Monday, March 20, 2006

A Small Victory

I feel better than I have for a very long time. Allow me to explain:

About 2 months ago, I was attending a Meeting for Business at my Quaker Meeting (yes, I see no problem with Quakerism, without the religion, as a way of life. I'm sure Seth and I will end up debating this, but there you are... in fact, I should post about that sometime). At the Meeting, the subject was the curriculum for the Junior High class (my class). The basic outline called for Bible study, and there were open to suggestions. I suggested Job, and to my great surprise everyone thought 'it was a brilliant idea.

A month later, the curriculum began. The first Sunday was... pretty interesting. We looked at a few passages, and mapped out the general plot of Job. In fact, as the resident atheist, I was asked to express my opinion several times (the Cambridge brand of Quakers are so liberal and free-thinking it would blow your mind, people like me actually have a name there: the non-theist Quakers).

Second Sunday, I was prepared. I had read through Job again, marking interesting parts, and parts that supported my argument for the obliviousness and over-all stupidity of the character God in the Bible. I also looked up the God is a Dick on Job that the Evangelical Atheist wrote a few months ago. Without that I doubt I would have made as much impact.

As it is, on the third Sunday we wrapped up Job, and did a final discussion. It was better than I could have hoped for. In those three weeks, or during the time before, nearly all of my peers had become atheists. I was shocked, and overjoyed.

Better yet, my mother, who was attending a youth organization committee, informed me of a great conversation they were having. Apparently the parents of the atheisticized teens were expressing how the kid's were starting to question the beliefs their parents had hammered into them. They were beginning to view the world differently, and their parental units couldn't have been more angry. That, for some odd reason, makes me happy.

So I come to you now to announce a small victory, and a message that I myself was until recently in desperate need of: don't give up. It may take a while, but eventually someone will see what you are trying to tell them. Especially if you go with the younger, more freethinking teens as I did. I'm overcome with joy. I shall go celebrate with pizza, as there is one right across the street.

Good night everyone, and thank you for your time.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Deus Ex Tympanum

Greetings. I'm writing a short scene memior for school. Since it has a lot to do with me becoming an atheist, I figured it would be appropriate to put up here. And let me remind you that everything on this site is copyrighted.... not that any of you would do that stuff *flick of eyes back and forth*. I hope y'all enjoy, and since this is a school paper..... which will be graded..... I'd be welcome to any criticisms.

Deus Ex Tympanum

By Aethernon

For a long time I believed in the supernatural. I talked to the air and heard it whisper back. I listened as rivers gurgled my name, and gazed in wonder at human shapes forming in the predawn mist. Coincidences, as I now know them to be. My car did not unlock itself because it liked me; my mother had simply forgotten to lock it the night before. Walls don’t speak; they make noise from relieving the pressure created from holding up a house. My DVD player isn’t playing tricks on me when it doesn’t turn on; I just pushed the wrong button. There is a reasonable explanation for everything I once believed in, but I still remember the most real experience of the supernatural that I ever had. It marked in one instant the climax of my beliefs, and their demise…

I held the drum sticks in my hand, letting the rhythm flow from my mind, down through my arms, and onto the set. The beat was a simple one, 3 measures of triplets and one of the fills on page 63 of the Realistic Rock book Dun gat dun dun / gat dun gat gat / dun gat dun dun / gat – gat. Then three measures of silence, one fill, and repeat. The silence wasn’t just silence; no silence is. More happens in silence than in noise, for without noise to distract us we can hear the very rhythm of the earth. Four measures went by, then eight. Time went by. My arms became numb, for when you hit something it hits back. But the set’s resistance dwindled as it too was captured by its own magnificence.

Sometimes to vary the beat I struck the eighth notes on the ride cymbal instead of the closed high hats, but an eight note is an eighth note no matter how you play it. Over and over again I let the beat flow from me, until I and the drum set were one, and I couldn’t even remember what I was playing, and became only a listener to the melody.

I heard the rhythm: precise, faultless, every beat hit to perfection; and slowly, more hesitantly, another rhythm in the background. Sometimes I’d hit a gat, then a split second later another gat would sound, like an echo, like someone else trying to catch up to me. I was puzzled, and slowed down the tempo to see what would happen. As before, there was a second’s hesitation before the echo landed in step with me. I changed the beat: dun gat gat- gat / dun gat gat- gat / dun- dun dun- dun dun / gat gat - -. I listened, heard the momentary hesitation… then


I jumped, swiveling around in my seat in time to see the door swing open, and my mother step out of the hallway into my attic music room. “Come on,” she said, oblivious to the severe fright she had given me, “Time for dinner.” Clutching my drum sticks for stability, I shakily got up and walked into the hallway, then down the narrow staircase to the second floor of the house my apartment is in, looking back momentarily at the darkness behind the open door. I don’t know what I thought I’d make out in the shadows, but I saw nothing.

Dinner was tacos, perhaps the best food on the face of the planet. In most cases it is a messy food, but I have figured out a technique that keeps the spicy juices in your mouth, and away from your fingers. We use turkey meat in place of beef, and in all honesty it tastes better that way. Like all good things, dinner was soon over, and after reviewing for an English quiz I had the next morning, I went straight to bed.

It was nearly 11:00 when I finally turned off the light and went deep underneath the covers. My second cat, Jazz, was curled up on the pillow next to me, purring deeply in her sleep. Fizzy, my first cat, was also sleeping, his bulky form silhouetted against the moonlight flowing in through the frosted window. While the light had been on, the outside had seemed to be in utter blackness. But now, looking out of my shadowed room through the window, I saw the unearthly moonlight wash the world in silver splendor, and I realized that darkness is only dark from a certain point of view. With that thought to ponder, I lay my head back on my pillow, its softness carrying me into the world of dream.

Dun gat gat-.

I opened my eyes.

Gat dun gat gat-.

No, no I was not imagining it, couldn’t be. I heard the beat. Felt the rhythm coming down to me through the ceiling, from the attic room directly above me, from my drum set.

Gat dun- dun dun- dun dun / gat gat - -.

Silence. I waited, my breath stopped in my throat… Dun gat gat-.

The beat continued, cycling over and over. Four measures passed; then eight, then twelve. Jazz stopped purring, looked up at me with her reflective green eyes. I stared at her for a long moment; then turned my gaze to the drum sticks I had taken down from the drum room just 4 hours ago, my only pair.

Slowly I raised the covers and placed my feet on the scratched wooden floor. I knew I should just go back to bed, ignore the sound, force it to go away. But a part of me didn’t want it to; somewhere inside I felt wonder, awe, curiosity grow. I stood and padded to the stairs.

Fizzy was already there. Looking with wide yellow eyes up the dark stairwell, seeing something I could not. As I reached him he turned to me, and with an animal nonchalant-ness, strode away. Dun gat gat-. The beat stopped. I perceived at the edge of my hearing a shuffling of feet, a soft humming. Then a new beat began, softer this time.

It was like no music I had ever heard. Occasionally there was a light tap on a cymbal, sometimes a cymbal I did not have. Sticks played the music, flawlessly shifting into brushes, then back to sticks again. It was beautiful.

I listened, for how long I cannot say. There was sadness in the music, so heartrending that to listen to it was to go through death itself. But as I listened the music became joyful. I began to climb. It was black in the stairwell, but guided by the music I found my footing. The stairs went on and on. I climbed for nearly five minutes before finding the closed door before me.

I crossed the space, stood silently in front of the threshold. Fresh paint peelings crackled beneath my bare feet. The door, which had been open when I came down for dinner, was a pale white, nearly glowing in the semi shadow. The music began to rise. I spiraled with it, through a multitude of human and alien emotions. Finally, pure joy conquered all other feelings as the song rose toward climax. I pushed open the door.

The music stopped mid measure. Looking into the suddenly silent room, I saw two eyes looking back at me. My elation vanished with the music, replaced by fear. I ran down the stairs and reaching the bottom in a matter of seconds, fled into my room and dove beneath the covers of my bed.

Jazz looked at me quizzically before falling asleep once more. After a while I too went to sleep, listening in vain for the music that did not come, that would never come again.

I now of course know that the eyes in the darkness were the moonlight reflecting off the metal of my drum set. The echoes I heard in the afternoon were just that, caused by the poor acoustics of the room, and the stair’s unexplained lengthening can be blamed on nerves. After visiting the room again in the morning, the light of day showed nothing but that my own senses had been playing tricks on me, and I decided from that moment on I would always use logic over belief, and never accept the unexplainable again. But I cannot help but wonder what would have happened if I had let my eyes adjust until I could see in the darkness and had looked deep into the shadowed room. Would I have seen nothing but heard the music continue? Or would I have seen drums playing on their own, the high hats clapping and the drums pounding from some unseen hand? Would I have perceived a lone figure sitting atop my seat, ghostly sticks held in its ethereal hands? Or what if I had waited, just waited, until the unseen musician had finished his masterpiece, and vanished once more into the void?

Friday, March 10, 2006

There's a frog in South America

Today in Social Studies we discussed the early Americans' settlement of the Northwest Territory; modern-day Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois. There is a line in the Northwest Ordinance - the laws of said area - that says, "Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good governess and the happiness of mankind…"

Anywho, my teacher emphasized the knowledge point, and lauded America's founders for setting up public education. In my infinite impulsive wisdom and wit (*cough, look away*), I pointed out that some of them nevertheless publicly supported religion (at least, before the Constitution). I didn't expect her response: "Well, it's a Christian nation. Deal with it."

Now, I know she said this pessimistically (she's Jewish), so after class I said that we shouldn't have to deal with it. After all, government-supported religion is illegal. But she still maintained this pessimistic view that there is no hope.

And I found it depressing that an educator can be so bleak about this. I don't have much else to say except that this is why we have this blog - we're trying to spread optimism among America's youth.

That will be all.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Back on Track

It's high time this blog got back on track and stopped being merely atheist satire.

Jewgirl to the rescue!

I've alluded to this distinction a number of times through comments and now, it's time to actually adress it.

Religion and theism are different.

Correct me if I'm wrong Seth, but much of your dislike of Judaism has to do with:
  1. a bad Hebrew school experience (I know it happens...)
  2. parental pressure
I remember I asked once during Hebrew High why the clergy didn't tell the kids about different theologies before their confirmation year. His answer was along the lines of: "Kids aren't mature enough nor are they open-minded enough to truly consider all the different possibilities. Most kids would immediately jump to atheism without knowing the other options." For the most part, I would have to agree. Until you've gone through a bar mitzvah and have decided to further your Jewish education, considering other theologies might not be the best idea.

As I have mentioned a number of times, I am atheist and Jewish. Just because I am Jewish doesn't make me a theist or otherwise. Even if religion may "brainwash" kids to believe in God so they can discern right from wrong, this doesn't mean that all denominations expect you to believe in God. Sure, it's much more difficult to be an Orthodox athiest than a Reform athiest as I've heard from some of my Orthodox friends, but nonetheless could still be within the realm of possibility (quite a small possibility).

My main point is: religion is self-defined and always should be. It's fine to follow the teachings of another, but only after you have struggled with the ideas and concepts yourself and have questioned. I know that some of us on this blog have said that kids don't question religion & God enough, but this is an unfair accusation. Extremists (i.e. atheists & theists) tend to be more vocal in general about their opinions whereas the people in the middle don't seem to discuss their own opinions as frequently. Assuming that these middle people don't have opinions though is positively absurd, just as assuming all athiests believe the same things is absurd. Anyone who is not constantly changing their own opinions of theism is not open-minded enough to consider alternative options.

I think I may have digressed quite a bit, but in any case, try not to exclusively associate religion & theism. It's often not entirely valid.

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