Minor Surgery and a Time to Think

While I admit there is nothing particularly dangerous about a surgical procedure I’m about to have, It is a chance to stop and think about things. I’m getting my gallbladder taken out. Not a big issue. There are some minor complications, but that’s stuff that concerns the surgeon, not me. I’ll be fine.

But just to be on the safe side, we decided to draw up the advanced directive. I love the one for Washington, state. Its wording is beautiful (as can be for something so dire) and empowering. It says just what I want said.

It gives me a chance to think. This is not the first time I’ve been in a potentially (albeit very little potential) life-threatening situation. It IS the first time I’ve been in such a situation as a non-believer.

As a believer (I couldn’t be lucky enough to be the kind who believed once you were saved you were always saved, I had to keep up with the sin question.) I always wondered if I was really saved. I prayed. I longed for answers. I remember going into a simple surgery, hoping against hope that I really had crossed all my ts and dotted all my Is. Otherwise, any slip of the knife, and I’d be into the flames.

This time is different. I realize things can go wrong. Sometimes horribly wrong. And if they do, I realize I’ll never know about it. My last moment will be the moment the anesthetic takes me into dreamland. I plan on facing that moment with confidence and peace. Confidence that I’ll see my lovely Deanna when surgery is over, and at peace that if not, I’ll never know.

When you think about it, dying in surgery wouldn’t be all that bad. You go to sleep and just never awaken. The light goes out, and never comes back on. Pretty simple. Painless. Peaceful.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not afraid. Not that I’m some kind crazyman who fears nothing, but that these circumstances are very good. I’ll get better. Or I’ll leave this world quietly and peacefully.

When I look back, it’s all to easy too see that religion didn’t bring peace to my life. It only brought turmoil and fear. The true religion of peace, is no religion at all.

–Rich Lyons

Rich’s Response to Pascal’s Wager

I found this on my facebook Timeline, posted a couple years ago in response to someone who basically blasted by my wall and shat Pascal’s Wager on it, then buzzed away.

I used to feel that way about Santa Claus. Believing, regardless of the evidence, or lack thereof. But as Christmas after Christmas passed without a visit form the Jolly One, I grew tired of seeing myself as evil. I realized he wasn’t dissing me because I was bad, he simply does not exist.

I became immune to his judgment.

The idea of god is no different. For my entire life I believed. For 20 years I was a peddler of his lies. Then, I realized, he too, is a myth. He simply does not exist.

I would love nothing better than to die and find I am wrong. Because I would confront god with the evidence of the suffering he created, the childish acts he’s done… yeah, he’d toss me into hell… if he could do that before I dove in headfirst just to make sure I didn’t have to spend eternity with such a pompous ass.

I would rather live my life with intellectual honesty. I believe god does not exist. The wars and murders religion has caused are a blight against humanity. Realizing there is no one in the sky to make it right, it is incumbent upon US to make it right.

We can’t “atone” for the deaths and suffering that religion has caused. The only thing we can do now is work to stop them from happening, and try to prevent them in the future.

I can no longer believe that god is the author of genocide, and thus I can no longer shun the responsibility for preventing it form happening in the future. I can no longer believe that AIDS is the judgment of god, so I can no longer shirk the responsibility of facing this disease. I can no longer blame the evils of humanity on the goodness of god.

Il believe differently now than I once did. I believe that we CAN stop the needless slaughter of entire races. I believe that we CAN cure AIDS, I believe that we are here for a short time.. and we must make all we can of each moment.

We are both believers.

I believe.

I believe there is no god.

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Religious plea from former co-worker

It isn’t rare that I get messages like the following.

Always from someone who knows better than I do how I should live my life. I’d like your comments on how to reply to stuff like this, sent from a former co-worker.

A little background, I was never close to this guy, never liked him, and he had nothing to do with me. On one occasion, when we had a particularly stressful situation, I had to call in someone to replace him and relieve him of his duties, because he couldn’t handle the responsibility at the time.

So now, a couple years later, he writes….

Rich,

I have gotten copied on a number of facebook postings submitted by you and Deanna. After reading the last few of them and being somewhat taken aback by some of the content, I feel led in my spirit to write you.

With respect to your choice to believe the way you want, I must say that I am concerned for you. We talked one night at KOMO about your traumatic experience with your ex-wife and the church you pastored in the South. At that time as I recalled, you expressed anger and bitterness at what was done to you.

It’s understandable you would feel that way. However, that wasn’t God’s doing. And deep down inside I believe you realize that.

I’m sad that both you and your wife embrace atheism. I’m doubly sad for you because you have been exposed to the word of God and you have no excuse.

Again, what you choose to believe is your business. However as a friend and someone who cares, I must tell you that you have taken the bait of satan. He’ll destroy you if you let him. Turn back to the Lord. He is real and He loves you.

I’ll pray for you. I value you as a friend.

Sincerely,

former nor particularly close co-worker.

So how would you handle this crap?

———–
Update: I realized that we never added our direct message replies to this person. We both went a little harsh on him, but I think sometimes someone needs to be told how rude they are being because they will never know it any other way.
I copied the former co-worker the link to this post so he could see the replies. He basically went all pascal’s wager…. here was my final reply:

“It’s a shame you can’t spend five minutes to read through the entire blog. It shows just how much you care about this, and to quote a famous xtian saying, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

If you were open to discussion, I’d welcome that. But since you are only interested in making an arrogant statement then acting all butt-hurt when no one likes your views, I think we can both see what your lame attempt is made of.

Don’t contact me anymore. I’m happy to leave you in your ignorance.

to finish with YOUR line… If he is real… I’ll see your arrogant and apathetic ass in hell.

Thanks,

Rich”

and then this addition from Deanna Joy:

“Just add a bit to what Rich said:

I am truly insulted by your inability to contact ME about the things you learned from your “friendship” with me. Am I not your intellectual equal? Am I the insolent property of my husband that needs to be chastised through him?

I can answer those two questions easily. No, I am absolutely not your intellectual equal. Your refusal to engage shows you haven’t thought for a moment or read a single word of the things I have said or shared. While your religion tells you I am below and behind you, reality shows you are not anywhere near on my level.

And yes, in your eyes I am, or you would have sent me a message directly about the things you are concerned with. And that’s all I need to know about how you feel about women.”

Help a fellow LAFer with some needed advice

Hey there everyone at Living After Faith!

My name is ____. I am 17 years old.

Something happened just recently in my family that I really want to share with you as well as other atheist communities. I could really use some advice- this problem has been present for as long as I’ve come out as an atheist and seems to be deteriorating my family the longer I remain an atheist. I desperately need some feedback because, at this point, I don’t know what else I can do.

Last night I was watching television, and completely unannounced to me, the entire youth group of the church I used to attend came to my house- my little brother being the driving force. Needless to say, I was extremely nervous, but I knew what they were here for and decided to just push through it. Of course, it was about an hour of preaching directly to me under the watch of my previous Christian peers, Christian friends, and Christian family. I’m not going to try to be noble and say I fared well- I don’t think I’ve ever been shaken up so badly. I cannot ever accurately portray the guilt I felt when my brother, unable to speak and overcome with tears, confesses to me how much he loves me and looks up to me followed by how my entire family and the church thinks my life has become “dead” for not having Christianity the driving force of my existence.

What I find interesting is that I’ve just recently been able to cope with numerous anxiety problems I’ve been having due to leaving religion. Although I wouldn’t say it is post-religion PTSD, (although I’ve learned a lot from you both about the problem and I do seem to exhibit the majority of symptoms) I’ve always known I have not necessarily been as stable since I’ve had to deal with these issues. Obviously, I’ve never been able to meet with a physician due to the nature of the problem, and my family’s dismissal. It is, of course, a “non-existent” problem that can only be cured by their religion. This past year, I’ve finally been able to gain control of my anxiety. And although episodes can still be triggered by church services or late-night surprise preaching, I finally came to a point where I felt like I could be a normal kid again. Christianity is what made me “dead.”

I was really shaken and scared last night but I understood their good intentions. I simply responded after the hour “Thank for guys for coming. I think it’s very sweet that you’re concerned about me. But I’ve grown up in the same upbringing as all of you, and I’ve made my decision.” I was careful to be very polite, although there were a few choice words I would have liked to say. Regardless, there is no point in arguing with them.

Afterward, I was ranting to a good friend who is also an atheist and understands when I need to vent. He actually brought something up that I can hardly force myself to consider, but I fear it may be my only option. He suggested that I just tell my family I’m a Christian. Go along with it. Not to be neutral or even passive, but just to pretend I buy it. Maybe it’ll make things easier while I’m still living here. Although saying I’m a Christian may be easy enough (if we aren’t considering my flaming pride-fullness), pulling off such an act would require me to completely dive into my Christian life before I came out- events, services, friendships, worship, praying, and all. (At least while my family is looking.) Like I said earlier, the thought of this is enraging to me because I want so badly just to be myself and for that to be okay. But I’m afraid it will never be okay until I finally leave.

Of course I’d still be an atheist, but this idea has really been bothering me. I want to be proud of who I am as a non-believer, but if it is tearing my family apart, is it selfish for me to even acknowledge my beliefs? Part of me says they are selfish and playing the victims, but the other part of my is just exhausted of all this and wants to just breathe freely again. The only thing I’m truly worried about is if giving in to this idea and throwing my alter-ego into Christianity will once again trigger the anxiety issues I’ve worked so hard to overcome.

I understand this is a lot to process, but I really need some help.
Is it worth it to tell my family I’m an atheist if it only causes chaos? Should I just pretend I believe for their sake, and continue my life as an avid non-believer under-cover?

Please let me know what you think and feel free to have members give feedback- I want as many points of view as I can get.

Thanks so much for all you do. You make this bearable for me and I can never thank you enough,

Rich Debunks His Own Theology

Rich used to believe and preach that it takes more faith to believe in evolution than it does to believe in god. Now he doesn’t believe that, and obviously doesn’t preach it anymore.

I don’t remember who I stole the illustration in the sermon from, but here’s how it would go:

(Preacher Mode ON)

Imagine you have the finest Rolex watch ever made, and I run it through a super-powerful shredder that rips it into tiny pieces no larger than the head of a pin, or the eye of a needle.

Then I give you the expensive pile of metal, tightly sealed in a plastic box, with the instructions to shake the box until it becomes a watch again. But not just any watch, YOUR watch, and running at the correct time.

If you have any sense, you will tell me that is impossible.

I agree.

Now, Imagine how much more complex the human hand is than your watch. Or the eye, for that matter. And the human brain.

I find it much easier to believe shaking watch bits in a box will produce a watch than thinking the emptiness of space will spontaneously produce atoms and molecules from nothing, then those will rush together to make a hand, eye, brain — whole humans, not just running with the clock set, but LIVING.

But go a step further, not just living, but living in a planet that yields to the efforts of that hand, and gives man his desires — a planet that can be understood by that brain, so man can make things that bring him comfort and pleasure. But not just that, a planet that is not only pleasing, but gorgeous to that miraculous eye.

(Insert half an hour of random non-sense “Tide goes in, tide goes out,” statements, catch the praise singer’s eye, start altar call)

(Preacher Mode OFF)

There are people who still feed me my own lines and ask HOW can I not still believe that.

If all you do is listen to my argument, it sounds good (to believers who don’t believe god allows critical thought). But the second you start to think about it, it falls apart.

Here are some reasons why.

First, it assumes the end product before the process begins. The universe does not operate with the concept that man is the completion of it’s process, and earth is the height of its potential. The universe just is. When the big bang happened, it didn’t happen with goals and specifics in mind. There was no mind. There are no goals or specifics. It just is. What we are is a product of where we are and that is a product of trillions and trillions of random events over untold eons of time.

Next, to compare shaking a box filled with a limited amount of stuff to the practically infinite energy and stuff in the universe is a foolish analogy.

There is nothing going on inside that box that could produce a watch. There is no heat to melt the metals, no chemical processes to combine stuff, nothing that can possibly cause a watch to pop out.

With the universe, there is perhaps unlimited space, time and chemical process of all types happening. And while these processes seem best at creating black holes and piles of gunk, those piles of gunk find some order and become other stuff, like stars and planets.

I recently had a christian wrongly quote “facts” about how a single change of unmeasurable proportions in the earth’s position to the sun, the angle, speed or rotation would render the planet unsuitable for any life at all. First, that isn’t even true. Scientists have discovered that there is a pretty wide range of things you could change about the earth, and she would still be suitable for life.

But even if it were true, all that would mean is that earth was not a planet with life on it. It wouldn’t eliminate the possibility of other planets hitting that magic “life-spot” in relation to their stars. When you put the argument to the entire scale of the universe, it loses it’s punch.

Finally, the box illustration assumes everything that is in the box is all that is needed to make a watch. That’s not true.

There are tons of rock that were mined to get at that metal, and that’s not in the box. There are centuries of human knowledge and study that went into making the watch, and they aren’t in the box either.

There’s a watch factory that is strangely missing from the box. Basically, while there is a shredded watch in the box, there isn’t anything in the box that can make a watch.

The universe is just the opposite. There’s plenty of stuff to make worlds and stars and moons and hands and eyes and brains. Not only are the raw elements and atoms and molecules there, but the processes needed for them to come together are all there as well.

I realize my writing here is not anything close to scientific. I’m not trying to write science.

One thing I’ve realized is that in our religious lives, we signed on to arguments like the one I cite above, and sometimes we hear them again, and they call to our sense of familiar. We might catch ourselves thinking for just a moment, “Maybe the eye IS too complex!” Then we banish the thought as silly.

Just like we were taught in church to do with thoughts that go contrary to our current way of believing.

This article really isn’t about creation versus cosmology, or creation versus evolution. It’s about having the courage to look at the arguments that once comforted your christian heart, and googling and reading your heart out to find true answers that may not be as comforting at the moment, but will take you miles, even light years ahead in your ability to skeptically understand the world around you.

Here’s a challenge. Think about the “arguments” for your previous faith. Post them here, with your argument why they are bogus, and let’s discuss.

Extra credit: Rip my “watch in a box” argument up!

Let’s have fun!

Rich

Would you like longer episodes?

How would you feel about longer podcasts? We have several really good interviews in the recorder that NEED to be kept together to keep the relevance of the stories intact. I can break them up, but I don’t feel like that does justice to the teller or the listener.

I’m finding as I speak with more people, and get them to tell their stories, that it takes more time than our traditional 20 minutes. I really want to bring the stories together as a solid unit rather than breaking them up.

They would be about an hour, or actually a little under. Please comment and let me know.

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