Category Archives: Morality

Just so you know: your Christianity is far less “peaceful” than you think.

I consider myself to be a realistic person, overall. While I may speak in hyperbole in my everyday life (“This is the best thing of all time! Do you hear me?! Of all time!” “Okay, I already looked for that, like, twelve billion times.”) I try to think and speak “professionally” as accurately as possible. I am well aware that outliers do not define a trend. I obviously don’t think that all Christians are violent, immoral, etc.

However: I do think that, pointing out the outliers, when it comes to safety, can be important.

See: Christians Openly Advocate Killing Atheists on FOX News Facebook Page

And, my personal least favorite:

Obviously, the people who are going to “Like” FOX News on Facebook will be a fringe group, probably angrier/more extreme than your average person. And when you add “Christianity” into the description, I’m honestly not surprised about this reaction.

I’ve had many different adverse reactions personally to my proud atheism. I’ve been told that I am a Devil worshiper many times. I’ve lost potential friendships. I’ve been cut off from my immediate family, communication-wise. Yes, this is extreme. But no, it is not uncommon. And, while I’m sure that there could be some atheist parents who would do the same if their child chose to become religious, I would think that this would be an extreme divergence from the norm.

I started this blog to share different views with people who probably haven’t thought about it before. So here it is: religion in general, and Christianity specifically in the Western world, has been the cause of death and destruction where atheism has not. I would seriously like to know what possible, bodily threat atheism is. Has it brought about genocide? Absolutely not. The list of Christian serial killers is far larger than the list of atheist serial killers. The list of Christian pedophiles can top any other list by just including the priesthood. This doesn’t bring up any spiritual text at all, nor any other religious group, most of which can all be counted to be violent or harmful in multiple ways. By any “moral” measure, atheists stack up as much more moral as a group than any religious group does. As Jen McCreight sums it up: “I know this doesn’t represent all Christians, but it certainly debunks the notion that religion automatically makes you a good person.”

So please, somebody explain it to me: why kill atheists?

(tl;dr: Wow, I didn’t expect to be so angry about this.)

Edited to add: I want to add this to make the purpose of my post very clear: I am genuinely interested in hearing from people of all religions, and especially Christians (as I live in the United States, and this is the religion of the majority) what about atheism can cause people to treat atheists so negatively, beyond just disagreement.

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My privilege is showing.

What I am about to write is important to me, and I think it’s very important to my blog for me to take note of my biases, my privileges, my experiences. I live with scientists, and have been posing the question to them recently: does your personal experience, your bias, your privileges, your experience, do these things factor into how you interpret or accept new data?” This is important to the field of science. And, turning it inwards, I note: this is important to life.

My background is not very interesting, nor is it very significant. I am a white female, born into an almost-middle-class, Southern Baptist family. The first year that my class was administered governmental standardized end-of-year tests (first grade, I believe?) I was the only student to score in the 99-percentile range (all of my scores were in the 99-percentile range). From this point on, I was treated as an intelligent child, which cushioned me from many of the hardships that children face from struggling with academics and being chastised for it. I was never treated as less capable (especially in math) because of my sex-chromosomes, though I did witness this happening often to other cis-females in the class. In fact, I was often asked to give private, after class tutoring to other girls who were struggling in math (never the boys, however). While I lived in very close proximity to a low-income city until I left for college, I actually lived in a city which is considered to be much safer, more quiet, more calm than its adjacent, surrounding neighbors. The most opposition I ever faced was some light bullying from older girls in Elementary School (stopped when my sister bravely stood up to them for me) and then again when I was teased for dressing like a boy in Junior High (from the same girl from before, again stopped when I mentioned that my same sister was currently serving time in a juvenile corrections facility. Apparently this implied threat of her eventual presence was more than enough). My own mind is what gave me more opposition in my life than any other person.

While I have faced incidences of relative injustice in my life (all very light, all very small) I have to admit that I have been very, well, privileged. I was born without fear of racism or racial discrimination, I was born without and have never experienced physical handicap, I was insulated from much gender discrimination by virtue of being considered “smart” (something with implications that is infuriating, of course), I was born outside of and have never lived in poverty, and my relative heterosexuality (I’m very queer and much more than incidentally attracted to women, though most people don’t know this because I have never acted on it) has insulated me from personally experiencing homophobia. Honestly, the only aspect of myself that puts me into a minority of any kind is the fact that I am an atheist, and it’s not like puts me at any threat of bodily harm, generally. Also, while I have faced some instances of being discriminated against due to mental-health-related issues, this has had very little effect on me.

I don’t even need to say that my life has been easy, relatively- it has been easy, and that’s that. Obviously I have faced difficulties in my life, but any sort of discrimination is not something that I come face-to-face with on a daily basis.

The fights and battles that I am interested in fighting are, largely, not my own. I fight for reproductive rights, because I believe that, without adequate reproductive rights, the people who are hurt the most are people who are of color, live in poverty, and have fully-functioning vaginae and uteri. I fight for queer rights, because there is no reason to discriminate against somebody based on their sexual/gender identity, their sexuality, or anything else that makes them supposedly “other.” I fight for people of color, not because they need a white person on their side, but because the inequalities have not been erased, because we still live in a society and a judiciary system that still perpetuates the problems and the stereotypes that give people of color more to fight against. I fight for disability rights and against ableism, because everybody should have equality of opportunity, and because the need is still there. I fight against poverty, nationally and globally, because it is a travesty on the part of the human race, and because it is connected to everything. I fight for education, because I think that it is the key to change and to progress.

I fight because I care. I fight because I am a humanist. I fight because it’s moral and ethical and true to my values.

But I have to understand- though I am willing to fight, I first have to listen.

So I invite people to share their stories. Their own experiences, the prejudice they have faced, their own privileges. I meant it when I said that education is the key to change and to progress, and it starts here.

The Importance of Numbers (Or, How in a Roundabout Way, I’m Pro-Life)

Official photo of Congresswoman Michele Bachma...
Nemesis #1 tbh

My politics are obviously not informed by faith (kind of difficult for that to be true when I don’t subscribe to any faith). But they are also not informed by my lack of faith; it would make no sense for my atheism to inform my politics beyond perhaps being one less thing to tell me how to think/feel/vote.

Though I am a proud feminist, I am not informed by my feminism. People might point out- “aren’t you pro-choice? Isn’t this because you want reproductive rights for women? Isn’t that feminism?” And I would say “my feminism is the part of my life that helps me make personal decisions and helps give me a drive for activism, but it does not tell me how to vote.”

I am obviously and definitely a secular humanist. If there were any kind of label that I subscribe to that informed my politics the most, it would probably be this. This is because, underlying what does inform my politics, what I am looking for are the answers to the question- “what is best for humanity?” (This can easily lend itself to “what is best for nature,” because humanity is kind of nature’s bitch, and we have to appease nature and treat nature with respect and kindness. Nature will go on without us very easily.) I think that the idea of “pro-life” and “pro-choice” is extremely misleading; one should not, in my opinion, call themselves “pro-life” if their concern for life stops the minute it exits the womb, if they care more about the potential for life than the actuality of it, if they vote in ways that aren’t informed about poverty, about education, about the death penalty, about the environment, about human rights. That is life, at least it is life in the United States, and that is what we vote for.

But what does inform my politics the most, what I look to before anything else, are facts, figures, statistics. Numbers. These are the tools that help me to grasp- what is the result of the availability of abortion, or what would the result be were there to be a lack of abortion availability? The same goes for science education, for environmental measures, for laws that have the ability to limit human rights to any one group of people. What matters to me is- what do the non-partisan fact-checkers say?

I was worried when Sarah Palin stepped onto the scene, but that was nothing compared to my fear of Michele Bachmann. The easy thing for people to say about my abhorrence for Bachmann is that I don’t like her because she has the evangelical, home-schooled thing going for her, something I obviously don’t agree with. While yes, it’s one thing that I could pick on her for, my annoyance isn’t with her faith, but with her lack of truth or reason. Out of all of the candidates for the Republican nomination in 2012, Bachmann has the worst record of stating any truths at all, and yet she is one of the top-runners for the nomination. Why? Because she “speaks our language,” which is the language of the United States Evangelical. Michele Bachmann is, of course, well-suited to become a favorite amongst the average citizen voter, because the average citizen voter is a Christian, and the average Christian’s vote is informed by faith and not verifiable fact. (I understand the argument “God is fact, and what he says is what’s important, and that’s fact for me.” But until you can supply empirical evidence to back up the claim that “God is fact,” it will still be a faith issue.

In theory, I have no problem with people letting faith be a big source of their political views and their voting record. What I have a problem with is people disregarding the importance of facts, numbers, statistics, truths, for anything. If an atheist voted for an atheist solely based on the candidates lack of faith, I would have a problem; the same with a woman voting for a woman based on her sex chromosomes, Democrat for a Democrat based on his party affiliation, etc.

I used to say that the important thing was for everybody to vote. I retract that statement. The important thing is for everybody to vote informed. Not informed by far-partisan media (such as The Daily Show, Fox News, MSNBC, etc.) but by non-partisan facts, statistics, numbers. That is my utopia.

The Power of Listening: A Maybetheist Interview

What in the world could I possibly say about my friend Lauren besides the fact that she is pretty much one of the most amazing persons in the entire world (and I’m not just saying that because she reads my blog, but just in case she’s reading this right now [she will] – Hello, there!) Lauren has been a believer, a not-too-much-of-a-believer, a missionary, and a youth minister, and she’s only twenty-two years old. She has also stayed my friend through Christianity and atheism, including giving a great interview for me to post on here.

Perhaps my favorite part of the interview was when it was over and we were just discussing the differences between reality and assumptions. “Your first call as a missionary or a minister is to listen,” she explained, “People just think we’re talking about Jesus all the time. I spend most of my time giving students my attention 100%.”

And for that, I think we should all give her the attention she deserves.

Elizabeth: So despite the fact that I know, we have to set some things up for the readers. So, what denomination of Christianity to you belong to?

Lauren: I’m Roman Catholic.

E: And were you brought up in the Roman Catholic church?

L: Yes.

E: I promise that my next question isn’t to create controversy-

L: You had better put that in your blog.

E: I promise. Anyway, most people who grow up in the church have at least a moment where they have doubts, or perhaps a rebellious period in their life. Did you ever have a doubtful or rebellious moment?

L: (laughs) I wouldn’t call it a moment; I’m pretty sure it was years and years. Well, when you’re brought up Roman Catholic, from a young age there are different rules, rituals, classes, and as a kid you don’t understand it. You go to sunday school and mass and communion, but you can’t comprehend the depths of the sacraments at that age- at least I couldn’t.

My parents were paradoxical- I was expected to go to mass and all that, but I could do whatever I wanted otherwise. I explored other “religions,” which I thought were more fascinating than Catholicism. For a long time I identified with anything New Age, and I thought that there were “many paths to God” because that’s what my mom said.

When I didn’t believe in Jesus as my savior and I wasn’t bound to the teachings of Catholicism, I did what any teenager does and I did what I felt in the moment, which caused me a lot of pain. I tried to numb the pain, but that turned into a vicious cycle. I don’t look back at that time with fond memories.

When I was sixteen, I was supposed to go to my confirmation retreat. I remember telling my mom that I didn’t want to make my confirmation or be Catholic, and so it was pointless for me to go. My mom told me to just go to the confirmation retreat and I wouldn’t have to make confirmation, so I went. During adoration (a time of deep prayer, where Christ is physically present in the eucharist) I was sitting there crying, and I remember feeling so lost, like I would never be good enough. I remember telling Jesus that I wanted to come back to him. I’ve been devout from that point on.

E: So about NET

L: NET stands for the “National Evangelism Team.” It is a wonderful program that takes 100 Catholic young adults aged 18-28 every year and teaches them how to minister to teens on a 1-on-1 basis and retreat style ministry. You travel in a van with ten other people for a year and stay in host homes.

E: How do you feel about your experience?

L: (pause) That is a very difficult question to answer. I can’t explain what it’s like to be taken away from everything you know and be put in the middle of a cornfield, literally, not be allowed to speak to anyone you know, and be sent out to travel the country and not have any home.

For me, I idolized my parents’ past- they were hippies in a van with strong beliefs, just not in God but a lifestyle- so I saw myself like my parents but with God. It was rewarding for me. My teenage years were better after I accepted Christ, and I wanted other teens to know the same. It was just the dynamics of living as a missionary that were difficult.

E: Do you feel that you are called to be a missionary, or do you have a different spiritual gift?

L: I try to be a missionary every day- whether or not that is my formal title or what is written on my paycheck is left up to circumstances.

E: Would you do NET again in the future?

L: I wouldn’t do NET again. It represented my decision to be a devout Catholic as an adult, and I don’t need to renew that. I miss the fellowship and traveling- it’s an exotic, rewarding lifestyle, but I think there’s a time and a place for it.

E: You’ve worked with teens a lot in the past, and you work with teens now. Do you think that this is your ministry, or would you join another ministry in the future?

L: I enjoy working with teens now and in the past because I feel connected to teens- I still feel very young. I’m good at it because teens open up to me a lot. As long as I continue to be purely ministering and not trying to fill a void in my own life, I’ll continue.

E: We’ve spoken in the past- you know, like, yesterday- about different liberal movements in the Catholic church that are going on currently. Can you explain some of that to me?

L: The Catholic church is the largest organized denomination of Christianity, so you have a whole lot of people who call themselves Catholic in the world. There are a lot wh don’t follow Catholic teaching, some out of ignorance, some out of a deliberate action to undermine the Vatican and mold Catholicism to fit their views on how they should be able to fit in modern society. Some, in an attempt to separate themselves from the previous group, call themselves “Orthodox,” which I find erroneous. You’re either Catholic or you’re not, and if you are then you’re sticking to teachings of the church, and if you’re not then you’re not.

There’s a lot of controversy on whether or not to water down teachings to fit the masses, or if we should be content with a smaller group of the faith.

E: I think I already know which side you’re on, but could you say it anyway?

L: That’s so funny that you say that. Anyone who knows me at church, such as my colleagues that I work with at church, they all see me as very liberal- purely because I was raised liberally- I mean, I know what’s going on in the world, I can talk about politics and not limit it to abortion. I’m politically aware, I’m passionate about social justice, but that’s not the same as my religion. Politics, who I choose to associate with, that’s all liberal, but my faith and how I stick to doctrine- well, you could call it “conservative,” but I call it being faithful.

Jesus was friends with sinful people, I know he was friends with prostitutes and tax collections, I know he was, so I don’t choose to seclude my company to only include those who are perfectly holy. At the same time, Jesus never changed what he said or the heart of his message to better appease those he was with.

E: This has been amazing. Is there anything else you would like to say?

L: (pause) What’s mainly on my heart is Jesus said that there will always be poor. This life is not one for doing what pleases you at the moment or what makes you happy, this world will never offer everyone happiness. When I say this, this surprises people because I’m naturally cheerful and optimistic, but I know that this is because of my fortune in this life. I’ve been blessed in my station and I have a great support group, and I pray if these ever turn on me and if I experience one ounce of the pain and sorrow in the world that I’ll still believe and love God.

E: Most of my readership are either nonbelievers or headed in that direction-

L: Hence the name.

E: Exactly. Is there anything you would like to say to atheists about understanding Catholicism?

L: Catholicism teaches that God loves you based on who you are and not what you do, so it’s Catholic belief that God loved Hitler as much as Mother Teresa. I think that this fact has the ability to set you free.

Why I Am Going to Hell: All that jizz

Peep show window displaying pornographic enter...
Hay gurl haaaay

I’m clearly not stopping that whole “bad pun” titles thing. But if I did, would it truly be me?

(Other potential title: “The other burning bush.”)

It seems like the topic of porn (and delicious, wonderful sex, in a kind-of-related way) has come up a lot in my life lately. A lot of people like to ask me what my opinions of pornography are, probably because I am a woman, and I am a feminist, and I am vaguely interesting to speak to (or something like that). I have some feminist friends (including males, who people forget can be feminists, too) who are staunchly against pornography, feeling that it is deeply against every feminist ideal. I also have many friends, feminist and non-feminist alike, who are not anti-pornography in any way. In fact, my sister and her fiancé met at work- in an “adult bookstore.” In fact, I spent some of the best days while I was eighteen in that bookstore, testing out products and learning about the industry.

Similarly, I do know more than one person who I am close to who has become addicted to pornography. I also know plenty of people who are casual (healthy?) watchers of pornography, and I, of course, know many people who have said that they either have never watched any pornography or have no desire to watch it any more.

Of course, none of this says anything about myself.

(There is TMI information from this moment on, just in case anybody who is my friend in real life or otherwise is incredibly uninterested in learning about my relationship with porn- my intimate relationship, that is.)

Anybody still reading?

Pervert.

Just kidding.

Anyway. As for myself, I think that I would fall into the average category of pornography watchers. That is to say that I am a porn consumer perhaps once a week. Interestingly enough, when I do watch pornography, I generally prefer to watch either the lesbian or gay kind (I told you all that I love the gays!). Additionally, I do enjoy to read erotica, if the mood strikes me, but reading erotica is almost never accompanied by masturbation.

(Anybody skipping that section of intimate details can go ahead and continue reading right about here.)

The one thing that I will say about pornography, my single caveat if you will, is that I feel there should be more regulations in the industry in terms of making every male performer wear a condom.

Anyway.

Clearly, any person who reads, watches, listens to, or otherwise voyeurs upon any kind of fictional erotic scene is a sinner, in the eyes of an Abrahamic tradition‘s text. (Hilarious to me, as Song of Songs/Soloman always came off to me as porn for Jewish people/Christians.) But that’s the thing- I’ve never heard of anybody who has a problem with pornography who isn’t religious or spiritual in some way or another, leading me to think that the only people who find guilt in porn are those who feel, in their body, that is it a “sin.” (That isn’t to say that there aren’t non-religious people who have problems with pornography. If you are such a person, please leave a comment and explain your point of view, because it would be so amazing to hear it.) Personally, when I was still religious, I felt a great deal of guilt when I would read/watch anything pornographic, and so I can understand this viewpoint. I remember once we were supposed to write down our biggest sin, and I wrote down that I read erotica. Only now can I see that exploring these things is an important part of adolescence and, I would even say, a good way to help people learn more about themselves.

Is pornography especially realistic? Not usually. (On a side-note, I would like to say that, in my personal opinion, the average porn user tends to not only watch the pornography that includes positions/acts they would like to try out one day, but that they also watch genres that they would never reenact in real life. For example, I would probably never have sex with a girl, but I have no problem watching two girls have sex.)

Can it demean women? Certainly it can, in the hands of the wrong producer or performer.

But is it fun? Well, isn’t that what it’s supposed to be?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have an Incognito Window to open. Winky face.