Why I am an atheist – Anne Marie

After careful thought and consideration, I decide I would write in as to why I am an atheist. Up until about six years ago, until I was 22, I was a believer in fairy tales. I believed that when you blessed yourself and made the sign of the cross that it would be as though it was a “direct telephone line” to God and that whatever I said would go straight to his ears. During mass I would count the number of times I blessed myself to make sure I “hung up” so that in case I thought of something bad it would not go straight to him.

I used to have a rosary and miraculous medals with me at all times, and even carried a scapular and small figures of Mary and Jesus in my purse. After tenth grade I stopped going to church mainly because I hated the parish I went to and detested the monsignor there, who always seemed to be the one officiating. But I still carried those trinkets with me wherever I went. Even though I no longer believe, I still cannot bring myself to throw them away, for sentimental values (gifts from my parents and grandparents).

As far as science goes, I was taught evolution in school and it was not until high school that I learned that people actually thought the world was six thousand years old. Needless to say, those girls were terribly misinformed then as they are now. I am at least thankful that I never believed in that nonsense. The Big Bang makes more sense than creationist stories about how the earth was formed. I love physics and engineering, and am going back to school to learn more about it and to get my degree in mechanical engineering (I know, big leap from fashion design, but I always want to know how things work and why and now that I am 28, I realized what I wanted to be when I was 18 is not what I want to be now that I am no longer a teenager).

The biggest thing that caused me to question and ultimately read about religion more than anything was the child abuse scandal and when the Catholic Church decided there was going to be no more Limbo, which goes back to my constant need to understand things and why it is done that way. I could not believe that no one would come forward for these kids and how dare the priest cover for themselves. It disgusted me that basically the entire hierarchy of the Catholic Church cared more about the pedophile priests than they did for the children whose lives were ruined because of them. Additionally when the Catholic Church announced a few years ago that despite the fact that they are infallible, they made a mistake for a few millennia and that unbaptized babies no longer go to limbo they are in heaven. My grandmother had a stillborn baby some fifty odd years ago and she spent every day until her death ten years ago thinking that she would never see her baby in heaven because the Catholic Church told her it was in Limbo with no chance to be with her.

It was because of this anger that led me to start reading about Catholicism and its history, which led to reading about Protestants and finally other Abrahamic religions and a little of the other world religions. I read why Jews didn’t accept Christ because he did not fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament. I read about how there is no evidence for Jesus aside from the Bible. I started to realize that if I grew up in India and raised Hindu, I would believe Hinduism is the only way, or if I grew up in Saudi Arabia I would be Muslim and Islam would be the only way. I started to question why would God only allow his religion to be given to only a few select people. I then started to realize that it was all crap. It was all man made and it all boils down to this one thing: people are afraid to die and are afraid that there is nothing after our time on this earth is over.

Through time and reasoning I came to the conclusion that all religion is false and that I now pity people who believe in it and base their whole lives on pleasing an invisible man in the sky. My family is now what we joke as being on the “Dark Side”, and my mother is pretty much an agnostic now. My siblings are also atheists as well and my dad is a strong agnostic too. I am not going to go back to believing in fairy tales ever again. If only the rest of the world would too.

Anne Marie
United States

I have a new favorite insult!

I shouldn’t be this petty, given the ghastliness of these recently disclosed documents from the National Organization for Marriage. NOM is openly linking up with the Catholic Church, which is providing millions of dollars for campaigns to poison people into hating gays. They’re talking about fomenting hatred: they want to “interrupt the process of assimilation” of Hispanics into the wider culture by making gay marriage a sticking point; they say “The strategic goal of this project is to drive a wedge between gays and blacks – two key Democratic constituencies.”

This is despicable. They’re targeting minorities to train them to find a new reason to hate, an artificial reason that widens the gulf without addressing the real problems of discrimination.

That isn’t funny. Their methods aren’t funny, either: they have lots of money, and they’re throwing it into hate-mongering ads, just like the Mormon church did with Proposition 8. But one of their proposed tactics did tickle my warped sense of humor:

"Hollywood with its cultural biases is far bigger than we can hope to be. We recognize this. But we also recognize the opportunity – the disproportionate potential impact of proactively seeking to gather and connect a community of artists, athletes, writers, beauty queens and other glamorous non-cognitive elites across national boundaries."

Yeah, they’re going to recruit famous dumbasses who can fall for their lies and toxic message…because don’t you know how effective Victoria Jackson has been as a spokesperson for tea-party insanity? But I do love how they openly admit that they have to recruit stupid people…ahem, I mean “non-cognitive” people… to their cause.

Let’s help NOM out and make a list of non-cognitive elites they can recruit. I’ll start.

Victoria Jackson
Pat Boone
Chuck Norris

Yes! Glamor and inanity go so well together!

How many more conferences can you bear?

This is getting ridiculous. Another collision: on 18-20 May, I’ll be attending Imagine No Religion in Kamloops, BC. At the same time, the Women in Secularism conference is taking place on the other side of the continent, in Washington DC. I can’t be at both!

But I do have a proxy. My daughter Skatje will be traveling to DC, and she will also be posting the occasional summary of the days’ events here on Pharyngula. One blog, two conferences. We shall do everything!

Warning: if you are at the same conference with Skatje, do not attempt to weasel sordid stories of her awful father and his goofy behavior out of her — she is under strict instructions to obey that one commandment about honoring your father and mother. Also, the one about killing.

OK, maybe not the one about killing if you get too pushy.

A third conference this weekend?

Yes, a third one. Northwest Free-thought Alliance Conference is taking place on 30 March-1 April in Renton, Washington, just south of Seattle. Fly into Sea-Tac, it’s not that far. Richard Dawkins is speaking at this one, too — he does get around — as well as Anu Garg, who gave an excellent talk last time I heard him.

All right, divvy it up. Southerners and East Coasters, go to Rock Beyond Belief; Upper Midwest, go to our Midwest Science of Origins Conference; West Coasters, head up to the Northwest Free-thought Alliance.

Man, I remember when godless conferences were scarce, and you’d have a choice of a couple of them every year; now you’ve got a couple of them on the same day.

Wait, faking kidnaping is better than doing it for real, right?

We should congratulate them on the improvement in their tactics. Rather than molesting children for real, a church group cleverly thought they’d pretend to kidnap children.

Adults, including an off-duty cop, brandished weapons and put bags over the heads of the children, ages 13 through 18, and forced them into a church van. The group was driven to the home of an assistant pastor, who was presented before the group with a seemingly bloodied and bruised face, according to Dauphin County District Attorney Fran Chardo.

One of the adults used a real AK-47, though the gun was unloaded, Chardo said.

PHOTO: Members of a youth group were tied up and blindfolded as part of a lesson in religious persecution at a church function in Middletown, Penn., and now an investigation is being launched to see if the teens were aware of what was going to happen.

The church leaders who organized the fake hostage situation later told law enforcement that the event was meant to be a lesson to the children on how Christians are persecuted in places around the world, but the "educational" event may actually constitute a crime, Chardo said.

Terrifying children is a fantastic way to gain converts. They claim they were ‘training’ kids in what they might experience for real, because Christians are persecuted…in America? Really?

I’m sure the Christians behind this were certain that any indoctrination tool is fair game.

Dueling conferences

Begin the banjo music. You’ve got a difficult decision to face. There are two conferences going on simultaneously this weekend, and you should go to one!


Rock Beyond Belief

Midwest Science of Origins Conference

Venue: Fort Bragg, NC

Venue: Morris, MN

Headliner: Richard Dawkins

Headliner: Neil Shubin

Topic: Rock’n’Roll!


Date: 31 March

Date: 30 March-1 April

After objectively weighing the merits of both, I have come to the entirely impartial conclusion that you should all attend the Midwest Science of Origins Conference — after all, it’s 3 days long, and located in lovely Morris, which I swear is entirely thawed out already.

Of course, if you’re already somewhere south of Minnesota, and are concerned about the accommodations available in a town of 5,000 people, I suppose you could be forgiven for attending Rock Beyond Belief instead. I will allow it.

There is one other difference. Midwest Science of Origins Conference has been sailing along without controversy, fully supported by the university, and with a team of enthusiastic students contributing to the organization. On the other hand, Rock Beyond Belief has faced constant harassment : the latest nonsense comes from a frivolous administration that is telling RBB that they can’t have a food drive for the homeless. Why? I don’t know. Evangelical Christians were allowed to do all kinds of fundraising for their event, but apparently it’s OK to discriminate against godless atheists, even when they’re trying to do good for the community.

All right, I guess you should go to Rock Beyond Belief if you can, if just to piss off the whimsical jerks higher up the command chain. But the Midwest Science of Origins Conference is a solid second choice!

So we’ll see you in one place or the other, right?

Who else hates the Transportation Security Administration?

You can’t imagine how much I detest TSA. OK, maybe you can; I think my contempt is widely shared. It’s the arbitrary rules, the immediate awkward responses to last week’s threat, the implicit understanding that the overbearing security theater is going to continue forever without end, with ever-escalating nonsense, and the fact that you do not dare voice that outrage to the TSA, or they can and will make your travel unpleasant or even impossible. They are anti-free speech and anti-reason.

You know one little thing that just annoys the heck out of me? When I travel abroad, other countries don’t make me take my shoes off to go through security. Are they seriously at greater risk than we are? Or is this just random rules-tossing that we are obligated to suffer through?

One guy who has been fighting back is the security expert, Bruce Schneier. Right now, this week, he’s in a debate on The Economist with Kip Hawley, former head of the TSA, defending the claim that “changes to airport security since 9/11 have done more harm than good“. Schneier is cleaning Hawley’s clock. It’s one of the more entertaining and informative online debates that I’ve ever read.

Of course, it really helps that Hawley’s opening statement is this exercise in absurdity:

More than 6 billion consecutive safe arrivals of airline passengers since the 9/11 attacks mean that whatever the annoying and seemingly obtuse airport-security measures may have been, they have been ultimately successful.

You have got to be kidding me. Seriously? That’s your opening salvo? You know, I’ve got this lucky coin in my pocket that scares away tigers. Here’s the proof: I haven’t been eaten by tigers yet.

Schneier, on the other hand, punches hard. I like that in a guy.

Kip Hawley doesn’t argue with the specifics of my criticisms, but instead provides anecdotes and asks us to trust that airport security—and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in particular—knows what it’s doing.

He wants us to trust that a 400-ml bottle of liquid is dangerous, but transferring it to four 100-ml bottles magically makes it safe. He wants us to trust that the butter knives given to first-class passengers are nevertheless too dangerous to be taken through a security checkpoint. He wants us to trust the no-fly list: 21,000 people so dangerous they’re not allowed to fly, yet so innocent they can’t be arrested. He wants us to trust that the deployment of expensive full-body scanners has nothing to do with the fact that the former secretary of homeland security, Michael Chertoff, lobbies for one of the companies that makes them. He wants us to trust that there’s a reason to confiscate a cupcake (Las Vegas), a 3-inch plastic toy gun (London Gatwick), a purse with an embroidered gun on it (Norfolk, VA), a T-shirt with a picture of a gun on it (London Heathrow) and a plastic lightsaber that’s really a flashlight with a long cone on top (Dallas/Fort Worth).

If you’d like to learn more about Schneier, here’s an entertaining account of how he taught a journalist to circumvent airport security. There’s one thing you need to know: TSA is a collection of ineffectual buffoons who are keeping themselves lucratively employed by inventing ever more elaborate, clownish schemes that don’t touch the real security issues.

Why I am an atheist – Neel Ode

When I was four (or thereabouts) I was taken by an elderly “aunt” (I think she was a friend of my maternal grandparents) to a church in Manhattan to “see the animals in the stone”. Now I had previously been taken to the American Museum of Natural History and had seen the mounted dinosaur skeletons, etc., and I was eager to see more – especially those which were not yet extracted for the rock.

So I eagerly accompanied her to a church which was lined with marble. To my dismay there were no animal skeletons embedded in the stone: some vague shapes which, if you stretched your imagination a whole lot, could be interpreted as a rabbit, or a squirrl, or a bird, or something else.

After waxing lyrical about the “animals in the stone” my “aunt” then proceeded to start talking about Jesus and God and Heaven.

The first part of her discourse – about the animals in the stone – was obviously blown out of her ass – although I didn’t think in those terms at that time. So I took the second part, about God and Jesus, etc., as just more of the same.

That experience inoculated me: Sunday school, Bible lessons, etc. etc. etc. – you name it – rang false false false from then on.

As I matured, of course, I became more sophisticated in my reasoning, which is only to be expected. But no matter how bullet-proof an argument for God apparently was, I KNEW, from the start, that it was bogus, and I just had to poke and pry at it some more to find the catch – the unstated and erroneous assumption, the false premise.

It has been more than 6 decades, now, and I grow weary of the lies the proselytizers spew with unfailing energy.

Neel Ode

1.5 million children stolen

If you kidnap one child, there’s an APB and a massive police response and if you’re caught, you’ll be spending a good long while in jail. If you kidnap a million children over decades, you’re a source of morality and goodness. So think big!

Just needs a clerical collar…

In some cases, mothers in Australia were drugged and forced to sign papers relinquishing custody. In others, women were told their children had died. Single mothers also did not have access to the financial support given to widows or abandoned wives, and many were told by doctors, nurses, and social workers that they were unfit to raise a child. Siewert says, “We heard practices that were either illegal or unethical and downright cruel.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me to hear the same thing happened elsewhere,” continues Siewert, “…the U.K., the U.S., Canada and Ireland. So you could, I think, expect that those countries also had these sorts of practices.”

I suspect you can guess who’s behind such contemptible acts: it’s the Catholic Church, of course, arbiter of morality, who have long held that a woman has no autonomy at all and must be supported by a good strong manly man…so single mothers are obviously unfit to care for a child.

Ironically, Bill Donohue has issued a press release whining about how the Reason Rally singled out Catholicism for venom (it didn’t). He takes vindication in our contempt for his religion.

Catholics take note: The fact that the atheists always attack us more than any other religious group is a backhanded compliment. They know who the real enemy of hate is, and who they must defeat. They don’t have a prayer.

Sorry, Bill. The record is clear. Your church is not an enemy of hate at all; it’s a sinkhole of depravity and oppression. The church is attacked because it’s a monstrous institution. And if it is attacked more than other religions, it’s only because it commits more crimes than others.