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Fwd: "Just One Tree"

x-posted to atheist

A friend of mine, dpolicar, just posted this superb poem of his, which I reprint here in its entirety:

Just One Tree

They say without their law we come to grief,
Lose our way and lose the light,
Walk in cold and empty night,
But love shines in a subtle way that doctrine can't bequeath,
For there is just one tree, and I'm a leaf.

They fear taxonomy without belief,
See us graceless as machines
Or entangled in the green,
But we have roots that tap into the springs that run beneath,
For there is just one tree, and I'm a leaf.

They say our stay upon this world is brief,
And the treasure that we find
Is there to use and leave behind,
But each new life is built from what we leave behind the wreath,
For there is just one tree, and I'm a leaf.
"It appears to me (whether rightly or wrongly) that direct arguments against christianity and theism produce hardly any effect on the public; and freedom of thought is best promoted by the gradual illumination of men's minds which follows from the advance of science."
-- Charles Darwin


( x-posted from journal )

I wrote this in a dialogue format. I took no measure to make this fancy, only to make it real. This is a compilation of real conversations between myself and my mother. I chose dialogue format after my favourite philosopher Socrates, of course he was written down by Plato.


I came through the door in my usual fashion, setting my schoolbag aside and flipping off my shoes on the mat.


“How was your day? Learn anything?” My mom's usual greeting after a day of school as she stood chopping what looked like an onion.


“We are on the study of fossils in biology, and the astronomy club is meeting tonight at the observatory.”


My mother paused her chopping for a moment and with a long sigh replied, “You be careful what they tell you. Don't let them tell you lies. Remember, the Bible already tells us how the Earth was made and how old it is.”


I gave her a skeptical look as I paused in astonishment to let her words sink in. It was something I should have expected from her, but somehow she still surprises me, “I vaguely remember a quote from a catholic cardinal that said 'The Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.' “


She abruptly stopped and her eyes glared up at me, still standing in the doorway. “Everything in the Bible is exactly true. When it said seven days, it meant seven days!”


“Six,” I replied in my normal tone, the tone I used when I knew I was right, “Seventh was supposedly the day of rest, hence Sunday.”


“Don't be a smart ass,” she spat.


“I'm not trying to be, I was just surprised you actually thought that, I mean, you know what a fossil is right?”


She set the knife down but her eyes seemed to turn into daggers sharp enough to pierce my flesh, “Fossils are a deception of the devil! Satan wants you not to believe in God so he can have your soul!”


I quirked my eyebrow in my usual skepticism that saved me from such a belief system in the first place, “Or.... they are remains of ancient organisms that prove the Earth is a lot older, billions of years in fact, than what the Bible says.”


“You are going to hell for believing Satan's lies,” she scolded.


I sat down on the couch thinking this might just drag out into a long discussion, 'or scolding' I corrected myself. “What makes them lies?”


“They go against the Bible and God's teachings. Nothing in the Bible is false. God can't speak lies.”


“Well,” I started, “Moses was told he would see the promised land, but died before he did.”


She licked her front teeth as if she was ready to lunge and attack. A couple seconds would pass before she would come up with a retort, “God knows what he was doing, he's smarter than you'll ever be so quit questioning him!”


“Wow, thanks Mom,” I mumbled sarcastically, though I honestly expected nothing less, “I find it strange that if God gave us this great organ we call a mind and such a thing as curiosity only to have its use be sinful.”


“You don't know what you are talking about,” she spat, her face getting redder in growing anger.


Still calmly I sat in my place on the couch. The dog, a chow chow, jumped on my lap and begged me to pet her. Her fur was warm, a welcome change from the icy stares of my mother's eyes.


“All that garbage they are teaching you at school is getting into your head!”


“Science, the self-correcting process in which enabled us to go to the moon, the darkest depths, and gave us all the luxuries we enjoy everyday is grossly wrong?”




“Science never claims to know everything, your ancient book claims to know everything but in fact is only a documentary of mythology no better than that of the Greeks.”


I could see her eye twitch at the word 'mythology' but I held fast, “The Bible says the heavens, and yes, the context means the sky, are unchanging. Anyone with the slightest bit of knowledge knows of this falsehood. So, if that is wrong, why should I believe in a six day creation? Especially since we know this to be false as well.”


“Those are all just lies from the Devil himself!”


I held back a laugh, “Proving a six day creation would make the scientist more famous than Darwin! However, its not that way. What is your evidence for the creation?”


“The bible is all the evidence you need!”


“So if I was to write something down on a piece of paper and tell people it was real then that would make it real?”


“God himself wrote that!”


“Actually at least three different people wrote the book Genesis, even I know that.”


“God wrote it himself.”


“And the Bible was assembled by a catholic counsel in the first millennium BCE.”


“You are really pushing my nerves,” she grumbled.


“I just want to know,” I said in all honesty, “How can an old book be enough to outweigh the overwhelming evidence of evolution, and the Big Bang?”


“I'm tired of your questioning! I'm going to call that school of yours and find out why they are teaching that evolution bullshit! They are corrupting America's youth! Its been all over Fox News and now its to our town! We can't allow such a thing be taught in our public schools!”


“Well... the class is a science class. That's what they should teach.”


“Get out of here! You don't have a clue what you are talking about!”


I rose from my seat, the dog jumping off me and went to my room to await the time I could leave the house once more. “The day I stop questioning is the day I die,” I repeated to myself as I stare contemplatively at my bedroom ceiling.

Early morning near Ancient Olympia, Greece

The morning before I shot this, I ran 8 miles down a deserted road, under a waning quarter moon, with Orion hanging in the sky, and Mars, Venus & Mercury rising a little before sunrise. I thought a photo of the three, with hopefully some star trails around them, would celebrate my atheistic awe of the universe. When I shot, I managed to get Cassiopeia in one shot and Ursa Major in another before clouds rolled in and obscured the planets and sunrise.

behind the cutCollapse )

Christmas in the Little House

Christmas in the Little House


         The following story is taken from Chapter 19 of the classic book Little House on the Prairie.  I think most atheists will appreciate that such a wholesome story has no mention of the birth of Jesus.  It has become my tradition to read this story aloud to my family on Christmas morning.         

Remember, this is set in the late 1800’s, when the prairies in
North America were sparsely populated, and the settlers had very little money.  In the series, there are many characters.  In this story from the original book, however, there is only Pa, Ma, Mary and Laura (and Mr. Edwards).  To me, no story has ever captured the simple beauty of Christmas better than this one.  Those who complain that Christmas has become too commercial, see if this one doesn’t make your eyes water:



The days were short and cold, the wind whistled sharply, but there was no snow.  Cold rains were falling.  Day after day the rain fell, pattering on the roof and pouring from the eaves.

            Mary and Laura stayed close by the fire, sewing their nine-patch quilt blocks, or cutting paper dolls from scraps of wrapping paper, and hearing the wet sound of the rain.  Every night was so cold that they expected to see snow the next morning, but in the morning they saw only sad, wet grass.

            They pressed their noses against the squares of glass in the windows that Pa had made, and they were glad they could see out.  But they wished they could see snow.

            Laura was so anxious because Christmas was near, and Santa Claus and his reindeer could not travel without snow.  Mary was afraid that, even if it snowed, Santa Claus could not find them, so far away in Indian Territory.  When they asked Ma about this, she said she didn’t know.

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A storm of rage washed me clean and rid me of hope. Unburdened, I uncertainly explored empty habitations, traveling alone. Degraded human likenesses haunted me, barring my way. On a night alive with blazing signs and winking stars, I entered an inviting wilderness of silent shadowing trees and accepted the gracious indifference of the world. It was as though I had never known happiness before or had brought to sharp recall a happiness that had faded from memory. Loneliness departed like mist from the light of dawn, but wild darkness remained within. Light as the wind, I passed unnoticed, returning to the dwelling places of the wraiths. Alone but not lonely, I resumed my wandering, moved by neither laments nor cries of hate from feeble apparitions. Fortified with severity, courtesy and understanding, I am a sanctuary as quiet and dark as a forest and as distant as the stars.

First post (tis the season)

Hiyas. I'm Matt. I live in Ohio. I'm an atheist, but ideologically I'm a humanist.

So, by way of introduction, some godless joy: My daughter.

My daughter is five, and my wife and I have made a point of not lying to her. She asks, we answer (obviously using our judgment as to how graphically to answer or what language to use; there's honesty, but that doesn't mitigate appropriateness). Anyway, one of the things we've had to talk to her about in the light of the holidays is, of course, Santa.

Much to my mother's chagrin, we've never pretended to Teagan that Santa is real. We have, however, told her the stories about Santa, just presented in the context of a story. We've told her that some people really do believe in Santa, and that it's fun to pretend that Santa's real (she's no stranger to playing pretend, after all). But, she's five, and sometimes "Santa's not real" slips out when she's at preschool.

Which might be why my wife got an email from the mom of one of her classmates, complaining that Teagan told her daughter that Santa wasn't real.

Fortunately, my wife answered the email. I say that because my answer might have consisted of, "Well, not for nothing, princess, but Santa isn't real, and anyone over the age of three knows that if you tell someone something that you know isn't true, you are doing something called lying."

I know, I know. Where's the joy, Matt? Hang on.

Teagan really liked hearing about Santa, especially that Santa is giving and that one way that people celebrate Xmas is to try and be like Santa, that is, revel in giving gifts. So she thinks on this for a while. And then she notes that her piggy bank is getting heavy, and we decided to count up the money. About $17. We ask her what she wants to do with that.

She wants to buy a toy for a child who doesn't have toys (I make occasional reference to such children, because I work in an inner-city elementary school and I think it's important that Teagan have some perspective). She scampers around the house giggling, "I'm like Santa!"

So last week, my wife takes her to Toys R Us, where she picks out two toys and turns them in to a donation center. She's very insistent that these toys go to a little girl who doesn't have toys.

This is her idea, start to finish, because she learned, straight-up, no chaser, that giving to others is a good thing. No carrot, no stick. It just feels good.

I'm very, very proud of my little girl.

Merry Xmas, yeah?

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