Godless, by Dan Barker – a quick review

Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America’s Leading Atheists

This was a really good book.  I really enjoyed the beginning,  when he talked about his upbringing and how he became a preacher and then the process of shedding all that baggage.

The end was good.  He talked about life without religion.  How it’s possible to be good without a god,  and how you can be happy and successful without religious dogma,  and he even recounted a traumatic time in his life when he was able to find the support he needed without falling prey to a predatory belief system.

The middle dragged on a bit.  He spent a lot of time talking about this theory or that and how not only are they wrong,  but they’re often even internally inconsistent with each other.  If you’re the kind of person who aspires to be a biblical scholar,  or you intend to debate theists on the nuts and bolts of the Bible,  this will be right up your alley.  I decided I just don’t care enough about the utter crap we’re expected to believe.  I have no desire to immerse myself in something from which I have absolutely nothing to gain.

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The Point of the Holiday Season to an Atheist

In a conversation with a friend, who is also atheist, the topic of holidays came up. Someone questioned why she would have a Christmas Tree. She said “Umm, why not?” I also thought it was a strange question. I said “I’m atheist, but I love the holiday season.” However, when my cousin (who is not atheist) questioned this “…and what exactly do you love about it?,” I started wondering if maybe this wasn’t so obvious to those who don’t understand atheism. Perhaps this question deserves to be fleshed out a bit.

Every atheist has a slightly different definition of atheism. Going into the nuances is outside the scope of this post. Suffice it to say we don’t believe in God and tend to shun the institution of religion in general.

So my desire to celebrate the holidays with family and friends is considered strange behavior for an atheist. First of all, what is Christmas? It’s the celebration of the birth of Christ, although with a little research, I could come up with the names of at least two other non-christian deities who also celebrate their birth around this time (an inexplicable coincidence), but that’s another topic for another day. If you’re Christian, this idea of “birth of Christ” is not lost on you. You may go to Church, but even if you don’t, you recognize that this holiday has the aforementioned religious element to it. I don’t believe in Christmas as the celebration of the birth of Christ, and I don’t celebrate it any more than I celebrate Hanukkah or Ramadan. Christmas, specifically, holds no significance for me. However, the holiday season in general is a different matter.

If you set aside religion for a moment, do the days in and around November/December feel like normal work days? Of course not. Decorations are up, Christmas trees and Hanukkah bushes are up, people are shopping for gifts and visiting with friends and family, and the atmosphere is just generally more festive and cheerful.

We decorate the house and put up a tree if we’ve got the time. It’s pretty to look at and it helps to create the festive atmosphere that we enjoy as much as anyone else does. We don’t stress out if it doesn’t get done. It’s not about responsibility. It’s about doing what we enjoy doing without losing perspective. After all, what’s the Christmas tree got to do with the religious aspect of Christmas anyway? It’s just another decoration for the house. We exchange gifts just because that’s what’s traditionally done, although we rarely do so on Christmas day. It just happens, frankly, whenever the hell we feel like it.

So, what do I love about the holiday season? Essentially everything that my Christian friends and family do. The only difference is that I don’t recognize it as a celebration of the birth of a man that Christians consider their god. I use it as an opportunity to celebrate the things that are important to me — my family and friends.

Posted via email from Kevin’s Ramblings

Being Atheist is Hard

Hypocrisy

Hypocrisy

OK, so I wasn’t always atheist.  I was raised in a Roman Catholic family.  I’ve been baptized, had a First Communion and a Confirmation.  I even got married in a Catholic church.  For a time, when I was in Desert Storm in the Marines, I was more religious than at any other time in my life (you know the old ‘no atheists in foxholes’ bit).

So, I was thinking recently how easy it always was to ask God for support and guidance when I didn’t kow what to do.  I asked him to watch over and protect me when I was in dangerous situations, and I asked him for forgiveness when I screwed up.  Ultimately, I wasn’t living my life for me.  I was living it for someone else.  I made decisions knowing that I had the approval of God, so it must be right.  Besides, even if I made the wrong decision or screwed something up, all I had to do was ask for forgiveness and all would be right again.  What happens when something bad happens to me?  “It’s all part of God’s plan.”  What more needed to be said, right?  Even if I didn’t want to accept that, I always knew who to be angry at.  After all, God was ultimately responsible for everything that happened.  How much easier could things be.

Now, this isn’t about why I became atheist.  That’s a topic for another day.  But since I came down on the side of atheism several years ago, things suddenly got hard.  There was no guiding force to protect me when I was in danger.  No ‘higher being’ to turn to for guidance when I was faced with difficult decisions.  I was suddenly responsible for my actions in a way I never was before.  I couldn’t claim that I was being guided by something or someone.  I couldn’t justify my actions by claiming that it was part of the ‘big plan.’  I couldn’t confess my sins and expect the problem to go away.  In short, there’s no longer anyone to blame or turn to when life just sucks.  It’s my bag and I’m holding it.  I’m expected to move forward and take responsibility for my actions, just like I teach my kids to do.

So, if you think being atheist is a cop out — the easy way out, think again.  It’s, perhaps, more difficult than leaning on the crutch of religion.  I was recently thinking about this.  It would be great to be able to give all the credit and all the blame to someone who’s not around to defend him or herself.  But no.  I choose to face life head on, make my own decisions, and accept what comes my way.

Religion — that’s easy.  Reality, not so much.

Image Credit: http://onegoodmove.org/1gm/1gmarchive/2009/02/links_with_your_955.html