April 22, 2018

When Christians Burned Things They Feared

Lag BaOmer bonfireOne of the many nice things about living in an unincorporated rural area is that some of the laws are a bit more relaxed than they'd be in town. While it is true that I could be incarcerated and/or fined merely for possessing alcohol in my own home, I can burn yard waste without anybody batting an eye. This might not seem like much of a benefit, but it sure beats the alternative of having to transport all the downed tree limbs, pine cones, and other waste from my backyard to the front curb and wait several days to a week for the county to pick it up. Doing this typically results in a bunch of ugly dead grass, so I'd prefer to avoid it.

I spent a few hours yesterday burning this stuff, and I think I disposed of at least 7 large garbage cans worth in the process. I'm careful about how I do it. I used leftover bricks from my house to mark off a large square far enough away from anything that could catch fire. I hose down the surrounding area after I've filled it with yard debris. I use just enough lighter fluid to make sure that it will ignite quickly and burn evenly. And most important of all, I remain in the area with a hose at the ready just in case. The size and intensity of the fire are pretty amazing, especially when the wind picks up. At one point, I'd estimate that the flames were rising over 8 feet. That did make me a bit nervous for a few minutes.

April 21, 2018

Preparing for the April 23 Rapture

The Rapture of the Church 2

I don't like saying goodbye, and I've never been particularly good at it. Problem is, I've just learned that "the Rapture" is taking place on April 23, 2018. So whether I like it or not, I guess we better start saying our goodbyes. I mean, it isn't like anyone has ever been wrong about predicting this sort of thing, right?

I suppose we atheists won't immediately disappear into the sky like all the Christians around us. We'll get to linger around a bit longer to be tormented by assorted monsters and so on. I imagine I'll be pretty lonely here in Mississippi after more than 90% of the people are raptured. In contrast, those of you living in Vermont might not notice much of a difference when all the Christians disappear.

Vigilantism to Punish Others

A Straight Road - panoramioA guy in Minnesota is facing a felony count of damage to property after he allegedly damaged over 100 vehicles by spreading nails on the road outside his home. Police suspect he did this to punish speeding drivers. According to the criminal complaint, the man told police that he “took the matter into his own hands out of frustration.”

Imagine that you live in a home on a road where drivers regularly speed. Perhaps you've called the police several times to complain, and it does not seem like they've done anything to solve the problem. I suspect that most of us could imagine being in such a situation, feeling extremely frustrated, and being at least somewhat tempted to do something about it ourselves. Of course, most of us would not spread nails on the road. In fact, most of us probably wouldn't take it upon ourselves to punish the speeding drivers in any way. And why not? We probably recognize that punishing others for breaking the law is not something with which we are tasked. Trying to do so could get us in serious trouble.

April 19, 2018

Reproductive Freedom

Minnesotans Unite Against the War on Women RallyI started to write this as a response to a comment I received a while ago on Atheist Revolution's Facebook page, but I figured it made more sense to write a brief post since this is not the first time I've been asked about this and probably won't be the last. What is my position on reproductive freedom for women, and why do I sometimes suggest that many of those opposed to it are opposed primarily for religious reasons?

My position is clear and easy to summarize: I support reproductive freedom for women and oppose efforts to curtail it, regardless of whether such efforts are religious or secular.

Here are two specific examples of what that means:
  • I believe that all women should have easy access to safe and affordable contraception.
  • I believe that all women should maintain the legal right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy and should have easy access to safe and affordable means for doing so.

April 17, 2018

Losing Friends Over Atheism

FriendsHave you lost friends because you are an atheist? I have, and I suspect that this is not an uncommon experience. I've been fortunate in that most of the friends I've lost as a result of being an atheist were friends I probably would have lost anyway for other reasons (e.g., I moved far from where we used to live, they had children and I didn't, our interests and life experiences ended up moving far apart). There have really only been a few that I found hard to lose and genuinely regretted losing.

I know plenty of Christians who are not particularly serious about their faith. While they believe in gods, pray, attend church, participate in religious traditions, and so on, their lives do not center around their faith. For the most part, they seem to have little trouble with the fact that I'm an atheist. They tease me about it from time-to-time and indulge in some mild anti-atheist bigotry, but it doesn't typically cause problems. We seem to arrive at an implicit agreement where they do not discuss religion around me and I do not discuss religion (or atheism) around them.

April 15, 2018

The Pain of Atheist Teens

Teen AngstAt the outset, I think it is important to acknowledge that many atheist teenagers are perfectly happy, well-adjusted, and living with supportive families who accept them despite their atheism. What I am going to address in this brief post are those who are having a very different experience, most often because they live with devout Christian families. Their stories are a regular occurrence on reddit/r/atheism, and many of them bring tears to my eyes. Many conceal their atheism because they are scared of what their Christian parents might do. As a result, many experience great emotional pain because it feels like they are having to lie to people who are supposed to love them.

When I read these accounts, my attention is usually focused on what the teen is going through. I rarely feel like I can be of much help except to empathize and reinforce much of what has already been said (I'm not a regular enough visitor to be one of the first to comment). It is encouraging to see the level of support others offer. It seems like there is a real community here, and that's great.

After reading a recent account from a teenager struggling with mental health issues he or she says have emerged from this sense of living a lie and being terrified of being discovered, I found my thoughts momentarily shifting to the family. My guess is that this family and many like it have no idea what their kids are going through. Most families do not want their children to suffer. Most families would hate the thought of their kids struggling with mental health issues alone because they are too afraid to express themselves. Some of these children will kill themselves, leaving behind a family struggling to understand how things could have gotten so bad without them realizing it.