Reimagining the Conceptual Foundation of Atheism

The_ThinkerInevitably, in any discussion with those critical of atheism, you’ll hear “You can’t prove there’s no God, therefore atheism is not logically supportable.”

Here’s the counter: There’s this thought experiment we’ve been conducting for the past three centuries or so, the thought experiment of “What if everything works by completely natural laws and forces, with no capricious supernatural superbeings involved?”

It doesn’t matter whether or not the supernatural superbeings exist! We just decided to see what we could come up with if we assumed they didn’t. It was a trial run regarding a certain way of thinking.

That thought experiment, science, has paid off in practically everything you see around you. Not one object in my modern house, no part of our cellphones or computers or cars, nothing in modern medicine, depends on belief in gods for its existence, and in fact, could not have been created (and demonstrably was not created) by people operating solely on faith. It turns out that the thought experiment of science returned massive benefits, things never before seen, or possible, in the thousands of years before we tried it.

Atheism is this same type of thought experiment, a trial run of “IF WE ASSUME no gods exist … How would society look? How would government work? What would morality be like? How would we relate to each other? And … is it possible that by assuming this we might see the same massive benefits socially as we got scientifically?”

You don’t have to prove there’s no God to be an atheist. Atheism is a thought experiment, and every atheist — every person! — is perfectly justified in performing it. The goal of this thought experiment is not rock-solid proof of the non-existence of gods. In fact, that question is virtually irrelevant. The goal is to see what social and cultural benefits we can obtain from postulating that we live in a world devoid of mystical forces. A world where the things HUMANS do and think is the main deciding factor in eventual outcomes.

Just as it was with science, the result of this experiment might be off the charts of anything we’ve seen until now.

Goodness and Guilt on the Dark Edge of Life

I’m thinking about guilt as a driving force of religion.

If you treat somebody badly, and they later die before you have a chance to apologize or correct your action, you have no way to make it right with them. If you’re religious, though, you can regain balance both through the ceremonial forgiveness your religion offers and through the “knowledge” that you will either see them again and have the chance to make it right, or that they’re alive-after-death and able to see you, hear you, as you make amends.

This is powerful motivation to embrace the god-and-afterlife model.

If you don’t have that sort of religion, you’re left with the pain of the guilt. Atheism would appear to be a poor substitute in this area of life, as it has no set mechanism for relieving or lessening guilt.

But here’s the thing: What if you’re not supposed to be relieved of certain kinds of guilt? What if you’re supposed to feel it, to bear it, for the rest of your life? What if this is one of the things that helps you be a good person, and a grownup?

If religion relieves guilt for an act you really did, it sort of opens up the possibility that you might do it again, doesn’t it? After all, if the bar against the act – the guilt – is lowered, the pain of the thing lessens and the price of doing it again is likewise lowered.

But if the pain and guilt stays with you, you have an ever-fresh reminder that you never want to do THAT again. You’ll also want to strongly encourage others not to do it.

I suspect this idea will offend those who think forgiveness is possible – and necessary! – for every act. But I don’t think it is. Some things really are unforgivable, it seems to me.

The things done to you by others can often be easily forgiven. But the things you’ve done to others, even when the other person forgives you, it may be that you can never completely forgive yourself. You carry the memory of the act with you in the form of a constantly-available melancholy, something that never goes away, but that strengthens you and drives you to greater goodness.

One part of that strength is the understanding you grow into about how much you really can bear. Indoctrinated with the idea of anguish too great to weather,  pain that requires godly absolution, we imagine ourselves as fragile and faint. But instead we are towers of strength and steadiness, able to take on more than we ever imagine.

REAL absolution is this: Carrying the pain inside indefinitely, not to simply feel it, but to act on it in daily life, making yourself better and more compassionate through the possession of your own inner guide to human fallibility.

In the adulthood of the human race – still to come, it seems to me – we will finally know this. It will be a part of our very society, so common a bit of knowledge that even adolescents are aware of it and guided by it.

I know the idea of never-receding pain will bring anguish to those currently dealing with the deaths of loved ones. But many of us are not at that point, and they deserve to hear that there is this one more good reason for treating people well – that you may well suffer for it for the rest of your life if you don’t.

On the other hand, coming to understand that we’re all stronger than we know, I don’t think that can’t help but be a bracing realization. Rather than being stuck with nothing more than “This thing hurts like hell every time I think of it,” we have the huge advantage of knowing “I can bear this. Forever if I need to. Because that’s what good people do.”


Beta Culture: The Long Shadow of Forgotten Gods

So you’re an atheist, and you’re totally free of religion, right?

Oh … maybe. And maybe not.

Say one of your ancestors learned this thing in church a thousand years or so ago:

The Book of Bob 9:17 — Verily, God saith that all men shall roll down the tops of their socks, or they shall never enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but shall instead be bound screaming in a pit of flaming scorpions, which shall rend them even unto the ends of time.

It’s safe to say that still today, somewhere in the world, someone would be diligently, faithfully, even fiercely, rolling down the tops of their socks. Considering the verse mentions “men,” it’s even possible that whatever little sect was doing it would be crystal clear that only MEN were allowed to roll down the tops of their socks, and that if women did it, it would be an abomination.

We atheists want to think that when we give up the central idea of religion — that a god or gods exist — that we’re immediately free of all taint of religion or faith. But the thing is, both as descendants and residents of this society, which grew up on thousands of years of equally silly but nevertheless solemn pronouncements, a lot of that stuff is still with us. Orders from God, given in a time when nobody knew anything BUT gods, sticks with you. We humans REMEMBER shit. We pass it along.

This remnant religion, because it seems normal to us, having been born into it and started learning it before we could talk, can be out in plain sight and yet still invisible to us. Rather than seeming faith-related, it’s just plain … the way things are.

The abortion debate is a good example. I’ve always believed that every argument against abortion – even those of the “secular anti-abortion” upstarts – springs from the religious idea of ensoulment. If a soul – the “self” part of you – enters the person-to-be at the moment of conception, that person-to-be BECOMES a person at that instant. Terminating an embryo at any stage after ensoulment would be killing a PERSON.

Also, if you believe the implanting of these ghostly inner selves is overseen by God, ending a pregnancy is the equivalent of destroying some of God’s holy property, probably the hell-deserving worst of sins. The condition of the mother – her age or health, desperation or poverty – wouldn’t even come into it.

You don’t actually even have to have an abortion to be guilty. If all you do is stand by and let it happen, you’re every bit as hell-bound. If you know about it, you have to intervene.

Furthermore, if you believe in a blanket fate regulated by an all-knowing, all-seeing, all-wise God, even preventing fertilization would be the same sort of sin. You’d be thwarting God’s will, preventing the arrival of a soul pre-ordained to land on Earth.

And damn, until this moment, I never really thought about the actual mechanics of this nonsense in the heads of believers. But from their point of view, it makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? They’d oppose not only abortion, even in the case of a mother who’d die without it, but would adamantly oppose contraception as well. As they DO.

But abortion is the easy one, isn’t it? It’s right out where we all can see it. Let me toss a few phrases at you to illustrate the less obvious example of stuff hidden in everyday language.

She’s gifted.
You’re blessed.
You just get the one life.
Everything happens for a reason.
It was meant to be.
Things will work out the way they’re supposed to.
What goes around comes around.

If you have a “gift” of intelligence or beauty or athletic ability, just the word alone says you have a thing that’s been GIVEN, by a god or other supernatural force. It came from somewhere, from someone. You might never examine the deeper meaning of what’s being said, but if you use that linguistic formulation, you’ve unconsciously bought into the idea of a god at work in your life. Even more so if you’re “blessed” with that gift.

“You just get the one life” implies there’s a “you” somehow separate from that life, suggesting you enter into that life, and then exit it at some later point, after which you are denied a second shot at it.

“Everything happens for a reason” and “It was meant to be.” Oh, yeah? So what reason is that? From whom does it come? Who “meant” it? Oh, right: God. You may not know what that “reason” is, but it has certainly been arrived at by some superior being, right? If you fall across the tracks and have your legs cut off, there’s a REASON for it, and it’s something good. No matter how much you suffer, it’s surely something good.

“Things will work out the way they’re supposed to.” At the drug and alcohol rehab facility where I work, I saw this on a poster one day: “If things aren’t working out according to your plans, trust that this is the plan.” Whose plan? God’s plan.

“What goes around, comes around.” Karma. Some superior force for balancing the universe – might be God, might be “the universe” – is at work. If the bully beats you up, he’ll get his … somehow, someday.

The point of all this is that some level of religion – or its baby brother superstition – is in us in ways not easy to see. It’s in our language, in our thoughts, and it continues there effortlessly as it is passed along from generation to generation.

It doesn’t have to rise to the level of god-belief – hell, the idea of Luck drives apparently limitless love for the various lotteries and casinos here in the U.S.; if we didn’t believe in luck, we’d never buy a ticket to these games which are so obviously engineered to make most “players” lose.

But by being in our language, religion and superstition infect us with irrational, poorly-considered thoughts and actions, on a everyday basis.

If the human mind was a can of white paint and ancestral religion was deep red pigment poured into it, the fairly secular society we like to fancy we live in would still be fairly reddish. You’d find red-hued religious effects blended into language, law, commerce, medicine, psychology, drug policy, culture, art, government, philosophy, the way we treat animals, how we interact with the environment, and even – or so I sometimes suspect – in science.

Even the most freed of atheists would still carry a faint hue of pink. Not because we’d want to, but because the only way to get that red pigment out is to find it one microscopic particle at a time – one hidden religion-biased belief or assumption at a time – and to inspect, judge and eject it.

When you’re talking the deepest unexamined parts of your mind, or whole societies, that’s a pretty tall order. It would take a lot of people working together to ferret these religious effects out, and help people evict them, both from their own private heads and from larger society.

This would be one of the prime goals of Beta Culture. Not just being atheists as individuals, but removing religion from EVERYTHING … in our own community at the very least.

Grieving Mother Mistreated by Heartless Atheists

Here’s this article: Atheists Fight With Grieving Mom Over Roadside Crosses.

Son dies in a auto accident at the age of 19, grief-stricken mother erects a memorial of crosses and flowers on city property, humanist group asks city council to disallow it.

Good call? Bad call? Commenting on Facebook, Sinis Tergrin weighs in:

I think it’s pretty mean spirited to target a grieving mother. What kind of person complains about this based on the “separation of church and state”?? I thought we in the atheist community were supposed to uphold certain values, compassion being one of them.. Ridiculous. I can think of better fights to take on than this.

Yeah, nice Christian mom puts up a religious monument on public land, and the wicked mean atheists ask for public land to NOT be used for religious monuments. How could they be so SELFISH?

But another commenter agrees with Tergrin:

For sure. This is the sort of thing that makes people hate atheists before they even know them. I don’t like all the wind blown half ass memorials thrown around, but I would never remove one out of consideration to the family.

As someone who has experienced death of beloved family members, I understand grief. Oh boy, do I understand it. But look, people die every day, in horrible ways. EVERYBODY you know is a family member of someone, EVERYBODY you know feels such grief at one time or another.

And as far as I know, every single person in the humanist and atheist community respects the rights of family members to express that grief in any way they care to, and as long as they care to, privately, among their friends and family, and on their own property. Additionally, they can carry out ceremonies in their church ranging from simple to extravagant.  They can participate in funerary processions along public roadways, and most of us will respectfully give way. They can place monuments in cemeteries that will last hundreds of years. They can even travel to the public site of the loved one’s death, and linger there in respect and sadness.

We all understand that every grieving person, mom or not, shares those same rights. But no matter how much you’re hurting, your private grief is not acceptable justification for using public land for a private religious display. No single one of us, not a hundred of us, not even a million of us, can eclipse public land for permanent, visible expressions of our own private grief. As the story says:

The council conceded that the large, handmade plywood crosses violated the separation of church and state.

The principle at stake here is bigger than one grieving mother. It’s about equality, equal protection on the public stage. The fact is, the mother has no legal right to put a cross there. She never did. It was against the law from the beginning. It was only because this was an expression of the Christian faith, and because of our innate respect for mothers, especially in this tough situation, that it got a pass as long as it did. The authorities deliberately looked away … until they were reminded that we can’t afford to allow our government to play favorites based on private religious principles, even those of grieving mothers.

… Ann Marie Devaney [mother of 19-year-old Anthony Devaney, killed while crossing the street], tearfully removed the crosses white crosses (sic) she had placed near the spot where he was struck after the decision came Thursday.”It’s like I’m losing my son again, pretty much,” Devaney said. “It hurts when you lose a child.”

“It’s so petty and sad that they have to complain over removing a cross,” she said. “It’s his personal preference that he was Christian. What’s wrong with having a cross up?”

I think I’m as compassionate as the next guy, and probably more compassionate than most. Speaking just for myself, I’d be inclined to look away too. Hell, what’s one little cross given a pass to salve the feelings of a grieving mom? But the thing is, it never stops with just one grieving mother. It never stops with just one cross:

Immediately after she removed them, another group came and replaced the crosses with six more.

In your face, hateful atheists! Screw that separation of church and state that benefits people of every faith, and no faith at all. These are Christians we’re talking about, and THEY have a right to have crosses on public land. They will dang-sure demonstrate that to the entire world.

This time because it’s a grieving mother, next time because a vocal majority of Christian locals agree, the time after that because they damned well feel like it and the rest of us can just shut the hell up.



Beta Culture: The Footprint of the Past

One of my many interests is the residual social / societal effects of historical events and social movements.

For instance, the fact that we still say “God bless you” when people sneeze, 14 centuries after the supposed origin of the practice …

One explanation holds that the custom originally began as an actual blessing. Gregory I became Pope in AD 590 as an outbreak of the bubonic plague was reaching Rome. In hopes of fighting off the disease, he ordered unending prayer and parades of chanters through the streets. At the time, sneezing was thought to be an early symptom of the plague. The blessing (“God bless you!”) became a common effort to halt the disease.

… means that when we get some idea in our little human heads, even crazy, useless shit, that crazy, useless shit PERSISTS.

WE KEEP ON DOING IT. Keep on teaching it, for decades, centuries, after it last meant anything real … if it ever did.

I know for a fact that the shadow of the slavery era, and the Civil War, still hangs over the Deep South where I grew up — in attitudes, government action, inter-racial relations, so much more — on both sides of the racial divide.

Living here in New York state, I’ve seen little hints here and there that the Prohibition era, the heyday of organized crime, still hangs over eastern cities. In police practices, in the attitudes and actions of elected officials.

It’s well known that Jews and Muslims still avoid pork, long after any evidentiary reason for it.

Speaking economically: considering the lengthy, ongoing failure of infrastructure in the U.S. – the desperate situation of roads and bridges, the school system, water and sewer systems – the beggaring debts of wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., still hang over us.

I’ve considered that the ubiquity of religion worldwide has had massive and profound effects ranging from lingering social practices, government policy, language, understanding of history, even human psychology and our relation to the natural world.

But again on the subject of war, this catches my interest:

Historians have underestimated the death count of WWI by a huge margin

Look at these Austrian men murdering bound and blindfolded Serbian prisoners. Considering what we know about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, imagine what sort of psyche comes out of that. Imagine the millions of damaged young men coming home after this war, and that war, and all those other wars.

Few of us find it easy to kill others. The military takes mostly-peaceable nebbishes off the street and teaches them how to do it — to shoot, stab and blow up other human beings. It shoves them into the blowtorch of war where they experience the opportunity or necessity of killing and torturing others. After which, with full memories and attitudes intact, it releases them back into common society.

With that package of damage in their heads, essentially as functional sociopaths, they then attempt to reincorporate into society. Where they grapple with their attitudes about women, about freedom of speech, about foreigners, about religion. Voting those attitudes. Spreading them. Teaching them to their kids. Supporting new and more deadly wars, but also the conditions that cause those wars. Accepting without question or protest further government actions, or authoritarian proclamations, or even heinous lies propagated by such sources as FOX News.

Yes, we as an entire culture, an entire civilization, are damaged by the lasting cultural footprint of religion.

But now I’m considering this new idea, that war, just as deadly as religion to both individual human sanity and the sanity of entire cultures, may hang over us as an equally-dark social cloud.

One more reason to attempt to take a new path, develop a new culture, something more reasonable, more human and humane.

Well, This Is Just Sad As Hell

Got this thing on Facebook, but it’s very little different from stuff I’ve been getting for years via email. Here it is in full, with picture attached:

***A MUST SHARE***A young man working in the army was
constantly humiliated because he
believed in God. One day the captain
wanted to humiliate him before the
troops. He called the young man and said:
– Young man come here, take the key and go and park the Jeep in front. the young
man replied: – I cannot drive! The captain
said: – Well then ask for assistance of
your God! Show us that He exist! The young man takes the key and walked
to the vehicle and begins to pray…… …He
parks the jeep at the place PERFECTLY
well as the captain wanted. The young
man came out of the jeep and saw them
all crying. They all said together: – We want to serve your God! The young soldier was astonished, and
asked what was going on? The CAPTAIN
crying opened the hood of the jeep by
showing the young man that the car had
no engine. Then the boy said: See? This is
the God I serve, THE GOD OF IMPOSSIBLE, the God who gives life to what does not
exist. You may think there are things still
To the person reading this, I pray the Lord work A SUPER MIRACLE in your life today that would look like a lie In Jesus Name I Pray..
Write ‘Amen’ to claim this prayer

The weird irregular line lengths, the punctuation, the rumpled language, all are verbatim from the Facebook post, and absolutely typical of the multiply-forwarded stuff I get via email. Whoever does these things has equally meager computer and linguistic skills.

There is so much wrong with this, but I’ll touch on only two items:

First: Considering the level of religiosity the military is known for, the claim that he was “was constantly humiliated because he believed in God” is pure horseshit. It’s KNOWN that atheists are the ones treated badly by the brass.

Second: To me, the really amazing thing about little stories like this is that they’re MADE UP. They’re complete fictions. And yet — and here’s the crucial point — THEY’RE USED TO JUSTIFY BELIEF IN GOD.

I have friends back in Texas who have sent me stuff like this for years. I just know they come across these things and nod knowingly to themselves “See?! See?! God can do ANYTHING!!” — never realizing if the story itself is false, the thing it appears to justify must be on damned shaky ground.

The comments to the piece are a mix of critical and fatuous, and some of the fervent believers — “amen,god can do all things, that man can,t” — are disturbing on several levels.

My daughter was healed of infantile spasms when I decided to take a leap of faith and take her off her medicine.. She has not had a seizure since. Our faith in Jesus is what will make us whole. By his stripes we are healed. Don’t listen to people who are Godless and faithless. Instead pray for them.

I especially liked this one:

To the people questioning if the Army is “serving for god”… I’m not serving for god. I do not believe in god. I believe in freedoms and rights, and I believe in your right to believe in whatever you please. Like, you can totally believe this bullshit post that is completely fake and would NEVER be allowed to happen, and would NEVER be able to happen.. considering all soldiers learn how to drive in basic training.

One commenter really nails it, though:

I’m all for a touching religious post. But this picture is of a soldier, SSG Lonnie Roberts, crying at the memorial service of a fellow soldier named Gregory Huxley Jr, who was killed in action. Whoring his picture out for cheap likes alongside an obviously fake story is shameful and wrong, and whoever created this post is a terrible human being.

And yes, that’s true about the source of the picture, as you can see here: Pulitzer Archives.


Religion is Weird. That is All.

Stumbled across a new word today: Tauroctony.

Wikipedia defines it:

The tauroctony scene is the [central icon] of the Mithraic Mysteries. It depicts Mithras killing a bull, hence the name ‘tauroctony’, given to the scene in modern times, probably after the Greek word tauroktonos (ταυροκτόνος) “slaughtering bulls.”

The Mithraic Mysteries, now referred to as Mithraism, was

a mystery religion practiced in the Roman Empire from about the 1st to 4th centuries AD. The name of the Persian god Mithra, adapted into Greek as Mithras, was linked to a new and distinctive imagery. […] The mysteries were popular in the Roman military.

[…] Numerous archeological finds, including meeting places, monuments, and artifacts, have contributed to modern knowledge about Mithraism throughout the Roman Empire. The iconic scenes of Mithras show him being born from a rock, slaughtering a bull, and sharing a banquet with the god Sol (the Sun). About 420 sites have yielded materials related to the cult. Among the items found are about 1000 inscriptions, 700 examples of the bull-killing scene (tauroctony), and about 400 other monuments. […] No written narratives or theology from the religion survive, with limited information to be derived from the inscriptions, and only brief or passing references in Greek and Latin literature.

Here’s a tauroctony, a more recent recreation of older, existing paintings and sculptures:













Lemme call your attention to the creepy little dog and the snake, going after the blood gushing from the stab wound. What’s that all about?

But then notice this:


Note that this wasn’t something just thrown up there like teenagers tagging a freeway overpass with spray paint. This feature, a scorpion latched onto the testicles of the sacrificial bull, is shared by all the depictions. It was IMPORTANT, a central feature of a religion that lasted hundreds of years.

You get the feeling that if the sculptor left that out, it would be an insult to the faithful.

“No, Appius, look, you gotta have the scorpion here, pinching the bull’s balls. You want riots? I ask you: Do you want riots? Because that’s what you’ll get. I tell you, bubbie, these are simple people. They don’t understand all this modern sentiment, with no scorpion on the balls. Tell you what, kid, throw me a scorpion on there and I’ll introduce you to my sister with the big cahooties.”

Freaky, right? Because we’re outside it.

Now picture the Catholic rite of consuming the blood and body of Christ, the Jewish ritual of circumcision, the Pentecostal practice of handling poisonous snakes, the conservative Islamic practice of requiring the women to wear burkhas.

Five hundred years from now, what’s that going to look like? Right. Equally freaky.



Rare Giant Gemstone Sort of Wasted. Thanks, Religion.

I’m okay with Buddhists, generally. But guys, really? A statue of Buddha (there are a few around, in case you don’t know) was the best the human race could come up with for the largest single piece of jade ever discovered?

… a mammoth boulder of nephrite jade sourced in Northwest British Columbia, Canada. Dubbed the Polar Pride boulder when it was discovered in 2000, gem experts called the 18-ton specimen “the find of the millennium.”

I’ll admit I’m coming up short in figuring out what should have been done with it instead. My best imaginings include a carving of a black bear, or a family of river otters, realized in such a way as to convey an environmental message. But still …

The Polar Pride was split in two and sold for an undisclosed price to an international Buddhist organization headed by the Nepalese monk Lama Zopa Rinpoche. In 2006, the twin blocks were shipped from Vancouver to Thailand, where master craftsmen began their two-year labor of love – freeing the smiling, meditating figure of Buddha from an enormous block of gem-quality jade.

Buddha? That’s it?

To those who argue that Buddhism is not a religion, here’s at least one counter-argument. This bit is pure religion:

Rinpoche said that the statue made from the majestic boulder would illuminate the world and bring peace, happiness and solace and help prevent destruction, including war.

Yeah, I’m sure it’ll do that. Jade statues are known for their mystical, war-preventing powers.

More than that, though, you kinda have to assume the price was in the millions. I have a church a few blocks from my house valued at more than 7 million. I can never pass the thing without thinking of how many college degrees in medicine or environmental science the money would have financed. Ditto for this largest-ever jade Buddha statue.

Presented with a never-before-never-again opportunity, the best humans can come up with, once again, is religion.

Aw, heck.

No, I don’t believe in God. I thought YOU did. Well, heck. Now what?

We’re born to sanity. We instinctively feel that things should be reasonable. That it should all MAKE SENSE.

Most of us, as we grow to adulthood, at least TRY to be sane and sensible. But we all know we share the world with some crazy-ass others.

In my view, the biggest reason for rampant craziness in the world is religion. Religion is not only mistaken about basic facts of reality, it sets up a social field of acceptance to casual lies, deliberate falsehoods, even malicious acts, by both the priestly and the pious.

Churches TEACH falsehoods, and they garb themselves in the appearance of the highest good as they do it.

Deliberately denied the tools that would help them critique church claims, credulous followers are set up to become victims of all the other liars and con men … who often don the same mantle of goodness. It creates an entire society where lies are easy, even expected, and where all manner of inglorious acts can be defended, because nobody really knows what’s right, what’s just, what’s good.

But even deeply immersed in the inner workings of churches, there are those who find they want sanity. Discovering eventually that they are too reasonable to believe, they reach the point where they either sacrifice honesty as the price of keeping their jobs and positions, or they quietly leave the career.

More than a decade into the new atheist movement, though, outspoken atheists have created a field of acceptance to non-belief great enough that it has lowered the barrier to admitting loss of faith, even to those IN the faith.

Church Pastors Become Atheists

More than 200 church leaders across the country now say they no longer believe in God, including a Houston-area pastor who was one of the first to publicly announce his decision.

Mike Aus, who was pastor at Theophilus church in Katy, Texas, went so far as to make an announcement on TV about his loss of faith, during an appearance on MSNBC’s Up With Chris Hayes Sunday morning show.

Aus was a long-time Lutheran pastor at churches in the Houston area, but now he said he no longer believes in the message he had been preaching for almost 20 years.

“As I started to jettison the beliefs, I came to realize fairly recently there wasn’t a whole lot left,” Aus said.

The effect was immediate on his church with about 80 members. Weeks after his announcement, the church dissolved. Members […] said their pastor’s complete change in faith was devastating.

I’m just wondering what happens when hundreds of millions of church members realize they’re not alone in wondering what the heck it is they’re doing, and why. Why they never “felt the presence of God,” or why prayer never felt real to them.

It starts to look like we’re building up to that point.



I’m Part of FreethoughtBlogs’ FTBConscience!

I’ll be appearing on the “Atheism and Grief” panel at FTBConscience this Sunday, July 21 at 4 p.m. Central time.

Other speakers will include Rebecca Hensler, founder of Grief Beyond Belief, plus Greta Christina and Nicome Taylor.

Here’s the entire convention schedule, and here’s the page detailing just my panel.

I’d volunteered to be on the panel regarding the future of atheism, hoping to talk about Beta Culture, but there were already plenty of panelists included there.

Hope to see you there!