Category: The Atheist Den


I’ve been a terrible blogger.

Bloggers should write pretty much every day, for one thing. And should follow up on commitments to write about stuff they said they’d write about, for another.

I have sucked, and I do suck, at both. I have made verbal commitments to Laurent, GameOver and fuckphilosophy to follow up on conversations we’ve been having, and I have yet to deliver. I’ve probably teased a few people into thinking I had a promising start to a new thing that I’ve entirely failed to follow up on.

To all of you, I truly am sorry. I have yet to figure out whether I simply don’t have what it takes to be a blogger, or whether I need to readjust my blogging standards. I’m new at this, and I’ve also failed to make a serious enough commitment to really get it off the ground.

Without going into details, in the past two weeks I have spent much more of my time on trying to help out my wife (who recently was diagnosed with a fairly serious medical condition), holding up my part in two different bands, following the success of the playoffs-bound Denver Nuggets, and (alas!) only getting around to atheist blogging and tweeting as a quaternary priority.

(For the record, I didn’t know the word quaternary until I just googled what comes after tertiary).

Anyhow, I probably will never be able to make the promise of full-time devotion to my blog. It will, almost certainly, remain a haphazard, when-I-get-to-it-and-when-I-feel-like-it endeavor. And there will, without question, be times like now, when other priorities… well, take priority.

If you, despite all this, remain interested enough and patient enough to hang out and hear what I’ve got to say when I muster up the gumption to say it, then what can I say? I couldn’t be more appreciative and grateful.

But I’m gonna have to work this thing out at my own pace. If you don’t mind bearing with me for the ride, then welcome aboard.

After spending much of January visiting family in Southeast Asia, and the beginning of February getting back into the swing of things here in Japan, I’m happy to say that I’m ready to return to The Atheist Den and God… er, me willing, get a more regular blogging rhythm rolling.

Thanks for your patience, I appreciate it!

 

Hi everyone, just a brief post to let you know that due to a couple of vacations I’m about to take, The Atheist Den will be on hiatus until February 2012, when I hope to really get things into full swing for the first time.

If you noticed that I’ve also been mostly inactive recently, that’s been due to a combination of different devents and distractions going on – holiday parties (including one with the Tokyo Skeptics for the winter solstice, which was a blast!), work, studying Japanese, playing some live music, and even sports, with the Denver Broncos/Tim Tebow drama as well as the resumption of the NBA, and the subsequent Denver Nuggets training camp, preseason and season opener consuming a fair chunk of my attention over the past few weeks.

I know I have promised some different people that I would expand in my blog on conversations we had going on, and I do still intend to do so, so I appreciate your patience in advance.

Hope you’ll all have a great New Year’s, and start off 2012 with all the appropriate holiday cheer.

 

 

I’m no artist, but when I saw this tweet by David Silverman, President of American Atheists (click the link to see the picture he posted), I was inspired:

Atheists don’t Tebow, we Thinker. http://pic.twitter.com/W2yjJYgb

Needless to say, I put my immaculate MS Paint skills to work, and did up this rough, simple, but hopefully to-the-point picture. I hope you like it:

I’ve been trying to write this for over two months. I never know where to start. The reasons why I’m an atheist now aren’t exactly the same (though they overlap) as the reasons I left the faith I was brought up in. My adult understanding of why I value evidence based belief above all other forms is better thought out, more deeply analyzed, and rooted more in rationality and naturalism than my more emotionally based adolescent rejection of religion was.

Yet when people on twitter or at bars ask me, “Why are you an atheist?” or “Why don’t you believe in God?”, the questions I feel they’re really asking are, “Why don’t you believe in my religion?” and “Why don’t you believe in my God?” I suspect that, for the most part, they’re not as interested in hearing about my views on the irrationality of faith-based beliefs as they are about my personal experiences. After all, they’re experiencing religion in a personal way right now, and so the question is an attempt to understand how it is feeling, viewing, and thinking about life from a non-religious perspective. What experiences led me to this (happily) godless life? What was my visceral reaction to abandoning all notions of gods and embracing a worldview in which religion and the supernatural hold no sway? How could my life possibly have any meaning, how could I feel complete without God? How could I possibly not believe in the first place?

This seems to be the more pressing nature of these questions, and so I’ll start at, or near, the beginning, in my early childhood, when the church’s own actions sowed the seeds of my atheism. [Note: There isn’t enough time or space for me to complete my story in a single blog post, so this will be part 1 of several.]

I was raised in the Christian faith by parents who were both ministers. Yep, I’m a double P.K. But to be clear, they were not overbearing regarding religion when I was a little kid. Both were (and are) progressives, both participated in the Civil Rights Movement. Both embraced more a modern, liberal ministry and were, in their own respective ways, pushing to modernize the church.They weren’t fundamentalists, and I wasn’t beaten over the head with a Bible. As a very young child things were, for the most part, pretty loose on the religion front.

But as far back as I can remember, I always hated going to church. It was boring. I hated having to dress up in the uncomfortable child-suit with the clip-on tie. My father was the preacher so everyone knew of me, and I was always intimidated by all the strange strangers (and often stranger familiars) who wanted to make sure I knew how cute (or whatever) they thought I was. To me, the services were little more than an exercise in alleviating boredom until those final bells rang and harkened my freedom to go outside and play. Mostly, it was just a thing I had to do when I’d rather have been doing something else. The dullest, most annoying time of the week.

But all this seemingly harmless malaise turned out to be the calm before the big storm hit that nobody had seen coming.

Before I continue, I need to say here that I do love both of my parents, and that anything harsh or critical, or even just personal I say regarding my folks is not intended to publicly throw either of them under the bus (in fact, maintaining their anonymity with regards to my blogging is a big part of why I write under a pseudonym), but only because it would be impossible for me to tell my story in a complete, cohesive way if I were to eliminate certain critical aspects of it. I can’t get personal about myself without, to some extent, getting personal about them, too. And so:

It turned out that my father was gay. This was made known nearly simultaneously to my family, the congregation and (as soon as the press got wind of it, which was quickly) the public. All hell broke loose. In one fell swoop both my family and the church were torn apart. I was too young to understand what really was going on, but I knew it was important because the kids at school were talking and asking me about it, and things were getting ugly at home. It was a big deal.

The church fired my father. The congregation divided, a significant percentage of it leaving with him to form a separate, more accepting alternative church. At the time, I was pretty much on the level of, “Okay, I guess I’m going to this other church now sometimes, too.” Adults did their own things for reasons beyond my comprehension. Like most kids, I had no interest and no choice but to roll with it.

Skipping tracks to a brief aside. I remember a specific conversation with an elementary school friend which must have happened around two years later, given the friend and the school I was attending at the time. That friend was also a churchgoer. We left my house, were walking down the street, and started having what must have been an unusually profound conversation for our age. It went something like:

Friend: So, like, do you really believe in God and Jesus and stuff?

Me: Well, uh, I dunno. I mean not really. But I guess so. But I mean, I dunno.

From all I can recollect of my memories, I was never reverent, I was never devout, the faith that I had (if any) was severely weak, and although I can distinctly remember times when I sincerely wanted to believe, I really never was quite thoroughly convinced.

Back on the main storyline, where several years later I’m living alone with my mother (hopefully the divorce story is self explanatory) and, to her great frustration, developing the capacity to think for myself. As I grew into adolescence and, like most kids (although perhaps a little moreso) into a more rebellious attitude, she was growing stricter, more forceful, angrier and, at the worst times, emotionally violent. This tension wasn’t limited to religion or churchgoing, but those were the points around which it flashed the hottest.

And now we come to it.

By the time I was in high school, I’d developed the self awareness, the social awareness, and the reflective and analytical capacity to form a few opinions about the events which not only had shaped my life up to that point, but continued to dominate it on a regular basis.

The first, and probably most important: My father was a good man. He made all kinds of mistakes, to be sure. But the degree of castigation, ire, demonizing, shunning, betrayal by those he had trusted – or to put it more simply, the amount of plain old hateful bigotry – which not only was dumped on him by his peers but was essentially officially sanctioned by the church as they sacked him from his position and relegated him to second class status within their organization, was downright fucking despicable.

The second, and more urgent to me during my latter adolescence: My mother was a deeply emotionally troubled woman who no longer had the capacity to deal with me in a non-abusive way. As I write this now, I’m trying to put this in the most gentle, fair way I know how. But at the time I was an emotional trainwreck, fairly well tormented by her undermining of my dignity and self esteem at every opportunity she had, and her incessant attempts at severe, micromanagerial control over every detail of my existence.

And on Sundays I was made to go to church.

The sermons were all about the usual Christian stuff. The preacher said we should love our neighbors and accept those who are different than us, even as the church had hated and rejected my father. The preacher – my mother – said we should follow the teachings of Christ and try to be pure of heart, even as I knew well that she had done some pretty impure of heart shit that very morning before church.

The hypocrisy in the air was so thick I could practically see it. It was so rancid I almost could physically taste it. It was morally repugnant, and nauseated every corner of reason, rationality, and good sense in my brain. I could not have been more repulsed.

I was done with the church, and with religion in general. I had learned – correctly – not to trust any person who claims authority based on a self-professed assertion to speak for gods, or to be better trained in interpreting and espousing divine messages. I had seen the man behind the curtain, and he was a cheap, charlatan trickster – even if he truly believed himself to be playing The Great Oz with all good intentions.

And don’t get me wrong. I do not say my mother was, or many other members of the clergy are, lying about their beliefs. She did, and does, I’m sure, sincerely believe in the truth of every Christian message she has uttered. But having not only witnessed, but experienced and been on the shit end of the disconnect between  lofty religious claims of truth, love and beauty,  and the ugly, unacceptable, insipid reality which – in fact – belies them, I simply could no no longer believe or have faith in that, or any other gods, if I even ever had at all. The words rang hollow, the stories untrue, a big masquerade celebrating an illusion which no longer had any power over me.

I was an atheist.

[Note: It has taken me months to articulate this origin story of how I first became an atheist. There will be further installments picking up where this left off and culminating with why I am an atheist now. Hopefully this will be finished before 2013.]

I’ve just created a new Facebook page for The Atheist Den. You can find it (and even like it) here:

http://www.facebook.com/TAD.denbutsu

I still won’t be very active here (or there) until after I take my Japanese exam in early December. But for now I’m trying to get the infrastructure in place to a) reach a wider readership and b) have more arenas available for various modes of communication.

This blog is the space that will allow me to go in depth on an array of topics with more time for careful consideration and research. I’ll always welcome and appreciate your comments here, but I have no illusions about this turning into its own “community”. Realistically, unless something happened and my blog totally blew up, most of the communication with readers here will probably consist of individual two-way exchanges. And while I’ll be grateful and excited for the opportunity to have those conversations, some more multi-dimensional communication is in order as well.

And along those lines, twitter is basically the exact opposite of the blog: An extremely diverse, and somewhat random and chaotic mish-mash of generally brief exchanges that tend to stay limited to whatever the flavor of the day happens to be. It can be great for networking, as well as for (and this cuts both ways) getting one’s ideas out to those who otherwise might not be exposed to or challenged by them. At the same time, the 140 character limit can be a bit maddening at times. (I’ve had exchanges where I’ve had to break up a “single” post into ten or more tweets, which can be a real headache to say the least).

So, my hope for the Facebook page is that it can function as a sort of happy medium between the two, combining the broad community aspect of twitter with the clearer, prosier communicative space of the blog. Ideally, discussions there can be more in-depth and constructive than is possible on twitter, but also more multi-directional and inclusive of wider audiences than the comments sections of this blog are likely to be.

Hopefully, the result of getting this all set up now will be a smoother and more impactful “re-launch” when my schedule permits me to start posting a lot more content, and subsequently a more enjoyable experience for all involved. Stay tuned…

 

Hey folks, I can’t express how much I appreciate you visiting my humble effort of a blog.It means a lot. Really.

That said, I can’t feel but having let you down for not holding up my part of the bargain (ie. posting frequently) lately. I’ve been incredibly busy, with all kinds of live music events and an upcoming Japanese test on my plate.

In retrospect, my timing in launching my new blog was poor. I was so excited about the prospect of getting it off the ground that I didn’t pay the proper foresight to time constraints.

From December, I will write. And I’ll take breaks. The first week of January, and either the 3rd or 4th week as well, I’ll be out of the country, and most likely unable to post. Even so, from December, I’ll be attacking this blog with a new commitment. Two regular upcoming features: “Twitter Adventures” and “What Blew My Mind Today”.

Thanks for checking in. I appreciate it.

I’m happy to say that The Atheist Den has been added to The Atheist Blogroll, which is run by mojoey (you can follow him on twitter @mojoey). You can see the blogroll in my sidebar. The Atheist blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world. If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.

On twitter and elsewhere, there has been some confusion about the name “denbutsu”, so I’d like to clear this up right from the get go.

I originally started using the name on the message board Pro Sports Daily, where I primarily posted about the Denver Nuggets and all things NBA, as well as the Denver Broncos. My original user name over there was JesusBong, which I had chosen for its irreverence and because I just loved this picture, which I used as my avatar. But as my involvement on that site got heavier, I spent more and more time there during my lunch breaks at an office where I worked at the time. The fear of someone looking over my shoulder and seeing something that could potentially get me into trouble led me to request a name change.

I chose “denbutsu” as a combination of the two places I call home: Colorado, where I was born, and Japan, where I’ve spent most of my adult life. The “den” is for Denver, and the “-butsu” comes from the Japanese word daibutsu, which means Great Buddha. One of Japan’s most famous cultural icons is the Great Buddha in Kamakura, which is just a stone’s throw away from where I live in southern Yokohama. I chose that image for my avatar because a) it represents where I live, b) it looks “person-like” so it works for an avvy, and c) I just think it looks cool. And it just stuck. I’ve been using it for a long time now.

I’m an atheist, so for me it has no meaning beyond the aesthetic and cultural. And while I do consider Buddhism to be among the more innocuous of the world’s religions, especially here in Japan where it takes on a largely secular form, I myself am not a Buddhist.

I actually did consider Continue reading

Hello everyone, denbutsu here wishing you a warm welcome to my new blog.

Why am I doing this? Truthfully, the main reason is that until now I’ve mostly been using twitter for my atheist musings, but I’ve come to find the format constraining. I’m tired of making long chains of tweets (1/7, 2/7, 3/7, etc.) to write about my generally verbose views. I figured a blog would just allow for a more comfortable space to do that, as well as provide a bit more flexibility in terms of sharing video, pictures, and quotes from other articles and blogs.

It’s also my hope that raising my “officially atheist” profile a little will allow me to make some inroads in the international atheist community, and I have some vague ambitions of getting something off the ground here in Japan if there are numbers.

So here we go. Hate to get so incredibly geeky on my first post, but this quote from J.R.R. Tolkein does come to mind:

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,” he used to say.  “You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

Here’s to the great unknown, and keeping our feet as we venture into it. Cheers!

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