Godless and grieving about Boston

Hi! My name is Brianne, and I’m godless!

I have something that I want you to know, and then to deeply and fully understand and accept: “godless” doesn’t mean “evil”.

The idea is that to know God means to know love. And that must mean that if you don’t know God then you don’t know love. And “love” means “good” in this version of the story.  And if God = Love = Good, then Not God = Not Love = Not Good, i.e, Godless = Bad.

All of which is bullshit…and poor logic to boot. But these ideas about the relationship between god, love and goodness abound in our culture, and “godless” gets rolled out every time people do bad things, with the Boston Marathon bombing being no exception.

Yesterday Michael Sullivan, a Massachusetts Senate candidate, was reported as having described the bombing as a “horrific, cowardly and godless act”. After the news hit social media, his campaign quickly offered a clarification that the would-be Senator did NOT say “godless”, but rather “gutless”. A quick glance through the comments on that FB status update show that a lot of people support the originally-reported “godless as synonymous with evil” label.

You don’t have to believe in God to be a good person (hi!), and you can feel that you have a devout and healthy relationship with God and still do horrifying, cowardly things. Belief in a god or lack thereof are not strong predictors of one’s behaviors or attitudes. So let’s stop using “godless” as a negative term, k? 

Grieving and Interfaith Services – A note to those advocating for interfaith services in times of tragedy.

Atheists in Boston (and across the state, nation and world) are grieving, as are people of many different faiths. Most people would agree that after a tragedy of the type and scale of the Boston Marathon bombing, we need a place to gather, to share our grief across many shoulders, to heal. That place, for me, would not be an interfaith service. When it comes to grieving and honoring our dead, interfaith services leave me cold. Here’s why:

A major part of being an atheist is coming to grips with the idea that we are mortal creatures and that there is no afterlife. Because of this belief I feel that when people say things like, “they’re in heaven now, they’re with the angels, they’re with god” we trivialize our loss. As an atheist I believe that after death a person is very much gone, erased from existence, never to reappear. There is no do-over in heaven or through reincarnation. There is no silver lining to an unfair death from cancer, accident or intentional violence, or from a death of old age for that matter. Upon someone’s death, we have well and truly lost that person. Many atheists hold this life to be so very precious and strive to make it better because we believe there is no afterlife. This is the only chance we get to have a fulfilling life and a positive influence on the world around us.

When people are robbed of their lives through tragic circumstances, I don’t want to join in at your interfaith service if the congregation will be singing praises to god (who via his omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence could prevent all tragedies), and listen to sermons about god’s divine plan and afterlife and how victims are in a better place.  It causes me pain to realize that I am suffering what I perceive to be a permanent loss, while others have the confidence that the loss is merely temporary (this happens anyway, but when the person leading the service is authoritatively talking about heaven and such, it makes it worse. It draws a line – believers on the comforting afterlife side, me feeling like I’m on the cynical side refusing to be comforted) . We’re on different wavelengths, and we are grieving differently.

What we do have in common is our shared grief over the suffering and tragedy that has befallen us, and that we have lost friends and family and community members who are no longer with us in this life. This is the shared human experience to which we can all relate. And together we can mourn our losses, and remember and celebrate those lives. But I have a hard time doing that at a religion-based service that praises your god and thanks him for “calling them home”.

And I’m not saying don’t have interfaith services. If you insist on following a religion, I implore you to do your damnedest to reconcile the conflicting views and attitudes that you have with other religions, as they do with yours – for all of our peace! Join hands in prayer to your various gods and take comfort in the fact that you all believe that your loved ones live on somewhere else (and try to avoid banding together against those who don’t). But don’t make your interfaith service the only service. Don’t make your interfaith service a government-sanctioned service. And don’t make it the PRIMARY service, with a little secular vigil tossed out as a bone to those of us who don’t believe in gods or an afterlife. As a representative government, let’s make the primary, official memorial be a secular recognition of the loss in our community, so that all people can gather to share our grief and to unite against the darkness of our own eventual mortality.

JT and JTs Videogameathonapalooza!

The first game system I played was the Atari 2600. I have memories of playing E.T., Berzerk, Pitfall, Asteroid, Space-Invaders, Frogger and DigDug.  I still remember the pain of Atari Thumb.

Breakout was my favorite game for a long time.

Remember this bad boy? And unlike some of the other games, this one used the paddle rather than the joystick controller.

After Atari my parents picked us up a Nintendo (NES), and then we upgraded to Super Nintendo when I was in Junior High. I was a HUGE Mario fan. We conquered Super Mario Bros. 1, 2 and 3. I even got the cheat guide for Super Mario 3 so I could find all of the hidden flutes, learn the trick behind scoring five 1-ups at the end of every three levels, and memorize the grids of the memory cards bonus levels.

My other favorite game was Trog! Frickin’ green Trogs were the worst. This was the heyday of my video gaming; we played Duck Hunt, California Games, TMNT, Contra Force, Legend of Zelda, MegaMan, Kid Icarus, Paperboy, Donkey Kong, Tennis and Q*bert. My mom kicked all of our asses in Dr. Mario and Tetris, and my dad and I liked to play one of the casino games, Bases Loaded and Black Bass. The Nintendo was downstairs in our unfinished basement, so often times we would drag over the space heater and play Nintendo while we did laundry.

I completely missed Sega and didn’t pick up a console again until Thanksgiving 2011 when I bought a WII. I rock the new Mario Kart, the Hubby and I like to hunt each other down in Goldeneye 007, and I’m smitten with this one diving game called Endless Ocean. But one of the first things I did when I plugged in the system was download the old SNES Super Mario Bros and Dr. Mario.

Ah memories.

And do you know what starts in, like, NOW? Jason Thibeault and JT Eberhard’s 24 hour Gamers For Godlessness Gameathonapalooza! They’re going to be playing all sorts of retro videogames. For CHARITY.

I KNOW, RIGHT?!

GO HERE TO START WATCHING THE LIVESTREAM

What’s a gameathonapalooza? I’ll let JT explain:

Jason Thibeault from the Lousy Canuck blog and I are going to be playing retro games for 24 straight freaking hours on Saturday!  We’ll be live-streaming our lovely faces along with our games.  We’ll be talking about all kinds of interesting stuff from atheism to politics to gaming history, and we’ll be taking call-ins, email questions, etc.  We’re doing this to raise money for Camp Quest and theWomen in Secularism conference.

 They’ve got all sorts of crazy challenges, stunts and guests – including me at 10pm EST – set up for today and tomorrow.12PM EST today through 12pm EST tomorrow (Sunday). Check out this post by JT for some last minute updates. It’s also the thread for comments, questions and challenges at Chez WWJTD. Click that link/visit that blog post at lot, because JT’s donating all of the money from hits to that post to the cause.

The hashtag for the event is #GDLS

See you over there!

Axial Tilt is the RFTS

I saw this over at Le Cafe Witteveen and it gave me a good chuckle.

It’s a fun counter to “Let’s put Christ back in Christmas”.  Jeremy at Le Cafe also mentions “Put Saturn back in Saturday”, and on Facebook I saw a “Put Woden back in Wednesday”.

I’m all about celebrating a humanist Christmas – love your fellow man, give to charities, celebrate the season with friends and family.  But let’s remember the Solstice roots and history of this time we call Christmas, and maybe not get too uppity because some of us chose to not include little baby Jesus in our festivities.

Oh damn.  Little Baby Jesus.  Now I have to play this.

On Being Non-Religious

I sneezed as I was leaving the YMCA this morning.  A woman in front of me turned around, smiled and said “May God bless you, and Jesus Christ also.”  I was a little taken aback, and I said “Wow, you don’t hear that much.”  She smiled and told me, “I like people to know I mean it.  So many people say ‘Bless you’, but they don’t think about what it means.”  Bemused, I smiled and we went our separate ways.

I’m not overly religious, but I’m not overly zealous about my non-religious ways.  I don’t get offended if someone invites me to church, or says “Bless you” when I sneeze (even “May God bless you, and Jesus Christ also”).  Whatever.  The average person is usually acting out of concern for my welfare and means me well.  Hey, I probably believe your religion is mumbo jumbo – rules and ceremonies created in the brains of men and then called laws of a higher being – but as long as you’re not using your religion to hurt anyone or to force people to act or think a certain way, or trying to change history or current politics, or wasting my time or my money – you have fun with that.  Unfortunately, I haven’t found many religions that meet all of those requirements, but if you’re a religious person who meets these requirements, then we can hang.  

 I read a few blogs that are listed on the Atheist Nexuus, I love the FFRF, I am a proponent of the separation of church and state, and I get upset when religion is used in the abuse of human or civil rights.   And while I do identify as a-theistic, I cringe a little when I’m cornered into saying I’m An Atheist.  In the past when I have identified as An Atheist to other Atheists, I’ve been expected to be able to discuss – in detail – why I’m calling myself an Atheist and to share in religion-mocking or book title dropping (I’ll get around to Dennett’s Breaking the Spell and Dawkin’s The God Delusion one of these days, I promise!  They’re on my shelf!  I’ve been busy.).  I’m not well-versed in religions or theology – I just don’t care to spend a lot of time learning much about either of these things.  Thus I don’t have many hard arguments against religions or religious ideology, and I certainly don’t have any arguments – or the desire – to talk anyone out of their beliefs.  The few times I have identifed as An Atheist to a person of religion I’ve been treated to some form of concern, eye-rolling, or hostility – no exceptions.  If they’re not disgusted they want to convert me…or at least they want me to do some “soul-searching”.  By the way, this is a poor argument if the atheist under scrutiny doesn’t believe in a soul.  Can’t you just see it?  “Hey, I’ll search it, but first you have to prove to me that it exists.”

I was raised in a fairly non-religious family – we attended Episcopal services for a little while.  I served as an alter girl – swinging the incense, ringing the bells, holding the wine glass and the plate with the communion wafers.  I got to be in charge of something and wear a uniform, and it was all good fun.  I was part of a youth group, which was great because I saw my first professional musical – Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat – as a result of that.  Looking back, probably the most offensive thing about my religious upbringing was that I went through confirmation classes.  What a joke!  As a society we say a person must be 18 years old before they are allowed to vote in elections or sign contracts, but you’re allowed – encouraged! – to commit your earthly life and eternal soul (should you believe in one) to a religion as a child before you have the ability to reason or think critically.  Seriously…that’s messed up. 

It does seem like my reasons for being atheistic are a more defensible than many people’s reasons for being theistic.  The specific reasons for my lack of belief are numerous, but here are my biggest ones: If there is a God, She/He/It’s obviously not interacting with the world or people in any predictable manner, so why should I cater to or attempt to influence a diety’s actions or mood?  For what other reason would I attend church or pray? I can meditate if I need peace, and I can be good and respect my fellow human beings without the middleman. Should I be concerned for the afterlife or my eternal soul’s final destination?  Please!  Every religion has a different take on how we should act in order to send our soul to where we think it should go.  To deeply believe that any Afterlife is “true” and that it’s “more true” that someone else’s…how presumptuous. 

I don’t want to spend my limited time on Earth trying to understand things that can’t be made sense of.  

Strive to be nice to self, to others and to be happy.  Be concerned with this life

I’ll work within these “rules” and fill out the rest from there.

*******

Sneezing woman photo source

And the Scariest Book Award goes to:

The Bible Cure for Candida and Yeast Infections

Dr. Colbert is an Oral Roberts U alumnus and board-certified MD who peddles faith-based AND alternative medicine kookiness – it’s a two-fer!

First, he’s addressing the controversial issue of candidiasis.  Science-based medical doctors know from the evidence that there are genital and oral (thrush) yeast infections, and that there is also a systemic form of chronic candidiasis that can occur in immunocompromised patients, such as those suffering from AIDS, mono and cancer.

Then there are alternative health proponents who believe that candida overgrowth is common, even among apparently healthy people.  These practitioners believe that candidiasis might be at the root of many vague symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal bloating, mood swings, depression, anxiety, dizziness, unexpected weight gain, difficulty in concentrating, muscle and joint pain, cravings for sugar or alcoholic beverages, psoriasis, hives, respiratory and ear problems, menstrual problems, infertility, impotence, bladder infections, prostatitis, and “feeling bad all over.” (Quackwatch).

But I digress…the candidiasis issue has been torn into by people much smarter and more informed on the issue than I.  Along with the Quackwatch link above, Wikipedia appears to have  a decent write-up, including a list of references for anyone who has an interest in learning more about candidiasis.

Now back to the damned book, and to the heart of my ire (no, it’s not candida overgrowth).  I flipped through the thing, and do you know what I found inside?  Very common-sense diet and exercise advice that I imagine any doctor would give to almost anyone.  Yea for eating well and exercising!  It’s the miracle cure of the millennia (literally, according to Dr. Colbert).

But aside from the facepalm-worthy medical “cure”, the book caters to people who believe in God, and this is the religious message that it promotes: If you succeed in losing weight and feeling better it was God’s will, and you only succeeded in completely revising your shopping, eating and exercise habits because you relied on God.  And actually, God was the one who led you to The Bible Cure for Candida and Yeast Infections, which wasn’t really written by Dr. Colbert, but by God.

I know that there are people who would agree wholeheartedly with the paragraph above, and not find a single thing wrong with the idea that God controls all aspects of our lives.  But in that case, why bother with any kind of recognition of our fellow human beings?  Why don’t we all put on matching uniforms and call ourselves God Robot #1, God Robot #2, etc?  By this reasoning Dr. Colbert didn’t do anything remarkable by writing this book, he just happened to be a convenient vessel when God wanted to upload a new program to his Robot Army.  So no accolades for Dr. Colbert…I mean, God Robot #358454980.  He was just the equivalent of a plugged-in human battery from the Matrix who was transformed into an agent for that brief period of time it took to get the book written.

Humans rock!  Individuality rocks!  The choices that human beings make are precious!  If you’re feeling out of sorts and you make the decision to help yourself by buying a diet book, and then by busting your butt to avoid tempting, yummy foods, and to set your alarm clock an hour earlier so you can get to the gym before work…that’s all YOU!  You did that, and you should get to take pride in your efforts.  None of this damned “Yea, I feel better, God must have helped me!” and the dangerous flip side of that coin “Oh, man, I ate thirteen White Castles this weekend…God must have decided that I wasn’t worthy enough to succeed.  I guess I’ll go watch some TV until God makes me go to the gym”

We have control over our lives, we live and die, wither or thrive, because of the decisions we make.  I am my own personal demon and hero, and you are yours.  When you do something wonderful, I have nothing but awe and respect for your accomplishments, because even if you believe that you need your faith to succeed, I have faith that you don’t.