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.

Heavy Hitters In Our Corner

It’s weird- I found my atheism pretty unremarkable for the first several years after I realized that that’s what I believed.  It didn’t really occur to me there was much to fuss about.  Sure, I live in Salt Lake City, which is ground zero for a growing world religion, and a lot of Mormons seemed mildly perplexed that I had left their ranks in favor of believing in nothing, but it all seemed academic.  I had certainly never encountered prejudice about it.

 Our lives are so hard…

Well, in the last few years I’ve actually had some prejudice thrown my way.  I don’t want to over-dramatize here- it’s not like I’ve been spit at for it or made to move to the back of a bus- but I’ve been treated badly on a couple of occasions, so now I know it’s out there. And now I can see it on a larger scale.  Actually, the little petty personal prejudice that small-minded people carry around with them doesn’t bother me much (as a straight white male I tend not to have it too bad in our society).  What does bother me A LOT is the institutional and systemic prejudice I’ve found.

So I’ll tell you- once you’ve fallen victim to a bit of hatred, especially hatred that’s built-in to your government and society, you find yourself looking for solidarity with others. I suppose it’s a defense mechanism of sorts. What’s fun as an atheist is finding some of the big names who share your cosmic view. Here are a few quotes from famous atheists to get you through your oh-so-oppressed day:

(note: before you go getting all upset- while all of these men are generally accepted by experts to have been atheists, I recognize many of them used religious verbiage in their public writings and speeches. Some are known to be Deists, which everybody knows is just an atheist who has to pretend to believe in god so folks don’t lynch him.)

Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.
—Benjamin Franklin

The bible is not my book, nor Christianity my profession. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma.
—Abraham Lincoln

This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.
—John Adams

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
—Thomas Paine

On the dogmas of religion, as distinguished from moral principles, all mankind, from the beginning of the world to this day, have been quarreling, fighting, burning and torturing one another, for abstractions unintelligible to themselves and to all others, and absolutely beyond the comprehension of the human mind.
—Thomas Jefferson

Religions are all alike, founded upon fables and mythologies.
—Thomas Jefferson

Religion is bunk.
—Thomas Edison

The Fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.
—George Bernard Shaw

Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile.
—Kurt Vonnegut

If Christ were here, there is one thing for sure, he wouldn’t be a Christian.
—Mark Twain

If people are good only because they fear punishment and hope for a reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.
—Albert Einstein

The word god is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this
—Albert Einstein

 You see, mister Shaw… a lot of atheists are really happy!


R-E-S-P-E-C-T, Find Out What It Means To Me

I was talking this afternoon with my friends Molly and Kate about religions and religious people, and I said out loud something that I've been thinking for a while. 

It all centered around the notion that I was always raised with the societal imperative that I should respect everyone's religious beliefs, even if they differ from my own.  That's always been my de facto  stance, in large part because it is so ingrained a notion that I never thought to question it.  Now that I don't have religious beliefs from which others' may differ, however, I can see that this is a dictum for believers only.  It really doesn't apply to those of us who see the universe through the filters of logic and reason, as opposed to the "belief" lens.

As a believer, it makes sense.  It's a tacit way of acknowledging that "our way is no more logical than any other so we have no room to judge".  Because really, once you start accepting beliefs for which there is no evidence as presented by people who have no greater authority than just the claim that they know more than you… well, you really can't justify any disrespect of anyone else who does the same thing. I do not feel however, that the same strictures apply to those of us who really do try to base all our beliefs on that which can be made evident.  

In other words: No, I do not respect your religious beliefs!

 A nice rack? That I can respect.

I don't give a flying fart how deeply you connect to Jesus or Allah or mother Gaya or whatever.  If it sounds stupid to me, I'm not going to respect it.  You wouldn't respect me if I told you I believed in the tooth fairy or magical unicorns or flying monkeys… you'd think I was either an idiot or bat-shit crazy. That's to be expected- those are dumb things to believe in. The fact is, though, there's no more evidence for belief in a god than there is for any of those ridiculous things. 

So here's the deal I'll make with you believers- when you catch me believing in something with no logical or factual basis, call me on it.  I promise I'll either give up that belief, or I'll admit that I'm wrong here, and resume respecting whatever spiritual mumbo-jumbo you got going on.  Until then- your belief is fair game.  And I think it's dumb.

P.S. I stole the image above from this asinine website.  Maybe if you pay them, they can cast a spell on me to make me respect your beliefs…


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. 


When I heard that someone had hacked a local construction sign to read “It’s official- God does not exist,” I got a nice little giggle out of it. It’s the kind of harmless prank that I always kind of wish I had done myself.  And it happened right here in Salt Lake City, which means it pissed off all the right people to make me happy.

Now I’m pissed off.

I wanted to see an image of the sign for myself, so I Googled it, and found this story from a local TV news station:

Who can tell me why this angered me so?  Anyone? Anyone?  That’s right, little Jimmy- this pissed me off because they chose to frame the story as an attack on religion.  The lead-in called it a “message against religion”.
What the huh?  Where’s the attack?  It’s a belief statement.  Sure, the “It’s official” adds a little emphasis for humor, but honestly, I don’t see any attack here.  I hate to sound like all those whiny atheists out there who piss and moan about how unfairly we’re all treated, but would anybody see a sign that reads “It’s official, God does exist” as an attack against atheists?  If so, then we’re under semi-constant assault.
I’ve heard this crap too many times to just let it go. My mom lives in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada (that’s that big land mass North of the U.S. with the scary free medicine). It’s one of the cities where some folks bought ad space on buses and put up a very nice atheist message: “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Nice, right? It seems to me that the only thing this campaign attacks is worry.  So I’m talking to mom about this, and she tells me that a friend of hers, a man whom I’ve met and who I mostly like, has written a letter to the editor of the local paper decrying the ads as anti-Christian.
Anti-religion, anti-Christian… it all sounds so damned angry.  But that’s the point, isn’t it?  The believer crowd LOVES to paint atheists as a bunch of hateful, vitriolic assholes.  Pastor Rick Warren famously said he’d never met an atheist who wasn’t angry.  Of course, he’s such a douche, I defy any thinking person not to get angry in his presence, but that’s not the point.  The point is that a lot of believers have this view of atheists.
It makes sense to them.  We couldn’t have just come to atheism through a simple application of reason and logic, and we certainly couldn’t have studied the sacred texts and prayed heartfeltly (not a word, I know) about them, and gotten no response… If a believer thought that, it could open the door to doubt and actual inquiry, and as we all know, inquiry is the first step down the evil path. No, most believers know that what’s obviously happened is that someone in whatever church we were attending did something to offend us, and now we reject the whole belief system based solely on that. Oh, and Satan did something to trick us somewhere in the middle there.
It’s actually kind of fun, when I think about it.  I can make a believer feel attacked simply by stating my own beliefs.  I don’t have to say anything about them at all, which means I can hurt their feelings without actually doing anything mean (I’m against actually being mean). That’s a pretty easy goat to get.  It’s like picking on the sensitive kid in school- you know you shouldn’t, but it’s so damned easy and you get such a great response!
Hey believers: There is no god! Take THAT!

Hope For The Future: Science Will Kill God

I just stumbled across this series of articles on NPR’s website.  I am delighted!  It’s all about spirituality and brain chemistry and it’s fascinating.

There’s very little that can be conclusively proven one way or the other when it comes to what “spirituality” actually is.  One of my favorite articles in the group points out that the encounters that Paul and Moses and Muhammad and David Koresh etc. had with “god,” could be very handily and plausibly explained by a form of epilepsy, or overactivity in the temporal lobe.

This is all fantastic for those of us who always suspected that god and all his analogues are somehow manufactured by those experiencing it. I have never been so cynical to believe that everybody who claims to have had a spiritual experience was making it up or anything. Hell, when I was a believer, I was convinced a few times that I truly felt the spirit.

Dude... this is some good shit!
 The white rabbit will set your people free…

“So, if you felt the spirit,” ask the smug believers, “how do you explain that?” Until now, I could go into the psychology of the “theater” of church, and group dynamics, which I definitely feel play a part in all of it (see the video below). I can now add to the mix that, as this article points out, an influx of serotonin (or a serotonin-like substance, say… LSD?) will create a very “spiritual” experience.

Ironically, that last article was written by somebody who hopes to establish that there is scientific evidence in favor of a god’s existence. As a matter of fact, the scientific community which is studying all this “spirit” stuff seems to be split right down the middle between those searching for evidence of god and those trying to demonstrate that what folks think is god is actually a series of internal functions. What tickles me is the notion that there are scientists out there whose hard work to validate their belief through science will only serve to discredit it. Ain’t I a stinker?

Anyhoo, it seems to me that it is only a matter of time before science provides totally compelling evidence that all things attributed to god are, in fact, nothing supernatural at all. It’s a logical impossibility to prove a negative (e.g. to prove there is no god), but it is certainly possible to prove that there are better explanations for god-y phenomena.

With that, I give you this video.  I challenge anyone to deny that the people in this video are experiencing something very real.  However, most folks (even most Christians, I imagine) would say it’s not god making these people act like they’re completely wasted. I defy you not to believe that these people are having an experience equivalent to drug use (they themselves say it!).  Enjoy.


LDS Family Proclamation: Redacted

As promised in my last entry, this is the inauguration of what will, I hope, be a fun series on TGIA.

This was spawned by what I can only conclude was a very clumsy (and only thinly veiled) effort on the part of my girlfriend’s father to shame us for living in sin.  Actually, since at that time he saw me as the great corrupter of his pure and innocent daughter, I’m guessing it was more to shame her into leaving my heathen ass.

It was Easter time a couple of years back, and as a present to all his daughters and their families, he handed out nice color-printed copies of The Family: A Proclamation to the World. This was a big deal because he’s (and I’m going to try to be kind here) juuuust a little tight with the money, so the fact that he went out of his way to a Deseret Book store (I assume) and dropped some cash on one of these for each of his four girls proved how much he wanted to send this message.

Things were still very tenuous with my darling parents-not-in-law at that time, so we just smiled and thanked them and took the hateful document home.  But what to do with it? It seemed like too little to simply throw it away, so I decided to make it less offensive.  I got out a marker and scribbled out anything that was outdated (i.e. gender roles as defined in the 1500s), offensive, or had to do with religion. Doesn’t make much sense, but as gifts go, at least this wouldn’t have been offensive or insensitive…

With that, I give you The Family: A Proclamation to the World… REDACTED.

Click to enlarge…

Mormons Are Sooooooo Queer!

So you may have heard that there was a bit of a scuffle at the Mormon temple grounds in Salt Lake City a few weeks ago. A couple of boys were walking home from a concert and were *gasp* kissing as they walked through a thoroughfare which is owned by the LDS church.  Well, anyone who was paying attention during last November's election news remembers that the Mormons are none too fond of the gays (remember how they donated something like $25 million to back California's Proposition 8?). So they got their panties all in a twist over these young men kissing, and they asked them to leave, and the boys got a little belligerent… long story short: the queers are pissed at the Mo's again (as are all of us non-bigoted straights).

Penetration? Really? 
 Any film buffs out there?

This hatred of the gays is totally ingrained in the Mormon mind. It is considered an absolute truth that homosexuality is "wrong," whatever that means, and that heterosexual love is the only valid love. Ok, so there's nothing special in that- bigotry is the hallmark of dozens of religions. What makes this issue so particular to the Mormons is that the cornerstone of their belief system is a very specific view of what a family should look like, and a laser focus on family as a concept.

This view of family is so exacting that Mormon housewives in Utah turn out to be one of the largest demographics for the consumption of anti-depressants in the Country. The expectations are ridiculous, and for most women unattainable.  Of course, the expectations of the men is entirely unequal. The men are the holders of the "priesthood," which is not like priesthood in other Christian traditions, but is given to all the men and has associated magic powers that women can't have.  Thus, the men are the power mongers, and the women are to be the subservient, obedient little balls of happiness. It's all very Leave it to Beaver in Mormon land. [For more info on the ideal Mormon marriage, see if you can track down the "Natural Family Resolution" that was drafted by the Mormon "think tank" The Sutherland Institute. It might be a little hard to get to- they seem to have buried it deep in the recesses of their collective unconscious. There's a fun snippet of it here under the heading "Controversy"]

 Note the women's toothy smiles and dead eyes

The leaders of the Mo church, their "first presidency" validated and codified this thinking back in 1995 in an archaic little document they titled The Family: A Proclamation to the World.  Gross.  It basically says that everyone who doesn't have a nice Ozzy and Harriet lifestyle is going against God's wishes, and will be forever glared at and distrusted by the good people in their neighborhood, amen.

There is, of course, a delightful irony in all this: we're talking about MORMONS here- these are the people who introduced non-traditional marriage to America! The fact that they now march in lock-step with other hateful conservative douchebags chanting "one man, one woman" is a complete betrayal of their God-ordained history.  And don't let them fool ya, either: they still believe in polygamy, they just don't practice it here anymore. The best example of their continuing belief in polygamy is LDS apostle Russell Nelson, who has been out front in the mormon "one man one woman" push.  Oh, and he has two wives.

Shocked? Confused?  It's true! 

In fairness, I suppose I should mention that one of them is dead, and he didn't marry the second until after the first one passed on. The problem is that in Mormon belief, that doesn't matter.  Brother Nelson was "sealed" to his first wife in the temple "for time and all eternity." Which to them means just that- they're married here and in the afterlife. Forever. He was also sealed to his second wife for the same duration.

Now, had the roles been reversed- that is, had Russell died and his wife had wanted to remarry- she would've had to obtain a "cancelation of sealing" nullifying the old marriage, or she would not be able to be sealed to the new beau. They're very strict about that. Women can only be eternally sealed to ONE MAN. However, our boy Rusty, being a man, can be sealed to as many women as he likes.  This is because polygamy is still sanctioned by the church- just not practiced. 

Make no mistake- by LDS theology Russell M. Nelson is married to two women and will be with both for the rest of eterniy.  By their own rules, he is a polygamist.  And by his own stated belief in the "one man, one woman" rule he is a hypocrite. A big, fat, ugly, stupid hypocrite!

Shit. This was supposed to be a short entry to introduce my new category of entries on this site: Redacted.  Damn you, tangential mind!  I'm going to have to make that the next entry. Poop on a stick! Well, now you have something to look forward to.

Christians Vs. The Bible- The Lord’s Prayer

I was reading the Bible today, and I stumbled on something familiar.  Even though we never did it in my church growing up, "The Lord's Prayer" or "Our Father" or "Pater Noster" is such a huge part of most mainstream christianity that I actually have it mostly memorized. Just from incidental contact (second-hand smoke and mirrors?)!

Pretty writing, eh?
 Pater noster, qui es in caelis

So I'm reading in Matthew 6 and I perk up.  This is something I know.  Everybody put on your most bored monotone and say it with me now:

Our father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our…


Wait a minute… I may never have had to say this as a penance or anything, but I swear that doesn't sound right. I thought it was "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us." Now I'm looking at Matthew, and he's saying "forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." What the huh?

Well of course this launched me into a whole flurry of half-assed research. First, I looked at as many translations of the Bible as I could, just to make sure I wasn't reading some wacked-out version without realizing it (it said King James, but this bible was stolen for me from a hotel- and I honestly don't know who the hell the Gideons are, so I couldn't be sure they hadn't fucked around with it…). Almost every version I read was the same.  For the most part they all said "debts" and "debtors." For the most part. There were some delightfully creative divergences like this, from the "The Message" version of the bible:

 Keep us safe from ourselves…

Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what's best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You're in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You're ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.

I gotta get me a copy of that piece of crap bible!


Having confirmed that the wording I had read was correct, I then googled "lord's prayer" to see if there was any explaination about the word swap. As it turns out, Wikipedia has a whole article about it which is totally adequate for my purposes (really don't care about accuracy that much…).

Basically the explanation has to do with the Greek and the Aramaic and debt is the same word as sin in some language or other… blah blah blah. So most folks who do the Our Father say trespasses. I guess my question is- is the Bible just not good enough for them or what?  Why do they feel like they have to change it?  Matthew wrote out a perfectly nice prayer, and thousands of people say it every day- incorrectly. I mean- if you're going to say it, surely saying it as written isn't asking too much, is it?

Yes yes yes.