I feel entirely incapable of writing a summary of the Reason Rally. I may take a stab at it at some point: right now, all I have is a generalized cyclone of sensations and impressions. This was a life-changingly stunning event. I am exhausted, and exhilarated. I feel like I could sleep for twelve hours. I feel like I want to bounce out of bed and take on the world. My voice is still raspy. My smile muscles are aching.
All I have right now is a generalized cyclone of sensations and impressions… distilling into one idea.
If everyone who came to the Reason Rally does just one thing for atheism that they haven’t done before?
This movement will be radically changed.
If you came to the Reason Rally, and you do just one thing for atheism that you haven’t done before? If you tell one person that you’re an atheist? If you start wearing atheist T-shirts? If you start crossing “In God We Trust” off your money? If you start hanging out with your local atheist group? If you organize one event with the local atheist group you already hang out with? If you donate money to one atheist organization? If you run for public office as an out atheist? If you start re-tweeting things about atheism?
If you do just one thing for atheism that you haven’t done before… this movement will be radically changed.
If you came to the Reason Rally, and you feel inspired and joyful and raging and touched and motivated to get involved? If you didn’t come to the Reason Rally, but you wish you could have, and you’re reading reports about it and it’s making you want to be part of it?
Think of just one thing that you’re not already doing for atheism. And do it.
According to Park Service reports (or at least, according to rumors I heard about Park Service reports), there were 25,000 people at the Reason Rally. 25,000 atheists who were joyful and inspired and raging and touched and motivated enough to get in a car, get on a bus, get on a plane, get on the D.C. Metro, and stand around in the rain for eight hours, because they care about atheism. And I have no idea how many thousands of people dearly wished they could have come, and are feeling the energy from this event radiating out of D.C. and into their living rooms.
Let’s take that joy and inspirationn, that rage and connection — and let’s use it to drive action.
You don’t have to become a full-time professional atheist to make a difference. You don’t even have to make atheism your primary hobby. If everyone who came to the Reason Rally does just one thing for atheism that they’ve never done before? If everyone who wishes they could have come to the Reason Rally, and who’s feeling like they’re part of it just from reading and hearing about it, does just one thing for atheism that they’ve never done before?
This world will never be the same again.
80 thoughts on “If Everyone Does One Thing…”
It was awesome! I only made it for a few hours but I got to hear you speak (and my friend got you to autograph a card for me and I’ve been grinning like a loon ever since then) and I sang along with Tim Minchin and I stood a few feet away from Hemant and I got a hug from JT and…wow, I’m so glad I made it even if I couldn’t stay all day.
Inspiration comes in all forms and yesterday’s event was a display in unity, but also that Atheism will be a voting bloc soon…. let’s hope the people on Capitol Hill heard us. I was also inspired to send this email to my mother this morning:
Well, yesterday I had a very interesting day. I was in attendance at
the Reason Rally in DC, not sure if you caught it on the news, but it
was a very empowering rally. For the first time I felt as though
someone speaking on a grand stage, was relating to me. Those are the
ideas and values that I have always felt. I should thank you because
you instilled good morals and ethics without a book, or an invisible
man I should fear, telling me to do so.
I remember being at Kelly School in fourth grade saying the pledge of
allegiance and when it came to “under god” I used to mouth it and not
actually say the words. Yesterday, 20K people said the pledge
together as it was originally written “One Nation, Indivisible, with
liberty and justice for all” and it gave me chills. I also reflected
on the issue I had with the coach on the softball team my senior year
when I did not want to participate in group prayer before the games.
I appreciated how you supported me, since I didn’t realize how that
could have effected your job at the time. That means a lot to me now,
since if that happened in this state of sensationalized news, it
probably would have been national news.
I want to thank you and Dad for raising me to know it is ok to be
independent and not have to be a sheep in a flock for any shepherd.
You taught me to read all types of books and encyclopedias, that
taught me about the world. You have shown me the analyzation skills
and taught me vocabulary to be able to coherently communicate. You
have raised a free thinker, you should be proud, and I thank you for
Be proud to say, “My daughter is a free thinker, and she is an Atheist”
I love you both,
I am so fucking jealous. I really wanted to go.
BTW, I keep a little mini Sharpy in my prurse for the explicit purpose of marking out “in god we trust”. Yes it is a small thing, but it has become important to me that no paper money leaves me with that lie still visible. I am looking forward to the day I find a bill where that has already been done, so you guys need to get busy with it!
I loved your talk at the Reason Rally!
…why did it never occur to me to mark out ‘In God We Trust’ on my cash? I shall do that right now. On all…twenty-three dollars I have in cash, and then whatever I get when I go to the credit union tomorrow. And then I shall go to wheresgeorge.com and put in the serial numbers so I can track the money. Too bad it won’t work with coins–the ink’ll rub off and coins don’t have serial numbers.
…wheresgeorge.com is censoring me. I’m leaving “marked out ‘In God We Trust'” as a note on each bill I enter and it’s keeping the note as “marked out ‘the national motto'”. *growl*
Agreed. I’m British and certainly think that we need to be more visible but Dennett said in the ‘Four Horsemen video’ that it’s not how you say it but that you say it all that offends.
Wouldn’t they try to pass laws making notes worthless if you crossed out the ‘god’ bit?
Greta, I was there and I second it: Your talk was AWESOME!
I too will start marking out the g word!
I did not attend, but I loved this write up! I think we should extend this to everyone who reads it (as I am sure that was the unwritten intention). I will be joining in this endeavor times 5 at least. I do speak out and tell people who I am, but there is so much more that I could be doing.
Here is one to add to your list if you are a traveler. Those bibles in the hotel rooms, instead of throwing them away, highlight a few of those really horrible passages believers don’t like to admit are in there and stick some paper strip bookmarks in there. Waking people up to the horrors when they are sitting alone and have time to think is one of the best ways you can get people to reflect on this stuff. Plus, it works for those of you who can’t come out. Keep up the awesome work, buy Greta’s new book, and keep it real!
I would have loved to have been there. Just not possible. I’ll start “defiling” currency right away. Why didn’t I think of that. I don’t even “mouth” that “under god” nonsense when the pledge comes up.
One thing I did do was pay for an ad advertising our new free thought group here in the Sedona, Verde Valley area of Arizona. I think the announcement should have been free, but there was a noticeable frown on the owner’s/editor’s face. I’m sure he hated the ad. Anyway, since they accepted the payment, the ad will be in there — for two weeks yet.
When one of my good friends learned we were starting a free thinkers group, he said one already existed in the Unity Church they attend here in Cottonwood. I just let him know this was a secular group with no criticism or hostility. I have no time or money to waste in churches no matter how lovey dovey they might be. There’s still supernatural nonsense involved.
Keep those suggestions of actions coming.
I wish I could have gone to the Reason Rally but I live on the other side of the US and — too much work to do.
I am curious about the Phelps gang protesting the event. I can’t find any post-rally information about it yet. I read some things about Nate Phelps’ speech but not about his fam’ making an appearance. No show?
Not sure about them censoring you, but I just stamp the “WheresGeorge” stamp right over that erroneous statement they mistakenly print on my currency. Easy, subtle, still makes the point.
I LOVE the Bible idea. Will do.
And don’t forget to bookmark Matt. 6:6, my favorite verse. Just think how much more pleasant our relations with Christians would be if they ever paid any attention to that.
DrThoss: ‘Subtle’ is…not really my stock in trade. Also I don’t own a Where’s George stamp.
Greta Christina: Your speech yesterday at the Rally was so inspiring! It is like you took the words out of my mouth about everything I am angry about when it comes to the injustice we suffer living with, and among religion.
I would really like to get your speech in writing and publish it on my Facebook / Twitter. Can you publish that speech?
Thank you so much for being an inspiration!!
I’ve been following the online reports and pics from the Reason Rally; and it’s fantastic. What I’ve been thinking is the following: What about an international Reason Rally? Not just confined to the US, but across the globe on the same day; in all countries? I know there are countries where people might be prosecuted and even put to death for such actions, so I don’t expect them to participate. But the rest of us can, and in my view should; and express solidarity with them on such occasions.
Greetings from South Africa!!!
I do that. I also add a few interesting references to the section just inside the cover on “If you are lonely and restless, read …”, etc.
I bought your book to read on my Kindle. Does that count as doing something? 🙂
Christina, I’ve been marking out “god” on my money for years and writing “good” in its place. The window stickers I picked up at the rally will go on my pick-up for display while tooling around Fort Worth, and I’ll join the national FFRF and AHA… something I’ve put off too long.
It was a pleasure to finally meet you, and a pleasure to hear you speak live.
Godlesspanther @11: Yes, the Westboro Baptists were there. They were positioned on a hill on the west side of 14th Street, a good quarter-mile northwest of (which meant behind) the Reason Rally stage. Presumably they couldn’t get along with the other cluster of Christian protesters, who were on the northern fringes of the Mall, quite a bit closer to the heart of the festivities.
For me, the Rally was a flatly unbelievable experience. Whereas all the previous atheist events I’ve attended basically felt like a bunch of cool people hanging out, this one really felt like the beating heart, or perhaps the explosive blastoff, of a movement. Massive and awesome.
Next time we’ll have 100,000.
Spent some time yesterday at the formation meeting for a local atheist group. (We’d have watched the Rally with a much larger crowd if there’d been a livefeed, grumble grumble.)
I loved your speech too! Can you post it here? I was trying to paraphrase part of it (about Santo) from memory but it was not nearly as good as your statement. (I’ve also just ordered the DVD since I wasn’t there the whole time.)
I’m on my 4th green sharpie to eliminate the insult on US currency. “In imagination We Trust” is an insult. Couldn’t be “In The Constitution We Trust” or “In The US Treasury We Trust”, no it has to be something stupid and insulting.
I spoke to three policemen that were stationed next to the group of Xtians near the porta-potties.
Me: Any troubles yet today, gentlemen?
Cop 1: Not. We really don’t expect any.
Me: Why not?
Cop 2: Because this is the nicest crowd we’ve ever had here.
Cop 3: That’s because it’s the smartest crowd we’ve ever had.
Me: Wow. Thanks guys!
It was great. I was checking out the christians over on the north side. Each of them was surrounded by a group of people listening to them argue. It was amazing how orderly the debates were – each group was letting one or two people debate the christian and the rest were standing there listening, rather than overpower the god botherers with a barrage of stuff.
I got up on a power box or some kind of plinth that was about 3 feet high, to enable me to video the scene. As I was hopping down I caught the eye of a young guy, a teenager of about 17-18 who was watching one of the debates. He said to me with a big grin, “this is AWESOME! I wish they could have this every week!”
Greta you rocked it! I got there late, but just in time for the start of your talk. I was hoping you’d give a condensed version of your Skepticon talk, so I was thrilled when you did. That was one of the highlights of my day. (Well, that and Tim Minchin, Eddie Izzard, meeting Dale McGowan, running into Richard Wade and getting a big hug from JT.) What a terrific event!
I just crossed out the dumb line on my money. To be honest, I had to look for it – I never even noticed it before 🙂
Thanks for the write-up. And your book; I bought it the day it came out. I hope I will be able to make it to the next Reason Rally…
“And do it.”
I don’t like to be ordered about my activities.
“This world will never be the same again.”
My world, at the edge of the jungle, in this respect is just fine as it is. There are more important issues. And yes, all believers here know I’m an atheist.
Do just one thing for Lord Jesus you haven’t done before. Start today. Do it. You can make a difference. The world will never be the same.
Atheism as the newest christian denomination.
[…] has an interesting post on post-Reason Rally feelings, and thoughts on what would happen if everyone who went did one […]
Thanks for a great talk, and for being part of such an inspiring day!
I was pleased and surprised to hear Greata on NPR on Friday (3.23)!
As to the deity on the cash, I sometimes strike it out but other times I fill in another deity. YHWH, Allah, Zeus, Thor and Cthulhu all make regular appearances.
They showed up, but not for very long. Apparently, their convictions aren’t as strong as their distaste for unpleasant meteorological phenomena.
I only ran into some other church people when I left around 5ish, and they were already surrounded by small groups of argumentative non-believers. We might have joined in, but we’d just have been adding to what was already a pathetically one-sided discussion.
I love the idea of marking out God from my money (won’t be high impact as I use plastic for almost everything, but I do use some cash). I also love the idea from Donovan Baker (#9) about bookmarking and highlighting things in the bible in hotels, I am definitely going to start doing that!
Let’s get something perfectly clear:
This was a colossal crowd.
All the coverage makes clear that the writers left the Rally long before it ended. As someone who was amazed at the size of the crowd at 11 am, I can assure you that it grew considerably as the day wore on (large patches of grass to the side of the event that were empty in the morning were crowded by mid-afternoon), so it’s safe to assume that most media accounts will underestimate the crowd.
I climbed on a metal electrical box off the to the side to get a decent elevated view. I attended the 2002 Godless Americans March on Washington, which had drawn about 2,500 people, so I had a metric by which I could judge the size of the Reason Rally crowd. The Reason Rally eventually drew a peak crowd nearly 20 times as large.
There were no fewer than 40,000 people there.
It was a hell of a sight!
At least half that number stayed to the end.
Thanks for your inspiring speech, Greta Christina!
On my cash I substitute “Good”, “Reason”, “Science”, “FSM” for God on the motto. Other suggestions welcome.
As for “one more thing”, I think I’ll write to my Republican congresscritter (Candace Miller, R-MI) and tell her that even though I wasn’t at the rally, I’m in her district, I am following the antics of the RepubliTheoCrats, and I vote.
Already go to Godless meetups, have & wear my Evil Little Thing t-shirt, participate in ‘A’ Week, and am completely “out” as an atheist. Pleased to report that, contrary to the experiences of many, I have had no blowback from it. Better class of friends or just lucky I guess.
[…] didn’t have to go the rally to get behind and feel inspired by this post of Greta’s. What am I going to do? I’m going to continue wearing my red ‘A’ necklace, and […]
Your talk was one of the most moving, I really felt your emotions across hundreds of yards.
Switched my nice pens in my office with American Atheist pens.
For years my software company had an internal Religion forum, including senior staff. Sometimes they waded into Politics to make insane trainwreck threads.
So I started a Science, Math and Philosophy forum. After only 3 months it has 5x the posts Religion does, and we organized several trips (one for Dawkins tour although they kicked him out of the Wyngate CC,MI). A quiet unassuming lady from sales listed The God Delusion in the book thread.
I’m often reminded of how you wrote that religion requires social consent to thrive, and Dawkin’s critical mass concept. There are so many out there staying quiet, who need someone to be openly dismissive of superstitious nonsense, for someone to tell them its OK.
Adam Savage’s talk clued me in to the “Recovery from Religion” support groups in the U.S. and Canada. I’m going to look around to see if I can pitch in and help, as someone who took many cowardly years to extract myself from Christianity.
MurOllavan, it’s interesting that what you did is sort of like what happened with gayness in my large Canadian city. After many years of its being unspoken and unaddressed, I went to one company where there was an e-mail chat group for gays and my prospective colleagues introduced himself with the fact that he was gay. Several others in the company were equally forthright: it was a fact of life that they liked the same sex. O-kay…. It was a remarkable sea change from hidden and unspeakable to just another characteristic at one of the best places I’ve ever worked. And once it was there, it seemed to be everywhere. More people I knew came out, altho’ maybe that was because I told them that a member of my family was gay. Five years later, we were having same-sex marriages in the gay church and nobody gives a hoot except the happy couples and their loved ones.
May your initiatives spark a similar progression.
Correction: …and *one of* my prospective colleagues…
Karen Eshed at #15 and Gregory at #22: You can find in Greta’s new book what she delivered through her empowering and forceful speech at the Reason Rally, in a much more detailed and exhaustive manner. It’s written in a conversational style and very good read.
[My autocorrect is insisting on changing Greta to ‘Great’, which I think is entirely mot juste!]
mnb0 @ 28, 29: Your commitment to making no difference is inspiring.
“In good we trust,” great idea! Sends a double message.
Maybe I will have my real name legally changed to Godlesspanther.
Anyway — fellow activists. I am going to try to do one thing here on this comments section by bringing you attention to something that occurred in Pennsylvania the other day.
The article describes a staged kidnapping that was conducted by a church youth group. They committed violence and terrorism against a group of children and the minister is laughing it off and planning to do it again.
I know that this is just one drop in a bucket of things for an atheist to be furious about. I am concerned that the church will not face any real consequences — they should be locked up forever — but this happened in a country where the laws do not apply to people who do things in the name of Skweezuz — or whatever the fuck his name is. I live far away from PA — so trying to drum up support for the victims and see to it that some kind of justice is done.
It was awesome to be there. And, after attending the rally and taking part in the Reason Lobby the day before, I figured it was time to explicitly tell my parents I no longer believe in God.
I suspect they knew anyway, but it has never been discussed so I figured it was time to confirm for them what has been true for years.
Greta, your speech was awesome. And I made sure I read your book before I went to the Lobby Day and the Rally. I enjoyed it very, very, very much! Thanks for writing it.
I am a Christian doing research on the Reason Rally for a worldview class we are teaching to the junior high students at our church. We are not without reason in what we believe. I wish I could sit down and talk with each one of you- to learn your perspective and to share my thoughts. God loves you. Nothing you say against Him will change that.
You said, “worldview class we are teaching to the junior high students at our church.”
I take it that you are trying to get any information you can to show those kids how wrong people are who are not members of your cult.
Indoctrinate ’em young.
Jaclyn: And because you’re a fellow human being, we’ll love you. If you’re too preachy and condescending, we may not *like you* very much, but that’s a separate question.
However, I doubt very much you truly want our perspective, because our perspective contains a lot of “Wow, you are wrong. Really really wrong. Really mindblowingly wrong.” And most people don’t enjoy hearing that.
Hey Jaclyn, is he going to burn us in hell if we continue to not believe he exists? That’s some love.
I am not going to get preachy because I know that turns most people, including me, off. I honestly do want to know what atheists think (or don’t think? 🙂 about God and how you view Christians. I have never met any of you personally (I do have atheist friends and family), but by reading your writings it gives me a better understanding of the people around me.
We teach a worldview class to the students at our church not to indoctrinate them (they make the choice to be there), but to help them understand why they believe what they believe. There are many liberal people (like R. Dawkins) who say that Christians are idiots. That is insulting on many levels, but I will not get into that. 🙂
Here are two websites if you are interested:
I loved your talk at Reason Rally–and I’m looking forward to reading your book when it comes out in print form.
A worldview class on atheism can only fail because there is no unifying worldview for atheists. That is to say we all have our own reasons for being atheist. For me I think we should value intellectual honesty, and that kind of attitude eventually led me to dismiss my beliefs in god. Incoming long quote!
“One that would seriously set upon the search of truth ought in the first place to prepare one’s mind with a love of it. For one that loves it not, will not take much pains to get it, nor be much concerned when one misses it.
There is nobody who does not profess themselves a lover of truth, yet for all this, one may truly say, that there are very few lovers of truth for truth’s sake, even amongst those who persuade themselves that they are so. How a person may know whether they be so in earnest, is worth inquiry: And I think there is one unerring mark of it, which is the not entertaining any proposition with greater assurance than the proofs it is built upon will warrant. Whoever goes beyond this measure of assent, it is plain receives not the truth in the love of it; loves not truth for truth’s sake, but for some other bye end.
Whatsoever credit or authority we give to any proposition, more than it receives from the principles and proofs it supports itself upon, is owing to our inclinations that way, and is so far a derogation from the love of truth as such.”
Truth means more to me than simply believing in something just because it may conveniently fit into my worldview.
Also I would like to point out we aren’t saying anything “against” god, we’re simply unconvinced of the existence of god.
Who is the author of that quote? Where is it from (book/article)?
Have you ever asked yourself these basic questions:
1. Where did we come from?
2. Why do I exist?
3. Why does it matter?
If God does not exist, what is the purpose of anything? Where do morals come from? Who decides what is right and what is wrong?
C.S. Lewis was an atheist until he went searching for truth and found it, “Suppose there were no intelligence behind the universe. In that case nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. Thought is merely the by-product of some atoms within my skull. But if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course, I can’t trust the arguments leading to atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I can’t believe in thought; so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”
The class we teach (and this is only the first time it is being taught for the students in our church- by my husband and I 🙂 ) is not about or against atheism. We want the young people in our church to know why they believe what they believe. Many Christians are accused (by atheists specifically) of not being able to give a reasonable answer to why we believe in God and Jesus. We are seen as only emotional people who need some kind of religious outlet to make us feel better. Whether we are wrong or not- we want to have logical thought processes behind our beliefs. Jesus, after all, is called the ‘logos’ of God in the Bible! He is Logic embodied in human form. That’s another topic.
We talk about the reasonableness of Christianity in light of the 10 parts of a worldview- theology (what about God?), philosophy (what is real?), biology (what about life?), psychology (what about human nature?), ethics (what’s right?), sociology (what about relationships?), as well as law, politics, economics and history.
As we talk about what Christians believe, based on the Bible, we end up discussing other religions and worldviews. Atheism is a big one, of course, because it is a polar opposite to being a follower of Jesus Christ. The other big religions we discuss are Cosmic Humanism, Judaism and Islam.
Judaism and Islam are just as interesting to discuss as Atheism because they come from the same roots as Christianity, but are still diametrical opposites.
These are my thoughts for today. I may or may not say anymore. I have two little boys that make lots of messes and need lots of attention. 🙂
Continue to seek Truth.
Concerning the incident in Pennsylvania that I posted above, there is something that I have to add. This is the bad guy:
Glad Tidings Assembly of God in Middletown, Pennsylvania.
Pastor: John Lanza
190 Fulling Mill Road
Middletown, PA 17057
and Jaclyn, I looked at the sites that you provided links for. After viewing the information of those sites I would like to offer an apology for using the term “indoctrination.” That was certainly not the correct term to use. So strike the term “indoctrination” from my above post and replace it with “sick, twisted, sadistic mind-fuck.”
Godlesspanther, what are you talking about? They look like ordinary, even rather tame sites to me.
Jaclyn, can you find an actual quote of Dawkin saying that Christians are stupid? Stereotypical atheist attitudes have a tendency to be attributed to him merely because he’s prominent.
Thanks for writing this. I just wrote a blog entry about atheism at http://funcrunch.livejournal.com/328681.html to remind my friends and others reading my blog that we are out there!
“1 Where did we come from?
2. Why do I exist?
3. Why does it matter?”
I doubt you will find one single answer from atheists but for me
1) Where did we come from?
Somehow in this incredible, wonderful universe the conditions ended up being right for Earth to form and for life to evolve on it.
2) Why do I exist?
A good question. Given that human beings have developed sentience and rational thinking, then this question could be interpreted in a number of ways. I think we exist so that we can continue to evolve not just physically but also socially – to create co-operative, creative societies who will continue to explore the universe around us, as well as the “universe within” i.e. learning more about ourselves.
3) Why does it matter?
I think it our lives matter as much as we want them to. i.e. we create our own meaning. For me, this means trying to be intellectually honest in my thinking, being kind to other people (as this makes society function better) and enjoying as much as I can of each day.
Thanks for your thoughts Greta, and I fully agree. I wasn’t able to go, lack of cash and limited vacation time, some of which will be used to volunteer at the Northwest Freethought Alliance Convention right here in beautiful downtown Renton, WA. But I fully agree with your main point: If ALL of us just do one thing more this will be a radical turning point in the war against un-reason, formerly know as religion. But for myself it was not RR2012 that helped me make that leap, it was your articles on Alternet. It was you pointing me toward RDF and the “Out” Atheist campaign. It was Surly Amy’s big red “A” ceramic. And it was joining the “A” week campaign on Facebook last year and now. And it will continue to be leaning more about what being an atheist might mean, and why it’s important, to me, to the nation, and to the world.
This is a world poisoned by religion, be it buddhism, christianity, hinduism, islamism, judiasm or any other of the myriad “isms” we may be inflicted by. But there is an answer to all these manifestations of failed critical thinking, and that answer is critical thinking, and, in the final analysis, the only destination for true critical thought is atheism.
It is, however, an unfortunate truth that even the best of critical thinkers in some areas will choose to abandon critical thought when it comes to religion. Martin Gardner, who died recently at 95 years of age, was a regular contributor to Skeptical Inquiry Magazine and Scientific American, where he wrote a monthly column, was a self proclaimed “fideist”, one who knew there was no logical reason to believe in god but did so anyway because he felt the need to believe. I was greatly saddened when I read this in one of Martin’s own essays, but applauded his understanding that his belief lacked any justification or reason.
I find for myself that life without any supernatural beliefs or expectations becomes far more precious, far more appealing, than a life based on belief in the imaginary heavens or nirvana’s or reincarnations of the faithful. I hope that RR2012 is the harbinger of a new age, an age where science and reason become our guides.
If God does not exist, what is the purpose of anything? Where do morals come from? Who decides what is right and what is wrong?
There’s no purpose to life except what we give it. Atheist morals come from the same place as Christian, Buddhist, and Hindu morals: human empathy and enlightened self-interest. And there’s no need for an arbiter of right and wrong; there’s only acts that are hurtful and acts that are helpful and acts that are both and acts that are neither, and the hurtful things should be avoided where possible and the helpful things should be done where possible and when something’s both it gets messy (tip: least suffering for the greatest number, and then greatest happiness for the greatest number) and when something’s neither nobody should care whether it gets done or not.
If you want to understand atheism and atheists, the internet is a great place to start. Besides this blog, I also recommend all the other blogs on FTB, Friendly Atheist, and Daylight Atheism. For our personal stories, ex-christian.net is a wonderful resource. Asking questions is good, but be sure that you listen more than you talk. If you try to convert us you will not be met with welcome, but if you ask honest questions for the purpose of understanding you will generally get thoughtful answers.
For instance on your C.S. Lewis quote: “But if I can’t trust my own thinking, of course, I can’t trust the arguments leading to atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an atheist, or anything else.” Likewise, if you can’t trust your own thinking you also can’t trust the arguments leading to god. So he is believing in god because it makes him feel better about his brain, not because of valid reasoning. For me, that’s not a good enough reason for belief.
Regarding that C.S. Lewis quote: You’re confusing “constructing a tautology” for “finding the truth.”
If you heard a really loud, GRETA!!!! Just before you were introduced, that was me.
I blogged about my experiences at the Reason Rally on Atheist Nexus, here:
And spent the next two days gathering as many videos (20) of the speakers/performers I could find on YouTube and created as best an aggregate of the experience of being there I could come up with. I do have some of your speech, not complete… but the best I could find.
I’ll be updating video content as new stuff appears, …no need to worry about cutting into the DVD sales though, …most are just “watchable” quality, some just “almost”.
Now I’m shilling it to as many places as I can. I did end my blog with a few “do something” suggestions.
Here are my answers to your questions:
1. Where did we come from?
Who do you mean by “we”? If you mean me, then I came from my parents. If you mean humans in general, evidence very strongly indicates we evolved from other species. If you mean life, it’s just a very complex chemical reaction…a bunch of stuff got mixed and started to reproduce itself. If you mean “everything”, then I don’t know…which is much better than just making shit up.
2. Why do I exist?
There is no cosmic “why”. It’s like asking “Why are rocks hard?” or “Why is the sky blue?” We can answer these questions in a physical sense through scientific research but there is no “why” in the way I think you mean…some sort of divine purpose. Why does there have to be? Shit just happens. I choose to continue to exist because I have an evolved survival instinct and I enjoy life.
3. Why does it matter?
Why does what matter? Do you mean “why should we try and live by any moral standards whatsoever if there is no cosmic tyrant judging us? If so, that’s easy. Most of us choose to try and be decent to other people because we are a social species with evolved empathy and, while we have evolved competitiveness as well, our evolved intellect and reason have allowed us to learn that tempering our competitiveness and having societal rules restricting harmful behaviours results in a better, happier, more productive life for ourselves and those we love along with the happy bi-product of doing the same for others.
If God does not exist, what is the purpose of anything? See answer to number 2.
Where do morals come from? See answer to number 3.
Who decides what is right and what is wrong? Each of us decides for ourselves but, as a society, we should try to agree on rules developed through our empathy and reason to make things as good as possible for as many people as possible (we don’t always succeed at this). Also see EllieMurasaki’s comment at #60 above for a good precis on the murkiness of right and wrong.
I really don’t see how you can think using a 2000 book which contains numerous examples of your god doing despicable things as a moral template is better than trying to individually and collectively develop rules of behaviour based upon empathy and reason.
“Is it too modern to notice that there is nothing [in the ten commandments] about the protection of children from cruelty, nothing about rape, nothing about slavery, and nothing about genocide? Or is it too exactingly “in context” to notice that some of these very offenses are about to be positively recommended?” – Christopher Hitchens
Oh, and Jaclyn, even if your questions regarding purpose had led me to question the reason for it all, rue my atheism and sink into a depressive funk, thereby sapping all joy from my life…this would in no way provide any evidence that anything you believe about your god is true.
“Faith is vice masquerading as a virtue…Faith is the barren refuge of the vacuous” – PZ Myers, Reason Rally 2012
@DSimon — One of the sites is run by son of Josh McDowell — the old rapture freak. Tame? I guess that’s relative compared to the WBC, yes. Compared to your typical neighborhood Methodist church it’s stark-raving fundie. Full of propaganda for all the usual right-wing garbage. Absinence, creationism, anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-religious freedom, etc. The other is run by Chuck Colson — ’nuff said.
I don’t see Jaclyn as having any interest in learning anything about any point of view other than that which she has been indoctrinated into.
“Have you ever asked yourself these basic questions:
1. Where did we come from?
2. Why do I exist?
3. Why does it matter?
If God does not exist, what is the purpose of anything? Where do morals come from? Who decides what is right and what is wrong?”
How condescending and self-righteous is that? This is bullshit fundie propaganda. She is not really asking questions — these are under-handed manipulative statements:
Atheists have never asked themselves these basic questions. Atheists know nothing about the nature of existence, they have no purpose of meaning in life. Atheists have nothing to base their morality on. Atheists do not know right from wrong. Atheists just hate god and want to live a life of sin.
These are the things that she is SAYING — she’s not asking anything, really.
If Jaclyn had any interest in learning something she would have done so.
And why do Christians always have to sprinkle those fucking smiley faces all over everything they post?
Do I sound like a grumpy old man? Probably, but I’ve earned it.
Well said. They can never leave us alone it seems.
Yes, I do ask those questions all the time, and more questions than just those. But even if I couldn’t answer your questions right now, I still don’t see how I could justify a belief in god. I don’t see how god is necessarily important in answering those questions.
A few years ago just before I went off to college, I was pretty depressed (kind of still am), I isolated myself and was left alone to my thoughts (I was still a theist at this point), I started to gain an interest in philosophy and started examining my own beliefs and prejudices (which was somehow very scary and exciting at the same time). Eventually I became an atheist, but that depressed feeling never really went away. So I started to question what really mattered to me, and in particular how I could become a better person and why it mattered whether I believed in god or not.
For example, if someone were to sit down with me and give me a valid proof of the existence of god, of course I would become a theist at that point, (as long as I recognized the proof). But when I awoke the next morning what would change? Would I be a better person? How would it affect my life? Wouldn’t I still be the same man I was the night before? Wouldn’t I awake in the morning with the same prejudices, the same values, and the same outlook I had the night before?
It was clear that the concept of god existing was completely meaningless to me, it had little to do with what drove me to get out of my bed each morning. In other words, god gave no meaning or purpose to my life, and it never had.
So what did? What does? I have to say I don’t know for sure, maybe I’m wrong, but to me I see no reason whatsoever to assume that aligning my life with some kind of “cosmic order” should be seen as more important, or objective, or privileged above that sense of meaning and purpose which arises from my own feelings, and relationships with other people, life, and even the world.
Also if C.S. Lewis said he can’t trust his own thinking then he can’t trust the thinking that led him to think he can’t trust his own thinking. It seems self-refuting, I don’t think C.S. Lewis makes a very good argument, for he destroys the very foundation his argument is laid upon.
I hope you continue to seek the Truth as well.
Great post Greta! I could not agree more, if everyone did one thing for atheism, the “cause” would be greatly improved. Imagine what would happen if we each did one new thing for atheism per week!
1. Where did we come from?
I don’t know. How about if we just make something up and pretend it’s real?
2. Why do I exist?
I don’t know. How about if we just make something up and pretend it’s real?
3. Why does it matter?
I don’t know. How about if we just make something up and pretend it’s real?
[…] popular (and always great to read) atheist blogger Greta Christina, in her blog “If everyone does one thing…” on March 25, challenged each atheist to do something different than you normally do in order to […]
[…] do any of those? Then check out Greta’s suggestion for changing the world. There’s always something you can do. Share this: Posted in Promotion « […]
I’m 47 years and bitterly regret the decades I wasted as christian. You need to seriously consider the implications of a life spent living a lie, which, if you are of even moderate intelligence laced with a solid helping of empathy you will eventually uncover.
If you are young get out now.
So, I’m at the unofficial after rally party and someone asked me which speech I liked the best. I said I thought Greta Christina’s speech was the most wonderful and moving. Then I looked over at the next table and there you were!! It was a thrill to meet you and shake your hand. It was a thrill to run in to you again in the lobby of the hotel while I was looking for the American Atheist after party. I said, “Well if you are here I must be in the right place”. I was wrong: we were both at the wrong hotel!!
I went to the Reason Rally because I thought it was important to have my body there – to be counted. I’m incredibly glad I went; it was truly an experience of a lifetime. You can see my 3D pictures here if you have red/blue 3D glasses: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2907397280223.2117068.1119284136&type=3
In the be careful what you pray for category–I’m proud to say that when I had to attend youth classes at the church my parents belonged to, it was the beginning of the end of a god belief for me. I was soo excited to introduced to the answers to the vast mysteries of life—the things I was sure adults knew and that children had to somehow earn the right to know. Funny thing is, the class was all about memorizing stuff from the bible. I found out there weren’t any ANSWERS. That adults didn’t know either. Eventually we were told that in order to join the church that one Sunday each of us would be called on to recite one of the things we’d had to memorize. When I got home after that class, I told my parents I needed to tell them something. I said if memorization was the meaning behind church membership, then I wasn’t interested. I told them when the minister called on me I planned to say, “I don’t know”. I wanted to know if the minister would still let me join. Turns out he did. And by teaching me nothing during that class and then not even have the courage of conviction about the requirement for joining, they taught me something BIG was wrong. It took me awhile to go through the not-religious-but-spiritual phase, but that class was the catalyst for me becoming quite happy as an atheist. I still smile when I think of my parents sitting there looking at the 12 year old me saying “Is that all there is?”
Many of us used to be Christians. Not just Mom-made-me-go-on-Sunday-morning Christians, serious devoted zealous Christians. And no, we didn’t have a tragedy that made us mad at God. We started actually studying the historicity of the Bible, we started actually thinking about whether the things God did in the Bible were moral, we started finding out that there is nothing in Christianity that has any truth to it.
If you truly want to learn, the way to do so is to listen (in the case of the internet, read), not talk yourself and try to proselytize. Trust me, it’s nothing we haven’t heard before, and the more you talk the more you are just doing it to hear yourself and not to listen to anyone else.
I suspect the Jaclyn has done what all good christians do when faced with rational atheist answers that conflict with what they wanted to hear. She’s run away.
I guarantee that even if she does return to this comment board, she will not address any of the reasoned, articulate comments which explain the problems with christianity.
We’re wasting our breath or keyboards or whatever.
MarkNS and others-
Hello. 🙂 I have not run away. I said in my last comment that I may or may not say more.
I have had 2 sick children, a sick husband, a father-in-law in the hospital and have been busy with other family commitments.
As I read your comments I am learning and listening- as was my original intent. There is nothing anyone has said that has surprised me or that I have not heard before. Several comments have advised against trying to proselytize and so I remain silent out of respect.
I did not comment to stir up anything, as I know some Christians like to do, but I wanted to make my presence known. I have reasonable answers for many things that have been stated here. I doubt you would listen with an open mind, though, and that is the main reason I will not respond to most things written at this time.
God is using this to teach me. I’m not young, but I’m not old and I have had more than my fair share of conversations with atheists. It’s all the same. And, you know what? You want me to “escape” Christianity, but I am not supposed to proselytize? A bit hypocritical, don’t you think? Isn’t that what Christians are accused of being- hypocrites? If I’m a hypocrite and you are a hypocrite then we are at least even on that argument. Ha, that’s funny.
I have also prayed for each of you as I have prepared lessons for the class I am teaching. I talked with the students about this “conversation” here and one boy said, “I’m not being forced to come! It’s not indoctrination! I begged my parents to bring me because I want to know how to give an answer for what I believe. I could be at home playing video games.” He’s 12. Another student said, “They think this is indoctrination? What about teaching the evolutionary THEORY as fact at my school? That’s indoctrination.” She’s 13.
Tonight we are discussing Biology and we will answer these kinds of questions: Why do Christians believe God created the world? Is there scientific evidence for what we believe? Is the Bible trustworthy?
Ok, I’m off to indoctrinate some poor helpless students that beg their parents to come to my class so they can learn to give a reasonable answer, not just an emotional one, for what they believe.
So teaching the theory of gravity is also indoctrination?
‘Theory’ doesn’t mean quite what most people think it does. Please explain to your student that the word she wants for ‘we think it might work this way’ is ‘hypothesis’. What ‘theory’ means is ‘we’re 99% confident that this is how it works’. Not one hundred percent–there’s always room for the possibility that under as-yet-unobserved conditions things work differently.
Einstein proved Newton flat wrong; it’s just that, with the information Newton had, there was no way to know Newton was anything but right. It is quite possible that we do not currently have the ability to make the observations that would prove evolution as wrong as Newtonian mechanics. And if/when we achieve that ability, the first people to cheer will be evolutionary biologists.
Have fun explaining to your students what evidence suggests that the Christian creation story is more scientifically accurate than the Hindu creation story.
Jaclyn @ #78: If you want to make a case for why your ideas are correct and atheists’ are mistaken, you are welcome and indeed encouraged to do so. It would indeed be hypocritical if we asked you to listen to our case but expected you not to make yours — but I don’t see anyone doing that.
There is, however, a difference between “making a case” and “proselytizing.” Here’s how I put it in my comment policy, which you probably to look over if you want to participate in the conversations here:
“6: No religious proselytizing. I accept, and indeed encourage, comments here from religious believers who disagree with my atheism. Again, I welcome lively and vigorous discussion with people whose opinions I disagree with. But if you’re only going to spout your beliefs without being willing to engage in discussion and debate about those beliefs, your comments are not welcome. If you make a comment here that all non-believers are going to burn in hell, and other commenters ask you what evidence you have to support your assertion, and all you do is repeat your opinion that all non-believers are going to burn in hell without answering anyone’s questions or engaging in any conversations about your belief… that’s proselytizing, and it will get you banned.”
Does that make sense? Debate about the ideas is welcomed and encouraged. One-sided spouting of ideas without a good-faith willingness to engage with sincere dispute of your ideas is not.
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