A new Symphony of Science was released today! I love this lovely ballad featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson, Brian Cox, and Carolyn Porco. When I listen to this series, I feel a swell of inspiration and excitement about the future of our species. Thank you, science.
P.S. Happy birthday, Carl Sagan! We miss you and your vision and your passion. Thank you for taking our minds and hopes beyond this pale blue dot.
Imagination will often carry us to worlds that never were. But without it we go nowhere.
– Carl Sagan
I’m sorry I haven’t been writing actively as of late. I sit here in my chair after a weekend of relaxation, escape, and nature only to find myself back in the machinery of life—the mechanical nature of my habits, my job, and my schedules.
And it makes me ponder a bit. I’ve found myself falling into an apathy related to my atheism lately that I’m not sure should be there. I’ve attempted to explain why atheism isn’t a big deal. Even with the mentality that our non-belief is just fine, normal, and not worth a huge stink, I still feel a smoldering passion within my gut when I consider my own story, my past, and the plight of other non-believers who truly are struggling in their current situations. For instance, I received an email this week from a distressed reader:
Over the past year I have began to question my beliefs that I have had since childhood and I’m down right confused and ridden with guilt mainly… Waiting to be “struck” down I suppose. I am working through it slowly, but being married to a “minister” doesnt help.. again.. riddled with guilt… and fear.
It breaks my heart that the search for truth leaves anyone feeling this way, but it especially pains me to hear it from someone who is afraid to leave religion and faith behind. I know just how conditioned Christians (like my past self) are to fear doubt and deviation from the faith. The guilt is tremendous, and it feels like failure to be going against something you’ve been accepting as an authority all your life. I remember hearing that small voice in my head that told me I was “just rebelling” or “going through a doubting phase” or that I shouldn’t make any certain decisions based on my doubts because I could be punished (for lack of a better word) by God for straying and not being strong enough in my devotion. I recall those emotions with a shudder and a sigh.
No one should feel this way.
It’s becoming more clear to me that I may not care as much about debating theology or commenting about other beliefs I find ridiculous (as fun as that may be—especially on the internet when the quick jab and the snarky wit are king) as others do. Instead, I am coming to deeply care about the journeys and stories of others in the atheist community. Where have we come from, and where are we going? Do we have enough support and friendship to spare for those who are not quite strong enough to go it alone? Can we move forward together? Is my dream of atheist community just a silly, romantic, and futile idea in this period of individualistic living?
So I may not be writing much, but I’m still figuring this whole atheism thing out… day by day. As we all are.
The United States Supreme Court will not be hearing Sylvia Spencer et al v. World Vision, the controversial case of three World Vision employees who were fired for not believing in Jesus as God or the Trinity as required by World Vision’s company policies. World Vision won the appeal in 2010 in front of the Ninth Circuit, and that decision stands.
In the World Vision case, all sides agreed that the nature of the firings were religious, but the fired employees argued that World Vision was not truly religious since its work was humanitarian rather than religious, and not significantly different from groups like the Red Cross.
So what about jobs that do not involve religious work at all, such as a shipping worker or a web developer? The Court says [PDF],
The nature of the Employees’ duties is irrelevant to our analysis. If World Vision qualifies for the exemption, it is entitled to terminate employees for exclusively religious reasons, without respect to the nature of their duties.
What does this mean for people like me who are closet atheists in other Christian companies? It means I need to find a new job or risk being fired. I already knew this, but I think it’s getting to the point where I can’t put it off much longer. Despite the poor economy, I’ve got to get out of here.
According to the decision, firing someone based on religious beliefs is not limited to places of worship or schools. As cited in the court’s decision (pages 7-8), here are nine factors considered in determining whether an entity qualifies for religious exemption.
- whether the entity operates for a profit,
- whether it produces a secular product,
- whether the entity’s articles of incorporation or other pertinent documents state a religious purpose,
- whether it is owned, affiliated with or financially supported by a formally religious entity such as a church or synagogue,
- whether a formally religious entity participates in the management, for instance by having representatives on the board of
- whether the entity holds itself out to the public as secular or sectarian,
- whether the entity regularly includes prayer or other forms of worship in its activities,
- whether it includes religious instruction in its curriculum, to the extent it is an educational institution, and
- whether its membership is made up by coreligionists.
You can read the Ninth Circuit’s Sylvia Spencer et al v. World Vision decision here [PDF].
I think this film, Parrot, might reflect what a lot of us feel or experience as the only atheists in our deeply religious families:
Do you think it has potential?