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.
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.)
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.