Progress Report

9309

This book is a skeleton. It’s just a framework upon which flesh shall later be draped, because as I’m writing it, I’m realizing all sorts of things that I need to look up and quote and get exactly right. So to any of you who are going to be suffering through reading this first draft: keep in mind that what you’re looking at is a rickety scaffolding upon which something lasting will be built.

I’m one of those weird writers who tends to write too little rather than too much in most first drafts, it seems.

I came across a fantastic little tidbit tonight, so I’ll share this section from “What to Expect if You Bring Up God,” bare bones as it is:

WE KNOW ALL THE EMBARRASSING BITS OF THE BIBLE

It’s not uncommon for atheists to know more about the Bible than Christians do. In fact, a Kelton Research survey of 1,000 Americans commissioned by the Ten Commandments Commission in 2007 discovered that the ingredients of a Big Mac are better known than the Ten Commandments: 80% of respondents knew that a Big Mac includes two all-beef patties, but less than 60% of them knew the Ten Commandments include the command, “Thou shalt not kill.”

Most atheists could not only get that one right, but if you bring up the Ten Commandments, be prepared for the question, “Which ones?” Most Christians don’t realize there are actually two sets of Ten Commandments in the Old Testament, and those sets don’t mesh.

We know all sorts of pesky details. And if someone starts claiming the moral supremacy of religion and the infallibility of the Bible, we’re more than happy to trot them out, chapter and verse.

Some of us can even give Biblical scholars a run for their money when it comes to describing the minutae of erroneous translations, ambiguous passages, obvious copying errors, and all of those books that didn’t make it in to the Book.

Why do we know the Bible in such detail if we’re atheists? Simple. We have to know our adversary. When so many fundamentalists and even moderate Christians are attempting to use their faith to dictate morality, conduct, and the course of our destiny, we have no choice but to study the scripture used to justify those things.

If you want to get into a conversation about the Bible with an atheist, just be prepared to learn things about it you may never have wanted to know. After all, it was during a Bible study course that Julia Sweeney lost her faith.

The link is here. I love that fact: more people know the Big Mac better than the Ten Commandments. Quick! Let’s base all of our jurisprudence on the ingredients of a fast food sandwich!

For the record, I’m one of those who doesn’t know all ten. But I know more off the top of my head than Lynn Westmoreland:

Thou shalt not kill.

Thou shalt not steal.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, his ass, etc.

Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.

Thou shalt not bear false witness.

And that’s where I get fuzzy. I suppose I’ll have both sets memorized by the time this book is finished and available to the general public. Wouldn’t do for some snarky religious bugger to be able to recite seven or eight to my six, eh?

In case you wanted to brush up, here’s both sets.

Progress Report

8060.

One of those nights when the words wouldn’t flow, alas. But progress none the less.

I came up with an interesting exercise:


If you and I sat down and made lists of things that are important to us, there would be a lot of duplicate items. Why don’t we try an exercise? Take a pen and paper right now, and list out ten things that are important to you. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.

Ready? Here’s mine, in no particular order of importance:

  1. Family
  2. Friends
  3. My community
  4. My country and the world
  5. The environment
  6. Financial security
  7. Literacy and education
  8. Science
  9. Constitutional issues
  10. Writing

How many things do we have in common? Probably quite a few. If we got into specifics, we’d probably notice quite a few differences in the details, some of them superficial, some of them more serious. But there’s enough there to work with, isn’t there?

This is just a little warm-up, to show you that we really do have enough interests in common to talk about. Most of us share common concerns. We want clean water to drink and clean air to breathe. We want kids to be healthy, and we want our communities to be vibrant. We want to make sure our economy’s strong so that we all have a chance to work and support ourselves and our families. We want a better world.

Together, we can find ways to make that happen. Even when we disagree.

It’s kind of sad to think we might be reduced to making lists and checking them twice in order to find things to talk about, but hey. Considering that some religious folk seem to think we have nothing at all we agree on, at least it would be one way of demonstrating otherwise.

As I’m writing this, I’m conscious of the fact that there are some religious folk buried so deep in the dogma that there’s no possible way we could hold a useful discussion, so I’m trying to aim this book away from them and at those who either want to talk to us, but aren’t quite sure how, or those who never really considered we’d have anything to talk about but are willing to be surprised.

For those of you who might be afraid I’m getting too toothless here, I do get more confrontational later in the chapter. That’s where I explain in no uncertain terms what the world would be like if atheists had never existed. Some folks might be a mite surprised.

It seems to me important to get across one metatheme in this book: Atheists are here to stay, and the world needs us like it or not, so you might as well learn how to get along with us.

Striking the right balance between friendly and firm has proven a bit difficult. We’ll see how it turns out.

Your comments on this project thus far have been invaluable. I haven’t incorporated your ideas and suggestions just yet, simply because NaNo demands looking forward rather than back, but most of what you guys said yesterday is going to end up tweaking the book considerably in revision. We’ll hold a few discussions on specific points later. Right now, I just want to say thank you a thousand times THANK YOU, everybody drinks on the house (how I wish I could actually give you guys real live free drinks!), and keep the commentary coming. I don’t care if you don’t think you have something useful to add: I want to hear your thoughts. No, I NEED to hear your thoughts.

This book is for all of us. Without you, it’s not going to be a very useful book at all. So: thoughts, links, quibbles, anything you want to toss at me, bring it on.

Muchos gracias, mis amigos. Salud!

YES, I’m STILL Doing NaNo. Honestly

All right, so I got derailed for nearly a week by President-Elect Obama becoming President-Elect Obama, and I’m still a political junkie, and blah blah excuses blah, but I’m back on it.

Really.

See? 6,923 words. Considering I was at 1,700 at the start of last night, that’s not so bad, now, is it?

I’ll be sending chapters out to all of you who requested them quite soon. For now, content yourselves with a snippet. This comes from Chapter One: Right. What’s An Atheist? We’re talking here about atheists in action, and it’s my sad little attempt at categories:

Hidden atheists: Those who are flying under the radar for fear of what their friends, families, and communities will do to them if anyone ever discovers they’re atheists. Hidden atheists are, shall we say, atheists with the potential to act on their atheism, even though at the moment they’re not speaking out.

Trailblazing atheists: They’ve found the courage to speak out: on blogs, in communities, founding organizations, and in a myriad of other ways. Their example makes it possible for the hidden atheists to emerge, throw off the shame they’ve been made to feel at their lack of belief, and start putting their atheism to good use. The trailblazers prove it’s possible to live a full and happy life without belief in the supernatural or the afterlife. They debunk a lot of the myths just by living openly as atheists, doing good works, taking care of others through love and shared humanity, and showing that losing faith doesn’t mean you lose your sense of wonder at the beauty of the world. Every atheist who’s not hidden in a trailblazer in some fashion.

Atheist Ambassadors: These atheists are natural mediators, who work to foster understanding and cooperation between the religious and godless. You’ll find a lot of them in the ranks of organizations like Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. They strike a fairly moderate tone with the faithful. They’re skilled at finding and emphasizing common ground. They often work to overcome the fear so many of the faithful feel when confronted with atheists.

Militant atheists: I hate that term, but a lot of them own it proudly, so in the book it goes. These are the atheists who work actively against religion: they try to deconvert the religious, tirelessly point out the dangers of religion, and argue passionately against the irrationality of faith. They may not go so far as to think of religion as an evil – although many do – but they envision a world where, if religion isn’t eradicated, it’s at least greatly reduced in importance. And they have an arsenal of evidence to show you that religion is uniquely capable of getting good people to do horrible things.

And yes, my darlings, those categories are prefaced AND followed by disclaimers explaining that this is a spectrum, and no one atheist is likely to fit only one category and no other, and I’ll even whip up a nice little illustration to drive the point home when I’m done whipping out 50,000 words. I’m not trying to stuff us into restrictive little boxes, just make us somewhat comprehensible.

pleasedon’thitme.

Actually, do. If you see the categories of atheists-in-action differently, by all means say so. Just remember I’m trying to keep it to four broad categories, not four thousand precise ones. While that would do wonders for my word count, it would really defeat the purpose of the book.

Keep in mind that the three broad types of atheist – Natural, Apathetic, and Dissonant, as enumerated here - have already been defined earlier in the chapter.

Right? Good. Then me and my aching brain are going to bed.

NaNoMadNess

Whelp. We have ourselves an Introduction and part of Chapter One. Not too bad so far, I don’t think. I’m writing this in something of a conversational tone, directly to the Christian reader, which is tougher than it sounds because my Inner Editor keeps sniggering, “You know it’s actually atheists reading this.”

What-the-fuck-ever.

A huge part of NaNo always involves bludgeoning the Inner Editor into unconsciousness so you can get on with the business of writing the bloody book.

As promised, an excerpt:

Christians don’t understand atheists. This is probably where a good amount of the vitriol thrown our way comes from. Even the ones who attempt to hold discussions with us soon find themselves in deep trouble, and those are the Christians this book is for. I got the idea after the umpteenth time I saw a Christian get trounced in comment threads on atheist blogs. Too many of you have wrong assumptions about us. Too many of you have no idea how we think, or what an atheist actually is – all you’ve been given is a caricature. You believe that atheists hate God, despise all Christians, have no morals, and worship science, none of which are true. A good number of you seem to think they only reason we’re atheists is because we’re rebelling against God, or because we don’t understand what Christianity is. As you’ll see, those assumptions are also false.

There are some pretty silly myths out there about atheists. We’ll debunk a few of those along the way.

By the end of this book, if you stick with me, you’ll understand atheists a lot better. You’ll understand why we’ve come out of hiding and proudly branded ourselves with the scarlet A. You’ll know how we think, why we speak out forcefully against religious excesses and unreasoning belief. You’ll understand why we often seem so angry and strident. You may even realize that we’re not terrible monsters out to destroy civilization, but caring and concerned humans who work hard to make this world a better place.

We may seem like we have nothing in common with each other, you and I, but you’ll be surprised. We have plenty of things we can agree on. We have more than enough to talk about.

Let’s get talking.

-End o’ the Introduction-

If any of you are absolutely dying for the entire thing, email me at dhunterauthor at yahoo dot com. I’ll send you chapters as they’re completed, and you can tell me how awful it is. Good times, good times.

I am now going to take myself to bed. I’m going through political blog withdrawl and it’s not pretty. Must go curl up with Bertrand Russell and try to detox.

Word count: 1700.

Last Hurrah

Did you all have splendid Halloweens? I do hope so, especially as I’m about to rub your faces in my celebrations.

I had a delightful evening at a live Rocky Horror Picture Show. Local theatre doesn’t get the credit it deserves, damn it. The cast and crew were awesome, a naughty great time was had by all, and I got to meet one of our cantina regulars who’s also one of my favorite bloggers. I was too busy having fun to ask if he keeps his identity a strict secret, so I’ll let him out himself in comments if he so desires. Let’s just say for now, my darlings, that getting to meet one of you live in the flesh was awesome.

Especially in the context. I do loves me some Rocky Horror. I just miss Zog. Zog and I used to get nasty in public. (Among the many joys of having a gay friend is that the two of you can engage in the dirtiest of dirty dancing without having to worry if things are being misconstrued. Which is how we ended up on the stage after the show making even long-time Rocky Horror fans do a double-take. Heh.)

What I love about Seattle crowds is that audience members and cast alike ad-lib political barbs and hurl them happily at Republicons. We got our digs in. BUSH is now the official 4-letter word meaning asshole. Damn, I love this audience!

I even got to hang out with Gandalf:

Gandalf and Death of the Endless… combining my two all-time favorite fantasy characters in one go. Brilliant!

Do you like my costume? I hope you like my costume. It took me bloody ages to get the makeup right, and it’ll take ages more to get the gel out of my hair.


That was actually what the hair was supposed to do. It only did it when I was looking down. My hair, you see, is utterly unimpressed by styling products. I swear I could tease it up with superglue, and it would still ease back to its usual position within half an hour. But hey, the eyes turned out well:

So did the cardboard-and-tinfoil ankh I had to whip up at the last minute because my own dear ankh wasn’t where I thought it was, a sad fact I discovered far too late to remedy via the usual means.

So, that’s me as Death, and I got to sing a lot of Rocky Horror songs and meet excellent people and have a good session at the bar afterward. That was it. My last hurrah.

Because, you see, it is now November 1st.

It is (drumroll of doom please) NaNo time.

For the next four weeks, I shall be stuffed in my house, planted in my chair, getting too little sleep and courting carpal tunnel to write a complete book by the end of the month whilst keeping this blog alive. This means you’ll probably get some rather skimpy Sunday Sensational Science posts, hit-and-run political pieces, and a crap-ton of book excerpts.

My heart-sister NP and several of our cantina regulars are putting themselves through the same hell. Wish them survival, sanity and success, not necessarily in that order.

And have fun for the lot of us, will you? We’ll be too busy.