Monday, August 20, 2018

Hospitals and Reality

A few weeks ago my dear friend's daughter had an emergency appendectomy performed here in St. Louis at the amazing St. Louis Children's Hospital. Late in the evening, both mother and daughter came up to St. Louis in a rather long drive of an ambulance. Because my friend has other kids and very complicated life, I stayed with her daughter, who I will call Sapphire. I only saw Sapphire twice during her stay and was very honored to do so, as her mom was there constantly.

As a visitor I would park in the huge parking garage, take the elevator to the tenth floor, and hang with the kid and her mom as long as they would allow. It was pretty cool spending time with this kid because she's really neat.

Anyway, my experiences at that hospital reminded me of one single thing: 
if you and your children are healthy, be grateful.
Be very grateful.

There was not one moment while I was there that I thought there was a deity. If I had thought that, somehow, a deity allowed, caused, or did not do anything for these kids I would have been FURIOUS. The things I saw from the outside, the families and children who were clearly living their lives within these various tragedies and circumstances, now those people were admirable. The staff: WOW. These human beings who dedicate their lives to the care of children and parents when they are feeling at their most vulnerable. Hopeful medical research projects going on. Human beings and helpful groups doing amazing good works. Treatment based on massive medical intervention processes. But not a single sign of help coming from afar.

I passed the neonatal ICU. I passed a tall teen in the hallway with their hair cut off holding onto the waist of her mom who also had her hair cut off. I passed a family in the cafeteria holding tight to a small child in a wheelchair and another family in the cafeteria feeding a very tall young man. I passed a group of kids hanging on to their IV poles while chasing each other around a small play area. I met a girl named Amber who was able to greet the checker in the gift shop by name. I passed a school kid wearing a kerchief slouched on the bench, reading a book. I knew of one toddler who was there without a single adult to comfort them in the night. And I kept hearing ambulances rushing to the hospital, presumably carrying someone's child.

All I wanted to do was rush home and hold my own kids and my granddaughter, and I know that, when my friend was able to take Sapphire home, that is exactly what she did. 💗

 Your thoughts? 

You might also like:
A Thank You Note to LIFE

God Is(n't) Good
Who Do You Thank for Your Children
Good Time Johnny Sings the Blues
A Little Gratitude

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Mainstream Atheism

One of those things that's been on my mind lately...

The other day I was outside with my granddaughter, playing in the water, when someone from the neighborhood came walking up the street. They were walking their dog and talking on their phone, loudly. HOW they weren't huffing and puffing I have no idea because my street is a hell of a hill. ANYWAY, the content of her talking was all about the lord and blessings and whatnot. 

This woman was just going on and on, fearlessly, certain that her conversation was absolutely acceptable to be expressing on my street.
Can you imagine if I was walking up the street in my neighborhood, or nearly any neighborhood in the country, talking that loudly and proudly of atheism?
  • I mean, I spent all of that time in the foxhole and darned if I'm still an atheist! 
  • I'm not a believer, but that Pope Francis is awesome, hey! 
  • And so I told her that I won't miss her when she goes to heaven! 
  • Oh she did NOT! Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, Sister!
  • So yesterday I completed a complicated, for which I'm giving myself thanks for the excellent planning and gumption and giving thanks to my husband for his support! Reality works in completely explainable ways!
  • I won the lottery! Thank you, statistically likely chance!

Add to this thought the other thing that I noticed myself doing. When the kids and I are out in public and one of them makes a fairly loud rational-, anti-religion-, atheist-type statement...I SHUSH THEM! I just discovered myself doing that one day last week and I was astonished with myself!

Here I have raised them to be proudly atheist and then I shush them... Just last week John looked at me and asked Why should I shush?  

Have I lost my mojo? I have NOT.

The kids are actually quite anti-theist, anti-religious. 😄 Which actually makes me proud of them. They are both quite well-informed and knowledgeable. However, they can sometimes forget that about two-thirds of people out in public are shocked by their words. Admittedly, some of my shushing is likely the result of their overzealous volume...but from now on, I'm back to encouraging them to take their anti-theism mainstream. Less PC. Less fear of offending the majority. Honest, reasonable, empowered points of view, and out and proud.

These are amazing kids, kids that I am extremely proud of. Kids who make me proud to have them out there representing our family. And if, in public, someone called them out, I would be delighted to hear what my kids would say to them.
(P.S. My kids are 21 and 17.)

They deserve a voice as loud as anyone else's.

Besides, I'm not not an anti-theist...


What do YOU think? 

You Might Also Like:
Out and Open and Wanting to Say it Tonight
Being an Atheist Isn't Enough

Thursday, August 9, 2018


Can we teach our children 
to recognize indoctrination attempts 
by the religious believers?

I'd love to be able to tell you that, yes, there is a magic bullet, a way to make 100% certain that indoctrination attempts do not reach our children's ears or minds. Alas, there is not. What we do have, however, is time and reason.

Raising children is a journey.
Along the way we will enter Mordor as often as we enter Narnia; it's not really possible to avoid all detours and I'm not sure it's necessary. I can recall dozens of times when the issue of religion raised its alluring head to my children, times when they felt attraction to the tales and saccharine of various beliefs. As a freethought parent, a true skeptic, parts of me wanted to hide the kids in caves until it was over. But we all know that that isn't possible, nor is it preferable. 

If there are going to be mind games being played, and there are, we want to be in the forefront of defense. And, delightfully, that isn't all that hard to do. No, we can't compete with cute zucchini singing songs or other magical allurements.  But there isn't really the need to. Because we have reality on our side.

Learning about the reality of the planet on which we live is enough.

Our children will go through the normal stages of childhood, including those years of truly wanting to believe in magic. I remember my daughter, one time, sending me to the library to pick up books on how to do magic. When I brought home a nice selection of books on magic tricks she said No, Momma, not tricks, real magic!  Of course, I had to take her to the library and show her that there are no such books and I had to explain why. Because magic isn't really real. 😢  I agree that it would be fun if it was real, but, alas, it is not. 
That is why we pretend.  😃 

Sadly and surely, there will be concerted efforts by someone  to indoctrinate your child. The Sweet Tiny Baby Jesus story. Noah. Heaven. The Lord who will put you into HELL if you don't believe, etc.* Even with little extra-familial conflict there will be those who attempt to tell these stories to your children behind your back. It is inevitable.

The challenge at those integral moments will be to remain calm.
You will want to do what I did.
Freak out.
Get angry.
Feel like fleeing.

Want to shield your child.
But what I finally realized is this. There is no way around it, there is no healthy way to forbid it or avoid it; the only way is through it. Magical thinking is a completely normal part of our children's cognitive development, which is probably why they are so targeted at such young ages. Our children will learn by exploring the ideas and by rejecting them one by one.

Here's what it looks like when we remain calm: we look at the various weird claims and ask Hmmm, I'm not seeing any sign of that. Let's look it up.  😃
For example, hell and heaven. We looked through telescopes and saw absolutely mindblowing planets and stars and other objects, objects completely amazing and worth knowing more about - but no heaven. We looked deep into the earth. We saw strata and dirt and rock and minerals, more stuff that was interesting to learn more about - but we did not see hell.
Shrug. Hmmmm. Wonder why that is..?

For a fairly long while my children believed in various magical ideas. And I had to allow that.

Why? So that they could figure it out themselves.

In the meantime, calmly and fun, we are learning about various bits of scientific reality. The water cycle. Fossils. Dinosaurs. Animal lives. The human body. Weather. Chemistry. The stars. Plants. Fish. Etc. We are learning what is real. Continue to learn more, continue to be curious, continue to explore anything at all that interests you and your children.

And enjoy the journey.

Is this helpful?

You might also enjoy:
First Generation Atheist Parenting
On Being an Atheist Parent
How to Explain Religion to my Child

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Resisting Temptation is Too Hard

This week I've been in a constant state of astonishment about the Trump family and their compatriots, and their seeming inability to resist getting more money, cheating, hiding secrets, serious breeches of personal and professional ethics. I truly don't understand how fearful a person must be to feel as though they never have enough cash and as though they must cheat the system to get and hide more, to take the cash from other parties, or to feel entitled to the lion's share. It's a temptation that I can't relate to at all.

But it's there. The news these days is inundated with people in the financial upper 1% who want more, need  more, can't seem to stop themselves from gaining more at the expense of others. I truly wonder if that need to have 
more more more a temptation or a disorder ??? It seems like such a destructive drive, an enthrallment that brings nothing but disorder, anxiety, imprisonment, banishment, personal and professional collapse.

Surely there is an underlying sense of omnipotence, being above the law, being entitled, but there must also be some sense of fear, inadequacy, something that is being run from... All resulting in these people, and others of course, making decisions that they can't seem to resist...

This blog post is actually about that claim by some believers that atheists are atheists because we find it too difficult to resist temptation and we, therefore, avoid religion and its wisdom regarding the struggle of enticing things and behaviors, and we embrace the temptation...a claim that I strenuously reject.

Resisting Temptation is Too Hard

Inherent in such a claim is an underlying belief that atheists actually do believe in a deity but reject that deity for various character flaws or weaknesses, temptations. Also implicit in the Christian and religious view of temptation is that temptation leads one to sin, that we are broken, and that we are sinful by nature. 
All of these claims I reject strenuously, again.

Human beings are imperfect, all of us, those who believe and those who do not believe in supernatural things, all are imperfect and striving. We are all in this world where unhealthy or unwise allurements surround us and we all must find our way to the healthiest and happiest existence possible and that means we must learn how to avoid unhealthy, hurtful choices.

What do I mean about temptations?
I'm thinking of things like sexual behaviors that bring us or others pain, taking drugs or any other substance that brings us problematic health situations, stealing, greed, purchasing unnecessarily or extravagantly more, invasion of the privacy of another, wearing sweatpants every day, another Snickers®️, eating my fries across the table, getting yet another cuddly kitten, dangerous weight loss fads, giving up. These are all examples of very real temptations that all humans must figure out how to handle. Especially in this culture, we are teased and taunted and seduced continuously with unhealthy options. These are generally issues of consumerism rather than of demonic temptation.

These temptations are normal.
I have experienced nearly every one of these myself, minus the cats. In fact, I'm wearing sweatpants as I sit here typing this.

These temptations and allurements are not evil demons trying to ensnare you; they are a part of being alive and we are wise to learn mature and healthy ways to deal with them. Some believers will say that atheists truly know that a deity exists but that we, the atheists, do not wish to avoid temptation and so we reject their god. No, they will say, we want to live in temptation.  Our relativism is a mask for our overindulgence.
Good grief.
What nonsense. Again, the fear is so obvious in beliefs such as this.
I'm glad that not all religions push such agendas of fear.

Allow me to give you several truly helpful behaviors that are truly not too hard to help you through the unfair cajolery of certain substances and behaviors:

Yes, secular AA-rejectors, these are helpful to you:

  • Be aware of those things that are potentially tempting to you and deliberately create options. Know when you will be in the presence of things/people/behaviors that entice you to distraction and make a plan for getting through the moment.
    This is simply self-preservation.
  • Or simpler, avoid those places.
    Remove yourself from places where temptation lives. You are a powerful being with the ability to make choices and you deserve to create healthy places and spaces for yourself.
    This is simply good planning.
  • Be as truly honest with yourself and others about those things that are problematic for you. This honesty sets the stages for personal interventions and empowerment in the face of strong urges. Because you can become stronger and stronger in the struggle each time you find your way to a healthier decision.
  • In down time, create scenarios and scenes in your mind where you address the temptation and succeed in making other choices that are healthier and more full of integrity.
    This is simply self-empowerment.
  • Remind yourself of your goals and of your values and of the positive consequences of making decisions of health, sobriety, integrity, personal power. Imagine the success of those moments where no one is watching you and you do not give in to another kitten or problematic behavior.
    This is simply getting conscious that a decision lies before you.
  • Create a full life. Friends, hobbies, activities, work that is meaningful. All of these things, and more, fill in the spaces of boredom, depression, self-pity, even of celebratory moods that might lead one to ignore moment of choice that one is facing.
    This is simply finding supportive places and people.
  • Remember that you are on a journey. Life is a journey and you want to create the best life possible. In this moment.

But still, the point, atheists are not atheists because we are embracing temptation. We are atheists because it makes sense.

As for temptation...
No guilt.
No shame.

No sin.
No name calling.
So self-flagellation. 
No demons luring you to your doom.
Just one human being making the most of their life.

And also, regarding how atheists prefer temptation:

You might also like:
Well He Believes in You
There are no Atheists in Foxholes
What if You're Wrong
You Deny God Because You Want to Sin
This One Meaningless Life of Mine
For Someone Who Doesn't  Believe in God, You Sure Talk About Him Alot