An Atheist on Morality

Einstein did not believe in God, as many [mistakenly] claim.

Albert Einstein said, “My position concerning God is that of an agnostic.” He clarified with, “I am convinced that the primary importance of moral principles for the betterment and ennoblement of life does not need the idea of a law-giver, especially a law-giver who works on the basis of reward and punishment.”

Atheist don’t believe in God, either. Not any god/s. Ever. Unlike Agnostics, open to the possibility of a ‘higher power,’ or ‘collective, sentient being,’ Einstein believed in neither.* Agnostic is more politically correct, less threatening, especially during his time, born a Jew, and existing on federal funding.

As an Atheist, I do not recognize the Old/New Testament and related works illuminating the adventures, restrictions, reprimands or absolution of a divine being as anything more than fiction—parables by some wise, some ignorant, partisan scribes with an agenda to dominate and regulate human behavior. (The introduction of organized religion being necessary when Human was still running around in small, warring tribes is arguable.)

So, when I need money, why don’t I go rob a pedestrian. Or shoplift?

When I’m attracted to my neighbors husband, why don’t I just hit on him, get intimate if he’s into it?

When I get pissed at the driver on their cellphone that just cut me off, why don’t I shoot her?

Snatch & Run, even drive-by’s these days, and the odds of getting caught for either crime is somewhat nominal if I’m discreet. Fear of being busted, going to jail is not the main motivation that prevents me from committing these, and ‘lesser’ crimes like lying, cheating and others most would agree, religious or not, are moral infractions.

If I believe I answer to no higher power, where do I get my morality, much of which is similar (often seemingly the same) to that of Judeo/Christian doctrine?

Einstein said, “We have to content ourselves with our imperfect knowledge and understanding and treat values and moral obligations as a purely human problem—the most important of all human problems.”

Believer or not, what is your ‘Moral Obligation?’

Mine, as an Atheist and Human, is to support our continued evolution. It is my Moral Obligation to nurture reproduction—to extend the magnificent, wondrous, glorious feelings of being alive to someone else, as it has been gifted to me.

I am born owing Humanity that existed before me, and this planet that supports us. We all are. My moral conscience asserts we all must work at insuring life continues long after our own time, and that humans evolve to our spectacular potential of creativity, ingenuity, kindness, and learn to fully embrace our amazing capacity to love.

Notable Facts:
Murder rates are actually lower in more secular nations and higher in more religious
nations where belief in God is deep and widespread (Jensen 2006; Paul 2005; Fajnzylber et al. 2002; Fox and Levin 2000).

Within America, the states with the highest murder rates tend to be highly religious, such as Louisiana and Alabama, but the states with the lowest murder rates tend to be among the least religious in the country, such as Vermont and Oregon (Ellison et al. 2003; Death Penalty Information Center, 2008).

Rates of most violent crimes tend to be lower in the less religious states and higher in the most religious states (United States Census Bureau, 2006).

The top fifty safest cities in the world, nearly all are in relatively non-religious countries, and of the eight cities within the United States that make the safest-city list, nearly all are located in the least religious regions of the country (Mercer Survey, 2008).

 

* “The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honorable, but still primitive legends. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.” —Albert E.

United We Stand?

It was early November in 2001, two months after 9/11, when I went down to the end of the cul-de-sac to meet the new neighbors. We had just moved into San Ramon a few months earlier ourselves, a semi-upscale San Francisco suburb in the east bay. It promised good public schools, and gave the impression of a safe, friendly environment in which to raise our children. That afternoon several of the local residents were hanging out at the end of the block with the new neighbors, sharing beers and casual conversation, watching their children play together in the street. I joined them, introduced myself, and my [then] one year old daughter and three-year-old son, who both ran off to play with the other kids.
 
The new neighbors asked me about my children, their ages, where we had moved from, and the like. Then the woman asked me to repeat my last name.
 
When I told her again she said, “Oh, you’re the Jewish couple then? I heard that there was a Jewish family that had moved in recently.”
 
It was clear that she was tickled by the idea of living near Jews. Unlike L.A., or New York, the Bay area has little Jewish population to speak of. Suddenly, the three other couples standing there plugged into our conversation. Though our last name was often mistaken for Jewish, it’s derivation was German, and isn’t always a Jewish moniker. The woman’s assumption was ignorant, but typical, especially in an area where Jews were such a novelty.
 
“Actually, we’re Atheist. We don’t practice any religion.” I tried to sound casual.
 
Blank stares. Total silence. It was like I had just said that we were registered child molesters. My words hung like lead in the dead air until one of the neighbors we’d previously met broke the silence.
 
“You know,” she tried to sound casual too. “I heard this broadcast on NPR the other day about Atheists. They’re actually very non-violent, friendly people. The Atheist on the air pointed out that you never hear of Atheists blowing up buildings.”
 
The vacuum that followed her comment made it clear that the new neighbors would have preferred we were practicing Jews, or Mormons, or even Muslims at that point. “You mean you don’t participate in the holidays?” the new neighbor asked, mystified. “Not even Christmas?”
 
“No. Not even Christmas.”
 
“Well, Christmas isn’t a religious holiday.” As absurd as her comment was, I hear it all the time. I refrained from reminding her that Christmas celebrated the birth of Christ, the very foundation of Christianity.
 
“We have five nights of winter presents which compensates quite nicely,” I explained. “And we celebrate birthday’s, special occasions, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and so forth.”
 
She bobbed her head up and down, but I could tell I’d already lost her. I was the anti-Christ, the infidel, the soulless she was so afraid of. And though her fear was unwarranted, there isn’t a religious person I can recall that I didn’t get the same bounce from when I revealed I was an atheist. No God? No values. It’s common wisdom, right?
 
I didn’t set out to set myself apart. My brief stint in Sunday school was forced upon me until I was 13, when my parents had to acquiesce to my unshakeable conviction that there was no God. My mother spent the next 30 years convinced that I would come back to religion when I grew up, got married, had kids. But the certainty of a godless universe, one ruled by entropy, not empathy, still resonates with me. The values I question are those that focus on an afterlife instead of on the life at hand, and the contributions we each can make to insure the survival of our race.
 
At the start of every December several of the families in the cul-de-sac adorned their front lawns with small cement statues of The Mother Mary and Baby Jesus. They are subtly placed, though clearly visible in clumps of bushes and at the base of towering Redwoods. Christmas lights go up early, and stayed up well into the new year.
 
Since that first encounter, the new couple has gone out of their way to avoid our family. To date, she and her children ignore us, even my kids casual waves in passing. They do not acknowledge us at the store, in restaurants. The other neighbors do not include our family in their neighborhood parties, nor have they asked my husband to join their Sunday golf group.
 
When we moved here, I didn’t stop to consider the religious leanings of the community. As an atheist, in a monotheistic society, wherever I live I’m on the fringe. I am deeply saddened that my children are being ostracized because of our beliefs. In allowing them to define their own spirituality, I fear I have inadvertently set them up for rejection, condemned them to the fringes, which is a very lonely place to live. But I do not foresee bringing religion into my home. I cannot teach them what I do not believe.
 
This last holiday season, in a brief lapse of reason, I thought of throwing a Hanukkah party and inviting the neighborhood. If they needed us to be something, we could pretend to be Jewish. But, the thing is, I am proud of who we are and our spiritual choices. And I am proud to be an American, where we are free to practice any religion, or none at all.

Republicans, Religion and What’s Right

The Tea Party rally was just breaking up when I picked up my daughter from her day camp at Central Park. A woman standing at the fringe of the crowd held a big poster that read: “Gay Marriage is a SIN! God said NO on Prop. 8! God says preserve DOMA!” On the poster was a huge cross. My nine year old daughter asked me what her sign meant. I told her it was against human rights and the woman was a nutcase.

DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, was signed into federal law by Pres. Bill Clinton in 1997. It basically said that legally valid marriage is limited to opposite sex couples, absolving individual states from extending the financial benefits and tax credits to which only heterosexual couples are now privy. And who supported this unconstitutional Act denying civil rights?

–Republicans for Family Values
–The Tea Party (Republicans)
–Focus on Family  (Republicans)
–Proposition 8 [banning gay marriage] supporters (And who were they? Proposition 8 got on the ballot backed by millions from the Roman Catholic Church, and the Mormon Church, and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, and, well, you get the picture.)

The foundation of this nation is based on a separation between church and state. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights prohibits the establishment of a national religion by the Congress or the preference of one religion over another, non-religion over religion, or religion over non-religion.

Our civil rights should not, MUST NOT be a determined by the church, or be beholden to any religious sect or organization/s. I am an atheist. I don’t recognize the Bible, Old or New Testament as truth, and as an American citizen it is my federal civil right NOT to believe according to our constitution. Christian morality doesn’t apply to me, or the many gay people who wish to marry. It should be in their civil right to do so. Yet senators, congressmen, presidents still choose religious ideology over constitutional laws that guarantees every U.S. citizen equal rights and protections.

Regardless of their religious persuasion, our elected officials have sworn to uphold our constitution, including The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, and have no right to push their religion’s morality onto every American. Millions of our tax dollars have gone and will go to lawyers and court time over DOMA, absurdly prejudicial and preferential legislation originally meant to limit states financial liability, without understanding, maybe even acknowledging the cost to civil rights. Right-wing extremists like the Tea Party and Focus on Family have adopted DOMA as a monicker, preaching biblical text that says homosexuality is a sin and it should never be recognized as legitimate. But I don’t believe in the bible. And I don’t think being gay is a sin. Sin is a religious construct meant to control followers. I believe indifference to suffering and willful ignorance are the greatest evils.

DOMA was repealed, as unconstitutional, in 2013 under President Obama and a Democratic congress. The Republican Reich fought it out in court after court, appeal after appeal, blowing many more billions in tax dollars over a law that should never have been written, yet alone endorsed and enacted. If the right-wing had its way, DOMA would have stayed the law, limiting marriage and the benefits that come with the union to only heterosexual couples.

Who cares? You’re not gay. Doesn’t really effect you? Not your fight? There are bigger issues out there of import…

Watch out! Yesterday, it was denying gay rights, and today, it’s banning transgender from military service. Tomorrow our Republican government may outlaw a woman’s right to choose what to do with her body, or interracial marriage, or maybe Jews again, or Muslims this time, or… You and your ideology may be next on the chopping block of the religious Republican Reich.

Trickle Down Polarization

gun_control_means_nothing_to_my_studentsMy father is a fervent Republican. My mother was a Democrat. Once saw him put his fist through the solid maple cabinet an inch from my mother’s head because her vote was going to cancel his in the second Reagan election. Though he never hit her, connected anyway, he often shouted, slammed things, threw things, at me, even, when he encountered resistance (reason) when espousing his conservative views.

My father doesn’t believe Global Warming is real, or caused by us in any way (absolving himself of conserving resources).

My father believes all non-believers, atheists and agnostics are dangerous fools—to be converted.

My father distrusts all Muslims.

My father believes in trickle down economics, (though it’s been proven again and again not to work).

My father doesn’t believe in gun control. “If they come for me, like they did our ancestors in Germany, I’ll stop them at the door.” He quotes the NRA with fervor! “Take away what kind of guns we get to own, and you chip away at the foundation of the 2nd Amendment.”

I remind him he can’t stop a tank with an AK-47. I implore him to examine history, and context—that the right to bear arms our forefathers were talking about were pistols and shotguns that took three minutes to load and didn’t fire straight or would blow up in your face. Automatic assault weapons were neither considered, nor anticipated when the 2nd Amendment was written.

He scoffs. As his daughter, and a women, I am clueless.

As a mother of a 10 year old and a 13 year old, I am horrified, not only by what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary, and other schools since this first writing, but everywhere else, every time an assault weapon is uses against our own because the NRA wants to keep making money. And our government, ostensibly “by the people, for the people,” is paid-off to let them. At least, one very specific part of our congress, and five members of our Supreme Court: the Republicans.

Grew up on the Valley side of the Hollywood Hills, and went to school with writers, producers, directors kids, all fairly to extremely liberal. My father was the outlier in our neighborhood, and among my parents colleagues and friends. The Great Divide between the Republicans and Democrats, fueled by Regan pushing religion, conservatism, and then ignited by Bush Jr’s administration didn’t exist yet. My parents lived together in relative peace, except around election times.

We have become a polarized nation, and this serves no one here. Down to the personal level, it has divided me from my family, my siblings, like my father—fervent Republicans. My sister, disgusted we’re raising our kids without religion, decided she’d had enough of my liberal leanings and checked out of our life. My brother forwards emails from his born-again Christian community to everyone he knows that Obama is a Jew-hating Muslim who believes it’s okay to kill babies. His ignorance is only compounded by his blind faith.

The chasm in our morality, our philosophies, is so diametrically opposed at this point, the rare times I talk with my father our dialog turn sours quickly, then invariably moves to contentious. Told him time and again I won’t discuss politics with him, but he insists on little digs, like, “Do you care about your kids?” since I voted for Obama. He has not spoken with my children in seven years now, or acknowledged them in any way, not birthdays, no calls, ever, and virtually never inquires about them when I call him, which I always do because he doesn’t call me.

Truth is, it’s getting harder and harder to call him. Almost a decade after my mom’s death, my dad is now in an elder care facility two states away, on the bottom floor of a three story building where the first floor is elderly who are…capable. Second floor is the dementia ward. Third floor is check out. Forever.

Living as he does must be nightmarish, especially compared to the vital life he once lived, where his vote and opinion mattered for years to come, instead of being barely acknowledged, and only for elections.

Regardless of his current circumstances, my father is undaunted by age or illness in his quest to spread conservative ideology. He’s a true believer, as are most vocal Republicans, because believing is easier than thinking. Being told what is right and wrong, good or bad, is simpler than considering the complexities of our behavior, and our obligations to each other and the world we inhabit.

My father, sister and brother believe woman should not have the right of choice with their own bodies.

My family believes gays should not have the legal, nor moral right to marry. They think homosexuality is a mental illness.

My family espouses they believe in “less government”—preaching the Republican’s canonical tagline, but wants to restrict women’s choice and limit our birth control resources; control who gets to marry; limits medical treatment to citizens who can afford care; allows corporations, like the NRA to lie, cheat, steal, and allow the mass murder of our children, for more and more money.

Been wondering when it’s time to say good-bye to family, even before they die. The little connection I retain with my brother and father seems…over. My kids have no relationship with either—their choice to abandon my family, not ours. We have virtually no common ground, share little time that isn’t contentious, and only via email or text. So, really, what’s the point? We clearly don’t serve each other in any way, anymore. Harsh? You bet. Ugly? Yeah. Profoundly saddened we’ve come to this impasse. Hurts. A lot, knowing there are people out there who still think like my family does. And I’m shamed by them.

The polarization of our nation doesn’t only affect our government’s inability to function, but, sadly, trickles down to corrupt our trust in each other as well. Our nation is fundamentally fractured now. Our polarized ideologies are destroying friendships, and families, like never before, or perhaps akin to the Civil War.

 

 

The Return of Hitler

My mom kept telling me, “They’re coming back. Make no mistake about it. Doesn’t matter what you THINK you are, they are coming back for you. You are a JEW.

I’m not. I’m an atheist. At 5, I told her so, thus putting a divisor between us that went unresolved, even with our last goodbye, when she died of lymphoma 14 years ago.

Thing is, she turned out to be right.

Not about coming back. In my family, then, and now, the Nazi’s never left.

They were with us all the years I was growing up, with my mother’s constant warnings. Her fear was warranted. She’d lived through WW2, saw the rise of fascism allow the murders of 6 million of her family and faith. She was old enough to witness Hitler’s speeches ignite the ignorant German underclass to hate, and blame everyone but themselves for their poverty. She saw the world forever changed by our ability to destroy it, with the advent of the atomic bomb.

I didn’t feel afraid the Nazi’s would return. I argued, “We’ve learned, mom. That’s the best thing about us. When we’re standing on the precipices of disaster, we DO change!”

I was so confident in our uniquely human ability to ‘rise above’ ourselves and our misfortunes, I married the son of a Holocaust survivor. My father-in-law was 13 when his family was forcibly removed from their suburban home in Poland, and imprisoned in the Warsaw ghetto. He was there for eight months when his father, mother, and two younger sisters were murdered in front of him, and he was put on a train to Auschwitz. A prisoner for five years, his teens were spent as a slave, watching people murdered, and committing suicide daily, until the concentration camp was ‘liberated’ by the Soviets in 1945.

My father-in-law came to the States as an immigrant several years later. He settled in New Jersey, close to his remaining family reunited after the WW2, started his own business, and then married. My husband was born a year later, his sister, three years on that.

The kids knew vaguely of their father’s plight. Each was given a brief explanation when they awoke, frightened by the “horrific screams,” of their dad’s nightmares. As my husband described it, “My dad talked about when he was “in camp,” and I had a problem with that, as I had gone to summer camp, and I knew that this was not the same thing.”

My husband was in his last year of college when my sister-in-law gathered her family, and recorded their father’s experience in Auschwitz for a history assignment. The ‘kids’ were both adults when they discover the details of their father’s youth, during this singular interview. They never spoke of it again.

The Holocaust was not discussed in my husband’s household. Growing up, he didn’t dare drill down on the details, though his father’s nightmares woke him many late nights during his formative years. His father’s screaming frightened him, especially as he grew, studied the Holocaust in school, and learned, even in the abstract, what may have happened to his dad. His parents had made it clear by their silence— in almost all things of relevance— they were not open to discuss virtually anything beyond the day-to-day logistics of living.

My father-in-law learned young that the only way to survive was to avoid conflict at all costs. His wife, my-mother-in-law, having experienced her own traumatic youth, had adopted the same position on the safety of stoic silence, likely long before they met and married. Over 50 years together before he passed, they did not discuss their life experiences with their children, or with each other. Neither went to counseling, ever. They ran a small business, raised their kids in their loving, yet separate way, never really letting anyone in, too afraid to get intimate.

Understandable, with where they came from. But, oh, so very costly.

Feelings don’t just GO AWAY when we don’t talk about them. More often than not, when buried— hurt, frustration, sadness, fear will resurface, and manifest as unwarranted aggression, especially towards the people we love, since it’s likely they’ll still love us, regardless of the slight.

These powerful feelings of anger and fear, buried deep in my mother and father-in-law, prevented them from validating their children’s feelings, forcing their kids to bury their own feelings under the suffocating weight of shame associated with having any. For the 20+ years I’ve known her, my husband’s sister won’t watch a sad movie, read a sad book, and has never admitted to feeling sad, even through her son’s ADHD hardships, or during her very contentious divorce.

Hitler is still powerful, present, and residing in our house, the hate he ignited still reverberating almost a century— three generations later, embodied in my husband every time he shuts down to avoid conflict, dismisses or ignores his feelings, or mine, or our kids, as his parents taught him to do. The fear the Nazi’s instilled in so many has been passed through the generations like a genetic disease.

My mother carried this fear with her to her grave. As a matter of course, she made me afraid, of all people— our ability to abandon our humanity, and turn our backs on neighbors we once held dear, in response to fear. I got lucky, though. My mom felt passionately about so much, and shamelessly displayed feelings of joy, anger, fear, and sadness at times, gifting me the opportunity to acknowledge and express mine.

My husband works hard to connect with me, and our kids, continually battling his pervasive feelings of isolation, separation, and auto-response of self-protection, well known among the ‘Survivor’ community. In moments, when he wins the war with himself and surrenders with me, we touch intimacy. And in those moments, which, gladly, are more and more these days, we stop Hitler’s legacy at our doorstep.

 

 

 

 

 

A POLITICAL JOKE

A woman in a hot air balloon realizes she is lost. She
lowers her altitude and spots a man fishing from a
boat below.

She shouts to him, ‘Excuse me, can you help me? I
promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I
don’t know where I am.’

The man consults his portable GPS and replies, ‘You’re
in a hot air balloon, approximately 30 feet above a
ground elevation of 2346 feet above sea level. You are
at 31 degrees, 14.97 minutes north latitude and 100
degrees, 49.09 minutes west longitude.

She rolls her eyes and says, ‘You must be a
Democrat!’

‘I am,’ replies the man. ‘How did you know?’

‘Well,’ answers the balloonist, ‘everything you tell
me is technically correct, but I have no idea what to
do with your information, and I’m still lost. Frankly,
you’re not much help to me.’

The man smiles and responds, ‘You must be a Republican.’

‘I am,’ replies the balloonist. ‘How did you know?’

‘Well,’ says the man, ‘You don’t know where you are or
where you’re going. You’ve risen to where you are, due
to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise
that you have no idea how to keep, and now you expect
me to solve your problem. You’re in exactly the same
position you were in before we met, but, somehow,
now it’s my fault.

IMPEACH TRUMP!

Ignorant WHITE MEN who voted for TRUMPY, get an education, and THINK for a living, because YOUR MINDLESS MANUFACTURING JOBS, or COAL MINING, or job that takes no thinking is GONE. We have machines to do the simple tasks you used to. It’s not immigration that’s hurting YOU. It’s YOU, staying IGNORANT! and NOT thinking or creating for a living!!

trump