Friday, October 31, 2008

a minor self-censorship

I do mostly Internet based programming for a living. Some Windows console stuff, but mostly web pages and Internet based programming. At least, I was until about a month ago--when I got laid off from my last job. Or had the contract terminated (it was a contractor job). Or however you want to put it. Probably since the economy is a bit slow, new opportunities for employment have been few and far between.

Anyway, enough whining. I decided it would be good for both my moral and skill set to learn PHP and MySql and set up a website that I can show to show potential employers. Though I do mostly C# and .Net on the job, these are just too expensive for me to do on my own. Anyway, if you can program with one language, you can pick up others. It's the general programming skill that counts most.

I am also doing it so that I can show off some of my writing skills by blogging. Yes, I have this blog, but there is a problem. There are a few things on this blog that could irritate, isolate, and offend potential employers. That is, I write a lot about atheism. It's just better to leave the opinions about religion out of the job interview. It sucks, but I guess that's the way it is for now. For this reason I am not going to link to this blog from my 'professional' web site, nor will I link to there from here.

I even wonder a bit about the potential fallout of the recent article in the Courier-Journal about atheists that mentions me by name (Mikayla Starstuff is a pseudonym of course.) A Google search on my name brings that article up, often as the top result. I just can't help but wonder what the effects of that could be on my life--things that I will never know about for sure.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Reason-Driven Life

I'm currently reading Robert's Price "The Reason-Driven Life". It is intended as a point by point response to Rick Warren's "The Purpose-Driven Life", which is a huge hit in the evangelical community and a book I have seen on the coffee tables of some of my relatives. If it had been written several years earlier, it would likely have been on my own coffee table. Anyway, I haven't read Warren's book, and I don't intend to.

That being said, you don't have to read 'The Purpose-Driven Life' to understand and appreciate 'The Reason-Driven Life'. That is, not if you were raised in just that sort of mainstream Evangelical atmosphere that eats up the words of people like Rick Warren. Unlike most other books written by non-believers critical of Christianity, this one specifically addresses the issues of the mainstream Evangelical Christian beliefs.

Some of the things I had issue with that Price addresses directly include:

  • The assumed virtue of narrow-mindedness in religious matters, since any thoughts or information that leads to 'doubt' could send one on the path to non-belief.

  • The notion of being 'in the center of God's will', as if you could read the mind of God.

  • The problem of evil, and the ways Evangelicals try to get God off the hook.

  • 'Let go and let God' as an abdication of one's one responsibilities and avoidance of those things that will come back and bite you eventually.

  • The idea that this life is just preparation for the afterlife and the ultimate 'final exam', where if you get some of the important questions wrong (such as: Who was Jesus?) you fail and will be sent to Hell.

  • The horrible justifications of Hell by Evangelicals, such as 'God doesn't send anyone to hell, they choose to go there!'

  • The short-circuiting of reason in favor of faith.

Robert Price brings both his experience as a formal fundamentalist and his long-time in-depth study of the Bible to bear on these questions and many more. This is a book I wish I would have gotten my hands on when I was just on my way out of Evangelical Christianity--it would have made the transition so much smoother. Reading this book brought back loads of memories of my own experiences of Christianity. The whole spiel about "It's not about me!" and "Let go and let God." I greatly recommend this book to anyone who has been raised in Evangelical Christianity.

Friday, October 17, 2008

job hunting again

Well, that last job didn't work out really well. I was there 2 months then got a call after hours on October 1st and found out they were terminating my contract. Well, that's life as a contractor... These are always emotionally and financially trying times. But at least I do have an interview in the works for early next week. Life goes on.

While I have the extra time, I'm working on creating a PHP website and spending more time playing the flute. And I'm still with Ed (who I mentioned in the post about 'my crazy life' a few posts back), so I can't complain too much. :)

Monday, October 06, 2008

More atheists are sharing their views

There was a story in the Louisville Courier-Journal about my atheist group! And I was interviewed for it too :)

More atheists are sharing their views

When she first logged onto an atheist Web site five years ago, Mikel Childers' hands were shaking.

Since she was a teen, she had harbored growing doubts about the conservative Christian faith, "but I was so programmed against the word atheist," she said.

When she eventually decided she was one, a "feeling of almost euphoria" descended upon her, said Childers, now 28.

"I no longer had to justify why a good and loving God would allow (bad) things to happen," she said.

Her experience is shared by others who are part of Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers, a loosely organized group that meets monthly in an upstairs room at Kaelin's Restaurant for burgers, drinks, discussions and fellowship. About 35 attended a recent meeting.

"We believe in living for this life and this world and using science and reason to understand the natural world better," said John Armstrong, one of the organizers.

They're part of an increasingly vocal minority of atheists, and other Americans who claim no religious affiliation, who are fighting the influence of religious groups on politics, schools and scientific research.

The percentage of religiously unaffiliated Americans has doubled since 1990 -- rising to 16 percent.

That growth represents one of the largest trends in American religion today, according to a poll released earlier this year by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

About 2 percent each describe themselves as "atheist" or "agnostic." Most of the rest say they're nothing in particular -- and half of that group actually still has religious beliefs or practices.

Twelve percent of Kentuckians and 16 percent of Hoosiers have no affiliation with any religion, according to the survey, which didn't provide a breakdown by state of how many describe themselves as atheists.

Those trends coincide with the rise of the "new atheism" -- attacks on religious dogma mounted by such best-selling authors as Richard Dawkins ("The God Delusion") and Christopher Hitchens ("God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything").

The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by Muslim terrorists "brought a lot of people here," Armstrong said. "But you really don't even need to go to 9/11 for an example of why religious certainty about things nobody can be certain about is dangerous."

Members of the Louisville atheists group also say they want to combat conservative Christians' political activities in areas ranging from embryonic stem-cell research to creationism to courthouse postings of the Ten Commandments.

Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst of the Family Foundation of Kentucky -- which has worked alongside religious groups endorsing conservative causes such as the 2004 constitutional ban on same-sex marriage -- said he welcomed the atheists' involvement.

"As long as they believe in the legitimacy of people of faith furthering what they believe, I don't see any problem with groups like this furthering their agenda," he said.

Religion And Voting

In recent years, religious practice has been one of the leading indicators of voting patterns.

The more frequently people attend worship, the more likely they are to vote Republican.

And while Democrats are struggling to regain some of that voting share, they won the religiously unaffiliated vote by a 75-25 percent margin nationwide in the 2006 congressional elections, according to exit polls.

In this year's 3rd District rematch, Republican Anne Northup leads among those who attend worship frequently, while incumbent Democrat John Yarmuth leads among all the rest, according to a SurveyUSA/WHAS-TV poll in July.

Atheist group member Alan Canon of Louisville, who often wears a pin with a scarlet-letter "A" to prompt conversations about atheism, grew up in a fundamentalist household and was a Bible camp prize winner.

But his family also valued science, and he ultimately couldn't reconcile the two.

"For people openly to say they're atheist is similar to gay people coming out," Canon said. "It's not popular at all for people to say they're atheist, especially in these parts."

Members of the Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers reflect the complexities presented in the Pew survey -- that people with no religious affiliation often have some religious practices.

Some meditate or practice Wiccan spiritual rituals, tied to the rhythms of nature.

Several belong to Unitarian Universalist churches, which have no theological creed but proclaim values of love, justice and truth-seeking.

"We do believe in spirituality," said David Cooper, 59, who belongs to Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church. "It may not necessarily be a type of theistic spirituality."

Common Ground

Religious groups, meanwhile, are responding to the new trends.

The Kentucky Baptist Convention -- alarmed by a 2004 report showing one-third of Kentucky adults with little or no church connection -- has seen many churches work to be more "culturally relevant," said Larry Baker, director of new work and associational missions.

"We have to meet people exactly where they are, respect them as individuals and then share boldly and with clarity about what we believe about our relationship with Jesus Christ," he said.

Others are finding common ground with atheists.

The Rev. David Emery, pastor of Middletown Christian Church, recently led a sermon series on the recent atheist best-sellers.

While he criticized them for ignoring the positive work of religious people for social justice, he applauded them for raising issues of religious violence and the problem of suffering.

"The questions that these atheists raise are questions people of faith have also, that they haven't been given permission to ask," he said.

Reporter Peter Smith can be reached at (502) 582-4469.


I went to see Religulous in last night's matinee. I saw it with a group of about 20 other freethinkers in the Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers meetup group.

Generally, I loved it. I think Bill Maher did a GREAT job in pointing out all the absurdities in the major western religions. There were Bible-thumping fundamentalists who clearly didn't understand the Bible all that well, nor many of the things that Jesus said. There is an interview with one guy who actually thinks he is the second coming of Jesus himself--and he expects us to just take his work for it. There are Muslims who say their is room for dissent in Islam and that Islam is a religion of peace, but could not bring themselves to say that someone should be put in fear of their life for writing a book (see: Salmon Rushdie). Must humorous to me were the devices devised by pious Jews to enable them to work around the specifics of the laws about what one is not supposed to do on the Sabbath. Like a programmer who devises a complex work-around to accomplish a simple (but perhaps mundane and boring) task, it seems they do a lot of work in order to avoid doing work.

I have a few general complaints--there are times that Maher a bit mean and rude. Not in all the interviews though, and less in those interviews where the interviewee is actually making some kind of sense.

You just have to see it for yourself.