Saturday, May 3, 2014

Keeping Atheism in the Closet

I get bombarded with all sorts of articles on Facebook, and every now and then I stumble upon a gem. This article goes over the phenomenon of keeping Atheism and Atheist in the closet. My personal expedience coming out as a non-believer  is not far off from the stories mentioned in the article. I try to avoid talking about religion but when it does come up I get plenty of "I'm praying for you", "just go to church more", and "you were a Christian when you were younger". I'm not the type that rubs my Atheism in your face. In fact what I enjoy is dialoging, sharing, and learning why others believe what they believe. I'm more interested in the person than the beliefs themselves. The article made a great point as to what drives this uneasiness that believers have of unbelievers:
“For many families, being religious is less about spiritual beliefs, and more about family identity. More than anything else, going to religious services is a family togetherness activity, or even a family duty. As Sally M. says, who was brought up Catholic but has been an atheist since childhood, says, “The whole family has always treated church like a chore, so they probably assumed I was claiming atheism to get out of wasting my Sunday. If my mother had to drag herself and the rest of my siblings out of bed, there was no way I was getting out of it.” And some believers may think that participating in religious rituals will somehow draw atheists back into belief.
 I don't attend church because it doesn't speak to me. Some have said that I need to "let the Spirit in" and then I'll believe, that if I "let go" or "stop trying too hard" that the spirit will flood in. But no matter how I've approached this nothing happens. The only person I will attend church with is my wife, I do this out of love, support, and respect for my wife's beliefs. When I do attend with her I am as respectful as possible but I will not lie about my beliefs, or lack thereof. (Thankfully, and surprisingly, that awkward conversation has not happened. I guess most church goers simply assume everyone else there is a believer.)

So why are believers so uncomfortable with unbelievers even existing? I believe it's because they've been taught not to question their beliefs by fellow believers, pastors/priest, and even scripture itself, that when they meet someone who has wrestled with these questions they begin to question the religious aspect of their identity. I believe the more inclusive and accepting of others the person is the less likely the believer will feel threatened by non-believers. If a belief held by your religious community keeps you in fear of those outside of your group is it really worth it to keep that belief? Did you really choose to follow that belief (Note: I'm talking about a single belief not a religion, or religion as a whole.) or are you only believing out of fear of being excluded or out of tradition?

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

There is No They

     If there is one thing I can safely say I believe in that would be in our connection with our fellow man.Social media sites like Facebook was created with the intent of bringing people together, and in a sense it has. But more often than not I witness the opposite of people transcending their tribal identities, I witness them digging their heels and cutting ties, both in the real and virtual world, with those who may challenge their tribe. People feel safe and cozy within their group, and a group can shape their identity by identifying a group, cause, or belief that is opposite of what they stand for. But when it comes down to it there is no They.

     Of course humans will always catalog and label their reality, it helps us give order to a seemingly chaotic universe. What I mean by There is no They is that we're all human. Regardless of our gender, skin, life choices, beliefs, we are all human. We get so involved in our other labels that we tend to forget (or simply ignore) our most basic identity when interacting with each other. I see so many images and posts being shared online which highlights how one group is violent, dumb, and backwards compared to their own group. These images and posts don't educate or elevate mankind in any way. They were created to simply put another group down. It doesn't highlight real injustice (e.g. real persecution for one's beliefs vs. a loss of entitlement) nor does it bring constructive conversation to get people to examine each others views let alone their own.
     But maybe I'm asking too much from a social media site where friends share images asking that I will give a Thumbs up if I hate evil or if I remember a particular artifact from my childhood in the 80s.


I've shared this video multiple times but Ram Dass hits the nail on the head, There is No They.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Be Your Best Self

It's been almost a year since I've written anything here. I've been busy with Grad school and family that it was hard for me to have a spare moment of reflection. I also realized that my journey I started 5 years ago has shifted. I spent the last 5 years on this blog discovering who I am and now I think it's time to simply be that person. I spent so much time reflecting on how to become a better, more loving human being that it completely escaped me that to become that person I must be my best self.

I believe that most people struggle with being their best self because they're not comfortable in their own skin. To analyze the darkest part of ourselves is too much for some people. And that's ok. It is all a part of being human. Once we accept our frailty, our faults, our humanness we can begin to overcome the darkest part of ourselves and be our best self. We can begin embracing the beauty of what we can be, the enormous potential in being you. You're the best person who can be you, no one can play that part better than yourself. Just remember that each of us are unique cosmic events, there never has been nor ever will be another you or another me. So why not be your best self?

Sunday, June 9, 2013

We're All Stories, In the End.

I saw this on Facebook and felt it was worth sharing. The quote comes from the season 5 finale of Doctor Who, "The Big Bang". The Doctor's last words to a sleeping Amelia Pond:
"It's funny, I thought, if you could hear me, I could hang on, somehow. Silly me. Silly old Doctor. When you wake up, you'll have a mum and dad, and you won't even remember me. Well, you'll remember me a little. I'll be a story in your head. But that's OK: we're all stories, in the end. Just make it a good one, eh? Because it was, you know, it was the best: a daft old man, who stole a magic box and ran away. Did I ever tell you I stole it? Well, I borrowed it; I was always going to take it back. Oh, that box, Amy, you'll dream about that box. It'll never leave you. Big and little at the same time, brand-new and ancient, and the bluest blue, ever. And the times we had, eh? Would've had. Never had. In your dreams, they'll still be there."
 The line used in the picture has stuck with me because it sums up what I believe. After our bodies return to the Earth our stories continue. These stories connect and define us while also creating new stories. A beautiful example of the interconnectedness of our stories is portrayed in last year's film, Cloud Atlas. The film is based on David Mitchell's 2004 novel which consists of six stories spanning from the 19th century to a post-apocalyptic future. The characters of the six eras are connected to each other through storytelling and are inspired by that connectedness to fight the injustice of their time. The stories stand alone independently but when they are told together they create a beautiful interwoven tapestry of us, a story of being human.

Some people fear that they'll be forgotten after their death, but even the shortest and seemingly insignificant of lives have a part to play in the choir of humanity. One of my favorite Doctor Who scenes happens between Wilfred Mott and the 10th Doctor in "The End of Time":
The Doctor: I'm older than you.
Wilfred: Get away.
The Doctor: I'm nine hundred and six.
Wilfred: Oh really though?
The Doctor: Yeah.
Wilfred: Nine hundred years. We must look like insects to you.
The Doctor: I think you look like giants. 
The beauty of our collective stories is not solely found in the most prominent threads in our tapestry, but in the sea of unique threads interconnected and bound to one another. When we discover that interconnectedness we come to appreciate each others stories that much more. And as we blend we begin to forget where one story ends and another begins.

So what is your story? Have you found your story's place in the tapestry? Are you making it a good one?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Geography of Hate

Vorjack from Unreasonable Faith shared this interesting interactive map which shows the areas in the U.S. which produce the most hate tweets on Twitter. This map is based on 150,000 geotagged tweets between June 2012 and April 2013 which contains racial or sexual slurs. Here's a snapshot of my local region showing homophobic tweets in the Eastern Tennessee and North Georgia area. You can check out the full interactive map here. The interesting thing is that the majority of the hate tweets originate in the Eastern half of the U.S. The process, and pitfalls, in collecting and mapping this data is explained here. Any thoughts?