Hello Atheisterinos and others,
First, what I’m reading now (or technically just finished reading). Killer Stuff and Tons of Money by Maureen Stanton, which I found out about when the author came to speak about the book at my local library. Since I love antiques, flea markets, etc., this was pretty interesting. All the same, I’m glad I don’t try to make my living dealing with antiques and whatnot, since it sounds quite difficult. The early morning schedules alone would do me in. All this is getting me excited about going to the Brimfield antique and flea market, which I’ve gone to three times already.
I have a thing for antiques (not usually “fine” antiques, but more in the way of things you can actually live with that aren’t too expensive) and today took my baby, Jessica, to a new-to-me place in Manchester, New Hampshire, MillCity Antiques and Consignment. I am not getting kickbacks for saying this, but what a great place! I loved everything I saw so much, I think I want to move in. I especially loved the industrial items. Is it me, or is “industrial chic” a thing now? When did that happen?
When Jessica learns to talk, it’s just a matter of time before she complains about me dragging her to all these places.
On a completely different note, I’ve never been all that interested in celebrity gossip, but I like to gawk at the pictures of stars without their make-up, like these. Maybe it makes me feel superior for a few minutes or maybe it’s just schadenfreude to see the mighty fall. Of course, it’s possible that these photos are doctored to make the stars less attractive for my entertainment purposes.
All that aside, though, where are the men? You just know that guys like Sean Connery and Pierce Brosnan look like corpses without their make-up. I realize that physical attractiveness is a more important attribute in a woman, but surely it counts for something in men with these careers. So come on, paparazzi– don’t be sexist. How does Brad Pitt look when he rolls out of bed?
Sometimes in the tangents and fun I have on this blog, I forget why I started it in the first place: to illustrate how atheists are hated in America. Apparently, we’re just as bad as rapists.
Someone in my local atheist group responded, “Just re-affirms my personal belief that I’m included in a group that’s more hated than any other race, religion, gender (or sex) or sexual orientation, Also, the most publicly accepted prejudice.” Another commented, “But if it is true that the hatred is even more than the hatred against rapists, I really want to know exactly who are those people who trust rapists! If such people really exist, that should be more disturbing than anything else, don’t you think?”
There are a lot of issues at play here. Who trusts rapists at all would be a good one. Is the experiment the article is about valid? Would people really be just as (un)comfortable hiring a rapist as an atheist for a high-trust job such as childcare? And if childcare is a high-trust job, why doesn’t it pay better?
Food for thought!
Including some unexpected atheists.
Right now I’m reading Ingrid Ricks’s Hippie Boy, her memoirs of growing up in a religious Mormon family. More on that later.
1. Paul Giamatti – Giamatti is known for his outstanding roles as a supporting actor. In a 2006 interview, Giamatti stated that he is an atheist. Although his wife is Jewish and his son is being raised Jewish, he noted in the interview that he might influence his son’s beliefs: “I’m waiting for my time to step in and tell him how things really are but I’ll do that when he’s a teenager. I figure he’ll be ripe for atheism when he’s a teenager.”
2. Sir Ian McKellen – Known for his outstanding work on the stage and in film for diverse roles such as King Lear, Gandalf, and Magneto, McKellen is noted for saying, “I’m an atheist. So God, if She exists, isn’t really a part of my life.” He came out in 1988 and has been a prominent LGBT rights activist.
3. Eva Green – She is best known as the smoldering Bond girl of Casino Royale. Eva is actually a French actress who speaks English fluently. She was raised as an atheist and starred in the film, The Golden Compass, which is based on a young adult novel by atheist author Philip Pullman.
4. Mark Zuckerberg – The co-founder and CEO of Facebook has “atheist” listed for his religious views on Facebook, although he was raised Jewish. He was named Time magazine’s person of the year in 2010 and is the world’s youngest billionaire.
5. Hugh Laurie – Like his cynical TV character, Dr. Gregory House, Laurie is a self-proclaimed atheist. In a 2007 interview, he said, “I don’t believe in God, but I have this idea that if there were a God, or destiny of some kind looking down on us, that if he saw you taking anything for granted he’d take it away. So he’ll be like: ‘You think this is going pretty well?’ Then he’ll go and send down some big disaster.”
6. Woody Allen – The neurotic director is of Jewish ethnic descent but declares himself as an atheist. He has made numerous witticisms on the subject, such as, “Not only is there no God, but try finding a plumber on Sunday.”
7. Julianne Moore – When asked what God would say to her when she appeared before him in heaven during a 2002 interview on Inside the Actor’s Studio, she said, “Well, I guess you were wrong, because I do exist.” She is also a pro-choice and LGBT activist.
8. Roger Ebert – Perhaps the most famous of film critics, Ebert is slowly dying of thyroid cancer, but has stated the he does not fear death. In an article about his beliefs in 2009, he wrote, “I have never said, although readers have freely informed me I am an atheist, an agnostic, or at the very least a secular humanist–which I am. If I were to say I don’t believe God exists, that wouldn’t mean I believe God doesn’t exist. Nor does it mean I don’t know, which implies that I could know.”
9. Stephen Hawking – Hawking has been a longtime proponent of the extraneousness of a belief in God. He first raised the prospect of a self-creating universe in his best-selling book, A Brief History of Time, which was published in 1988. In his 2010 book, The Grand Design, he wrote, “The question is: is the way the universe began chosen by God for reasons we can’t understand, or was it determined by a law of science? I believe the second.”
10. Angelina Jolie – Jolie has stated that she does not identify with any religion because she doesn’t feel the need for a God and dislikes authority-based religion. Her equally good-looking partner, Brad Pitt, has been noting as saying he is 20% atheist and 80% agnostic. In another interview, Angelina mentioned that she and Brad are raising their six children to respect all religions and they have a bookshelf in their house with a Bible, a Torah, a Koran, and other religious books.
Patricia Duggan has a Masters in Psychology and has been in practice for 12 years. She runs the site Psychology Degree Finder. She writes about various subjects within psychology.
Let’s not forget that the point of Not My God is that in the US, atheists are hated and persecuted. As Stephen Colbert said about distrusted people according to polls, “I wouldn’t trust a Muslim any more than I could throw him at an atheist.”
Do a search on Google or YouTube for “hate atheists” or some such and you’ll come up with a lot of hatred for (not so much of) atheists. People don’t like us, or at least not yet. If and when we become a larger group to contend with, perhaps the hatred will abate into reluctant tolerance. If we become a majority, Darwin willing, we can’t bloody well hate ourselves, can we?
Let’s not forget.
First of all, please check out my guest posts on David Orenstein’s blog, Paleolibrarian:
Libraries and the Homeless
My Dad on “Teaching the Controversy”
David was kind enough to write a guest post for me. Cheers!
Atheism as Personal Choice
I became an atheist at the age of 8. I think I chose not to believe because I never really thought the supernatural was special in any way. Don’t get me wrong, I had and still have an active imagination and I loved reading comic books about the exploits of Superman and his ilk. But religion and god belief never seemed to make sense to me from a practical point of view.
In the end, as I look back on my choice, I think that I’ve always been a person without religious faith. However, I do have faith in humanity and I remain optimistic even though there is plenty of evidence for great sadness in our world. I believe at its root, this sadness is caused by some form of religious philosophy, sectarian violence or god worship.
But let’s get back to my atheist journey. When I was a pre-teen, I became ill with rheumatic fever. The infection left me with both a damaged mitral and aortic valve. I thought if there was a god and if he was a kind and loving deity, why would he hurt me so? After all, as a child, I never did anything to hurt him or anyone. Why if god controls all, do I have to suffer or for that matter why does anyone have to suffer. If god is so powerful, why not just fix everything. Then I realized in my own words, what Woody Allen said years after, “It ‘s not that god isn’t all powerful it’s just that he is an underachiever.” As a fellow Jew from Brooklyn, I get the joke and the pathos of Allen’s comment.
So in 1979 at the age of 17, I underwent open-heart surgery to replace my aortic valve. They put in a porcine valve (a fancy way of saying “pig”) and so while I was no longer Kosher (not that I ever was) at least my short life was extended a little longer. That was, up until 1987, when the porcine valve calcified and a new non-organic value was put in its place. Both times I was told that my family and friends prayed for my survival. Each time I went under the knife I neither prayed nor pleaded with “god” to spare me. Frankly, I was more concerned with the job experience of the heart surgeon than I was hoping for divine salvation.
I guess you can say that my heart surgeries were a form of battle, and in that case I can assure you that there are atheists in foxholes, because I am and will always be a non-believer. I choose atheism because I have never seen evidence to contradict my belief that there is a god. So if there isn’t a god, it follows that there is no need for a religious or spiritual life. It also follows that one can and will act morally and with kindness to others even without the threat or reliance on god or a theistic philosophy.
The great Carl Sagan is quoted as saying, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Without evidence, humans backslide into a Paleolithic set of beliefs which existed way before science could show us that the natural world and the mechanics of the universe are knowable. But the physical world can and is testable, it can be understood through human invention and inquiry. New discoveries in all scientific disciplines are being made daily.
Frankly, what I knew as a little boy I know as an adult man. There is no need for god. We have science and the scientific method to fill in the gaps of our understanding and more importantly to explore what we don’t know. So long as we can test the mechanics of the universe we can ensure that what we do know is valid while at the same time question and continue to make discoveries to enliven our world.
I have a confession to make: I’ve never read the Koran. Nor have I read the Old Testament cover to cover. I’ve never read the New Testament. What I know about Christian myth I’ve mostly gotten through Osmosis and the Charlie Brown Christmas Special.
Still, one doesn’t have to have read the Koran to know that suras (passages) are a plenty which order Muslims to do what I think of as terrible things, and which most people in free, democratic societies would detest. Many people deny that Muslim extremists are only doing what their holy books tell them to do. Then again, some Western apologists allow that we should let Muslims do whatever they want in the name of tolerance, no matter how awful. For example, female genital mutilation has no mention in the Koran, but many non-Muslims advocate that we should let people in Western nations do it in the name of “tolerance.” I ain’t much tolerant of so-called “tolerance.”
Point is, many people claim that the horrors of which Islam is capable aren’t true to Islam.
Back to the suras. Here are a few that, if Muslims do follow them because they are in the Koran, justify some horrible behavior.
From New World Encyclopedia:
Kill the pagans wherever you may find them…(Sura 8:58)
Remember your Lord inspired the angels with the message: “I am with you: give firmness to the Believers: I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: you smite them above their necks and smite all their finger-tips off them.” (Sura 8:58)
The infidels should not think that they can get away from us. Prepare against them whatever arms and weaponry you can muster so that you may terrorize them. (Sura 8:58).
From Howie Unveils God:
4:15 As for those of your women who are guilty of lewdness, call to witness four of you against them. And if they testify (to the truth of the allegation) then confine them to the houses until death take them or (until) Allah appoint for them a way (through new legislation).
24:2 The adulterer and the adulteress, scourge ye each one of them (with) a hundred stripes. And let not pity for the twain withhold you from obedience to Allah, if ye believe in Allah and the Last Day. And let a party of believers witness their punishment.
And so on.
If you take the Koran literally, and follow its rules and commandments, are you a monster? As they say in Minnesota, you betcha.
Jews and Christians who are alert must know that distasteful passages exist in their holy books that do not belong in the modern world. They either obey them selectively (cherry-pick), or say the passages don’t apply. I think we’ve all heard of some Christians who defend their homophobia by quoting Leviticus, but don’t stand by or know about not wearing mixed fibers, abstaining from shellfish, etc.
Just because suras are in the Koran doesn’t mean adherents have to follow them any more so than Jews shouldn’t wear mixed fibers. Muslims do awful things because it is written, but Christians and Jews, percentage-wise, don’t seem to not follow things to the letter.
A had a friend who I’ll call Jane who, while charming, friendly and lovely, was on the gullible side. She and I didn’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, including Tarot card readings.
Once Jane, who was raised Catholic, although I don’t know how much she practiced at the time, told me, “It isn’t hard to be an atheist. It’s harder to have faith.”
On one hand, I saw, and still see, Jane’s point. It’s hard to have faith in the face of no evidence that god(s) exist. Faith, almost by definition, requires one to believe something in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Christians who believe in “intelligent design” do so in spite of oceans (or primordial soups) of evidence. They say that their faith is just as valid as our evidence.
Still, that’s not what I thought Jane meant, and I said,
“Jane, I like you, but I disagree. It is easy to go with the flow and believe in god because that’s what you’ve been told to do all your life and because it’s what everyone else does. It’s a lot harder to think about it and ask questions. It’s a lot harder if you might get ostracized because you asked those questions.”
I swam upstream, I suppose is what I was trying to tell her… you didn’t.
And just because I can now post media again, enjoy this video just for our enlightenment.
Ironically, I really wanted to be a cartoonist when I was a kid, but today, I don’t know how to draw cartoons that look, you know, professional, and I don’t have whatever software/equipment they use in order to post their work directly online. That said, as a writer, I have lots of great ideas for cartoons, so cartoonist Jeffrey Watson of Ape Not Monkey fame and I put our heads together. Hopefully there will be many more of these to come; I have lots of ideas and Jeff is very talented, as you can see. Here are the fruits of our heathenistic labor,
(Due to software problems, I can’t embed the cartoons, so please follow the links.)
Obviously, these are all based on the same idea: how religious people cherry pick the parts of religion, the bible, and occasionally science, that they like best and disregard what doesn’t sit well.
While I’m discussing other talents in the atheist/skeptic world, please check out Aussie Jake Farr-Wharton’s Imaginary Friends podcast. Please tell him that I sent you there.
On my recent honeymoon in Hawaii, I did something I’ve always wanted to do: swim with a dolphin. Her name was Punahele. I got to pet her and ride on her pectoral fins. A lot of people on the tour were Japanese, and I joked to Andy that they wanted to “pet ‘em before they eat ‘em.”
While Americans find whales and dolphins utterly charming, Japanese find them utterly delicious, even in a day and age when the developed world is allegedly more sensitive to the plight of endangered species, especially the cute and beautiful ones. (Lookisism knows no bounds.) According to the Complaints Choir of Tokyo, “Whales and dolphins are delicious! Please understand Japanese culture.”
I mentioned this to my mother when I was describing my dolphin adventure. She forwarded me this petition to stop the Japanese from killing cetaceans:
There are only 300 northern right whales left, and 99% of blue whales have been wiped out. These majestic giants are endangered species, and their case is being played out across the world, time and again. In fact, one third of all life forms on the planet are on the brink of extinction.
The natural world is being crushed by human activity, waste and exploitation. But there is a plan to save it — a global agreement to create, fund and enforce protected areas covering 20% of our lands and seas by 2020. And right now, 193 governments are meeting in Japan to address this crisis.”
This made me wonder why the Japanese in particular are insensitive to endangered animals. Sure, they find whales delicious, but many people have laid off delicious yet endangered species in the name of avoiding extinction. Many countries have historically hunted whales (that’s mainly why they are endangered in the first place), but Japan alone insists on whaling today.
I told my mom that I was skeptical that a petition would help, but I still wished the Japanese would stop killing cetaceans. I love animals in general, but have always been particularly soft about whales and dolphins. Mom wrote, “It might be hard to reconcile your love of Japanese culture with their bloodthirsty ways…….”
I responded, “As for Japan, no one is perfect. Don’t forget, they sided with the Nazis once, though I’m sure they regret it now. I also don’t dig their perversions, such as the market for used schoolgirls’ panties. You can get them in vending machines in Tokyo. No, I’m not kidding. And from what I hear, it’s perfectly common for men to date young teenage girls. This is not to discount the gifts that Japan has given to the world.”
In the past, I’ve referred to the Japanese, half-kiddingly, as “Those wacky perverts,” while shaking my head and smiling. But back to the whales.
Japanese whaling isn’t even the worst example of this, but I think it’s dangerous to defend one’s hideous practices in the name of “culture.” I mean “hideous” as in wiping out beautiful marine mammal species in order to satisfy the palette. There are worse things. Female genital mutilation comes to mind.
Most damning of all is that Japanese actively encourage eating whale meat as part of maintaining a cultural legacy, as if we were talking about origami:
“Japan has also cited its long history as a whaling nation and its historic reliance on whale meat for protein as reasons why it should be continued to allow to hunt despite the ban. But consumption has become so negligible that, in 2007, local governments had to encourage schools to incorporate whale in their lunch programs, while thousands of tons of whale meat remain stockpiled in freezers, according to Time Magazine.” (Emphasis mine.)
Japan, improve your image to the world and eat something else.
PS: I know that not all Japanese think whaling is OK, so don’t point it out:)
Confession: I know little about Eastern religion. It’s not that I’ve avoided it; it’s just that it rarely comes to my attention. That’s probably a good thing going for it. After all, if Eastern religion isn’t causing problems newsworthy enough to get to me, that means it’s doing all right, since no news is good news. Or so goes my reasoning.
While I do have at least one former Hindu lined up for a Not My God interview, I want to know more about former Buddhists, Taoists, Shintoists, Confucionists, whatever else is out there. I haven’t met too many of you, and I’ve even been to Japan, which at least used to be a Shintoist country (I didn’t really meet anyone who practiced, although I did muchly enjoy the beautiful temples).
So please reply to this post. Or just contact me through the link on the upper right side bar.
Meanwhile, here’s some “dirt” on Eastern religion.
I’m aware enough to know that the Islam-Hinduism conflict in India resulted in violence on both sides. Extreme Hindus called for death of Muslims, although I’m tempted to say that Islam “started it.” Still, this hostility may surprise Americans, many of whom perceive Hinduism as inherently peaceful.
“Buddhism also has to contend with its own extremists. A group known as the Armed Front for the Defense of Sinhalese has been connected to violence against Muslims in Sri Lanka. Many Sinhalese, who are mostly Buddhists, see themselves engaged in a struggle for political and economic power against the minority Tamils, who are mostly Hindus. This has led some to resort to violence to advance the cause of Buddhists in the region.
Just kidding. This is Not My God, a site for the personal aspect of atheism. I'm putting together a book with that title, having already 20 interviews lined up, but I still want to hear from more of you.
I've expanded the blog to include material not related to atheism, including rants, raves, consumer issues, curmudgeonly matters and other miscellany.
Read more about Not My God on the About page
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