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22 March, 2012

Talking to Plants and Other Such Nonsense

When I was nineteen and clean and sober just under a year, I received a spider plant as a gift. I watered it, cared for it and even talked to it. I had heard that talking to plants makes them grow. I was a theist at the time, it was before I went to college and I was just generally naive about a lot of things.

That spider plant got too cold one winter I was staying in an unheated, converted garage in snowy Pollock Pines. It was dead in a few weeks after having lived a good five or six years and I was sad. My great-grandma, who just passed away in February, gave me three babies from her spider plant shortly after this plant died. One of them had lived in a cup of water for the last two years because I didn't have a pot. I didn't talk to them. I don't know why, I just never thought of it.

My Gram passed away and I potted that third spider plant and bought four succulents in memory of my her. When I brought the plants home and positioned them around my living room, I picked up the aloe plant and began talking to it, just like I had talked to the spider plant years ago. I moved in closer so the plant could catch my carbon dioxide exhalation and "feel" the vibrations in my voice. Then I stopped in mid-sentence and looked at my husband.

"Talking to plants to make them grow has no basis in reason at all, does it?" I asked. He replied that it probably doesn't and that Myth Busters had already done a show about it.

It was surprising to me how I started talking to the plant without even really thinking about it. When I run into situations where I face some of the irrational beliefs I used to hold, I'm always surprised at my own mind.

Here I am, a skeptic, an atheist, what I consider to be a reasonable person, and yet there are still these contradictory beliefs that are hidden in my mind, existing at the same time as my disgust for homeopathy or any non-physicist who uses the term "quantum."

The moral of the story is just keep an open mind to your own flawed mind. Consider the things you've been told about the world around you and investigate. Never stop questioning, even of you are now an atheist or skeptic. After all, no one wants to be caught talking to plants.

21 March, 2012

Trayvon Martin 911 Calls

I know this isn't a particularly atheist issue here, unless you consider that the factors in the case such as Florida's Stand Your Ground Law, gun laws, racial profiling and the conduct of the Sanford police all need to be reviewed using skepticism and critical thinking, but I'm compelled to write about the story of Trayvon Martin.

It's been bothering me for a few days and on Monday I finally listened to the 911 tapes for the first time here, all 35 minutes of it. Be warned, it is very, very disturbing. I have been posting to twitter and facebook and am going to wear an empty bag of Skittles on my shirt for the rest of the week, (Trayvon was found to be carrying nothing but Skittles for his little brother, a cell phone and an Arizona Iced Tea when he was shot) but I feel so hopeless and nothing I do seems to be enough. Florida's laws are so bass-ackward that even if the police get around to arresting Martin's killer, the chances of him walking free are pretty high. All he has to do is say he felt threatened. The injustice of this itself is heartbreaking, even before you consider the racist overtones of the case. A black kid in a hoody ends up shot in the chest and the man with the gun is not only walking free, but is still permitted to carry that gun around with him wherever he goes.

I don't really know what to do. My silent Skittles protest and internet posts seem so feeble compared to the tide of racism and injustice in this country. I'm left wondering what if my nephew, who is black, were faced with this gun-wielding, self-aggrandized vigilante maniac? The thought actually sends pain to my chest. I would probably find myself trying to be alone with Zimmerman to see how well this Stand Your Ground law works. Maybe I'm just saying that because this case angers me. The fact that anyone should have to worry about something like this because of the color of their skin just disgusts me. I don't trust the justice system to do what is right. It's a sad place to be, let me tell you. My heart goes out to the family.

Listen to the 911 tapes. Try to, at least. The 35 minutes it takes are more important that the Kony video. This is our own backyard. This is happening in the United States. Consider what letting Zimmerman walk free does to the nation. Do you want to live in a country that allows vigilantes to deem themselves judge, jury and executioner? That's not an America I can live with.

19 March, 2012

Don't Be A Dick

I know that a lot of times, just admitting we are atheists makes Christians angry. Some call us names and are outright nasty, some are ignorant of their own bigotry in an Archie Bunker kind of way, being condescending without really meaning to. We've all gotten the innocently asked, "What do you use for a moral compass if you don't have God?" Or the, "But isn't your life meaningless?"

It's frustrating, atheists, I know. We put up billboard signs that let people know they aren't alone in their disbelief and Christians take it as an attack. Even mentioning on facebook the stark fact that theists will be insulted by my very existence caused one person to defriend me for "stirring the pot," thus proving my point entirely. Sometimes it's hard not to be angry.

But I just can't get behind the billboards that are inflammatory. I can't get behind the atheists that are angry and who are quick to ridicule any Christian that comes their way. I get it, the Ray Comforts of the world deserve to be laughed at. But there are millions of Christians who are not even remotely like Ray Comfort at all. The ones who might ask one of those silly questions born straight from ignorance and from being indoctrinated. We can reach those people.

People like Ray Comfort are not ignorant. They hear what we say and they choose to ignore it. I just can't see me laughing at one of my friends or family members for asking, "What do you think happens to you when you die?" They honestly want to know because they have no idea. If I turned in their face and laughed or ridiculed them for asking, all it would do is push them further into the church that teaches them it's wrong to ask questions. In a way, being a dick has proved the church right in that respect.

So, I stumbled across a blog article by David Smalley, who was featured on The Atheist Experience last week, and I'd like to share it because I agree with many of it's sentiments. I can't join up American Atheists for the same reason David finds. It's a shame the name of the group is so broad that it mistakenly represents all atheists in America. Here's the letter. Whether you agree or not, I hope you'll at least keep an open mind. :)