After viewing your recent ad, “The Middle,” which aired during the Super Bowl and claims to be a “healing message,” I was left feeling repulsed and excluded. I found your ironic attempt at “unifying” the country while airing the most divisive anti-inclusive ad possible, extremely bigoted and tone deaf. Your ad assumes we are all Christians and seems to embrace Christian Nationalism, the movement responsible, along with the former president, for the failed coup attempt and the storming of the Capitol on January 6th. As an atheist, I felt as if the ad negated my existence as an American citizen, at least in your eyes. The religious iconography, especially the cross on the flag, is extremely divisive and promotes the idea that religiosity is our way forward to reconciliation. I would argue the opposite, especially in regards to government. Government should be inclusive and not promote any religion, or religion in general, over secularism. As a private company, your response to a divided nation is inappropriate if creating unity is your goal. You’ve merely taken sides and added to the divide.
At the very least, this Jeep ad was in particularly poor taste after the attack on the Capitol by a MAGA cult in a religious fervor. There is no “common ground” to be found with religious terrorists. If you are attempting to reel them in to find common ground with the rest of us, validating their bigotry is not the way forward. I, as an atheist, won’t be visiting the little chapel where liberals are accused of being vampiric pedophiles, where faith is valued over reason, where science is dismissed as conspiracy theory, and where homosexuals are considered an abomination.
With this tone-deaf advertisement, you have alienated both non-religious people and those of other religions, and even those religious individuals who honor and respect the beliefs, or lack thereof, of others, and you have continued to tear at the fabric of our fragilely held threads of unity. Your ad is not a healing message.
I do not own a Jeep, and if this is your view of what America looks like as a group, I won’t be buying one in the future. I don’t believe in cancel culture, but I am choosy about where I spend my money, and I choose to support companies that do not exclude me or others as a group and do not promote Christian Nationalism as the American way of life.
I’ve seen enough false claims and heard enough lies during this election season to last a lifetime, but there is too much at stake, and this one is too incredulous for me to go idly by without addressing a few things. Out of respect for my very sweet friend who posted this, I chose to rebut these issues in a blog, rather than engage on her social media page. The following are my layman responses to this meme.
Business owner: Contrary to Trump’s rhetoric, Joe Biden will not shut down the country, at least not unless scientists say there is no other option, and it is much worse than it is even predicted to be. Biden wants to listen to scientists’ recommendations and open everything safely. Yes, there will be required masks, but I’d rather wear a mask than have the country shut down again, and masks have absolutely been proven to be the best defense against the virus in public spaces. Also, Biden takes science and the health of our citizens seriously. Even young people who recover quickly from Covid 19, often have lasting damage to their lungs or hearts. This disease should not be taken lightly as Trump encourages. Biden also has many plans to jumpstart the economy following the devastating economic downturn due to the coronavirus.
Taxpayer: Trump has done a very foolish thing that will help no one. He has frozen the federal taxes from being removed from our paychecks. This isn’t a tax break. We will owe it back when we file our taxes at the end of the season. Unless you are putting several hundred dollars a month in savings to cover your taxes, this will be a major strain on Americans. Additionally, Biden will only raise taxes on those who make more than $400,000 per year. The middle class has carried the tax burden too long. The rich are only rich because of the middle class. The middle class are their workers and their customers. The poor don’t consume a lot of products, and the rich are too few to keep themselves in business. Destroying the middle class by having them carry the majority of the tax burden is biting the hand that feeds them. From the 1930s to the 1980s, the rich have paid more than 50% taxes, and they still prospered hugely. They’ve had forty years of not paying their fair share, and it’s time for them to step up. Under a Biden/Harris administration, the middle class will not have their taxes raised except to end having their current taxes deferred.
One thing that should always be funded and protected is Social Security. It is the single most important thing that has protected the elderly in this country and kept them from starvation, homelessness, and poverty. It is not a handout, but is an investment you pay for your entire life, and no one should have the right to put it in jeopardy.
Christian: I don’t even know why people think Biden and Harris would be a threat to Christians. They are both Christians. The Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution is meant to prevent what Trump is currently trying to do, and make no mistake—Trump is not a Christian and doesn’t care about Christian issues. He’s pandering to a group who is scared of losing privilege based on unfounded rumors and direct lies. I’ve been an educator for 18 years in public schools. Prayer, reading the bible, and talking about your beliefs is allowed in all schools. The only rules are that teachers or school officials cannot endorse any religion or appear to favor any religion (The Establishment Clause) by leading prayer or requiring prayer or bible reading, etc. Of course, students can’t read the bible when the math teacher is explaining fractions, but they certainly can in their free time. They can have after school bible studies on campus and choirs often sing religious songs as cultural education. This is true across all government institutions. Keeping religion out of government protects Christians as much as anyone else. Without the Establishment Clause, if the current leader favored Islam, Christians might be forced to kneel to the east, wear head coverings, and celebrate Islamic holidays. It is short-sighted to want your own religion favored because your preferred religion may not always be the most popular, and there is a multitude of evidence that the founders wanted to avoid this mixing of religion and government. Also, no one is against Christmas. I’m an atheist and Christmas is my favorite holiday. If there ever is a war on Christmas, I’ll be the first to defend it.
Parent: I really don’t see where this criticism comes from, so I’m not sure how to address it, so I’ll just guess. Raising your kids, sending them to school, keeping them fed and safe, not separating them from their parents are all at the forefront of Biden’s plans. One thing about Biden is that he has a great deal of empathy and compassion for the American people and that certainly includes children.
Police Officer: As Biden has stated many times before, he is against defunding the police. In fact, he believes the police need more funding for training and to add social workers and counselors to take some of the load off of them. Biden and Harris are both strong on law and order and want to improve the system without abolishing it. They take a strong stand against looting and rioting, but also do not defend racist militia groups who want to antagonize and create violence or add to violence. They intend to work on systemic racism within the force, rather than throwing it out and starting over. They also take a hard line on national defense and love and appreciate our military, giving them the respect they deserve, unlike Trump.
Gun Owner: Biden and Harris support the 2nd Amendment and do not want to abolish gun rights, collect people’s guns, or put gun owners on a list. They only support common sense legislation that requires background checks to prevent the mentally ill or violent criminals from owning guns and would only support restrictions on paramilitary-type weapons. Almost every American agrees with this. Fully automatic weapons are already banned. It’s true that restricting sales of paramilitary-type weapons won’t stop all mass shootings, but it would make them more difficult for the un-savvy troubled youth or mentally ill to get one. If restrictions stopped one mass shooting, it would be worth it. Biden and Harris support the rights of Americans to defend their homes, to hunt, and to shoot for sport, and do not want to take your guns.
Unborn Baby: This seems pretty much a moot point right now since it appears the new justice will be confirmed before the election in the biggest display of hypocrisy ever seen in the Republican party. However, even if Roe vs. Wade is overturned, the states would make the decision about whether or not to allow abortion. It is true that Biden and some Democrats support a federal law allowing abortion that would supersede state intervention, but legal or not, abortions will likely not stop, but just become more dangerous.
I have never met any liberal or Democrat in my life who likes abortion, thinks it should be used as birth control, or thinks there shouldn’t be restrictions on late term abortions. Late term abortions are not abortions at all. They are surgical procedures to save a mother’s life when the health of the baby is unquestionably compromised and the mother’s life is in danger. Choosing to save the only viable life capable of being saved at that point is no different than triaging patients in a hospital. You treat the ones you can save first. It is also a fact that free and accessible birth control and education are the most effective ways to reduce abortions. Most Democrats and progressives are perfectly willing to have common sense restrictions on abortions, such as when late term abortions would be denied. The Right to Life movement is largely a religious movement and legislation that affects others cannot be made on the grounds of religious preference. No one likes or wants abortions, but physical autonomy over one’s own body is probably the most important freedom someone can have, and thus makes this issue, and whose rights are maintained, a complicated one, and wherever you stand on this issue, it can’t be the only deciding factor for your vote. Is anyone else’s life less important than unborn children? Pandemics, economic crises, healthcare, and Social Security are all life and death issues. Without Democracy, which Trump is quickly eroding, we won’t get a say in anything.
Immigration: This meme did not mention immigration issues, but this is a common talking point among conservatives. Biden supports Dreamers and so do the majority of Americans. The United States has a long history of immigration, and all of us descend from immigrants at some point. Immigration has only helped America throughout our history, and there are so many myths about it. For one thing, immigrants pay more taxes and Social Security than Trump, yet they don’t collect anything from it. Biden and Harris support legal immigration, help for political and religious refugees, and a reasonable and compassionate path to citizenship for those who were brought here through no fault of their own. They do not support open borders and unlimited immigration.
I hope I dispelled some of these mistaken ideas regarding Biden and Harris, but don’t take my word for it. Visit BBC’s “Where Does Joe Biden Stand on the Issues”or Joe Biden’s website to see what he and Harris stand for. There are so many other issues and lies involvingTrump that are not covered here, such as Trump’s claims of the illegitimacy of science, his tax evasion, his collusion with foreign powers, his use of the office of president by his family as a business opportunity, healthcare issues, his negligence regarding global warming, our status in the world and our relationship with other countries, and so much more. Please go beyond social media and visit some sites that don’t just validate your own bias. It’s just too important this election year.–Christina Knowles
I assumed I would like this book. I mean I’ve been told that it’s critical of religion and conservatism, that it was edgy and relevant. Bah! What a joke! This is literally the worst book I’ve ever read in my life.
Heinlein’s wordy novel is at least a hundred pages too long even if you like the content of his philosophical rant. I’m not going to bother to recount the plot, or more truthfully, the lack thereof, but I will summarize the main premise just so you can understand what I’m talking about. Heinlein’s main character, a human raised on Mars, returns to earth and starts a religious sex cult in which he is the savior. He doesn’t believe in religion, but he thinks it is the best way to get people to live their best lives—and the author actually promotes this view at the same time as denying the truth of religious belief. Sorry, Heinlein, but I’d rather have truth than happy fantasy.
A happy fantasy, that is, if you are a 15-year old boy. While the characters struggle to understand the meaning of grokking, the reader is subjected to countless tedious examples of young male fantasies that would explode the heads of any modern Me-Too-er. Women are constantly slapped on the butt and told they will be spanked in a jovial manner by people they work for or leaders of the cult. Even kindly old male friends love to threaten the corporal punishment for girls that sass or move too slowly. And before you say that he was just a product of the times he lived in, let me point out that Ray Bradbury managed to not be sexist in his 1953 novel, Fahrenheit 451. In Aldous Huxley’s 1931 novel, Brave New World, he managed to criticize the men in his dystopian world who treated the women “like so much meat” (67). Yet Heinlein’s most memorable treatment of women is a line spoken by a woman cult member saying, “Nine times out of ten, if a girl gets raped, it’s at least partly her own fault” (511). This was said in all seriousness. I’m not kidding. Even so, the members of the group prance around naked, have sex with each other, share their money, and are never ever jealous. Of course, it’s not all loving acceptance. Although we are exposed to plenty of free love among women, we are told in no uncertain terms that male on male action is just not cool. I guess we know what was going on in Heinlein’s mind in his middle age.
But beyond the repetitive sex scenes, we are forced to endure long-winded philosophical dissertations on living free without jealousy and eating your friends to honor them when they die, and the secrets to living in peace—basically not giving a shit about anyone including yourself. The characters are two-dimensional and predictable. It’s way too long (Really, fifty pages would be too long), it’s preachy, it’s incredibly sexist, and it’s boring. And to all the people out there giving this book four and five stars, I now look at you differently. You’re a little creepy.—Christina Knowles
I’ve been counting the days until 2019. Why, you ask? Because I’ve been in extreme pain for five months, and I naively thought I’d get treatment once the new year kicked in, and my meds would count toward my deductible. How idealistic I was.
I have no cartilage in my knees and have had four knee surgeries throughout my life, beginning when I was just 22 years old. In the past, I have been able to manage my knee problems with spinning, yoga, and had even worked my way up to walking for an hour three times a week. But then, I pulled something in yoga class in July and haven’t been able to walk (for exercise) since. I’ve been to physical therapy, got a cortisone shot that only helped for a few weeks, and have been faithfully doing my exercises at home, but sometimes the pain is so bad that I can’t sleep. When I stand up after sitting for any length of time, I can barely walk.
My doctor wanted me to get shots of hyaluronic acid to lubricate my knees and relieve some of the pain. Eventually, I will need knee replacements, but I’m trying to hold off as long as possible. With these shots, the doctor says I will be able to work out again, building muscle that will help me when I finally get my knee replacements. I told my doctor I needed to wait until January because I figured the procedure wouldn’t be cheap, and I have a high deductible plan, so I wanted to take advantage of meeting any deductible for a longer portion of the year. I had no idea that the prescription for the injections alone would cost $2900.00. This is not something I can make payments on either. It’s due up front before the injection. I was told that if I had a copay plan, the copay would be $684. Even that is insane.
One month ago, I was talked in to trying CBD oil to treat the pain and inflammation. This oil, which you can hardly find any information or studies on, at least in the United States, is not cheap–$100 for one ounce of full spectrum 1000 milligram tincture. I was very skeptical and did not want to put out that kind of money for something that is not approved or recommended by the general medical community, but while in excruciating pain, I decided it was worth a try. I honestly didn’t expect it to work, but within 10 minutes of taking one dropper of the tincture, I was walking almost pain-free and without a limp. It lasted a few hours, getting progressively worse and wearing off completely in about five hours. I don’t think it helped me enough to go hiking or on a long walk, but it relieved the worst of my pain and allowed me to get around without looking like an old lady. Of course, this one hundred dollars a month I will be spending on CBD oil does not count toward my insurance deductible. Our government would rather approve opioids and deal with the epidemic of addicts than legalize and research CBD or any cannabis related medicine.
But what bothers me the most about this whole situation is that I work a full-time job with benefits and so does my husband; we have insurance, and I even have additional income on the side from teaching college classes and writing, and I still can’t afford to buy the medicine I need. At this point, I’m wondering how the United States is even considered a first-world country with its barbaric health care practices. At 17th in health care quality, it isn’t worth the price. I’m starting to consider medical tourism or even emigrating to a country that has single-payer nationalized health care. I’m not even retirement age yet, and I have perfect blood pressure, low cholesterol, and no sign of diabetes. I’m in good health now, but what in the hell am I going to do when I am old and need lots of medical care and am on a fixed income?
Even if the Affordable Health Care Act survives the Trump presidency, it does not go far enough. Drug companies need caps on what they can charge, insurance premiums need to be affordable to everyone, and doctors should make a reasonably good income like other professionals in a public service position, like say–teachers. Well, maybe a bit more than that.
If working two jobs, having a professional degree, and medical insurance is no guarantee of receiving adequate health care, it may be time to dispel the myths and get on board with Medicare for all.
For now, I’ll wish you, and me, a healthy, hospital-free new year.–Christina Knowles
This real-life account of a young woman who grew up in the mountains of Buck’s Peak, Idaho, who was denied a basic education, forced to work hard labor, refused medical treatment for life-threatening injuries, and left unprotected to defend herself against a violent and mentally ill brother, is an intimate look into the world of religious fundamentalism.
Tara Westover, grew up the child of religious fanatics. Her parents, who also happened to be mentally ill, were paranoid and ignorant. Tara’s father refused to allow her to go to school, or to go to the hospital after sustaining a head injury and a debilitating flesh wound, and did not even register her birth. Tara was raised believing the government would send in snipers to kill them at any moment because of their refusal to participate in the great conspiracy.
The reader follows Tara through her eye-opening journey from an ignorant child, who believed everything her parents told her, to a Harvard-graduated Ph.D. We see, through Tara’s eyes, the humiliation of being the only one in her college class who had never heard the word, holocaust, who had learned from her father that it was all made up by the Jews to gain sympathy. To be so completely unknowledgeable about the most common of knowledge was to navigate a sinister world in the dark, armed with nothing but hope.
Tara never gave up. She educated herself, studied on her own, and took the SAT until she got good enough scores for a partial scholarship to BYU, who took “home-schooled” kids with no school records. She went on from there to win a fellowship at Oxford, and then to Harvard for grad school, all while struggling to keep her family’s love. Her family, who believed she was lost to Satan and was possessed, gave her an ultimatum, their world or the real world she was just discovering. After years of abuse, and struggling with her own mental issues as a result of the abuse, Tara chose to let them go, while graciously keeping the door open if they chose to accept her, which is more than I would have done.
This book broke my heart. The fact that children of religious fundamentalism all deal with trying to live in two worlds, while not being given the tools to even distinguish between truth and fiction, is a danger, not only to them, but to the rest of us. But how different is this from any family who raises their children to believe in fairy tales? Any indoctrination of blind faith results in an intellectual disability, the ability to abandon reason, living in a false and tumultuous world that is never truly safe.
While Tara found education, and thus, her escape, she was forever scarred by the experience and still suffers today. Many are not so lucky, even those who had less crazy circumstances. They go through their lives expecting miracles and blaming themselves when God doesn’t answer their prayers. They ignore medical advice, refuse their children a good education by home schooling with books designed to indoctrinate them into a particular religion, they teach their children not to trust science, and to fear those who are different from them. Many are unable to shake off these chains of religious abuse and educate themselves.
I’m glad Tara insisted on her right to find truth and to be educated. We all benefit from the education of all children. Religious belief is a dangerous thing. For example, why follow your conscience and the law if God tells you to go against it? Why take care of this world when God is going to make another one to replace it anyway?
Tara was taught to fear and hate, all based on lies. She had no defense. She came into this world with no other resource for truth than her parents. Even when Tara questioned the beliefs of her parents, she risked losing everything, even her home as a minor child. Religious indoctrination is child abuse, plain and simple.
I highly recommend getting this book on Audible. Julia Whelan, the narrator, gives life to the voices of Tara’s family, especially her father. You will be drawn in immediately. Five out five stars for this one.—Christina Knowles
My bad. I should have noticed that this book had “Philosophy” in the title. I don’t have anything against philosophy in general. In fact, I really enjoy Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Nietzsche, and many more. However, with this book, I was hoping for just some science-based evidence to back up the claims of common Buddhist practices like meditation and non-attachment, etc. Instead, I got a head-splitting treatise on how the self does not exist. My mind hasn’t hurt so much since I took “The Philosophy of Mind and Reality.” The only discipline more aloof from clear-cut answers than psychology is philosophy, and that’s entirely what this book is–philosophical psychology. In fact, psychology is the one science where there is so much disagreement between sub-disciplines that I have no idea what is truly accurate. As a non-religious person who is completely open to the benefits and lifestyle of Buddhism, I did not agree with even half of what Wright explains in this book, at least the part I could even wrap my head around. It’s quite possible, the mind-numbing coma his arguments induced in me contributed to my lack of comprehension.
If you are looking for a secular view of the benefits of Buddhist practice, I recommend anything on the subject by Sam Harris, especially Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality without Religion. Don’t torture yourself with this one, unless you want to feel like a freshmen in Philosophy 101 again.–Christina Knowles
In A Manual for Creating Atheists, Peter Boghossian makes a great case for street epistemology, or attempting to create atheists, whenever we engage someone stuck in a faith system in our everyday lives. At first, the title comes across as a little too “evangelical” for even my taste. I mean, what about “live and let live?” Should we actively try to spread our take on things just like the religious do? What about respecting people’s views if they’re not harming anyone?
Well, Boghossian points out what many of us are aware of already. Faith, or “pretending to know things you don’t know,” as Boghosssian defines it, hurts us all. It dumbs down our society, causes us to deny science, create laws that inhibit the rights of others, and feeds radical fundamentalism. At any rate, he is not advocating for bringing this message door to door, but merely engaging in Socratic questioning when we find ourselves in a friendly conversation with those of faith. Basically, he wants us to stop backing down out of “respect” for ridiculous beliefs, distinguishing between respecting the individual and pretending to respect their beliefs, thus legitimizing irrational thought.
Where I disagreed with Boghossian was that we should always target the epistemological process of faith, rather than specific beliefs or contradictions in “holy” texts. While I agree, blind faith is the problem, and as he puts it “all faith is blind,” many will be more willing to question the “virtue” of having faith if you put a crack in the specifics of what they already believe in their particular religion. It’s a lot easier to expose the fallacious elements of faith, in general, if you can show how beloved personal beliefs fail. This often leads to questioning everything. And this is the ultimate goal, questioning—examining everything with critical thinking. Skeptical thinking is the epistemological method that leads to finding truth. In my experience, it seems that many people progress through many steps toward skepticism, and that the first step is admitting that their own holy book has undeniable errors.
My favorite part of this book was how eloquently and logically Boghossian makes his case for getting back to Classical Liberalism, rather than the modern liberalism we see so much in higher education today. Boghossian explains that in an effort to promote tolerance and acceptance, we fail to attack bad ideas and bad thinking out of a misplaced politically correct sense of diversity. While cultural diversity is a good thing, we still have to point out, question, and attack logically the ideas that cannot be true or that are harmful to freedom, democracy, human rights, etc. Boghossian discusses how certain topics are considered off limits in our educational institutions today, religion being primary. Boghossian says that liberalism today has “favored” groups that are protected, while the rules against intolerance for these groups do not apply to other groups who are not favored. For example, one favored group currently is Muslims. Boghossian states,
“Contemporary academic leftists don’t withhold making judgments entirely, as do cultural relativists. Rather, they withhold judgment to the degree that a culture seems foreign and/or alien, or to the extent that they perceive a culture to be misunderstood or victimized by the West. Islam currently occupies the top rung on the contemporary leftist hierarchy of beliefs and practices that should not be criticized.
“Leftist academicians fervently judge elements in Western culture. For example, academic leftists take great pride in condemning Western institutions, Western financial systems, and Western corporations. One might see a leftist academic withhold judgment, regarding a clitoridectomy in Northern Africa, but loudly decry a gender imbalance in the headcount of speakers at an academic conference” (Boghossian 205).
This type of hypocrisy is all too familiar. Sam Harris often points out what he sees as the dangers of the Islamic faith, as well as other religions, and I have always appreciated his willingness to come out with these issues publically, realizing this dialogue cannot be “off limits,” just because it will offend someone. Open and intelligent civil discourse requires that we can engage these issues. And as both Harris and Boghossian point out, religion is not race. People choose to change religions every day and cannot be born a certain religion even if they are born into a religious family. As Boghossian points out, Islam is the favored protected group at the moment, but we don’t have any trouble pointing out flaws in Christianity, Mormonism, or Scientology. What is the difference?
Boghossian, by no means, advocates for discriminating against the rights of anyone based on their religion, but merely states that no religion is off limits for critical examination and civil discourse.
This book is filled with wonderful references for further reading and resources to help the concerned atheist spread critical thinking, and I look forward to reading many of them; however, I will still attempt to point out specific problems with specific doctrines, rather than only targeting the faith fallacy. Overall, Boghossian conveys some very good strategies and makes his points well. Four stars out of five—Christina Knowles
As an atheist, I shudder at the thought of a chaplain at my bedside when it’s my time to die. However, today I was privileged to listen to a truly profound and helpful chaplain guide someone close to me on “the business of dying.”
Shortly after being informed that she had very little time left, the chaplain arrived, and instead of a long dissertation on theology, endless prayers, or reading cliché bible verses, he merely accepted her word that she was confidant of her eternal life and moved on to the harder part, the present.
At first, I was concerned. He seemed pushy and inconsiderate. When he asked her what she was feeling, and she replied, “It is what it is,” he pushed, aggressively.
He led her through each possible emotion, explored them, talked about them, and acknowledged their validity. He said it was okay to grieve your own life, the disappointment, the lost time, the things that you will never be able to do, time with loved ones stolen. He asked about fear, not fear of the afterlife, but fear of the actual dying and fear about leaving loved ones behind. He validated all emotions someone might feel and empathized.
Next, he asked her what she wanted. He said she didn’t have to answer now, and that it didn’t have to be one big thing, but that she should think about that every morning when she wakes up and ask, “What do I want today?” He explained that he meant real things, good things like asking for a hug or asking to have a conversation about a memory or about what someone means to her. He encouraged her to go deep inside herself everyday to really get in touch with her heart’s desire. He said to not let these things go by undone. If she needs to say something to someone or just relive a memory with someone, ask for it. If she needed closure, to fix a relationship, or address a regret, she should have that conversation.
The chaplain told her that part of the business of dying was to celebrate the life she’s lived. He said to reflect on her life’s accomplishments, things she was particularly proud of, things she enjoyed, and things that she did right. He told her she lived a life that deserved acknowledgement.
He ended his counsel by asking her if she wanted anything else from him. She asked him to pray with her. He laughingly responded, “Is that what you want, or do you think that’s what I want to hear?” She said she did want it, and his prayer was beautiful, specifically saying that she was in control of her life and how she lived it to her last breath.
He was brilliant and profound, comforting and respectful. I thought, This is what a chaplain should do. So many times, I’ve heard the well-meaning pastor spout clichés and seemed more concerned with reinforcing religious beliefs than dealing with real emotions and concrete issues. I always cringed at the shallow recitation of the typical platitudes. Finally, a chaplain who knows what to say to the dying, what they need to know in their last days, what not to forget in the days to come. The compassionate and practical advice I heard today cut through all the nonsense of avoidance. People don’t need vapid dictums when they face the end of their lives; they need something real, something meaningful and honest to go about the business of dying. –Christina Knowles
Of course, I dislike the concept. I am not a missionary. I have no religion to spread. No message to proselytize. I don’t normally care what someone believes if it doesn’t affect me. But I’ve heard the religious describe atheism as a religion we’re trying to spread, which is highly offensive. Shaking free of ancient belief systems that have no more merit than Greek mythology and expecting evidence to accept the unbelievable does not qualify as a religion.
I’ve also heard that we are scared that religion is becoming more popular, so we’ve become missionaries against their religions. We may be scared, but not that religion is growing. Atheism is growing, a natural consequence of ready access to ideas and information on the internet. Nevertheless, some of us are scared, scared of a nation that seems more inclined toward theocracy than ever before in our entire U.S. history.
When beliefs seemed more benign and simply ritualistic, not spoken of in polite conversation, there was no need give it a second thought. A bemused smile or a shake of the head was sufficient. However, our country, and even our world, is under a growing and alarming threat posed by religions that seeks to undermine basic civil liberties, impose antiquated and prejudiced values on others, and maybe most sinister of all, denies science and common sense on an unprecedented level, threatening to destroy the very earth under our feet in a way that cannot be undone. Laws can be overturned and rights restored, but we have reached the tipping point when it comes to climate change. The denial of basic science and the indoctrination of America against facts, even by people who should know better, perhaps, do know better, but are so consumed with greed and self-interest that the collateral damage inflicted by their aggressive domination of the earth is of no concern to them. The earth will last as long as they need it to, and what happens when they are gone is of no consequence to them. They lead the blind and uneducated by reinforcing archaic notions of being saved miraculously by the gods. Who cares if we are destroying the earth when our god intends to destroy it and create a new earth and promises a heavenly Eden in its place?
These politicians and corporate predators pander to a deluded and ignorant public who, because of their own confirmation bias, see these politicians as heroes of the faith. All a crafty, self-interested politician has to do to gain the support of these fundamentalists is to say that they are saving them from an imagined moral decline, pretend to care about the pro-life movement and the sanctity of marriage, and they forever own the minds and votes of this programed group. They tell them how to think, how to vote, and teach them to fear the rational educated who could actually save them. This group is already pre-disposed to indoctrination, having been thoroughly relieved of critical thinking skills by their religions.
So, is it time for missionary atheism? Do we need to take a more active stance in proclaiming reason over superstition? There is too much at stake to stay quietly in the closet. The risk of losing family and friends, to straining relationships, and to being looked upon with disdain and suspicion pales in the light of the greater threat to our world. Those of us who have shaken the scales from our eyes to see reason, to overcome childhood conditioning and think for ourselves, to demand evidence and logic for extraordinary claims must come out openly and strongly so that others may wake up from the delusions passed down from generations of conditioned superstitions and ignorance. Most of us have been there and woken up, and we were glad we did.
I’m not suggesting a massive deconversion campaign. I am asking that we no longer stay politely silent when those around us claim a god is blessing them with a new car while millions of innocents in Aleppo are slaughtered in the streets. They don’t even realize the depth and magnitude of their fallacies, and they never will unless someone is forward enough to point them out. Let’s make it socially objectionable to float around in a cloud of delusion, at least publically. Let’s show them that atheists are everywhere, in their families, in their offices, in their clubs, and on their teams. We are citizens with a voice, and we need to start using it.—Christina Knowles