For once I will actually believe anyone who says they are reading Playboy for the articles! This interview with Richard Dawkins is a good read and will arm any atheist with enough information to refute a number of silly claims.
Several years ago, Richard Dawkins wrote his then-ten-year-old daughter a letter. In the letter he explains the importance of evidence and outlines three bad reasons to believe a statement is true (tradition, authority and revelation). Like most things that Dawkins writes, it is clear, concise and convincing. He is obviously passionate about reason and science and instilling these values in his child
Well, it happened. Just like I knew it would. Except it was worse than I had imagined and I felt more uncomfortable than I might have predicted.
For the past few weeks, Paisley has been asking me a lot about religion and prayer. It all started when she asked why her Grandpa prays before eating. We explained to her that some people thank God before they eat. We told her that some people believe in God, and some people don’t. When asked what God was we replied that he was a man who lives in the sky and takes care of you. I thought that was an age appropriate way to explain a complicated (and let’s be honest – confusing) concept. Ever since then she has been asking more questions. I explained that I used to believe in God but that after looking at the evidence I decided that I didn’t any more. Which led to a conversation about evidence. We talked about believing in flying ducks versus flying pigs. I went through each example, offering evidence for and against each claim. At the end of our conversation she stated that “I don’t believe in a man in the sky or that pigs can fly.” I had a bad feeling about going to see the in-laws for Easter dinner.
We all knew he was dying. For the past few weeks I have thought about him for that split second before I turned on the radio or computer and wondered. I sent him a letter, two actually, in the weeks before he died – thousands of people did. We all wanted him to know that he had changed our lives, made us a little braver, a little less afraid and a lot more certain that we weren’t alone in our non-belief. Despite all that, I felt so sad when I heard. Continue Reading
After the news this morning about the horrendous earthquake and tsunami in Japan I can’t help but think about the people there and what they must be going through. I have visited Japan twice and absolutely loved it. It’s one of those places I could go to again and again (and often do, only these days it’s in my own imagination. Sigh.) I found the videos coming out of Japan so telling and reflective of the people and way of life there. People were calm and orderly. There was not a lot of screaming or crying. For the most part they evacuated as they had practiced doing a hundred times before, made sure the people they were with were safe and waited for further information/instruction.
I can’t help but attribute at least some of this to the fact that Japan is a secular nation. I understand that there are many cultural reasons why this is true but even those cultural reasons are shaped by a secular history. Nobody was running around screaming that God was punishing them or that Armageddon was upon them. Nobody will be holding placards urging fellow citizens to repent come tomorrow morning. They will not pray for deliverance – they will, as a nation, brush themselves off and get to work. They will use science and technology to analyze what happened and make preparations for a similar disaster down the road. They will re-build and they will mourn those who were lost. But they will not wonder what they did to “deserve” such suffering. They will not point fingers and find fault with atheists, lesbians or intellectuals. They know the only “fault” is the one that runs directly beneath their island and they will treat it as the natural reality that it is.
Loneliness is a basic human emotion. It is biologically implanted in order to keep us in packs. Living in tribes, communities, protecting one another and ensuring the survival of our offspring. It is also what drives most people to religion. I have had a few comments lately (yes, I do read them all!) expressing gratitude for reminding them that they are not alone.
It makes me sad and frustrated because the lack of support and community is the secular world’s biggest failure. There are so many of us out there – so many atheists and not-so-sures who want to feel a part of something but don’t want to abandon their faculties to do it. We are a community of skeptics and rationalists and good moral people who can learn from one another, and gain strength from one another and affect change in the world. We just don’t have our shit together quite yet.
Liberally minded people tend not to feel as strongly about things. The very nature of our thought process means we don’t believe in forcing others to think like us. It limits our ability to recruit and form a cohesive group. The internet has obviously made that easier but for many people, the warmth that comes from sitting and talking with someone who shares your values and understands who you are, cannot be matched by a computer screen.
Come out of the closet. Tell the people around you that you are an atheist – I promise you that some of your friends, co-workers, neighbours and even family members are also atheists, or at the very least, unsure. You just don’t know it yet. Spend time thinking about your own journey to atheism so that when asked you can give a quick, convincing yet friendly synopsis. It’s not easy but it needs to be done. Many people don’t think they even know an atheist – let them know they not only know one, that they like one and hey, even love one!
And for those of you who read this blog – you are not alone. Even if there is no bearded man in the sky watching over you today, there are millions of people in this world who respect, understand, and share your world view. Help us turn this whisper into a roar.
In the US there are still many little places where the stores close on Sundays but Canada’s last holdout (Nova Scotia) succumbed to the secular Sunday this past year. While of course it is still a choice for an individual store owner whether they open or not, it is no longer legislated that they cannot remain open on Sundays. Of course, as a secularist I support this but I do wonder if we are throwing the baby out with the bath water.
In our house we want Sundays to remain a special day. The day will not be devoted to church or to god in any way but we hope to make it a day of peace and reflection. For us this will mean getting outside in nature. Being outside always makes me feel pensive and it gives me an opportunity to take stock and breathe. To prepare for the next week, to wonder aloud, what life is for and how we are going to live it. While I hesitate to use the word spirituality because of its supernatural connotations, I think it is important that we make time for that quiet part of us that can be drowned out by busy, loud lives.
My perfect secular Sunday would start off with a cooked breakfast and the opportunity to relax and read the newspaper or do a crossword while having a cup of coffee. Then we would go for a long hike in the mountains or walk in the park and hold hands, and laugh, and pick up leaves, and ask questions and talk. Our minds and our bodies would get some exercise. In the afternoon we would have a roast dinner of some kind. The day would be computer and work free. We could listen to music or play a board game and just enjoy being together.
Sundays might have been the only thing that religion ever got right.
What does your perfect “Secular Sunday” look like? Do you think its even necessary to make special time for self-exploration and quiet reflection?