Strange Questions · Uncategorized

Strange Questions #1: If You Don’t Believe In God, Do You Believe In Anything?

han.pngToday, I decided to start a new series on some of the strange questions you hear as an open atheist. The above question seems to come up a lot in debates and I don’t think it ever gets less annoying. The idea that belief in god is a requirement for belief in anything is sketchy at best, but it is also incredibly illogical. Think of it in another context…”If you don’t believe Star Wars is the greatest movie series in history, do you believe in anything?

Atheism is simply the lack of belief in god. It is not a counter belief that there isn’t a god as many apologists would have you believe. Does it require belief to say, I don’t believe I can fly? If you say it does, then is the act of being unemployed actually a job in itself? People who try to say that lack of belief requires belief are only doing so in an attempt to make it out that Atheism is a religion unto itself. It’s dishonest and what’s leprechaunsmore, if you ask them if they require a belief in the lack of fairies, unicorns, or leprechaun’s? They will tell you that these things are illogical and require no belief. If they don’t do that then they will say any stance requires belief and will drag you down their slippery slope to absolute nothingness.

 

However, let’s talk about what I, as a single person who is an atheist, believes in?

I believe in survival, and by survival I include those qualities that we as humans need in order to survive. These things include but are not limited to: Love, Friendship, Dignity, and Respect; without which life will lack a certain zest that most of us need to embrace it at its fullest.

Love

Love may or may not be a series of chemicals released while you are around certain people, its evolutionary aid may simply be to ensure that genes are passed down from generation to generation but it’s effects rise above and beyond the genes.  Love is a beautiful thing that you can witness in many corners of nature from protective mothers, monogamous species, and care given to those in your particular grouping. Human love though has taken this to another level, and is something we all yearn for in one way or another.

Friendship

Friendship may or may not simply be a response to an evolutionary need to stick together and defend one another from attack but it has also risen above and beyond its genetic reasoning. We find those that we share common interests with, form a camaraderie that can take us through some of the roughest patches in life. Friendship can be shared with many or few, it can be helped by the one you love or by many others.

Dignity

Dignity probably has no evolutionary basis that I can think of but it is in our shared genetic makeup that we can see that we are all truly created equal. Every single one of us is a mix of our mother and our fathers genes and thus a truly unique human being deserving the ability to make their way in society as best as they can. When humans work together towards the dignity of humankind, we see what we can truly become if we strive together and stop bickering about petty differences in belief and location.

Respect

Respect has the evolutionary advantage that it allows you to also be treated with respect. If you don’t like people treating you like a dick, it’s probably a good idea not to treat others like a dick. It is no wonder to me that one of the shared traits of many faiths is a form of the golden rule, in other words, “Do to other people as you would like done to yourself.” However as we have progressed as a species our ideas have gotten better and perhaps a better rule today is to treat others as they would want to be treated. In this we can all share a mutual respect for one another.

Some atheists throw out the believe word altogether, feeling it is far too connected to faith. Instead they use the term, trust. So instead of saying…I believe in the goodness of man, they will say…I trust in the goodness of man. I too have used this tactic when in a debate where someone says that belief requires something outside of yourself and unsure in nature to depend on.

These are just a few of the things that I believe or trust in outside of faith. Simply put, Atheism is the lack of belief in a god. What you believe in outside of that is completely up to the person. There are atheists, like myself that lack belief in anything supernatural at all, and atheists who believe in ghosts, spirits, and even some form of an after life. There are liberal atheists and conservative atheists, there are logical atheists and completely illogical atheists, there are atheists that are open and direct with their lack of belief and there are atheists that are closeted and even some that stand behind pulpits every Sunday.

My Journey

My Journey Away From Faith: Part 27

For part 26 of my journey, click here.
To start at the beginning of my journey, click here.

“Some things are in our control and others not. Things in our control are opinion, pursuit, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever are our own actions. Things not in our control are body, property, reputation, command, and, in one word, whatever are not our own actions.” – The Enchiridion of Epictetus

As I read through the paperwork the officer had handed me, I fell deeper and deeper into depression. She accused me of being both physically and mentally abusive, claimed that I was mentally ill, and said that I would definitely be a harm to the children if allowed to interact with them. I decided that I would fight this and went to the courthouse prepared to give my side of the story.

“I never deny a restraining order that has been sought in my courtroom…”

The day of the hearing arrived and I stood as the judge came in to take his place. We all sat and the first thing out of the Judge’s mouth was, “I never deny a restraining order that has been sought in my courtroom. We can either sit here and discuss this til we are blue in the face or I can simply grant it and we can be done with this situation for the next year.” I realized no argument I could make would change the judges mind, and she was there crying and acting as if I was crazy. When the judge asked me my opinion, I simply said, if that meant a year of no contact with her, I would be more than happy to agree.

I drove home with deep feelings of despair and foreboding. How was I going to survive an entire year without any contact with the kids that had become such a crucial part of my life? I was crushed and sobbed much of the next few days. My life at home was bad but only because I was in such a deep depression. The love of my life felt the brunt of it and didn’t feel as if I wanted her there. Sadly our relationship almost ended in those first couple of days after the restraining order went into effect. In such a sad state, I considered putting things on hold and told my love about it. She burst into tears and told me I needed to figure out exactly what I wanted and fast. The second I saw the pain in her eyes, I knew I never wanted to see that pain again and that I wanted to spend the rest of my life bringing joy to those eyes.

StoicismHowever, getting out of a depression is not an easy matter, it isn’t like turning a light switch on and off and I had to find my own way out of it. Luckily, my love, had an idea that might just help me. She had been a psychology major in college and had studied philosophy as well, knowing my love of philosophy, she encouraged me to look into some of the Stoic writers of the early first and second centuries AD. It was exactly what I had been looking for. For those that don’t know, modern CBT therapy is based on Stoic ideas.

Marcus Aurelius

The Stoics (Epictetus, Seneca, and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius) taught that some things are within our control and others are not. That’s a very basic explanation of their philosophy but it is enough to get the general idea across. Those things that are within our control should be the things we dwell upon and deal with, those things outside of our control are things that we shouldn’t spend much time, energy, or thinking on. I read several of the classics as well as modern stoic works written by non-believers.(Stoicism was not based on a belief in god and so it fits well with the atheist mindset) I found within these works that you can love someone who does not currently love you back and still be fine.

I knew I had a year that I couldn’t see those kids and the thought had crushed me, but being able to see them was completely outside of my control. Being able to love them, even though I wasn’t able to see them was still fully within my control. I also had a deep love for the woman I was with and a growing love for her daughter as well. I decided that for the next year I would dwell, not on what I couldn’t do, but only upon those things that I could do. It took some time but my depression began to gradually subside.

Over time, my happiness and tranquility increased to a point that I was able to beat my depression and move forward with my life.  The fact that god and faith played no role in overcoming this depression made the results twice as satisfying. Not only was I just living life but I was truly enjoying the life I was living.

One day I checked the mail and got notice that the final hearing for my divorce was coming up.  Also in the mail that day was a letter stating that I owed some $10,000 dollars in back child support for the daughter of Jennifer. Confused, I contacted child support services and asked them why they felt I owed this. Come to find out, since Jennifer had her daughter while we were still technically married, the state of Iowa considered her my legal daughter. When I explained that they were living at my residence and that I was back in a relationship with her mother, they told me I owed nothing and that I could put in a request to have her status as my legal daughter removed. They said if I did nothing, she would still be considered my legal daughter.

I thought about it for only a minute or two before deciding that I would give her the final say in what occurred. Jennifer agreed and when she got home from school that day we sat her down and talked it over with her. She instantly said that she always had wanted a “real” dad and was really happy to find out that I was her real dad. That settled it, she is my daughter and always will be. I love her so much and she acts so much like me it’s hilarious.

Anyway, the day of the final hearing arrived and the judge signed the decree, I was now divorced once again. I felt a deep sense of relief having that period of my life over with. I still missed the kids a great deal but was fully capable of loving them without being able to see them. We went home and I went to work where my coworkers had bought me a cake to celebrate the end of my divorce proceedings. All in all it was a great day.

Deadbeat

We spent the next year just enjoying being around each other. We learned a lot about one another and our relationship continued to deepen. My faith had been removed but I still claimed a deistic/agnostic style of belief, claiming that either god doesn’t exist or he created everything and then took off to avoid child support payments to his newly created beings. I did however begin to read some scientific journals, things that would have been considered taboo while I was in the faith, and found great enjoyment in learning about topics like physics, the big bang, and evolution. Life was good but I still wasn’t ready to call myself an atheist just yet.

 

To continue on to part 28, click here.

Something Different Saturdays

Something Different Saturday #4: All About You!

For last weeks Something Different Saturday, click here.

Today’s post is going to be all about you, the reader. First off, I want to thank everyone that has taken the time to read my blog. You have absolutely no idea how good that makes me feel and how happy I am each day to reply to your comments, whether that is here, on Twitter, Facebook, or through e-mail. Every day you remind me why writing my story is worth it and hopefully it will help others who are going through the same type of situations as I once was. Thank you!

Thanks.jpg

Secondly, we will be coming to the end of the “Journey” posts very soon. It’s been a wild ride going back through my memories and putting them down for you to read. This hasn’t always been easy, the amount of stuff that has come up over the last few weeks that I had suppressed or thought I had forgotten has been immense. Reliving some of these stories has been incredibly painful but I feel better for having gotten them out into the open. Thank you for the kindness and love you have shown me through these rough moments that I have shared.

idea.pngThird, just because the “Journey” posts will be ending does not mean that this blog is soon to be over. I have many ideas running through my mind for future series and entries. Some of those ideas are listed below:

  1. A Pentecostal Atheist Bible Study: Showing you exactly how I was taught to interpret passages and scriptures during my upbringing. (This will definitely be humorous and scary at times)
  2. A guide to the different types of Christians you might meet and what arguments work best for each.
  3. Extra-biblical Teachings: Things that I was taught to believe even though they had absolutely no biblical backing. Conspiracy theories run rampant throughout the Pentecostal faith.
  4. Crazy Christians: Entries describing some of the stranger folks that I have met throughout my life and time in the ministry who believed in very strange things outside the normal bounds of regular Christianity and Pentecostalism. (Snake Handlers, Poison Drinkers, Poo Eaters, etc…)
  5. A personal blog describing aspects of my life not touched upon by the “Journey” posts as of yet. I’ve left out quite a bit that I didn’t feel was crucial to my journey and think you might find some of that just as interesting.

These are just some of the ideas that I have had over the last few weeks.

Fourth, I want this blog to be about you. What type of things would you find interesting to read about? Are there some aspects about faith or my life that you haven’t understood and wish I would expand upon those thoughts?

Free Thinker.jpg

Lastly, Free-Thought Friday is your opportunity to have your voice heard. If you are interested in writing a guest entry, let me know. Either message me through here, Facebook, or Twitter and tell me you’re interested. I’ve enjoyed all the submissions I have received so far and love to share your stories.

Once again, thank you! You all have made writing this blog worth it. I cannot possibly thank you enough.

THANKS!