Perhaps, in an unguarded moment, an atheist will look up this Thanksgiving and say, “Thank you” to the One who has made their life possible. Otherwise, the thing about atheism is that you have no One to thank.
It’s apparently a popular meme, on Twitter anyway, for theists, usually Christians, to say that atheists have no one to thank for the good in their lives. Apparently, this cliché was made popular by a blogger Joey Nelson on his Spiritual Questions Blog, or so I learned from About. He wrote:
When I see this cliché, I laugh. On Thanksgiving, my family always has turkey dinner. It takes days to prepare, and of course we have to buy all of the food with our own money that we worked to earn. We make the food ourselves. Why should I tank anyone but ourselves? (to be fair, being a child, I didn’t contribute financially, and most of the work preparing the meal was done by my mother. So when I say “we”… ) And if I’m with my family, I need not look up, but across the table to thank the people who made my life possible.
Meanwhile, around the world, people continue to starve to death, and suffer in numerous other ways. Why the hell would I thank a god?
I remember, when attending my brother’s Marine Corps boot camp graduation, listening to the Chaplain speak over the microphone. He told everyone to bow their heads is prayer. I remember feeling so angry as I listened to him thank his god for the work of others. I was there that day because I was proud of my brother for HIS accomplishment, because it was his. Yet here there was a chaplain giving thanks and praise, not the new marines for their accomplishment, not the drill instructors for their training and leadership, but to his own god, his imaginary friend.
For me, this was a repeat episode. Different characters, different setting, same story. The same exact thing happened had two years earlier at my own graduation from Army Basic Training and again at our redeployment ceremony when we returned from Iraq. Each time, someone else was thanked for our own achievements, someone we were instructed to thank as well.
As if that itself wasn’t outrageous enough, this someone isn’t even real. I was, on each of these occasions, feeling very much insulted.
I, as an atheist was not left with no one to thank. I had my leadership, the soldiers to my left and right, my family and friends, and myself. Without religion, I was still able to thank someone, I just thanked the right people. I was able and willing to give credit where it was due. If you’re a believer and you’re happy about an occurrence other than a natural phenomenon (like weather, which requires no thanks) and you want to thank someone, ask yourself, is there really no human being responsible who it would be appropriate to thank?
Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving.
As I write this, I have a lot on my mind. I realize that my life is about to undergo massive changes, and will never be the same. I joined the Army almost four years ago, with the intent of eventually moving back home while I went to school. Since I’ve fallen in love with my BF and Colorado, that plan has changed drastically. Not moving home means that I’ll be away from my support system of family and friends permanently, not just while I serve. It also means that I’ll be mostly on my own for finding a place to live, and for paying all of my bills. Well, not totally on my own, I’ll have my BF to help me here. But that’s actually a problem. What if it doesn’t work out? I realize that by staying here I’m taking a much bigger risk than I would be at home. The pressure is on to find a job that can pay my bills and still have the time and energy for school. As my BF reaches his ETS date, and as I go though the medboard process, I’m made very aware that we’re running out of time.
Still, I have reason to be optimistic. BF and I just got approved for a lovely townhome, and our job searches aren’t without prospect. But the thing that give me the most hope for my future is knowing that I can at least be certain that I will never have children. If you haven’t been following my blog, you might not know this, but I’m sterile. Oh, don’t feel sorry for me. I don’t. TRICARE paid good money to ensure my infertility. I had my tubal ligation earlier just this week. I have two small cuts in my body, I have some residual air in my abdomen, and I’m still bleeding somewhat, but I’m happy. I’m very happy.
Knowing that I’m sterile means knowing that for whatever other curves life throws at me, I have one thing I can count on. I will never have kids. I will never be burdened with the expense and sheer work that goes into raising a functional human being. I will never know the guilt of contributing to overpopulation. I can pursue the education and career of my choosing, without pregnancy or motherhood threatening it. I will save money as I won’t need to spend it on birth control, and I won’t have to worry about contraceptive failure. I can give my BF and future dog(s) the attention and peaceful home life that they deserve. Most of all, I get to keep my identity. I will never be re-named “Mommy.” I’m Julie. I get to stay that way and keep my life.
I’m looking forward to my life now. I’m planning to move in with my BF soon, and I’m hoping that we can be happy together for a long time. I’m looking forward to getting a dog and training it well, and taking it on adventures. I’m looking forward to camping, hiking, mountain biking, snowboarding, offroading. I’m looking forward to climbing each the Colorado 14-ers. I’m looking forward to visiting Japan some day. Some day I want to buy a house in the middle of nowhere with lots of land. Or maybe I’ll get an RV and travel instead. There are a lot of things that I want to do with my life, but mostly I just want my life to be my own. I want to be able to do what I want, when I want. Not having children protects my freedom to do so.
Some people have felt the need to tell me how I’ll regret not having children. Oh, don’t be jealous of me! The truth is, I’d regret having children.
4 days left before my tubal ligation!
I never liked Life as a kid. No, no, not the characteristic that distinguished me from non-life, signaling and self-sustaining processes. I mean the board game, Life. I didn’t like that game. It was a good concept. People’s career success has a lot to do with their education, and much of life is chance. That much is pretty accurate, for the most part anyway. But I think too much of the game was chance, and too little had to do with personal decisions. Some things, like getting married, if I remember correctly, were just plain mandatory. Having children was just a matter of chance, something players just collected along the way.
Well, I can’t ask for too much from what is just a board game. But I can be astonished about how many people live their lives EXACTLY like it was the board game, getting married at convenience and letting children “just happen,” doing these things because they think they’re just supposed to. Of course this isn’t the case for everyone who chooses to marry or parent, but it is something I’ve observed.
This phenomenon becomes disturbing when others turn it against me, expecting me to conform to their life-script. When I was a kid, I was expected by adults to form cute, lofty career goals, like becoming an astronaut or president. I hated the question “what are you going to be when you grow up?” I’d either say “I don’t know,” or, if I was feeling sarcastic “I want to be a bum and live under a bridge.” I was expected to play with Barbie dolls and fuss over my appearance, presumably to prepare myself to attract men and then mother their children. At the same time, I was expected to be insanely studious so I could get into a good college, get a nice degree, get a good job, and then trow it away to play mommy. As I grew older, I was expected to date. Specifically, I was supposed to date boys. Imagine everyone’s dismay when I went on being an apathetic slacker who wasn’t interested in boys or kids.
I haven’t escaped the life-script. I’m still expected to marry, and people are just so eager to talk to me about it. My BF and I are of the opinion that marriage isn’t really necessary for a meaningful, long-term relationship. We see marriage as nothing more than a legal contract, a piece of paper, and a wedding as a ridiculous and expensive party and neither of us like that kind of attention. I don’t plan on getting married at any time in my life, but I might be inclined to do so if there is some kind of material benefit to doing so (BAH, healthcare, etc,) but only if I was already committed to staying with that person anyway. I have received some mild criticism for premarital sex and co-habitation, but those people can shove it. Marriage is not some magical barrier, on opposite sides of which the same things can or can’t be OK.
I’m also expected to have kids. I have been all my life. Motherhood is something I’ve always been absolutely certain that I don’t want, despite people telling me that I’ll change my mind. Imagine the surprise from the “it’s just what people do” crowd when I told them that not only am I never having kids, but I’m getting a tubal ligation to ensure it. I’ve made it no secret that I never want kids, and challenge the assumption that all people, or even just all women do.
In my life, I’ve departed wildy from the life-script society has tried to impose upon me. It wasn’t some backlash thing where I do the opposite of what I’m told just to be a rebel. I rejected the life-script because I have imagination. I write my own script as I go along, and change it as needed. I have the power to determine my own life by my own terms. If it sometimes happens to coincide with society’s norms, so be it. I will put no effort to conform to the cultural life script and none to depart from it. I simply take it upon myself to live my own life as I see fit.
I was born. I didn’t play with baby-dolls. I never believed in Santa Clause. I didn’t wear pink. I didn’t wear dresses. I wasn’t interested in fashion. I played in the mud. I caught frogs and spiders. I played with snakes. I raced my bike. I didn’t do my homework. I didn’t do my chores. I wore long jeans almost every day. I didn’t listen to crappy pop music. I didn’t gossip with the girls. I didn’t like other kids. I ate alone. I played video games. I didn’t obsess over boys. I realized I was asexual. I didn’t care about celebrities. I didn’t date. I didn’t care about school dances. I challenged authority. I wasn’t set on a career. I took art and industrial classes. I joined the Army. I freed myself of religion. I do research and write essays for fun. I don’t fawn over kids. I found a guy worth dating. We’ve decided to move in together. We have no plans to marry. I’m getting a tubal ligation in a few days. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.
Last week my company went up to North Cheyenne Canon Park for a nice change of scenery. Those of us who were able (many of us weren’t because of disabilities) went on a nice group hike up the mountain a piece. I had quite a lot of fun and met some other hikers from other platoons.
A few people laughed at me for bringing my backpack. “Mountain lions won’t attack you if they think you’re a turtle!” They weren’t laughing anymore when they needed somewhere to stow their sweaters and jackets as they warmed up.
Apart from my first aid kit and shed clothing layers, my backpack was mostly empty. I wanted to get used to hiking with it, since I haven’t been on a ruck march since AIT.
I really missed camelback. I had a side puch attached to the side of my pack where I kept my Gatorade, but it wasn’t as easy to reach as I had hoped it would be. At least I brought something though. Not everyone did.
Afterwards, we drove through the mountain (yes, through. Supposedly, those tunnels are haunted,) to the local dog park where we had a nice cookout (and I made a few canine friends.) I also learned, while there, that one of the legs to my brand new charcoal (because charcoal tastes better) grill is broken.
I also discovered that, to open a bear-proof garbage can, I should read the printed instructions lest I be laughed at. I must have been a bear in a former life. Lol.
There have been a few bear sightings in the area since I went by other people in the company. One was just a couple bears crossing the road. Not a big deal. The other story was more disturbing. Apparently, there were a couple of cubs hanging out near the trail I used, which is bad enough considering how mama bear would have reacted if she knew, but it get’s worse. People were dumb enough to feed them. If that doesn’t worry you, it should.
And I’m not much concerned about grizzlies as they don’t seem to inhabit this state anymore. And normally, I wouldn’t worry much about a black bear encounter either. They’re usually pretty skittish animals and would try to avoid people. However, even black bears can be dangerous, especially if they learn to associate people with food. I’m considering picking up some bear mace.
In any case, I’m looking forward to going again soon.
- Start small with hikes and light with gear.
- Going up with make you out of breath, but it’s going down that will hurt.
- Dress in layers and have a pack to keep any closed to remove.
- Bring a drink, make sure it’s accessible.
- Don’t count on others to bring a first-aid kit, bring your own. It’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.
- Watch your step because not everyone cleans up after their dogs.
- CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR DOGS!
- Elk, at least the way it was grilled there, is impossible to eat. Oh, it tasted fine, but it was so tough no one could chew it.
- DON’T FEED THE BEARS!
In case anyone has missed it, I’m currently still a solider. Because of condition I developed in Iraq, I’m not able to do my job, which was TUAS Operator. Having started the medical board process, I’ve been moved to another unit so that my old unit, which is getting ready to deploy, can replace me. I’m now awaiting to see if I will be medically discharged, and whether or not I will receive medical retirement so that I may keep my health insurance.
In the mean time though, we’re far from idle. My new commander is a cheerful captain who I think strongly resembles and even sounds like a childhood friend of mine from back home (only taller, and in the Army.) He’s been giving us opportunities to volunteer withing the community, and I’m having a lot of fun.
This April, our company participated in an Easter egg hunt for underprivileged kids. I hear it was a lot of fun. Sadly, I could not attend myself as on the day of the event, I was just getting off a 24-hour staff duty shift at battalion. However, I did at least get to help stuff plastic eggs with treats.
Real meaning of Easter = candy.
Yesterday, our company helped with another event. We met with local school kids and their teachers at a park here on post. The children were separated into several groups, cycling through several station, not all of which I got to check out myself.
At one station, the children were introduced to large things that go boom (no live demonstrations, I’m afraid.) At another, military vehicles were on display for the kids to happily climb on. At each, the soldiers droned on about what the piece of equipment did and how it worked, blah, blah. MY company’s station was much better. We were, as I’ve said, a company of broken soldiers, mostly. People pending medical board. We didn’t have equipment pieces to blather on about, and all the better I think.
Ours, in my humble opinion, was the best station, and the ones the visiting students will remember the best. Tug-of-war!
There were several matches with each group, including the obligatory girls vs. boys matches, which sometimes the boys won and sometimes the girls won, depending on the group. There are the free for all matches, in which kids randomly pick what side to be in and soldiers capriciously join in as needed. But my favorite by far was kids vs. soldiers. The reason? Simple. The kids always WON. There is strength in numbers.
Oh, and one thing I found incredibly lulz worthy…
Kid: “Can those drive in volcanoes?”