I don’t believe in any kind of god. That probably comes as no surprise to anyone who reads my blog even semi-regularly, because I’ve indicated as such multiple times. I’m not ashamed of that fact. Being an atheist and saying so isn’t a big deal to me. On the other hand, I’m not one of those people who make atheism a religion and insists on preaching about the power of nonbelief and how ludicrous religions are and hypocritical and blah blah blah. I don’t honestly give a flying fuck what you or anyone else believes in. And like the Golden Rule, I’d just like the same in return. I don’t want to talk about religion or debate it, although I can. I have no interest. It’s the same thing with discussions about politics: there is not one thing I can say to a believer that will make them change their minds, and there is nothing one of them can say to me that will change my mind. So what’s the point? People who get off on debating that shit in person or on Facebook or Twitter and feel the need to fire slings and arrows at The Other Side constantly are really fucking tedious. I believe the Washington Redskins are the greatest organization in the history of the NFL. That doesn’t mean I’m gonna proselytize about that every day.
Anyway, what got me thinking about this was a recent article on Slate about how atheists are treated, particularly in the Bible Belt, and comparing it to closeted people so afraid of persecution from the community that they dare not come out of the closet. It’s mostly personal anecdotes and study results, including the 2006 University of Minnesota study on the perception of atheism. Ever since I read it, it’s percolated in the back of my brain. I mean, nothing in it was new to me, and I don’t experience the same kind of shunning from my neighbors that the people in the article describe – I don’t talk to my neighbors anyway, because the geographical oddity that resulted in us all deciding to live in the same area is a flimsy basis for me to put in the effort to talk about mulch and the weather – but I’ve found myself thinking about it off and on ever since.
After hearing multiple admonishments to help “put Christ back into Christmas”, I’ve decided that I would do my part. From now on, I will be referring to the holiday that I celebrate every December as Xmas. It has nothing to do with mangers or nativities or loose women claiming they got knocked up even though they were virgins, I swear, Joseph, really. It has to do with the pure essence of the season, the thing that puts a warm glow in the heart and the bright glimmer of joy in the eye.
I am, of course, talking about toys.
It seems to me that sometime shortly after Man began taking his first tottering, uncertain steps without using his knuckles, he became totally, utterly bored. Reality was so disenchanting and dull. The tribe was unimpressed by the truth of the deer Grog brought back from the hunt: sick from disease and weakened by thirst and fever, the animal fell behind the pack and just sort of laid down on the ground and Grog just hit in the head with the big rock. It’s Truth, but it is also Dull. So one day, Grog decided to embellish the story just a little: now, Grog let fly with a rock just as the majestic deer was in mid-leap across the stream that would forever deny the lucky tribe their tasty venison, and his powerful throw that struck the deer in the head saved them all from starvation.
On the one hand, it’s true: Grog hit a deer in the head with a rock, killed it, and took it back to camp where everyone fed. It’s just the circumstances behind the Truth that are subtly changed. And thus, as Man realized how exciting the world could be, he began to copulate like mad to fill this exciting new world. And along with all of the children who would, millenia later, be genetically honed to become department-store perfume salespeople and middle managers, the Myth was born.
It might have happened something like that. The Truth is undoubtedly more dull and obvious.
I am a proud atheist. I don’t try to hide that fact, but I also don’t bring it up unless asked. I don’t preach to my religious friends of the “error of their ways”, and indeed I don’t have a big problem with people having faith in general. I do have a problem when faith is wielded like a weapon or used to cast judgments on others. I have much stronger feelings on organized religions themselves, much more negative. I firmly believe that the earliest religions were a mechanism for a chosen few to gain and retain power over a large mass of people, and I don’t think much has changed over the millenia.
I have a friend that I used to work with. Unlike me, he was a very religious person in the best meaning of the word (in my own opinion). His faith was strong, but he wasn’t a preacher or evangelist or pusher. Whenever I had a question or observation about the Christian faith, I’d sit down and talk to him. He was always open and patient and never took offense to the blasphemous questions or arguments I posed to him, and would always answer me honestly, expressing his beliefs as just that, never judging or condemning. He is a good man, who just happens to be quite religious. I wish I still worked with him, so I could ask him about something I started thinking about last night.
On the way in to work this morning, the folks on the radio were discussing the October arrest of a woman that lived near Philly. She was attempting to organize/join a terror cell with the aim of killing a cartoonist who depicted Muhammad combined with a dog. She was a convert to Islam and felt fervently enough about her new religion to attempt to kill another human being on another continent. It’s a piece of news that is all too common these days. Maybe it was the nearness of this woman to my own home that engendered the feeling that it did; I don’t know. All I know is, it impacted me.
1. It took over an hour to get to work today. It was snowing. but there wasn’t any snow on the road. People were just driving incredibly badly, either WAY too slow or ridiculously recklessly, like the tool douchebag driving the wrong way down a one-way street and looking pissed that he couldn’t get by. I should have just driven into him.
1. Have you ever really liked a song and enjoyed everything about it except one little thing that just starts to stand out to you every time you hear it? Then the more you hear it, the more time you spend dreading the part you don’t like? Eventually, you end up not liking the song nearly as much as you did and every time you hear it gets a little more disappointing? If no, then fuck off and read something else.
For my wife, one of those songs, I think, would be “China Girl” by David Bowie (and just now, the part she hates ran through her head and for a second she hates me just a little bit for bringing it up). For me, that song is “Paradise City” by Guns n Roses. The beginning of that song is like the perfectly distilled essence of what is good about rock music. The extended musical intro, the wailing refrain, simple and pure: “Take me down to Paradise City/ where the grass is green/ and the girls are pretty/Oh won’t you please take me home.” If for one song, I was blessed with the ability to play guitar, sing, and dominate a stage with my presence, it would absolutely be “Paradise City.” Except for one niggling thing.
An interesting article from Scientific American about the reason why God, ghosts, and conspiracy theories exist.
“The problem is that we did not evolve a baloney-detection device in our brains to discriminate between true and false patterns.”
And thus we are saddled with religion, making the sane world under the control of idiotic crackpots who actually seem to believe the bullshit they spew. The sane people of course realize that you can’t reason with the insane, but instead of drowning them in the tub, we allow them to run things in the vain hope that they will leave us alone.