12/19/2006

Meet Madalyn Murray O'Hair...

I saw this documentary on Sundance last night called "Godless In America". It told the story of Ms. O'Hair, the murdered leader of the American Atheists. She's the one who fought to get prayer out of schools in the '60s and was subsequently named the "Most Hated Woman In America", by Life Magazine. I had never heard of her.

If you read the Wikipedia link, she sounded like a real bitch. In the movie, she was abrasive, but seemed to have a sense of humor. The bottom line is that she was anti-establishment and a shit-disturber and I appreciate that. I think it's good to question any sort of power structure. I think Atheism is a little extreme. Atheists seems as absolute in their beliefs as Theists do. Atheism requires the same kind of faith in the unknowable. I prefer Agnosticism. Why not just admit we don't fucking know what the deal is? I believe there are forces at work beyond our comprehension, but I know I could be wrong. No one knows for sure. It seems like the people who claim to be sure are the ones causing all the problems.

39 comments:

Johnny Yen said...

I'd actually heard about her. I appreciated her, on one hand-- my family did not practice religion, and it would have made things really uncomfortable for me in school if there'd been prayers going on. On the other hand, she was a bit of an asshole-- it kind of gave us athiests a bad name.

Dave said...

Much to way I don't like Christians who try to force Jesus down your throat, I don't like athiests who look down their nose at who choose to believe in a God or put faith in religion. I guess assholes are gonna be assholes.

Dave said...

A question I've had for the athiests I've known is: If this life is as good as it gets, why bother going into work tomorrow?

RandyLuvsPaiste said...

I am an athiest, and I'm just as sure in what I believe as any Catholic or Methodist. I'm NOT agnostic, because I really think I'm right about no supreme being pulling the strings out there in the universe.
Being that there is no afterlife, we really need to make the best of what we're given here on planet Earth. This is NOT a warm-up for something better. Because there is no higher power taking care us, we need to take care of each other. That's why I'll go to work tomorrow.

Chris said...

Randy- I understand that you believe in the same way that a religious person does and that you THINK you're right, but do you know for sure? If so, how? I'm not trying to bust your balls or convert you. I'm just curious. How can you be certain there is no afterlife without having died and come back to confirm it? I ask this of you the same way I would ask a Christian how they can be certain there IS a heaven.

RandyLuvsPaiste said...

Because that's what I believe.
That's why it's called faith.
Yes, athiests have faith in their beliefs too.

Would you insist a Catholic also call themselves an agnostic?

Chris said...

Randy- I'm not insisting anything. I would just like it if people would recognize that believing is much different than knowing. I have beliefs, too, but I know they could be wrong. Is there a chance you could be wrong about this? Is there a difference between knowing something and having unshakeable faith in something?

A quick note. I know religious/belief conversations like this can sometimes get out of hand. It happened before in an older post. Before I go on, just know I totally respect everyone's right to believe what they want because I would want the same respect from others. It doesn't mean I'm going to stop asking questions, though.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Chris, I think the criticism in the Wikipedia article comes mostly from quotes from her born-again son, who obviously has a tremendous chip on his shoulder, so I think you have to take those with a grain of salt, huh? Not that O'Hair wasn't a bitch, because I think she probably was, at least her public persona was.

Also, I'm an atheist, and all I can say is that I don't have to open my closet door to know there are no monsters in there, either. I just know.

What drove me nuts about that documentary is what frequently drives me nuts in discussions about atheism vs. theism. People who believe in god are absolutely allowed to denounce atheism as the way of the devil, or that those who don't believe are going to hell, or that at the VERY LEAST that they are lost souls who need help or need to be saved. And yet, if an atheist is critical of a believer, HOLY FUCKING SHIT they are taken to task for their intolerance.

I am not saying it's okay to be intolerant, I'm saying it's okay to be critical, and also that there is a HUGE double standard at work.

RandyLuvsPaiste said...

I'm hesitant to reply to these sorta of posts, because Vikki will always come along and say it better.

vikkitikkitavi said...

And Dave, if life is a veil of tears, and your reward is in heaven, why bother going into work tomorrow?

I'm not asking for an answer, because of course I have a pretty good idea what your answer would be. Because I have considered the Judeo/Christian point of view. I get it. I understand why it's attractive. I've put myself in their shoes, mentally, many many times.

And I think that for you to ask that question of an atheist is to demonstrate that you haven't bothered to do that even a tiny little bit. And that is just one of the many many ways in which theists discount atheists and treat them as if they do not matter at all.

vikkitikkitavi said...

"Because there is no higher power taking care us, we need to take care of each other. That's why I'll go to work tomorrow."

C'mon Randy. Well said, dude.

Frank Sirmarco said...

I wouldn't believe in anything if it wasn't for my lucky mood ring!

Chris said...

Vikki- I agree with much of your post. I think it's malarky that theists assume some higher ground that isn't there. However, I question your analogy (monster in the closet). In that case, at least you can open the door and confirm it isn't there. So far, no one has died (for an extended period of time) and returned to conclusively say yea or nay regarding the afterlife. Many people that HAVE died (from all different faiths, including atheism)for a short time and come back have described suprisingly similar experiences. Now, I'm not saying this confirms anything, but it is curious.

I could've said I don't need to open my bathroom door to know there won't be a huge snake behind it, but one day I would've been wrong.

I go back to my questions. Is there a chance you could be wrong about this? Is there a difference between knowing something and having unshakeable faith in something?

vikkitikkitavi said...

Chris, just because someone has fashioned a nice fairy tale to explain that part of the universe they do not understand doesn't mean I am required to prove it's not true.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Not only that, but I question YOUR analogy. Snakes exist. And they have been know to find their way into bathrooms. The same cannot be said for monsters in closets.

Chris said...

Vikki- You are not answering the question. I am not asking you to prove anything. I've said that this stuff is unproveable. I just want to know whether you could be wrong. If you'd rather not say, that's cool.

Chris said...

But do you get my point about the monsters? You can open the door and check.

Yeah, the snake thing was lame. I take it back.

Johnny Yen said...

I agree with Dave on some athiests being as obnoxious as fundamentalists. There's a difference between not believing and being anti-religous. I am not anti-religious. Most of the people I know, including my wife, are religious. I have no problem with this. My father, an athiest all of his life, has found religion in the last couple of years.

Dave- actually, the backbone of Albert Camus, the existentialist (and athiest) philosopher was predicated on that very thing-- why not suicide? The one thing we are guaranteed in this life is pain, and eventually death. However, he argued, in The Myth of Sisyphus, his essential essay, that our struggle, and our ability to love and create in the face of this reality makes for the grandeur of our life.

This weekend, I took a roadtrip. I made a roadtrip mix on my ipod. I included the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "My Lovely Man." Somewhere downstate, the song came on, and these lyrics brought tears to my eyes:

"Well I'm cryin'
Now my lovely man
Yes I'm cryin'
Now and no one can
Ever fill the
The hole you left my man
I'll see you later
My lovely man if I can"

He's obviously saying that he hopes he's good enough to join him in heaven. I thought, of course, about my friend Mark, who died in June. Here's what Mark said about it all: he was, like me, an athiest-- logically, the whole god and heaven thing makes no sense. However, he believed that if he was wrong, that a greater being would be compassionate and wise enough to understand that he/she did not give him enough evidence of existance, and let him in to whatever place existed for people who tried to treat other people well.

For my part, I hope that he and I were wrong, and that I see him again.

Marni said...

Yeah - don't want to get into this debate... I just wanted to add that her son and granddaughter were murdered along with her. Big mystery surrounding it all -- if I remember correctly.

Beth said...

You must be young, Some Guy. She was all the talk back in my school days. And, yes, she was supposed to be an Uber-bitch.

Chris said...

Marni- Apparently, the mystery was solved. One of the people working for them did it. He died in prison of cancer.

Beth- I was surpirsed that I'd never heard of her, too. I'm 34. I don't know if you consider that young.

Dave said...

johnny- thank for seeing my side. my point. that Cambus guy must be the hook-up.

Chris- I love getting into blog comment stuff like this. I enjoy your blog and view it often.

Vikkittikki- I really am a nice guy who is smart enough to put himself in the shoes of others and have many times. You think you know what my answer would be, huh. I think that,like me, when you walk into the room you think that you are the smartest one.
Your "fairy tale" reference was exactly what I had in mind when I posted my first comment. However; I do not think you are an a******.
RE: My question. I guess what I was wondering was that if this life is a massive countdown to non-existance then why tolerate unpleasentness? Why call your mom when she drives you crazy? Why pretend to laugh at a stupid joke?
Why participate in fights? Why go to work?

Phil said...

Being an agnostic isn't saying you might be wrong about the existence of God, it says you beleive in God, but you are unable to know anything about it. Though you preface yourself, anyone who claims to be an agnostic is not also saying God might not exist by saying it.

Phil said...

Dave-I don't think tolerating unpleasantness has anything to do with life after death. Why go to work? Because for the next 50 years I have to have money to provide myself and my family the basic things we need to live, or perhaps I find it pleasant.

Chris said...

Phil- Not as I understand it. There are many different forms of Agnosticism. I know I overuse Wikipedia, but check out what they have to say. If you see it differently, explain.

Dave said...

My argument makes more sense after a few pints. It's also easier to explain.

Big Orange said...

I just think everyone is a jerk. That way I don't have to worry 'bout such stuff.

Phil said...

Chris - Without opening a debate about the accuracy of Wikipedia, I am using my Oxford Dictionary definition.

Agnostic n. a person believing that nothing can be known about God's existence.

I read this to say Agnostics do believe in God, they just admit ignorance about specifics. I could be wrong, of course.

Dave - That's why they both sell so well.

Chris said...

Phil- I interpret it differently. Oxford's got his head up his ass.

Dave said...

YOU'RE ABSOLUTLY RIGHT! After several pints Christianity would sell great!

vikkitikkitavi said...

Chris, I AM answering your question.

Okay, say that the monsters are in some dimension invisible to us. That's my belief system. There are monsters that occupy an invisible dimension in my closet.

Hey, you can't disprove me.

To me that is the fallacy of the agnostic "you can't prove or disprove it either way" argument. You just can't approach the universe by telling people that it's on them to disprove whatever crazy shit you want to make up, whether it's Jesus living in Utah, body thetans in volcanos or Lazarus rising from the dead.

Oh, and you'll have to forgive my looking down on religion in the above comment. Or maybe just forgive the comment where I look down on the Christian religion. I mean, we are still allowed to make fun of those crazy Mormons and those wacky fucking Scientologists, right? It is only Christians whose belief is not crazy at all, right?

RE: the after death thing. I don't accept the supposed shared experiences of people near death, or clinically dead for 5 minutes or whatever, as proof of an afterlife. The brain, and its perception of experience is a tricky thing. Also, once one person tells a story of a tunnel and a light, then that's exactly what other people are going to see, too. Why else do you think all those drawings of aliens all look the same?

Dave said...

Because that's what aliens look like?

lulu said...

Chris, I am not going to get into another religious discussion on your blog, because I'm on my way to the funeral of one of my students, and right now I hope to hell there is a God. I

just wanted to mention, that my father, who is a minister, and also holds a PhD in Theology, debated MMO'H on public television a long time ago. He is a pretty easy-going kinda guy, hell he can even put up with me, and he said that she was an out and out bitch.

Chris said...

Vikki- I still don't see your answer. Maybe I should just give up. Maybe all the meat HAS made me dumb. Let me know. COULD YOU BE WRONG? YES OR NO.

p.s.- I like you either way.

Phil said...

Wikipedia's first #1 entry for content on Agnostic's is a list of 10 different subgroups to specify Agnosticism. Even by Wikipedia's definition it is a vague term that may not be valid. To say you are Agnostic and claim your definition is the majority definition cannot be supported.

You must pick one.

Chris said...

Phil- Sorry, dude. Too tired. It doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, does it. All I wanted to do was post about an interesting show I saw about something I didn't know about. I'm sapped. I hope you all understand. Everyone have a drink, smoke, or whatever you do.

Phil said...

Boo-Yeah!!

Megan said...

Boy am I glad I was at work all day! But Chris, I used to teach MMOH's case in my gov't class and I just wanted to clarify that what she fought to get out of (PUBLIC) schools was not plain old prayer but GOVERNMENT-sponsored prayer. YOU probably know this, but the conservatives are always talking allowing prayer in schools, forgetting, of course, that the free exercise clause already allows kids to pray in school.

The Boob Lady said...

I just want to thank Frank for being my hero.

Mood Ring.

Priceless.