Friday, January 12, 2018

Inside the scots church

Peter Veitch is a former fundamentalist Christian who now describes himself as a “proudly evolved atheist”. He made his own quiet protest inside the Scots Church on Wednesday. This is his story.

I like churches, some of them anyway. I went in early, sat down, did some bible reading. Looked at the architecture, took a pic or two. Various staff were setting up, photography guys etc. had a very friendly chat with one of them, nice guy. One of the staff asked for my name, I said Peter. We shook hands. He asked if I had a ticket, I said no, and offered to leave. They kindly suggested they’d see if they could squeeze me in. Lovely gesture.
Fascinating watching them set up etc. I was asked if I wouldn’t mind distributing the program, they had about 700 apparently. No problem, happy to help. (amused me slightly that there’s almost 700 programs at ACL with my atheist fingerprints on them). A bunch of interactions, again all pleasant, I suppose they thought I was one of them.
I’m really a very introverted quiet person, I was planning on standing outside the church to hold a sign “Keep Religion Out of Politics” that another member of progressive atheists was bringing in. That explains why Brian, another progressive atheist member was holding two signs! I asked him to bring one in for me to hold.
He sent me a message to say he had arrived, I was in the church, had to put phone on silent otherwise my text tone (Lennon – Imagine No Religion) or my ringtone (Losing My Religion – Rem) might have been awkward.
They started late, intro remarks about “Scots college”, some audience giggles – it’s “Scots church”, then the minister took the podium & welcomed everyone, some goodies about Presbyterians not clapping etc., claps, giggles. Then the featured speaker (Metaxas) took the podium.
I’ve heard more than enough from ACL & him to not want to hear anymore. I thought I’d sneak out quietly but then read the program title  Fearless, Cultivating Courage”. I thought I’d try to build some. My heart was pounding, I thought, oh well why not, I’ve got my progressive atheist sweat shirt around my waist (label inside out). I thought I’d try a one person silent protest, I’m not a fan of the noisy stuff.
Anyway, spur of moment, Metaxas was praying, I put the sweatshirt on and quietly walked to the front and faced them all. “Proudly Evolved Atheist.” I guess they caught on pretty quickly. From the very back – down came my two escorts out. I was delighted that one I had already had a lovely chat earlier, anyway I told him I’d go quietly and was it ok if we waited till the prayer was over.
I think they wanted to take me out a side room, not sure, I asked if I could walk down the centre aisle. Yay no problem, no manhandling either. Quickly walked out in full view. Got part way out then one in the audience loudly said ” Jesus!” Too funny. I considered saying that was blasphemy (I used to be a fundamentalist Christian). Once in the foyer, more friendly chat with my escort out, rather amiable really.
I used to be a Seventh Day Adventist. I still have very close contacts with people in that church. ACL content has been featured on Adventist media. My personal view in the past would have aligned with the general SDA view. There’s a range of views within the church, alas some movement or at least agreement with the ACL type rhetoric. Official stance is Adam and Eve as special creation recently, six day creation week as literally true. SDA academic views often diverge from this, even some academics in the theology depts reject this.
My view on ACL view : I was a fundamentalist Christian. I get that the views and actions generally come from a place of love. My interactions, albeit limited, at the ACL event were all friendly without exception, even when I decided to do the silent protest with atheist sweatshirt on. My escorts were polite and kind. I needed help to break through police lines – from behind! I kindly asked my escort out to speak to the police to let me through. Very helpful. I had been standing behind, a bit trapped in really, didn’t know what to do so stood behind the police line with a victory wave. Silly I guess. The crowd looked like they didn’t know what side I was on. I was recognised by an LGBTI activist which was nice so that cleared it up, i.e. a welcome into the throng.
I get that they mean well, love is good – sure. However sometimes love informed by ignorance and superstition can be harmful, and in practice the loving actions can be received as the precise opposite (e.g. think of loving parents who earnestly pray instead of taking their child to the doctors).
I don’t buy the idea that the ACL and affiliates generally speak in terms of hate speech, yet functionally it would feel like it from the receiving end and that for very good reason. As an extreme example, perhaps Torquemada lovingly burned people to death to spare them eternal flames. While you might flinch at the Spanish Inquisition (you weren’t expecting that) the harsh views currently held by at least some ACL affiliates do in fact lead to jail, beatings, or death of LGBTI humans etc.
I know many current Christians who have views that are not just meant as loving and caring but actually are. The ACL views, most of them I find utterly revolting.
It’s sort of the so called golden rule, ‘do unto others as you want done unto you’. Alas this frame and their rules doesn’t always help others. Perhaps better expressed, do to others what they want done (or don’t do what they do want done). It’s a subtle Frame shift I guess, the 1st allows ” we think you should be straight, our version of Christian, etc” vs the view from the eyes of the other where it’s ” you are or are not a Christian, you might want to marry the person you love regardless of gender… Ok, we will support you, how can we help”

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Religion and I.

As a very young child as best I can remember, we had no overt religion. In the mid 60's, I was 7, my parents started to go to Mt Lawley Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) church in Perth West Australia). I went along trusting my parents and the church. When I was 14 we moved to Port Moresby ( Papua New Guinea ) I attended the SDA church there. I got baptized , left school , went to Sydney ( Adventist hospital) and did a nursing certificate. Had a great time, lovely people.

After completion of nursing certificate I moved to Warburton ( hospital) Victoria Australia. I became even more religious than before. After a few years the Des Ford stuff happened,  I left the Ellen as literal prophet, sanctuary/ investigative judgment dogmas but otherwise held the rest of the SDA views.Hearing these three things repeatedly in church I decided ( for biblical reasons ) to stop going , it felt wrong to me. I Moved the Sydney, again . I remained a Christian, attended a few church things but not SDA .

I stayed with those views until 2008. As a ( still ) young earth creationist Christian I started to read the so called new atheists with a view to debunking them. The next year I desperately, frantically read about 100 books on all I could think of to get to the bottom of this. By 2009 ( 1030 am August 12th) I realized I was an atheist now- oops. After a year of painful readjustment to this I moved towards being an "evangelical" atheist - bordering on anti theist. I became very active in atheist forums, joined various atheist groups etc.

After a while I realized more fully, that there are awful atheists and nice ones. My next step was issues based, ie work with those that would help make the world a better place whether or not they are religious. Basically my current stance is "the people who are good to other people- I'm with them". Maybe I am mellowing? Dunno, my most recent position is to worry about those who might need a religious view as comfort etc. I'm seeing the usual "arguments" approach as generally not going anywhere (in the short term at least?) Sometimes I think it's scarily easy to introduce doubt. Is it a good thing? Yes and no I think, depends. Where am I now? The question of whether or not the gods are real holds no interest for me anymore. The question of whether or not people believe there are gods matters not to me. How people behave matters very much to me . Are they good towards others? How people convert to a religious view or leave that view interests me a lot. Should we actively try to sway people? Sometimes I'm not sure.

Perhaps paradoxically, religion still holds my attention a lot, I still read rather a lot on religion related topics, and yet I am finding it increasingly difficult to discuss this. What I mean is that my mode of questioning religious views automatically finds its way into conversations on religion and I worry that some people really really don't want their religion questioned. Perhaps it gives them comfort? Perhaps they need it? Perhaps they are right? These days I am starting to get reluctant to discuss religion in person unless somebody else brings it up. I am fine online but in a face to face scenario it feels more and more like playing with fire. I had the rug of belief pulled out from under my feet, against my will (via philosophy books, atheist books and religious books. I don't buy the idea that atheists are happier than believers ( in general). My feeling is a tad like Nietzsche's "If you wish to strive for peace of soul and happiness, then believe; if you wish to be a disciple of truth, then inquire.”

What if we can't choose?

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Evolution Impossible by John Ashton . Book self destructs by it's own logic.

Evolution ImpossibleEvolution Impossible by John F. Ashton
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Not as bad as Ken Ham, it's actually worse! ie John Ashton actually does know a lot of science, alas he allows his religious superstition to overrule massive amounts of data that points away from his young earth creationist views. the very cover announces a straw man, "reasons why evolution cannot explain life on earth". Seriously misses the boat here, ( he sides with Noah).

It's all downhill from the cover. He wants his science cake and eat it too. eg when genes of parts of them get deleted or don't copy - its information loss but when there's extra genes copies or insertions tadaa its not added information.

The book is a wonderful study of how intelligent people can get derailed by religion. To believe that Noah's flood was real, you don't have to be an idiot, sometimes it takes a lot of work, other times it's indoctrination.

Not worth wasting time doing a serious review of this awful book, basically its lying for Jesus ( albeit unwittingly I presume ).

For a better look at this awful book see ->

View all my reviews

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Great Disappointment Version 2.0

Desmond Ford pictured with Blog author Peter Veitch.

The Great Disappointment Version 2.0
(From Little Disappointments Big Freedom Grows). 

Over three hundred people attended this Des Ford Q & A afternoon meeting. It was held in the Church in the trees uniting church in Morisset, (just over 100km north of Sydney Australia) yet only minutes away from  Avondale  college Desmond Ford's old stomping ground where he was head of the theology department for about 20 years or so. Adventist administrators were given the first offer to host this event but predictably refused. 

As far as I knew I was the only out atheist ( ex SDA)  attending, and I was late! I had flown up from Melbourne to Sydney, then train to Morisset. 3pm meeting, my train arrives 309 pm, arghh no taxi! I jog walk jog to the church, unfashionably 15 mins late, I will be noticed…very well, I will be noticed. Fifty yards to the church, engage music on speakerphone mode “Losing my religion”, ok, in hearing distance, turn it off. Church is packed, people standing outside, not enough seats.. is there an empty seat down the in the front row? Yes! Is it ok if I sit there? Yes.. it begins…

Slowly I walk down the central aisle,  wearing “proudly evolved atheist T shirt with a Darwin fish / proudly evolved atheist logo, will I be noticed? Not all ex SDAs are still christian, my presence a gentle reminder of that. I get to the very front, turn around and look at the audience, just enough time to show the front of the shirt. I sit, pretty much directly opposite Des. 

I planned on asking a question, I had rehearsed it, even showed it to Peter Dixon ( event organizer/ muso click link for song )  to see if it was ok to ask that. My heart was racing, why did it feel like Daniel in the lion's den? I don't even think that story was true.  “Do you ( Des) accept the literal six day creation as true”? yay somebody else asked it for me, phew that's a relief! In retrospect I think it was probably better that the SDAs asked this anyway.  Des had to say no of course. (His view isn't young earth creationist yet not evolution by natural selection, sort of in between, a version of so called "ID" etc)  I could feel the tension in the room after that. The nervousness in the voices of the questioners etc, thinking that particular line through, IMO, has much greater implications for the SDA sect than the IJ dogma.

I didn't expect as much overt preaching during the Q&A, argghh. It was my first time in decades in a church with a minister actually preaching , albeit in snippets. How did i feel? Was any of this real? Felt quite bizarre really, unreal really. An honest person ( Des) sincerely expressing some of his deepest held convictions! It didn't sound plastic, didn't feel plastic.. and yet … the direct expression of what I now see as religious superstition? -  talking like it was a given, that the asserted magic stuff actually happened? I suppose it was a given for most if not all of the attendees minus me? I was in the front row, I had to  try not to let my eyes roll, this isn't easy for me, I let the religious nonsense ( as I saw it) slide, tried not to yawn ( double difficult due to tiring travel up from Melbourne) . Some of the preaching made my skin crawl, was I that far out of it? I know that Des believes that stuff but to me, now, it fells like somebody talking about Thor or Zeus as real etc.

One person asked Des a question about his view on atheists , I was surprised to hear something like that here. That was a good question - no, it was a wonderful question, it deserved applause, oh what the heck, I did a slow loud one person clap, I stood ( from the front row) turned around and looked at the questioner, and continued to clap ( I no longer felt so totally out of it! Yes, there are good open minded people here, I was impressed, I was grateful, I let it be known.  Des did an answer that was basically: as long as atheists responded to the holy spirit and were nice people then yay ( more of less).  TBH I think the question was better than the answer but c’est la vie, I don't quite get how I am supposed to respond to something that I can't tell exists or not. Anyway,  Des not sending atheists to hell is an improvement over the usual SDA responses.

My overall impression? Mostly nice people trying to figure stuff out. I got the sense that most wanted to be open minded but may have been only willing to  consider reconsidering the "Investigative Judgment" dogma but little if anything else. No data or survey, just a hunch, I could be wrong. It seemed like some tried to pin him down on the SDA YEC creation week as real or not. ( I was going to ask that, it was my prepared question! and yet maybe it wasn't, ie I’d have had a congratulatory stamp on it whereas I think they seemed to have it as a negative frame ) - maybe even as a trap question? The overall range of questions wasn't bad I guess though all seemed soaked in a priori religious assumptions.

Would Des accept an apology ? - no, it would have to be more than that, he said that they would have to acknowledge their dishonesty ( I can't see that happening, seems a bit of painting himself into a corner maybe?) I suspect that if they adopted Des’s views on Adam and Eve, a creation week, Noah and boat etc as not literally true then maybe the church would explode, implode or fade away .

Apart from pushy YEC fundamentalist pushing tada evolution is impossible - the others that chatted with me, were real nice people with what I surprisingly noticed to be rather open minded! Was I that arrogant / ignorant to not know this? Maybe the church has already changed since I left in the post 1980's Des Ford aftermath? It was a special treat to meet and chat with Des’s daughter  Elènne,  what a delight! she is very nice, gentle, caring and clever etc … win ! She insisted I met and chatted with Des in person. She even arranged and took the pic with Des and I. ( Now wouldn't that be amusing to get in the spectrum mag or others? 

Après meeting. Dinner at Punjabee's with a bunch of SDAs and ex SDAs, excellent. none of that them and us stuff- it was just ..."us", there was no "them" .

Saturday ( sabbath for most) Feb 6th 1016
Links for the two relevant Des books below.

Investigative Judgment - Des Ford

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Atheist goes to adventist hospital class reunion.

Sydney Adventist hospital nursing class of 75 reunion. 

It was a mild and warm evening as I drove to the Stuart’s point adventist convention center on the north NSW coast (in Australia). Forty years had passed since we started our nursing course, more than ⅔ rds of my lifetime. Nothing had changed, everything had changed, I started, as did most of the class, as a pious adventist christian, now I am an atheist activist, how will this weekend go?

I was nervous, very very nervous, I had missed out on a lot of sleep worrying over this, I even broke out in shingles ( was it stress induced, unmasked? I don't know). On my own, all the more so without a “God”, long lonely drive up from Newcastle airport to the sleepy little coastal town. The convention center is a ways out of the tiny town, I arrived just after sunset … it was their sabbath, no longer mine. The lovely receptionist handed me the key to my rental cabin, no business allowed, payment would happen later, adventists don't do business on their sabbath. Hungry, back into town to buy fish and chips ( it was a fishing village after all ). They wouldn't approve I expect.  Also the center apparently bans alcohol on grounds. Handy tip : nice little tavern that sells take away drinks. I would see red that weekend, but only in a nice way, red in moderation shall we say.

    There they were, those same gorgeous wonderful people that I had started my first nursing course with. How many were still sdas? Did it matter? News was out, I’m an atheist, might have been my Darwin - evolution  T shirt or some other news on my various apparel. mostly met with ”oh”or simply ignored, not a problem ( yay, what a relief)! Goody, now we can just get along, and we did. Lots of hellos and hugs, all good, very good. The occasional person would start up with evolution is a lie, or let me pray for you or wouldn't you rather go to heaven etc  It did feel like a time warp, they were still them ( mostly) yet I wasn't the me that I was 40 years ago. Stood out like a sore toe I did. Secular was the flavour for the most part, how are you? Are you married? How are the kids? Has life been good to you? Plus there was coffee, phew, caffeine withdrawal off the cards.

In retrospect I needn't have worried, apart from the occasional prayer before a meal , said ahem on behalf of all of us … I had to announce “I abstain”, and my Evolution Shirt photobombs it was pretty darned good. A few came up to me and said they were still christians but no longer adventists, others said they weren't religious. Did “God”come between us? I don't think so.

Stuarts point convention centre  

Sydney adventist hospital

( first draft, i may or may not edit / addit)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Tim Costello's talk to Sunday Assembly

I'm good with all the live better, help often, stuff that Tim seemed to agree with. That's great and I thank him for it. However he messed up by finishing off with a mini sermon. He gave some points for why he believes, and for me, that went down like a lead balloon. Tim believes because: 1- because the universe is big. (Seriously? It is not evidence that there must be a god, it certainly points in no way to his specific version.) 2- because he has joy in his life. ( pardon me while I use an expletive. FFS that takes the cake, because we don't have his god we can't have joy? our joy is deficient?). I was still happy to here him talk, he is a good speaker. Interesting that Katie was his neighbor at one time, and an ex member of his church. I think Tim fundamentally misunderstood the audience.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Year without God ... And then?

Now for the sequel to Ryan Bell's "Year without God" . 

Perhaps the previous year was more of a year of exploration of whether or not there be a god? Maybe it was largely a year without the trappings of "God"? I suspect that this year might be the first actual year without God in the sense that Ryan's ( tentative) conclusion is that he does not think that there is a god. 

It seems that the reaction from some christians, especially seventh day Adventist christians is laced with much more vitriol than him merely daring to question their belief set. An article in an official sda publication "Adventist Review" seem to me to be very condescending, ignorant and maybe even arrogant . The author seems hobbled by dogma , all his points contra Ryan  are underlined / accented with bible texts. 

For me, my year of questioning, discovering, thinking my way out of religious belief was interesting, invigorating and scary. 'Twas the year after that was my worst. The sense of loss etc, as Ryan said (in the last part of the video connected to his "Year without god article here"  ) - this, I found very depressing, my year after god was gut wrenchingly awful. It has improved for me. My five years an atheist - only in the last year has it really sunk in on all levels. The right thing intellectuals , emotionally etc. For me, the world  as it is, without magic imaginary beings ie authentic. I think it is past time for at least the aspects of some religions that lead to harm - to be at an end.

I suspect that Ryan's  year without "God" 
has just begun.