Review of CNN’s Atheists: Inside the World of Non-Believers

CNN recently shared a special on atheists.

This report was refreshing because it was an honest look at atheism on a major network. However, I didn’t find myself loving it. That could be my own fault though. When this special was promoted, I thought it would be a documentary showing the lives of a wide variety of atheists to give a good look at how diverse we are. They barely touched on the diversity.

Where were the other female atheists? They only showed one female who shared her story alongside a female minister. Where was the atheist family? They only had the religious family living in the bible belt with the atheist son in college. Where were the young atheists? The youngest was the college student. Where was the diversity of ethnicity? Atheists are not all white males, but that’s mostly what you see in this. The report basically boiled down to men of religious background who found atheism was a better fit for them. I simply feel they didn’t do justice to how diverse we are.

Additionally, I feel they could have interviewed other prominent atheists. They only sat down with Dave Silverman and Richard Dawkins. I understand why they were chosen, but they can come across as very abrasive. Dave Silverman is known for being an “in your face” atheist which can turn a lot of people off from what he has to say. Dawkins used to be this way but has mellowed out over the years which is one reason I actually liked his part in this special. They could have chosen Hemant Mehta of Friendly Atheist who sits on the board of directors for Foundation Beyond Belief. He would have been a great contrast to Dave Silverman and has been interviewed by CNN before. He even said he’d be willing to do the show! What gives CNN?

With that said, I appreciated them showing the pain and isolation atheists go through when coming out. It’s a sad reality that many experience. They can lose their loved ones, homes, jobs, and community respect. This follows with isolation when they don’t know other atheists. Having more groups like David Gormley’s Skeptics Society at UNG can definitely help those new to life without religion and help debunk misconceptions of atheism through their “Ask an Atheist” event.

Although, David Gormley’s story is sad even with him having this group of like-minded peers. He grew up in the Bible Belt with a father who is a deacon. His parents said they weren’t surprised when he came out, however, their relationship still changed. Their conversations are meaningless, and his father even said it’s like they’re talking to a dead person. It’s truly heartbreaking to hear such things come out of a parent’s mouth. It’s no wonder this young man chose to start the Skeptics Society at his school, and I hope the group grows with the help of this special report!

Overall, this special was well done. Though it was a short special, they could have gone with a different approach. However, for a 45-minute program, it did justice to atheism and I recommend others check it out!

Please feel free to leave your comments on what you thought about it.

If you are reading this blog and have found that since coming out as atheist your family has disowned you or is treating you poorly, please check out the following resources. You are not alone.
Atheist Haven
Secular Avenue

CNN has since posted an additional Q and A.

Killeen

Killeen

Killeen is an Atheist stay-at-home mother of two who spends her free time volunteering with, and coordinating youth emergency programs for the American Red Cross. Killeen is also a co-founder for Secular Parenting whose goal is to unite like-minded parents, and encourage friendly discussion on what it means to be secular.

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Happy Secular Easter! – Ideas for a Secular Easter Celebration

This is the second post in a 3 part series entitled: Happy Secular Easter! Check out part one here

When I was a child, every spring we celebrated Easter with egg hunts, baskets filled with new spring clothes, chocolate bunnies, and sickly sweet, cream-filled eggs. Sometimes an aunt or uncle would read us the Christian Easter story out of a children’s Bible, but the holiday never represented much for me religiously–my parents are also secular.

Now that I am an adult and have children of my own, I find myself struggling during each holiday season. It’s a pull between wanting to share experiences from my childhood with my kids and not wanting to celebrate religious holidays.

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This year I am setting out to find a happy medium between my desire to be true to myself and to celebrate the season with my family. I’ve come up with a list of ideas that your family can try, too.

Fun with Eggs!

Eggs have deep roots in spring celebrations and have been thought of as a symbol of birth, fertility, and resurrection–all themes that tie in nicely with the new growth and baby animals we observe each spring! Dyeing eggs can be a science experiment, a nature-inspired art project, or just a fun, messy activity to do as a family. You could be on an expedition looking for “dinosaur eggs” and learn about the Mesozoic Era along the way. Of course, there are always jelly bean eggs, crème filled eggs, and chocolate eggs. I don’t need a reason to eat those!

Planting seeds

Since Easter falls right after the spring equinox, planting seeds and learning about how plants grow go hand in hand. Since my children are 4 and 1 (and I have zero gardening abilities) we are going to grow grass in our home this year. I love the idea of planting in clear cups to show how roots grow and making it fun for the kids by having them decorate their own cups. We can all guess (make a hypothesis!) about how many days it will take for the grass to grow. Other ideas include planting bean sprouts, a herb garden, or try out an egg carton greenhouse for starters.

Easter Baskets

Easter baskets can be linked to Pagan, German, Middle Eastern, and Christian traditions. For our family, they’re just about having fun and passing down traditions. Our kids will get a new Spring outfit, sunglasses, bubbles, and a spring-themed gift like a bug-catching kit or mini gardening tools to take to Grandma’s. I know How a Seed Grows by Helene J. Jordan will be in my daughter’s basket this year! In our family, it is tradition to hide the Easter Basket and have to look for it on Easter morning–I found mine in the dryer once! The Easter Bunny (or Hare, as it was originally) is such a trickster.

Family Meal

The best part of any holiday is being with my family and being reminded to slow down. I think all parents, regardless of their religious views, can appreciate that. My favorite holiday tradition is to make a big brunch with cinnamon rolls or banana crumb muffins, fruit salad, eggs, and bacon.

What are your plans to celebrate this spring? Share in the comments below or tag us with #SecularFamily on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook!

Check out our Pinterest board for more Secular Easter and spring celebration ideas!

Amber

Amber

Amber is a happily married mother of two who is currently studying to be a middle school science teacher. She is a self-described science enthusiast. Her other hobbies include crafting and hiking

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Can Atheists Celebrate Easter? – Happy Secular Easter!

“Why do you celebrate Easter? You’re not Christian.”

Have you encountered this delicious question? It usually comes with a side helping of “raised eyebrow” and lightly coated in a smug “I-gotcha-there” sauce. At first glance it seems like a logical complaint- why are we celebrating a Christian Holiday if we are not Christian? The answer is Easter has roots that go deeper than Christianity, and it also has chocolate bunnies… Mmm how I like a good chocolate bunny.

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Easter isn’t Christian?

The short answer is modern Easter is a Christian holiday. It is a long established celebration of the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. However, before Christianity became dominant there was other cultures and religions celebrating the renewal of life in the spring. In fact, Christianity has even adopted some of the practices from the religions that they assimilated. Have you pondered where the Easter bunny came from? Or why we decorate eggs? Those practices have their own origin stories and I think you’ll find them as interesting as I have.

When exactly is Easter?

Many ancient and current cultures love to celebrate the equinoxes, also known as the two times a year when the day and night are equal in length. This happens in spring and in fall, usually around March 20th and September 22nd(4). Easter is roughly the first Sunday after the full moon following the equinox. I say “roughly” because Eastern and Western Christians reportedly use different calendars (7). It seems odd that a day that is specifically reserved to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus changes every year. I mean… that’s what I appreciate about MLK day; it’s mobility in the calendar.

There is a Death then a Resurrection… let’s celebrate!

Hopefully I didn’t give away the plot too quickly. If I didn’t, hold on. Many Christians are quick to say that Easter is a time to celebrate the “death and resurrection of Jesus Christ who died on the cross for…” but they aren’t the only religion to establish a life/death and/or resurrection theme occurring around the same season. Have you heard of the epic myth of “The Descent of Inanna”? Inanna is the Sumerian goddess of fertility who travels into the underworld and is trapped. Fertility on earth ceases while she is trapped below and hung from a hook. Luckily, a servant of hers is able to convince one of three other Gods that this is indeed a problem. She is released via a ritual involving water, plants, and a deal that someone must come and take her place. When she learns that her husband did not mourn her death she offers him up to the demons that escorted her out. Her husband’s sister is upset by this and offers to take his place. They end up splitting the time, each doing 6 months at a time then switching. Interestingly enough when Inanna’s husband is out, there is a boon in fertility as Inanna still loves him greatly. There are a couple different versions of this story.  There are other Gods from different regions suffering fates of death only to be brought back to life. Dionysus was killed and resurrected, Horus was killed and resurrected (8).  Point is, there are a lot of similarities between many of these stories and new life or “resurrection” is celebrated across a lot of cultures throughout time.

Spring was a time of celebration for many ancient cultures. Many religions across various regions of the world worshiped different gods and goddesses (mostly focused around life and fertility) around this time. Among those worshiped were Aphrodite, Ishtar, Demeter, Kali, and Eostre (Eastre). Eostre was “The Great Mother Goddess” for the Saxon people of Ancient Northern Europe. It is possible that she is who our current day of celebration is named after (2). There is lore that she would travel with a rabbit companion who was once a dying bird that she turned into a hare to save. The story goes that the rabbit, having been a bird once, could now lay eggs and did so in plenty out of gratitude (7). According to one source, the Easter bunny made its way to the United States in the 1700s via German immigrants who would have their children set up nests for the fabled rabbit to leave eggs (9).

What’s with the Eggs?

Cultures that assimilate others usually end up adopting practices of the assimilated but with just a different spin. Take for example the Easter egg. Eggs (a symbol of fertility and life) were given as springtime gifts long before Christianity adopted the practice. The earliest decorated eggs found were in Africa from 60,000 years ago. In ancient Egypt, eggs were prized and considered to represent the Sun. Even the ancient Persians would give gifts of decorated eggs, and Pagan celebrations of Eostre included eggs, as well. Early Christians continued this practice but would dye the eggs red to represent the blood of Christ (6).

So this brings us back to the beginning. “Why do you celebrate Easter if you’re not Christian?”

You could tell them about the pagan rituals and celebrations that occurred around that time long before Christianity took hold. You could tell them of the gods of past who also were killed and resurrected. You could even counter by asking them why they celebrate with an Easter Bunny who delivers eggs. Or you could smile and say, “Seriously?  Because chocolate bunnies are delicious and my kids like it when I hide eggs for them to find.” This is best said as you walk away shaking your head and laughing incredulously.

The honest to God truth (see what I did there?) is that a lot of the practices that are part of our Easter holiday have historical ties to a variety of other religious and cultural practices. Heck, there are even some Christians who want to remove what they recognize as pagan practices from their celebration (http://www.enduring.org/article/origins-of-easter).

The great news is that ALL of these cultures ultimately seemed to want to worship one thing: winter is over and spring is starting. It is not a strictly Christian holiday and your secular family is free to celebrate however you want! In fact… if you’re looking for ideas, you should stay tuned for PART 2 of our series: Ideas for a Secular Easter!

 


  1. http://www.thewhitegoddess.co.uk/the_wheel_of_the_year/solstice_and_equinox_dates_2010_to_2020.asp

  2. http://www.religioustolerance.org/easter1.htm
  3. http://www.nwf.org/news-and-magazines/national-wildlife/animals/archives/2010/spring-behavior.aspx
  4. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equinox
  5. “Egg Cetera #6: Hunting for the world’s oldest decorated eggs | University of Cambridge”.
  6. Donahoe’s Magazine, Volume 5.
  7. http://www.ancient-origins.net/myths-legends/ancient-pagan-origins-easter-001571
  8. http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_jcpa5d.htm
  9. http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/easter-symbols
Spencer

Spencer

Spencer is a happily married father of two. He works full time (and then some) as a paramedic in Oregon. He is a fan of gaming, reading, and the skepticism movement. In his off time he enjoys playing "cars" with his kids.

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Celebrate Your #SecularFamily!

We are excited to celebrate the launch of blog.secular-family.com and are glad that you’re here on this journey with us!

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One of our missions is to show the world what it means to be secular and dispel myths. We invite you to help us show the world what it means to be a #SecularFamily! Post a photo of your family doing something you love on Twitter, Instagram, Google+, or to our Facebook page with #SecularFamily and what makes your family special. You might even be featured on one or more of our social media accounts!

Thank you for being here with us and we are excited to share this journey with you.

Amber

Amber

Amber is a happily married mother of two who is currently studying to be a middle school science teacher. She is a self-described science enthusiast. Her other hobbies include crafting and hiking

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