Saturday, January 21, 2012


Today, my co-worker asked me when my boyfriend was going to propose to me.  He asks me this question at every opportunity, which is at least twice a week.  It wouldn’t be so strange if he were 60 years old, a woman, and my mother… but he’s not.  He is a 22 year old man who grew up in a bubble community on the West Coast.  I haven’t ever given him any indication that a proposal was on the horizon, the question just popped out of his mouth one day, right after he invited me to go to his church’s social meeting that evening. 

Hi there, I’d like to sign up my co-worker for your services…
Nope, she doesn’t know anything about it yet, it’s a surprise!

When he isn’t after me about marriage, he pushes his fundy ideas on me; specifically, his belief that the Mayan calendar is right in line with the prophesized biblical rapture and that the End of Days is upon us.  Whenever he brings it up, I try to skate around it but sometimes my better judgement gets the best of me and I say something.  Once, I said, “You know, all that proverbial rapture and doomsday stuff has been foretold for hundreds of years and has never actually amounted to anything.”  When that didn’t seem to have any impact, I said, in my calmest most reasonable tone, that many different people and books and groups have predicted the apocalypse, in their own unique way… it is sort of a right of passage for any group that is set on manipulating people by striking fear in their hearts.  It’s just a control tactic.  Believe it or not, fear is a good motivator. 

(Don’t forget to liquidate your assets and donate the $$ to our cause!)

I told him to try not to worry about it, the rapture isn’t coming any time soon.  His exact wide-eyed response was, “You never know.”  I hope he doesn’t let this stuff keep him up at night.  Every time I walk past his cubicle I notice some article prophesizing the doom of humanity on his monitor.  That’s your typical government worker for you, researching ways to repent before the apocalypse kills us all instead of getting work done.  I’m not checking up on him or anything, I’m just a little worried about the guy.  He seems to be overly pre-occupied with other people’s marital statuses and their impending doom. 

He also does not seem to be dissuaded by my increasingly overt social cues to let him know that the topic of marriage proposals is not exactly an appropriate conversation starter.  At first I laughed off his questions, which usually were along the lines of “So do you think he will ask you at Christmas?” and his presumptive statements such as, “You would be so happy if he asked you to marry him in front of all of his family and all of your family, that would be the best!”  I laughed a lot when he said that one.  Apparently he took this reaction to mean that marriage is the only thing that I think about and Gee wouldn’t it be great if my boyfriend proposed to me everyday, over a loudspeaker, while throwing diamond rings at my feet. 

Since then, when he asks me when my boyfriend is going to propose, he says it with a wink and a titter, as if we are sharing an inside joke.  Sometimes, he even hints at the fact that I shouldn’t wait too long to get married or else I might turn into an old maid.  I must say, maintaining my composure at these times is tough.  He is the epitome of the hetero-normative-paradigm-toting person, who happily assumes that everyone in the world subscribes to the exact same beliefs that he does, without bothering to ask them first.  He seems to be completely ignorant to the fact that his questions to me are spawned from his indoctrinated view of the female “I just want to get married and have babies!” stereotype. 

Today, I had finally had enough.  It isn’t my job to teach others how not to be close-minded sheep people, but sometimes a situation falls in my lap like a rancid apple pie that has sat on the windowsill for weeks and is now too fetid to ignore.  This was one of those times.  After he gave me the typical knowing smile and told me that it was “about time I was engaged” I explained to him in my “I know this may be hard for you to take in all at once, in fact your head might explode” voice that I was not a big fan of the institution of marriage, I wasn’t Christian, and didn’t need to have my relationship validated in the face, or any other body part, of a God.  And (you might want to sit down for this one) many people, in fact over 34 million people just in the U.S., aren’t big subscribers of organized religion either.  I explained that, “For a long time, marriage looked something like a subservient woman getting traded to a domineering man in exchange for goods to her family.  That’s right, women were considered chattel and religious institutions helped to develop and spread this oppressive practice for a long, long time. Actually, this practice still goes on in some places around the world, have you ever heard of child brides?”

“So, to answer your question, I feel no deep hungering compulsion to get engaged anytime soon… in fact I may never marry my boyfriend; we may just live together and love each other and raise children together, and maybe the children will even take my last name.  But if my boyfriend ever does propose, don’t worry, YOU will be the FIRST person to find out.”  I kind of liked the way his eyes bugged out of his head.  It made me feel like I am doing my part to rid humanity of its chronic ‘sincere ignorance’ infection.  I think tomorrow we'll tackle global warming.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The "A" Word

A friend of mine wrote this to me after reading my blog post about the Out Campaign, where I came out as an Atheist.  It was all very cathartic with photos and interesting examples, I hope you get a chance to check it out.  This blog post is not that, it is a (rather long-winded) exploration of the previous post and the questions it raised.  My good friend sent me a comment about it, I want to thank him for his thoughtful response and say that he made some valid points, perhaps points many people can relate to, so I wanted to publicly respond to him. This is what he wrote:

I recognize and accommodate the right for those who do not believe to not believe, surely, but this...

"On this note, I ask you, reader, to consider honestly your theological beliefs this season. Do you believe in all the tenets of the religion you subscribe to (including the bit about the World being just a little over 2 thousand years old)" a bit why this post is so one-sided. I'm very religious but don't subscribe to Biblical literalism (or, in the case of the 2,000 year thing, non-Biblical inventiveness). The complaints that I hear from non-believers tend to flock to that generalization of Christians, yet I'm a staunch member of the Episcopal faith that even invites atheists to speak at their churches -- not for ridicule but for acceptance.

And that is what I think should be pursued, a harmony in spite of divergent beliefs. If I believe in God, that does not negate that I believe homosexuals perish in hell, that those who don't believe in literal Creationism perish in hell, or even that there is a hell. So a belief in God is not an immediate forfeiture of reasonable philosophy -- lest we categorize atheism as a belief in nothing, as opposed to a lack of belief. That belief in something (whether in God or in Nothing) causes a finite x, y, & z set of variables of thinking would surely put belief in no God on the same par as Christian, Taoist, Maoist, Thisist, Thatist. Some people choose to believe certain things and God and are exclusive. Others believe in God and other things and are inclusive. Still others believe in no God at all and are exclusive or, on the flip, are inclusive. I've encountered all of the above.

I don't think that I am the exception, either.

To my friend: Firstly, thank you, I am lucky to have such an insightful and open-minded friend.  Secondly, you made some very good points and I will try to address them all.
1. My intention was not to disparage organized religions or those who have a belief in an organized religion... it may not apply to you, but some religious institutions DO teach that the world is only a few thousand years old.  Yes, you are correct in your assessment - this blog post is biased, it was not my intention to write a perfectly objective piece (nor would I be able to if I tried, no piece of writing can be truly objective); however, this does not mean that what I have written is untrue.
2. I agree that Atheists and Theists should pursue  harmony in spite of divergent beliefs and it is my sincerest hope to help create a bridge of communication between these two groups.  (ps. I noticed that you did not capitalize Atheist, a great way to develop mutual respect would be to do this, it is a proper noun after all.)
3. I also agree with you that the mere belief in a God does not automatically sign one up to be a bible-thumping homophobe.  However, you are a part of a very open-minded sect of Christianity that leaves room for different interpretations of Biblical truths.  Sadly, this is rather rare.  Many organized religions are not so liberal about how their followers interpret their religious doctrine.  My goal in asking people to consider whether or not they believe the tenets on which their religion stands on is because sometimes it stands for the persecution others.  For example, the Mormon Church uses doctrine to justify their support of conversion camps where gay individuals are taught to hate themselves. I am sure many Mormons are like you, and they don't believe gay individuals should be discriminated against, but they identify with an organized religion that sponsers this!  (By the way, the term ‘homosexual’ is offensive, it was originally developed by psychiatrists and it was a label given to someone who was diagnosed with a sexuality disorder, in the future, perhaps replace it with ‘gay’ or ‘LGBT community.’)
4.  I am curious to know where you stand on a belief in Hell.  From my understanding, Christian views on Hell vary, but in general traditionally agree that hell is a place or a state in which the souls of the unsaved suffer the consequences of sin.  I would assume the ‘unsaved’ means anyone who is not Christian.  I would equate stating that you are Christian, but throwing out the idea of Hell to stating that you are Vegetarian, except you think it’s OK to eat lamb.  Honestly, what irks me about people who claim to be strongly affiliated with an organized religion is how they pick which doctrine to believe and uphold and which doctrine to ignore.  In my opinion, if you don’t believe in the tenets of your religion, then you fall on the Free-Thinker spectrum that I outlined in the previous blog post.  One of the reasons I left Christianity (when I was 15) was because  I had begun taking high school science classes and could no longer accept the intelligent design hooey after learning about evolution.  However, instead of saying, ‘well I’m still a Christian, I’ll just ignore that bit about intelligent design,’ I said to myself, ‘if I don’t believe in the tenets of the religion, then I am not a Christian.’  I thought, ‘who am I to choose which of Gods teachings are correct and which are incorrect?’  Well, if I truly believed in the Christian God, then I couldn’t simply ignore his teachings; I could only ignore his teachings if I didn’t believe in the Christian God.  It wasn’t a hard choice for me because I realized, that, well, I don’t believe in a God and lived happily ever after :)
5. Where I diverge from agreement with you is in your following statement: “That belief in something (whether in God or in Nothing) causes a finite x, y, & z set of variables of thinking would surely put belief in no God on the same par as Christian etc...” I disagree because there is something called the burden of proof, and this burden of proof falls on the believer.  It means that the one making the claims is burdened with the job to prove the claims he is making.  For example, if someone said to me that unicorns exist, I would ask him to prove to me that they do.  If he could not prove it to me using empirical evidence based on scientific research, then no one would think me arrogant to continue believing that unicorns do not exist. Let me put it to you another way…. you don’t believe in Shiva, the Hindu Destroyer God, do you?  Why do you think it is alright to have no belief in the Hindu God Shiva, but it isn’t OK for Atheists to have no belief in the Christian God?  We are ALL Atheists, I just believe in one less God than you.
6. This does NOT mean that I believe in nothing.  In fact, I believe in a whole lot of things.   I believe that people have innate value and that women deserve an education as much as men do and that people have their own moral compasses, and that the universe is an awe-inspiring place full of galaxies and black holes and super novas!  I am just full of belief, and faith.  Yes, I have faith, faith in science, in reason and in democracy.