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There Is No Hell

I wish I could remember the name of the book I read when I was younger. It was mainly about Pagan practices and covered some things such as how many of the current “Christian” holidays were swiped from Pagan rituals and festivals. One distinctive part in that book that has stuck with me for a LONG time is simply this, “To give evil a name is to give it power.” Reading that is actually what probably started my deviation away from the belief in a God as well. From that point further, I no longer believed in the Devil or Hell. I was not about to give something “power” over me, especially since negativity wasn’t something I wanted in my life at all. I remember, distinctly too, being outspoken about this whenever asked or if Hell or the Devil was brought up to me. And most people didn’t argue with me either when I explained confidently that one sentence: to give evil a name is to give it power.

I think a lot of our society is lost in a sea of “passing the buck”. Of blaming something or someone else for the wrong-doings and mishaps that occur. I find that many people are resistant to personal accountability. I mean, most of society has been taught that it’s “the Devil’s work” about the bad things that happen in life.

Um. Well.

How about the alternatives?It was a bad choice. Or, an unfortunate timing of events. Or a result of someone else’s bad choices. Or it was part of nature. Why do these things need any other “mysterious” explanation? Why does “someone else” have to be responsible for these crappy things that happen in our world? We always tout that we aren’t perfect. And it’s true, we’re not. We’re fallible creatures that make mistakes as part of our growth process. We’re also creatures that are subjected to other things in this beautiful planet of ours that are part of nature. And we’re also subjected to the effects other people’s mistakes have on our own lives. It’s up to us to determine how we choose to handle these events that happen.

Why the need for a scapegoat?

It seems as if its for no other reason than the vast majority don’t know how to handle things that happen, that we don’t want to have happen; death, accidents, natural disasters, etc. And realistically, I can understand that. It’s hard to imagine with things like death that…that’s it. They’re gone and there’s nothing more. But, considering some of the alternatives that the Christian “afterlife” offers, is it really that bad a thing?

You can at least rest assured that they won’t burn in “Hell” because there isn’t one. And yeah, “Heaven” is touted to be this beautiful place of peace and happiness, but…well…IF there were EITHER of those places in an afterlife, it would be a body that is no longer our own. If you go to Heaven, but your significant other goes to Hell at your deaths, are you really enjoying Heaven without the presence of your significant other? For some people, isn’t that just like another version of Hell? So, would you really be in Heaven without your significant other? Or were you sent to a different kind of Hell? And what of that burning hellfire for eternity thing? I’m sure there’s something painful or unpleasant that you have experienced with some amount of frequency that the pain or unpleasantness becomes dull. So, would one not become accustomed to the hellfires? How would “Satan” amplify the punishment over the years?

If Hell were to exist, it’s one that we have created ourselves. And for many still, they live in their own Hell. Gripped by fears that make them afraid of change. Gripped by the frustrations of life and the obstacles in their way of reaching towards a better tomorrow. Born into a family with anything but respect, consideration, concern, care, or even love to encourage growth and personal development. Much of the same mantra can be repeated for each of these situations: You may have no control over what happens to you, but you do have control over how those things make you feel and how you choose to respond to them.

It’s about personal accountability. I feel we’d be a much greater nation if we quit passing the buck and made a concerned effort to take responsibility for our own actions and emotions. If we just quit praying for something to happen and instead DO something to make what we want happen, (within reason – you can’t “make” another person love you ya know 😉 ), maybe we’d be further along. Maybe we’d better appreciate others and the efforts that they have made to be of assistance to us. Maybe we’d have an easier time moving on and moving forward if we could just let go of the idea that bad things are someone else’s fault. They may be as with the effects of someone else’s bad choices in our own lives, but again, we are ultimately responsible for how we choose to handle each of life’s individual events – big or small.

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Posted by on June 16, 2012 in Godless

 

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No, No, I’m Not Confused

Ahhh, something I didn’t see coming. I’m intelligent and “worldly” and a polite debater. I ask questions and I typically speak sense, especially on views that are “unpopular.”

Because of this, I, apparently, am just confused about my atheism. I can’t possibly be intelligent and have given the God-belief any real consideration.

I really hate to burst this bubble for some of you fine folks, but it’s that intelligence of mine that has brought me to where I’m at today. It’s that intelligence of mine that has prompted me to ask questions. To ask HARD questions. Because, the thinker in me wants to know. Because my sponge-like brain is ready for more possible answers to the why’s and how’s on the things that people do and believe.

Some think I’m too logical. And that’s okay. I’m rather at peace with how I am. I’m fully capable of being emotional, but I just don’t let my emotions lead my life. I acknowledge them and what they mean to me regarding whatever situation I may be in and move forward from there.

People remark to me that I’m one of THE strongest people they know. They admire that. I really tend to think that I’m just doing what’s necessary to keep moving forward in my life, but I’ve also been known to be a bit self-deprecating. Either way, people tend to value my opinion. That’s my general understanding of it when those people come to me to vent or to get advice about something. Shouldn’t this suggest that most see me as giving time and consideration to different aspects of things? That I think about and evaluate things on a reasonable level? That people believe my opinion is generally thought out?

I find it frustrating that people think that for some reason, I just haven’t given full consideration to my beliefs in a deity. Why would I skip over something as “important” as that?

Let’s break a few things down here.  I don’t believe in killing. I don’t believe in stealing. I believe in treating people with compassion and kind words. I believe in helping others. I believe in monogamous relationships. Aren’t these things part of the core “morals” or “values” instilled by religion? And haven’t I covered how I wasn’t indoctrinated into a religion growing up?

Please, let’s face the facts here that I am good without God. And that the only “purpose” for believing in a God is the aspect of eternal salvation, which I also don’t believe in. I don’t believe in a Heaven or a Hell. And really, my lack of belief should not harm anyone else because if Heaven is as perfect as it sounds, you won’t even know I’m not there when you get there. So, concern for my “salvation” should be left to me, not anyone else.

Religion is about recruitment in a way. One of the basic requirements for salvation is the absolute belief in God AND spreading the word of God. I’m sure that’s why so many feel the need to continuously push their beliefs and religious doctrines on others. And trust me, I do understand that for most people, it is meant with positive intentions.

But when you approach someone like me who isn’t wandering around completely lost in life; who, despite the bad things is still maintaining composure and forward momentum…when you approach me and make the strong suggestion that you know better what is going on in my own head than *I* do…well certainly I’m going to take issue with that.

So, I’m not like other atheists you’ve met. Good. Because there are MANY more like me. Perhaps most just don’t choose to publicly speak about it like I’ve chosen to do here in this blog, as well as on my Facebook page and Twitter.

In one of my previous “godless” posts, “Pit Bulls and Atheists“, I wrote:

Just as I surprised people with the information that I do in fact own pit bulls, I seem to continue to surprise people when they learn I don’t believe in any gods. Because I’m good. And it shakes their perception of what kind of person they think an atheist is, much as for many it shakes their perception of the type of people that do own pit bulls.

Just because I’m not like the atheists you’ve met in the past, doesn’t mean I’m any less of one. Sure, there are some opinionated assholes out there speaking their mind and belittling people in the process of arguing belief vs. nonbelief. I’ve seen them hard at work on the internet myself. But more often than not, fellow atheists/humanists/freethinkers/agnostics/etc. are just normal, everyday people who suffer from being THE least trusted minority in America. Seriously. We’re still people for crying out loud. We still have emotions and daily lives and families and responsibilities and are still working fervently to create a niche in this world of ours.

How are people like me, harming others? How does my lack of belief in a deity affect you? Why does it affect you? Your belief in a deity doesn’t affect me. Well, unless of course you’re physically or mentally harming others. Or if you’re making unjust accusations about people. Why is it a problem? Why do you insist that I can’t think for myself and form my own opinions if I’m so intelligent?

Like it is for many, there’s more to me than meets the eye. Remember that before taking the step out there to assume someone “needs” something. Find out first.

 
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Posted by on May 5, 2012 in Godless, Hot Button

 

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Pit Bulls and Atheists

Owning and rescuing pit bulls prepped me for “outing” myself with my disbelief in a divine entity such as “God.” As I mentioned in my previous post, “Did You Judge Me?“, “Changing the public’s perception of a specific term does not happen through silence. It happens through demonstration.”

See, being a pit bull owner has been relatively taboo for a while, however, progress is being made to change those perceptions. But, because of it’s “taboo” nature, pit bull owners get judged just as much as the dogs themselves!

Pit bull owners and atheists have to have thick skin to put up with frequent discrimination. Let’s look at a few examples.

Pit Bulls Atheists
“Those dogs are evil!” “Atheists are evil!”
“You gotta watch out for those dogs. You can’t trust them.” “I don’t trust atheists.”
“You own a pit bull? Aren’t you worried?” “You don’t believe in God? Aren’t you worried?”
“But, this dog is nice! It can’t be a pit bull!” “But, you’re so nice! You must believe in something!”
“Only people with bad intentions want those dogs.” “Atheists have bad intentions because they don’t have God to guide them through right and wrong.”
The look of horror and disgust when you tell someone petting your dog that it is a pit bull and they draw away. The look of horror and disgust when you tell someone you are godless and they draw away.

Think I’m overreacting? Definitely not. Misinformation about both of these things coupled with misplaced or unjustified fears breeds this exact kind of ignorance. Yep. I said it. Ignorance. Refusing to learn more about something you fear or that you don’t understand and choosing to believe any fear-based drivel that is hand-fed to you instead of thinking for yourself, that’s ignorance. 

When I first got involved with pit bulls, I realized that not everyone liked them, but I had NO idea that the hatred was so deep with so many people! My family and friends didn’t squish up their faces in concern when I told them, but acquaintances or those in in work-related relationships couldn’t help but raise some of these questions with me. And it happened so often enough that I just started laughing and being matter of fact about the facts that, “no, I’m not worried they’re going to eat me. I still have all my fingers and toes don’t I?” Most would brush it off and move on, others would ask a few more questions, and then a few would comment how “cool” it was and that it was totally unexpected that me, of all people, had pit bulls.

Isn’t that a curious observation? “I didn’t see you as the type that would own pit bulls.” Well…that’s part of your problem then isn’t it? 😉 See, ALL types of people own pit bulls. Naturally you’ve got those who are ill-intentioned, but the reality of it is, MANY “normal” people own pit bulls. And you’d never know because many of these people who do own them actually care for their dogs and make the effort to treat them as any other pet dog – a valued family member.

Many people ask me, “But, why pit bulls?” Well, why not? They are an extremely human-friendly breed. They are active and versatile. They’re easy to train and ready to do whatever it is to make you happy. They are clownish and have a zest for life that is contagious. They’re also a short-haired breed who, compared to other breeds, is on the quiet side. No, really! When you first walk into my house, if the dogs are in their rooms, you wouldn’t know I had them!

It was aggravating at first to have to deal with all the curious, but ridiculous, questions. “Oh they’ll turn on you! Aren’t you worried? Oh no! You have them around kids? Don’t they eat babies? What about that locking jaw of theirs?” and on and on and on. Let’s set a few things straight on this. No. Pit bulls do not “turn” on people at some magical age for some magical reason that no one knows. A temperamentally sound pit bull will NOT bite people. After some of the abuse I’ve seen handed to these dogs, you’d damn sure wished they would have bit the person who treated them so wrongly! *sigh* And as for pit bulls and kids, they’re GREAT together when everyone is properly supervised. And that’s with ANY breed of dog. Don’t let the child torment the dog! And also teach the dog (any dog!) proper behavior when playing. I could go into a novel about this topic so for now, here’s a link to read instead about “Preventing Bites” from Safe Kids Safe Dogs. Anyway. They also don’t have a “locking jaw.” What a misnomer. The skeletal structure of a pit bull is the same overall as other breeds of dogs. They don’t have a special key to operate…Where this may have stemmed from however is that they are a breed with a “bite and hold” nature. Compared to smaller dogs like Chihuahuas and Pomeranians who tend to have a “bite and release repeatedly” nature 😉 Other breeds with a similar bite and hold grip are German Shepherds and Rottweilers. So, yes for some it may be scary still, but you have to remember that breeds of dogs were originally bred by humans and for a reason. Pit bulls were NEVER bred for human aggression. Dog/animal aggression does NOT equal human aggression either. The way dog fights were orchestrated, any dogs showing aggression towards people were killed or removed from breeding programs. They posed a danger to the people in the ring and that was simply unacceptable.

*deep breath* I’m trying hard not to go off on a big slew of pit bull education, I promise! For now anyway 🙂

As you can see, there are a bunch of questions and fallacies surrounding pit bulls and their ownership. Even their history. People will take one bad story and let it form their entire opinion of an entire breed of dog, and that’s without even having met one first hand!

People do the same thing with those that identify themselves as “godless.” It’s an odd and disturbing shift to watch. I, fortunately, have not experienced the in-person rejection as others have yet. At this rate though, I think people would learn quickly that if they did, I might laugh at them for their silly behavior. I’ve seen them do it with the dogs. They’ll be getting kisses from such a cute and friendly dog and maybe even be so far in as to be giving belly rubs. Then they’ll ask the million dollar question, “what kind of dog is this?” Now, not everyone withdraws immediately (or at all!). But there are a select few that are still so trapped by a fear that they will get up and move away from the dog immediately, likely believing the myth that they turn suddenly and without reason or warning.

My time living and breathing pit bulls helped to prep me for the continued discrimination that would abound once I realized the true nature and reality of my godlessness. And not necessarily discrimination towards me but perhaps to continue to be that voice to educate, as I did and still do with talking to people about the true nature of pit bulls.

Just as I surprised people with the information that I do in fact own pit bulls, I seem to continue to surprise people when they learn I don’t believe in any gods. Because I’m good. And it shakes their perception of what kind of person they think an atheist is, much as for many it shakes their perception of the type of people that do own pit bulls.

And ultimately, that’s what I’m here to do. Face your fears and ask your own questions. Get to know me and get to know my dogs. Test the truth behind your perceptions.

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2012 in Godless, Hot Button, Pit Bulls

 

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Did You Judge Me?

I bet you have 😉

I’ve been attending networking events recently, and actually just got my personal business cards to take with me to these. My web address leads to here. I’m sure I’m probably shooting myself in the foot here a bit too by doing so and needing solid work to sustain me. I mean, those who have a lack of belief in God are considered LESS trustworthy than those people in the GLBT community, and we see what kind of public uproar people have about that particular lifestyle. (Which I should add, is most ridiculous – get out of their bedroom!)

Word on the streets is that it’s because, to believers, they typically feel that nonbelievers have no “guide” to go by that helps them determine right from wrong. That they have no system to base their morals from and because of that, they just simply can’t be trusted.

So. Let me get this straight. If you, assuming that you’re a believer, were stripped of the Bible or your other chosen book of religion and could no longer study the teachings, would you really dive into this black hole of bad behavior, just because there was no governing document to “keep you in line?”

If religion brings you peace, so be it. Having no religion brings me peace. AND! I’m still a good person. I’m still trustworthy, dedicated, devoted, and loyal to those people who I know and have earned those values from me. There are even times where I’m entirely too nice to people I DON’T know because it is the RIGHT thing to do.

Judging me based on my beliefs, or lack thereof, means you’re going to miss out on an awesome person. I have fantastic contacts in my circle of friends and acquaintances. And because of my blunt honesty and ability to be direct and not beat around the bush, people come to me frequently for advice, ideas, and recommendations. If I was truly untrustworthy, people wouldn’t come to me for a damn thing. And I believe that to my core.

I worried a lot when I started this blog. Well, maybe not so much the blog, but adding the direct URL to get here, and deciding I was going to put that URL on my business cards to pass out to mostly strangers who would likely come to the site to learn more about me. I recognized that I was in fact going to be judged. After a few weeks of thinking about it, I realized it was something I had to do. An envelope that I needed to push, not only with the public, but myself. 

See. Changing the public’s perception of a specific term does not happen through silence. It happens through demonstration. And if I’m to persuade any of the public to view nonbelievers as they are – individuals – then someone needs to step out of their little, comfortable bubble and show them that painting with a broad brush misses MANY important details.

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2012 in Godless, Uncategorized

 

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My Path to Godlessness

This should be rather simple really. I don’t have a long history of indoctrination from the church or family members. In reality, I really lucked out to grow up in a home where discovering myself was put before any religious beliefs. That I was afforded the freedom to think and grow for myself and learn what best suited me.

Today’s post was inspired by David G. McAfee, a secular blogger who has taken on the task of posting a new series: Atheists Coming Out. I, frankly, think this is fantastic. There is strength in numbers and I just KNOW there are more atheists and freethinking types out there. Hell, I’ve already been witness to personal confessions from others when I did finally make it obvious what my beliefs on God(s) were. And there are many that are scared of the repercussions from making it known. Loss of friends, being shunned by family members, being otherwise ostracized by their peers. I hope that by adding my own story to the mix of many more that are about to make light, will help others find the peace and maybe even comfort in finally “coming out.”

As stated previously, I didn’t really suffer the effects of indoctrination. I was actually baptized once. I remember going to a Sunday School class and during this class, the adults in charge asked the group how many of us had been “saved” and to those of us who hadn’t if we wanted to be “saved.” Well…I sure didn’t want to die! Being “saved” sounded like the right thing to do, so I agreed. From what little I remember, there was talk about accepting the Lord Jesus Christ into my heart and being young and impressionable, I did. But, I didn’t FEEL any different. I didn’t feel like my life had changed. I didn’t feel anything really.

I went about my time being a “good child.”

There was another instance too where my friends and I decided we wanted to go to church. The bus would come by and pick us up and off we would go. I seem to remember my mom being a little reluctant about it initially but I do think this was more out of concern for my safety than anything.

So. Off we go one Sunday morning to church. I remember that we sat in the main congregation for one portion of our visit. Whatever the sermon was about, I remember distinctly the word “Hell.” And not so much that it was a bad place, but because in my house, it was a bad word! I also remember when the collection plate came around. I’m seeing this money on this plate and thinking to myself, “oh no, I don’t have anything for that…” and just passed it along to the next person. Overall, it was a very uncomfortable feeling for me and I abandoned the idea of going again.

I went to a Catholic church once with my friends as a teenager. I even went to another Baptist church with one boyfriend around age 15. And a different one around age 16 or so. And each time I’ve felt out of place. The churches themselves typically leave me feeling very uncomfortable. Even as an adult and going to weddings, I find myself struggling with feeling like I shouldn’t even be in one. So, I’ve since made a concerned effort to avoid them altogether.

Another point that should be noted from my upbringing is that I immersed myself in metaphysical things. I dabbled in New Age practices, read and practiced both Pagan and Wiccan rituals and even some basic “white magic” (that’s the good kind for those not in the know). I read up on astrology, tarot card reading, palm reading, handwriting analysis and a host of other divination practices.

Eventually though, as attractive as some of the mysticism in those things seemed at the time, there was still this cloud hanging around me that made me feel…”off kilter.” Like it still wasn’t right. I felt uncomfortable. And even at this time, I hadn’t rejected the Christian God. I actually accepted that there was more than one and that it was an individual’s personal choice on what brought them comfort and answers for life. After realizing that the metaphysical really didn’t do much for me either by way of any form of spirituality, I had finally realized that I was bothered by the rituals meant to express love and gratitude to a God or Gods that I couldn’t see and connect with. It felt empty and a waste of time. I concluded that I believed in a “higher power” and that was enough for me. No church. No rituals. No rites to recite.

I carried the “higher power” belief with me for a while, but mostly really just avoided talking about religion with people. I have to admit that when I was younger, “atheist” just sounded bad. And likewise, people made atheists out to sound like revolting people hell bent on creating chaos in the world. The Christians I was around tossed it in line with Satanism. *shrugs*

Many years go by. I don’t bother questioning my beliefs much. I do start noticing horrible things happening as a result of religious beliefs. And the seed of doubt is further planted. Still, I immerse myself in other things, mainly my involvement in running a nonprofit pit bull rescue organization. That was a full time job! It wasn’t until just recently, within the last few months that I’ve finally realized my true standpoint on religion and where my beliefs lie.

See, I’d gotten out of a long-term relationship in 2009/2010. I went from a two-income household to a single-income household. I struggled a LOT during that time. And eventually decided I wasn’t doing the dogs or the public any favors by keeping the rescue in operation. It was time to let it go. In November of 2011, I let go a four year “hobby” of mine, one that deeply filled the heart and soul with a fiery passion. Sometimes though, things like that have to happen when you realize the original goals are no longer being met and you’re threatening your own personal well-being at the same time.

A common question I was being asked when talking to new people was, “well, what do you do for fun?” And you know what? I had absorbed myself in the rescue so much that I didn’t have anything to offer! The realization of that left me a bit sad. It even made me want to apologize to my ex for neglecting him, which no doubt I did. So, not really knowing where to turn to meet new people, or even to delve into my own interests (what WERE they??), it dawned on me that one place many others meet new people is at church. Well…church was obviously out of the question for me. This in turn reminded me of BeliefNet.com. Many years ago, while I was still in high school and shortly after my family had gotten internet access, I remembered fooling around with the Belief O’Matic on their site. Basically, you answer general questions regarding your thoughts and beliefs surrounding God, and it gives you a list of the top religions you may most closely identify with based on similar values. I figured it was time to turn to the Belief O’Matic again, just to see.

I still remember that the first time around, I had Theravada Buddhism on the list as well as Secular Humanism. I read on the Buddhism at the time, thinking that was kinda cool, but I still really didn’t side well with it. This time around though, I checked out the link giving information on Secular Humanism. I’d never heard of Humanism before and the name sounded kinda…wishy washy maybe? But, what the hell right? It’d come up a second time so it really must be real and something I should at least look at. Basically, it’s the belief of being good without God, and perhaps a more “socially acceptable identity” than just simply referring to oneself as an Atheist.

With this new found information, I searched the trusty ol’ interwebs for information on a local organization and tada! We have the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry, founded in 1994 for Charleston area atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers and other “godless” people. After joining their group and interacting with the other members, it finally felt *right* to me. Intelligent people with a drive to “be good” for the sake of being “good.” There’s so much beauty in that! We aren’t required to submit to a God or perform any other “rituals” in an effort to show appeasement to a God. We can be good because we’re human. That certainly feels to me a better path than being “scared” into goodness by threats of Hell, Satan, and God’s Wrath. And it actually makes me feel better about being a person.

I feel it’s also fair to go ahead and note that if you do believe, so be it, just so long as it doesn’t harm yourself or another person. I have no problem with your belief. What I do find problem with is allowing that belief to infringe on the happiness of other people. The persecution of others. But all that, I’ll save all that for another blog post. I think I’ve rambled plenty tonight 🙂

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2012 in Godless, Hot Button

 

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