Saturday, January 13, 2007

Atheism Revisited (but I am still a Christian)

To take the first step in faith, you don't have to see the whole

staircase: just take the first step.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

There has been a good amount of response to my previous blog about 2007 possibly being the year of the atheist that I need to address the issue again. Naturally, as a Christian, I don't want to turn my blog into an debate on atheism, but I have been enlightened by the comments, especially from Vjack at Atheist Revolution and feel it is necessary to revisit this topic.

One of the points I've learned is not every atheist is angry and hostile towards those who are religious. There may be some like that, but it is not the majority. We have made a stereotype and also some atheists make a stereotype that we Christians/religious people are all trying to force or convert atheists and others to our beliefs. It has been mentioned that Christians back in history were brutal and violent in this effort. I don't disagree with this, but would like you all to keep in mind that many Christians and other religious people were also brutalized for believing. So one of the main concepts both groups, believers and non-believers, need to keep in mind instead of passing a quick judgement is that it is not right to stereotype and that both groups have faced persecution or harrassment for their opinions.

In a recent blog post at Atheist Revolution, Vjack states,while it is not universal for all atheists, that their are two prongs to atheism: faith is irrational and religion is harmful. I would like to address the first prong about faith being irrational.
Because something can't yet be proven, or any concrete evidence found to prove it's existence, does that mean it doesn't exist? Every day scientists are learning new things, finding and inventing new means to quantify, measure, and prove the existence of different things. Right now, we are just finding many new species of animals and plants we never even knew existed. If years ago, someone found a drawing of one of these animals and stated it existed, they would be laughed at and ridiculed. Yet now it is fact. Just because there currently, today, exists no proof for the existence of God does not mean He doesn't exist. Perhaps the right tools or measuring devices just aren't around to verify His existence. Also, perhaps we aren't MEANT to find His existence through science, as this would eliminate the need for faith. Maybe we are meant to find God only through the means of faith, as many Christians do believe. And that is not irrational to us at all.
The second prong mentioned, religion being harmful, may be true in some cases. Again, we are talking about religious extremists who want to beat into submission those who don't believe. I don't subscribe to that path, nor do many other Christians and people of other faiths. Again, it is necessary to avoid stereotyping. In fact, research has been done and it has been proven that religious practice promotes the well-being of individuals, families, and the community.

Perhaps it would be better for atheists to consider themselves "apatheists": Continue not believing in God or religion, but also stop worrying if others believe. To put it simply: live and let live.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

2007: To Be the Year of the Atheist?

I am not psychic at all, but I predict this year will be the year of the atheist. What prompts me to believe this? Looking at the website, there are many articles about atheism in the news today. And the popularity of Richard Dawkin's book The God Delusion, which reached the top ten (ironically at Christmas time), seems to confirm it.
I have no problem with people who have other beliefs than me, or no beliefs at all. But why do people find it necessary to try to remove the faith of others? Do these same people relish telling children there is no Santa Claus? Do they look forward to divulging that the Tooth Fairy is a myth? Yet, by my using these examples maybe I am putting God in the same category, which will not truly defend my beliefs. I am by no means a child believing in some magical entity. I am an adult who has given much reflection and study to define my own spirituality and determine who or what to believe. And I believe in Christianity, in Jesus as our Lord and Savior, Mary as the Blessed Mother, the Saints, the whole bit. I do believe that much of the Bible was distorted and some important texts were omitted and altered. But the fact that these texts were even found is, in itself a miracle and only proves that maybe this was God's way of having the truth come out.
What is the difference, really, between an atheist and a skeptic? An atheist is defined as a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings. Part of the definition of a skeptic is a person who doubts the truth of a religion, esp. Christianity, or of important elements of it. And for the record, an agnostic is defined as a person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience. So the main difference between these three labels is that atheism is flat out saying 'no, no way' while skeptics and agnostics leave a little wiggle room for the possibility, exhibited by the words 'doubt' and 'unknown'. The only way an atheist can become a believer is if there is definitive proof of the existence of God, a skeptic would need some evidence to remove all doubt, and the only way an agnostic can believe is if the existence of God becomes known, which, like the other three would result from proof or evidence. But isn't faith believing without total proof? And wouldn't the atheists, skeptics, and agnostics still question the validity of the evidence? Look at the people who don't believe the Holocaust ever happened. There is evidence, there is proof yet they don't believe it. I think there are some people who, no matter what will choose to stubbornly deny things in order to be right or to be so narrow minded that no other opinion but their own can be the truth.
I may someday read Dawkin's book, borrowing it from the library as I don't wish to put money in the pocket of someone so aggressive in his disbelief.
All I'm asking is for tolerance towards one another, and keeping an open mind. I may not agree with you, but I will defend to the end your right to an opinion. Just don't force your opinion on me.
UPDATE: Here is an article that shows the increase in popularity of atheism:

Monday, January 1, 2007

Another Chance

It is 2007, and with any New Year comes the promise and hope of change for the better. This is displayed by the increase in all the diet ads, health club ads and ads for products to stop smoking. What prompts our desire to change? Is it looking back on the past year and seeing the areas we didn't improve? Or is it just society's and media's direction to be thinner, healthier, and better?
I believe the New Year reminds us of getting another year older and of our "failure" to be as perfect as we hoped.
Unlike a birthday, New Year's is celebrated world-wide by billions of people on the same date. It is a mass celebration of the end of one time period and the beginning of another, or "out with the old, in with the new". This doesn't mean that we don't pause and reflect somewhat in the same way on a birthday. It just means that it is the perfect opportunity to reach masses of people who might all be in the same state of thought. My favorite diet-related ad, by the way, is the ad for Special K cereal. Had my child, upon seeing my posterior clad in a red and white bathrobe exclaimed, 'Santa!', I would most definitely be putting coal in her stocking.
Certainly, there is nothing wrong with planning to change for the better, as long as it is not being done out of pressure, such in the book 1,000 Places To See Before You Die, or a feeling of having to do it. Personally, I'd like to see the New Year brought in with a "Life List" that not only has the obligatory 'I will lose x pounds', or 'I will stop smoking', but a list of experiences that would make our life richer, fuller, and happier. (Keep in mind the experiences refered to here should be legally and morally ok.) I will share with you some experiences I would like to have. Warning: these experiences border on the bizzare, but once you get to know me you'll just say 'oh', like most of my friends and family do. Also, keep in mind these are not in any specific order (except for the parade one):
1. Ride a float during the Macy's Day Parade. This is something I've always wanted to do. I don't need to be the center of attention, like Ferris Bueller, as I'd be happy just to be a generic winter-coated person waving a gloved hand. I think I've found a legitimate way to get in on this: this past parade, I saw a sign language interpreter signing a song an artist was singing on a float. Since I have started taking classes in American Sign Language, this could be a possibility. Maybe.
2. Ride in a hot air balloon. Actually, I was saving this one for my fiftieth birthday. The real reason is I'm afraid of heights, so the longer I can postpone it the better.
3. Have a Youtube or Google video that shows up in the top ten. I must emphasize that it should not be too embarassing, though who can beat the guy doing one of my favorite videos, The Numa Numa dance, or the hypnotic OK Go video? Looking at the current list of top videos on these sites, it seems I would have to be a famous, very attrative woman with a wardrobe malfunction to get there. Oh well.
4. To do something heroic. Giving blood might seem heroic enough to people, but I've already done that. I was thinking more of pushing a kid out of the way of an oncoming truck or car, saving someone who is drowning, etc. I can be totally anonymous, as it is just the experience I am looking for.
5. Own a home. I don't need a mansion. I only want a nice mobile home in a coop park I've selected in Merrimack. Nothing fancy. Do you hear me, Oprah? Bill Gates? Anyone? Bueller?
6. Own a Toyota Prius or Toyota Camry. OK, now the list is turning into a materialistic wish list rather than life experience. But isn't reducing carbon emissions and lowering dependence on foreign oil a life experience itself? Isn't it?
7. Lose weight. Boring, I know. But I just copy it over year to year.

That's all I'll share with you for now. There is a guy who had a list of over 100 things, and he's done 104 of them already. I'd be happy with a list of 50, and maybe get three things done. We must be realistic. (But keep in mind I never thought I'd be swimming with dolphins, but I did it three years ago.)