Thursday, June 27, 2013

Militant Atheism

So as the title suggests, today I’m going to talk about Militant Atheism; what it means and why I identify with the term.   Militant Atheism is a bit of a misleading term.  When someone hears the term “militant” they often associate it with extreme/radical ideas.  They might also liken it to violence.  That is not the case at all.  Sometimes called Neo-Atheism, Militant Atheism is a movement within the Atheist community.  Its premise is to speak out against religion and invoke change within our society.

            Before I delve deeper into this topic, I’d like to give you a little more background about me to help explain why I’m even talking about it.  To start with, I consider myself to always have been an Atheist.  Even at a very young age I started to question religion.  I can still remember my first instance of skepticism.  At around the age of 8, I was on the way to the grocery store with my dad.  During the car ride I started to think about the idea that god created the earth.  That’s all well and good I thought, but who created god?  When talking about the beginning of the universe Creationists often argue that the theories of scientists lead to the conclusion that we got something out of nothing and since that is impossible (from our current understanding anyways) than god must surely exist because then you would have something from something.  I questioned this though and asked the wisest person I knew at the time, my dad (poor guy), “If god created the universe….who created god?”  I might as well have asked him where babies came from judging by the look in his face at that moment.  His response (the only one I imagine he could conjure up at that moment) was, “Well son, I’ll tell you what my dad told me, ‘god always was and god always will be.”  Even at such a young age I thought that answer was complete and utter nonsense.  I ultimately came to my conclusion that there was no god several years later when I learned about ancient Greek/Roman theology.  Certainly if they believed they were right in knowing there were multiple gods and were wrong, then the current monotheistic beliefs could, and most likely, are wrong as well.  That was the end of that.  I had concluded god did not exist.  Still, being born into a religious culture I felt I had to have some sort of structural belief system.  I looked into the Wiccan beliefs, the Buddhist beliefs, etc. and thought they had a lot to offer without worshipping a “god”.  However, I could never get past the supernatural aspects of these belief systems and decided that they just weren’t for me.  It was about this time that I developed a humanist approach to life without even realizing it.  This came about because during random discussions with my friends I would bring up the fact that I didn’t believe in “god”.  “Well, what do you believe in then?” was the question I always got.  Since I didn’t really “believe” in anything I would just tell them that I believed in humanity while not even really knowing what that meant.  This was point in which I reached early adulthood and joined the Army.  For fear of being judged because I was an Atheist, when asked what my religious preference was I just put down “religious: non-denominational”.  I mean, what did I care, right?  The only time that would really matter was if/when I died so they would know what kind of gravestone to put up at my burial site.  I’d be dead so what would I care what symbol they used.  It was for my family more than anything since, while they’re not very religious people, they still believed in god to some extent.  So that was that.  Religion just didn’t matter to me and as far as I could tell, didn’t affect me either.  I felt no need to explain that I was an Atheist, but I also felt that since a vast majority of soldiers identify with religion in some way or another that I would be a minority and might not “fit in”.  That is, until my second deployment to Iraq.  I was given a soldier who is deeply religious and believes in evangelizing to “save souls” from eternal damnation.  The proselytization from this soldier was annoying.  At first, I just explained to him that he was wasting his time because, as an Atheist, I favored logic and reason over anything he was offering me through god.  This only enticed him more and the more he bugged me about it the more militant I became.  At that time I had a “live and let live” mentality in regards to religious beliefs but obviously not everyone felt that way, especially this soldier of mine.  Nonetheless, I decided that so long as nobody was flaunting religion in my face I could care less what they believed.  This leads me to the next stage of this progression.  I touched on it briefly in my introduction post.  An incident involving an Equal Opportunity class we were given is what finally set me off.  Essentially, I was being told that I had to respect other people’s faith and in order to do so it was wrong of me to speak out against religion.  So what I’m being told is, it’s okay for someone to talk about god or pray to god, but I can’t express my own belief that there is no god?  What’s the difference?  Then it truly hit me, how I was surrounded everyday by religious ideals both in the military and outside of it.  I mean, “In god we trust” is written on our money!  I just couldn’t take it anymore.  I was tired of being treated as a minority and without equal rights.  So now, I speak out against religion.  The same way black people did when they had finally had enough of segregation.

            A few people have recently accused me of hypocritically doing the same thing I’m speaking out against.  I’ve been accused of proselytizing/evangelizing the same as those with religious belief.  I’ve also heard it argued that I speak as if Atheism, too, is a religion.  Some of this may, indeed, be true.  I justify it like this though; I’m not preaching so much as I’m simply providing evidence contrary to religious belief.  My goal isn’t so much to “convert” anyone to Atheism, but merely plant a seed of doubt into their minds to open their eyes to logic and reason.  My main goal is secularism within our government and while I would very much like to see religion eradicated altogether, I want to accomplish this not by legislation but from reason.  I do not wish to oppress anyone for their religious beliefs but I do want them to use critical thinking to see that there are much more rational ways of looking at things aside from religion.  I believe this quote from Dr. Jerry Coyne and a response to this quote by Hermant Mehta sums it up nicely:

The goal of New Atheism, as I see it, is not mainly to insult religious individuals, but to question the tenets of belief, point out the invidious consequences of unsupported belief, and question the unwarranted privilege that religion has arrogated to itself.” – Dr. Jerry Coyne

This isn’t about attacking believers. We understand why they believe in God and we respect their right to believe it, but we want them to understand that there are better explanations out there for most of what they consider to be the handiwork of God. That involves pointing out when religion goes wrong — and even when religion goes right, because doing the right thing for the wrong reason isn’t ideal either.” - Hemant Mehta (Friendly Atheist Blog on

Another aspect I would like to touch on is the idea that Atheism is itself, a religion.  First off, as I pointed out in my “Atheism Defined” post, the concept of Atheism is simply the rejection of theistic beliefs. Different viewpoints, concerning different topics, that Atheists derive is not Atheism.  I’ve heard it argued to me that I believe in what scientists are telling me the same way religious people believe their preachers.  That is wrong.  Listening to scientists is not having faith in the experts.  To begin with, the founding principle of science is the presentation of empirical evidence to support a hypothesis.  I don’t have to just take a scientists word for it.  I can’t see the evidence presented for myself and form my own conclusions based on that evidence.  Something else to keep in mind is that science never asserts anything to be absolute truth but rather good, working theories, based on evidence of what could be true.  You and I could both agree that, without help from some mechanical machine or the like, human beings can't fly.  There’s tons of evidence that suggests such a fact.  However, to assert this as truth would be incorrect because someday humans might evolve a way to, indeed, fly.  It’s not the greatest example, I understand, but it’s a simple way of understanding my point.  So when I’m speaking for what I “believe” is true, understand that this belief is grounded on the premise of science and the data supporting it.

            “Why do Atheists feel the need to put down religion so much?”  Well, not all of them do.  Just like not all theists put down or speak out against Atheists or speak out for their religious beliefs.  Many Atheists disagree with the Militant Atheism point of view.  Live and let live, right?  I no longer choose to do such thing until drastic changes within our society have occurred.  Until the indoctrination of children is put to an end, until religion is taken out of our government, until Theists quit trying to push their views onto others, I will not quit speaking out against religion.  I will not be afraid of pointing out the many flaws in a Theist’s belief system.  I will approach the taboo subject of religion with the same passion and vigor tomorrow as I have today.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Separation of Church and State

   It's official! The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) has been ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.  With this excellent news I've decided my next post will be on separating the church from the state.  I'd like to start by simply stating how happy I am for the LGBT community.  Especially those serving in the military.  I'm so happy that same sex couples will now be able to reap the benefits that are offered to married military service members.  Congratulations on a huge victory!  We've still got a ways to go, however, since it is still left up to the individual states whether or not they will recognize same sex marriage.  This momentous step has definitely opened the door even farther though and I do believe it's only a matter of time before all the states fall in line (now we just need to do the same with marijuana!).
   DOMA was a prime example of why we need to separate religion from our government.  There is no scientific evidence that proves homosexuality is bad.  For that matter, there is no moral evidence that it is wrong except when pertaining to the bible.  Therefore there is no basis for infringing upon the rights of American citizens.  However, in 1996 a law was passed defining marriage between 1 man and 1 woman.  I ask you this; why was a definition needed in the first place?  I've heard it argued that if marriage wasn't defined then anybody could marry anything.  Okay, point taken.  That still leaves the question, why was marriage defined as between 1 man and 1 woman?  Where did this definition come from?  Unless you can show me another source than I argue that it came from the bible.  My problem with that comes in 2 parts.  The first of which is you are infringing on the rights of Americans.  Slavery, we can all agree (well most of us anyways), is a horrible thing but if you've read the parts of the bible I have than you will know that slavery was condoned by that very book.  So if we can agree that slavery is morally wrong regardless of what the bible says than surely we can agree on the same thing when it comes to defining marriage from the same book.  My second argument is this: I'm an atheist and do not believe in god or the bible.  So why should I have to have to be governed by it?  This can be said not for just atheists, but Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, etc.  It is tyrannical to impose laws upon people based on a faith that they do not believe and THAT is what our country was founded on.  It has been argued that our country is a "Christian Nation".  That may be true in respect to the fact that a majority of Americans are Christian, but that is where it ends.  This country was founded on the principle of freedom from religious persecution.  The first settlers of this country came here to be free to practice whatever religious beliefs they had.  To impose your religious beliefs on an entire country completely contradicts what we came here for in the first place.  As far as the founding of our current government, nowhere is it written that this country was founded on Christianity.  In fact, it was quite the opposite, our founding fathers understood that this country was created because people wanted freedom from religious persecution.  In fact they went through great lengths to word the documents that would shape our nation to exclude religion.  Our founding fathers believed that there should be a separation from the church and the state.  To do otherwise is unamerican! Our democracy has slowly evolved into a theocracy in which our supreme ruler is the Christian god.  If you agree that that should be the case well then you  are going against the very essence of our democracy and are agreeing to a dictatorship.  I say to those who agree with that, "Screw you!"
   The topic of abortion is yet another example of how Christianity is governing our nation.  I have not seen any passage of the bible that covers abortion directly  (if there is one please, share it with me;  it won't change my views in the least but I will be just that much more informed about the bible).  Instead the moral principal in question is the taking of another life.  I agree that this is a question that needs to be addressed.  But not by an immoral book such as the bible.  I should point out that I am against abortion as a form of birth control. However, in the case of rape specifically, I believe there are exceptions when abortion can be justified.  With that being said, I also do not believe that my opinion on the matter gives me the right to decide for another person what they choose to do with their body.  Taking your morality on this subject from the bible is despicable.  It would be like outlawing the use of condoms for reasons of faith like that of the Catholics.  If that's your belief than, of course, you would be okay with that.  I'll bet most of you who are religious and reading this blog, however, would agree that banning the use of condoms would be oppressive and ridiculous.  So what makes abortion any different?  I've heard it argued that you are denying a potential life through abortion.  Well guess what, you are denying a potential life by using a condom as well!  So unless you believe this, as the Catholics do, you are contradicting yourself.  This is a matter for law, not for religion.  There is still much debate as to when "life" begins.  I choose to leave that question up to science to resolve.  But if and when there is scientific evidence that life truly begins at conception I will change my position and state that yes, you are indeed ending a life and that is morally wrong and should be illegal and punishable.  As it stands right now life doesn't scientifically begin until about 15 weeks into the pregnancy and outlawing abortion at that time (which is the case currently) is perfectly understandable.  My personal morality tells me that taking a life is wrong.  I don't need religion to tell me that.  That further proves my point that religion is not needed to govern our nation and therefore there is no place for it our government.  unfortunately abortion is a lot more involved than just religion and politics and for fear of getting off subject (as I'm sure I already have) I will move on.
    I'd like to talk about another side of this argument.  In particular, the Pledge of Allegiance and prayer in public institutions.  I see so many Facebook posts about reinstating the Pledge of Allegiance  back into schools.  Hey, I used to say it back when I was in school and the sense of pride I felt to be an American that I got from that recitation was great!  But why should pride in my country go along with religious beliefs.  If, for example, I believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster and believe he is our creator and the one true deity, you wouldn't want to hear about that.  So what right do you have, as an American, to force your religion on me?  You have no right.  As a religious person you would be appalled if the pledge stated something along the lines of " nation, under the Flying Spaghetti Monster..." correct?  Well it's no different for me as an Atheist or a Hindu, or a Buddhist.  I agree that the Pledge of Allegiance should be reinstated, but only after the "...under god..." portion is taken out.  Nobody should be oppressed to the point that they are forced to condone a religion they do not believe in.   The same could be said for prayer in a public, government funded, institution.  You wouldn't want me to start a council meeting with a prayer to the Flying Spaghetti Monster no more than I want you to start with a prayer to god.  Keep your prayers for your homes and your churches.  Another example is prayer during military functions.  Most Army ceremonies begin with an invocation given by a chaplain.  To start with, they call it an invocation rather than what it really is, a prayer.  I can understand the concept of the chaplaincy in a government funded institution like the military because soldiers get sent to places that might not otherwise have a church or any way for them to practice their faith but that is where the line should be drawn.  I should not be forced to sit through a prayer because I just so happen to be forced to sit through a ceremony.  Not beginning a prayer before a ceremony in no way hinders a soldier's right to practice his/her faith.  An atheist friend of mine who is also serving in the military suggests that, at the very least, a chaplain includes the phrase "...if you so choose..." before he starts the invocation with "Let us pray".  While that would be one step further towards recognizing that not everybody agrees with your religious views, I believe it needs to be eradicated entirely.  Not to just accommodate Atheists, but all religions.  The claim is made that these types of prayers are secular because it only refers to "god" in a general sense and Jesus, Muhammad, etc. are excluded from it.  But that's not true at all.  What about religions that do not worship a "god"?  What if I believed in the Flying Spaghetti Monsters (plural)?  Than you are conducting a prayer that has no basis in my religion whatsoever.  I here all the time, as well, "nobody is forcing you to pray with them".  Maybe not, but I am still forced to sit there and listen to your prayer.  The argument that it doesn't affect me is completely unfounded.  While I may not necessarily be "offended" by the act, it's still affects me in the sense that I am being forced to participate in it by just being forced to be there during it.  Regardless, even if your arguments are valid, there is no reason that religion should be endorsed by our government in the first place.
   I plan to delve into this further in another post, but my goal is not to eradicate religion altogether by forcing it out of government.  I simply wish to see freedom and equality had by all no matter their religion.  A moral ground that Christians should take from me, an Atheist. I could continue on for a very long time on this topic, but I'll leave the rest I have to say for a later post. Until then, I ask you to rethink your position in allowing religion to poison our government.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Religion: Humanity's Creation

   So on a link to this blog that I posted on my Facebook page one of my old soldiers posted this bible quote: "But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint." - Isaiah 40:31 NLT.  While I originally planned on saving this topic for a later time that quote inspired me to talk about it now.  I'm first going to talk about scientific reasoning about man's creation of religion.  I find it fascinating and mostly because it ties into one of the skeptical reasoning's I had as a child.  There's a famous quote used by many atheists that goes something like this: "We are all atheists; I just go one god further."   I love this quote because it is so true.  My first skeptical question of religion was this: Ancient Greeks and Romans believed it multiple gods.  So what makes them wrong and Christians, right? Who is to say that the Greeks didn't have it right all along?  When you look back in time you see that before the Abrahamic religions ever came to fruition multiple cultures developed multiple belief systems.  This right here was evidence enough for me that religion was a human idea.  I could go on all day talking about my questions as to why god waited so long to reveal himself and why he only revealed himself to a small, particular group of people.  However, that's not the basis of what I'm here to talk about.  My other point is the idea that people believe they can sense/feel god's presence and what that might actually be.
    If you find the time (about an hour) I recommend this talk given by Andy Thomson at the 2009 American Atheist Convention:  The fascinating thing about freethinking, logical human beings is that they are always looking for scientific evidence that what they believe is true.  An hypothesis, such as that god exists, needs to be put to the test and cannot be accepted until there is scientific evidence to demonstrate that hypothesis is true.  We don't leave it up to "faith".  For this reason we continue to search for the evidence to back up our claims.  That's the beauty of science.  Even though all around us there are things that show us that what we believe is true, we don't except those things until it can be proven that they support our theory.  That is exactly what is being done in regards to the hypothesis that humans created god/religion.  In this lecture by Thomson there is a lot of points made.  I implore you to watch the lecture to grasp the full scope of what he has to say. 
    A couple of the points I want to talk about are the things that really opened my eyes and lead me to this blog post in the first place.  One of the things Thomson talks about is the idea that the mind can exist without the body.  Before you jump the gun and start thinking about the soul just be aware that I will get to that shortly.  As human beings we instinctually are aware that the mind of a person exists regardless of whether or not that person's body is currently in front of us.  He uses the example of being able to imagine a conversation with somebody who is not really there.  You can imagine yourself having a conversation with the president if I tell you to do so.  This is possible because we are aware that his mind exists regardless if we are actually having a conversation with him currently.  This is a default way of thinking as a child and further develops as we get older. This is where the idea of a "soul" comes into existence.  We take what we already know and then assume that it can be taken one step further to prove that we can, indeed, exist without a physical body. Another example that I got from a different talk (I don't remember by whom) was the idea that we, as a social species, give cognitive existence to things that don't actually have that ability.  Think about when your computer is running very slow, or your car won't start.  You blame the computer, you talk to the car.  We know the computer is just a machine and it's not doing it on purpose.  We know the car can't actually here us.  But as a social species it's natural for us to give these object personal identities.  It is also this natural ability to "make things human" that makes god in our minds.  It makes us susceptible to the idea that he does, indeed, exist.  Evolutionary traits also make it easier to believe this.  Language, music, writing; these are all things that have developed from evolution of our species.  Developing a complex system to communicate with one another leads to language.  Putting that language to a rhythm leads to music, and so on.  When you personify a being such as god it makes him much easier to relate to and therefore believe he exists.  This is possible because of the circuits developed in our brains to accomplish other tasks.  Now Andy Thomson does a much better job describing all of this which is why I encourage you to watch his lecture, but that is the basic idea of it (or at least how I understood it anyways).  Another subject touched upon briefly brings me to my next point.
     As a social species relationships are necessary to our survival.  Especially the relationship with your caregivers as a child.  The attachment that is formed with your family at a very young age is an evolutionary trait develop for the benefit of our species as a whole.  We see this in many species of animal, in fact, and so it should be very obvious to us at this point.  We look up to our family and friends.  Look to them for knowledge and understanding.  This trait is yet another that makes it very easy for us to see a god as a loving, wise individual that will take care of us.  Religious people look to their god for knowledge and wisdom on such things as morality and understanding of our purpose.  The fact that an entity was created to provide these things allows us to let go of that curiosity and accept what was written as truth very easily.  A different argument for attachment derives from our need to belong.  A topic brought up a lot among my atheists friends is that there are actually a lot of people that have lost faith and do not believe in a god but are afraid of being rejected by their family, friends and community.  This attachment to their social connections prevents them from admitting the truth of how they really feel.  This is also very common among homosexuals afraid to "come out" to their families and so is not specific only to religion.  The fact of the matter is religion is so powerful and has lasted for so long because it was designed in such a way that it is very difficult to deny the beliefs instilled in us.  Which reminds me of an episode of "The Atheist Experience" I watched.  A man called in on behalf of his wife who had written a letter that she wanted read on the air.  In this letter she describes how she had a very religious upbringing but always had her doubts.  There was one point as an older child, while she was attending a service that she just gave in to the whole concept of her religion and god.  She describes this moment as pure joy.  This feeling she felt inside herself was the best feeling she had ever felt.  All she had to do was stop fighting her doubts and just except it.  Does this sound familiar?  As a religious person it should.  This feeling she had, she was told by her fellow church goers, was god's love.  All she had to do was accept Jesus into her heart  and she could feel his presence.  Since she had never felt anything like this before she knew it had to be true.  Fortunately for her, as an adult, she regained her sense of logic and reasoning and eventually rejected the existence of god based on the insurmountable evidence that exists to the contrary.  But yet, still, those feelings she had way back when were very real.  So what were they?  Well after reflecting on it for a long time she finally realized what it was.  It was the relief of stress of not fighting against what she was being told.  It was the attachment to her friends and family that grew stronger by giving in to their beliefs.  The acceptance that she gained by not questioning what she was being told was so easy to grasp.  The point of this story is this;  people who claim to know god exists because they can feel his love aren't really feeling his love.  They are feeling the love of their family and friends on a level that they have never before experienced.  Religion capitalizes on this experience by telling you that what you are feeling is god's love and telling you that that is proof of his existence.  The fact that this can be explained in another way proves that religious people aren't right.  Their proof is the explanation of this feeling.  But I just gave you another explanation as well.  Now I agree that this doesn't prove that god does not exist.  However, it does prove that more scientific evidence needs to be discovered to truly answer that question.  And each and every day we are presented with more and more evidence to that end.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Atheism Defined

     Okay, so for my first real "blog" I thought I'd share what it means to be an atheist.  Atheism is simply this; the rejection of all theistic beliefs.  Nothing more. If you're not a theist you are an atheist.  Matt Dillahunty who hosts a public access show in Austin, TX called "The Atheist Experience" had what I found to be a very simple way of explaining this.  Everyone is probably familiar with the game where a jar is filled with M & M's or some other candies or small items and you have to guess how many are in the jar.  Okay, so while we don't know for sure how many M & M's are in the jar we can very simply deduce that the amount of candy is either an even or an odd number.  Now for the sake of this example we will say that theists believe that the amount of candy is an odd number.  An atheist simply rejects that belief.  They do not assert that the amount of candy is an even number.  They just simply reject that there is, in fact, an odd number of candies.  Atheism is nothing more than a rejection of the belief systems of all theistic principles.  Atheism does not take the stance that there is no god.  If it did it would be called Antitheism.  Now according to some, specifically, Richard Dawkins,  there are varying degrees of atheism which I will go over shortly.  But the bottom line is an atheist does not assert that there is no god.  He/she only rejects the idea of a god from a theistic stand point (i.e. the Abrahamic god).  So when I, as an atheist, say I don't believe in god what I'm simply saying is I don' believe in your god.  Now, that's not to say that I believe there is a god either (that would make me a deist), but when I say I'm an atheist that's what I mean.  I personally don't believe there is some "higher power" or some "great creator".  There simply is no scientific evidence to support that hypothesis. No proof.
   Now Richard Dawkins has what he calls the "Spectrum of Theistic Probability". It is broken down like this (taken from Wikipedia):
  1. Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung: "I do not believe, I know."
  2. De facto theist. Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. "I don't know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there."
  3. Leaning towards theism. Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. "I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God."
  4. Completely impartial. Exactly 50 per cent. "God's existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable."
  5. Leaning towards Agnosticism. Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. "I do not know whether God exists but I'm inclined to be skeptical."
  6. De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. "I don't know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there."
  7. Strong atheist. "I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one."
I really like this and mostly for one specific reason: it helps to further define my stance as an atheist.   I once got into a argument with a person because I asserted that I was an atheist, however, I could not say for sure that there was no god (at this time I didn't quite understand the definition of an atheist myself although I claimed to be one).  I was then accused of being naive because I wasn't an atheist but, in fact, an agnostic.  I had no way to argue this point even though I still believed this person was wrong.  It wasn't until I read about this spectrum in Dawkins' book, "The God Delusion", that I finally realized where I really stood on the matter.  I take the position of the De Facto atheist.  Until demonstrable evidence can be presented to me on either side of the argument I believe this is the most rational position to take.
   I would like to touch briefly on Gnosticism as well. Gnostic, as defined by, is 1. pertaining to knowledge or 2. possessing knowledge, especially esoteric knowledge of spiritual matters.  So basically what we're talking about here is knowledge, not belief.  I would also like to point out that knowledge is a subset of belief, however that's irrelevant to my point.  My point is a gnostic theist is someone who not only believes there is a god, but knows there is. A gnostic atheist would be someone who knows there is no god (or a strong atheist on the spectrum of probability outlined above).  Most rational, logical thinking people will lean towards taking an agnostic approach to the question of theism.  I've often heard theists argue to me that they don't need proof of gods existence to believe in him, they simply have to have faith.  This in a way is them admitting that there is no proof and therefore they don't know for certain that he exists.  So it is possible for someone to believe in god and still be agnostic.
     I'd like to wrap this up by stating that in all honestly I hate labels  regardless of what it is you are trying to define.  I take them with a grain of salt.  I believe you should too.  Think of it merely as a quick and simple definition to a much larger, more complicated principle.  Your idea of what defines an atheist might be slightly different than mine.  But if someone asks you if you are an atheist are you going to say no and then proceed to describe what it is you actually believe?  It's just an easier way to sum up your beliefs.  Whenever I get into a discussion with someone of religious faith I first take the time to find out what it is they actually believe.  It's important to know where they stand on certain things.  I can't simply just say to someone "Oh, you believe in god. So how silly you are to believe the earth is only 6,000 years old."  Well, the fact of the matter is they might not actually believe that.  In conclusion, do not be so quick to judge someone simply because of their beliefs or lack thereof.  Especially take the time to find out what it is a person believes and why it is they believe that.  You will be surprised at what you learn and if you keep an open mind you just might change yours.


     Hello everybody, I'm Ron! I'd like to start with a brief introduction of my background.  I'm currently serving active duty in the U.S. Army.  I joined in July of 2003 and have deployed to Iraq twice. I'm currently on my way out the door again to Afghanistan. Religion never played a huge role in my family life growing up and at a very young age I started to question the belief in a god.  While I identify myself as an Atheist it hasn't been until recently that I have started to really speak on this topic.  I, along with countless others in the population just never saw the need to discuss religious beliefs.  It just wasn't that important to me.  Live and let live was my philosophy on the subject.  Theists have their opinion and I have mine and so long as their opinions don't effect me than they are free to express their opinions as they see fit.  The problem, however, is that religious opinions do, in fact, effect me as well as every other American.  I never really paid much mind to it.  My eyes have been opened to the issues of religion plaguing our government and it's policies.  I feel this need to speak my mind and express my opinions on this fact.  It started a couple of months back when I received an annual Equal Opportunity briefing that is mandatory in the military.  One of the topics was specifically on religious freedom. The main focus of this briefing was geared toward leaders ensuring they afford the opportunities for their soldiers to practice their religion while we are deployed in a combat environment.  Nothing wrong with that, but the briefing quickly shifted toward respecting other's religious beliefs.  The part of this briefing that struck out at me was being told that it was wrong and that I could be punished for speaking out against someone else's religious views.  It was at that moment I realized that I could no longer be so passive in my atheist views.  The idea that someone of religious faith could express their views in the form of a simple comment such as "I'll pray for you" and not be reprimanded for it but if I were to make a comment such as "I don't believe your god exists" I could be punished for an EO violation was appalling.   It was that moment that I decided that atheists need to stop being passive and fight for religious freedom. 
     While I would like to see religion, as a whole, eradicated from human existence, I will not advocate outlawing/banning religion.  I feel if you wish to believe in a higher power that is your right.  However, I also believe religion should be a private matter and left at that.  My activism comes not in the form of eradicating religion from humanity, but from eradicating it from our government. A separation between church and state is necessary for the equal rights of everybody, regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, etc.  In any public institution religion should not be a topic of discussion. We shouldn't have court cases about the legality of allowing the Pledge of Allegiance in schools or nativity scenes outside of court houses.  It should be as cut and dry as keeping religion out of public institutions, period.
     I decided to start this blog because I want to speak out on these types of topics.  I would like to share my opinions and beliefs on them as well.  I guess at this point I should also include the clause that all opinions expressed in this blog are that of my own and in know way express the opinions of the United States Army (my fellow soldiers will understand why this is necessary).  I have no particular structure as to how I will conduct this blog yet.  I'm sure one will evolve as it progresses but as of right now I'm going to simply use this medium to express my thoughts and opinions as they come to me. I've already got a few topics I want to touch on here in the near future so expect more to come soon.
   Thank you for taking the time to read this and I hope you will stay tuned for more to come.