dear 14 year old self

Dear 14-year-old self,

Hey you. It’s me. You’re 38 year old self.

Don’t worry. You turned out fine. You are one of the most educated of the Witteveen grandchildren, oddly enough. You made it through high school and four years of college.

Surprisingly, you found your way out of your shyness in a couple years. I hope that you do it sooner.

No more asking your mother to order for you.

Sorry, you still have a temper. And to this day, there are triggers that you continue to set it off.

But you found an amazing wife, and you are living your dream as a photographer and film maker. It might not be exactly what you envisioned, but doing what you love as a career is nothing short of a dream.

This is going to seem foreign, but your views on religion will change drastically. The fanatic you are as a proselytizing believer, an award-winning Christian will eventually remove themselves thanks to plain old listening to your internal voice.

You will tell people it’s through tons of research. And while research may have given your doubts legs, listening to the doubts you’ve carried since you were young enough to memorize verses in Sunday School will take better hold.

Bear hug these doubts and don’t let familial or societal pressures — which are intense — to force you to lie to yourself or others that you are somehow dabbling in religion or trying to find the crossover between religion and non. It’s a losing battle.

And don’t hate your upbringing no matter what. Your parents did the best they could, and even better. They gave you disciplines and taught you critical thinking skills that led to your departure from religion. You fully realize that you can’t both think critically and hold onto faith-based ideas for too long.

The discipline that you gain will feed your ability to take risks, go on your own, open your own business.

One thing you should do is find more smart people to share your views with. Find a therapist if possible and start working with them to understand yourself better, faster.

Do couples counseling with serious girlfriends.

Don’t attempt to keep long-distance relationships. With some amounts of freedom, explore your sexuality and don’t be so wound up and scared about it. As it were, you waited too long for sex and too long to find better ways to overcome all that shit they taught you in 7th and 8th grade about STDs and hellfire scooping you up if you had sex before marriage.

And finally, travel your ass off. And when you do, soak it up. Throw some caution to the wind and enjoy it. When you study in France for a semester, get your underpants out of your ass. Have wine with dinner. Meet the others out for drinks. And don’t wait for your house mother to kick you out of the house for being a bump on a log.

And finally, practice patience. But be stern. Be strong. It takes a Type A personality to be bullish in business. But take more risks and do more research and take more classes.

Perpetually learn. And don’t let ideas of Jesus and family prevent you from exploring the art you want to explore.

The rest is up to you. I can’t hold your hand through all this. So get out there and grow up, while staying youthful and energetic. You’re strong now, but the body needs maintenance, so keep working out, too.

That’s it. That’s all I’ve got.

Hugs and kisses,

Your 38 year old self.




An introduction to Humanism

by The British Humanist Association

Humanism is sometimes mistaken for a form of religion, or something which is very complex. Here, some well known humanists explain that all humanism really is, is people wanting to live ethical and happy lives, thinking for themselves, without religion imposing its own morals on them which are not necessarily compatible with living ethically today.


Finding positive PR

Lately I’ve been slightly obsessed with the idea that — given the current outbreak of negative PR for belief — there is very little good coming out of the believing community.

You might perceive me as an anti-theist. And it’s often true. But no one can really sustain a complete anti-theist stance. At least, I can’t.

I have friends and family who believe. Many of them read this blog. They probably check it more often than you do. And often, the conversations we have about religion consist of my voice here as the only one they listen. When we sit in the same room, talk of religion is often limited or one sided.

I tend to be more of a listener, as I stumble a lot in speech. I try not to. But often, my brain works faster than my mouth, and I get caught up in delivery and word choice.

But my point is, this blog is where I talk to many people whom I love about faith, belief, and religion.

I found positive PR!

Fortunately, I saw this update on FB this morning Margaret Ann Schaaf:

I cannot believe that there are so many people out there who are so “outraged” over people building religious centers for other religions in their neighborhoods. Here’s a thought: If you are not a Muslim, then do not go to a mosque. If you are not a Jew, do not go to a synagogue or temple. If you are not a Christian, do not go to a church. And if you are determined to prevent others from practicing their freedom of religion, then don’t call yourself an American… or a Christian, please.

I like this sentiment. Own your own religious ideas and leave others alone. Yes, there are religious extremists. And they are out in droves right now. And they make groups of good people look badly.

And a week or so ago, friend of this blog Julie Ferwerda posted an interesting post, which I don’t really agree with. But it deserves a bit of recognition, as it doesn’t fall in line with traditional thought, but there was a time, when — as a Christian — it’s what I agreed with. The post is called, “The Worldwide Earthquake of Revelation” and it talks about the hardly sustainable concept of the rapture. Here’s how it starts:

There’s a lot of talk these days in Christian circles about a coming apocalyptic “seven year tribulation”…and, of course, “the rapture.” Most of this teaching comes from what I believe is colossal misunderstanding and misapplication of Scriptures, developing over the course of 1700 years of mistranslations and false propaganda by Church leaders. In other words, I think it’s total crappola and that the fruit of this is a lot of unnecessary fear for millions of people worldwide (and a source of laughable entertainment for a lot of others). For one example, the rapture was never a teaching or belief in the Church until the 1800s, but now it’s considered orthodox theology that any “good Christian” should not question.

You can click on the link above to read the rest.

One part that helps prove my point is this paragraph:

Or how about this? Rather than embracing and affirming homosexuals as infinitely valued children of God, many self-righteous, hypocritical Christians—loveless and full of all kinds of addictions—are participating in the tormenting, bullying, or blatantly rejecting of many of these dejected people to the point of utter depression and even suicide. Just a couple of examples of hundreds. Is it any wonder why 1 Peter 4:17 says that judgment must begin with the house of God first?

Have any of you seen or read anything that sheds positive light on the things believers are doing to counteract the shit coming out of way too many churches in the wake of the surge of homosexual issues at the forefront of many conversations?

Gallup Poll: Less Religion = More Gay Rights

PRINCETON, NJ — Mississippi is the most religious U.S. state, and is one of eight states where Gallup classifies at least half of the residents as “very religious.” At the other end of the spectrum, Vermont and New Hampshire are the least religious states, and are two of the five states — along with Maine, Massachusetts, and Alaska — where less than 30% of all residents are very religious.

Read on

Pharyngula’s Why I am an atheist series

I have mentioned PZ Myers’ Why I am an atheist series before, and thought I would recommend a recent one.

All PZ did was ask for his readership to submit their stories and he posts one a day. He has oodles lined up in a backlog. I try to read through a few a week.

A recent one from Sam Salerno struck a chord with me. I’m going to post it in full, but the original is here.

 March 9, 2012 at 6:59 am  PZ Myers

AtheismWhen I was a child indoctrinated into the catholic church I said my prayers. I prayed for the starving to be fed. And I prayed for the end of all wars. Realizing that as hard as I prayed, thousands of people were still starving to death and war continued, they weren’t being answered. That or it was a resounding it’s part of gods plan.

This was the beginning of my ascent into the enlightenment. Then there was the hypocrisy of idol worship. I couldn’t understand the priests telling me not to worship idols while they prayed to the various saints. And then the all completely unbelievable; we are the right religion, every other religion is wrong.

Following my catholicism I tried other religions because I was still sold on the god thing. But I soon realized that none of these religions could produce a valid miracle or an answered prayer that wasn’t just as easily answered by praying to a milk carton And of course, god himself could not be produced.

I found myself thanking science for seeing reality as it really is. I have to say the final straw for me was watching Carl Sagans “Cosmos.” Telling the story of the emperor crab opened up a door to a whole new world for me. And from then on it was Atheism for me. No more guilt, no more sin, no more fear of hell.

Sam Salerno
United States

Check it out! The Humanist magazine features Quiet Company

#quietcompany @quietcompanytx @hemantmehta

Sweet, cherry pie!

The Humanist magazine featured an article about Quiet Company and their new album, “We Are All Where We Belong.”

I was surprised that so many of my blogger colleagues ignored this story, but extremely appreciative that Taylor Muse and the rest of the band are getting this level of publicity.

If this is the first time you’re hearing about the album, the Humanist describes the album this way:

On We Are All Where We Belong, Quiet Company integrates a sound reminiscent of both Sufjan Stevens’ album Illinois and The National’s Boxer with the overarching narrative of lead vocalist Taylor Muse’s journey from a conservative Christian upbringing and belief system to a celebration of the power of human potential.

In the article, Taylor talks about his influences ranging from Kurt Vonnegut to Bart Ehrman. There’s this one section that I thought was great talking about topics within the songs:

Love is another thing we sing about a lot. We tend to be pretty romantic, and I write a lot of songs for my wife. But you know, I think the best love stories are often set against the specter of death. And again, it’s humanistic—the sense that this world is all we have, this time is all we have together, so let’s make the most of it. Let’s make our lives worth living as much as possible.

Go check out the article here. Here is my original write up from a few months ago.

And if you missed the most recent video release, here it is again (below).

Thanks, Steve P. for the headsup! 

David Silverman sings the hits ||

“We took advantage of a unique opportunity to remind many Americans that their religion is not as important as they like to pretend it is. In many cities around the country the running joke is that football is the most popular religion. The banner will be seen by thousands of tailgaters, who clearly agree with American Atheists since they chose to sit on a tailgate instead of a pew. They chose to party with friends instead of praying with preachers.”

David Silverman talking about flying an atheist banner via airplane during the popular tailgating hours of 9:30 to 11:30 on Super Bowl Sunday around Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Bad ass.

One more reason for some people to hate Barack Obama

Another version of this quote here:

Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God’s will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all. Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what’s possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It’s the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God’s edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one’s life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.

Amazing how I can totally see this pissing off people I know who don’t like Barack Obama, but this is why I like him.


Dateline covers atheist circle jerk in Texas, shows how we talk incessantly about religion

The results are in: atheists talk about religion far more than even religionistas do.

And we don’t shut up.

I am exhibit number uno. I mean I never shut up about it.

What would happen if religion ever died? We’d be so bored, we’d invent religions to be mad about.

Just watch the video above. It validates all these points and more.

I mean, were you aware at how geeky we all look. Take any frame in the video, and we appear to be a homely lot of godless nerds.

Own up, kids. This is who you choose to associate with.