Archive for May, 2010

30
May
10

Rise of the nonbelievers

Nice story in the Harvard Political Review and an interesting map showing the distribution of nonbelievers–22 percent in Massachusetts, 5 percent in Mississippi. Are 28 percent of Wyoming residents really nonbelievers, or do they simply live so far a way from a church that they are unaffiliated?

20
May
10

Living with courage, confidence and consistency.

Since June is gay pride month, I thought I would take some time to share some of my writings on different aspects of the subject from a human perspective. So much of what is written about being gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender presents the subject from the perspective that it’s ok to be gay and christian or gay and muslim. There hasn’t been much written that talks about how it’s just ok to be who you are.

This first piece is from my new book, It’s Not About You: Understanding Coming Out & Self-Acceptance. So much of what I’ve written here can be applied to our humanity. Courage, confidence and consistently applied to our everyday life, gay or straight, changes everything.

FROM: It’s Not About You: Understanding Coming Out & Self-Acceptance

Coming out is most likely one of the hardest and yet one of the most important things a person can do.

It takes courage to do the right thing, especially when society reinforces the lie that the heterosexual lifestyle is somehow proper for every human being. Nothing on this journey defeats a life lived honestly.

An honest life is a life lived courageously. The pressure to live a dishonest life comes at us from every direction. Living life with courage allows us to close our eyes each night and sleep in peace. Leaving behind the idolatry of acceptance sets everyone free to find the place in their heart where courage waits to be unchained.

Confidence is not easy. More often than not doubt prevails and we close the door to living with confidence. When our social surroundings encourage dependency on acceptance from others instead of self-acceptance, achieving self-confidence seems a pointless endeavor.

To live life with confidence we must first look to our own heart. The same heart we looked to in the middle of our darkest moments before coming out. Think you were the only person to feel the intense loneliness associated with self-denial? Think again. It felt like you were alone those nights when you used to wish for death rather than wake to another day. But you were never really alone. All around others traveled the same road.

That same introspection must be revisited in order to find that mark where you can begin to live a confident life.

Each day lived with confidence leads to a life lived confidently. Days become weeks and months and without notice, confidence in yourself and who you are becomes a natural part of your existence and expression.

Finding a path to living with courage, taking that courage and living with confidence paves the way to living our lives consistently.

Those who don’t understand the importance of us living life honestly should be exposed to our lives lived consistently. Hesitation on our part could cause family or friends to doubt our honesty.

Not only does living life consistently show others the courage to be ourselves, it also strengthens our resolve to live confidently.

16
May
10

Hypatia and Egypt

In Egypt, following on Islamic demands (unlikely to be granted) to ban the centuries-old 1001 Nights as too racy, Christians are asking the same for a new novel that presents a Christian saint in a bad light. That saint is St. Cyril, who was responsible for the murder of Hypatia, one of the last pagan Greek philosophers and a rare woman among the ancient philosophers. He ought to be portrayed in a bad light.

As it happens, there is a new movie coming out about Hypatia starring Rachel Weisz called Agora (see trailer here)

I suspect that the novel depicting ancient Christians as fanatics is really an oblique attack on contemporary Egyptian Islamic fundamentalists, since a direct attack on them would be too dangerous. In order not to offend, the author really should have set his story even further back, in the times of the Pharohs perhaps.

09
May
10

What to do with the A-Word?

“No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.” So George Bush Senior is reputed to have said during his electoral campaign in August, 1987. Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback megachurch, certainly said the following: “I could not vote for an atheist because an atheist says, ‘I don’t need God,’…They’re saying, ‘I’m totally self-sufficient by [myself].’ And nobody is self-sufficient to be president by themselves. It’s too big a job.”

Comments like these, and the wealth of polls demonstrating that those calling themselves “atheists” are considered undesirable, can lead to some understandable trepidation among Humanists regarding the term. Last Monday (May 3rd), for example, I had the extraordinary pleasure of  speaking with the Concord Area Humanists on the topic of building Humanist communities.

Although I dwelt very little in my presentation on the term “atheist”, many of the questions from the audience which followed probed the extent to which I felt atheism was a necessary requirement for Humanism, and explored whether I felt the use of the term “atheist” might alienate instead of engage people. The argument presented by some attendees was that we might profitably avoid the term “atheist” altogether, speaking instead of “Humanism” without any reference to “atheism”. This might, it was suggested, encourage those scared away by the negative connotations of “atheist” to come forward, and present a less tarnished image of our movement to the public at large.

Respectfully, I must disagree with those who take this position.

First, coming from the UK, where the vast majority of people seem to read absolutely no negative connotations into the word “atheist”, I have seen that it is entirely possible to create a society in which atheism is a respected (rather than reviled) stance.

Second, I think it somewhat naive to assume that if Humanists stop calling themselves “atheists”, those like Warren, who oppose further development of our movement, will refrain from using the term also. Rather, those unsympathetic to our cause will enjoy free-reign when it comes to defining us, and will be able to use the tar-brush of “atheist” against us while we protest lamely.

Third, and most importantly, I consider it unacceptable that there should be such prejudice against a group of people simply due to their lack of believe in a God. The prejudice itself, not the damage that using the term “atheist” might cause to our movement, is the real problem – and this crack in society’s generosity is merely glazed-over if we try to hide from the secular aspects of Humanism.

I am an atheist, and proud to be so. There should be no shame at all in proclaiming this loudly.