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  1. TheBluegrassSkeptic

    I Dream Of Mayberry

    "I miss the good old days. You know, when things were simpler and purer. Like Mayberry was." A good friend of mine laments on this idea every time we get to drinking and talking about our childhoods. He genuinely misses those days in our lives when life was simple, and common decency ruled the land. The funny thing about his pining for this era of yesterday is that it never existed. Wanting life to return to the ways of The Andy Griffith Show is probably one of the most ridiculous notions in America today. Seriously. What makes it worse would be the fact that many Americans believe things should return to Mayberry-like conditions. They wish for this small town's worldview whenever they hear news about legislation that favors quicker immigration being considered. They cry for Mayberry's Christian family values whenever they hear that another state is willing to allow gay marriages or offer benefits to these couples. Even politicians use the good old times excuse when passing discriminating legislation. Take Asa Hutchinson, governor of Arkansas, for example. He was going to sign into law one of those Religious Restoration Acts that have been growing in popularity lately. After receiving backlash in Indiana, he became nervous about what he was signing in to law and ultimately decided to send the legislation back for revision instead. Hutchinson isn't the only example of politicians trying to pass zealous legislation across our great country. Many of these bills are passed through state legislatures at an alarming speed all across America right now. They are being promoted under the guise of protecting personal freedoms. Measures like these so-called Religious Restoration Acts are nothing new, but there are also a few types that are narrow and explicitly targeting minority groups like the LGBTQ communities. Child Protection Acts aim to prevent same-sex couples from adopting children because conservative groups believe that not only is it immoral, but these couples are forcing unnatural ideals on their children. At the end of the day, and a lot of wasted taxpayer money fighting them, these bills generally do not get very far. After deciding to back away from signing the Restoration Act, Asa said that "... In ordinary times, this bill would not be controversial, but these are not ordinary times." When one talks about ordinary times, s/he is referring to the charmed life portrayed by shows like Mayberry. I hate to break it to you, but the circumstances in Mayberry never existed in America. Never, ever. Never, ever, never, ever, ever, EVER. People watch that 1960s family show and treat it as an honest representation of the all-American family formula for success: god, common sense, and small government. This governor I was mentioning had grown up watching this show, as well as other programming with similar themes. He didn't understand that Mayberry, while being set in the 1960s expanding economy, was based on the simpler times of the 1930s. There was a desire for nostalgia to be brought into the show, and that is why folk music, church, and focus on the family was incorporated. So, what does this have to do with America's attitudes today? Let's go back to the 30s and have a look. Many say these were the good times, but how accurate is this statement? The main point of success when talking about the 1930s would be the increased desire for simple living, and that was out of necessity. Passion for simplicity brought an increasing demand for folk music and art. Jobs were scarce thanks to the Depression. Add an agricultural disaster like the Dust Bowl on top of it, and food had become scarce, too. Tradition became king during that decade before WWII broke out, and so did a tough as nails attitude when faced with the desperation to survive in a wrecked economy. Mayberry never bothered with any of this information. It used the 1960s as the story's backdrop to help keep the ugly realities of the Depression away. The Andy Griffith Show was brilliant in its almost seamless meshing of our conservative past with the modern societal trends of the 1960s. Writers of the show used earlier traditional values and the modern conveniences of the future to create an idealized example of American life to entertain us. Americans everywhere watched this show and considered it a standard of reality. But in truth, it was an illusion. It was a cushion for the depressing news of Vietnam's bloody loss of lives. It was an escape from the television coverage of the draft, desegregation, and riots in the streets at major university campuses. Mayberry never truly existed in our history. The good old days, depending on which generation you look to, never had it as good as Mayberry. The entire purpose of The Andy Griffith Show wasn't to highlight reality but to soften it. It hid the ugly racism that demanded blacks to sit at the back of the bus. This show avoided the sexual revolution occurring across the US and instead focused on what was perceived as wholesome. This is what television shows were supposed to do back then: provide a feel-good atmosphere to distract its viewers from the harsh reality of the world around them for a little while. I doubt the writers ever intended for its young audience to actually twist that small town into a distorted remembrance of a real time in history, but that is what happened. Indeed, the producers never intended for their little-imagined village of impossibility to become an actual goal for modern society. Still, that is what many who long for the good old days want to see us become. They want modern convenience, traditions of the past, and all the issues of the world to resolve themselves via a limited standard of reality. If you don't want to play along, go away and be quiet so everyone else can be comfortable. If you don't be silent, then they'll legislate your silence. These ultra-conservatives refuse to accept Mayberry's perfect storefronts, comical barber, and admired sheriff as the illusions they truly were. Much like their Bibles, conservative Christians cling to the idea that simpler times are a panacea for all things wrong in the world. After all, on the streets of this Vermont town, there is less temptation and less opportunity to wander off the divine path to Heaven. There is also the assumption that if everyone is godly, then society will automatically improve. This is something that Mayberry never remotely insisted upon in any of its episodes. Thankfully, Mayberry had several individuals that never quite fit in. Despite not fitting in, or even genuinely conforming, one character really did have a positive impact on the town. I think you all know who I am referring to in particular. Yes, Ernest T. Bass is who I'm talking about. Deputy Fife saw him as a nut. Myself? I think Ernest was an innovator. He showed ingenuity, determination, and a knack for making people think outside their own interests. This outcast even managed to garner support from Sheriff Taylor himself, all while clashing with the fundamental principles the town operated on. Of course, he wasn't the only one who showed doubt about the moral reasoning of his fellow townsfolk. Fife's character would often challenge reason. There is always wiggle room in the relationships depicted on the show, and even a willingness to understand different points of view on issues. One episode, in particular, demonstrates this dynamic of the show when Barney believes in psychic powers. You see that Andy indulges Barney's agnosticism about Aladdin's lamp. While this particular scene tries to be humorous, it shows a willingness to meet in the middle, and at least discuss why a person feels a certain way. On top of that, you also see it is okay just to agree to disagree and still be friends. This is how society should work to be successful. How all these genuinely beautiful examples of functioning society have been blatantly ignored in favor of an impossible one-size-fits-all lifestyle is beyond me. Many evangelicals band together because they share a common belief structure, with little care of how crude and divisive their behavior is to the society around them. They isolate themselves from the rest of America's citizenry. When one would rather be pit against the entire world than be willing to compromise, one will learn that this mentality will cost them dearly in the future. Someone needs to conclusively demonstrate that strength isn't necessarily in just numbers anymore but in that of overall unity on issues and goals which are inclusive. Being contrary simply because of cultural differences is both foolish and costly for our future. Will ultra-conservatives ultimately decide to leave our shores and found their own country like the Pilgrims or Puritans? I hope not. The Pilgrims at first found England too corrupt and oppressive, so they tried to immigrate to Holland. But once in Holland, their children began assimilating to Dutch culture, and this was unacceptable, so they returned to England. Over time, they left again, this time hoping for a possible future in North America. What happened once arriving in America? They started to divide against each other and formed their own separate churches. You had witch trials. Heresy charges. Adultery. Capital charges included methods that gave one jail time, public whippings, and more. The bottom line here is that Christianity has to quit running away from the world and consider picking up a few lessons from other cultures. This doctrine and its leaders obviously can't handle it out there on their own. They are continually running away from accountability and insisting everyone else must conform to their standards to avoid it. It's time for them to make reasonable accommodation for the world around them, not the other way around. Also, ultra-conservatives must begin to acknowledge the harm being caused by their repressive legislative tactics against those who don't follow their ideology. There isn't a stretch of land large enough or a television show whose interpretation is well-written enough to give these political zealots the perfect theocracy they desire. They are often the authors of their own misery, eating their own when confronted with non-conformity within their ranks. This constant demonstration of cognitive dissonance is foolhardy and oh so limiting in understanding how the world they live in actually works. Here's a reminder of what the 1930s simple life involved:
  2. I'm just going to say it. I have had it up to fucking here with the Atheist Role Model Who Is Causing A Lot Of Drama In My Personal Circle bullshit. This is utter BULLSHIT. I have had the opportunity to interact with him for a three years or so now. Granted, it was usually one sided, and when he wanted something, but I have been privy to a lot of background discussion he authors. Ever having a shoulder and ear that many of us mutually shared to let him vent his woes. In all honestly? I'd known him approximately 6 months, and tried to shake off my red flag warnings. But goddamn, once again, I should have listened to my inner voice. He is a dishonest person, and while we can't be perfect, repeat behavior like this is a problem. A little background as to why I am so vehemently stepping out here. As many of you know, I'd dealt with a dishonest man for 17 years. Prior to that? Well, let's just say my ex-husband didn't fall far from the tree on the standard mistake of men I have a penchant for. He was father of the year in the streets, a selfish bastard in the sheets. He would always tell me to communicate with him what I wanted, and I'll be damned if he would ever acquiesce. All the way down to coitus. He would ask my advice, if he didn't agree, he treated me as if I were infantile, and then of course, if he would use my advice? Declare he had come up with the chosen action all on his own. I was never considered a contributor, unless he was showing off his family. Relationship wise? Oh, we were monogamous, but he would serial cheat, telling the other women either that he was single, or in an open relationship. Of course he would insist I pleasure him on demand whether I wanted to or not (god forbid he went more than 3 days), and blame me for everything that ever went wrong. If the world wasn't in agreement with him, then surely something was wrong with the world. So, when dealing with a certain atheist super hero of the South, I began to feel an odd atmosphere of deja vu. I tried to shake it, but then the drama with a particular non profit erupted. And seeing and hearing his own testimony, behind private group doors, on what was going on versus what they said, I took a grain a salt from both parties. Worse, I let slide the fact this atheist "role model" only approached me if he wanted "crowd sourcing" ideas, wanted to be sure whose side I was on when I was reading through past posts of the non profit mess, or shared a thumbs up if recent pictures of my tits looked amazing. In all honesty, I could give two shits less if he didn't stay with the non profit, I just didn't want a good service disappearing due to drama that BOTH parties should have taken to arbitration. I know damn well if he were in the right, that non profit would have been on the hook for the arbitration bill, and vice versa. I now am faced with what I suspected he would do to a friend mine, who is also a former girlfriend of his, coming into reality. Trash and burn. And frankly, I understand that it is his relationship and none of my damn business, except... He violated consent. Not once, but at least three times. With his now ex-wife. With my friend. And now another friend. And I don't mean he sexually assaulted anyone, but he took sexual advantage. He changed the rules without consent. Cheating is a serious consent issue if you didn't know. If I am in a monogamous relationship, and I decide I want to sleep with other people and not clear this with my partner, or the other partner I am sleeping with, I am taking away their consent to the relationship because I have changed the dynamic of the relationship. Yes, if you sleep with a different partner, and the other does not know, a little bit of advice: DO NOT FUCK YOUR ORIGINAL PARTNER AGAIN UNTIL YOU TALK ABOUT IT. More partners mean more risks. Health wise, emotionally, and financially. I used to take a very different attitude about cheating. My standard rule of thumb has been if someone cheats, just move on, let it go, and treat it as another lesson learned. I no longer take it so lightly because of the earlier mentioned reasons. I've been a victim of disease being brought to my bed. I've been a victim of the emotional toll of desperately trying to save a relationship I was told was still monogamous-despite his cheating. And I have been a financial victim because I had to move almost immediately as my ex-husband couldn't stand me living in the home if I wasn't going to be in a relationship any longer, or wouldn't at least still fuck him in the mean time till I moved. And I have walked the fine line of cheating, more like disappointing future expectations, but still came clean before engaging my partner again. I gave him the option to stay or walk, and he walked. Deservedly so. I gave him the choice to continue. I gave him a voice. I didn't lie. I didn't hide my actions. I didn't seek to possess him on terms that would have been against his will. So, I do not take this continuation of behavior as just a "life lesson" that this role model continues to repeat. Does he really need consent explained? I highly doubt it. In fact, I think he needs to be honest about who he really is, and what he wants in a relationship. Quit being a coward. If he wants an open relationship, then go into a relationship that is open. Do not promise whatever the lover wants to hear in order to have this person in your life, making you feel special and wanted. That person is not there for you only, and selfish desire is never a good reason to manipulate someone to get what you want. If this person isn't open to being open, then you can't lie and violate them like that. No, means no. You will just have to live with the rejection and move on. FWIW, my ex-husband got 17 years of my life. 17 years of constant lying, possessiveness, secrets, disease, narcissistic torture, and violation of my consent to the terms of the relationship. He never once said to me,"Kate,I cannot be in a monogamous relationship." He never gave me the opportunity, or even show the respect to allow me to participate in our relationship. No, he used me. He abused my role as mother and caregiver. He also stood on the backs of countless other women in order to fill his starving ego and insecurities, and he also used them to punish me, and further his career that took him out of town for weeks at a time. This role model for secular and exiting religious alike, is violating consent on every level. It is disgusting and below him, especially when writing "“We are a sex positive community if we are nothing else. Personally, I’m proud of that fact, because as a former Southern Baptist I am so very done with the body shame and antiquated approach to sexual relationships that I inherited. But people also use the freedom this affords to exploit others and take advantage of them." What he is doing isn't just a small matter of cheating. If what is said is to be trusted, he outright abandoned a family he created, and then proceeded to wreck another. So why am I acting like I have any part of his circus? His behavior has had a negative effect on my own social life within certain secular circles. I passed up on what he refers to as a "fight club" get-together last year because I knew he would be there. You know, some of these gatherings are a very intimate settings, and the idea of even shaking his hand, or worse hugging him, made me sick to my stomach. I skipped out on two conventions because I knew he would be there, and there was no way I was going to stand by with a happy shit smile. And the fact I am passing up on events to avoid him, and the drama attached, is bullshit. Who is he to have this effect over me? I will tell you. He is a trigger zone of red flags for me. I know his fan club will be jumping all over me, and so be it. Unlike the majority of them, I have dealt with him on a much more intimate level. I've seen and read enough from his fingertips to be justified in my scorn. To be clear, my scorn isn't for him to personally answer to. He owes me nothing, and this word salad might seem unnecessary to many, but it's my rally cry for him, and others like him, to get help. This role model is burning out fast, and I don't know if he can see it. So let me hold up that mirror for him, and let him decide. He can claim that this is me projecting past bad relationships on to him, but it isn't. His own actions have triggered my own warning flags to stay away and avoid. Please do better, oh Southern Secular power house. Your own kids could be your next victims simply because of the example you have set. ****Special Entry Update**** I have screenshots from the accusers, and am not going to retract one iota of what I have penned here now that I have read it all. I am glad they are working together to not only share their experience and eventually put the screens out there, but are keeping a stiff upper lip with the absolute hatred they are receiving in the fall out. There have been some who question the use of words and phrases like "sexually violated", "sexually assaulted", etc. I leave that up to the discretion of the accuser, as I am not in her shoes. I will say a violation of consent is most definitely an issue here, and I stand by my assessment that the women involved were most definitely sexually taken advantage of by this spokesperson I am blogging about here. Don't like it? See my field of fucks, and that it is barren.
  3. Over the last decade I have dreamed of being able to help students pursue education that helps them further important work needing to be tackled in separation of church and state issues and many fields in science. This can be accomplished if students decide to pursue political careers, community leadership positions, higher education teaching jobs, and so much more. With the onslaught of propaganda surrounding issues like keeping a god in school, governmental suppression on earth science, encouragement of people to remain ignorant about important social justice issues in the name of ideological purity, I decided I would come after your kids. I'm looking at you evangelical parents out there. I am coming for your children. To educate them, remove this naive idea that leveling the playing field for all communities to have authority is showing preference, and enable them to think logically about an issue and understand that sometimes, you just have to say,"I don't know" instead of filling in the gap with whatever unsupported reason one can find. And finally, I am coming for these kids to help sponsor their future careers in the areas I mentioned above. Well, at least one this year anyway. I'm excited to announce the creation of the Hillbilly Edumacashun Fund. This is a scholarship program that I am excited to launch this year on behalf of my podcast Unbuckling the Bible Belt. This year, starting 10/1/17 - 11/1/17, students ages 17 - 22 that are enrolled to start, or are currently attending college, can toss in their hat for the $500 award amount for an essay to be submitted that is judged the best for the topic of "Bad Ad Hoc Argumentation for Intelligent Design". Scholarship money will be awarded to one individual based on the best scoring in the grading scale listed below in the details section of this post. How could this get any better? Well, more money for entries next year! Part of my plan to start putting money towards next year's scholarship fund-in which we hope to raise $1500 to award to three students- will be a publication of all the entrants' submissions from this year in an eBook! All proceeds (minus processing fee by Amazon), will go directly to the Hillbilly Edumacashun Fund for 2018! We would really love to make this scholarship program larger and larger every year, so I hope this catches on. Our podcast celebrates youth and the future they are creating for the coming generations, and every little bit, even if just $500, will help them accomplish that endeavor. So, here is the official rules of the Hillbilly Edumacashun Fund Scholarship Event: Entrant Requirements: 1. Must be 17 - 22 years old, and identify as atheist, agnostic, humanist and/or secular. 2. Must be currently accepted/enrolled in college pursuing a career course that helps you further a higher level of secular activism. 3. If you are still in high school, you will have to provide an admissions letter and set to start at a college in January of 2018 (Winter quarter). 4. A resident of the United States of America, including its territories. 5. Provide documentation of all of the above using a state identification card, Admission letter, and college program statement. 6. Short paragraph outlining your current secular activism and biographical information. 7. Be sure to give three options for communication: -Home address -Two phone numbers -Email address 8. Applicants of all races, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation are encouraged to apply. Entry Requirements: 1. The topic is "Bad Ad Hoc Argumentation for Intelligent Design". Have fun with this topic. If you are unsure what ad hoc argumentation is, please go here: https://www.thoughtco.com/ad-hoc-explanations-causes-and-rationalization-3968430, or if you learn better by seeing examples, this YouTube video about Jibbers Crabst really shows ad hoc fallacy at its best: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZ_BtZ-5O60 2. Entries will be accepted from 10/1/17 at 12:00 pm EST - 11/1/17 at 12:00 pm EST. If sending via postal service, entries must be postmarked 11/1/17. A winner will be chosen and announced Live via our YouTube channel on Black Friday, 11/24/2017 at 12:00 p.m. EST. Be sure to give three options for communication: -Home address -Two phone numbers -Email address 3. Entries must be an original work and not previously used for previous essay contests. We do check for plagiarism, so Don't Do It. 4. An essay between 800 - 1500 words, double spaced, typed, edited, and in pdf format. Where To Send Entries Via email unbucklingpodcast@gmail.com. Via postal service: Hillbilly Edumacashun Fund, c/o Amanda Ashcraft, PO Box 72394, Newport, KY, 41072. Fax is not available. How A Winner Is Selected 1. If any of the entry requirements above are not met, it will not be considered for the scholarship. 2. We will be expecting a properly formatted and proofread submission. 3. We will be only considering entries that stay on topic. If it is off topic, we will not consider it for the scholarship. 4. Podcast members will judge each entry and decide on a single winner. Scholarship Disbursement Scholarship money will be sent to the college listed on your Admission letter by January 2nd, 2018. Award will be earmarked for your account with the college that can be used towards the cost of any of the following: 1. Tuition (Current only, not for default amounts) 2. Textbooks, Computer Software, general class supplies purchased on campus only 3. Dorm costs 4. Campus Parking costs 5. THESE MONIES CANNOT BE REFUNDED FOR CASH NOR REPLACED IF YOU TRANSFER SCHOOLS AND ARE UNABLE TO TAKE THE REMAINING AMOUNT OF THE SCHOLARSHIP WITH YOU. Miscellaneous When submitting your essay to the Hillbilly Edumacashun Fund Scholarship program, you must agree to the following: 1. All works submitted to this event will be considered the property of Unbuckling the Bible Belt Podcast who will use the material submitted as they see fit without any compensation owed to the submitting party. 2. Unbuckling the Bible Belt Podcast will always credit the original author for composing the submitted work when used in advertisements, compilations, fund raisers, and other marketing options. 3. Winner will be required to do an interview with Unbuckling the Bible Belt by 2/1/2017. Because we're proud of ya! Oh, and if we think of something we might have forgotten...Yeah, we will update these rules at any time.
  4. TheBluegrassSkeptic

    Cognitively Dissed

    I've always enjoyed watching how a person can adapt, and even sometimes evolve, belief to fit the not just certain time frames in life, but even moment to moment. The give and take between believer and belief system has always fascinated me because many times it seems the believer is unaware of the relationship that is actually occurring. Especially so when confronted with situations or reasoning that directly confronts and contradicts said belief relationship. Much like poor Beni Gabor (The Mummy, 1999), one starts flipping through all the angles of belief in order to find a ledge to maintain standing on. To teeter wildly on the edge of rational thought and desperately avoid it has always been something I could sympathize with. How many times have we had to look in the mirror, and finally we admitted we are tired and committed to an important change? This constant flipping about belief rules to fit situations isn't an uncommon problem in many religiously oriented life styles. A wife promises to keep her spending under control so as to not run up the credit bills too high, but turns around five minutes later to pledge $85 a month on that same credit card to Joel Osteen ministries. It's for God, so she isn't breaking her promise. Pope Francis condemns gender pay inequality, but I'll be damned if they are willing to ordain women anytime soon despite how flimsy the basis of doctrine is to support the church's patriarchal employment structure (Jesus only chose male apostles, so there's your proof?) If one does not follow the same structured belief rules as another, each one dismisses the other's belief as misguided instead of understanding why they ended up serving the same deity differently. A child is sick and dies despite the prayers and pleading by the parents for the child to be healed by their god. Instead of accepting that the illness took the child, the parents reason that their god had a plan in their lives for allowing their child to die so young, instead of accepting it was a disease that decided the entire event that was unpreventable and out of their control. Many believe the End Times are here, are saving food and ammunition, yet aren't they supposed to go in the Rapture and not have to need any of these things anyway? When you bring up this example, things get very defensive don't they? That's the fear, the feeling of vulnerability, and nervousness of having to reevaluate one's pool of answers. The examples can go on forever, but this type of thinking doesn't have to. Let's start with one of the first exercises in dealing with cognitive dissonance: A Question Is Not A Judgement. Have you ever been in conversation with someone and you tell them some fantastic epiphany you had about becoming rich, doing good for humanity, and maybe you could die with an awesome legacy? And then that person points out how your method of becoming rich might actually not be good for humanity and suddenly you go blank, feel super awkward, and then scan your memory banks for a more solid position that supports your plan. Hello being defensive, goodbye having a conversation. Anytime we are confronted with errors in our reasoning, we instinctively hold onto our original reasoning. We can't help it. Our brains need time to rewire our understanding and application of logic when we get new information or realize we have an error in our data set. This is a common issue many atheists run into when trying to get family members to understand that because we don't believe in a god doesn't mean we automatically believe in the devil. After all, why believe in the devil if we don't even believe in a god? But this logical concept is actually difficult to understand for many religious family members because they are programmed with an "either or" scenario when it comes to belief and practicing it. Either you go to church or you aren't a true believer. Either you believe in the holy spirit or you aren't a true believer. Either you are pro-life or you support murder, which is a sin. It's always extremes, which is the mode of thinking you have to get out of. To combat this, one has to remember a question is not a judgement. It's just a question. A question helps one explore concepts, avenues, solutions, application, and understanding of held belief. You can't call it a question if you are looking to only reinforce your own side of the argument either. This is an exploration into thought process, so it is an experience of mutual understanding for both parties. You have to be patient when doing this because unease will undoubtedly strike. I've often hear phrases like,"I don't like this line of conversation" or "You can't change my mind", and my favorite "I'm not going to let you misconstrue what I say and attack me with my own words". All of these are defensive positions, are the red flags you need to be aware of so you don't allow the tension to escalate enough to allow for a complete avoidance of the subject. There is another part to questioning though, and it's a tough one sometimes. This is difficult enough to do with just one's own cognitive processes, but trying to help someone else to do the same? Do not count on knocking it out in one conversation, or even ten. I've found demonstrated consistency and interaction is the only way you can start to break down some of the resolute self-denial that just won't budge when trying to convince Aunt Mary that you really are happy with your life without jeebus. Again, it's not about being right, it's about understanding, which leads to discussion and tolerance, which can sometimes lead to even greater things in helping someone grow into a more rational mind set when trying to understand the world we live in. The old saying about more than one right way to skin a cat? Very true, and opening your mind to the methods available are important. Having an open mind is about learning and education, not argument and debate. "You're trying to change who I am!" I think this is probably the most important piece to cognitive dissonance's grip on the way a person approaches life. Pretty much says it all in that picture above doesn't it? Identity is hands down the biggest part of confronting and changing one's patterns of logic. Mostly because when you start questioning small things, they add up, and the next thing you know your entire identity is on the dissection table. How much of it was your own to begin with? Who am I? Who was I? Who will I be? And more importantly, will my community still accept me or am I willing to lose some of them? This loss of identity is probably the most scary thing to face because when you grow up and have so much of your world manufactured and programmed by others around you when you are young, you have to begin an entirely new journey of self discovery, and not all of those programmers are going to want to be in your life in anymore, or they are going to want to get you back on the right track. You feel like you are an aberration in the land of Camazotz. Even worse, you will find a lot of self-doubt rumbling up to the surface, and this is true for many who do take the plunge into exploring fact and fiction, and what is reasonably acceptable in life. Cultural programming and human nature contribute to this most primal of defensive mechanisms. No matter how much stark facts are thrown at us, we will grip even tighter to the error ridden logic that has helped us get through life. It turns out that the best way to help people get past cultural barriers, ideological barriers, and even class barriers are the kind of tactics I absolutely hate to use: emotional appeal. Fear is the word to know, but do not always say it out loud. Yes, that's right. Showing the stark numbers of dogs abused every year in black and white will yield little change of heart in donations. You bring out a woman singing "In The Arms Of The Angels" while showing slides of mangled, dirty dogs that are in shelter cages? The compassion starts to flow and the urge to take action is nearly impossible to ignore. This is why churches and families have such a solid control on the thought processes of young children and adults in the world, usually reinforced with fear and shame. Fear being the more popular so long as it leads towards a pre constructed solution. You can't just set someone's mental world on fire and expect any productive results without a clear cut path of action you want them to take in order to avoid the fire. Keep it simple, and to the point. Don't want to go to hell and be tortured and burned and cut into pieces everyday and reassembled over and over again? Don't kill people! Bad situation + easy rule to avoid bad situation = Controlled line of thought. Yeah, you have to really work on the convincing part of the bad stuff actually being real, and that is where shame comes in. Point out all the flaw and beat down someone's self-worth is usually a good start. Or, just start filling their heads with these frightening concepts before they are even mature enough to know better. And all of this is what you are up against when dealing with someone who lives in a world of conflicting ideas. You can't make the change happen overnight, and honestly, it's an ongoing process for everyone no matter how freed one might think s/he actually are. Patience is not a virtue. It's a life hack. The only final thing I have learned is that patience is the best tool in my shed when dealing with folks that are making my life a living hell because they do not agree with my lifestyle, listen to bullshit lies passed around by an ex-husband, or think my direct nature is a personal issue with them and not just me being a socially awkward gadderblast, and act upon those preconceived notions. Years ago I'd read a few memoirs by Benjamin Franklin, and one quote in particular stuck out in my mind: It's called the Ben Franklin effect, and I have to say, it does wonders with those you have tense relationships with. It can help you get the conversation started, but you have to be patient, and essentially kill them with kindness. That's all I've got this week! Got any additional tips for dealing with compartmentalized religious people? Share in the comments below! I will be discussing this on next week's podcast.
  5. Episode 2 Jacob: Dick for Hire Genesis Chapter through all of 30. This tale literally plays out like an episode of the Jerry Springer show in telling. If you like HBO soap operas like Spartacus or Borgias, then you will enjoy this pretty juicy tale of love, politics, sex, and man whoring. Join me, the Bluegrass Skeptic, in enjoying some of the more colorful tales of biblical tales and myth in their full entirety that most don't hear in church. The Bible doesn't have to be all doom and gloom. Especially if you read it purely for entertainment purposes only.
  6. You ever have one of those conversations with a friend, family member, or coworker, where you are describing your atheism or questioning of religion and you are asked the inevitable,”What/Who/Why did you/are you doubting the existence of God?” Ignore the entire question except for the who/what/why part. You are about to realize this person is probably one of the most singular thinking people you’ve ever met. This is because the fundamental core of scrutinizing the irreligious is locating the cause of the faithlessness in the individual under the microscope. Sure, you lost your faith and you know there are many factors involved, but to many believers like Jane Doe questioning you, there is at the heart of all those factors a single causation that created all the other reasons. Kind of like a domino rally display, they are looking for that starting domino. Like their biblical doctrine, believers have to assign an overarching system of single source causation to almost everything when it comes to understanding their world according to God, and then somehow apply their belief structure to their peers. Since most are taught that God is behind everything, believers easily sift through details and experiences to find a bottom line reason for everything else. Such as everything is man’s fault for being a sinner because of Adam’s transgression in the Garden of Eden. Or my personal favorite,”You are angry at God because you were sexually abused by a priest.” Take my own experience when my atheism is being questioned. When initially getting to know me, a large majority of faithful disciples always end up asking,”What happened?” I’ll explain that it was a series of events, each of which causing me to move away further from holy living. Some events managed to push me away from religion further than others. I will explain all of the events and experiences thoroughly, and without fail, one person will say it must have been my father’s religious hypocrisy. Another will hypothesize I am angry with God’s failure to protect me from sex abuse, and a few ....Read more here http://thebluegrassskeptic.com/2015/05/08/you-are-the-most-singular-person-i-have-ever-met/
  7. TheBluegrassSkeptic

    Trial And Error Isn't A Complicated Topic

    "You're an atheist. How can you know right from wrong then if you don't have God to show you?" I was asked this by a representative of a local Catholic church at a community small business event last night. You know the type of event, where the businesses stay open extra late and let customers hang out till late in the evening. This church had decided they would be a "business" too. A business of saving souls. So, they were offering Communion to anyone and everyone. Well, everyone except me because I had to beg the question,"How is this a good practice? Aren't there standards involved for this?" Which immediately solicited a knowing look between booth staffing and my admitting I was an atheist and a quick false argument hurled my way. You know, this line of reasoning is mind numbingly dim witted. I'm just putting my personal opinion out there up front. Whenever I am scrutinized on a personal level, being immediately reduced to a potential criminal simply because of my secular way of life, I can't help but think you are extremely stupid. So stupid, I don't understand how you graduated high school, attained a college degree, or even had the right to reproduce. "Don't they have a general exam one must take before they reach adulthood?" kind of incredulity is in my mind when I am told I can't know right from wrong all because I don't bow to the throne of Jesus. It took a me a few years to really pinpoint what it was about such a poorly thought out assumption regarding my being an atheist that would just irritate me to a fury. In all seriousness, it wasn't so much insulting. I've been accused of being all kinds of things by people very close to me, so the moronic hypotheses of strangers really don't get to me very much. No, it definitely wasn't a feeling of being personally attacked. It was the sheer stupidity of such a statement. It was the fact to believe such a thing about atheists implies the believer is being simple minded, lazy, a re dubbed cassette tape filled with a diatribe of nonsense. Now, I could dig into the whole fallacy behind this and rehash the usual discussion regarding how human social structures work. But that isn't what irks me. It's the sheer contradiction in their own life experiences and beliefs which are in plain fucking sight (No, I am not sorry for the fuck given). Common sense dictates a few things in this morality argument I hear so much. Now I won't argue against God based on morals. It's a supernatural farce that cannot be defended or decently assailed because we're talking supernatural. Reality just doesn't deal with imagination fueled deification of myths. But, the nature and biology of man completely refutes the morality argument pretty obviously. I don't need to go into evolution, biological programming, or genetics for ...Read more here at my blog The Bluegrass Skeptic http://thebluegrassskeptic.com/2015/05/15/trial-and-error-isnt-a-complicated-concept-2/
  8. It seems with Easter, and the improvement of weather from freezing to tolerable, that there is an uptick in religious pursuits. As if after getting through the last rather heavy Christmas and Easter seasons, the rekindling of faith hits a critical mass and a bunch of stupid just starts flowing out of religious mouths with increased zeal. I tried to see if any research has popped up on what time of year is also more common for atheists to come out of their closets and put a stop to the social pressures of religious dogma. I couldn't find anything at all. I highly doubt it's coincidence that in my own wanderings around the various atheist websites and forums that I peruse, I have seen a lot of recent activity of those who are dealing with increased pressure to convert, increased insistence to fall in line with family, and thoughts of escape. All of this right after the last six months of holidays is hardly a coincidence in my book either. So, we'll just call it a hunch that this time of year, many of us reach a burn out point. In all honesty, this is the time of year I go meticulously through my various social media news feeds and stop following certain friends. It's a smart way to help me avoid "Good news" burn out. In fact, I jokingly refer to it as my safety plan. It protects my acquaintances from my own "tired of Jesus" attitude being shot their way after reading the same chain letter about divine glory three times a day for a month after Resurrection Day. If you haven't guessed, having a safety plan is the topic du jour. Often we read how to shut down unsolicited religious recruiting, or how to protect ourselves from discrimination in the work place. This is only a small part of the social blending many of us have to do in order to live in our communities though. At some point, many of us can't pretend anymore. We feel disgusted with ourselves for hiding, and are tired of having to bask in holy celebrations. We're leopards that can't change our spots, and like any other species, we can't be our best when we can't even be in an environment that will allow us to survive and flourish. But revelation means consequences, and for some, their very freedom is at stake. Recently, I became acquaintances with a young college age woman. She lives at home, mom pays for college, and she came out as an atheist not too long ago. She couldn't take the mandatory belief that was being required of her anymore. Her mother didn't take the revelation very well at all, and the situation at home has degraded to communication being restricted, and even talk of the daughter being possessed by demons has started floating amongst the family. This is a very serious threat to the young woman's human rights being violated, and her mother holds all the cards to her current state of living. We're talking college financing, room and board, and so much more. This is turning into an extortion scenario. Fortunately, this college student planned ahead a little bit by making others in our community aware of her predicament, and actively sought advice on how to deal with it all, as well as trying to understand what resources are available to her if she were to be on the street or unable to leave. Another online contact of mine in Nebraska had an intervention put together by his uncle and the church he was required to attend. He is twenty-four years old, living with his uncle while he finishes school. He didn't see the harm in pretending until school was completed, but his relative figured out he was an atheist, and took action. No less than twenty church members showed up at the relative's home that day, convinced there was a terrible evil at work in this man's life. They wouldn't let him leave! Instead, they made him sit there for hours, being prayed upon until they thought they'd convinced him he needed God. As soon as the parishioners left, this kid left as quick as he could, happy to couch surf with friends until he could arrange campus housing. Both these examples illustrate the need for safety plans. Especially if you are covert about your disbelief, and kind of have a good idea your lack of faith could cause a huge fluster within family or church communities. The reality is many believers think they own a monopoly on keeping their flock in the pasture. Lawmakers and pastors alike have skewed their understanding of religious freedom to include having little consequence to worry about if too forceful in their practice of faith. "Oh, they didn't mean any real harm by cornering you. Your family just was trying to show concern." Do not tolerate this kind of thinking from anyone! Here are a few things to do if you are living as an atheist in secret due to fear, or if you decide to come out to an unwelcoming crowd. These are basics, and always see room for improvement depending on your situation. Buddy Up! Even if only via internet, a larger social group of the same ideology is always a benefit when in a jam and looking for options. Sometimes you need to just become friends with someone local, and they don't have to necessarily be an atheist. There are many moderate Christians out there who absolutely abhor the abuse they are seeing in their faith. Reach out and meet people. Share your story. You might just find a rock to hold on to. Have a resource list for other human service agencies. This includes domestic abuse hotlines, shelters, and even secular advocacy groups. If you are attending college or school, have your counselor numbers on hand. Here are a few links that can help you out to understand what constitutes actionable abuse, and ways to deal with it or escape. http://projectrising.org/domestic-violence/types-of-abuse/spiritual-religious-abuse/ http://projectrising.org/domestic-violence/state-coalitions/ http://recoveringfromreligion.org/hotline-project/ http://www.thehotline.org/ Do your best to keep a bug out bag somewhere accessible that only you and a trusted person know the location of. A bug out bag is a lightweight emergency bag that you can grab and go with little notice. Include items like food, bank information, prepaid phone minutes, and even documentation of your housing situation. Try to also include in that bag any updated documentation of abuse you've suffered. ****EDITED TO ADD UPDATED HELP INFORMATION*** Did you know, as a minor, you don't have to have parental permission or knowledge to get a post office box????? It's true! I confirmed with my Post Master a few days ago this fact. The only way the post office can deny you a box is if your parent writes a letter of objection to the office...but that's only if they find out! I'm going to update this in the blog, but wanted the information in plain site here so it doesn't get lost in a comment. http://about.usps.com/forms/ps1093.pdf Talk with the local police or sheriff in your area about your situation. Just asking questions doesn't mean you automatically have to do anything. Ask them if you happen to be living with family, can they just throw you out? Can you prosecute them if you aren't allowed to leave at will, or are being harassed all night? Is a driver' license enough to prove you legally have a right to stay in the home and not be thrown out? Think about what you might have to face if church members or family call your boss? Can you have the police write a harassment report? Know your rights so you can handle possible situations. If you are being threatened with an unwanted intervention, exorcism, eviction, job loss, or anything along a menacing line of action, try to get it documented. Even if simply via text messages or emails. Save those voice mails where Aunt Sue says you have to talk to the pastor or you're kicked out of her house. This is evidence for abuse and extortion. Save it all! When you have to deal with Aunt Sue, possibly with the police involved, or in a court setting, you can smash her "good Christian woman" image with her threats and manipulation in black and white. I really want to say use this option as a last resort, but sometimes, you just can't. If at any point you fear for your safety with family, friends, or church members, Call The Law. I can't stress this enough. Worse case, the police can at least calm things down, and this can buy you some extra time to search out options to exit. At no point is it acceptable to abuse someone because they do not believe in the same sky fairy as you. You do not give up your personal freedom simply because someone is doing you a favor or service. Never. A little reality check from the authorities will also help reinforce your right to be who you are. Boundaries are tricky, and sometimes a police cruiser pulling up will encourage a bully to back off, even if long enough to let you safely leave on your own terms. In addition to calling the law, and how law enforcement can calm things down, keeping calm is something you need to focus on. There is only one rational person in the room during a "crisis of faith" scenario, and that's you. As much as it hurts, as much as you are offended, angered, frustrated and just sick of the bullshit, do not lose your control. Any moment where you sink to their emotional lows of "concerned" interventionists, you immediately confirm their neurotic claims and beliefs. Just quietly remove yourself from the situation if possible, or call for help. In closing, you might not be able to avoid the parallels between escaping religious abuse and domestic abuse. Honestly, there isn't a difference in practice, it's just society doesn't see religiously motivated control measures as abuse. Yet, a husband restraining his wife against her will is abuse. It's a scary double standard, flimsily protected as a religious freedom to some extent. Times are changing though, in that children are dying from simple disease because of faith healing, LGBTQ are being discriminated against in business, and women's rights are being legislated away, and the courts are starting to step up. And the change in thoughts can be seen in the court rooms. Children that have died thanks to faith healing are now having their parents prosecuted, and civil suits against bigoted business practices are awarding those who were discriminated against. This shows that the definition of abuse is broadening, and religious oppression within Christianity is being seen added in to some cases that are being tried now. And this broadening figures into your safety plan.These ideas for a safety plan involve thinking ahead, understanding what constitutes abuse, and some preparation for the worst case scenarios. Even if you can't use all of the suggestions listed, to utilize just a couple will still aid in your journey to live freely. We are guaranteed the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness in this country, but sometimes you have to keep fighting for it. I hope some of the tips and resources I listed here will help maybe even spark a few more ideas not mentioned here. I really hope there will be recognition that what some view as acceptable behavior to keep religious members in the spirit actually are abusive control measures, and are not acceptable at all.
  9. TheBluegrassSkeptic

    Hello, World. I'm Openly Secular

    Hi, from Covington, Kentucky! The neighbor of Cincinnati, Ohio. My name is Amanda Ashcraft. I work for the postal service, write numerous articles about ex religious life and childhood abuse, parent four beautiful children, and live openly secular as a humanism practicing atheist. I grew up in a charismatic home in southwest Ohio, my earliest memories being that of a Pentecostal church with wonderful music, a very loving pastor, and always trying to get God's direct attention so I knew he was real. We had congregation members who would get "slain in the spirit", my own mother often cried in euphoria while speaking in tongues during services. The day I was saved at age five, all I could think of was how proud my mother would be of me. I really didn't understand who Jesus was and what his sacrifice meant at that young age, but my pastor still pronounced me saved when I repeated his magical prayer of acceptance. You have to understand why I sought my mother's approval instead of that of God. My home life was abusive, but on the outside, my family appeared like an everyday middle class family in the 80's. My mother was a teacher, and my father was a machinist at a large tool factory. Being an only child, one would think I had it made, but as I mentioned, my home life was abusive. It started off just verbally, eventually escalating to more physical episodes, and even sexual abuse came into my experiences before I was ten years old. This type of home life caused me to act out in some of the worst ways possible, had me believing I was being tormented by demons, and truly set me on a path to get God to somehow help me, or at least get Satan himself to punish me for being so bad. To accomplish that would mean I had proof that God knew what was happening to me. By the time I was sixteen, I'd managed to get out of my family home but it was like going from one bad situation to another seeing how I was pregnant and married by the time I was seventeen. My parents had agreed to sign the license for me to get married under age. This was a disappointment on many levels for me... Read more at my blog The Bluegrass Skeptic http://thebluegrassskeptic.com/2015/05/15/living-openly-secular-openlysecular/
  10. TheBluegrassSkeptic

    No Tattoo For You!

    For the last few months, I’ve been scrimping away money to restart my tattoo collecting. I currently have three altogether, all from different shops in my area, and out of the three who did the work, I decided to return to one in particular. I liked the artists that worked there, and trusted their professionalism so much so that I’ve unfailingly recommended this tattoo parlor to everyone that would ask me where to go for quality artistry. That all changed this morning when I received a response to an inquiry I’d sent a week ago. Now, I’d already contacted the shop prior to the message I received this morning, and even had a Saturday appointment set. The email said the following about the piece I’d requested to be done: “What on earth did you request to be tattooed?” , you might be wondering. Take a look for yourself, and keep in mind where the turtle is, I was wanting a stack of holy books instead. You know, the Bible, the Qur’an, and probably the Talmud. Essentially a sci fi Alice in Wonderland being depicted as having conquered religious fantasy. I really wanted her as a centerpiece to my science fiction themed sleeve I planned to create. Now, I found his response to my original design inquiry to be preposterous. Especially as this refusal is on behalf of the entire shop, and not just a particular artist not wanting to do it. Even more frustrating is the fact they’ve already done an anti religious fashioned tattoo for me a few years ago, and Alice is a sweet picnic in a park compared to the previous tattoo I am talking about now. Check it out. So, I responded as civilly as I could muster. I mean, I felt my anti religious attitude was being equated to racists or gang behavior. I was angry and confused at the change in standards. I wanted to know why anything anti religious was taboo, and more importantly, why this shop didn’t recognize the hate inspired by crosses, bible verses, and so on. All I got for an answer was a whole lotta avoidance. At this point, I realized it was hopeless to argue, but I called out his obvious discrimination, and made it clear this kind of supported societal “correctness” flew in the face of the freedom of expression that is intrinsic to tattoo art. And of course I said I’d quit crediting his shop. Now, in my mind this discussion has ended. And frankly, I am the one ending it, so this is a business owner’s dream scenario when disappointing a customer. He wasn’t going to really explain why he lumps anti religious material in with gang art or racist propaganda. I was wrong about that. In fact, Godwin’s Law came into full display. Yes. He played the Hitler card! Insert the Reductio Ad Hitlerum... Read more here at my blog The Bluegrass Skeptic http://thebluegrassskeptic.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=463&action=edit
  11. TheBluegrassSkeptic

    The Value Of A Life

    Normally, I try to focus thought and discussion on religious themes. This is due to the fact that I host my blog on this similarly themed website. Not the case today, though. Based on just my title, you might think this will be an abortion piece. Maybe I might be referring to all the police shooting deaths as of late. The reality is I'm discussing the value of my own life. Well, actually, how some in my life seem to have put a value on me, and how I mistakenly agreed their valuations were accurate. Worse, the most recent experience with being told my worth was quite literally in a monetary sense. And even more worse than that, I actually allowed this to be true for a very long part of my life. "Oh my God, Miss Z! Did someone put a hit contract out on you??" Yeah, I'm kind of infamous, but certainly not that inspiring. No, I've just had some experiences over the last decade that really kind of culminated into a single sentence I received in a text message this week. It was kind of amazing how just cold and uncaring these words were, and it made me seriously reflect on relationships I currently have. I was told,"You've been my kept woman for years." Essentially, that I am bought and paid for based on money that this person has spent on my behalf during an on and off relationship of fifteen years. Bought and paid for physically, by the way. I literally had been reduced to chattel. It doesn't matter any sacrifices I might have made, abuses I had tolerated, and blame I always just accept as automatically being mine. I cost this person a dime, therefore I am in debt, subject to flimsy conditions of reimbursement. And for the longest time, this has been acceptable in my book. My always being there when needed, focused recovery of my mental health, and dogged rationalizing of me being responsible for us to get along? Worthless. This is incredibly painful. Also, it is like hitting the bright red button on a Looney Toons show that sends the rocket from Marvin the Martian's lab to blow up Daffy Duck. I was seeing red. Enraged would be a wonderful word to describe my state the other night when reading the message I'd received. Enraged at such shallow disrespect towards me, and further indignity at my own fault in allowing such relationships to even exist in my life. A lot of you that read my blog are familiar with my situation with family. I deal with manipulative ex lovers, abusive parents that are in denial about how toxic they are, and so much more. And being on the outside looking in on my life, you have said to me,"What made you put with all of this?" Simply put, I put up with this treatment because I agreed I was such a screw up, that the people who act like this type of loan sharking of friendship had me convinced me they'd done me incalculable amounts of good. So much for using logic, guilt reigned supreme in my mind for many years. I devalued myself to the point of a paid whore. How could I be anything but? I hurt my kids. I hurt myself. I hurt my finances. It's the whole "once a fuck up, always a fuck up" mentality. Even more ridiculous is that, on principle, I never apply or believe this type of thinking about people. I am forever the optimist when it comes to human nature. Despite my own upbringing in a fairly sheltered home life, I saw the error of my parents' constant alienation of family and friends. Everyone makes a mistake, even the same one time and again. Does that equate a death sentence for their success in life? Of course not! Humans are notorious for changing and maturing. Yet, I never applied this reasoning to myself. I constantly denied myself the opportunity to pursue nicer goals, firmly believing my chance was already blown. I'd put my life to the value of zero without having a fair chance to even attempt living. Thankfully, years of therapy started to plant seeds of doubt about just how rational I was being about my mistakes in life. Ultimately, I have reached a point of zero tolerance for this type of thinking, and treatment. It took me the last three years or so to finally be comfortable with who I am, where I have been, and gain the confidence to know I can be successful and deserve it. Taking the rockier path has never been easy, but that's the road I took. Getting off the super highway of punishment hasn't been easy either. All the usual roadblocks tell me I can't exit, but the potholes are fewer as I keep crashing through the barriers. "You aren't anything without me." I hear this at least once a month. My goodness, the level of absolute disregard for anything I have ever done in this world is so sharply heard in such a statement. It's almost God like in the argument that is made. "I am Alpha and Omega. The beginning and the end." I could never be what I am today without these people, yet according to them, I am nothing. It took me forever to realize there was a huge contradiction in their attitudes. Just like Yahweh, the true contribution in my life by always being a liability was at best double edged. While supposedly protecting me, I was at the same time being controlled with guilt and money. When did my freedom become a bargaining chip? I can tell you. The day I deified these people in my heart. The day I took their verdicts on my life as gospel. But like all gods of ages past that are now insignificant tales of creation and lost power, so have these people been relegated to my personal history. They are nothing more than dim shadows in the bright adventure of my life. My life is finally relevant to me. And I owe it all to myself.
  12. TheBluegrassSkeptic

    The Badge Of Survival

    As requested, a compilation of some of my essays are now in eBook format. There are fourteen total compositions, nine of which are new and not published until now. This short book focuses on some of my reflections of childhood abuse, loss of religion, and so on. I know most who read my experiences enjoy them simply because one can relate. And if one can relate, then you aren't crazy. Book is approximately 40 pages, and available in either pdf or epub format. Does include a lame cover art graphic (a la yours truly), and a forwarding note. Available here on Amazon for $2.99 in eBook format. http://www.amazon.com/Badge-Survival-Amanda-Ashcraft-ebook/dp/B00UY2FOAU/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1426989901&sr=8-3&keywords=the+badge+of+survival Or you can pick it up for two bucks here https://www.facebook.com/pages/Rotted-Thoughts/266325053550001?sk=app_410312912374011, click the link below and then do what the graphic here shows....
  13. TheBluegrassSkeptic

    Celebrating Is Better Than Defending

    I hate to admit this, but I have a trophy folder on my laptop. Not game trophy images. Not racks of deer I've hunted. Not the typical photos of my children standing all posed with academic or sport awards. No, it's a folder full of screenshots. Frozen images in time, with winning moments in debates with religious followers who attempted sparring with me about belief. There was a time when I wasn't feeling confident about my lack of belief. I didn't realize it then, of course, that this was the case. On a daily basis I needed to feel superior, and crushing my opposition in an argument was my go to fix for said lack of confidence. It's not atypical to have doubts about your perceptions on life, death, and the Universe. It's even more common to find affirmation of yourself in the failing of others who have a different view than yourself. In atheism, it's often referred to as the angry atheist phase, and likewise in Christianity, I've heard similar behavior for affirmation being called the "crusading for Christ" phase. Both sides of the coin are still seeking justification, and I don't think either party realizes it's a lack of self belief. Now, I'm not talking about general discourse here. This isn't friendly debating I'm referring to. No, this is about the condescending "debates" that devolve into semantically driven arguments that lose the focus of understanding, and instead try to gain mental points for each zinger that can't be topped. You know, an old fashioned pissing contest. Anyway, I really started looking forward to these text based gladiator events. Entering various forum arenas. Sometimes just a comments section on CNN would provide challenges that would spawn day long battles of words, shared links, and pasted text from one scholar or another. Looking back, I can see how ridiculous I was, but it was a necessary place for me to be at that time. And for some, it will always be their preferred method of affirmation. And there isn't anything truly wrong with that. Like anything in life, there is more than one way to skin a cat, or in this case, justify your personal belief style. Though, my personal experience has shown me non believers tend to step away from the argumentative proof seeking. I don't know yet about the religious though. Some of my close Christian friends who range in their late 60's to early 80's, while not full of fire and brimstone anymore, still never fail to end a genuinely friendly discussion with,"Well, you'll find out later." A bit of a double edged joke. Recently I was having a discussion about this meme: It's fairly innocuous. You could see it as I did. A referencing to the early doctors of dissection who stole cadavers in order to continue their study. A tip of the hat to human determination to understand himself, if you will. One poster interpreted it as a good cop - bad cop reference. Mental inquiry of the third degree. He also made an interesting self statement. He mentioned that while defending his faith, the onslaught of people who didn't share his view often trolled him; they would leave him feeling sick and outnumbered. I think many of us can relate to that completely. Every counter to my perfectly thought out rationalizations for disbelieving would send my mind into a manic tail spin. Adrenaline would literally start pumping. Heart beat racing. Fingers slipping all over the keys as I would hurriedly to try to pound out a well crafted response to any loose ends I perceived I had left out there. So what changed? How did I go from an apex atheism debate predator to a quiet circling observer that was happy to just munch up insightful tidbits from the parameters? I started celebrating my disbelief. I took a page from some theists I know and applied some of their own dogma to my atheism. I began sharing more joy. I began empathizing. I picked my battles more wisely with the perspective I gained form listening and comparing experiences. Add a touch of more humbled attitude and I discovered my personal confidence in my convictions. This eliminated a lot of self inflicted negativity I would experience when in mixed faith groups and discussions. I've become the atheist that religious leaders absolutely despise. Calm, collected, confident, and convincing. I don't have be an alarmist. I don't give immediate argument when questioned. I'm downright affable and compassionate. I shock the shit out of people all the time with how giving I am. Even more flabbergasting is my genuine desire to understand while politely declining to join. Evangelists don't know what to do with the secularists who embrace the differences while maintaining boundaries. These religious leaders can't compete with real life proof that pulpit propaganda is bullshit. These leaders are totally scrambling because there truly are atheists out there who have no problem with religious believers, and are living examples of what Jesus meant by being forgiving. They can't blind their followers forever unless they lock them up in a cave. So, how can one celebrate their disbelief without sounding like a door to door missionary? By experiencing everything you can without dogma coloring it. By having those conversations with religious folks and not focus on who is right. By taking advantage of real discussions, and enjoying the fact you don't have anything to prove. Appreciating your own decision making skills on what is right for you. No where in the scheme of things does it say,"Whatever you personally believe must be proven 100% true." Contrary to what the internet seems to perpetuate about society, we aren't operating on a Reddit forum. Personal freedom is a simple concept, but with peer pressure and the daily conflicts of self, it isn't an easy thing to practice, even in our minds, the most prized of private personal space. Trust in oneself, along with publicly displaying it, is a difficult road to travel. Nothing is above questioning, but questioning isn't necessarily a judgement, and one must constantly be reminded of that. There are days when I am reading an off the tracks discussion, and I see the same traits of offense being taken by atheists that you can see in a theist whose beliefs have been questioned. This is why people like the commenter on my meme, get physically queasy. It's rattling to the very core of personal belief when being asked about certain aspects of faith, or lack of in my case. Rushing to defend when really, all they have to do is answer a question. This can cause an individual to to misplace the value in their personal choice of belief, making one look for the value by how many people they can successfully argue down instead. And when you don't win, or feel you could've done better, where's your confidence then since it is founded on the failure of others? So, Zomberina, are you saying we need to be blindly following whatever we want so long as we feel good about it? No. If you reached a place where you are committed, I am saying you should personally own it. Not gain your assurances by trampling on the beliefs of others. Simply put, don't allow yourself to be in a defensive position, but that of celebration instead. You'll find a more rewarding confidence outside the fray. This is just my take on it all, of course. As always, remember this:
  14. TheBluegrassSkeptic

    When Atheist Lovers Collide

    "Anyone who believes in that shit is an idiot. Feeble minded and stupid." Man, that is pretty harsh an assessment of those who believe in religion, isn't it? It's even harder to hear when you don't share the same attitude towards theists. Worse? What if that was your lover talking to you? These type of atheist attitudes can be difficult in a relationship with a friend, family member, or lover. I've found myself in this type of scenario, and in public no less, and it completely jived against everything I felt towards the religious. It's a broad encompassing judgement. As I have matured over the years, I have tried really hard to put the huge paintbrush of stereotyping away, and limit it to some extent when using it. The problem is that both of us grew into our atheism, and how we practiced our non belief. So what do you do when your partner is content to be almost Hitchen's like in demeanor towards religious believers, and those who won't outright condemn belief? I varied between completely disassociating from his displays, including not following his FB feed any longer, to trying to point out that it wasn't a fair analysis to relegate religious practitioners to complete dumb ass status simply for their beliefs. There wasn't a happy medium to be found though. I really was not comfortable with his level of vitriolic condemnations of the faithful. He didn't appreciate my own diplomatic thoughts on needing to tone it down. We were clashing in our disbelief. It changed my view of him. It changed my valuing of his opinions in my own atheism and thoughts on humanity in general. I didn't trust him with my own opinions and thoughts on the subject any longer, and quite literally declared it to be an almost off limits subject. It can be said he probably felt the same on some level. At some point, he definitely thought I couldn't stand his views on religion and thought little of him for being so arrogant. I know he was aware of the various groups and blogs I would post to, and he certainly felt like an outsider before too long since I would rather discuss with complete strangers than the man I shared my bed with. Of course, we also quit playing chess and Monopoly because of conflicts over how it should be played. He was also big on conspiracy theories, and I was always debunking his claims with Snopes and other sources. There were definitely other conflicts going on, but this was a pretty big one. It's like a Baptist being married to a Methodist. Their belief styles can be vastly different in practice which can cause some stress. Sometimes to the point that you have a difficult time even accepting that person in your life anymore. I know that back in 2008, Barna had conducted a research on marriages with atheists and religious, and had concluded atheist marriages last longer. They also concluded in a 2003 study that the irreligious get a tad bit more stressed out than the religious do. Essentially, this study (https://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/5-barna-update/119-views-on-quality-of-life-are-most-influenced-by-money-and-faith#.VO-tWSxO1pM) pointed out a few findings about how atheists and religious folk look at stress, and what things stress them out. Atheism has a large number of built in stress factors, the top reasons being public distrust of who we are, public scrutiny of our lack of belief, and religious fear mongering about how horrible we are, along with the more common stress of simply hiding our faithlessness in order to preserve our community we are dependent upon. Everyone deals with such stressors differently, including how to react and treat such horrible response to our unbelief. Coping mechanisms include fight or flight, pacifying and instigating, along with hiding or being open about our lack of faith. What do you do when you are in a relationship with someone like myself who is openly godless? What if you are not open about it? Do I have to censor my own relationship with you in the public eye in order to preserve your sanity from insane evangelical relatives that would put you on a published prayer chain in six different counties around you if they found out? This is what unequally yoked atheists deal with. One might be an anti theist by nature, while his girlfriend might be more humanistic. How will this affect children being raised in the relationship is a huge clash factor. One parent might feel it is essential that the child stand up against indoctrination in the classroom, and the other parent might completely take the attitude of wait and see. These are serious relationship issues any atheist couple can and probably will face at some point if they are with someone who is a polar opposite in atheistic practices. Unlike religious doctrine, there isn't a set of rules to follow. There isn't a right or wrong way to be an atheist, but like other social behaviors we look for in a potential mate, one should carefully consider the situation when dating a fellow atheist. Take myself for example. I'm openly atheist. I'm politically active. I have a blog spilling a lot of personal experience and information for all to see and judge. There have been a few blogs I've posted that have made a partner flinch due to the raw and uncut nature of the entries. An incredulous level of disbelief that I would put something so intimate in the public eye seemed to just flow out of this person in response. I'm not with this person anymore, and have made a point to make it very clear with others I might date that this is who I am, and I share it all. I'm taking my time finding the right people to be around me. I love my godlessness, and thoroughly enjoy my humanistic tendencies. This is something I hope to find with others, especially someone I share my most intimate of life experiences with. I also want to make sure that I can handle how others display their own disbelief. Hopefully I find someone who is either just as enthusiastic as I am, or at the very least doesn't see a big deal about it and lets me continue doing what makes me happy: writing, sharing, and being active in furthering understanding of non belief. I've come to accept that this desire is a deal breaker for me, and while that might seem like an extreme attitude, it's who I am. I figure the sooner I warn someone about that particular trait, the better chance we have to find a happy medium....or not. Still, I know that this particular discussion might be a "well no shit, Sherlock" type of entry, but I do find a bit of arrogance about atheist based relationships. It's a given that atheists dating the religious usually leads to very stressful relationships. We also know that religiously based relationships have their own set of stripes to bear, inflicted by the doctrine they choose to follow. Yet, it is hardly discussed what type of relationship woes atheists run into. Most assume it is your typical run of the mill problems like bills, kids, family, etc. Rarely do many blogs, forums, or atheist foundations speak on mismatched practices of disbelief, and I hope this changes. Evaluating the healthiness of godless relationships is very important as we see the trend of long term relationships without marriage continue to rise, along with how many identify as irreligious. There are plenty of pressures added on a couple's shoulders simply because they don't believe or ascribe to any kind of idol worship, and it's important that they have support out in a world so biased towards sanctified unions.
  15. Before you begin this blog, and if you are not familiar with Shalom Auslander's writings, I ask you to enjoy this podcast from This American Life that reads a brief short story of his called Chicken Coop For The Soul. This story is the basis for my discussion today. 8 minutes of your life, go ahead and listen. http://m.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/369/poultry-slam-2008?act=5 Okay, so hopefully you listened to the piece and I ask you, if you could reveal the truth, would you? Even more than that, should you? Obviously, this is a very situation based type of decision. If you were to actually be a first hand witness to that which is considered godly, and it went against everything ever taught, it's an almost unfathomable scenario. Whether Chicken made it clear it didn't matter to Him what you wanted to do with your life, despite your teachings, or the harsh realization you'd gone without for no gain, it seems a no win revelation. First, who would truly believe you? Secondly, would they even want to listen? Gabe seemed to point this out pretty clearly, and I wonder if the refusal to even consider the notion that everyone has their deity all wrong is due to confidence, or fear of not having a larger power in control. I tend to lean towards the latter reasoning. Maybe if there were a better scenario to be offered in Chicken's place, you might be given more credibility. But to just rip away the very foundations of a person's reason for existence never seems to go well without a consolation prize. Most of all, should one reveal the truth if it is known for sure. And take Shalom's story a bit further. What if Morganstern came back with PROOF that was undeniable? Literally, anyone who saw the proof would know without a doubt they have been following the wrong program altogether? Should you shake it up? I don't think I would necessarily do so. Maybe with the younger generation, and I might make it clear that such belief should no longer be taught. Let it die with the older generation, you know? I can't do that. To just rip it all away feels like theft. Like taking away someone's personal joy in gardening by pointing out all their herbs are still just weeds. As long as their weeds aren't ruining my own garden.....
  16. TheBluegrassSkeptic

    Altar Calls And Night Terrors

    It was another terrifying experience. One of many throughout the years. This time I woke up, face covered in tears, mind in a panic as I took a few minutes to calm down. I spent a bit longer than usual getting reoriented, my mind's movie content having hit a NC-17 for a number of things. But confirming that horrible episode of disaster and loss wasn't my reality anymore always takes a minute after waking up anyway. Deep cleansing breaths of cool forced heat assured me of what my slowly waking brain already knew. Just another nightmare. Just a mental brush with terrifying childhood programming warping some very bad life experiences. I was in my apartment. Safely wrapped up in the blankets on my futon bed in the living room, both my dogs sleeping soundly on my head. This shit gets really old. I haven't surrounded myself with the persistent teachings of apocalypse and eternal torment for almost a decade. I haven't believed in such things for slightly longer. Thankfully, these episodes rarely leave me reeling for more than a few minutes after waking. Still, why do I have to deal with it after all this time anymore? Programming of my childhood mind is why. Like everyone else, I have fears. Some rational, some not so much. The one ingredient these little terrors have in common? The way in which they manifest is eerily familiar of things I learned in church. Almost always while I am dreaming, all these nasty little insecurities and past traumas come out. And it never fails they appear in doctrine type scenarios. Like a terribly written script of Job's trials, with Godzilla marching through the fiery burning streets of Detroit after Jesus has slain the unfaithful, and the whole while Satan and Yahweh are just busy fighting over who has the bigger dick in some nebula billions of light years away. Completely unconcerned with the mayhem unleashed on the object they supposedly became enemies over. My biggest fear is losing a child again. One day, I worry I will wake up and one of them won't be here anymore. It's a terrifying thought to me. Naturally, in my sleep, my entire world is empty. I'm madly searching everywhere I can for them, keenly aware of impending danger. Nowhere to be found, I run without direction, just desperation. I am alone, vulnerable, and something lurks just beyond my comprehension, waiting to snap me up in its jaws. Maybe it's that demon of my former self I could never pull out of the mirror that I am subconsciously blurring from my mind's field of view. (Didn't read about that yet? Here's the link. Warning, sexual content. http://www.ex-christian.net/blog/170/entry-887-desperately-yours-lucifer/) Sometimes it is past trauma. Unfortunately, my father is a frequent figure in my dreaming. Along with experiences from homeless days where I can still smell the smoke ridden interior of a 1981 Cadillac I slept in all the time. These visits usually follow me for the day after or longer. I wouldn't say I get teary or angry when this happens, but my introspection is overly intense. I don't know if it's my red flag warning system going off about a situation or new acquaintance I encountered recently, but I am definitely perturbed for a bit. Feelings of being too trusting, or maybe exposed, lurk heavily during such spells. Ironically, my dreams directly regarding death and God aren't nearly as upsetting. I am disappointed more than anything. Almost a feeling of being let down by a parent over a promise to do something fun. I'm never being directly punished or paid attention to by this deity. I would say neglected would be a better description. This thing knows of me, but looks on. I guess that's the upshot to my psyche's night time romps. It at least knows where to put the blame. Imaginary saviors aren't on the shit list. Now, a few paragraphs in, you might be wondering what the point of all these nightmarish examples are about to begin with. We all have our past, right? Some pleasant, others not so much. It's the fact that some folks - certain god fearing ones - seem to think that these are hidden messages being planted by the good lord. When I have discussed these experiences with religious folk, a large number of them immediately attribute these scary nights to "God trying to help you see how much you need His grace." A scared straight style altar call, which immediately elicits from me the following response,"He wants to help me, and won't take no for an answer, so instead He plans to drive me batshit crazy until I agree?" "It's not like that, and you know it" "Why do you insist on twisting His ultimate intentions for your life?" "He's showing your mistakes for a reason." (Yeah, it's my fault I was abused...) These responses to my rejection absolutely enrage me. Somehow I'm twisting, and purposely so, what God is trying to show me. I'm twisting the dream sequences where my father's will is being remembered on my body. I'm twisting the revisiting of pain from being punched in the face until I black out by a former lover. I am totally perverting the absolute terror and panic I experience when I cannot find my children during global pandemonium in the dreamscape of my demented mind. The fuck ever. Torture me until I say okay? I spent the first thirty years of my life doing that already. I know exactly what happens when you keep saying,"Okay." No more, thanks.
  17. Most of my mornings are filled with top 40 hits of pop music as I commute to work, kids in tow. This radio station is a clear favorite for all of us with its variety, and usually I can ignore the music and let the kids enjoy a little be bopping before going to school. Recently though, we discovered that on Sunday mornings there is a half hour of programming starting at 7:30 a.m. that is evangelical in nature. "We are going to tell you how to improve your life." "Through God all things are possible." "Cynics find a way to eliminate all the good in their lives...but I am here to bring Jesus to them." Insert the sound effect of a record being ripped off the player as I heard that last line above being mentioned. Wow, huh? Cynics find a way to eliminate all the good in their lives..but I am here to bring Jesus to them. Being in reference to non believers and doubters, apparently he is confident in the converting power of the Lord and his much celebrated Son. Because, you do know that a skeptic and a cynic are totally the same? That small thirty second sound bit was enough to send my pot of coffee fueled brain into overdrive, and I realized it is important to clear the air yet again about a skeptic's thought process. Even further than that, I think it is high time it is made clear that religious folk, especially Christians, that love to misuse a word's meaning in order to make their case, are truly the cynics here. Probably more so than any other group out there. First off, let's break down blatantly obvious differences between one who is a skeptic, and one who is a cynic. In general terms, a skeptic is one who is willing to question just about anything out there, including accepted opinions. Notice the key word "opinion" at the end of that last sentence. Most skeptics are not going to question facts. We aren't going to call bullshit on the theory of gravity. Falling from a building hurts and has been clearly demonstrated as deadly. Tell us men came from dirt and women from a rib? Well, that is an awfully vague creation account. We might need more information on that. Skeptics do not just immediately doubt everything out there. We are open to the idea that nothing is above questioning. Questioning doesn't mean something is automatically suspect or false. Questioning is essential to the learning process, and without it we would have a difficult time differentiating between fact and fiction or purpose and process. It isn't our fault if religion in particular doesn't hold up to genuine scrutiny. Skeptics don't simply outright deny a belief the first time they are exposed to it only because personal bias wants them to do so. Skepticism requires a certain level of rational knowledge, which we even, at times, have a hard time being sure is truly rational. And philosophically speaking, religious arguments do not accommodate for this type of thought. Still, when confronted with a skeptic, many religious believers like the preacher on the radio, try to turn skepticism into something sinister. A normal human learning process transforms into an unyielding denial. Skepticism turns into a a crusading philosophy laden with allusions to unreasonable suspicions of the intentions of everything in the world. A skeptic is hell bent on the idea that there is no selflessness in the world, and that anyone can have anything if they are willing to only put their own motivations above all else. The skeptic is a cynic. That is what the majority of the religious world have their masses believe about myself and others with agnostic belief sets. After all, they have to be a cynic if they are skeptical of God, creation, and the morality guidelines set out by the Bible. Skeptics are just like cynics is the war cry of the religious clergymen. They can't handle the Christian's desire for eternal ease and pleasure in Heaven. Hell, the skeptics have utter contempt for getting everything easy. Pleasure? Hah! Skeptics only want misery since they clearly want to go to Hell. Skeptics are cynics! The mental contortions that some believers in faith must perform is astounding, isn't it? In reality, this exercise is yet another projection to avoid a long hard look in the mirror. I would postulate that the true cynics, are and always have been, the religious. Rigid in belief. Suspicious of anyone's motives who are not part of the same faith. Shit, one of the biggest characteristics of believers would be their insistence on anything pleasureful, like masturbation for instance, or enjoyment of a Sunday in bed instead of prostrated in church, as too easy and sinful. Apparently, without God and His omnipotently planted morality chip in our being, there is no way skeptics could do anything without a selfish motivation being involved. If we do somehow manage to save a kitten from a tree, breaking a leg in the process? It's because Satan is using us to trick that little girl it belonged to into trusting us so we can blacken her soul and molest her. We are the evil influences of Lucifer's demonic forces, out to poison the faith of others with our mere presence in the same office space. I hate to break it to you believers out there who think about skeptics like this, though I do enjoy supposedly being in Satan's upper management team, but that type of thinking about skeptical people is a cynic's school of thought. We aren't out here trying to poison your belief, we just want you to keep it to yourself. Quit forcing it on others. We aren't going to convert, and you shouldn't be try to force us to sign up either. You have to understand we just want everyone to have the right to decide on his/her own if religion is a good program to base an entire lifetime on. If you get to apply pressure to convert via legislation, in classrooms, in the media, and in your home, how is this allowing for a fair discussion? To automatically call disbelief misguided, an easy way out, an avoidance of accountability, a clear sign of evil in one's life? That is cynicism. And it's abusive at that. One has to understand what skepticism ultimately provides that cynicism does not. To be a skeptic is more than just exploration of thought. It is examining of authority. Skepticism does not demand that a guilty verdict be handed down. It isn't a judgment process, it is a learning process. It allows for the final conclusion that everyone was right after all to stand. See, falling off a building will probably kill you. But it also allows for disagreement on whether Justin Timberlake really had his dick in that box. Cynicism doesn't care if anyone was right or not, or if that singer's penis really held that box up. Cynicism says that there is only one answer, and that answer has to be what you want it to be no matter what anyone else says because disagreement means there is a selfish motivation behind it, and people cannot be trusted on their own merits anyway. Cynicism eliminates the exploration of further explanation and understanding, instead happy to just keep following a path blindly because it fits whatever agenda that is in mind and doesn't deviate from it. To be a cynic is to automatically treat everyone in the world as a guilty party to a selfish plot. It is true that both of the words skeptic and cynic involve questioning. The first questions how a belief/practice/opinion is accurate and true, and then determines the veracity of the claim, the latter questions a person's motivations only and subsequently makes a judgement based on personal biases. As I have come to understand it, religion has become about questioning motivation of yourself and others, automatically handing everyone a guilty verdict to madly spend a lifetime expunging from their Heavenly records so they don't burn in Hell. That's a very cycnical world view if I ever saw one, and just one more reason I am glad to not spend time in organized religious environs anymore. You've gotta be a die hard cynic to keep rationalizing such thought processes within organized doctrine.
  18. I used to be involved with a guy that liked to point out all my flaws, offer to work on our relationship, and then would do the exact opposite. Would avoid working on the relationship and blame me, screw around with many other women, and insist it isn't fair he has to change who he is since he likes himself as is. I was the problem, not him. God is pretty much the same. "You are a screw up. You need to do all this to be with me successfully, and I will do this for you in return." Then God turns around and does nothing, and supposedly blesses everyone else who isn't trying nearly as hard as you are. And of course, it is all your fault, because God is above needing to change. It is you that isn't trying hard enough. Yeah, religion is definitely inspired by man. Misogynistic ones in particular. Is it a wonder why so many are walking away from a shitty relationship like that? For some reason, many evangelicals do not understand the distaste for an emotionally abusive relationship with an unseen deity. Forever in love with the idea of suffering for attention, they cling to their abusive ideology, gaining self satisfaction in their personal martyrdom. To suffer, within the religious world, and to do so with a head held high and little to no complaint falling from their mouths, is an esteemed way of life. Especially when dealing with an unfaithful spouse or shaky marriage. Nothing makes a woman more noble than to suffer such treatment with an undying loyalty to her faith and her man. In reality, when you take off the religious blinders, maybe these women could see how actually pathetic they are for tolerating such treatment, let alone enabling it, and even being stupid enough to perpetuate such a mindset in their own children's perceptions of what relationships are supposed to be like. For at least a decade now, I've read, watched, and listened to many news reports and sermons where various religious groups cry that the traditional family is being ruined by liberal agendas. I never truly bought in to that analysis, of course, since the logic was seriously flawed behind such a claim. The supposed downfall of the traditional family, at least within the religious community, has to do with the fact that many people take life more seriously than just praying on Sunday. The availability of the internet has made knowledge about other places, experiences, and cultures so readily available, that many families have shifted their priorities as far as life goals. This includes perceptions on relationships and marriage. Many have learned that the whole "suffer to receive Heavenly rewards" doctrine doesn't have to be that way. Why stay in a relationship with someone if s/he clearly cannot commit to the responsibility? Unlike sixty years ago, it is not as difficult to branch out on your own, single with children. Unlike sixty years ago, wanting to be happy and make the most of the singular lifetime you get to live doesn't sound overly selfish. Especially with all the easy access information out there on how to accomplish said happiness. One is not limited to the small pool of potential mates in their home towns and church vestibules either. The advent of affordable travel has made such long distance relationships become a feasible reality. To stay in a non salvageable relationship is almost like giving up on life. What is to be admired about that? Martyr type behavior in a relationship not only enables the abuser to keep right on expecting that perpetual second chance, but it leaves the would be martyr in a constant world of "Poor me" and "You did this to me, and this to me, and this to me, and this to me..." diatribe. The same goes for those who suffer from depression and are waiting for their chosen deity to come heal them, or irresponsible families up to their eyeballs in debt just praying away for a miracle while everyone stands around watching their house be repossessed. This is a sick cycle of attention seeking. A constant tidal wave that echoes,"Look at what I am going through." Religion does not teach proactive behavior. Everything that a doctrine teaches one to do is reactive. The old saying about an ounce of prevention does wonders is often not repeated enough. In the case of religious proactive behavior? Why not encourage some accountability within the flock? Instead of Mrs. Jones walking in every Sunday, fake smile pasted on her face as she holds on to her lecherous husband's elbow, taking humble pride in how tough she is to stand up in public under such a scrutinized embarrassment, why not encourage her to be proactive and actually hold her husband, and herself, accountable for the break in the relationship? Because to do so puts God on the hook, as well. I normally do not dissect deities and their subsequent obvious lack of action, but this is a topic that has always held me in the most severest of attitudes when evaluating idols and their worshipers. The main reason for this lack of discussion is due to the fact the most common rebuttal is,"Well, God doesn't operate the way we do." Famously known as "God works in mysterious ways." Folks do not like hearing miracles being relegated to mere instances of good odds or just flat out dumb luck, but it is the truth of the matter. When one prays for their puppy to show up after being lost, or for a relative to make a journey safely home, and it actually happens, it is simply a matter of good odds that the puppy was not that far away to begin with, and that Aunt Martha had a very slight chance of 1 in 1,000,000 that her plane would crash. It has nothing to do with having prayed hard enough, or having been righteous enough in His word, that this deity extended a blessing. Folks managing to survive a car crash in the foot lands of Oregon without extra water for five days? That is determination, luck, and maybe genetics. Faith healers and psychics are never found working their trade in hospitals, and the same can be said of an unseen deity in the every day world. Yet, relationships are based around the promise of rewards from these deities anyway. "Pray harder." "You must have true faith (whatever the hell that means)." "Don't overthink it, and just trust Him." "God rewards those who suffer." All of this translates in to the religiously based relationships too. When a husband loses his job? "Pray harder." When a wife cheats? "God rewards those who suffer." When a child dies? "Don't over think it, just trust His wisdom." Where is the accountability? Husband lost his job? Why and how to avoid it next time? Wife cheated? Why and what can be done now? Child died? Why and can you help prevent such a loss for someone else? This isn't over thinking. This isn't showing doubt. It is finding accountability. Religion and accountability have a hard time reconciling with one another. In religion, accountability is fault finding. In a secular world view, accountability is reason finding. That is what I had to do when I cut ties with my now ex. It wasn't all his behavior that made me leave, it was my taking accountability for the direction my life was going and I realized he just wasn't going to be able to be a part of it. I either had to tolerate the continued shifting of responsibility of the relationship on to my shoulders as the unreasonable girlfriend who wanted his loyalty and communication issues to be rectified, or I could move on, and enjoy life without him there. I opted for the latter. We both can find happiness now, though sometimes, it is still a bit of a sour remembrance of wasted time. Always remember this when confronted with turmoil:
  19. We have all been there and done it. Sitting on a couch, consoling a friend over a terrible mistake that has been made, and used our own personal flaws as a buffer before giving advice on what to do about the mess at hand. This is self deprecation, and while a very useful tool while navigating social situations, there is a fine line between using it as a tool, and using it as a facetious psychological mind fuck. Usually, self deprecation is a general statement of flaws, like,"Well, Judy. I've been in your shoes, sweetie. I've had my bouts with - insert flaw here -. But I learned from it. Did my best to make it right, and now all is okay. And you will be too." Basically, what is being said is, "I'm a fuck up too." I think it is a given that in most awkward or stressful situations, one rarely goes wrong diffusing some of the tension with a little self deprecation. There is a time and place for doing so, otherwise you will come across as unbelievably modest, or as a conceited asshole that is rubbing in the faults of the other person(s). It seems Christianity, and most religions in general, have not figured this important detail out though. "I'm a fuck up too." This seems to be the motto emblazoned on every calling card, tract, and service invite that the religious use to spread their message of idol worship. While admitting one isn't perfect is admirable, there seems to be a twisted psychology behind its use in religious doctrine that I will get more in depth about as we go along. For the sake of length, I am not going to go into the fact that religious self deprecation is just another form of secret narcissism, as well. Nothing grabs attention like,"Oh, I fucked a married man before too! We all make mistakes, but Jesus it away, mkay?" First, as many reading this blog already have learned, it is important to recognize mistakes, seek to correct those mistakes, and try to seek the forgiveness of those you wronged. Additionally, it is essential to forgive yourself too. That is the problem with the religious and their usage of self deprecation. They skip the last step that involves forgiving oneself. Well, not really. They just do not realize that by going to God for forgiveness, they are simply granting themselves the right to move on. It's really messed up when you think about. Until one feels they have shown enough penance to God (I couldn't put in literal terms how one knows if it is enough), they live in a state of self perpetuated guilt. Now, this is where a Christian that I discuss such topics with likes to say,"See, atheists have no conscience. Why do you get to decide you've done enough for your sinning against another?" I know. With an eye roll, I explain for the umpteenth time I am not erasing what I have done wrong (which is impossible in the real world anyway). I am simply allowing myself to move forward so I can apply the lesson learned. One should always reflect on the mistakes made. Repetition needs to be avoided after all. Dwelling on mistakes for an unspecified amount of time? Waiting for an unseen deity to somehow communicate that enough penance has been suffered? It just doesn't make sense to do such a thing because it isn't truly helpful to the situation, and it is downright unhealthy. Now, it doesn't just stop at living in a constant flux of self hate and pity parties. Many take it a step further and try to pull others into this depressing view of reduced value when attempting to convert others. It is the same scenario taking place, only instead of an atheist consoling Juday, let's imagine it is a Christian friend. Not only will this Christian friend declare s/he is imperfect and has made many mistakes, this friend will also point out that s/he could not have learned the real leasson without accepting God, and that Judy needs to get a clue. Yes, that's right. Claims of not being able to accept who s/he is, an imperfect sinning child of Yahweh, until s/he laid everything at His celestial feet. S/He learned that without Him, s/he would have always been a fuck up beyond repair. It's like sitting down next to Judy, saying,"You aren't just a whore, Judy. You're a godless whore. And you will never understand how horrible it is to be a cock gobbling godless whore until you let God pull the cock out of your mouth once and for all. Put Him there instead, honey." Okay, maybe that is a little too crude, but you get the idea. "We're all fuck ups, but I am not as bad a fuck up as you because...God." Which translates even further into,"You are such a fuck up that you have no way of ever becoming better because you don't have God. You are not capable of improving your life on your own." It is a disgustingly facetious use of self deprecation, which leads into attempts at completely undercutting any positive self image in his/her target. Not only was zero tension alleviated, but the Christian in this example compounded the damage on a psychological level. Why is it necessary to further pound a person's self worth to dust in order to show how wonderful faith is? It is akin to a pick up artist at a bar, trying to find an emotionally vulnerable woman he can proceed to lay out all his accomplishments to while gently pointing out his target's failures. Ironically, this stands a chance of elevating his desirability as a role model in the victim's eyes, hopefully eliciting a knee jerk response to want to prove she is worth his interest. The bottom line within religious communities is that you are not allowed to decide for yourself what your true worth is. No, you aren't worth a wooden nickel without completely demoralizing your personal confidence and then allow it to be determined by God's influence in your life. Any boasts of "I am successful and am so happy in life" must be immediately followed by "but there was a time I wasn't. I owe it all to my Lord God for helping me stay on His path to heavenly reward." Self worth is always the primary target in any religion. An individual's healthy level of self confidence and value is equated to arrogance. To assess yourself ,and independently determine that you are valuable, is treated as self righteousness in religious circles. So, as you can see, self deprecation in proselytizing is just another insidious method of grinding down your personal confidence. This leaves you vulnerable, sometimes even desperate. Simple psychology that we all use from time to time in order to ease crisis, tension, or a really awkward first date. In Christianity, though? It is an effectively mean little hammer to beat you down into the mold of hopeless screw up. If you are ever in Judy's shoes, and wonder if your proselytizing friend might have a point, think before you act. Don't rush to any decisions while in a vulnerable state. Most importantly, understand what the real message is. It isn't only about accepting God, but agreeing you aren't worth two shits unless God is in your life.
  20. TheBluegrassSkeptic

    Preaching On Social Media

    We've all been there at some point. You log onto your favorite social media website like Facebook, and as you scroll through the many status updates in your news feed with highlights about your Aunt Martha's cat, or your friend's son that lost a tooth, you see this: If you are irreligious like myself, all you see is this: Why do people do this? Where is this urge to shout from the digital rooftops about God's touching one's soul coming from? And even more importantly, do these folks even realize that their pious platitudes and preaching are nothing more than selfish cries for attention? Everyone learns something differently in church when it comes to appropriate social protocols when witnessing to the masses, publicly declaring your faith, and celebrating the glory of a god. One thing has always been made clear to me though during my 20 years in a pew. I was always told in the 6 different churches I attended that one should unequivocally be only giving the glory to God. God's amazing invisible finger of knowledge will automatically follow and anoint those you addressed if they are willing with little to no effort on your part. There was no telling someone how sad you were that they had no faith. It wasn't necessary to insist that you would pray for someone if they didn't want to hear your message. One certainly didn't have to debate for hours on end with atheists and other religious groups on Facebook in order to convert a few souls. No. My mere channeling of his divine presence would be enough to effect change in the person(s) I was engaged with. If I had to do more than just share a brief five minutes of His word, then I wasn't doing it right. What on earth has changed? Anymore, I feel like whenever I see a long copied post on my news feed, I am dealing with a Jim Jones wannabe. I mean this most sincerely, and I know this is not the intention of the witnessing spokesperson of Yahweh. These people really come across like charismatic psychopaths who think they can draw few flies in for dinner before mass. Quite literally they are pulling a Jim Jones maneuver from the man's own playbook. Let me explain. It is never enough to just have attended church, accepted Christ, and have lived as righteously as possible. It's enough for God in Heaven, but not enough for the interpreted version of Him within the church walls. This is especially so with all the constant nonsense about a war on Christianity that has started permeating the news. Last I checked, Christians are not being purposely put to death in this country. Hardly a war, but it makes for interesting talk around the Communion trays. Couple that with declining church attendance? Well, it's time to get the word out! At least, that is the mindset I had always come across. Proselytizing on Facebook isn't just about sharing faith, sharing joy, or sharing eternal life. It's a rallying cry to sign up. And like Jim Jones, while these social media soap boxers are full of scripture, they really don't want you to read it. As soon as you start asking about the scripture, you get rants about politics, disease, sexual abomination, and overall fear of Satan ruling the Earth. They literally pull a Jim Jones. They throw their Bibles down on the ground, insisting that you pay more attention to them than their original source of information. This same thing happens on discussion boards, even here on Ex-C. Someone posts a long opener about the seamless genius of a preferred deity. "It's so simple and clearly laid out, even a grade schooler can understand," this person says. Lines of scripture follow, including poorly made flow charts of historical context. Your eyes glaze over, but you manage to point out a number of errors in the flow chart by using the Bible said chart is based off of. What happens? Slam! Bible is on the floor, the patronizing insults of "You are over intellectualizing what I am saying" or "Your lack of faith is disturbing, I will pray for you" begin to flow. The focus has left the shared data and compelling arguments, with all attention shifted to the proselytizer. God is back in the wispy realms of fantasy, only being brought up as a holy reference to add to the pious demeanor of your rabidly biblical preaching poster. You will manage to somehow go in this discussion from lack of faith to the End Times, where all prophesies become interpretive dancing of fantastically hopeful outcomes. There might even be a bit of frothing as the witnessing individual's mind leaps from one potential sign of the times to another, as the influx of far fetched links begin to work this person's brain into an almost crack fueled frenzy. So, next time you have the urge to engage a lengthy Jebus post, realize it is just a psychiatric need for strength in numbers playing out on your wall. To solve this problem, and if you are on Facebook, do the following: If you are in a regular discussion forum, show restraint and leave the conversation. No matter how you engage, in the religious gladiator's mind, he's victorious. Either you didn't engage because of his awesome faith, or you didn't engage because Satan compels you to leave him alone. Those who engage in this type of behavior are addicted to this type of attention. They are usually very charismatic and have some very lofty ideas of how convincing their faith is on its own merits. Religious preaching on social media is a clear sign of addiction to the holy crack they are sucking in. Holy crack being fantasy and escape from a world that one is finding too difficult to reason out alone.
  21. Everywhere I scroll, I find many atheist and secular minded individuals with my same mindset. No God. No religion. Acceptance for all. On the television, it is always the same faces of Dawkins, Harris, Silverman, and occasionally Cupp. I run into the same issues on blog sites like Patheos, Freethought, Secular Coalition, and American Atheists. Same male faces and the dash of a female writer now and then. I don't know about the rest of this movement, but I long for more outspoken atheist women to be contributing more openly to the dialog. Being completely rational in my frustration with the same rehashed points of view, I started nosing around even deeper. I KNOW there are many female atheists out there. I also know that there are plenty of us writing and blogging too, but none of us seem to find major organizations to pick us up. I'm thinking, "Just how male dominated is atheism right now?" This is what I found. On Patheos' website, under the atheism section, I found 25 bloggers. 5 are women. Now, in the website's defense, there are a lot of guest bloggers, but you wouldn't know it until you reach the end of the article because the website has a layout where the hosting blogger gets all the headline, and the guest author is noted at the bottom. It still doesn't eliminate the fact that out of the billions of people in the world, and you figure at least 50% are women, Patheos has not been able to find anymore than 5 qualified female bloggers? Seems like a lack of diligence in my opinion. It should be noted that Patheos is headed by a husband and wife, no women serve on the 3 member Leadership Team, 12 out of 17 members on the general Team are women. These general Teams are editors of channels, and it is one of the male members who handles the atheism channel. Another site, 9 out of 27 bloggers are women on the female founded Secular Coalition. It should be noted only men have posted recently since May 22nd.... 6 out of 8 staff members are female, 7 out of 10 board members are female, 2 women out of 16 members are on the advisory board, which has the likes of Sam Harris, Aaron Ra, and Rushdie on it. American Atheists has 3 women on staff out of 10 listed staff members, 6 out of 13 on the board of directors are women, 2 women hold state director positions out of 20. I wonder how O'Hair would feel about such low female representation on the state level. Another female founded organization is Freedom From Religion Foundation. FFRF currently has 5 out of 18 chapters that are headed by women, and only 3 out of 10 board members are female. Finally, I did some digging around Ex-Christian.net. Dum Dum Dummmmmmm. Ex-Christian.net is hard to measure, but I instinctively knew this place is fairly diverse, and is part of the reason I prefer this site. There are no qualifiers or editors to prevent you from posting. Now, I decided to go by the numbers of most popular blogs on the site. Out of the only 24 blogs that received 10k views or higher, only 5 identify as female (2 of those blogs belong to me). This week's featured blog has 2 women bloggers out of 5. 1 out of 4 featured posts on the main page belongs to a woman. So what does all this mean? Does this mean that men are holding the women back yet again? Does this mean that atheism isn't ready to hear the voice of its female members? Does it mean that atheist environs are hostile to female presence? Of course not. I noticed while looking through all the staff and blogger lists that women seem to participate behind the scenes more. I doubt this is a purposeful move by their male counterparts on staff either. Looking further into the atheist and secular cultures (yeah, I don't treat them as the same), I noticed that in social media, women tend to take a beating when we decry secular communities and their lack of addressing feminine issues in politics. Many women, like myself, find it difficult to accept that organizations like FFRF and American Atheists choose to focus on mandated pledges with the word "god" in them. Why aren't they rallying by our side when women are having their bodily rights infringed upon based on religious morality? Why can they not stand up for us when we are being blamed for rape culture in this country? There appears to be a desire to keep feminism separate from secularism, but by its own definition, secularism should embrace some aspects, and even stand up for, feminism in some aspects. One obvious principle of secularism is maintaining the right to be free from religious rule and teachings. And if in a state that is declared to be neutral on matters of belief, we are supposed to be free from the imposition by government of religion or religious practices upon us. Demanding we abstain from sex to avoid pregnancy is not secularism, yet our government representatives on the Right have that opinion and try to force it on us by making sex all about responsibility and not a "god given pleasure" that is innate to our humanity. SEX is our HUMANITY. How is it secular to deny us our humanity? The response to this, of course, will have the usual run of the mill,"You risk getting pregnant when you have sex. Why do I have to pay for your risk?" Or my favorite,"If you would keep your legs shut, you wouldn't need birth control." Why do I have to pay to ensure you get your prostate exam? Why do I have to pay for your Viagra to be able to get your wife pregnant, but we can't get assistance preventing it, let alone also getting treatment for hormonal disorders? Basically, women bloggers, who are out there putting their views to the public are beaten down. Slut shamed, threatened, being told we are making ourselves a burden to society. We cannot trust our emotional, and sometimes physical safety, from our other atheist members. PZMeyers and his Watkins debacle, and Amazing Atheist are some great examples of misogyny and misrepresentation within the movements. And what is worse, even when they are called out on their behavior? They refuse to see how they were truly wrong. Still, there is another reason why there are not as many outspoken female bloggers who get a Dawkins' level of following. Women are not recognized as a force within the spectrum of atheism, though we have done TONS to move it forward. When my favorite author Hecht's book "Doubt" was published, she made it clear that works by atheist women are usually "individualized". There isn't a larger recognition of an academic wave of enlightenment amongst women. At all. Everything is person to person, but amongst the men, there is a brotherhood status. Women need to be pumping up their fellow sisters like the men do with their own. Though, I think it would be more effective to advertise no matter the gender. Dawkins did give Hecht an acknowledgement in his book "God Is Not Great", though he still doesn't speak on her. The now late Stenger, while referring to Harris' work something of a dawn of a new age in atheist thought, never once mentioned Hecht, or even Gaylor or McCreighty. He did acknowledge though that these authors were in print during an interview, but publicly? Giving them free press? No. Atheism in the media world is a sell out folks. I think women have realized that and have abandoned themselves to the desk work and boardrooms.
  22. TheBluegrassSkeptic

    Ferguson: A Larger Dialog

    Ferguson, MO. Okay, please don't roll your eyes and think "Here we ago again. Another blog about police brutality, police states in America, and racist bashing." I'm not going to be analyzing the events of Ferguson, per say. I am writing about a larger picture here. No speeches about how important it is to train our public servants to be more tolerant in the face of natural human behavior. No diagrams showing how our tax money inappropriately funds militarizing of the police forces across the United States. These are important issues in Ferguson, Missouri, but not what I want to talk about seeing how everyone else already has. No, I just want to discuss the underlying issue: Aversive Racism. In case this is unfamiliar to you, and it could be since it is a concept born out of a study from the 80's, the practice of aversive racism has to do with essentially agreeing everyone should be equal, but you are still judging and treating groups (minorities, religious, etc) differently because of their differences. Most folks that fall in this category, specifically DO support the efforts of egalitarian views, but do not necessarily walk the talk due to subconscious reservations. This behavior is why we see Moff's Law nowadays. The open forum for discussion of the effects of aversive racism in our daily life has brought about a quick blanket response to any discussion that ruins the feel good atmosphere we share with other races and religions. Everyday I encounter at least four to five people, at least three being white, who will argue that there will always be racism and that it is a natural part of being human. This is the response I get when discussing racist tendencies amongst all races. Of course, it isn't much of an argument, it's just an excuse. A pretty ill thought out one at that. To fill in the accountability slot with the perpetrator called human nature is very disingenuous. Science has clearly shown the innate behaviors of organisms can be altered, so why be so aversive? Is RACISM such a boogey man? Aversive racism in our culture enables escapist attitudes. Escapists are the usual "just trying to live my life how I want to" crowd who doesn't really want to get their hands dirty in the issues and see how their lack of action is contributing to the more noticeably explicit racist societies in our country. Escapists have a tendency to hold on to some type of fantasy, whether it is a future release into the arms of their God, or racism is natural and won't ever go away so let's just learn how to tip toe around it. Trying to really get these folks to participate in political thought about their views is often met with resistance. I've literally been told "Why do you make everything such a crusade?" or "You can't fix everything wrong with world." I've had friendships withdrawn when I try to point out how that individual could make a difference in the cultural divide, and probably affect at least two others into correcting racist behaviors, and the results could then potentially keep trickling on. All I get is an insulted attitude, ad hominem attacks against my own imperfections (which I gladly absorb), and usually being told that I am actually the racist since I had the nerve to even THINK about such a topic. I am not even suggesting we go on a witch hunt, handing out an inventoried list of everyone's racist behaviors. That is not the right approach. We need to be giving clear cut examples of what racism is, yes, but not in a demonizing fashion. This just feeds in to the stock pile of examples that belong to those who don't know how to let go of their flawed views. It is so much easier to blindly defend oneself against perceived insult. Education is a wonderfully conducive realm for such discussions, and teaching the denizens of our planet what self awareness and accountability are should be made an essential life skill. It should be pointed out that aversive racism also means the outright denial to even approach the inner workings of racism in general. Common arguments against such pensive thought includes the guilt tripping excuse. Now and then I manage to have a conversation with an acquaintance about the guts of the racism issue, but even then you can see the painful hesitation all over the person's face when speaking. It's like an invisible recorder is in the room and somehow the discussion might be made public, and oh my god my reputation has been ruined because I wanted to really think about this problem! It's hard for these talks to not fall apart quickly. Nothing like pathetic attempts at explaining why we have racism instead of talking about why we won't let it go. I allude racism to a double edged sword, you know. Racism is a double edged sword that many are still too addicted to using for personal gain, even in subconsciously assessing others you interact with. I have been there, done that, and now make a conscious effort to refrain from doing so. One might ask how can a person who is the one being discriminated against possibly have a gain? Escapist rationalizing. Like religious escapism, sometimes, internally holding onto the pain justifies the inaction and perpetuation. I am not going to lay the hope and change on the feet of only the majority. Stamping out racism has to be a willful effort. It doesn't just appear over night, and often, one must always be reminded to not practice such things and learn to be self aware. Have you ever looked at how we view our history not just as Americans, but as humans? There are so many myths and blatantly misunderstood (and wrongly taught) history, I don't see how we can expect our children to figure it out on their own. Aversive racism is a real issue. I think Ferguson highlighted that on both sides of the fence with spotlights so bright, to ignore the revealed truth would be blatant escapism. This problem goes to the core of our nation, our world, and our humanity. Too often there are lengthy speeches of tearing down racist ideologies, but do we see any talkers actually trying to literally INCLUDE other races in activities to blunt racism's divisive sword? Very rarely. I notice that all sides say they want racism gone, but damned if any backers of the issue seriously join together to do so. Each side is too addicted to holding on to their own pain, when instead they could be looking past the battlefield to the ripe pastures of community that could be built. Personal accountability is a key factor in this problem we face today. I think we have already established that wrong has been done. I am not sure if all the damage that has been wrought has been accounted for, and while it does matter to acknowledge this damage, when do we stop dwelling and just start remembering? When do we stop pointing out examples of racism, and live the non prejudicial example to teach others? When does one quit looking for their fair share of recompense, and put that aside so EVERYONE can get their share of healing? When do you stop judging your fellow human on his differences to justify your means? Is this line of thinking really so politically incorrect and selfish? Judging by the disaster in Ferguson, it would seem it were. So many people, black and white, were eager to take out their emotional baggage and prop themselves up above one another, treating the other as insignificant members of society. If the people of Ferguson, Missouri, really want change, they are going to have to actively pursue it in a way that invites EVERYONE to help it be possible. They are going to have to unite against the correct issues which would be overreaching law enforcement, personal accountability, and degradation of their fellow man. They have to be willing to put their fellow man in his place when he is wrong, despite the wounded history they have in common.
  23. TheBluegrassSkeptic

    I'm Tired Of Turning The Other Cheek

    I was taught that you earned respect first by belief, and then by your works. That you must live the example you preach to others, and to fail to do so required public shaming amongst your family and fellow church goers. The stigma of being "that church member" was enormous, so the day I was caught wiping a huge booger on the bottom of our metal flip out chairs, I panicked, running for cover in the bathroom. Now, I was only 8 years old at the time, but my supposed friend Obi, saw me do the disgusting deed and took his soulless ginger ass to Brother Bob, and I could see the serious looks between the two as Obi tattled on me. Seeing the darkly bearded eyes and heavily browed face of my Sunday school teacher searching for me in the crowd, I ducked down, mixing in with the large 50+ crowd of kids that were exiting the room at the end of the Gospel Bill Show. Of course the teacher figured out where I had run and hid, sending in Sister Wanda, our pastor's wife no less, to come pull me out of the bathroom. Serious looks, thin pressed grimacing lips, and a large brown paper towel met me in there when Wanda caught up with me. Of course, Brother Bob spoke with my asshole father, and I got my ass lit up later for embarrassing our family like that. For pity's sake, I was an eight year old! With hay fever! Put the two together and what do you get? An itchy nosed booger picking eight year old girl, not a dastardly sinner that is shaming the entire church and its mission. You wouldn't have been able to tell the difference, though. Still, that event still sticks with me to this day. I learned how quickly perspective is lost when inside the realm of God and His godly halls of worship. I understood the hypocritical application of judging of fellow humans. I also learned a hurtful lesson in religious showmanship. Showmanship was used to gain favor, throwing one's supposed brothers and sisters in Christ under the bus for the smallest smile and acknowledgement from favorite pastors and teachers. I never spoke to Obi again after that day, and I never enjoyed Sunday school again, always in fear the slightest thing I might do would again be reported, earning more social and familial punishments. Trust in my fellow man dwindled sharply that day. Showmanship is a humongous pet peeve of mine, and if I catch even the smallest whiff of it when interacting with someone (even lifelong friends), I feel such an intense disgust I usually excuse myself from the experience. To make oneself appear more appealing by injuring another makes me seethe; I will rant for hours to empty space when I have such encounters. I don't like walking away, it wounds me so deeply I want to verbally abuse, I want to physically repel, I want to rebuke and retaliate with a fiery anger hotter than any damned Hell could possibly cook up. But after awhile of doing that, and for most of my childhood I did lash out in physical anger, I realized there wasn't any satisfaction. I would leave the confrontations exhausted and feeling even more helpless. I would feel so damn defeated because I let myself be so exposed and opened even further to the very judgements I was terrified of. So, I began to learn how to turn the other cheek. How to stare ahead, through the disgusting sacks of shit that wallowed in the brown muddy pig pens of such capitalizing tactics for attention. Yeah, I still harbor a lot of wounding anger. Everyday I find this type of abuse in my daily encounters at work, home, and online. Online I seem to tolerate better because I can kind of see it coming and just exit the conversation before getting a full dose. At work it is a very tough issue. Often, I sit there throwing the mail up into the mail case, listening to some of the more religious members of my coworkers having fun degrading another, speaking extra loudly about something they might have overheard to draw in the supervisor's attention. It's so high school, and I have to be immersed in it. Folks fail to understand that I don't HAVE to ignore their behavior. I don't HAVE to tolerate their cruelties to one another. I don't HAVE to sit by quietly, trying to focus on stupid dental fliers that are too large for the case slot. There is a weird culture evolving in our society, especially out of the religious communities, where there is a misplaced security in the way society is supposed to behave. There is an assumption that anyone who wants to be accepted will tolerate abusive behavior and turn the other cheek. There is an assumption that one's silent dissenting actually means inattention. It's like it is some kind of unspoken rule of etiquette. We can act like dickheads, and because we are all part of the same club (work, church, family, what have you), you aren't going to say anything and be cool with it because we are on the same team, and sometimes team members are going to hurt each other. The whole notion of not having anything nice to say means you should not say anything at all has been projected onto the bystanders and victims who do not agree with a group's behavior. Even members of these abusive groups are unable to step forward and help put a stop to it all, but instead agree they shouldn't say anything in order to be behaving appropriately. You see this in everyday interactions between atheists and the religious, the religious and other religious, and even in government. Well, fuck that. Years of being told I would have bed wetting episodes outed to the church if I didn't stop ruining my sheets every night, being called a christian hypocrite for hours at a time before church because I had not wanted to sit still to have my hair brushed because it hurt, being told by my pastor that my flesh was out of control and was dominating my spirit because I couldn't control my reactions to abusive behavior; these things are why I don't want to sink to the level of those who hurt me. Who turned me into their godly superiors in exchange for praise and acceptance while once again leaving me in the ditches of childhood despair. But I'll be damned if anyone else will use that understanding against me, taking advantage of me, belittle my humanity. No more gaining at my pain. I'm not a personal rag mag for you to look at and find flaws in so that you can feel better about yourself personally. I get tired of turning the other cheek, but lucky for you, I love humanity, and as you once again try to set up my small mistakes as a step ladder to a higher level of arrogant recognition, I will quietly cut the legs out from under you. My psyche, my aura, my "soul", my essence, whatever you want to call it. When you step into it for personal gain, you best understand that unlike the angry and abused child I once was, the landscape of my mind is entirely different. I will help you eat your dust all by your little self. No amount of godly threats, snide remarks of my inability to morally reason, and certainly no amount of accusations of my being arrogant will hinder me from completely fucking with your mind.
  24. In the general public, there is an expectation when discussing the infighting amongst atheists, that there will never be a concrete movement away from God due to lack of cohesion. That because of atheists’ insistence on individualism and no clear rank and file, atheism in itself, is a flawed logic doomed to go out of style. Obviously, the only flawed logic being applied is the assumption that atheism needs a concise rank and file, that it is necessary to form some type of dogmatic guideline in order to succeed. For the gazillionth time, the general public is trying to automatically tie some type of philosophy into atheism, and unfortunately, leaders in atheism are doing so too. This is the very large error that is the detriment to the atheism movement. Individualism is necessary to being an atheist because the only requirement to be an atheist is a non belief in deities. Everything else that one decides to do as a result of not believing in gods has nothing to do with being an atheist. It has to do with that individual’s personal lifestyle choices. But, the New Atheism and Atheism+ movements seek to tag on guidelines for being a proper atheist. And if you do not conform, you are ridiculed, ignored, or sometimes shunned. This type of behavior is very much puzzling to atheists around the globe, wondering why a difference of opinion on whether religion should be stamped out or permitted would preclude one from one form of atheism versus another. There is only one form of atheism! The answer to that question was provided by Freud over a century ago. “A narcissism of small differences”. And that is what plagues the atheists of today. Freud had coined this phrase after studying some earlier works of a British anthropologist by the name of Crawley. Freud recognized that there was a desire “to achieve a superficial sense of one’s own uniqueness, an ersatz sense of otherness which is only a mask for an underlying uniformity and sameness’. The term appeared in one of his later books entitled Civilization and its Discontents, where it demonstrated the relation to the use of the inborn aggression in man to ethnic conflicts. It should be said that this is a process still considered by Freud, at that point, as ‘a convenient and relatively harmless satisfaction of the inclination to aggression’. One would have to ask how harmless this satisfaction is in today’s age, where seemingly small differences are tantamount to the rise and fall of a politician’s career. Where a conflicting viewpoint entitles an individual to obscene amounts of negative backlash that remains available for public viewing until the internet evolves, yet again, into a different form of communication. Unlike the world of Freud’s Victorian atmosphere, we live in an age where all we have are small issues to argue over. Globally, priorities are very much aligned on the same page now, leaving us with smaller conflicts to pick at in order to keep pursuing the ever desired individualism our ego craves. For those unfamiliar with narcissism, here is a very bare bones definition: nar·cis·sism ˈnärsəˌsizəm/ noun noun: narcissism excessive or erotic interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance. synonyms: vanity, self-love, self-admiration, self-absorption, self-obsession, conceit, self-centeredness, self-regard, egotism, egoism More “his emotional development was hindered by his mother’s narcissism” antonyms: modesty Psychology extreme selfishness, with a grandiose view of one’s own talents and a craving for admiration, as characterizing a personality type. Psychoanalysis self-centeredness arising from failure to distinguish the self from external objects, either in very young babies or as a feature of mental disorder. (Via Google Dictionary) As a larger analysis, atheism is not inherently narcissistic. It is just a lack of belief. Period. The narcissism comes into play when those who classify as atheist then start applying philosophical and social practices to their identifier to further exemplify their statuses from others. For some, to be atheist means to be materialist. For others, to be atheist means to be humanist. And even further than that, there are those who treat atheism as meaning to be anti religious. One atheist’s crusade to stamp out religion would appear as inhumane to another. An atheist’s embrace of evolution can appear as pseudo science to another. These differences are perfectly acceptable. It is the overriding avarice to be standing out above the rest, and to attain notable recognition for that feat, that a trickier cliff of solidarity is being climbed, and one easily falls into alienation with a single misstep. Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and even Dennet, have made the cliff the size of Mount Everest for those of us out there who do not want to reach the apex of such a precipice, but instead maintain a healthy respect for all aspects of secular living in the world while still showing our support. Are we less atheists because we do not agree 100% with their philosophical or social causes? Of course not. To suggest otherwise diminishes their missions, but somehow, they do no seem to recognize this. Much like the religious, if you do not agree, they seek to convert your views to match their own, or relegate your significance to the larger spectrum of the atheism movement to nil. Hitchens was frequently known for his abrasive attitude towards atheists who didn’t support Israel, and his vitriol to anyone who supported the right to abort. He frequently interchanged humanism, secularism, and atheism, as being identical concepts, and this did the atheist community no favors when trying to garner further understanding in the global community. There is a sense of moral absolutism brewing in the atheist community. Do we really need to divide our classification of lack of belief into further genus? Feminist atheists, humanist atheists, secular atheists, material atheists, etc. What do these divisions accomplish? Atheists around the world have seen how divisive the genus of theists are. Shiites vs Sunnis. Catholics vs. Baptists. It goes on and on. Can we not rise above such things? Be unified in our lack of belief, and quit giving the general public ammunition to tear us down by not allowing our representatives of atheism to conflate atheism with philosophical and moral absolutes. This is the key to help speed along the acceptance of atheism in more communities. By allowing for such small differences to greatly divide us, our accidentally nominated spokesmen are making us appear as haphazard and disjointed as the very theistic cultures we set out to be apart from. When will they do the right thing and cease applying extended humanities to a mere classification?
  25. “So, you’re an atheist. What does that mean other than you think you are a gift to the world?” “How can you call yourself an atheist and support abortion?” “Atheist men tend to be misogynists.” “Where do you get the right to determine what is right or not? You’re an atheist!” Any of these sound familiar when someone cannot accept or understand your lack of belief? The examples above are the most common arguments/insults/comments I receive when my atheism is brought into the spotlight. Now, a decade ago, I would have gone into lengthy explanations on how their reasoning was just downright ridiculous. And it is. I would spend the longest time on the morals argument, pointing out the flaws within their own religion’s logic and morals, trying to prove that they didn’t exactly have the moral high ground. The other three are really just spiteful ad hominem, and I could let those roll off. There was one problem though with how I handled these encounters…. Instead of arguing about how their reasoning was just oh so wrong, I should have been demonstrating that their reasoning is totally misplaced, and then how wrong it is. Morals, sexual equality, abortion, and such, really are not anything to do with atheism to begin with, but many folks (even atheists) do not realize this, or just assume it is part and parcel with the movement. I’ve met a number of atheists who have completely discounted me, and told me I didn’t truly understand what I believed, all because I didn’t view human life as the most sacred thing on the planet. Yeah, let that sink in for a moment. Atheism, on its own, is fairly straight forward. a·the·ism ˈāTHēˌizəm/ noun noun: atheism disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods. As you can see, there isn’t even the slightest intimation that one is automatically some type of humanist superstar, rocket scientist, or materialistic thinker, in the definition. Nor is there any claim of knowledge, but just no belief. Now, most aren’t aware there is a subtle difference between atheism as a personal identifier, and atheism as a philosophy, of which there are numerous branches. This lack of realization is largely attributed to the works of the New Atheism and Atheism Plus. First, let’s understand the two main movements that are influencing the understanding of atheism today by taking a look at the first movement, New Atheism. “New Atheism is a social and political movement in favour of atheism and secularism promoted by a collection of modern atheist writers who have advocated the view that “religion should not simply be tolerated but should be countered, criticized, and exposed by rational argument wherever its influence arises.”[1] There is uncertainty about how much influence the movement has had on religious demographics, but the increase in atheist groups, student societies, publications and public appearances has coincided with the non-religious being the largest growing demographic, closely followed by Islam and evangelicalism in the US and UK.[2] New Atheism lends itself to and often overlaps with secular humanism and anti theism, particularly in its criticism of the indoctrination of children and the perpetuation of ideologies. (via Wiki)” New Atheism is a large dose of vinegar down the public throat, and is often what gets atheists a negative view in general as being argumentative and angry, as well as on a mission to deconvert the world and destroy deities. These guys are all about stepping on toes without apology, and their divisive world view isn’t helping the general impression of what lack of belief is all about. There are subtle claims of knowledge in the movement that is undermining what the definition of atheism is. Then you have the Atheism Plus crowd, and similar off shoots like Free Thinkers, whom I have more a beef with than the New Atheists. “Atheism Plus (also rendered Atheism+) was a movement proposed in 2012 by blogger Jen McCreight. Its original definition was rather nebulous, but in general it is intended to be a subset of the atheism movement that attempts to unite atheists who wish to use their shared atheist identity as a basis for addressing political and social issues and engaging in related activism. Its scope is intended to go beyond the question of (non-)belief to address additional issues, including but not limited to critical thinking, skepticism, social justice, feminism, anti-racism, and combating homophobia and transphobia. In other words, a place for some of the more liberal (in the American meaning of the word) atheists who are sick of being lumped together with people whose ideals they don’t share. (via RationalWiki)” This movement automatically brings set views on social philosophies into the mix. A division of sorts that sets them apart from your everyday non believer. And as some critics have noted, there is little wiggle room to deviate from the set foundation of views the movement has put forward, dissenters being harassed and exiled until they leave, sometimes still suffering harassment after long gone. In general, this type of added on philosophy, while giving the impression of unification against social injustices, brings an even larger pool of “us vs. them” mentality, including amongst its own members. Feminism is always a hot topic, and not everyone has the same degree of consensus on the subject. The same with racism, and even critical thinking has different standards! This type of tagging of social philosophies onto atheism promotes further divides amongst the many different populations not just outside of atheism itself, but amongst the atheist population in general. Atheism has nothing to do with being a bigot or not. Nor any say in just how much critical thinking you want to apply to that infomercial you watched for an hour at three this morning. Atheism most certainly has nothing to do with proving believers are wrong, or if abortion is moral. In fact, atheism has NOTHING to do with morality whatsoever. In fact, there are no implied social requirements for being an atheist. That is a key liberating feature about being embracing the classification to begin with. No implied social or philosophical views whatsoever. No conformity is necessary other than simply no belief in deities. Everyday, there are new polls coming out from various media outlets like PEW or Gallup, that show an increase in no religious identification, but these ever-increasing numbers seems to not be enough for those who insert philosophical elements into atheism. There is a sanctimonious atmosphere to the atheism of today’s century where those who lack belief, much like their theist counterparts, have a desire to set themselves above the rest somehow, especially amongst their own; an arrogant need for self-justification to society that non belief is best, especially if it is done under certain pretenses or guidelines. Conform or be shunned. I see this being echoed on both parts of the chasm, leaving many like myself, alone and cleaning up the social messes of others. Again, humans are pushing each other apart, despite the common ground they are discovering everyday that could unite them closer under one umbrella of humanity. These divisive facts are what the religious like to point out as cracks in the facade of atheism; the foundation of disbelief that cannot be supported. Adding secularism, free thought, or humanism automatically into the classification is exactly the factor that is eroding atheism’s foundation. To save the face of atheism, it is time we start to make a differentiation between atheism and philosophy. Leave it as just a simple classification. Much like calling someone a theist. We cannot automatically assign attributes to that term other than belief in a deity/driving force because there is a variety of attributes that could possibly be applied. Buddhism, Catholicism, Christianity, and so on, are world outlooks that defines an individual's beliefs, not the classification as a whole.
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