Showing posts with label atheist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label atheist. Show all posts

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Reason Rally, Part II: The Main Event

The line-up was a stellar list of speakers running the gamut from scientists to comedians and the planning put into the event was readily apparent.  My deepest appreciation goes out to those who worked so hard to pull this all together.
   
A short while into the day’s events, a military ceremony was performed honoring non-believers in our armed forces.  I found this to be quite meaningful and I while I do not know if it did anything to dispel the notion that there are “no atheists in foxholes”, I hope it at least let our brave service people know that there are many thousands of people who respect and appreciate them and who understand that gods are not necessary for honorable service to one’s country.

Military Ceremony at the Reason Rally

We were then led in the Pledge of Allegiance in its pre-1954 form which did not include the words “under God”.  This moment was unexpectedly moving for me.  Every time I am present during the pledge, I feel excluded from my country despite the fact that I love this nation.  Hearing tens of thousands of people in a single voice saying, “One nation, indivisible” literally made my chest swell with pride and love for my countrymen.  If we are to thrive as a people, we must be indivisible and not allow religion to fracture our bonds with one another. 

Hemant Mehta, a blogger at The Friendly Atheist was one of the first speakers of the day.  His was the first atheist blog I followed and it helped me initially navigate the waters of being an atheist so I was really looking forward to what he had to say.  His focus was on being involved in society by running for office.  Having watched the infiltration of our government by the religious right and now seeing the effects of that, I have long been saying that secularists need to do the same thing.  His talk reminded me of the importance of being actively involved.  Running for office is not on my radar in the near future but it is something I would consider at some point down the road.  In the meantime, I will hold on to his words as a reminder to be involved where and when I can.  I hope that many were similarly inspired and that at least some will take on the challenge.

Hemant Mehta of The Friendly Atheist

The next speaker was Jessica Ahlquist, a 17-year-old student who won a case against her high school regarding a Christian prayer posted on the wall at her school.  What an amazing young lady!  When I was in high school, I was so busy oscillating between being a rebel and trying to fit in that I doubt I would have even noticed such an infringement much less had the strength and wherewithal to challenge it.  This girl conducted herself with such poise and grace and spoke with such honesty and conviction, one could not help but admire her.  She was presented on stage with a scholarship for $62,000, all collected from non-believers and supporters of the separation of church and state which I am sure she will put to good use.  Young people like her are what allow me to retain a hint of optimism for our future.

Jessica Ahlquist, Student Activist
Another speaker was Adam Savage from the show “Myth Busters”.  Not having television, I had never seen the show and didn’t know much about him.  His talk was a pleasant surprise and he was one of my favorite speakers of the entire event.    His talk (transcript of which can be found here) was straightforward and eloquent, easily articulating what it means to have reason and why having it is important.  He highlighted the societal and technological advances which the application of reason has allowed us to enjoy.  He spoke of facts including the lunar landing, global climate change and the age of the earth which some have tried to convince us are not accurate.  He spoke of beliefs such as the absurdity of the drug war and abstinence-only sex education, our duty to take care of each other and the origins of individual morality with all of which, I heartily agreed.  Then he spoke about his conclusion about God:

“And finally, I have concluded through careful empirical analysis and much thought that somebody is looking out for me, keeping track of what I think about things, forgiving me when I do less than I ought, giving me strength to shoot for more than I think I am capable of. I believe they know everything that I do and think, and they still love me. And I’ve concluded, after careful consideration, that this person keeping score is me.

I found myself nodding in absolute agreement with each statement. It is so comforting to hear one’s own thoughts being spoken by another; to know that we are not alone.
Adam Savage of Myth Busters
Around 12:30, we were treated to a few songs by Australian performer, Tim Minchin. Having stalked him semi-professionally in the past (in a good, friendly “Thanks, Tim, I love your work” way, not a scary “I’ve got rope and duct tape in the trunk and I’m driving cross-country in an adult diaper” way), I couldn’t resist making my way up to the front of the non-VIP section with my friend, Mary. Tim seemed energized and despite comments to the effect of wishing he didn’t have to be there, really seemed to be feeding off the vibes from the audience which, at least up front, were nothing but big squishy love vibes.

He began with a song called “Confessions” which points out that regardless of our species’ intellectual superiority and lofty ambitions, in the end we are products of our evolution who retain the most basic of instinctual ties to our long-ago ancestors. He next performed one of my favorites, “Thank you, God”; a song about (not-so-) miraculous healings, attributed to divine intervention instead of the dozens of much more likely natural explanations. Next up was “If I Didn’t Have You” which is a song about love…or “maths”…I don’t know but he effectively compares love to bigotry, guinea pigs and bananas and that alone is worth a few points in my book.
Tim Minchin
Controversy seems to follow Tim around and the rally offered no exception when he opted to perform the “Pope Song”; it essentially says that if you’re more offended by expletives than by the church covering up child-rape, your priorities are a bit screwy but it throws in 70 or 80 “F-bombs” to illustrate the point. Unfortunately, there are many people who do get so hung up on the language, I’m not sure they even hear the point of the song. A shit-storm is developing, even amongst the godless and of course, detractors have seized on this as an example of atheists’ disrespect and nastiness in order to overshadow the much more important story that our ranks are growing. I hate the way things get twisted but it does strike me as funny that these people complaining have completely missed the fact that they are the people he is talking about in the song. He finished with a flawless performance of his anti-alt med beat poem, “Storm” which was a perfect close to his set and was clearly enjoyed by the crowd.
The Pope

Later in the day came a talk by Nathan Phelps, the estranged son of Pastor Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church, famous for picketing funerals of U.S. service members with an anti-gay, anti-military message. They also picketed the Reason Rally. Nate was my favorite speaker of the entire event. His talk was so honest and so moving that I found myself at one point brought to tears. He recounted how he left the church and his journey to atheism. As he said it, “They called me a rebel. For years, I wore that name with shame until I realized that, confronted with the god of my father, rebellion is the only moral option.”
Westboro Baptist Church
He spoke about how he fervently tried to find a loving God and how, on September 11th, 2001, he became completely disillusioned. He addressed the hate taught by his family and instead of returning more hate to them, instead of encouraging others to hate them, he expressed only sadness that they should waste their lives on it. Then he spoke of hope; his hope for a nation that honors reason and his hope, looking out on the crowd, that we might yet attain that. Nate Phelps is a class act. He is someone I will keep in mind as a picture of who I strive to be and I believe others should do the same.
Nathan Phelps

In all, every speaker did a spectacular job of conveying the purpose of the rally and articulating the sentiments of those in the crowd (a few sentences here and there not withstanding).  It was an honor and a pleasure to have the opportunity to participate and I am so glad that I did not allow my concerns to keep me from attending.  It was a thought-provoking experience which encapsulated more solidarity, love, and rationality than I ever expected.

Monday, March 14, 2011

What Is It Like To Be an Atheist?

"Being an atheist is a lot like being the only sober person in a car full of drunk people and they refuse to pull over and let you drive" - author unknown


So what's it really like to be an atheist?  Well, while there are frustrations akin to the quote above, but for me, most of the time, it's just kind of weird.  It often feels like I live in a different reality than 90% of the world and now that I think about it, that is probably true.  While I certainly cannot and do not speak for all atheists, there are some commonalities among us and many I have spoken to have echoed some of the peculiarities I have highlighted below. 

Being an atheist in the USA today often puts one in an awkward position.  Our society is saturated with religion.  It is not unusual for me to encounter some kind of religious propaganda or speech several times per day.  When you are an atheist, you never know how people will react if they find out that you are a non-believer so responses need to be carefully measured.  I have been called lots of names.  I have been told I am evil.  I have been preached to by those trying to "save me".  I've lost friends.  Everytime I encounter religion, there is an internal battle in my head as to whether I should be myself and be honest or just stay quiet.  I speak in code a lot so I can say what I think without jeopardizing anything.

When I drive my son to school in the morning, I typically see 10 - 20 cars with the little "Jesus fish" magnets on the back.  I wonder why these people feel the need to wear their religion on their bumpers.  It seems conceited to me; like they're making sure everyone knows they're in the special "club".  Do they expect that other Christians will be more likely to let them in when they merge? 

Almost without fail, I will hear the phrase "God bless you" when someone sneezes at some point during the day.  This seems kind of strange to me, too but I generally figure that people are just trying to be polite.  I never know how to respond when it's directed at me.  "Thank you" doesn't feel genuine.  "Thanks, but not likely" seems a bit rude.  "There is no God" is pretty much out of the question.  I usually just go against my thoughts and say "thanks" and then I feel like I've been dishonest or hypocritical.

At least once a week, someone will tell me about some facet of their church; the spaghetti dinner, their youth group, their choir.  Sometimes they tell me about how moving the service was.  Again, I am at a loss for how to respond.  Especially to the Catholics.  I don't understand how they can support an institution responsible for destroying so many lives.  I look for positive things in the story that I can comment on but it's difficult.  I smile and nod while wishing the conversation would end.

Sometimes, people will tell me about how God was watching out for them or how God helped them with a personal struggle or difficult decision.  I want to ask these people if helping them with their decision is the reason that God wasn't available to save the kids who just died somewhere in a car accident but I don't.  If this were any other topic on which I thought they were mistaken, I would speak up immediately and let them know the facts I have learned.  I try to filter out the God aspect and respond to the underlying issues they are speaking about.  Sometimes I only get as far as "Well...hmm".

Once I get home, I usually check in on my Facebook page.  There is usually a post somewhere on my wall asking me to pray for someone.  If it is something personal to someone I know, I will usually offer some personal consolation or an offer to help if there is something I think I can do.  If it is for a disaster or a general cause, I will usually post a link to the cause and/or send a donation because I believe that prayer is a way to feel like you are helping without ever actually doing anything whereas donations and word-of-mouth are real help.

I sometimes post atheist-related material on my Facebook Page.  The first time I did, I received a message asking if I knew it was there.  When I said I did and that I was aware of what it was and had put it there intentionally, I was immediately "unfriended".  When I put up a link to my first blog post, I lost fourteen friends within an hour. 

I see articles on the internet telling me that atheists are America's most-distrusted minority.  This seems completely backward to me.  The atheists I know are some of the most ethical people with whom I am acquainted.  Overall, they have an extemely strong sense of right and wrong and are more likely to act on things they feel are wrong or to stand up for what they think is right.  I feel that as an atheist, there is no forgiveness for me at the end of my life so I damn well better get it right the first time.  Forgiveness comes from those I have wronged.  If I mess up and that person does not forgive me, I have to live with that.  On the other hand, there is no divine punishment.  My punishment happens in the here and now when I have to live with and face the consequences of the choices I make.  For this reason, I am very careful in my decision-making.
Image courtesy of Surly-Ramics at http://www.etsy.com/shop/surly

 
So yes, my lack of belief sometimes makes things awkward which is bad considering that I am somewhat socially awkward to begin with but there is an upside to it, too.  First and foremost, I have freedom of thought.  I do not have to worry that the things in my head will be counted and judged.  I am free to question and explore as far as I can conceive.  I can look for truth and accept it when I find it.

I do not need to hold onto fear of death.  There are no worries about Heaven or Hell.  I have come to terms with it as a natural process.  I am not rushing to welcome it but I no longer need to fear it.  When I suffer the loss of someone I love, I can understand it.  It is painful but I know that it is part of the package deal when we get to experience life.  I do not need to worry about whether or not they were "saved".  I do not need to wonder why God thought he needed them with him more than I needed them here.

I have come to truly appreciate every moment of life on this earth.  I understand the likelihood of me being here was extremely small and yet here I am.  I am one of the lucky ones who is here today to marvel at nature's beauty and I have a brain that has evolved enough to understand my good fortune.  I get the privilege of staring up at the sky and wondering at the stars.  I get to watch history being made.  I get to watch our understanding of the universe unfold.  I get to learn.  I get to love.  I get to sing.  I get to dance.  Life's impermanence makes each day, each moment, so incredibly valuable.

My life has become unbelievably rich.  My atheism has led me to explore many scientific disciplines and I have discovered that I have a true love of astronomy and biology.  On more than one occasion, I have looked through a telescope and been moved to tears because of the beauty of it.  I have been amazed looking through a microscope thinking about all of the processes that led to what was seeing.  I am blown away by the beauty of natural processes and humbled by the immensity of our universe.

I have also had the pleasure and honor of meeting many wonderful, caring, like-minded people through the internet and through local meet-ups who have taught me much, engaged me in thought-provoking conversation, shown me books and videos which have expanded my understanding of the world and who have shared their friendship with me.

I have a confidence in myself and a clarity of thought that was inconceivable before I gave up my belief.  Because my conclusions have come to me after much thought and study, I can be more certain of their correctness.  Much of the material I store in my brain upon which I build my worldview is now backed by evidence-based knowledge instead of the emotional "knowing" of things taken on faith.  It is a concept that is immensely hard to convey to anyone who has not gone through the process of losing their faith through applied skepticism.  It is an entirely different way of processing information.  Sometimes, though, this benefit works against me such as when I have to deal with the frustration of not being able to get someone to understand the faults in their logic.  In fact sometimes, it's kind of like...being the only sober person in a car full of drunk people who refuse to pull over and let you drive. 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

So, What Do Christians Really Believe, Anyway?

I had a discussion recently with a fellow non-believer in which he said that he didn’t think Christians truly believed as they say they do.  I found this to be an interesting assertion.  It is something I have actually considered before and the conclusion that I came to was that yes, people do truly believe but they don’t necessarily believe in what they say or even what they think they do.


                                     Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut via freedigitalphotos.net
                                                                                                  
Let’s begin by looking at the basis of Christianity, the Bible.  There are two ways to interpret the Bible; literally and non-literally.  In following a literal interpretation, one can be consistent but must perform a fair amount of mental acrobatics to make it work within the framework of society’s knowledge as it stands.  You have to be willing to deny all evidence in the world around you to maintain that faith.  To be consistent with literalism, one must believe that the world is flat, the sun goes around the earth, light was created before the sun, billions of critters fit on a boat and eight people were able to care for them and other statements that defy logic including reconciling the many inconsistencies that exist within the Bible itself.

Literalists believe because it simply must be true.  They cannot accept that they could be wrong; nor do they even allow themselves to consider the possibility.  They know in their hearts that God loves them and that if they follow his laws, even when they contradict the laws of man or are hurtful to others, they will be rewarded in the afterlife.  Some feel their faith so strongly, that they are willing to deny all logic and reason and accept all of this in the name of faith.  I would go as far as to say that I think these people are living in a state of delusion where God is the final answer to every question.  It seems to me that these people have the most sincere and consistent beliefs but also the most illogical and least in line with reality. 

Those who follow a non-literal interpretation are able to apply their logic to varying degrees but lose the consistency of their belief.  I often wonder if these people have even read the entire Bible.  They seem to choose which pieces to believe based on their own personal biases.  For example, many choose to believe that homosexuality is wrong but eating shellfish and getting tattoos is fine or might accept that the earth is vaguely spherical but believe in divine creation.  They might believe that God is loving and forgiving but not remember the parts that say he is vengeful and jealous.  The Bible offers no guide as to which passages should be taken literally and which might be up for interpretation.  How do these believers know that they have chosen the “right” rules to follow?  These individuals may believe deeply but they fail to recognize the way they compartmentalize their thoughts in order to allow their religion to conform to their knowledge of the world and the rest of their beliefs.

Some non-literalists will go as far as to say that the Bible is simply a collection of stories to live by; a guide for how to act humbly and charitably.  They might even recognize that many of the stories such as creation, the flood and Christ’s death and subsequent rising are themes that have been repeated for many millennia in hundreds if not thousands of cultures differing only in names and specific details.  I am particularly baffled by these people because I do not understand, if one does not believe that the Bible was divinely inspired or that God has a personal interest in their lives or that Jesus died for man’s sins, how one can possibly call oneself a Christian. 

It has been my experience overall (with a few notable exceptions) that the Christians I know are incredibly good people.  They are honest, caring, thoughtful and generous.  They want the best for those they love.  They want to help others and improve the world around them.  They think that it is “good” to believe in God because believing in God makes them “good people”.  They believe that God is taking care of them and that he listens to their prayers.  They believe that God gives them comfort and guidance.  They believe that it is arrogant to think that there is “nothing greater than ourselves”.  And they believe that their goodness will be rewarded.  To stop believing would mean they were immoral, they and those around them would suffer and they would be left powerless and unloved.

What they do not allow themselves to see is that the things they consider to be “good” are coming from within themselves.  If belief in God were the only thing making people “good”, then we should see those who de-convert resorting to all kinds of immoral behavior but this just doesn’t happen.  Atheists are not running rampant, a stream of crime following in their wake.  Would these believers really stop caring for others if they gave up the sacred or would they continue to care for those in need because it is the right thing to do?  Would their loved ones fall apart if the prayers of the faithful were not bestowed upon them or would they continue to experience the ebb and flow of life with its triumphs and tragedies?  Would they feel alone or would they realize that as human beings, we are all in this together and are inherently connected to one another?  Would they really think that there is “nothing greater than ourselves” or would they find themselves incredibly humbled by the vastness of our universe and our place within it?  I submit to you that they would come to understand that being a “good person” does not require God.

So while many people call themselves Christians, the space between different Christian’s belief systems is often not just a jump but a chasm with some teetering on the brink of Godlessness.  Some believe that the Bible is communication direct from God, some view it as a divinely inspired guideline and some just believe in belief.  I think that the ones who fall off of that brink may find that the drop isn’t too far at all. 

If you enjoyed this post, please consider clicking the "Follow" button!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Children, Atheism and Religion

When my son came home a few days ago and announced, "Charlie's* an atheist like me!", I felt my chest tighten.  After a deep breath, we had a short discussion about personal beliefs and why some people might get upset with him if their beliefs are different from his and then I reminded him that he is still learning and suggested he might want to hold off discussing religion at school.



Then the guilt came.  Had I just made him feel bad for expressing what he thinks?  Why was I trying to talk him out of being confident?  Why should he not look for bonds with other children whose families might be similar to ours?  Why should he be asked to not discuss his family's beliefs?  Would a child raised in Christian or Muslim or Hindu tradition be told not to bring up such topics?  My first reaction should have been one of joy for him that he had found someone with whom to empathize but instead I shut him down.

My husband and I make a tremendous effort at teaching our son tolerance.  He is well acquainted with stories from the Bible, and knows the basics of Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, Pantheism, Deism, Judaism, Wicca and more.  We tell him what we believe and why and encourage him to ask the same questions of others.   We want him to make an informed decision when he decides which beliefs will ultimately be his own.  Having done a fair amount of religious study myself, I am at least somewhat aware of just how much he doesn't know yet and it bothers me to hear him call himself an "atheist" because he cannot possibly have enough information to make that decision for himself.  He is placing a label on himself out of familiarity.  I don't like to hear children being labeled in the traditions of their parents because they do not have the cognitive abilities to fully understand what those labels mean much less the greater implications of being associated with those labels.  But labeling himself prematurely wasn't really what had bothered me so much.

The truth is that I told him to keep quiet out of fear, selfishness and shame; fear that others will use the difference to shun or bully him, selfishness for not wanting the other parents to look at me "that way" and shame because I have been conditioned to believe that there is something wrong with being an atheist.  Many of us have it drilled into our brains from a young age that atheists are "bad people" and it is troubling to realize that despite knowing this to not be the case, I still have that reaction within me.

So how do I teach my child to be proud of his family while being cautious of intolerant people and navigating my own inconsistencies?  How do I teach him that we are good people?  How do I let him know that whatever decisions he makes about who he is, if he comes to them honestly, are good decisions?  How do I let him grow up being ok with himself?



For now, I just have to keep reminding myself that he has some advantages in the game.  He does not carry the baggage of being raised in a religious home and deciding to leave his traditional beliefs behind.  He has not been taught that thoughts can be "bad" or that he is always being watched and judged by an omnipotent, omnipresent father figure.  He is still innocent and has a clean slate to build on.  He is not me. 

I can also assure him by showing him daily what I know to be true; that atheists can be good people.  Our family treats others fairly and with kindness.  We help where there is need.  We are honest and ethical and caring.  I can encourage him to speak with others openly and respectfully.  I can teach him through example that there is no shame in choosing rationality over tradition or superstition by not letting myself, or him, be held back by who I used to be. 


*Not his real name

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Virtues

I love books.  My house is practically overrun by them.  There is something almost magical about them; someone's thoughts condensed and polished and sandwiched between two covers for the purpose of sharing one's mind with others.  My son's school, like many, hands out periodic Book Club flyers offering children's books at a discounted price.  My son gets new books and the school gets credits toward books for the classroom; it seems like a perfect set-up.



We normally get two flyers with names like "Dragonfly" or "Bumble Bee".  This time, we received a third flyer, "Virtues".  It only took a second of reading the book titles; Noah's Ark, Show God's Love, Bible Stories for Girls, The Lord's Prayer, Baby Angels, etc. before I realized that we weren't talking about "virtues" like patience, kindness and charity.  We were talking about Virtues like following the laws of the Bible, going to Sunday school and saying prayers before bedtime.

My Humanist pride was wounded but I still wanted to see what they were offering inside the flyer for Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist kids.  We sometimes buy books from varied perspectives in an effort to teach our son about the world around him.  I was surprised (but should probably not have been) to find that there were none; not one single non-Christian "virtues" book.  There were some non-religious books in the collection but all of the religious ones were explicitly Christian.  This is a problem.  What is the implication of a flyer entitled "Virtues" which includes only a Christian perspective?  That non-Christian children are of a lesser moral quality than those raised as Christians.  It sets the stage for these children for a life-long status of "less than".  No child should ever be made to feel that way and the fact that this was given to first graders makes it even worse.

Most non-theists are well familiar with the challenges of living in a majority-Christian society and the discrimination that can often be a part of that.  Many of us have lost friendships, jobs, even family, over the disdain others hold toward us for our lack of belief in a deity.  You just never quite know how people will react once they find out.  We are often stuck with a choice of standing up for ourselves at the risk of being shunned or keeping our mouths shut and receiving decent treatment.  And sadly, when we do choose to stand up for ourselves, sometimes people elect to extend their discrimination to our children. I spent a few restless nights worrying about what was the right thing to do.

So what's an atheist mom to do?  Because my son's school has stated repeatedly that they place a high value on tolerance, I decided it was worth a go to bring the issue to their attention.  I figured in a best-case scenario, at least I could get them to stop including the "Virtues" flyer in our mailbox.  I typed a carefully-worded e-mail explaining my point of view and then obsessively reviewed it multiple times looking for any trace of whining tone or "angry atheist" sentiment.  Then I saved it as a draft without an address in the "To" line and waited until I felt brave.  I sent it to a friend who works in education and she gave it her seal of approval.  Still not feeling completely confident, I sent it to Dale McGowan, author of Parenting Beyond Belief, and asked for his thoughts which he graciously provided.  After incorporating a couple of his edits, I swallowed my fear and clicked "Send" and waited to discover whether or not I had just sealed my son's fate as school pariah for the next five years.

I received a reply that evening.  I looked at the e-mail sitting in my in-box several times without opening it.  At long last, I decided it was no use putting it off any further.  When I finally worked up the nerve to double-click, I was prepared for just about anything.  Much to my surprise and relief, I really didn't need to be so worried.  The response was overwhelmingly positive.  The administrator understood my concerns and was in agreement that the flyer should not have been sent out.  She said she planned to contact the Book Club to find out if it was meant for parochial schools and was sent in error or if it was meant to be included and if it was intentionally included, she would discontinue their relationship with the Book Club.  Wow.  I had to read her reply twice to make sure I had read it correctly.  This was a far better outcome than I had even hoped for!

I am so glad that I did not let my fear hold me back.  If I had decided not to speak up, I would have been left wondering - wondering whether the teachers and administrators were bigoted, wondering if I shared their values as much as I thought I had, wondering whether in fact, this was the right school for my child.  But now I know.  And I can sleep soundly until the next challenge comes along.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Liberal Atheist Hippie

So, as it turns out, the things I enjoy talking about most, religion and politics, are things which one is apparently supposed remain mum on in polite conversation.  I've never been obsessed with being polite but I do like to maintain my friendships and I think it is really nice when family members retain me as a Facebook friend so it seemed a blog was the next natural step to holding onto my loved ones and my sanity simultaneously.

I am unapologetically, as the title states, a liberal atheist hippie.  My politics are often in flux but I currently consider myself to be a Democratic Socialist, most closely aligned with the Green Party.  I advocate evolutionary progressive change toward socialistic goals via a democratic process.  In the words of the Democratic Socialists of America from http://www.dsausa.org/about/index.html:

We are socialists because we reject an international economic order sustained by private profit, alienated labor, race and gender discrimination, environmental destruction, and brutality and violence in defense of the status quo.

We are socialists because we share a vision of a humane international social order based both on democratic planning and market mechanisms to achieve equitable distribution of resources, meaningful work, a healthy environment, sustainable growth, gender and racial equality, and non-oppressive relationships.
Although I do consider myself a progressive, I will listen respectfully to the viewpoints of others (this does not necessarily mean I will hold any respect for any particular opinion).  I have, on occasion, even found myself in agreement with conservatives.  I am willing to consider other points of view but if I think you are wrong, I will tell you and I will tell you why.  I expect the same from others.

With regard to my atheism, it is a conclusion I came to after a long and exhaustive search for truth.  I was raised in a Methodist household but began to question in my late teens.  I remained a Christian still for several years.  I read the Bible cover-to-cover twice and realized that I had been misled in a number of ways.  I spent some time studying comparative religions and made an effort at Buddhism, which seemed to most closely reflect my values and beliefs.  In the end though, I found that even Buddhism did not really ring true for me.  After much research and deep thought, the only honest conclusion I could come to was that there is no God and there never was and that religion, as an oppressor of truth, freedom and equality was not something of which I would ever again be a part.

And yes, I am a hippie.  Or so I am told.  In my teenage years, I became very interested in history, politics and political activism.  I found myself greatly inspired by Beat authors Kesey, Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs and Cassady which led to learning about sixties counterculture.  The messages of equality, feminism and peace resonated with me and hippie history became my history.  As one would expect, that road eventually ran past the Grateful Dead and I didn't just get on the bus, I wanted to drive it.  I followed them around the USA on various tours from '89 - '95.  I long considered the Dead and the culture surrounding them to be my people and my home and in many ways, I still do.  When Jerry Garcia died in 1995, it was a devastating loss for me.  As most of us do with our losses, I eventually found a way through it and I now consider the jam band scene to be my musical home.  Some people choose to apply the "hippie" label to me, some tell me the hippies are all gone and that I can only be a "Deadhead".  Whatever.  I'm fine with either (or both).

So this is where it begins.  It has been many moons since I last did any writing outside of e-mail and what's required of me at work and it feels really good.  I am looking forward to seeing where this path leads.  If you enjoy reading about politics, philosophy, skepticism and/or music, please consider becoming a follower of Liberal Atheist Hippie. 

Peace.