Sunday, September 16, 2007

Atheist Community

I was raised as a christian - a Seventh-Day Adventist to be exact. I went to SDA grade school, SDA boarding academy, and SDA college. My family is SDA, most of my friends are or were SDAs. Even now that I no longer hold the Seventh-Day Adventist beliefs, I still consider myself an SDA.

This is not as bizarre as it sounds, and I will explain. First I have to give my friend Seth credit for making me realize this fact. I still consider myself a Seventh-Day Adventist because of my culture. For about 25 years I was deeply immersed in SDA culture. We were vegetarians, didn't drink coffee, alcohol was out of the question, and we went to church on Saturday. Friday nights and Saturdays after church were time for family and friends. That is part of my lifestyle. I even like it that way, even though I now know that there are other options.

Another part of the Seventh-Day Adventist culture is family feeling. SDA as a whole isn't a large group, and with the emphasis on education with in the system lots of connections are made. I could walk into nearly any church in the country and find some one who knew my aunt, or went to school with my grandpa, or were friends of people that attended the church where I grew up. I know it sounds sort of inbred, and in a way it is, but it is also kind of neat. There is something safe and comforting about knowing there are people you are connected to, and share a common background.

This is one of the reasons I still attend church occasionally. I think that church as a social club isn't too bad. If only that was all it was. I'm relatively new to the vocal atheist life, but I don't think there is sense of connection. It can be kind of scary and lonely to be an atheist.

What I'm trying to get at here, is that community is very important. I know it is important to me, and I suspect that it is important to nearly everyone. A recent post at Pharyngula addresses this somewhat. As discussed there in much more detail, one of the arguments against atheism is that religious people "in the United States are happier, healthier, longer-lived, and more generous to charity and to each other than are secular people," according to some sureys. The claim is this is a direct result of being religious.
There is a better interpretation. Think PZ says it best "It is community that benefits people, not religion."

I feel a need for community. It is one of the reasons I started to blog. It is a search for fellow atheist to connect with. I will also continue to be involved with my friends from church. Fortunately (as I said earlier) my relationship with my best friends even the more religious ones is not based on religion.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Jim Speaks

My dear and brilliant friend Jim has a nice humanism post.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Road Warrior

I'm beginning to dislike traveling (for work). I love going places on my own schedule, but having to drop everything to fly across the country on someone else's time table is a drag. At home I was in a groove in the gym, I had my friends and mentors around helping me get started on the competition part and I had a good handle on my diet. Now I'm living out of a suitcase. I'm jet lagged. I have to find a new, strange gym. And I'm eating from my backpack or a restaurant.

To be fair I enjoy my routine lifestyle a little more than I should. I should just try to make this part of the challenge of training. The hotel fitness room will do in a pinch and there is a Bally's a mile down the street. I brought plenty of protein from home, so no excuses. I will sleep tonight and lift tomorrow. I'll workout about half as often as I would at home, and I'll when I'm done here I will be that much more excited to see my own gym again.

Blogging is Fun

I'm beginning to reconsider . . . maybe I do like blogging. I was wondering how long I would keep this up, but then I started getting comments and feed back from people I respect. My friends have been supportive, and I really like the formality and organization required to put my thoughts in to words. It has helped me become a lot more secure in what I stand for as well. Even better when the occasional blogger leaves you a comment. What a rush to have a stranger you know only by what they have written interact with you and what you have written.

I hope I don't become and attention whore. . . I suppose you do have to be a little narcissistic to want to be a bodybuilder though.

I need to try to get a few more people to visit my page. My last comment said to post comments over on some serious blogs. I think I'm still a little too shy to do that, but I'm working up to it. I think I need to add some more content a well. I had some ideas yesterday on the plane. If I can get over this jet lag, I might actually be able to write something.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Picking a Date

After talking with my friend Brad, who is an experienced competitor, at the gym this week, I'm getting close to picking my first show to enter. I don't want to put it off too long and let my motivation fade, and I'm nearing my target weight of 190lb. That means something on the spring circuit 2008. I want something close somewhat local and not too big. I think that leaves me with the Spokane or the Vancouver show next April. I haven't consulted with Lori yet. We'll see. I may be dieting starting right after the holidays.

Coming Out

Not being a scientist or a philosopher about all I have to share that is original is my experiences. At some point I may try to summarize the reasons I've come to my atheist conclusions but for now just my experiences.

After I came to accept the fact that I was an atheist, I had to figure out what to do about it. The core concept that lead me down this path in the first place was intellectual honesty, so just pretending that nothing was different wasn't going to cut it. The problem was I was terrified of actually telling anyone. Fortunately I have an amazing wife, who knows me very well. She probably knew where I was headed almost as soon as I did. She was raised in the same religion as I was, and wasn't too happy about my new understanding. Lucky for me she was open-minded enough to just let things play out. That took care of my biggest hurdle to being open about my godlessness.

At the same time, she wasn't going to let me off too easy. She wanted to see if I had the guts to tell our friends (for the most part all raised in the same religion) about my de-conversion. She would work the conversation around to where I'd either have to lie or be outed. The first time this happened it was scary, but after some spirited and enjoyable discussion nothing really changed. No relationships became awkward and I was not rejected. As active as we had been in church stuff, turns out that our personal relationships were based on something other than religion.

What comes next is the exciting part. For the first time in my life I know what I believe and why I believe it. I enjoy discussion and explaining what I know, and always learning new things to fill the gaps in my knowledge, and finding better ways to explain what I've learned. This has lead to my wife some of our closest friends opening up about their beliefs. The best part is my wife is now on her own journey of discovery. She is examining everything again in an intellectually honest way. She started blogging about her thoughts and encouraged me to do the same. Because of her openness I'm feeling much more secure about expressing my positions publicly. Now to tell my parents. . .

Sunday, September 2, 2007

First Post

I'm not completely convinced that blogging is my thing, but Lori thinks I should give it a try. I suppose it may be interesting to see what people think of the ramblings I usually keep in my head. That is assuming that anyone will read them.

There are only two things right now that get me worked up enough to actually write about them. The first is bodybuilding. I'm not that muscular and my genetics don't give me any advantages, but I've been training long enough that I want to make the jump to competition. Fortunately in this region, conditioning is rewarded, so if I can stick to a diet I shouldn't embarrass myself. Except for the part about standing on stage in my underwear.

The other area that I think I'll find worth writing about is skepticism/atheism. In the last year I finally gave up on religion. I was raised and educated as a fundamentalist christian, but as much as I tried to conform I was never able to be a "True Believer". After trying to play by the church's rules and having nothing happen, I tried just sitting back to see what would happen to my way of thinking. During that time I decided to educate myself on the theism vs. atheism debate. I have a fairly strong scientific bias. It is just the way I think either naturally or as a result of my engineering training, so I was looking for the evidence that either side could present. I'm a voracious reader so I dug into a stack of books: Francis Collins, Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, C. S. Lewis, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Michael Shermer and Christopher Hitchens. I supplemented my reading with some science podcast like This Week in Science, The Inoculated Mind, and The Skeptics Guide to the Universe.

I found the theistic arguments to vary between fallacious and dishonest to completely without substance and free of evidence. In the end utterly unconvincing. The scientific arguments on the other hand were descriptive, predictive and had actual evidence. Based on that, I could no longer pretend to believe that religion had any merit. This decision really hasn't changed much. I was already a non-theist in practice, so all that is different is what I call myself.

So, that is me - a godless gym rat. I guess we'll see where this goes.