Sunday, January 21, 2007

Matthew 18:2-4

For those who have been following the "William Chronicles", I submit to you the following e-mail. This e-mail was sent to me by my friend, a baptist, who attended Church services at William's church (this morning). This friend also sat in on William's "Young Adult Bible Study". Her e-mail is in green.

"You will not believe this guy. He didn't make one reference to Possum's essay or the conversations he's had here to the entire congregation. I was a pleasantly suprised by that. Because he seemed so nice, I decided to attend the young adult bible study that followed the sermon. There were about twenty people. William started by reading the essay and then asking for thoughts. Alot of people doubted that a child could write that well and because William hadn't explained that Possum#1 is gifted, those in attendance came to the conclusion that an adult must've helped her. William said, "Let's pretend that a child wrote this... what would you have done if you were the teacher?" He told us that we should have done as the teacher had and taken the opportunity to witness to "a child so desperate for spiritual guidance." I asked if that would be violating the belief that public schools should be neutral territory and he said that God's law trumped man's law. He also said that when we saw a lamb in trouble, we should help the lamb. What shocked me most was what came next. He launched into a tirade against atheists. Said that they are, "by default, the worst parents." He said that he was "100% sure" that you must be "the most uneducated and sorry mother" because no good mother would leave their child in spiritual limbo and let them find their own way. He said that atheists deserved our pity and that their children should be our mission. It was kind of scary, actually. I had had enough by then, so I left. It was hands down the most uncomfortable Sunday school I had ever attended.

Do you guys want to know what I find most amusing about this? William has been owned by an eleven (soon to be twelve) year old. Out of all the atheist authors out there, William has been pushed to the brink of desperation by a child! Instead of arguing the essay's content, he's resorted to making character attacks on myself and my child! Instead of engaging in congenial debate and/or trying to learn about others, William has become a caricature of every narrow-minded, intolerant, fanatical bigot in this country. He admittedly listens to the NonProphets, so one can only assume that he's heard far better arguments for atheist rationale. One can assume that he's heard the guys present all of their cases for atheism and all of the references/evidence for scrutinization of beliefs. Despite all of that potential for debate, he chooses to get his panties in a twist over three paragraphs written by a child. Is William so afraid of his own weak rationale that he has to attack the composition of a seventh grader?

The best part of all of this is the fact that, until today, Possum#1 was undecided about her religious status. She hadn't chosen a position and I had steadfastly allowed her to pursue any and all systems of belief because I wanted her to find her own path. This afternoon, Possum announced, quite decidedly, that William's vehemence and irrationality had convinced her that Christianity is, indeed, what she'd hinted to in her essay: a hypocritical farse. In the end, this possummomma really didn't have to say a word.

Thanks, William.

ETA: Possum1 and I have been discussing the fact that one shouldn't jump to hasty conclusions, based on the rantings of ONE representative. So, she's back to being a clear agnostic. Better to make judgements based on evidence than anger.

101 comments:

Kathryn said...

Where is that boggled eyes icon?

Un-freakin-believable.

Thanks for the freak show.

By the way, I wonder where Catholics got their distinction of sins - venial and mortal.... They definitely believe there's a difference in levels of sin.

(Yeah, I was raised Catholic.)

Anonymous said...

William's a fridiot. (thanks Ani)

Sorry, but that is about the only thing left I have to say about him. :)


Sara (sassy)

Brent Rasmussen said...

Hi Possummamma,

Great, great, great series of posts. Possum #1 is a fantastic writer and you are obviously a wonderful mom.

Poor man's Trackback:

http://brentrasmussen.com/log/node/1127

Keep us all updated!

Talzh said...

Dear PossumMomma,

Hello from a fellow Atheist!

I'm dismayed at some of the responses to your posts. Such bigotry. But you never let them get you down! :)

Kudos to you for being "Out" as an Atheist, and having such a fine blog!

I belong to the Atheist Community of Austin. Not all Atheists are what I call "sports" (spontaneous de-conversions) from Theist families. Some of our families are Atheist for seven generations back, and more. "Sports" are sometimes ostracized and lonely as a result.

I think Atheists kinda need other Atheists. There's far more to Atheism than being annoyed at the current religion. ;) We teach each other principles of debate. Some of the ideas are so ancient we still use the names Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates used.

We often help homeless people. We carry socks and bottled water in cars to give them, for example. We've gotten several people re-homed. Isn't that a wonderful word? "Rehoming".

They may carry signs that say "God Bless" but a number of them are Atheists. Did you know you won't get any food or shelter from the Salvation Army if you won't attend church service? If you're cut off from family by Atheism, it can put you a little more at-risk of homelessness, and homeless Atheists usually have to live a lie, masquerading as Christians to survive.

...It's time people who have religions knew that we have our own culture, just as our religious counterparts like Jewish, Mennonite, and Hindu people do. ...Although we don't usually dress differently.

When you don't expect an afterlife, you tend to look at the world differently. Today's reality isn't dismissed as fake and unimportant (like in those deceptive Narnia stories).

We come together for big Solstice and Equinox celebrations. Pagans do, too, but we Atheists enjoy these dates because they're secular astronomical observances. If the weather is good, we put up telescopes and look at Messier Objects.

In February, we celebrate Darwin Day by going to a zoo or nature center. We talk about the diversity of life. I give the little kids in the group little animal toys, especially tortoises and finches if I can find them. (Instead of a Noah's Ark, Atheist kids should get a Darwin's H.M.S. Beagle to play with...)

In mid October, we celebrate a "Reason Day" on the day when "Spectral Testimony" was barred from the courts. Governor Phipps did this, ending the Salem Witch Trials by requiring rational evidence.

This awful time in history shouldn't be forgotten. I dressed up like a pioneer Puritan lady with a broom-- a Halloween "witch" --to commemorate it.

I do Atheist crafts, like a macrame bracelet that looks like DNA or a plasmid. For the Winter Solstice, I love to make Solstice Cards with pop-up sundials.

We're often busy with positive activities. We clearly don't have emotional gaps in our lives that require a religion to fill.

Possum #1, your essay made jaws drop around here. Whether you're a theist or an atheist, we love you, and we're glad you spoke up!

You've just become an heir to a heritage lots of atheists don't know about.

Here in Texas, we have the story of the German Vreidenkers who settled central Texas, many of whom were Atheists. There's a monument to them in Comfort, Texas, where a group of them were killed because they refused to defend slavery and fight for the Confederacy.

How about Robert Ingersoll? He was VERY famous in his day but somehow nearly everybody's forgotten. Like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he said beautiful things, important and worthwhile, that I'd rather we remembered.

From 2500 years ago and more, in the ancient Greek days, the Deists and other monotheists are really our philosophical "brothers/sisters", and we share alot of Humanist ideas. Alot of us were influenced positively by modern 'Deists' like Thomas Jefferson, too.

One of the best additions to our literature is by Dan Barker, called "Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong". Whether you're a Theist or an Atheist, that's a book I really recommend, that you might like. Have you read it?

Well, I'm off to visit an alpaca farm, of all things. (I'm into spinning and making hats.) Best wishes to you, Possum Family!

(My Livejournal is here:
talzhemir1.livejournal.com
Generally I write about chocolate cake, how germs become resistant to penicillin, and other things far more important to me than religion.)

Virginia aka Ginny said...

In the end, this possummomma really didn't have to say a word.

Yeah, that is generally the case when one encounters someone like William. It's quite revealing.

Matt D. said...

I wonder if he'll take up the debate offer - or if he's been sufficiently shamed...

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

More proof that I am right. The Internet Will Be The Death Of Young Earth Creationism....and Fundamentalism.

Kazim said...

Possummmomma:
William has been owned by an eleven (soon to be twelve) year old.

Actually, if you want to be truly "leet" then you have to say that he was "pwned".

William said...

I have not being "owned".
I should have known that you would sink to low blows by sending an ambassador of sin into my church. Member or not, your spy was there on Satan's work. I did read your daughter's essay to my congregation. I use magazines and other sources to show my flock what the world has to offer and how easily corrupt behavior and thought comes to those who are not careful. I used this essay to show that atheists are out there and they accuse us of wanting a theocracy when they would like nothing more than to have religion disappear completely. The essay shows how atheists are willing to corrupt their children and don't care about the childs soul. It saddens me.

Kazim and Matt, I have listened to enough of your podcasts to know that you aren't interested in anything I have to say so I won't waste my time.
I'll pray for all of you.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Ambassador of sin?? BWA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!! William - I think that may be the funniest thing you've ever said. If nothing else, I will giggle every time I see this person and, no doubt, that will become her new nickname. Ambassador of sin...does that come with diplomatci immunity?

So, basically, William, what you're really saying to Kazim and Matt is that you're picking up your toys and going home? I say this with all sincerity: I'd hoped for more from you. You could have at least given it the old college try before slinking back behind the relative safety of your pulpit.

And, once again, my daughter is proving to be the better possum. She has been reading this over my shoulder and just said, with great maturity, "Mom...don't bait the baptist."

A little child shall lead them, indeed.

Darwinator said...

Hi Possummomma,

Just found your blog via www.reddit.com and wanted you to know that I enjoyed it greatly. Your daughter's essay was simply wonderful and you have every right to be proud.

Imperiled souls aside ;) I'd much rather a world filled with people like yourself and your daughter than one filled with those like Billy the Baptist.

I gave an audible guffaw at his "ambassador of sin" but I lost it when your daughter said "don't bait the baptist".

And Billy, look the word up; you were undeniably just owned by an eleven year old. Try a logically defensible position next time and maybe gifted children won't be able to tear you apart.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

I gave an audible guffaw at his "ambassador of sin" but I lost it when your daughter said "don't bait the baptist".


Yeah, Possum has decided that she's going to entitle her memoir/autobiography: "Don't Bait the Baptists: and other tales of my atheist childhood." I thought it was brilliant.

karcass said...

"I have not being owned"??

William, dude, you are just embarassing yourself. Go find a dumb atheist to pick on. Although, I have to say, good luck finding one.

Thank you, thank you Jesus, for making my parents waiting until I was eight before taking me to church. My brain was working well enough to prevent my infection.

Oh, and William, that thing about atheists being bad parents? Care to explain why atheists have the lowest divorce rate, and Baptists among the highest?

http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_dira.htm

William said...

Karcas, I think atheists have the lowest divorce rate because atheist marriages are easier than trying to live a holy marriage blessed by God. Married Christians have to work hard and sacrifice to meet the requirements set by God for marriage. Atheists can have affairs and it doesn't matter because there is nothing requiring them to be faithful. Atheists can demand little or nothing of their spouse so there is less conflict. It's the easy way out and where life is easy one will find Satan. Satan paves the road of ease. God paves the holier way with troubles that have to be overcome.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Holy-persecution-complex, Batman!

William, do you read what you write? Because, quite frankly, when I read your comments, it seems like word vomit. Seriously, man... enough with the hellfire and brimstone, "satan paved the way", bullshit. I hate the fact that you're making me quote Dr. Phil (because I think the man is a sanctomonious tool), but "How's that workin' for ya'?" I will repeat my previous statement, because I think you're too fucking slow to grasp this concept: "HELL IS ONLY A DETERRENT IF YOU BELIEVE IN IT." You spouting off that Satan is ruling over my marriage is roughly equivalent to telling a group of dentists that the tooth fairy is responsible for half of their business. The tooth fairy doesn't fucking exist, assmunch!

I apologize for the less-than-civil language, but I think this whole argument is re-god-damn-diculous.

Virginia aka Ginny said...

Karcas, I think atheists have the lowest divorce rate because atheist marriages are easier than trying to live a holy marriage blessed by God. Married Christians have to work hard and sacrifice to meet the requirements set by God for marriage. Atheists can have affairs and it doesn't matter because there is nothing requiring them to be faithful. Atheists can demand little or nothing of their spouse so there is less conflict. It's the easy way out and where life is easy one will find Satan. Satan paves the road of ease. God paves the holier way with troubles that have to be overcome.

Possummomma what was I saying earlier about Christians claiming it's so easy to be an atheist? HA! William doesn't disappoint does he? ;)

Atheist in a mini van. said...

That's right!! You did mention that, didn't you. Wrong context, but right wording.

Clang said...

Wow, this is wierd. This whole thing you Americans have for the Atheist/Christian struggle is quite incomprehensible to us Australians, as is the concept of being persecuted for being an atheist.

More power to your very intelligent little possum there. It's terrifying to watch the rise of right-wing Christian fundimentalism in the US, and it gives me hope to see any indication that you're not all like that. Good luck to you!

Todd Adamson said...

Traipsed over here from Brent's blog...


William sounds an awful lot like some of my family. I got news for William. He may think his children are safe from the fiery pits of hell, but the world has a way of cracking through the dark shell of ignorance with the cold light of reality. In fact, I used to think just like William, having been force fed a steady diet of the same horrible lies William believes and feeds his children.

But the evil atheists lie in wait for your children, William. Oh yes. When your children leave the sheltered confines of your false reality, we'll show them facts and logic and new ideas they have never considered. In fact, we'll teach them new ways of thinking. With logic and reason and doubt. Oh, the humanity, William.

You don't want to know what happens next, William. Crisis of faith. For some, its maddening. When they find out that their entire lives have been based on a lie, they go and do horrible things you preach about. I know I did. Terrible things. Like reading books. And hanging out with unsavory characters who don't believe Jesus was the Son of God. And you don't want to know what happens next, William. Rather than living for the next world, they live for this world. So much so, they try to make this world a better. They even commit the greatest sin of all. They become tolerant. Even of people like you.

(nice blog, bookmarking it)

Anonymous said...

PossumMamma,

You have given a great deal of evidence that you are a fantastic parent and to Possum#1's brilliance. Kudos.

Nothing more needs to be said except to William, "I M IN UR BASE KILLING UR DOODZ!!!11!ONE!!! PWNED!@"

Matt D. said...

"Kazim and Matt, I have listened to enough of your podcasts to know that you aren't interested in anything I have to say so I won't waste my time.

Unfortunately, you haven't listened to them enough to learn anything else.

I wish you would have learned that I'm interested in serious debate and that I'm EXTREMELY careful not to misrepresent Christianity in any of its forms. I've not only repeatedly defended your religious freedom, I've worked hard to make sure that criticisms of your religion are valid and honest.

Maybe, you HAVE learned that, and as a properly-indoctrinated minister, you realize that you cannot have a civil, reasonable debate to support your beliefs. Maybe you realize that your beliefs simply cannot stand up to that scrutiny - so you're simply going to "bow out".

I suppose that would make you a fraud, but I have a hard time believing that most formally educated ministers (I'm assuming you've been educated, which may be a gross mistake) don't have a decent understanding of just how weak the case for their faith really is.

So, I suppose it would be easy to take your ball and go home. Oddly enough, it was you who showed up here to preach. We didn't seek you out. I haven't been listening to your sermons. You came here, and when the going got a little tough - you bailed....but the going only got tough because of your comments and attitude.

You've embarrassed yourself, your religion and your "flock". (Would it be over the top to tell you to "flock off"?)

Seriously, as a former Christian, I'm well aware of your type. You are a pitiful excuse for a Christian and I'm shocked that you actually have a congregation at all.

Rather than show love, you spew bile. Rather than provide the defense of your faith, as instructed by Peter, you choose to argue from authority and avoid reasoned defense. Rather than showing compassion and caring for the soul you believe we have, you vilify non-Christians as evil, dishonest and inferior. Rather than turning the other check, you've focused on making a scourge and trying to chase us out of your temple.

You're the type who'd prefer that the Apocalypse of Peter had been canonized and that James had been left out. (Assuming you even know what I'm talking about.) You're the type who believes that 1 Timothy was written by Paul, and I bet you've cited the verse about forbidding women to preach - while ignoring the actual writings of Paul that contradict it.

But mostly, you're the type who wants to say whatever he wants without feeling any responsibility to support it...and that's just sad.

How does it feel to know that your actions here, rather than having the positive effect of leading people to Christ have, instead, convinced a child that your brand of religion is vile and not for her?

How does it feel to know that, when put to the test and faced with the challenge of defending your faith, you caved to the pressure and went back to the safety and comfort of preaching to the converted.

'And you shall know them by their fruits' (Matt 7:16)

As I said, I'm aware of your type. It was a desire to be NOTHING like you which lead me to spend years studying in order to defend the faith, to bear GOOD fruit and do the work that you *think* you're doing.

You sir, are a fraud...among frauds.

I'll pray for all of you."

I expected no less...I'll still forgive you. And instead of praying for you in return, I'll continue doing real work - promoting reason so that your children, when they grow up, have a chance of living in a world where the majority of people recognize the vile, absurd, putrescence you spew.

Dan said...

Is William so afraid of his own weak rationale that he has to attack the composition of a seventh grader?

Yes. Yes, he is. That much ought to be obvious at this point.

PossumMamma, that's a sharp kid you've got, there. How sad for William that an 11-year-old is better able to understand her fellow humans than he ever could be even in his wildest dreams.

William:

Atheists can have affairs and it doesn't matter because there is nothing requiring them to be faithful.

Except, perhaps, for a shared sense of humanity and empathy with our spouses and significant others, coupled with a desire not to hurt the people we care about.

It sounds to me like you lack all of those things, or at least wish you did. Are you seriously saying that the only reason you'd be faithful is because your magical sky fairy told you to? If so, you're not a Christian, you're a sociopath.

Atheists can demand little or nothing of their spouse so there is less conflict.

I've spent 20 minutes trying to make heads or tails of this comment, and it still doesn't make a lick sense to me. Does anyone have a Crazy-to-English phrasebook I can borrow?

It's the easy way out and where life is easy one will find Satan. Satan paves the road of ease. God paves the holier way with troubles that have to be overcome.

Shouldn't it be the other way around? What's the point of believing in a god that goes out of his way to make your life as difficult as possible? And even if you did see a point in believing in him, why would you want to?

Your god sounds like a five-star asshole, and I'm quite relieved that he doesn't actually exist.

Anonymous said...

Leave William alone. The best way to deal with this is to ignore him. You are not going to change his views or actions by attacking him (however wrong he may be).

I feel this is almost like yelling at a homeless person to get a job. It is not going to help their situation. Perhaps it makes you feel better to be the privileged one, but such selfish actions are unbecoming.

Possum Momma, Continue to raise your wonderful children to be empathetic and thoughtful. That is the best thing you can do. Also try to be sympathetic towards other people's situations. If you were raised by Williams parents, you would likely be Baptist as well.

William, Christianity might be more appealing if you would be less offensive. I believe Jesus's message was primarily of love and acceptance.

Virginia aka Ginny said...

Nothing more needs to be said except to William, "I M IN UR BASE KILLING UR DOODZ!!!11!ONE!!! PWNED!@"

Oh man, this has brought me to tears I'm laughing so hard. If you don't play online computer games though, the humor in this may be lost I'm afraid.

Virginia aka Ginny said...

Leave William alone. The best way to deal with this is to ignore him.

I totally disagree with this. Anytime someone spews the garbage that William has been spewing, they deserve total ridicule. He brought it upon himself...looks like he picked the wrong atheist mama to pick on!

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Possum Momma, Continue to raise your wonderful children to be empathetic and thoughtful. That is the best thing you can do. Also try to be sympathetic towards other people's situations. If you were raised by Williams parents, you would likely be Baptist as well.

I will definitely continue to raise my children to be empathetic and thoughtful.

As for trying to be sympathetic towards people like William... I see what you're saying and I think it's probably good advice. However, I also don't know if I can be sympathetic towards someone who so obviously misunderstands the very concept of sympathy and/or empathy. If it makes any of this better, I do have alot of pity for William. I am honestly disturbed by his pessimistic world view and his judgmental personality.

I was raised Catholic... it doesn't give me an excuse to be a complete PITA.

As for leaving him alone: it's a little hard to leave someone alone when they dog you with comments for days on end. Also, it has to be said, I didn't search out his journal or his child. It's a little like blaming the bear for mauling the hiker who purposefully stomps into the bear's den and pokes a stick at her children. That said, I'm hoping he doesn't post here again.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful blog. I'm proud to share my disbelief with such a wonderful child. I'm delighted to hear about the Atheist Community of Austin, as that's where I live. I'll have to check that out.

I think you guys are being a bit rough on William. From his perspective he's trying to be kind, or at least he started off that way.

I've spent almost 40 years keeping my mouth shut about my (lack of) religious views. I've found that the religous are awfully intolerant of the unreligious and I'm no longer willing to deal with the consequencies of being an unbeliever in my work environment or put my parents though pain about my disbelief. Maybe when I retire I'll start a blog like this. Until then I'll just buy everthing Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris writes.

The best way I've discovered to keep from answering questions about my beliefs when the subject comes up is to ask questions about the other persons beliefs. If I'm sincere and respectful it almost always turns out well.

Williams perceptions are pretty much typical from what I've encountered. His belief is that the most evil thing possible is to reject God. This is as a premise. I suspect he's got a serious lack of williness to consider any issue as other than black or white, that he's sure that the only basis for human morality is the bible, and that the bible is literally true. I'd also wager that self doubt's not a problem in his life. Many of the people I talk to with this mindset are young earth creationists as well.

I used to assume that these people were ignorant, or simple minded. I no longer do. Some of the smartest people I know have these beliefs.
I've learned how to see many arguments from their point of view, and it helps me see them as people with their own way of managing life's pain and issues.

When I gave up God, I wondered about the basis for good and evil. It's clear to me that the only meaningful sin is harming someone else without sufficient cause.
And that there's a lifetime of thought about what harm means and what's sufficient.

It's odd to me that this view of sin is rare in the devout. All too often they are willing to cause emotional and physical harm and justify it with their view of morality. Talk for a while about the death penalty and those now known to be innocently killed. Wait for the "Let God sort it out comment."

William. I'd be interested in hearing more of what you have to say. I'd be curious to walk through some of the reasons you have for feeling the way you do. I hope I haven't offended you with any of my charecterizations above.

Diana said...

I know I don't speak for all athiests when I say this, but I'd like to point out that I, for one, accept that I may go to hell for my religious beliefs. I accept eternal damnation as one possible consequence of my athiestic faith, just as anyone of any faith risks damnation if their beliefs turn out to be incorrect. I also understand that the moral principles that guide my life originated in the teachings of Jesus Christ, namely empathy and love for all human beings. I especially try to empathize with those who feel the religious faith that I lack, with those who feel the presense of God in their daily lives. Nonetheless, I do not share their faith.

If God does exist and deigns to allow me to express my opinions to him, I'll thank him for giving me the opportunity to make my own decisions and accept the consequences of my actions.

Dave said...

Religion is a farce, not a farse, but I'm with you in sentiment ;)

Trip the Space Parasite said...

"Atheists can demand little or nothing of their spouse so there is less conflict."

I've spent 20 minutes trying to make heads or tails of this comment, and it still doesn't make a lick sense to me. Does anyone have a Crazy-to-English phrasebook I can borrow?

I think what he's trying to say is that atheist men don't beat their wives enough.

Anonymous said...

I linked to this from Pharyngula. Good for you and your child on that essay. She is very intelligent. I hope to raise children that observant someday.

I was raised Roman Catholic. I went to Catholic preschool, grade school and high school. I was an altar server for many years at the parish for my diocese, and served mass with many good priests and bishops. The whole shabang.

William is revolting, plain and simple. So much so that the more people like him I hear (and these days that includes politicos *cough* priests almost weekly) the more I'm inclined to drop the religion thing wholesale. In fact he's why we fled England to forge a new country devoid of adherence to specific religious doctrine.

William, you have your religious freedom *because* of liberalism, not in spite of it. Open a political science or history book and let your mind consume something else for once. You have no idea what liberalism really is (let alone atheism), you apparently lack critical thinking skills, and you are misrepresenting other peoples' parenting methods (is that not bearing false witness?) because you seek to impose your god-law on them. Talk about big government being the problem? We've got big busy bodies worrying themselves about other peoples' business.

Oh but I guess you'll pray for me too. Do me a favor and save it for yourself. Personally, I think other people need to pray for your children. They sound like they're being spoon-fed everything and handed the Cliffs Notes to life.

ascian said...

Wow. Your daughter is a gifted writer, and it's great that you're teaching her to question rather than blindly accept :) She will go far in life :)

I can't believe that people like that Pastor still exist. If religion was truly teaching people to love and care for each other, I wouldn't object so much. When people like Pastor William are teaching people to be hateful and intolerant of people who think differently to them, I worry.

My little sister is being raised as a Baptist (in Australia). She's 12, and she already tells me that I'm going to hell and that she loves being a soldier of god. Unfortunately, my arguments with my mother to give her exposure to other religions and humanism/athiesm go nowhere - she, like Pastor William, belives that children should be obedient first, and Baptists make for good, obedient children apparently. As far as I can tell, this makes parenting these children easier ("because I said no"), but (as I can attest to), it gives you a hard time when you get out of school and have to make your own way in the corporate world, where people who blindly obey are left far behind by the stars who were brought up to question and reason.

Natasha Yar-Routh said...

Possum #1 has so totally kicked Williams butt. She has also demonstrated that she is the better person with her ‘don’t bait the Baptist’ remark.

William how does it feel to know that YOU pushed possum #1 to atheism at last? You are so weak and fearful that you have spent days attacking Possummamma and possum #1. Your only result is ridicule and confirming possum # 1 in her atheism. What a loser.


‘Don’t pray for me any more”
-Iron Maiden

Anonymous said...

Bravo to Possum #1. Her essay showed not just precocious writing ability, but a spark of humor and a deep sense of empathy for people not just in her own situation, but in very different ones. It's heartening to see that in one so young, and I just know she'll grow up into a compassionate adult guided by her sense of reason, instead of a superstitious, bigoted, hate- and threat-spewing tyrant like our visiting minister.

When you get down to it, the worst crime on display here is simply this: in William's world, when a child reveals they can reason for themselves against the silly myths and injustices of adult authority figures, or when a child offers genuine sympathy and support to the downtrodden (instead of using the vulnerability of the weak to draw them into spiritual blackmail), or if a child simply shows they have a sense of humor about the arbitrary actions of their mentors, then that child is punished, silenced, deemed a threat to the fragile order which keeps William and his like in power and their congregations to heel.

And that suppression destroys something more precious than any god or scripture.

Jim Flannery said...

I'm always grateful when people like William show up, it's nice to be reminded again how I started to learn to be an atheist. It's good to see their attitudes right up front, the more people see them, the faster we end up with a sane society. With friends like William, Jesus doesn't need enemies.

I should have known that you would sink to low blows by sending an ambassador of sin into my church. Member or not, your spy was there on Satan's work.

And we all know that the last thing an evangelical church wants is for a sinner to walk in the door on Sunday morning, eh? Dude, you should go spend some time with your holy book, I think you missed some of the important parts.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to congratulate Possum#1 and her mother (and the rest of their family) on their intelligence and humour in this matter.

Possum#1 - there are worse things to be than an atheist (I've been an atheist since a little before your age). Show respect for other people and the law, try to walk a mile in their shoes and never ever do something just because some self-important, bombastic nitwit brow-beats you. The "Golden rule" (aka the Ethic of reciprocity) is a good guide which is not unique to Christianity, but is common to all moral precepts. Have a read of this for an idea of its universality: http://www.religioustolerance.org/reciproc.htm

That said, if at some point in the future you should choose to adopt some religion, that will be your choice and one made responsibly and with aforethought. Your are not bound by what you have decided today, but you are a good human and none should have any objections to what you personally believe or do not.

I'm sure you will turn out to be a wonderful human - you show every characteristic of that already.

And to the Baptist pastor: I am disgusted with your behaviour. People everywhere should be ashamed to admit they identify with your virulent and sociopathic attitude.

For others - if you think this is an isolated case, try http://www.fstdt.com/fundies.asp

Jesi said...

I came across you blog from fstdt.com and I must say, you are one great mother!

As an ex-Christian, I can tell you right now, you are the kind of woman I hope to grow to be someday.

Radix2 said...

Diana,

You said "I also understand that the moral principles that guide my life originated in the teachings of Jesus Christ, namely empathy and love for all human beings."

They didn't originate with Jesus Christ (if he even existed). The words of tolerance and love for fellow humans is based on the Ethic of Reciprocity. http://www.religioustolerance.org/reciproc.htm

Regardless, if someone chooses to attribute this deeply embedded societal ethic to Jesus then there is really no problem, but why is it that these nutcases (William being a prime example) don't practice what their Jesus preached?

GreatDane said...

I came over here from Pharyngula. The US and your blog is great! It's unbelievably entertaining, interesting and fascinating to read and learn about the clash between atheists and believers over there. I'm originally from Denmark and back home even some ministers do not believe in God.

Totally fine with me and even better that his flock is very happy about him. How would that ever work out in US, I wonder?

Also, my friend's girlfriend (now wife) is a minister (Lutheran) and they had a child before they got married. Just made me realise how different and relaxed (parts of) Europe is to the US religionwise...

Anonymous said...

Possummamma,

I found your blog today and must say that I greatly appreciate what you're doing. You seem to have provided your child/children with a rare opportunity to mature without any preconceived ideas or delusions.

Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I have not being "owned".

oh for crying out loud, talk about famous last words!

the sad thing is, not only could this uneducated (i've certainly never been to seminary) lifelong atheist do a better job of defending religion than our William has shown, i could also lose the argument with better grace and less spiteful acrimony if it came to that. and yet he gets the authority to lead a congregation?!

Chris said...

just wandered on here from Reddit... you have something magical going on here possummomma!

I wonder what our friend William has to say about the hundreds of variations on polytheism, aboriginal and pagan belief systems that predated Christianity? How about the dozens upon dozens of creation myths that peoples of history have penned as fact before "God created earth in seven days?"

How about the 5/6 of all the residents of planet earth who believe that Jesus is not a divine figure?

All throughout history man has tried to explain his existence through the divine, yet Jesus must be the answer because a few hundred years ago a collection of European Imperialist monarchs with way too much money and power decided it would be that way?

How about you? You grew up in middle-of-nowhere Texas with 2 persons per square mile, watched the rain fall and crops grow, and because 100% of your community is also Baptist, that immediately makes it the infallible point of view over the whole world? Maybe I'm making assumptions about you... but then again you have assumed many things about me, the dreaded atheist.

We can not only make swiss cheese out of any of your arguments with science, but also with history, sociology, psychology, and any number of proven schools of thought.

William, my friend, you are no different from those imperialist monarchs many years ago in your belief that you need to spread your belief system and enlarge your "flock." I feel bad for your children, but I won't pray for them because talking into my hands with my eyes closed won't make me feel any better. But hey, if it works for you...

I am a very considerate and tolerant person but when you take it upon yourself to invade a forum with an opposing viewpoint and preach your self-righteous BS, I cannot sit back and rest on my laurels. You sir, make me ashamed of America. Go back and take your seat next to Ted Haggard.

Possummomma, you've got a special kid there.

Nigel said...

I'm blown away. Love your recent posts. Found on reddit.

Kilted Dad said...

Possummomma, you and your daughter rock!

I'm adding your feed to my Live.com page. Thanks for an entertaining morning.

The Inoculated Mind said...

William:"Karcas, I think atheists have the lowest divorce rate because atheist marriages are easier than trying to live a holy marriage blessed by God."

Ad hoc hypothesis with no evidence. It would be easier if you instead tried to get to KNOW some atheists so you wouldn't be so ignorant.

"Married Christians have to work hard and sacrifice to meet the requirements set by God for marriage."

Those requirements set for marriage often involve one spouse being subservient to the other, which creates marital tension. Many religious fundmentalists holkd to sexist ideas about pair bonding.

"Atheists can have affairs and it doesn't matter because there is nothing requiring them to be faithful."

Yes there is. It's called your partner.

"Atheists can demand little or nothing of their spouse so there is less conflict."

Sure we can, we're talking about a relationship between adults, and they sure can demand things of each other. You seem to be operating under the myth that marriages make or break depending upon whether or not you can wield the power of religious fear to keep your spouse from expecting more out of the marriage. If you need to get married in a church to make your marriage last, then there's something wrong with the relationship.

"It's the easy way out and where life is easy one will find Satan. Satan paves the road of ease. God paves the holier way with troubles that have to be overcome."

And it seems that you're having trouble overcoming your ignorance. You want to believe that there must be something wrong with atheist relationships, and atheists themselves, but you can't seem to find anything to wrap a logical statement around. You need to spend more time understanding other members of the species, and stop making assumptions based upon old preconceptions.

Chris said...

Oh, poo. It seems as though Willy has vacated the premises to seek out less intelligent, less inquisitive sheep. I really was looking forward to engaging him in a constructive and informed dialogue. That's what happens when you join the conversation late!

ADSPAR said...

"atheists are willing to corrupt their children and don't care about the childs soul."

Possummamma, you should see if William would be willing to buy the souls of your little possums, since he cares so much about them. Then use the proceeds to buy an ad in his local paper and print some of the bile he has been spewing here.


Great posts. Your daughter is awesome.

Lish said...

Nicely played. If this whole exchange exposed religion to your child in all its unpleasant glory, it couldn't have gone any better.

Pedro Timóteo said...

Hi,

sorry for posting this here, but I couldn't find a contact email on this blog. I'd like to invite you to Planet Atheism, an aggregator of atheism-related blogs.

Details here:

http://www.wayofthemind.org/planet-atheism/

Again, sorry for posting an offtopic comment; I'd have emailed you if I could...

Pedro

Stan said...

Hi. Found you through a link on Pharyngula. As another atheist parent, I'm fully in agreement with you.

Anonymous said...

Sorry. I don't believe this whole thing.

It seems too perfect.

The perfect essay of a precocious child that gets passed around in the stereotypically close minded religious community that has the expected stereotypical response.

Too perfect. Life isn't that perfect and the stories in life are messy with lots of hanging points and unfinished tangents.

For instance, I can buy that your daughter wrote the essay. However, the ensuing details sound fishy and call the original authenticity of the essay into question.

It seems like the story is being milked. Like the idea of the essay was so popular among readers that little details and extra posts have been added to spice it up.


I could be completely wrong in my feelings. The facts are sure to speak for themselves. It is just hard to tell what are and are not facts out there in blog-land. It is too easy to put a bow on everything and make it fit neatly in a narrative framework.

Either way, they are great posts. I enjoy reading them. In a way, I hope it really is happening the way it is portrayed because it is a great story and I am fascinated...

I just have this nagging feeling.

Anonymous said...

Not to be a Grammar Nazi, but I see you using "alot" in your writing, where you're probably wanting to actually use "a lot". "Alot" doesn't appear in www.dictionary.com, but I've had english teachers point out it means something like "allocating space" or just allocating, sort of like an allotment. "A lot" means many.

I don't want to sound like an ass, but it's just a pet peeve of mine. Nice blog by the way, you have some rather wholesome answers that I get asked often myself. They work better than technical answers that some of the nastier Christians I've had to tolerate would pick apart by way of semantics, as though my wording, and not my intent, is the validation of my arguments.

Cheers!

Matt D. said...

I salute your skepticism, though I find your concerns a bit odd. You have no problem believing that her daughter wrote the essay - but the ensuing comments then bring the veracity of the original claim into question?

It's completely unsurprising to me that this issue has not only become popular (especially after PZ Myers linked it on Pharyngula) but also prompted the comments we've seen.

Perhaps some of the posters are simply trolls, hoping to keep the drama churning - but none of the ideas presented here are unusual.

Even if we were to assume that William was simply a troll doing a caricature of a particular fundy viewpoint - that viewpoint still exists.

As I'm certain that this view exists (as I used to share it, to some extent) and I'm certain that some of those with that viewpoint would be willing to comment in public - none of these claims are extraordinary, and the evidence required to justify accepting them isn't beyond what I've been presented.

You wouldn't be the first to doubt the story, and my acceptance of the story is certainly biased by my familiarity with the author of this blog, but even without that bias, I find the blog comments far less extraordinary than the essay - while you seem to hold the opposite view.

wintermute said...

"Alot" doesn't appear in www.dictionary.com, but I've had english teachers point out it means something like "allocating space" or just allocating, sort of like an allotment.

No, that's "allot", with a double L.

http://dictionary.reference.com/search?q=allot

If you're going to be pedantic, then at least be right.

Anonymous said...

Mom seems too perfect, daughter too bright, Baptist too two dimensional to be believed.

Except, I have read Kazim on many other boards for years.
If he says it's true; make book.(If you don't believe that gambling is a sin).

My extremely bright wife of over twenty years is the engineer who designed our home and the new building that contains our business.
Both buildings are admired for their beauty and functionality. We live next door to her atheist parents - an engineer and an artist, who have been married for 47 years.
They raised their child to think for herself. I remember my mother-in-law tellimg me that she thought that the worst possible thing that you could ever give a child was a religion because by doing so, you automatically closed off an avenue of thought.
My wife was raised in a loving nurturing family who encouraged to challenge boundaries, authority, and herself.
When she graduated from engineering school, second in her class, she was the only woman in her class.

When someone tells me that it is easier for atheists to stay married because our standards are somehow more "relaxed", I have to just chuckle at the absurdity of thinking that having everything you think challenged on a daily basis is somehow easier than bland obedience. This type of thinking is as nearly unbelievably dense as William appears to be.
I feel sorry for him. It appears that he wants a servant for life as opposed to a partner who will share his life and keep him on his toes.

Maybe so many Baptist marriages are falling apart because some of the men are discovering what so many of us already know.

Atheist women are the hottest tickets on the planet.

Anonymous said...

As a Christian I would like to say that I am ashamed that anyone like William would ever claim to share my religion.

I really hope that Possum #1, or anyone else, doesn't go away thinking that we are all like that.

I would much rather that the world was full of atheists who actually cared for each other, like Possum #1, than people like William who use Jesus as an excuse to be a bigoted, hate-mongering asshole.

Anonymous said...

I love the essay. It's something that needs to be said. Here's my problem, though. Possum1 concludes, based on one pastor's irrational response, that Christianity as a whole is a farce. If you really want to teach your child critical thinking, and allow them to blaze their own spiritual path, you would point on the flaw in this thinking. Basing a decision that profound on one bad example is far from rational. Were you to use similar reasoning on all areas of your life you would end up believing in nothing.

Anonymous said...

Atheists can have affairs and it doesn't matter because there is nothing requiring them to be faithful.

I can't wait to try this line of.. uh, "reasoning" on my wife.

Look William, just because your will is weak (to nonexistant) and you can not comprehend doing what is right out of any other motivation but shear unadulterated terror at being punished, it does not follow that everyone is such a weak willed simpleton. Seriously, you, and people akin to you, come off as presenting yourself as one commandment from God away from pillaging and raping as you see fit. Your line of reasoning appears thusly:

"Since a fear of God is all that keeps ME from being a complete and total psycopath, anyone who does not tremble in terror at the prospect of a vengefull deity must be a complete psycopath."

That says NOTHING relevant about us. It says a WHOLE LOT about you. Primarily that you are a stunted human who is barely capable of living amongst civilised peoples.

Steve Watson said...

Dan quotes Pastor Billy:
Atheists can demand little or nothing of their spouse so there is less conflict.
I've spent 20 minutes trying to make heads or tails of this comment, and it still doesn't make a lick sense to me. Does anyone have a Crazy-to-English phrasebook I can borrow?


Well, my (tongue-in-cheek) translation would be: Any Christian woman with an ounce of self-respect eventually gets sick of the demands made by her sanctimonious control-freak husband and dumps the jerk. (At least, for values of "Christian" espoused by Paster Billy -- which is fairly rare among the larger Christian world).

But seriously, William's whole rant is a bizarre mish-mash of nonsensical statements and more of his prejudices about atheists. It amazes not just my current atheist self, but the ex-fundamentalist in me. Back in the day, I was taught that Christian marriages should be rock-solid havens of peace in a chaotic world. After all, you've got the love of Jesus, the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the firm foundation of Biblical principles, right? The rising divorce rate is taken as symptomatic of a society that has abandoned all that good stuff. So I find William's statement to be a logically bass-ackwards transparent excuse for the abject failure of his particular religion to help people have healthy, functional relationships. (God deliberately makes Christian marriage hard? What an abusive bastard!)

The accusation of infiltration is crazy-paranoid. Last I heard, church services are open to the public, and most churches welcome visitors (but not, I guess, when they write critical things on blogs afterwards).

john_m_burt said...

William has been so thoroughly and completely pwned by Possum1 that everyone is now comfortable with her being a real kid who really wrote that essay, but they've begun to doubt that William is a real Baptist minister and not a troll or even Momma's sock puppet.

Defeat doesn't get more complete and total, and just at this moment I'm glad to be such a bad Quaker that I enjoy seeing it.

Anonymous said...

Sayeth the William: I'll pray for all of you.

I've heard that many times before, but I'm genuinely curious: What do you plan to pray for?

Presumably, you believe that God bestowed every individual with free will, so asking God to change anyone's mind is a waste of time. You might ask God to be merciful in his judgments, but you have already condemned every atheist to hell, so I suppose that's out of the question. You might ask for God to grant you tolerance and understanding, but your behavior here clearly rules that out.

Since I have to believe that you have better things to do than kneel on the floor and mumble incoherently, of what exactly will your prayer consist?

Mike said...

For all who have aired the "be nice to the nutjob" line, I have to yell "bullshit!" To say that overwhelming ridicule and unceasing rational argument isn't going to change William's beliefs or actions is totally false. Before, he believed that he could get away with trolling on a site and abusing the writer and her child. He also believed that by spouting his backwards dogma he could convert the people here. He has been proven wrong on both accounts. Even if he still believes in his sky god, that doesn't mean he won't think twice the next time he wants to troll and atheist's website.

This also holds for those believers who may have the same beliefs that William does but haven't yet taken the step to out and out bigotry. After reading through this blog they will encounter a(what I hope is yet another) group of atheists, and friends, who will not tolerate that sort of behavior and will rationally rip the offenders arguments into little bits.

In short, it sends a message: Atheists will not stay silent in the midst of bigotry, and dogmatically airing your delusions will invite scorn from the rational, thinking, reality-based group of humanity.

Kudo's to this blog by the way, you've got another reader.

Damien said...

Having seen various religious trolls (with their own blogs) on Pharyngula, and having spent some time wallowing in freerepublic.com, and many other stories of reactions to atheists, I'd say there's nothing implausible here. Bright and articulate kids exist, as do living caricatures of belief.

Anonymous said...

"..Seriously, you, and people akin to you, come off as presenting yourself as one commandment from God away from pillaging and raping as you see fit..."

That's what I think every time one of these fools opens his or her mouth. They just cannot fathom that a real human being could exist peaceably and lawfully outside their chosen religious controls. It's a sick sign that they do not even trust themselves should they ever came to disbelieve in a god.

But that's their argument: Mankind is always one foot in the grave, no matter how good a person you are. William's general view of "judgement" is even more tenuous: screw up once and that's it. I find that a revolting way of going about life, because you're always trying to avoid stepping on cracks in the sidewalk, and then you're too busy with the details to focus on whatever the hell it was that you're supposed to be believing and practicing.

If heaven has people like William in it, I'll take hell please. Just say no to the personal police state mentality.

Anonymous said...

possummomma, speaking as an agnostic, I will tell you that your daughter is impressive in her ability to think clearly at her age. Congrats.

I have always made a serious effort to have my girls be able to think precisely, and it warmed my heart when my older daughter a couple of years ago expressed her deep frustration about many of the people around her; "they don't know how to THINK clearly!" Good to see evidence of another young person who is learning to think clearly.

That said, I'm going to tweak you a bit.

Your whole debate with William is because you (plural) have a conflict in faith. His faith makes him certain that God is...(etc).

Your faith makes you certain that there is no god. Your position is as lacking in genuine evidence as his is.

That science has not found it necessary to postulate a god to explain things in no way eliminates the possibility of a creator. Keep in mind that science and the scientific method always tries to answer "how" and studiously avoids considering "why".

Those of religious faith insist they know the answer to "why", as do athiests - who say that "there is no 'why'".

The reality is that, to this point, we have no firm grasp of how to approach the question of "why is the universe...". We think that at some point science will answer that, and perhaps it will.

But until/unless it does, saying "there is no 'why'" is no different philosophically from saying "I know why"; both are asserting positive positions absent positive evidence.

jiml8

intepid said...

William, I too would like to know what exactly it is you are going to pray for...? Will you pray that we catch the fear of God, and then lie awake wondering if he'll make us spend eternity treading lava for not loving him?

I would hope that you wouldn't be praying to God to forgive us, since that sounds just too much like begging an angry drunk not to beat his wife, and would diminish my already poor impression of Him.

Mike Crichton said...

Anonymous said:William is revolting, plain and simple. So much so that the more people like him I hear (and these days that includes politicos *cough* priests almost weekly) the more I'm inclined to drop the religion thing wholesale. In fact he's why we fled England to forge a new country devoid of adherence to specific religious doctrine.

Actually, the Puritans had much more in common with "William" than they did with people like us. The persecution that they inflicted on "heretics" within their own communities was _far_ worse than anything that had been done to them in England. Religious tolerance didn't really become an influential meme for another century or so.

DM said...

Dear William

Thank you so much for praying for me. I'm curious to know if you're planning to cast "Bless" (Cleric spell level 1). That will grant me a +1 morale bonus to hit and to all saving throws. Not that I plan on hitting anyone, but I could use the bonus to help me with my Will save vs Religious conversion. Your Bless spell will assist me. Thank you. By the way, were you aware that all recipients of your "Bless" spell have to be within 50' or the bonus doesn't apply?

Hate to be a rules lawyer, but your spell just doesn't have the range. But thank you so very much for the thought.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Your faith makes you certain that there is no god. Your position is as lacking in genuine evidence as his is.


That's actually not my position. I have never said there is no God. I have said that I don't believe there's enough evidence for God. I have said that I don't believe in the Christian God based on the evidence I've been presented. I do not think it is likely that there is ANY God, but I would never rule out the possibility that there might be some supernatural sky pixie.

How can you say my position lacks evidence when you don't know what, precisely, my position is?

Azkyroth said...

DM:

LOL...

And William, if you're still on...

Gee, an intolerant, judgemental misanthrope with more righteous indignation than brains and a nasty streak a mile wide. Now THERE'S something you don't see every day. Take a number, jackass.

Anonymous said...

That's actually not my position. I have never said there is no God. I have said that I don't believe there's enough evidence for God.

This is not an atheist position (a-theist: opposed to the belief in a deity), this is an agnostic position (a-gnostic: denying existence of knowledge of a deity)

I have said that I don't believe in the Christian God based on the evidence I've been presented.

And I will agree.

I do not think it is likely that there is ANY God, but I would never rule out the possibility that there might be some supernatural sky pixie.

It is a very long step from "it isn't likely..." to "it isn't period..." You label yourself atheist then define yourself agnostic.

How can you say my position lacks evidence when you don't know what, precisely, my position is?

Just going by what you call yourself.

jiml8

Azkyroth said...

Latest anonymous, please read the following link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weak_and_strong_atheism

Trying to pigeonhole members of a community according to a definition that much of the community doesn't accept is kind of pointless.

Radix2 said...

jiml8: You are wrong. Atheists come in a spectrum from strong to weak. A strong Atheist claims there are no gods. A weak atheist claims that there is no evidence for a god (and thus there is no reason to believe)

Your definition of Atheism was
"a-theist: opposed to the belief in a deity" That is actually ANTItheism. Atheism really just means "without belief in gods". The 'A' prefix just means without.

"a-gnostic: denying existence of knowledge of a deity" - hmm. Possibly in one part of the spectrum it is (and I assume you see that as fitting). Agnosticism using your new found knowledge of the 'a' prefix could also be without knowledge of the nature of god.

So please check your defintions more carefully before presuming to tell someone what their belief is.

Thanks from a weak atheist.

Anonymous said...

*sigh*

a·the·ist /ˈeɪθiɪst/
–noun
a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/atheist

ag·nos·tic /ægˈnɒstɪk/
–noun
1. 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.
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/agnostic

Wikipedia is a nice source of information. Often a good starting place.

But, by its very nature (editable by readers) it certainly isn't and can't be authoritative.

Dictionaries are authoritative when it comes to the definition of words.

If you choose to redefine a word and use it in a context or with a meaning that is not an accepted meaning, then you are simply refusing to communicate.

jiml8

Anonymous said...

From http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/agnostic

Word History: An agnostic does not deny the existence of God and heaven but holds that one cannot know for certain whether or not they exist. The term agnostic was fittingly coined by the 19th-century British scientist Thomas H. Huxley, who believed that only material phenomena were objects of exact knowledge. He made up the word from the prefix a-, meaning "without, not," as in amoral, and the noun Gnostic. Gnostic is related to the Greek word gnōsis, "knowledge," which was used by early Christian writers to mean "higher, esoteric knowledge of spiritual things"; hence, Gnostic referred to those with such knowledge. In coining the term agnostic, Huxley was considering as "Gnostics" a group of his fellow intellectuals—"ists," as he called them—who had eagerly embraced various doctrines or theories that explained the world to their satisfaction. Because he was a "man without a rag of a label to cover himself with," Huxley coined the term agnostic for himself, its first published use being in 1870.

Anonymous said...

Jiml8

Within the atheist community, we call ourselves what we call ourselves.

People who call themselves atheists have a right to call themselves atheists. Atheist in a mini-van has a right to call herself that, and she's well within the standard within the atheist community.

If you continue to have discussions with atheists, you will continue to butt heads against this definition. It's the standard among atheists. You will not be able to change this by quoting an old dictionary.


I recommend you get used to this as one of the standard definitions. Well-nigh every atheist/agnostic discussing this in the english-speaking world will agree with this definition.

I myself describe myself as an "agnostic atheist". Agnostic because I don't know if there's a god or gods. Atheist because I worship zero gods.

Radix2 said...

Jiml8: *double sigh* :-)

Now I don't want get into an "argumentum ad dictionary" especially seeing as different dictionaries give different nuances, but let us examine the definition of atheist that you chose, and I'll insert at the appropriate points what we were getting at.

You cited from dictionary.reference.com the following
a·the·ist
–noun
a person who denies [Strong Atheist] or disbelieves [Weak Atheist] the existence of a supreme being or beings.

Originally you said that an atheist was opposed to the existence of gods. I claim that is an antitheist. Can you see the difference?

Here is another dictionary definition:
Main Entry: athe·ist
Pronunciation: 'A-thE-ist
Function: noun
: one who believes that there is no deity
http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?va=atheist

Really - this last is all you can be sure of when someone classifies themselves as an Atheist. Most though would change their minds in an instant if given tangible evidence for the existence of some god(s).

It is not that we are redefining words, it is just that you have failed to appreciate the range of attitudes within the atheist classification.

Mike said...

Oh not the "you're not a REAL athiest" tripe again. Jiml8, I highly doubt that you're an agnostic towards the invisible unicorn that does the tango at the bottom of my backyard and doesn't want you to eat sprouts or it'll kill you. To say in any practical sense that you're open to this possibility is madness. In the case of this idiotic god, we would only in the strictest academic sense say that we are agnostic about it's existance. But in no way whatsoever will any sane person refrain from eating sprouts because they can't disprove it's existance in an absolute and complete way. You'd be nuts to do so. We will all go through life acting as though it doesn't exist. So while only in the most technical sense we are agnostic about it, in every meaningful and practical way we are atheist towards it.
And that is how we use the term "atheist". In a way that's practical and meaningful.

Anonymous said...

Within the atheist community, we call ourselves what we call ourselves.

People who call themselves atheists have a right to call themselves atheists


I have a right to call a rose a daisy, if I wish. Then, when I talk to you about daisies, you'd better not get confused when I talk about the thorns on my daisies.

If the symbols aren't agreed on, there is no communication.

Oh not the "you're not a REAL athiest" tripe again. Jiml8, I highly doubt that you're an agnostic towards the invisible unicorn that does the tango at the bottom of my backyard

Irrelevant strawman.

S'Ok. I just wanted to see what people here would say. I have seen.

jiml8

Virginia aka Ginny said...

I myself describe myself as an "agnostic atheist". Agnostic because I don't know if there's a god or gods. Atheist because I worship zero gods.

I identify myself as being an agnostic atheist as well, and so does every other atheist I'm friends with.

I can't know if there are any gods or not(agnostic), but there is no evidence to warrant my belief in them(atheist),so therefor don't worship such beings. It's quite odd to me that people presume to tell us how we identify ourselves. And when we correct them, they still insist that we are wrong. Go figure.

Mike said...

Ick. Must be nice to simply designate things that clarify the argument and refute your claims as irrelivant strawmen without addressing the actual argument. It's like he's a dictionary troll.

Maybe I'll teach a class on how dictionaries work: by taking words as they're used and recording the definition that they've been given by those who use them. Not the other way around. I find it sad that some people take the dictionary as some kind of all knowing book.
I suppose Jiml8 stil thinks fag means a cig. Or is that even to new?

Matt D. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Why is describing an atheist so difficult? Break the word down people: a- (lack of something) -theist (person that believes in deities). Atheism is not a belief because the word itself defines a lack of belief in a god.

To ask an atheist for evidence that there is no god is to betray your own position (assuming you may believe in something), because then you are required to provide proof you cannot confirm in the real world.

Matt D. said...

"Dictionaries are authoritative when it comes to the definition of words."

Bzzt. Wrong. Something is only authoritative if you accept it as such. The Dictionary only carries more weight than the Bible - IF it's definitions prove to be accurate and reliable. It doesn't win by default.

Dictionaries may often be less correct and less authoritative than wikipedia or any other encyclopedia. Why?

1. Because we're talking about ideas here, not just labels and pithy definitions. The experts in the areas of those ideas might often have more accurate definitions.

2. Because a dictionary's purpose is to give spelling, pronunciation and brief definition - not provide philosophical commentary about the subtleties of language labels as they relate to ideas.

A dictionary, while it attempts to be accurate, is also subject to the same human error and bias as any other source. Want an example? Here's a relevant one...

Until recently, many dictionaries included another definition for atheism as well:

atheism
3. immorality

Do you find that to be accurate and authoritative? Was it ever anything more than a representation of the ignorance that non-atheists have with regard to atheism?

And, as pointed out by a previous blogger, the definition you presented does not simply lump atheism into the "asserts that no god exists" bucket, it also includes the "lacks belief" notion.

Language evolves as ideas evolve - and Dictionaries change along with them.

Additionally, we have to consider word structure and etymology. The strict, literal meaning - as also pointed out by others - rest on 'a' being a prefix for 'without' and not 'anti' or 'contra', etc.

Lastly, agnosticism and atheism are not mutually exclusive positions. One addresses knowledge or what one claims to know (or be able to know) the other addresses belief.

Anonymous said...

I see William the Conqueror hasn't shown his sorry ass again...

I feel sorry for his congregation. Isn't there anybody who sits in his church on Sunday and wonders what this loon is going on about?

Seriously though, it's amazing how many atheists are out there who are starting to feel comfortable about saying they ARE atheists. I ran into a couple more this weekend, while in the company of Methodist friends who are NOT AT ALL like the hateful, spiteful picture of "love" that William purports to spread.

My own feeling is that matters of religion and faith are and should be personal. Not to be worn on a sleeve or used as a tool to force others to go along with a person's power trip. Back when I was a church-goer, I could never understand why people wanted to show off their faith so much. I mean, didn't Jesus teach us about the Pharisees?

Dejah Thoris

Siamang said...

Jiml8 wrote:

I have a right to call a rose a daisy, if I wish. Then, when I talk to you about daisies, you'd better not get confused when I talk about the thorns on my daisies.

The difference is, you are not a rose and you are not a daisy. If you were a rose, I would have no right to complain if you called yourself a daisy, a philodendron or 'Jiml8 the dictionary troll'.

We ARE atheists. That's our chosen name. Get used to it, because it's going to come up every single frigging time you discuss this issue with atheists and no matter how many dictionaries you pull out, we will not change our minds.
We will not allow you to narrow the wide range of atheist beliefs to one narrow position based on your dictionary.

So get used to your dictionary cite. Cut and paste it and keep it handy on your desktop. If you desire that that be the only thing you interact on with atheists, be prepared to bash your head against that same wall the rest of your life.


Or here's a better suggestion: Put down the dictionary and LISTEN to what other people with different opinions have to share about their own perspective and their own path in life.

Berlzebub said...

jiml8 said:

That's actually not my position. I have never said there is no God. I have said that I don't believe there's enough evidence for God.

This is not an atheist position (a-theist: opposed to the belief in a deity), this is an agnostic position (a-gnostic: denying existence of knowledge of a deity)


Actually, this is an atheist position. It's called negative atheism, i.e. "I don't believe there is a god." As opposed to positive atheism which is "There is no god." Agnostic is "I'm not sure there is a god."

I have said that I don't believe in the Christian God based on the evidence I've been presented.

And I will agree.


Glad to hear it. That means you're an atheist. Because there is no evidence for god or gods. Whether Christian or otherwise.

I do not think it is likely that there is ANY God, but I would never rule out the possibility that there might be some supernatural sky pixie.

It is a very long step from "it isn't likely..." to "it isn't period..." You label yourself atheist then define yourself agnostic.


Please pay attention, jiml8. She is not saying she is an agnostic. She's saying that she doesn't believe there are any gods. She's not arrogant enough to think she can't possibly be wrong, unlike a visiting Xian to this blog.

How can you say my position lacks evidence when you don't know what, precisely, my position is?

Just going by what you call yourself.


No you aren't. You're going by the layman's (or your) definitions of the terms without doing further research.

Listen closely jiml8, and anyone else who doesn't have the definitons down. Saying "there is no" is Positive Atheism. Saying "I don't believe there is" or "there is no proof of" is negative atheism. Saying "I'm not sure" is different than saying "I don't believe". Subtlely so, but different none the less. Possummomma has made her decision, like I have. I'm also an "I don't believe(r)". If someone ever shows me proof of a sky daddy, fine. Until then, I don't believe he exists.

So, jiml8, you're the one proposing strawmen. You've built your arguments on your ideas of the words, without actually understanding what the words mean.

-Berlzebub

PS. Sorry if I took your post off topic, possummomma. It's just that people who misinterpret the terms tick me off.

yet another atheist mom said...

I found a link to your blog on atheistparents.org, and I am also so impressed and proud of your daughter. I hope my own girls will have the self assurance and presence of mind to confront such sillyness when they have it thrust upon them. Not just in school assignments like your little possum received, but also with crazy thoughtless adults like William.

Lisa

And, yes, for the record, William has most assuredly been "owned"...

Tas said...

Well done to your Possum, you must (and should) be a very proud parent. While I am sure your child is naturally gifted, being brought up in an intellectually honest atmosphere will always assist.

It is worrying that people in your community can let some one like William become a "spiritual leader" but there is no accounting for taste.

Your daughters comments were excellent and shows she understands moral values much more than the supposed "pastor."

Tas said...

William wrote:
Karcas, I think atheists have the lowest divorce rate because atheist marriages are easier than trying to live a holy marriage blessed by God. Married Christians have to work hard and sacrifice to meet the requirements set by God for marriage. Atheists can have affairs and it doesn't matter because there is nothing requiring them to be faithful. Atheists can demand little or nothing of their spouse so there is less conflict. It's the easy way out and where life is easy one will find Satan. Satan paves the road of ease. God paves the holier way with troubles that have to be overcome.

Man, you really are that dumb.

What you are saying is that all the devout little Christians are only not having affairs and so on because they are scared of the punishment. Are you also implying that your chosen deity is so naive as to think these people are worthy to get access to heaven? As soon as they think they can get away with murder all hell will break loose.

You try to use your religion to control people and make them act and think in a manner You find acceptable. You are a truly reprehensible individual.

You are fundamentally immoral because you only do your good deeds (and refrain from bad deeds) because you are frightened of the punishment.

Any Atheist who does any good deed or refrains from any bad deed is more morally grounded than you will ever be.

Sadly, I get the feeling you are too clueless to realise what logical fallacies are, or the blatant hypocrisy of your comments

Tas said...

Anonymous said:
Leave William alone. The best way to deal with this is to ignore him. You are not going to change his views or actions by attacking him (however wrong he may be).

I feel this is almost like yelling at a homeless person to get a job. It is not going to help their situation. Perhaps it makes you feel better to be the privileged one, but such selfish actions are unbecoming.


Not sure I agree in this context. Normally, if William was a USENET troll or the like, yes I would agree. If he was a homeless person, then yes I would agree 100% with what you say.

Here, William is some one who has come to this blog to spread his fire and brimstone brand of hatred and intolerance. This can not be "ignored" in the manner you suggest, and I think it should not be.

Personally, I feel the more people who stand up to bullies like William, the better those who are bullied (including lurkers who read these posts in similar situations but are unable to defend themselves in a similar manner) will be able to grow and assert themselves.

Jon said...

Atheists simply do not believe in any deity or deities. Most if not all of us would believe in their existance should concrete evidence ever actually come to exist. Only at this point would disbelieving actually require faith.

Keep in mind that Theists are the ones who are claiming that there's big invisible unknowable unquantifiable entities out there obsessing over our sex-lives. Burden of proof lies on you, not those of us who don't believe it.

Of course, WORSHIP might be a different matter entirely; most of the deities we're being asked to disprove (always with the logical fallacies those theists) would be considered evil, or at least petty, demanding and not worthy of much respect by decent folk.

As is, atheists are simply people who look at the mountain of cowpie claims (from long-winded opinions pieces claiming other unverified hypotheses as unqualified 'evidence') flung our way and say "this doesn't even hold up to mild scrutiny. write something better. maybe a little less hateful next time".

Just remember: If you can't prove your god exists, then there's quite literally *nothing* for me to need to prove the non-existance of.

Moonglade said...

All I can think: Is this William related to the Goldrushs? (A few of you may get the TMF reference). :)

Beautiful essay by a perceptive and sensitive child mature beyond her years. Way to go, Possumsmoma! You and your daughter rock.

Paul said...

Heya, possum#1 I just wanted to say that you're my new hero. Keep your eyes open and continue to examine every viewpoint you come across. Don't let any person or institution decide what you can or cannot think.
That is a form of mental slavery, and in many ways, it is worse than its physical counterpart.

I live in New Zealand, where the religious/areligious boundaries are not as strongly drawn as they are in many parts of the United States. Christians here do not have the upper hand the way they seem to in the bible-belt states- so even coming cross 'atheist societies' or clubs as mentioned in these comments is pretty eye-opening for me. In my country, we don't really need these clubs because atheists or agnostics aren't ostracised; they don't have to fight past 400 years of misguided Christian-centric tradition; they're just like everybody else. Actually, I grew up as a Christian, and here that made *me* the outsider.

To Pastor William, I would say this: My biggest problem with you - and the reason why I recently left my Christianity behind- is this: You seem incapable believing any non-christian to be acting in "good faith", that is, taking what they believe and acting the best way they know how. Instead you just dismiss them as evil and spit venom at them. Many Christians seem similar and I find it appalling. Have you even considered the possibility that possummomma is bringing up her children the best way she can? You seem to assume, because she is not a christian, that she is knowingly and willfully destroying her childrens chances of coming to know your God, not because she doesn't happen to believe in your God, but because (you seem to think) she is a tool of Satan tearing at your precious religious monopoly.
I can't understand your position, William, because the part of Christianity that I keep enshrines love as one of the most important values. There can be no love where there is no understanding, and most Christians, like you William, do not make the slightest effort to get to know, or understand, or care for people who aren't Christian.
If your faith is a barrier to compassion, then I want no part of it.

Nicole said...

On atheism and faith: I think the wisest thing to do is respect an atheist's self-definition, as I would hope they'd respect my own religious self-identification. If it's stupid for Possum's teacher to say "you can't really be an atheist if you care about your classmates," or for a homeless man to tell me "you can't really be a non-Christian because giving me money is a Christian act," it would be as stupid for me to say to Possummomma "you can't really be an atheist because you only claim to disbelieve in god's existence rather than believing in god's nonexistence."

Some atheists describe themselves as having faith in god's nonexistence. Some describe themselves as lacking faith in god's existence. I figure they have more right to describe themselves than I have to describe them, so I concede the point.

The only exception: should someone feel the need to make fun of me for being a theist, and attempt to convert me to atheism by insults to my sanity, rationality, or intelligence, them I'd accuse that atheist of not only having a(n unprovable and therefore equally irrational) faith, but of proselytizing it. And proselytization is downright rude. As a Pagan, I get it from both the fundamentalist Christians and some of the more militant atheists and it gets old reeeeeeal quick.

On marriage: I'm surprised no one from the polyamorous community has protested the way non-monogamy is being used here as the ultimate insult. Believe it or not, whether a couple require monogamy of one another has absolutely nothing to do with their religion or lack thereof, or how much they love each other. I would suspect that some people who are naturally poly only feel free to express it after leaving certain Biblical mandates behind; that would be the only kernel of truth behind William's huge false accusation that atheist marriages are "easier" than Christian ones. But I don't doubt that there are Christians in poly relationships too--if a Christian can choose not to believe that a non-Christian is going to Hell, they could just as easily decide other beliefs are superfluous minutiae compared to Jesus's Two Great Commandments. Why not? There are many different people in Christendom, and many different interpretations of the faith.

But to return to William's accusation. Would you believe that poly relationships are in fact less easy, not more, than Good Christian Monogamous Marriages(TM)? It's true. The comfortable default of "love = faithfulness = monogamy" allows a couple to just assume what's required to make the marriage work. No discussion necessary, no assembly required. A poly relationship, on the other hand, takes constant clear, forthright communication, because there are no defaults, no safe-bet assumptions. Those in the relationship must define their requirements, define their concept of faithfulness for themselves.

It's a lot of work! But many will say it's worth it.

Thus we see that William's accusation is not only unfounded (atheists are no more likely to be poly than anyone else, and being poly is not the same as "having an affair" or being "unfaithful"), it's also pretty darn uneducated.

Oh, and one more special little message for William: Ththththbbbbp!

Jim said...

It's always sad and disturbing to me to see people who are supposed to represent God's love, grace, and mercy, who are supposed to be the same people I call my brethren in the faith, act and react in this manner. It does, at times, even cause me to feel somewhat disenchanted with Christianity - or at least with other Christians themselves.

But we're not all like that. I would even venture to say that most of us aren't like that. It's just that the ones who react with anger, hatred, and vehemence like this get the most attention; they're the loudest and so they're the most heard. Unfortunately, it's that volume that causes these folks to become the representatives of what all Christians stand for, even though they themselves are clearly not adhering to the standards of their own faith. Those of us who try to live in love and grace tend to be, by necessity, quieter about it, simply because we don't allow anger to rule our thoughts and actions.

Anyway, it's been interesting to read through this. I wish you all the best.

R Nicolas said...

I came across the William chronicles by way of God is for Suckers, and by this point in the story have nothing new to offer, but I would like to say that your daughter's essay was wonderful, and her causing so much discomfort to an obvious nut it a wonderful thing as well.

I too have children both of whom have dabbled with belief in God, or a god, and have come to believe that it's all a bunch of hooey. They really enjoyed the essay as well, and said that it was nice to know that they weren't the only children in the World who didn't follow the mob.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Jim18 wrote:
This is not an atheist position (a-theist: opposed to the belief in a deity), this is an agnostic position (a-gnostic: denying existence of knowledge of a deity)

I understand what you are saying Jim18, but your use of the terms atheist and agnostic give theists an unintended and undeserved free ride in a debate--because of human interpretation and connotation. Given your obvious intelligence, I don't think much of the below is going to be news to you. Yet I think there is a message there that you have not considered. So here goes.

It is true that we cannot disprove the existence of god. However, this does not mean that there is a 50/50 chance that god exists (not that I accuse you of making that claim, I'm just pointing it out). It also does not mean that any particular human-created fairy tale about god is true or even likely--be it jesus, allah, moses, zeus, jupiter, thor, odin, vishnu, shiva, the flying spaghetti monster, the invisible pink unicorn, santa claus, darth vader, the tooth fairy, or the celestial teapot orbiting Pluto. All of these myths have the same amount of evidence to support them: none. So a reasonable position is they are all about equally unlikely to be true, even though you can't disprove any of them.

Having said that, what are the chances that there really is a silver teapot orbiting Pluto? You can't totally disprove it. But is it reasonable to be agnostic about this teapot? Not really. It's more reasonable to be atheistic about the teapot, but also to keep in mind the logical framework you used to reach this conclusion. Physicists will tell you that 100 random monkeys will "never" write Hamlet, and then explain what the word "never" means in context. Of course, strictly speaking, "never" is the incorrect word. Yet, when qualified, it conveys the proper impression of the reality of this situation to the human mind.

Why is this distinction between agnosticism and atheism important? Because theists invalidly try to justify themselves through the explicit inconclusiveness of agnosticism. There is really absolutely nothing connecting the abstract concept of "creative force that explains why there is something" with any of these myths. As science and history and anthropology and all the other rational studies find out more and more about the world (the earth is round, more than 6000 years old, wasn't created in 7 days, goes around the sun not the other way around, and also slavery is wrong, homophobia is unethical, etc), religion is forced to admit that more and more of its "divinely inspired" teachings are bullshit. When you ask religious people to justify their religion, they tend to keep retreating to the onslaught of reason until they reach this last trench: science can't explain why there is "something rather than nothing", therefore god is the answer to that question, and therefore my religion is valid (often with all its bigotry and inconsistency and hatred and violence). The truth is, of course, that you cannot make those logical leaps. For example, there is no indication that there is any intelligence involved in such a creative force if it exists--and the term "god" always implies intelligence (if not superintelligence).

If we were to take a Boeing 747 back a thousand years in a time machine, the people of that time would undoubtedly assume that god created that airplane miraculously. Why? Because they wouldn't understand how it worked, and they wouldn't know any better. Let us not allow theists to make the same incorrect assumption, for the mysteries of our time.

kkant

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cassady said...

I really hope my little guy (and future sibilings) end up as smart as your Possum.

As for the whole, atheists being able to sleep around freely in marriage because they have no holiness or whatever. BULL! You know, I don't think I've met many divorced atheists/agnostics. In fact, I'm not sure I've met any, ever. However, most of the friends I have with divorced parents were raised as Christian... Hmmm...

Fun little factoid: No atheist clergyman ever molested a little boy haha(courtesy of my wonderful fiance).

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Hey Cassady!
Thanks. ;) And, tell your husband his comment made me laugh.