (If there were angels – which there are not). But anyway!

So we happened to be in Wichita for Ethan’s concert and a close relative of mine was also there with her family for the Kansas Christian Schools basketball tournament.  We spent the night in Wichita and the next morning we went to watch my relative play some ball.

The gym was in a church.  There was a band, and maybe a total of three hundred people in and out of the gym while we were there – including members of the other teams, parents, cheerleaders (with unusually long skirts) and a lot of other students there to cheer on their school’s teams.  These christian schools were from Lawrence, Topeka and Wichita -which are large cities in my state with diverse populations.  During the game it suddenly became apparent to me that everyone in the gym was white – milky white.  The bleachers were full of people with skin the color of the alabaster cities of heaven.  I carefully scanned the gym and saw maybe two Asian students, zero Hispanic students and the only two black people that were at the event during the time that I was there, were the referees in the game.

Let me just repeat that…

The only two African American attendees for this event were the referees!

Should I write that again?

The only two AFRICAN AMERICAN people in all of Topeka, Wichita, and Lawrence who showed up for the Kansas Christian Athletic Association basketball tournament were the REFEREES!

I live in a small town in Kansas with a predominantly white population.  And yet we have more African American basketball participants in one grade level in any of my son’s classes than an entire gym full of people at this christian basketball tournament.

After this experience, I think I can honestly question the true motives of choosing a christian school for your child.  What are people really doing when they make that choice?  What are they really screening out?  What are they honestly hoping to avoid?

And might I suggest some diversity training to compensate for all that bland, boring, sameness in those private christian schools?

And guess who has a really awesome tutorial up for you to peruse!

My favorite blogger!

PIONEER WOMAN!

And what makes her tutorial so freaking awesome is that you never even have to leave your house to learn about diversity!  All you have to do is BUY SOME DIFFERENT COLORED PLASTIC DOLLS  and then never say a word to your kids about other races or ethnic groups!  The dolls are all they NEED to learn about different races!  This truly is a revolutionary way to learn about all kinds of people!  And so much easier than say – actually knowing someone that is different!  I tell you what, my respect for that web site and the astounding intellect behind it grows exponentially each and every day!

The Evangelical Church, Just Not That Into Fighting Racism

The bible is riddled with behaviors that promote the idea of racism.  Beginning with the mythological curse and  ’mark of Caanan’ which has historically been believed to be dark skin, to the New Testament in which the Apostle Paul writes that slaves must repectfullly submit to their masters.   The bible and it’s contents were used by pro-slavery forces throughout the Civil War to justify the South’s use of slave labor.  It is easy to build a case for racism by using the bible and many white supremacist groups continue to do so today.      

America’s churches (and christian schools) remain remarkably segregated by race.  According to a book written by two evangelical christians called Divided by Faith - the evangelical christian church is inherently incapable of creating a more integrated society.  This review written by Austin Cline discusses the reason why the evangelical church is so inept at actively working to eliminate racism.

Cline writes…

It’s interesting that while conservative evangelical Christians are unequivocal in their support for racial equality, the very structures of their faith serve to perpetuate inequality. How and why this occurs is the subject of Michael O. Emerson and Christian Smith‘s book Divided by Faith: Evangelical Religion and the Problem of Race in America. The authors conducted more than 2,000 telephone surveys and 200 face-to-face interviews with black and white evangelicals in order to better understand what they believe, why, and how the two groups differ despite both laying claim to the “evangelical” label.

“[W]e argue that religion, as structured in America, is unable to make a great impact on the racialized society. In fact, far from knocking down racial barriers, religion generally serves to maintain those historical divides, and helps to develop new ones. …[R]eligion in America can serve as a moral force in freeing people, but not in bringing them together as equals across racial lines.”

In another section of Cline’s review of this book he sums up the white evangelical response to the Civil Rights Movement…

All through the Civil Rights era, white evangelical leaders attempted to put the brakes on what black evangelical and civil rights leaders were doing.  It’s not that they were themselves especially racist (though some were), but that they felt the confrontational tactics of the civil rights movement were too harsh and that change had to come more slowly. However opposed they were to segregation personally, they refused to challenge the system head-on. As a consequence, injustice prevailed longer than was necessary.  

 So, I guess I am not the first person to notice that Christianity promotes segregation of the races.  Are evangelical churches (and their accompanying schools) racist?  No.  But segregation of the races seems to be inherent in these institutions and no one seems to be particularly bothered about it.  Imagine if public schools operated that way?  Oh wait!  They did!  And as shown above – America’s white evangelicals did nothing as a group to solve the problem. White evangelicals were extremely happy to allow racism to diminish the lives and the education of their African American neighbors.  They did not jump on the Civil Rights bandwagon.  Instead they complained about the ‘methods’ employed by Martin Luther King Jr and prayed that the problem would just go away.  

In many ways, churches are the perfect place for races to come together under the common banner of belief – and yet this does not happen.  Why?  It is clear to any reasonable thinking person that friendship among people of different ethnic groups is one the most powerful ways to combat racially motivated hatred and discrimination.  Why do churches not use their resources and their people to move their congregations towards a less segregated society?  

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Polarization Begets Polarization And How The Internet Helps…

In a recent issue of the New Yorker, I read an article called The Things People Say by Elizabeth Kolbert.  The article speaks to how once people believe in something – even if it is proven to be false – they often still refuse to stop believing in it.  This type of thinking is worsened by the contemporary ability to filter information according to preferences, prejudices, beliefs and interests on the World Wide Web. Before the internet, a person at least had to glance over the various sections of the evening paper to find the articles that were of personal interest or watch all of the nightly news even if some stories were in direct opposition to what the viewer personally believed.  These days the internet allows people to skip all sorts of ‘other information’ and to focus entirely on the information they personally want to receive.  

The example that Kolbert gives is the Obama birth certificate conspiracy theory and how irrefutable proof was given over and over again that Obama was born in Hawaii.  Yet even after the proof was displayed in multiple ways, to a myriad of people, many times over,  a poll at the time of the election showed that as many as 28% of Republicans still did not believe that Obama was born in the US and 30% of Republicans remained unsure. The internet allows people to pick and choose their information.  The other side of the story - any story might as well not even exist.

Kolbert’s article also reported on a psychological study performed at the University of Michigan in 1970.  In this study, high-school students were divided into groups based on their answers to a questionnaire about racism. Students that exhibited ‘high prejudice’ were placed in one group.  Students with ‘low prejudice’ were also grouped together.  The students were then instructed to discuss issues such as busing and fair housing.  The study determined that when like minded people are grouped together they become even more like minded. The bigoted students became more bigoted and the tolerant students became more tolerant.

This study is fascinating in terms of religion as it is a major group that many people participate in and it has tremendous power to sway people towards tolerance or intolerance.  Surely there are churches and religious groups that work diligently to promote tolerance, but I fear that there are just as many with heavy handed doctrine that are far more likely to promote intolerance… which only breeds more intolerance… which only breeds more intolerance… etc, etc, etc…

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Christian Homeschooling Whack Jobs

Take for instance something called Dominion Theology – a Christian movement within fundamentalism and evangelicalism defined by homeschooling and the need to convert (by force if necessary) the majority of the people on earth to Christianity in order to create the right environment for Christ’s return. These people accept stoning, burning and hanging of people who do not believe the way they do, as well as the death penalty for people that disobey the laws of Moses.  By the way, these people are Americans.

Dominion Theology

So let us be blunt about it: we must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.

These same whack jobs who wish to take away my rights as an American citizen to believe differently than they do, see no benefit in allowing their children to socialize with other children outside the home – EVEN OTHER CHILDREN IN A CHRISTIAN SCHOOL!  

Here is a quote from a rather evenhanded site on homeschooling regarding the ‘McRea family’ and their views on the socialization of their kids.  Bear in mind – these people are not talking about kids from public school – they are talking about kids from a christian school!

“other children had a negative social effect on their children.” They didn’t like the school telling them what to do or having their lives revolved around the schools schedule, they claimed. “We do not specifically get them involved in a social setting so they can meet other kids…we really don’t think children have a good influence on one another.” Quoting their daughter Donna, “I don’t know how to act when I’m around other girls…” While the McReas complained that academics weren’t rigid enough in a private Christian school, it’s obvious isolating their children was the main motive.”

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In Conclusion…

As a brand new atheist, I confess to finding myself a bit intolerant these days (in case you haven’t noticed) when it comes to religion of any kind, but especially forms that are extreme, refuse to allow access to differing opinions (such as homeschooling children) and send people to hell for a lack of like minded belief.  However I am much more tolerant of everyone who is areligious.  In fact, I have a new found and very deep appreciation for these folks.  Hopefully, I will become more tolerant in general as time goes by, but I will have to exhaust my new found love of pushing the Christians’ buttons first. I can’t help but notice and comment on things like a lack of African Americans at a Christian school athletic event, because I am seeing all of this through very different eyes these days.  Before, I would have excused, rationalized and ignored this issue.  Now I see it as one more reason that religion is a ridiculous and worthless pursuit.  It can’t even bridge the divide between two different colors of people who believe in the same god.

I have presented three examples of why segregation continues to be so rampant in churches and church schools today.  On one end we have a sort of built in mechanism for an apathetic response to social ills such as discrimination as evidenced in the white evangelical response to America’s Civil Rights Movement and the continued disinterest of churches to get involved in social reform.  In the middle we have polarization – the new ability to filter out the other side of the story as well as the fact that the groups that one belongs to tend to amplify an individual’s beliefs.  If you attend a church that promotes tolerance, equality, desegregation, and friendship among different races, you will be even more likely to believe those things yourself.  However if you attend an intolerant church or a church that is unconcerned with social problems like racism and it’s associated problems, you are even more likely to be intolerant and unconcerned yourself.  Finally, we have the whack jobs.  Folks who want America to be a theocratic society and who are tightly controlling their children so that they can take over our nation for Jesus.  Diversity doesn’t even exist for these people.  There is only one way… or should we say One Way… or The Way, The Truth and The Light and no man comes unto the father but by him.  And these people will happily burn my atheist ass on a pyre in front of my children if they ever get the chance.

Okay…

So…

Where exactly should I focus this tolerance?

Should I be more tolerant of people that are extremely close to me calling me every other day and telling me that I need…

a.  therapy

b.  a complete medical exam  - because there must be a physical malady that is causing me to be an atheist.

c.  psychotropic medicines.

d.  lab tests

Should I be more tolerant of the people who call and ask me if they can contact my kids about church events even if I no longer believe in god?

Should I be more tolerant of all the letters and emails that say they are praying for me to come back to god?

Should I be more tolerant of people who are extremely close to me who ask me if they should ‘mourn the loss’ of me.

Should I be more tolerant of the Baptists that show up on my door and want to save my soul from hell?

Should I be more tolerant of the christian ideology that seeps out of everything from posters on walls in local highschools to the songs my kids sing in their public school choir to a speaker that managed to talk more about her personal god than anything else during a presentation to my eight year old’s class on Kansas Day? 

Because I have to tell you.

I am tolerant of it all!  (With the exception of the Baptists who came to MY DOOR.)

I am not only tolerant.  I am kind.  I am polite.  I am respectful.  I don’t hang up the phone.  I don’t slam the door.  

I respond the same way to people that I have always responded.  

I listen far more than I talk, I answer carefully and as thoughtfully as I can. I don’t get angry.  I don’t protest, I don’t yell, I don’t scream, I don’t assault, I don’t mock, I don’t debate, I don’t complain, and I don’t mimic these people in a high pitched old lady voice  (although that would be my protest of choice).  

All I do is write a blog.

A blog that you can choose not to read if you don’t like what I have to say.

An honest blog that really expresses how I feel about what is going on around me.  

I am sorry if what I say makes you uncomfortable.  

But I am not running for office here.  

I am not trying to create a world where everyone feels good about themselves all the time.

I am not interested in pandering.

I am interested in figuring out the truth.  

I am interested in understanding reality.  

And I am interested in doing what I can to make this world better.

Through a change in my beliefs.

Through a change in my attitude.

And through taking positive actions that make a noticeable difference.

You don’t improve by ignoring problems.  

You don’t progress by pretending everything is okay just the way it is.

Sometimes you have to look at things squarely and let it get to you.

This is what causes true positive change.

I am up for some change.

Way up.