Carv's Thinky Blog I'm an author with a focus on satirical sci-fi and agnostic commentary.

5Feb/100

My Agenda

In the days and weeks before my novel hit shelves, I ran into several people who were uncomfortable with its subject matter. It was implied several times that I'd be pushing an atheist agenda. Well, much like Democrats in the Senate, we atheists and agnostics can't seem to get our act together enough to have an agenda. The truth is, we don't care what you believe or don't believe, as long as you leave us and our public institutions out of it. We don't want you adding pure wishful thinking to our science curricula. We don't want to pay lip service to that Book you haven't read from cover to cover in our courtrooms. And, while it's a trivial point, we don't understand why you insist on paying tribute to an (at best) unproven Deity on our legal tender.

Okay, look. I know you're not crazy when I say things like that. But let's face it, most Christians haven't read their Bible cover to cover. They don't know what's in it. They memorize the inoffensive verses they like, but ignore verses like Exodus 12:29 (God slaughters innocent children) or 2 Peter 3:5 (God made the Earth out of water). And well they should! But they also shouldn't get torqued out of shape when I, a former Jehovah's Witness, know their book better than they do. I do not believe the Bible is infallible. I do not believe the Bible was written by anyone with superhuman comprehension of history, science, or mathematics. I do not believe YHWH aka Elohim is an accurate representation of God, if indeed such a force or Person exists. I do not believe the Bible is a perfect moral guide. It has its moments, of course, but it also believes God once demanded the sacrifice of innocent animals. Moreover, it believes God kills children in order to punish the sins of their parents, including the slaughter of firstborn Egyptians. It believes God is jealous, but also that jealousy is a sin (Galatians 5:19, 20), but also that God is morally perfect. It believes God is incapable of error, but also that God managed to create few perfect things; otherwise, Adam and Eve could not have sinned against God, and entropy just plain wouldn't happen. It believes it's possible for only one family on Earth to be worthy of salvation from a global flood--but really, not even that whole family. (You should read what Noah's children got up to.) It believes in a deluge for which not one scrap of geological evidence exists, only a few thousand years later. It believes humans were formed out of clay when in fact we're made of carbon, not silicon. I could go on and on. The Bible is clearly mythological, and its God is by extension a fictional character who was written inconsistently over centuries of Biblical retelling and compilation.

BUT! If you want to believe otherwise, go right ahead. Honesty is part of my so-called agenda, but changing your mind is not. I have "come out" as an agnostic here, in defiance of constant objection, because I think every agnostic or atheist voice in the public sphere makes it easier for reasoning young people to say what they really think and, if necessary, to step away from such domineering Christian religions as the one in which I was raised. That's not to say I think everyone should quit going to church. My girlfriend's family, for example, attends a Christian church that does quite a bit of good in the world. Perhaps you do, too. If so, my "agenda" doesn't seek to drag you away from an institution you love. It does hope to reduce Christians' ability to formulate American law on the basis of Bible quotes, usually taken out of context, or the contradictory moral codes contained therein.

My agenda, such as it is, is to remind Christians what Christ did and said, how he lived, whom he loved, and--every bit as important!--the kinds of people he shunned. Yes, Jesus did avoid certain people's company, notwithstanding his acceptance of sinners and tax collectors. Jesus avoided people who commercialized religious faith. He mocked those who quoted the Torah to chastise others while hypocritically ignoring their own malfeasance. He tried to lead Jews away from the Law of Moses toward kindness and humility before the illimitable. He opened his arms and heart to people outside his own gender, ethnicity, religion, and code of sexual conduct. He had more love than our own mundane hearts have thus far contained, and while few to none of us are able to duplicate his behavior, we should all aspire to emulate it.

My agenda, such as it is, was to write Lightfall--and any other book I might write from now on--by accessing my better nature, the most noble point of view I can muster. I never write perfect people, because I write what I know and I never met a perfect human. Even Jesus couldn't transform all of Judea or the Roman Empire. I'll never try to teach you morality; I'm no more qualified to write a universal moral code than you are. But I tried, and I'll continue to try, to remind readers of that purest place inside themselves, and to encourage them to put it in motion. I also hope to keep you entertained, if only for a few days while reading my books, or a few minutes while you visit this blog. It makes me feel good to tell stories worth telling.

From Monty Python's Meaning of Life:

"LADY PRESENTER: Well, that's the end of the film. Now, here's the meaning of life. (Thank you, Brigitte.) Mhm. Well, it's nothing very special. Uh, try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations. And, finally, here are some completely gratuitous pictures of penises to annoy the censors and to hopefully spark some sort of controversy, which, it seems, is the only way these days to get the jaded, video-sated public off their f---ing arses and back in the sodding cinema. Family entertainment, bollocks! What they want is filth: people doing things to each other with chainsaws during Tupperware parties, babysitters being stabbed with knitting needles by gay presidential candidates, vigilante groups strangling chickens, armed bands of theatre critics exterminating mutant goats...Where's the fun in pictures? Oh, well, there we are. Here's the theme music. Good night."

I couldn't have said it better myself.

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  1. There are better ways to win friends. :o)

  2. I couldn’t have said it better myself…

  3. Oh, I know, Amanda, believe me. Time and time again I’ve experienced the hazards of speaking a minority opinion, especially a minority opinion supported by facts. (There’s actually less risk in saying things that are obviously wrong, because no one takes them seriously.) The majority has overwhelming power in any culture…yet someone MUST speak truth to that power. I’ve decided I’m willing to be that someone, though I somehow never get used to the resistance I receive.

  4. Probably a tough road to hoe, but that’s one thing I like about you. More people should stand up for their beliefs, but don’t for fear of offending people. <3 <3 <3

  5. People are offended by the existence of any other person who disagree with them. That’s why the majority opinion exerts so much social pressure. After all, it’s way more fun to be liked by the majority than to be respected by the tiny minority. I live without that fun. As you know, though, I have won some pretty great friends through the years, more than enough to sustain me without all that fun of unquestioning conformity.

  6. Nicely put. And kudos to you, sir, for putting yourself out there.

  7. Additionally, I also find it particularly annoying when people say one is “pushing their agenda” or “shoving their beliefs down my throat” when one simply dares to exist and state simply who they are and what they believe (or don’t believe) in. Like any proud minority, we won’t hide in the closet just to make the mindless majority feel better about their lives.

  8. Whether it be politics, religion, or anything we state about ourselves to another human, we can be accused of pushing our agenda. Although we may not be trying to convert anyone to our way of thinking, we can be accused of it.

    Can’t we all just warm some cocoa, put on our snuggies and get along?

  9. Well, sure, we can be accused of anything anytime. Whether those accusations are based in *reality* is an entirely different matter.

    I’ll have mine with the little marshmallows, please. 😉

  10. I love blankies and cocoa. And if you can think of a way to use blankies and cocoa to attract potential book readers, I’m all eyes!

  11. I’ve always appreciated this quote from Albert Einstein, as a supplement to your post:

    A man’s ethical behaviour should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.
    (Albert Einstein, New York Times Magazine, 9 November 1930)

    -Preston

  12. I’ve always viewed the Bible as a collection of stories that we can benefit from. Imagine reading about human beings thousands of years ago who went through some of the same junk we go through! How cool is that? Although, I am biased as a wannabe writer. Stories are one of the most powerful things we humans have ever created.
    You also have to look at the, dare I say, evolution of the Bible and religion in general. I have been reading “Ilium” and “Olympus” by Dan Simmons lately so selfish and petty dieties, the infamous Greek Gods, have been on my mind. The old Testament God resembles those dieties because that part of the Bible is a collection of oral stories passed through God knows how many generations of Jews before paper was even invented. The new Testament has so many Zorastrian, Mithras, and other lesser pagan faith influences it’s intellectually dishonest for Christians to ignore. In fact, that’s why Paganism became a catch-all for anything non-Christian.
    Anyway, it’s hard for me to be an athiest with all the research done on the downright need for our brains to have some form of prayer. There seems to be a reason for that I can’t explain. Plus, we human beings can justify just about any damn thing we do, no matter how bad, so having the big guy in the sky looking over your shoulder seems important to me for ethics.
    Besides, it’s nice to think some dude 2,000 years ago took away your sins when you screw up big time!

  13. He “took away our sins,” yet we all still “screw up big time.” Weird, huh?

  14. C’mon, Carv, don’t be disingenuous. He didn’t mean we don’t sin anymore. He just meant that “some dude” *paid* for our sins by sacrificing himself…to himself…to satisfy the rules that he himself made up. Makes perfect sense to me!

  15. Okay, that was amusing, but let’s be nice to Chris. He’s a good guy, and besides, I suspect he was being a bit tongue-in-cheek himself.

  16. Oh, I was just following your snarky lead. No disrespect to Chris intended.

  17. Ah Yes…. all great truths begin as blasphemy…. read The Seduction of Christianity…. and then you may be able to understand….. your dilemma… Christ said … you will know the truth… and the truth shall set you free! Freedom from fear I dare say…. If I’m wrong… then it’s no big deal.. but if I’m right?

  18. And Greg, here’s the thing: If you’re wrong, it is no big deal, because you aren’t shoving your theories (and yes, religion is as theoretical as intelligent design, string theory, or the hope for life on Enceladus) down anyone else’s throat. You aren’t creating government policies, designing high school science classes, or passing Supreme Court decisions. I’d be happy to read The Seduction of Christianity. I’ve read plenty of Christian literature in my life, including my recent life. But evolution was also a great truth that began as blasphemy, and many Christians don’t want to hear that to this day. The Bible contains as many untruths as truths, and Christians don’t want to hear that, either. Hell, maybe they don’t need to. Maybe I’m making too much of the whole thing. I only start worrying when piety intrudes on public policy. I would also point out, as I have before and probably will again, that most Americans would not vote for their own party’s presidential candidate, even if that person were otherwise perfectly qualified, if that person were an atheist (source: Data360). They’d actually be more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who was openly gay. So there are things to fear other than damnation, and one is cultural/political exclusion.


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