Sunday, September 26, 2004

Why does it matter that I'm an atheist?

I just took a look at the Arlington Cemetery site and a list of their authorized religious emblems for gravestones.

I was delighted to notice that there's an emblem for atheists. While I'm an atheist, I'm not a veteran. But my father, also an atheist, saw hard fighting in World War II, so seeing this made me feel good.

Still it's not quite right. The symbol seems to suggest that an atheist is someone who beieves in science. But you could be a totally far out pyramid and crystal freak and not believe in God (sic), and therefore be an atheist. So this assumption is incorrect.

How significant is the fact that I'm an atheist, and who is it significant to? First let's try to define the word.

The fourth edition of the American Heritage Dictionary defines atheist as...

One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods.

Notice that it doesn't say "A God," it says "God." This of course presupposes the existent of said omnipotent, omiscient, omibenevolent, omnipresent being. Atheists are defined here from the point of view of a theist. Since God is capitalized, this probably refers to the Christian god named "God."

This helps to demonstrate that someone being an atheist is primarily important in a society where belief in God (sic) is the norm. Consequently, if I lived in a society that believed not in a god or gods but in werewolves, the fact that I'm an awerewolfist would be significant, and my lack of belief in an onmipotent being wouldn't matter at all. Note that I'm also an ashivaist, an awaterspiritsist, an aallahist and an apanist, but this isn't important in a theist society, only that I'm an atheist.

I don't care that I'm an atheist. This is not important to me, only to others who are believers. And I don't want to define myself by what others think of me, but how I view myself. That is why I made a conscious decision some time ago to try and define myself not by who I am not (a theist) but who I am.

This is of course a little harder and requires some introspection and work. It also forces me to drop some of the ego trip that comes of being an unbeliever surrounded by believers, and makes me (or allows me, or both) to see the rest of the human race as my equals.

The closest existing term that describes me seems to be humanist. I believe that the good in people outweighs the bad, that there are moral laws inherent in being a human being, and that a society left alone will eventually come to the natural healthy conclusion that doing certain things (the most obvious being theft, rape, murder) is wrong and that someone who breaks these moral laws should be punished and denied the company of others.

And the best way to find out what these humanist laws are, is to take a large population and allow them to vote for and against laws.

Such a moral system, unlike one based on a particular belief system, is all inclusive. It doesn't eliminate someone because they do or don't believe a certain way. It does, however, punish those who break the law agreed upon by the majority. And it keeps a minority in check who seeks to force their beliefs on others.

I think the democratic government of the United States of America as it is today is based to a large degree on humanism. And to the extent that it is, all it's citizens are treated with respect and are afforded basic rights and protections.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Christian Religious Fanatics Eroding American Democracy

There have been a number of moves on the part of Christian religious fanatics that are part of a concerted and fierce effort to erode and eventually destroy freedom and democracy in the United States of America.

In 1954, Congress passed a law injecting the phrase "under God" into the Pledge of Allegiance, which is recited an average of tens of millions of times a day by school children across the US. This forces people to either lie or break the law.

Shortly after his election, George W. Bush started funneling federal funds into religious organizations, what he calls "Faith Based Initiatives." To date nearly all of this so called federal money, which is actually money that has come out of the pockets of Jews, Moslems, humanists, Buddhists and adherents to numerous other diverse belief systems, has gone to specifically Christian organizations.

George W. declared that his King James Bible is a "higher law" than the constitution of the United States. And yet in becoming the President of the US, Bush pledged to uphold the constitution. His declaration that the Bible is a higher law demonstrates that he can't be trusted to uphold his pledge.

The House of Representatives approved a measure Thursday that would bar federal courts from ruling on the "under God" text of the Pledge. While this measure will probably not stand, and many consider this to be an election year ploy to divert the American people's attention from more serious issues, it is still a move on the part of American religious fanatics to push their religion on others.

These are all part of a concerted and fierce attack by Christian religious fanatics to turn the United States into a land not of freedom and democracy but of religious repression and theocracy. The US, called the Great Experiment and the Light of the World, is threatened and may be destroyed in the not too distant future. To me, a patriot, a true American, this is an attack on all I hold most precious and dear.

Eternal vigilance is the price of democracy. It is easy for people to slip into a sense of complacency and apathy and to allow the reality of it here in the US to be destroyed by enemies from within. We are all guilty of this to an extent, and understandably so.

But the situation is becoming more serious every day. It's time to take action. Call your representatives. Express your feelings on the matter to your friends. Demonstrate. Vote. Blog.

Unfortunately, it's going to take a lot of action. No politician ever raises this issue publicly, and they all pay lip service to being religious. It is the real third rail of politics.

Thoughts On Freedom

What is the greatest threat to the United States of America? To answer this question we first have to define what we mean by the US.

There's the geographical entity of course. But there's not much chance of anyone stealing that.

There's the stars and stripes. But this isn't anything really but a pattern of colors. Any meaning could be assigned to it. And the government of the US could possibly be usurped at any time by radicals with extreme ideologies that change its very nature, at which time Old Glory would stand for something completely different.

The working definition that I will use here then will be that represented by freedom, democracy and responsibility. And the aspect of the US I will be addressing here will be freedom. The f word.

What does freedom mean?

First of all we must clarify that freedom ends where it begins to encroach on the freedom of others. Thus we are not free to steal, rape or murder.

Related to the above, freedom also does not mean you're allowed to not meet your responsibilities (assuming you have the phyiscal and mental capacity to meet them). These responsibilities include but are not unique to the following.
  • You shouldn't commit crimes against your co citizens.
    • Don't steal.
    • Don't rape.
    • Don't coerce
  • If you are going to use the public roads you should pay your share (pay your taxes).
  • If you're going to attend public meetings indoors you should use proper hygeine.
  • If you live in an apartment building with thin walls you shouldn't play industrial music at high decibel levels at 3 AM.
  • If you are going to complain abould the government you should vote.
So far I've only covered the aspects of freedom that limit what you are able to do. Next I'll talk about what I think you should be free from.
  • Having to pay more than your share of taxes.
  • Having to be a certain religion (or any religion at all, including belief in general).
  • Having to dress a certain way (this freedom ends the minute you arrive at a work place, however, where you've agreed to behave a certain way in return for your livelihood).
So in answer to the initial question of this post, the greatest threat to the United States comes not from the outside as is popularly supposed, but from inside forces determined to undermine the rights of other citizens by forcing their moral values on them.

All citizens of the United States have a huge stake in maintaining their freedom. The above described points, I believe, can help preserve that freedom through time.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004


This is my initial blog. I'm a 52 year old MWM living near Washington, DC in the US. I've been on this planet a while and been through a lot. I've learned a lot in a variety of areas and look forward to sharing some of that here. On the other hand, I know I've got a lot to learn and hope to increase my knowledge here also.

I'm a techie and hope to post some stuff here that's useful to others, and will also serve as a record for my own use.

I also have strong feelings about the issues in my country (the US) and the world and I will definitely giving my opinions on these. People who know me won't be surprised.

Other than that, I have no idea what I'm going to use this for.

Should be interesting. For me at least, and hopefully for you.