God & Libertarians

Just finished Penn Jillette’s book “God, No!: Signs you May Already be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales“, a rambly, often funny interpretation of the ten commandments. This is not a book review, but some editor should have persuaded him against the constant swearing. Swearing in comedy or conversation doesn’t bother me but after twenty pages of reading “f*****g” every other sentence it interfered with the ideas.

He really started to lose my interest when he got to his hard core atheist arguments. I don’t care that he is an atheist, but how he goes about it.

I am an atheist, no bones about it, but I find fundamentalism in any form hard to take. I see no reason to proselytize or try to shake anyone’s belief system around religion. Sometimes life is so shitty the best someone can hope for is life after death, so why mess with their faith even if you think its all fairy stories?

I know organized religion was the catalyst for a tremendous amount of historical atrocities as well as a boatload of current strife and misery. It is a social construct simultaneously responsible for preserving ancient books and knowledge as well as burning the library at Alexandria. I just don’t see how proselytizing about atheism is any better than proselytizing about Jehovah.

At our house we discuss which conversations are appropriate to have at home and which you have in public and believe me saying you are an atheist freaks people out more than anything.

When my daughter was around four she decided that Santa Claus didn’t make sense and that it must be me and her father. We never pushed Santa, she never sat on his lap and we didn’t contradict her when she told us what she thought. We did say she was not to share this information with her friends.

When she was five and decided that the idea of God didn’t make any sense either, we did not contradict her, but we did say she was not to share this opinion with her friends. The idea that you don’t have to tell everything you know is new to children and many adults.

When she was eight and asked what abortion was, we told her about the medical procedure and why it was important for women to have access to this procedure, and to not share with her friends. We learned a lesson about specifying “at home” when she shared with her five year old cousin. No harm done as he couldn’t really follow it.

Are we wrong to not declare our atheism when ever others speak about God? I don’t think so. I never back down from it when someone asks, but I don’t feel the need to discuss my moral compass or belief system casually. When possible I will err on the side of social politeness even when not provided the same courtesy by the faithful.

My husband and I talk to our daughter about why its important to know what you value and what you find intolerable and why. What comments or behaviors are unacceptable to you no matter what the circumstances. Seems like if you know “why” its easier to know when to stand up and when to sit down.

Our “why” stems from a habit of rational thinking (+ emotions, experience & a little Socratic dialogue) rather than scripture. Its hard to raise a child who understands how to make decisions about when to be vocal about beliefs and opinions. Its not just choosing your fights (the implication being ones you can win), but also understanding that your own good opinion of yourself is at stake.

Unfortunately, I lack Penn Jillette’s certainty that this approach is not equally dogmatic.

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