The Rights of Children

The controversy of two parents who ran a YouTube prank channel, which focused mainly on pranking their children, erupted this week when two of the children were taken out of the parents custody for allegations of child abuse. Below is a link with the story from USA Today. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/05/03/youtube-stars-lose-custody-children-after-controversial-prank-videos/309560001/

Of course this incident sparks a debate about a parents rights vs a child’s rights. The truth is I believe these parents truly love their children; however we live in a society where the rights of children are rarely championed as equal to the parents. In fact, many pastors still hail the Biblical admonition “Spare the rod, spoil the child” (Proverbs 13:24 and 22:15) as proper parenting advice. In the U.S. children do not have the right to an accredited education, they don’t have the right to life saving vaccines, they can be hit and beaten as long as you call it spanking, and those who are LGBTQ can be forced to undergo conversion therapy. These are all choices we allow the parent to make, but they each have lasting ramifications on the children who bear the brunt end of these choices. 

In the videos posted by the owners of YouTube channel Daddy O’five, the parents have fun at the expense of their children. Which is mostly disturbing when you watch several videos of the children crying and begging their parents to stop pranking them. The videos have since been deleted; however, YouTube self proclaimed anchor Philip Defranco did an excellent segment on the pranksters. Check it out if you get a chance. https://youtu.be/fvoLmsXKkYM

The point is we need to have an honest conversation about how children’s rights in this country. And no, I’m not a parent. I can’t comprehend someone telling me how to raise my child. However, as a child that was denied a real education which has handicapped my professional growth, a child that was rejected for being gay, and a child that was subjecated to the humiliation of being spanked by my 60 year old male principal, I do have a clear perspective on the situation. Children are our future and deserve the best future we can provide. This begins with giving them a future through mandatory vaccines, equipping them with an accredited education, and protecting them from abuse. These are basic rights to which all adults are entitled, so why not our legacy as well?

-H

Spiritual Experience

Spirituality – the deepest values and meanings by which one lives

When I got sober everyone was quick to point out I would need a “spiritual experience” and “conscious contact with a higher power” in order to survive. I thought I was screwed. How was this voluntarily lost soul going to get spiritual? The truth is my definition of spirituality, like most peoples, was outdated. Today I can honestly say that I have had a spiritual experience. There was nothing supernatural or religious about it; that was not necessary for my sobriety. But my life has gone through a great change and it has made me a better and more hopeful individual.

First, allow me to share the new age definition I found that really helped me in the beginning:

Spirituality: The deepest values and meanings by which one lives

This definition put everything is such a simple perspective. Before I got sober I did not live my life by any values and the meaning was nothing more than survival. After I left my chult (my pet name for my church/cult) I just threw everything out the window. I felt abandoned and rejected and wanted to sit in my self-pity, licking my wounds and blaming everyone for my position in life. I drowned in my alcohol trying to escape any feelings that might rise and after several years of sliding deeper and deeper into this pit of despair I finally hit my bottom.

As I neared the end of my descent, I discovered meditation which became the first true ray of light to break through the darkness. My spirit of hope was reborn and I began to allow myself to feel emotions I had suppressed for decades, since I was a young child. However, though I was enjoying the clear mind and lowered anxiety that meditation brings, it was not enough to calm the screaming obsession of alcohol. If I couldn’t drink I wanted prescription drugs and if that didn’t work then I wanted sex. I do believe that alcohol sets off a physical craving in an addicts brain; however, there is also a separate obsession of the mind to use any means of escape possible.

For three months I used meditation and spiritual readings to keep me sober, but my other activities shot up. (I don’t want to mislead, my dealings with drugs have been light, more of a substitute when alcohol was not available. However to any adults who have anti-axiety meds, sleeping pills, pain killers, pretty much most prescription drugs, dear god PLEASE make sure those are locked away and not just sitting in your medicine cabinet. The addicts of the world will thank you when we use your restroom and realize there’s nothing for us to steal.) Anyway, I began turning to other means to escape the feelings creeping out from the rock I had stuffed them under. My actions were incredibly harmful to those in my life, but I was convinced that my new “spiritual enlightenment” meant that they were the lost ones and my wasn’t I forgiving for being patient with them.

Eventually though I drank again. I had been sober exactly 100 days and figured that was a great reason to celebrate. This went on for another 6 months during which time I lost my relationship, my home, and many friends. Along with increased financial debt and my job hanging on by a thread I was broken. In typical addict fashion I planned out my suicide and considered killing myself before finally deciding to get help first. That’s when  I walked into a 12 step program and had my spiritual experience.

The reality that I was an absolute, selfish jackass stung a little at first. I spent months crying about what a horrible person I was while those with more sobriety rolled their eyes and waited for me to get over myself. But as my mind cleared and I listened to the stories of others, I learned that I did not have to be this person. Yes my self-absorption had caused me to throw out most of my morals and values. And no I didn’t bring back ALL of the teachings of my childhood. But honesty, open-mindedness and willingness were a start.

Today I can say with strong confidence that a principled life is the key to happiness and success. The addict in me reaches for instant gratification, but the spiritualism I continue to develop reminds me to first weigh outcome and consequence. A humanist approach to life forces me to think of others and not only myself. Humility, love, acceptance, and altruism are some of the values I have chosen to adopt. Truthfully these do not always come naturally to me though I am ashamed to admit it. As for the meaning of life, I find meaning in helping others and being loyal to those close to me. Life meant nothing to me before I got sober and allowed spirituality to guide me. Today I WANT to live, I WANT to make a difference, I WANT to inspire and help others to live a full and happy life. That is one reason I started this blog. I believe politicized religion is very harmful as opposed to personalized religion. So I created an outlet to discuss and address many of the issues that political religion creates in our world today. It’s also a way for those who feel ostracized by their lack of belief to come together.

If you’re struggling with addiction, please get help. There is a way out. Check out recovery.org or call their hotline 1-888-499-8846. If you’re struggling with depression then call the suicide hotline 1-800-273-8255. If you just need to talk then reach out to a friend or confidant and be honest about where you’re at. If you’re a recovering alcoholic or addict and you don’t like how religious your program seems then check out aaagnostica.org , aabeyondbelief.org or smartrecovery.org .And most importantly, don’t let your fears or misgivings stop you from bettering yourself. If I had let the “god talk” in my recovery program stop me from getting the help I needed then I wouldn’t be writing this post today.

I hope every person finds a spiritual path regardless of which direction it guides them. Living our lives by values and meaning will bring about a greater peace on earth.

The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.  – Thomas Paine

– H

How atheism caused me to put more value on life

By seeing how morals evolved with the evolution of mankind, I could trust that religion was not necessary for morality.

I often hear the argument that atheists believe in nothing and therefore have no purpose in life. It’s really a transparent lashing out by those who cannot fathom purpose without a god. The truth is that I found a freedom and renewed zeal for life once the boundaries of religion were broken. To be fair, I was part of the extreme version of Christianity. My life was nothing but rules and fear of harming my relationship with god or losing it completely. The messages and lessons taught in the church and my Christian college classroom constantly reminded me that I was no good and only gods grace and mercy made my life of any value. Those who had turned from god had lost their purpose and fellowship with them would ultimately harm my purpose. I became obsessed with a never ending pursuit of imperfect perfection (because true perfection can never be achieved but damn you if you don’t hopelessly strive for it).

Even once I accepted that I was an atheist, I did not believe there was measurable evidence of a god or creation, I still wondered if my morals would suddenly tank. The book Origins of Virtue by Matthew Ridley helped me immensely in the beginning. The book detailed how humanity has created and evolved the morals of thriving and compassionate societies. It really comes back to survival of the fittest and and the way in which the human race has become the dominant species. Empathy was developed as our ancestors realized that by working together we succeed. By seeing how morals evolved with the evolution of mankind, I could trust that religion was not necessary for morality.

Of course some of my ideas about what was and was not moral changed. Many views about sex shifted to amoral, while I adopted human rights as a value over biblical demands of obedience. I found that my relationships with people mattered more. In the past, I had no problem abandoning a friend who had strayed from my beliefs, today I enjoy the variety of perspectives and lifestyles my friends lend to my growth. The biggest gain I have found is the drive to enjoy this one life and my one moment to leave an impact on my world.

When I believed in an afterlife, I spent my time worrying about that life instead of this one. Was I doing everything right? Was I doing everything wrong? What happens to my loved ones if they get off our path to heaven? Now I find immense joy in living today with no worry of a judgement day or eternal damnation. I can prioritize what is important to making life count instead of building my life around the guidelines of a fairytale.

The other day a woman on my Facebook thread, a Christian, admitted she was finding inspiration from different versions of the Bible. If you know anything about fundamental baptists, they believe the King James Version is the ONLY authority from god. So for the entire day I watched this woman get shredded by her Christian friends for veering away from gods word and I thought, what an awful way to live. For a person to spend their lives living in past beliefs or obsessing over a future afterlife, how frustrating and depleting. Atheism allowed me to live in the now and I’m incredibly grateful for this new perspective on life.

– H

“United”: how the concept of god prevents questioning authority 

Thoughts concerning the United Airlines debacle

I’m sure by now most people have seen or heard of the man who was assaulted and dragged off a United Airlines Plane. Of course this has been met with great outrage across the nation; but the Right quickly follows this outcry with a defense of law enforcement. There were two culprits in this open violation of an individuals rights. The first culprit was United, who refused to take responsibility for their own problem of overbooking. The second culprit was O’Hares aviation police, a branch of the Chicago police department, which used unecessary and aggressive force in order to remove a man that refused to give up a seat for which he had already paid. To add insult to injury, the police department then issued an incredible statement that the victim was carried off the plane after he fell trying to leave. I mean by now half of the world had viewed the video, we saw the men grab the customer, heard the victim scream, saw one officer bash his head into the seat, then watched them drag a limp body off the plane. On top of this, additional footage emerged of the bloodied and dazed passenger returning to the plane, insisting he must go home and terrified for his life. But sure…. he fell. And my friend with the abusive boyfriend ran into door…again. 

But despite ALL of this clear evidence there were STILL people questioning the victim. “Why didn’t he just take the $800 the airlines offered him?” “Why not just comply once the police arrive?” “Is he really even a doctor or did he just say that to avoid being kicked off?” I have to wonder if people would have thrown these same questions had the man been a white, straight male with clear English. But I’m not jumping into that topic right now. The real question is, how can conservatives, the lovers of liberty, side with law enforcement when they were clearly out of bounds? Beacause of god and country. 

The two have been synonymously linked since the 1950’s when Eisenhower merged religion and politics. This was reinforced by Nixon, Reagan and George W. Bush each time they wanted to overstep their boundaries. Remind the people that we are a Christian nation, led by god, and therefore the government can’t be wrong if god is leading us. To question the police is to question government which in America means to question god. How far we have come from the Patriots who boldly called out the abuse of the government appointed British soldiers stationed in the colonies. America was not a nation founded on blind allegiance to authority, in fact we were traitors fighting to win a war just so we wouldn’t be hung for treason in the end. And for almost two centuries we placed the individuals freedom first. Until the branches of government learned what so many civilizations before them had learned. Tell the people that god is leading you and they’ll follow you to slavery and death. 

And of course we know that there are countless good public servants. Local heroes who put their lives and livelihood on the line every single day. I for one am eternally grateful to the soldiers who have fought to keep America free, to the police offices who protect us at home, to the firefighters who rescue us and so many more. I am truly grateful. But I am an American through and through and the injustice shown on United Airlines and throughout the country weekly cannot be ignored. If there were a god defending these actions then he would not be worthy of respect. And if there is a god disapproving of these actions then why are we shrinking from disapproving as well? But if there is no god, then why hasn’t our own sense of humanity and justice kicked in?

Is America afraid to question authority because the god of the Bible is never questioned? He slays an entire race in Genesis with the flood and no one questions. In Exodus he wipes out thousands of Jews because they no longer wished to follow him, and no one questions. His great plan in Revelations is to destroy most of humanity for the wickedness he allowed and chooses to judge and no one questions. Religion and nationalism have much more in common then we admit. 

– H

Resources: One Nation Under God by Kevin M. Kruse / KJV Bible / CNN (Original News Story)

Attis, Jesus and the Easter Bunny

a post from the Journey Series

As I mentioned in the post Why I Became an Atheist, it all started with this book God’s Lunatics by Michael Largo. Interestingly enough, my first jolt of awakening had to do with the story of Easter. And since Easter is only a week away, I guess you could say god meant for this post to be ;). The book is simply an A-Z account of 1,001 world religions and its not nearly as offensive as the name suggests. Anyway, I started at the beginning and very quickly came to the story of the Greek God Attis.

Attis was an odd god to be sure. There’s about 4 different accounts of his story, which isn’t unusual for a god, but they all somehow involve his penis being cut off. I always found the Old Testament’s Hebrew obsession with circumcision disturbing but apparently they weren’t the only folks concerned with hacking away at genitalia. But what stood out to me about Attis story was that he was born of a virgin, was murdered, and resurrected annually (a little much if you ask me). This was the first time I had ever read of a god having the same story line as Jesus. I would later learn that many gods shared similar accounts but I’ll delve into that some other time.

Additionally I learned that Attis died on a Friday and was resurrected on Sunday. Apparently this all happened between March 22-25 and each year was celebrated by his cult followers. These ceremonies were done for hundreds of years before the story of Jesus and would later conflict with Christians celebration of Easter. A few other interesting facts, Attis was known as the Shepherd, The Tree of Life and The Son.  He is usually depicted with a staff and often with sheep. If you’ve ever read the Bible, you see these attributes often given to god, Jehovah or Jesus. 

   The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters.

…. for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me (Psalms 23:1-4)

Of course the original story of Easter seems to be rooted with the goddess Eostre; however, if your newsfeed is anything like mine, you’re sure to see about half a dozen articles on this over the next week. This is my simple beginnings of truth. Most gods/goddesses share similar storylines, heroic attributes and celebrations by their followers. Almost ALL Christian holidays are simply pagan holidays commandeered by Christ’s followers through the centuries. Which is why it’s odd when they’re treated with such reverence and respect.  

While this post is more of a personal anecdote of my journey of unbelief than a study of religion vs paganism, I wanted to share it with my readers. I hope the truth may truly set us free; and I hope you enjoy sleeping in Sunday morning while others sit on a hard wooden bench tuning out a monotonous homily. But don’t forget the Easter baskets! We may be heathens but we still need chocolate. 

-H

You Get a God and You Get a God! Everybody Gets a God!

Dealing with the concept of a higher power in recovery. (A selection from the RECOVERY SERIES.)

In my recovery, the absolute most frustrating step has been the concept of a higher power. I don’t believe the concept itself is hard for me. I, in fact, do a have a concept that I understand very well. No, I struggle with the fact that people often tell me I can have my own concept of a higher power, while only ever referring to a christian god when speaking of a higher power. Twelve step literature is filled with this kind of double sided talk. “Use whatever god works for YOU!….. now lets talk about the judeo christian god”. Even more annoying is stating that I don’t believe in a god and then having someone come up to me later and say, “you can borrow my god” or “give it time and He’ll find you”. And I admit that I feel guilty calling out a program that has literally saved my life. But since I have struggled so much with feeling isolated in a program of my peers, I feel it is helpful to reach out to other lost and recovering heathens.

First, my concept of a higher power is very simply Truth. I do not refer to my power as god. It is not a Being and does not grant magical powers of will or protection. It is very simply its name, Truth (No, I couldn’t resist capitalizing the first letter because yes, when I think of Truth I think of more than a word). My first sponsor taught me that there are three forms of truth. There is your truth, my truth and the Truth. I have to be careful not to get caught up in my truth or another’s truth. Reality is what grounds me and it’s not always easy to find. I have to work at it. I guess you could say I have to stay in conscious contact with Truth.

Second, no you do NOT have to believe in a god to stay sober. I don’t say this just from my limited experience. I say this from decades and decades of sobriety from other atheists who are in recovery. This is a Truth. When I am in doubt because I’ve heard an old timer INSIST one can not get sober without god, I remember that’s his truth and not the Truth. aaagnostica.org and aabeyondbelief.org are just two of many sites that will lead one to other freethinkers in sobriety.

Third, my sobriety isn’t any less because of my lack of belief. As I’ve studied recovering alcoholics and addicts I’ve come to the same realization about them as I have about all other people; our morals make us better people, not our religion. There are certain people in recovery that I admire who are ardent believers in a god. There are a few atheists in recovery for whom I have little respect. And the same goes the other way around. Belief in a god does not make people better outside of recovery so why would it make them better inside recovery? Most people believed in a god while they were drinking and drugging and lying and cheating and stealing. Now they’re sober and suddenly it’s a belief in a god that’s changed them? Or adherence to that voice in their head that they claim is god? Whatever helps a person stay sober I suppose.

However for my sobriety and sanity I had to accept that I just do not believe and that is perfectly fine. Truth keeps me grounded and support from other recovering addicts keeps me motivated. If you’re new to recovery or just in a rough spot, here’s one fellow atheist telling you to keep going. There’s nothing left for you in the past. There is no hope in the bottles and track marks of addiction. So keep treading that path forward and know that while there is no god to carry you, your fellows in recovery are there to walk beside you.

 

-H

The Netflix Biopic of Madeline Murray O’Hair Was a Joke

I was so excited to watch the story of Madeline Murray O’Hair. I admit I didnt know much about her, but I did know that she founded American Atheists, sued to get prayer out of public schools, and was a staunch defender of separation of Church and State. I had also heard that she was a bit crass and something about her and her son not getting along. So okay, I wasn’t completely clueless, but I’m an atheist and I have to know SOMETHING about the woman who started it all. But I wanted to know more and I was sure from the trailer that Netflix was going to knock this out of the park.

I couldn’t have been more disappointed. While I wouldn’t compare O’Hair to MLK as a person, the best way I could describe the movie would be if someone had made a biopic of MLK but only focused on his affairs and assasination. The impact of her landmark court case, the way she consistently fought for the rights of minorities, and her tireless efforts to make all faiths and people equal in the U.S. were barely and almost apologetically mentioned. Instead the movie focused on her horrific death with the director sporadically sprinkling in details which subtly insinuated that she brought it upon herself. They also, somehow, made her estranged son the hero. A struggling alcoholic, he abandoned his daughter and family and sought Jesus to maintain his sobriety. A recovering alcoholic myself I can’t judge the extreme measures people will go to in order to escape the terror of addiction. But the way O’Hair is silently blamed for her sons choices is one more example of the movies bias against an atheist.

She was a champion of human rights and the first amendment, but instead she was portrayed as nothing more than a publicity hungry crazy woman. Though I’ll at least commend the director for pointing out that her critics were just as hungry for public attention as she was. Madeline Murray O’Hair, for all her flaws and crass, had the guts to stand up to an entire nation and remind them of their own constitutional and historical roots. She insisted that the individual matters, and that in a country as diverse as America all cultures, religions and beliefs should be celebrated. But The Most Hated Woman In America is a movie that seems content to wash away yet another legacy under the tidal wave of Christianity.

-H