Thursday, May 04, 2006

 

Here goes…

Well, I'm new to this blogging thing. Didn't even know what it was 'til about three weeks ago, but as I seem to have bored everyone I know to death with my constant ranting about the evils of organised religion, religion in general, astrological guff and other assorted mumbo jumbo that comes under the loose heading of 'spirituality', I am glad to have found somewhere to vent my frustrations in a more, shall we say, contained way. I'm a little self-conscious about it, but hey ho, hanging around in the comfort zone's not really doing it for me at the moment. Let's try something new.

I've chosen the name Atheist Mum because it sums up who I am and what I write and talk about more than anything else. There's an American column called Agnostic Mom, and I suppose I could have just Anglicized the 'mom' bit, but — no offence to Agnostic Mom, her column's great, even greater when you take into account her Mormom background — for me the term Agnostic is just a little too polite. Okay, so we can't prove that there isn't a god… but, COME ON!

That said, I could equally have gone for humanist, secular humanist, freethinking, bright… I'm happy to be described as any or all of the above. In the interests of snappiness, however, and because I think there's never been a better… no, scratch that, there's never been a more important time to be out and proud about atheism, that's the moniker I've plumped for.

Just for starters — I have LOTS to say on this subject — I'm going to relate a little incident that happened just after I had my second child.

Libby was born at home after a three hour, straightforward labour, at around one in the morning. The next day I was up and about, tired but functioning, and by the following day I felt up to taking her for her first trip to the supermarket. Behind us in the queue there was a middle-aged woman who began cooing over the baby.

"Oooh, she's very new!" she said to me. "How old is she?"

I told her two days, and she was so surprised that I went on to explain about her having been born at home, all very straightforward, etc, etc... We chuntered on for a bit and then the woman beamed at me. "Of course, you know why you had a good birth? It's because you're a good Christian!"

I don't know what she was basing her assumption on, but in making it she placed me in one of those situations you read about in books about ethics and moral dilemmas. Do I let her think that yes, I will be joining her come judgment day, marching under the banner saying 'CHOSEN — SOUTH LONDON CHAPTER', or do I risk offending the old dear by disabusing her of the notion? Actually, I felt a little offended myself, and why not? Had I been Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, whatever, I would have felt I had a perfect right to feel offended by her assumption, and to put her right. Why should I feel less entitled to take offence because I'm atheist? Are my feelings less important than those of 'people of faith'? No, exactly, that's what I thought, and besides, I had just had a baby, I could say whatever I bloody well felt like saying.

"Actually, I'm not." Still smiling, I even managed to force myself to look a little apologetic.

She looked at me for a moment. A sort of searching look, I fancy, as she waited for me to explain, if I wasn't a Christian, what in heaven I was? I smiled again and got on with packing my shopping. When I looked up again she had moved, without another word, to the next queue along. What happened to 'Love thy neighbour'?

Now, I've told this story many times, and although I'd be hard pressed to find any true 'believers' amongst my friends, almost all felt that they wouldn't have disagreed with the woman. 'Paying lip service to a defunct religion' is how this sort of thing is often characterised, and to most, it seems like a reasonably benign activity. It is not, and it is something I'm sure will come up again and again in this blog, as I try to explain why not.

That's all for now. I've enjoyed doing this, and I'd be thrilled to think someone out there is interested in what I've got to say, so if you are… let me know.

N.B. Agnostic Mom can be found at www.agnosticmom.com. She also writes a regular column for the Humanist Network News, www.humanistnetworknews.org

Comments:
Yes yes yes, reading this I am realising we are yet another oppressed minority! Filling in a form, my doctor got to the bit where it asks your faith, and he said 'I assume you are Christian and so is your husband?' Eh? My partner, (not husband), was not even present, and the guy has put us both down as Christians on the form. When I told him how appalled I was that he was making such assumptions about me, he had a go at me for arguing! I have since changed doctors, obviously. But it's like the default is Christian - if you aren't wearing a hijab, yarmulke or turban, then you must be good old C of E.
 
Here’s an extract from an article by John Bice in “The State News” (www.statenews.com) from last February:

Multiple studies have demonstrated an inverse relationship between education level and religious beliefs. For example, a 2004 Gallup survey found that Americans who tend to reject biblical literalism tend to have higher levels of formal education.
What does a high level of scientific knowledge do to belief in the supernatural?
A survey of members of the highly esteemed National Academy of Sciences, or NAS, answered that question nicely.
Election to this elite scientific body is considered among the highest honors a scientist can achieve. The journal Nature published a survey measuring the religious beliefs of NAS members and the results were striking — a mere 7 percent reported belief in God. Fewer still, undoubtedly, were religious fundamentalists or biblical literalists.

For a musical interlude try the track “Religion” by Public Image Limited from the 1978 album “first issue”.

Also, get this for a link!:
http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/news/story/0,9830,1388227,00.html.

Peace
 
For some reason I couldn't paste in the full link to the Guardian Online/Unlimited article at the end of my last comment - the one shown kept coming out incomplete, so I'll try this way:
"Scientists hunt the ghost in the machine" by Ian Sample, Guardian Online, Wednesday January 12th 2005.
Peace
 
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