American Humanist Association, just as annoying as churches

It’s not a secret that I’m not an atheist. In fact, in some of the circles I used to run in, it was a problem. People with scientific minds and people who were supposedly open-minded used to tell me that they found it hard to believe that such a science-oriented, evidence-relying person like myself could believe in a higher power. Some of them unfriended me in person or on social media, or they just plain told me that I was not welcomed to be around them because of it. They said that it made them uncomfortable that I didn’t think like they did.

Weird, huh?

Those people were in the minority, however. I’d say that 95% of people who differ from me in a religious or spiritual (heck, even political) way are cool with me… And I’m cool with them.

Today in the mail, we got a letter from the American Humanist Association:

letter

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the argument that people can be good without believing in God, or a god. I know plenty of people who are atheists, agnostics, or of different religions and beliefs to my own. They don’t threaten me. They don’t upset me. I’m not worried about their afterlife. That all is a very personal choice that must be made by each individual person. It’s part of being free, thinking human beings with autonomy.

However, I’m annoyed at this letter because it mirrors so many similar letters from religious and political organizations. Inside this letter came a “membership reply form” where, if I were to sign it, I would be agreeing that “The Religious Right does not speak for me and my values. As a non-religious American, I’m proud to help raise awareness of being good without a god.” Then I have the option of giving as much money as I want.

Here’s the thing… My wife and I are not religious, but we’re also not atheistic. No matter how much my wife wants to think she is a heathen, out of the two of us, she’s the one with the most faith. She’s the one that sees purpose and meaning in how the universe works. Me? I see randomness and chaos with statistically significant occurrences that need to be seen with a skeptical eye because they can be just as much happy/sad coincidences as they can be signs from God.

You really don’t want to get those two things confused — coincidences and acts of God — because it can be embarrassing.

In fact, I agree with many of the sentiments expressed in the letter:

“The American Humanist Association provides a humanist perspective in strong support of separation of religion from government, preservation and restoration of the environment, protection of civil rights and liberties, and promotion of personal choice regarding introduction of new life, family structure, and death with dignity.”

If you know me, or you’ve read the blog for a while, you know that these are all things that I can get behind. Likewise, I don’t think that those values are mutually exclusive from people who believe that there is more to the human story than what we can test. If anything, at least in this country, much of the civil rights movement has been borne out of the religious groups within marginalized communities.

What I cannot get behind is a random letter showing up in the mailbox, asking for money, and bringing religious (or non-religious) sentiment into it. If I want to give money to a good cause, I’ll go find you, not the other way around. This letter feels to me no different than the many religious letters that I get, also asking for money because the “heathens” out there are out to “destroy America.”

And a sticker, like the thousands of others I’ve thrown away from churches? Really?

“Does it bother you to see your federal tax dollars supporting faith-based organizations?”

No, not really. Many faith-based organizations do a lot of good work in communities where there is a void of action by other organizations. It bothers me when they put conditions on who gets their good will, and I will never approve of an organization that only helps a certain social, political, or religious denomination.

“You may have heard of… Neil deGrasse Tyson… — they are good without a god.”

On this, Neil deGrasse Tyson had this to say:

 

I agree with him that there is a lot of baggage associated with putting labels on ourselves and others. Or stickers. And I agree that there is no time for these things. So this will be one of the few times this blog touches on the religious, because the only categories I want to put people in are wether or not they’re good, not whether or not they’re good with or without a god.

There is John Green, author and vlogger of YouTube fame. He echoes some of the sentiments of Neil deGrasse Tyson:

 

And here is Hank Green, John’s brother, answering if he believes in God. Watch it until the end:

 

But I would like to thank the AHA for reminding me to give money to Doctors Without Borders before the year ends. Now that’s an organization that is doing God’s work.

(See what I did there?)

  1. I’ve long had a problem with others trying to force their beliefs (or lack thereof) onto me. It’s one thing if something comes up in a conversation, it’s another when one is an evangalist for religion or irreligion.
    I get along well with those who have different faiths, including many non-Christians. I get along well with atheists as well. Personally, I am a deist, I believe in a prime mover, but I don’t think that any creator who is so magnificantly brilliant as to create an operational universe that can host life is so bizarrely inept and incompetent as to have to micromanage the daily affairs of one single species on a rather small planet in a middle rate stellar system out in the boonies of the galaxy. That’s just insulting!
    I’m not in bad company either, for quite a few of the founding fathers of this nation were also deists.
    But, the most important thing I believe is, advice I’ve given many over the years when they get angry with someone.
    “Ignore &ssholes and idiots, for you’ll never change their mind and they’ll only drag you down to their level. There, they’ll defeat you courtesy of their superior experience at that level, or lack thereof”.
    Hey, there are times when profanity just makes the point clearer.

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    1. Profanity is always welcomed here, so long as it is used to clarify the point, of course.

      You’re right that this pale blue dot is too much of a small thing in the greater scheme of things. That’s why we need to get off of it and make ourselves more relevant in the grander scheme of things.

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      1. We’d better get off of it soon, only a billion years until it starts getting too hot to survive on.

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  2. LOL.

    When I was asked what church I grew up in I answer honestly with “Army Chapel Protestant.” The chapel had three chaplain offices, one for the Roman Catholic priest, one for the Jewish rabbi and one for the Protestant of the year. I was baptized by an Episcopalian chaplain but had confirmation classes from a Methodist chaplain to become a member of Congregationalist church in Minneapolis. Both occurring on the Isthmus of Panama, go figure. When we went to Christmas Eve services in Ft. Amador we had to pass by both a menorah and a creche.

    It did not help that the Baptist layman helping with the youth group at that chapel decided that the “cult” he wanted to warn us against were the Baha’i. Oy. It is not like that many of my very sane and good high school friends were part of this “cult” (whoa… in the 1970s lots of Canal Zone residents were Baha’i, but now when I search I see that the temple still exists but not much anymore. one of my high school friends told me their Jewish family turned to it because of a better belief in science, last I heard he went to MIT for computer nerdity).

    So now when I am told “God” says to do something I just reply: “By the hammer of Thor, which god?”

    Replies are often silent, or very amusing. Plus Dr. Tyson’s sentiments match my own. Also the last few seconds of the last video are how some of my family feel about me. I am the questioning heathen who will live eternally among the fires of Hades. Though I bet the parties are better there.

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    1. Have a care when you invoke Mjölnir, you may be struck by lightning.

      As for going to hell, I’ll borrow the words of another:

      In this life there are only two things to worry about.
      Either you will be rich or poor.

      If you are rich, there is nothing to worry about.
      But if you are poor, there are only two things to worry about.

      Either you will be healthy or sick.
      If you are healthy, there is nothing to worry about.

      But if you are sick, there are two things to worry about.
      Either you will live or you will die.

      If you live, there is nothing to worry about.
      If you die there are only two things to worry about.

      You will either go to heaven or to hell.
      If you go to heaven, there will be nothing to worry about.

      If you go to hell, you’ll be so darn busy shaking hands with all your friends,
      you won’t have time to worry!

      SO WHY WORRY?

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  3. Hey, Ren. As one of those atheists that (I hope) you get along with well, I also get rather annoyed by the AHA and similar groups that send me solicitations or want me to get their magazine (e.g., Free Inquiry). Many of the arguments they use to support their requests strike me as just as extremist as organized religious groups. Although personally I do not see any evidence that warrants my believing in any sort of higher power or driving intelligence in the form of some kind of god, I also don’t see evidence that definitively shows that such a being does not exist. If it helps a person deal with things in their life, more power to them, as long as they aren’t forcing those beliefs on someone else. Live and let live, I say.

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    1. Yeah, you’re cool, Todd… For now. Hehehehe.

      I’ve been getting similar feedback from other areligious people on Facebook and elsewhere. They’re also annoyed by AHA and their antics. So annoyance is an equal opportunity thing, I reckon.

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  4. Excellent post Epi Ren. have you read and of Frank Schaeffer?

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  5. You mention that civil rights was essentially born out of religious groups. Isn’t it also true that some of the same reasons we needed the civil rights movement is because of idea’s that were born out of religious groups?

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  6. You mention that civil rights was essentially born out of religious groups. Isn’t it also true that some of the same reasons we needed the civil rights movement is because of idea’s that were born out of religious groups?

    Sorry if this comment is posted twice.

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