Grief without God

My grandmother died last December.

Now, I’ve never felt grief before this.  I’ve been sad, sure.  But grief is a completely new emotion to me.

I thought I grieved when my cousin was killed.  And then again when my grandfather died.  And even more when my cat died in February 2014.

But nothing before has punched me in the gut like the death of my grandmother.

Before I lost my religion, I always hated the idea of death because you never knew which version of which religion was right, and if your particular view was wrong, there was the possibility of an eternity burning in hell.

It didn’t comfort me a bit to think that I would see my loved ones again.

Now that I’ve been an atheist for a few years, I look at death totally different.  There’s a great piece, written by Aaron Freeman, that perfectly exemplifies what I believe now.

According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly.” -Aaron Freeman

But my grandmother is gone.  Her laugh.  Her loving arms.  The smell of her clothes.

Gone.

It’s been 8 months since I lost her, and it still hurts like the day I received the dreaded phone call.

So how do atheists handle grief when they don’t have the reward of Heaven to look forward to?

It’s hard.  Just as it’s hard no matter what your religion is.

But, contrary to popular belief, atheists don’t fall back on religion when things get tough.  We use our rational brains to remind ourselves that it’s all just a part of the cycle of life.  We remind ourselves that, like Aaron Freeman stated, the particles that originally made up our loved ones are still in the world.

We turn to those that surround us to celebrate the memories and receive comfort in our time of pain.

If we begin to fear that our loved one is suffering in the afterlife, we remind ourselves that death is nothing more than post-life.  Just as you can’t remember what it was like before you were born, you will neither be conscious of what it is like when your life ends.

And if grief turns into depression, we get help.

It still hurts.  I still miss her.  I probably will until the day I take my own last breath.

But no god has any place in my grief.

Peggy

The most beautiful woman in the world. 1928-2014

Planned Parenthood

I’ve stayed quiet about the media controversy that’s happening right now surrounding Planned Parenthood, however, I am so worked up right now that I have to say something.

I posted this video last night on my personal facebook:

Now, most of my facebook amigos are critical thinkers and liberals like myself that have looked at these stupid, doctored anti-Planned Parenthood videos and seen them for what they are– stupid, doctored anti-Planned Parenthood videos. And I’ve gotten many “likes” regarding the Skepchick video embedded above.

However, I had one of my few Conservative, Uber religious, gullible friends reply to my post with this:

planned parenthood stupid comment

I’m going to lose my shit.

USE YOUR CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS!  Jesus!

Here is my reply:

There are so many issues with the videos that this group released.

1) They are from a group that notoriously doctors videos about Planned Parenthood to try to get it shut down

2) The videos are cut all to hell and things have been taken out of context (i.e. the part where she says “we try not to let that happen” when talking about a woman delivering a baby… she was talking about delivering a miscarried baby–it’s traumatizing to the woman and potentially hazardous–when a D&E can make it so much safer).

3) The “baby parts” “for sale” are from women that are either miscarrying or having abortions ANYWAY… they’re not convincing women to have abortions just so they can sell the baby parts.

4) They are “selling” to scientific groups that do life saving research because all of the republican attacks on planned parenthood have left these centers (who only 3% of their business is abortions, mind you) essentially defunded. Believe me… Planned Parenthood is making NO profits off of any fetal tissue sold…it’s all going back into the company to support the tissue donation itself, as well as other services they offer.

Whatever your stance on planned parenthood, there is no arguing that stem cell research is absolutely necessary to save lives. And if women are going to have abortions and miscarriages ANYWAY, it’s better for that fetal tissue to be used to save other peoples lives than to be thrown away.

Additionally, Planned Parenthood provides life saving services such as:

  1. Cancer screening
  2. Education
  3. Contraception
  4. STD screening
  5. Counseling
  6. Emergency contraception

Part of the 3% of their services that go to abortions go to women that are miscarrying anyway, and want to have a safer abortion to avoid the potential hazards of miscarrying on their own; and then the rest are women who are getting abortions because they are nowhere near physically or mentally able to have a child, whether it be from forced sex, an “oops,” some sort of health issue, or whatever.. they depend on places like Planned Parenthood to provide them a safe procedure so women don’t have to go back to the coat hanger method of the 70s.

I don’t like abortion. I don’t think anybody does. But I will always support a woman’s right to choose because women are going to get abortions anyway, regardless of whether it’s legal or not, so it needs to be able to stay safe.

And, like I said earlier, I’d rather that aborted fetal tissue be used for research instead of just thrown away.

Also, Rebecca (SkepChick) makes a good point about how these phony videos are being used by the Republican party to open a probe into Planned Parenthood, which will waste taxpayer money. You might not mind your money going to the probe, but I sure as hell do.

Regarding the idea that these videos show an ethical problem regarding abortion– I think it’s unethical to let that fetal tissue go to waste instead of using it to save lives, and if Planned Parenthood has to train doctors on how to do abortions so that the most tissue is preserved (mind you-these are abortions that are going to happen anyway), then yes, they will need money to do that, because education is not free.

48421714

Angry at who?

I had a Christian ask me today “why are you so angry at God?”

The simple answer to that is– I’m not.

Being angry at God implies that I believe in him, which I don’t. 

However, I am angry at his followers.  I’m angry that so many of them use their “holy book” to justify the unjustifiable (racism, bigotry, etc.).  I’m mad that, in a country that is supposed to have a solid separation of church and state, I have to see “In God We Trust” on our money and government buildings.  I’m angry that a whole group of people, while being the oppressors, claim to be the oppressed.

Mostly, I’m mad that the “get them while they’re young” tactic of brainwashing people to believe works so well and more or less makes critical thinking skills disappear so believers don’t ever dare question what they’ve been taught.

Damn right I’m mad.  Just not at God.

The Money Problem

Atheists, by nature, are a skeptical bunch.

So, of course, they are skeptical to the point of cynicism about churches asking for money.

Even worse when atheist groups ask.

I can understand being angry at Megachurches and church representatives that guilt their members into tithing or giving money above and beyond absolute necessity.

However, I have yet to hear of an atheist/humanist/secular group that can buy an airplane or follow a leader with a net worth of $60million from manipulating the public he or she serves (most of us have no net worth), and I have never heard of an atheist group sending a single mom a collection letter for not donating.

For instance, my group doesn’t even receive enough in donations to cover costs.

Yes!  It actually costs something to run a program.  And those costs are typically higher than you would imagine.  Not only is there the cost of the venue, but also insurance, office supplies and other materials, advertising and promotions, and legal paperwork!  And this is not an all-inclusive list.

So, yes, atheist groups ask for money just like churches.

The difference is that atheists don’t have the threat of hell to use to guilt their members into giving 10% of their incomes to the group, so instead of simply asking for money, we have to beg and offer (real) incentives.

As a member of my local Sunday Assembly’s board of directors, I have EASILY donated more than $1,000 this year to just keep the organization up and running.  And not one penny of that money is tax deductible because until last month, we haven’t had money to file for our federal non-profit status due to spending every bit of it on operating expenses.

Running an organization like Sunday Assembly is only possible due to the generosity of its members.  But, regardless of whether or not someone donates, everyone will always be welcome.

Why do Atheists Need Community?

Starting a secular “church,” especially here in the Bible Belt, has raised a lot of questions from both religious and non-religious people alike.

The most common question concerns the necessity of a church-like environment for people who have no one to worship.  Can’t atheists just spend time with family or join a club or something?

Well, yes, if you have those resources available that will accept you as you are–godless.

Many of us don’t.

Even religious people don’t always attend church strictly to worship their chosen deity.  If so, churches wouldn’t have social events like potlucks, youth groups, and concerts.

Churches are more about the community than they are about coming together to worship something.  I can worship on my own.

Atheist churches provide more than just social support though.  In a world where people are disowned, threatened, and even murdered for not believing in god, atheist churches provide a safe place.  They provide an environment free of the social stigma that keeps many atheists from “coming out.”  They allow nonbelievers to feel safe when the world itself is not.

But most of all, they let atheists know that they are not alone.

There is a desperate need for this in America.

Until just recently, atheists were considered the most distrusted group.  Now, we’ve just barely slid up the ladder past rapists.  RAPISTS.

I may be an atheist, but that doesn’t mean I’m not a good person.  In fact, in my mind, atheists are better people than the religious because we don’t need the threat of hell to make us help others.  We do it because we want to.  If someone is only a good person because they are scared of going to hell or think they will be rewarded with heaven, then they are not a good person.  Period.  Religion doesn’t create morality.

Not all atheists need church.  Not all Christians do either.  It’s dependent on the person and set of circumstances that have set a person up for the place he or she is in life.

I need church.  I need community.  But I don’t need god.

I Have a Theory

When I was a kid in Sunday School, I never could understand why people thought that God and the Devil were enemies.  I always imagined them being on the same team… when someone was good, God would send them to Heaven… but when someone was bad, God would send them to hell, where the Devil would step in and punish those that God deemed as deserving of punishment.

So, the Devil was more like an employee in my eyes.

However, the older I get and the more I think about it, I’m starting to believe that the Devil is the good guy of the story.

First thing, have you seriously counted the number of murders committed by each?

Additionally, while God was content to keep Adam and Eve as mindless slaves in the Garden of Eden, the Devil released them from his servitude by encouraging them to gain knowledge and the ability to think for themselves.  God’s reaction to Adam and Eve having minds of their own was to cast them out of paradise.

WTF?

Even in current times, the Satanists seem to more progressive than most Evangelical Christians, fighting for the separation of church and state (see here and here).

So what if the Devil is actually the good guy?

d350cbb02c1887b809a43913b18a24438b4675b0dfb4c65a22d9d858162282c1

Someone should write a book.

Optimism and Support are lacking

As a secular activist, I constantly have ideas for projects racing through my head.  From starting up a local chapter of the Sunday Assembly, to launching a new project I have been planning for months, my mind is in a perpetual state of motion.

Every time I try to start something, I always imagine that the burgeoning secular community around me will rally in support, in a “you scratch my back, we’ll scratch yours” kind of way.  However, as I have continuously experienced, this is not the case.

When we launched Sunday Assembly, a reporter was among the 120ish attendees.  She had previously questioned pedestrians on the street about what they thought about an “atheist church” coming to town.  The opinions were mixed, but mostly what you would expect… many people expressed confusion about why atheists would want a church; many others were supportive, but admitted they would not be interested; and a very select few answered that they were planning to attend.

After the first Assembly, those of us on the leadership team eagerly awaited for the report to be published in the newspaper.

The write-up was beautiful.  The journalist was eloquent and informed, and focused particularly on the good aspects of the Assembly, just touching on the parts that needed work.  However, when she quoted attendees, it wasn’t the few believers that voiced their dissatisfaction with us, it was other atheists–many of which had not bothered to research what Sunday Assembly is before attending.  We had one attendee go as far as to say “I believe in nothing, and this was nothing.”  Ouch.

This experience has not been limited to the Sunday Assembly.

Most recently, I decided to start working on a project that I have fantasized about for years.  YEARS.

The southern area of the United States is desperate for more secular representation.  I had the idea to create a secular community center to provide support and resources specifically for the community that I am a part of.

I started an Indiegogo campaign last week.  In 6 days, the campaign has had one contributor, and that person contributed $5.  That’s a long way from the goal.

I’ve reached out to many people, including many big names, requesting that they share the campaign with others.  The response has been overwhelmingly negative.

One big name in particular responded by saying he wouldn’t share the idea because of the backlash it would receive.  He didn’t specify what the backlash would be, and I still don’t know.  Why would his followers (mostly atheists) not support this idea?

Mainly, I just don’t understand why those in my community don’t care to advance our people.  With a borderline theocracy deciding who we can marry, what we can do with our bodies, and what is allowed into our schools, secular America needs to stand up and join together.

If an organization isn’t your thing, that doesn’t mean it’s not for anyone.  If you don’t see a need for an “atheist church,” that’s fine… but other people might.

Same thing with the Secular Center.

Why the negativity?

If you see an organization and feel like you would like it around, support it.  If you see an organization and feel like it’s not for you, that’s fine… but don’t talk shit about something that might be helping someone else.  Throw it a couple of dollars if you have them to spare.  Tell others about it.  Offer to help.

Silence and negativity help nobody.  Remember that.