In Whom Do We Really Trust? (Ignominy of Truth)

Deity du jour

Hear the cheer:

Give me a G, give me an O, give me a D; God, God he’s our man.
If God can’t do it, no one can!

Here is a link to the wiki for the USA motto (also for Nicaragua and Florida): IN GOD WE TRUST (In Deo Fidemus, in Latin). While I see the motto as an attempt to force religion or god upon a minority, along with under god in the US Pledge of Allegiance, I won’t waste time advocating for abolishment.

I never notice it on money. When I say the pledge, I say the same one I did every day in grade school, until it changed in ’55 or so, and just leave out the under god part. (MSWord wants to hyphenate that. How un-American.) I really like the final words of the pledge: with liberty and justice for all. Nothing against any gods. They’re all myths except the ones you think are real.

People have literally been snake-bit, allowed their children to die, died an early death themselves, or experienced some other form of malady because they trusted god (alone) to take care of them. I think the trust a deity idiom is much more about how wonderful we are. Look how holy we are! As the PA preacher wrote in 1861, it was needed to relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. We seem to think it makes us look better. No god gives a shit.

Look at the third step in the AA 12-step recovery program: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. If you turn your will and life over, you must trust something external. It seems that they could have stopped right there, but there are nine more steps, just in case. But it’s a spiritual program, not a religious one, right? God will remove the malady he bestowed upon me if I just trust (promises and all that).

I would go through a case of bull shit flags every day if I cried foul each time a god-squader took the just in case god is busy approach. And what of prayer? If we trust god, do we have to keep reminding him that we want the perfect world which he has not delivered? Oh, I forgot. You gotta die first for that to happen. Trust that myth, too.

Call it God Insurance

Can’t you hear it? I trust god, but I buy insurance. In god I trust, this gun is just in case. I trust under god, but I am going to do what the doctor said. I trust god, but the devil is so sneaky. I trust Him, but anti-virus software is just wise. Seriously? Did I just hear the skeptic fairy sing?

No. Most of us do not trust any god. We’re all more skeptical than we like to think. I was always taught that God helps those that help themselves. That made sense. Since I am fairly convinced of no gods, the whole trust thing, like religion, seems pointless (unless you want to say universe for god, but that seems random). At least there is a universe.

Bill

So, bring money but leave the gun in the car.

 

Conversation Validity

Neil Carter said he was asked, “What drives you to be so adamant in sharing your atheistic beliefs? What is the driving force behind you? To influence others to be nonbelievers??”

The first part of his response encapsulates my thoughts.

“First of all, to me this question implies that, while it’s laudable for the religious to wear their beliefs on their sleeves and talk about them in public spaces, when nonbelievers openly share about their own perspectives it’s just wrong and, gosh, why would you take it upon yourself to talk about this stuff in public? What’s wrong with you?

“My departure from the faith upset many people, but nothing bothered them more than my decision to start writing and speaking about it openly. That took people from sad to angry really quickly, and that’s because the only socially acceptable atheism is that which keeps its thoughts to itself (my emphasis). That disparity alone is reason enough for people like me to write and speak about why we left.” ~ Neil Carter, Godless in Dixie blog

Visiting Christians

We were expecting company. Friends who are devout/ardent Lutherans (when he is not angry at them and singing with the Baptists). I occasionally wore some jewelry that identified me as atheist, if anyone paid attention (which they don’t). My wife suggested I not wear the items when the two visitors were with us, so as not to upset them. I suggested that my opinion regarding any god was as valid as theirs. She agreed and withdrew her request, but I didn’t wear the items simply to avoid discussion and to prevent my atheism from causing a problem with her friends. Acceptance and tolerance are the best I could do, but that works. Do I handle such things wrong?

They were visiting over a weekend. We decided to drive past several local Lutheran churches so they could see if the right combination of letters appeared on any of the church marquee signs. If so, they would know it was safe for them to attend a Sunday service there. We offered transport, not attendance.

Since they could not identify any of the churches as suitable with the right flavor of Lutheranism, they did not go. Apparently, there are valid synod reasons for not keeping the third commandment (or fourth, depending on how you slice them). Online resources identify 40 different types of Lutheran.

Thou Shalt Not Say It

I was discussing atheism and a book by Sam Harris in an organized mens book club. A few members spent several long uninterrupted minutes explaining something about their religion. An older gentleman interrupted me to say that he was an atheist but never wrote or spoke about it. He just was and that was the end of it. His comment made me realize that many other atheists are likewise silent. They don’t believe in any god and that’s the end of it. Nobody needs to know. Nothing need be said. It might upset the theists. Is that cooperation or submissiveness?

Since then, I have had several people confess their atheism, or that of their loved ones, to me because they knew I had embraced disbelief. That makes me safe. Normally, such confessions are made in private. While I was never asked me to keep a secret, it was clear to me that they (or the loved one), while not exactly closeted, were not public or outspoken.

I Get It

While I understand the reluctance to speak up, all this is very telling. My wife and I were practicing Catholics. That was acceptable, even though several family members and some friends resented it or disapproved, especially in her case since she was a convert from Protestantism. But atheism? That’s a whole other deal. Atheists are considered the worst. For the record, my wife does not claim to disbelieve.

When people choose to keep their opinions private I don’t want a vote or a voice in what they should do, but I have an opinion. If people (atheists, agnostics, free thinkers, skeptics) go through the motions of going to church to avoid a personal conflict or crisis, I understand their actions. But I also know that living a lie for the sake of peace is not heroic, it’s personal martyrdom at the hands of religion to please the religious. I can’t imagine the weight of pretending to be religious for the sake of others. It is a form of reverse religious persecution.

Anyway, other than one friend who simply asked, are you an atheist?, no one has questioned my incredulity. It’s no secret. At least one neighbor knows, my kids all know (I think; not sure of grands), and most, if not all, of my friends know. Yet, believers who don’t know about me will try to flash their religion, church, or prayerfulness at me. I assume their motive is to impress. Do you know what a horse laugh is?

It’s Not Okay

I will not allow anyone to think that I believe in any god or that I practice any religion. That would be unfair to them, to other non-believers, to my friends and family, and to me. When faced with the conversation, I am willing to have it. I will try not to use terms like woo-woo, bullshit, do you really fucking believe that crap?, or holy shit!

I will tell anyone why I am atheist, but first they must tell me what they believe and why they think I should. It is a valid conversation to have. My views are as worthy as anyone’s.

In 21st Century USA, or anywhere in the world, no one should be imprisoned or burdened by the religions or religious views of friends, neighbors, or family. Freedom of religion must include freedom from religion or there is no freedom at all. If you think otherwise, you do not understand freedom, religion, or history.

Bill

 

 

Obsessed with Sex

 

“For some reason, churches have decided the most important thing about you is what you do with your genitals.” Neil Carter, Godless in Dixie

Last September, I posted a dialog piece that was sort of about sex, if that’s possible. I didn’t say it was a sexual discussion, but the dialog implied it without directly making the claim. I never gave the sex (gender) of the people in the dialog. Either person could have been male or female. Both could have been the same sex or anyone from the long list of diverse human sexualities (preferences, orientations, or whatever the correct term may be).

The discussion could have been about any experience from paragliding to spelunking. I never said that one of them had sex with someone else, especially outside of some committed relationship. However, I was not clear with my implication. Thus, anyone could infer that one of the speakers had illicit sex, or at least some sort of untoward relationship. Readers had to assume and some did.

While I made no direct claim to a difficulty with the relationship of the two, some readers made that additional assumption. That was fair enough.

One comment compared the dialog to a real discussion with his spouse who’d had sex with someone else. Apparently, a fundamentalist Christian man, he made this comment: “Sex isn’t everything.” Indeed. I agree.

However, while nothing is everything, sex is important. I’ve heard it referred to as a need or a drive. We humans are sex-obsessed in both good and bad ways. It can be rewarding and loving or many other things, including disastrous.

The human sexual nature is a strong, powerful, and wonderful aspect of our nature that can be troublesome on its own, with no help from religious dogma. But the general nature of our sexual disguise is culturally prudish and problematic. It’s certainly obsessive. And religion adds a phenomenal trail of embarrassment and disgust.

When it comes to sex, I usually avoid the topic altogether or I can talk open and plain about it. The latter occurs more in writing than verbal.

The topic is ubiquitous. The Atheist Community of Austin, Texas, (ACA) the organization that does the internet call-in show, The Atheist Experience, also now does a show and podcast called Secular Sexuality.

Over time, human prudishness seems to be wilting, depending on the culture. But not so with religion. In the US, religion will have its hooks in the private sexual lives (genitals) of everyone, not only members of those religions for a long time. However, over time reality and human nature seem to slowly bubble up like a lava lamp in super slow motion.

Sex is not a bad word. It is neither sinful nor dirty. While it can be socially and psychologically harmful, and all forms of human contact can communicate disease, the fact is that we think about it and do it a lot. Sexual hang-ups (anxieties) can be caused by many things, religion being numero uno. There are words for our attitude toward sex.

Erotophilia is our disposition to respond to sexual cues either positively or negatively, measured on a scale from erotophobia to erotophilia. Erotophobes are more authoritarian, need achievement, observe traditional sex roles, experience more sex guilt, and have more negative reactions to masturbation and homosexuality than erotophiles.

Erotophilics masturbate and fantasize more frequently, think about sex often, have sexual intercourse at an earlier age, have more past sexual experiences, and a greater number of intercourse partners than erotophobics. Erotophiles are more likely to breast or genital self-examine, have more regular gynecological visits, and to engage in preventative behaviors regarding sexually transmitted diseases (i.e., have healthier sex lives).

If anything, many religious sexual views are downright unhealthy, even leading to physical mutilation of children without their consent, not to mention unwanted pregnancies. I don’t know the level of mental damage that is done.

I agree with Neil, with the ACA, and with Hitch when he said,

If anything proves that religion is not just man-made but masculine-made, it is the incessant repetition of rules and taboos governing the sexual life.” Christopher Hitchens, The Portable Atheist

And then there are all the other books on this topic: books and books and more books. It must be a big deal.

Bill

Does Praying Offend?

I’m not offended by people praying, but I think it’s a silly waste of time. I am also not offended by people dancing, public displays of affection (all sexual preferences/ orientations), drinking in public, religious garb, cannabis smoking, public breast feeding, most tatoos and body jewelry/hardware, the word fuck, and the list goes on. Nor do I think most of that to be wasted time. Many things that offend others may cause me to raise a brow, but I’m seldom enticed into feeling offended.

I am not offended that people practice religions, pray, dance around the fire, or believe they turn into werewolves. We all have the right to believe whatever we want, must, or were raised with, up to a point. When those beliefs impact, are forced upon, or negatively affect the rights of others, expect felt offense. And right there is the problem for religion.

I lived in a Muslim country for more than a year. Five times each day the call to prayer would echo from a too-nearby minaret loudspeaker, after a few snaps, crackles, and pops. I was annoyed, but I was not an offended infidel.

Doctors cost money, prayer is free. Prayed for children denied medical attention sometimes die. And its legal. I am supposed to be quiet to respect the prayer time of those who pray publicly, yet many believe that same prayed to god will condemn me to hell. I am not offended, yet they think I should be. They would be.

I wish people did not pray and did not believe in any god because it would be better for them and the world, but many pray to their god asking that he make me come to believe as they do. If I say prayer is useless, they are offended by my private opinion. If they offer to pray for me and I suggest they read a poem instead, they’re offended. But I am not.

If I suggest they not block the emergency exit, they say I am persecuting religious freedom. I must wait to drink my beer and eat my pizza while they pray. But I am not offended. If I watch and wait, they are offended that I do not pray. Fuck ‘em, but I’m unoffended. If they want to hold my hand as they pray, but at no other time, I am not offended. But they take offense if I decline.

I am offended by the religious beliefs of many. The privileged status of the religious combined with the hypocrisy of falsely claimed persecution is mindboggling. When Bush #1 said I was not an American citizen because I do not believe in god, I was offended. When Oprah W. said that a self-proclaimed atheist O.W. was interviewing could not be atheist, I was offended. When Falwell said freedom of religion does not also mean freedom from religion, I was offended. When Cruz said the Bible trumps the U.S. Constitution, I was offended.

When basic constitutional or human rights are denied Americans because of the religious beliefs of other Americans, I am offended. When people of religion are favored for no other reason over people who practice a different religion or none, I feel offended and ashamed by the foolishness of such favor. But I am not offended by prayer. I just think it stupid. I hope that does not offend you.

If you are, check out this offended person, religion on religion. I was not offended.

Bill

Fandango’s Provocative Question (FPQ) #29

It shouldn’t matter, but it does.

Fandango’s Provocative Question (FPQ) provided me a prompt for my blog. Thanks, man.

This is how Fandango asked the question:

  • Thomas Jefferson said, “It does me no injury for my neighbor to tell me there are 20 gods or no gods. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”
  • The FPQ asks, “Do you agree with Thomas Jefferson that it doesn’t matter or hurt you if people believe in many gods, in one god, or no gods? Why or why not?”

My response takes Jefferson’s comment at face value, since I don’t know the exact context, much less TJ’s thoughts. But I must split a hair. Mister Jefferson spoke of his neighbor telling him gods exist or do not and that causes no harm to Jefferson, or to me. I agree. The people who want to tell me god(s) exist(s) or not cause me no physical pain or financial loss. But that is not how Fandango posed the question.

He asked if it mattered or hurt me if people believe in god or not, and why. The biggest difference in the two is that Jefferson’s comment was personal, Fandango’s question is culturally broader and public: ‘people’ instead of my neighbor; ‘belief’ instead of god. Jefferson did not address belief (although he did in other comments), but the FPQ does.

I read one post in response in which the writer said she resented people doing that (evangelicals or “dedicated atheists”). While she never said if she agreed with Jefferson, that comment implies she does not.

I showed the FPQ to my wife and her reply to it was, “It’s none of my business.” I shook her hand and said, “Welcome to the neighborhood. Have you found a church home yet? Feel free to join us at….”

Yes. What people believe does hurt me! It picks my pocket and breaks my leg. The problem is that virtually all belief in god(s) is mired in some form of religion, even for those believers who claim no religion or eschew organized religion.

Religion is given a privileged status in the USA and much of the world. Some people make fortunes with religion and cry persecution if we ask them to pay taxes. The business of religion is given use of public property and protection (police and fire) without paying for it. I pay more taxes because of that.

I’m not even sure where to begin with physical harm. Maybe I should turn on the news to see what religious group has blown up another today. All Abrahamic scripture says that I should be killed because I do not believe in any god(s). Death threats are not rare over religion, nor is homicide.

What people believe matters to me, and it should to you. “Religion poisons everything.” Freedom of and from religion may be good things, but the greater emphasis should be on the from.

Bill

 

What is he thinking? (Updated)

Note: Thanks to Jim and Elizabeth, I learned that my header photo is not seen by all, unless they actually visit the site. I am including it here so that it will show up. I also removed the meme. ~ Bill

Credit: Old man on a bench, Santiago.jpg

The new header image I selected for Dispassionate Doubt is a photo called Old man on a bench, Santiago.jpg. It’s from Wikimedia Commons, a free media repository.

I like the picture and hope to write at least one ekphrastic poem from it. I assume others have.

I don’t use the word resonate often. But that man, his posture and expression, his clothing and surroundings, his hair and skin all combine to arouse my emotional curiosity. I want to know what he is thinking and why. I want to know his back story.

Why do I like the photo? Why do I relate?

I want to tell his story.

I am a septuagenarian who likes to sit on benches and watch life happen. I prefer earlier darker periods of mornings and the later evenings better—just before day light and just after.

I use the word ponder regularly because I enjoy my private contemplation and brooding meditation. I like to muse about life and to write my thoughts.

Look at him. What is he thinking? What do you think?