Category Archives: agnostic

Thoughts on The Evolution of God

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It’s been four months but I have finally finished reading The Evolution of God by Robert Wright.
While I found it to be a slow read it was well worth every page.  Slow because it was so full of information.

Perspective is greatly gained when one ventures in to this book and the ideas that Wright presents.  He discusses the progression of gods during the hunter/gatherer season of life to the monotheistic god of judaism, christianity, and islam.

It’s a fascinating journey into people’s need for a god(s), the power having a god or religion provides, the distortions and mistranslations of stories over time, the changes religions have made to survive cultural changes, and ultimately the need for current monotheistic religions to humble themselves.

Wright does a fabulous job of taking an agnostic viewpoint.  One in which he never sways the reader to disown the idea of god because ultimately we don’t know if one exists or not.  There is not proof either way.  What he does do is present the religious and nonreligious alike with a detailed portrayal of the history of god(s) and ideas in to how we as humans have evolved those gods to fit our current needs.

I gained so much from reading this book such as when Wright explains the possible mistranslations of the OT and how it is quite likely that the Israelites were polytheists rather than worshiping the one I AM.
Or his explanations for why Jesus was not the Savior we perceive him to be today.  There were many end of times prophets in Jesus’ region and Jesus’ message was nothing new. There were many previous Jesus like gods prior to Jesus’ existence.  In fact Jesus was shunned in his own community (something I hadn’t realized).
Reading the NT side by side with The Evolution of God provided so much insight in to the text.  And while I may not buy in to all of Wright’s ideas and theories (which he never asks the reader to do) he did help put some color in to the NT texts.

My understanding of Islam is far deeper than what it had been prior to reading this book.  I was floored to learn that Muhammed had originally intended for Islam to be accepting of any and all monotheists.  He believed that christians, jews, zoroastrians, and muslims all worshipped the same god just know him by different names.

I’m not sure if Wright stated this in the book or if it is just something I began to ponder on while reading it.  Christians look at Mormons as crazy, gullible people who buy in to their nonsensical religion given to them by an obvious false prophet.  They view the mormon ideas of heaven as absurd.  And they often mock how easy it is to see the flaws in mormonism such as the mormons ability to change their stance on blacks, caffeine, and plural wives for example.  I really believe that this is because mormonism is a relatively new religion and so the flaws are quite easy to spot.  We are watching it progress in to a religion that fits the needs of culture and societies.  It clearly is getting easier for mormons to gain members as they are constantly ranked high in number of converts each year.  So they are doing something right.  If we had existed at the time of Jesus and when Paul began his mission to start christianity we would just as easily see all the flaws and the changes that were made to accommodate cultural/societal changes/needs.  Christianity didn’t start seeing large amounts of converts until centuries later either.  Same with Muhammed and Islam.  He changed his stance a number of times throughout his ministry but now that time has passed those changes are overlooked and it is easier to make believers out of those who are fed the beefed up, newer and better, easier to stomach version.
I guess I am saying that all religions mimic each other.  The newer ones are just easier for some to find fault with because their faults haven’t been given enough time to be erased just yet.  With enough research many theists would not be able to deny the sugar coated toppings added to make their religion and god palatable either.

The last sections of the book spoke directly to the circumstances I see around me today.  While I think the absence of all religions would be the best way to better the world I know that is a gigantic leap in a near impossible direction.  So for now we can focus on the baby steps that seem attainable.  Monotheistic religions must change in order for there to be peace on this planet or at least a step in that civil direction.  Monotheistic religions are creating monsters and all monotheists are guilty of contributing to those monsters.  The west must stop making the muslims out to be evil.  We must stop our attacks against their religion and in this country we must provide them with the freedom to worship.  We are still persecuting them in this country.  We view them as enemies to the US because they are muslim and the US is christian.  The media feeds this negative frenzy and we don’t bother to question the significance of all we are fed.  And vice versa.  The east must stop teaching that christians are the enemies of islam.

Monotheists need to accept and humble themselves enough to claim that they do not have the one true god.  They have a god in which they choose to worship but reality is that arrogance is the only truth in the proclamation of your exclusive god, religion, and afterlife.  That needs to change and it needs to change now!

Start the change by reading something counter to your holy religious book.  Learn another point of view.  Take a few weeks or months and read Robert Wright’s book The Evolution of God.  But only if you are willing to read it with an open mind.

A Loving Response To My Scarlet Letter

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A few months back I decided to come clean about my leave from Christianity.  I pronounced myself an agnostic/sometimes atheist (although as I continue on this journey I am definitely leaning more toward an atheist viewpoint).  I wrote my ‘Scarlet Letter’ and posted it for all friends and family.  Many were already aware of the changes and through their harsh words had given me the gift of strength to be open about the hurt and need I was feeling at the time.  I received some negative reaction to the post, some positive, and others just chose to ignore what was said.
Today, months later, I received unexpected letters from my G’pa and G’ma.  My hands started to shake when I opened them to see the words agnostic/atheist in the middle of the page.  Oh, here it comes, words from christians that I love and the disappointment I have caused them.
Much to my surprise their letters were full of love and support.  Full of genuine interest in the process of leaving christianity and what parts of god/christianity I was unable to reconcile within myself.
They are letters that I will cherish and that brought me such an unexpected gift of peace and love.
Thank you G’pa and Jane.

Here is the Scarlet Letter I posted that they were replying to:

My Scarlet Letter   Edit

My Scarlet Letter
March 12, 2011
*This post is not intended to be malicious or hurtful to those who love me.  It’s intention is for me to be true to myself and my need to stop hiding.  I truly am sorry that some of you will feel real pain because of my beliefs.  I hope others will find great strength in these words. 

These days I often feel as though I have been convicted and ordered to wear a giant scarlet ‘A’.  Although my A does not stand for the obvious aldulteress it does stand for something that seems to be just as sinful and it brings on just as much social judgement.  Oh how I wish I had just committed adultery.  At least then I would have a chance at redemption and grace.  No, instead I choose to wear the giant, scarlet A that labels me an agnostic/atheist.  *Shudder*

It may as well stand for Antichrist!
It’s as though this letter has been branded on my forehead allowing for all others to stone me with words and with judgement.  
Since I have chosen to be open about my beliefs I have felt very persecuted.  Sometimes overtly and sometimes merely by the whispers.  Some of the persecution arrives simply because the masses are unable to accept those that believe differently.  This has at times caused me sadness and other times anger and still other times it has given me the fuel to fight for those that are still afraid of being branded.  
Wearing the ‘A’ means to have prayer chains started for you.  It means causing your christian family and friends (90% of my family/friends) deep and sorrowful pain.  It means having people question your ability to parent.  It means people will treat you as though your atheism can be spread through some type of contagious virus.  I’m plagued.  I’m bad for society.  It means other friends will avoid you  simply because they are uncomfortable.  It means people will stop seeing you for who you truly are at the core.  They only see the branded letter.  A clear indicator of the type of lost person you obviously have become.  It means your inbox will be full of good intentions to bring you back in to the fold.  It gives others free reign to tell you that you and your children are damned to hell.  It means that people will become more arrogant in their attempts to argue you to the TRUTH.  It means subjecting your children to judgement and having to counter the hold that a monotheistic society has on their thoughts and beliefs.  It means others will step up their righteousness just to prove you wrong.  It means having to dig deep and be strong in your convictions even though it seems the majority is against you.  It means others will tell you over and over again how you’ve been hurt.  They will find a multitude of reasons to excuse away your irrationality.  It means being peaceful even in the midst of the chaos and pain.  It means losing all the social circles you once relied on for weekly feedings of your soul.  It means that you must take responsibility to teach those around you what it means to respect those who don’t believe in prayer, heaven, and an all-loving being.  It means that people will laugh at your expense and will belittle you publicly.  It means that stating your opinion will cause others to accuse you of persecution.  It means that you will often be afraid of saying what you really believe.  It means you will have to learn how to stay true to your own convictions even at the cost of losing the respect and love of those around you.  Choosing the scarlet letter often times means choosing a path of loneliness.
In this journey of owning the scarlet letter and truly believing it’s validity in my life I have met many people who are still hiding.  They fear the cost of proclaiming their agnostic beliefs.  They play christian to their families and friends (as I did) for fear of paying the price of being branded.  It’s a very hard road.  I know that as a christian for 30 years I really believed that society was persecuting us but I can tell you firsthand that there is far more persecution on this side of the religious coin.  I am learning to embrace my scarlet letter.  I will no longer be shamed back in to my hole.  Instead I am choosing to wear it proudly.  I am choosing to be a voice to those many friends who are still suffering alone and in silence.  To those who are afraid to even express their doubts.  I am choosing to strengthen my backbone so that my boys will be confident in their decisions and not fear being criticized by those that believe differently than them.
I am here to say that I am an agnostic (often times atheist) and I’m strong enough to handle the persecution that family, friends and strangers will justify throwing at me.  Because I am Amy.  Amy is more than a blazing, fire red letter.  I am loving, peaceful, honest, engaging, committed, and I am free.  Free to be me.  
As one of my favorite songs goes, “If you strip me, Strip it all away.  I’m still the same.  Take what you want.  Steal my pride. Build me up or cut me down to size.  Shut me out, but I’ll just scream.  I’m only one voice in a million but you ain’t taking that from me”

Protective Angels

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In the past few years my perspective has drastically changed.  I’m much more apt to believe that circumstances just happen rather than each detail of my life is being orchestrated by a group of heavenly beings based on my prayers.
A few years ago on Thanksgiving day we totaled our minivan on the freeway.  I honestly believed that my family had guardian angels assigned to us by god that day and that’s what saved us from being injured or killed.  I could visualize them pushing against our car to help slow it down before it went rolling off the side of the freeway.  I hardly put any weight on the fact that our car was well built, our carseats top of the line, Mark calm and collected as the car spun out of control and the fact that it was the guard rail that ultimately stopped our car from flying off the road.  Now looking back I have a hard time even imagining the supernatural involvement of that day.  I see it much more as accidental.  We happened to drive at a high speed over a wet puddle on the road, we hydroplaned, we were all safely buckled in, and eventually the guard rail stopped us.
Also a few years ago the boys and I were driving up our local mountain to have breakfast with Mark who was riding his bike to the top of the mountain.  We pulled up on an accident scene with a cyclist. Helicopters were landing when I had this heavy sense that it was Mark.  Our oldest said a prayer for his daddy to be protected and then we soon found out that it was Mark lying in the road.  He had crashed his bike at a high rate of speed (38mph or so if I remember correctly) and was being airlifted off the mountain.
Turns out he had nothing more than some severe road rash and a broken collarbone.  I praised god and his angels up and down for protecting Mark and I wholeheartedly believed that because the holy spirit had given me the premonition to stop and pray Mark had been protected by his angels.  Today I see the lack of validity in those claims.  At that time I was so afraid of Mark cycling and with every ambulance I heard on the mountain my stomach would sink and I would throw up prayers that it not be Mark.  This situation was no different.  I saw cyclists flying down the mountain at speeds over 40mph, I heard the helicopters, and I did what I always did.  Feared and prayed.
Many times since that accident on the mountain I have still said the prayers.  And then I laugh because I realize I am speaking to a god strictly out of habit.  Not due to belief.  It’s one of those deprogramming bits that I still need to do.
Today I was driving the boys to their physical therapy appointment and Mark was riding his bike to work.  I was approaching an intersection and saw ambulances and fire engines also approaching and the fear that Mark should be right around this area crossed my mind.  I didn’t send up any false prayers this time but that little yucky feeling sat in the pit of my stomach for those few seconds before I saw Mark lying on the side of the road.  Sure enough Mark had been hit by a car this morning and we were pulling up on the scene.  Fortunately he survived the accident with a beat up elbow, sore muscles and shaken nerves but nothing more.
I learned a few things about my growth this morning.  First of all I recognized that there is no holy spirit feeding me warnings about Mark crashing.  I realized that any time I know Mark is supposed to be riding a certain street and I see flashing emergency lights I automatically get a sick feeling of fear.  I don’t want it to be him or any other cyclist.  Today was the first time I didn’t start begging god to send his angels to ride next to Mark.  To protect him from all harm.  I realized I’ve been saying prayers after he’s been hit anyhow:)  Today was the first time I evaluated that our lives are just a series of choices and circumstances.  Mark rides his bike to and from work (during peak traffic hours) all the time so his chances of being hit are higher.  Chances are accidents will happen.  And they are just that…accidents.
That brings me to the second area of growth that I have had.  I used to be a lot angrier.  I felt like justice was one of the greatest gifts god would give one day.  I was able to assess today’s situation calmly, approach the woman who hit Mark, give her a hug and reassure her that we understand that these things happen.  I’m very aware of cyclists and I still could’ve made the mistake that she did.  She was very humble and extremely honest about what happened which makes being kind to her easier than if she had denied her fault in this and ranted about “her hate of cyclists”.  But for baby steps this one was good for me.  I experienced deep empathy for her knowing that she felt horrible and felt scared that she could’ve badly injured someone or worse yet killed him.  If I had been in her shoes I would hope that the cyclist and his family could be empathetic toward me as well.  I believe I still would’ve felt this way toward her even if Mark’s circumstances had been much worse.
In spite of the craziness of this morning today is a good day.  It’s another day of life.  Another day to grow.  Another day to know that I’m exactly where I want to be.  I have immense amounts of freedom and peace on this side of religion.  I can see that I am able to rationally assess circumstances as they happen.  I am free from spiritual emotion and dogma.  I am becoming stronger in these moments of trial.  I am loving this journey.

What Am I?

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As much as I dislike labels I think it is important to know how to define one’s self.  I hear a lot of new terms and labels in this non-theistic life I am now living and wanted to sum up a few of the popular ones.
Just as Christians have Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, Protestants, Lutherans, the non-theists have
Secular Humanists, Atheists, Agnostics, Buddhists,  FreeThinkers, Brights.  All different in their beliefs but also more than one can be applicable to a single human being.
I often refer to myself as an agnostic sometimes atheist and frequently find that describing my beliefs is a dance between labels.  This is a journey so I’m constantly challenging my views and ideas therefore requiring change of my label(s).
Most often I find that I’m of the belief that If god exists I don’t believe him to be an involved deity sitting up in heaven answering our prayers and watching over us as his loved creation while justly damning millions to hell.  If god exists I don’t believe he’s wrapped up in a pretty little religion box exclusive to 2-3% of the world’s population.  If god exists I believe there must be many paths to him.  I don’t believe in an almighty creator god that dictates the laws of human ethics and morals.  So ultimately I find that I mostly don’t believe in any deity and If  that deity happens to exist afterall I don’t think it matters.  So my question is how does one define me?
I guess I am an apathetic agnostic, apatheist, often times atheist, rationalist, secular humanist who is also freethinking.  
Yikes, that didn’t help at all!

My definitions are taken from www.religioustolerance.org



Agnosticism:is not a religion or complete ethical system. It is simply a belief that we cannot prove either the existence or the non-existence of deity; (i.e. of one or more gods, one or more goddesses, or combinations of the above). Many Agnostics, sometimes called “Strong Agnostics” or “Positive Agnostics” believe that we can never know about the existence of a deity. Others, often referred to as “Weak Agnostics”  suggest that we cannot know anything about deity or deities at this time using the currently available evidence, but that this could conceivably change in the future.

Apathetic Agnosticism (a.k.a. Pragmatic Agnosticism)  is a form of Agnosticism where the individual believes that there is no proof for or against the existence of a deity, and, in addition,  that the question is not particularly meaningful.


Apatheism:
The term is a portmanteau — a combination of two words 1 — either “apathy” and “Theism” or “apathy and “Atheism.” An Apatheist is a person who regards the existence of a God or supreme being as a relatively meaningless and irrelevant question.


Atheism: is also not a religion or a complete ethical system. It has two main definitions:

The lack of a belief that deity, in the form of one or more supernatural gods or goddesses, exists. American Atheists define an Atheist to be a person who “…does not believe in a god or gods, or other supernatural entities.” 2
The Barnes & Noble Encyclopedia define Atheism as “The denial of the existence of God or gods.” This is sometimes called strong Atheism.



Freethinking: This originally referred to persons who doubted the Trinity — the concept that a Godhead existed — a single entity composed of three persons: a Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Freethinkers supported the concept of a single indivisible deity. The term has since changed its meaning to include persons who reject religious beliefs in general.


Humanism:is a philosophy which in most cases embraces Agnosticism or Atheistic belief about the non-existence of a deity. But it goes further to create moral and ethical systems based upon reason and logic. It regards humanity as the measure of all things. Humanists emphasize a belief in the importance of doing good in society.



Rationalism: This was a movement in the 18th century Protestantism that abandoned the idea of Biblical inerrancy and adopted the belief that the Bible can be analyzed as a historical document. Some Rationalists assert that the existence of some form of deity can be proven by reason. Others see Rationalism and Atheism as synonyms.

Without Borders

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Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow men. It then appears that we are among the privileged.
Helen Keller
 
I write this today because it’s J’s 8th birthday.  His first birthday was spent alone, without a family in a Kazakhstan orphanage.  Today he is part of our forever family.




There is nothing in this world that makes my blood boil more than when people make border comments.  Those who lack imagination beyond what is American.  I’m referring to the FB posts that get spread from one person to another until there are pages of friends all stating that we are to care for those inside our borders first.  “America has starvation, homeless, orphans, and emergency aids needs too…help our own FIRST.” 

 

I’m referring to those people who feel the need to comment on oversees adoptions.  Those who need to criticize those of us who have adopted a child from abroad when there are orphans within our borders who need homes. I’ve even been accused of stealing money from American people by adopting a child from Kazakhstan.  “You should’ve adopted from the US and saved our government tax money!”   Those who feel they have a right to say that American children are more important because they are American right in front of my Kazakh child!
Boiling! Boiling! Boiling! 
I HAVE NO RESPECT FOR THIS TYPE OF THOUGHT PROCESS!!!!!  
You are going to compare my Kazakh son (an orphaned human being) to a sum of tax money?!?
And, by the way, I’ve adopted an American orphan too and he’s costing you a hell of a lot more tax money…each month in fact!
 
I’m referring to those people who criticized my trip to work with orphans in Haiti after the devastating 2010 earthquake.  Those people who said I should be cleaning up our neighborhoods instead.  Those people who said they would never be willing to spend money on needs outside of our borders.  “It’s Haiti’s problem.  We can’t fix it.”  “Our orphans should come first.”
Boiling! Boiling! Boiling!
I HAVE NO RESPECT FOR THIS TYPE OF THOUGHT PROCESS!!!!!!!
And by the way I often do charity work and fundraising for orphans in my own community but you didn’t bother to ask that!
 
I don’t have respect for this type of thought process because it’s shallow and in my opinion without much real thought.  I whole-heartedly believe that borders are imaginary.  If god exists in any form do we really believe that he sees these borders that we created?  Or are we all just human beings?  All deserving of the same basic rights?  We ALL deserve water, food, medicines, shelter, love, family.  Those are basic human rights regardless of borders.  
I don’t think Americans often realize how good we really have it.  Even those of us in the most dire of conditions are often better off than millions in other parts of the world.  Our orphans still receive education, food, water, shelter, medicines, and can often go to college on grants.  
There are orphans (many of them toddlers) in Haiti without access to running water or food.  They are malnourished and starving.  They will likely die before they reach the age of 5.  They are sometimes living 40 children under a tent in stifling hot temperatures. They are often “adopted” by long lost relatives who dismember them and put them on the streets to beg for money or they are bought as sex slaves.  America has never experienced a tragedy as devastating as the Haiti earthquake.  It’s a horrible sight to see and those children NEED our help regardless if they live outside our borders.
In Kazakhstan if children are not adopted they are put on the streets by the age of 16 where girls and boys often prostitute to survive.  They live underground in the Ukraine.  
Orphans in Africa are frequently HIV + and orphaned by parents who were also HIV +.  We can easily and inexpensively help put a stop to the spread of this awful disease.
What chance do these children have if we don’t feel the need to see them as humans?
We MUST stop thinking in borders and starting thinking in love.  Only then can compassion and change really begin to take place.  
 
Perspective:
Orphan Statistics (UNICEF Report)
UNICEF estimates that there are between 143 million and 210 million orphans worldwide.  To give you a comparison, that’s about 48-70% of the population of the United States.
Here are the stats:
 
– Every day 5,760 more children become orphans
– 2,102,400 more children become orphans every year in Africa alone
– Every 15 seconds, another child in Africa becomes an AIDS orphan

– 8 out of 10 children orphaned by AIDS lives in sub-saharan Africa

Approximately 250,000 children are adopted annually, but…

– Each year 14, 505, 000 children grow up as orphans and age out of the system by age sixteen

– Each day 38,493 orphans age out

– Every 2.2 seconds another orphan ages out with no family to belong to and no place to call home

– In Russia and the Ukraine, studies have shown that 10% – 15% of these children commit sucide before they reach age eighteen

– These studies also show that 60% of the girls become prostitutes and 70% of the boys become hardened criminals

– Another Russian study reported that of the 15,000 orphans aging out of state-run institutions every year, 10% committed suicide, 5,000 were unemployed, 6,000 were homeless and 3,000 were in prison within three yea