Thursday, May 22, 2014

"God willing"

How many of you have heard the phrase, "God willing?" As a child, my parents, in particular my mother, would utter this phrase when we went to sleep. It went something like this:

"Good night."

"Good night."

"Love you."

"Love you, too."

"See you in the morning."

"God willing."

And if I didn't say it, I was forced to say it. I remember thinking it was a little creepy, but didn't put it together that I was being indoctrinated. I just chalked it up to one more thing I was forced to do as a result of living under their roof, like chores. But now, looking back on it, it's even more ridiculous, and it makes their god look even more pathetic and controlling. God willing? It's all up to him, right? He chooses if I make it through the night or if he murders me in my sleep. How do they not see this? How repulsive this is? And why even bother saying it? Is it superstition? Are you hoping that by saying it aloud that your god will spare you? There are just so many things wrong with this.

I refuse to force any child in my charge to do anything irrational.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

They're not just religious bigots

While homosexual bigotry doesn't necessarily have to be rooted in religion, no matter when you witness it, it's offensive. This past Mother's Day, I got together with my family and had a pleasant day, despite the near constant praising and thanking of a deity (and don't even get me started on the forced involvement in grace, despite everyone at the table knowing I'm an atheist and feel thanking a man-made invisible god is akin to writing a letter to Santa Claus).

I was grateful the conversation turned to football during dessert, at least at first I was grateful. The NFL Draft was last week and we discussed the picks our favorite teams selected. But eventually the topic turned to Michael Sam, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, selected by the Rams in the seventh round (the final round).

Now, you may be asking yourself, why would the best defensive player in college football's best conference have to wait seven rounds to be picked by a team? Well, Sam is gay. He is trying to become the first openly gay player in the NFL.

It's clear the league isn't entirely on board with homosexuals in the locker room or on the field, as evidenced by this fine player slipping to almost the final pick in the draft. It's a sad commentary on the state of the league, but what was even more sad were the comments that got passed around my brother's dinner table.

You see, ESPN had its cameras at Sam's house when the phone call from the Rams finally came. An emotional Sam cried, as most draft picks do, as he had his discussion with the Rams front office. He then kissed his partner on the lips and got hugged by a few other guys, who may or may not have been gay.

My family all ganged up on Sam's reaction. At first they simply just mentioned the kissing, and you could see the disdain in their faces, but they eventually realized how offensive they sounded (after I defended Sam and said there's zero difference between his reaction and anyone else's who was straight) and said the kissing was OK. But it was what happened later in Sam's celebration that my family couldn't contain their bigoted comments.

The cameras continued to roll as Sam and his family and friends celebrated with cake. Sam cut a piece and smeared it on his partner's face then kissed him, a la every wedding cliché in America. Everyone at the table (but me) was religious, so their comments aren't surprising, but I don't think all of their comments were rooted in religion. My brother and father are tough guys, so they just cringe at anything that's not heterosexual. I'm not entirely sure they are against homosexuality, it's just not something they readily embrace.

But my SIL, the one I have had all of my religious debates with, is a conservative right-wing religious nutjob. She said things such as, "If you're trying to make a statement, that is not the way to do it," and "They should not have done that. If they want us accept them they shouldn't do that in public."

I can't remember all of the offensive comments because I wasn't in journalism mode at my family's home, but it's safe to assume they were basically saying keep your affections private because it disgusts them, and if you're straight there's nothing wrong with the exact same display of affection. This is what we refer to as a bigoted double standard. It's all right as a man to make out with your woman, but if you are gay then keep it behind closed doors because it's wrong and we don't want to look at it. So sad.

Ultimately I got them to realize this was in his home and he had every right to do whatever he wanted, and it could have been on Main Street USA, too. He is a free man and this is a free country. There is no difference between what two consenting heterosexual adults can do and two consenting homosexual adults can do. Time to wake up and smell the 21st century.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Respect for life

Ever since I made the deconversion and realized I was an atheist, I've had a newfound respect for all life, not just my own. Recently, a black crow was carrying a baby blue jay through the air as the blue jay's parents chased it. The crow dropped the baby right in front of me, from about 20 feet in the air. I waited awhile and watched to see if the parents would come back to save the baby, but they never did.

We didn't have a bird sanctuary in town so I have been rehabbing the bird for the past three weeks. I've grown fond of the little guy and feel really good about raising him. It takes a lot of effort and care, but it's worth it. He's almost ready to release, and though I will be sad to see him go, I am very happy I saved his life.

What's the moral of the story? We only get one life and we need to enjoy it, respect it and make sure it lasts as long as possible. That's why I saved the bird, and that's why I will cherish my life until the end. I won't waste this opportunity and cling to the irrational hope that there's something after this. It's an irresponsible way to live life and I'm not a coward.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Why I stopped saying bless you

I know, I know ... You happened past an atheism blog and see its writer in cliche fashion talking about what to say (and not say) when people sneeze. And it's pretty typical for a new atheist to pronounce an edict that he'll never say, "Bless you," ever again! I'm also aware of how silly that is and for those who say, "If someone blesses me I'm gonna let them have it and tell them I don't believe in god so I don't need your worthless blessings for something so trivial!"

But, it's no secret that deconverting has its natural path, and that usually means investigating EVERYTHING that pops up that has some sort of religious connection. Before I became an atheist, I would always say bless you and frown when someone didn't. If they said gesundheit (German for health) or salute (Italian for good health) then that was cool, but if they said nothing? Well, then I was almost indignant. How dare they not care enough to bless my sneeze! Well, turns out, it truly is trivial, so much so that anyone who says bless you and doesn't understand why they say it makes for terrific fodder for those of us in the know. So, here's why:

The consensus is this sort of behavior started thousands of years ago, maybe even with the Romans, who were on record as saying, "Jupiter preserve you" or "Salve," which to this day still means "good health to you" in the formal Italian tongue. There have been other connotations of this behavior, including the Greeks, who would wish "long life."

"God bless you," according to Wikipedia, is attributed to Pope Gregory the Great, who uttered it in the sixth century during a bubonic plague epidemic (sneezing is an obvious symptom of one form of the plague). When someone says the German or Italian variations of "good health," it makes sense because a sneeze could mean you are coming down with a cold, so they are hoping you have good health and that the sneeze was an aberration.

According to Wiki: Virtually every country around the globe has its own way of wishing sneezers well. People in Arabic countries say, "Alhamdulillah," which means, "praise be to god." Hindus say, "Live!" or "Live well!" Some countries have special sneezing responses for children. In Russia, after children are given the traditional response, "bud zdorov" ("be healthy"), they are also told "rosti bolshoi" ("grow big"). When a child sneezes in China, he or she will hear "bai sui," which means, "may you live 100 years."

It goes on to say that ancient superstitions were also a part of the silly tradition. Some believed a sneeze causes the soul to escape through the nose, and that by saying "bless you" it would stop the devil from claiming the person's freed soul.

Others believed the opposite, that evil spirits use the sneeze as an opportunity to enter a person's body. When I was a kid, I was told (and I have no doubt my parents still believe this) the heart stopped or skipped a beat when you sneezed so if you said bless you it kind of asked god to spare you, or it was meant to welcome you back to life.

Think about how preposterous this is. Do you say anything when someone burps or farts (other than "You're disgusting!") in front of you? Of course it was science that proved a sneeze is a reflex to something tickling or affecting the inner workings of your nasal passage, such as a cold, dust, sunlight, etc.

So, if you're ever in my presence and you happen to sneeze, I won't be saying bless you. ... not because I'm an atheist, but because it's just plain stupid.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I don't feel guilty at all

Should I feel guilty for not seeking the truth sooner in life? Should I feel stupid for not seeing it quicker? I don't think so. I was busy staking my claim in the world, finding a spouse, raising a family and tending to a career and business.

Since religion played a non-existent role in my adult life, it just never occurred to me to seek any religious answers. But as I got older, that's when occasions arose where questioning religion and afterlife came naturally.

As I've alluded to in the past, my family's newfound zealousness for religion forced me to reflect, too, but my doubts had been there for a long time before that. I just never had a reason to thoroughly research all sides of religion and use critical thinking.

Lately, certain members of my family have been confused by my (and my wife's) late deconversion in life. For instance, my stepdaughter wonders why we raised her the way we did. But the answer is obvious. While I wasn't responsible for her attending Catholic school (that decision was made before I met her mother), I likely wouldn't have objected if consulted anyway because where/when I was raised Catholic schools were far better for education. I can't now regret it because at the time I just didn't think of religion as a poisonous institution, just a worthless one. And I certainly wouldn't have questioned her adherence to religious rituals (though she never completed all of them anyway).

So when I'm now confronted with people resenting my deconversion, I tell them it's important for them to know because I am progressing and helping her learn from my mistakes, of not questioning the establishment and detecting the lies. Do I feel guilty that she and my other stepchildren were raised to believe in a god? No, I can't, because it was how I was raised and I was busy with the aforementioned tasks of becoming a man responsible for other lives.

If you're reading this and you are someone who deconverted later in life, don't feel guilty, it's not your fault. Just be happy you figured it all out before you wasted you're whole life. And that's why I told my family, so they would know there was something else besides indoctrination and they can't say I never gave them the keys to the mint.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Hollywood getting more pathetic by the minute

Is it just me or is Hollywood's pandering to the ignorant religious right and fearful theists getting ridiculous? In the span of about two months, the movies Noah, Son of God and Heaven is for Real have been released. I'm sure there are more, I just don't spend any time investigating this tripe.

At least Noah was made by an atheist and pretty much ignored the Genesis myth, but it still relied on theists to pack the box office. These movies are so transparent yet it doesn't stop believers from flocking (pardon my pun). It seems every decade or so this cycle repeats and it's nauseating.

And you'll notice only "religious" movies get protested and bullied by those religious nuts when the flick doesn't depict exactly what they want it to say. Did you ever see Star Wars fanboys boycott Episode II because they hated Jar Jar Binks? Of course not (and if ever a reason existed to boycott a movie that's as good as any)!

It's amazing how many Christians whine that they are being persecuted when they make up the majority and are the first ones to impose their will on those who don't conform to their irrational beliefs and/or superstitions.

I just think Hollywood is running out of movies to make so it figures a religious flick is a no-brainer since that's exactly what is required to be in the religious majority: no brains.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Slowing down a tad

It's been almost a week since my last post and I'm starting to realize the regularity of my posts is starting to taper off a bit, and there's a good reason, or two. I have been extremely busy as of late with my company, my family and my hobbies. But that's not the only reason. When I started this blog, I wanted to have an outlet for recording my thoughts, my feelings and all of my hard work as I traveled  down the critical-thinking path.

If you look back at my roughly 115 posts, I've said quite a bit. I try not to be redundant and I try to explore every avenue of atheism to put my stamp on it. But there's very little I haven't addressed so it generally will take something that outrages me to get me to post these days. My debates with my SIL can only happen so often and unless the news sparks something it may be a while in between posts.

Quite a few people have remarked that I should move this blog to a real site and add some revenue-driving ads to make some money for my effort, but like I said, I never did this with money in mind. I don't need the revenue and at this point I'm not certain I could keep up with enough fresh content to make it worthy of a regular mainstream blog.

You never know, though, something could set me off, so stay tuned. For now, thanks for reading and here's my thought for the day: Can an omnipotent god create a ball so heavy that even he can't lift it? If he can, then he's not omnipotent, and if he can't then he's not omnipotent. Checkmate.