I was born in the early 80s, and my parents were at the forefront of a new phenomenon, atheists raising their children to be atheists rather than attempt to join a church community just for the belonging. From things I have read, what my parents did was rare, and most atheists at the time just buckled up and took their children to church for the socialization and community. Recently I met someone who is a few years younger than me whose parents were atheists but raised her Church of Christ for the community, and it is interesting to talk about our different experiences. I’ll call her Michelle.
Thanksgiving evokes a lot of mixed feelings on my part. While Thanksgiving type holidays are celebrated in many cultures, given that I am an American, our Thanksgiving holiday is entwined with the near genocide of the native peoples, an act that is tragically still very relevant, because it has not stopped. And as a Secular Humanist, it’s hard to find books on Thanksgiving without religious overtones.
Perhaps one of the most frustrating misconceptions Christians have about me is that, because I was raised without religion, I know nothing about Christianity. Granted, given that people who were raised Christian and became atheists also get the message that they don’t understand Christianity, it doesn’t just seem to be my upbringing that is a factor here. Yet occasionally I’ll see articles where Christians are wanting to bring their message to other Americans, as if they believe that somehow there are people in the US who aren’t aware of Christianity and Jesus.
Whether religious or non-religious, stories are important to our humanity. Before we were watching stories on tv and movie screens, we were reading stories in books and papers. And before we were reading stories, we were telling stories through an oral tradition. Stories help us find a way to relate to our world, to understand it. Sometimes we recognize our struggles in the struggles of fictional characters. Sometimes a story helps us make sense of something tragic that happened to us and helps us to move forward.
One criticism I see lobbed at atheists is that we spend a lot of time calling attention to Christians who do immoral things, such as Catholic priests who sexually molest children. Why can’t we ever point out the good things that Christians are doing? Well, in the United States, we live in a country that equates Christianity with goodness. Christian and good morals are synonymous. It’s one of those things that goes without saying. Further, atheism is equated with being evil and is extremely disliked. As an atheist who grew up with a very ethical, atheistic family, it was painful to hear people calling atheists “immoral” and “evil” and to use the word “atheist” as a slur, all while beefing up their own moral creds.
Since I was young I’ve had a strong interest in astronomy and cosmology. It’s always a mind trip to read about, and leaves me with a sense of awe and wonder. While I like hiking and getting out in nature, for me it’s calming, but reading cosmology is the closet thing I have to a spiritual experience. It’s just incredible to think about this world existing. To me, that this exists just because and was not created is beautiful. I started reading Carl Sagan when I was 13 and have always been heavily influenced by his view of the universe and his lovely ideas of how we are all “star stuff.”
Today I saw this article positing the idea that we are in a computer simulation.It’s an idea that comes up every now and then, and I think will continue to do so, not because the ideas are valid (I have a hard time buying it, but more on that later), but because the knowledge that we exist is so confounding to think about. It boils down to the question of why is there something rather than nothing question.
Suppose someone wants to get you to watch Star Wars. They heard that you never watched it, and they come up to you, friendly enough, and start talking about Star Wars while claiming to want to be your friend. You have no interest in seeing Star Wars, and say so. But they keep persisting. Or they might change the subject, but each time you run into this person, they bring up Star Wars.