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”

A Couple of Hellbound Apostates Visit the Wichita Mountains

If you were expecting or even – God forbid – hoping for another rant, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news: I think I need to give it a rest for a while. I’ll say only this before taking my leave of that somewhat continuous, reiterative and baleful project: because of the way fundamentalist religious dogma with all its patriarchal connotations warped the members of my family for generations, I’m genuinely sorry I was born into that family, and somewhat resentful as well. That’s a pretty heavy thing to say, ain’t it? I have always tried to treat my son in such a way that he won’t feel about his father the way I feel about mine. Some of you who read this know full well what I mean because that’s the way you feel – and chances are, religious dogma played a role in it. Those of you who can’t imagine what it must be like to feel that way, also don’t know how lucky you are to have dodged such a bullet by a fortuitous accident of birth.

 

Now, on to brighter things. On Friday, I met my friend Nicole King (whose beautiful, thought-provoking and touching essays you’ve probably encountered on this blog) for a long-overdue visit to the Wichita Mountains in southwest Oklahoma. The Wichitas are a fascinating igneous province whose history is quite unlike that of any other mountain range known to me. It’s a series of granite outcrops that trend roughly east-west for some sixty miles from near Lawton to a bit beyond the appropriately-named town of Granite. They aren’t large as mountains go: the maximum topographical relief is probably no more than 1700 feet or so. On approaching them, one is immediately struck by the fact that there are no foothills: the massifs simply rise directly out of the surrounding plains. This is, to say the least, unusual, and there is of course a good reason for it, which I’ll get to eventually. (One will not discover that reason by reading the Holy Bible.)

 

After lunch at the celebrated restaurant in Meers – a charming establishment that occupies a ramshackle collage of old mining structures and serves up wonderful food and delicious locally-brewed beer in 22-ounce bottles – we headed up into the mountains to enjoy that great proliferation of wildflowers that has followed in the wake of unprecedented flooding in this geologically-fascinating region. The three hours we spent kicking around up there afforded a golden opportunity to revisit some of the unusual features of one of my favorite places on Earth.

 

The granite of the Wichitas has been dated to early in the Cambrian Period, about 524 MYA give or take 1.2 million either direction. That’s a very good date, established and corroborated by a number of radiometric “clocks” – various minerals (especially zircons) contained within the granite that incorporated radioactive isotopes into their structure at the time the magma chamber that produced that granite was slowly cooling under miles of overburden.
Continue reading “A Couple of Hellbound Apostates Visit the Wichita Mountains”

When Persecution Isn’t: The Technological Expansion of Ego

© David Teachout

1428593672_featuredThe seeming necessity for bonding within like-minded groups is not simply an affectation of modern society, it is foundational to being human. This selection provides a sense of safety in numbers and relatedly a continuity of experience. While the lone dissenter has attained a certain mythologizing in modern story-telling, human history is far more often about groups of like-minded people working together towards a common purpose, regardless of whether such ends up being helpful from the hindsight of the future. Thus it is in studies concerning social relationships, people often state that they like surrounding themselves with different opinions, but the reality is quite different. To be found wrong is not just a subtle shifting of one’s opinion, though to paraphrase Kathryn Schulz in her book “Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error,” there is no real feeling of being wrong because that feeling is a lot like the feeling of being right.

 

This aversion to being wrong and the desire to be right provides the emotional impetus for and the cementing of many communities. With the advent of the Internet, communities no longer need to be geographically constrained. We can find like-minded individuals scattered throughout the world, fill chat-rooms, create private groups on various social media outlets and given how search algorithms take into consideration our own personal history, even seeming objective searches for information are inevitably curbed by our biases and predilections.
Continue reading “When Persecution Isn’t: The Technological Expansion of Ego”

On the Scientific Revolution and the Journey it Demands of Us

Should any fundamentalist Christians happen to read this post, I hope you’ll find it both illuminating and entertaining.

 

For about five centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Church had an absolute lock on information so far as the Western world is concerned. (Emperor Theodosius had unwittingly seen to that by making Christianity the state religion a little over a century earlier. To this day, in secular America, there are Christians who think Theodosius had the right idea and pray for the rise of Mike Huckadosius to set things right.) That’s why we call that era the Dark Ages: it was an age of dogma and the uncritical acceptance thereof, an age of serfdom and tractable compliance therein. The prerogatives of barons and bishops went unchallenged. People’s beliefs weren’t founded on their Bible reading; they were illiterate, and they didn’t own Bibles. They just believed whatever the clergy told them to believe. And they believed in outlandish stuff, like faeries and witches and demon possession and the evil eye, in zombies and unicorns and sea monsters. Almost everyone was ignorant as shit.

 

Then after about 1000 C.E., when a calendric millennium turned without the skies being rent asunder by a rider on a white horse, and it thus became apparent that Christ’s promised return may in fact lie a long time in the future, people slowly but surely began turning outward. The earliest gains were almost exclusively mercenary, but with trade comes exposure to more of the world and a gradual relaxation of strictures, and people’s minds began to churn. But it would still be another half-millennium until the sciences were born, beginning with that first great generation of discoverers from Bacon to Newton, and including the likes of such pioneering luminaries as Galileo, Kepler, and Boyle. Despite a gradual, almost imperceptible, loosening of their shackles, most people remained ignorant as shit, and even the so-called scholars were more deeply versed in the black arts than in observable phenomena.
Continue reading “On the Scientific Revolution and the Journey it Demands of Us”

Prison, Faith, and Statistics

A look at the faith of prisoners looking for pen pals on blackandpink.org

 

It is often claimed that the US prison population is made up primarily (est. 74%) of people who ascribe to the Christian faith. I personally always felt this statistic to be a bit grandiose, even for the US.

 

When I came across the website blackandpink.org which offers people the opportunity to be a pen pal to people in prison I noticed that they allow you to select who you will correspond with based on a number of filters including race, gender, and religion.

 

I thought it might be a fun exercise to try filtering all potential pen pals by the 10 faiths listed.  Here’s how it turned out.
Continue reading “Prison, Faith, and Statistics”

An Interlude with an Atheist: Why I Collect Fossils

A brief outing/collecting trip this morning to an abandoned zinc mine near the base of the Arbuckle foldbelt near Davis, Oklahoma followed by a visit to an Ordovician-Period fossil site a little higher up the side of the anticline prompted me to think anew along the following lines:

 

The semi-chaotic stash of rocks and minerals at my house can no more properly be called a collection than those tons of materials that followed me like a bad penny between various jobs and domiciles over the course of past decades but are no longer in my possession owing to divorces, career moves, misplacement and reluctant abandonment. They are not now and never were a collection in any sense of the word that implies responsible curatorship: they are and were an accumulation of heavy, space-consuming chunks of Earth’s crust. True, they are more nearly organized at present (that is, sorted into labeled boxes) than they ever were before or ever again will be, but their sheer tonnage has most likely sealed my fate: I will eventually die in Norman, Oklahoma, for no relocation will ever again be possible.

 

I do occasionally ask myself why I do this.

 

Far be it from me to cloak with protestations of loftier motives those base impulses that actually drive me to do the things I do: I’ve always been something of a packrat, and my immediate surroundings are perpetually cluttered with scraps of lumber, discarded lawn mowers, glass bottles, rusty hand tools, bricks, lengths of twine, rope and electrical wire, railroad spikes, bolts and other curios I’ve picked up from beside the road and from piles of refuse: the detritus of civilization come home to rest with a human tumblebug (I am a paradigmatic Arkansan to the core, cinder blocks and all). My house is also littered with shells from various beaches, the cast-off skins of cicadas and snakes, countless seed pods, cones, dried flowers, leaves and fungi, driftwood, bones and teeth of every description, and most any other inviting thing I’ve had the (good?) fortune to stumble upon in my wanderings. (During one three-year period of my life, I collected so much desiccated scat from the trails in the Mark Twain National Forest – a blessedly short-lived fascination – that I could almost have opened my own turd museum.) And I haven’t even mentioned the books – not a library in any meaningful sense, but certainly an enormous accrual. The more of them I give away, the more that come home to live with me. It could well be that my rock collecting habit is no more than a subset of this more general impulse. But I think it is more.
Continue reading “An Interlude with an Atheist: Why I Collect Fossils”

Faith: It Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

© David Teachout

 

As a human being I’m interested in broadening the understanding of my experiences and increasing my knowledge by identifying what I’m ignorant of and then looking to fill in the gaps. My humanity also determines the limits to fulfilling those desires. I have particular interests by virtue of being me, not every subject draws me the same way. I have time limitations so I have to choose on a daily basis what to read, what to study and plan accordingly for the future. I have career limits, in that my professional obligations concerning psychology direct me to continued education along paths associated with it and not, say, that of electrical engineering. I also, though this is controversial and not without a great number of caveats, have limitations on my intelligence; there are items I study which I struggle to understand while other people have already passed me by. All of these limits are part of being human, but none of them determine prior to the inquiry itself whether I could understand by virtue of that very humanity, they are only particular limits of my own.

 

9d488c4dd6b949416c85906c5bd7a4c3d3163632d5606a6a068e487c0f3a2d73

As an atheist I am confronted often by the simple declaration from religious adherents of “you have faith too” or in its more arrogantly adolescent form: “it takes more faith to be an atheist.” The confusing nature of this argument becomes immediately obvious when I inquire as to just what is meant, resulting in some example of the form: “you have faith that x will happen” where “x” is filled in by the sun rising tomorrow, the continued love of friends and family, or other such. From the days of my own belief, I can recall the apologetic of referencing wind or air when attempting to describe how the Holy Spirit works. Then, as now, the response to such attempts is to point out that the examples being referenced are not at all comparable.
Continue reading “Faith: It Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means”

Atheists Can Be Moral: Definitions Make All the Difference.

It is often claimed by theists that atheists are incapable of being moral, because atheists lack a “moral authority.” I was recently confronted with the notion that it is possible for me to practice “good ethics”, but not possible for me to be moral, because I don’t have an acting moral authority, outside myself.

 

I don’t want to beat around the bush too much, so here are some definitions:

 

mor·al

Pronunciation: mr-l, mär-

Function: adjective

1 a : of or relating to the judgment of right and wrong in human behavior : ETHICAL b :expressing or teaching an idea of right behavior <a moral poem> c : agreeing with a standard of right behavior : GOOD <moral conduct> d : able to choose between right and wrong

2 : likely but not proved : VIRTUAL <a moral certainty>

 

moral

Function: noun

1 : the lesson to be learned from a story or an experience

2 plural : moral conduct <a high standard of morals>

3 plural : moral teachings or rules

 

eth·i·cal

Pronunciation: eth-i-kl

Function: adjective

1 : of or relating to ethics

2 a : following accepted rules of conduct b : following professional standards of conduct

3 : sold only on a doctor’s prescription <ethical drugs>

 

eth·ics

Pronunciation: eth-iks

Function: noun singular or plural

1 : a branch of philosophy dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation

2 : the rules of moral conduct governing an individual or a group

 

Now that we have the definitions right in front of us, the theist’s argument doesn’t hold water. The definition of moral has the word “ethical” right in it. Moral and ethical are synonyms.

 

Let’s refer to: moral 1 : the lesson to be learned from a story or an experience

It clearly states that morals can be learned via a story or through experience. Theists claim to learn their morals by way of reading their holy books. Atheists obtain their morals by way of life experiences. Whether those experiences be their own or experiences they’ve witnessed or read about, atheists are learning from experiences. Which means, atheists are moral.

 

Now for: eth·ics 2 : the rules of moral conduct governing an individual or a group

 

The definition of ethics clearly states it is possible for an individual to have one’s own set of moral rules governing one’s conduct.  Thus, atheists can be are moral. Words mean what they mean, whether you like the definition or not.

 

 

Determinism: Weather, Chaos, and the Human Mind

The weather is an incredibly complex system; it fluctuates, it moves, it reacts, and it behaves in certain ways. The weather can also be modeled by certain equations that predict its behaviour; when specific conditions are put in place, the weather will behave accordingly. Similarly, when different numbers are put into the equation you’ll end up with different outputs. The weather forecast is fundamentally uncertain because the weather is so complex it seems impossible to predict its behaviour with certain accuracy. However, imagine if one had all of the information relating to the set of starting conditions the weather behaved on. They would know the starting position of every molecule, the starting position of every atom, and every force acting upon such subatomic particles. Equations that perfectly model the weather could be put together if one had all of this information.

 

Meteorologists have been trying to construct better and better equations modeling the weather for decades, among them the famous mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz. Edward was trying to construct equations modeling the weather when he came to the realization that the weather’s behavior relies heavily on its initial conditions, thus making long term predictions for the weather’s behavior is foolish. Even the slightest variation in the starting position of each molecule in the atmosphere could make the weather behave in a different way, the error would magnify over time as the particles continued to move and collide. It was this incredible unpredictability that gave the weather its properties, and Edward Lorenz would call this the butterfly effect. The butterfly effect is the event in which a small change in a complex system can have much larger implications further down the road.
Continue reading “Determinism: Weather, Chaos, and the Human Mind”

Godless Offerings 20 & 21: Debunking Capital Punishment and Approaching Sexism


Godless Mom from Godless Mom Blog talks to us about debunking pro capital punishment arguments. She feels there are no good arguments to support capital punishment.

If you liked this check out the full episode here: http://youtu.be/UGUmVpZgqNU

 

Aubrey Adrianson from Godless Family gives us her views on a grassroots approach to correcting sexism. She gives us some tips for anyone to use to help correct the sexist views that many people hold they may not even realize.
Continue reading “Godless Offerings 20 & 21: Debunking Capital Punishment and Approaching Sexism”