Tag Archives: atheism

Hymns for an Atheist “Poison the Parish”

“If I dare to believe at all, it leaves me deflated.”

Once again, the magical intersection of music and life experience has occurred for me, I share it to inspire and encourage.

It’s not easy living as a non-believer.  I have a friend, a former JW, raising her boys without religion but with curiosity and inquisitive minds.  She often frets over the possibility of her parents shunning her, as they did her brother, because of it. A preacher I heard recently accused non-believers of seeing themselves as ‘god’ – as if a human being could exist and live without any kind of god-like figure head – and condemned us for our prideful ways.

Currently, my husband and I live with and take care of his grandma, who is a firm believer in all things christian.  She’s lived a high quality life thanks to our efforts.  She gets a decent, home cooked, well balanced meal every night for dinner (important for a diabetic).  We do her shopping, run her errands, pay her bills, keep up her yard, keep up her house, take care of her dogs, all of which she could do herself, if she wanted.  We do this out of respect, on top of jobs and our own kids and pets to tend, because there’s a strong sense of doing what is right and having a clean conscious when we lay our heads on the pillow each night.

It matters not.

We are perceived as bad, evil, lost, gone astray.  We are treated with alternating contempt and condescension.  Take for instance the gossip and condemnation of us we hear during her phone conversations with friends.  Many times this takes place with my grown son in the next room, able to hear every nasty insult hurled towards his own mother.   I walk my talk, so I am certain he sees that my words and deeds match up, nonetheless he is exposed to a fair amount of negativity and there are days I’m certain he struggles because of it.

And then nearly every morning, like clockwork, she gets a call from a chick who is a gambling addict but apparently a believer.  There’s an entirely predictable arc of conversation:

Her:  “I messed up again.”

Grandma:  “We will pray for forgiveness and that God gives you the strength to overcome.”

It’s one of the most perverse things I’ve ever witnessed:  It’s okay to keep falling in the same mire, it’s okay to keep blowing rent money and food money, just as long as you believe in Christ and ask forgiveness.   But if you don’t believe – in anything – yet still maintain a daily focus to do good in your community, still work hard and take good care of your elders, still keep track of the words coming from your mouth, you’re held in contempt of some court to which you don’t even belong.

We are in the process of moving so as to alleviate the crazy stress involved with such a situation.  It is, however, immensely challenging  to continue to live graciously while knowing and understanding that we could be alcoholics or cheating on each other or fighting all the time; yet if we believed, we’d be given a pass and a prayer to be healed and all would be right in the world and our house.

Such an acknowledgement presents the temptation to become cynical, judgmental, or live in perpetual anger.   Meditation helps to keep the mind calm, choice allows us to stay positive and focused, and thoughtful, engaging music encourages.  I am particularly grateful for Seether’s latest album, “Poison the Parish”.  Many songs on it speak poignantly to the unbelievers dilemma of coexisting in a world of sanctimonious religiosity:

“Will you catch me when I fall and keep me elated?”

The music and lyrics provide a safe place for me to declare my frustration and feelings of betrayal.  They inspire me to keep to my path, they remind me there are others out there in similar, or worse, situations.   If that’s you, if you’re in this kind of place, I’ll beg you to have a listen to the album, specifically the tunes “Against the Wall” and “Emotionless”. The work is a source of meat and sustenance to me at just the perfect time, may it minister to your hurting heathen soul as well.

I am, as always, grateful for the intersection of music and life experience.

I wish for you much peace,

Frankie

 


Resurrection Realization

With the knowledge that much of the world is celebrating a well known hero and his resurrection story today, I’m taking time to reflect upon the ways that we can apply the story to our lives, even if we don’t spend time in a church pew or singing holy hymns.

In Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s with a Thousand Faces” we learn that over the relatively short span of our existence, we humans have been really good at consistently telling the same story over and over and over again:  We are born, we face trials, we die and go through hell, we are resurrected.   Campbell says the archetypal steps of the story line give us inspiration for our own trials and tribulations:  Who doesn’t go through hell when a loved one is lost?  Who isn’t faced with guilt or shame when a divorce occurs?  How many of us come face to face with our dark selves in the caves of awareness and must wrestle our own demons there in order to escape?

Life is suffering. “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you something.” Yet the human spirit is amazingly resilient and repeatedly has shown strength in the face of great adversity.  This is the miracle we can celebrate today – that we come out on the other side of our descent into hell.  We triumph over grief, we become better partners in our next relationship, we figure out ways to accept and then overcome our weaknesses. We resurrect ourselves, consistently and perpetually .

We echo this sentiment in our cultural story telling.  Our heroes endure isolation and hellish torture, overcome their adversaries, and are ultimately stronger than before. They provide inspiration to us as we go about our daily lives so that when we do endure suffering, we can have hope in the fact that if our heroes have made it out alive and more powerful, then so can we.

So even if we aren’t subscribed to the religion celebrating the hero story of the day, we can still reflect on our propensity as humans to muddle through whatever hell life might throw at us, and our ability to resurrect ourselves to live once more.  We can also be grateful for the strength and resiliency inherent in our spirits to do so.

Yours,

Frankie


Acquired Strength

Against my back is the rough texture of oak tree bark,

I give it my entire attention, for it is here that I find my strength.

Fragile spine against a layered trunk of experience and trials,

I am inspired by it’s sturdy habits.

At times, strong winds bent it nearly to breaking, yet it remains upright;

Reminded of the forces that have threatened my own grounding,

I am reassured that I too will stand tall once more.

Long limbs reach down and like a crone’s overgrown nails

scratches the itch within my soul, their shadows hug me close to the earth.

Invisible cocoon that welcomes and nurtures,

I sit with my back against the rough texture of an oak tree,

and there acquire the strength to live.

 


Embrace

“You don’t know my mind, you don’t know my kind. Dark necessities are part of my design.”  RHCP

We stood in the hallway of my mom’s little home, saying our goodbyes. My mom, observing my sister and I, made the comment that we were as different as light and dark.  The silence that followed needed no explanation:  we all knew who could identify with which description.   I was the dark one.

I wrestled with this, and only now that I’m ‘middle-aged’ am I finally getting a handle on its meaning.   Darkness is often, in our society, associated with everything bad, revolting, and horrible.  I know myself not to be that kind of person, yet it’s obvious my choice in movie and book genres always portray dark forces that cripple the hero so that he or she must overcome monstrous challenges in order to declare victory, rather than finding my entertainment in comedies or romance.   I know that I tend towards sadness more than happiness, pain more than pleasure, and I’ll almost always choose the unknown adventure over promised security.

Yet, it is a necessity to have such darkness in our midst; this is an age old philosophical idea.   We would not know those among us who tend towards the light, for one thing. Could my family identify my sister as the ‘light’ if she were also compared to ‘light’?  And without a measure of darkness to strike against, how do we know how light it really is and to what degree it exists…is it bright against the dark like a welcoming porch light in the winter storm, or is it a small glimmer that only elucidates the next step of the path?

Besides embracing the notion that I personally have a bent toward the darker aspects of life dynamics, I’ve also navigated the difficult task of embracing the darkness that dwells within.   This is some of the most important time of introspection I have experienced.  It is difficult to look in the mirror and finally notice the shadow behind my eyes; the feelings behind some of my moods.  It is even more difficult to hold the image and acknowledge it for what it truly is – a part of me as much as my happiness.  It is even more difficult still to wrestle with that part of me and accept it, to find a place for it to sit within my soul; to understand that it doesn’t make me a ‘bad’ person for doing so.  In fact, it makes me a better person as I am more inclined to sympathize, more conscious of my self.

There’s a relief in it for me as well, I confess.   Coming from a Christian upbringing, I was taught that anything ‘bad’ was to be blamed on demons or the devil, some outside force over which I had no personal control or even understanding (hence our societal perception of ‘bad’ mentioned earlier).   The comprehension that ‘bad’ exists within as a means to compel me towards goodness rather than the idea that I am subject in some way to an outside boogeymen gives me a sense of control precisely because it enlightens me to certain undercurrents in my personality – awareness is everything.  And, I think,  when we can balance within ourselves the daily struggle most of us undertake to do the right thing and be ‘good’ against the inherent ‘bad’ we all possess, it’s not a stretch to claim that we gain a kind of confidence and strength, our steps become surer, our actions more and more deliberate when we do so.   Therein lies relief – and empowerment.

Embracing our own individual darkness is not a new concept either.  Luke Skywalker’s venture into an unknown cave revealed the face of his enemy instead…Harry Potter closed his eyes to see Lord Voldemort…Jesus’ forty days of wandering tested his personal weaknesses…The story line runs throughout human history as clearly as our DNA can be traced to certain areas of the world.

When considered at a personal level, and embraced as a necessary “part of our design”, darkness is not so scary and becomes a natural component of our world-view – this awareness empowers us in very real ways.

Yours,

Frankie

  • this short audio clip was helpful to me when working through the process of acknowledging my own darkness, it speaks of Carl Jung’s ability to do so within himself and how it empowered his world view.

“Make it So”

I wrote a while back about the way that science fiction provides examples to us of what a world without religion looks like.   It’s an important point to think on since there’s quite a lot of hullaballoo surrounding the thought that atheists or agnostics can’t be nice or get along and are particularly evil so a future filled with such people is certainly vile, discordant, and unlivable.

Not so.  Many science fiction movies and television shows exemplify that humankind can actually thrive where religion is absent and reason prevails in it’s stead.  Is there evil?  Yep.  We can’t escape it because it is part of ourselves, but we do see in each instance that love or relationships or family overcome and save the day, and tellingly, no supreme being is needed.  (By the way, we really don’t know how else to write the story except that good always defeats evil – such an optimistic species).

With the release of the newest Star Trek movie, a fellow writer picked up on this theme and discusses it in this Atlantic article.   It is hopeful in this time of turbulence – especially as an American watching the current election cycle – to see a standard held for us all to claim:  we can rely on each other, as well as our own reasoning, to create a decent society.

May we ‘make it so.’

Yours,

Frankie

 


Examination of Death, by an Atheist

Just a few days ago, my siblings and I gathered together at an idyllic place in the mountains and, one by one, scattered the remains of our beloved mother.

Many of my family take solace in the thought that they will see her again someday ‘across the River Jordan’.   Yet as my husband and I discuss heady topics such as parallel universes and quantum entanglement, I am instead, solaced by the thought that my mom is more alive now than she was while bottled up inside a frame of skin and bones.   This is the examination of death, by an atheist.

Energy can be neither created nor destroyed, so sayeth science.

restingplace

Photo credit to E.W.

This is the reality in which we live. It is incontestable, it is there in the math as assuredly as one plus one equals two. So when the essence of a soul, whatever energy is caught up in our being, is no longer caged by the laws of physicality, then we have to conclude that our energy is dispelled and scattered again throughout our universe, to be employed for newer enterprises (nature is brilliant at recycling and repurposing).   There is great comfort in the thought that my mother is not relegated to just here and just there.  She is all around now, freer in a manner that none of us can conceive, able to effect any number of possible outcomes.  She is life, and that more abundantly.

I will miss her, make no mistake.  I have keened for her passing and will do so again in days to come, I am sure. I will never again feel the sweetness of her kisses upon my lips nor hear the admonishing tone of her voice when my wild nature conflicted with her demure soul.  And while in days past, I might have taken comfort in the hope of ‘seeing her again,’ today I am pacified by a more solid idea.   My mother is ever with me, in every breath I take, in each word I write – in all manner of ways that her energy is now part of the universe itself, I am ever a recipient of her freedom.  Though I may be heartbroken; I am content in this examination.

Yours,

Frankie

In Remembrance:  HEA


The Missing

 

As atheists, we can’t count on an invisible god to get us through our trials.  We don’t turn to a ‘comforter’ when life challenges us.  We don’t appeal to a heavenly deity for miracles that defy nature.    Instead, we turn inward to ourselves.

I’ve been on both sides of the fence:  I spent my time in churches and on my knees,  clinging to some hope that something out there somewhere would somehow ease my pain and see me through whatever heartache I was dealing with.  Now I no longer turn towards a supposed omnipotent energy, I turn inward to myself for comfort, to family and friends for support.

The difference is notable and worth consideration.

Turning outward toward a god keeps us from finding our own strength.  Turning outward toward an entity whose evidence of existence is scant denies us the ability to learn to deal with things on our own.  It robs us of a confidence we find no other way. It stunts our growth as human beings.

It is painful to sound the depths of one’s own soul, it is not easy to learn to comfort one’s self with the challenges of life.   It is real however.   It is rewarding in a way that nothing else is.  It allows us to find a toughness within ourselves we can’t obtain if we turn to someone/something else.   It adds another facet to the diamond of our spirit.   I wouldn’t want it any different.

Here’s to strength, confidence, and growth.   They are ours for the taking…if we’re willing to turn inward and find them.

Yours,

Frankie

 

 

 

 

 


It’s Been a Long Week, Time for a Smile

 

The Book of Chef La La Foutaise:  In Which Haggis Sends Him to Despair (Because I checked the sauce and this one hasn’t been done yet, I think.)

“Let me at him!”  The crude request came from Haggis, who could bear the competition no longer.  It was the early days of what anthropologists call “the foodie revolution” and flocks of Haggis’ followers were fleeing his culinary Highlands for the warmer climes of Italy and the new spaghetti dish made famous by Chef La La Foutaise.   Haggis was pissed about it, he’d kept tummies full for centuries and this young pasta upstart threatened his existence.  He thus traveled the saucy road himself to present his case to The Flying Spaghetti Monster.  How awkward did the dull northern god seem against the glistening tentacles of His Noodly Appendage!

“Fine.” Shouted an irritated, booming voice from somewhere between two giant meatballs and a glob of wet noodles, “Have at him, but you are forbidden to end his life.  He’ll do that himself with a slow death of cholesterol plaque, so keep your mitts off.  His kitchen is open game, so is his herb garden.  Do what you must and may the chips fall where they may.  You will find, however, that my dear Chef is loyal under the most trying circumstances, pasta is his life.   I have faith in this human.”

Haggis left the company of His Noodly Appendage with hope.  If he could dethrone the Chef once and for all he just might be able to remain King of Comfort Food.

His first stop was the Chef’s herb garden.  Trample, tromple, tromp.  Each tender leaf of basil and oregano was methodically bruised and destroyed.   There would be no seasoning in the Chef’s sauce. Our hero did despair as hard as any and verily his sobbing was heard up and down his block as he plucked dried herbs from his pantry and sacrilegiously added them to his fresh tomato sauce.  Yet he did prepare the most scrumptious of delights that evening, and to the Holy Trinity of Pasta, Meatballs, and Sauce, our Chef humbly gave thanks, as well as giving himself a pat on the back for having the forethought to save some of last year’s herb crop.

Seeing that his adversary was undaunted, our bloated villain Haggis took things to a whole ‘nother level.  He destroyed the tomato and garlic crops.

Oh the wailing!  Oh the complaints!  Oh the interesting swear words that were invented the moment our Chef did see that some master of maleficence had visited his favorite garden!  “How?” he whined, “How does one make a spaghetti sauce without fresh garlic and tomatoes?  I simply must cancel my dinner party this evening for I cannot make do in these conditions.”

The Chef was a mess.  The dinner party he planned that night was greatly anticipated among his neighbors; they all looked forward to a meal at the Chef’s house. The food, the ambiance, the company, and the pleasing demeanor of the Chef himself had earned a reputation in the village.   To cancel would bring the wrath of his neighbors upon him, and he saw what they did when the cable company blacked out the local football game.  Let’s just say the cable company changed its mind. He would find a way.

Once the initial shock of losing his freshness wore off, the Chef set about to improvise.  “Ragu it is!” he declared, “But it will be MY version of Ragu, I certainly don’t trust the people at Kraft.”   The challenged Chef unsealed the jar and upon a first whiff of cold sauce, he declared again, “How people can use this stuff on a regular basis is beyond me.”  Without so much as a prayer to His Holiness – it wasn’t needed, the Chef knew exactly what to do in this circumstance – our underdog added and stirred and tasted and added and stirred again.  By the time he was done, the jar of Ragu had been transformed into a culinary miracle:  one could discern the delicate balance between oregano and honey, one could taste a hint of white wine, one could almost imagine that fresh garlic had been added when in reality it was dried.   Once combined with the homemade pasta, the Chef’s guests could tell no difference and praised his talents generously.  The more wine the Chef served, the praisier his guests became.  He kept their glasses full, gave thanks to The Flying Spaghetti Monster for the fruit of the vine, and congratulated himself on his che’effing genius.

While the guests woke up to hangovers and our Chef woke up to dirty dishes, the mighty villain Haggis woke up to disgrace; he thought for sure the Chef would give up without fresh tomatoes for his sauce but he found out the dodgy bastard managed to slide right through the difficulty and please his guests anyway.   Haggis thought long and hard.   If he wasn’t successful at sabotaging the sauce, then the noodles were next.  Consequently and methodically, every jar of olive oil in the village was rendered rancid, every bag of flour was riddled with weevils, every hen was sedated so she couldn’t lay eggs.  “Game on Chef!” Haggis did squeal from the top of a sheep shed, “Let’s see you make a pasta dish NOW!”   Haggis was quite pleased with his work and demonstrated it through his taunting techniques, “What’ll you do, huh?  Try some soy flour and almond oil and substitute applesauce for the eggs?  Ha!  I’d like to see that!”

I wish I could say that the Chef was gracious under these trying circumstances but really he lost his manners and all regard for societal protocol.  He wandered from house to house, didn’t even bother to knock before entering, and ravaged each pantry for fresh staples, leaving a wreck behind.  Haggis did his work well though, and the Chef was left with nothing, not-a-thing with which to make his soft, tender noodles.   Despair tore at his soul while his own hands tore at his apron and he ran around the village square with a repetitive wail, “What will I do now!”  His neighbors did close their doors, their windows, and their curtains in order to leave the Chef to his misery.  Behold! It wasn’t a pretty sight.

The Flying Spaghetti Monster looked upon this frail human with pity.  Verily He wanted to rescue this small soul and tell him that it was okay, that the Chef was just caught in the middle of an infinite battle between Himself and that prick Haggis, that his reaction will affect future generations in no way whatsoever.  But it was against all Colandrial consideration to breech the veil between god and man, so His Noodly Appendage did what most gods do in times such as these:   He invested in industrial strength ear plugs to block the Chef’s whining, and left him to his own devices by going on holiday to Vietnam where there was a new restaurant opening that He wanted to try – bring on the pho and bon appetit!

Feeling abandon by his god as he really was, our Chef did abruptly end his pity party and set to work to overcome his obstacles.  If he could manage to transform a jar of Ragu into a tasty dish, then by god he could manage to make some sort of pasta.  He suddenly became a man who considered his options.  As he studied the contents of his pantry, a small light flickered in the hopeless dark of the Chef’s culinary nightmare – he would triumph.   He closed up the house so his nosy neighbors were prevented from spying, and he set about to do what no Italian had done previously – make a pasta dish without pasta.

Haggis watched his victim squirm and he himself became prematurely giddy with delight when he saw the Chef had boarded up his windows.  “Ha!  I’ve done it, I’ve won! The Chef has shut himself up to wither away.  I will remain king of Comfort Food!”  He then went off to Germany for the night because he developed a thing for sausage while staying on the continent.

Haggis returned the next morning to find the Chef in a state of half-drunk, half-hungover happy delirium.  He had triumphed where none could even face such an obstacle and served his village the most sumptuous dish of first gnocchi.   While Haggis had indeed ruined every flour bin in the neighborhood, there were potatoes that could be put to use along with some butter (gasp!), and a solitary egg from a hen that the Chef shook and dangled so that gravity itself forced the production of a singular, white, oblong cache of culinary glue. By mixing them together and using a jar of Ragu white sauce this time (which, of course, he modified with his own touch as aforementioned), Chef La La Foutaise managed to invent a most wonderful addition to the Italian menu.   The international food landscape was permanently altered.

Never in the history of the gods had one imaginary being been so dejected, so utterly defeated.  Haggis bowed his head, hunched his shoulders, and took his paunchy sausage belly back to the highlands where it belonged.   He pouted the entire way.

“Something wrong?” The Flying Spaghetti  Monster inquired of Haggis,

hisholiness

courtesy wiki.ironchariots.org

whom he bumped into upon returning  from the most phenomenal pho he had ever tasted.  He knew the answer of course, the FSM is after all, omniscient about all things Chef-y, but he wanted to watch Haggis squirm in his loss.  Our Breaded Entity is not above gloating.

“I don’t want to talk about it.”  Haggis was a broody bitch.

“I heard through the grapevine that something called ‘gnocchi’ has been invented.  That wouldn’t be our Chef La La would it?”  The FSM failed at hiding his smile.  The Chef had surprised even the Holy Noodly Appendage and the latter was most amused over the entire circumstance, He couldn’t wait to try a fresh batch of gnocchi for Himself.

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Haggis really was a sore loser.

“I can’t blame you there.  But I can say that I did warn you.  My Chef is a solid homie through and through.  Pasta, uh, always finds a way.”  The FSM did disengage Himself from the cruel northern entity and floated merrily on His way towards the boot-like peninsula where He did give His seal of holy approval to the new menu addition with a mighty “Argh!”

Verily, Haggis learned his lesson.  He never ventured from the highlands again and by-the-by he came to find a quiet pleasure in the small following that he retained in spite of noodles and gnocchi.   We should all be aware of the same lesson Haggis took from the incident however: The Flying Spaghetti Monster will always be more interested in new Vietnamese restaurants than He is in His own congregation.

R’amen.

 

 


The Misinterpretation of Hate and Anger: Instead, Passion

I’m always impressed by the enlightening I can get from the comments section of news stories.  I mean, I never knew that as an atheist I am afraid,angry, and offended; observations made regularly and accompanying some story about us contending over a coach praying at a high school football game or the ten commandments being removed from a courtroom or a cross going up somewhere on public land.

The answer is that we atheists aren’t afraid and neither are we offended. But we are passionate.  We are fervent.  We are dedicated to having a nation free from religious manacles of any kind, whether they be christian, muslim, hindu, or pastafarian, and to that end we will tirelessly address any line-crossing behavior.   We stand on the assurance that our constitution mandates a separation of church and state and passionately invoke it for the sake of our democracy.  I would ask my brothers and sisters not to confuse such passion with offense or fear, and consider that the resistance you meet from us is only as strong as your desire to cross the constitutional boundaries.   We would quietly sit in our homes and binge on Parks and Recreation if given the choice.

Angry, yes, we are angry.   I will strongly contend that our anger is justified however, and even by christian standards, righteous anger is permissible.   It’s okay to be angry when you pass a law against one religion yet you push and shove your own religion onto the national stage.  It’s okay to be angry when you promote asinine propaganda that is meant to instill fear. It’s okay to be angry when you slow down our progress as a nation by insisting on antiquated, edited, fallible texts as a foundation from which to work. It’s okay to be angry when preachers ask for a six million dollar jet while the homeless children population is steadily increasing in our own nation.  It’s okay to be angry when pedophiles are allowed back into ‘the fold’ or when abuse is systematically covered up.   You are correct about our anger, but misinterpret the direction and source of it.   We aren’t angry at a god whose probability for existing decreases with each new scientific discovery.  We are angry at your invocation of that omnipotent being in the face of greed, lies, selfishness, and ignorance; and the overall negative affect that has on our society.

We atheists will be passionate about maintaining the clearly drawn lines between personal belief and public interactions.  But do not mistake that for fear or offense.  I’ll agree that we are angry, but do not mistake its origins; righteous anger is permissible when injustice is blatant.

Now you have my comments on the comments section, here’s to enlightenment for us all.   😉

In peace, as always,

Frankie

 


An Atheist Confesses

I do not pray.

I’ll take action instead.

If you are in need, I will give you my money, bring you a meal, or clean your house.

I do not pray.

I do not have a religious text.

Empathy and compassion dictate my behavior, keep me from wrong and hurting others.

I do not have a religious text.

I do not have a holy deity.

Mankind is my focus and energy.  Brothers and sisters by shared birth from mother nature, it is they who deserve all I have to give.

I do not have a holy deity.

I do not have a religion.

My foundation is on this earth, where time is short and goodness must needs win.   I will do my part.

I do not have a religion.

I do not pray.  I do not have a religious text  I do not have a holy deity. I do not have a religion.   I believe in our ability to do good and that we rise above the noise of evil in the process.  I am an atheist.  This is my confession.