Social Sprituality

I was having a conversation earlier today with someone close to me who said something that struck a cord, “Churches are nothing but social gathering halls.” Don’t get me wrong, I think that most people who go to church truly believe that they are giving homage to an invisible creator, but these buildings are certainly used for social gatherings on a regular basis.

Now I’ve been to many different types of churches, from many different types of denominations of christianity. In the process of studying the christian faith, I wanted a broad understanding of what it was and what it meant. There were several things I found that nearly every church I attended had in common. First, all but one showed corruption in the clergy. Next, many of the sermons focused on passing judgment on ourselves–in other words, looking at ourselves as wicked for simply having thoughts. These sermons made clear that we cannot forgive ourselves, only god can forgive us. Another thing all churches have in common are hymns. Hymns bring the congregation together to sing praise to the lord. This brings us to the next thing they all have in common–a grapevine. Gossip is more prevalent in church than it is in high school. Finally, all churches have a “social hour” after mass. Once the sermon is over, everyone gets together and socializes, making plans for lunch or carrying on the grapevine gossip or whatever. As an outsider, I found the similarities between the different churches very fascinating.

Another thing I find interesting is how the church always seems to step in for the big events in people’s lives. A couple decides to get married, and where does it happen? In a church! When someone dies, where does the funeral take place? In a church! Or at least with clergy present. In between when there is a crisis, many people turn to the church or clergy believing them to be the path to redemption.

People pray holding hands on street corners, advertise their faith on social sites and dating sites and try to push that faith onto others. They wear their religion like a status symbol that somehow places them above others. I have watched church members turn their noses up at someone that did not meet their christian standards of morality, including a homeless man in need of shelter, a recovering drug addict looking for refuge from the world and her addiction…and me.

At the time I was still unclear about my stance toward god and religion. I had not taken on a quest for research yet, but I knew that I wanted to be a good person. According to my family, part of being a good person was having a good relationship with god. I had been very lucky to survive an abusive relationship, and was thankful that I had my life and my children. Apparently the church members did not see things that way. Somehow the fact that I had left a man (one who had beat me for over a year) and had two children and another one on the way, made me less of a person in their eyes. I dealt with their stares and whispers and demeaning behavior toward me for the seven or so months until my daughter was born. After that I believed that my children and I deserved to be treated better than that, so I left that church. It wasn’t long after I left the church that I had a conversation with my father that instigated my search for answers.

Perhaps if I had found a church that had made me feel welcome–one that gave me that feeling of social spirituality that everyone else has, I wouldn’t have looked so hard for answers. Believe me, I was very disappointed at first. When I set out, I wanted to find evidence that god was there. Some proof that there really is a deity looking out for us. When the evidence started showing me otherwise, at first I started to reject my findings, just like everyone else does. It’s natural. People don’t like to be proven wrong. After a while I simply had to accept that my premise was flawed, and I had to readjust my whole outlook. Now I realize that it’s a whole lot easier if I try not to have a premise to start with. Let the evidence dictate the results. That’s nearly impossible, but I can try.

Back to the point. Are churches more than social gatherings for believers? If so, what else is there to church? It seems to me that people listen to a 30 minute sermon, then spend the rest of the time singing and hanging out together. If that’s not a social gathering, I don’t know what is.

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Ex-Atheism

I’ve come across several people over the years who have claimed to “try” atheism, and not like it. They “gave up” being an atheist to re-embrace their religious heritage. This isn’t true. Atheism is not a religion. It’s not a sweater that either fits or not.

Belief in a deity is something that parents indoctrinate their children into. Without parents forcing their children to go to church, go to sunday school, pray and give homage to a deity for everything in their lives, the children would not know about said deity, nor would they believe any such deity exists. Therefore, atheism is a human being’s default state. Society has created religion and god, not the other way around.

What I find most interesting is the fact that I am comfortable with who I am. If someone else feels the need to believe in deities or find comfort in the supernatural, that is their choice. As long as they don’t push their beliefs onto me, they could believe in herds of rainbow colored unicorns and it wouldn’t bother me. Unfortunately, it seems that missionary work is all but required here in the US. As soon as a religious person becomes aware that I am an atheist, they go to great extremes to convert me. The worst part is, these people will pretend to be my friend until they realize that I am not going to convert, then they treat me horribly, or simply disappear.

Many try to convert me by using the story that they were once atheists…until they saw “the light.” This is meant to be an emotional appeal; an attempt to empathize with me. The truth is, my lack of belief has nothing to with emotions. It is a logical approach to the evidence put before me. Anyone who has reviewed the same evidence logically, would come to the same conclusion. A logical conclusion of this magnitude would not, and could not be overturned by mere emotional desire.

The name that continually comes up during these discussions is Lee Strobel. Being a well read, well informed atheist, of course I’ve read his books, and they are poor examples of evidence to say the least. I had put in more research into this subject in my early 20s than he put into his books. He wanted a specific outcome, so he searched to find specific sources that would support that outcome. For each issue he addressed, he only consulted one source. That has to be the shoddiest research I’ve ever seen. When I breached these subjects in my research, I consulted a minimum of ten sources for each issue. Often, I sought as many as 30.

Believe it or not, when I started my quest for knowledge, I was looking for the same specific outcome as Lee Strobel. Unlike Strobel, I was not willing to tamper with the evidence to taint the results of my research. The only evidence of a deity is what science cannot explain. That is a small window that continues to grow smaller every day.

I find it truly disturbing that some people are so desperate to keep the concept of an imaginary being alive that they will lie about not believing at one point to try to gain emotional sympathies, they will deliberately taint research, and they will fake friendships in order to force their beliefs onto others. Looking through history, people have literally beaten, raped and bombed religion into others. What else are these people capable of?

The Illusion of Kowledge

One of my all time heroes, Steven Hawking, once said, “The enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.” I’ve always found that statement to be both profound and fascinating. It makes perfect sense, though. Ignorance is simply the absence of knowledge. That absence can easily be filled with information, through research, study, experience, application or a host of other means. Now, not all information is sound. Just because one study came to a particular conclusion, doesn’t mean that conclusion is necessarily true. There are many factors that affect the information we take in, so we must be vigilant about screening the sources and understanding the value of the information we take in.

If a person is not so vigilant concerning his/her sources of information, s/he can fall victim to illusory knowledge. Being confident in the truth of false information can be catastrophic. This is often how studies get tainted in the first place. When the person conducting the study is already convinced of the outcome, s/he will unconsciously do things to ensure that result, thus tainting the entire study. It’s not a matter of ethics, it’s a matter of human nature. People see what they want to see. When they have a preexisting idea of what the results of their study or experiment will be, it is human nature to push the results in that direction.

Illusory knowledge can affect people on a more personal level. Knowledge passed down from generation to generation is often thought to be ancient wisdom. In some cases this is not true. For many years it was passed down in my family, and probably many others, that hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic that kills germs. I was told as a child that the “fizzing” that occurs when the peroxide is applied to a cut is the solution “eating away” at the germs and bacteria. As an adult I’ve found that to be untrue. The hydrogen peroxide chemically reacts with human blood, destroying it. Applying the peroxide to cuts does nothing to kill germs, but it does kill blood cells. (Interesting to know if you ever need to get a blood stain out of something. Working in a kitchen for several years, this knowledge came in handy for me.)

How can illusory knowledge affect people in other ways? Well, the myth about hydrogen peroxide was passed down through generations of my family. If people are convinced of the accuracy of their false truths, they pass that false information down to their children. Once the children are convinced of its accuracy, they too, will pass it on. It’s a whirlwind of false truth and inaccuracy being passed on from generation to generation.

Why should we care if someone else is convinced of a lie? Whether we like it or not, humans are pack animals. We are part of a larger community in which these people who are convinced of lies have powerful positions–positions that often times affect our lives. My life, the lives of my children, my grandchildren and all of the people I love mean a lot to me. To think that our futures are in the hands of people who are delusional, who are convinced of lies, is frightening, at best. In my opinion, everyone should be concerned about putting their lives in the hands of people who pledge their lives and allegiance to  an imaginary friend with absolutely no evidence that such a being even exists.

A Woman’s World

Now that I’ve broken the ice, so to speak, I have a few questions. Are reason and intelligence intimidating qualities for a woman to have? Is it wrong for a woman to be outspoken about thinking science, reason and logic are the ways of the future? Are men the only ones who are allowed to speak out about protecting the minds of our youth from the mysticism of old?

From my perspective, women, especially mothers, have a vested interest in speaking out against teaching religion as science in school. Personally, I have no issues with teaching religion, as religion. As long as children understand that what they are learning is just one of thousands of worldviews, then have at it. Perhaps that will spark more curiosity in the child and s/he will want to learn more about other cultures. The next thing you know, you have a cultural ambassador on your hands. I only have a problem when one worldview is taught as fact, and I think others should feel the same way. If specific families have certain religious or cultural beliefs that they feel the need to indoctrinate their children into, that is what home and church are for. Feel free to abuse your own children in the privacy of your own church and home. Do not force everyone else to participate in your archaic, abusive rituals.

I’m wondering off point here. My original issue was the fact that the “New World Order” of atheist leaders does not seem to have room for women. Is that because the women now days are too conformist to speak out? Is it because the men shine too brightly to allow a place for the women to step in? What exactly is the issue here? Why aren’t there any strong, female, atheist voices out there? Don’t get me wrong, the men we have are amazing. Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of my all time heroes. Richard Dawkins is coming to San Francisco next month, and I want to be first in line to see him speak. Seth Andrews is amazingly articulate. I just want to know why there are no women for me to admire. I keep hearing rumors that women are less likely to embrace atheism. I take that as a personal insult. That is telling me that my gender is less likely to look at things logically and choose the intelligent course of action. My response…screw you. Personally I think that more women are likely to be politically correct about things and choose not to “rock the boat.” In my opinion, rocking the boat is the only way to get things accomplished. We will be catering to the whims of religious extremists unless we do something about it. We, as intelligent women, need to recognize that and take action. It’s time to be recognized.

Atheiosity

atheist- one who does not believe in god(s)

a– without

theism- belief in a deity

atheist

I’ve been told over and over that atheism is a religion of its own. Let’s explore that assertion.

Religion-  an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to the supernatural, and to spirituality.

religion

Hold on just a second! If atheists do not believe that these things exist, how can they be a part of or in any way involved with a religion? Quite simply, they can’t. The truth is, religious people become angry because others do not share their worldview. They retaliate by accusing said people of doing the same thing they are, even though it’s not true.

Hypocrisy runs amok within the religious communities. My family is very religious and while they make mistakes, say horrible and hurtful things to others and pose themselves as better than everyone else, they comment on the stupidity of others who make mistakes, make it known that others hurtful words are wrong and claim that others should swallow their pride and be more humble. I have been biting my tongue for years, but there is only so much a person can take. Either these people believe the things they say to others and should be practicing what they preach, or they do not believe it and they need to leave everyone else alone…one or the other.

I came to my lack of belief through years of struggle and study. This was not some adolescent rebellion gone awry. After living with a drug addicted mother with a lot of emotional issues for the better part of my childhood, I moved to the town where my father lived after her death. Trust me when I say, my childhood was not fun. My mother’s mood swings often led to physical abuse or several nights on the street. Moving on, I had picked up a stalker and my life was really going downhill. My father made the comment to me that my life was crappy because I had turned my back on God. This confused me because I hadn’t even considered the concept of God since before my parents divorced. I tried to rectify the situation by reading the bible and going to church. I went to several, in fact, finding that each one I went to was wrought with corruption. I read several translations of the bible, front to back, and started to delve into the real meanings of the passages. I started to realize that there were some discrepancies in the bible–within each translation, as well as between the translations. Many of the discrepancies appeared among the lineages that nobody wants to sit down and read, because it’s boring. I went back and compared what I found in the bible to some lineage information that I had found in some old Egyptian history books to find that much of it was similar, but not exact, and it was slightly out of order. I started to realize that the information was not original. Of course, back then, information was much harder to get and much less reliable.

From there I looked into the historical claims that the bible makes. The most notable and verifiable one is the flood. If you do the research, you’ll find that even if all of the ice on the planet were to melt, there still wouldn’t be enough water to cover the entire planet. (That’s right, folks, Waterworld could never happen.) The polar icecaps are already submerged, so that water is displaced. That ice cannot cause the oceans to rise. There is ice in Greenland and Antarctica that is on land, but there isn’t enough to cause global flooding. (see the Mr. Wizard video below on displacement) Since none of the water on the planet leaves the atmosphere, that puts a damper on the worldwide flood thing. Incidentally, there is evidence of a massive flood in the Mediterranean Basin roughly 6000-8000 b.c.e. Perhaps this is the flood the bible is referring to? It wasn’t the entire planet, but it covered the entire “world” to the people who wrote the book.

What tipped the scales for me was my research into the “soul.” Many religious people maintain that a soul exists because of the sudden weight loss at the time of death. Since it has been proven that electricity does, indeed, have atomic weight, and that humans tend to have more neurological activity than other animals, it stands to reason that humans will lose more weight at the time of death than other animals. Then you have the fact that people have to go to such great lengths as Descartes’ dualism hypothesis to try to explain the existence of souls. The fact that everything that people want to use to explain souls can be explained be ordinary occurrences, and to be able to insist that a soul exists people have to come up with extraordinary concepts such as parallel universes, invisible links to said universe and unknown origins, that simply is too much. The simplest answer is almost always the correct one. Here, the simplest answer is that there is no soul, there is no God, there is a universe governed by physical laws. There is no God because without a soul, there is no afterlife. Every religion speaks of an afterlife, so without an afterlife, there is no God.