Tag Archives: being an atheist

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.

 

 

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No Religion: What’s to Believe In?

As we continue to progress as a species, more of us human beings are stepping from the dark archaic belief systems of religion to the bright confidence of knowledge afforded us by science.   But the shift from religion to non begs some questions:  What do we do with ourselves?  Where do we put our energy?  What’s to believe in? What becomes our focus?

From my humble perspective, it kind of seems that a default focus would be nationalism; belief in one’s nation and attention to its politics and social/economic issues.  From my humble perspective, we could use a boost in national attention to politics and social/economic issues.   But there lies a danger of jingoism, unabashed love for one’s country without regard for other nations, fervent almost blind belief that ‘my country is the best’.  In a time when we face global challenges such as health epidemics and climate change, we can’t really allow ourselves the pleasure of arrogance.  We must be able to cooperate, to admit that maybe another nation is doing something right and we might consider adjusting our own perceptions.  We are bound together by this planet and its natural laws, we have to work with one another in order to keep our species viable.  While some of our new found energy can and should be focused on national issues, it is necessary to strike a balance with how much energy we invest in our country – there are bigger ideas to focus on as well.

I heartily contend that the biggest idea should be humanism – a focus on mankind and our path of past, present, and future, our connection with one another as dictated by nature’s laws.  If we think about it, we only, always, have each other; and though cultures vary we cannot deny our bloodline and the truth that we are all brothers and sisters.  I believe we owe a certain amount of attention to our race based on this sole premise, with the spirit that we are inherently obligated as human beings to look out for our siblings. As mentioned above, our modern age forces us to examine physical global issues and international cooperation is paramount to finding solutions to these issues.   A humanist focus allows us to set aside cultural prejudices and adopt cooperative attitudes based upon the assumption that we’re all in this together.

Science appears to be the common ground for us all and I’ll assert that the growth of humanism will include many elements of the discipline.   Two plus two will always equal four and no matter where we go in the world we can speak that language to anyone. I am not claiming that science has all the answers although I’m close to agreeing with many modern thinkers who believe it does.  It certainly answers our questions best and provides a universal language with which we can speak to one another, culture set aside.   Besides providing a common language science provides a foundation for finding common solutions to the challenges we face together.  The discipline is a perfect fit with the tenants of humanism.

I’ll even go out on a limb and demonstrate that we already have a vision for the melding of science and humanism and how they work together by invoking the genre of science fiction film and writings.  There are several examples where science fiction has remarkably portended the future as far as gadgets and inventions are concerned.   Even George Orwell was prescient enough to understand that an entirely new language would evolve under political pressures.   Using science fiction as a barometer for the way humanistic tendencies might emerge, one finds an astonishing body of work that illustrates how political and even personal decisions are made based upon available evidence and facts instead of mystical, archaic texts. Pay attention next time you tune into Star Trek, or Dr. Who, or The Fifth Element.

We’ve come a long ways since the days when science and religion walked the same path of curiosity together, searching for answers to the same questions.   At some point their paths split and one has gone on to answer those questions with solid evidence.   As we continue to progress as a species and more of us also leave the anachronistic beliefs behind, we are faced with the necessity of filling the void.   Humanism does so with a neat and comfortable fit.  Here’s to our future and the place that Humanism has within it.

Yours,

Frankie


Religious Liberty and the Flying Spaghetti Monster: Mandatory Pasta Wednesday Everyone!

There seems to be some confusion over what religious liberty means.

Religious liberty means that I have the ability to believe whatever I want to believe in the privacy of my own home.   I can buy whatever books support my religion, I can watch whatever TV shows support my religion, and I can go to any place of worship without fear of being arrested, harassed, or any repercussions.  It’s my faith.  Since faith is a private issue and I am a public servant, I can do whatever I want in my home but I am not allowed to impose my faith upon those I work with – or for.  I am guaranteed religious liberty by our constitution and if I invoke the document to protect my private faith practices, then I must absolutely invoke it equally to all citizens of this nation and allow them their private faith practices.  As a public servant, I do not get to choose which clientele to help based upon my beliefs, the constitution guarantees all citizens equal treatment in public circumstances.

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Touched by His Noodly Appendage, featuring the Flying Spaghetti Monster, was originally created in August 2005 by the Swedish designer Niklas Jansson as a parody of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. Courtesy JewishJournal.com

I’m an unofficial member of The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM). For reasons I’ll forego here, I’ve chosen this particular faith as my one true religion.   I say the daily Pastafarian Prayer and faithfully eat only pasta for dinner on Wednesday nights as decreed in The Holy Book of Colander, received from His Noodly Appendage and set forth verbatim by Chef La La Foutaise, Chapter 12, verse 3, I think.  I’ve even managed a few times to ‘fast’ according to the Holy Book of Colander, which involves a strict diet of only Manchurin noodles and red wine – breakfast, lunch, and dinner.   According to tradition, Chef La La Foutaise set the standard fast at the typical hero duration of forty days, I managed to last two on the rare occasion I was reaching for spiritual enlightenment. “But fasting is certainly not a requirement in order for His Noodly Appendage to appease one’s requests. Our Breaded Entity doth heareth thy pleadings for more Olive Garden restaurants anyhow.” Chef Foutaise, probably.

Because of the guaranty of the constitution, I can do whatever I damn well please with regards to my relationship to His Noodly Appendage – within the four walls of my home and/or local meeting place of fellow church members, uh, Olive Garden.  What I don’t get to do is insist that everyone else eat pasta on Wednesday nights because I am convinced that my religion is the one true religion and Our Breaded Entity the one true god.   What I don’t get to do is refuse to do my job as a public servant because you refuse my religion in the private realm.   I can’t refuse your marriage license, wedding cake, ability to adopt children, right to buy flowers, or right to live according to your faith simply because pesto and breadsticks do not make up at least thirty percent of your diet (as suggested by His Noodly Appendage for robust health – and for the prevention of zombie attacks).

Religious liberty is a private matter.  When we enter the public sphere where we’ve all accepted the premise of democracy through the exercise of equal rights and equal opportunities, we are bound by the constitution to a certain degree to leave our private matters at home.  With religion this idea must be especially true since beliefs and faiths vary across a wide spectrum. Thanks to the constitution we have the ability and permission to believe whatever we wish to believe within the four walls of our home and cranium.  So have at it.  Have fun!   But when we meet at the coffee shop or bakery or courthouse, I expect us to serve each other to the best of our abilities.  And I won’t hold it against you if you don’t eat pasta on Wednesdays.

Yours with a serious snark…

Frankie


Lost Souls: An Atheist ‘s Sacrifice

Nate heard his girlfriend’s sobs when he entered their apartment and followed them to the spare room where she sat in her favorite wicker chair.

“What’s wrong Ange?” He smoothed her hair out of her face and waited for her to speak.

“Brenda called today.  We got into a bit of an argument.  It ended with her unfriending me on Friendlink and everything.”

“Why did you argue?”  Nate was concerned. Brenda and Angie had been friends since high school and though they lived two states apart, they kept a close relationship.

“Oh, she said she felt led to question me  about my lack of faith.  She kept bringing up that whole ‘I’m being led astray’ idea.   She was nice enough, I knew she was acting out of concern.  I wore the same shoes once, so to speak, so I just let her ramble on about returning to church and repenting.  I didn’t really respond at first because I was hoping I could just change the subject or something.  Finally she asked me if I could see the error of my ways.  I said that in no way could I unlearn what I’ve learned about gods and evolution and the fallibility of the bible.   I brought up the comparison of Helios. I told Angie I can’t make the leap of faith our ancestors did and believe that he drives the sun across the sky anymore.    In the same way I can’t make the leap of faith required to believe in the god of the bible because we know the bible has been contrived and tampered with, plus evolution, plus our habit of inventing gods…”  Angie stopped to wipe her face and gather her thoughts.   Nate waited beside his partner and allowed her to continue at her own pace.  Long moments passed.

“She couldn’t really ‘argue’ with my points and so she went on the defensive and said she’d have to really think and pray about our friendship.   She didn’t know if she could be friends with an atheist, she said.   I reminded her that in the past year of my godlessness I’ve still been loving, I’m still faithful to you, and even I’m involved in the community.  She responded by telling me that none of that matters if I don’t have Jesus in my heart and then she said she had to hang up.   When I checked my Friendlink page later I saw a message from her that she just couldn’t be my friend anymore but if I had a change of heart to please call her and she would welcome me with open arms.   Then she unfriended me.”  Angie let out a heap of sobs after the last statement and Nate, empathizing with her pain, held her close and concentrated on even breaths so she would sense his calm.

He understood her pain.  He’d been ostracized by some of his own family.  The justified anger and hurt took some time to work through. Nate hated to see his beloved endure the same.

After a while Angie sat up and spoke. “I know you’ve been through this with your own family.  Maybe I shouldn’t complain about losing a friend.”

“That’s not the point.  Ending any relationship is painful and requires a mourning process.  Pain is pain no matter what the circumstances.  We’ve talked about it before remember? We’re going to lose friends and family over the gig.  But we support each other in the process and we do get through the grief.”

She allowed his words to soothe the wound in her heart and by degrees the conversation lightened. Soon they were discussing the evening’s basketball game and choosing teams. The loser had dinner and dishes duty tomorrow night.

It was a few months before Angie worked through the pain of losing her friend however.  A twist of timing meant that she had to endure Brenda’s birthday without the traditional phone call and homemade card.  She made the card anyway.  It sat on the kitchen table for a few days before she tucked it deep within her armoire. Nate was brilliant.  He held her when she cried over her lost friend and provided silence when she needed time to think.  She focused on a couple of newer friendships and they did help some to make up for the hole left by Brenda’s exit from her life.

Still, the prodding of her friend’s questions caused her to examine her decision to leave church.   She found herself going through a cycle of thought:  was I right to leave religion?  could I really go back? how?  How can I go back when I see the landscape of evidence before me compared to the narrow view the bible offers?

She couldn’t.   The thought of returning to the four walls of limited thought and knowledge even evoked a sense of claustrophobia in Angie.  If it came down the to choice of acquiescing to religion and keeping friends and family, or living in the reality of what we observe and losing friends and family, she always came out on the side of the latter. Always. After going through the same cycle and coming out on the same side repeatedly, Angie found a deeper strength in her decision. She gained a greater measure of peace.

At their high school reunion three years later, Angie and Brenda managed a cordial but shallow conversation and then moved on to other people.   Angie reflected later that night at the memory of their breakup and looked back to see how far she’d come since then.  She had no regrets.  Like Nate said once, sometimes losing a friend is an atheist’s sacrifice, but we do get through it.


*Author’s note.  This is a complete work of fiction but it was born out of the many testimonies I’ve read in online forums.  I’ve had a bit of fortune myself in that most of my friends are accepting and loving even though I’ve abandon the faith.  A few have distanced themselves but I’ve not experienced the ‘breakup’ that Angie did.   At times familial relationships become strained but love always overcomes and we’ve pretty much all learned to avoid the topic in order to retain our rapport.  Some are not so fortunate and I wish for them strength and grace as they work through their own sacrifices. Yours, Frankie


Time For an Adjustment: Social Constructs, the Duggars, and a Pew Study

I’ll not forget the struggle I had reading modern philosopher Michel Foucault in graduate school, but I am thankful for the enlightenment it brought to me, especially with regard to an element he termed “social constructs.”

Social constructs are the framework within which a culture decides to build and operate a society.  They emerge from a myriad of sources, (religious texts, scientific discoveries, philosophy – to name a few) and are informally adopted by a society’s members over the course of generations. For example, the US has a unique construct with the marriage of capitalism and christianity which emphasizes an individualistic doctrine.  The Chinese are uniting their elements of communism and an emerging middle-class to produce a more cooperative environment (see John Perkins “Hoodwinked”). Overall, social constructs provide guidelines for citizens of a particular society to follow.

The thing that impresses me most about the idea of social constructs is that they can be changed. They aren’t set in stone. They are subject to new information and therefore malleable, adjustable.

I assert that Americans are learning that some of our current social constructs are in need of adjustment.

While we’re probably all up-to-here with the story of the Duggars, there is one theme that stands out from all the noise surrounding the issue:  willful ignorance and keeping something so wildly instinctual as our sex drive confined to unnaturally narrow definitions necessarily provokes problems. The abuse that’s occurred within the catholic church and the jehovah’s witness sect is a manifestation of the same premise. We can’t ignore our instinctive sexual hunger any more than we can ignore our need to drink water. Yet we’ve agreed to adopt a social construct with a rigid interpretation of sex – based almost entirely on a flawed document  As I read the comments and even a few articles reflecting on the Duggars, one thing seems certain:  the current is changing.  We are seeing the negative effects of this particular social construct and we are ready to realign it to more reasonable, and honest, interpretations.

Giving the current a significant boost in velocity is the discovery that many in the US are turning away from religion and the flawed document it is based upon as noted in the recent Pew Research publishing.   By leaving behind an outdated document, by eliminating it from the foundations of our social constructs, I contend that we should expect adjustments to include instead more science, academics, and probably humanistic tendencies.

Change is painful, it is messy, and it is oftentimes violent.  As we move forward together, we must be conscious of the struggle incurred by adjusting and redefining the social construct of sexuality.  It will help us to be patient with one another.  As we move forward together, we must acknowledge that work is involved, awareness is required, and stubbornness is appropriate so that ignorance no longer has a place within the new frameworks.  It will keep us focused.  As we move forward together, those of us who aren’t a part of the millennial generation need to provide them with exemplary discussions and elevate the standard for hashing out new precepts.   It will give them tools to manage their own adjustments.  As we move forward together it behooves us to keep in mind that social constructs are not permanent, they are pliable and influenced by new concepts.  It will enable us to embrace change.

Here’s to healthy adjustments,

Frankie


Clarity With Atheism

A family member died this past week and I watched with a breaking heart as some prayed for a miracle that never came.  I watched with an empathetic mind as some wrestled with the very real struggle of justifying the death:  “God must have wanted him in heaven more than on earth,” was the go-to phrase. As I watched and empathized, I was reminded of the ways in which religion would cheat a soul.  I was reminded of the freedom and clarity that come with atheism.

I remember the days of praying with desperate hope for a miracle that would delay the finality of death (even though there was no evidence anywhere for me to believe that a miracle would occur).  I remember hanging on to any glimpse of good news:  the blood counts were down, the iron counts were up, the kidneys are working again – each was a sign that a supernatural healing was just around the corner.  Death would be cheated this one time.

Death is never one to allow itself to be cheated.   It always came, always claimed the soul it taunted for months.  No amount of praying would dissuade it from its duty. No god could stop its arrival.

I remember my struggle to make sense out of a no-win situation when the inevitable would happen.  I recall finding excuses because the reality was too hard to accept; buffering my psyche with outdated memes “thy will be done”  “god is in control”  “so-and-so is with the lord now.” I remember admonishing my self – obviously my faith was weak.

What a mental mess we allow ourselves to be as we work through the conflict of believing in the supernatural and dealing with the fallout when the supernatural doesn’t manifest itself.

As I watch family members work through the conflict – trying to fit together the notion that an omnipotent/omnipresent god refused to defy nature this one time and keep death from claiming its prize – I am thankful for the clarity that atheism brings to such circumstances.  There’s no emotional roller coaster, no disappointment in a benevolent being, no chastising myself for weak faith.  No futile reconciliation exercise in order to come to terms with the failed hope of a miracle healing.

I am saddened by the loss of life. But I am consoled by the many ways in which that life will live on: through children, grandchildren, siblings, nieces, nephews, friends, and neighbors. I am inspired to live my life better. I accept the reminder that time is short, we are mortal, death will not be cheated.  I am grateful for the lesson that there is clarity with atheism.

Peace comes with understanding, it does not pass it.

Frankie


Maslow’s Triangle and Religion: How The Psychology of Belonging Keeps Us Trapped in Church

It is  my personal opinion, based on quite informal observations, that perhaps the biggest reason so many fear leaving religion is because they fear losing their sense of belonging.

Abraham Maslow observed that all humans have a specific set of needs and they must be met in a specific order for us to reach our full potential, or self-actualization as he termed it.

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At the bottom of the Hierarchy of Needs are the absolute minimum necessities for us to survive:  food, shelter, and safety.  Ask any homeless person (I’ve been there myself), its difficult to focus on creating the next big thing or writing the next big novel when you are worried about where you’re going to sleep that night or if you’ll have food tomorrow.   We are stuck at the bottom of the Maslow’s gig until we consistently have full bellies and safe shelter.   Once these are obtained, we can then focus on the next level of needs which is having a sense of belonging and being loved.   We must achieve at least some self-esteem and knowing that we are part of a group, then we can move on to the next and final level of Maslow’s Hierarchy, which is reaching our full potential, being successful, and helping others meet their goals.

I often wonder if many people stay in the church simply because it is their only source of belonging and sense of community.

It is a powerful feeling to know you are wanted and even needed by others.  I think this is especially true in the church setting where typically small congregations provide acute environments that affirm feelings of importance.  If a person began to question the indoctrinated principles their particular denomination espouses, if there are no alternatives to take the place of this sense of belonging, it is highly likely they will stay within the confines of religion – trapped – because the psychological need to belong and feel loved is real and strong.   It is not necessarily a conscious choice I suspect.

confession bear

From another angle, there is the ‘big fish in a small pond’ dynamic that I believe keeps some trapped within the walls of religion.   Its a mighty big world out there, and if I venture into it, I am just another part of the school.  Inside a church or mosque or temple though, I have some import.   I might be a children’s church director, or imam, or rabbi to a small community – I am a big fish in a small pond.   Any human would have a rough time giving that up.

I write about these psychological dynamics because it seems to me that as atheists, we should be sensitive to this issue. I think that sometimes when we hear so much cyclical arguing about ‘the bible says therefore it is’ that its only an argument fought from the corner of fear.   I think what many are really saying is “I know my place in here, I know I belong, I know I am needed, I know I am important and I am too afraid to give it up.”

Statistics show that more and more people are questioning their faiths, some of them may turn to us who have already trod the path for answers.  We should be aware of the power of the need to belong.  We need to offer support where there might not be any.  We need to form bonds within our communities so that we exemplify the idea that belonging is also achieved outside the four walls of a building.

It’s not easy to leave the confines of religion for many many reasons.  I suspect the psychological need to belong presents one of the greatest challenges to leaving the four walls of the church.   I am confident that we atheists can rise to the occasion and be sensitive to the issue, provide support, and form bonds to help our brothers and sisters.

Peace kids –

Frankie


Declaration:   Atheist – No Small Announcement to Make in the U.S.

I was having a conversation with someone the other day; we were discussing the topics that I write about on this blog.  Obviously there is quite a bit of content about atheism (positively speaking) and religion (negatively speaking), I mentioned this to him “I write a lot about atheism, since I am an atheist.”   He responded to this comment by saying that, basically he was too, but he “just didn’t feel comfortable putting it out there,” for fear of backlash from family, friends, and this being America and all…..we then talked a little bit about how the term and those who identify with it are wholly misunderstood, somehow deemed evil, angry, hateful and without morals.  I would challenge us to readjust our thinking about the kind of people atheists really are.

One of the most common questions I get, especially from those who know my ‘christian up bringing’ background is:  “Why do you hate god?”  I respond with the truth:  there is no hate involved, only a logical conclusion reached by a few years of doing my own research and an understanding that science really does unlock the mysteries we are obsessively keen to understand.   “Besides,” I reply, “It’s difficult to hate something that doesn’t exist.  The same way I have no emotion towards Zeus or Mithras”

I suppose, by extrapolation, a perceived hate in god also translates to a perceived hateful disposition because one of the other more common misunderstandings is that atheists are unhappy and not at peace.   In fact, in my experience, the bulk of us seem to be utterly content in the life they lead and this is made especially more meaningful since we are well aware that this is our only shot at life and that in itself is cause for celebration.  (Not to negate the small percentage of the human population who are somehow miserable no matter where their deist preferences lie).  Truthfully?  It is my strong contention that peace comes with understanding, it does not surpass it. On the other side of the coin, I believe that religion itself can rob a person of their peace.  I remember the numerous conspiracy theories that blew through church during the Clinton administration.   I recall distinctly the fear instilled by the church about this or that issue and although I had ‘god to cling to’ I will confess to harboring a certain paranoia when I look back.  In another part of the world, a religion prevents successful healthcare because it ‘comes from the west’ and is secretly poisoned.

Sometimes, atheist hate is perceived by many where really a passion for the truth is the compelling force behind our actions. For instance, we will petition for the ten commandments to be taken down in courtrooms, or sit out the pledge of allegiance in schools, or refuse to include the words ‘so help me god’  in our  reenlistment oath – not because we are evil, not because we are hateful, and not because we are angry.   We do these things to raise awareness to the obvious breech of our nation’s constitution:  that no preference is given to any religion.  It’s simply a matter of exercising our pragmatic right to call out a social injustice and violation of the law.

For those who are raised in closed, religious environment, legends abound of the misdeeds and immoral acts atheists are ‘known’ for.   I had a friend and her lovely little family over for thanksgiving dinner last year.   They are former members of that-one-religion-that-doesn’t-celebrate-holidays-or-birthdays and this was their first thanksgiving or any holiday dinner they’d ever attended.  After the feast, an afternoon of football, visiting, and pumpkin pie, she looked at me and queried, “This is it, fabulous food and football?  No baby sacrifices?  No bloodletting?  No dancing naked around a bonfire?”  We laughed at her joke and I responded that “nowadays, we tend to keep that stuff to just once a year, at winter solstice.” (festivus is celebrated much like thanksgiving, the exceptions being prime rib for dinner instead of turkey and A Christmas Story marathon – completely lacking in blood sacrifices….)

Lacking religion, or a belief in a deity, is usually and also equated with a lack of morality, and I would contend that this is perhaps the biggest misconception of all.   The reality is that the burden of morality is probably greater for an atheist.   We have nothing to blame our goodness or weaknesses on except ourselves.   We accept a deep level of accountability for our actions and typically are motivated to do good just because it’s the right thing to do, rather than expecting some promise of eternal reward in return – neither are our good deeds motivated by fear of being punished if we don’t do them.  We have a sense of camaraderie, in that all humans are connected and are brothers and sisters who share a moment in time together.  We don’t cheat on our spouses because we are bound by some command or fallible piece of literature, but because we take our vow to be faithful seriously and we wish not to cause pain to our mates.  For a real study in the ‘moral’ and ‘religion’ connection, check out those countries where religion is quite the minority, their crime rates are actually lower.

Then there’s the point to be made that religion itself is not so ‘moral’ after all.  Within the realm of christianity, the catholics are dealing with one kind of horror, while protestant churches allow known offenders back into the pulpit.  And, sadly, more and more often there appear headlines of pastors or youth pastors abusing their positions of authority.  Islam’s recent violent surge has all but shattered its claim of being a peaceful religion.

The bottom line, straight out truth is:     Morality is not confined to religion.

“What about love?” they’ll often ask, “How can you really know love if you don’t know god?”

Two responses:  One – god isn’t necessarily all loving himself.  One only needs to look around at the injustices that occur on a daily basis in our world, and yet ‘he’ doesn’t intervene.  I mean, does it make sense that an omnipotent god would curse part of this rock and its inhabitants whilst conveniently blessing another to the point of overindulgence?  Two – religion doesn’t have the monopoly on love.   The dedication and passion I have toward my husband are wholly voluntary, I don’t need to have some outside love to validate or motivate me to love him.  I love him because of the connection we share and the chemistry we create together.   Furthermore, he has confidence in that love because he knows it is purely motivated, not borne from some obligation to a historical manuscript.

A capacity for love, a passion for justice, a logical conclusion, and morality are not limited to the four walls of any church, mosque, or synagogue.  These characteristics are borne of conscious decision, an open mind, and a desire for truth.   These are the earmarks of atheists.  Eventually we’ll have developed a healthier perception about atheism.  Then we can be free to announce our un- belief with confidence and without prejudice.  In the meantime, we’ll go on living our lives and making a difference in the lives of others.

Rock on kids….

Frankie