Doctrine without Premise

Recently a friend of mine was baptized at his local church. This wouldn’t be interesting but he’s someone who I would have considered to be on the cusp and definitely leaning towards atheism than theism.
I, of course, had to wonder if he simply did it for his wife. He assures me that he didn’t but even so it got me thinking.

Can one believe the doctrine, the basic principles, of a religion without believing in their god?

I feel the answer should be a resounding “NO” but then I see proclaimed Christians picking a choosing what parts of the doctrine they believe in. Some say the bible is allegory. Some say it should be taken literally as written. Some just spout off John 3:16, claim Jesus as their savior and from there everything else can be forgiven. So why couldn’t I do the same while maintaining my disbelief in any god?

Answers from an Atheist Part 3

Q:  Are most atheists really contemptuous of believers?

 

A: I think that the answer is there are, per-capita, as many assholes on the Atheist side of the fence as there are on the Christian side of the fence.

So no, most atheists are not contemptuous of believers.  Most just want to be left alone to not believe what they want to not believe much like Christians just want to be allowed to believe what they want to believe.  I think we all are fine with that (by all I mean both Atheists and Christians.)

When atheists get contemptuous is when Christians try to force us to abide by your rules.  Things like gay marriage and abortion come to mind as the biggest hot topics. Nationwide laws shouldn’t be passed that are based on any religion because not everyone in this country is the same religion.  Heck even Christians do not all practice their faith the same or believe the same things.  Case in point – Mormonism.  Mormon’s are Christians.  They just have additional scriptures they follow than other Christians.  Most people would be very upset if we were passing laws that banned Coffee because the Mormon’s don’t believe you should drink hot caffeinated beverages (and FYI that belief is because caffeine is a drug and the high amounts you get from coffee are addictive, and drugs are abusing your body which should be treated as a temple – so not a ridiculous belief).

Another reason why it might seem that Atheists are contemptuous to Christians is media portrayal.  Since the majority of the country are Christians it makes sense that when Atheists file suits against having another’s beliefs forced on them it makes headlines.  There are rarely headlines that focus on the amount of money Bill Gates donates to pretty much everyone despite being an Atheist. The media likes to portray things in a way that will get them ratings.  Compare the coverage of any news story on both Fox and CNN and you will get a different spin.  It also gets blown out of proportion as if it is the Atheist plan to have a fully secular planet.  Though some may feel that way most don’t.

Personally, I had been sucked into the internet vortex of Christians.  The internet is a place where it is easy to become a jerk to others because you feel like you are just talking to a computer screen.  So the worst of what people think and feel can come out on the internet.  It is easy to decide that all Christians (or Atheists) are this or that and feel a deep sense of dislike for them as a group when all you have are stereotypes and the hate-filled ramblings of some.

Once you start putting names and faces to internet profiles its harder to dislike people who really are pretty much just like you.

Answers from an Atheist Part 2

Q:  What do you think is the “final straw” that causes most atheists to become atheists?

 

A:  I always like this assumption – that there was a “final straw.”  I think for most atheists there was no defining moment where they were like “Oh hey this god stuff is bullshit.  I am done with it.”

Sure I do think there are some people who have things happen in their life that are so drastic and life altering that they literally do lose their religion.  This is especially true when they would have been considered good christians and who prayed and asked for god to help them and nothing happened.  When you are told that your prayers will be answered and they aren’t you tend to think its a bunch of lies especially if it happens over and over.  So you either have to believe you aren’t good enough for god to answer your prayers, you didn’t pray enough or that there is no god listening.

I didn’t have a “final straw” moment.  I did have a moment where  logical things I had seen that drew me towards Mormonism became the logic that pushed me out the door.  Sometimes I think I should have the missionaries over to discuss this and see what they have to say about it.  Even so that moment didn’t make me have a sudden disbelief in god though it did provide a loophole in which to take a look deep inside myself.  It still took a few years before I was able to actually define the feelings I had been having about god.

Its incredibly hard to be raised to believe in this god  in a country where everyone seems to believe in it too and have doubts.  I truly believe there are many people out there who say they believe in god simply because everyone else does.  Peer pressure is incredibly hard to overcome.
I think that more likely Atheists’ “final straw” is more a coming out – when they are finally fed up with hearing things like “it was in god’s plan” or “god is good” or just any of the other things that are thrown out on a daily basis by well meaning Christians.  So then they post it on facebook , or tell their family and there is a relief to be able to be who you are and openly (maybe) not believe in what everyone else seems to believe in.

Becoming Atheist is a process of introspection and logical and reasonable thinking over time but coming out as an atheist is the “final straw”

Answers from an Atheist part 1

I guess either no one really reads this anymore – and can I blame anyone when I have barely been posting? Or every one who is Christian isn’t actually interested in getting to understand the other view. Or you feel like you have heard it all already.  Whatever the reason – it’s ok.  So there were not many questions but I am going to spread them out over a few posts because no one wants to read a novel here.

Q: If I’m recalling correctly, you said earlier that you *wanted* to believe. What percentage of atheists do you think feel this way? Do you still feel that way yourself (again, if I am remembering correctly)?

A:  When I say that I “want” to believe it is because it would be infinitely easier to feel that I wasn’t in control of my life sometimes.  Oh that bad thing that happened? It’s god’s plan, not my fault.  For example when Jack fell off the bench at the soccer game last year and I watched his eyes roll into his head as he passed out and I wasn’t sure he was breathing.  I watched his entire future life pass in front of me and all I could think was it was all my fault.  If he died, or had brain damage, or was paralyzed then it was all my fault because I wasn’t paying enough attention. People who believe in god seem to feel that way at first about things but then they say that it is god’s plan.  That  god doesn’t give you more than you can handle.  All those lovely phrases that to most atheists (and many christians) are insulting at the worst and insensitive in the least.

Its not that I want to believe because I think it would be better but it is more that often I don’t want to take responsibility for everything that I don’t like or to think that there is a higher power out there that knows better than I do and will make everything right.

The analogy of god as a parent really is accurate – someone who will let you fall but then pick you up, kiss your boo-boos and make it all better.  Who doesn’t “want” to believe in that?  So yeah I want to believe but I just can’t.

I still feel this way but again only when I am feeling like I just don’t want to take responsibility for what is happening in my life or when I really wish there could be a big giant daddy that comes in and makes everything all better.

As for other Atheists I know some have said they do think this too, but again only sometimes.  The problem with having this deity who is always in control is the inverse of having them take responsibility – its when god is given all the credit.

Right now I have the best single semester GPA I have ever had in my life.  I have worked hard for this and my family has  sacrificed – especially my oldest who babysits a lot so that I can go to the library and study or even just lock myself in my room to get my homework done.  This is my hard work and my success.  Not god’s.

So even if sometimes I say I want to believe – its only because I want someone else to blame when things are going down the toilet.

Ask an Atheist Day

I imagine if you do not know a lot of atheists then you would have no idea it is “Ask an Atheist Day.”  Well it is and here is a little blurb about it

atheist“National Ask An Atheist Day is an opportunity for secular groups across the country to work together to defeat stereotypes about atheism and encourage courteous dialogue between believers and nonbelievers alike. The event is intended to be an opportunity for the general public – particularly people of faith – to approach us and ask questions about secular life.”

Since this blog should be as much about me learning about Christianity as it should be you learning about secular life.  Both groups have extremists and it and it a shame when anyone is pigeonholed into those beliefs as if they speak for everyone.

So ask me a question.  I will answer what I believe and what I think most atheists think in regards to your question.

I will answer every single question (as long as they are appropriate) in a subsequent blog post.  I figure since people tend to come back to my blog over a week after posting I will give everyone a week to get their questions posted in the comments.

If you don’t want to post publicly you can always email me – victoriousolive [ at ] me [dot] com

(also I am sorry for my lack of posting as of late but trying to keep straight A’s in 16 units at school with half being science classes is pretty much taking up my whole life)

My Questions for You

In the 6 weeks of Lent I shared with you about me and my life; now I want to know about you.

There are some things I want to talk about but without knowing more about the people who read this blog I feel like I would be making grand assumptions.  One thing this challenge has done was remind me that people are different.  Everyone.  Christians only really have two things in common – their belief in the God of their Bible and their belief in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  Everything else seems to vary.

I don’t know why this was surprising.  I think part of the problem was actually getting too comfy in my Atheist world.  Just like with any other group, when you label yourself and you hang out with people that have the same label you definitely start to participate in groupthink. Groupthink like this takes away from our individuality which is something I pride myself on.  I don’t want to be told by the larger masses what to think and what to do.  I want to be able to make choices for myself without fear of repercussions.

Now on to the getting to know you part.  I have a set of questions I am asking all of my blog readers to answer.  You can either post them in the comments or send them to me via email at victoriousolive [at] me [dot] com

It would be easier for me if you posted in the comments and since some of these questions are hot button topics, please be sure I WILL delete any comments that are inflammatory or even debating.  I don’t want a debate here on this post.  Some of them are just cause I am a sociologist at heart and I want to compile some data that I can’t get from WordPress stats.

1. What religion are you currently? (or lack of religion as the case may be)

2. When did you become this religion? (i.e. how old were you)

3.  Why did  decide that this was the religion (Or lack there of) for you?

4.  Were you previously a different religion and if so why did you change?

5. What is your stance on Abortion?  Why?

6.  What is your stance on a National Health Care Plan in the US?  Why?

7.  What do you think about Gay Marriage?  or Civil Unions and why?

8.   What is your stance on the Death Penalty? Why?

9.  Would you adopt a child (If it was within your means to do so)?  Would you put any restrictions on the type of child?  i.e. must be same race, must be from a mother of the same religion, cannot be mentally disabled, only want a baby, etc

10.  How old are you?

11.  Where in general do you live (like country if out of the US or State if within)

12.  If you live in the US or are a US Citizen outside of the US – what political party do you identify with?

I Know those are some hot button issues but I have a lot of things I have been thinking about and like I said I don’t want to make grand assumptions or sweeping generalizations.
Obviously, it would be unfair to ask these questions without putting myself out there first, so here are my answers to my questions (But I am starting on question 5 because the first 4 have been covered in previous posts or in my about me section)

5. What is your stance on Abortion?  Why?  I am pro-choice.  This doesn’t mean that I am pro-abortion just that I support people being able to make choices for themselves no matter what.  I do not support the government making medical decisions for any person.

6.  What is your stance on a National Health Care Plan in the US?  Why? I think we should have a national health care plan in the US but I Don’t think that the US should try to reinvent the wheel.  At the same time if a government health plan means that the government gets to tell me what I can and cannot do with my body then I prefer that we do not adopt a government plan.  

7.  What do you think about Gay Marriage?  or Civil Unions and why?  I think that marriage is a religious thing and therefore the state should not be performing marriages nor should they be providing additional benefits or services for married couples BUT  I support civil unions for all and additional benefits for people with civil unions.  You got married in a church (or temple)?  Well that is good – you will get the benefits that you God provides to you by being married but to get government benefits you will need to go to the county clerk and recorder and get a civil union.

8.   What is your stance on the Death Penalty? Why?  I support it for the most heinous of crimes.  I think we can all agree on which ones are the most heinous.  I don’t support people sitting on death row or in prison for years getting three hots and a cot on the law-abiding citizens dime either.  Though I am not sure how we should go forward so we are not spending more in prisons then we are on education without making criminals live a life that would be considered cruel and unusual punishment.

9.  Would you adopt a child (If it was within your means to do so)?  Would you put any restrictions on the type of child?  i.e. must be same race, must be from a mother of the same religion, cannot be mentally disabled, only want a baby, etc  No, but only because we have more than our fair share 😉 Really we wouldn’t because this is something that my husband and I have talked about and since he was adopted he has his own stance on adoption and wouldn’t do it.  

10.  How old are you?  This is actually something I don’t think has come up but I am 35.

11.  Where in general do you live (like country if out of the US or State if within) Colorado (If you haven’t figured that out or didn’t already know that)

12.  If you live in the US or are a US Citizen outside of the US – what political party do you identify with? I’m definitely an Independent.  I hold views that would be considered both Democrat and Republican.

 

What Would God Look Like to You?

I know it has been way too long since I posted here but I haven’t had anything to say.  I did skip church last week because I had previous commitments that church would have interfered with.  It was so nice sleeping in though.  (No sleeping in was not my previous commitment)

Since tomorrow is Easter (or today now I guess) that means that technically I am done with giving up being an Atheist for Lent.  The thing is I don’t feel like it is time for this to be over.  On one hand church is boring and it makes me mad.  I don’t have a spiritual connection with it but it feels like a sociology class and I want to ask questions and challenge the assertions/views but I can’t.  I really need some place I can do that.  I need more open talk with people about their faith and Christianity.  Being preached to is not effective for someone that doesn’t believe the way you do.  This is true for everything not just religion.

So I am sitting here on my couch.  All the kids have been in bed for over 3 hours, even my husband went to bed about 2 hours ago.  I was on Facebook and Twitter and I realize there are things I want to say but really nowhere to say them.  I want to get feedback but I don’t want the judgement that would come with it.  Maybe this is what prayer is really about?  Talking to someone and getting feedback without judgement.  But God and Jesus both have too many Facebook accounts for me to know which one is the right one to send a message to.  😉

The words I want to say are flowing so i figure this is as good of time as any to grab a laptop and make a post.  I am not so sure this is really the right place to share my feelings – only because so many of my friends are following me but honesty is the best policy right?

Here’s what I have been thinking about.  I was asked in a comment some time back (and I am feeling too lazy to look up which post specifically) What would God look like to me?   I was unsure at the time and I just said it would have to be something big.  The small and subtle might work for those just questioning their beliefs but for a non-believer to change their mind I would think it needs to be a grand gesture on God’s part.

I think that right now I can answer this.  God would provide help.  For the first time in my life I am truly worried about how things are going to work out over the next few months.  Like most of America money is tight, but for us right now it is not just tight we are downright broke.  I don’t actually care if people know that.  We have a large blended family and somethings that have been out of our control have really sent us down the river so to speak.   Like the State of Florida confiscating $3200 from our tax return on the premise that my husband was behind on child support.    He is NOT behind.  The State of Colorado knows that (they are the ones the order is through and it is taken out of his checks every two weeks) but Florida messed it up and they have now had our money for 2.5 months.  My husband calls weekly to see what is going on and as of the last conversation with them they admit the money is owed back to us not to his ex-wife but they don’t know when they will send it back.   We were counting on that money to do silly things like pay our rent and put some in savings for what will likely be a cross state move this summer.
The other thing that has hit us even harder was my ex-husband lost his job. Even though my ex is paying support for 3 kids it doesn’t quite make up for what my husband pays to his ex-wife for two so we actually really depend on that money.  This is not a case of using the child support for frivolous things like going to the movies or getting hair & nails done.  It goes towards bills.  Anyone who knows us personally knows we have Season Tickets to our local Major League Soccer team.  That and the fuel to go to the games is our only real splurge.  It is the only thing we do as a family.  It was the main thing we got for the kids for christmas.  Seriously their big gift was a keychain with a sticker in the box that said “plus 1 season ticket.”  I won’t apologize for not spending every moment of every day in our house.   So anyway we need that money and it is not coming in right now.  He is basically behind what equals our electric bill and my van payment (and remember we live in Colorado so this isn’t a $40 electric bill).  My ex is doing everything he can and he does have 2 part time jobs but since he went on vacation after he lost his job (it was already planned) he didn’t work for a month at all.  I trust that he will do what needs to happen to get caught up but until then it hurts to be here.

We are just in one of those situations where we are not living the high life. We don’t have cable.  We don’t have expensive cars, but we do have car payments.  We do have cell phones but my husband truly needs his for work and we need some sort of phone at home so I don’t consider these unnecessary luxuries items.  We are at the point I am actually thinking about going to a food bank to fill our cupboards.  I don’t want to do this.  I want this situation to resolve.  To be back at the point where we aren’t worrying about this stuff.  To not be at the point where I let my 8 year old daughter know the Easter Bunny isn’t real because we aren’t doing Easter baskets this year.  Its an unnecessary expense.

I have been working too.  I have picked up every possible substitute teaching job offered.  I have been leaving my cell number and my sub ID number with teachers in hopes that they will call me first if they need a sub.  I am working a lot.  My husband officiates soccer and has been doing that since it is in season.  It doesn’t pay a lot but it is something.  Substituting pays decently but what I am earning now I won’t get paid for until May 31st so it is not a solution for right now.

This week will be a week of putting stuff on Craigslist (need a Wii or a Beco Baby Carrier?) and seeing if we can get stuff organized enough to have a garage sale friday and saturday if the weather isn’t horrible.  This is going to be a hard task for me.  I have struggled with clinical depression in my life but have been pretty good until recently.  The idea of even going to church tomorrow makes me want to go into my bathroom and lock the door.  I am regretting telling the kids we were going because there would be an Easter egg hunt after and now I cannot back out.  I can’t get their hopes up and then dash them like that.  I won’t be that parent.

So what would God look like to me?  Right now, God would look like a solution to my problems.  A grand gesture that I cannot possibly pass off as coincidence.  I am not talking winning the lottery (especially since I only play when its at $500 million).  I am not looking for money to fall from the sky or things to magically be resolved.  I can do the work; I am just not 100% sure what it would be, but if there is a God then I am sure he knows the solution. He just needs to show it to me in a way I cannot ignore because at this point I am out of every idea except the one that keeps haunting me about telling my kids we have no place to live or explaining why we are eating crackers with ketchup for dinner.

____________
† If you happen to be my husband reading this and are uncomfortable with this being out there – you know how to reach me.  I’ll edit it or take it down.

What are You Trying to Gain?

I have been asked multiple times in many different ways what I am trying to do here.  I have never really answered because I am not 100% sure.  This isn’t a formal experiment so there is no hypothesis.  This was not even my idea.  I did not wake up one morning and decide that I was going to try to be a Christian for awhile.  I am not trying to prove or disprove the existence of a god.  Honestly I don’t think it can be proven or disproven (I will write more about proof later.)

I still do not really know what I am trying to do right now.  I was just challenged to step outside my norm and do something different.  I doubt many others would step outside their beliefs and try it a different way.  I mean how many Christians would decide to spend 45 days of their life as a Muslim? Granted “being” a Christian, especially one at a non-denominaital church, is fairly easy in the US so maybe the example of a Muslim isn’t fair but hopefully you understand my point.

One thing this has done was give me the necessary kick in the pants to read the bible and try to analyze it.  I have never read Twilight because I am not interested in vampires and I have never read the bible as an adult because I was not interested in it.  Of course no one has ever tried to convert me to being a sparkling blood sucker so I never really needed to debate the existence of vampires either.

I am not going to try to convince people to not believe in God either.  I have tried to tell my 8 year old daughter recently that there is no Santa, Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy and that didn’t go ever very well; I know the same would be true with trying to convince Christians to change their belief.  If someone is going to change their beliefs it will come in its own time and own way.  Hopefully with my 8 year old it is sooner than later cause I am tired of hearing about the horrible job the tooth fairy has done in the past year.

What I would like is for the Christians who read this blog and who are interacting with me in church to realize that Atheists are normal everyday people and you probably already interact with a few on a regular basis you just don’t realize it.  I would love for some American Christians (obviously not all do this) to stop complaining about being persecuted.  You are the majority in this country; until that changes complaining to Atheists about being persecuted is like Caucasians complaining about Affirmative Action being unfair.

I think if something is going to come from this, for me, it is a better understanding of why Christians think they way they do.  I have already become more tolerant of the proselytizing; the constantly trying to convert Atheists in the best case or in the worst proclaiming our obvious descent into hell after death.  I have been able to step away and see the other side and I have also seen how nasty and mean some Atheists can be when it comes to Christians and vice versa.

I already understand why Christians care so much.  They truly believe they are trying to help you for eternity.  Hopefully this will help other Atheists realize this while at the same time help Christians realize that unless we ask for your help in finding god you just look pushy.  So for now I guess the ultimate goal is maybe just a higher level of tolerance for everyone involved in this blog, either through readership or through their personal interactions with me.

Atheists are as good without God as Christians are with Him.

To Be or Not to Be? Day 11

As luck would have it I start attending bible study the second to last session before they take a break until May.  As even more luck would have it the last session is this Saturday.  The same day I have plans to attend what I joke to be my actual religion – Opening Day with MLS (Major League Soccer.)

We are season ticket holders for our local team and because we live 100 miles from the stadium going to a game is an all day thing.  Even though the game is early it is not early enough to be back for Saturday’s Bible Study.

I realized this on Sunday (right after I told someone I would totally be at the next bible study.)  I was just going to skip it but it was actually on my mind all day yesterday so I returned an email welcoming me to the church that also happened to be from someone holding a bible study group.

After a few phone calls today I have all the info I need and am going to head to a different bible study group; which bring me to  a decision I need to make.

Full disclosure or not?  Do I tell everyone I am an Atheist and why I am there/what I am doing? If so, do I tell at the beginning?  The end? Or when the time seems right?

I don’t really know what to do here.  I don’t want to misrepresent myself but I have had people question why even tell anyone unless they ask?  I have been thinking about this since yesterday also and it is another reason I thought about just skipping the whole thing this week.

Hopefully I can figure it out in the next 4 hours.

Questions and Thanks -Day 3

In an effort to make this more genuine I realize I need more info.  Who better to ask than my blog followers who I imagine are mostly Christians.

So where does one find the time to read the Bible everyday?

I guess it is a priority thing and probably a habit to read the Bible everyday.  I am just not getting to it. I did read the first day but the last 2 I haven’t read anything.  I feel like I have already let myself down – but I will just try to make it up today and tomorrow.

Same goes for prayer.  When are the times you pray?  Do you have a set time like before meals, before bed, or just when the mood strikes you?

I know a prayer does not have to be a long winded dissertation to the lord but even just remembering doesn’t seem to be happening for me.

What type of activities do you participate in with your church?   What type of religious things do you do with your family outside of Sunday services?  I know LDS does Family Home Evenings typically Monday nights- but do other religions do something like this?

As for thanks.  I really do want to thank everyone who has followed my blog already and also my friends, both Christian and Atheists who are not only supporting me but sharing the blog with your friends.

A special thanks to Kelly for suggesting this thing.  Your little post has seriously shaken things up for me in a good way. 🙂