Tag Archives: religion

This I Believe Part 5, The Finale

EDIT:  Read part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4 for background.

I believe in reality.  I believe in the things we can touch, taste, hear, smell and see.  I believe in the things we can find out with a micrometer, a microscope, a telescope, a telephone.  I believe that all of human kind, past and present, has been stuck on one tiny little rock orbiting around an average-smallish star, circling a giant spiral barred-galaxy, hurtling through space along with billions of other galaxies.  I believe that this one life we live is all we get, so I want to try to get as much out of it as I can before I have to go to sleep for that last time. 

I love my wife, and I love my family.  And I know they love me back, because they show it.  They call me, they write me, they leave me messages, they hug and kiss me when they see me, and they’re happy to see me when I’ve been away. 

I believe I have a really good life.  And I realize that many others do not have such a good life.  I believe I have a moral obligation to help those people.  Not an obligation imposed from outside, not an obligation I want to fulfill so I get rewarded at some later date, but an obligation for all the help I’ve been given, before and since my birth. 

I believe I am fallible.  I make mistakes.  I am often wrong.  But I try to correct those mistakes or wrong ideas when they are pointed out to me.    I welcome criticism (not something I have always done), seeing it as a chance to improve myself.  I want to talk with people.  I have a hard time breaking the ice, but I crave more give-and-take of ideas.  I want to expose myself to new ideas, and expose other to ideas I’ve had. 

I believe in the truth.  I find honesty in all things to be preferable to happy lies.  And if I find a truth that conflicts with one of my dearly held beliefs, the belief must go, for reality must always prevail.

Thank you for reading, and please help me live up to my ideals.

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This I Believe Part 4

And this is the forth in my series on my beliefs.  Please take a peek at Part 1 about what I’m doing, Part 2 for a bit of background, and Part 3 for the first half of my de-conversion from Christianity.  On with part 4:

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Jehovah’s Witness

So, the morning before I left on my work trip last week, there was a knock on the door.  Well, I didn’t have to leave for the airport for about an hour, so I went and opened the door to find a 40 something lady and her maybe 10-year-old daughter on the porch.  She was clutching a small black book, and some loose paper.  There was no doubt what this was.

My first encounter with a Jehovah’s Witness. 

Now I don’t really know much about these folks.  I obviously know lots about catholics, I know the basics of the bigger mainline protestant groups, I’m familiar with some of the more evangelical fundamentalist groups, I’ve read about the mormons, jews, muslims, but I don’t know a whole lot about the JWs.  They leave little paper flyers on our door every couple of months, and I know there’s a kingdom hall just down the road a bit, but that’s about the extent of it.  I think they might be somewhat related to the seventh day adventists. 

Anyway, she was nice enough.  She gave a short spiel about how this time of year many people start thinking about jesus and such, because most people around here are christians.  Well, I broke in and let her know that I was not of that persuasion, and that I was actually an atheist.  She didn’t freak out or anything, and mentioned that she had come across a few of us in the area.  That was a bit of a surprise to me, but I guess it shouldn’t have been. So she asked me if I was more agnostic, and I said no, that I was convinced there is no such thing as a god, in the sense that that word means anything. 

And we got into a nice little back and forth, where she would ask me what I believed and then she’d put in her little bit of bible goodness.  She mentioned how they don’t follow the old testament so much, with all the stoning and dashing babies against the rocks when I brought it up.  She said they followed what jesus said when he said to love your neighbor as yourself, and to love god.  I said I wholeheartedly agreed with one of those statements. 

She then asked me what I thought of the bible, and the state of human society now as opposed to then.  I don’t think there was any chance either of us would change the other’s mind, but it was in fact a very pleasant conversation.  I enjoyed it, and as she left, she thanked me for having such a friendly conversation with her.  I’m guessing she’s seen a few doors slammed in her face.

It’s sad that someone who is evidently pretty smart buys into such patent nonsense, but of course, I see that around me every day.  Still something like 80% of the population of this country openly professes to be christian in one form or another, with another 5% being muslims, hindus, buddhists or jews.   

It’ll be a long struggle, requiring many different methods, but I believe we are making progress in banishing superstition to the history books. I’ll continue doing what little I can in my own way, and help others when I can.

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This I Believe, Part 3

Ok, so my last post on this subject concerned my upbringing.  This post will cover my de-conversion.  Its funny, my spell check doesn’t recognize de-conversion.  Stupid spell check.  Anyway, click below the fold to start reading.

EDIT:  Read part 1 and part 2 here.

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This I Believe, Part 2

Read part 1 here.   

I’m starting off on this task with a bit of a history of my thoughts.  Future posts will expand on my current thinking, and how I arrived there. 

I was raised Roman Catholic, of the post-Vatican 2 American variety.  I saw the pope (JP2) when he visited the US back in 1993 for World Youth Day, and there were several times when I considered becoming a priest.  My family attended church every sunday, even on vacation (we kids especially did not enjoy that part), and Mom managed to get us to attend most of the major church holidays when good catholics are supposed to go to church.  In fact, Mom really drove all of our religious activity.  Dad was originally raised a Methodist, but he attended catholic church with the family, at least as long as I can remember (apparently he didn’t so much with my older siblings).  He did convert to Catholicism in the mid-90s.  I’m not real sure why, because I’ve never asked him about it.  I plan to do that sometime soon, but I keep chickening out.

I completed all the standard catholic activities (sacraments), baptism, confession, communion and confirmation.  (Careful at those links.  They are officially sanctioned catholic dogma, and are mind-numbingly long and theologically thick.)  I was never very excited about any of this stuff, but there was never much option.  There was one part of my religious education that I enjoyed, though.  As a wee little kid, I don’t remember much traditional ‘sunday school’, or CCD as catholics call it.  Instead, we had a group of families that met every week called ‘Little Church’.  I remember we would usually have somewhere around 5-8 families, so around 30-40 people?  We had some instructional materials from somewhere, and basically used group activities to teach the catholic catechism.  We’d do little skits acting out bible stories, or other activities.  I’m kinda drawing a blank, as I enjoyed the acting somewhat, but don’t remember much of the other stuff we did.  Mostly I liked it though for the socializing.  We’d meet at a different families house each week where we’d have food, the kids would play with other kids their age, and generally have a good time.  I’ve never been good with long-term friendships (I think I have something of an issue here, but that’s for another time), but I still keep in touch with a couple other folks that I know from Little Church.  It’s kinda funny, that some of those I keep in touch with have left the church as I have.  Of course there are those who haven’t strayed as far as I have either.

I wonder if this less formal mode of instruction didn’t sink in as far as the more traditional methods.  On the one hand, it wasn’t the traumatic experience some people describe with nuns and brothers, but on the other, we spent more time having fun than in learning the ins and outs of the catechism.  As I got into highschool though, things got a bit more traditional.  We had the formal Youth Group thing, which was a preparation for confirmation.  This is where the kids are supposed to make an informed and knowledgeable commitment to being a lifelong catholic.  Hehe, lemme tell ya, that didn’t stick too hard.  Anyway, I think I was among the more earnest students in Youth Group.  The vast majority there were there only because their parents forced them to be.  I wasn’t enthralled with it by any stretch, but I made an effort to really do what I was supposed to.  Hell, I was probably one of the only kids there who actually took the whole requirement to remain a virgin until marriage seriously. 

Which is a bit odd, because there were definitely issues I had with Catholicism.  I got into several arguments with my mother when I thought some point we were supposed to believe didn’t make any sense.  Unfortunately, I can’t seem to remember any of them.  There was certainly a certain amount of tension though, because of my older siblings.  Of course this is what I remember, and I may have missed some things, but I felt that my older sibling had fallen away from the church, and that that had greatly upset my mom.  I wanted to show her that I was a ‘good boy’ and I think that at least partly explains why I made an honest effort at being a good catholic.  I suspect that my two younger sisters also felt the same to some extent, and made the same kind of effort.

I even attended church regularly when I joined the Navy.  In fact, the 1-2 hours of church on Sunday was my only refuge from all the stresses I was under in boot camp.  To be able to slouch in a padded chair in an air-conditioned building, listening to familiar songs from my childhood was a serious morale boost that helped me get through.  I was even moved to tears a few times with the feelings that welled up in me. I continued attending church regularly until I got to my submarine.  I would still go when we were in port, but at sea we didn’t really have a chaplain or anything.  There was an informal catholic study group that would meet on sunday, but I never felt comfortable approaching them. 

The last time I went to church for my own benefit was christmas morning in 2002, on the tiny island of Diego Garcia.  The church was tiny, and there were only about 20 people present, but it was very peaceful and intimate.  Again, it was that feeling of security and familiarity as an escape from stressful conditions that really drew me in. 

And I think that’s a good place to stop this post.  I’ve got one more post I want to do, then the next post after that will cover my de-conversion, and after that I think I will describe what it is that I believe now, returning to the title of this post.  Please, if you would like to submit a This I Believe essay as I talked about the other day, please do so.  Thanks, and stay tuned!

EDIT:  Read part 3, part 4 and part 5.

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This I Believe, Part 1

This is the start of what’s going to be a series of posts where I expand on what it is that I belive.  I caused a bit of consternation with some family and friends a few years back when I first came out as an atheist, and I’ve been looking for a way of explaining what I’m thinking.  I think the A-word can be a bit confusing and concerning for some, so I will do my best to make it clear how I got here.  Just please be patient with me as I go through this, as I am not a very proficient writer.

I’ve been wanting to do this series of posts for a while, it’s actually the main reason I started this blog.  I was inspired to do this a while back by the NPR series This I Believe.  The idea there is for people, from all walks of life, to describe what they believe in a short essay.  They use a few simple guidelines:

Tell a story: Be specific. Take your belief out of the ether and ground it in the events of your life. Consider moments when belief was formed or tested or changed. Think of your own experience, work, and family, and tell of the things you know that no one else does. Your story need not be heart-warming or gut-wrenching—it can even be funny—but it should be real. Make sure your story ties to the essence of your daily life philosophy and the shaping of your beliefs.

Be brief: Your statement should be between 350 and 500 words. That’s about three minutes when read aloud at your natural pace.

Name your belief: If you can’t name it in a sentence or two, your essay might not be about belief. Also, rather than writing a list, consider focusing on one core belief, because three minutes is a very short time.

Be positive: Please avoid preaching or editorializing. Tell us what you do believe, not what you don’t believe. Avoid speaking in the editorial “we.” Make your essay about you; speak in the first person.

Be personal: Write in words and phrases that are comfortable for you to speak. We recommend you read your essay aloud to yourself several times, and each time edit it and simplify it until you find the words, tone, and story that truly echo your belief and the way you speak.

Those sites I linked to have essays from presidents to criminals and everything in between.  I find them very interesting to listen too, and often moving and inspirational.  Please, check them out if you have some time.

I’m going to try to follow this format for my This I Believe essay, when I get around to it.  I would like to invite anyone who reads this blog (all 3 of you :p) to submit your own essay.  I’m not doing this in an effort to disparage others beliefs, but because I feel to have any kind of discussion about beliefs, its necessary to know the actual beliefs of the person you are discussing with.  If you would just like to write for my eyes only, that’s fine, but if you’re okay with it I’d like to post any submissions I get.  I can do it anonymously if you like, under a pseudonym, or using your actual name.  So, if you could e-mail me, or message me in Facebook, or whatever way is comfortable for you.  Thanks!

EDIT:  Read part 2, part 3 and part 4 here.  Read my This I Believe essay here.

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“I hope the Rapture is smoother than this.”

Ah, the religious crazies.  It seems that according to the Bible, May 21 2011 will be the end of the world.  And the man running the show, one Harold Camping , has no doubts:

“I know it’s absolutely true, because the Bible is always absolutely true,” he says. “If I were not faithful that would mean that I’m a hypocrite.”

Harold proclaims this message on his radio talk show, Family Radio, to a world-wide audience.  On the surface they sound like your typical american religious fundamentalists who believe in the literal truth of the King James Bible.  They just seems to take their religion a bit more seriously than most Americans.

Now of course we can ask, “what’s the harm?”  Did you read the article, the one linked to the word ‘crazies’ above?  Like this line:

‘Arianna Ramrajie, of Ocala, Florida, has one she’d like to share.

On May 21, the sun will “turn red like blood,” the Earth will open up, bodies will be strewn about and “some people will die for eternity,” she says.’

The girl who said this is 7 years old.  If an adult wants to run off and abandon all their worldly goods to drive around in an RV littering, sure, go for it.  But when they drag their kids along, how is that ok?  I don’t think new laws are the answer (and probably wouldn’t be constitutional), and from that article I would say that arguing with them won’t accomplish anything either.  I can only come up with one thing I can do.

Ridicule them.  Point and laugh at their stupidity.  Mock them.  Draw analogies to Jonestown, the Branch Davidians, Heaven’s Gate.  Show how those all started as innocuous religious groups that then took the train to crazy town. 

We’ve still got a long way to go, but we’re making progress.

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