Look Out, Bible Belt- Here Come The Atheists!

Well, y'all, we're doing it! This Spring, Frank and I will be touring this fair Country of ours. Well, we'll be touring part of the Country. The batshit crazy part.

That's right… cue up the banjos, 'cause TGIA is going to the South!

I made the South purple, because every other pic that represents the bible belt makes it red, and then it looks like America just has a rash down there... 
 Mmmm, so Bible-y!

Here's the thing: we don't know what to see! We've both been to the South a bit, but neither of us is overly familiar with the area as a whole (Frank used to live in Oklahoma, of course, but that's a small part of a very big zone). So we need your help!

What we're looking for is the kinda stuff we talk about on the show. Creationist museums, nutty Christian revivals, besieged Mosques, world's largest crucifix…. Anything odd, surreal, or otherwise of interest. Or really good roller coasters. You know… whatever.

Also… YOU! We wanna meet you, our faithful (ha!) listeners! So, with that said:

  • Live in the South? Convince us that your city/town/area is worth making the stop. What's happening out in your neck of the woods that makes your hometown awesome/terrifying/hilarious?
  • Been to the South? Tell us about your not-to-be-missed experiences.
  • Read about something cool? Pass it along!
  • Know nothing about the South? Keep your filthy trap shut!

You can comment here, or email us at podcast [at] thankgodimatheist [dot] com, or click here to find us on the Facebook (and "like" us, while you're at it!).

See you soon!

Am I The Only One Who Sees This *Plot To Take Over The World* Coming?

Ok, so a few weeks ago on the Podcast I noted that Mormon church president Tom Monson looks like a cross between Danny Devito as the Penguin and the Emperor from Return of the Jedi. So, as I promised I totally might do, I hit the web for pics to support my claim. That's when the interwebs reminded me of something I had forgotten: that Facebook wanted my attention. But THEN the interwebs reminded me of something else: The Emperor look-alike position has already been filled. Regardez:

Separated at Moment of Evil Spawning?
 Actually, this comparison makes the Emperor look a little weak…

[Side note: I worked for HOURS trying to create a GIF of His Popeness morphing ominously into the Emperor. I put all my After Effects skills into overdrive trying to make something that looked cool and wasn't completely embarrassing. I failed]

Anyhoo, I suppose it's fitting that the Pope would be more like the Emperor, he's a bigger deal than Tommy Monson. However, I stand by my Devito Penguin analysis:

Add some hair, and TA-DA! 
 Holy freaky look-alikes, Batman!

See? Dirty up his teeth a little, give him a hat and an ascot, and boom! You got yourself an arch villain!

So what does all this mean? Is Hollywood purposefully targeting religious leaders FROM THE PAST? Have the evil liberal anti-theists from the movie industry found a way to time travel into the future so that they can cast people as crazy-looking villains who will eventually turn out to look like beloved figure-heads of major world religions? Who will be their next victim? I'm looking at you, Richard Chartres, Bishop of London…

 Bishop Chartres and some fluffy-haired guy
 I honestly couldn't think of a movie malefactor that looks like this… Thoughts?

The Curious Case of Josh Weed the Ho-Mo

HA! Ho-Mo! As in Homosexual Mormon, get it? I thought of that. You can use it, though.

Anywhey, Frank and I have had many conversations on our podcast about homosexuality, and even more about Mormonism, and so it was inevitable that I would at some point bring up my dear friend who knew he was gay (like, totally accepted it without reservation), but was completely devoted to his faith and got married to a woman, who also knew he was gay. And they're fine. Well adjusted, happy, and totally fine.

So, I did bring him up. Last week, as a matter of fact. I didn't use his or his wife's names, and I was EXTREMELY careful not to give any clues that might hint at who they were. I just talked about their situation. Then this week, wonder of wonders, they came out of the closet! On vacation for their 10th wedding anniversary, they posted a fantastic post on his blog all about their marriage and his sexuality. You should click here and read it. Many times.

Well, that shit went viral. Like, front page of Gawker viral. Suddenly, I'm seeing opinions about my dear friend popping up all over my Facebook feed, from friends all over the Country

I totally used this pic without permission. 
Cute couple, no?

who have no idea who he is. Who he is, by the way, is Josh Weed– a brilliant, kind, fantastic human being, who is in the process of completely screwing with everybody's formerly happy and neatly compartmentalized notions of sexuality, intimacy, marriage, and love.

So there it is. A gay guy and a straight woman. Married. A story I've seen dozens of times. A story that happens way-too-frequently in the Mormon community. And yet… not. The thing about Josh and Lolly is that I totally buy it. Unlike literally EVERY INSTANCE OF THIS I'VE EVER ENCOUNTERED BEFORE, I believe in this (Did you read their blog post? Their shit's legit, right?). 

Here's where their thing and everybody else's thing completely differ: they are WAY smarter in their approach to the scenario, and (perhaps out of necessity), they are vigilant about attacking this thing with open-eyed awareness and a dogged commitment not only to each other, but to mindfulness and honesty (it doesn't hurt that he has a Master's degree in marriage and family therapy). It's a way of living in a relationship that few couples, gay, straight or otherwise, have any capacity for. But they do. And it works.

So what will be the impact of this bombshell? Well, I'm of two totally different minds on this.

On one hand, I think this post will actually have a very positive influence on Mormon culture (and eventually doctrine) when it comes to sexuality. This post is so well written, and the story is so honest that Mormons who have persisted in closing their eyes to the reality of homosexuality will finally have a digestible way of understanding that sexual orientation is not about choice, but a fact of every person's life. Because Josh lives a lifestyle that they find acceptable, and is so devout in his religious belief, his words carry far more weight than all those corrupt social and biological scientists out there. That's good. Once Mormons accept that sexuality is not a choice, they'll be a long way toward more reality-based opinions on the subject (and a lot more sympathetic toward their gay brothers and sisters).

On the other hand, as much as I appreciate how this makes the discussion of sexuality and marriage richer, I think this post of his is going to have a disastrous impact on a few lives. Intellectually, I think the Weeds have done a great job of presenting a model for a totally new and potentially viable alternative lifestyle. Practically, however, I worry. I know how Mormon/religious minds tend to work. Logical reasoning works backward- they start with a conclusion, and then bend the evidence to support that conclusion. And the conclusion Mormons start with is that being gay is wrong, and being married is right. That means that many (certainly not all) Mormons will see this and think this is an option for them. Well, for most of them it just isn't. And attempting it will end in tears. Families will be shredded.

I gotta give props to Josh , who goes out of his way to say things like this:

I want to make it very clear that while I have found a path that brings me profound joy and that is the right path for me, I don’t endorse this as the only path for somebody who is gay and religious. I will never, ever judge somebody else’s path as being “incorrect” and I know many people who have chosen different paths than myself.

He is under no delusions that this path will work for everybody. But I would venture to say that that's not going to be the takeaway for most Mormons. I think most Mormons are so woefully undereducated in matters of sexuality (in many cases purposefully so), that they will have no context from which to understand this. They will see a gay man happily married to a woman, and think they have all the evidence they need to prove that their gay son can pull it off too if he prays enough. Or that their lesbian sister has no excuse to continue sinning when it's so clear that you can be happily married in a straight marriage. Or that they themselves can be totally fine marrying their "best friend", and just not worrying about the fact that all they can think about is how hot that Abercrombie model is.

I just don't think that's realistic. In almost all cases, a successful partnership that includes sex must start with at least a mutual sexual attraction. Sex is so fundamental to marriage, that without that initial attraction, most relationships are doomed from the beginning. To overcome that is an exercise that only the most emotionally adept, the truly exceptional, should ever attempt. All others need not apply. These are professionals– DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!

So… these are my initial responses. Frank and I will chat about it on our next episode, and I'm sure we'll come up with more fascinating points ("More? Where were the first ones?"). And, for the sake of fairness, I think I'll give Josh an opportunity to respond to this. He won't, of course- he's a big shot now. He's weighing which major network shows to go on, he doesn't have time for nonsense like this. But I'll give him the chance, anyway. 

VOTE FOR US!

Hey, y'all! So this nice local weekly paper does a yearly round-up of the "Best of Utah," and one of the categories is best local podcast! And we thought "Hey! We have a local podcast!" And then we thought "Hey! People have to vote for us if we're going to win…"

So… We're asking you to vote for us.  But you don't have to do it alone- we're going to help!

Listen to this VERY SPECIAL mini episode– we'll take you on a delightful journey through the wacky state of Utah, and you get to help some local guys get some attention! Win/win, baby!

Once you have the episode going:

CLICK THIS TO VOTE!

It's as easy as that! Be sure to vote for at least 10 categories in order for your vote to count! 

Voting ends Feb 29, so don't delay!

'Preciate'cha!

Grieving Without God

Howdy y'all! I thought I'd interrupt the flow of podcast notes with an actual blog post! How 'bout that!

The impetus for this increasingly rare occurrence ("Captain! We've spotted a wild blog-post!" "Arr… this be a glorious day") is that I recently went out for a beer with a friend. Well, ok… that, in and of itself is not that interesting, I know. But we had a lovely conversation, and it touched on some juicy stuff, and I thought I'd share.

Our little chat meandered through all sorts of topics, and included several interruptions by a very outgoing drunk young man who turned out to have a wealth of "Jesus" jokes

Get it? 
"Cause she heard he was hung like this!"

(What's the difference between Jesus and a hooker? The face they make when you nail 'em! *Rimshot*).

Anyhoo, the conversation eventually rolled around to the fact that my dad just passed away, and his dad is currently in the process of dying of cancer.

We were talking about how difficult and unfair a position it is to be the only atheist in a grieving family situation. Here's the thing: in our society, a believer can feel free to speak about their belief with absolute impunity.  Even if they know that there is someone in the room who doesn't believe as they do, they can spout their nonsense as though it's undisputed fact, with no worry of refutation.

Why? Because it's completely unacceptable to say anything about it. Ironically, turning the tables– that is, an atheist making an unqualified statement of his or her belief in the same situation– is also completely unacceptable. Hell, it's downright offensive. It's hurtful. How dare you.

Por ejemplo:

Situation- A family mourns the impending death of a beloved patriarch.

Mom: I just feel so comforted to know that he'll be safe in Jesus' arms in the next life.

Sister: I honestly believe that if we pray earnestly enough, God will help dad. I don't care what the doctors say, miracles happen every day, you know.

Uncle: We're all so blessed to be going through this with him.

Atheist Son: I have to say- while, as someone who doesn't believe in God, I obviously don't take comfort in any of those thoughts, I do think there's comfort in just being here with each other and expressing our feelings. I guess my take is that dad's a mammal, and mammals get cancer, and medical science hasn't figured out how to stop it yet. We know he's going to die soon, and regardless of what you believe happens after death, none of us will have the pleasure of his company ever again in this life, and that's really hard to deal with. But I think we'll all be a lot better off if we just face that fact bravely, band together as a family, and seek whatever additional help we may need in processing our feelings.

Mom: [begins to cry] Why would you say that? Why do you hate us so?

Uncle: You ought to be ashamed of yourself. How could you treat your mother that way?

Sister: I'm going to pray for you, you monster.

Fin.

 This was not actually my dad's funeral...
 Can you spot the atheist being nice?

My chat with my buddy ended with him feeling comforted by my reminding him that the death of a loved one entails really just one or two tough days of smiling and nodding and biting his tongue, and then life just sorta goes on. At least that's how it was for me.

But it still kinda sucks, you know?  To be the one who's grieving, and still have to politely put up with people inanely preaching their "comforting" nonsense to you without even checking in to see if it might not, in point of fact, be a belief you share. I actually found much of the admittedly well-intentioned proffered solace kind of disturbing. Even if I believed that my pop was happily in heaven now, that doesn't change the fact that I have to do without him. That's what I'm dealing with right now. That's the reality of mourning- everything else is just distraction. The cosmological questions can wait.

To say nothing of the downright rudeness and judgment that hides behind religion in these situations. How is it ok for someone to come up to me after a funeral and with as much passive-aggression as she can muster, ask me "Now why did you have him cremated?". See, she's Mormon, and Mormons frown on cremation. "Well gosh, lady… I didn't realize that these deeply personal choices were ANY OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS!" … I wanted to say… Instead I smiled gently and said something about it being what dad wanted.

That isn't true, by the way. What dad really wanted was for us to take his body and dump it in the wilderness for the wolves and coyotes. Maybe I should've told her that.

A Confession…

Horrible lack of integrity or delicious irony- you be the judge:

I'm in London right now (the one in England), and on Sunday, the group that I'm with plans on heading to the Tower of London.  But we don't want to pay. Solution? Well apparently, there's a church on the property, and if you say you're just going to church, you can then sneak out and check out the Tower fo' free. 

 
 What is that- four stories high? Maybe five? Some tower…
  • Ticket to get into Tower of London: £16.
  • Using "god's house" as a cover to get in for free: priceless.
  • Going with the now horribly cliche "priceless" ad format: horribly cliche.
  • Not being able to think of two "cost to do x" items before the "priceless" line, even though you KNOW that comedy works in threes: even worse.
  • Fact that I'm still doing bullet points long after the joke has played out: whatever.

Define “Group”…

So here's one of the problems with being an atheist.  We aren't a group.  To be atheist is to simply be without a belief in a god.  It's a negative- not a qualitative negative, but a logical negative. Like saying I am not sick or I don't hate gay folks. You learn one piece of information, but nothing more. Me saying I don't hate gays doesn't mean you know how I do feel about them. All it tells you is one thing that I don't feel. For all you know, I don't hate the gays, but I still want them to feel torturous pain (and therefore campaign for gay marriage rights).  All I'm saying is that you know nothing about me from the statement "I am atheist" except that one bit of info- I don't have a belief in a god. You can't logically make any other assumptions about me.

The same is not true if someone says I am a Christian or I am a Hindu. Those are affirmative statements that carry all kinds of info with them. If someone claims Christianity, for example, that means that we can reasonably assume that they follow the teachings of Jesus, that they believe in the bible, that they aren't great at tempering emotional responses with logical analysis, etc. 

This poses an interesting little conundrum: If the only thing linking atheists is a single non-belief, and not a series of other dogma, then do we belong to a group?  Is it fair to lump all atheists together?  It can't be assumed that we have a shared sense of morality or political leanings, nor could it be assumed that we're atheist for the same (or even similar) reasons.  But yet, as Richard Dawkins recently pointed out, we as non-believers, need to have our voices heard.  So where does this leave us?

Well, some atheist groups have popped up around the world- the Humanists seem to be the dominant non-religious religion which has emerged. And skeptic groups are appearing in bars all over… I just think that, with the number of non-believers growing as quickly as it is, there's going to be a need for something new- and powerful- to arise.  A charismatic leader, perhaps?  A politician to carry the atheist standard? A beloved celebrity who will talk to society about why atheism won't lead to the end of civilization?  Something's got to happen!

Until that time, I started a group y'all can join, if you need to feel like part of something. Y'all are on Facebook, right?

The Name Game

I realized a while back that, due to the lack of spaces in web addresses, someone could stumble on my site looking for "thank god I'm a theist."

Of course, nobody describes themself as a theist, so this wouldn't happen… But it would be funny.

Transitions…

Ok, here's what I've realized: I really only have patience for a single topic for so long before I get terminally bored with it.  I should've known this when I started this little site, here, but I didn't realize how much I had painted myself into a corner when I set out to do a religious-themed website.  So fuck it.  That's not what this is anymore.  This is now my personal website, and it has some religious content on it.  Whenever I feel like it.  The rest will be whatever the hell I feel inspired to post.  I mean, it's my site- I can do as I please, right?

So…  Ha!  I'm so free now!  So liberated!  I can do anything I want… That's… great…!

Let's see… what to write about… it can be anything at all…

You guys heard the one about the Bishop the Rabbi and the Imam who all entered a hula hoop contest…? Aw, never mind.