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Am I an Antitheist?

“Some people I know who are atheists will say they wish they could believe it. Some people I know who are former believers say they wish they could have their old faith back; they miss it. I don’t understand this at all. I think it’s an excellent thing that there’s no reason to believe in the absurd propositions I admittedly, rather briefly, rehearsed to you.

The main reason for this, I think, is that it is a totalitarian belief. It is the wish to be a slave. It is the desire that there be an unalterable, unchallengeable tyrannical authority, who can convict you of thought crime while you are asleep. Who can subject you — who MUST indeed subject you — to a total surveillance, around the clock, every waking and sleeping minute of your life — I say of your life; before you’re born, and even worse (and where the real fun begins), after you’re dead. A celestial North Korea. Who wants this to be true? Who but a slave desires such a ghastly fate?

I’ve been to North Korea. It has a dead man as its president. Kim Jong-il is only the head of the party and head of the army; he’s not head of the government or the state. That office belongs to his deceased father, Kim Il-sung. It’s a necrocracy, a thanatocracy — it’s one short of the Trinity, I might add. The son is the reincarnation of the father. It is the most revolting, and utter, and absolute, and heartless tyranny the human species has ever evolved.

But at LEAST you can fucking DIE and leave North Korea. Does the Qur’an or the Bible offer you that liberty? No! No, the tyranny, the misery, the utter ownership of your entire personality, the smashing of your individuality, only begins at the point of death. This is evil; this is a wicked preachment.” – Christopher Hitchens

 

I know it may seem that my most recent posts have been quite negative, and I don’t mean to be that person, but hopefully this will be the last post for a while that dwells on negative things. I’ve wanted to write about anti-theism for quite some time now and the topic seems to be coming up a lot more recently so I figure this is as good a time as any to voice my thoughts on the matter. Am I an anti-theist? Well, as with many other things that depends on how you define the term. If you define it as loathing all religious people, “denying god”, or a desire to suppress religious views or expressions – no I am not an anti-theist, as none of those positions make sense to me.  Despite the content of some of my more recent writings, I have no ill will toward those who have harmed me in the past, I am no longer an “angry atheist”, nor did I deconvert due to negative life experiences. I do, however, find the practices of many religions harmful and disgusting. So, if you choose to define anti-theism as the position that religion does more harm than good, then yes, I am an anti-theist. As I have said in another post, I will always identify as an atheist first and as anti-theist second because I think that being an “out” atheist is far more important than picking secondary labels that confuse people or have the potential to divide people that would otherwise get along. Allow me present a very simple case as to why religion does more harm than good.

 

 

 

  1. PURITY CULTURE

 

I was largely raised as a southern Baptist which is a denomination of Christianity that leans heavily towards the creationism, hellfire and brimstone, “you are worthless without God” kind of stuff in the Bible. One part of this is something called purity culture. Those outside of the bible belt of the United States may be unfamiliar with this but essentially it is an emphasis that your worth as human being largely depends on whether you have had sex outside of marriage. This culture is particularly harmful to young women as it tells them that their worth is completely contingent on whether they have had sex or not. You can find many common metaphors online aimed at young women that compare women that have sex before marriage to chewed gum or used tape. As a boy at the age of 12 or 13 I made a promise to the church and my family that I would remain abstinent until marriage in a churchwide event where practically the entire youth group got together to make these promises with everyone dressed up. Both boys and girls got “promise rings” as a physical reminder that we made a promise before God to not have sex before marriage. How is any child of that age supposed to understand what they were promising? This sort of thing completely disgusts me now but was completely normal to me at the time. In fact, many kids have this mentality that “if I have sex before marriage, I’m no longer worth anything” or even the “sex is bad” mindset so engrained in their mind that it has the potential to completely ruin their future relationships and marriages. Just look at any ex-Christian forum and you can find plenty of evidence that this brainwashing is harmful. Sometimes this mindset is so engrained that even after marriage, people feel guilt having sex with their spouse! This “purity culture” completely infuriates and disgusts me.

 

https://www.cbeinternational.org/blogs/7-lies-purity-culture-teaches-women

 

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/the-purity-culture

 

 

  1. RELIGIOUS TRAUMA SYNDROME

 

Religious Trauma Syndrome is a new diagnosis that has been developed by Dr. Marlene Winell Ph.D. This diagnosis affects those who have left religion and has very similar symptoms to PTSD or C-PTSD. When someone leaves a religion that completely dominated how they viewed the world, it can traumatize them in a similar way that abuse can. Religious teachings that suppress critical thought, suppress normal child development socially or otherwise, focus on an external locus of control (aka God is in control, not me), as well as  (often) physical or emotional abuse (whoever spares the rod hates their child – Proverbs 13:24), can cause severe trauma to the individual. This trauma can have a huge impact when the individual leaves the religion such as poor critical thinking, depression, anxiety, anger, loneliness, lack of self-worth, social awkwardness, or feelings of alienation. I encourage everyone to research RTS and understand the harm religion can do.

 

http://journeyfree.org/rts/

 

http://www.babcp.com/Review/RTS-Trauma-from-Leaving-Religion.aspx

 

https://www.recoveringfromreligion.org/hotline-project-support/hotline-project-training/religious-trauma-syndrome/

 

https://www.worldreligionnews.com/religion-news/christianity/what-is-religious-trauma-syndrome

 

 

  1. TERRORISM/VIOLENT EXTREMISM

 

See the featured photo for this post. I honestly don’t think I should even need to list any sources or examples for this one. Many religions like to claim that they are “religions of peace” and yet their fundamentalists almost always turn to violence. Of course, violence is part of the human condition and even if religion were removed entirely from the equation, there would still be violent people. However, religion often plays a role of encouraging or propagating harmful dogma and ideologies that lead to violence. Islam has the Taliban, ISIS, Boko Haram and the like. Christianity has the crusades, modern abortion clinic bombers, and mass shooters. Hinduism propagates the caste system and even religions that most people would consider peaceful such as Buddhism has its violent extremists. Even religious folk can’t disagree when I say that religion plays a role in violent extremism. I don’t think I need to say any more on this topic.

 

 

While there are many more examples, I think this post is probably long enough as it is. I’ll leave some additional videos and such if you wish to look into the topic further. Let me know what you think and as always, question everything.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Theist, You Are Not My Enemy

I would like to start this off by saying that I recently had the pleasure of attending Faithless Forum in Dallas, Texas. It was a lot of fun meeting with everyone, there was a great community there, and it gave me quite a bit to think about. Naturally, this post is somewhat of a response to or agreement with some of what was said during the forum. Now, with that said, I would hope that this post will be a good (and short) reminder for theists and atheists alike.

 

Theists, atheists- you are not enemies. Your position about theism may clash with the other, and it’s true that only one position can be true, but the person you are speaking with is not your enemy. There is no need for “sides.” When you have a disagreement about religion with someone, you can dislike their view, but you should do your best to keep the person and the idea separate. If you get into some sort of debate, be polite and attack the belief, not the person. I would hope that we could all agree to condemn anyone who stoops so low as to attack the person, especially if you agree with their position. I believe that it’s likely not far-fetched to believe that most theists don’t want to be associated with the Westboro Baptist Church and most atheists don’t want to be associated with online trolls cursing at people and making death threats. If you see someone being hateful instead of being productive and making arguments for their position, call them out. That kind of behavior is not conducive to having a productive conversation.

 

We humans are wired for tribalism – to pick sides, but just because it is in our nature does not mean we have to let it control us. Keep searching for ideas that make you uncomfortable. Keep pushing yourself to thoroughly check and double check any and all beliefs, opinions, or ideas you may hold. I like the phrase I once heard- “Have strong opinions, held loosely.” Have strong opinions, but question them continuously and fiercely. Constantly check your bias and don’t allow yourself to leave anything unchallenged.  Don’t allow yourself to succumb to tribalism or picking side for the sake of picking sides. It only hinders progress towards finding the truth.

An Atheist Out of Place: Living as an Atheist in the Southern United States

If you haven’t already guessed by my blog name, I live in Texas. Also, if you’ve followed by blog long enough, you may know that I wasn’t always an atheist; I was once an extremely devout, borderline-fundamentalist Christian. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my transition from devout Christian to atheist was a slow process that took several years.

 

Part of that process was a deep delve into the online world of philosophical and theological arguments for and against the existence of god(s). It started off as a recommendation to listen to The Atheist Experience on Youtube and ended with me constantly on various online forums discussing whether or not a god existed. As I delved deeper into these arguments online, I noticed just how embedded Christianity was in the culture I lived in on a daily basis. As a symptom of this sudden realization, I was nearly a stereotypical angry atheist except for the fact that I was an atheist in the closet which only allowed me to vent my frustrations online.

 

In a sense, this was a form of culture shock. I was new to being a nonbeliever and I was angry. I felt that I had been lied to my entire life, even if everyone that had lied to me thought they were teaching me the most important truth they could ever teach me. Living in the Bible belt, I saw (and still see) Ichthus/Ichthys (AKA Jesus fish) stickers nearly every day on my commute to work. I had coworkers and cashiers tell me “God bless you” or “have a blessed day” regularly. Even though I knew they only meant well, I was still adjusting and sometimes it irritated me, even if I didn’t tell anyone. Another thing that used to be completely normal for me but was suddenly so foreign was that people would ask a relative stranger “What church do you go to?” In case you aren’t familiar, this is a fairly common question here in the south. When I was a Christian, this was not a problem as I would simply (and often proudly) state what church I currently attended. However, once I became an atheist, this became a difficult question to answer without incurring an endless barrage of questions.

 

I remained a slightly irritable atheist in the closet for a couple of years and slowly worked through my culture shock. I then I came out as atheist and a secular humanist on Openly Secular Day in 2016, despite having planned my coming out for years. At this point I wanted to take the advice of so many others online and come out slowly to those I cared about the most first and then others later but I was no longer capable of hiding who I was. I was tired of acting as if I believed any of what I had been told as a child.  After a couple of years in the closet and finally coming out, I decided to take a break from the philosophical debates.  At this point, I was no longer an angry atheist – I was tired.

 

Despite being away from the arguments, I still saw the same things. I noticed every ichthus, every “god bless you”, every cross on an office wall. I was no longer angry; I was just tired of seeing religion in nearly every place I went. Now it was just annoying every time someone asked what church I went to because that meant I had to either say that “I’m not very religious” or explain that I was an atheist and that doesn’t mean that I worship the devil, evolution, or myself. Despite the extra effort, I usually identified as an atheist because in my mind, the little bit of extra effort in educating someone about what the definition of atheism is, and in the process de-stigmatizing that word, was worth it. For anyone not in the United States that may be reading this, the percentage of atheists in the United States has only recently been documented at close to 25%; and this is only because the researchers didn’t use the term “atheism” but instead used the plain definition of “not believing in a deity/deities.”  Unfortunately for myself, this portion of the population is largely centered in metropolitan areas and not in the rural or semi-rural areas in the country.

 

Even now, after being out of the atheist closet for over a year, I still feel like a stranger in my own hometown. I still see the ichthus, I still hear “god bless you” regularly, I still hear Christian music on the radio as I search for a decent station, and I still sometimes get asked “What church do you go to?” – but it doesn’t bother me anymore, or at least not the way that it used to. Even on my bad days, I may get annoyed but I don’t feel the need to preach at someone because they have a sticker on their car, said “bless you” when I sneezed, or asked what church I attend. Instead, I can just smile and say thank you for the kind intentions or, if appropriate, explain what I believe and don’t believe in. I understand that people often base a large part of their identity around their religion and being angry about it isn’t going to change anything. The best thing I can do is keep being the best person that I can be, and when someone asks, I can tell them that god had nothing to do with it. If I’m lucky, maybe I’ll even educate a few people along the way.

Exploring Philosophy: Free Will

I’ve always enjoyed philosophy and now that I’ve had more time to read and watch philosophy related content, you may see some more “Exploring Philosophy” blog posts from time to time. I don’t know how many entries there will be on philosophy, but I hope to eventually discuss topics such as Nihilism, Existentialism, Absurdism, Stoicism, morality, and the nature of time.

Now that I’ve taken on the question of whether or not there is a god (or gods) and tentatively concluded that there are no deities, I now have the pleasure of re-evaluating my entire philosophy. While some of this was done by default in the process of deconversion, there is still plenty to explore.  I now get to explore whether morals are objective or subjective, the nature of time, and whether free will exists or if it’s simply an illusion. All of this is truly fascinating to me. However, today I will simply focus on free will. This is a topic that I’ve been interested in for quite some time now and I’ve finally read through Sam Harris’ book Free Will, read articles, and watched countless videos. Now, I get to share my current opinion on the matter.

So the big question is: Do we have free will? Now, intuitively, the answer is “of course I do!” because it feels like we make the choices that we make…but do we really? Sam Harris and many other neuroscientists will tell you that, no, we don’t really have free will and I unfortunately must agree. I say “unfortunately” because it would be so much easier if the evidence suggested that our subjective experience of free will is accurate, but instead, it points to an often uncomfortable reality that what we intuitively feel to be true is in fact completely false.

Some of the most compelling evidence for this lies in several scientific studies of neuroscience. In these studies, researchers would have the subjects perform an action at whatever time they chose while hooked up to EEG or fMRI technology. What these researchers found was that the decision to perform the action at a particular time was made inside the brain anywhere between 300 milliseconds to 10 full seconds before the participant was conscious of their decision. What does this mean? This implies that while you may feel that you are calling the shots in everything that you do, your brain makes all of the decisions for you and you are simply a passenger along for the ride.

“You have not built your mind. And in moments in which you seem to build it—when you make an effort to change yourself, to acquire knowledge, or to perfect a skill—the only tools at your disposal are those that you have inherited from moments past…You did not pick your parents or the time and place of your birth. You didn’t choose your gender or most of your life experiences. You had no control whatsoever over your genome or the development of your brain. And now your brain is making choices on the basis of preferences and beliefs that have been hammered into it over a lifetime—by your genes, your physical development since the moment you were conceived, and the interactions you have had with other people, events, and ideas. Where is the freedom in this? Yes, you are free to do what you want even now. But where did your desires come from?” – Sam Harris, Free Will

If you are familiar with biology, and neuroscience in particular, this may not seem too far-fetched after a little rumination. Hormones and neurotransmitters can significantly alter our moods and behaviors in a moment’s notice, and we don’t truly have control of these do we? To use one of the examples Sam Harris provided, if an organ failed in our body we would not say that we “decided” to have that organ fail; instead, we would be considered a victim of that organ failure. Another example would be that we have not control over our wants and desires either. We have no more control over our wants and desires than we do over our body producing hormones or neurotransmitters. One might argue that we can refuse to give into our wants and desires, which certainly is usually true. However, if you think a little further back, you had no control of that desire coming over you, or even control of the strength of your will. As Sam Harris put it, “Thoughts simply arise unauthored and yet author our actions.” Another great example of biology influencing free will would be brain damage or brain tumors.  In the famous case study of Phineas Gage, an iron rod was driven through the front of Phineas’ brain by an explosion which led to drastic changes to his personality. The once respected and well mannered railroad foreman now behaved erratically and would curse, yell, and make crude remarks that were previously uncharacteristic of him. Another example would be the effects a brain tumor had on a 40-year-old school teacher in the year 2000. (Sources: http://bit.ly/2rLmb3Z and http://bit.ly/2Ef8tcv ) The man, who otherwise lived a normal life, suddenly began to visit prostitutes and collect child pornography. This deviant sexual behavior was discovered, he was kicked out of his home, and eventually found guilty of child molestation. The night before his sentencing, he was rushed to the emergency room where it was discovered that he had an egg-sized tumor in his brain. Days after having the tumor removed, his deviant sexual behavior and other symptoms disappeared. The symptoms even began to come back a year later, which lead to the discovery of another tumor developing in the same area of the brain.

Now, when you first read of the man found guilty of child molestation, you likely had no pity on him. Did your opinion change when it was revealed that the behavior was simply caused by a brain tumor? What is the difference between someone behaving in a way we find reprehensible because of a brain tumor and someone who behaves the same way without a tumor? Both instances are the result of neurophysiological activity in the brain; however, we understand why the person affected by a tumor is behaving that way. If we had a complete understanding of how the brain works, would we treat the two any differently?

Many people argue that we have free will, usually involving something about having a soul or the randomness of quantum mechanics.  As far as the argument for a soul, even if you take the argument at face value, the science seems to show that our decisions are made before we are conscious of the choice we’ve made. If we have a soul, we still don’t have control over it; we are just the conscious observers of the decisions it makes. In regards to chance fluctuations in quantum mechanics, Sam Harris states “Chance occurrences are by definition ones for which I can claim no responsibility. And if certain of my behaviors are truly the result of chance, they should be surprising even to me. How would neurological ambushes of this kind make me free?…Quantum indeterminacy does nothing to make the concept of free will scientifically intelligible. In the face of any real independence from prior events, every thought and action would seem to merit the statement ‘I don’t know what came over me.’”  Daniel Dennett, on the other hand, argues for free will in a very interesting way. Dennett argues that while we do not have control over our neurophysiological processes, they are still a part of us as a person and therefore “you” are still making the decisions. Sam Harris argues against this by pointing out that people “feel identical to a certain channel of information in their conscious minds” and don’t typically consider their continuous biological processes as part of their identities. You probably don’t view your body producing blood cells, hormones, and enzymes as part of your identity, so why would this change simply to make an argument for free will?

I had no choice to write this blog than you did eating dinner a week ago. However, accepting this fact is the easy part. The hard part is figuring out what this means for, well, practically everything. The assumption of free will governs how we live our lives in significant ways, especially when it comes to our morality. In regards to the way we treat criminals, Sam Harris states “It may be true that strict punishment—rather than mere containment or rehabilitation—is necessary to prevent certain crimes. But punishing people purely for pragmatic reasons would be very different from the approach that we currently take.” If we truly don’t have free will, would it not be better to find ways to rehabilitate than to simply punish criminals? What about morality? Can we truly say that someone can be immoral if they have no control of their actions? (I would argue that we certainly can, but I won’t get into as it warrants an entire lengthy post of its own.) While I haven’t completely figured out how the lack of free will will change how I live my life and how I view the world, I look forward to finding out!

What do you think about the debate on free will? Do we have free will or is it just an illusion? Does the idea of not having true free will bother you or create any problems? Let me know what you think in the comments and once again, thanks for reading!

Related Content if you’re interested:

Libet B, 1983. “The onset of cerebral activity clearly preceded by at least several hundred milliseconds the reported time of conscious intention to act.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6…

Soon CS, 2008. “We found that the outcome of a decision can be encoded in brain activity of prefrontal and parietal cortex up to 10 s before it enters awareness. This delay presumably reflects the operation of a network of high-level control areas that begin to prepare an upcoming decision long before it enters awareness.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1…

Bode S, 2011. “We demonstrated using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) that the outcome of free decisions can be decoded from brain activity several seconds before reaching conscious awareness.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/arti…

Fried I, 2011. “We report progressive neuronal recruitment over ∼1500 ms before subjects report making the decision to move.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2…

Free Will Debunked – Rationality Rules

Everday Life without Free Will – Rationality Rules and Cosmic Skeptic

Sam Harris on the Illusion of Free Will

Crash Course Philosophy: Determinism V.S. Free Will

Crash Course Philopsophy: Compatibilism

Do We Have Free Will? – Philosophy Tube

Why We Don’t Have Free Will & Why That’s Ok – What I’ve Learned

Funny Cracked skit for your viewing pleasure

The Lord is Not My Shepherd, For I am Not a Sheep

I was recently looking through Facebook when a “Facebook memory” popped up on my feed. It just so happened that this memory was a poem that I had written years ago while still in high school or early college, and man was it dark. The dark content of the poetry didn’t really surprise me though, I’ve always enjoyed dark themes in art and literature. What did surprise me, however, was that as I looked deeper into my past poetry and thus into my past, I remembered the depression and mental anguish I was in at the time. I remembered, in detail, what caused me to write every piece of poetry that I read and I remembered just how severe the depression and self-loathing was that I was experiencing at the time. Despite the dark themes, my cries for help and evidence of my self-loathing were still clearly evident. In one I even plainly stated the ways I had considered committing suicide! I had plans! In the fields of social work or psychiatry, that is an instant hospitalization. I guess most people I knew at the time were unaware or just had no idea what to do with what I had said. I was surprised that I had lived through this – that I had even managed to keep myself from committing suicide. Several of the poems were written on nights when I truly thought that I, and everyone else, would be better off if I were dead. One night in particular, I even remember writing the poem shortly after standing next to a busy highway, debating whether I should step out in front of a truck in order to end it. Thankfully, that night I had a friend who I could call that was able to talk me down. Until now, no one but that person and myself knew what really happened that night.

 

While a couple of them were decent, most of my poems were pretty terrible as far as the writing quality goes. Yet, they still brought back every memory of late nights walking outside until midnight, scrawling poetry until two in the morning, cutting my arms, wishing I was dead, praying to god that I would be forgiven for my sins, and screaming into the chill autumn air- all with no reassurance and no comfort.

 

 

The further I read, the more the cause (or exacerbation) of my depression, anxiety, and psychosis became apparent: Christian dogma. If I were reading these poems from an outsider’s point of view, I would have first told them to go to a hospital, psychiatrist, or therapist to get help (which eventually did happen), and I would secondly be disgusted that they had been brainwashed into an ancient, abusive dogma that told them that they were inherently worthless! As I read these poems, I felt pity for my past self and disgusted with the delusions that I was led to believe and the religious leaders that I had followed for so long.

 

 

As I reminisced, I remembered attending an oppressive church and Christian school while drawing pentagrams in my notebooks. Not because I identified as a Satanist (I didn’t even truly know what that meant at the time), but because I so vehemently opposed the arbitrary rules and authoritarianism that was imbedded within that community. Looking back, it actually seems quite fitting that I would have drawn pentagrams. I rebelled the only way I knew how: with my ideas, my dress, my art, and my writing. I loathed the hypocritical leaders within that church and yet still hated myself because I was told that I was a worthless, useless, and a sinner in the hands of an angry god. I believed to my core that I was worthless and often beyond salvation.

 

Even after leaving this church for a more modern and forgiving church, I was still told that I was worthless, useless, and in the hands of a slightly less angry god. What really blows my mind, but that I am somewhat grateful for, is that even after all of this indoctrination of thought crimes and inherent evil of human nature, I still remained devoted to Christianity. I know this may sound odd, but despite all of the anxiety, depression, self-harm, and truly psychotic symptoms produced by the teachings of Christianity, I remained a steadfast Christian; a dutiful and loyal lamb to the slaughter. I’m only grateful for this for the simple fact that no one can say that any of this turned me away from the religion. I only deconverted several years after I had learned to deal with my anxiety and depression in a healthy way and eventually learned to look at my beliefs skeptically. In fact, after all of this, I dug even deeper into the Christian faith for several years. In the environment I grew up in, Christianity was reality; I couldn’t even consider the possibility that Christianity was wrong.

 

 

I suppose I say all of this because the more I read the poetry of my past self, the more the dogma of Christianity disgusts me once again. The more I read, the more I see someone who wished wholeheartedly to be a good and loving person who was brought to severe depression, anxiety, and psychosis because of a dogma they were brainwashed to believe in. It is a sad and vile story – and it is my story.

 

 

Feel free to share your own stories or thoughts in the comments. Once again, thanks for reading.

Interview with a Pagan

Today’s blog is a little bit different. As you may have already guessed, this blog post is not about my beliefs but instead is an interview with a pagan friend of mine. Since my friend is not completely out of the broom closet yet, she has asked that we call her Nicki for this post. Let’s jump into it!

 

  1. So Nicki, do you follow a particular pagan belief system or pantheon? Or are your beliefs more of an eclectic paganism?

 

I am an eclectic pagan. I started off Wiccan and realized that it was a lot like the Christianity that I left. My pantheon is mostly Hellenistic. I lend toward Hades, god of the underworld, Hestia, goddess of the Hearth, and Persephone, goddess of the underworld.  Their stories were the ones I was excited to hear about in history class and then I went to the library and read everything that I could about them. I also like to honor my ancestors.

 

 

  1. Do you have any favorite stories about them?

 

My favorite story is about how Persephone was taken into the Underworld.

 

 

 

  1. What are your beliefs about the supernatural?

 

I believe in spirits and things. However, that is not a requirement to be pagan.

 

 

 

  1. What are your thoughts on the existence of deities/gods? Are they real beings or more of a construct?

 

You know what? I’m more of a “soft” deist. I think it’s more about your belief in the gods that gives them power over your life.  My worship includes rituals, divination, and eventually an altar. I’m still looking for a spot to put it.

 

 

  1. What led you to practice pagan spirituality?

 

Paganism is something that has appealed to me ever since I was little. I was always mystified with the moon and talked to it. I’ve always talked to my ancestors and would ask for their guidance before big events. I come from a Judeo-Christian background. I just never felt fulfilled by that lifestyle. Honestly, it gave me a lot of anxiety and depression. I never felt perfect and I needed to change to fit the mold. I had to give up so much to fit in with my Christian friends and family. I didn’t like feeling ashamed for who I fell in love with or the art I chose to create.

 

 

  1. You mentioned rituals, what are your rituals like and what are they for?

 

I do perform rituals. They’re mostly rituals to let go of things. I plan to do more this year. In October, I plan to practice Samhain. It’s day when the veil between the living and the dead is the thinnest. Traditionally, it marked the end of the harvest in the past.

 

 

  1. What do think happens when we die?

 

I’m not sure. Honestly, I feel like life is a lesson. I really like the idea of reincarnation.

 

 

  1. What are some misconceptions about pagans that you would like to correct?

 

Paganism is not a religion, but a path. Also, you can be an atheist and be pagan.

 

 

  1. What has been the most difficult aspect of being a pagan?

 

Not knowing how people will react when they find out you’re not a Christian.

 

 

 

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions for Nicki. If we have enough responses, maybe we can do a part two! Also, feel free to let me know if there is anything you would like to hear my thoughts on. Stay skeptical, everyone!

Atheist, Know Thyself

A while ago, Alex J. O’Connor, otherwise known as Cosmic Skeptic on Youtube, posted a video titled Atheist, Know Thyself, inspired by a chapter in David Silverman’s book Fighting God. In the video, he briefly describes part of a conversation he had with David Silverman (the president of the organization American Atheists) and goes on to describe David’s views on the labels nonbelievers use. I’ll embed the video below for your viewing pleasure but be warned that the video is a little long. Feel free to check out his other videos as well, he is one of my favorite creators on Youtube!

 

 

I particularly enjoyed this video because this is a topic I’ve struggled with somewhat myself and I ended up coming to a similar conclusion: nonbelievers, if they are able to do so safely, should outwardly identify as atheists. Alex argues that if every nonbeliever identified as an atheist, those around the world would see how prevalent we actually are in society and that we, while still a minority, are a minority worth paying attention to. If atheists around the world would be out and active, our governments would have to recognize that we are a valid voting block that makes up a much larger chunk of our society than many people realize. In fact, according to recent studies, close to 25% of the United States population are nonbelievers. [Source 1] [Source 2] Not only that, but hopefully at some point in the future it would not be automatically assumed that you follow a religion. As someone who lives in the southern United States, if I had a dollar for every time I heard the question “What church do you go to?” with little to no lead up to that question, I would be a fairly wealthy man.

 

Another reason why I found this video interesting is that, as I mentioned in my post titled “What Kind of Atheist am I?”, I have considered the label of Satanist (of The Satanic Temple). The primary reason that I am drawn to this label is the political activism and the encouragement of free inquiry embedded in the religion. Also, when I initially came out as an atheist, I labeled myself as “an atheist and a secular humanist.” As you might can tell, I’ve often wondered exactly what I should label myself but I always came back to the single unifying label: atheist. The main reason for this being that most people don’t know what secular humanist, agnostic, freethinker, or Satanist means. Many believers who think they know what these mean are incredibly misinformed. If I told someone in my area that I’m a Satanist, they would think that I worship the Satan of the bible. If I told someone that I’m a secular humanist, they might not have ever heard the term or they may think that I worship myself as a god (No, I’m not joking. I actually remember being taught that humanists worship themselves as if they are god in one of the churches I grew up in). If I tell someone that I’m an atheist, the worst misunderstanding that I usually get is that I hate god. While the label of atheist is not without its misunderstandings, it is much easier to correct misunderstandings that arise and unifies unbelievers as a more cohesive whole.

 

Now that you know my thoughts on the matter, what do you think about the different labels for nonbelievers? Should we all identify as atheists? Or are the many different labels okay or even necessary? Let me know what you think!