God, Dawkins, coming out, and Mom.

I owe my thanks to my mother for introducing me to Richard Dawkins. Okay, that’s not entirely true. She didn’t really introduce me to him or his works, but she furthered it. I read an excerpt from his book The Greatest Show on Earth: the Evidence for Evolution shortly after its release, and added the book to my Christmas “wish list.” My mom, reading the title but not the subtitle, thought the book had something to do with the Barnum & Bailey circus. I don’t know if that’s really what she thought, but when I opened my present on Christmas day that’s what she told me. But that’s my mom, the Catholic, trying to make sense of why she would buy her son a book about evolution, written by one of today’s most prominent and outspoken atheists.

The truth is, had she not gotten me that book, I probably would have forgotten about it and carried on with my life with little knowledge of the “New Atheist” movement that’s taken place this past decade. I may have remained inside my little shell of atheism, alone and discriminated against but not bothering to speak up about it. Around this time I purchased and read The End of Faith by Sam Harris. The next year for Christmas I bought my wife The God Delusion (and then read it before she had a chance to), and the year after that her father bought her The Portable Atheist by Christopher Hitchens. Until I started reading the atheist literature, I was timid (insofar as my atheism was concerned) and wouldn’t dare “come out” for fear of being berated for my [lack of] beliefs. I don’t always agree with what Dawkins says, but I owe him my gratitude for convincing me that being open about my atheism is not something to be afraid of.

Along with the New Atheism movement (actually, the guiding force behind it) came the harsh criticism of religion. Until the last few years I was a closet atheist. I didn’t think much about religion or gods and their nonexistence. I was (and still am, for the most part) a “live and let live” kind of guy. But once other people started speaking out against religion I began to think about how religiosity really does affect my life and the life of my wife (also an atheist) on an almost day-to-day basis. It was time for me to start fighting back. Unfortunately I have neither the means nor the time to fight back on a large scale – I can’t attend rallies or protests, I can’t afford to travel to hear someone speak, it isn’t worth risking my well-being to actively speak out in my God-fearing community. So I go online, I play the Facebook game, I write in a blog, and now and then I’ll participate in some good old-fashioned forum banter.

I get along fine with religious people on a daily basis – I have to, since I live smack-dab in the middle of the Bible Belt. “Coming out” is a delicate thing. I still worry every now and then that this one factor of my life – my atheism – will lead to my being judged by people who otherwise find me quite pleasant. But it’s important. I want people to know I am atheist. I want to get that “dirty little secret” of mine out in the open. If somebody’s going to judge me, let it be done early on. Let’s get it out of the way. As a matter of fact, just the other day I came out to somebody only to be met with the response “Really? Me too!” That, my friend, was a genuinely heartwarming moment. So here’s my message to you: don’t be afraid. Be true to yourself and honest with those around you. You’ll never know if others will be comfortable with who you are until you are comfortable with who you are.

Here’s a link to the RDF’s “Out Campaign,” where you are encouraged to admit to yourself and others how you feel about religion. You may also click the “Scarlet A” on the right side of this blog at any time and from any page to access the Out Campaign’s website.

2 thoughts on “God, Dawkins, coming out, and Mom.

  1. I live in the most religious country in the world i.e. the one with the most religions represented, I can understand how difficult it is to “come out” as it were. I have been frank enough with friends and family but in other situations, I have to be circumspect too. It’s heartening to see other people in the same boat as I am!

    • Ignorance is Pardonable

      Christmas – allegedly the birth of Christ – is celebrated in almost all parts of the globe on the 25th of December yearly: a joyful season whose celebrants are ignorant children.

      I came from a family of eight (me being the 7th). Being always “borrowed” from my family by my childless Auntie Toyang and Lola (grandma) Pilar, who, being two devout Catholics, loved me as much as my mother did.I can still remember looking for a big sock before I sleep at around 7 or 8 o’clock at the evening of December 24 each year at my aunt’s house. I felt very much at home at my aunt’s house, especially during the Christmas season, where I was excited for the coming of Santa Claus. At our house there is no image of Santa Clause, nor were they waiting for his arrival. My mother became a member of the Church of God as early as 1934. Since then, they have stopped celebrating Christmas like they used to do when they were Catholics. My father and mother were devout Catholics. Until age 17, the coming of the Christmas season lifted my spirits yearly because my aunt and grandma taught me that this is the “greatest time of the year” being the supposed “birthday” of our Lord Jesus Christ. I have learned to respect the Christ of the Catholic Church – ignorantly. In my aunt’s house there was a big statue (even bigger than me) which they call the “sacred heart of Jesus”. I was taught to give the utmost reverence on this statue. I had to bow down my head when I walked in front of it and I could not even point my finger towards it, which I deeply regretted upon knowing the true Christ of the Bible.

      The morning of December 25 was a special morning for me because I woke up with gifts inside and around the sock which I hung the night before by the window. Today, as I reminisce the past, I see a pitiful boy in me fifty-seven years ago; but more pitiful are those who have died not knowing what Christmas is and all the practices surrounding its celebration. I am lucky (thank God) to have found wisdom in the most educational book to follow – the Bible.

      The story begins from Caesar Augustus that the entire world should be taxed (Luke2:1):

      “And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.”

      Joseph and Mary, being from the tribe of David, have to travel from Galilee to Bethlehem (which is called the city of David) to be “enrolled” and taxed. This was the particular time of the year when Mary should deliver the child Jesus (Luke 2:3-7).

      “And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”

      On that same evening, the evangelist Luke tells us that there were shepherds in the fields watching over their flock to whom the angels announce the birth of the savior Jesus Christ (Luke 2:8-11).

      “And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”

      At this juncture, let us pause for a while and think. Could all of these happen on the 25th of December?

      No Roman emperor as wise as Caesar Augustus (refuted to have changed the political and financial system of the Roman Empire to start a “new order”, which firmly established the empire for the next two centuries and was called as the “Golden Age of Rome’s Empire”), will order a census for the purposes of taxation, on December or in winter – rendering it impossible for Christ to be born on December 25 when the landscape of the Holy Land was filled with snow, making it very difficult to travel. Using simple common sense, no shepherd will bring out his sheep at night when fields were covered with knee-deep snow. The infamous term “three kings”, incidentally, is not mentioned in the Bible, wouldn’t have traveled to look for a new-born baby – in winter! (Matthew 2:1-6)

      “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet, and thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.”

      It is hard to believe that the “three kings” traveled alone on such a considerable distance in winter.

      David, being a king that he is, travels with six hundred men with him. It is a pitiful sight to behold “three kings” travelling all by themselves. (1 Samuel 23:13)

      “Then David and his men, which were about six hundred, arose and departed out of Keilah, and went whithersoever they could go. And it was told Saul that David was escaped from Keilah; and he forbore to go forth.”

      The complex errors created by the Catholic celebration of Christmas have gone too far in influencing even supposedly intelligent composers and songwriters. The First Noel has a very beautiful melody, but has disgusting lyrics influenced by the ignorance of the Catholics belief on Christmas. The line “on a cold winter’s night that was so deep” made stupid out of the shepherd by bringing their flock on a winter’s night.

      “The First Noel, the Angels did say

      Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay

      In fields where they lay keeping their sheep

      On a cold winter’s night that was so deep.

      Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel

      Born is the King of Israel!”

      To add insult to the ignorance, the church in Rome assigned the birth of Jesus on December 25 which was the feast of the pagan sun god of the Roman Empire.

      Christian Overlays of Christmas

      Two important contributions that the reign of Constantine wrought were the establishments of the dates of Christmas and Easter. However, neither holidays are unique and original to the church, they are overlays of much earlier traditions, and both are connected to the sun, the former to the winter solstice and the latter to the vernal equinox. Again, the passage of the sun across the ecliptic demonstrates the astronomical motif that has been grafted onto the Christian god.

      Constantine may not have completely established the date of Christmas, but what is clear is that he had considerable influence in setting the date of December 25 as Christ’s birthday. After Constantine’s victory, in perhaps 320 or 353 C.E. the church decreed that December 25 would become the standard day of observance for the birth of Christ. However, this date had long been recognized in antiquity as the return of the sun, for in ancient times, before the establishment of the Gregorian calendar, December 25 was the date of the winter solstice, the point when the sun has reached its southern most trek below the equator, where it appears to stand still for three days…

      …Pope Julius I, in the fourth century commanded a committee of bishops to establish the date of the nativity of Jesus. December 25 (the day of Sol Invictus, the invincible sun) was decided upon. Not coincidentally, that is the day when the “pagan world celebrated the birth of their Sun Gods-Egyptian Osiris, Greek Apollo and Bacchus, Chaldean Adonis, Persian Mithra-when the Zodiacal sign of Virgo (the sun is born of a virgin) rose on the horizon. Thus the ancient festival of the Winter Solstice, the pagan festival of the birth of the Sun, came to be adopted by the Christian Church as the nativity of Jesus, and was called Christmas” (Crosbie). The church found itself:


      The wise men (not the three kings) followed a star (not hanging on a “tree” because there was no tree associated with the birth of Jesus) to locate the baby Jesus on a house and not on a manger because no loving parents would let their new-born baby to tarry on manger. They eventually moved to a house as the crowd that came to Bethlehem who filled all the inns during the height of the census period presumably have turned back home. (Matthew 2:9-11)

      “When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshiped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”

      The facts about…

      Christmas tree

      Santa Claus

      The errors that resulted from ignorance on facts are uncorrectable. Until today, Santa Claus dominates the landscape on Christmas season. Catholics were not duly informed of the disappearance of Santa Claus in their roster of saints. If we are to adopt the international concept of Ignorantia juris non excusat , which historically came from the Roman Empire itself, many Roman Catholics will be losing their salvation because of a belief on a false Christ born on a false date, surrounded with false teachings, and a celebration so highly commercialized — unreachable by the poor for whom the real Christ was born for; but, ignorance is pardonable upon the acceptance of truth.

      This topic to follow God willing.

      Truly yours in Christ,

      Bro. Eliseo Fernando Soriano

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