Out of Context



“It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.”- Mark Twain


It can often seem like a mugs game to bring the bible into question during discussions with Christians. It never fails that when I post a verse from scripture that I think supports my argument, I’m immediately charged with taking that verse out of context. The arguments that ensue tend to deteriorate quickly and often frustratingly run in circles. When giving a critical analysis of Christianity in general, the religious faithful are quick to accuse me (and all atheists) of not doing my homework. But this is especially the case when I dare to tread on holy ground, which is the bible itself. It’s as if they assume I was never a Christian (which I was), never read the bible (which I have), and am just being exposed to it for the first time (which I haven’t). The general consensus among Christians seems to be that merely being a non-Christian automatically disqualifies one out of hand from accurately citing the holy book. This careless, outright dismissal proves to be little more than a dodge and it doesn’t excuse the believer from demonstrating this supposed misrepresentation.  


It’s confusing at times to know exactly what is meant by “taking it out of context”. Take the story of Elisha’s journey from 2 Kings[1] for example. It’s hard to imagine how a passage stating that God sent two bears to massacre forty two children in gruesome fashion for mocking Elisha’s baldness could be taken out of context. Not to mention how nonchalantly this terrible event is treated and how casually the story moves on. It was as if the children getting torn apart was a mere bump in the road. As if it was hardly worth mentioning. What else are we to interpret from this? In what other context could this be taken? It can hardly be disputed what those words say here. According to the story, either God sent bears to maul forty two children or not. Any extraneous interpretation the Christian wishes to read into this doesn’t do much to make the story less vile and horrific. When Christians offer a different “interpretation” to this story, what they are doing is offering more than the words say. Whatever addendum is made, however many excuses are made, the context is pretty clear. When confronted with the merciless brutality of a passage like this, they often instead focus their attention on finding a way to establish some moral meaning behind it, which ultimately proves to be too big a boulder to push in this case, or they argue that it was badly mistranslated.  


Translation is a tricky bit of maneuvering that seems to be the preferred tactic for the more indefensible passages found within the bible, as it is for the passage referenced above.[2] While I don’t doubt that there are occasional mistranslations interspersed throughout the bible, scholars and historians still debate over this very topic, we can hardly say that this alters the context as currently presented in such a significant way as to warrant disregarding entire passages on a whim simply for the purpose of recreating them to appear more acceptable or reasonable. Nor does it account for all the versions of the bible circulating today that translate these passages in a very similar way. Lest the Christian wishes the conversation to regress to the very origins of the bible. At which point it may be the case that we ought to disregard the entire bible altogether. This, of course, would leave the Christian at quite the disadvantage and hardly seems to be their intention. So instead of conceding the bible, many shamelessly commit themselves to an act of intellectual dishonesty and create their own “translation”. And in doing so, they in effect become the ones taking verses out of context, and in the most disingenuous manner, I might add. Tailoring the bible this way is not only indecorous of the Christian, but also immoral. The attempt to hide the horrific nature of this passage, and many others like it, by assuming translational errors ultimately can’t salvage the bible from failing to uphold what we would consider to be the most basic of humanities and common sense. Furthermore, what the Christian fails to realize is that this “lost in translation” argument creates far more problems for the believer than for the skeptic. The biggest one being that they have effectively stripped their bible of any practical reliability, and along with it, any argument for biblical inerrancy.


As I stated earlier, being a non-Christian seemingly disqualifies one from accurately referencing the bible. Maybe the problem is in how “accurately” or “correctly” is applied here. Historical implications aside for a moment, the meaning here appears to be supernatural. The Christian often claims that the only way to truly understand the bible is to believe in God, because they believe the bible is the word of God. So, according to the Christian, it stands to reason that if one doesn’t believe in God, then one won’t be able to interpret the bible correctly. Along with the obvious objection of circular reasoning, as well as being a thinly disguised attempt at unfalsifiability, it fails for another very big reason. One that I see as being the most difficult problem for the Christian to overcome. This is the problem of the many various denominations of Christianity. They all believe and interpret the bible differently in some key areas. All claiming the same justification from God. To put this into perspective, just think about how many millions and millions of people claim, and have claimed, that the bible is the word of God. And how millions and millions of these same professed believers disagree with other believers, who are just as sincere, on some significant points. The thing they all have in common is they all claim God assures them they are right. They also have the same explanation as to why the others are wrong. To try to account for every interpretation that is accepted as truth by the vast number of denominations would be far too exhaustive and it isn’t the non-Christians responsibility to do so. My business isn’t to sort out all these doctrinal disputes. It’s as if skeptics (atheists especially) are being saddled with the burden of needing to know every interpretation of every denomination just to even mention the bible in any critical manner. And when we fail to satisfy this imposed burden, the charge of misinterpretation and atheistic bias is assumed justified. But then this would mean the individual believer must also know all the varying interpretations as well. For the believer to be excused this, then they must concede that their own claim to “biblical truth” could not have been from the the same exhaustive search that they hold the non-christian to and either accept that it isn’t necessary or admit they could be wrong. All these problems the believer is now faced with not only render their original objection moot, it sheds light on the shear volume of inconsistencies contained within the bible, and as we see, thus further expounding the Christians own problems…

~ Rich


[1] 2 Kings 2:23-24 (NIV) 23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some boys came out of the town and jeered at him. “Get out of here, baldy!” they said. “Get out of here, baldy!” 24 He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the Lord. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys.


[2] Apologists frequently attempt to re-invent this passage as if Elisha was being attacked by a mob of young men. In it’s original Hebrew, while the word na’ar (boy or youth) could mean “young man”, it is paired with the qualifier katan which means “little” or “small”. Translating literally as “small boys”. And they are telling him to “go on up, baldhead” or “get out of here, baldy” and Elisha turned around to curse them. This indicates that they were behind him and taunting him, not blocking his path or threatening him.



“There’s a difference between a homosexual and a Christian.”


Pittsburgh Pridefest is one of my absolute FAVORITE events of the year.Typically I will kick the day off by marching with out local chapter of COR and CFI and then see where the day takes me…since I am 8.5 months pregnant I decided it was too much heat, too much walking and (apparently) just not safe. I almost always end up fighting with the religious protesters, trying to get them to leave everyone alone and move on their way… that seems to have backfired on a 19 y.o girl who was arrested, and assaulted by the arresting officer during a confrontation with the protesters… This video was released several hours after the assault occurred.  http://www.wtae.com/news/woman-arrested-during-pittsburgh-pridefest/26510854#!ZPG8D You hear the main protester comment that someone is about to be arrested and then you see a young woman being pulled, grabbed by the hair and punched in the stomach. My first thought was that, if she went a bit too far with them I understand the officer breaking it up, I even understand her being arrested…it is easy to become frustrated with people who only want to agitate and belittle a crowd of joyful individuals.  Others kept saying that we don’t know what happened and in one interview the officer stated that he was being physically attacked by her and that was why he threw her to the side to stop the fight… I always assumed that our police were trained to take down an individual in a humane manner. We put trust in them to use their best judgement to keep us safe… but when you grab a girl by the hair and punch her in the stomach multiple times you are out of line… plain and simple.

Last night the full video was released on our local news website. You will see the officer standing by along side the protesters, you will hear the girl argue against the protester, you will hear him yelling about pedophiles and the evil of homosexuality (including the statement “that’s what happens when you let homosexuals in the church” to explain child molesting priests ), all while she is overcome with emotion at the hand of this hate speech. After that it quickly escalates to the assault from the other video, no prior attack being shown. http://m.wpxi.com/videos/news/raw-full-video-officer-attendee-encounter-at/vCfBYf/

I love my city, it always seems that our citizens are accepting of just about everyone… that is why events like PRIDE, Anthrocon, and even the PA Atheist/Humanist conference can typically go on without a problem. What was sited as one of the most successful Pridefests our city has seen ended with this unfortunate ordeal… and what was the instigator? Religion. This  problem came about because bigoted, close minded, angry people felt the need to shove their beliefs onto others. They are not able to promote their views in a productive way and so coming down and disrespecting others seems to be their bread and butter. I hope that they are proud of themselves. On the video we hear that “there is a difference between a homosexual and a Christian”… well this is the only truthful statement I have ever heard from those men. Our LGBTQ brothers & sisters do not go out seeking to promote hate… they don’t stalk churches in hopes of hurting those that believe in Christ and the ones that believe in God themselves still stand by the church hoping that good is at the root of the evil that is promoted. Thankfully men like the ones on the street corner are not the majority, hopefully the Christians will join together to show us that this is not how they want to be represented and that  there is indeed a difference between a Christian and a bigot as well.




oh the humanity… or lack thereof


Last night I left all of my online “support groups” that pertain to pregnancy. I was up late because my baby girl had been kicking like crazy and I couldn’t sleep… when I signed onto my Facebook account I realized how fortunate I am. The first thing that came up in my news feed was a picture of one of the groups members babies… stillborn. My heart burned… I felt a sadness for her and my mind couldn’t comprehend the pain of what this woman and her family must be feeling. I cried. I read the comments, saw that people were offering prayers and talking about the beautiful angel God received. I left a message of my own offering to be available if she, or any other girls needed to talk.

Then I saw the newest post in the group, it was a woman attacking the mourning mother, saying that the post should have had a “trigger warning” because this group is about pregnancy and not loss… my mind was blown. I read for an hour or so while these girls tore each other apart. Many defending the woman who lost the child, some just fueling the fire, some going so far as to compare the photo of the child to other photos that require trigger warnings, such as mucus plugs and the bloody show. I was outraged at that. Comparing a human life to a bodily discharge is disgusting, sick and disgraceful. I have heard some similar arguments when it comes to abortion… calling the fetus a “bunch of cells” or a “cancerous growth” … but this was the most despicable example I have ever encountered. It made me physically ill.

I will not say that the image wasn’t traumatic, especially being only a few weeks farther along than she was… but to make a thread dedicated to bashing a grieving mother… I just don’t think it gets worse than that. The discussion turned to fighting… one girl told another she should go kill herself for being so heartless… others started using derogatory terms to attack each other… I pleaded with the girl who started the post to please remove it because it had gone to far… that we could easily discuss being afraid of losing our babies without attacking our friend. It all fell on deaf ears.

I cannot understand how some people can just throw all compassion out the window and attack someone at their very lowest moment. Watching as the posts swarm in was overwhelming… I felt like I was witnessing the Westboro Baptist Church protesting a funeral. I am hoping that I made the right choice in leaving the groups… I typically like to stay and stand my ground when it comes to humanistic issues…  but this was just hurting so much that  I couldn’t bear to stay. There was such a conflict of emotions swirling through me… though I believe wholeheartedly that we have no right to tell anyone how they should grieve, there is also no excuse for telling someone that they should go kill themselves for having an opinion. I can’t wrap my head around which was worse, or why either seemed necessary. For now I think I will just try to relax and cherish my baby Arabella who is still kicking me…


Not all Atheists are created equal…



When it comes to living an openly secular lifestyle I am often confronted with questions that start out with “Does an Atheist…” or “Do Atheists…”. Of course I have no problem answering any questions that are thrown out to me, but whenever they are prefaced with this type of generalization I make sure that one thing is clear… I cannot speak for all Atheists, I can only speak for myself.  Somehow this is frequently met with a bit of confusion, as more and more people are lumping Atheism with religion. People assume that, just like religions have rules that you (are supposed to) live by that Atheists do as well but this is not so. The only thing that all Atheists have in common is a concrete stance that their is no deity directing their life. After that it is up to the individual to decide what type of life they want to live.

I know a lot of times people believe that being an Atheist automatically makes you an Anti-theist, this is incorrect. Personally, I have no desire whatsoever to abolish religion. I do not want to take away the rights of anyone to be able to practice as they wish and I am not trying to create a completely secular world. My non-belief is not strengthened just because I can force it onto others and so I am not in favor of doing so. Simply keep it out of my public policy and this Atheist will gladly let you go on your way.

Another one that I encounter on a regular basis is that all Atheists are Humanists… again, this is incorrect. I would never pretend that all non-believers are living with humanistic values in place. I am in fact a Humanist, our household is run with a Secular-Humanist system of reasoning and respect. The “golden rule” approach in respect for how to treat others is encouraged by both Rich and myself, but this is not something all Atheists believe in. Ideally everyone, believer or non, would use mutual respect and personal dignity as a foundation … but the rules that come with religion do not allow for it, and the lack of rules that come with being an Atheist do not require it… so we are left with a wide range of right and wrong in our world.

The insinuation that only believers can hold seemingly irrational beliefs is possibly the most ridiculous of all. Dismissing the existence of God does not mean that you will not fall victim to the paranormal. I know many Atheists who claim to be “Agnostic” towards ghosts… and I also know some who absolutely believe in aliens. Sometimes if this topic comes up in a discussion group Atheists will start to turn on each other, stating that you cannot believe in the things just as ridiculous as God and still call yourself an Atheist… they are wrong. In fact , as long as God is not a factor you can believe the world is flat and still be a perfectly fine Atheist.

So when confronted with questions about what an Atheist does or does not do, try to make it clear that the better question would be, “since you don’t follow a religious belief system, what do you use to guide yourself through life?”. There are no commandments that Atheists abide by and so each one of us must speak for ourselves. At the end of the day there is no right or wrong way to live your life as an Atheist. The only thing that you need is a lack of belief in God, everything else is optional.



Exorcising my right to choose science (part 2)



I don’t understand? Your Thanking Science/Medicine for having to take 2 types of medicines for the rest of your days, {with their certain side effects]; plus have a continuous implant, [which will have to be replaced when it wears out]?! And you would rather have this Hon, than having a man by any name reach out and touch you; with the results being that your human medical situation would be permanently gone, with no more need of pills and medical appliances? Hmmm, where is the logic coming from in that choice, in your reasoning? By the way, I wonder. While your Thanking the Medical/ Science Community for serving You well in this area; whom are You Thanking for giving Each and Every person in those institutions their very next breath; so they may continue to serve you, when you have need?

– Linda Ann

So I received this comment on “Exorcising my right to choose science” and felt it best answered in another entry… so here you go. First off, no one ever said I would be on medication for the rest of my life, and even if I am any side effects are far less than the damage caused by a grand-mal seizure. It is clear that you have never experienced that moment of helplessness when you know a seizure is coming and that there is nothing you can do to stop it. The realization that you may be about to die and no one can help you. The tunneling vision as your brain goes haywire and your world becomes black. For if you had, perhaps you would see that any treatment is completely worth it. Secondly, changing the battery in a VNS is an incredibly simple, outpatient procedure… and my dose is so low it likely will be many years before that needs addressed. People have more invasive dental work done everyday simply because they have neglected themselves, and yet you believe that being proactive towards treating my condition is a hindrance? Clearly your priorities need some tweaking.

Moving on to your religious worries. The man you speak of, whom I should entrust my well being to does not exist. If he did I would hope people would call him out for being such a wretched, wrathful God who allows people to suffer when, as you believe, he is capable of healing us all. If you are wondering if the power of prayer was ever attempted to help with my Epilepsy the answer is yes… though not by me, it was my grandmother who believed. She was always prepared to do a Novena whenever any of us were ill. Though despite her good intentions it never worked, not even when she asked God to help in her own time of need. Luckily, though she was a believer in God she was also a realist who turned to the medical community when a true medical emergency came upon her, such as being diagnosed with breast cancer. Though it could be argued that her faith in Christ gave her the strength to move forward it was the chemotherapy that put her cancer in remission and to deny that is pure ignorance.

Now, I would like to know how many people you know who have received a diagnosis of cancer and refused medical treatment. I’d imagine the answer is zero, unless of course they were told there was no hope… but even then, what were they doing at the doctor’s office in the first place? Shouldn’t they just be blindly living their life hoping for God to guide them to the next plateau?  Let’s step it up a notch, what if you were to slice off one of your fingers while preparing dinner? Would you apply pressure to the wound and rush off to the hospital or would you stand idly by, bleeding on the floor, exposing yourself to all the bacteria in the kitchen and just wait for “a man by any name reach out and touch you; with the results being that your human medical situation would be permanently gone”. I am sure you would go to a doctor and yet you believe that I should not. It is people like you who make it so rational individuals are forced to read about children dying because their parents chose faith healing over medical treatment. Do you remember the recent story of the parents who were finally jailed after they killed not one, but two children through the negligence of waiting for God. If you don’t remember it or couldn’t bring yourself to read it when the story first broke, here is a link.  http://time.com/8750/faith-healing-parents-jailed-after-second-childs-death/

I will swiftly address your last question of who do I thank for giving life to those who work in the medical field. To me it seems obvious, but apparently it still needs explaining. The thanks would go to the parents who gave them life, those who raised them and of course the individuals themselves who take care to make sure they are able to be there when we need them. Doctors, nurses, researchers and all those involved in the healing process, I am thankful to you for keeping yourself healthy and for always seeking to gain knowledge in your field.

Now to be clear this entry is not just directed to Linda Ann, it is meant for anyone who truly believes that God will save them and not science. If you truly believe in this theory, and you practice it, I hope that your own life is the only one you are responsible for. These beliefs are dangerous and this is proven time and time again.

Pulling out for God…

This past weekend I was reading posts in a Facebook group when I came across a girl stating that she was elated to have learned that she is not pregnant. Her story was sympathetic at first, she’d experienced several miscarriages and so she did not want to try to conceive right now. She explained that she has been a  “nervous wreck worrying myself to death” over the thought of becoming pregnant. Then she stated “I’m a christian, & my husband & I don’t believe in Birth Control. so we just use the pull out method to try to prevent. I know that isnt 100%. but it has been effective for us.” and this did not sit right with me.  I attempted to reason with her, stating that  pulling out IS using birth control, so she should simply get herself something truly reliable so that each month isn’t torture for her. This was when I was accused of attacking her faith just to push my agenda on her. She stated “Bringing something up. I obviously already know isnt attemping to do anything but push your beliefs on someone else…I’m aware its a form of BC. hense why I said WE USE THE P.O MEHTOD TO (PREVENT) We dont believe in condoms , NOR do we believe in other things.”  We went back and forth a bit. I tried to get her to realize that what she was saying basically boiled down to “I don’t believe in birth control, so I use birth control.”. It wasn’t about attacking her religion, it was about getting her to see that if she can be OK with using this form of birth control, perhaps she could find something else that would help ease her mind more and thus take away some unneeded stress so she could heal. I was floored when I read what she wrote next.

“Thats kind of offensive. I clearly stated above we dont do that.. So why even bring that up? Thats kind of rude.. My reglion is taken very seriously. and while that may be true, denying your husband your body is also a sin.”  It doesn’t shock me at all that she found my words rude. I was using logic and she was using faith. What did shock me was that she was choosing to emotionally torture herself each month because she cannot deny her husband access to her body. My initial reaction was, do people really believe this crap?  I didn’t have to wait long for a response. Before I could even post my reply another woman chimed in and said “the pull out method is considered a form of birth control, how ever this is her life and she follows in her husbands foot steps as she should being a Christian woman.” . Well there you go. Don’t dare save yourself agony by having a partner who respects that you are trying to heal from multiple miscarriages, God said it is your job to serve your man. All I could do was shake my head and think, I’ve never been so thankful to be an Atheist.

All the while I was engaging another side of the conversation, presented by a Mormon who was getting her birth control information from the Catholic church. She wrote ” On a separate note, my husband and I practice something nicknamed the mucus method. You can call a local catholic church and ask about natural family planning classes. (you don’t have to be Catholic to take the classes. I’m Mormon and they were all really nice to me) But they say it’s 99% effective. Just in case you were looking for something in addition to the pull out method to ease your mind.”

As some of you know from reading my “A Uterus from Nothing” series, I have learned a lot about what you need to do to get pregnant. Tracking cervical mucus is a popular method of trying to determine ovulation “naturally” and though it can be very accurate for women with regular cycles it is not fool proof and certainly not a reliable form of birth control. The believer tried to justify that if you know when you are ovulating you know when not to have sex . This would be fine except that sperm can live in the body for several days, so unless you can predict which day your cervical mucus WILL be it’s strongest, you are putting yourself at risk for an unwanted pregnancy. On top of that, not all women are able to detect the changes in cervical mucus because their body just doesn’t produce the excess amount that is considered “normal”. Outside factors can also effect the amount of cervical mucus you produce, these may be things you’d never think of like common feminine products (soaps, douches, deodorizing spray)… one month can be different from another so while you are thinking it is a “safe day” you are really ovulating and potentially creating a life.  So even though she was right that this would be more acceptable as far as not technically being birth control, she was not right that it is a truly effective way to put your mind at ease. All the believer had to say  was “My goodness, don’t you like to argue. All of this is covered in the class. No further comment.”.  Once again, I explained that it is not about arguing but simply about providing accurate information. Of course there are “natural” methods out there, but by utilizing what science gave us, such as pills and IUDs, you are able to give yourself a real chance to NOT have an unplanned, unwanted child and I will never understand what is so wrong with that. 

Shortly after that statement  I was kicked out of the group. I am hoping that I made an impact, but somehow I think my words fell on deaf ears. Just remember that we have real options out there and that there is nothing wrong with not wanting to conceive. Your obligation should not be to pull out for God, but rather should be to always make the responsible choice… especially when it involves another life.


Exorcising my right to choose science

“And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.” Mathew 17: 14-20


It was Good Friday in 1993 when my mother found me in status Epilepticus- I was taken to the hospital by ambulance, they used life flight transport to get me to another hospital at which point I was put into a medically induced coma for several days. I had never had an episode like this, i’d never even been severely ill. There was no explanation for what had occurred and it left my family as well as my doctors baffled. I was only 9 years old when I received my diagnosis as an Epileptic and though I did not understand what the diagnosis meant I learned quickly that my life had changed forever.


preparing for a week long video EEG

In biblical times believers brought on the notion that seizures were caused by demon possession therefore the treatment of choice was exorcism. This is not the case today and I thank science for that. Though medication is the first choice, it is not the only one. Personally, I take two different anti-convulsants (Keppra and Lamictal) but in addition to that I have a VNS implant (Vagal Nerve Stimulation)… which has saved my life. In 2006 the frequency of my grand-mal seizures became debilitating so surgical options were brought to the table and tests were preformed to see what would be best for my situation. In December of that year I spent a week in the hospital having a video EEG- I was monitored 24/7, head covered in electrodes and weaned from my medication… just waiting to have a seizure. Amazingly during this week I did not have a single Grand-mal seizure, only petit-mal which did not provide adequate detail to the precise location of my seizures and therefore it was determined that VNS was the best surgical option for me. I am actually thankful that I wasn’t an ideal candidate for the other types, having someone cut into my brain and (gulp) possibly remove part of it was not something I had the guts to even consider.

Size comparison of generator and lead

Size comparison of generator and lead

So I opted for technology. The VNS implant  became a permanent part of me on January 29, 2007. At first just the idea of it was overwhelming. I couldn’t imagine how a device the size of a cookie was going to stop my seizures, but as is often the case the more I read, the more intrigued I became. This was going to give me something I’d never had- control over my seizures. With the swipe of a magnet I would be able to send an electronic pulse up my Vagal nerve which would block ongoing seizure activity. With the help of my doctor I scheduled the next available appointment.

A few of the implanted VNS

A view of the implanted VNS



It  was a quick outpatient procedure , required one incision and had only a few days of recovery time. The real magic came about two weeks later when the device was turned on for the first time. By using a wand connected to a computer  they programmed my dosage and handed me a magnet. This magnet is now an everyday accessory for me as it is the only way to activate my stimulator if I fall ill. Typically Rich will have one as well, just in case I cannot get to mine in time.  I will never forget the first time I felt the vibrating pulse up my neck… I just knew that my life as Epileptic was changing. And even though the combination of this device and my medication have not stopped my seizures completely I am now able to ensure a less intense seizure, faster recovery time and better quality of life. For this I am eternally grateful to science.


programming my VNS

If I was superstitious or held belief in a higher power my journey with Epilepsy would be much different. It is easy to see how a believer might suggest some type of religious healing when it was on Good Friday that the demon first took control of my body. Thankfully I never saw it this way. I never viewed my condition as a punishment and my parents were right on board with finding a medical explanation, not the spiritual one. I still do not know what caused my first seizure and most likely I never will… what I do know is that there are scientific advancements at my finger tips to help ensure I never have another one.


stop shoving my Atheism down your throat!

I know there is a stigma towards Atheism… at times just speaking the word will get you a dirty look. That is why I tend to not discuss it in groups I know won’t appreciate my point of view. This is something I do out of respect for my friends, family or acquaintances (especially if i am not sure where they stand) but I have noticed more and more that this same courtesy is not given to me. In all areas of my life I come across people who want to tell me all about God, who want to pray for me, who think I need to be saved- despite knowing where I stand they are dumbfounded by my resistance. They are bothered by the fact that I am an Atheist and despite me not flaunting it, somehow they continuously manage to shove my Atheism down their own throat.

I am a member of a facebook support group for the female condition Poly-Cystic Ovarian Syndrome. In general it is a respectful group but occasionally religion shows up and tempers flare. Secularists typically ignore the “I’m praying for you” or “God bless you” comments… but sometimes it becomes too much even for the most patient of us. About a month ago I just happened to catch a post that really hit home. One of my “cysters” asked “Please not trying to start religious debate, but does anyone know if there is a PCOS group for non-believers?”. She was immediately hit with inquires of “why would you want that?”, “why are you trying to segregate our group?”… many of the girls were nice, implying that despite our differences in belief our common bond is PCOS and the women of faith are simply sending support the best way that they know how… through Christ. I backed my secular friend up stating that sometimes when we post a question, we just want a legitimate answer  about treatment, rather than a foggy believer remedy such as the recommendation of prayer and putting it into God’s hands. I got this rant in reply…

“Please stop looking to science for ALL YOUR ANSWERS. Science told my cousin that her son would die as a result of being shot 5 times, once in the head. Science told her to get donation proceedings underway bc there was no way he would survive his injuries. 5 weeks later, he is out of ICU, no ventilator, no spinal cord injuries despite being shot 3 times in the back, no brain stem injuries, AND ON THE ROAD TO RECOVERY! Prayer changes things. Im sorry the name of God causes you to be upset but US BELIEVERS WILL NEVER STOP PRAISING HIM so the best thing is to join a nonbelieving group. We have too much joy in the name Jesus to keep silent. We are not trying to be offensive.”

When she was told that her rant was EXACTLY why we want a secular group she replied “Please do not try to attack me for what I believe.”. I can’t say I was shocked by this response, but I found the ignorance astounding. First of all, the story of her cousin simply verifies that science can do amazing things, they initially thought that he wouldn’t make it but by KEEPING HIM IN THE HOSPITAL AND CONTINUING TREATMENT doctors were able to save his life. Now, had she said that once the doctor said it was hopeless, they removed him from the hospital, took him to a church and left it up to prayer… well maybe I would be a bit more impressed. Secondly, instead of supporting the earlier statements that we shouldn’t segregate and should simply support no matter what, she flat out says it is best that we join a different group. So in the end, simply mentioning secularism warranted getting read the riot act, but stating matter-of-fact that the believers “WILL NEVER STOP PRAISING HIM” was a perfectly acceptable response. None of those girls who posted that the secularist shouldn’t try to segregate went on to tell the believer that she was out of line. In fact, the conversation continued with many more replies on how Jesus is important and that prayer does work… and if you don’t agree, well then just use the “hide post” option. Luckily, I did know of the secular group for this condition and was able to pass on a link to the girls who wanted it. I was swamped with private messages from ladies who just want straight talk and thanked for not making the link public.

I notice that this happens frequently in my personal life as well. For some reason the believers feel an entitlement to discuss religion without receiving a counterpoint. During a casual visit with friends, one person started discussing “the flood” stating that it is clearly true and citing evidence such as a seahorse in fresh water on a mountaintop. Now he isn’t alone in this belief, many have sipped the Kool-aid despite the obvious flaws. So fine, whatever, he’s still my friend. The time it becomes an issue is when he becomes offended that our Friday night is being spent with our skeptic group…suddenly we receive an eye-roll that just screams “you know I am not interested in that stuff!” . This behavior is not restricted to stating biblical beliefs… it can show up in smaller things such as people discussing the existence of ghosts and spirits. I have a friend who adores the “Ghost Hunter” type shows. He will talk for hours about the evidence they produce and which places in Pennsylvania are the most haunted. Mentioning that now that he knows the techniques he is more in touch with the spirit world and have started having experiences of his own. There really is no reply necessary to any of it, as I am supposed to just accept this as fact. If I choose to question it I become the stereotypical “arrogant Atheist”  always dismissing the unknown and pushing their (non)belief on others. However, if I dare mention that me and Rich will be speaking at the PA Atheists/Humanist conference… I get crickets. Maybe, just maybe I will get an “oh” of acknowledgment- but that is it, because after all it is inappropriate for me to mention Atheism in a believer environment.

Just last week there was a statement made by the boys mother that really shocked me. She stated that me and Rich have no right to tell his 14 year old son that there is no God. Implying that it is ok for her, as a believer, to tell him that there is a God. First of all, we rarely discuss Atheism with him unless he brings it up. He knows that we are Atheists but honestly, at this stage he has bigger things to worry about, like school and Xbox. Second, her family are the ones who attempt to force religion on the boys. They criticize them for identifying as Atheist, they dismiss the idea of actual discussion of the topic and they take no interest in the secular activities which they enjoy. I find the ignorance to be pathetic, she finds it to be completely justifiable. Somehow people cannot seem to see that pushing the belief of God on someone comes with the risk that they may not agree… you cannot say they are flaunting their views if you are the one insisting on beating the subject to death.

Listen, I have no problem just agreeing to disagree. If nothing is going to change your mind, and you don’t want to hear my side…fine. However, you need to remember that making this agreement means that you need to control the preaching and stop harping on our differences. If you can’t accept that and you insist on shoving my Atheism down your throat, there is nothing more I can do for you.

A Uterus from Nothing (part 5)


Well, it is official, we are having a little girl. Arabella Lorelei is still due July 22, 2014 and she is developing perfectly. The anatomy scan was amazing.The baby is only half a pound and yet we can observe the kidney function, watch the blood flowing through the umbilical cord and see baby open and close her mouth all while doing little flips and twists right there in my tummy. I understand that ultrasounds have been around for quite sometime, but the advances in technology have been vast and the certainty with which health care providers can give out information is astounding.

Arabella will be the first child in a long line of family births to not be baptized simply out of tradition. The topic hasn’t caused a stir as of now, though to be fair, we have yet to discuss it with those who will care. However, I am sure that once baby arrives the backlash will begin. No matter what we encounter from either side of the family, I assure you that the Couple of Atheists will not back down. I know that some people will say that we should not sacrifice the baby’s “soul” simply because we choose not to believe… or that because of our atheism the ceremony is meaningless and should be viewed as drops of water and words… with a chance at redemption of her soul should me and Rich turn out to be wrong. Well, that is fine for some, but I take a different view.

I believe that participating in this, or any inherently religious ceremony, is disrespectful to those who do believe. Unlike many relationships, there is no internal conflict between Rich and myself and therefore no reason to compromise our ethics simply to appease others. I also do not view this as keeping Arabella away from God, but more not forcing God onto her. If at any point she finds that a life of faith is right for her, that will be fine, but I will not pressure her into something that I do not find beneficial to  life. Despite having one openly Atheist parent,  I was baptized, confirmed and made my confirmation within the Catholic church… and though this did not instill a belief in Christ, it forced onto me the stigma of being Catholic… and I won’t do that to my child.

As I watch the development of the baby progress, I begin to think more of her future. I know that we are going to encounter many situations along the way where the faith of others will attempt to overstep and cross the bounds of our rights as parents. There will be compromise at times, but not to the point that our family forgets what we believe in. And if you really find fault in a secular, humanist household, well I encourage you to keep reading and prepare to change your mind.

A Uterus from Nothing (part 4)

ImageAs you can see there has been a lot of action since I last posted about baby. I am now just over 3 months and everything is right where it is supposed to be. I have been experiencing a range of reactions to this pregnancy, most of which are supportive, loving and filled with excitement, and a few… not so much. Much to the contrary of what you would expect I have not had a single believer speak ill of pregnancy. It doesn’t seem to matter to them that me and Rich are not married or that we are Atheists who plan to raise the baby with secular values. No, the only harsh reaction came from a member of my local Atheist community… and I was admittedly unprepared as, after-all, everyone loves a pregnant lady. Maybe not. At our monthly brunch, a member of the local community expressed that they are reluctant to speak of my pregnancy, stating that 2% of babies die at birth (this is not true)  and that they will “celebrate it once the baby is born”. This came from a dark place, a very unfortunate experience that they had for which I feel very sorry. However, I am an optimistic person- I know that anything is possible and any number of things can go wrong- but I refuse to focus on that. I am so lucky to have become pregnant in the first place (thanks again science!) that I intend on celebrating every minute of this baby’s life…and yes, the fetus inside of me is very much alive. So onto the good stuff… here is what science has offered up for celebration since the last time I wrote.


On December 30th I had the ultrasound that produced the pictures you see. During this sonogram the technician made a comment that just made me laugh inside. Everything was going along as normal, baby moving like crazy and me being more excited than ever in my life…but then the above image was captured and the tech exclaimed “Look, the baby seems like it is praying!”. Of course in my mind I was thinking “Well it isn’t, the baby has no knowledge of God or prayer.”, but to her face, I just smiled as I could tell that she felt she was being sweet.  After that moment passed, she continued on, showing us the cord blood flowing, the face and even the baby’s brain. I cannot believe how clear the images were. Instead of that blurry image mother’s had in the past- I could see each part that  was pointed out. This is undeniably the result of science and technology. First ,it is only within the last 25 years that we have had transvaginal ultrasound technology, and in 2014 it is far better than it was when it first came into mainstream use. It makes it possible to zoom in and create images like the one below, where at 10 weeks 6 days the hemispheres of the brain are clear as day.


Another example of science and technology performing as God never could happened just 2 days ago at my first trimester screening where they check the risk of Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome) and Trisomy 18 (Edward’s syndrome). This test consists of 2 parts- an ultrasound (Nuchal Translucency screening)  in which the thickness of the nuchal fold area is measured and also a blood test. My ultrasound results were available immediately and the doctor said everything was excellent, my blood work is not back yet, but it is unlikely they will reveal anything but the same as the ultrasound. Isn’t it amazing that in today’s world we have ultrasound technology and research available to give an immediate assessment of the risk of these syndromes? Some people find them controversial, thinking that unfavorable results will make for an unhappy pregnancy or even tempt the mother to abort the fetus. I do not see this as the case, and a dear friend of mine said it best, that tests like this “allow us to mourn the baby we imagined having, and prepare for the baby we now have… so our first moments after birth can be spent with love and happiness, as they should, rather than shock and fear. ” .

One final milestone occurred on the 2nd of January, where we heard the heartbeat for the first time. It was the most amazing sound I have ever heard and made me immediately wish that I had an at home doppler so I could listen to it all of the time. Yes, science and technology has given us that option, but alas, it is too far out of our price range- so we will have to hold off the next time the doctor takes a listen. Until then I will continue to celebrate the life inside of me and share it with those whom I love and who love me.