Sunday, April 10, 2016

Morality Over Obedience

One of the questions I often get as an Atheist is, if I don't have a deity that I worship, where do I get my morality? I contend that receiving a moral code from an authority is always going to be problematic.

People who receive their morality will always be living with contradictions - what they have been told and what they have experienced. In addition, if people have a deity and a holy text like the one I had, they are going to struggle with their authority being inconsistent.

I find that non-belief gives me a much clearer playing field and encourages me to engage my ethical code in ways that I did not when I was a believer.  When I was a theist, I was concerned with whether or not I was obedient.  Now I am concerned with how much help or harm I bring to my world.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Love God - Love Your Loved Ones Less

Yesterday, my brother shared an article on Facebook concerning Evangelical pastor Francis Chan's challenge for Christians to stop idolizing their family and put Christ's mission first. He asked for his readers' thoughts. After perusing the article, I wrote:
"A: Chan believes anyone who does not "have a relationship" with his god will be tortured for eternity by said god - so out the gate, I am convinced that his view of god is going to be harmful to humanity. Ergo any thought he has to add about how a believer should go about spiritual pursuits, in my view, is going to be highly suspect.
B. Chan is encouraging you to put the most important relationships of your life on the back burner so you can go out and... well, at this point it gets vague... be radical, and all out, and live over the edge! This too will probably end badly. Not for Chan, Chan will get awesome book deals and speaking engagements out of this. He will get lots of perks.
The followers of Chan? Not so much. They will probably mess up relationships, wax and wane between guilt and euphoria until something gives, and make a lot of financial and life decisions with no more consideration than a role of the dice.
My challenge to Christians... stop idolizing... period."
Then this morning, I read an article by Libby Anne over at Love, Joy, Feminism, where she shared about growing up with that evangelical mindset of near paranoia about making sure everything and everyone in your life was undervalued when compared to God.
"I also remember worrying that I loved my family more than I loved God. I was taught that this was wrong—that it made my family idols. I felt so conflicted over this, and purposed time and again to love God more than I loved my parents or siblings."
Reading both of those articles made me reflect on how real that topic was to me growing up. I regularly saw folks give up various past times and pleasures because they were concerned these things were becoming an "idol" in their life. I many times abandoned enjoyments, passed on opportunities, or sabotaged relationships because I thought these things would "hinder my walk with God". Jesus needed to be ultimate (whatever that meant) and nothing could even be a close second.

One of the musical heroes in my circles growing up was named Keith Green. I lived and worked at Green's ministry for 6 months when I was 18.  He wrote a song where he pointed out that everything in his life took 2nd place to Jesus. Keith speaks of his marriage in this way:
"As I told her when we wed, I'd surely rather be found dead, than to love her more than the one who saved my soul."
There was a time when I heard that song and that line and felt it was a powerful testimony of dedication to Jesus - now I see it as a dysfunctional mess.

Imagine a husband insisting to his wife that she love him more than the children. Contemplate what kind of mother would tell a daughter that, if the daughter loved her brother more, then the daughter was unworthy of her mother's love.

Does any reasonable person consider this jealous, competitive perspective in any way loving?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

My Journey to Atheism - Part 2

Here is part 2 of my discussion with my brother about leaving the faith. We talk about why I couldn't stop at Agnosticism and what effect this all had on my family. If you haven't listened to Part 1 yet, you can find it here:  Part 1

Sunday, March 13, 2016

My Journey to Atheism - Part 1

I want to recommend to you my brother's podcast. Steve is a Christian believer whose faith journey has led him to ... more open pastures ... in the past half dozen years. Steve and I have both gone through a lot of changes over our decades as brothers, but no matter where we were politically, philosophically, or religiously, we have always managed to have excellent dialogue. One reason is because Steve, at his core, is a great conversationalist and that really comes through in the podcast. Be it discussions of faith, stories from his month long walk on the Camino de Santiago, or opinions about the latest Star Wars movie, his new podcast has proven to be a worthy listen on my list.

In his latest episode, Steve interviews me about my journey from a life of faith to atheism. We talk about Hell theology, life among the Mormons, and how Evangelicals respond to diversity.  We had a great conversation, in fact, it lasted over 2 hours. So Steve split it in half and this is part one. Enjoy!

Monday, February 15, 2016

In Defense of the Smartwatch

When the Apple watch was first coming out, I remember an Apple friend of mine arguing on Facebook that there was no point to it.  In fact, he felt that watches in general were passé. Why wear a watch when you have a phone in your pocket?

I couldn't disagree more.  I started with my first smartwatch back in the mid 90s.  I had a Timex Datalink watch which housed my contacts, tasks, and calendar from my computer. In transferred the information by flashing lines across the screen which the watch read with an "eye" on the watch face. This was before anyone was carrying around a Palm Pilot.

Admittedly, PDAs and smartphones seemed to remove the need for a smartwatch.  Once I started carrying a Palm, the need to export my information to my watch seemed redundant.  However, the smartphone added a whole new layer to the personal assistant experience, and I find that a smartwatch really allows one to better use all the functions of their phone.  Let me list the ways my smartwatch makes my life easier.  I have a Samsung Neo Gear 2.
  • Texting - I do not need to fish my phone out of my pocket to see a text or respond to it.  Sure, for longer responses I do.  But often, I am in a meeting or in class and can look at my watch and reply with a number of pre-set responses like yes, no, or I'll text you after my meeting.
  • I can take a call on it.  I admit, when I first saw this as one of its features I thought "Why in the heck would anyone talk on their watch rather than pull out their phone?!"  Actually though, I find myself doing it all the time.  Most often it is when I am at home, and my phone is on a charger somewhere.  Rather than running upstairs or downstairs to grab my phone, I just take the call on my watch.
  • Vocal commands.  My watch is connected to my phone's AI.  So pretty much anything I could ask or command on my phone, I can do on my watch.  Weather, setting appointments, general questions.  A press of the button on my watch is often more convenient and faster than grabbing my phone out of my pocket.
  • Pedometer.  My watch replaced my Fitbit.
  • Find my phone.  If I can't find my phone, I hit a button on my watch and my phone will ring. Concordantly, my phone can find my watch.
  • Never forget my phone.  If I step more than 30 feet from my phone, my watch vibrates to let me know I have moved out of range.  This has kept me from leaving the phone on a charger at home or at work dozens of times.
  • Silence the ring or alarm.  So often in a meeting or class, someone's phone starts blaring and everyone looks over in annoyance as the owner fishes through purse or coat to silence the foghorn that is their phone.  Actually, I have all notifications silenced since my watch merely vibrates to notify.  But even if there were a noise coming out of my phone, a quick tap of my watch would silence it.
In addition to all of that, there are apps being added every day that may be of use to you in particular. I use my timer app at work almost everyday.  I have a flashlight app that helps me navigate the house at night.  There are also hundreds of watch faces that will cater to your particular tastes or information needs.
Smartwatches may remain in the niche' market, but may they ever remain.

Monday, February 08, 2016

What To Do With An Old Tablet

If you are like me, you tend to collect old electronics.  You upgrade, and the old item falls out of use.  It still works, but like Woody and Buzz, they end up under the bed or in an old drawer... unused.

This was the case with two old android tablets I owned.  Having upgraded, they sat.  With the market flooded with cheap tablets, it is hardly worth it to try to sell them on Ebay.  Besides, they are both quirky.  One only charges when the power is off and the other has a battery indicator that always says full.

So, I have brought them to my classroom.  My second graders use them for Klotski, chess, and other logic games.  There are also apps where they can practice their grammar and math.

I am guessing that some of you also have unused tablets lying around gathering dust.  If you would like to give them a second life, would you consider sending them to my classroom?  Here they can live out their twilight years with a child.  If I get enough of them, I may start using them for centers.

If you have one that is ready to move on, drop me a line at, and I will send you my school address.  Thanks!

***** You may have noticed my previous page requesting old Palm Pilots.  We have been making good use of those but, honestly, they are a lot of work to maintain.  The older ones are always needing battery swaps, the newer ones don't hold charges very long - plus syncing them is no small chore.  Also, getting apps has been difficult as most links are long dead.  So, I am hoping I can do something similar, but easier, with old tablets.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Facebook Faith #56 - St. Paul Set The Bar of Love Well

A friend on Facebook posted this page earlier today.  In general, I like it.  I think it is useful, not only for reflecting on potential life long partners, but it can be applied to ourselves as well.  I think that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, does a first rate job of describing love.

The interesting thing is that this practice - inserting the name of a potential life partner into the text - was a maneuver that significantly destabilized my faith.  Like the author of the shared page, I tried inserting my God in place of the word Love in 1 Corinthians 13:
  • God is patient
  • God is kind
  • God does not envy
  • God does not boast
  • God is not proud
  • God is not rude
  • God is not self-seeking
  • God is not easily angered
  • God keeps no record of wrongs
  • God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth
  • God always protects
  • God always trusts
  • God always hopes
  • God always perseveres
  • God never fails
As I looked at that list, I realized that 1 Corinthians 13 did not describe the God of my evangelical heritage.  The God I found in the Bible was like this list sometimes, but certainly not all of the time. In fact, the more I investigated the Bible, the more I found that the god of those pages failed this test miserably.

For a while, I clung to a God that met the love standard.  So what if the god of my sacred text didn't measure up.  I could ignore the text, ignore the proclamations of other believers, ignore my own doubts.  I was like Hawkeye in MASH, desperately pounding on the chest of a dead man, clinging to the hope that my desperation could revive this patient.  I pounded on that chest for a few years.

In the end, I realized that 1 Corinthians 13 is a good list.  Paul had a moment of enlightenment and tapped into something exceptional.

Love is all of those things and is a worthy pursuit for its own sake.
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