Thursday, April 24, 2014

Why I stopped saying bless you

I know, I know ... You happened past an atheism blog and see its writer in cliche fashion talking about what to say (and not say) when people sneeze. And it's pretty typical for a new atheist to pronounce an edict that he'll never say, "Bless you," ever again! I'm also aware of how silly that is and for those who say, "If someone blesses me I'm gonna let them have it and tell them I don't believe in god so I don't need your worthless blessings for something so trivial!"

But, it's no secret that deconverting has its natural path, and that usually means investigating EVERYTHING that pops up that has some sort of religious connection. Before I became an atheist, I would always say bless you and frown when someone didn't. If they said gesundheit (German for health) or salute (Italian for good health) then that was cool, but if they said nothing? Well, then I was almost indignant. How dare they not care enough to bless my sneeze! Well, turns out, it truly is trivial, so much so that anyone who says bless you and doesn't understand why they say it makes for terrific fodder for those of us in the know. So, here's why:

The consensus is this sort of behavior started thousands of years ago, maybe even with the Romans, who were on record as saying, "Jupiter preserve you" or "Salve," which to this day still means "good health to you" in the formal Italian tongue. There have been other connotations of this behavior, including the Greeks, who would wish "long life."

"God bless you," according to Wikipedia, is attributed to Pope Gregory the Great, who uttered it in the sixth century during a bubonic plague epidemic (sneezing is an obvious symptom of one form of the plague). When someone says the German or Italian variations of "good health," it makes sense because a sneeze could mean you are coming down with a cold, so they are hoping you have good health and that the sneeze was an aberration.

According to Wiki: Virtually every country around the globe has its own way of wishing sneezers well. People in Arabic countries say, "Alhamdulillah," which means, "praise be to god." Hindus say, "Live!" or "Live well!" Some countries have special sneezing responses for children. In Russia, after children are given the traditional response, "bud zdorov" ("be healthy"), they are also told "rosti bolshoi" ("grow big"). When a child sneezes in China, he or she will hear "bai sui," which means, "may you live 100 years."

It goes on to say that ancient superstitions were also a part of the silly tradition. Some believed a sneeze causes the soul to escape through the nose, and that by saying "bless you" it would stop the devil from claiming the person's freed soul.

Others believed the opposite, that evil spirits use the sneeze as an opportunity to enter a person's body. When I was a kid, I was told (and I have no doubt my parents still believe this) the heart stopped or skipped a beat when you sneezed so if you said bless you it kind of asked god to spare you, or it was meant to welcome you back to life.

Think about how preposterous this is. Do you say anything when someone burps or farts (other than "You're disgusting!") in front of you? Of course it was science that proved a sneeze is a reflex to something tickling or affecting the inner workings of your nasal passage, such as a cold, dust, sunlight, etc.

So, if you're ever in my presence and you happen to sneeze, I won't be saying bless you. ... not because I'm an atheist, but because it's just plain stupid.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I don't feel guilty at all

Should I feel guilty for not seeking the truth sooner in life? Should I feel stupid for not seeing it quicker? I don't think so. I was busy staking my claim in the world, finding a spouse, raising a family and tending to a career and business.

Since religion played a non-existent role in my adult life, it just never occurred to me to seek any religious answers. But as I got older, that's when occasions arose where questioning religion and afterlife came naturally.

As I've alluded to in the past, my family's newfound zealousness for religion forced me to reflect, too, but my doubts had been there for a long time before that. I just never had a reason to thoroughly research all sides of religion and use critical thinking.

Lately, certain members of my family have been confused by my (and my wife's) late deconversion in life. For instance, my stepdaughter wonders why we raised her the way we did. But the answer is obvious. While I wasn't responsible for her attending Catholic school (that decision was made before I met her mother), I likely wouldn't have objected if consulted anyway because where/when I was raised Catholic schools were far better for education. I can't now regret it because at the time I just didn't think of religion as a poisonous institution, just a worthless one. And I certainly wouldn't have questioned her adherence to religious rituals (though she never completed all of them anyway).

So when I'm now confronted with people resenting my deconversion, I tell them it's important for them to know because I am progressing and helping her learn from my mistakes, of not questioning the establishment and detecting the lies. Do I feel guilty that she and my other stepchildren were raised to believe in a god? No, I can't, because it was how I was raised and I was busy with the aforementioned tasks of becoming a man responsible for other lives.

If you're reading this and you are someone who deconverted later in life, don't feel guilty, it's not your fault. Just be happy you figured it all out before you wasted you're whole life. And that's why I told my family, so they would know there was something else besides indoctrination and they can't say I never gave them the keys to the mint.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Hollywood getting more pathetic by the minute

Is it just me or is Hollywood's pandering to the ignorant religious right and fearful theists getting ridiculous? In the span of about two months, the movies Noah, Son of God and Heaven is for Real have been released. I'm sure there are more, I just don't spend any time investigating this tripe.

At least Noah was made by an atheist and pretty much ignored the Genesis myth, but it still relied on theists to pack the box office. These movies are so transparent yet it doesn't stop believers from flocking (pardon my pun). It seems every decade or so this cycle repeats and it's nauseating.

And you'll notice only "religious" movies get protested and bullied by those religious nuts when the flick doesn't depict exactly what they want it to say. Did you ever see Star Wars fanboys boycott Episode II because they hated Jar Jar Binks? Of course not (and if ever a reason existed to boycott a movie that's as good as any)!

It's amazing how many Christians whine that they are being persecuted when they make up the majority and are the first ones to impose their will on those who don't conform to their irrational beliefs and/or superstitions.

I just think Hollywood is running out of movies to make so it figures a religious flick is a no-brainer since that's exactly what is required to be in the religious majority: no brains.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Slowing down a tad

It's been almost a week since my last post and I'm starting to realize the regularity of my posts is starting to taper off a bit, and there's a good reason, or two. I have been extremely busy as of late with my company, my family and my hobbies. But that's not the only reason. When I started this blog, I wanted to have an outlet for recording my thoughts, my feelings and all of my hard work as I traveled  down the critical-thinking path.

If you look back at my roughly 115 posts, I've said quite a bit. I try not to be redundant and I try to explore every avenue of atheism to put my stamp on it. But there's very little I haven't addressed so it generally will take something that outrages me to get me to post these days. My debates with my SIL can only happen so often and unless the news sparks something it may be a while in between posts.

Quite a few people have remarked that I should move this blog to a real site and add some revenue-driving ads to make some money for my effort, but like I said, I never did this with money in mind. I don't need the revenue and at this point I'm not certain I could keep up with enough fresh content to make it worthy of a regular mainstream blog.

You never know, though, something could set me off, so stay tuned. For now, thanks for reading and here's my thought for the day: Can an omnipotent god create a ball so heavy that even he can't lift it? If he can, then he's not omnipotent, and if he can't then he's not omnipotent. Checkmate.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

So long, Mom, thanks for my everything

Today, during my two-mile power walk, I thought about all of the great things I have in my life. You see, my mother-in-law died today after a bout with dementia and old age, so as most people do during a time of loss, I reflected. I cherish my family, the fact that I live in a free country (even if it is dominated by the religious), that I have a great home and that I own a successful business.

What I cherish most in this world is my wife, who is beyond remarkable. She is my rock; she is strong, compassionate, generous, loving and beautiful. She makes me a better person and she makes me want to be that better person.

Someone once told me she was my soulmate, that god made sure she crossed my path. And while on a day like this I don't want to be negative or bitter, as I walked and remembered these words, I couldn't help but wonder what that person would say if I told them we are both atheists, that my wife has been married before and according to their god we are both living in sin and have eternity in hellfire in store for us. Did god really guide our paths, knowing we were sinners who committed adultery and one day would apply rational thought to our lives and arrive at the conclusion he doesn't exist? Silly theists.

I obviously don't believe in soulmates, and not just because I don't believe in souls or an afterlife. On a planet of seven billion people, can a person really believe the one true person they were meant to find lived a few miles from them? It's a preposterous concept. Relationships take work, and I give ourselves the credit for recognizing personalities and traits we are attracted to when we finally find that special someone.

My in-laws both had failed marriages before they met each other; my wife is the wonderful product of that final union, and for that I am very grateful. I am so sorry my MIL is gone, that my wife (and all of our family) has to experience this pain, but I am thankful for her life because she produced my wife, my partner and my best friend.

I'll never forget my second mom and I'll always appreciate and love her.