Fugitives from Fundamentalism

The Musings of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs) & Former Born-Again Believers

How Militant Atheists Compare

Posted by Ann on October 9, 2011

 

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Science as a “belief” at best, as a target of attack at worst

Posted by Ann on October 9, 2011

Lately I’ve been following recent discoveries in the science news more than in the past. And I’ve realized, as I attempt to talk with other people about the stuff I find interesting, there is very little interest in science in general in our wider society. I am boring, and yet, to myself, this stuff is fascinating! Where is this disconnect coming from, this shrugging off disinterest at best, antagonism at worst, toward the best method in our possession as humans for gaining an understanding of our world?

Our brains are extremely belief sensitive, and this knowledge draws me to science in a way I can’t explain. Imagine what it is like to become a person that is not only skeptical about the world around them but about their own ideas, so that they understand the illogic that makes themselves them, or me me. I question myself on my views, such as with my views about racism, sexism, homophobia–am I seeing these things clearly enough or too clearly? It is easy to see a boogie man where there is none. But I have to say, even atheists, although logical, from my observation frequently are not logical enough when it comes to themselves–which makes me wonder about me. I think it is sometimes easier to see outside of ourselves more clearly than we see ourselves. People are emotional. We tie our thoughts into our emotions, especially those strong chemical emotions based in our memories. Am I missing something, I ask myself, some truth about myself?

I read an article in Shermer’s eSkeptic periodical today that grabbed my interest (as much as his stuff does!): Denialist Demagogues and the Threat to Science. The article is a review of a book by James L. Powell on the general reaction to the science of climate change called The Inquisition of Climate Change. Frightening how adamantly people deny climate change is a reality. It’s not even an area for debate in the scientific world, even conservative scientists knowing it is real. But scientists are painted as left-wing liberal conspirators, driven by a desire for riches and pushing a liberal agenda. This despite most scientists being too interested in their science to give much attention to politics at all, almost across the board. Scientists simply aren’t interested in politics. There are no riches to be found in science, except metaphorically speaking in reference to knowledge. But interestingly, there is a disparity in pay for the science professions when compared to those of the people who attack science with their rhetoric the most vocally, such as businessmen and politicians. Most scientists spend 5-7 years in grad school only to make teacher’s salaries or receive fragile “soft money” grants to do their research; lucky if they are one of the few to get a six figure salary as they near their retirement as scientists. What scientists as a whole do pursue is the truth, but people cannot sift through their own perceptions based in belief to understand this concept. They can only understand scientists as they understand themselves. Their minds are clouded by their own perceptions. So all kinds of ulterior or manipulative motives, often their own, are ascribed to scientists.

Knowing fundamentalism well, I personally think some of these people probably think Satan is at work in science, with His Satanic hands over those of the scientists. Donald Prothero, the geologist reviewing Powell’s book, quotes Powell regarding this conservative belief that scientists have an agenda and support “belief” in something–such as an anti-God agenda or an agenda to destroy America as we know it:

Scientists…show no evidence of being more interested in politics or ideology than the average American. Does it make sense to believe that tens of thousands of scientists would be so deeply and secretly committed to bringing down capitalism and the American way of life that they would spend years beyond their undergraduate degrees working to receive master’s and PhD degrees, then go to work in a government laboratory or university, plying the deep oceans, forbidding deserts, icy poles, and torrid jungles, all for far less money than they could have made in industry, all the while biding their time like a Russian sleeper agent in an old spy novel? Scientists tend to be independent and resist authority. That is why you are apt to find them in the laboratory or in the field, as far as possible from the prying eyes of a supervisor. Anyone who believes he could organize thousands of scientists into a conspiracy has never attended a single faculty meeting.

Powell’s main point is that the current right-wing attack on climate science is very similar to how the Inquisition threatened Galileo because he spoke truth to power. Ironically, Rick Perry even managed to further emphasize his ignorance of science when in a recent debate he said he admired Galileo and how he “was outvoted for a while.” Bad analogy, Rick! If Perry actually knew any science, he would realize that Galileo was championing an unpopular scientific idea (heliocentric solar system) that was “outvoted” by the conservative power of that time, the Catholic Church and the Inquisition. Eventually, scientific truth won out, not the political delusions of the conservatives.

What’s crazy is these climate change scientists receive death threats, with one climate change scientist finding a dead animal lying on his doorstep. A dead animal. For some reason I don’t think it was intended to be interpreted like a rat gift from a cat… As though these scientists are some kind of activists. Maybe they are? Activists for the truth. Check out these articles on the death threats received by climate scientists, so intimidating they have begun to disguise their identities from the public!:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jul/05/hate-mail-climategate

http://nextgenjournal.com/2011/06/the-dangers-of-being-a-scientist/

Sometimes I think we live in a world of apes with the ability to speak, and we call ourselves humans, but we are really just another kind of ape that has gone insane and is now aware of our existence and mortality…but we are still just animals mainly acting on instinct…and we must destroy any perceived threats to our manufactured reality and identities.

Science is not a belief, no more than atheism is a belief in nothing. But people insist on this because they MUST fit science and atheism into their own box. It is how they are able to integrate it into their belief systems. Why do I personally love science? Because, I can’t get outside of my perception, but science brings me closest to seeing through the fog of human bias. As Prothero writes:

There may be biases in our perceptions, and we may want to find data that fits our preconceptions about the world, but if science is done properly, we get a real answer, often one we did not expect. That’s the true test of when science is giving us a reality check: when it tells us something we do not want to hear, but is inescapable if one follows the scientific method and analyzes the data honestly.

Thomas Henry Huxley said it best over 150 years ago: “Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.”

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Thank you Jesus?

Posted by Ann on October 8, 2011

 

 

Posted in Humor, thoughts | 3 Comments »

Compassion easier without belief

Posted by Ann on August 27, 2011

“If we did a good act merely from the love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist?…Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God.”–Thomas Jefferson

One of my peeves is believers who argue their beliefs by asking nonsense questions that really don’t make sense, and for which there is no answer to convince them from their firmly entrenched beliefs. It’s like some kind of game they like to play I think. I don’t like this game. Ask me a real question but not these play questions. They irritate me, because then I feel sucked into the game by answering, or rude for not, and I know when I do answer they will simply write me off in their heads even though I know my answer is better than anything they think is true in their heads…For instance the questioning of my morality, “If you don’t believe in God, then where do you think morality comes from?” My first thought when hearing this questions is “This has got to be one of the stupidest questions.” At least for me, it really is dumb. Of course I don’t tell the person they are being a dumb ass, but I sure am thinking this is gonna be another one of those dumb interactions where they listen politely to my answer and then politely write me off. And yes, I have already written them off, that is why I don’t ask them why morality has to come from God. That would be a dumb ass thing to do, lol! The answer: Of course there is no cosmic code we live by, morality is in the mind, the same place as our reason. There is no police officer in the sky…

Anyway, I picked up Godless again today and opened it by chance to chapter twelve, “For Goodness Sake”. Once again Barker is inside my mind. I wish I was as articulate in expressing my thoughts as him, but then why not let his writing help me express myself? Some do it a hell of a lot better than others, so here’s a selection from the chapter that gets me down to a T. So theists, next time you ask me the dumb ass question about my morality, read this and then let’s move on to more jovial interactions like hanging out, knowing we have serious differences of thoughts.

“How does an atheist account for the existence of objective moral values?” is a question I often hear. “If you don’t believe in God, then what is your basis for morality?” To me the question is obvious: we atheists find our basis for morality in nature. Where else would we look?

Most atheists think moral values are real, but that does not mean they are “objective.” They can’t be. A value is not a “thing”—it is a function of the mind (which is itself a function). To be objective is to exist independently of a mind. So, an “objective value” is an oxymoron; the existence in the mind of something that is independent of the mind.

Most atheists think that values, though not objective things in themselves, can be objectively justified by reference to the real world. Our actions have consequences, and those consequences can be objectively measured.

Although most atheists accept the importance of morality, this is not conceding that morality exists in the universe—that it is a cosmic object waiting to be discovered. The word “morality” is just a label for a concept, and concepts exist only in minds. If no minds existed no morality would exist.

There is no big mystery to morality. Morality is simply acting with the intention to minimize harm. Since harm is natural its avoidance is a material exercise. Organisms suffer as they bump into their environment and each other, and as rational animals with some ability to anticipate the future, we humans have some choice about how this happens. If we try to minimize harm and enhance the quality of life, we are moral. If we don’t, we are immoral or amoral, depending on our intentions. Even if we make a mistake, we can still be called moral or ethical if it is truly our intention to minimize harm. And the way to avoid making a mistake is to try to be as informed as possible about the likely consequences of the actions being considered. To be moral atheists have access to the simple tools of reason and kindness. There is no cosmic code book directing our actions.

Of course, relative to humanity, certain general actions can be deemed almost uniformly right or wrong. Without the Ten Commandments would it never have dawned on the human race that there is a problem with killing? Prohibitions against homicide and theft existed millennia before the Israelite story of Moses coming down from Sinai.

The way to be moral is to first learn what causes harm and how to avoid it. This means investigating nature—especially human nature, who we are, what we need, where we live, how we function, and why we behave the way we do.

Why should I treat my neighbor nicely? Because we are all connected. We are part of the same species, genetically linked. Since I value myself and my species, and the other species to which we are related, I recognize that when someone is hurting, my natural family is suffering. By nature, those of us who are mentally healthy recoil from pain and wish to see it ended.

Of course, we often act in positive ways to stop the pain of others. This is compassion. Although I don’t think there is a “moral imperative” nor a “compassion imperative:–you can be considered moral if you are passively not causing unnecessary harm—I do think most human beings who are mentally healthy will empathize with the sufferings of others and will naturally want to reach out. Atheists can perhaps express compassion more easily than believers because we are not confused by:

  • Fatalism: “Whatever happens is God’s will.”
  • Pessimism: “We deserve to suffer.”
  • Salvation: “Death is not the end.”
  • Retribution: “Justice will prevail in the afterlife.”
  • Magic: “Pray for help.”
  • Holy war: “Kill for God.”
  • Forgiveness: “I won’t be held responsible for my mistakes.”
  • Glory: “Suffering with Christ is an honor.”

Since this is the only life we atheists have, each decision is crucial and we are accountable for our actions right now.

Yet notice how leading theists deal with the real world: “Ye have the poor with you always,” said the “loving” Jesus, who never lifted a finger to eradicate poverty, wasting precious ointment on his own luxury rather than selling it to feed the hungry (Matthew 26:6-11). “I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ,” Mother Teresa added. “I think the world is much helped by the suffering of poor people.” So much for theistic compassion!

Jefferson may have been wrong to call compassion an “instinct” because many appear not to have it—it seems optional. Or perhaps he was right and the “compassion gene” (to oversimplify) varies across the population like any other human feature (height, intelligence, musical ability, etc.), and some of us have more of the instinct than others have. But it is fortunate that there are enough of us who love life to protect ourselves from those who don’t. We have systems of law, enforcement, justice and defense. We encourage kind, ethical actions through moral education and critical thinking. And though there is no cosmic moral imperative, all of us who value life and consider ourselves moral—atheists and believers alike—can choose to actively exhort others to join us in expressing our innate feelings of altruism and compassion.

Compassion is, after all, a characteristic of being human. When someone commits a horrible act, what do we say? “That was an inhuman thing to do!” We assume that the natural “human” attitude is nonviolent and peaceful. We are not corrupt, evil creatures. A few of us are off to the side of “saintliness” (to borrow a word), and a few of us are off to the other side, the side of mental disease, with sociopaths and criminals. On the bell curve of morality and compassion, however, most of us fall somewhere in the large middle area.

Many believers, including Christians who are ordered to “bring into captivity every thought unto the obedience of Christ,” have an underlying distrust of human reasoning. Yearning for absolutes, they perceive relativism—the recognition that actions must be judged in context—as something dangerous when it is the only way we can be truly moral.

Theists are afraid people will think for themselves; atheists are afraid they won’t.

It is interesting the irrationality of compassionate, kind people who yearn for world peace, who understand the value in humanity, yet internally still believe God is necessary for morality to prevail in the world…

Posted in Liberal Christians, thoughts | 4 Comments »

Family Get Together

Posted by dsc01 on August 12, 2011

From “Space Avalanche,” heir to the “Far Side” throne:

Posted in Humor | 4 Comments »

Joe Rogan vents on religion…..

Posted by Noraa on August 10, 2011

I haven’t posted on here in forever, but watching this prompted me to……

 

Posted in Rants, Video | 7 Comments »

An Excellent Video on Morality (and its Absence in the Bible)

Posted by dsc01 on July 31, 2011

Posted in Video | 4 Comments »

Why Do Christians Have Such Shitty Lives?

Posted by dsc01 on July 12, 2011

This hardly qualifies as a proper post–just a rant–but seriously, guys! What is Christians’ problem?

Every day on Facebook, my Christian friends post about their trials and tribulations and how awful everything is.

“Oh, God, give me strength!”

“I’m giving it up to God!”

What the fuck does that even mean? The comments stack up beneath these poor martyrs’ statuses–“Just let go and let God,” “It’s hard, but you’ve just got to surrender.”

Does it just mean that they’re going to quit worrying about petty anxieties? You can do that without invoking God (or bothering your friends with self-indulgent pity parties).

How about you just quit being a drama queen and notice how life greets you with good things and bad things every day? And when something really bad comes along–something that wounds you deeply–why not just feel that sorrow, work through it, and quit it with the sackcloth-and-ashes routine?

For a group that so constantly preaches about “loosing the chains,” I’ve never seen so many people in bondage to their own misery.

Posted in Rants | Tagged: | 5 Comments »

Angel raping

Posted by Ann on June 27, 2011

If you rape angels God will destroy America. So don’t rape angels.

..and then I think he said something completely insane about Sodom and gay marriage, but I didn’t really hear it because I was thinking about angel raping and what that would entail, like how does one hold an angel down what with their wings, flight ability, special powers and all.

Posted in Humor, Religion in the News, Video | 1 Comment »

Why I am Godless…

Posted by Ann on June 26, 2011

I recently picked up Dan Barker’s book Godless again. I know some people get really confused by my atheism. Why would someone in their right mind deny the existence of God? Barker does a wonderful job in his book of explaining why people aren’t atheists because they reject God, but because a supernatural being has never been proven to exist. In fact, there has never been a single bit of scientific evidence to support the existence of a supernatural being. All of the proofs used for God’s existence to date have been shown to have perfectly natural explanations. The probability of God’s existence can be placed at zero. This lack of evidence does not prove God does not exist, but clearly it means there is no evidence for a God’s existence or a reason to hypothesize about the existence of God. There is no reason to assume a God MIGHT exist.

The chapter “Why I became an atheist” stood out for me the last time I read Godless, and again this time browsing it, so I thought of sharing it here:

[M]ost non-philosophers do feel that there is a wealth of evidence for a god. Miracles, changed lives, fulfilled prophecies, biblical revelation, the resurrection of Jesus, unsolved scientific questions (which they mistake for evidence), coincidences they say could not have happened by chance, inner experience, selfless acts of kindness and so on all prove to the believer that God exists.

Some offer attempts at rational arguments. Since many of these believers cannot imagine themselves as nonbelievers, they try to detect some ulterior motive for atheism. Rather than accept the straightforward statement that there is no evidence for a god, which allows the implication that their worldview might be wrong, many Christians have claimed to guess the “true” cause of unbelief.

Here are some of the ad hominem arguments I have heard:

“You resent moral guidelines and want to be free to live a life of sin and selfishness.”

“You dislike authority.”

“You want to be different and stir up trouble.”

“You are arrogant and hate God and want to be higher than God, like Lucifer (Satan).”

“Your heart is in the wrong place.”

“You have been hurt by Christians, or offended by certain nonrepresentative immoralities and crimes in the Church.”

“You are impatient and disappointed that not all your prayers are answered.”

“You feel let down by God, who didn’t answer your prayers the way you wanted.”

“You are cold, empty and pessimistic.”

“You are an angry person.”

“You are too stupid, blind, limited or afraid to see what is obvious to everyone else.”

“You have been seduced by scientists into refusing to accept the possibility of miracles.”

“You are an atheist because you don’t know the true meaning of love.”

None of these accusations is true. None is relevant. A strong clue that a person is arguing from a position of weakness is when they attack character rather than arguments and facts.

Bertrand Russell pointed out that ad hominem is a last-ditch defense of the losing side. My atheism has nothing to do with any of this. Even if it did, how would it add to the evidence for a god?

By the way, an ad hominem argument is not the same as a character attack. Ad hominem is when you use the character of your opponent to dismiss his or her argument. It would not be ad hominem to say that “My opponent is a thief,” but it would be to say that “My opponent’s conclusion is wrong because my opponent is a thief.” My opponent might be a horrible person with ulterior motives, but that would not make his or her reasoning or conclusion wrong.

The only times the opponent’s character is relevant in a debate are when the specific topic is morality, when it is fair to examine possible hypocrisy, or when eye-witness evidence is being offered and a history of dishonesty might weaken credibility. In those cases attacking character is not ad hominem.

The Catholic Church, for example, claims that believing in Christ makes you a better person, then it is not unfair to point to the clergy sexual abuse scandal as evidence against that claim. (Who should be more representative of the religion than the priests?) It would be ad hominem and inappropriate, however, if I were to say, “Don’t believe anything the Church teaches because their leaders are pedophiles.”

When Peter (if the story is true) told his friends that he saw the resurrected Jesus, the fact that he had recently lied by denying that he knew Jesus lowers the credibility of his testimony. It is not ad hominem to point this out because it is not part of a logical argument; it is an assessment of the reliability of a witness.

The claim that I am an atheist because I don’t understand “love” is particularly ironic. I do understand what love is, and that is one of the reasons I can never again be a Christian.

Love is not self-denial. Love is not blood and suffering. Love is not murdering your son to appease your own vanity. Love is not hatred or wrath, consigning billions of people to eternal torture because they have offended your fragile ego or disobeyed your rules. Love is not obedience, conformity or submission.

It is a counterfeit love that is contingent upon authority, punishment or reward. True love is respect and admiration, compassion and kindness, freely given by a healthy, unafraid human being.

The argument about “anger” is equally intriguing. There is nothing wrong with anger if it is not expressed destructively. Paul said believers should get angry (Ephesians 4:26). Jesus got angry (Mark 3:5).

Christians get angry often. I am rarely angry, certainly never when I am discussing atheism with believers, but many Christians project their own feelings back toward me and claim that I am angry when I quote horrible bible verses or level criticisms of Christianity that make them angry.

What if I were to say, “The reason you are a Christian is because you are an angry person”? Many atheists, as well as believers, are often justifiably angry at the way religion clouds judgment and leads to dangerous behavior, but that is a result of reason and ethics, not a cause of it.

The word “atheist” is not a label; it is merely a description. (Although, of course, any word can be made into a label for PR reasons.) Since I do not believe in a god, I am by default described as an atheist. If there is evidence for a hypothesis, then I will gladly look at the data. If the claim itself is illogical, however, or if it is based on something other than honest investigation, it can be dismissed as wishful thinking, misunderstanding or a lie.

Theists do not have a god: they have a belief. Atheism is the lack of theism, the lack of belief in god(s). I am an atheist because there is no reason to believe.

To read more of this chapter click here: http://www.thescavenger.net/feminism-a-pop-culture/why-an-evangelical-preacher-rejected-god-615.html

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Leaving the MK fold

Posted by Ann on May 14, 2011

There were many times as a child in a boarding school for missionaries’ kids when it felt a moment lasted an eternity…a very dark eternity alone. Other times I remember laying in the complete darkness of my boarding school room, feeling alone. As a child time seemed fluid. A few days felt like months. And I didn’t sense God, although my mind would reach for one. I only felt the darkness. Think Victor Frankl. Maybe why the idea of hell has no power over me now. There is such a thing as hell on earth. I do not think anyone deserves this…why can’t we be a’ight with people dying and becoming dust, their bodies returning to the universe they were born into?

I read a whole lot of books as a child (many many religious, and many many otherwise). Maybe partly how I escaped the indoctrination. When I read religious writing now, it sounds utterly empty to me. It is the spiritual that has more depth to me now, and even there I find “spiritual” writing little consolation for knowledge of my impermanence. After 20 years of my life in boarding school, private Christian school, a private Christian college, then with a dad who was a pastor, it was as a young adult, away from religious indoctrination, I discovered what it means to live. I will never go back. I am fully willing to accept the possible condemnation of people living with my old beliefs, and if hell is anything like boarding school, then a good God (if such a thing existed) wouldn’t send me there anyway–no doubt whatsoever. I am not afraid. And I do not wish hell on another living person, although I think the world is a better place with some people dead.

I was not wounded by fundamentalist beliefs themselves (simply ideas), but by the isolation and abuse in my childhood produced by the people whose behaviors were encouraged by these beliefs. And of course, the horrible cognitive dissonance they produce in me once I was infected by them. To live an authentic life is to live a better life. To do otherwise would mean living untrue to myself. My mental health has never been better, it seems mostly outside factors are the ones I have to buffer. It may be a good analogy for the religious to think of people like me as dead to religion and the idea of God, but alive to life. To just give us up to God and pray for us instead of attempting to bring us back to old ideology. It is not as if I did not study it fully for a very long time. I am rejecting your faith with full knowledge of what you believe. I find these beliefs to be wrong.

It is kind of strange knowing how people view you when you leave the fold. I remember the days of trying to bring people to the fold myself. But when you understand the illogic of the brain, you understand humans. I continue to hold much respect for the human experience.

Posted in Reflections & Memories, thoughts | 2 Comments »

Evidence of a rational mind

Posted by Ann on May 6, 2011

I’m not sure how to put it more succinctly than this. I read a post by John Loftus yesterday titled Osama Bin Laden was probably a good man. It was so rational, I thought I would post it here. It reaffirms the stuff I think and say, but rarely get validated. Maybe why I like reading his blog. Sometimes it feels strange to be criticized for being “too accepting” when deep in your mind you know you are really just “too rational” when it comes to people.

Osama Bin Laden was probably a good man; sincere, devout and God fearing. But all it takes to make good people do evil is religion. Keep that in mind. That is the lesson of his life. He was deluded in the same way as other believers. Some delusions cause more harm than others though, and he caused a great deal of it. The problem is he will never know he was deluded. Neither will any of the rest of them. What a waste of a life.

I would add that not all people who are religious waste their lives, but sometimes the bad people do outweighs any positive they have put into the world. And sometimes the bad can be rhetoric which influences thoughts, emotions, and behaviors of others. This can apply to nonreligious people as well.

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