Definition Friday!

cognitive-dissonance

Today’s phrase is cognitive dissonance. Dictionary definition: the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change.

This has a very specific significance to me.  After I started questioning everything I was fought to hold on what I was taught to believe and the world that I actually observed.  I leaned a lot of personal anecdotal evidence to cling to my religion. Looking back all of those had perfectly natural explainations but I didn’t want to give it up. 

For me this came to a head during my wife’s second miscarriage. I tried to stuff it all down. All the conflicting views I held. The biggest being that god loves me and wants the best for me. At the same time hurting me so much. Also “all life is precious” while simultaneously taking this unborn life I already loved away before I had a chance to meet it. 

I hurt. I was confused but still played the “good christian” leading the worship service and hating good with every fiber of my being. I didn’t tell anyone about this and figured it was just a problem with my faith that I needed to sort out. I later found out this wasn’t just a me thing that didn’t effect anyone else.

Later on, after I told my wife about my atheism and how I came to this new conclusion, she told me how angry she was with me. Not that I didn’t believe anymore but that I didn’t tell her about my doubts as they came up. She had been feeling the same way too but didn’t think she could lean on me because she thought I thought god was infallible and couldn’t be questioned. 

My cognitive dissonance wasn’t just something that was in my own head, it was actively hurting the ones I love. 

I’m sorry doesn’t begin to cut it but it’s all I can offer. I denied my own thoughts to hold on to bronze aged fairy tales. I may seem cynical about the who thing but after hearing that from the person I promised to spend the rest of my life with I think I have good reason to be. 

 

I don’t know

This is a phrase with which I’ve become more comfortable.  When I was a believer I thought I had a book with all the answers to everything.  That god had an explanation for the inner workings of the universe all the way down to my little life on a speck of dust in it. Any moral question, any cosmological question, any question about what I was supposed to do with my life, was written down for me.  Life was simpler then I suppose.  I didn’t have to do much thinking.

As I deconverted I began to realize I don’t know everything anymore, at least in my own mind.  This was a scary realization at first.  How was I going to make decisions?  I used to pray before nearly every decision I made and wait for a response from god.  That obviously wasn’t going to work now.  I used to look through my Bible and search for answers, also won’t work any more.

I began to realize what I was really doing all that time was mulling over the options in that prayer time and settling on what I thought was the best direction to go.  So with that problem somewhat solved I still had some of those big questions up there that I didn’t know the answer to.  What happens when we die?  Where did the universe come from? How did life start? The more I thought about it the more comfortable with “I don’t know” as an answer.  Sure I can do some research and learn as much as I could about those things if they really bothered me.  The truth of the matter is they don’t.  I don’t have any real vested interest in those things.  They don’t have any bearing on my day to day life.  I don’t plan on becoming an expert in cosmology or biology, nor to I have a plan to be a professional debater on these topics, so I don’t know is a comfortable answer for now.

Skeptical Bible Study Week 1

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Welcome to something new!  I’m beginning a weekly study/commentary on the Bible.  This will be my first time reading the Bible through an atheistic lens.  I’m curious to see what comes out to me re-reading.  I’m going to start with the New Testament simply because it’s where I spent a bunch of time in there in the past.  I’m also going to jump a little bit and start where I started in my reading as a Christian.  So this week I’ll be looking at the book of Mark.  I’ll also be use the NIV translation, after all it shouldn’t matter the translation it’s all the word of god right? Anyway Mark Chapter 1.

So I’ll start with a quick summary.  Interestingly enough this chapter doesn’t talk about the virgin birth of Jesus at all, It starts right in with his baptism.  After a bit of research it turns out that this might be the first book ever written in the new testament.  I guess that makes sense it being the least sensationalized gospel.  It starts with Jesus’ baptism, goes into his temptation (very briefly), then starts to talk about his early ministry.

I’d like to talk about John the Baptist first.  This character is very…different.  If you plucked him out of his time and put him in modern times he seems like he’d be one of those guys in the quad of a college with a billboard sign and a megaphone.   He makes mention of him being the voice in the wilderness clearing the way for god’s coming.  But in other gospels when asked if he was Elijah he says no.  The prophesy about being the voice in the wilderness specifically refers to Elijah.  So is he either lying or mistaken?

So on to the big show.  Jesus is baptized and a voice from the sky says “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”  He was so well please with him that he marked him for a horrible horrible death?  I never understood that whole thing.  Why would he torture his son/self that he was happy with?  Seems like the kind of thing a sadist would do.  And right after saying how happy he was with himself(?) he sent him to be alone in the desert alone for 40 days?

So he goes through all that and comes back to town saying that the “Good News” is here.  Essentially announcing who he is.  This is important for later.   He then goes out to recruit his new posse.  He calls out to two guys on a boat who have spent the last few hours fishing.  Not like relaxing with a beer fishing but like fishing for a business.  He tells them that he’ll make them fishers of men.  Now I’m pretty sure that slavery was a thing back then so it’s possible (at least in my mind) that they thought he meant joining the slave trade…would probably make a lot more money than fishing.  Also these two guys left their dad to do all the work while the went off with this other guy…seems like a dick move.  They had no idea who this guy was.

After he’s got his new friends, he goes to another town to preach.  While preaching some guy stands up and says that Jesus is the “Holy one of God”.  He tells him to be quiet and expels the “demon”.  Here’s something I never got the whole be quiet thing?  Why all the secrecy, he’d already announced who he was once before (see I told you it would be important later).  This is a big theme in his early ministry.

He then goes on to heal a bunch of sick people (I can’t help be envision Benny Hinn).  Apparently he gets so popular he can’t even go into the main portion of the towns anymore.  This kinda gives me the “The fish was THIS big” vibe to the story.  Keeping in mind that none of these were written down as they happened but suffered from 50-70 years of the telephone game.

That kinda sums up Chapter 1.  As it’s my first go at this I’m open to feedback!

 

Ask an Atheist – 1

pexels-photo-356079Well as I don’t quiet have a large following I figured I’d search online for some questions for Atheists.  So here’s my best go at answering them.  Please let me know if you see any flaws in my logic.  These questions are taken from here.  I’m not going to spend time going into each of his “gotcha” points under each question, I’m simply going to answer the question.

QUESTION 1
Is Atheism a LACK of Belief in God or a BELIEF that there is no God?

As I’ve stated in an early post Atheism is a lack of belief in a god or gods.  Gnostic would be someone who claims knowledge of the existence of a god or gods.

QUESTION 2
If God Exists Would You Become A Christian?

Having read a lot of the bible (not all admittedly) I would say no.  God has shown himself to be a jealous, angry, petty, vindictive god with few redeemable qualities.  Sure I wouldn’t be an Atheist any more but I wouldn’t be a Christian.  Unless it’s been shown the the god of the bible isn’t the same one that appears (such as people didn’t accurately put down what this god thinks or how he acts) but in that case you wouldn’t be a the same Christian you are now.

QUESTION 3
How Do You Determine What’s Right & What’s Wrong?

Mainly empathy.  When facing  a moral dilemma I ask how would I feel if everyone else did what I’m about to do.  This allows me to see things in a case by case basis instead of a broad stroke.

QUESTION 4
How Do You Deal With Guilt & Sin in Your Life?

Well I don’t think there is such a thing as sin so I don’t?  As far as guilt I do my best to set things right with whomever I may have offended or wronged.  I don’t just ask an invisible man in the sky forgiveness.  That doesn’t help the situation in anyway.

QUESTION 5
Do You Act According To What You Believe or According To What You Lack In Belief?

I act in accordance to what I believe.  I believe things that have acceptable proof.  I know some theists will asks atheists how can you believe what you don’t see, like air and gravity.  Well those things have observable effects (or is affects I can never get that right…).  I can grab a stopwatch and see how long it takes object to fall at different heights.  If I wanted to know that I’m breathing air and what’s in I can run the experiments that were documented in the 18th and 19th centuries.

QUESTION 6
Can You Prove HOW the Universe Was Created?

I can’t but neither can you.  Saying you have an ancient book whose only validation is itself is not the same as a claim to knowledge.

QUESTION 7
Can You Prove That God Does Not Exist?

Nope.  Can you prove that he does?  If so I’d love to see that information.

QUESTION 8
Do You Know Where You’re Going When You Die?

My body will slowly decompose in to more basic elements and the energy that was stored in my body will be transferred into the microbes and eventually larger organisms that use that as food.

Deeper Story Pt.1

onceSo I’ve given a brief synopsis of my journey from Christianity to Atheism but I thought I’d give a deeper look into how my worldview has changed through out my life.

I was born in upstate New York.  It’s recently been dubbed the safest place to live from natural disasters so we got that going for us…I guess.  About five years later my brother was born.  I don’t remember much about life prior to my parents divorce.  I remember my dad going to fight in the first American intervention into Iraq.  He was gone about six months.  There were a lot of days spent in front of the TV to see if he would be in the line of fire…he was, a lot.  I remember not knowing what any of that meant but I knew that it was worrying for my mom.  When he came home I didn’t recognize him.  He had grown a mustache.  Being a father now I can’t imagine how that must have felt to him.  His own son not knowing who he is.

It wasn’t long after that my parents separated and eventually got divorced.  I had no say in who I would be living with.  My parents thought “Boys should be with their dad.”  I thought that was bullshit.  Even at the age of 12 I knew my dad was an asshole and I wanted to live with my mom.  My dad was definitely a military man.  “Boys don’t cry” “Man up” were just a few of the phrases that were commonly thrown around in my home.    Being an emotional child this was difficult.  I dealt with this by learning to stuff every emotion I had as far down as I could.  It’s unfortunately a trait I’ve kept along with me well into my adulthood.

As you’ve may have noticed that until this point I’ve not talked at all about religion.  That didn’t come into play until the second act of my story.  Church for me until now had been reserved for twice a year, Easter and Christmas.  My future stepmother would be the catalyst to my indoctrination.  Which I will save for the next post.

Continue to Part 2

Site updates

Hey all.

I’ve come to the realization that writing a post every days is easier said than done. With that being the case I’m going to kinda break things up in to sections per day. 

I’ll be starting a series of my thoughts while reading the Bible with my new skepticism. I’ll have a day on definitions (I know those will be short lived and I’ll replace it with something with more substance once I run out of words). I’ll have a day on my observations and a day that’s a deeper explanation of my background. 

Thoughts? What would you like to see?  Maybe an ask an atheist day?

Meaning

I remember as a Christian being told that “god has a meaning for your life”.  During my de-conversion I worried that life suddenly has no meaning.  If I wasn’t meant to serve the invisible sky daddy any more so I can have eternal bliss what was the point?  This sent me into quiet a bit of depression.  One of the many reasons I sought help.  I also began to read a lot of responses online regarding this.  The main thing I came to was that my life has the meaning I ascribe to it.  My life is important because it’s important to me and those who care about me.

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This premise was hard for me to swallow.  If you’ve ever suffered from depression you know that it can be hard to find yourself important to yourself let alone anyone else’s eyes.  So again I found my self struggling with a deeper depression.  I guess when I was a believer I always thought of my sky daddy caring about me even if no one else did.  That gave me some comfort.  Not having that security blanket anymore I felt exposed.  I say that in the past tense not because the feeling is gone but more as a fading feeling.

As far as what meaning I’ve ascribed to my life so far, well so far I have a very minimal description.  Provide a life of relative comfort for myself and my family, continue to expand my mind through learning, and spreading my thoughts.  I guess in a way that last one will make me somewhat immortal.  Sure only a handful of people will ever read this but these thoughts will live forever in the “mind” of the internet.

I’m still working through my depression and probably will for a long while.  But I’m actually working on it instead of “giving it to god” which is a phrase I never understood.  What are your thoughts on meaning for life?  How do you ascribe meaning to your life?

Old habits die hard…

Sorry for my absence this week.  It’s been absolutely nuts ending with my daughter breaking her ankle. She’s fine other than she can’t walk on it being in a cast. This is the source of much frustration for her. But the event brought some things to mind. 

As we got ready to bring her to the hospital I remember praying that she’d be ok. As I’m thinking this to myself I wonder wait who am I praying to?  Strong force of habit. This has been the first big thing that has happened that was out of my control. I guess it makes sense that I would fall back on that even though there’s nothing there. 

It’s hard to get past 18 years of indoctrination. Being pumped full of lies and leanings on confirmation bias. I remember asking for nothing to be broken (it was). Back in my believing days I would have just thought “well I guess it’s just not part of God’s plan.” I was always told that god answers prayers in three ways, yes,no, and not yet. Looking at that logic now that literally covers all the bases.  God can’t lose with that premise. 

Truth is my daughter’s ankle was broken the moment she fell from that slide. No amount of praying to anything could have changed that. It makes more sense that the universe doesn’t care one way or another about anyone than pain being part of some kind of devine plan. 

Off topic?

Ok so this is kinda off topic and I’m pretty sure that’s a no no for a new blog but I gotta get this out there!

So my kids have been obsessed with the Disney film Moana.  Which means the songs are constantly stuck in my head (just so damn catchy). I’m also close to being able to quote the movie line for line. So I started to analyze it a bit ( I do this with almost all of their shows and movies).  I came to the realization that nearly the whole movie is in her head. Nothing super natural comes into being until she bashes her head on the canoe and reef the first time she tries to leave. 

Up until that point there were some diseased trees and missing fish from over farming. It wasn’t until after her accident that the “darkness” is shown to be invading her island. Everything that had happened was very explainable. 

When the ocean reveils that it chose her as an adult she even says “I thought it was a dream”. Hint hint it was! Her ailing grandmother encourages her dillusion. Also the one thing she’s wanted more than anything was to sail on the ocean and there just happens to be a cave full of large sailing vessles hiding on the island. 

Everything that happens off island can only be coaberated by a chicken. I find the entire thing very unlikely and it’s more likely that she suffered major brain damage and is hallucinating. 

Proof?

So I’ve been thinking lately (which is a big change from how I used to be).  I remember a time when I used to ask myself how could an atheist even be a thing?  How could they prove that god didn’t exist?  It’s clearly undeniable that god is doing everything!  How could we even exist with out god (that’s a topic for a whole other post)?  How could we be us if we didn’t have a  soul?

Looking back I had the burden of proof all wrong.  It wasn’t for the atheist to provide proof of a lack of a god, it was supposed to be on me for claiming there was one.  I’ve recently heard that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.  That works kinda like this.  If one were to tell me they have a Facebook account there is very little proof needed.  I know Facebook is a thing, I know a lot of people have one and it would be just as easy for me to pull out my phone and look them up.  Not a big claim so I can easily take them at their word for it.  The reverse of that is someone claims they have an invisible hippo living in their basement that eats carbon dioxide and poops rainbow.  That would require a bit of proof.  I make the second example a bit incredulous on purpose.  I would almost find that more believable than a magic sky man who created the universe yet still cares about me but not enough to actually show himself in any demonstrable way.

Hm that last sentence brings up a good idea for another post about the character of the Christian god…I’ll have to work on that one soon.