Update

Hey folks,  It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  I’ve been dealing with some personal issues.  A lot has been happening, but I’ve been having trouble with motivation.  That probably has to do with the fact that I have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder.  I think it’s got a lot to do with my religious upbringing, among other things.  I have been on medication for the last month and it seems to be helping.  I finally get to meet with my therapist for the first time tomorrow.  Hopefully she will help me start working on some of my issues.  This is a big step for me.

Among other things going on…

I got to go to the launch party for Ryan Bell’s new initiative, Life After God.  I took my wife (who is still a christian) and she did the most amazing thing.  When Ryan asked for people to give their opinions on what the movement should focus on, she got up in front of a bunch of atheists and said that she thinks there needs to be more support for people coming out of religion who are still married to religious spouses.  That blew me away!  I was really having doubts about our relationship until that moment.  Sure, there are still things we need to work through, but that’s coming along.

Neil Carter of Godless in Dixie was there and he took a few moments to speak with me and my wife.  He is such an amazing person for caring enough to take the time to give us some advice and try to help us out.  I cannot say enough how thankful I am.  He recommended we read the book In Faith and In Doubt together.  We have started reading it and making notes.  Amazing stuff!  I really think this is going to start some conversations that will improve our relationship and help us for the long run.

There were several other people I met who made a tremendous impact on me.  Cass Midgley of the podcast Everyone’s Agnostic spent some time talking with us.  What a great guy.  He offered to have us on the podcast, but I haven’t contacted him as of yet.  I may do that as soon as I am finished writing this post.

We also met one of the guests that Cass had on his show, Hugh Mann.  He has a great story to tell that shows just how difficult it is to be a nonbeliever in the general area I live in.  What a great guy!

Another great thing that happened just this Saturday was a conversation with my little sister.  She is the one who is no longer a oneness pentecostal, but she is still very christian and very conservative.  Recently she asked me how church was and I told her that I hadn’t been going.  Well, this last Saturday while talking to her she asked whether I was an atheist or an agnostic or what.  I came out and told her point blank that I was both.  To my surprise she said she loves me anyway and she doesn’t want this to mess up our relationship.  She also made a comment that makes me think that my dad will be OK with my non-belief as well, but that is another conversation I will have to have later.

The last thing I’d like to mention is that I received David Silverman’s new book, Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World.  I read it in about two days (in my free time) and I can now say, “I get it!”  I understand why he seems so confrontational.  It’s all about equality.  If you are a closeted atheist, or any stripe of nonbeliever, you should seriously consider reading this book.  He talks about the reasons American Atheists do what they do and how it helps all of us who are nonreligious.  As a result of reading this book, I joined American Atheists, and I have some advocacy plans (tentative) for the Freethinkers Meet-Up group I fellowship with.  I haven’t discussed it with them yet, but I think they will be on board.

That’s what’s been going on with me.  Sorry for taking so long to post.  I think I’m back on the uphill.

The Dangers of Fundamentalism

I was listening to Seth Andrews last night on the way home from the university and some of the comments from the ex-muslims he had on the show got me to thinking.  Some of the things they were saying about how muslims defend their religion sounded identical to the things christians say to defend theirs.  One of the main things that stuck with me is when one of the guests related the fear his parents had when, in his teens, he became more fundamentalist muslim than he was raised by his parents.

I started thinking about how the fundamentalist muslims are almost the same as fundamentalist christians.  Think about it: they both love their god to the exclusion of all else, they cannot make a proper defense for why they believe in their religion, and they are willing to defend their religion to the death.  ISIS is a prime example of this, as are the branch davidians who perished at Waco.  Fundamentalists get extremely protective and clan-like.  They are suspicious and fearful of outsiders.  They are are quick to believe almost anything their leadership tells them without evidence.  And when something happens that they see as intolerable, they go off like a firecracker.

I keep thinking about the Hatfields and the McCoys and their feud that happened in Virginia some years ago.  I know that they weren’t necessarily fundamentalist christians, but they were very clan-like and unquestioning of their leadership.  That’s the main reason that they ended up killing so many of each other.  That’s exactly the way the fundamentalist muslims are with their inter-group hatred and destruction of each other.  That’s exactly the way fundamentalist christians would be if we let them have free range to do whatever they wanted to do.

I read this article about the intelligence levels of conservatives and liberals a few days ago and it appears to bring a little understanding to this phenomenon.  I’m not sure if the smarter people are more likely to eschew fundamentalism and conservatism, or if fundamentalism and conservatism cause lower intelligence, but it seems to me that those who adopt a conservative or fundamentalist worldview seem to shut off their ability to question and think for themselves about empathy for others, the ramifications of their actions as a group, and the ability to weigh evidence of any kind in general.

I’m not sure what can be done about it.  As I was speaking to my class last night, I mentioned that as future teachers, they were the key to the future of our society.  They are the ones who will be teaching our next generations.  I tried to make them understand that it was in their hands to teach our kids to be able to think critically and creatively and weigh the evidence to be able to change the world.  After all, isn’t that what this is all about; making the world a better place than it is now?  If we don’t teach people, not just our kids, to be critical, creative thinkers who are able to go beyond what we can imagine, we are all doomed.  Thankfully there are those among us who are able to do this.  And to you who fit this description, I say Keep It Up.  Don’t give in to the lies and hate and backasswardness of the fundamentalist mindset.  Keep thinking for yourselves and questioning everything.

*steps off of soapbox

Building My Post-Christian Community

I’ve been thinking about the concept of community lately.  I think it’s because I miss the weekly social interaction I had when attending church.  Even so, I’m not so sure that was really the best kind of “community”, and I think I was looking for something more fulfilling even when I was in church.

Community is roughly defined as a group of people with similar interests (like religion) or people who live in the same society.  The dictionary definition really seems to sum up the experiences I had with community in the church.  It seemed like we all would see each other on Sundays and Wednesdays, sing some songs, listen to the preacher, shake hands, make small talk, and then go our ways.  Many people didn’t seem to care anything about the rest of your life or your interests outside the walls of the church.  Sometimes there were other functions sponsored by the church- a cookout, a movie night, bowling… whatever, but again, it was “if you show up, great, if not, so what.”

It seems to me that real community cares about others, their lives, their interests, and who they really are.  And that’s what I have been looking for.

About a month ago, I was sitting at my local pub enjoying a craft beer.  This is something I’ve been doing for over a year now on most Fridays after work.  It’s a small place, and everyone seems to know each other.  There is aways stimulating conversation and something interesting going on.  When regulars walk in the door, they are usually greeted by name.  On more that one occasion, someone has made the statement, “I feel like I’m in an episode of Cheers.” Anyway, I was sitting there, talking with a couple who is usually there at the same time as me, when another regular walks in.  He sits down and joins the conversation.  After a while, he switches over to the seat next to me.  We start talking and before I know it, he asks me to join a group of guys who play disc golf on Sunday afternoons.  I’ve never played disc golf, but it seemed like a fun way to pass the time, so we exchanged info.

That Sunday, we all meet up at the park and play a round of disc golf.  Needless to say, I sucked at it, being my first time and all, but I enjoyed it.  Of the four of us who showed up, three were beginners, and one was actually pretty good.  He showed us the ropes and gave us pointers on some of the more difficult shots.  After the round, we walked over to the pub across the street from the park (pretty convenient, eh?) and drank beers and had some appetizers.

The next week, we did it again, but it rained, so we just sat in the pub and talked (beers, etc.)

The next week I was out of town, but everyone else played.

Then two days ago, I went and played again.

Every time I’ve gone, there have been different people.  Mostly the same, but the group changes slightly each time.  What happens though is starting to feel like community.  We hang out, have fun, have real conversations about the rest of our lives, and even break bread together, although it’s usually “liquid bread”.  These guys are normal people with no agenda (unlike church people) and they seem to be interested in the things important to each other.  There have been conversations about each of our jobs, families, and other things we care about.  One of the guys invited me and the wife to a get-together at his house.  We met some other interesting people and actually hung out until midnight talking politics, canning and pickling, and dirt bikes.

So is this real community?  i don’t know. But it seems more authentic that what I had at church.  And there’s no reason to pretend I believe that exact same thing as everyone else.

Last night I was messing around on the Internet when I came across this thing called Sunday Assembly.  This looks interesting. It’s been described as “atheist church”.  Apparently the founders wanted a community of like-minded people to be able to come together and share common pursuits with, similar to the way they did in church.  So they came up with the concept of something similar to a church, but without religion.  So they meet in an auditorium, sing songs, listen to people speaking, have a moment of self-reflection, and share snacks: everything you do in church, except god.  They try not to make this about anti-religion, but about celebrating life.  They try to keep it positive.  Here’s a quick article and video about it.

This sounds interesting.  This might be something I’d like to experience.  I actually looked for a local group, but the closest one is ninety miles away.  Maybe one weekend I’ll take a road trip to see what it’s all about.

Either way, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.  I think that the strength of a community lies in its members and how they contribute to the community.  Relationships, after all, are between people, and if people don’t want to tend a relationship, the relationship will be weak.  I realize this statement can be self-applied to my previous christian relationships, but frankly, I hadn’t had any common belief to them for quite a while.  Now that I have people with common beliefs, I feel like I can built relationships and a community that is authentic and right for me.