03 July 2013

A Blog Post About Suicide

Suicide is a sensitive topic. One that most all of us have had to deal with, whether with the loss of someone we know, or with the idea of taking our own life. It is often said that suicide is a selfish and cowardly act. That giving up on life, forgetting everyone you know, and thinking only of yourself is so selfish and stupid that not much else surpasses its cowardice. Cowardly, because staying and dealing would be harder and far braver.

I get sick to my stomach when I hear these things. More often than not, I stay quiet. I know that saying these things is merely a coping mechanism for most people. It is a way for them to deal with the loss of a loved one, or to suppress their own dark thoughts and guilt for having not stepped in when they could have. I can understand the need for this, but I cannot accept it as the most beneficial way of coping, or even the least harmful.

I am going to try and explain why I do not agree with these thoughts, and why I feel they are harmful to have, share, and/or encourage others to have. I do not know of any studies showing whether or not these opinions are actually harmful, but will probably be motivated to search for some before I'm through here. I am merely expressing my opinion based on my own experiences as someone who has seriously attempted suicide several times, and as someone that has lost many friends and family members to suicide.

Why is suicide a selfish act? A common argument is that suicide is selfish because the person committing it is not thinking of anyone but themselves. They are not concerned with the pain and suffering that their loved ones will endure. They're just concerned with ending their pain, and nothing else.

I feel there are a lot of flaws in that thought process. Mainly, the assumption that every single person contemplating suicide has the same thoughts and reasoning behind their decision to end their own life. It seems to assume that they are all so self absorbed that they do not care about anyone or anything; or worse, that they are spoiled teens that think it will be the ultimate revenge on people that have been cruel to them. That it will give them some sort of legendary status. The forgotten always remembered.

That's a bit too presumptuous for me to accept, though. It leaves out so many things. Namely those people with mental illnesses beyond depression and teen angst. Not once did I ever feel like ending my life would make people remember me, or feel bad for treating me the way they did. Nor did I ever think people would love me more after I was gone. When I was at that point, it was the thought that the people I loved would be better off without me that made the choice seem more like the right one. I felt like I was a burden on everyone I knew, dead weight that none of them needed or deserved. If I just ended everything, they would be better off. I knew they'd miss me, but they would be relieved of the troubles I caused them all. These thoughts were so strong, that I felt like a failure when I woke up alive. Even more so when I ended up in ICU for a week and had to endure visitors and the knowledge that everyone I knew was now aware of yet another of my many failures. I felt like a freak show that people felt sorry for. I felt that I was an even larger burden, because on top of everything else, they now had to worry about me taking my own life. I felt like everyone that walked into that room was thinking I'd only attempted what I did so that I could get attention. That if I'd been really serious about it, I'd have swallowed a thousand prescription pills rather than the 500+ that I did take.

That is what that kind of severe depression does to you. It rationalizes things that are not rational. It makes you believe that everyone else wants you to do it, and that not taking your own life is the selfish act. Everyone wants you to go. No one wants to deal with you and your pain.

Then there are those that kill themselves out of severe mental illness. Several years ago I lost a dear friend suffering from paranoid delusions, believing the government was after her. She felt she was being watched at all times, and was so afraid that she asked a family member for a pistol to place under her pillow as she slept, just to be safe. A few weeks later, she used that pistol to take her own life. It had been a couple of years since I had last seen her, and only a week after I'd asked a friend how she was doing and to invite her out for my birthday the following month. She had been off medication and recreational drugs for over a year, and that was long enough for her to go from one of the smartest and most amazing people I'd known, to someone so distraught with paranoia that the only way she could save herself and protect her family was to end her own life. I was told she did not leave a note.

I would also talk about those that kill themselves in order to save their family from debt through life insurance, but I do not believe I personally know of anyone that has done this. My uncle may fall into this area, but I never wanted to ask anyone any more details than I was already given. From what I did learn, he was severely depressed and felt helpless. I’d like to stick with only those that I have more definitive knowledge of, and experience with.

Why is suicide a cowardly act? It often said suicide is cowardly, because it is taking the easy way out. Instead of taking the high road and working on their problems, they are giving up. They are basically running from them in a way that they can never turn back. They are scared of life, and scared of the hard work that comes with it.

I'm really not sure why people forget how scary death is when talking about suicide. To not only attempt it, but to seriously think about it beforehand and still do it, is far from cowardly. It takes a lot to follow through, which is why so many go with falling from buildings/bridges and swallowing pills. Things that are quick and as painless as possible (the irony that swallowing pills, slitting wrists, hanging, suffocating, drowning, etc; can be quite painful and drawn out in comparison to a gunshot, is not lost on me.). This is not to say people should be commended posthumously for their suicides. I do not believe anyone that takes their own life should be thought of as brave for doing what many cannot, because the events leading to the act are full of missed chances to have changed things.

Each time that I attempted to end my own life, I thought very long and hard about what I was doing, and why I was doing it. I prepared for it (with the exception of one incident that involved plastic and duct tape) and took my time to make sure it was exactly what I wanted and needed to do. It wasn't easy, and each time I was scared shitless. This was a permanent decision. If I succeeded, there would be no second chances. I was sacrificing everything to end the pain that had turned me into a burden that everyone I had ever loved was forced to carry. The feelings in the moments before and during felt much like those felt when placing myself into harm’s way to protect a loved one. The primary differences were society calling me a coward looking for attention and society labeling me a kind of hero. To be honest, placing myself in harm’s way for a loved one has always been a much easier choice to make. It is natural, while suicide goes against all of my natural instincts.

Why is suicide a stupid act? I have heard many times over that suicide is stupid, because there are always people worse off and not taking their lives. That the only people being hurt by suicide are the loved ones left behind to mourn. That it is stupid for the same reasons that make it selfish and cowardly.

The people that I often hear say this appear to be those that are the most afraid of their own mortality. It rarely has any rational thought behind it, and I feel that this reason is the most harmful of them all, and the one that exemplifies most why there needs to be more dialogue and discourse when it comes to suicide. Regardless of what most people claim, death is the one thing our species fears most. It is what we are trying hardest to cure. Be it through faith or science, just about everyone wants to live forever. So to try and imagine what it is like to no longer want to exist. To not have that primal instinct to survive; well, that can be damn near impossible for many people to imagine, let alone accept.

This does not make suicide stupid. This makes the lack of education and awareness of mental illness stupid. This makes societal etiquette when it comes to what people should and should not talk about stupid. It does not make the act stupid, and it most certainly has no bearing on the intelligence of anyone that has attempted or committed suicide.

Someone in a place that makes suicide seem like an answer to anything, is not a stupid person. Anyone in that place knows there are other answers, and they have thought about them. They have weighed them against one another. They have hit a point where they go from sad to a point in sadness that many people may never know. A point where the realization that they have hit the place where suicide is a serious option increases their sadness in a way that it no longer seems like a choice. It turns into something that has to be done, because the point of no return has been crossed and long since left behind. The act no longer feels like it is even about them. It has become an act for the greater good. Once this point has been reached, it is not following through that feels like the selfish and cowardly act. Many of those lucky enough to survive an attempt know exactly how much it hurts to wake up and realize that they have “failed.” Given enough time that feeling can turn to gratefulness. Having people that are not afraid to talk about it without pity or judgment can greatly decrease that time.

Why I feel it is harmful to talk about suicide as selfish and cowardly and stupid:

Shame. First and foremost, shame. When you talk about suicide in these ways, you are making those with suicidal thoughts feel shame for thinking about ending their own life. Secondly, you are keeping suicide taboo. You are encouraging others to keep suicide a taboo subject in which people are afraid to talk about out of fear that they will be negatively judged. No one should ever feel ashamed of their feelings or afraid to talk about a serious topic because it makes others uncomfortable. Especially when talking about it may save someone’s life.

Someone in a state that already has them contemplating suicide is most certainly not in need of added guilt and shame for feeling that way. To be in that mindset one already feels hopeless and alone, and does not need anything else strengthening those thoughts and feelings. No one should ever feel ostracized for feeling badly.

The next time you catch yourself thinking suicide is selfish, cowardly, or stupid; ask yourself what is more likely - people contemplating, attempting, or committing suicide are these things; or is it more likely that being unable to get beyond your own discomfort with the subject is what is truly selfish, cowardly, and stupid?

Suicide is not selfish, it is heartbreaking. It is not cowardly, it is tragic. Suicide is not stupid. Suicide is preventable.

Be someone that brings awareness to others, and not someone afraid to accept a serious reality for many people. So long as suicide is considered a taboo conversation topic, lives that could have been saved will continue to be lost.

Here are a few links about suicide that I feel are worth reading:

14 June 2013

Double Standards Of Parenting

The toughest thing about being a parent is dealing with other people. Doesn't matter if they have children or not, almost everyone seems to have an opinion on what all parents are supposed to do if they are to be a good parent. Throw in something about yourself that doesn't fit in with the All-American nuclear family idea from the 50's, and you've got a whole new set of things you’re doing wrong coming your way. You could be a parent that is LGBTQ, a different race from the person you had you child(ren) with, different religion from the norm you were raised around, political views that are not in line with any social norms, or even someone that is just a lover of tattoos and other body modifications. There are so many things that will drive people to telling you just how wrong you are for having that thing you have that they do not also have.

I have a few of them. Politically I am a Centrist, which basically means I hate politics and choosing a side, which often ends in all sides accusing me of being whatever opposing side they are upset with at that moment. I am a lover of tattoos, and am always working toward expanding my collection (or updating my canvas, if you will). My son’s mother is not the same race that I am, from the same country (though technically U.S. territories are “part” of the US, it is another country), nor do we share the same native language (and yet her mastery of the English language goes far beyond my own, and I don’t speak any other languages). I’m also an atheist, which I’m sure comes as no surprise to anyone reading this blog.

It is very rare that anyone brings up politics as a reason to tell me I’m wrong. This is likely because I do not talk about politics very often. My hatred/annoyance of them keeps me from discussing them, not because I do not care about the state of my country, but because it is almost always people arguing over who has the better oranges and what it takes to grow a great orange and the best methods of juicing oranges, then they go and vote on apples and kiwis. Same with my son being of mixed races, which is more than likely because his mother is fair skinned and does not speak with the accent one would expect of someone from Puerto Rico (though every last one of her friends and family members I have met from there have an accent). I have a lot of tattoos, but no longer wear any body jewelry, so I do not get the stares I used to get, and the quality of my ink is amazing, which is something even the most hateful of tattoo haters cannot deny. So I rarely get anything negative from those people other than how ugly my skin will look when I’m 80. No, the main thing people love to attack me for, is being an atheist. Maybe it is atheism that keeps them from attacking me on other fronts, or maybe our culture is truly progressing in how we accept the differences in other people. I’d like to believe that to be true.

I am going to focus on raising a child as an atheist, because that is the one thing about me that causes the most headaches from other people. Plus it is the only one that I think I can write more than a paragraph or two on before I feel like I've said all that needs to be said (I could probably write for days on LGBTQ parenting and how amazing it is for a child, but I have no firsthand experience in that, so I’ll save it for another day).


As a parent, I am one of the two most influential people in my son’s life. Because of this, I am constantly working to be the very best example I can be for him. I do this in every facet of my life. What I believe in regards to religion is very important in who I am* and what kind of example I am setting for him. If I keep that from him, what kind of example am I setting? Especially when almost no other person he meets each day will keep their beliefs from him? How is my letting him grow up not knowing that I do not believe in god, while allowing the rest of his family to encourage a belief, right? It isn't. It isn't right at all.

I will not hide any part of who I am from my son, regardless of what my peers feel. I want to encourage him to always be true to himself, and open about who he is. Hiding a part of me from him will not teach him to come to conclusions on his own, it will teach him that there are parts of who we are that we have to sometimes hide when they are not in line with the ruling majority. That is the opposite of standing up for who you are, and it is not equal to the kind of “pride” one talks about when they refuse to walk away from a bad situation. It would be hypocritical of me to tell him to be proud of who he is, while appearing ashamed of who I am.

I want to raise my son to be someone that is not afraid to be open and honest with himself, and about himself. No shame in liking what he likes, loving who he loves, believing what he believes, and being whomever he turns out to be. I cannot do that if I am not setting the example by being that. How can I tell him to be open and honest about whom he is if I am hiding a major part of me from him? How can I ask him to stand up for what he believes if I am constantly censoring myself simply to keep from upsetting people that do not like anyone different from themselves?  I can’t ask him to be these things if I am not also these things, or at least trying my very best to be them.

So I will tell my son my beliefs. I will not shove them down his throat, but I will present them to him exactly as they are -- my beliefs and nothing more. I will not tell him he has to believe what I believe, nor will I push him toward it. I will simply share what and why I believe what I do, and encourage him to research and ask questions to find out what he thinks is true or not. Believe it or not, it is possible to share an opinion with someone without needing them to agree with you.

I will let him come to his own place, in his own time, and in his own way. However, I will NOT send him off to church on Sundays, Vacation Bible School during the summer, or anything else that I do not agree with or would not want to attend myself. That is not opening him up to new ideas and experiences, that is sending him off to be indoctrinated. I will not do that to him. In fact, I will not allow him to attend these things until he is old enough to ask to go because he wants to and not because a family member or friend told him to ask after making it sound like going to the park for free candy. Their intentions be damned.

So, no, I do not have any intentions of pointing my son down a path I believe to be false and harmful simply because I walked that path to get to where I am. That’s stupid, and in my not so humble opinion, bad parenting. I am his father, and it is my job to teach him the lessons that I have learned, not sit back in silence waiting for him to make the same mistakes. I am to clear the paths that I walk in order to make the road he is to start out on. That way he is not repeating my lessons (though many will be repeated) and can focus on finding his own paths to clear for his children and future generations.

One thing that is often brought up in parental conversations is: “You were raised with religion, and you were able to come to your own conclusions and leave it. Don’t you think your son should do the same? Shouldn't you allow him to come to that conclusion the same way you did? Isn't it more rewarding that way?” The short answer to that is “no.” The long answer to that is, “Fuck no, you goddamned dolt.” You see, for [most] atheists that deconverted from the religion they were raised in, it is fucking horrible giving that up. We’re often accused of only being able to be atheists because of a traumatic experience, when the truth is leaving behind the religious faith we’d always known is extremely traumatic. Not just because of the fall out that often happens with friends and family, but because that is giving up a core part of your being. Mix that with being from a country in which odds are pretty high that you will instantly become the black sheep (if you weren't already) by no longer believing what everyone around you believes, and you've got one hell of an internal battle going on inside your mind that should not even be going on.

My response to this question is often countered by being told it should be something that is difficult to go through and decide like that. They say, “Whether or not you believe in a god is the most important ideological decision anyone will ever make.” To which my palm magically transforms into a placeholder for my face. Belief is not a choice, it is the conclusion drawn from the data processed by your mind. But more than that, the battle going on inside the mind is not whether or not to believe in a higher power, but whether or not we should accept it. The fight is in trying to deny the conclusion you've already come to, because it isn't the conclusion you expected or that the people you love came to. It is in trying to hide it, and in trying to make it go away so that you can just be normal [again] like everyone else. I imagine it is quite similar to someone fighting the realization that they are gay. At least that is what I have been told by LGBTQ atheists and how it sounds when talking to LGBTQ friends about their experiences coming to grips with finally admitting who they were to themselves.

I know many believe that in an ideal world, one would keep their personal beliefs personal and let each other person in the world decide what it is that they want to believe for themselves. Luckily, this is not that ideal world, and very few people my son meets are going to keep their personal beliefs personal. If they did, we would not have the literature that we have, the music, movies, TV shows, etc etc. We would not have the art that we have. We cannot grow without some kind of challenge, and we get that through sharing personal parts of ourselves with one another. Granted, this is not always done in the best of ways, but most of the time it is.

What is frustrating about this, is the knowledge that when it comes to people who do and do not share their personal beliefs with him, it is the atheists that are the least likely to share. Even those that know I am an atheist are going to bite their tongue more often than not if the subject arises around him. If they do share, it will not have any detail, because most will not know what I believe other than what I do not believe, and have no clue how social stigmas impact my parenting style. Plus it can feel pretty damn uncomfortable sharing that with a child. Because you never know what parent is going to get upset with you, you try to avoid speaking about them at all costs. Hell, I don’t even talk about it with my brothers without feeling like I am going to upset their mother. I will answer their questions, but I have never told them to stop believing in a god because Christianity is all bullshit anyway. No matter how much doubt they had at the time of coming to me, I never gave them any kind of a push. Just encouragement to keep asking questions and learning as much as they can in order to come to the most accurate conclusion they can. Mostly, though, I let them know that no matter what, they were loved, not alone, and would be okay. Their mother and my father and most everyone else in our family are Christians, and not a single one of them would have spoken with them in the same manner. Had they been approached by someone showing the kind of doubts they have shown me, they would respond by telling them they are being tested by Satan, telling them that they don’t really have doubts because they “know” god is real, and whatever else they could think of to keep them from walking away from Christianity. All with good intentions, and no realization at just how cult-like it is to do that to someone.

I can’t blame them for that kind of thinking, though. If you honestly believe people that do not have faith or belief in your god are going to burn in Hell for all of eternity, and you do not try and warn them, you’re not a very good person. I’m not talking about pushing something onto them long after they have told you to stop, but just reminding them why they once believed or offering them something you think might be super insightful in hopes of saving them. Yes, I will get frustrated with this, and I will even make fun of you if your “insight” is ridiculous enough. I won’t, however, lose respect for you so long as you are being respectful in your presentation (which I cannot make fun of you if you accomplish this). I understand that with this mentality, hearing that an atheist is sharing their beliefs to someone at an influential age is probably equal to someone trying to sentence your child to death, which I imagine is scary as fuck. I can’t accept it as absolute, though. I cannot look at the reasons, understand why they are this way, and then refuse to try and change them. If I am to believe that someone with those beliefs should share them with me, then I also have to believe that my opinions and beliefs should be shared with them. Neither are any less important than the other. We need to hear each other in order to accept each other and especially if we are to love one another.

As I am writing this, I am realizing so many ways in which I still censor myself for others. I can no longer do this. I’m not going to start running around telling every kid I see that there is probably no god, but I am no longer going to avoid the question when a child asks (or anyone else for that matter), regardless of whom the child is or who their parents are. I’m not hiding it anymore.

So long as he keeps smiling, I don't care what he does or does not believe in.

*Atheism is not important to me as in it defines me, but in that it is a major reason why I am as open and accepting as I am (or am not, depending on who you ask). However, I do not believe it would be very important at all if I were raised in a country that is predominately atheist. I've posted previously about this here and here.

18 April 2013

I just don't think god is necessary for living a good life.

In my last post I talked about how most conversations pertaining to religion with an atheist (this includes talking to other atheists) tend to be why we do not believe in the religions we were taught and/or the other available religions in the world. What aspect of each we find ridiculous, immoral, and factually wrong. In all honesty, those conversations are nearly always the same, and I'm sick of them. Why I do not believe in a god or gods is irrelevant to who I am. Why I do not need to believe in a god or gods, however, is an insight into the true depths of the kind of human I am.

So I want to try and explain why I do not need a god, rather than why I do not believe in any religion. Because this isn't a format that I am used to speaking in, or have ever heard/read, I apologize if it still comes across as why I do not believe in Christianity in many parts. I am most familiar with Christianity, so the examples I give will mostly be from that particular faith, though the claims are pretty universal when it comes to mainstream organized religion.

Here are six reasons I do not need a personal god. There are most certainly more than 6 reasons one would not need a personal god, but these are the first six that come to mind. They are anecdotal, yes, because they are about me and how/why I feel this way. They are not arguments for anything, or in any way trying to convince anyone to believe anything or not believe anything. Just a little insight into some of what makes me who I am.

1. I am happier and more confident without god. Growing up a Christian in West Bumblefuck, Georgia meant "knowing" from the moment I was forming cognitive sentences, that no one could be happy without god. No one could be happy, or as happy as possible (how people are capable of quantifying their happiness in order to compare it to other happy people, is pretty fucking pretentious, and beyond me) without knowing that someone with the power to create the universe is watching over you. Watching, judging, waiting to punish you if you step out of line, "reminding" me that I am born a sinner and in need of forgiveness for being born exactly as the god I need forgiveness from created me, and offering a form of forgiveness that is only given if you ask. A god, that for all intents and purposes, loves you. That love is supposedly the only way to be truly happy. You cannot reach peak happiness without feeling the love of that god.

Well, I find that idea to be a bit silly, and cannot express how much happier I became when I let that idea go in the trash along with all of the other bad ideas I gave into as a naive child. Including believing Hunter Ethridge in the 4th grade when he told me lemon pepper made for great cologne. Yeah, I spent a full day telling creepy strangers at the mall I had no idea why I smelled so delicious.

Something I've learned, that contradicts with needing a god's love to be happy, is happiness should not depend on other people. I've observed this and been taught this, and many of those that have instilled this in me have been strong believers in a god, without realizing the contradictions of the two ideas. It's clear the idea of depending on anyone or anything other than yourself for happiness is lazy. The key, for me, is to find happiness in myself through the choices I make and actions I take. As far as the love of others goes, my happiness is not dependent on them, regardless of how affected by it I may sometimes be. This is why I choose to surround myself with people I can be happy alongside rather than people that I depend on to be happy or that depend on me to be happy.

Not only do I find myself happier taking responsibility for my own emotional well being, but I find myself feeling so free knowing that I am not under the thumb of any deity. I am so very happy and proud of myself for still wanting to be a better person without the idea of reward after death. Actually, I find myself even more motivated to be a better person now that I have let go of the idea of heaven. 

2. Identifying right from wrong is easier without god. In every major theist religion there are rules for being a good person and making that god happy. Many of those rules are good rules, like not killing other people (though these kinds of rules almost always have loopholes). These "good" rules, however, are never more than common sense. The kind of people that need someone to tell them that killing other people is bad, are not very likely to A.) Care, or B.) Have the capability to live on their own and care for themselves.

Many of these rules, however, are silly and/or morally corrupt. Rules about the fabrics you wear, how you cook your food or related to food in general, rules about hairstyle, etc.; are just ridiculous and completely ignored by most sane people. There are those, though, that are morally wrong. Not a matter of opinion, but actually WRONG. Owning slaves is wrong. Owning women is wrong. Beating a child for talking back is wrong. Getting away with rape by paying some money and marrying your victim (which in Christianity says the victim must be a virgin, which seems to be encouraging rapists to go after younger and more innocent women) is FUCKING WRONG. The list goes on to include saying who you can love and how you are allowed to love.

So how does getting over the myth of god help me tell right from wrong more easily? Simple, it allows me to decide for myself what is right and what is wrong. I do not know anyone that openly believes rape is okay under any circumstance. Unfortunately, there are many people that look at the more ignorant and reprehensible rules/laws within their given religion and support it despite how they actually feel about it. I have family and friends that I love dearly, who are opposed to certain civil and human rights simply because their religion says they should be. They have no qualms with those their beliefs affect, and actually love and respect those people up until the point their religious beliefs tell them they can't. This is wrong. It is heartbreaking, and it brings me to my third reason why I do not need a god.

3. Love and Acceptance are actually easier without god. As a believer I was constantly at war with who to love and who to accept, who to judge, and who to reject. I was a Christian, so I was told to love thy neighbor. Love everyone, accept everyone, and judge no one. Only god could judge. Only, the faith I was following and the teachers that were "educating" me in this faith all acted as if the lessons did not contradict the lesson of loving and accepting everyone. I was taught to avoid people of certain opposing faiths (or lack thereof), restrict civil liberties and human rights to those that did not follow certain rules I was told I must follow, and the list goes on. It always goes on.

The thing I noticed the most during my first week of deconversion was how beautiful people were to me. Everyone was so beautiful. Every last person I saw or heard. I truly saw and heard people for the first time the day I realized I did not need a god. It was like having a filter removed from my vision and hearing that let me see people as more than rule followers and rule breakers. Let me hear more than just words wasting my time until it was my turn to speak. People are more than that. So much more. I was able to see the joy and pain in every face I passed, and realized how unimportant those religious rules truly were. People were not sinners; they were not good or bad based on what they believed, or who they loved.

Who they loved.

How could anyone ever think love a bad thing? I was a fool for ever thinking I could define love for anyone but myself. A goddamned fool.

4. I am a better person without god. Without the threat of punishment or reward, the good things that I do are more rewarding. When I believed, no matter how genuine my actions, I still had a thought in the back of my mind wondering if it helped or hurt my chances of getting into heaven. I was more likely to compare myself to other people. I felt the need to push my beliefs onto other people, and justified this with the assumption that there was no way their life could be fulfilling without god.

The fear of punishment was a little motivating as a believer, and was always brought up in church. The fear is always there, even for the most fanatical believer. Especially for the most fanatical believers. But it wasn't the fear that really takes away from good deeds. It is the reward of heaven for being a good person. The very idea of being rewarded for worshipping a god is greedy. It is greed of the worst kind, because it is fighting for a reward so amazing it prevents you from truly enjoying the present. It turns good intentions into brownie points, and clouds judgment to the point of making us feel as if we know what is good, regardless of what those we are affecting think. As a believer I would have voted to take rights away from anyone that did not fall in line with my faith, not because I hated them for not believing what I did, but because I honestly thought it was best for them and they just didn't realize it yet. That was so very wrong. I’m ashamed of having ever had those thoughts.

I'm even more honest without god. Most everyone has doubts of some kind, at least some of the time. My first serious doubts came around age 8 or 9, and I denied them until I was 20. During that time, I did a lot of lying. Which everyone does, I know. My lies, though, I feel now had a lot more to do with my denying my doubts than I thought possible back then. Once I admitted to myself that there was probably no god, I felt this feeling of relief and joy I had never felt before. It felt like what so many believers had told me the Holy Spirit felt. Only, the cause of my feelings was not caused by a placebo, but by me being completely honest with myself for the first time in 12 years. I openly admitted something I had been hiding for over a decade, and it felt amazing. Since then I have strove to be as open and honest about everything as I possibly can, and it has helped me become a better person. A much happier person, and the best Jason I have ever been.

5. I am smarter as an atheist. I know it sounds arrogant to say, and can be taken as a ridiculously pretentious assumption. It’s true, though. I'm not saying myself or any other atheist is smarter than anyone else that isn’t an atheist. I’m not even saying I’m a very smart person. All I am saying, is that Atheist Jason is smarter than Christian Jason, and Christian Jason would have never come close to obtaining the same knowledge, insight, and genuine curiosity that I have as an atheist.

It is my admitting to myself that there is no god that allowed me to admit that there are probably lots of things I did not know or that were probably not true, which eventually lead me to realizing that the amount of things I do not know is infinite. Realizing these things lead me to realizing all of my questions that had previously been answered with “god” no longer had answers. This is what lead me to reading more, learning more, and craving more knowledge in general. It pushed me to talk with more intelligent people about things I didn't know. It created discussions about things I would have never discussed, and that required me to do more than spout off a response that I thought sounded clever, but had nothing to back it up beyond my own misinformed opinion.

If you want to know the difference between Christian Jason and Atheist Jason, just talk to someone that knew me before I was kicked out of High School. I was not known for being very intelligent, at least not by very many people, and especially not by me. Today I am still no genius, but I'm not an idiot. I’m not known as an idiot. The friends I make and the women I date all mention my intelligence (don't even act like you haven't asked anyone the same thing) as the biggest reason for wanting to get to know me. Christian Jason was always told it was because he was "goofy."

Had I not let go of the idea of a god, I would not have had the same drive to learn and expand upon my knowledge. I know this is not the case for everyone, and being an atheist isn't going to make anyone instantly smarter or more driven. It did improve me, though. It took away my excuses for not learning. It took away my excuses for being lazy. It introduced me to people that inspired me to expand my mind, rather than shut my eyes to reality by telling me that everything that contradicts the existence of god is a lie by Satan that is merely testing my faith.

Being an atheist has taught me more about myself and the universe I live in than I could have ever learned in any religious text. Not because there is no knowledge within religious texts, but because there is no end to the knowledge outside of them.

6. There is no positive ideal/moral/value/philosophy that is unique to any religion. There really isn't much more to say about this one beyond that one sentence. There are good things within most every religion, be it a monotheistic or polytheistic faith. There is no denying that fact. There isn't  however, any one idea in any religion that would not or could not exist outside of that religion. People can debate what is positive and what is not, but I have yet to find anything positive in any religion that is not simply a quality of a good person.

So, that’s it. I could go on forever with this, but who really has time to read all of that? Who would really care? The bottom line is there probably is no god, and I am okay with that, because a god isn’t necessary for living a good life as a good person.

11 April 2013

Ask me about my wein -- errr... atheism. I meant atheism.

I am an outspoken atheist from a small town on the border of Georgia and Alabama. Because of this, the majority of those I know and care for have strong religious convictions that encourage them to talk religion with me. More often than not, those that I am approached by are Christians and Jehovah's Witnesses (I am not counting the door knockers). I am rarely approached by Jewish, Muslim, or Mormon friends/strangers (outside of door knockers, which I am not counting) that wish to discuss religion, and I am not sure why to be honest. I suppose I just do not know as many of them. 

In all of  the times that I have been approached by strangers and loved ones that hold a religious belief, not once have they ever wanted to talk about atheism. What it is like living without god. Why I am happier as an atheist, or even if I am happier. Often they will incite a discussion under the guise of curiosity about atheism, but the moment the conversation starts, they go from feigning curiosity to simply waiting for their turn to talk so they can say, "Well, you know the Bible says..." followed by some cliche line, common sense statement, or twisted interpretation they think will relate enough with me to say, "Hey! I think shooting children in the face is wrong too! Maybe I was wrong about this whole religion thing, gee golly pumpernickel pop," or do their best to convince me that I subconsciously believe and am only saying I don't because of traumatic experiences.

By the way, the assumption and accusation that I could only be an atheist if I experienced some kind of trauma that just made me angry is insulting in ways I cannot even begin to explain. If you are a Christian or any other believer in a higher power, and you think like this, stop it. Stop it right fucking now. You may not realize it, but you are basically telling us we are petulant children throwing a tantrum. Idiots incapable of independent thought or self discovery. It is patronizing, infuriating, and shows a total lack of interest in the truth or who we are. I have never, not once, met a single atheist that claims trauma and anger as their reason for leaving their religion. Some may have had trauma or mistreatment give them reason to question and research, but it was not the reason. A catalyst is not a reason. Remember that.

So, back to the point of this post, all religious discussions end up being me debating with the believer in ways that feel like a competition to see who knows the most about THEIR belief system. The thing is, I have stopped trying to learn more about their religion[s], because I do not believe in them. I do not want to waste my time trying to learn more about something I do not believe in, just to explain to other people why I do not believe in it. It’s ridiculous. I do not need to justify or explain why I do not believe a fantastical claim that lacks ANY actual evidence. On top of that, not once has any of them shown any attempt at understanding atheism. At most, there will be one or two that claim to have been atheists or agnostic at one time, and then attribute that time to being angry at the world or god or just following a fad. These people are often the ones that are the most positive that trauma is why we do not believe, while often stating that they found Jesus BECAUSE OF A TRAUMATIC EXPERIENCE (What do you know? The trauma argument comes full circle).

Just once I would like to have someone actually show an interest in why I deconverted and/or what MY atheism is, and not because they want to try and reverse it. Someone with an honest curiosity. You know, besides other atheists. We seem to be the only ones interested in why and how we came to where we are, and our stories are mostly the same. We often come from different levels of previous religious belief, but almost all of us have an increased knowledge and understanding of our previous religion as the reason we stopped buying into them. A sense of truth over comfort, which surprisingly enough, is more comforting than the comfortable lie we were force-fed as children. But more importantly than why or how we got to where we are, is who we are now. What things do we believe? What motivates us? Excites us about life? Where does our passion lie? Instead of throwing verse after verse at us in hopes of proving we misread something, ask us what we feel is a better alternative to religion for gaining the same benefits you are telling us you get from your faith.

My name is Jason Caldwell. I am 30 years old and have been openly atheist for 10 years. I do not care about the things I do not believe in, and do not owe anyone an answer for why I do not believe outlandish claims. I do not reject truth to protect my ego, and I do not need to believe in a supreme being to be a good person. I do not believe there is anything positive for humanity that is unique to religious faith. I enjoy sharing and learning what others believe and do not believe, but I do not enjoy being denied the courtesies that I give in discussions about personal beliefs and ideals. I am open about everything, and I do not filter my opinions to coddle the beliefs of others, nor do I expect or want anyone to filter their beliefs to coddle me.

Go ahead, ask me about my atheism. Ask me why I do not need religious faith.

18 March 2013

Should have been mad, but I couldn't help but be proud!

Today Xekan and I slept until the early afternoon. For someone on a third shift schedule and the parent of a two year old, this was glorious! But let me tell you WHY he slept so late...

I put him to bed around 9 last night, and he was being pretty needy -- insisting I stay next to him until he fell asleep. We read for a while, and then I told him it was time to sleep. After about 30 minutes of lying silently with him, I told him I was going to go to the living room and for him to go to sleep.

Two minutes after I closed the bedroom door, he came out of the room and asked me if he could listen to some music. He asks for music pretty often, and I will play the kids night time songs on Slacker Radio for him.

I started playing the music on our tablet, and he thanked me with a hug and kiss. Tucked him back in and left the room to clean and read some of my new book. I didn't hear a peep from him until I started to go in there at 3am to sleep.

He was awake... He had picked the tablet up from the floor, exited Slacker, and launched Netflix. I don't know how long he waited after I left the room before doing this, but it must not have been long, because the history showed that he had been watching A LOT of shows the entire time I thought he was sleeping. He was watching everything from Transformers to Chuck & Friends. He happened to be watching Chuck & Friends when I walked in.

I have not had the tablet long, have not ever let him watch Netflix on it, and certainly haven't shown him how to launch it and play show!

He just grinned and said, "Sorry daddy. Come lay down!" I tried to scold him, but I was too impressed to hide my prideful smile. I'm not really sure, but I think I owe him $50 now...

I didn't think to take a photo of him right then, but here are some taken over the weekend that are equally adorable.