Pencil to Paper

The Daily Life of a Compulsive Writer

My pastor doesn’t like me July 10, 2012

Filed under: Religion — katblogger @ 10:38 AM
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Calling him ‘my’ pastor is a stretch, really. He works at the church my parents attend, but I stopped going years ago. Now I’m only dragged there for special events like Christmas, when we stay up late and have our minds choked with incense.

Whoever’s pastor he is, he doesn’t like me. Doesn’t like the idea of me. That’s the thing – when you attack a group of people, you attack the group’s members. I happen to be among his targets.

A few years back, while I still reluctantly attended services, I tuned into the sermon long enough to hear that “atheists are idiots who write trash”. I didn’t hear if he went on in a similar vein, because my mother called me away for a pep talk that boiled down to our priest being an ass. I stored the quote in my memory and used it as a powerful weapon in my campaign to break away. “What good does it do me,” I asked, “to go to church and listen to the priest say how much I suck? It’s not my idea of a great time.”

Not long ago, I learned that atheists had once again reared their heathenish heads in the weekly sermon. Apparently, the world is a void to them. “When they look outside themselves, they see themselves.”

I was rather alarmed, because I had not received this bulletin from the atheist hive mind. In fact, I associated the second criterion more with narcissism. But what do I know? The priest must be right.

Strangely enough, it’s a common practice for people to make certain statements about groups (or anything) that they know little or nothing about.  I don’t think ‘our’ priest is even aware that I belong to the trashy, void-dwelling community. When most people make sweeping statements about ‘others’, they typically don’t stop to think of who it’ll apply to. Friends. Acquaintances. People passing on the street. It’s not much fun to hear people pass judgement on you without having any idea who you are.

It reminds me of fun times moderating a forum. (I may have mentioned this before.) A poster said that they found gay people disturbing and “kind of gross”. I reminded them that there were gay people present in the online community and they could have been offended. The poster was genuinely surprised and said they hadn’t meant to hurt anyone’s feelings. To this I replied, “You forgot gay people could read?”

I could ramble on and on, but I think you get the point. Sorry for the trash. 😉


Blogging the Bible: Genesis 1-3 October 9, 2011

Filed under: Religion — katblogger @ 9:58 AM
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Check out my lovely logo. I thought about having an open book with someone sleeping on it, but that would be sacrilegious. Plus, I can't draw people.

A quick Google search told me that I am not the first person to blog the Bible. However, this is partly for my further education, and I’ll probably have different interpretations anyway. (Flaming lampstands, anyone? Oh yes – I read literally.)

Right now, I’m using the New Oxford Annotated edition. For the record, there are way too many versions of the Bible. This is my mother’s, but once I’m off to college, I might actually have to blow $20 and buy a copy. Oh the horror.

Enough chit-chat. Today I’m starting relatively slow – just reading the first three sections or chapters or whatever they’re called of Genesis. Once I see how long that takes me and how much I have to write about it, I can adjust as necessary. And so… we begin.

1: So far, typical creation story. The Big Creator Entity tells things to happen, and they do. Life must be pretty easy for him/her/it. (This begs the question – why doesn’t god fix everything by saying ‘Let there be enough food for everyone’ or ‘Let genocide go bye-bye’? Perhaps there is an explanation later.

God is talking in the royal we for some reason – “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness”. Is god plural now?

Ah, here’s where we get the first deviation from other myths. Most earlier myths had humans as part of the great worldly cycle, part of their environment. But here “let them have dominion… fill the earth and subdue it”. Instead of having their fingers on the pulse of the planet, humans now have their foot on the throat of mother Nature. Good call.

2: Wait… what? God already created humans. Now he made man again? It seems that someone put two different versions of the story in here and forgot to take one out. This time, at least, god makes man out of the earth, a throwback to old pagan, Earth mother days.

3: So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate…” That is original sin? The big, bad thing that screwed the entire human race over, took away their immortality, and cast them out of paradise? Eating the apple of knowledge? That’s just… stupid. Why didn’t whoever wrote this thing just put in big bold letters ‘We want you to be ignorant sheep. Knowledge is bad. Do not question authority. Ever.’ Seriously. This is just a big conditioning thing. What on earth is wrong with knowledge and knowing the difference between good and evil? Oh wait – God says “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever.” So humans are no different from the gods? God is feeling threatened? This is rather odd… and definitely not covered in Sunday School. Basically, God curses the heck out of everyone (especially Eve, setting her up to take the fall for everything for the next few thousand years) and kicks humanity out before they find out they’re no different from him. Brilliant. And Adam and Eve don’t tell him to take a long walk off a short pier either. They just go along with it.

The best part is that this little myth – a story people made up thousands of years ago – is still hurting people today. I mean, seriously, how can you read this and take it literally? Men made of dirt, magic apples, talking snakes, all humanity coming from two people… (we’d all be really inbred by now, two heads and all). And yet people do, and the consequences often fall heaviest on the female half of the human race. Because of what some non-existent chick named Eve did in a fairy tale, women have borne the brunt of hatred and condemnation for centuries. Religious figures especially demonize them. Here are some interesting facts and quotations:

“Every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman” – St. Clement of Alexandria

“To embrace a woman is to embrace a sack of manure” – Odo of Cluny

Thomas of Aquinas questioned whether women should have been made at all, since they are so imperfect.

Bishops at the sixth century council of Macon voted on whether women had souls.

This can be seen quite clearly in Medieval times, when the Church controlled most aspects of life. Women were the devil incarnate, the temptresses, the reason men had lost paradise. After all, many of the old pagan religions focused on goddesses. That must be wiped out. Witch burnings followed, as well as the simpler and quite effective method of banishing women from all positions of power, keeping them stuck in the house doing chores. It’s only recently that we’ve started coming back out – and in some countries, sexism is alive and well, thanks to a little parable about a talking snake.


Blogging… The Bible? October 8, 2011

Filed under: Religion — katblogger @ 8:51 PM
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Remember the good old days when the world was ending and I wasn’t in HL Chemistry?

I could struggle to remember such a golden age, but this needs to be brief. Anyway, back on May 21st, day of fun and potential apocalype (until Jesus stood us up, the slacker) I did a Rapture Watch. Basically, I kept a weather eye out on the horizon looking for armies of angels, demons, or firebreathing lampstands, while entertaining all those waiting for death with witty observations on the book of Revelation. Or is it Revelations? I’m never quite sure of that.

I’m getting distracted. The point being, blogging my reactions to the drug-induced craziness that is the last section of the Bible was quite entertaining. Doing so for the rest of the Bible might also be fun, with the added benefit that I’ll have read the whole thing through. I tried once, but got lost in the Numbers/’begats’ section. I’m sorry, but Norse myths are far more interesting.

I accept that not every chapter will be as full of lampstand fun as Revelation(s), but it still might be a fun experiment. I’ll try it out and see where it leads me. Logically, BloggingtheBible will take place on Sundays. See you tomorrow for my trial post!


Build-A-Bear Spirituality: Why Religious Experimentation is a Good Thing January 19, 2011

Filed under: Religion — katblogger @ 1:54 PM
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What I’ve always found funny is that many of the people who are all ‘my religion is right and the rest are crocks’ have never experienced any religion but their own. They were born into it, indoctrinated by their parents, and unquestioningly accept it. Don’t you think that people should look around a little? The grass is always greener on the other side… unless, apparently, it’s a religious fence.

For the record, I’ve done  quite a lot of religious taste testing. I was born and raised Christian, but ditched that when I was about twelve or thirteen because it made absolutely no sense to me. I was an atheist for several years – and mostly still am – but part of that really didn’t ring true. Plus, ‘atheist’ has many negative connotations, as some of them can be really rude. I took a brief foray into Buddhism, and read a few books on Wicca. Eventually, I evolved into the patchwork mess I am today – an atheist influenced by Buddhist tolerance (I try), Wiccan environmental concerns, and both faiths’ ideas of karma-ish stuff and reincarnation. Instead of picking a label and forcing myself to match all the criteria involved, I picked what I already believed in and created my own (awkward and overly long) label. I think that’s what we all need to do. And even if you end up going back to your first beliefs, at least you’ll have experienced others. You can’t understand what’s wrong with society until you’ve been a minority. To avoid clichés, I won’t mention anyone else’s shoes, but for the record, I want to.

The best way is to assemble your own belief system by taking a bit of this, a bit of that – what you believe in. Like those teddy bear workshops, which I thankfully have never gone to. I don’t know – something about putting a childhood friend together out of spare parts like a little fuzzy Frankenstein freaks me out. And if it takes you ten minutes to detail what, exactly, you are instead of spitting out a single word, so be it.

You’ll be better for it.


Happy… Uh… Never Mind December 18, 2010

Filed under: Religion — katblogger @ 11:17 AM
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It’s that time of year again. Christmas carols blare from every radio. Every department store that doesn’t want to be labeled as engaging a ‘war on Christmas’ is decorated with Christmas trees and Santa Claus. I can imagine that even for those who celebrate Christmas, it’s got to be a bit of a drag by December 25th.

Am I going to complain about the ever-prescence of Christmas? No, not really. After all, there’s the majority rule and all that. If most of the US celebrates Christmas, it stands to reason that we’re going to see it around. And besides, the Christmas we celebrate today is quite detached from the original Christian tradition. (More on that in another post.) No, I’m not going to complain about that. What I’m going to complain about is “Merry Christmas”.

It is perfectly fine to say “Merry Christmas” to someone who celebrates Christmas. It is also fine to wish it to everyone. Most people will not take offense to it. After all, you have a right to free speech, and no matter what your religion, the sentiment is there. You’re being wished a merry something, and that’s good enough for me. And if you celebrate something different, it is also perfectly fine to reply with a generic, “Happy Holidays”, “Happy Chrismahanakwanzaadan”, or “Joyful Solstice”. (My current favorite religion is Wicca, and it seems to me to make perfect sense to celebrate the return of the sun. It’s going to come back whether you want it to or not, so why not party? I’m just thankful for the light.) However, it is not fine to get riled up when someone replies “Happy Holidays” or whatever.

This happened to me. I was eating lunch with some friends, and a guy walked over and said, “Merry Christmas.”

“Happy Holidays,” I replied back, adding a “Joyful Solstice” as an afterthought.

Instead of accepting my wishes for his well-being, his eyes narrowed. “Merry Christmas,” he repeated angrily, placing an emphasis on the Christmas.

I sighed. I don’t see why people care about which holiday you say, as long as you’re wishing them a good time. It doesn’t make any sense to me. But some people insist on getting riled up – seeing political correctness as some sort of vendetta against them. It tends to be the majority that finds political correctness passé. Political incorrectness is generally in their favor. Anyway, whatever your religion or personal beliefs, don’t obsess over what someone says to you. Just wish them a good time back. Otherwise we’re sort of missing the whole point of the season – to be happy, kind to each other, and definitely not jerks over a single phrase.

Wishing all of you a…



Life as a Poster Child for Heretics December 11, 2010

Filed under: Religion — katblogger @ 11:24 AM
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Let me tell you, it’s not fun. I kept the whole ‘atheist’ thing in the dark until ninth grade, when I finally thought my classmates were accepting enough to handle it. Well, not everyone, but mostly. Our school speaks thirty-seven languages, and I swear it feels like half my friends are lesbian or bi. It’s a melting pot. Why couldn’t they accept me?

At first, things were tough. When I finally replied, “No, I’m not religious. I don’t think there’s a real higher power out there,” in my physics class, one religious male (I seem to run into a lot of those, for some reason) commented scathingly, “That must be a really sad way to live.”

No, I thought. It’s really not. But I didn’t say anything. Because I was already understanding that this was what I was up against. I was a white, upper middle class teenage girl. I’d never been part of a minority before, not really. Now, though… it sucked.

Probably the worst moment was at a sleepover, roughly a year ago, with some of my friends and I. Somehow, the topic turned to religion. One of my friends was a devout Baptist. Here’s our conversation, as well as I can remember it.

“So tell me,” I asked, “is Gandhi going to Hell?”

“Unfortunately, yes,” she replied.

Whatever section of the Baptist branch she belonged too, it sure was harsh. Poor Gandhi. I thought, and then asked a question I would come to regret. “Do you think I’m going to Hell?”

I was hoping, however foolishly, that she would consider it. That it would be a lot harder to condemn someone she knew, someone who’d sat next to her on school trips, chatted about silly hobbies in study hall, and commiserated about love lives, to an eternity of suffering in fire. But I guess, at the time, it wasn’t.

“You are,” she said. To give her credit, she didn’t sound too happy about it.

I looked away, feeling the same kind of pain I still feel remembering this now. The pain anyone feels when they realize that even the people they know think they’re doomed. Like the gay boy I talked to who admitted, “My grandmother tells me, ‘I love you, but you’re going to burn in hell.'” Or the Wiccan who’s been called Satanic by her own family. “Do you think I deserve it?” I asked.

No one answered.

Even now, that memory is still painful. But on the bright side, that friend has been changing. Even a few months ago, she admitted that she no longer believes that everything in the Bible is strictly true. I can’t say how much of that is because of education, or just her own thought processes, but I hope that I had some hand in it. Because, as it turns out, it is a lot harder to condemn someone you know. The stereotype of the heathen, immoral, baby eating atheist doesn’t hold up to real life.

As an atheist, I don’t need to go door to door to win converts. I don’t even want converts. I just want acceptance. And really, to get acceptance all I have to do is be there, to prove everyone else wrong.


Stay Out of My Face, OK? December 4, 2010

Filed under: Religion — katblogger @ 11:52 AM
Tags: ,

If you haven’t heard, there’s a bit of controversy over an American Atheists Billboard near the Lincoln Tunnel in New York. It looks like this:



Some Catholic League responded with this billboard:


I especially like how pale and Caucasian looking baby Jesus is. At least Mary isn’t blonde.

So what are my thoughts? First of all, billboards of any religion are annoying. In a drive through the Bible Belt of central Missouri, my family encountered scores of Christian propaganda, including obscure statements like ‘It’s time for Jesus’ and awkward quotes. The most awkward – ‘In the words of Jesus Christ “Behold, I come quickly” ‘- had my parents in tears of hysterical laughter for a few miles.

But after running the gauntlet, did I have a sudden inclination to convert? No – just the inclination to be annoyed by the churches that could be doing something useful spending money on something so pointless. So I’m of the same mind with this atheism billboard. Of course it’s a myth – every culture has their mythologies. But a big sign isn’t going to convince anyone of anything, and it’s just a waste of money and materials. Plus, putting up atheist billboards is just as annoying as the Jehovah’s Witnesses coming to your door and asking, “Are you sure you’re going to heaven?” Proselytizing is still annoying, no matter if Christian, Atheist, Buddhist, or Scientologist.

Does that mean the other group should have put up a billboard, which they called a ‘counterpunch’. To quote Stephen Colbert – “As Jesus says, if someone slaps you in the face, counterpunch!” Not. It’s not showing very much ‘Christmas spirit’ to engage in a billboard war.

Basically, everyone should call it quits and accept the fact that a billboard with a slogan isn’t going to change anyone’s minds. It’s just going to annoy everyone even more. So instead, spend your money on something that’s actually helpful.