WDP — Practicing Religion

Daily writing prompt
Do you practice religion?

My father was Jewish, my mother was catholic. Or vice versa, I don’t remember. Neither of them practiced their religion religiously. However, I was exposed to both religions. My father wanted me to read the Bible, the Old Testament. My mother pushed the New Testament. I thought the older books were more interesting and exciting, but the God character was a mean and vindictive son of a bitch. The New Testament wasn’t as exciting as the Old Testament, and the God character there was all peace and love.

I asked my parents how, if God wrote the Bible, he was depicted very differently in the two testaments. They hemmed and hawed a bit, but then said that, like everything else, God evolved. That confused me too, because these religions, along with many of the others I was exposed to, denounced and ridiculed evolution. God created us in his own image

By the time I reached high school, I came to the conclusion that God was created by humans, and not vice versa, as my parents claimed. And most of the stories in both the Old and New Testaments were stories written by human beings, not by some omnipotent, omnipresent, supernatural being. And the Bible and its stories had about as much credibility as those written about the Greek and Roman gods. That was when I realized that this whole religion thing, regardless of which specific religion you’re talking about, is all based upon manmade mythology.

So I stopped believing in the existence of God. I was labeled an atheist, a label I embraced.

Some have insisted that atheism is a religion, and because I’m a practicing atheist, I am practicing a religion. But atheists don’t “practice” atheism. We are atheists solely because we deny the existence of a supernatural god. There are no books that we are expected to read and to hold holy. There’s no dogma that we must adhere to or rituals that we must perform. No services that we must attend. I don’t proselytize about atheism or attempt to persuade others to believe as I do.

Atheism has only one tenet: God does not exist. Period. End of story. So for those of you who insist that atheism is a religion, I guess I would simply say that I do not practice that religion.

Whatever Happened to Live and Let Live?

Target, one of the largest American general-merchandise retailers, with more than 1,900 stores nationwide, has offered products celebrating Pride Month, typically in June, for more than a decade. But this year, Target will remove some of its LGBTQ+ merchandise from its Pride Month collection after facing backlash from conservative and religious organizations that threatened the safety of its workers.

“Since introducing this year’s collection, we’ve experienced threats impacting our team members’ sense of safety and well-being while at work,” Target said in a statement yesterday. “Given these volatile circumstances, we are making adjustments to our plans, including removing items that have been at the center of the most significant confrontational behavior.”

Target said that customers have knocked down Pride displays at some stores, angrily approached workers, and posted threatening videos on social media from inside the stores. The Pride merchandise has been on sale since early May.

Target’s response to confrontations in its stores is taking place as state legislatures introduce a record number of bills targeting LGBTQ+ individuals. There are close to 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills that have gone before state legislatures since the start of this year, an unprecedented number, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

What the hell kind of insanity has infected the American right? Must people tear down displays of retail items they don’t approve of and threaten workers in the stores that sell those items? Can’t they just walk by them and focus on whatever items they wish to purchase that brought them into the Target store in the first place?

What is this going to lead to? Jews pulling down Christmas displays in stores? Christians boycotting stores that sell Hanukkah menorahs, candles, cards, and gifts? Oh wait, many Christians are already boycotting stores that don’t insist their workers, and even customers, say “Merry Christmas” and not “Happy Holidays.”

Why do companies like Target kowtow to the most radical, far right customers and groups that represent a minority of their shoppers? What’s the harm in selling merchandise and putting it on display for their customers who are interested? As an atheist, I’m not interested in buying religious goods, but I can’t imagine threatening employees who work in the store, much less tearing down the store’s displays. I just walk by and ignore all that.

America used to be known as the home of the brave and the land of the free. But these days, it’s become the home of the brazen and the land of the free as long as you’re white, Christian, straight, and for many, male.

Seriously, whatever happened to live and let live?

WDP — Atheism

What’s something most people don’t understand?


I’m an atheist. That’s not a secret. But being an atheist makes me misunderstood by many and reviled by some. Most people don’t really understand what atheism is. Some believe that it means you hate God. I don’t hate God. I don’t believe that God exists, and why would I hate something that isn’t real? Also, many people refer to atheists as “non-believers.” But that’s not accurate either.

If someone calls those who don’t believe in God “non-believers,” their definition of “believer” is way too narrow. They’re thinking that the word “believer” applies only to a belief system, a religious belief system. A belief in a supreme being, a greater intelligence, a supernatural deity. And for most Americans, that means believing in God, Yahweh, Allah, or whatever they call their deity.

As an atheist, I believe that God does not exist. I believe that Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others who worship God made up God in the same way that Greeks and Romans, for example, made up Zeus and Jupiter and all the other gods they believed in.

But just because I don’t believe that God exists doesn’t make me a non-believer. Because that would imply that I don’t believe in anything. I believe in a lot of things.

I believe that we didn’t exist before we were born and that we will cease to exist in any form after we die.

I believe that our universe is almost 14 billion years old and that the planet we live on is 4.5 billion years old. I believe in evolution. And I believe that we are working pretty damn hard to destroy our planet’s ability to sustain human life.

I believe in a woman’s rights to choose. I believe in free speech, in freedom of (or from) religion, in equal rights for gays, and in gun control. I also believe in the separation of church and state.

But wait, there’s more that I believe. I believe that humans are fallible and that we all make mistakes. Some more than others. I believe that most people are good, decent, and moral, regardless of their religious beliefs — or lack thereof.

Consider this. We were all natural-born atheist. We did not come out of the womb believing in God. We were taught about God by our parents and from the pastor, priest, rabbi, or imam at the church or temple we and our parents attended. Our religious beliefs as a child were our parents’ religious beliefs. As with just about everything else, we did what our parents told us. We followed their lead.

But many of us, as we grew up, became skeptical of the religious beliefs of our parents due to the inconsistencies, and in some cases, the outright hypocrisies, of those beliefs. We asked questions and sought evidence. Answers like, “Because it says so in the Bible,” or “You just have to have faith, you just have to believe,” didn’t cut it with us. We grew into pragmatists who think rationally, and logically, and after weighing all of the available evidence, we chose to not believe in any supernatural deity or supreme being.

Don’t Pity the Poor Atheist

Many Christians seem to believe that atheists are a bad, sad, miserable, immoral, lost lot. They feel sorry for or pity us because we have lost our way; we have strayed from the path of righteousness. They can’t understand how we can be moral individuals if we don’t believe in God or an afterlife. It’s so sad that we can’t or won’t allow ourselves to bask in the glory that is God, or to accept Jesus as our savior. Which is why they want to “save” us. How magnanimous of them.

Or if they don’t feel sorry for us, they are angry at us. How dare we question their beliefs? How do we have the audacity to suggest that the Bible isn’t “The Truth,” and that God didn’t create us in his image, or that we evolved from monkeys?

We, as atheists, are, therefore, condemned to eternal damnation unless we change our evil, secular ways and embrace God and Jesus. Only then will we be saved. Only then will the light of God’s truth reveal itself to us.

Atheists are not people you should feel sorry for or be angry at. We are not bad, immoral people. We just don’t live our lives built around the God myth. But hey, whatever floats your boat.

Book Banning

Yesterday I told you in this post about how a Florida middle school principal lost her job because a few parents were upset when their little darlings were exposed to the penis of David in Michelangelo’s classic sculpture.

Today I’m giving you an update on book banning n America, something that Florida also seems to be at the forefront of.

According to a new report from the American Library Association (ALA), attempted book bans and restrictions at school and public libraries continue to surge, setting a record in 2022. The vast majority of complaints have come from conservatives, directed at works with LGBT or racial themes.

More than 1,200 challenges were compiled by the association in 2022, nearly double the then-record total from 2021 and by far the most since the ALA began keeping data 20 years ago.

Last year, more than 2,500 different book titles were objected to, compared to 1,858 in 2021 and just 566 in 2019. In numerous cases, hundreds of books were challenged in a single complaint. Of the reported book challenges, 58% targeted books and materials in school libraries, classroom libraries, or school curricula; 41% of book challenges targeted materials in public libraries.

The report not only documented the growing number of challenges, but also their changing nature. A few years ago, complaints usually arose with parents and other community members and referred to an individual book. Now, the requests are often for multiple removals, and organized by national groups such as the conservative Moms for Liberty, which has a mission of “unifying, educating, and empowering parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government.”

Librarians around the country have told of being harassed and threatened with violence or legal action by those individuals and groups seeking to remove a book from a library’s collection so that no one else can read it. ALA President Lessa Kanani’opua Pelayo-Lozada said, “Every day professional librarians sit down with parents to thoughtfully determine what reading material is best suited for their child’s needs. Now, many library workers face threats to their employment, their personal safety, and in some cases, threats of prosecution for providing books to youth their parents don’t want them to read.

Book bannings and categorizing classic works of art to be pornographic. This is conservative America in 2023, I’m afraid.