Suburban Atheist

Did you know that atheists really just hate god? That we only claim to disbelieve in god because of some terrible tragedy that happened early in our lives? Here, in a retelling of the very first post I ever wrote for this blog, is the chilling tale of how I went from atheist, to Catholic, and back to atheist.

It all starts with me being born on the dirty floor of a scary, shadowy motel in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on a frigid night in November*. Fresh out of the womb I was broken in a couple places, crying, splotchy, and covered in a particular goo I hope to never be covered in again. More importantly, I was atheist.

That’s right, folks. I started my life crying, gooey, and atheist. Scared and alone, I couldn’t even imagine a god existing. Everything around me was all there was. This is only the beginning of my horrible tale, however. I know it’s probably hard to believe, but it gets even worse!

Though I grew slightly larger, I remained atheist for the first couple years of my life. It got to the point, though, where as a child I would believe anything my parents told me. There was a Santa Claus. There was an Easter Bunny. There was a god who made everything and would never let bad things happen and would always take care of me. But wait, wouldn’t Mommy and Daddy always take care of me? Who cares? This god fella sounds amazing! Even more powerful and mystical than those birthday party clowns who made amazing balloon animals and pulled rabbits out of hats!

By now we had moved to Texas. I grew up in Suburbia. When I wasn’t going to church on Sunday or school in the morning, I was running around outside with my friends, on lawns that were always green and freshly-mowed, with water pistols and water balloons that were so full we had to be careful not to burst them on ourselves before we could soak each other. I was climbing trees, scraping knees, teasing bees, and refusing to eat my peas. We had several pets including dogs, fish, and iguanas. I was always occupied. I praised god and Jesus once a week, and then spent the rest of the week, well, being a kid in Suburbia.

Church life was about what I imagine it would be like for most kids. We went to St. Jude Catholic church on Sundays, I had a youth group afterwards, and that was it. I can’t even say whether I ever paid attention to a single sermon during Mass. I was a kid, after all. I brought coloring books and plastic dinosaurs to church. I knelt when my parents knelt, opened the books and pretended to sing when my parents sang. Sometimes I actually sang, which was fun because I liked the songs. I had no idea what they were about, but I liked them.

Truth be told, I didn’t even know what the Bible was about. I just knew what my parents told me: Jesus was this guy who was the son of god but he was also god, and that’s okay because I’m a kid and I’ll believe whatever my parents say, and Jesus did good things and then he was crucified, but that was also okay because he did it so we could all go to Heaven, which was a really great place where everybody went when they died, so I guess we never really died, which was good because this meant I never had to be scared about dying.

And things stayed this way for a while.

I went to school and was placed into the “Gifted & Talented” program simply because I was good at math, and I met the greatest teacher I’ve ever had in my entire life, Mrs. Judith Barnes. Mrs. Barnes encouraged us to think, and read, and appreciate art, and solve logic problems. She was my GT teacher for six years, so for six years I received more and more encouragement to think, and read, and appreciate art, and solve logic problems.

I read about things that fascinated me: dinosaurs, rocks, the solar system, animals, bugs, different countries and cultures. And then I did what my parents probably didn’t expect me to do: I put down my illustrated children’s version of the Bible and picked up an actual grown-up Bible.

And I read it.

Not the whole thing, mind you. I was, after all, still a kid. I was probably around ten years old. But I read enough of it to stop, think to myself How would Mrs. Barnes want me to read this?, and suddenly realize that it couldn’t all possibly be true. Then I realized that the story of Jesus was the only fantastic story I’d hung on to that my parents had told me, having already let go of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and I found myself wondering why?

Why was I still hanging on to this Jesus fellow? Santa and the Easter Bunny had both been used to teach me valuable lessons about being good and having fun – why couldn’t Jesus have also just been a device to teach me to stay true to myself, despite how others might treat me, and to strive to see goodness in all things?

So sometime probably in my early teens, I stopped worrying about god and Jesus and Heaven and Hell. For a while, I hung onto the notion of a god that snapped his invisible fingers, made the universe pop into existence, and then just sort of minded his own business after that and didn’t interfere with anything, but I finally let go of that belief too, later on in my teens. And by the time I finished high school I was full-blown atheist.

All the while I was just a middle-class kid in Suburbia with two loving, never-divorced parents, an older brother who I fought with now and then about nothing in particular, a big backyard with a swingset (replaced later on by a pool with a diving board), and a bunch of dogs.

And that’s the story of how one simple childhood tragedy can cause any person to turn their back on god forever.

*Slight exaggeration. I was actually born in a clean, well-lit hospital room in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on a November morning, which I imagine was still probably pretty cold.

The Magic of Reality

Richard Dawkins has announced his upcoming book, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True, to be illustrated by Dave McKean and released this Fall ( gives it a release date of October 4th 2011). This book will be geared toward children and science novices with its easy-to-understand explanations and colorful illustrations. Below is what the cover of the book will look like, followed by an excerpt from the chapter titled “What is the sun”. Dawkins begins by outlining how various religions viewed the sun:

In other myths, the sun is not a god but one of the first creations of a god. In the creation myth of the Hebrew tribe of the Middle Eastern desert, the tribal god YHWH created light on the first of his six days of creation – but then, weirdly, he didn’t create the sun until the fourth day! “And God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.” Where the light came from on the first day, before the sun existed, we are not told.

It is time to turn to reality, and the true nature of the sun, as borne out by scientific evidence.

This book can be pre-ordered from, and you can view a few pages from it (illustrations and all) as a .pdf file by clicking here. Since the illustrations are so colorful and take up entire pages, the file may take a moment to open.

Thoughts (I)

With nothing better to discuss today, here is an assortment of thoughts.

  • This Pakistan/Pakistani-bashing has got to end. My workplace employs people of all different lifestyles, races, and from all different walks of life. Among my peers at work are a couple people from Pakistan. Not two days after Osama bin Laden’s death I heard they’ve already had to put up with mental and verbal abuse; not necessarily at the workplace, but certainly outside of work. The Pakistan government may or may not have had anything to do with bin Laden and they may or may not have known his whereabouts for a while, but this by no means subjects anybody else to any kind of abuse. Guess what? The American government has done or allowed some pretty terrible things in the past; I certainly don’t take accountability for their actions, nor is anybody who happens to be from Pakistan responsible for any of his or her country’s government’s alleged actions.
  • On the topic of Osama bin Laden, I frankly don’t care if pictures of his corpse are not released, or his “death tape” (the video he allegedly recorded to be released upon his death). I’m perfectly fine with never seeing him or hearing his voice again. As far as I’m concerned, he may still be alive, detained in a top-secret military base somewhere on the dark side of the moon. Probably not, of course. He probably really was pushed over the side of an aircraft carrier into the Atlantic Ocean somewhere with weights tied to his feet. Personally, I think that’s just too bad – science really could have benefited from studying that man’s brain. Oh well.
  • I would like to know the exact time of day (local time) that the Rapture is supposed to happen on May the twenty-first. I’m a bit of a procrastinator so I’ve got some things I’d like to work out before all that business goes down. Especially since I’ll be working that day and it’s possible everything happens while I’m there.
  • On that note, May 21st is a Saturday, so if anybody’s throwing a party around here I’d like an invite. I should be free in the evening; I’ll even bring some beer. I recommend holding the party somewhere with lots of accommodations. Being that most of the people here are “good” Christians, that means there ought to be plenty of empty houses to choose from. On the off-chance that god turns out to be loving and reasonable (I know, I’m pushing it) and I end up being raptured, you’re welcome to crash at my place. There will be plenty of beer in the refrigerator, a loaded bar, and a ton of great books and movies to kill some time with.
  • If Satan is known for punishing bad people eternally, is Satan really evil? Is our justice system evil? Our prisons? The police? If evil exists not because god is fictional but because of Satan, then does Satan have more power than god? All that aside, doesn’t the recognition of Satan as being as powerful as (or nearly as powerful as) god make the Christian faith polytheistic? Not to mention Jesus. That’s at least three gods Christians believe in. It’s actually less of a stretch to say the whole thing is rubbish.
  • If David Copperfield traveled back in time two thousand years and performed a simple card trick, we would be worshiping him now. I don’t know how magicians pull off a lot of their tricks, but that doesn’t mean I believe magic exists.

That’s all I’ve got for today.

What if Jesus came back today?

Let’s say a 30-year-old man and a bunch of friends start traveling the country or the world, telling people that he is indeed Jesus Christ, returned to prepare the world for the rapture. His friends insist he really is Jesus – that they’ve seen him perform miracles. Let’s say that when questioned of these miracles and the authenticity of his claims, Jesus Christ proceeds to tell us we must have unquestioning faith in him.

Do we have unquestioning faith in him? Or do we ask him to “prove it” by performing miracles for the rest of us? Let’s say we take the latter option and he agrees to perform a miracle. Dozens of news broadcast stations are alerted to the fact that Jesus himself will be performing a miracle for a crowd of people. Thousands of people show up with video cameras. Then, before our very eyes, Jesus spreads his arms and six dozen doves fly from his open hands.

The crowd is silent. His miracle has just been broadcast live to sixty major news networks worldwide. After the shock of what just happened finally sets in, somebody steps forward from a crowd and asks, “Is that it?”

Shocked, Jesus asks what more he could possibly do to prove he is who he claims to be. In a fit of desperation he reaches behind the doubter’s ear and produces a shiny quarter. “Ta da!” he cries, and takes a bow. Satisfied, the doubter steps back into his place and the crowd explodes with applause.

The man is immediately accepted by all of the world’s Christians as the second coming of Jesus Christ.

That’s how it would happen, right?