I Didn’t Know

Twenty-five years ago, I began to find comfort in admitting I was wrong when I realized or thought I was. Who knew? Before that, being right was important. Then, poof—it wasn’t.

To that 12-step teaching (tenth step, admitting wrong) I would add fewer apologies, or saying “I’m sorry” when I was harmlessly wrong. Out of habit, I still say it when I do no harm. But I try not to. I’ve decided apologizing too much might reduce the sincerity of my true contrition when something was mea culpa.

I’ve had ideas. We all do. Most of mine have been based on nothing more than my personal preference or life experiences. When what I thought I knew turned out to be wrong, admitting that simply ended things. Life continued peacefully.

This morning, on his Patheos.com blog, I read James H. Haught’s piece, “Skepticism is All About Honesty” (July 21, 2021, FFRF). Therein, he relates a eureka moment when someone told him the “answer” is “I don’t know.” I recall speakers and teachers admitting temporary ignorance but promising to return after some research. Many did. It is a good way to go.

Haught goes on to write, “To me, the bottom line is honesty. A person with integrity doesn’t claim to know supernatural things that he or she cannot know.” I agree, but my reasons are little more personal and emotional.

Of course, honesty is important. Claiming to possess knowledge one cannot possibly have is not only dishonest, everyone knows of the dishonesty, except for the delusional (as so many are). But when I realized that I could say I don’t know to any question, I felt a sense of relief that is still difficult for me to describe.

I don’t know how the universe came to be, if our solar system was a coincidence, or if there is life in any form after death. I don’t know of life in other galaxies. I have no idea if nature has consciousness or what that might look like. I have no clue about why so many humans are either evil or good. I don’t know if human energy is healing. I do not need to know any of that.

When someone tells me, “There must be something,” such as a god or consciousness, I ask, “why must there be?” There certainly might be, could be, or we may like there to be. Something may feel good or be comforting about ideas. I get that. Indeed, there may be a cause or a reason for things that happen. But I’m not feeling the must, as in compelled by fate or natural law, or any other definition of must.

I’m unopposed to differing hypotheses or opinions, but that is what most proposed answers are, something less than a theory. If there is scientific evidence, proof, or if a concrete theory is developed and tested, that would be wonderful. Until then, I don’t know. If I find out, I’ll get back with you. I assume you will do likewise.

I cannot say I am sorry that I do not believe what others do, or that I think something true they may deny. If I am wrong and someone convinces me of that, fine. It happens. If I learn something I did not know, even better. But if no skin was removed from any part of anyone’s anatomy (or wallet), I am unlikely to apologize for being wrong. I was wrong and I am not sorry.

Xin loi (xin lỗi, pronounced zin-loy) is a polite Vietnamese phrase which literally means excuse me or pardon me. I like it. However, during the Viet Nam War, American soldiers used the phrase sardonically to mean something like sorry about that (or worse). When I’m mistaken, I’d like to say excuse me or pardon me. But, since xin loi was hijacked, I will settle for saying excusez moi, perhaps with a wee touch of snarkastic arrogance, for which I am so sorry.

Bill


Poem: Holy Knickknacks, Batman

Also posted on pluviolover.com.


Got my Indian Buddha statue
the next day
after some Catholic Answers lecture guy
told us it was a mortal sin to have one.
First Commandment (Catholic version), no less.

My graven image now sits with my Dragon Chalice,
lion statue, and cowboy with horse bronze art,
family photos, among other things.
He’s been lotus sitting around my house,
mostly in my room, for more than 20 years.
The best years of my life
have been with Siddhartha.

My family has concurred many demons.
I’ve beaten cancer (for now), completed 15 marathons,
written hundreds of poems, cheated death
and heart disease (also temporarily),
lost twenty pounds (several times),
and today I mark 75 years since I squeezed
through Mom’s birth canal. Sorry, Mom.

My mother claimed I was a contrarian.
Dad said I was only half-Irish and my sibs
considered me a spoiled brat (that’s still true).
The (younger then I) lecturer from the diocesan chancery
died two years afterwards.
Wrong statue or just superstition, I guess.


Bill

Nones and Don’ts

I read a post on Patheos.com regarding the “collapse” of Christianity in the USA. The statistics and argument are based on opinion research. It wouldn’t surprise me if more people are jumping from or ignoring the Christian bandwagon. Evangelical PR has been abysmal. Now the US Catholic Bishops are making fools of themselves (again) over Biden taking communion.

According to the research and claims of the piece, millennials are largely responsible for the significant downturn in churchgoers and New Testament thumpers. I don’t know if it plays into this, but separation of church and state is always an issue and calls for such freedom may also be growing. It’s funny how we can say that separate church and state trope and we hear, “Freedom of Religion.” (Congress shall make no laws…, etc. Why do they only see half of that?)

When I came out with my own atheism, I learned that for some statistical purposes, I was and am a none. When asked which religion I am/practice/prefer/want to be part of, I have marked “none,” when that option was available.

When hospital staff called me a few years ago to ask if I wanted to change none, I told the lady to “keep those people away from me.” I may have I hurt her feelings, but she asked. Neither atheism nor agnosticism are religions. Rightfully, they are not usually on the religious preference forms. But guess what?

Now I can change that. I discovered the following options are now listed by my hospital under the personal information category of religion: “Agnostic, Atheist, Declined, None, Other, and Unknown.” That last one is a head scratcher. Do they not know?

If I change my answer to Atheist, it will be listed that under “religion” on my personal information. It is not a religion. I’m staying with none for now. But I’m thinking about changing it.

I saw few new religious movements (NRMs) or new age religious beliefs listed. I also read that many main line Christians hold such new age beliefs. Interesting. That is probably woo-woo in the eyes of organized religion leadership, but many folks go for it.

The article on the decline of practicing US Christians and the survey introduced me to a new category: the Don’ts. These are people who don’t know, don’t care, or don’t believe god exists. They just don’t. I don’t.

I now have a new statistical category to join (hear my sarcastic laugh). I recognize two of the subcategories (don’t know and don’t believe), but I chuckled at the don’t care group. I’ve never considered them. I might be a Don’t in all three subcategories. Sort of like that old joke about nuns (as in the religious orders), “Ain’t had none, don’t want none, ain’t gunna get none” (or something like that).

I have a suggestion for a new category: the whatever’s. Just for teenagers.

Bill


Essay: I’m Okay with That

Hello Real World Person,

I accept that to some degree there will always be different beliefs. I often discuss healthy eating, exercise, and medical science with my health care providers. Some might say we even argue. Neither religion nor science are going away in my lifetime. And totally disappear? I can’t imagine that.

And my dribble

I do not read or comment on religious media: not on religious blogs or any form of religious social media. I read none of that proselytization. But when I prepare to post my broodings on this blog, I may occasionally read some bible pages (John 3:16 for this one), or maybe some Catholic Catechism stuff. But rarely.

Most religious stuff is written for the already religious audience, not for skeptics, and certainly not for me. Occasionally, a believer or religious person will leave a comment on my blog to remind me how badly my beliefs, opinions, and atheist conclusions will go for me after I die. Sometimes they like to throw ad hominem at my intelligence. Of course, they do. The best I can do is say that either one or more gods exist, or he/she/they do not. What anyone believes does not change that. It’s either yes or no. Sorry, agnostics.

For the love of God, Billy!

Apparently, god’s love and forgiveness only apply to the sins of believers (John 3:16). It’s not for those of us incapable of believing that any god exists. The biblical condition is “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” I’m okay without the eternal life part. Such a biblical/New Testament threat is unlikely to compel me to believe. The added threat of eternal life in hell sounds awfully unloving and unforgiving. And I’m supposed to respect their religion? Not a chance.

I think I thought I saw you pray.

I really (honestly, for certain, doubtless) do not believe any god or spiritual beings of any kind exist. Period. I think ALL religions are nonsense. Prayer is silly, even if there is a god. That’s the best (nicest) thing I can say about most religions. Religion is spiritually pointless, but practically useful.

Yet, it seems to me, oddly, that religious people believe god exists, and consequently their belief (and their own existence) makes god’s exitance factual. Many borderline religious people seem to believe “something” god-like exists because they want it to be so. It feels better for them to think that something exists. Okay by me, but it is still inventing a god.

My point? I can tolerate woo-woo. I’ve certainly done woo-woo, studied it, and practiced it. But I now believe none of it. I never will. I can’t, and I don’t want to. Consequently, John 3:16 does not apply to me. I’m okay with that.

Skeptically yours,

Bill

PS: Tony on prayers: I write and read poetry—too much, maybe. I’m a fan of the late Tony Hoagland and his poems. Tony died in October of 2018. In the December 2018, issue of The Sun two of his poems were published. I particularly liked the one titled, “On Why I Must Decline to Receive the Prayers You Say You are Constantly Sending. Click on the title to read it. And, if you want, read “In the Beautiful Rain,” which is also good.

Essay: Casting the First Stone

Archbishop José H. Gomez, of Los Angeles, President of the American Bishops, and most of that organized crime mob can kiss my atheistic arse.

I was born, baptized, and raised Roman Catholic. I secretly stopped going to Mass around age 14. I was never convinced that eating meat on Friday was a sin, that masturbating was a sin, that having “dirty” or sexual thoughts was a sin, or that most of what I told priests in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (aka Confession) was even a problem, much less grounds for eternal punishment in Hell.

Later in life I made two attempts to get and stay back with the Church. The last time was a 12-year stint. I ended up as Parish Council President of a large Parish near San Antonio, TX. At the time it was the domain of Bishop Gomez, in my opinion a personally pompous jack ass and snob who I met one time.

My departure from that parish was due to a job change and interstate relocation. Timing was such that it was also the beginning of my final walk out of the Church. I contend that my atheism is due to a variety of my personal conclusions and the absence of any evidence for the existence of any god.

The hypocrisy of virtually any religion or its constituents are not why I don’t believe in god. I am not atheist because I think all Christianity is nonsense. I do, but god and religion are two separate things.

I was born about 20 miles south of Scranton, PA, where, about four years earlier, Joe Biden was born. He was also raised Catholic. He still is. He’s a good Catholic. He follows the rules. He is personally opposed to abortion, as am I; maybe for different reasons, but I doubt it. He participates in and receives all eligible Sacraments. I do not.

In fact, I am technically, and happily, excommunicated from the Catholic Church. I am forbidden from all Sacraments except Reconciliation which would be necessary for me to get back on the team. Above all, I may not receive the Sacrament of Eucharist. I agree with that rule.

I think claiming that the consecrated Eucharist is the body and blood of a man, who was also the son of God, who died and rose from being dead over two thousand years ago is bull shit. I do not believe any of it. Joe Biden believes it.

But, as almost anyone can, I could go to Mass and receive that sacrament along with all the folks there. Who knows me? Furthermore, I could do it openly by going to confession, renouncing my disbelief (lie), telling a bunch of sins (true or not), and doing some sort of quickie penance, like reciting a few prayers. No one would ask if I supported the USA’s position on abortion. Nor would they ask me if I had raped any children, if I was a pedophile, or if I believed in Hell.

Joe Biden is the duly elected (GOP delusions notwithstanding) President of the USA and a Democrat. As such he supports a woman’s right to make choices. Not every Democrat or Catholic politician does; the current Governor of Louisiana, for example. Joe does not support laws forbidding a woman’s, or her doctor’s, decision to abort a pregnancy under certain circumstances. I repeat: Joe is personally opposed to abortion.

As a Catholic, Joe believes…in God, in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, who … for our salvation came down from heaven: and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate he was born of the Virgin Mary and became man.

He believes that Jesus …was crucified suffered, died, and was buried and rose again in fulfilment of the Scriptures, ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father. Joe believes that Jesus Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead (including bishops and presidents), and that kingdom will never end.

Joe believes in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life. He believes in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. He acknowledges one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. He looks for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

All that is quoted or paraphrased from the Nicene Creed Profession of Faith, which is what every catholic is supposed to profess to believe. Joes does that. A bumper sticker that says Biden is not Catholic is bumper sticker. Bishops and Priests often play God (literally at times), but if there is a god, they must be in deep shit with him or her.

Enter Archbishop Gomez and his organized mob of crime boss ass holes. Enter the Catholic Church’s total disregard (if not antipathy) for democracy and the separation of church and state.

Enter two-thousand years of lies and hypocrisy on a scale so great it is hard to believe it still exists: The Roman Catholic Church and its leadership.

While not all Bishops oppose Biden, or any Catholic politician who supports a woman’s right to choose, receiving communion, this new comment by the conservative bishops simply formalizes and officially allows the denial, which has previously happened. Priests and Bishops are permitted to disallow sacraments. But oh, what a tangled web that might be. And Biden’s local Bishop in the Washington Diocese is one who would not deny (nor would the Pope). For Joe, it is a minor deal. No Catholic has ever suffered from not sucking in the wafer.

I will never completely stop people from trying to shove their religion down my throat. But, at least so far, I can say no. I tell them to fuck off. I can tell them to kiss my ass.

I no longer consider myself Catholic or a Christian in any religious sense of the word, practicing or not. Thank goodness.

Bill

End of the Line?

I realize that being an atheist means disbelief in any god and (arguably) nothing more. I agree. However, just as with believing in some god or other relates to religious practices, not believing likewise calls for answers to questions regarding that non-belief, at least to oneself if to no one else.

This is especially true if a change such as deconversion was involved. Answers may take any form from I don’t know to hypothetical suppositions, or even well-supported theories. It can get murky, but that seems to excite those who think they see the light.

For example, I don’t know what happens after someone dies. Neither do you. For now, barring evidence to the contrary, I assume death means you’re gone. Body, mind, and spirit: kaput. All other possibilities and claims are unsupported hypotheses of approximately equal value. The continuation of the human spirit might be so, but there is no evidence for that.

While not all believers resort to threats of punishment to be carried out after people stop living, such as Purgatory or Hell, a great many do. I realize that many believers manage to focus on life, “right here, right now.” I say that and believe it. I can meet them there.

Yet, just as with the existence of any god, afterlife of any kind, spiritual as with a “soul,” in some unknown form of consciousness, or even physically as in reincarnation, not one of the seven billion or so people alive today can be certain of anything concerning death other than it is not quite the same life as it was. Even the concepts of human resurrection with the second coming, or rapture do not promise a redo. Die and you’re done—not alone. Just finished with living.

My mother was a lifelong Roman Catholic. I recall her, while lucid but dying, lying on her death bed, after I asked if she wanted me to fetch a (Catholic) priest, saying to me, “When you’re dead, you’re dead.” She died without receiving last rights. Yikes, Mom! Why didn’t you tell me?

Afterlife is crucial to all Christianity. The biggest Holy Day in any Christian’s liturgical year should be Easter: The Resurrection of Christ. Life after death (not Christmas).

As the sign in my neighbor’s yard says, “He is risen.” The largest single religion on Earth, and the evidence for its rationale has been an unnecessary nothing for two-thousand years. The neighbor’s sign is not very convincing. But the beat goes on. Salvation is unnecessary if you cease to exist. Unless…

Bill

Poem about going to Hell

I posted this on another blog. But it belongs here, as well.


You may need to buy a ticket,
live a normal life, and do
human things, but they say
there is a way to Hell.
Who alive knows for sure? (Many)

To ensure arrival, you’ll have to die.
Before that, good intentions should
provide a smooth ride. You’ll wanna
mean well, tell the truth about what you think,
eat lobster and for God’s sake,
want what the Jones’s have,
or you’ll want one of the Jones’s,
or dislike the Jones’s as in no love.

Lie about the Jones’s.
Make a self-portrait.
Say “God damnit” or “Jesus Christ.”
Ya might say God’s name to no purpose (in vain)
Laugh at a George Carlin’s joke, or forget
the day it is when it’s Saturday or Sunday.
Work weekends, since Sabbat is negotiable.

Argue with Mom or Dad.
If ya marry the wrong person, get a divorce,
have an affair, kill them, then you should
find things warming up. Or just
be who or what you were born to be.

Having sex with anyone, especially
if ya likes it; or, if you’re shy,
having sex alone has been known
to get ya where you want to go.

If not, maybe just think about having sex,
or eat bacon (see the relationship there?)
Belong to some other religion.
Piss off the Pope if you can.

In the south, dance with a person
of the opposite sex, or better
dance with the same sex, except for girls,
unless you think of sex with her.

Drink booze or coffee if ya live
near a Salt Lake. Try pot. Try gambling.
Keep all your money (trash tithe)
Finally, you must certainly die,
but fear not, they tell me this is easy.


Look both ways for sarcastic humor.
Mind the gaps unless there are too many.
If so, look for the god of the gaps.
Above all, have fun and enjoy life,
especially if you’re Hell bound anyway.

Couldn’t resist reposting this FFRF meme.

 

 

Shorty: Skeptical Evangelicals

That headline got me to reading about that huge homogeneous group of American citizens and why they had little faith in science.

The definition of oxymoron is “a combination of contradictory or incongruous words.” Okay. Maybe the idea that the deeply religious can be skeptical of things other than their god is not so incongruous. But in a way, this is a clear lack of faith: in science, in government, and in this case, big pharma (and who likes them?).

It sounds to me like these thumpers want Jesus to ensure they win the lottery without buying a ticket (gambling’s a sin, ya know).

They want god to protect them from the COVID-19 virus and variants without taking the shot. While there are certainly anti-vaxxers who are Christian of one brand or another, nothing in Christianity specifically forbids taking injections to use the human body’s natural defenses to prevent the spread of disease. While some may interpret it that way, or shoehorn in some weird, twisted interpretation, the shots are working and saving lives. THANK YOU, JESUS!

I might have bought the “let’s wait and see if it kills everyone else first” strategy for a while. But we have passed all that. All they are doing is giving atheists like me ammo to gun down religion as evil and dangerous.

I’ve been criticized before for my bizarre thinking about masks and medicine, about religion and gods, about baseball and apple pie. But here is what I think: if you don’t get the shot, you either have a good reason, or you are a dumb shit who cares little about human life. If you also refuse to wear a mask, you either have an excellent reason, or you’re an asshole who…. I can’t say it.

None of my bitching will convince anyone to do right. But it feels good to me.

Bill

Is Forgive & Forget Biblical?

I agree. Forgiveness is a good thing for one’s emotional health. But I see no reason to even consider forgetting, much less figuring out how one would literally and intentionally forget something hurtful enough to merit such consideration.

Most of us seem to agree that getting over something or letting go is good. Yet, it still seems to me that if we can manage to forgive, forgetting is unnecessary. “I probably should forgive you, but I forget what for.” When forgiveness means moving on with one’s life, that’s a good thing.

In a discussion recently, I was told that the Bible says to forgive and forget. I know scripture says a lot of things, but forgiveness seems like a New Testament trope for being more loving. At least that is implied. Examples that seem to demand forgiveness include Matthew 6:14-15, Ephesians 4:32, Hebrews 12:14-15 and 2 John 1:8.

Not that your average American Christian is up to that since real forgiveness and love are not exactly low hanging fruit these days.

I suppose the old because the Bible tells me so is good enough for many devout Christians, but what about the rest of us? Being hurt by someone can be a lifelong mental or physical burden. Revenge may be sweet, but it seldom solves the problem or reconciles damaged relationships.

The perpetrator may be contrite and ask for forgiveness. He or she may even attempt some form of amends. But what if they don’t? The prayer goes, “…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us….” Here again, while I see no reason to make such a deal with any god, I still find forgiveness and reconciliation to be good things given the right circumstances.

How we define forgiveness makes a big difference. What it is and what it isn’t can help with finding happier days. I don’t think forgiveness means forgetting. It also does not mean that no harm was done or that what the guilty person did is now okay. Of course, it’s not.

It means we can stop fretting and walking around angry, plotting our revenge, or finding ways to fix it. Forgiveness means we try to move toward the issue no longer being a burden on us, no matter what the Bible says.

I’ve found that time helps me to work through a process of forgiveness. It is not an event like the flipping of a light switch. Trust is another issue. I’m not sure what the bible says about that and I don’t care.

Bill

Essay: Is it just me?

I thought I had been open about my skepticism and conclusions regarding the unlikely existence of any gods. I openly declared my atheism not many years ago. It felt great and I was happy to be freely expressing my honest opinion, one I’d held for years prior to admitting, “Yes. I am an atheist.” My doubts became my story.

After I let people with access to my Facebook posts know I did not believe in god, I noticed that some things changed. I also discovered that while some folks decided not to continue initiating communication with me, they would respond. Okay, that’s fine. I expected believers to take a step back or just end any relationship we had. As far as I can tell, no one chose the latter. The limited reaction was less than expected.

Then, last week I announced my pending hospital incarceration following a significant medical procedure. I’m home now and fine. I also knew their thoughts, prayers, and healing energy would be offered. Also, fine. One person said she would pray and didn’t care what I thought of it. I clicked like for her comment and I said, thank you. Not a problem. I am an atheist, not an ass hole.

One man said he would be thinking about me, but that he was “not much of a church goer” (i.e., excuse me if I do not offer to pray for you), but he wished me good luck. As I typed my response, I noticed that I was reluctant to tell him that “this atheist” appreciated his kind words, concern, and would rather he not  pray for me. I realized my reluctance to tell him I am atheist. Why is that? It’s not a secret. I thought I wanted people to know.

I am not in any closet. Yet, I stopped to consider the consequences of telling the truth. Others would see it. Others would judge.

Last week “someone” posted here that I was a fool for not believing in god, that I would meet god face-to-face, but it would then be too late. We all know what he or she (“someone” is how WP listed the name) was implying by too late.

Some people are fond of informing me that I shall burn for an eternity in Hell because I choose not to believe what I seem unable to believe. I need to keep in mind that the antipathy of many believers toward atheists (and vice-versa) is seeded with fear. But either I am out, open, and honest, or I am not.

It’s not only me, is it?

Bill