The other day I got a pingback on my recent article about the winter holidays called "Letting the Holiday Pendulum Come to the Middle." Curious, I followed the link to an article called "faith fridays: the backward leap of faith" on a blog called Peace Garden Mama II.

This article I'm writing in reply is not about me criticizing a christian for her beliefs and for indoctrinating her hapless children in a male-dominated authoritarian fairy tale. It was a nicely written article, actually. If I were a christian I'd probably be nodding and saying hallelujah and bless that child's heart for being touched by faith.

But, she did write about me and I feel that warrants a reply of sorts, if not to her, then to myself and to you. We'll skip the parts that don't pertain to me (and the low hanging fruit they dangle before me). Here is what she wrote. My thoughts are in italics:

Nevertheless, I accidentally happened upon the blog of an atheist recently called Heaving Dead Cats. In the post I read, the writer was explaining her epiphany that though she detests everything about the Christmas holiday (naturally),

I never said I detested all things christmas in that article. I did say I wanted to share holidays with family without gift giving and decorating (i really don't like the overt commercialism). She is blatantly projecting her attitudes of atheism onto me. I don't hate the holidays. Several years ago I chose to stop celebrating christmas because I'm not a christian and it seemed ridiculous.

she was considering celebrating something so as to not feel like such a Scrooge.

This is true, I was looking to replace doing nothing with doing something for the holidays. What this woman fails to realize - and how would she know just reading one article - was that the original article was written tongue-in-cheek. I was having fun. While I may joke and say I'm a scrooge, I'm not. Like a lot of atheists, I volunteer, do good in my community, help my fellow humans, say hello and Happy Holidays to cashiers, etc.

As I read her post, “Letting the Holiday Pendulum Come to the Middle,” I couldn’t help but feel sad that she’s likely never felt the warmth of the light within the Christian faith,

Another blatant assumption on her part. When I was a child, I was a very good little christian girl. I believed completely that Jesus loved me. That was my favorite song. I studied the bible, went to church, prayed and prayed and prayed. So I used to have faith. Then you know what happened? I started asking questions. First I asked my pastor. He didn't have answers for the contradictions I pointed out. And yes, I was 10 when I found them. That's how blatant they are. He then stopped giving my family bible lessons because he wanted to go bowling instead of dodging my rational questions. I was the most inquisitive, loving little christian who wanted to understand. I was told to be quiet and have faith instead. That's what you get in church. You get dogma. You get simple answers to questions you're not allowed to ask. When I was 12 I walked away and I've never missed the hypocrisy or the mindless faith. Never. Of course, as you know, I didn't actually learn enough to fully walk away and calmly call myself an atheist until I was about 30. You know how I realized religion was all a pack of lies? I educated myself. Something not encouraged in the church. If you really read the bible and study ancient history and world religions like I did, if you're honest and open-minded you'll at least end up agnostic, but a lot of us take this path and lift the veil completely and now are atheists. That's what education does. It frees you from the shackles of fairy tale lies told to keep people believing in the rewards in the afterlife instead of enjoying and really living the only real life they've got.

and because of that, she’s been reduced to making fun of all things Christian and creating silly traditions as a sort of protest of what she finds ridiculous and distasteful.

I'm reduced to humor? What's wrong with humor? And what is more funny than worshiping a half god half human born of a virgin? And that isn't even in all the gospel stories. Read the bible. Not even the gospels agree on Jesus' early years. And ONLY the gospels mention this half god born of a virgin. He's not mentioned by any contemporaries. I'm not saying he didn't exist, but why didn't he write anything down himself? And what's wrong with humor when it comes to ridiculous traditions? Also, the half god, born of a virgin myth isn't even original to christianity. At least tell an original story, don't steal it from all the other older religions. And I'm not protesting others having traditions. I'm not protesting anything. I'm just not going to celebrate christmas since I'm an atheist. Does this woman think she gets the winter season all to herself since she's got Jesus? Doesn't she know that the evergreen tree is a pagan symbol, as are most of the other traditions she holds dear this holiday season? And god specifically said not to worship the pagan tree, which I'm sure she and her little indoctrinated children decorate this time of year (Jeremiah, I'll get the verse for you later if you want it). So most of her traditions that I'm not interested in aren't even hers. They are the pagans', stolen by early church fathers to get the pagans to leave their old religion and become christians. Hell, no one knows if Jesus even existed. So does anyone really believe he was born December 25? No, he wasn't. But that date was the original Winter Solstice, another pagan holiday. Anyone noticing a trend here? And MY new adopted traditions are silly?

In another part of her blog, I found quotes like this: “Believing is easier than thinking. Hence so many more believers than thinkers.” — Bruce Calvert and “It’s not a war on Christmas…It’s a war on false gods, false prophets, and false promises.”

Two good quotes, especially the first one. I really don't have a war on christmas. Most atheists don't. In fact a lot happily celebrate it with family and friends without any problems. I myself go to a catholic/methodist dinner every christmas eve. I enjoy the family and the food. We watch them open presents for each other but we have given up the exchange of gifts ourselves. This is to ease the burden and stress of the holidays. My very religious methodist aunt requested this several years ago and I backed her 100% to help her, not because I have a war against a holiday. I even wear something red or green to be festive. See? I'm not all grinch. I just joke about it. That's humor. Humor is a good thing.

I read those words and see a blatant disconnect between that which she believes to be the case and that which I’ve experienced.

This is true, I agree with her. Every experience she has that makes her have warm emotional feelings is more Confirmation Bias that her faith is real. Her post is a classic example that she even spells out herself. I would caution this woman to refrain from talking about what I believe. She uses slippery language here, which is very subtle. I have beliefs and she has experiences. Somehow her reality (of virgin born godmen) is more real than mine. What is mine based on? How about science, empirical evidence, critical thinking, study and reasoning? Which is more real?

And I wish that she’d realize that we Christians are thinkers who still believe,

And here is where I have to admit, I've had no experience of this in my 41 years. I've never met a True Believer who actually THOUGHT about christianity. Wait, I take that back. I was one of those people. And I've met others. They are all atheists, agnostics or humanists now. Does she think in other areas of her life? Sure. I'm sure she's competent in her job if she has one, she's probably a decent driver, etc) I'm sure she does think about lots of things. But if you read that one post, you can see that christianity and Jesus are her Sacred Cows. That's not objective thinking. She talks openly of her Confirmation Bias that she witnesses at the advent program.

and that Jesus is the most real thing that’s ever happened to the world, and that God brought her into being.

While no one knows if an apocalyptic rabbi named Yeshua was preaching in Judea around the 1st century CE, saying in 2010 that Jesus (a greek name) is the most real thing that's ever happened in the world is simply delusional. My dog just farted while he's sleeping on the couch next to me. That's real. I am experiencing the pungent odors as I type. I can hear him snore. I can see him. If I get up I can touch him. He can make eye contact with me and communicate with me through whining and barking and body language. That's all REAL. So even if a man named Yeshua existed, how is he real now? Because a 2,000 year old book written in the Bronze Age by misogynistic and superstitious desert goat herders wrote something down? Something full of errors, contradictions and hatred that was copied (inaccurately) over and over and translated and changed for hundreds of years afterward? And how does this woman know god brought me into being? Which god? Wait, she says there's only one? So she's atheistic about the other 3,549,832 gods? How does she even know she's picked the right branch of catholicism or christianity? (I won't even go into how she can stomach to have her kids in a catholic school, considering their record over the millennia for buggering peoples' children and destroying their lives). The burden of proof lies on her to prove her god's existence to me. And you know what? There is ZERO evidence of anything supernatural at all in the universe. Everything ever discovered in all of recorded time is 100% natural. While science doesn't have all the answers to all the questions we ask, it sure has a lot of them. And it just keeps asking and exploring and observing. What does christianity do? It reads the same book from the Bronze Age over and over again and then interprets it as each person sees fit. Classic Cherry Picking to try to retrofit the old superstitions from those goat herders into a modern scenario. It's unnecessary and unhealthy. There are no questions that religion can answer because you aren't even allowed to ask the questions. Oh, and one more thing. While we don't have all the answers about abiogenesis (we do have quite a few though, more than the church's "god did it") we certainly understand a lot (not all) about how babies are made. My parents had sex and I was born 9 months later. No mystery there at all. No meddling god needed, thank you very much.

Certainly, we Christians don’t get it right every time. In fact, we mess up a whole lot! We sin, we doubt, we diverge from the path at times. But at the very least, if we do try stay the course, there is something called hope that shines brightly upon our horizon. This (hope) is something that atheists can have in only small degrees, since in their view, the world ends when it ends and that’s that. The Christian mentality (reality I would say) hinges on living as well as we can now to prepare for the Peaceable Kingdom to come.

Hope: is a belief in a positive outcome related to events and circumstances in one's life.
False Hope: refers to a hope based entirely around a fantasy or an extremely unlikely outcome.

I would say that believing in the extraordinarily improbable concept of heaven where you are reunited with loved ones and sing hallelujah for all eternity is false hope, by the very definition. I don't have hope in impossible fantasies of rich rewards after I die. I DO have hope in humanity (some days more than others) and in future generations. I have hope that we will eventually grow up as a species and start really using our cognition for more than rationalizations of what we wish were true, but instead deal with reality and make the best future for ourselves, in a common goal of well-being. My hopes are realistic, not false. My hopes are based on reality, not fairy tales retold for millennia and still believed by people who seem unable to think for themselves when it comes to this huge Sacred Cow of religion.

That’s what tonight’s program was themed: The Peaceable Kingdom. And tonight, I can’t help but feel profoundly grateful for hope, for light, for the prospect of peace. I’m thankful for my son, Adam, for singing so well; for my daughter, Beth, for dancing and singing with such beauty; and for my daughter, Olivia, for reminding me that the backward leap of faith is much more likely to land me on my bottom than the one which propels me forward and into hope.

I also hope for concepts like peace. I am pragmatic enough to realize that's probably a false hope at this point, in some areas of our planet. But maybe in the future we'll be better equipped to overcome our animal instincts (evolved over millions of years) a bit better. Obviously here she is thanking her god for these things. But instead she should be thanking the real people who have helped her in her life, here in the real world. She should be proud of herself for raising good kids (albeit brainwashed).

Using your brain to think critically and to reason is always a good thing. It opens the world to the wonders of Reality. It is a steady progression, maybe with some leaps of A-ha moments, which then get filled in with more critical thinking, observation and study. Will this take you out of the darkness of faith? If you allow yourself to really think and reason, yes, absolutely. Just really read your bible, read other holy books, read about history in general and the history of world religions, read critiques and the work of scholars who disagree with you. Read about the natural world in all its wonders. Read, read and read some more, more than just a 2,000 year old book. Read science and read about critical thinking itself. Open your mind. It doesn't close your heart at all. In fact, you can learn to love even more. At least I have. Now I know I am 98% similar to my dog. We are in this natural world together. We've just evolved a bit differently. We need to work together to help the entire planet.

The real world is wonderful and amazing all on its own. It's 100% natural. It works by natural laws that are the same all over the entire universe! It's beautiful and amazing and fantastic. Every day scientists discover more about it. Every day we need faith a little bit less, unless we purposely go out of our way to cherry pick and confirm our biases to stubbornly cling to Bronze Age beliefs. My hope is that one day we can be free of such limiting shackles and stand together, as one species, working to make the world a better place. Hey, I can dream big too. :P

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