If you’re new to Blue Collar Atheist, or to my writing, a double welcome!
Probably I should tell you something about me.
The Blogging Part
I’ve been at it for a bit, both as a blog reader and writer. I won the second-ever Molly Award at PZ Myers’ Pharyngula (actually I was one of two people that month) for blog commentary, and was called a “master of metaphor” — along with less flattering names — along the way.
Fortunately or unfortunately, I usually write long. Whatever subject comes up, I want to explore it completely and explain it carefully, and the brief quip doesn’t work for me. What that means is that you probably won’t see the 5-posts-a-day that some bloggers manage (cough*PZMyersEdBrayton*cough), but I hope you’ll find worth reading the ones I do write.
The Blue Collar Part
I grew up in Texas with rodeo cowboys, coon hunters and country folk, then moved to California in my 20s to work with horses and mules in the mountains. I drove draft horses professionally for 8 years, and worked as a mule packer, wilderness horseback ride guide and occasional ranch hand. I have been kicked, stepped on, bucked off and even bitten by horses, but I’ve also ridden them for thousands of miles, so I think I have my shit-shoveling, cowboy boot bona fides and can stand toe-to-toe with any of the phony rustic-conservative plain speakers (cough*SarahPalin*cough) swanning around today.
I was also a carpenter, truck driver, foreman of a roofing company, meat cutter and a bunch of other blue-collary things — but also, eventually, a writer, magazine editor and computer geek.
Some of that blue collar part will show up as earthy interjections in what I write, and yes, you will find the occasional F-bomb on your screen.
The Atheist Part
I grew up in a household with a Southern Baptist mom, a Jehovah’s Witness dad, and later a born-again Christian stepfather. At about the age of 13, I wrote in my journal that I didn’t believe in God. That entry was found and read by the Big People, and oh boy, things were never the same at home.
I predate the Internet, but was an early adopter. One of my early forays — after BBSing and AOLing — was in Yahoo Chat, where I was magnetically drawn to the Religion rooms. I was literally the only atheist there in the beginning, but as I started arguing with people, others eventually chimed in. From an initial atmosphere of “Jesus is my Savior!” and “Let me tell you about my personal relationship with Jesus Christ!” and “Would everyone please pray for Gladys Miller, whose Chihuahua has just contracted severe flatulence!”, the rooms gradually shifted as many of us discovered we could ask honest questions about religion, or actually say what we thought. Eventually it was a jolly free-for-all of debate and jokes, many at the expense of the more brainless and pretentious of the godders.
I fancy I invented the word “godder” there — a loose, convenient, half-joking umbrella term for religious people — but I could easily be wrong about that. (After all, I thought the same thing about “antitheist” — I still use my invented pronunciation, an-TITH-ee-ist, and define it as “Not only do I not believe in gods, but I don’t think you should either” — but later discovered I was nowhere near the first.)
I blogged on atheism and other subjects for a number of years, doing a lot of thinking-in-writing along the way, and eventually gathered up some of it into a book, “Red Neck, Blue Collar, Atheist: Simple Thoughts About Reason, Gods & Faith.”
The Living in the Real World Part
I really do this because there’s a bigger issue before us.
I’m convinced that the society we live in — compared to what it could have been if we’d never had religion — is uglier than most of us imagine. A visitor from that alternate world would look at the way we do things, and the place we’ve gotten to, and be horrified. “You mean you people don’t have immortality? War-No-More? The cure for dog farts? Digital brain storage? Direct Internet Implants? Voting and jury duty for uplifted chimps and elephants? You don’t have Negative Calorie Double-Bacon-Flav-R Cheez-Its!??”
But the good news is, things are getting better.
It’s weird to live through a social revolution, and I’ve come through a few of them, most positive. Just the widespread recording of music is a huge change, and I’ve mused many times that our thousand-year-hence descendants will have the actual voices and instruments of Donny Osmond and Ween to entertain them, whereas we today only have the musical scores of orchestral greats such as Beethoven and Bach. (Plus, there’s that whole bragging rights thing: “Hey, future people! I got to hear “Push the Little Daises” WHEN IT FIRST CAME OUT! Beat that, immortal cable-heads!”)
Larger revolutions — Civil Rights and integration, for instance, or gay rights — have had and are having their own significant impacts on people’s lives.
But the Internet … wow. It’s like watching the ripples on a pond after you’ve tossed a rock in, only this time the rock is the size of a mountain, and the ripples are sandblast-strong jets of water blowing away big chunks of social and economic “it’s always been this way.” I’m not exactly a Singularity singer, but I do look forward to some very cool stuff coming down the pipe.
Enabled by the Internet but even more powerful — or so I think — is the Atheist Revolution. I call it a revolution because, though atheism has been with us for some time, it has existed only as a little spark. Now, suddenly, it’s an actual fire, building — it seems to me — to a roaring blaze of insistent reason that I eventually expect to change everything about modern society.
I’m convinced a lot of the nastiness in the world — war, inequality, overpopulation — is due to … well, not just religion, but the brainless follow-along that gives rise to it. (But then again, religion is the organized force that actually demands we be comfortable with the craziness.)
I’m absolutely convinced that Planet Earth has no more room, no more time, for human intelligence uncoupled from the intelligent use of it. And it seems to me that the only “savior” on the scene, for us and for all the stuff we care about here on Earth, is people like us. Like you.
As much as anything, I want my readers to think more deeply about the issues before us. If you’re already an atheist or some other brand of freethinker, I’d like to do whatever small bit I can to get you to know atheism more fully, to feel more confident in thinking about and explaining it in your own life.
If you’re religious, I’m completely without shame in wanting to deconvert you. I really do want you to forsake Jesus, or Allah, or the Revered Ancestors, and understand that there’s a real world — I call it Reality Sub Zero (and I should probably write about that in the near future) — and that all the rest of that stuff is pure fantasy, existing in human minds and nowhere else.
If you see atheism as the doorway to something broader and more important — reason, that brand of careful thought applied to everything in the human sphere — you are definitely one of My People, and I bid you welcome yet again.
Friends, I hope to someday see you out there in the fight, helping wage this last war with your own words and minds and hands.
Because we have the better tools and weapons — not to mention all of reality on our side — I do have hope that we can win this one. But because we’re vastly outnumbered, and the same kinds of butt-ugly teabag ignorance arise in each new generation, the active contribution of every one of us is needed.
Thanks for reading here, but thanks even more for the ACTIONS you will take, now and in future, to win us that coming better world.