If I was a Shriner . . .

Something that I haven’t experienced in a while happened over the weekend. I was helping my grandfather’s friends in the Shriners load 400lbs of Vidalia onions they are storing at my shop, after cordial greetings and solid tough guy man hand shakes of course, when the one gentleman asks if I was a Shriner.
My response was a light head shake in the negatory and a simple “nope”. He, as was to be expected, then asked “when I would be a Shriner”. Knowing as I do, the organization at hand and the impossibility of my fraternite’ within it, I immediately knew it was walking on eggshells time.

My response was the standard that I give to such invitations from similar groups, smiling sincerely now, “due to differences in philosophy or world view which you and my grandfather can discuss if you wish, I simply would not be able to join.”

Now came a moment of contemplation on his part, he looked to the onions in the bed of the truck considering what such a difference could be, his eyes then widened, turned to me and asked “do you believe in god?”

I was still smiling, for I knew where this was going from the moment we started our dance. I simply and calmly, with a smile still, answered “No I don’t” and then waited. Two things were about to happen, a debate or an abrupt end to the discussion.

To my approval, it was simply the end of the conversation. But something interesting started, otherwise why would I be telling you about this. He immediately had to get away from me, he quickly changed in posture and moved to the far side of the struck where my grandfather and his other friend were talking. No words, just staring at me uncertainly, just a need to back away and regroup. Regaining some of his posture he shook my hand right before they left but it was cold and wet now, no longer the healthy rigid shake or eye contact from a mere moment before.

The Shriners expect a deistic admission, at least, to be granted into their ranks and I wonder if they will ever realize the number of people like me who could enthusiastically and very heavily help in person and or financially if they could look beyond such trivial matters.

So, I think of Christopher Hitchens and one of his devious maxims: “Here is my challenge. Let someone name one ethical statement made, or one ethical action performed, by a believer that could not have been uttered or done by a nonbeliever.” Henceforth The Foundation Beyond Belief is where I still give my charity and shall be for some time as we still deal with the diversity of identity in these “most modern of times”.

-Thoughts from Chris Hanna 

God Isn’t Real but the Devil Is: Childhood’s End and Five Years of Hell

Warning: The Following is a true story with names changed for privacy and safety.  This is a trigger warning so please be careful if you have a history of abuse as this story could cause a recurrence.

Hi, my name is Josephine and I am 12 years old; I’m in the sixth grade, and my life is pretty good. I live with my grandparents and my younger brother. My sister Nicole, her husband and their two children live down the road. I like to visit and spend time with my sister, so I usually walk to her house and we clean or watch television or something like that.

 

Today was different though.

 

Today, I walked there and my sister was not there. He was, though. He said that Nicole would be back soon. He sat down beside me on the couch. Then He started tickling me. At first it was kind of fun, but then He started touching places that my grandma said no one was supposed to touch. I thought maybe it was just an accident. Nicole came home soon after that.

 

I went back to Nicole’s house about a week later. My nephew was the only one who was there. I sat down in the living room and he went back to his bedroom. Not long after I got there, He came home. I got up to walk to my nephew’s room, but while I was walking down the hall, He grabbed me from behind. His hands cupped around my still developing breasts. I tried to squirm away, but His arms are stronger than I am. He leans over and whispers in my ear “You know you can’t tell anyone that we play like this.” I didn’t like this game. This game made me feel dirty, like I needed to shower. Maybe I am just overreacting. Maybe He will stop this soon, He is like my brother. He and my sister got married when I was only four years old. Maybe He really is just playing.
Continue reading “God Isn’t Real but the Devil Is: Childhood’s End and Five Years of Hell”

If I were god

If I were god, I would have set the universe in motion from an easily discoverable point of creation. I wouldn’t have told primitive beings through mental meditation techniques the importance of the origins story. To proclaim the beginning of life I would have created a pillar indestructible and visible to all those who wanted to view it

 

If I were god, I would have created one language that humans could all speak. It would be easily understood and without nuisance to learn. I would have enlightened man to garner the power of this language in order to prevent the division of language barriers quite unlike the biblical story of the tower of Babel where I purposely confused mankind

 

If I were god, the world would not have natural disasters that kill millions of people. If I felt the need to end the lives of millions I would proclaim aloud why; I would not take the innocent, but focus on those that went against my commands. I would write it in the sky or appear simultaneously to everyone to make this proclamation to allow time for repentance and redemption.

 

If I were god, I would I would make it known to man every time he asked me. There wouldn’t be individual visions but one consolidated vision give to those who ask where I am. Humans would know that I am real, not by having to develop and retool old philosophies, but by establishing one never changing philosophy. There would be no need for churches of varying types because everyone would know what I stood for and who I am.
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The Essential Humanity of Cognitive Dissonance

For more from David

We operate with several, if not hundreds, of beliefs merely by getting up in the morning. Believing in our ability to fling off the sheets, will our bodies to move and do so in a proscribed way, the capacity of our feet and legs to carry us forward, lights will turn on when switch is flipped, etc., these are all beliefs that, while unconscious, must exist to go about a morning routine. If any of those come into doubt, whether by experiential evidence or changes in mental paradigm, the entirety of a basic routine comes to a screeching halt. Thankfully this type of belief rarely faces contrary evidence. The world operates, and this is a belief as well, in a static fashion, with effects following perceived causes and experiences falling well inside acceptable levels of deviation from a perceptual norm. Generally, whether one is right or wrong about these types of belief is, by and large, of little consequence. If we were to passively accept every piece of information initially considered as contrary, our lives would be a never-ending whirlpool of changing mental structure and we’d never get anything done. Take, for instance, the belief that one’s feet and legs will operate according to personal will and propel us forward. A contrary experience is a physical stumble, yet it would be considered bizarre indeed were such an experience to be thought of as grounds for disbelieving in the capacity of physical movement.

 

When confronted with a contrary piece of experience, the process that occurs is referred to as ‘cognitive dissonance’. “Cognitive dissonance, a term coined by Leon Festinger in 1957, is the process of self-justification whereby we defend our actions and thoughts when they turn out to be wrong or, as in the case of sour grapes, ineffectual. We interpret our failure to attain a goal as actually turning out to be a good thing because, with hindsight, we reinterpret the goal as not really desirable” (Hood, 2012). Confronted with contrary information, whether by personal experience that doesn’t quite match our view of the world or by being presented with a different opinion, we will invariably seek to defend our mental space. This is not an inherently negative behavior to engage in. Were we to passively change our beliefs every time a contrary piece of information is presented, we’d never get anything done, being as we would be at the mercy of every wind of chance in our lives. It behooves us to live our lives essentially being ok with making what is referred to as Type 2 errors, i.e. believing something is true regardless of evidence to the contrary.
Continue reading “The Essential Humanity of Cognitive Dissonance”

No True Scotsman: From ISIS to Westboro to Saturday Night Live

Moderates have funny logic. “ISIS and Westboro Baptist Church are not “real” christians or muslims.”…”Sure, just like Will Ferrell and Jimmy Fallon are not “real” SNL’ers; who am I? Just some Earthling who watched an episode once.”

 

It’s quite puzzling to me why so many people act like moderates have a more respectable opinion  than fundamentalists when it comes to understanding what the holy books say. Who is going to know more – fans or super fans? Isn’t that all ISIS is after all? They really love the Qu’ran and its teachings, and now they want to turn reality into their mythological world where women are to blame for all problems (similar to the Biblical world). The majority of people who are religious moderates have never read their holy book, at least not in its entirety. Moderates claim that fundamentalists are radicals, but what they really are saying is their religion is radical, when it is followed in a fundamental way. Moderates, why do fundamentalists and cult followers have such similar behavior patterns? In other words, why is it that the closer one follows your holy book, the more delirious one appears to become?

 

Let’s look at a few other examples to demonstrate how ridiculous it is that people believe moderates have a better understanding than fundamentalists.

 

If you wanted information about Saturday Night Live, would you ask someone who watches a couple episodes a year or would you ask Will Ferrell?
Continue reading “No True Scotsman: From ISIS to Westboro to Saturday Night Live”

Moving the Values of Myth: A Reflection on Easter

© David Teachout

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From moment to moment, our lives can embody any of the multiplicity of purposes that we can identify with. The stories we tell, from socially created myths to benign exaggerations expressed to friends and colleagues, project the particular purpose we want to make front and center. This can be due to a desire to express an idea to another or to make sure we’re on the same track we first set out upon. Whatever that purpose is, the values that come along for the ride, both in the telling and the type of story chosen, do so in the form the story takes. Thankfully stories are more than single-use thought-devices, else we would never be able to reuse them or get something new regardless of repetition. Because of a shared human experience, we are able to remember lessons imparted through literature or voice because they continue to resonate with new situations. Importantly, this allows us to determine whether the form the value took before is how we’d like it to continue. Take the example of a father telling a joke, a form of story, about how he’d scare his daughter’s date with shotgun in hand. The value on hand is paternal care, a value most of us hold in some fashion and have no problem promoting. However, the form it takes in the joke makes that value so prominent that it overshadows any other, for instance respect and personal integrity. As time has gone on the joke is no longer the best form to express paternal care, precisely because the values of respect and integrity have increased in significance in association with that situation. Consider it like a movable hierarchy, where the original story form presented paternal care at the top of the pyramid and respect and integrity being derived and below it. It’s not that respect and integrity didn’t exist, it’s just that rather than being equal, they were subservient to the form of paternal care being presented.

 

I know of no situation where a person’s values have utterly disappeared, though certainly they will rise and fall in conscious consideration as time and experience go by. I grew up with stories, my father sending me and my siblings to sleep with short made-up stories that imparted humor or whatever lesson he’d considered that day. I am also a voracious reader and, like the bed-time stories the form they take has changed over the years. There came a point when the bedtime stories stopped and simplistic fiction no longer sufficed. I still held the same values of honesty and valor, dedication to an ideal and perseverance in the face of adversity, but the way those values stood in form had become more complicated. For others the original form no longer made any sense.
Continue reading “Moving the Values of Myth: A Reflection on Easter”

A Letter from the Editor

Recently a response from a dear friend of mine made its way through one of the many channels of social media and rightly states a case for introspection within our community –  a self analysis, an understanding of opposition perspective, and – most importantly – a change if deemed necessary; to refuse change would be to act with an ideology akin to what we regularly rally to ridicule and weaken.

 

The entirety of the response can be found immediately below and is being reproduced with complete consent of its author- once again, someone I respect highly and genuinely value in perspective and friendship.

 

“I found this to be an interesting article regarding Atheists. What illuminated for me was this quote, “I, for one, would just like to be able to express my views in an intelligent and heart-felt way without fear of reprisals, shunned, or otherwise being looked at as an abomination just because I do not believe in God” My assumption is the author is referring to his/her frustrations with theists when presenting his/her convictions regarding God, gods, or the lack thereof. The author emphasizes a desire for acceptance, but does not find it with theists, particularly Christians.“

 

“What strikes me about this is that the exact same sentiment is shared by Christians regarding Atheists by changing the phrase to “….because I do believe in God.” Often, the narrative of Atheists contains a tone of hubris and the assumption of undisputable intellectual high ground, while offensively attacking religion. Consider these titles from Atheist Analysis: “Ignorance Loves Ignorance, the Religious Wall Around You” , “Christianity Isn’t Irrational… It’s Worse Than That.” In my opinion, the berating tones of these titles alone quickly discredits the individual and the view they’re presenting. I make no excuse for the Christian who can’t speak truth in love, however, I believe some in the Atheist community need to apply some introspection and identify their own hypocrisy to build credibility amongst other communities in order to open a more diverse dialogue regarding the quest for truth.”

 

I agree with the majority of the message here, that we are only going to create a secular state, one of equality and hegemony, if we truly respect the thoughts and positions of those we do not agree with, on philosophical terms or otherwise, and are willing to protect their basic human rights as they would ours.  Applying the golden rule, we have to act as we would wish the rest of world to treat us.
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Being Anti-Religious Gets Us Nowhere

© David Teachout

When faced with the question of “Do you believe in God?” the immediate response should be “Which one?” This query goes to the heart of the inherent ego-centrism of the initial question. Let’s face it, the person uttering it is not at all interested in getting into a long and winding philosophical discussion about metaphysics, the nature of knowledge and the degree to which personal experience is relevant to claims about reality. No, they’re asking whether you belong with them, and by them of course is meant those who believe in their particular deity. The quizzical look that passes at the response is an indication of just how myopic their vision of human experience is, that of course when that funny three-letter word is used, particularly when capitalized, it can only mean the god they believe in. Any others are but pale human-made facsimiles.

 

The term “god” has no inherent content, it’s like a Platonic form waiting to be filled in by actual experience. At best, “god” can allude to some transcendent principle or being or experience, but beyond that there’s no details as to what any of those actually entails. As when we hear the term “chair” or “table” or “car,” we have an immediate framework for what such means and our minds supply images. Utilizing the proximity principle of cognitive heuristics, the images that come up are often what we saw last or are most often interacting with. Similar occurs then when we hear the term “god.” The mere ability to come up with an immediate image or idea in no way proves the legitimacy of that image or idea, it just points to the tendency of our minds to fill in the gaps of uncertainty. As such we can utilize god to mean anything from a transcendent principle like love or purpose (“god is love”), to a panoply of deities (Hinduism, pagan traditions, etc.), a monolithic supernatural person (Christianity, Islam, Judaism) and as synonymous with the holistic quality of being in the universe (Ernest Holmes, Jerry Goldsmith, Ralph Waldo Emerson).
Continue reading “Being Anti-Religious Gets Us Nowhere”

So, What Type of Atheist are You?

©The Unassuming Atheist

With any group of like-minded people, there are different approaches that individuals take towards the chosen topic or belief. All of us are unique and bring our particular brand of thoughts, assumptions, and conclusions to the table. Atheism is no different. There are many different types of Atheists. There are many different types of religious people, too. Let’s take Christians for example. Some are passive. Some go to church only at Easter and Christmas. Some go to church every Sunday for the social aspects, or even to network within their communities. Some go to church every Sunday with a genuine devotion to their religion. You get the idea.

 

Unfortunately, it is usually the extreme elements that get all of the attention. A self-righteous senator pushing his religious agenda. A televangelist falling from grace by soliciting a prostitute. The pastor of a “mega church” bilking followers out of millions of dollars. The wackos at the Westboro Baptist Church that picket the funerals of fallen soldiers. The latest would be the Muslim terrorists wreaking havoc all over the world. You generally do not hear much about the Christian or Muslim that quietly goes to church or mosque and practices their religion in a private way.

 

There are a few outspoken or otherwise noted Atheists that show up in the news fairly frequently. Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, and Stephen Fry come to mind. Occasionally, but not always, they tend to talk down or ridicule those of faith. Unfortunately, that is usually what makes the news. This is just the way of things for most groups. For example, celebrity scandal gets more attention than some of the charitable work that they may do. It’s what sells papers or gets clicks on websites. What about those that approach Atheism in their own unique way?
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“God is just Ego, Misspelled….My Ego has Better Credentials than your Ego.”

My Anti-theist Friend, Marchal: “God is just Ego, Misspelled….My Ego has Better Credentials than your Ego.”

 

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One of my favorite people to converse with about religion is my good buddy, Marchal. I met Marchal in college, and like me, he was getting a bachelors degree in psychology. We lost touch after Heidelberg, but we recently rekindled our friendship. He contacted me after he read a couple blog posts, he was excited to share with me that he too, is an atheist. Marchal has an interesting story as well, and I would like to share with others, some of the conversation that we recently had.

 

After Heidelberg, Marchal went to Ohio State University, where he received a PHD in psychology. Marchal did not spend any time in the field though, because after he graduated he co-founded a start up company and has been traveling the world ever since. He has spent more time in other countries, than he has in his own, over the last couple of years.

 

“What is the most frustrating thing when it comes to dealing with religious people?” Marchal asked me.

 

“Their ego. They are extremely ignorant, yet so arrogant. They believe they are entitled to whatever they want,” I replied.
Continue reading ““God is just Ego, Misspelled….My Ego has Better Credentials than your Ego.””