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28 December, 2010


Those who follow and are critical of Apologetics will appreciate this blog that presents the arguments for a loving Santa. Happy Holidays, everyone!

27 December, 2010

Another Year in the War on Christmas

Many religious bloggers and opinion pages are continuing to propagate the "War of Christmas" (that they actually started when they found out there were other holidays around this time of year that people decided to recognize by saying, "Happy Holidays" instead of only greeting Christians with best wishes for the season). They point out that even atheists celebrate Christmas. Oh my goodness! This must mean something for their side! They say ignorant things like, "How can they celebrate Christmas without thinking of the person who gave the holiday it's name?"

Excuse me, but Christ didn't give the holiday its name, (it's not even really his birthday) the Catholic Church did, and it's only its current name. Before that, Saturn gave it its name: Saturnalia. Before that, Isis. All on December 25, all celebrating the same principle of birth/rebirth of the seasons in the form of a God or Goddess. Celebrating these changes was important to agricultural societies who relied completely on this "Wheel" (or, traditionally in ancient N. Europe, "Yule") of the seasons to keep turning. From Yule logs to carolers, to decorating trees, these "Christian" traditions have outlasted the religions they originated from.

So how can an atheist celebrate Christmas without Christ? The same way a Christian decorates a tree without paying tribute to the Druids. Christmas time for me, personally, is a warm break from the coldness of winter, a time to share with family, a time to be a little bit kinder to each other because we're all facing the hard, cold months ahead. It's a gathering of humanity in the spirit of sharing and caring. It has as much to do with a two-thousand year old legendary figure for me as Saturnalia has to to do with those attending midnight mass. So this War on Christmas? It's all in the heads of the Christians who not only want the state to recognize Christianity as an official religion, but insist that we all celebrate our holidays the way they want us to. So I say, Happy Holidays to everyone. Hope everyone has a wonderful New Year and may there be many bright spots as we head into the coldest and darkest months of the year.

23 December, 2010

Climate Skeptics Are Like Creationists

Some people might say that climate skeptics are simply taking the same position as atheists: they hear a claim and reject it until sufficient evidence shows the claim is substantial. The problem here is that their analogy is flawed. An atheist waits for evidence of God that goes outside of simple coincidence and anecdotal stories of people recovering well after receiving care from doctors. The simple fact is that observable and measurable evidence never comes. Theists themselves claim that God can't be measured, therefore the proof must be philosophical or circumstantial.

Climate scientists make no such claims about Climate Change/Global Warming. They don't reduce the argument to philosophy and circumstance, they actually measure the temperatures of the different layers of the atmosphere and observe and record weather patterns and activities. It's absurd to try to confound theology with climatology.

There's simply no reason to think that thousands of scientists are lying or mistaken about what they have seen in study after study. It is the skeptics themselves that are the most like the theists (and most likely to be theists themselves by demographic). The people making claims against the scientists are not actually climate scientists themselves. In fact, in research for a paper I wrote, I found that one of the most outspoken critics of the IPCC report was being paid by Exxon Mobil. Another received over $200,000 from coal companies. Neither had a background in climatology.

I discovered a site in my research by climate scientists from all over the world that started a blog to inform people about climate change and explain the data in somewhat layman's terms (which means that you won't pick up the info straight out of high school and some terms you'll have to google or look in the archives for, but you don't have to have a degree in climatology to follow their posts). It's called realclimate.org and they have a great, easy to navigate site with links to common questions and common rebuttals by climate skeptics. They also link to other websites that address skeptics.

I found this link particularly interesting as it has a lot of the questions the so-called liberal news media picks up and runs with on a regular basis, such as This is just a natural cycle and It's cold today, so they must be wrong. And for more info, many of these sites point to NOAA and NASA for information about the Earth's mean temperature. Could these guys really be so wrong about this? These are the same people that sent us to the moon. Anyone holding to the claims of the climate skeptics with so much evidence out there is clearly the kind of person that could hold onto a delusion despite all evidence. It's a dogmatic position and the position of the atheist is from neutrality. They are worlds apart. The skeptics are more closely related to the Creationists who repeatedly deny fossil and DNA evidence for the evolution of biological organisms. The analogy is broken.

08 December, 2010

Came to Unbelieve, Pt 2

I was probably ten when the idea that Santa Claus wasn't real finally solidified into a realization that my parents had been pretending all along for fun. I was ok with that. It didn't bother me in the least. I realized I had probably suspected it for awhile. My second grade teacher's handwriting looked a lot like Santa's writing in his response to me that year. My little sister had the same teacher the next year and I remember Santa's letter saying he was 100 years old, even though by that time he should have been 101 because he had told me in my letter that he was 100.

So the length of time from that suspicion to finally admitting non belief was a year or two. It wasn't a big deal and it didn't hurt. Neither did my belief in God, at first.

If I could have dropped God when I first did, at the age of twelve, I wouldn't have spent my teenage years as a Wiccan or my early twenties as a non-Christian believer. (Pretty much, I believed in "God" but didn't define it through the Christian faith. I adopted "God" as the definition of a loving supernatural being having a great deal of interest in keeping me sober through Alcoholics Anonymous). More importantly, it wouldn't have bothered me so much at 25 when I realized the mortal state of my body and the end of my own consciousness. Atheists who grow up atheists don't express having this problem.

Anyway, the first time I called myself "Atheist" was at twelve years old. My parents divorced despite my prayers to a God I just knew would take care of me and fix my family. My cat got hit by a car. I had always believed that Jesus would keep us safe no matter what before that. I loved Jesus more than anything in the world. I talked to him even though he didn't talk to me back (much like my stuffed toy, Brown Bunny, but she was real to me, too).

Then I slowly realized that the Bible was made up of a story of the line of one family. I knew already that the story started after dinosaurs and protohumans had roamed the earth. I knew from reading the bible that there were other people around during Adam and Eve's time despite it saying that all men came from Adam and Eve. In my young mind, I figured that the Bible might have been written for the sole purpose of telling people how great their family was. I realized when I got older that it is actually the story of the leaders of a nomadic people in the Middle East. Same basic concept.

I expressed this to a school friend who said, "Yeah, probably, but I don't want to talk about it. My belief is important to me." I didn't tell anyone else. I went through the years not really thinking about God much. At fifteen or sixteen I was introduced to someone who was studying Wicca and I liked the idea that I could use my intention to bend the will of the universe. Even so, in the back of my mind I knew that the rituals were just a way to physically signify my own determination and intentions. It was fun. In fact, I'd still practice it today if I had room in my apartment, but without the chants and invocations. It would be a way to meditate and solidify my decisions. Nothing wrong with it, in my opinion.

I found "God" again later. But that's a story for another day. I was a practicing Wiccan until I was 19 and after that only did a few more spells. Recovery brought me to a whole new concept of "Higher Power."

07 December, 2010


Unseasonably dry weather in Lebanon facilitates wildfires to spread across the nation, destroying forests and orchards and leaving people devastated. Finally, Monday morning, the first rain in two months comes. The Lebanese are calling it a miracle.

I can't help but wonder why rain couldn't have come before 43 people were killed. Why did the fires burn for a week? Also, why couldn't God have sent rain months ago and prevented the whole disaster?

These are the questions that believers in miracles never can answer convincingly. Usually, they are brushed off with "God works in mysterious ways," or, "Suffering happens so we can know sympathy and know his glory when he performs miracles."

If I were God, I'd stop being mysterious and start helping out the people I supposedly love instead of teaching them lessons in "sympathy."

05 December, 2010

Came to Unbelieve, Pt 1

It was springtime. I had recently started walking with a friend of mine around her neighborhood to try to shed some extra pounds. Up and down the steep hills of her Placerville neighborhood we would trek, catching our breath to talk about life, love, and any number of things that troubles twenty-somethings these days. I knew she felt the same way about religion as my own recently found feelings, but I didn't know how to express them.

"So, you know I took that philosophy class a while back, and I've really been looking into faith and I have come to realize I don't know-I mean I don't think-well, I just-I don't really believe anymore. In God. But atheist is treated as such a bad word that I don't even really want to use it yet. So what do I say to people when they ask me?" The question was sincere. I really hadn't wanted to start using the "A" word. I was hoping there was something else I could say that might be clear enough to end any conversation about religion and not bring anymore questions that might lead to me having to say, "I'm an atheist."

She put it simply for me, "My mom tells people she's a Secular Humanist." Zing! And that was what I went by for months, not realizing that there was a whole organization out there that called themselves just that. It was perfect, but for the purpose of softening the blow (especially to my mother) I opted to add in addition to this "Secular Humanism" that I was also a strong believer that something like "The Force" was at work in the Universe; some unknown, impersonal and unconscious power was at work, as long as a person was willing to use it.

Later, when I made the switch to "Atheist," I definitely got reactions from people. By then, I expected it.  Bill Maher's "Religulous" inspired me to seek out videos regarding creationism on YouTube. There, I found that hundreds of scientists and educated people had started channels for the sake of debating and informing people about science and scientific discoveries while showing the absurdities of Intelligent Design and the 6,000 year old earth. Further clicking led me to more sites where users were debating the major philosophical arguments for the existence of God, familiar to me through the class I had taken. Around this same time, someone close to me who had recently converted to Baptism had let me borrow, "I Don't Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist" by Geisler and Turek. All arguments in that book were addressed by these amateur film-makers and YouTube scientists and activists.

I had to relearn the definition of "Atheist." I was told my whole life that they were close-minded people with bad intentions and no moral ground. After all, how could they be so certain there was no God. I got my answer: they aren't. An honest atheist, or an atheist who came to be an atheist through searching for God, or one who grew up in a secular household will never tell you they know there is no God. They simply reject the claims of theists. Atheist isn't a belief there is no God. It's no belief in any God.

If a person tells me that elves make shoes every night for an old man on Main Street, I don't believe that extraordinary claim until that person shows me proof beyond a reasonable doubt that elves are in fact making shoes. If someone makes the extraordinary claim that there is a magical, immeasurable and perfect being who made the universe and that everything science has studied about life is wrong, I need to see some definitive evidence.

It can't be flimsy, either, because of the sheer nature of such a claim. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt. I wouldn't send anyone to the electric chair for less, why would I base my entire world view, and possibly my "soul" (and my Sunday mornings) on anything less?  What if I got the wrong God? I realized that this was the approach I had been taking the whole time I was on my journey to find God, I just hadn't realized that I was already an atheist when I started. I thought I was "agnostic," a term often confused with "unsure one way or the other." (Agnostic really is a position that no one can ever know whether God exists).

Having finally defined myself as an atheist, I started coming out. The reactions were huge and emotional at times, and even harder inside my own feelings toward the prospect of a universe without any supernatural authority or justice, but I slowly began mustering the courage to tell people that I no longer believed, and why.

Came to Unbelieve, Intro

It's not a short road between faith and atheism. I've briefly explained some of the past beliefs I've held and things that led me here, but I think that an elaboration is in order. It isn't to make it seem as if my way is better (leave that to my more snarky posts, teehee) or that my journey is typical of all atheists. It's probably more for those close to me who still don't understand how I got from one to the other. It would seem to them that it happened in a short amount of time, but the fact is that I held  a lot back for a long time, simply for their sake.

I'm going to try to keep it to specific events that were turning points for me. I'll try to keep them brief and to the point, but some things will need more explaining than others and some will need to be backed by links and background information, such as philosophical arguments and writings. Some things, I hope, will speak for themselves, even to people who still believe as I used to believe. Perhaps they have had the same questions and found different answers for themselves. For me, the result of my journey to find God left me an atheist. I'm not saying that everyone in my position or with similar experiences is bound to find the same thing.

The story won't be linear at times. I'll try to make clear what happened when, but some things I won't remember many details about, as is true of all personal stories. Bear with me, life is a complex adventure where nothing fits neatly into little boxes. I hope my story will do the same.