"Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke. That's their natural and first weapon." ~ Gloria Steinem

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Atheists can't blaspheme, either.

I'm sure we've all heard from at least one Christian that we've just replaced the Christian god with science. Or "atheists answer to nobody but themselves, and therefore they are their own god."

These people are falling into erroneous logic; they assume that everyone lives as they do. Not only that, but they assume that humans inherently construct their lives around a single entity--inherently. Note my word choice here, please. These are the same people who set out to disabuse native peoples of the tenets of polytheism, believing that the only way a person can live correctly is to worship only one god.

When you tell me that I am now worshipping science or myself, you assume that I am hardwired to focus my behavior, choices, and lifestyle around a central idea; having abandoned your god, I must therefore have replaced it with another single entity, and since I like science, it must be science. Alternatively, I might focus on my individuality; my god must be myself.

Sam Harris, in End of Faith, discusses the nature of belief, pointing out that every belief requires other beliefs as support. If you believe in the first commandment, you must also believe that it is impossible for humans to avoid setting up something as a god. This belief is erroneous, condescending, and egocentric.

It is quite possible to construct your life around a number of things, none of which rank above or below any of the others. In my opinion, this is the belief at the core of atheism; if you accept atheism as a possibility, you must also accept that humans do not need one all-encompassing influence over their lives.

Currently, my life is indeed constructed around many things, and in no particular order of effect or influence. Tomorrow it may change; tomorrow it may not. My life has no center, not even me; it is fluid and responds to its environment. Thus far, this has been the most freeing aspect of atheism for me.

I am the Lord your God; thou shalt have no other gods before me.

I don't need any gods at all--before, during, or after you. Thanks for the concern, but I'm good.

My deconversion catalyst

A lot of Christians assume that any ex-Christian became so as an ill-directed (in their opinion) response to trauma of some sort. Yes, bad things have happened to me. Yes, I'm a little fucked up (who isn't?). But that's not why I left.

The past decade of my life has been violent, painful, and emotionally exhausting. However, the worst of it passed several few years ago; I'd say January 2005 was the low point. Since then, life hasn't been perfect, but I made it through the darkest period and it's been steadily looking up since then. If I'd indeed left because I felt God had abandoned me and left me to a life of torment, it would have started a long time ago.

I could have blamed him for my 21-year-old cousin getting shot in the head in 2002--to name one example.

I could have left right then. But really, the catalyst for me was not traumatic, it was not one of the many bloody exclamation marks in the manuscript of my life. It was nothing, really.

It was the absence of religion. The last few years of college were a time of slowly drifting away from Catholicism; I gradually stopped going to church, stopped praying, stopped thinking about it at all.

About a year ago, I woke up one day and realized that I was happy. More than that--I realized that I was the happiest I'd been in a while.

I was happier than I'd been in high school, when I spent the first ten minutes of quite a few school days praying around a flagpole, when I attended yearly youth conferences with thousands of other Catholics, when I spent hours asking God if he really did want me to enter the convent; I was happier than I'd been the first few years of college, when I was slightly involved in campus ministry, when I prayed before meals in the dining hall, when I considered transferring back home after concluding that Purdue had caused me to fall away from God; I was happier than I'd been the last few years of college, when I felt guilty for living two blocks from church but never attending, when I wondered how God felt about drunken makeouts at fraternity parties but comforted myself with the knowledge that I was still a virgin, when I attended Mass in St. Peter's Basilica and wondered why I just felt like a tourist in a church.

I was definitely happier than I was in January 2005, when I was actively suicidal and praying to Jesus every moment to save me from myself.

You might say that sure, it's fine now, God helped you get through the hard times and now that everything's peachy, you think you don't need him, but boy will you find out how wrong you are!!! I would say that you are wrong, because my hard times are not over, and I doubt they ever will be.

My point is that Catholics are pretty stuck on the present as well as the afterlife; following Christ will bring you happiness on Earth as well as in Heaven. Good times and bad, they are all better with Jesus as your chum.

I still hurt. I still ache. I still bleed, cry, curse, mope, hate myself, etc. I have good times and bad, and they're all better without Jesus as my chum. I was only suicidal when I believed in God. Take that for what it's worth.

Life still sucks sometimes. But I'm no longer waiting for God to lift me up and make me happy. I make myself happy now, and I know that I have the power to do so. In my times of joy, achievements, when I am happiest, I no longer feel obligated to thank God for making me happy. I can thank myself for forcing myself to accomplish something, for getting on my bike and taking a ride, for applying for that awesome job, for taking the plunge and telling someone how I feel about them.

I am empowered to make a joyous life for myself--on my terms.

And that's what gave me my first inkling that Catholics might be wrong. I was raised to believe that godless people who appeared happy, and claimed to be happy, were either lying or deceiving themselves; but here I was, living as though I had no religion, and I was happy--for real! They were wrong. What else were the wrong about? And that's when I started this Inquisition on an intellectual level--but that's a long story, a story for another post.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Indoctrination is...

Indoctrination is presenting opinions as fact.

Indoctrination is presenting conclusions as facts without providing the evidence that led to those conclusions.

Indoctrination is teaching your child the words to a prayer without discussing why you feel the need to pray.

My parents did this to me, and yet I do not fault them for it. Oddly enough, while I cannot forgive Christians in general for brainwashing their offspring, in specific, I just don't give a shit. I have no arguments with the way my parents raised me--none. If I could go back and change it, I wouldn't. I wouldn't do anything about my mom teaching me to pray Hail Marys when I couldn't sleep, or my family spending every Christmas Eve at church from 2 pm to 1 am [that is another story altogether], or any number of religion-based activities from my childhood.

The oddity factor probably has something to do with it. My parents were exactly the right kind of Catholic to churn out at least four freethinking children [older sister no, youngest brother too young still, youngest sister showing promise], and I don't think I'd be who I am today had I been raised in any other religion--or non-religion. I treasure my oddities.

My parents value familial bonds, brotherly love, honesty, books, good food, the outdoors, travel, diversity of opinion and experience, and being true to yourself in the face of adversity. They taught me that being weird is ok, that you can never have too many friends or love too many people, that there's more to life than material success, and that I can do whatever I want to do no matter who tells me I can't. I see nothing wrong with any of these values; who would? The fact that they were wrapped up in Christianity and tied with the ribbon of Catholicism did not damper their strength.

And so again, I do not fault my parents for indoctrinating me. I am grateful to them for nurturing my personality, for surrounding me with books at a very young age [my mom noticed I could read when I was three], for raising me in the middle of a forest, for allowing me to wear the same size five t-shirt for weeks, and for loving me unconditionally--even now, when I have intentionally and deliberately abandoned that which they hold most dear.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The question of atheist "evangelism"

Back in my Saved! days, I was firmly anti-evangelization. As even cradle atheists can imagine, membership in an organized religion includes instruction in the art/skill of spreading "the good news"; from birth to death you are bombarded with the idea that a true follower of Christ is one who leads others to him both by example and by active evangelism.

[Note: I know very little about Judaism, Islam, or any other major/otherwise organized religion, and so I speak mainly of Christianity (Catholicism in particular), but there is no reason to suppose that my ideas (in general) do not carry over into those religions with which I am less familiar].

Catholics make rather light of the latter method in comparison to other branches of religion (i.e. Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, even Protestants), and so I suppose that's why I never really bought into the idea that Jesus wanted me to go about my life constantly attempting to "witness" to people. We focused instead on living in such a way that others would just need to know what we knew; ideally, the love of Jesus would emanate from my person in the form of neon lights shooting out of my ears and all who saw me would ask why was I so damned happy?

At a point, I also abandoned that theory. I came to the conclusion that Jesus was not always happy (Luke:42-49, to name one instance), therefore why must I always be happy in order to follow him? He was human, too, and had human emotions, and human emotions, even negative ones, can't be bad or God would never have lowered himself to take them on.

I have now asked myself the question of whether or not atheists, having rid themselves of religion, are obligated to attempt to do the same for others. I suppose that's a religious theory applied to a non-religion scenario: See, I have found the best way to live! All must do as I have done and ye shall thrive!

That's exactly what put me off Christian evangelism; it just seemed so ridiculous to presume that Everyone. Must. do what I did. I always felt that I should just do my thing and only talk about my religion if anyone specifically asked. God made free will, right?

However, if religion in any form is dangerous to society as a whole, as Sam Harris suggests in End of Faith (I have not yet finished even the first chapter of this book, so if I have misread the jacket blurb please correct me), do we indeed have an obligation? Perhaps, with so many completely avoidable evils running throughout the world, it's too urgent to just sit back and enjoy our freedom.

Do we owe it to ourselves, not to mention others, to eradicate religion?

Edit: Excellent article on this very topic, found through @robineccles on twitter. Thanks!

Monday, April 20, 2009

More thoughts on Columbine

Why does this affect me so much? Like I said, I wasn't there. I'm not sure belonging to a loose version of the Columbine community entitles me to a breakdown this morning at work (I hid in the bathroom).

I have thought about this all day, and I have come to a conclusion. I have long held a personal theory that we are all fucked up in some way; mine started on April 20, 1999. Before then, my life was charmed. Tragedy stayed away from me, my immediate family, and my home.

And on April 20, 1999, the carnage and death that would mark the next decade of my life began. After that, carnage or death--or both--stabbed their way into my life at regular, one or two-year intervals.

Some of them you know (9/11).

Some of them you probably don't (March 4, 2002).

I turned 15 on April 12, 1999. Life was perfect. I didn't know anything about anything then. Bad things happened, sure, but usually on the other side of the Atlantic (Princess Di, 1997). Eight days later my world exploded for the first time and it has never been the same. Eight days later I learned that my sphere of existence was not safe--and that was the beginning of the journey that took me to, for example, that bridge in the middle of January.

And within the time it took to type this post, I have decided that I'm entitled to as many breakdowns as I require.

Today, I am 15 again

I did not go to Columbine High School. I did not know any of the victims personally.

I did go to high school in the same school district. In 9th grade English class, we finished watching Romeo+Juliet and my teacher turned on the news. I sat at my desk and watched the coverage without understanding what was truly going on. I assumed we were watching something happening in Wisconsin or somewhere else--somewhere bad things happened.

Then I started to recognize the location. Someone said "Columbine" and my heart stopped.

One month prior to the shootings, I had visited Columbine for a band competition. I was there. I knew the library. But I wasn't there. I was safe.

Today, I am 15 again. I am stunned in English class. My after-school activities are cancelled. I am waiting in the band room for my mom to come pick me up, watching tv--still. I am standing in the band room in my ugly brown coat watching Patrick Ireland fall out of a window, blood from his wounds smearing the concrete wall. I am sitting outside my school staring at the mountains but seeing Patrick Ireland in my head. I am lying on my couch listening to the radio and not knowing what I'm supposed to do, feel, think.

School is cancelled the rest of the week. I waft around my house. I still don't know what I'm supposed to do, feel, think. The news is full of sorrow.

On Monday we go back to school. I go to Earth Science. My teacher, with tears in her eyes, asks us how we feel and wants us to talk about it. I have nothing to say.

The next year we went back for the band competition. The library was boarded up, a row of lockers across where the door used to be. Memorial tiles lined the hallways--the only sign of what had happened.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

On conflicting advice for the chronically single

I've been single most of my life. In the [rare] moments when I bemoan being chronically single, those who aren't tend to offer fountains of unsolicited advice. This "advice" can be broken down into two general categories:

1) It will happen when you least expect it and/or when you stop looking for it.
2) It will happen when you're ready.

Am I the only one who sees a contradiction here? If you're not looking for a relationship or expecting one, by definition you are not thinking about the topic, and so how can you know you're ready? If you're thinking about it enough to acknowledge your readiness (or lack thereof, I suppose), you're anticipating a need to know whether or not you're ready, and therefore kind of expecting it, yeah?

The only way I can see of combining the two bits of advice is thus:

1) You will be surprised to find you're ready when it happens unexpectedly.

Apparently going through life completely unaware of your own mental/emotional state is your best bet for finding love. Forgive me, but I just don't see that happening to someone as introspective as me--and I prefer it that way, frankly.

I think the bottom line here is that nobody, no matter how many relationships they've had, is an expert on this subject. More on that later.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times

This article is almost exactly how I feel. Take note; this is the first article I've found that I can actually relate to! Today is a good day. Thanks to my twitter pal James (@jamesatracy, www.anatheist.net) for leading me to this.

Friday, April 17, 2009

More parentally-mandated oddness

I forgot to include the topic of homeschooling in this post on Catholicism leading me to atheism. Therefore, I will write an addendum. And since it's separate, I'll go into a detail a bit more.

I was homeschooled. True. But think about every stereotype you've ever come across, whether positive or negative, and that probably wasn't my family. In my world, there were the Catholic Homeschoolers and there were the Protestant Homeschoolers. We were too Catholic for the Protestants and not Catholic enough for the Catholics (apart from one very amazing family, a family we are still friends with, a family I will love and respect and defend to the end of my life).

When I was in 7th grade, my mom put my sisters and me in "Christian Girl Scouts" when I was in middle school. This program was technically called "Hearts After His" and basically involved earning merit badges for activities in which "godly women" participate--namely: baking, cooking, sewing, learning about nature (note: not actually going outside), memorizing Bible verses, ironing (this is not a joke, people), and, for the adventurous godly woman among ye, photography. I have a homemade vest in a box in my closet, a homemade vest adorned with "merit badges" made out of--literally--wood and/or rhinestones. As a member of the oldest group, called "The Joy of Womanhood" (I know, I know. I am seriously NOT making ANY of this up or exaggerating in the slightest. The youngest group was "Pebbles"; the middle "Stepping Stones". Do not ask me why my group didn't follow the rocks theme, because I have no idea.), our final project of the year was to "present" the last section of Proverbs 31.

For anyone not familiar, the last section of Proverbs 31 is titled "The Ideal Wife" and begins

When one finds a worthy wife,
her value is far beyond pearls.
Her husband, entrusting his heart to her,
has an unfailing prize.

It then goes on to say all sorts of things about the ideal wife, like obtaining wool and flax and making her own coverlets and being girt about with strength and rising while it is still night to feed her husband and children.

Again, our project was to "present" this bit of the Bible. I had no idea what my leader meant by present, so I asked her, and she hemmed and hawed a bit and then finally came out with embroidery.

Yes, that is correct. She wanted me to cross-stitch 21 Bible verses onto something and then embellish it with flowers or something...I think. Anyway, I don't know how to do that, which lessened her opinion of me (needless to say), so she allowed me to make a little book and illustrate the verses.

Ok, got all of that? Have you fully absorbed the ridiculousness of the situation?

This next bit is very, very important. Please read it. My mom put us in this program mostly because she wanted us to interact with other kids, but also because she thought we might be able to get a bit of fun out it. She never bought into the fundie side of it, and indeed probably didn't realize the scope of it at first. She would have put us in Boy Scouts if she could have, but she didn't know about Venturing at that point. And yes, there are the real Girl Scouts, but she has moral problems with GSA.

The entire program was based on very fundamentalist, "traditional" gender roles, but my mom was always very clear about her views on the matter--and those were that fundamentalist gender roles are complete and utter bullshit. She taught us to pull the good things out of the crap, like all of the doing God's will stuff that I used to believe in.

When we started to realize that the entire program was geared towards producing docile Christian wives, she gave us the choice to quit, but we had a lot of friends in the program, so we decided to stay. However, every time I didn't like what they were telling me, I could handle it, because I knew my mom backed me up and I could laugh about it with her later. I knew these adults were fucking crazy and I could be a godly woman without wearing a fucking apron and baking pies all day (unless I wanted to, of course).

A warrior of truth once more.

Being an odd duck among the Catholic Homeschoolers wasn't half as hilarious; it mostly consisted of my mom allowing us to wear pants, climb trees, go to Mass in English without wearing veils on our heads, and sass her. Beyond that, it's a bit hard to explain the differences; it was more of a general attitude towards life--a more joyful attitude, if you will. You kind of had to be there, but trust me, we were odd.

Again, the key here is that I have been odd my entire life, and my parents started it. I'm glad they did, honestly; I feel that it contributed to our family closeness. But that's a new topic as well.

A follow-up to my cowardice/uncertainty post

This is a journey. I started this blog to share my journey--and writing about it has stimulated it. I'm fine with admitting my flaws, my shortcomings, my doubts. I am not perfect; nobody is. If I were 100% certain of my beliefs (or lack thereof), my story would not be as interesting--at least to me.

When I am certain of my opinions and beliefs, I am intensely certain. If I were certain about this, I would be one of the "militant atheists" I've heard so much about, and I wouldn't be involved in this hugely rewarding internal struggle (and trust me, you've only gotten the tip of the iceberg so far).

I do mean that; being Catholic was never as rewarding as my rejection of it has been. Questioning God has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my [albeit short] life.

Incidentally, I said that last bit to my mom the other day and she responded with "Well, maybe we should sit down and question God together." Will I sit down with my uber-Catholic mother and question her reason for existence? I will--because my mother always listens to me, always supports me, and never tells me I'm going to hell. She never forced religion on me. Ever.

Which is another reason it's odd that I left the church. A lot of people end up atheists as an inverse response to intense familial and societal pressure, but I just kind of got there on my own.

When I stop to think about it, the odds against me ending up where I am today are enormous. I think you'll see that point illustrated time and time again.

Who is the coward here?

I'm having issues with myself right now.

I realized tonight, after coming across an extremely hateful article (hateful towards atheists, just to be clear), that since I started my own Inquisition, I've been avoiding such articles. I do think that people like the one I'm referring to are hateful because they feel threatened, but on the other hand, why do I avoid them if I'm secure in my beliefs?

I suppose the answer is that I'm not secure in them. I'm still not 100% certain what I believe. In The God Delusion, Dawkins outlines seven levels of belief; I don't have the book in front of me, but the basic idea is that one is 100% belief in God, while seven is 100% lack of belief (I think). Dawkins makes the point that level one is much more heavily populated than level seven; and even he falls into level six, not seven. The main point is that religious persons are not at all likely to admit to any uncertainty in their beliefs and say they will never change their minds--in contrast with agnostics/atheists, who are perfectly willing to alter their beliefs in the presence of new evidence. I think I'm around level five right now (if I recall correctly), but always aver that I'm willing to change categories if presented with a good reason.

However, what's a good reason? Does my good reason lie in the articles I've been avoiding? I sincerely doubt it; someone who presumes to know the mind of every atheist alive is not likely to convince me to go back to the church.

But a bigger question is this: Am I avoiding these articles out of disgust, out of a desire to spare myself needless stress from exposure to mean, unhelpful opinions?

Or am I just afraid that I'll start believing again and have to admit I've been wrong?

Well, ok, that last bit is kind of ridiculous. I mean, right here, right now, I am not afraid to say that I was probably wrong for the first 20 to 23 years of my life. It might be a lot easier to admit I was wrong for the next two to five.

The possibility also exists that I just don't want to believe in God, because then I'll have to go back to being a "good Catholic" and go to church and consult God when planning my life. That is a definite possibility. But is seeing a certain lifestyle as ridiculous a valid reason for rejecting it? I ask you.

Whatever the reason, the facts remain: I am 1) avoiding mean Christians, and 2) not absolutely sure what I believe.

Hm. When you put it that way, I have no issues with myself at all.

"Let the Almighty answer me." Job 31:37

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Catholicism led me to atheism--and not like you might think.

Also a true story.

My parents, wonderful people that they are, raised their children to think for themselves. Catholic + thinking for yourself = oxymoron? Perhaps. Never underestimate the power of compartmentalization--but that's a whole new topic unto itself.

I was raised as a Catholic homeschooler in a society of publicly-educated Protestants. I was raised in an environment where I was different, I was not like *anyone* else around me--and that was a good thing. It was good to be Catholic, because that was the truth and hang anyone who thought otherwise. Being homeschooled was a good thing, because it allowed my parents to teach us their beliefs undiluted, and public school would have interfered with that.

Of that last bit I have no doubt and do not speak tongue-in-cheek; the best way to ensure your children share your values is to shield them from other opinions. But by the time I was 14 and enrolled in public high school, I had come to think of myself as a brave soul, a warrior of truth forging my own way through a jungle of error, enlightened in the midst of darkness.

And when you look at it that way, it's really not that surprising that I ended up an atheist. My parents raised me to question authority--from my teachers to the laws of society. I am eternally grateful to them for this; they were the first to instill in me the belief that morality and laws do not always go hand-in-hand.

But back to my point: Questioning the laws of your society is not all that different from questioning the laws of your religion. When you're taught to question the president of your country, is it really that difficult to make the leap to questioning the pope?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Talking about the iGeneration?

According to wikipedia, I belong to both the MTV Generation and Generation Y (alternately known as Millennials). However, I'm going to eschew the Gen Y possibility (although my birth year [1984, in case you were wondering] falls more squarely into that particular imaginary category), simply because the article on the MTV Generation touches on exactly what I'd like to discuss: the technology cusp.

My generation is unique in that we remember life before the technologies that now saturate our daily existence; before the Internet, email, texting, Facebook, and Twitter determined our reality. I'm not claiming to have been born before the creation of the Internet, of course; I merely refer to its constant presence in the life of every single citizen of the United States.

I remember when we first got email--Juno, actually. Our phone lines were out the day the software arrived, and my sister had to explain to me why we couldn't set up Juno until they were fixed (I, obviously, did not understand how email worked). Once everything was working, I chose my first email address (jiggsy@juno.com, named after my dog) and marvelled at the excitement of watching the loading bar. I used to cover the screen with my hand so I would be surprised with the contents of my inbox (recall that Juno had some sort of "0/8 emails downloaded!" box).

I signed up for Facebook as soon as it became available to college students outside of Harvard, but didn't go back to my profile for months (my best friend made me join). I texted some in the fall of 2006--while studying in Italy--but didn't really become a texter until about a year later. I joined Twitter two weeks ago. I started this blog on Sunday.

Everyone has heard this sort of story before: "Ah, yes, I recall life before the Internet! Those were the good old days!" But that's the sort of thing you hear from older generations, not mine. I am not claiming that life was better before the Internet; I am merely proving my point, which I will get to in a moment.

Wikipedia discusses at length the idea that my generation is the one in which the use of wireless and digital technology exploded. I would like to add to that the suggestion that my generation is unique in that we are technologically savvy, and depend on it, but still have the capacity to marvel at it. This technology showed up in our lives at a very precise moment--a moment in which we were young enough to "acquire" the skills (acquire vs. learn is a distinction from which I will never back down) yet old enough to remember that it wasn't always this way.

Prior generations, while of course taking up the torch necessary in our present society, are not, as a rule, as adept at it; it is not second nature to them, as they have learned it and not acquired it. They do not, as a rule, consider it as necessary as nutrition, and can marvel at it. My grandmother was the only resident of her nursing home with a computer; but you can bet your life that she never lost her awe of the digital age.

To younger generations, technology is as inherent as language; they cannot truly imagine life without it. My 11-year-old brother would rather go without dinner than have our parents take away his Internet privileges; I hear kids are getting cellphones in elementary school now; my 5-year-old nephew can't wait until his parents allow him an email address (seriously).

My generation, however, is both irrevocably endowed with the skills of the digital age and able to appreciate how incredible it all is. I remember my first IM (on AOL; I believe my username was ABandGeek2) and how amazed I was that I could type a message to someone across the world and they would get it in a second. I am now Twittering from my cellphone and still in awe; I type something into my phone, hit send, and a moment later it displays on a website where anyone in the world can read it.

How is that not incredible?!?

I am good at my job because I am good with computers. I am a master of multiple internal and external systems; some are web-based, others are visual MS-DOS (hands up, who wasted hours of childhood playing games in DOS? ... just me?). My ability to learn new systems is a direct result of my familiarity with computers in general, and that familiarity is, in turn, a direct result of having spent my formative years in front of a computer.

Think about the concept of acquired vs. learned sometime, and apply it to the computer skills of people you know. Let me stress that I have not intended to be ageist about technology (go back and read the bit about my grandmother if you think I was); I'm merely pointing out that age is a handy category when you're looking at technological adeptness.

The core of the issue: your ability in this area is heavily dependent on whether you learned it or acquired it. Seriously. Think about it. I bet you can pick out acquired vs. learned everywhere you look. Just last week my 40-something co-worker was surprised when I suggested that a not-uncommon method of navigation back to the homepage of a website is clicking the banner at the top of any page. Seemed pretty obvious to me.

I'm good at my job because I belong to my generation. And yet, my acquired knowledge has done nothing to dull my amazement at our technology. In a moment I'm going to click the "Publish" button, and you all get to read this. It never ceases to amaze me.

Angie Zapata

Definition of term(s)! w00t!

About-face atheist n. A formerly hardcore member of organized religion, now in active rejection of the dogma in which he or she once believed with 100% certainty and ardently defended to anyone who would listen.

Outed atheist n. A formerly lukewarm member of organized religion who tried really really hard to believe everything they were told but somehow couldn't quite accept it.

True colors atheist n. A former "going through the motions" member of organized religion who never really bought into any of it but pretended in order to satisfy family, friends, and society.

Cradle atheist n. A person who has never believed in any form of a god and has never pretended to do so for any reason whatsoever.

Jeff Schweitzer: Morality Originates in Religion...Not

Jeff Schweitzer: Morality Originates in Religion...Not

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Monday, April 13, 2009

A break from intellect: dating in a ski town

Let's pull back from the religious ponderances for a moment. I would like to share with you, dear readers, my manifesto on the opposite sex in my place of residence.

Firstly, I can't understand why men complain about women who complain that men never approach them; these complaining men say that if women want to be approached they should make themselves approachable, and that includes not showing up to the bar in a gaggle of fellow women -- as supposedly it's difficult to approach a woman when she's surrounded by other women. Sit at the bar with a drink in your hand, they say. Sit there alone, they say. Make eye contact with us, they say. But if you are in the company of other women, our testicles will shrivel and fall off if we try to talk to you. We're shy. Make it easier on us.

I call shenanigans on those complaining men.

In my experience, it makes no difference whether I'm with a group of people or not. I never go to a bar without three or four other people, and yet somehow I always end up with an ardent suitor (who will not take no for an answer, but I will get to that) who, having seen me enjoying the company of my friends for roughly seven minutes, drinking a beer with perfect finesse, elegantly sporting jeans and a long-sleeved shirt, clearly cannot live without me. One of these suitors got angry with me for having the audacity to pause our conversation (which he'd pretty much demanded of me) for 30 seconds in order to listen to something my friend wanted to tell me. Another 

Secondly, I take issue with how difficult it is to reject men.

It's difficult to reject someone? You bet your ass it is. I'm not claiming an overabundance of kindness that prevents me from being honest with these poor, shy males who mustered up the courage to talk to me and how can I crush their hopes and dreams?

No, I mean that it is literally nearly impossible for me to reject men, because they do not listen to me. When I am polite about my disinterest, they (I assume) take it for shyness, coyness, unwillingness to give in quickly and be seen as one of "those" girls. When I am blunt and borderline rude, they (I assume) see it as a challenge.

I once spent an entire hour rejecting a man. I began at polite, danced through firm, and ended in "I really just never wanted to see you again so please go away". AN HOUR. It finally ended when my best friend physically pulled me away from him and out of the bar.

After that, I thought I'd learned my lesson; I skipped polite and went for a mix of firm and bitchy. I have since learned that nothing I say or do makes any difference.

Which is of course unsurprising, because why on earth would You bother to pay attention to what a girl's saying when You're hitting on her? Why bother trying to figure out what she wants, because all women really want is You, right? And women NEVER say what they mean, so when she says no, she means "Maybe if you're persistent enough! *teehee*" Women, of course, do not have brains and are not honest and so You have to just assume they want what you want.

Thirdly, approaching me at a bar has about a 0.07% success rate for a guy, no matter the circumstances.

You may be aware that the ratio of men to women around here is 6 to 1. This allows a significant portion of my demographic (single females, just to clarify) to be (let's face it) sluts. There are indeed quite a few women in this county who are amenable to going home with complete strangers; therefore, if you approach me at a bar, my first assumption is that your assumption is that I am one of those girls--otherwise why would you even try? This, as you may have guessed, is an immediate strike against you.

And it is as simple as that. If a complete stranger approaches me at a bar, I am automatically not interested.

You now know exactly why I'm a single woman in a place where the ratio of men to women is 6 to 1.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Something I posted on facebook

Interesting thought: Christians hold the Bible as their source of morality, yet don't hold all of it as true (nobody seriously believes it's ok to wipe out an entire city just because God told you to a la Joshua). So how do you pick and choose? Catholics cite tradition in this example, but that's just as fallible as each person using their own opinion; tradition is, by definition, passed down over the course of generations--by individuals. Direct revelation is claimed sometimes, but still, that's coming from another person.

Any way you slice it, every religion-based moral imperative comes to us through a filter--a filter of humanity. How do we know it's true? I seriously cannot remember how I would have answered this question in my "Saved" days. Trust that God preserves his words? But the original words were given to people in the first place, if you believe in Christianity, so trust that God made sure that first guy got it right? How did he do that without infringing on free will?

Seriously. Can't remember.

I also want to discuss something I think my mom might say if/when I talk to her about any of these questions I'm coming up with. Clearly, I am struggling with my rejection of Christianity. It's not an easy task, and I am the first to admit it. She might say, "Well, doesn't that tell you something?" However, I don't think it tells me anything I didn't already know.

My internal struggle tells me merely that I acquired a belief in Christianity, much as I acquired the English language (language is acquired, not learned...it's an important distinction). The battle I am experiencing is merely indicative of how malleable a child's brain is, and is no different from what I would go through if I tried to literally replace English with Italian--and I did try when I was in Italy, and I did experience a taste of the fight. The fact that it's difficult to replace belief with unbelief doesn't tell me unbelief is wrong any more than the difficulty of replacing English with Italian told me that Italian was "wrong". The very idea is absurd, that one language is better than another.

And so what I am fighting against, the sense that I am destroying a part of my identity and replacing it with a foreign substance, is not indicative of the falseness of the ideology I am exploring. But by the same token, it does not lend truth to that ideology, either. It just tells me something about religion in general--that it is easy to acquire if you start at birth, but hard to give up in that same situation.

I believe in God like I believe in Santa Claus.

True story. I believe in God like I believe in Santa Claus.

Sometimes I believe, and sometimes I don't.

Sometimes I don't believe, but pretend that I do, and sometimes I do believe, but pretend I don't.

Sometimes I don't know what I believe, but think about what it would be like to believe either way.

And after all, who really does know what to believe? The idea is inherently contradictory, as belief has at its core a lack of concrete knowledge; faith in the presence of facts is not faith but reason.

Greetings to blogland


I created this blog to fill a void that perhaps only I have noticed. I am an actively recovering Catholic, and in my quest for "deconversion" stories that I can relate to, I have found that there aren't any.

You see, all of the accounts I have been able to find thus far are written by those who never really believed in Christianity; they went through the motions to please their parents/friends/society, but never truly felt it was worthwhile. Some of them weren't raised Catholic but sought it out later in life, only to find that it wasn't what they'd expected. Others tried their damnedest to believe, pouring all their energy into church and Bible studies and prayer and begging God to help them believe--only to abandon their efforts as futile.

My friends, I do not fall into any of those categories. I bought into it. I bought into it heart and soul. Six years ago I wanted to be a nun, people. Now? I'm reading Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, reading/following various atheist websites/twitter accounts, and most importantly, thinking about atheism on a near-daily basis.

Many, many issues surround the statements I just made, all of which I will deal with in future posts. Consider this my introduction. 

And because I am by nature a ponderer, I will not limit myself to questions of religion and atheism. Trust me, my brain is full of thoughts I want to pour out in this blog. And so this will be an olio of intellect, if you will. Enjoy my twisted mind.

I have another blog, but it is generally personal and inane drivel; you may pretend this is my only presence on the Interwebs. Apart from twitter.com/hybridization, of course.