Tag Archives: Atheism

The Dawning of Hope

medium_life-after-god-1458021600When I was young, there was only one place that I grew to enjoy: Church. People made fun of me at school and I was brow beaten and put down at home. The one solace I had was Church. People there treated me like a peer. They seemed to value my input and seemed eager to let me help to shape small parts of how the whole functioned. It was one of the very few places where I felt safe, where I felt at home, and where I commanded some small modicum of respect.

So, as you can imagine, as I began to lose my faith, it felt like my whole life was unraveling. My source of friends, my source of entertainment, my source of standing in the community, and the source of my wife were all tied to the Church. And since the time I left the Church I have clung to my Facebook and Tumblr communities looking for something similar.

In that time I’ve managed to forge some new Internet-based friendships and even a bit of community but it felt like a pale and weak replacement for what I had before. I had lost the feeling I’d had before that I was an important and valuable part of a vibrant community.

My wife will tell you that I don’t do anticipation well. I try not to think about holidays, trips, or special occasions too much or too far in advance. So I was trying to keep my expectations in check when I started listening to Bart Campolo and Ryan J Bell but I felt a small stirring inside. I continued to try keeping those expectations in check when I heard about Sunday Assembly and, especially, the Oasis Network. But I couldn’t help it any longer. Those small, small sparks of possibility began to run away with my imagination.

I began to think that perhaps I could once again be an important part of a vibrant community again. So, I looked for another option and I’ve now been exploring Unitarian Universalism for a few weeks now. It looks like a promising possibility.

Yet, I couldn’t help but tear-up with happiness today when I listened to the latest Life After God podcast. Gretta Vosper, the atheist cleric from Canada, has joined forces with the Oasis Network. Put that together with the growth of both Bart and Ryan’s work and I can’t help but feel a little giddy and excited. Maybe I’m not doomed to be an outlier insurgent barely eeking out a social existence. Maybe the day will come when Sunday Assembly‘s goal of providing a place for fellowship in every town that wants one is met.

I don’t know. It’s still a small and faint hope. But it’s growing much faster than I ever imagined it could. I only hope I can contain myself as I wait for it to reach us here. In the meantime, I’ll explore with enthusiasm Unitarian Universalism and be trying to keep in check that small, small hope that there will come a day when a secular fellowship exists here in the Piedmont.


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Is There A Secular Community Out There?

I feel like12711075_807539649356739_1824879046233805348_o I’ve begun to acclimate to the atheist scene online. After spending about a year listening to atheist podcasts and reading atheist blogs I’m ready for something more positive. I understand some of you are anti-theists. There are some times when I sympathize a great deal with the viewpoint. However, it feels like it’s time for the secular world to begin moving beyond anger and potshots at religion.

Recently my mind has been sent racing by all of the positive community-building that’s begun to occur. Sunday Assembly, the Oasis Network, Life After God, Bart Campolo, and many more people and groups seem to be taking the first baby steps toward building local secular and humanist communities that are indigenous, uniquely humanistic, and that can compete with churches for doing good works and building social networks.

Local communities and the positive actions they take in the world are what I miss most since leaving religion. I didn’t even realize how much I missed it until I began to hear Bart Campolo on his podcast Humanize Me and Ryan Bell with Life After God talk about secular values and about building community. Suddenly I remembered that it was community and good works that first drew me and others to religion.

I recently began to realize that I’ve always been looking for a way to better humanity. I got lost in Christianity for a really long time trying to make it all work but, in the end, that’s why we want it to work: to be a community that cares for one another and reaches out to those both in our group and around our geographic areas.

And even as I’ve been excited to see Sunday Assemblies cropping up around the South, I’ve been disappointed and disheartened that no such group seems to be able to form here in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina. A group has been trying to organize a Sunday Assembly for the past couple years in Winston-Salem but it seems that there just is not enough support to launch something so ambitious.

I am feeling so pumped lately about all the positive stuff going on in the secular world. It’s beginning to really feel like humanism is growing but, just like the weather fronts, it seems to flow all around us and skip this area completely. So I would like to make a request for anyone who is either in the Piedmont Triad or knows someone in this area who’s tired of just knocking religion and, instead, wants to try to grow a local community of humanists that works for positive change to contact me so that, even if we are less than a dozen and even if we’re less than a half dozen, we can at least begin the hard work of creating something locally indigenous, uniquely humanist, and focused on building community.

I know you’re out there. There are thriving secular communities in Asheville, Charlotte, Raleigh, and Wilmington. Surely some people like that must be here as well. And, if I have somehow missed a group of you who are already doing this, please let me know! I’d love to become a part of the secular community here and I don’t care who starts it, gets credit for it, gets to
be the leader, or anything else. I just want to begin the work that is so evidently needed.

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Is Christmas Weird for You?

My wife thought it was odd that I was listening to so much Christmas music this year as an atheist. I have to admit that I had realized it as well. It took a few days before I pieced together that a general change in perspective I’d been experiencing had been accelerated by a change in my mix of brain drugs. However, the more I thought about it, the more that it made sense that Christmas not be a particularly religious time for me and that it didn’t feel weird to be that way.

Let me back up a little bit. I grew up in a bit of a religiously unusual household. Beyond the normal weirdness that being raised by a lapsed Catholic and a lapsed Fundamentalist brings, I had the added benefit of having been brought up in the Church of Christ.

For those not religiously in the know, while things have changed a great deal in the last 25 years, generally members of the Church of Christ did not used to recognize religious holidays as valid. We were free to celebrate them as civil holidays but don’t you go bringing some damn creche into my display of Santa Claus stuff.

I can get into all the whys and wherefores in future entries, if there’s an interest, but suffice it to say that they felt that since the Bible did not endorse celebrating a special day for Jesus birthday, the weekly celebration of “The Lord’s Supper” was the only religious holiday with which we needed to concern ourselves.

So I grew up with all of the usual trappings of Christmas such as the holiday specials and the songs and such but doing so was rather like a mental minefield. I was trying to weave my own narrative from what was out there about Christmas that would allow me to appreciate it as a civil holiday without seeing it as a religious one.

So, even though I considered myself a Christian growing up, I had already been dealing with this question a lot longer many others who become atheists. So I was cool with all of the quasi-religious trappings of the holiday having already considered them either superficial or irrelevant years ago.

In many ways I was extremely grateful to those great pioneers of the American Christmas like Coca-Cola, Irving Berlin, Hollywood, Charles Dickens, and television executives. Thanks to them I already knew how I felt about Christmas without having to even begin the religious. Christmas was a time each year when we chose to give in to the better angels of our nature. We gave people the benefit of the doubt. We showed people that we cared about them. We made it a special time of year for everyone, even the poorest among us, so that, for at least a small part of the year, you wouldn’t think about what a shithole your life was the rest of the time. And it’s to keep the masses buoyed up long enough to get through to the rest of the year.

Christmas was about make-believe, it was about children, it was about joyousness, festivities, family, friends, and showing how much you cared. Did it really matter why we were celebrating like this? Did it diminish the goodwill that was fostered? As a functional deist, the reasons didn’t matter so much as the mere fact that it existed at all.

So, as a now-atheist, who seems to be quickly developing a spiritual but non-religious side, let me wish you and yours a very merry holiday and all the childlike wonder you can stomach.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Io Saturnalia, a Joyous Solstice, and however else you mark this end of the year among yourself, your family, and your friends. May your celebrations be joyous and filled with wonder and may your hearts be filled with gladness.

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Normalize Unbelief: A New Name and a New Focus


Bernie Sanders may be the best hope for progressives of all stripes to get back our country from those who are in process of stealing it.

When I was struggling with leaving conservative politics I was alarmed by what seemed to me to be a sharp turn to the far right starting about the time Scott Walker was elected in Wisconsin. It’s entirely possible that it was merely my perception that had changed but, regardless, I have become increasingly alarmed as Republicans have continued to push further and further right until what used to be the center now seems like the extreme left.

At that time I began to see clearly the real agenda that the Republican party has had all of these years. That they didn’t want smaller and more responsive government but, rather, they wanted less democracy and they were willing to strip it out right before our eyes if we let them. It is distressing to me that even as this radical coup d’etat continues to roll forward at increasing speed that these people continue to be elected. It seems that it is nearly daily now that new stories come out about how Republicans have moved another step toward stealing democracy away from the American people and replacing it with some weird kind of alliance between those who want a wealthy oligarchy and those who want a theocracy. During this same time fundamentalist and evangelical Christians have continued their quest to entirely merge themselves with the Republican party and thus have made themselves the enemies of everything we’ve tried to build in this country.

As these changes have been happening my existential crisis has cleared into a realization that I haven’t moved all that far. Rather it’s those on the right that have moved at breakneck speed away from the rest of us. So I no longer seek merely to survive my existential crisis but to become a part of this opposition movement I have watched slowly come together over the past five years. This coalition is of those who want what our Founding Fathers promised: a republic where everyone is equal. It contains some who at one time were moderate Republicans, until the party forced them out and it also contains liberal Christians and many atheists and humanists.

It is well past time that we must declare who we are and take a stand against this quickly growing threat to our country. As such I feel a need to declare where I stand, which is that I stand for taking back our right to equality from those who feel they have a right to take the Christian Privilege they have enjoyed for much of the past 1700 years and use it to squash anyone who stands in their way. I also stand with those who agree with the Progressive Movement from a century ago in realizing that the traditional ideas of poverty, wealthy, and government are just flatly wrong.

A quickly growing part of this movement are the atheists and other unbelievers, often referred to as “nones.” As I have become more acquainted with the atheist movement in the US over this past year or so I’ve realized that there are quite a few people out there who are actually unbelievers who are embedded among the enemy. For one reason or another they have found their faith to evaporate and yet they continue to have financial and/or family obligations that prevent them from being able to openly declare themselves to be unbelievers. I have come to feel that it is necessary for those of us who either never had or have lost our belief in a supreme being to take the responsibility for continuing to pave the path away from fundamentalism that many who have gone before have begun.

And so, with these twin, and intertwined, goals I am announcing the death of Surviving My Existential Crisis and the birth of Normalize Unbelief. I hope that even those of you who still consider yourselves believers will continue with me. Our desire for a return of our secular state unites us even if you don’t feel that you should abandon your faith in a supreme deity. I have no desire to trash religion in general but it’s application as a bludgeon and as a way to drag our society back into medieval times.

As always, please feel free to engage either in the comments, on Facebook, Tumblr, or over on what’s left of Google+. Good luck everyone, we’re going to need it.

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I Am Openly Secular

openlysecular.orgI’ve been struggling for several months to write one or more posts on the fact that I have determined that I am an atheist. In fact, I have probably at least five drafts of posts saved that I began but was never able to complete satisfactorily. However, I also feel that the fact that I have not declared the fact that I am now an atheist and a humanist is hindering me from posting many other things I’d like to post that begin with the assumption that you already know I’m an atheist.

It took me a couple years to come to grips with the fact that I’m now an atheist. It isn’t anything I wanted or asked for, it just happened. Contrary to what some may believe, many people do not make a conscious choice to become an atheist because atheism isn’t a declaration of what you do believe but rather what you do not believe. Therefore, atheism is simply the result of no longer being able to sustain your belief in your chosen deity and having no other candidates to take their place. You simply cannot will yourself to be a believer regardless of whether you wish to be one or not. Declaring myself to be an atheist is simply a matter of not being a hypocrite about it (not to mention the fact that I have enough anxiety just getting through the day without adding this big of a secret to the mix).

This also seemed like an appropriate time to declare myself to be an atheist since Openly Secular Day is coming up on April 23. Part of Openly Secular Day is to tell at least one person that you are secular in your beliefs. I’m simply getting a jump on things by being a week and a half early. Plus I would find it rather awkward and difficult to just walk up to someone and say Hey, I’m an atheist and, as my wife has told me many times, I’m much better at explaining things when I have an opportunity to write them down.

I will, hopefully, be able to put my thoughts together into a narrative about how I arrived at this place in my life at some point in the near future. In the meantime, please feel free to ask me questions (my email address is available on my about.me page) or otherwise engage me in dialog.


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US State Department Admits “We Cannot Kill Our Way Out of This War”

Apparently the political and religious right are pitching a fit about the admission by a spokesperson for the US State Department that America, or indeed anyone, can win this battle by trying to kill all of the violent and fundamentalist Muslims.

The fact is that the more violent Muslims that are killed, the more new violent Muslims will be created.

It’s likely that even many on the left here in the United States will not agree with this solution but it is, so far, the only thing that makes sense: The real solution is to show the violent and fundamentalist Muslims that truth can’t be found in a holy book but in the continued expansion of our knowledge about our Universe through scientific experimentation and analysis.

The root of the problem is that these people believe that their senses are lying to them and that the words that were written in a book more than 1,000 years ago, by someone who had no more insight than anyone else who lived at that time, carry more weight than what they can observe and and experience.

The reason we’re not talking about that fact here in America is that a large percentage of the American public believe the same thing. They simply adhere to a different holy book.

There is no real difference between fundamentalist Muslims and fundamentalist Christians so far as where they look for their understanding of reality. They each look to a book that was written more than 1,000 years ago by people who had no more insight into how humans think and act than anyone else who lived during that time.

This cycle of killing will continue until everyone is willing to admit that you cannot learn about humanity or the Universe we inhabit through a holy book. In the meantime, the problem may go away for the moment or may shift to the fundamentalist believers of a different religion, but the problem will continue so long as there are humans who believe that ancient books filled with what is, at best, conjecture, grant their readers more insight into the human condition and how to live in and care for the Universe than the rigorous testing of what we experience.


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