Archive for March, 2012
The ‘Evil Little Thing’ – an astounding young girl who properly stood up for what she believed in. A true inspiration
Ladies and gentlemen – it has come to the time where I should quell any doubts you have had about me over the years. You see I want you all to know that I love you, but I am in fact an Atheist. Now before you go crying you should try not to judge but first understand what an Atheist is:
Atheism – according to Wikipedia ‘from the Greek”ἄθεος” (atheos), meaning “without god”, used as a pejorative term applied to those thought to reject the gods worshipped by the larger society.’
Atheism according to most fundamentalist religions is an absolution rejection of God/Jesus Christ/Allah/Yaweh/Whoever and thus a heathen and one who will burn for eternity in hell or whichever version of damnation adheres to their particular religious practice
Atheism by account of some evangelicals and even politicians is misunderstood to be an alternate religion and would have people without god treated as those per say who ‘just have a different way of rejoicing’
Atheism according to me – and probably most like me is quite simply this – the understanding through rational and free thinking and rejection of Dogma of any kind – that this is our one life and we should concentrate on this and not worry about the next one. That the world was not created in a week and we evolved, not were created or the product of the new fangled ‘Intelligent Design’. And that quite simply our morality comes from within – not some chinese whisper-based scriptures from a few eons ago, but that we act humanely and treat those around us precisely how we wish to br treated. To quote Bill and Ted as opposed to perhaps one of the few valid ten commandments, ‘Be most excellent to each other!’
To some of course this is not news, but to those in the know a lot of this is about understanding, especially as where I live now, being an Atheist is seen with the same disdain as being Gay was back in the 1980’s – where as then it was reprehensible, nowadays it is (mostly) accepted, certainly more visible and in the more progressive (or in my eyes, rational) states – legally acceptable as an equal to any other relationship – which is as it should be. The issue is that being an Atheist today is mostly misunderstood by many. I suppose because I have been lucky to live in several countries which have been tolerant to religious freedom (although I prefer that they are simply seeing it as less critical in life – most people as Dawkins will state on a recent census in the UK simply ticked the Christianity box as they wanted to be perceived as a ‘good person’) – as a result of this when coming to live in the New World I wasn’t exactly backward (and perhaps on occasion been wrongly insensitive) about my lack of belief. Most of my audiences to these outings of my non-belief have been met with mixed yet tolerant reaction – very few have been met with any insult of sorts although some I am careful now to avoid the topic – but some have seen me with some curiosity that I can live a godless yet happy existence. Some I see (I hope) a small twinkle in their eye that maybe they has long ago questioned their own faith and concluded that Religion does not add up. One has congratulated me quite openly about my stance – others of course have distanced themselves preferring their god to my lack of belief but hey, I see that as little loss.
My own parents have known for some time but recently whilst explaining to my mother on the phone my fears for my Son’s education in this country I had to open the discussion with the gambit ‘You know I am an Atheist, right Mum?’ to which she answered in the unsurprised and almost the nonchalantly positive – but it did kind of feel like a ‘coming out’ – a making official of what was already known. Fortunately my Parents – as are most of my family – probably in the same group of census tickers that Dawkins mentions as quoted earlier (though I think I am fairly sure they are more honest and would tick at least non-religious) so such a big deal to many was in fact a no-brainer to my folks.
Yesterday I became a bit more proud and out of my stance by standing amongst others on the Washington Mall at the 2012 reason rally. Although the weather was not too much to everyone’s liking and sadly earlier estimates of 30,000 planning to visit, the 8-12,000 that did turn up was very encouraging. We were thoroughly informed by many of methods of action as well as being constantly reassured that we were not alone. We were incredibly entertained by the likes of Tim Minchin, Eddie Izzard, Jamie Kilstein, Bad Religion and Adam Savage (yup the Mythbuster feller!) amongst others. Inspired (especially by) 16-year-old Jessica Ahlquist by her actions not only against her school’s anti-constitutional actions but also by her resilience to the subsequent bullying after. We were held captive by the words of Dr Richard Dawkins, James Randi, David Silverman and Jamila Bey as well as many others. And then we saw the courage of Nate Phelps – son of the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church (the only invitees who did not turn up as it happened) to speak out against the hatred and division brings. And after all this, with tired legs and a 5 hour journey on the bus home spent a long time thinking and discussing about it all.
The one thing about the attendees probably above everything was the diversity of everyone. People of all ages, race and sexual orientations. Those who are skeptics, atheists and agnostics. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few sympathetic faithful too amongst them too (certainly Senator Tom Harkin whose video of him supporting the first Amendment that Church and State are separate and supporting our movement bolstered this). On the way back got chatting to a young chap of African-American heritage – a young lad probably not 18 who whilst rather light-heartedly explained his coming out to his very religious mother I expect it to be much harder for him to exist and to be like that. He breezed over how most of his contemporaries at school often when religious debate came up in class would call him out when answers were required as if to victimize him – all of which he took on the chin quite happily in recalling. Admittedly he schools in New York and not Kansas or somewhere in the Bible Belt where creationism is scarily trying to be enforced in the curriculum, but still I did find his cheery nature to his retelling of these situations slightly concerting if a little refreshing. I then thought and realized that the two people behind me were but young teens and that a lot of the people at the rally were students. And this youth are seeking perhaps in a way the same rebellion that I sought and certainly my previous generation did in the 60’s (my issue being I did not really have anything to rebel against anything yet my parents had a lot to fight against). The great and sadly missed Christopher Hitchins (who sadly the tribute to at yesterdays rally suffered technical malfunctions) himself was of this era as were many like him. And this young feller – well read of Hitch, Dawkins and others I realized probably was not victimized for his opinions in these matters but was a pioneer in his classes as many around probably have the same doubts – yet he was proud to be loud about his stance on reason, equality and belief in science and that warmed my heart a great deal as much as any speaker I had heard that day.
If we look at the USA of today it is coming out of an era of a bad and fervently religious regime – almost an oppressive state where one I imagine of similar feeling to myself would have had to remained muted in their opinions and (lack of) beliefs. A time where religion itself was at the root of an atrocious act that caused a remission against reason and freedom, but yet an opportunity for religion to rise and disguise itself as a way forward when in fact it was simply to stunt progress by blanketing the country in a veil of fear.
The original atrocity caused many to question their faith although but now with a new president, renewed freedoms of expression (strangely helped by such bigoted fundamentalists as the Westboro Baptists – their cases and claims to freedom of speech also work for us heathens too!) are seeing a new era where once again we are allowed to question everything. There is a long way to go yet but yesterday’s rally was a start and something I was proud to be a part of. And the wonderful thing is seeing tomorrows business leaders, thinkers, politicians and more being a part of this movement gives me hope that my own son can look forward to a society free of religious influenced education, politics and oppression. I hope that many soon can come out in their own way
30 years ago today the world lost a comedy icon – just can’t comprehend the amount of laughter I have missed because his life was cut short. Guess some people really are too big for this world – John Belushi, you are very sorely missed.