Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Open letter to Heather

Heather,
I took you seriously enough to make a post revolving completely around YOUR questions. I thought that you were sincerely curious about what atheism is. But, I apologize for thinking that you'd understand humanity (and by extension, atheists OR theists) in general. We all breathe the same air. We all live on the same planet. We all love. We all think. I'm sure that, in any given day, you pass by several atheists. We do, pretty much, whatever you do. With the notable exception that we do not believe in a deity.

For you, that exception is, apparently, beyond comprehension. But, I suspect you may have had a taste of that exception. In your response(s), you've spoke about Allah: why don't you believe in him? For me, your rationale for disbelief in Allah is irrelevant to the point (but I am curious). The bottom line is that despite centuries of Islamic history and culture...despite the fact that a large number of people believe in Allah, and despite the fact that people believe in Allah so deeply that they would commit terrorist acts to defend him - you don't believe he exists. That's, essentially, how I view your deity. Simply because there is adoration or a following does not. make. it. true. If, tomorrow, ten of my closest atheist friends suddenly believed in your deity, then I would still ask them for proof. I would treat them as I've treated you.

For you, your belief in a god and the ways in which you worship that god dominate things other than just your mind. Your methods of worship and beliefs have fed you into a subculture of humanity...with all the rites, rituals, and mythology that often come with differences in culture. And, that's all this is. We have different cultures. Your culture tells you that the mystical and the unseen are more valuable than the tangible and real. Your culture tells you that there's a divine judge and jury. Your culture has conditioned you to accept the illogical and the irrational.

By contrast, the culture of atheism (if you will) has instilled different values in those who choose the culture. We value the truth - even if the truth is unpleasant or ugly. We value the beauty of what is real and tangible. As such, we're conditioned to use logic and reason in all parts of our lives.

But, just as you probably can't find two theists with exactly the same beliefs or qualities, you're not going to find two atheists with the exact same beliefs and qualities!! Like the members of your church, or your other theist friends, we (as atheists) have come together on blogs, and in public, to enjoy each other and learn from each other. We're a community - without a church, without a priest, without Bible studies and MOPs... but, a community just the same.

So, when you voice such disbelief or understanding about atheists, I wonder "why?" We're just like you... with one less belief in a deity than you. All of the other differences (or similarities) are no different than the differences or similarities of your other friends. When you voice such disbelief and misunderstanding, I have to wonder if you are intentionally insulting atheists so that you can tell yourself how special you are (because of your belief in a deity)? It's easier to look down your nose at someone than to actually stand face-to-face and hear them. Why don't you try getting to know us as humans before focusing so much energy and anger at our beliefs?

Ciao' for now,
P-momma

22 comments:

Mark said...

But, just as you probably can't find two theists with exactly the same beliefs or qualities, you're not going to find two atheists with the exact same beliefs and qualities!!

It's worth pointing out that atheists from all walks of life are remarkably consistent in their opinions on the nature of God... as opposed to Christians, Jews and Muslims who fracture in to smaller and weirder sects all the time.

Also, to Heather and John the god-fearing idiots: no atheist has reason to wish for armageddon, whereas Christians think that's when they get their big payoff for being righteously ignorant of the world around them. I couldn't care less about this except that you and your misguided kind are currently in control of the most powerful nation on earth, so please excuse us non-believers for getting a bit snarky about that on occasion.

Mark said...

Sorry PM, maybe a little off topic there— I haven't had my coffee today...

salient said...

Obviously Heather doesn't realize that Yahweh, God, and Allah are all the same PseudoFella.

One of the chief differences between Christianity and Islam (other than all the cultural trimmings) is that Muhammed demoted Jesus to prophet status, and the Muhammedans have elevated Muhammed to *final* prophet status. Muhammed lifted chunks of the biblical scriptures and plonked them into the Qur'an.

Theists like Heather, of course, are not really interested in understanding anyone else's point of view, they are only interested in shoring up their own flimsy, delusional edifice. Atheist groups appear to be overrun with delusionists who think that arguing for god will earn them brownie points in heaven.

I't was very charitable of you to have extended her the benefit of the doubt, but look what John's intentions were.

John Evo said...

It's also worth remembering that theists don't want to hear that we are the same as them in most other aspects of life because they believe that they can only do the things they do (outside of religion) because of their God.

In other words, it is God that makes them "love" instead of hate, obey laws instead of arbitrarily breaking them, being charitable instead of selfish, etc.

If you and I and all these other hundreds of bloggers can do all of these things with NO god, then THEIR god gets cut down quite a few notches. It's easier to just keep telling themselves that we are totally different creatures than they are. Hatred always begins with group differentiation.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Thank you, John, for saying it better than I could.

Isabella said...

Dear Heather,
I was in your shoes a year ago. A friend had shown me this blog and we talked about how miserable this family was. Then sometime that next week she put up pictures of her young ones. It was harder not to like her. I started reading this blog every day. Found myself wanting the next post and the next post. I was strong in the spirit, though. I prayed for God to show me why I kept reading. 3 months in I was at church and recognized a "logical fallacy". It was as if the storm drain opened up and I got caught in the swirl. Only when I went down the drain, I emerged breathing air for the first time in my life. I still struggle with what I want instead of what is. Possummomma has given of herself to talk to me and let me phone her to work through my issues. She doesn't tell me what to believe. She supports me. I want her friends to know that her charitable nature has won one for your side.

Nicest Girl said...

Three cheers for Possummomma!

Poodles said...

Excellent! And John.. Here, Here!!!

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

I did have hope for Heather...ah well . Three cheers for PM.

Heather said...

Since this was a letter to me I should tell you that I don't agree. This blog is hard to look away from and I want to know why.

A friend had shown me this blog and we talked about how miserable this family was.
I don't find her family miserable. The opposite, really. I find her family to perfect. I was here reading with John R's posts and I think I know what he meant.

I was strong in the spirit, though. I prayed for God to show me why I kept reading.
But pornography is appealing.

corn said...

I was once a card carrying member of the SDA so I know where Heather is coming from. What I find shocking today is how few Adventists actually know the history of their church. The "official" history promulgated on the official website doesn't tell the entire story. It tells nothing of the dissolution of the Millerites, the remnants of which branched into the Seventh Day Baptists and the Seventh Day Adventists. It also says nothing of the SDA offshoots, including the Jehovah's Witnesses and the Branch Davidians (of Waco, TX fame).

The SDA church was, and perhaps still is, rabidly anti-Catholic. I was raised believing the pope was the anti-christ and all Catholics (well, all non-adventists really) were going to be burned up in the lake of fire except for a very select few. It occurred to me early on, when I was perhaps 10 or 11, how lucky I was to have been born into an Adventist family since it meant I would be going to heaven. It didn't occur to me until 12 to consider a different idea: what if we were wrong. I mean, there were so many religions, let alone denominations of Christianity, and they near universally believed they had a lock on the truth. What if the Catholics were the ones going to heaven, and the Adventists were destined for hell? Well, at least the Adventists don't believe in perpetual torment in hell's fires, they believe the un-resurrected dead are gone forever. Makes it easier to take the other side of Pascal's Wager if the only downside is not living in perpetual servitude to a God that is flattered by our admiration.

One interesting thing that was raised in Heather's response was believing in the one true god. A point was made that the first commandment (depending on which set of commandments you are referring to) seems to infer that there are multiple gods.
Exodus 20:2. I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. I never placed much weight in this idea until I read it in relation to Genesis 6:1-4, 1 Kings 11:1-8, and the recent (if somewhat controversial) translations of Deuteronomy 32:8-9. These biblical passages suddenly become consistent when the Deuteronomy passage is translated correctly. Which brings me to Heather's point about biblical inerrancy. Heather, you obviously haven't read your bible all that closely. I would suggest you pick up Bart Ehrman's books right away before you go repeating what your church leaders have told you.

The SDA church isn't all bad. One of the things I enjoyed immensely was the community outreach feeding and clothing the homeless and helping those with drug and alcohol addictions. Of course Robert G. Ingersoll pointed out that there was no good deed a Christian might do that an atheist couldn't also do.

For different takes on the history of the SDA church (and Heather I would commend these to your reading, if nothing more than to see outside perspectives of the SDA sect). First there is the Catholic take on the SDA history.
A brief, but very objective history, can be found at CARM.
Wikipedia has a fairly accurate discussion of the history of the church in two articles, the first concerning the Great Disappointment and the second concerning the general history of the SDA church. Neither of the Wikipedia articles should be considered controversial for an SDA believer. What might be considered controversial are the following websites, but you should read them anyway.
ExAdventist (formerly Adventist Outreach)
Watchman Expositor
The Ellen White Research Project

eyeslikesugar said...

Mark said...
"It's worth pointing out that atheists from all walks of life are remarkably consistent in their opinions on the nature of God... as opposed to Christians, Jews and Muslims who fracture in to smaller and weirder sects all the time."

Ahh.. gotta love Occam's Razor http://friendlyatheist.com/2007/12/16/occams-razor/

fubarmonkey said...

Looking at this letter, I decided to look up the rebuttal that lead up to this one. The infamous "john" (so holy he need no capitalize his own name) decided to post after Heather, acting supportive. I think this is the very reason people like PMomma are trying open other people's eyes to the fallacies of religion.

Heather, if I may address you directly, john claims to worship the same god and savior and holy book as you, and yet, if you knew the history of this jerk on this blog, you would (hopefully) not want to associate with him. The thing is he also uses the same god, savior, and book that you worship to justify his actions and according to that god, savior, and book, he has every right, I'd say even duty, to do so.

Therein lies the problem, not just with your beliefs, but any beliefs that are not grounded to reality. It would be great if anyone took the Bible, read it from cover to cover, took all the good advice that it had to offer (and there is some), ignored all the bad stupid ideas, and then put it back on the shelf like any other book. It seems like most moderate Christians can do all but that last step and still call themselves "true Christians," but so do the ones that do take everything in the book to heart.

The ones like that john that desire all the down right idiotic decrees that come from it are a problem, and the moderates are equally a part of the problem because all they can do is shake their heads and say "Well, that's not the way it was meant to be read."

Taking something from a book is not so much the problem. The problem is taking that taking book as either dogma or something to be worshiped above reasoning.

And to add, I am one more that has read that book and still don't believe in God. It's not that I abandoned him, it's quite simply that the argument didn't convince me, just like PMomma argument for whatever reason fails to convince you. You can walk away from this whichever way (or stay but I think at a certain point, you'd resort to the same kind of trolling that john has) but the fact of the matter is it is your belief, just like there are some 6+ billion people in this world with their own who may not share yours. All we ask is that you question your basis for believing them. According to your religion we (atheists and non-christians) are doomed to Hell despite how great we may be in life. While I don't believe in Hell and therefore don't fear the threat, you however do. Do you think this is a just system? That's a good question to start from, I think.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Possummomma has given of herself to talk to me and let me phone her to work through my issues. She doesn't tell me what to believe. She supports me. I want her friends to know that her charitable nature has won one for your side.

Awww...Isa', you made me cry. *HUGS* I've enjoyed our talks, too. I've learned so much from you and enjoyed your perspective.

fubarmonkey said...

I apologize for the grammatical errors in my post. It's late and cleaning up people's crap kind of turns off my ability to write coherently.

Paul said...

[silentsanta, NZ]

Heather,

the reason that this blog is so addictive is because part of you realizes that everything you've been told about "Godless" atheists -that they are immoral, unreasonable, vicious, greedy, conceited and spiteful- doesn't stack up when you see how pMomma has chosen to live her life.


You'll also notice that discussion here is lively, people spout opinions and criticize each other openly. That's all part of the idea that open inquiry is always, always a good thing. If you've read possum #1's Christmas essay last year, you'll see that pMomma has taught her children to look at things critically rather than accept them blindly.

I think what makes this blog so addictive for believers (I was one about 18 months ago) is that you can get a whiff that maybe the world isn't the way you've always thought it was, and maybe your books and pulpits don't have all the answers. What they tell you about the life unbelievers is wrong. We're not amoral, lustful, unfulfilled, lost, or materialistic, (certainly not most of us anyway). You were taught that wrongly - so what else did they get wrong? It's a great big world and there is much to discover, if you care to look.

Jack said...

Heather wrote:
Since this was a letter to me I should tell you that I don't agree. This blog is hard to look away from and I want to know why.

That funny feeling you get in the front of your head when you read this blog -- it's called thinking. You may grow to enjoy it.

I don't find her family miserable. The opposite, really. I find her family to perfect. I was here reading with John R's posts and I think I know what he meant.

I don't know what you mean by "too perfect," but the only thing that John R communicated was ignorance, misogyny, hate, and fear. He represents the worst in theists. Do you really want to be associated with that?

I was strong in the spirit, though. I prayed for God to show me why I kept reading.
But pornography is appealing.

See, just a few days of reading this blog and you're already opening up and sharing your innermost feelings! I bet you've never confessed that at church.

When you're done looking at porn, please do come back and present your definition of and objective evidence for this "god" entity that you keep asserting exists.

Jack

CAE said...

Hello from a lurker!

This is kinda off-topic but interesting. The new leader of the UK's third largest political party just said publicly that he doesn't believe in God.

Calladus said...

Heather,

I just want to take a moment to address part of your argument against Atheism.

You have a misconception, as do many Christians, that if we Atheists were to "just believe" or to "just invite Jesus into our hearts" that we would fell God / Jesus and immediately know that God is real.

The most common argument against that sort of wish fulfillment is that true belief is not something that can be created artificially. We're not clapping for Tinkerbelle here. Belief merely for the sake of belief has no strength... it is a house of cards that will fall if critically examined.


But there is another argument, one that I don't see many Atheists talk about because I think only a few of us have played with it.

You know that feeling you get when you invite God or Jesus into your heart? It's unmistakable, and those of us who have shared it talk knowingly about it.

My old church had a humongous pipe organ, a gifted choir director, and a great preacher. After a great sermon the organ's chords would mix with the choir and I'd feel His presence and love.

Sometimes while in prayer I would also get this feeling of God's presence - the feeling that he was lending me strength - that he was right there.

It was humbling.

But after I deconverted I kept asking myself where that feeling came from. And through meditation I was able to recreate it. I was able to recreate it through music too. (Oddly enough, Van Halen's "Jump" does it for me too! Very holy music I'm sure.)

That feeling of love, acceptance, joy... "Transcendence" is the only word I can come up with for it... I've recreated it as an Atheist on many occasions. And I now realize that it is merely a feeling - a way that our brain responds electrochemically when I put myself in the right state of mind.

I thought at first it was just me, but Atheist Jhuger has done something similar and more famously, Atheist Sam Harris has spoken often about spiritual mysticism. Harris was criticized for this by the Atheist community when he wrote "The End of Faith".


The truth is that this experience is real, we really do feel it if we put ourselves in the correct mental state. The point that Harris didn't emphasize enough, in my opinion, is that this feeling comes from us - from our own brains. There is no external force that comes into us to do this.

There are those who are doing brain research to figure out why we can make ourselves feel this way - and it may be related to other things such as susceptibility to hypnosis, or the ability to suppress pain. I dunno.

What I do know is that people from other religions - even those religions who are diametrically opposed to Christianity, have also felt this same sort of thing.

Occam's razor - either there are many gods who can make us reach this "transcendance", or it is all created internally - by our own brains, with the aid of a proper frame of mind, or meditation, or perhaps not at all if your brain chemistry doesn't work that way.

reddhedd said...

7 years ago, I went looking for proof to refute my godmother's assertion that Judaism was correct, and that Jesus was not the messiah. I wanted to bring her to the lord...and the harder I looked to find evidence, the more I found. Unfortunately, the evidence proved me wrong, not her.

Heather, I prayed night and day for nearly two years that would God help me keep my faith. I cried, I begged, I spoke to my ministers, I laid my heart bare..all to no avail.

The facts do not bear out the stories I was taught, that I believed, the stories I told to my children.
But the fact is, if there is a god, any god, he must know that in my heart, I need truth more than I need a comforting tale, and if that god is indeed the creator of all, then he will value what he himself placed into my heart.
As Thomas Jefferson said "Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason than that of blindfolded fear." - Thomas Jefferson

So, I ask you, Heather; who are you to argue with what your god wants me to believe?

amarullis said...

I have to say thank you, Calladus. For most of my life, I really tried to believe in god. I was raised christian, but never believed. I never knew what people meant when they described being filled with god's presence. I have always wanted to know. I suddenly realized while reading your post, that I have been feeling it all along, when I hear certain music, when I am able to visualize calculus, when something so important is finally clear to me.

ESCartist said...

Heather,
Also just to warn you, even by biblical standards you are picking very dangerous company in john. He has time and again proved himself not only a fool, but an amoral and scheming one at that. Hijacking Pmomma's blog account and saying things in her name, (false witness anyone?) turning philosophical ontological discussions into bitter attacks of personal character.

john's religious zeal is no excuse. No amount of 'feeling christ's love' frees an individual from the demands of basic, mature, civilized behavior. His failure at comprehending the very basic tenets spoken by the character who gives his faith its name (Christ) makes the hypocrisy of his positions even more striking. Beware of the same trap.