Fiction for Fiction

Our club had our annual controversial event, Fiction for Fiction, yesterday and today. It was originally inspired by the Smut for Smut event, but we didn’t want to be quite so inflammatory (or lynched), so we toned it down a bit. It’s honestly the “worst” thing we do on campus, mainly to satisfy our more outspoken members. I usually have minor panic attacks about it when planning, imagining all the religious groups on campus joining together to chuck rotten fruit at us or something. It went successfully and without produce-throwing last year (which Hemant blogged about), so we decided to do it again.

While I am also a cute atheist chick, neither of these are me. I will forever remain mildly elusive! Mwahahaha!

We also handed out a small flyer with a link to our website and the following explanation of our event to people:
“Religious texts may give some moral guidance, but that does not necessarily mean what they say is true. Fictional novels can contain important morals and insight into human life. You must think critically and ask questions to learn from what you’re reading. We encourage you to come to your own conclusions about what is fact and what is fiction. If you would like to investigate inconsistencies and contradictions specifically in the Bible, Koran, and Book of Mormon, skepticsannotatedbible.com is a great place to start.”

The event went well again. We had about 15 books traded in, but tons of people said they would have if they had a religious book. The worst response we received was a couple of dirty looks, but they were far outweighed by the many smiles and thumbs ups. Atheists are definitely the minority at Purdue, but I think it’s so refreshing for people to see an event like this instead of the usual preacher telling you why you’re going to burn in hell.

I know some people poo-poo the idea of having an event that criticizes religion in any shape or form. I’ve stated before the importance of being able to criticize religion, just like any other idea. That’s a whole other issue that I don’t want to deal with right now, but it does look like we’ve already made someone angry. You know you’ve really hit a nerve when someone’s blogging about you.

Do I feel bad? Maybe a little. The intent of our event isn’t just to piss people off, though I know it’s inevitable when you’re dealing with a touchy subject. But we have a message that even many theists agree with (and told us so at the event!). Yes, “Fiction for Fiction” contains a bit of shock value, but it is an event. I don’t think “Hey, You Know, Not Everything in Religious Texts Are Necessarily True, You Should Really Think Critically About What You Read and Investigate These Outside Sources” would work quite as well. But if we were just looking to upset people, we could have stuck with Smut for Smut.

Do I feel annoyed? Yes. It’s obvious from this person’s post that he didn’t bother talking to us, taking a flyer, or even reading our signs. And you all know what I do best when I’m annoyed…that’s right! Reply in an aggravated and hopefully humorous way! My comments small and in red:

Not everyone is smart, awww, I think he’s referring to us… but everyone has a strong stance on about every topic. Whether it’s evolution, global warming, or religion; you always have a stance on these topics. Listening to people talk, I hear people voicing their opinion on evolution; accusing it to be either true or false based on what little knowledge they have about it. Everyday civilians comment on how global warming is a conspiracy, despite professionals swearing to it. The worst of these is religion.

Religion is one thing that none of us seem to agree on, but we still have to make our voice heard. Even if you don’t believe anything, that must also be vocalized. I completely agree! You’re being so understanding! …Wait… I saw a quintessential example of this at campus yesterday. Some opinionated enthusiasts were sitting at a booth outside of the “class of ‘50” with a sign that read, “Fiction for Fiction; trade your religious texts for fictional novels.” That was probably the most useless and offensive table set up that I’ve ever seen. Really? How about the Islamo-Fascism table about evils of Islam and how Evangelical Christianity is so much better? How about the various preachers saying everyone’s going to hell if they even blink funny? How about the “Obama hearts terrorist” signs? How about the anti-affirmative action cookie sale where different races had different prices? How about the “pie a terrorist” where students dressed up as Muslims? We really top the list?

What could these people’s point possibly be? Are they saying religion is fiction? Um, yes? The fact that you’re freaking out about this possibility is the whole reason why we’re having the event. Because some people have never even thought about it. I would have to dumber than them not to realize that that was their point. I’m not going to come down on them for voicing their opinion, even though you are by repeatedly calling us stupid and offensive except that the entire basis of their opinion is to oppose another. This “fiction for fiction” trade is the opposition to organized religion like, for example, pro-life opposes pro- choice. The opposing parties involved in that example believe different things, which happen to be the opposite. One party didn’t form due to an opinion they held and that being the sole cause of the other party’s formation. I’m not quite sure what he’s even trying to say here – that our whole purpose is to be cranky about religion because religion came first? First of, opposing someone does not mean you’re automatically wrong. But if he wants to make that argument, atheism was around since the dawn of the universe, and religion is just a recent blip in time. We win, neener neener.

What is this “fiction for fiction” table’s goal? Are they trying to spread the word that religion is fake? Maybe you should have taken five seconds to find out! Nah, that would have been too hard. What would people’s reaction be if equally as zealous people went exclaiming their religion to the campus? These people are now on the same arrogance level as the bible thumpers that they oppose. Ummm…this happens all the time? And yes, we want to counteract them with a bit of reason? But does telling people to think critically and come to their own conclusions equal dogmatic teaching and threats of hellfire? I think not.

I don’t know if atheists have a holy book, but if they do, I’d like to bring it to that table. And see what fiction novel they give me in return for my fiction book. No, we don’t, since atheism isn’t a religion, but if you can read the sign, we do include “Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster” as a religious book to be fair. We even accepted someone trading a fiction book for a copy of the Koran we had. We’re pretty lenient! Anything to get people reading, and that includes learning about other religions. Heck, most atheists say reading holy books is what made them atheists!

I wonder why they didn’t just set up a table that said, “don’t talk to me, you won’t like me.” It would have gotten their point across better. Because there are plenty of people who do like us for doing this.

However, I wasn’t terribly offended. Could have fooled me. If some brainless thanks college kids think that religion is a hoax, then I’m not at all surprised. College students are probably the least religious group of individuals in our nation. Think about it in this sense; these kids are enjoying their newfound freedom that comes along with leaving home and becoming an adult. They can do whatever they want, so why would they want some greater power in charge of them? Because there’s absolutely no evidence for a greater power, and some people cannot be open about their beliefs until they’re away from overbearing parents. This isn’t some rebellion against God…that would make as much sense as rebellion against the Tooth Fairy. We are, however, terrified that people with university level education can still believe in something as equally silly, or be offended at the idea that others don’t think the same way as them.

This is just how I perceive all of this in order to not get too upset about people claiming my religion is “fiction.”

So he admits that he’s just making up reasons about why he shouldn’t be upset? Maybe instead he should ask himself why he’s upset. Does he have doubts that he’s ignoring? Has he never even thought about this before? Is he too scared that he’s been believing in something that’s not true all these years? It’s natural to be annoyed and even afraid, but don’t take it out on us. In fact, getting people to question beliefs they’ve taken for granted is the main point of this event. So I guess in a way, we’ve succeeded.

Oh well, I’m honestly not that upset. I just like replying to people. And honestly, if we made some people cranky, so be it. We’ve already had a bunch of new people sign up to our mailing list, including one of the campus bus drivers. Maybe we can ask her to drive our future atheist bus!

Sometimes, logic fails me

I like to consider myself a rational person, but I’m not perfect. Case and point, me earlier today:

“You know, I’ve gained a couple pounds recently. I should really try to eat healthier. Maybe I’ll try cutting pop out of my diet again, that definitely worked freshman year. And I should really reduce the amount of meat I eat. It’s not good for you, and it hurts the environment. I’ll look up some vegetarian recipes so I can eat better.”

Compare this to me ten minutes ago:

“OMG Insomnia Cookies is giving away six free cookies? Yes!! What, I need a five dollar minimum to order? Well I guess 11 cookies isn’t that bad, especially when more than half of them are free. Maybe I can just spread them out and only eat one a day, that’s not that bad right? Wooohooooo, the cookies are here! Om nom nom nom. Ooops, I just ate three in about twelve seconds.”

What can I say, delicious cookies are my kryptonite =(

Dealing with religion in your family

Like I’ve said before, I don’t really come from a religious family. While both of my parents went to church as children, they’re both now pretty atheistic/agnostic. Both of my half-brothers were also forced to go to church by my dad’s first wife, to the chagrin of my dad, but they’re also not very religious now. The problem started once my brother (the younger of the two) got married.

Now, I love my in-laws – they’re honestly great people. I still don’t think they’re very religious, as they never really bring anything up. I think they’re more traditional than anything. My brother and his wife got married in a chapel, had a fairly liberal wishy-washy Christian ceremony, some of the extended in-laws go to church every Sunday, my twin nephews were baptized but no one seemed to take it super seriously…etc.

However, there is religion sneaking in, and this is where I’m concerned.

Now, my sister-in-law’s Grandma is wonderfully nice, don’t get me wrong. But Great-Grandma is definitely the most religious one of the bunch. At their baptism, she got them two little stuffed lambs that said the Lord’s prayer when you poked their bellies. Christmas had some vaguely religious toy that I forget. This Easter the twins got “My First Bible,” a shiny picture book. I tried to keep my eyes from bugging out too much when I saw it. My sister-in-law’s aunt snatched it up gleefully and turned to a 4-year old girl there (daughter of a family friend):

Aunt: Ooooo, so have you heard the story of Adam and Eve?
Girl: (completely uninterested) No. (continues to play with her toy)
Aunt: …Oh (horrified look at how a four year old could not have been exposed to this by now)

While they’re not my kids, they are my nephews. I still feel mildly responsible for them, and I’d hate to see them indoctrinated into religion. I’m not sure what I can really do, though. I don’t feel comfortable outing myself as an atheist to that part of my family, especially since I’m the boy’s Godmother. I lied in a church (along with my oldest brother) that I was a good Christian and would raise the boys in a good Christian manner, because that was the better alternative than coming out (and I really didn’t have much of a choice, long story). My brother and sister-in-law would probably be fine with it, since I don’t think they’re that religious, but I’m afraid the knowledge would spread past them.

I so want to buy them “Parenting Beyond Belief” for Christmas, but I can’t without other family members seeing them opening it. Should I just be the geeky aunt who buys the boys dinosaur toys and chemistry sets and Legos? Nature documentaries and Bill Nye and stuff about the Big Bang? His Dark Materials to counteract the Chronicles of Narnia? Maybe I can try to instill scientific thinking and hope that does the trick. I don’t want to indoctrinate them into atheism or anything – I just hate to see them indoctrinated at all, because children can be so impressionable.

Maybe I should worry about all of this once they’re actually able to, you know, talk. And of course, who knows. Maybe by the time they can read, Richard Dawkins will come out with his long awaited sequel to the God Delusion:
You can tell I made this a while ago, because Hillary Duff is old news. Hannah Montana is the shiznit now. Or so I’m told.

A Community of Churches?

So during my drive to my brother’s for Easter (I wasn’t driving, so no murderous road rage, promise!) we passed by the town for South Holland, IL. As I was peering out the window, I noticed their slogan on their water tower and cursed myself for not getting a photograph. But thankfully the powers of the internet have saved me once again:
In case you can’t read that, it says “South Holland: Faith, Family Future.” The other side of the water tower, which I couldn’t find a photo of, said “A community of churches” and showed two hands clasped in prayer.

…So, separation of church and state, eh? Are towns seriously allowed to do that? Maybe the word “Faith” alone isn’t too bad – while the connotation is definitely religious, you could argue the town supports faith in their children, their neighbors, their basketball team…whatever. I’ll let it slide. But “A community of churches” with stereotypical Christian imagery is certainly promoting not just religion over nonreligion, but specifically Christianity. It doesn’t say “A community of churches, mosques, temples, mandirs, atheistic coffee houses, etc.”

Is it okay for a town to label itself like this? I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable if I lived there, being constantly reminded by a giant water tower that I’m not a part of my town’s supposed virtues. What do you think?

EDIT: Here’s a link to their website, which also uses the slogan.

Road rage

I came up with some interesting ideas for posts today, but they’re going to have to wait. I have something far more important than the religious indoctrination of young children and the lack of separation between church and state in a small town I drove though. What could possibly more important than that, you ask? Only the most terrifying, dangerous threat to our country’s safety.

Indiana drivers.

I swear that Indiana drivers are some of the worst fucking drivers in the country. Granted, I haven’t visited every state, but out of the ones I’ve driven through, I haven’t had to reconsider my belief in God just so I could start praying after I’ve been cut off or tailgated for the 50th time in an hour drive. The only other time I find myself yelling “motherfucker!!!” quite as much is when I’m playing Mario kart, but you know what? In Mario kart soccer moms in SUVs don’t cut you off and then slow down to 65 miles per hour just to piss you off. Or if they did, you could at least fucking red shell their ass.

My drive home normally takes an hour and a half, and this time it lasted nearly three hours. I knew there was a small patch of construction, but I had driven through it two weeks ago at the same time of night, and there wasn’t a soul on the road. I-65 is usually fairly empty anyway. But nooooo, today was Easter, so every Christian in the state of Indiana decides this would be a great time to drive back. I’m on the road for a measly 15 miles before I come to a complete stop. At first I’m just like, ok, that’s cool, I’ll jam out to my music a bit, this is probably just because of the construction, ha that trucker has “National Flash a Trucker Week” written on their bumper, oh look a cute little doggie… Which soon turns into hmm, I haven’t moved an inch in the past five minutes, oooh awesome I just got to coast for ten feet, I guess I’ll text message my friends because I’m not moving, joy!

Friend: do you have to go to the bathroom?
Me: …not yet

I moved a total of four miles in a 50 minute period. Eventually I called my parents to see if there were any alternate routes. The next exit was 6 miles away, which did have an alternate route, but still didn’t bode well for the mental calculations in my head. I finally make it to the actual construction, where the road had been narrowed to one lane. The speed finally picked up at that point. Oh look, I thought, a rest stop before the exit! Well that’s at least nice for all the people who may need to use the bathroom after that horrible mess. Oh, whoops, it’s closed. That’s just too convenient. I hope all your egg casseroles are settling well with the chocolate bunnies, because there’s no fucking escape.

And you know, I was actually ok up until this point. I figure there’s nothing the actual drivers can do about it being narrowed to one lane, no point getting upset. But that’s when people started showing their true Hoosier colors. You know what, the speed limit is 70. You shouldn’t even be in the left lane unless you’re passing someone, but if you are, you should at LEAST be going 75, and that’s an incredibly conservative estimate. The only thing worse than someone driving the speed limit in the left lane is a fucking bipolar person who can’t decide between 67 and 87. Cruise control was invented for a reason, and even if you’re driving some jalopy that doesn’t have it, I would think your margin of error on keeping your car going at a constant speed is a little better than +/- 10 miles per hour.

Then you get the opposite problem with people who are too lazy to lift their pinky toe to accelerate more than their cruise control for a little bit. Oh, but I am passing someone, you say! I’m just going 0.00001 miles per hour faster then them, so it’s going to take me 500 hours to actually pass them, and I’ll hold up traffic in the mean time! Hm, I wonder why I have a trail of 50 cars closely stacked behind me, even though there’s not a car on the road in front of me? Hmmm, I guess I’ll ignore that! Thank you, passive-aggressive passing bastard! How I wish I had a battling ram on my car!

Oh, and hello there Mr. Semi Truck who can’t stay in your lane! I know my mother always told me to share, but I’m not quite sure I’m comfortable with sharing my lane with you. I kind of like a little more personal space when you can potentially squish me into tiny bits. I hope you don’t take it personally. Oh, and the possibility that you probably haven’t slept for 48 hours, and the only thing keeping you awake is Mountain Dew and uppers you stole from your kid? Totally comforting.

And to top it all off, my alignment decided this would be the best time to act up. I looked like a 3 year old who had just snorted pixie stix and grabbed a plastic steering wheel, jiggling it back and forth in order to keep the car going in a straight line. Of course, this is the best time for passive-aggressive passing bastard to decide he needs to hover next to you. Maybe I can break and he’ll pass-nope, now for some ungodly reason he’s slowing down. Awesome. Wonderful. Thank you so much.

Maybe I’m being too harsh blaming Indiana drivers for my woes. Yeah, you know, it’s not their fault the roads were busy today. It’s Jesus’s fault. Fuck you, Jesus. All your being born and dying and undying and thus creating over celebrated holidays leads to fucking terrible traffic. Why don’t you try to spread out your miracles into more frequent but less important occasions next time so you don’t mess up transportation as much, okay?

Grarrr.

Happy Zombie Jesus Day!

I’m leaving in a couple hours for time with my family, delicious food, and egg hunting. I’ll probably be gone all day, so consider the comments an open forum if you get bored. I know not every atheist is busy celebrating something they don’t believe in!

Here are my favorite memories about Easter:

- Dying Easter eggs with my grandma (who is the most amazing grandma in the world) was always the best. The traditional Greek way is to dye all the eggs red, but she’d crack out the other colors and crayons just for me. Even now that she just does the traditional eggs, she always dies one blue for me, because that’s my favorite color. This is why I love the smell of vinegar, because it always reminds me of dying eggs.

- One of the fun Greek traditions is a little game you get to play with the hard boiled colored eggs. Each person takes an egg, and you get to smash the tip of your egg onto the tip of another person’s. Only one egg will crack (don’t ask me the physics there, just trust me). After going around the table, the last person with the uncracked egg is supposed to have good luck for a year. There always seemed to be one super egg, and we joked that my grandma was pouring concrete into some of them. I think this is supposed to represent cracking open Jesus’s tomb or something, and you’re supposed to say Christos Anesti (Christ has risen) while doing it, but whatever. I just like smashing other people’s eggs.

- One year when I was about 7, my grandma asked me why we celebrate Easter. I of course happily answered, “Because that’s when the Easter bunny comes!” Whoops. Needless to say, she wasn’t too happy with my mom over the fact that I had never even heard of Jesus or God by that point. Oddly enough this is the only time I remember my grandparents explicitly mentioning religion. I wonder if they’ve just given up on me in that area?

- My parents would hide plastic eggs around the house filled with candy or quarters, which holy crap is a lot of money to a little kid! I always loved looking for them, but after a couple years I had memorized where all the good hiding spots were, so instead of an “Egg Hunt” it was more like a “Methodical Egg Retrieval.” One year I was playing upstairs in my room, and they rang the door bell pretending it was the Easter bunny. “The Easter Bunny was here, you just missed him!” they said. Wow, was I pissed. Why the hell didn’t they warn me the Easter bunny was here?! Didn’t they think I’d want to meet him?! Couldn’t they have made him wait just a minute?! These are the potential anxieties you’re instilling in your children whenever you perpetuate fictional characters, haha.

See you tomorrow, the real holiday to celebrate – Half Priced Easter Candy Day!

My favorite dinner-time prayer yet

Tomorrow I’ll be going to my brother’s house for Easter. We’re not really a religious family, so there’s no big anxiety in going. We’re the type of family who celebrates all the different holidays without any of the religious mumbo-jumbo attached. Christmas is always Family + Presents, and Easter is always Family + Chocolate Bunnies (Though x2, because I’m half Greek. Woohoo!). The in-laws are pretty much the same way, though they’re religious enough that they occasionally go to church, and they had my nephews baptized (and I’m the Godmother…they kind of don’t know I’m an atheist. Whoopsie). They do traditions, but I’ve never heard them talk about it or treat it too seriously.

This usually leads to great fun when it comes to the dinner time prayer, especially since my not-exactly-religious brother is seen as the new “head of the house.” He’s achieved greatness far beyond my dad, who’s longest prayer was probably “Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub” to the chagrin of my Greek Orthodox grandparents.

This Thanksgiving was my favorite so far:

Sister-in-law: Why don’t you say a prayer?
Brother: (who has had a little to drink by now) Um, sure. Give me a second. (looks very contemplative) Dear God, thank you for bringing us together today, for our health, and for this meat that we have killed and smoked. Amen.
My side of the family: (desperately tries to stifle giggles)
Sister-in-law: …
Brother: What?
Sister-in-law: I don’t know, what about our sons? (who were born premature, are fine now)
Brother: (innocently) They were part of “health.”
Sister-in-law: (sigh) Really, for the meat we smoked and killed?
Brother: No, no, killed, then smoked. What you said would just be cruel.
Sister-in-law: (exasperated wife-ly look)

Now you know why I’m excited for tomorrow!

Anyone else have some classic dinner time prayers?

Bumper stickers

So before I left for my drive home, I finally attached my Darwin Fish car emblem that I had bought back on Darwin Day. It now proudly sits opposite my Obama sticker. Though I have to say, I’m a little nervous driving with it now. I know whenever I see some jerk taking up two parking spaces, or cutting someone off, or tailgating, and then I see the “Marriage = Man + Woman” or equally annoying bumper sticker staring back at me…I can’t help but think “Ha, well that explains it!” I know it’s a bad thing to do, but it happens. I don’t want to accidentally do some crappy driving and have someone go “Ha, a heathen, well that explains it!” I’m honestly more worried about that then someone keying my car, or snapping the Darwin fish’s legs off (which happened to my friend).

Of course, I’ve been known to care too much about what people think of me, so maybe I’m just a little crazy.

Anyone share my opinion, or have some cool bumper stickers? I need to dig around and find my Republicans for Voldemort sticker. It’s here somewhere, and would make the perfect addition!