Conversations with Christians about science May 28, 2009Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
Tags: Christianity, evolution, science, teach the controversy
I spent much of last night having a conversation with someone, a Christian, about religion, evolution, the age of the earth, and atheism. These are conversations I’ve had many times, with many different people, with many different outcomes.
In the atheist community, we talk a lot about science, education, and the feeling of anti-science forces in our culture making it difficult to have well-informed people on the basics of science and to thus be competitive in the world market of science and technology. I am aware that there are others on the other side of the question, and so when I heard that many people felt as if evolution was being “shoved down our throats,” I realized there was a problem that needed to be addressed.
I feel that evolution happened. The evidence is overwhelming, the theory of natural selection supported by many observations, etc. My interlocutor agreed with most of this. What he disagreed about was that it was “proven” (proof is impossible within scientific means, I tried to explain) that the earth and universe were billions of years old; that we actually evolved from single cell organisms (or anything like that). It sounded like he had been reading creationism literature, but he had insisted that he had not.
The conclusion, from this and many other factors brought up through conversation, which I am moving towards is that the idea of “teach the controversy” is landing with much of the population. The fact is that there is no controversy, at least not in the sense that it was meant in our discussion. There are not people who are challenging the age of the earth or human evolution that are doing so on solid scientific grounds. Despite this, many people, including people who seek to understand these things honestly, believe that the scientific world is repressing challenges to prevailing conclusions; that scientists seek to stifle challenges to what is taught in biology classes; thus the “shoving down our throats” comment.
I do not doubt that this does happen, in some places and with some people, but the scientists that I know are open-minded people who seek the truth. And with grant money available for those that can demonstrate problems with prevailing theories, it seems odd that scientists at the top are so powerful as to stifle every attempt to challenge their sacred conclusions. This strikes me as a brand of conspiracy-theory that I find implausible.
The side that I hear more often, in my experience with scientists and atheists, is that all they hear from so-called challengers is the same old tired arguments that have been refuted hundreds of times. And thus they get frustrated, annoyed, and start ignoring them. Is this the source of the feeling of being stifled? If yo are the 100th person to approach a scientist with the same objection or challenge to evolution and are simply ignored, laughed at, or mocked, doesn’t that feel like a stifled challenge? Of course it does, but scientists are human too, right? We lose patience with repeating the same thing to the same objection which, according to them, should be commonly known.
So which is it; Are some scientists simply ignoring legitimate challenges or are challengers ignorant of the fact that their objections have already been answered multiple times and thus are annoying due to repetition and not because it seeks to challenge the accepted conclusion? Mixed bag? Possibly, but I will tend to side with the latter.
The essential question is whether the challenges actually stand up to scrutiny or not. And as my interlocutor admitted, he does not have time in his busy life to research or educate himself on every aspect of this question, but he only has skeptical reservations. That’s fair, I guess. I just wonder where the skeptical reservations originate from. Because it seems like the points of challenge are researched, as if they were lifted from some source, whether it calls itself a creationist source or not (and we know that they sometimes come in disguise as Intelligent Design or simply as “teaching the controversy”), and so I am skeptical that the source of them these objections are legitimate scientific questions being ignored by scientists.
The bottom line is that there are many well-meaning people out there that have reservations about science and its ability to “prove” theories (even though I tried to explain that science’s job is to present an explanation that fits the data best, and never to prove anything). They are skeptical of what science says because humans are fallible and we can get things wrong. “Fine,” I say, “and as soon as you find a better explanation that will become the new theory.” Until that happens the best explanation is still the best explanation.
These conversations are important because it is one of the many means to keeping the conversations from stagnating among those that share the same opinions. If I only talked with scientists and atheists about evolution and the age of the earth, I would never understand why the controversy exists because I would perpectually be creating straw-men to argue with. And if those would-be straw men never talked to me, they would continue to view scientists as biased people who will not accept a challenge to the prevailing worldview they hold.
Thus, we both benefited from the conversation, even if no minds were changed. And we are able to remain friendly and get along in the future. Win!
The atheist community May 27, 2009Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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What types of atheist communities are there?
There are atheist meetups, local organizations, national organizations, conventions, podcasts, drinking skeptically (I think, I haven’t seen it for myself…), and a range of books and online sources. There is a community, and it is growing.
Humans are, after all, social beings. We tend to crave some sort of community, acceptance, and people to seek understanding and support from. And for many, probably most in many parts of the world, religion–whether it is church, temple, or whatever place one goes to worship–fills that need in our lives.
And there are religious congregations all over the map. There are snake-handling, tongue-speaking, and body-shaking congregations as well as gatherings of those who may not even share the same theistic beliefs who come together once a week to hear sermons on the various aspects of life, love, and death from the perspective of a more secular worldview.
But whether you are a Pentecostalist or a Unitarian Universalist (or anywhere in between or outside these ranges), you understand the importance of community.
Now, I’ve never liked church. When I was a kid, my parents tried to attend a Lutheran church once a week in order to…well, I really don’t know why, but they did. I never liked it. I didn’t believe the mythology, I didn’t like the songs, but the people were pretty nice, overall. And for a little while I got a glimpse of what it was like to be part of a community around where we lived. My mom was re-married in that same church, and I even attended Sunday school for a little while, but that was short-lived. Those who ask too many questions don’t end up fitting in for too long.
And that was the problem. I had problems with fitting in with communities. I asked too many of the “wrong” questions. I wondered why. And despite the genuine desire for understanding in some religious communities, to question the very basis of faith is often an ostracizing force, even if subtly so.
Where could I find people that were like me? Why couldn’t I find them? Well, eventually I did. Atheists are people like me. Atheists tend to be people who ask questions, the impertinent ones that people don’t tend to like.
Wait, did I get that backwards? Perhaps; maybe it is the people that ask the impertinent questions that become atheists? Maybe that’s the case, although I certainly know people that ask the questions but are not atheists…yet.
Come to an atheist meetup, a local nontheist group, or find a website with a discussion board that talks about religion and you’ll find places where atheists talk. And when we find communities of people like ourselves, we are able to stop biting our tongue, stop deferring to religious ubiquity, and we can allow ourselves to be ourselves.
And while we can find our own communities, we find that we tend to only have one thing in common, mostly; our lack of belief in any gods. Beyond this, finding similarities is accidental. Our opinions are all over the map. You will find socialists, bankers, engineers, writers, homosexuals, people married with children, people who hate kids, people that don’t drink alcohol, people that can’t wait for their next beer, and those that wish that the atheist meetup location had some good beer and can’t wait to get to the Belgian beer bar down the street after the meeting (that would be me).
We are a collection of individuals, having found our place in the world as non-believers in superstition early in life, after retirement, openly, or kept hidden from co-workers and family. But we find each other. We must because it is part of being human to do so. Even the shy, the quiet, and the introvert will end up finding their place, even if it is just to sit quietly and listen.
Because organizing atheists may be like herding cats, but we still seek each-other because we are human, just like the rest of you.
And if you are looking for a community near you, and can’t find one, start one. There many be others out there looking as well.
Ignorance of the religious…of their own religion May 24, 2009Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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How well do you know your religion? What do you know about its history? I’ll bet not a lot.
Now, I’ve been an atheist all of my life. I’ve never accepted any theology or superstitious baloney, accept for the very early childhood ideas of Santa and possibly the Easter Bunny. I suppose I accepted god as real, but I had no idea what people meant by this thing they referred to. For all I knew it was the mayor of the city.
But at some relatively early age I became quite interested in the history of religion–Christianity in particular–and started to read about various beliefs. I found it fascinating what people believed, how those beliefs came to be, and how they had changed. And I was perpetually surprised, for a while anyway, that most people who accepted these beliefs had no idea about the history of their own religious traditions.
Which day is the Sabbath? Is is Sunday or Saturday? I”ll tell you that, in Spanish, sabado means Saturday and let you make an educated guess. What are the Ten Commandments? Are there really Ten? Which Bible are you using? And, in putting these questions together and if you are a Jew or a Christian, when was the last time you worked on a Saturday?
Ah, but why do I care? These are all made up ideas for me, right? Well, I’ll tell you why. I am bothered by hypocrisy. I’m bothered by people who insist that these stories are real, that belief in them is important to be a good person, to be moral, to avoid eternal Hellfire, or to even be considered a citizen.
I am bothered by people whose lives are shaped by a tradition that they don’t know much about. They believe it, but don’t know much about it. And, as I’ve discovered, atheists know more about religion than most of the religious do. That, in itself, should say something.
What happened in the year 325? Who was Arius? What about Athanasius? When was the Bible compiled and why did they choose the books they did? Why was the Gospel of John almost not included? How many non-canonical gospels are there? Have you ever read one? Why are they non-canonical?
I am picking on the history of Christianity here for two reasons. The first is that I know that history best. The other reason is that I am well aware that most of my readers will have come from a Christian background. But the point is true for all religions I’ve run into; people don’t know the history of their religions and yet they believe them. And for those that might imply that I’m not willing to criticize Islam out of fear or something; Islam is a superstitious and absurd set of beliefs and the Koran is often a violent and misguided book. I’ve read it. BTW, The Bible is violent and disgusting in many parts as well. I’ve read all of it. Twice. Have you ever read any of it?
So I’ll leave you with this; is it reasonable to accept a religious tradition, articles of faith, without at least knowing where they came from? Should every religious person–should every person–investigate the history of whatever they believe? And if they have not, how can it be said that they know what they believe?
The Atavism of Simple Religion May 23, 2009Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
Tags: Alfred North Whitehead
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Note: Please view this article on my examiner page. I get paid that way.
‘Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way,…and few there be that find it.’ When a modern religion forgets this saying, it is suffering from an atavistic relapse into primitive barbarism. It is appealing to the psychology of the herd, away from the intuitions of the few.
This is a quote from the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, from his Religion in the Making. To some it might sound like a promotional phrase from a local Christian organization, in that it might be interpreted such that it demonstrates how so many seem to miss God’s word, and only the few will accept it. But, knowing Whitehead a little better than that, I can say that it means something quite different.
Whitehead’s use of the term “few” is interesting and perhaps misleading. He does not mean that few will attain or choose this straight and narrow, but rather that few will comprehend the complexity in order to navigate it. The issue of religion in all of its philosophical, psychological, and sociological factors is much too complex to be comprehended in simplistic dogma handed to us as the “truth.” Thus any religious group that gives answers to the difficult questions of life in a way that hordes of everyday people can understand and try to follow has severely, I believe, oversimplified the matter, and acts as a stumbling block to true wisdom.
For those that would respond by saying that it is through belief that we will understand, I will call bullshit. Understanding does not come through belief, only rationalization comes through belief. That is, our creative and intelligent minds are capable of making sense of things believed even if they are not rational in themselves. We are wonderful pattern-seekers and pattern-creators.
Socrates is credited with saying “I know that I know nothing,” which made him wise in the eyes of many both ancient and contemporary. Many of those you will find preaching the “Word” today, in its various forms, might claim a similar ignorance in saying that we only have the wisdom of man, while there is a wisdom of God available to those who choose to accept it. But how is our “flawed” human wisdom to recognize divine wisdom without a divine point of view on our parts? This would not be a problem for a theoretical God-man, but it is a serious problem for any fully human receiver of that message to be able to recognize that the messenger or the message is legitimate without access to the divine wisdom in question. (Can anyone say circular reasoning?)
Our wisdom is indeed limited, and we each have much to learn in order to understand the vast universe. But this reasoning is not sufficient to conclude that our wisdom is so inferior that we should capitulate to dogmas and doctrines about the universe that offer a simplistic solution to difficult issues. The fact is that most people will never understand the world or themselves sufficiently in order to approach religious notions with serious comprehension. Yet some will. It is for the more rare mind that the social and psychological constructions of religion become clear. Many others, the “herd,” adhere to simplistic ideologies and beliefs in place of truly comprehensive understanding of religion.
Religion in our culture has become so watered down, so common, that even someone uneducated in critical thinking, religious history, and philosophy can claim the supremacy of the “Word.” This is not to say that religion is without merit or significance, as there is much to religious thinking that is wonderfully deep and philosophical. Unfortunately, most are unable to appreciate this. And when they do appreciate it they utilize religion’s philosophical depth in order to argue that the simplistic notions epiphenomenal to this depth to are valid in themselves. In other words, they use the wisdom hidden behind the superficial myths to validate the myth.
As a Zen master once said, once you have used the finger to point out the moon, you no longer have use for the finger. So, if you find something useful and wise in the depths of religious traditions, wonderful. My suggestion is to throw away the simplistic dogmas that are promulgated as a lure for the masses in order to truly understand what is important in religious thought for the pursuit and love of wisdom. After all, the few are so few only because the masses don’t try hard enough, don’t care, or are too defensive or stubborn about their beliefs to challenge them.
We, as human beings, need to start challenging ourselves, as well as stop whining when others do it for us when we refuse to. It is only then that we can hope to grow past our infancy as a species.
Beauty and ‘ungodliness’ in the world May 20, 2009Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
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Two examples of reasons why people believe in some sort of god don’t seem to jibe with each other so well. Let me put it this way; have you heard someone say that the world is so beautiful and awe-inspiring, so how could you not see their god’s presence? Later on someone else says that the ways of this world are so ugly and ungodly that they cannot wait to get to heaven?
OK, well, in any case I have. One runs into comments like these when you throw yourself into the asylums we call religious culture. In some ways I’m a masochist, but what really drives me to seek out such views is a genuine desire to understand what is going on inside the minds of believers. The two examples don’t seem to have much in common on the surface, but they are often derived from the same communities.
I, an agnostic-atheist metaphysical naturalist, do see beauty in the world. I do feel the awe that comes in the form of colorful sunsets, the stars at night, and the simple playfulness and curiosity of children. But I do not see a deity behind these things; rather, I see that our emotional states have been formed over millions of years of evolutionary forces and, for various reasons, some things cause emotions that we like to feel. That is, I see natural explanations for the existence and experience of beauty. Some will say, upon reading this, that to explain away the beauty of the world takes the mystery and miracle out of such things, but I disagree. To understand how things work does not make them less beautiful, it makes them more beautiful because there is natural beauty behind things as well.
And I also see the ugly—what some would call ungodly—in the world as well. But I don’t understand how it could be ungodly. After all, if god, the supposed creator of all things, is omniscient and omnipotent then all that exists is ultimately the responsibility of god, right? God would have had to know what would come to be and made it so anyway. And no matter what apologists will say about free will, there are still the ‘evil’ things in the world that are not the result of human decisions as well as the fact that god would have made us the way we are, knowing we would fall from grace.
Behind this is often an unwillingness to face the unpleasant in the world and to turn away and hope for a magical place where we will go when we die. That is, rather than actually work to make the world better (beginning with oneself, of course), many would rather pray that they be taken away now and not have to face the world. Don’t believe me? Check this out.
This is not to say that all religious persons react this way, but they will often attribute the beautiful to god’s while abhorring his creation. This especially Christian (but not exclusively so) concept of humanity being inherently sinful, which explains the ugly state of the world transfers the responsibility to humanity. The actual case is that some of the problems are our fault and others are simply blind nature at work (not for or against us). In any case, we need to stop hiding from the world and begin to re-create ourselves into something better. We need to transcend humanity as it exists and become better, starting with the stripping of old superstitious myths from our minds and replacing them with stories of hope for one-another, understanding based in reality,and towards actions that encourage beauty that starts from ourselves.
We must take a responsibility for the beauty and unpleasant in the world. We must start with ourselves, to identify our own insecurities, fears, and biases, in order to recognize how we can make improvements upon what we have the power to influence. Stop attributing beauty to something magic, and stop hiding from the unpleasant in hopes that this same magic will help you.
Martyrdom and Veracity of Belief May 15, 2009Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
I’ve spoken to a number of people over the years about the veracity of religious claims. I’ve heard answers that appeal to personal experience, lack of answers altogether (usually due to the fact that most people don’t know why they believe what they believe, they just “believe in belief” as Daniel Dennett has said), etc. Occasionally, I’ll hear someone claim, indicating the various martyrs of the early Christian movement as recorded in the New Testament, that people died for their Christianity.
The basic argument is this; why would someone die for a lie? Good question, or so it seems at first. But in response I might ask them about martyrs who have died in the name of other religious beliefs. What about Moslem suicide bombers? Why would they die for a false belief? But more to the point, this response from believers overlooks something very simple. I’ll let Nietzsche make the point;
…people do not want to admit that all those things which men have defended with sacrifice of their lives and happiness in earlier centuries were nothing but errors…one thinks that if someone honestly believed in something and fought for his belief and died it would be too unfair if he had actually been inspired by a mere error.
Nietzsche, Human all too Human, aphorism 53
too unfair. There are things I would sacrifice my life for. Are they worth that sacrifice? I don’t know, but I believe that they are. It would be unfair if I were to sacrifice my life for a lie, an error, or even merely unnecessarily. I feel the emotional import of those people who, in prior times, have put their lives on the line for beliefs. I feel how this can move a believer.
Yet, at the same time, I have to wonder if the tragedy is too great to comprehend for some people, in the midst of these emotions. They believe, strongly, that those martyrs could not have died for anything except the truth. And it is not the genuineness of the belief I doubt, it is the truth of that belief which I hold to the light. Similarly, I don’t doubt the claims of personal experience taht they cite as reasons to believe, I doubt that the experience is what it is interpreted to be.
To consider that the personal spiritual experiences, martyrdom of believers, and lives lived in submission to the will of a god are in error would imply that the sacrifices that some make even now are for nothing. They are sacrifices to a lie. Why?
Because it is possible to believe in things that are not true.
When someone asks me why I don’t believe ‘just in case,’ I think about sacrifice. Pascal’s Wager, basically the idea that one should believe just in case because you have nothing to lose and everything to gain, is completely silly. Not only could the belief be the wrong belief, but what one loses in life by accepting ancient and out-dated ideas is the enjoyments that life can offer. The “sin” of life, if it is not actually wrong, could be a great source of enjoyment. What a sacrifice we make for our beliefs!
So I’ll leave you with another wager; why not take the risk and actually investigate the beliefs you have? What do you have to lose? If your beliefs are true, they will stand up to any scrutiny, so why not challenge them openly and honestly? Don’t make yourself a martyr to a belief you have not even challenged.
But to stand in the midst of this rerum concordia discors and of this whole marvelous uncertainty and rich ambiguity of existence without questioning, without trembling with the craving and the rapture of such questioning, without at least hating the person who questions, perhaps even finding him faintly amusing–that is what I feel to be contemptible…. Some folly keeps persuading me that every human being has this feeling, simply because he is human.
Nietzsche, The Gay Science, aphorism 2
Perspectives on Nietzsche, Part I May 6, 2009Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
Tags: Nietzsche, philosophy, quote
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Man, rising to Titanic stature, gains culture by his own efforts and forces the gods to enter into an alliance with him because in his very own wisdom he holds their existence and their limitations in his hands.
Friedrich Nietzsche, from The Birth of Tragedy
I love reading Nietzsche. I think he is one of the most influential and yet misunderstood thinkers in recent philosophical history. This is just a bit of his earlier work that I find interesting. In the near future, I wold like to share some of my favorite quotes of Nietzsche and talk about them.
Today, however, I am trying to finish the rough draft of my manuscript for my book I’m writing, so I just wanted to give you a morsel to chew on. So, until later, I’ll leave you with another small chunk.
“What thinking person still needs the hypothesis of a God?”
(Human, all to Human, #28)
Blaming the Evils of the World on… May 5, 2009Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
Tags: Alfred North Whitehead, evil, γνωθι σεαυτόν, know thyself, philosohy, Socrates
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The imperfection of the world is the theme of every religion which offers a way of escape, and of every sceptic who deplores the prevailing superstition.
Alfred North Whitehead, from Process and Reality
Some would say that the Devil is the cause of the world’s imperfections. Perhaps it was the cause of the Fall. Various religious traditions will have their own explanations, but in many cases, as Whitehead observed, it is a theme that is present in many religious traditions.
And yet the other part of his observation is that the ‘sceptic,’ that would be people like me supposedly, will try to argue that the world is imperfect because of the beliefs of those pious ones. Perhaps it implies that the world would be better if the superstitions didn’t exist. And while there are many people who argue thus, I don’t completely agree.
I have argued elsewhere and previously that I think that the existence of religion is a net loss for culture, but that there are some things good about religion. However, I don’t think that this implies that the problem is caused by religion per se. Rather, I think that religion is one of the symptoms of the problem.
And I am not quite sure what the problem is. I know that part of it is that we have brains that evolved to deal with survival and not truth, complex moral questions, and other things hat we found as we processed towards greater understanding and consciousness. We are prone to irrational thinking, blind spots in perception and attention, and bias. We see intention and agency where there is none, become emotionally and psychologically attached to worldviews in opposition to challenging worldviews, and we vilify the other. All of these are subjects of interest to sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists, philosophers, etc.
Religion is simply one of the older, more complicated, and more pervasive developments of such behavior patterns. And, being somewhat aware of these problems, they absorb the awareness of them as part if there framework; they interweave the imperfections of the world into the descriptions generated by the same behavior patterns that create religions.
Ah, but I’m talking about our perception of the world, not the world itself, right? Well, that’s exactly it. It is our judgment of the world that finds it flawed. We compare it to better alternatives and judge it lacking. (Some intelligent designer, eh?)
In any case that’s tangential. What I want to comment on is the sometimes overemphasis that atheists and other non-religious people will put on religion. I think that they miss the fact that all of us are subject to the same flaws, and that the irony is that sometimes we bring the same behavior patterns to whatever we are, which is why some people will say that atheism is a religion; because some atheists act in the same way as the religious people they criticize.
The fact is that this is a god observation in many respects. What the atheist should say, and often does and it gets ignored or misunderstood, is that we are not only criticizing religion. Many of us are concerned with the general problem of superstitious thinking, faith in things without evidence or in the face of opposing evidence, and lack of a willingness to accept criticism of strongly held ideas. Religion just happens to be, for many people, the elephant in the room.
My advice for atheists would be to keep in mind how you are continuing certain patterns of behavior that helped create the dogmas of religious belief. Consider turning around whatever criticism you give to other to yourself as well.
My advice for theists is, surprise, the same thing. Be aware of the flaws within your own thinking, and not just the problems with the world. Question, well, what you hold dearest!
I’ll end with a seemingly unrelated quote from an older source. When asked by Phaedrus whether he believes in the myth of Boras seizing Orithyia from the river bank, Socrates replies that
I can’t as yet ‘know myself,’ as the inscription at Delphi enjoins, and so long as that ignorance remains it seems to me ridiculous to inquire into extraneous matters.
Perhaps these are wise words. In any case, I’ll say that part of my finding myself was to find that I am unable to accept the claims of faith around me. I simply share it because I think it’s important. If I am being ridiculous, then I’ll accept that charge. All is vanity….
Philadelphia Equality Forum May 4, 2009Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
Tags: Philadelphia, liberal Christianity, Equality Forum, GLBT, Repent America, gay pride
On Sunday, May 3, 2009, in the rain and cool Spring weather, The Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia had a table at the Equality Forum, which was an event celebrating GLBT culture in the city.
Now, the question is why an organization for freethinkers (rationalists, secular humanists, atheists, etc) would set up a table at an event such as this? Two reasons; the first is that the vast majority of its members are support equal gay rights and (the second) is that there are many potential new members at such events.
Sally Cramer came to pick me up around 9:30am on Sunday morning. That’s too early, in my opinion, to be doing anything on a Sunday. Sally is the President of FSGP and a good friend of mine. We set up the tent, organized the tables, and as other volunteers slowly made their way to our location near 3rd and Market, we got things started.
The rain probably kept many people away, including many other groups with tables. The people next to our slot on the street had no tent and so spent much of the day huddled together under an umbrella at their table. They looked so cute huddled together, but they left after a couple of hours of this. I wasn’t surprised.
Repent America was there too. They are not quite Fred Phelps and his crew, but they are close enough. For most of the day, we ignored them, and so did most of the people there. I don’t think they liked being ignored.
There were a number of churches with booths there. There are many liberal churches that accept gay members, many of which have gay pastors, ministers, or whatever they call the people that give sermons and all that jazz. We talked with a few of them and had some nice discussions. They are good people, in general, and they didn’t seem to mind our presence much at all.
But we also met quite a few atheists, “agnostics,”, and other non-religious people who were happy to see us there, and who may become members in the near future. The fact that FSGP is having a meeting and lecture at the William Way Community Center (1315 Spruce St; right in the the “gayborhood”) this Friday at 7:00 with Susana Meyer speaking will probably mean we’ll have a few more people show up to our meeting this month. We advertised it at or table, of course.
Most of the day was relatively quiet. We talked with many people, got almost no comments that were not completely welcoming, and had a calm, rainy, and cool day with some fabulous people. That is, until Repent America marched right towards our booth, both followed and also even impeded by, some gay and lesbian folks that were preaching a more inclusive gospel message.
Yes, that’s right folks, the “burn in Hell” Christians and the “God loves all equally” Christians marched right to us, set up shop behind us, and had it out with each other while we, quite amused, watched. OK, some of the volunteers made some comments and we gave a few pamphlets away that were titled “On Religion and Being Gay…What Freethought Has to Offer!”, but mostly we stood nearby and watched.
And as the “burn in Hell” Christians found a place to stand and condemn through a megaphone for a while, many of the local participants did something that I actually disagreed with; they blocked them and tried to shout over them.
We, vocal heathens that we are, had some shirts on. The one I wore said “Hi, I’m your friendly neighborhood atheist!” while some others wore the “Smile, there’s no Hell!” shirt with the smiley face on it. The people with the megaphones saw these and pretty much ignored us. We were for another day, I guess. They just wanted to make sure that everyone there knew that homosexuality is a sin and that they would all go to Hell. The rest kissed there partners, screamed gay pride slogans, and generally fed them everything they wanted to hear while they protested with more than 20 police officers nearby just in case.
In other words, there was no conversation (not that the people from Repent America were willing to talk anyway; they just ignored everything said to them). All I saw were two groups with different interpretations of a book of myths yelling alternative views at each other. All is vanity, I suppose. And while I prefer the “God loves everyone equally” people to be around, I found the whole thing quite silly, in all honesty.
Eventually they all went away, and with the yelling and the noise over, there was nothing left to do. The rain had slowed to a mere drizzle at most and so we took down the tent and went our ways (some of us went to Eulogy to get some dinner and fine Belgian ales). We’ll see how many show up on Friday for the lecture and if we see some more members sign up. All in all, I enjoyed the day.
So thanks to everyone who showed up to volunteer (Greg, Brian, Janice, Scotty, Glen and of course myself). A special thanks to Sally for setting up the event and having all of the materials ready.