The Benefit of Being an Atheist When Change is Necessary

By Bernadette Chlebeck

For the second time in my life I am quitting a job before having a new one. The first time I gave a two week notice. This time I am giving a three month notice. I am not going to go into the details as to why I am quitting. Sometimes it is just time for a change. I don’t need to pray about it or wait for a god to give me the answer or hope for a miracle. I am fully capable of looking at the situation and knowing when it is time to leave.

It will be my own actions that will provide me with my next employment situation. The freedom of knowing that I have control of my future gives me comfort. I hear of people trying to follow the belief of “let go and let god.” I don’t understand why this is even necessary. What is wrong with being able to assess your own situation and being able to make decisions for yourself when possible? The idea of having to wait around for someone else to determine your life simply sounds awful.

So I am now off looking for my next job. If you hear of anything please let me know.

When Your Own Community Lets You Down

By Bernadette Chlebeck

It has been about two years now since I decided I needed fellow atheists in my life so that I could live my most authentic life. It was hard to sit and grin and bear it when I was surrounded by a group of people who spoke of a god and an afterlife as an absolute.

I started noticing billboards advertising for atheists. I found the puns amusing and became curious of the people behind the campaign. I was a member of meetup.com for several years and one day on the left side of page under groups you might be like was MN Atheists. There it was, a meetup of people like me. I guess a person of faith would say it was god working in mysterious ways.

I joined the group, started to become an active member, made friends. I even found my current boyfriend volunteering at a homeless shelter with a group of Atheist showing you can be good without a god. He introduced me to podcasts and blogs hosted by fellow Atheists. I started to host events, paid membership dues and even recently read my first book on the topic of Atheism, The Happy Atheist by PZ Myers. A book that, in my opinion, should have been titled The Typical Grumpy Arrogant Atheist.

PZ Myers’ book is mostly a collection of his blog posts, which reads a lot like many atheists blogs. It is mostly made up of criticism of people who believe in a higher power or spirituality.  Trying to use a combination of bullying tactics and science to convince people that their religious and spiritual beliefs are wrong does not work. But trying to convince a group of Atheists that this method has some flaws is like pulling  my own teeth.

At a recent MN Atheists Meetup I heard a new member compare science and religion as salt and pepper. They are completely different and cannot be combined to become the same spice or be used to eliminate the other. I have never had a desire to remove religion from society. We live in a free nation and have the right to think and believe what we want. Where I draw the line is that no one should be forced to live under someone else’s beliefs. That means, I do not have to have laws forced on me that come from religious beliefs, and people of faith should not be forced to live with laws that keep them from practicing their faith.

I hear similar statements from other atheists but what confuses me is why they need to bully people of faith to make a point. If believing in a god or spirituality helps people get through their day why is that stupid? Just because atheists need evidence to believe in a god why do atheists care if other individuals don’t? Does your neighbor going to church or your brothers prayers before dinner really hurt you in any way?  It’s not like you are being forced to participate.

Currently I don’t have the energy to take on this fight with the Atheist community. Instead, for me, it will be stepping back from the community by not being involved in the movement. I will hang on to my friends, and occasionally attend MN Atheists meetups that are around socializing so I will not be completely isolated.  Morally and ethically I cannot be part of any movement that tolerates being a bully as a way to get others to think like you.

 

Does Your God Shit?

By Bernadette Chlebeck

Now Christians before you start screaming you are offended or accusing an atheist of declaring a war on Christmas I would like you to understand my question is serious. Does your god shit and if he does, does his shit stink?

When it comes to answers on god, heaven, and hell I am always so perplexed as to why can’t believers just answer ”I don’t know.” During a Piers Morgan interview with Penn Juliette, Morgan could not simply say “I don’t know” when the two discussed what happens when we die. Instead Morgan is completely offended and gives the standard “it is beyond our comprehension” answer. Guess what Morgan, if you cannot comprehend, that means you don’t know.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2m3qYFKxmYo

The questions atheists ask are just honest questions we asked ourselves when we questioned our beliefs and the evidence in front of us. So when you say we are all made in your god’s image what do you mean by that? Do you mean a physical image? If so what color skin does he have? Or does she have a vagina? Does your god ever have a dandruff problem? Do you think it might be possible that when it comes to the question of does your god shit you really just don’t know and you are masking your answer by being offended?

 

Sometimes I Wish God Existed Just So I Could Be Mad at Him

By Bernadette Chlebeck

Times like this I wish god existed so I could have someone to be mad at. This morning I learned that my grandbaby died at 3 ½ months into the pregnancy. All of you out there that want to make this an abortion issue because I am referring to a fetus as my grandbaby can save it. This is my loss and you do not get to use my loss as a time to promote your agenda.

I am numb, depressed, angry, and so many other feelings that I cannot even begin to acknowledge. I have all of these feelings and no one to blame. I wish god did exist so I could be angry at him and curse him for causing this. Demand answers for why this had to happen. Wait for a purpose and a reason to come to me and help me accept it.

But this god does not exist and none of that is ever going to happen.  The science that gives me a medical reason as to why this happened provides no comfort. Instead all I have is a broken heart.

Giving Up My Atheist Thanksgiving

By Bernadette Chlebeck

I grew up in a Catholic family where prayers were said before each meal. It was a rote memorized prayer. Words came out of my month but never paid any attention to what I was saying. If put on the spot I could not say the prayer on my own but if I am around that family table and someone starts that prayer the Pavlov effect takes over me and the words come out in perfect order.

As years went by and my siblings and I grew up, moved around the country, and started our own families traditions changed, and eventually we stopped getting together for Thanksgiving. My thanksgiving became just me and my two wonderful children. I hung on the many of the same traditions of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, pie, and an L-tryptophan induced coma followed  by a movie and days and days of leftovers.

The only notable thing I stopped doing was the prayer. Instead of thanking a god for the food, the cooks were thanked for preparing the meal, and the human dishwasher thanked for cleaning up our mess. We were grateful for the simple things of having a roof over our heads, the means to buy food, clothes on our back. We were never wealthy but we always found the means to meet the basics and sometimes little bit more.  It was my house and it was my rules. It worked for us, and we were happy keeping it simple.

Years have gone by and with time traditions are changing again. My oldest son has moved out and started a family and lives far away. I met a wonderful man and this last year we decided to we wanted a life together and made a commitment that will eventually mean getting legally married. Anyone who is in a committed relationship knows, you don’t just marry the person, you marry the family.

This year there will be no smell of turkey and pie cooking in my kitchen. Instead, back to hitting the road, getting together with family, and the dreaded prayer. I will have to listen them thank their god for the meal, as if it was magic that cooked the turkey to a perfect golden brown juicy slices of deliciousness, and not my partner.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy all of them as people and their company in many ways. We have kids the same age, enjoy doing crafts together, and playing cards. The part I am not looking forward to is deciding if I should just join in the prayer and play along to get along. Or just say no to joining the prayer and possibly putting my partner in a position where he has to defend me or his family.

I am sure I am not the only atheist who has to deal with this issue. If you are an atheist who has had to deal with this I would like to hear your story. Whether it was a good outcome or a less than pleasant outcome by sharing our stories we will feel less alone in setting boundaries on what family religious traditions we do not want to participate.

Atheist: The New Gay

By Bernadette Chlebeck and Phil Cunliffe

I remember when I was still coming to terms with being an Atheist, I used to just refer to myself “not a Christian.”  People would hear my non- Christian status and do the liberal thing and tolerate me. I don’t think it was too difficult as most people would just assume I still believed in their god, minus the Jesus, so the fear factor went down. Did I go down a small notch in trust, to be not quite equal? I will never know if my beliefs changed relationships or if other factors were more important. I do know that relationships changed. My relationship to the society at large changed too. I am no longer a part of the majority that “believes”.

Atheists are seeking the trust of society and equality. In equal rights movements the earlier groups, such as women suffrage or the 1960’s civil rights movement, individuals could not hide who they were. A woman or a person of color walks in their gender and skin color every day. But in more recent civil rights movements, such as LGBT equal rights, it took people coming out and real life stories being told. Now laws are being changed as the LGBT community has become an equal part of society. Heck the “are you gay” question is hardly ever asked and when Hollywood actors come out no one even cares any more. Atheists also hide in plain sight by choice or by the assumptions of the majority.

As the gay question becomes yesterday news, it is looking like “are you an atheist” is going to be the new hot questions of the day. As atheists I think we should welcome the question. Based on history the question could be a key to our social equality. Despite our constitution clearly stating there should be no religious test to hold elected office, it does not stopping reporters from asking about a candidate’s beliefs. Recently, mayor elect of New York City Bill De Blasio was asked the question if he was an atheist. A supporter of a rival candidate had made announcements over a  loudspeaker prior to a campaign event for the rival questioning De Blasio’s beliefs.

These are among the ways atheists are discriminated against. The questioning of someone’s belief in god in the public arena to imply untrustworthiness. The branches of government that support “day of prayer” events. Opening legislative sessions with a government endorsed chaplain (http://chaplain.house.gov/chaplaincy/index.html). Atheists are usually left out of commemorations of national tragedy. The annual bleating of an atheist “war on christmas” in the media.

In most equal rights movements the group being oppressed works to change the law and society gradually changes their attitudes towards the group. But with atheists the law is already on our side, but atheists are still the least socially desired group. I predict that as more public figures are asked if they are an atheist or non-believer, due to the increasing numbers of non-religious people, most public figures will say no, but eventually some will start to say yes. We have to continue to show that as Atheist activists and community leaders we can be a trusted by society.

 

The Bullshit We Should Not Put Up With

By Bernadette Chlebeck and Phil Cunliffe

There are a lot of beliefs out in the world that hurt no one and atheists are going to have to tolerate. People have the right to their beliefs. Such as the virgin birth, or that Jesus is magic. Having those beliefs really doesn’t hurt anyone and can give individuals comfort during difficult times. No one should dictate how someone seeks relief during times of personal struggles. Their beliefs may even result in getting a Keurig coffee maker on December 25th.

But there are beliefs that we should stand up to. Chaplain Patrick McLaughlin, author of No Atheists in Foxholes Prayers and Reflections from the Front could have written a book solely describing his experiences on prayer and how it helped him and others. McLaughlin crosses the line when he chooses to go in the direction that all people who fight in wars should not only believe in god but believe in his god. I wonder how many soldiers were left out or hurt even worse because they only had McLaughlin, or others like him to turn to during difficult times.

The fact is there are atheists in foxholes. 295,000 active duty personnel who consider themselves atheist, agnostic or without a religious preference. Only about 8,000 out of 1.4 million active duty members in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force identify themselves as atheists, and another 1,800 say they are agnostic, according to the Defense Department.* Ft. Bragg hosted Rock Beyond Belief an event where approximately 2,000 people attended. Pat Tillman, who gave up a career in the NFL to join the Army, was an atheist. Clearly Atheists serve and are on the front line.

What is not clear is how much harm is being done to soldiers by chaplains like Mclaughlin, who are put in a role of providing guidance and comfort but chose not to see the world beyond their own beliefs. Prayers do not comfort everyone and we should not tolerate military chaplains whose beliefs are harming soldiers and their families.

*http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-04-01/news/sns-rt-us-usa-military-atheismbre83009p-20120401_1_foxhole-atheists-religious-group-fort-bragg

 

 

Atheists are #1!!!

By Bernadette Chlebeck and Phil Cunliffe

In the number of people who would  NOT vote for us for president, even if we were the most qualified. The good news is the number of yes voters has increased by 36% to 54% would vote for an atheist for president.

The bad news is there are still 43% of Americans who would not vote for one of us no matter what. The question comes to mind is it something we Atheist are doing or not doing that has created the 43%. I am in no means attempting to blame the victim or even call us a victim in any way. I am just wondering if our actions are contributing to the attitudes.

We hide who we are. It is very scary to come out. I struggle with it every day. Who to tell: friends, family, coworkers? Is it really any of their business? Why should it even matter? I work, pay my taxes, keep my lawn mowed, volunteer at a homeless shelter, raise my kids to be responsible citizens and so much more. Is it really so inconceivable that not believing in a god makes us untrustworthy. Isn’t the life we live proof enough that we are trustworthy. But if we are not doing all of that with the label Atheist what stories will people have of us.

There are the negative stories. Many of us are guilty of calling believers stupid. During one of my very first outings with fellow Atheists a woman started a conversation with me by calling Republicans stupid. My first thought was “how do you know that I am not a Republican.” After all believing in a god and political attitudes are clearly two different things. Maybe the waitress serving our drinks was a Republican and heard an Atheist call them stupid. When we use this language to deal with people who see the world differently we give the 43% a reason not to trust us.

So where do we go from here. We could wait for believers to stop believing. But let’s be honest that is not going to happen fast enough. Or we could change ourselves and be out Atheists who can stand up for who we are without putting others down.


Source June 21, 2012 Atheists, Muslims See Most Bias as Presidential Candidates

Two-thirds would vote for gay or lesbian
by Jeffrey M. Jones
http://www.gallup.com/poll/155285/Atheists-Muslims-Bias-Presidential-Candidates.aspx