Why I am an atheist – Andrea

“I’m an atheist. I know that can be hard for some people to understand sometimes. But I’ll give you my background and perhaps it will shed some light. It is true that some atheists have had bad experiences with churches. I was one of them, but my atheism grew from that after much contemplation and research.

I’m 45 years old and female. I grew up in a very rural area in western Pennsylvania, on a small dairy farm. I was within walking distance of most of my relatives.

We all went to the local Presbyterian church. It’s a lovely country church. My grandma was always with the other “ladies” in the one pew. My parents ran the youth group a couple years, and I was in choir, Sunday School and I even taught Bible School. There were quite a few others my age in the church so it was nice.

One year, another local church burnt down. My congregation invited them to join us in our church. I believe they were Methodists but we were close enough that there should have been no problems. But there was, of course. I was in my early teens and watched the whole thing. One of the ladies from my congregation said that God had spoke to her in her garden and said that the church should be abandoned and a new one built. The church split over this. People were so nasty to each other. Even to a young girl, this was ridiculous. I couldn’t understand how God could let this happen. It didn’t help that my friends’ parents were on opposite sides of things. Of course, all sides were sure that they were “good” Christians, and God sure didn’t seem inclined to show one or the other side that they were wrong.

I prayed to God to let me understand. There was no response and things got worse. The new church was built and those from the new church “removed” e.g. stole the antique communion set and an antique ceiling lamp from the old church. They also took the regular communion set. This went on for several years and I was more and more confused. I finally ended up reading the entire Bible, looking for some answers “from the horse’s mouth” as it were, and because my father didn’t think I could (I read voraciously). I read it and found that it was full of contradictions and acts I found horrible but that were evidently okay to God. I couldn’t understand how God who was also Jesus, and who I sang “Jesus loves the little children” to, could be like this. Sending people to hell for no more than not knowing about him? What of all the children? What about all the animals and people killed during the flood and the attack upon Sodom and Gomorrah? Why were people being damned for the sins of two people when those sins weren’t their own? And weirder, why does Romans 9 indicate that no one has a choice to believe, and people are damed just for the heck of it? I recommend everyone to read their holy book and really see what they profess to believe.

I used to pray every night. I prayed to ask God to protect everything I cared about and even things I didn’t care about, but were “good” things, like starving people, hostages(it was the 80s), etc. Since I read that God was such a contradiction, I stopped praying. And nothing changed. Things weren’t any better or worse, and I didn’t feel like I failed if something did go “wrong”. I no longer felt that I had to supplicate God for every little thing. I started reading more about other religions and even tried some others, still searching for something. I came to the realization that all religions are false because their deities do nothing. I realized that any good that occurred in the world was because of people, not some supernatural force.

So, now I’m an atheist. I have a job where I help people. I contribute to charities that I find worthy. I’m married to a perfectly wonderful man. My parents are still the good people they have always been, though they do not often go to church because people *still*, more than 30 years later, are being stupid about things. I do not fear some deity in the sky and do not need a carrot or stick to “make” me act good. I just am and I’m happy about that.



It’s a fantastic meeting here at #atheistcon, in a beautiful part of the world, with huge crowds (I have seen the theater, and I have seen it filled with people, and I am intimidated), and I can tell this convention is going to be a huge success. But I have to complain about one thing, and that is the internet access. It’s no fault of the organizers, but it’s a universal problem of big greedy hotels.

I can say from experience staying at way too many hotels that the South Wharf Hilton in Melbourne has provided the very worst experience in wifi ever. It’s abominable. Let me tell you what fun I’ve had.

The first day was OK; we actually briefly had free access. Everything was smooth, I was pleased, but of course it could not last, because then it stopped working altogether — we were told that they were going to fix it.

The next day, it was sort of working. My wife and I could both get on, I could access it via my iPad, but that’s also where my laptop started mysteriously crashing (a problem that has since vanished, since new wifi software started working).

Later that day, though, everything changed. We’d connect with wifi, and get a login screen for “DOCOMO Intertouch”. What, you might ask, is this? It’s what greedy hotels install to fuck up the internet and bring in some additional revenue. You log into this thing and then all your access is filtered through this new layer that exists solely to monitor your usage and cut you off at a specified time limit. And it sucks.

The cost is $9.95au for two hours, which is absurdly overpriced. Nothing is too absurd for these hotels, though, because when I tried to use their Business Center, the machines there charge $26au for two hours. No thanks.

So I composed some stuff offline, and bit the bullet and paid the $9.95 to get some stuff done. I started sucking in my email, managed some essential student business, then after about ten minutes went to do some of that blogging stuff, and this is what I got instead, a big stupid error message.

image will be posted when I have better access

I followed the instructions, quit and restarted, and fired it up again…no go. Same message. Infuriatingly, the lovely DOCOMO software does put up a little countdown clock to tell you that your time will expire in 1Hour(s):43Min(s): 14Sec(s), which you can watch count down to the time it will stop working for sure. Just the fact that they use that clumsy (s) tells me these programmers are lazy relics from the 1980s. Maybe the DOCOMO code is even written in COBOL.

I let it time out.

So today, fool that I am, I figured they’ve been working on fixing this problem, and I paid them $9.95 again. I got about 3 minutes before it died. I thought I’d be smart and try to post something first; I wasn’t quick enough. So that morning I got to watch the ever-so-useful timer count down again.

Oh, well.

I’ve run into this so often it’s become a kind of expectation for me. I get a cheap hotel, the room is fine, the internet access is routine and free; sometimes you have to enter a password, but that’s a function built into the router and it all works smoothly. Get put into a pricier, nicer, fancier hotel, and oh, no, they can’t possibly just provide access to all their customers — they have to gouge more money out of them. So they contract some company to build a wall, usually badly, that their residents have to pay to get through, and then they charge some ridiculous sum for limited access. And it almost always breaks, because the people running the hotel have no idea how to manage this clumsy chunk of code they’ve interposed between us and the internet. And we get really pissed off.

Because, you know, a hotel may have lovely amenities (like this one), but some of us see the world through the lens of the network, and all we see is incompetent IT people and money-grubbing asshole management, and that means the hotel looks utterly hideous to us.

The hotel staff did try to be helpful, and cancelled the charges, but none of them knew anything about the software, and the only way they could actually help me get on the internet was to connect me to DOCOMO. No thanks. They are the problem, not the solution.

Travelers, if you expect to get anything done on the internet, stay away from the South Wharf Hilton in Melbourne. All you’ll get is aggravation and frustration. Stay just about anywhere else — I’ve talked to a few people who got cheaper local accommodation, and they’re entirely content with their service.

Some good news: we do have free wifi in the convention center! Hooray for the organizers! I’ll try to post a few updates on the meetings throughout the Australian day (first up this morning: Peter Singer), but I also suspect that, realistically, once 3500-4000 people show up and fire up their smartphones all at once, it may get a little flaky. But at least I have one place where I can get through!

Why privacy matters

We missed out. This iPhone app, Girls Around Me, has been yanked from the Apple store. It was a geolocation based mapping application that created a google map of your current location, and then checked in with facebook to find all the women who had done any social networking in that area. Then it tracked through their data to post pictures of them on the map.

Isn’t that sweet? All you women were made public targets for a kind of weird hunting game. I presume you are all now logging into facebook and trying to sort through the arcane tangle of options to limit access.

In case you’re thinking this was an app designed for creepy stalkers, though, you’ve got it all wrong. It’s the opposite of stalking. The designer has said that the purpose of the app was to allow his bros to avoid the ugly girls.

Doesn’t that make you feel so much better now?

The mystery of the disappearing laptop

That priest who flashed gay porn at his audience is being investigated, and something strange has happened: the laptop that he used has vanished completely and somewhat mysteriously. It’s also the only thing stolen from the priest’s home.

Makes you go “hmmm”, doesn’t it.

I’ve got two possible explanations: 1) them evil gays broke into his house to steal his legendary Gay Porn stash, or 2) Jesus teleported the computer to his party room in Heaven. I can’t imagine any other way this could happen.

Oh, OK, a priest could have intentionally destroyed evidence that he had a computer full of dowloaded porn, but that’s so ridiculous and ludicrous that it beggars belief. Priests have vows and a special connection to a beneficent god and know for sure that lying and masturbating to gay porn and using a condom or other such sinful apparatus would send them straight to hell, so they’d never ever do that. Ever.

Why I am an atheist – The Heretic Next Door

I grew up in a Catholic household and attended parochial schools from kindergarten until high school graduation. I took communion weekly but never truly swallowed what the sacrement was intended to be: the conversion of a strange round wafer into the body of Jesus. I told myself I believed it, and I said, “Amen,” when it was my turn in the communion line. I knew what the right answer was–and by golly, I wanted that “A.”

At around age eight, the tapestry started to unravel. After learning of the existence of different belief systems around the world, it occurred to me that one line in the profession of faith we recited was obnoxious, arrogant, and unfair to non-Catholics: “We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” I stopped saying it as a form of silent protest.

I quit going to mass once I went to college. I dabbled with various denominations after I married an Episcopalian, especially after we moved to a small southern town and had kids. Not only did it provide a comfortable community, it seemed like what we should be doing, particularly for our sons. My attendance was sporadic at best, and ceased altogether when we moved to a small college town in southwest Virginia, though my family continues to attend a church.

When my oldest was 12 or so, I was holding forth to him on my thoughts about religion. It started with my disdain for organized religions, the hypocrisy and judgmentalism of many religious people, yet a concession that many others–people we know–are good and derive profound benefits from religious faith. I explained that in high school, I learned that “religion” is defined as “answers to the questions of the mysteries of life,” then held forth on the mythologies that peoples of various cultures have developed over the millennia to explain how and why we are here. Given the numbers, the variety and the lack of accord, I just doubted that any one was correct. And given the advances in scientific understanding of matters that address many of these questions, I didn’t really have much use for religion after all.

He asked, “So are you an atheist?” I said I didn’t think so, but would get back to him. Despite my indoctrinated aversion to that label, I felt I owed him and his younger brother an honest evaluation and answer.

I began reading Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion and Susan Jacoby’s The Age of American Unreason, and on a weekend home alone, watched Julia Sweeney’s Letting Go of God, which moved me to tears of relief. It was as though I could finally let go of the last gossamer thread of the falsehood. Finally, I’d found ideas, thoughts, concepts and a worldview that accorded with my own, that rang effortlessly true with an unmistakable clarity.

At long last, I recognize that we must write our own test of truth; it is our responsibility to find honest answers for ourselves. As for me, I believe that there are no gods. I am an atheist. I’ve earned this “A.”

The Heretic Next Door

A squid less poll

The catmeister has sent his minions to wreck a poll, and wreck it wrongly. Look at this malformed question:

Do You Prefer:

Adorable Pictures of Babies? 4%
Adorable Pictures of Puppies? 27%
Adorable Pictures of Kittens? 47%
All of the Above 13%
None of the Above 6%

I ask you…WHERE ARE THE SQUID? Given the absence of a correct answer, clearly the only acceptable reply is “none of the above”. Teach them a lesson, please. For great justice!

Melbourne Day Two

The day is off to an awful start. Internet access in the hotel is only intermittent, and it’s only occasionally that I can get on; and then this morning my laptop plays prima donna and dies, repeatedly, with ugly lock-ups and horribly slow performance. I may be restricted to blogging by iPad all weekend, which is slower and clumsier.

The day will get better. Mary has plans for us. We’re going out to see the sights this morning and afternoon, so she’s totally in charge. She keeps talking about flowers and trees and birds, though, and not a word about Cephalopoda or Insecta, so it might be a little weird. I’ll try to cope.

Then, 4:00 to 6ish, any pharyngula people in the vicinity ought to converge on the South Wharf Hilton Bah for some ‘Strine beeah. The Global Atheist Convention commences at 6:15 with a cocktail party, and then…chaos reigns!