Thursday, December 31, 2009

Prayer: America's Only Hope

This morning, as I was driving through a local neighborhood on my way to the grocery store, I noticed that several yards were displaying a campaign-style sign that I had never seen before. Being a godless heathen, naturally this caught my attention. In addition, being a bit of a sarcastic wise-ass, my first thought upon reading it was, If that's our only hope, we're so screwed!

Anyway, after I got home and finished putting the groceries away, I googled the slogan in an attempt to find out where these good neighbors had obtained their signs. Lo and behold, for a mere $5, the friendly people from a church out in Texas (go figure) would be happy to send me, you, or anyone else one of these fine signs with the somber slogan and handy Bible verse. What a deal!! Only 5 bucks for a $.49 sign. I can't wait to place my order!

But then, I had another thought. What if I created my own sign to put out in the front yard? After brainstorming a few ideas, I settled on the one pictured here. I realize it's not nearly as showy, and it was originally designed in color, but I'm in low-tech hell today, so....

If you like my sign, send me your address and $5.00 and I'll send you a professionally made 49-cent sign for your front yard too.  :P

Quote of the Day:

"I feel no need for any other faith than my faith in human beings."
--Pearl S. Buck

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Friends, Family, and Forwarded Email

Every now and then, someone (usually my mom, or someone from work) will forward to me one of those warm and fuzzy religious emails with cute titles like "Friends are Blessings from Heaven", "How You Know God Loves You", or "Jesus Christ, You're Special!". You know the ones I mean, with the adorable fluffy animals and/or nature scenes interspersed between lines, and Muzak versions of hymns playing in the background, all designed to lift the spirits and remind each and every reader that even the asshole who cut you off on the interstate this morning and made you spill coffee all over yourself is part of God's grand and intricate plan for your life and should be considered a blessing....

Generally speaking, out of respect for the sender, I do read these forwarded emails, sometimes smiling to myself at the absurdity contained within, and at other times marveling that somebody had the time and talent to put such a message together and then send it off into the infinity of cyberspace, usually without the benefit of spell-check or grammar editing, I might add. At any rate, when I reach the end, I inevitably hit delete--not bothering to forward any of these religious-themed emails to anyone in my address book (unless there happens to be a good joke involving a Catholic priest, a Baptist minister, and a Rabbi included that might be appreciated by others--which, of course, is very rare). Ultimately, the fact is that I just find these messages to be a waste of time and in-box space.

So, why do friends and family continue to send me religious (usually Christian) material if I am a godless heathen, as the title of my blog proclaims? that salmon who's trying to swim upstream's definitely easier to go with the flow. In other words, I don't openly "proclaim" my lack of religious faith to anyone who hasn't thoroughly read through my Facebook page. Does that make me something of a coward? Absolutely! But it also keeps me employed and prevents my grandmother from having a stroke over the fact that I am definitely going to whatever version of Hell she believes in. the unsolicited, framed and "officially" blessed-with-holy-water print of Jesus given to me by my mother-in-law (and subsequently donated to Goodwill)...when it comes to forwarded email, it's the thought that counts, right? Or is it? More on this to come later........

Confession of a Godless Heathen: A Reaction to Ben Stein's 'Confession'

Recently I received a forwarded email from my mom that irritated me so much it prompted me to sit down and create my first-ever blog. Now, let me just start by saying that this email was not the typical "Count your blessings...God loves you...Friends are God's small miracles" kind of mush that I usually get. Those emails, while a waste of time and space in my in-box (in my opinion), are relatively inoffensive to me, and can be taken in the spirit with which they were sent and then quickly deleted. No...THIS email was of a different sort altogether and got my blood boiling at just how blissfully ignorant some people are over their own hypocrisy when it comes to religion and freedom of/from it. So here it is in it's entirety. My comments and criticisms follow.

The following was written by Ben Stein and recited by him on CBS Sunday Morning Commentary..

My confession: I am a Jew, and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish. And it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautiful lit up, bejeweled trees, Christmas trees... I don't feel threatened.. I don't feel discriminated against.. That's what they are, Christmas trees.

It doesn't bother me a bit when people say, 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they are slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. It shows that we are all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me at all that there is a manger scene on display at a key intersection near my beach house in Malibu . If people want a creche, it's just as fine with me as is the Menorah a few hundred yards away.

I don't like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from, that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat. Or maybe I can put it another way: where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where these celebrities came from and where the America we knew went to.

In light of the many jokes we send to one another for a laugh, this is a little different: This is not intended to be a joke; it's not funny, it's intended to get you thinking.

Billy Graham's daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her 'How could God let something like this happen?' (regarding Hurricane Katrina)..... Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response.. She said, 'I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we've been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?'

In light of recent events... terrorists attack, school shootings, etc... I think it started when Madeleine Murray O'Hare (she was murdered, her body found a few years ago) complained she didn't want prayer in our schools, and we said OK. Then someone said you better not read the Bible in school. The Bible says thou shalt not kill; thou shalt not steal, and love your neighbor as yourself. And we said OK.Then Dr.. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn't spank our children when they misbehave, because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock's son committed suicide). We said an expert should know what he's talking about.. And we said okay..Now we're asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don't know right from wrong, and why it doesn't bother them to kill strangers, their classmates, and themselves.Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out. I think it has a great deal to do with 'WE REAP WHAT WE SOW.' Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world's going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says. Funny how you can send 'jokes' through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing. Funny how lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene articles pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion of God is suppressed in the school and workplace. Are you laughing yet? Funny how when you forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you're not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it. Funny how we can be more worried about what other people think of us than what God thinks of us. Pass it on if you think it has merit... If not, then just discard it... no one will know you did. But, if you discard this thought process, don't sit back and complain about what bad shape the world is in. My Best Regards, Honestly and respectfully, Ben Stein

My confession: I am an atheist who celebrates secular Christmas, enjoys putting up a Christmas tree every year (in the pagan tradition), loves listening to holiday music and watching the classic Christmas specials on TV with my kids, and appreciates the elaborate holiday light displays of my neighbors (another tradition with pagan origins). It is a guilty pleasure that I refuse to set aside. As a fairly well-educated atheist though, I also think the people who drive around with "Keep Christ in Christmas" stickers on the back of their cars might benefit from doing a bit more research into the origin and history of their favorite holiday as well--but hey, it's all good. If one can get beyond the commercialism of the season, it is truly a magical time of year. In this, Mr. Stein and I agree.
My confession:  I am an atheist who celebrates a secular Christmas. I enjoy decorating the Christmas tree (a pagan tradition), listening to seasonal music, watching the classic Christmas specials on TV with my kids and observing the holiday light displays of my neighbors (another pagan tradition). Christmas is one of those guilty pleasures, that despite my irreligiosity, I refuse to put aside. I also get a chuckle out of the people driving around with Keep Christ in Christmas magnets on their cars, or signs in their front yard and do believe they might benefit from a lesson on the origin and history of their holy day as well, but's all good. If one can get beyond the commercialism of the holiday, it is just a really nice time of year. Mr. Stein and I are in agreement here.

Where he loses me, and where I begin to lose patience with him, is the claim that people who believe in God (specifically, Jews and Christians) are "sick and tired of getting pushed around." Excuse me? Did he really say Jews and Christians? As in those groups responsible for deliberately moving America down the path toward a Judeo-Christian theocracy? Those believers in God feel pushed around? Really?!? That's news to me. I suspect if I asked some of my Muslim friends, the few Wiccan and Hindu families I know, or most atheists, they would probably have a different take on who gets "pushed around" for their religious belief/disbelief in this country.

From there, Mr. Stein goes on to complain about how the concept that America is "an explicitly atheist country" keeps getting "shoved down [his] throat" despite the fact that he can't find it in the Constitution. This puzzles me, because I was under the impression that Mr. Stein was a fairly well-read individual, but even well-read individuals sometimes need a little help, and so here is my attempt to clarify things for him. First of all, his primary mistake is believing the fallacy that 'people' (atheists, presumably) were claiming that America is an atheist country. I have never heard even the staunchest atheist claim that the U.S. was founded as an explicitly atheist country. The second mistake was googling 'Constitution' and 'atheist country'. That will, of course, yield no valid results (much to my chagrin and John Lennon's). Might I suggest trying 'Constitution' and 'First Amendment' instead? Or, if that fails, try 'Thomas Jefferson' and 'establishment clause', or 'separation of church and state'...and if that's still not providing enough enlightenment, I offer this quote from the Treaty of Tripoli, which was unanimously ratified by the Senate and signed into law by Founding Father, Deist, and second President of the United States, John Adams, in 1797: "The United States of America is in no sense founded on the Christian Religion." Is that clear enough for you, Mr. Stein? Not an explicitly atheist country--but definitely NOT a Christian (and by extension, Jewish) country either. I believe the word that more accurately describes the intent of the FF's, and the desire of the majority of American non-theists is secular country.

Mr. Stein then whines, "...where did the idea come from that we should worship celebrities and we aren't allowed to worship God as we understand Him?" Okay, first things first. Unless one considers Perez Hilton to be a religious leader, I have a hard time buying into the concept that most Americans out there are "worshipping" celebrities. That's a pretty strong word. Adoring, emulating, obsessing over, and possibly even stalking, I would agree with for the most part, but worshipping? Not so much. Again, though, that's just my opinion. Secondly, in what way is any U.S. citizen not allowed to worship God? You can't swing a cat in this country without hitting some religious institution or other. Besides that, I'd like to once again refer Mr. Stein back to the Constitution wherein one's right to worship as he/she chooses is guaranteed. Of course, if you're complaining because school prayer was overruled, intelligent design was banned from inclusion in public school science curricula, and the Ten Commandments were removed from government buildings, I suggest you either move to Texas, Kentucky, or one of the other states that consider Supreme Court decisions that conflict with their Biblical worldview to be 'suggestions'...or refer yet again to the establishment clause in the First Amendment and the quote above taken from the Treaty of Tripoli. At this point, I could easily go off on a rant about the hypocrisy of Mr. Stein complaining about not being allowed to worship God as he sees fit, when godless heathens like myself are demonized by those same God-worshipping folks for not worshipping their god at all, but...that could be a whole separate post itself, so I will let it go for now.

What really got my panties in a bunch was the next section, where he quotes the "extremely profound and insightful response" given by Anne Graham regarding how God could've allowed something like Hurricane Katrina to happen to the people of the Gulf coast. Basically, her response boils down to this: If they had only kissed a bit more divine ass, God could have diverted Katrina to a more sinful Las Vegas, maybe. Wow! I can totally see why Mr. Stein finds her remarks worthy of such lofty praise. 'Insightful' indeed. Leave it to the 'godly' people to blame the victims of a natural disaster for being victims of a natural disaster.

Well, right about now (if anyone is actually reading this), you are probably growing as weary of this post as I am of writing it. Suffice it to say that I find Mr. Stein's attempt to basically blame all of society's problems on Madeleine Murray O'Hare, Dr. Spock, and an assorted sundry of errant souls more comical than ire-inspiring, at this point. What I do find interesting though, is how, like many other believers, Ben Stein thinks that the solution to all of society's ills is to re-impose mandatory Bible-reading in schools, the workplace, and in public places in general. He is incensed that we no longer do this since "The Bible says thou shalt not kill" (unless you are of a different faith, suspected of being of a different faith, or happen to be a child with the audacity to talk back to your parents); "thou shalt not steal" (unless you are engaged in a holy war--and then it's ok so long as you do it in the name of God); "and love your neighbor as yourself" (unless, of course, that neighbor happens to be of a different faith, or no faith at all, in which case, all bets are off). Obviously, this is the 'cure' for what ails America. After all, God knows we non-believers are solely to blame for the erosion of 'family' values, the perpetration of all acts of terror and violent crime, all declarations of war, the rise of homosexuality, human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together...mass hysteria.....Amen.