This is Waylon Hedegaard/KKbundy, long time atheist and founding member of the Northern Prairie Secular Society. As many know, my wife and I homeschool our son. For a writing project,Reilly wrote about what it’s like to be a teen atheist, and I want to share it.
My atheism, like many things, has many causes. Thousands of different factors, all thrown at me to produce who I am and what I believe. One of the biggest things that played into my atheism was exposure to everything. I was exposed at a very young age, to church. We never actually attended a Sunday service, but I went to a Bible day camp. Now one thing I must get straight is that my parents are just as atheistic as I am. However, I didn’t find that out until i was seven. I think that they wanted to let me make my own choice and expose me to everything. Every summer for around three years, I went to the church next door every day for a week. It was fun, I had a good time, and never got the subliminal messages about God. Never really knowing too much about religion, I just thought that it was a big game. However, one thing I did notice was the fact that all of these people were a little odd. I later found out, that this oddity is called religion.
Many Christians are very good people. They live good lives, and have fun. Almost all of my friends are religious. However, stubborn, mean, overly religious people fall into three categories for me:
* Bible thumpers: These people bring up God or the Bible up anytime they can! They constantly praise Jesus for allowing the turkey to be cooked properly, or for having the people they don’t like being struck down with the sniffles. These people think that ‘God’ does everything, and that if they praise him enough, he will forget about that one time in college, when that thing happened with that girl.
* Hardcores: This is the class of people that will go to church every day except Tuesday, when they will write on their Blog about god. These guys usually tend to be rather nice (Or tend to act like it), pretending to not care what your beliefs are, as they bombard you with church meeting invites.
* Zombies: The final, and worst, class of overly religious people. They seem calm, mellow and boring at first. You talk to them for a bit, and notice that they have a lot to say about God. They go on and on about how great he is, centering every conversation on religion. And when you can’t stand it anymore, you let on that you are an atheist. Then they go insane. They freak out at you, talking about how deep in hell your going to go. They attack everything you say, with the tried and true arguments that make them feel as if they’ve won. And if you wonder why I call them zombies, replace God with human flesh. You’ll understand.
Now one thing that I have found out, is that many people simply don’t care. A lot of people will accept you, no matter what you believe. Other people, however, freak out on you and never speak to you again. I know this may sound corny, but these people aren’t worth befriending anyway. I used to never tell anyone that I was an Atheist. It was horrible, because if people don’t know your beliefs, they will assume that you have the same beliefs as they do. With most people, this is actually a good thing. However, with the right-wing, Bible thumper-hardcore-zombies (yes, they do exist), it gets pretty bad. And then you start getting invited to ‘Jesus camp’ and the Element.
Another thing that makes it hard being an atheist, is that I am a homeschooler. The reason that I am is that I know that I can get a better education this way. But the reason that many people do it, is that the schools aren’t religious enough. That one statement should give you a good impression of the average homeschooler. Well, I went to the homeschooler Physical Education meeting, Tuesdays and Thursdays, every week. We played a random assortment of sports, ranging from track, to open swim, to sitting on the floor and rolling a volleyball around. Like P.E. everywhere, it was kind of dull, but I became friends with the people there. They were very nice.
Well one time, one of my friends asked me if I wanted to go to the Evangelical-free youth meetings (I know Evangelical-free seem like it would be free of evangelicals, but no, quite the opposite). It didn’t come to mind that it might have been religious, because usually religion wasn’t a big thing with me and my friends. Little did I know that my homeschooler friend’s lives revolved around it. So we went to the E-Free mega-church and went into this low ceiling room, full of people doing various activities. I looked around, thinking that this was going to be awesome. But about fifteen minutes into it a tall man, dressed all in black, came into the room and ushered us down some steps. We sat in a blindingly white room, chattering Quietly, until another man came in and handed us each a Bible verse. We all got up, one at a time, and recited our verse. I was getting a little weirded out, when the first man came around and started answering our questions about God. When it was my friend’s turn for question time, his one question was “Where is the proof?”. I gave a little smile when I heard this, but that smile quickly faded at the response. “The proof is the Bible, the word of God” So the proof of God, is something God said? That was the moment when I fully became an atheist.
Due to the highly noticeable lack of atheists in Bismarck, not many of my friends have the same beliefs as me. Many of my best friends are highly religious, going to church every Sunday, attending the Element and taking part in all of the religious events that they can. I really don’t care what their beliefs are, as long as they don’t shove it in my face all the time. I even help with some of their church-based-charities. Not only that, but all of my friends know that I am an atheist. It would seem like this would be something you would tread lightly on, but no, its actually a bit of a joke to us. We point out ironic moments, like when we played Clue, and I get stuck as the Reverend. That is how I know that I am hanging out with good people. They don’t care what I believe, as long as I’m nice about it.
So, in conclusion, Atheism really doesn’t affect my life that much. Many people talk about how depressed they would be if they were an atheist, but I feel quite the opposite. I feel like I lead a great life. And I do lead a great life, because I feel like I do (This, unlike proof of god, is an acceptable use of circular logic). I don’t lead a good life because of what I believe, but because of my actions.
I suppose this last paragraph could have been summed up in four words: Don’t be a dick.
I’ve been a student of history for the last 20 years. While in the Peace Corps, I completely fell in love with my first history book: Thomas Costain’s The Conquering Family, and close to 200 books or recorded lectures later, that love still burns. From ancient Greece to Jared Diamond’s Collapse, from a study of the Roman Empire to the history of United States, I am utterly hooked. I’m not bragging, nor do I consider myself a scholar, but do I like to think I am, at least, passingly familiar with human history. It is apparent that there are paths which humanity follows and patterns which stand out and lend me a certain viewpoint.
My view of history goes something like this.
Humanity is a shackled mass crawling out of the swamp of our own ignorance. The water swirls about our waist and the mud keeps sucking at our feet. It holds us down, dragging at us like a ball and chain, slowing our march forward. The going has been hard, and the steps we have taken were slow and often erratic, but we have progressed. Most of us do little to help that progress. We just live our lives,unable or unwilling to take a larger part. In fact, so many of us are unable to even see that a larger part exists. Though, most of us do not aid our advance much, neither do we hinder. We simply allow the mass to drag us where it will and are blissfully ignorant of the journey.
But there are individuals within our jumble of humankind that strive to drag us out of ignorance. Many of them have made small efforts, some have made large, but some, a very few, have singlehandedly carried their brothers and sisters vast distances forward. To these people we own an unending debt of gratitude, and this cannot be understated. These men and women of science have saved so many us from the lives of brutish squalor. Progress occurred because certain people of science strove to cut the webs of superstition and understand the world as it really is, not how wish it would be. The very best of these people have singlehandedly redirected our course through history. They have trashed our decaying world-view and presented us with a better, more beautiful one which we have wrapped our future around. They have shown us the elegant complexity that comprises the natural world. They have shown us such wonders, and standing on their shoulders, we see so much. Standing atop the life work of Newton, Darwin and Einstein, our children no longer drop like leaves in the fall. Our elderly live long and productive lives. Education in science and art has lifted us out of the slime and wiped us off and shown us the beauty that surrounds us. The world is now a brighter place. Life is good.
This is a direct result of science, not superstition. This situation has been brought about by humans standing up and using science not kneeling down in worship to a vengeful god. None of this happened because somebody sacrificed a goat, or scared demons away with prayer bells or swung a dead cat over their head. And none of it happened because someone prayed. Ever!
The swamp is getting shallower, the ground firmer. We know so much now, but it is a single bucket of sand on a beach of potential knowledge. There is still so much to learn, so much that is necessary for us even maintain our way of life let alone improve it. Especially now as water and energy shortages loom ahead, and climate change and rapid population growth lurk around the corner. The future will be harder and our light may dim. Still, we must go on. We cannot stop our progress, for the danger grows greater if we hold here now. To survive, we must continue our advance. We are multitudes, and technology and science are the only things that keeps this vastness alive. With nearly seven billion people on the planet, we cannot return to the ignorant past. We cannot descend back into the murk. It would be the height of folly to turn our backs on the single thing that can save us from the hazards we have created, science.
Yet, there are some among us who would drag the mass of humanity back into the swamp of ignorance, back into the mud from which we have so recently escaped. Change has come too fast for them and change and science bring a complexity, and complexity makes them uneasy. Their primate brains do not understand it and they are afraid. They want to simplify, to discard the knowledge that should be our inheritance and pick up the superstition we had left beside the trail. They want to return to a mythology where God created the earth 6000 years ago and did it all in six days, where there are no plate tectonics and the great flood accounts for all the coal and oil on Earth. They demand a return to their superstition not only for themselves, but for the whole of humanity. They push for a return to a simpler time, forgetting or ignoring the brutishness and squalor that used to be the rule rather than the exception.
They will lead us to our doom.
Although most modern Christians don’t fall into this group, there are many who do. These Young Earth Creationists are today’s intellectual terrorists, sowing distrust in science and knowledge, replacing it with myth and superstition. Though, wallowing in ignorance, they remain cunning. They have marketed themselves well for the masses. Disguised as reasonable critics, they seldom voice their most extreme beliefs in public. Catch phrases like intelligent design, teach the controversy, and irreducible complexity echo through their arguments. They hide behind the fear and unease they themselves stir up. They play off the fear ever-present in their less fanatic cousins, questioning their faith with lines of thought running something like this. Belief in God means a belief in the Bible. Belief in the Bible means the Bible is a literal truth, not metaphoric truth, that everything within it is absolutely factual. People of true faith must believe that the creation stories in Genesis are true exactly as written. Therefore, any true Christian must believe the world is 6,000 to 12,000 years old.
I’m not making this up. If you have doubts please go to their websites to see for yourself. Try one of the largest and most fanatical, Answers in Genesis. Or here. Whatever you do, do not miss the world’s largest black hole of reason and knowledge, The Creation Museum. This is a 27 million dollar, 70,000 square foot facility dedicated to the proposition that Adam and Eve shared the Garden of Eden with dinosaurs. These groups abound in the ignorance so common in the true fanatics. For an excellent review of the museum try A. A. Gill’s witty Vanity Fair piece on his trip to Kentucky’s Museum . And it’s not just Kentucky. A Young Earth Creation museum lies just 200 miles away from here in Glendive, Montana. They are spreading.
In addition to the dinosaurs living in perfect harmony with Adam and Eve, these people believe a range of unscientific nonsense. There are too many examples for a complete list so just a few will have to do.
Dinosaurs were vegetarian before the fall of man. In fact, all carnivores ate plant life because before the fall there was no strife in the garden. Personally, I find it impossible to picture the great T. Rex eating leaves and berries with those six inch jagged teeth.
The majority of the fossils we have found have been from the great flood. You see it’s hard to explain how some of the fossils are often buried under thousands of feet of sediment. The reason that the more primitive fossils are found in the deepest layers is that they weren’t capable of fleeing to the high ground with the more advanced animals. Huh? Not a single dinosaur made it to the tops of the hills, but all the big mammals did???
All the coal and oil deposits on earth today were made in the flood buried under the sediments washed down from the hills.
The Grand Canyon and every large canyon in the world was formed by the runoff from the flood. Running to where you may ask? Apparently there are huge reservoirs under the earth that the water sprang out of and returned to. Understand that these subterranean seas would have to be several times the volume of all the terrestrial oceans combined.
This is a child’s nonsense. It ranks as poorly thought out as modern day geocentrism (The ancient theory of the sun, moon and universe orbiting the Earth). By the way, geocentrism also used to be a promoted plank of Biblical literalism but seems to have been somewhat abandoned in the last 30 years or so, just 400 years behind Galileo. Mind you, Biblical geocentrists still exist, and this in an age where we have sent probes to other planets and to the further reaches of our solar system.
Taken together, the young earth creationist belief system is no truer than astrology or alchemy, just more dangerous. Is there a difference between this and Allah’s promised 72 virgins for any Islamic fanatic strapping a bomb to their chest and killing women and children in a marketplace? Only in the level of violence, but keep in mind, Young Earth Creationists are a group of people who are certain that God is going to severely punish the United Sates for condoning abortion and allowing homosexuality. They are certain that God created AIDS (without evolution, there is no other possibility) to kill Gays. The fact that it also kills the same children they don’t want aborted has yet to be explained satisfactorily. They believe the only reason that our nation is the richest in the world is because God is on our side, and we stand or fall by his will alone. I know this viewpoint. I was raised with this, hearing it constantly. You can be quite certain that when the times turn bad, an increasing number of these people will believe that God is punishing the nation for its sins. Young earth Creationists will believe this because for ages they have been primed not to trust to science or humanity. They have been programmed to trust in a minister’s interpretation of a bronze age myth. They have been long prepared for belief in absurdities, violent absurdities. Their distrust in any scientific truth and worship of a god who murdered, by their own admission, virtually every man, woman and child makes them dangerous. They lack faith in truth and exhibit a willingness to bypass a mountain of evidence looking up the dimmest of clues that may possibly justify their mythology.
When our economy collapses because we continue our fall from scientific preeminence, they will not blame themselves or their war on the one thing that kept us ahead. They will blame the sins and permissiveness of this nation. We can see this by the bombing of abortion clinics and the slaying of family planning doctors while fanatics protest military funerals because our nation doesn’t prosecute gays. As things turn worse, as jobs become scarce when science flees from our shores, as our standard of living falls year by year, the population of fanatics will climb. Increasing numbers of people will believe in anything that will give them hope, give them some illusion of control. They will look for scapegoats and patsies, and they will blame our decline on the things they most hate and fear, and they will take action. This has already happened many times in the past and will happen again. At times, history is depressing reading.
After the homosexuals are dead or hiding, there’s always those eternal victims of persecution, the Jews.
On Tuesday March 15, @ 9 AM House Bill 1450 is going to have a committee hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Brynhild Haugland committee room. Just ask where it is and anybody in the Capitol can point you to it. Please come and support the speakers who will testify for this pro-life legislation. Rep. Dan Ruby will introduce the bill and then introduce Rebecca Kiessling, who was conceived after her mother was raped. She is now an attorney speaking against the “rape” exception in pro-life laws. She explains how she was a person with the right to life before birth as well as now. Moreover, she discusses that abortion in the case of rape actually push women into suicide, whereas giving birth is therapeutic. If anything, pro-life laws are necessary especially in the case of rape! You can read more of her story here:http://www.rebeccakiessling.com/index.html
To keep up with the progress of HB 1450, you can follow it here: http://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/62-2011/bill-actions/ba1450.html
Virginia Dolajak, President, Bis/Mandan RTL
I was always under the impression that this mailing list was for educational purposes, but this is blatant political pandering. Forcing girls who have been raped to bear the children of their rapist and then calling it therapeutic is insane. Can you imagine that being forced by law to carry your rapist’s flesh and blood to term and then having those who have forced this upon you to call it therapeutic? Oh, I’m sure such therapy would be very valuable. Maybe they ought to charge for the “privilege”? Can caring people actually think like this?
This is a great instance of Theists forcing everyone to act like them. They form groups that demand the government stay out of their affairs and form other groups demanding the government get into everyone else’s.
Here’s a little something to make you think. I just love this guy!
Forbes has a fascinating article up by Norm Augustine. It details how America’s throwing away its century long edge in science and engineering and many other world nations willing to pick up where we left off.
“I’ve visited more than 100 countries in the past several years, meeting people from all walks of life, from impoverished children in India to heads of state. Almost every adult I’ve talked with in these countries shares a belief that the path to success is paved with science and engineering.
In fact, scientists and engineers are celebrities in most countries. They’re not seen as geeks or misfits, as they too often are in the U.S., but rather as society’s leaders and innovators. In China, eight of the top nine political posts are held by engineers. In the U.S., almost no engineers or scientists are engaged in high-level politics, and there is a virtual absence of engineers in our public policy debates.”
This is a frightening crossroads for us and he covers it well with one exception. He fails to mention the replacement of science with superstition and nonsense so prevalent in our society. When a significant number of people can believe the Earth is only 6000 years old in the face of a vast preponderance of evidence demanding otherwise, when we can demonize scientists for daring claim that the lifestyle we lead is threatening our fragile world, when we damn science in general because it insists on telling us that we as a nation are not the most perfect and wonderful people on the planet then science will decline.
When political leaders find it expedient to mock, bluster and threaten scientists with legal action because their findings do not support their preconceived notions then science will flee this country. And there are many countries willing to take it in. Scary! For us!
Read the rest of his article here.
I’d like to start some skeptical reviews of a variety of items ranging from books to movies. Here is a list of several that I have written and one by the Yokohamamama. Please look through them. I’d love to discuss any of these and more sometime.
I’d also like to get others reviews and thoughts on matters. Anyone interested in writing something of a skeptical nature should let me know. I strongly encourage all our members to write something so please consider this.
James Haught, editor of the Charleston Gazette, sent me his column the other day, and I found it interesting enough to reprint. I also found it interesting that the editor of West Virginia’s largest paper is not only an avowed atheist but has written several books on the subject. Nine, I believe. Cool and worth the read.
A huge news story, barely noticed
(The Charleston Gazette – Nov. 9, 2010)
By James A. Haught
Philosopher-historian Will Durant called it “the basic event of modern times.” He didn’t mean the world wars, or the end of colonialism, or the rise of electronics. He was talking about the decline of religion in Western democracies.
The great mentor saw subsiding faith as the most profound occurrence of the past century — a shift of Western civilization, rather like former transitions away from the age of kings, the era of slavery and such epochs.
Since World War II, worship has dwindled starkly in Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan and other advanced democracies. In those busy places, only 5 or 10 percent of adults now attend church. Secular society scurries along heedlessly.
Pope Benedict XVI protested: “Europe has developed a culture that, in a manner unknown before now to humanity, excludes God from the public conscience.” Columnist George Will called the Vatican “109 acres of faith in a European sea of unbelief.”
America seems an exception. This country has 350,000 churches whose members donate $100 billion per year. The United States teems with booming megachurches, gigantic sales of “Rapture” books, fundamentalist attacks on evolution, hundred-million-dollar TV ministries, talking-in-tongues Pentecostals, the white evangelical “religious right” attached to the Republican Party, and the like.
But quietly, under the radar, much of America slowly is following the path previously taken by Europe. Little noticed, secularism keeps climbing in the United States. Here’s the evidence:
| Rising “nones.” Various polls find a strong increase in the number of Americans — especially the young — who answer “none” when asked their religion. In 1990, this group had climbed to 8 percent, and by 2008, it had doubled to 15 percent — plus another 5 percent who answer “don’t know.” This implies that around 45 million U.S. adults today lack church affiliation. In Hawaii, more than half say they have no church connection.
| Mainline losses. America’s traditional Protestant churches — “tall steeple” denominations with seminary-trained clergy — once dominated U.S. culture. They were the essence of America. But their membership is collapsing. Over the past half-century, while the U.S. population doubled, United Methodists fell from 11 million to 7.9 million, Episcopalians dropped from 3.4 million to 2 million, the Presbyterian Church USA sank from 4.1 million to 2.2 million, etc. The religious journal First Things — noting that mainline faiths dwindled from 50 percent of the adult U.S. population to a mere 8 percent — lamented that “the Great Church of America has come to an end.” A researcher at the Ashbrook think-tank dubbed it “Flatline Protestantism.”
| Catholic losses. Although Hispanic immigration resupplies U.S. Catholicism with replacements, many former adherents have drifted from the giant church. The 2008 American Religious Identification Survey found that 20 million Americans have quit Catholicism — thus one-tenth of U.S. adults now are ex-Catholics.
| Fading taboos. A half-century ago, church-backed laws had power in America. In the 1950s, it was a crime to look at the equivalent of a Playboy magazine or R-rated movie — or for stores to open on the Sabbath — or to buy a cocktail or lottery ticket — or to sell birth-control devices in some states — or to be homosexual — or to terminate a pregnancy — or to read a sexy novel — or for an unwed couple to share a bedroom. Now all those morality laws have fallen, one after another. Currently, state after state is legalizing gay marriage, despite church outrage.
Sociologists are fascinated by America’s secular shift. Dr. Robert Putnam of Harvard, author of “Bowling Alone,” found as many as 40 percent of young Americans answering “none” to faith surveys. “It’s a huge change, a stunning development,” he said. “That is the future of America.” He joined Dr. David Campbell of Notre Dame in writing a new book, “American Grace,” that outlines the trend. Putnam’s Social Capital site sums up: “Young Americans are dropping out of religion at an alarming rate of five to six times the historic rate.”
Oddly, males outnumber females among the churchless. “The ratio of 60 males to 40 females is a remarkable result,” the 2008 ARIS poll reported. “These gender patterns correspond with many earlier findings that show women to be more religious than men.”
Growing secularism has political implications. The Republican Party may suffer as the white evangelical “religious right” shrinks. In contrast, burgeoning “nones” tend to vote Democratic. Sociologist Ruy Teixeira says the steady rise of the unaffiliated, plus swelling minorities, means that “by the 2016 election (or 2020 at the outside) the United States will have ceased to be a white Christian nation. Looking even farther down the road, white Christians will be only around 35 percent of the population by 2040, and conservative white Christians, who have been such a critical part of the Republican base, will be only about a third of that — a minority within a minority.”
Gradually, decade by decade, religion is moving from the advanced First World to the less-developed Third World. Faith retains enormous power in Muslim lands. Pentecostalism is booming in Africa and South America. Yet the West steadily turns more secular.
Arguably, it’s one of the biggest news stories during our lives — although most of us are too busy to notice. Durant may have been correct when he wrote that it is the basic event of modern times.
(Haught, editor of The Charleston Gazette, West Virginia’s largest newspaper, can be reached by phone at 304-348-5199 or e-mail at email@example.com. This essay is adapted from his ninth book, Fading Faith: The Rise of the Secular Age.)
This is an amazing video, uplifting and informative. Many of you may not agree, but this is exactly how I feel. This sense of nonreligious awe at the majesty of the universe is what overtakes me looking through my telescope or reading Why Evolution Is True. I pity the people who dumb it down into the merely divine. It’s sad when we as a species can take such monumental and beautiful complexity and be satisfied by simple magical explanations when reality is far more wonderful. It’s the difference between a color crayon drawing of a tree and a real one. No matter how skilled you are with that crayon, you just can’t compete with reality.
Watch. Even better, watch in full screen. Warning! A bit NSFW. Use headphones.
We are proud to announce the official formation of the Northern Prairie Secular Society, Bismarck, North Dakota’s first secular/humanist/freethinking organization. Many of us long-term residents have felt a strong need for fellowship and discussion away from the omnipresence of religion and myth. Bismarck, while being a fantastic city with great people, has hardly looked on freethinkers with warmth and understanding. We’ve always been present, even in Bismarck society, but only in one’s and two’s. Rarely have I been at an event when more than a single soul will admit to a lack of faith. This has not been easy, and most of us have felt quite alone. Enough! This city has had need of a group that gives like-minded people a chance for fellowship without faith, and this organization’s purpose is to encourage that fellowship.
We also wish to combat the growing and oft times purposeful misunderstanding of atheists, agnostics and freethinkers. We are caring and productive individuals who wish to be taken at face value as people, not lumped into some highly negative category simply because we do not base our lives on faith. Through community education and outreach, we wish to show that we are good people too. Good without God is not only possible, it’s probable.
Look out, Bismarck! We are here and have been for years. It’s just time we stood up and introduced ourselves. My name’s Waylon Hedegaard, and I am proud to be a Bismarck atheist and a founding member of the Northern Prairie Secular Society.
Anyone wishing to join should contact us through the About Us Page.