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Judaism & Atheism

7 Jul

At 16, one friend gave me Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Place” and another questioned why God would punish his kind and caring mother with so much pain, losing many family members over a few short years, each death unrelated to the others. He also questioned why God would punish innocent children, starving them to death in poor countries, and so on.

About 5 years later, I wondered in the same vein why I was being punished, knowing I’d done nothing worthy of the harsh, even brutal life I lived. For strength, I turned to anger, and for safety, I aimed that anger at God. I could not aim it at the individual humans involved, but God supposedly created them, so He was ultimately responsible.

I broke from Judaism. Despite or because of a comparative religions course, I felt zero attraction to any other religion. Eight years later, missing mostly the prayer melodies, I gave Judaism another try. Twenty years more, and I came to appreciate that Judaism was a culture worthy of keeping, God was not. My rabbi accepted this without argument and welcomed me same as ever.

I think Jewish culture, which praises good argumentation for its exercise in critical reasoning, just might naturally mature its bravest followers into non-belief. The disproportionate numbers of scientists, writers, philosophers, etc., along with my growing appreciation for the historical numbers of Jewish atheists, not just coming out of the Holocaust but even centuries before, are good signs.

Perhaps the legendary Abraham truly meant to destroy all idols and gods, but found the change too radical for others. Perhaps he compromised on one invisible god, just to help others transition.

XSince then, Christianity has added two back: Jesus and the Holy Ghost. Islam has effectively added back Muhammed, since Muhammed is treated like a god. Judaism at least hasn’t done that, and I am hoping, despite the few extremists on its right fringe, that the tiny population of world Jewry finds a way, in addition to science, to lead the world out of superstition.

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Atheists of Different Types

15 Apr

As with any group, there is a spectrum of atheist attitudes and positions.  I recognize a few general categories, however, and would like your input on this.

!.  Natural atheists seem never to have believed in religious mythology or cared about religious historical claims, as they never believed in any god or gods and simply don’t care.  Some were born into atheist families, others came by it of their own nature, but never did they consider believing in God/Allah/etc.

2.  Reactive atheists push religion away in rebellion against whatever they feel is oppressing them.  Anger is a common feature.  An apparent sense of superiority, too, as in, “I’m better than those I left behind, because I’m not stupid, like they are!  I don’t care what they say!”

3.  Rational atheists realize, after years of education accompanied by development of strong critical reasoning skills and usually scientific logic, that religious claims just don’t hold water.  They gradually let go, realize it one day, and think, “Okay, that works for me.”  If any vestige of religious indoctrination remains, these atheists are most likely to research the issues and decide on a rational basis whether to keep the concepts or dispose of them for having no supportive data or logical basis.

Have you recognized any such distinctions or categories among the atheists you’ve met?  Does any category seem to fit you?  Did you, perhaps, start in one and move to another, i.e., reactionary to rational?  Are there any broad categories of atheists you’ve recognized that are not mentioned, here?  Please, let me know your thoughts, and if there is sufficient impetus, I might ask Dr. Dawkins to consider a new poll, this time of atheists, to see what comes up.

After all, if reactionary atheists, for example, missed out on the development of critical reasoning skills due to their early religious indoctrination, maybe rational atheists can develop some sort or program to help them catch up, and in doing so, provide the true empowerment of intellect, so that anger, particularly blind anger, fades out of uselessness.

Sitting Shiva for Hitch

17 Dec

With our shared Jewish heritage, and my former practice of religious same, I feel it would comfort me to sit shiva for Hitch in a style he might — and I certainly will — appreciate.  For seven days, I’ll be toasting him with Johnny Walker Black, blogging or commenting on blogs or watching videos and reading articles, sharing Hitch with whomever I can.  I think that pretty much covers the spirit of sitting shiva, if you’ll pardon the pun.

So, join me in another night of toasting, as we raise a glass to a giant of a man whom history, if it has any sense at all, will never forget.

Water conservation

11 Dec

Texas suffered a mighty drought, this past year, ended only after atheists joined in Houston for a mighty conference.  (Strangely enough, all Rick Perry‘s public prayers yielded was publicity, no rain, only some very unholy wildfires.  Hmm…)

NPR had a recent “article” on the technology of toilets, how recent they are, how much water they use, and long it’s been since the design was significantly changed, at least here in the States.

Meanwhile, horses and cats do quite well and quite cheaply leaving their waste in pelleted bits of pine sawdust.  Fast as pine trees grow, they’ve become an industry staple for mass produced furniture and construction lumber.  Shavings on the floor are used for paper and pellets.  The used pellets (which, when wet, break back down to shavings and sawdust) are so biodegradable as to be compostable.  Maybe we should market it for human litter.

When I was young, Lysol, the famous disinfectant/cleaner, had TV commercials competing with PineSol, a product that smelled about the same and claimed its disinfecting and cleaning strength actually came from Pine.  It leaves me wondering if pine pellets would better control fecal microbes than the drinking water our toilets fill with.

I imagine a day when pine is used, commodes are lined with bags that hold multiple uses and stay strong until sprayed with some activator, and the disposal system is a series of small, local landfills turned compost heaps.  Water is just too precious to waste.  And with all the vitamins and minerals some take, might as well sanitize the stuff and return it to good use.  It could at least fertilize new forest growth.

I doubt plumbers will miss dealing with clogged toilets.

An Informal Poll

10 Dec

I’ve a theory that atheists are predominantly cat people.  So, here it is:  If you are an atheist, please comment on whether you’ve a preference for cats or dogs.  If you’ve a preference for reptiles, I’ve a foster-tegu in need of a good home.  Living with me, he simply thinks he’s one of the cats.

Not quite James Bond

10 Dec

Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of people abdicate the brains they believe their god gave them, on religious grounds, no less, and then, having chosen ignorance over knowledge, made extremely self-defeating choices.

I coined a moniker for them:  double-0 stupid, licensed to die.  I actually spell it with zeros, though they look like lower-case o’s in this font:  st00pid.  And recently, it was accepted for publication by Urban Dictionary, which surrounded this definition with weaker wannabes.

Examples of st00pid range from those who submit exclusively to faith healing and prayer to those who refuse vaccinations for their children.  Children, in particular, should be protected from such guardians.

Don’t even get me started on Obama‘s backing of the denial of OTC Morning After/Plan B pill for rape victim minors for whom pregnancy, itself, is a mortal risk.

It makes me so angry, I sometimes imagine a world in which those who reject science are denied the benefits of scientific advancement.  Sounds fair, doesn’t it?  Don’t believe in vaccinations?  Then no hospitalization or medication when the preventable illness strikes.  Can’t have it both ways.  Could save a lot of money, though, having to decide.

And imagine if the young earth creationists and global warming deniers had to stop using cell phones, television, internet, motorized vehicles, groceries with any connection to mass production, all in addition to said medical care.  They wouldn’t last long.  Even their guns and ammo would be “left behind” — pardon the pun.

Perhaps then, we’d have a world of peace.

Just Getting Started, Folks

10 Dec

It’s about time I stood up and spoke out.  Oh, I’ve opined, here and there, on other blogs, but before actually starting my own, I wanted to feel certain there were enough original ideas in my head.  In some cases, it’s not even a matter of having an original idea, but rather of being able to present scientific and medical knowledge in a way others might understand.

For example, I commented on Dr. Jerry Coyne‘s blog to clear the air and dispel common myths about circumcision.  I’ll probably revisit the topic here, just to pull the points together into a cohesive, intelligible presentation, one of these days.  There is so much more I could have written.

For the record, I have two American medical degrees.  Minority students weren’t exactly welcome in medical schools, back when, and I had at least three strikes against me, so I got one medical degree in order to break the glass ceiling for the other.  When my heart is set on something, I don’t easily give up, and it was set on this since I was about five.  The back door bias and political targeting continue, with extreme fundamentalist Christianity (i.e., Dominionism) dealing the most severe blow, and yet, I survive.  It has taken my career and health, though, leaving me disabled, homeless, and destittue.  No kidding.

A hat tip to Mr. Christopher Hitchens, regarding his most recent article on Nietsche’s famous quote:  “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.”  For years, now, everytime someone has tried to console me with it, adding instead aggrevation to my frustration, I’ve responded that if I could just get my hands around Nietsche’s throat, I’d show him just how strong it’s made me.

Questions are welcome.  Good ones, anyway.  I may not be as good at dishing out advice as Dan Savage, nor as eloquent as Christopher Hitchens, but I will do my best.