Why I am not an atheist

Jk u guize. Technically I still am an atheist. I don’t believe in any supernatural beings, homeopathy, telepathy, alien conspiracy theories, etc. When I say I am not an atheist I mean that I no longer identify as a member of the atheist movement.

I often wonder if people wonder “whatever happened to that blogger girl who was gonna change the world and make it a more rational place?” For quite some time I’ve even anticipated somebody asking me why I quietly just stopped one day without a word (insert T. S. Eliot reference). I never check my old e-mail accounts but to my knowledge no one has ever tried to ask me why.

Still, in anticipation I’ve often contemplated the answer I would give and I think the best way to sum that answer up would be this: I just grew out of it.

It’s not intellectually useless to contemplate the existence of a god, or to really think about how we know what is true really is true. Back in the day it was delightful fun to be introduced to scientific concepts like natural selection and ideas like moral relativism and I certainly grew from being a part of a community of learners who also loved to share that learning.

Simply put, however, I now find such a narrow focus on the topics I used to write about almost absurd. You can only repeat the same arguments so many times. There are only so many varieties of pseudoscience you can poke holes in. Once I knew all these arguments about why there probably is no god so well I… still needed new stuff to learn so I lost interest.

That’s not the sole reason either. I confess to some embarrassment when I look back on how, well, mean I could sometimes be about the gamut of things that annoyed me and became the subject of my rants, crucially how mean I could sometimes be toward the people who believed them. With age I began to recognize that many atheist activists were also just plain mean and were more concerned with making fun of the bullshit people believed in than real education. Worse, I simultaneously learned to recognize that cruel and unproductive tendency within myself. Silently watching how we treated each other during the elevatorgate debacle only reinforced my disinterest in becoming involved in atheism again (generally I sympathize more with the social justice-y Atheism+ thing and I draw a parallel between my personal outgrowth with atheism and the needs the + seeks to fill).

On the bright side, I feel like the experience of being around us atheists sharing the burdensome trait of being poor communicators has helped me learn how to be a more effective communicator, though I am now humbly aware of just how much further I need to improve my communication skills.

In fact, I err more towards diplomacy now than I like to admit and I think I can learn a thing or two from that fiery adolescent I used to be who would call out anyone’s bullshit and not give a fuck how she did it. Too often these days I keep my mouth shut in the interest of getting along with friends who have different views from me, and though I’ve certainly come to appreciate the value of getting past silly differences like beliefs and liking people for who they really are, I still believe there is an objective harm from some beliefs (though not as much moderate religion, but things like the anti-vax movement are plainly fucked up) which I don’t call out often enough. I just think sometimes I went about things in a bit of a misguided way…

But hey, I was just a kid, though people on the internet for some reason always found that remarkable.

Also, you guys thought I was a good writer? Gosh, -nervous laugh- I’m flattered, but looking back on my writing, seeing all the errors and passive voice, I’m a bit bewildered that people used to think that about me.

If anyone’s interested, some things are still the same. I’m majoring in biology and I tentatively  plan to study paleontology (evolution is cool!). I still have an inkling of ambition to become the next Carl Sagan/Neil DeGrasse Tyson/Richard Dawkins/Mrs. Frizzle. The unofficial mission statement of my new college (New College) is “that the natural state of the human spirit is ecstatic wonder, that we should never settle for less!”.


High School Censors RichardDawkins.net

Granted, it might have been more beneficial for me to be paying attention in class, but I’ve always thought that the RichardDawkins.net website was pretty darn educational (it is the website of an educational foundation, after all). They have podcasts about evolutionary science, links to stimulating articles, a banner asking non-believers to donate to Haiti. Today when I tried to access RichardDawkins.net today from my school’s Internet network I got a message that said that the website was blocked.

Observe (click to embiggen)

Perhaps it was an honest mistake… I’ve very politely e-mailed the peeps who do this stuff so maybe they will unblock it. If not, I shall update here.

Update: Somewhat unrelated, but I just thought I’d share the mission listed in my school district’s twitter page.

To inspire every student to think, to learn, to achieve, to care

Far as I can tell RD.net does three of the four.

Update: So the school unblocked it (yay!). The e-mail I got was that the site was categorized as “social opinion” which ordinarily wouldn’t have been blocked for the high school but apparently the network was accidentally set on the elementary school filter which does block social opinion.


  1. By bringing this to their attention I actually fixed a broader mistake
  2. I’m wondering how corrupting an influence a social opinion website really can be on the elementary schooler mind… Given the assumption that critical thinking is generally not present in elementary school (not that it becomes rampant in high school) I shall tentatively accept that somehow RD.net and other websites of a similar vein are inappropriate in elementary school.

Are We Seriously Still Saying the Pledge?

I’ve come to be used to the daily morning announcements at my school that say “if you would like to stand for the pledge, please do so now…” and most mornings I don’t notice as I’m in the hallway walking to the piano rooms while they’re doing it, but yesterday it was brought to my attention yet again as they said it at a Diversity Conference I attended.

“If you so choose to we will now say the pledge” they went and I immediately thought “seriously?”

First of all, nationalism doesn’t really have much to do with diversity. Sure, I can buy the argument that it shows that there’s diversity within the nation, but since they never really state that was the intention you can’t expect that to be the message that comes across from saying it.

As we all know, the controversial bit of the pledge comes with the “One nation under God” part which indicates worship of a monotheistic deity. This would seemingly exclude all those who don’t worship a monotheisitic deity. Well, OMG, excluding diverse religions or irreligion would seem to actually hurt the whole diversity idea!

Admittedly, done more out of anger than reason, at the end of that sentence I was compelled to let out a blasphemous “boo” which prompted a circle of heads to turn in my direction with glares, an also-seated Wiccan kid to grab my mouth and prevent me from speaking, and a Hispanic girl in front of me to turn ’round and say “I respect your rights, but that was highly disrespectful, you’re at a diversity conference, you need to respect other people’s religion” to which I said “as an under-represented minority due to unbelief I find the Pledge highly disrespectful”.

So it came across more as an insult to Christianity than anything else and it wasn’t effective communication, etc. I admit all this but submit to you that if I were to express my discontent with their choice to exclude me it was going to be limited to sound-byte form.

Whatever. I’m making the point of my three-letter protest clear now since I didn’t have the luxury of a non-sound-byte response then. It’s the height of hypocrisy to say the pledge and claim diversity, even if you don’t make other people say it, because that line still affirms that it is one nation under a monotheistic deity. In fact, I think it’s worse to preface it with “if you wish to say the pledge” because you have acknowledged there are people that clause excludes and have chosen to say it anyway.

And for my own sake and credit, couldn’t they have paused to think for a second what I really meant by my protest rather than to have jumped to the conclusion I was intentionally trying to offend worshippers of the Abrahamic religions? I suppose stirring thought with a heat-of-the-moment sound-byte is just the best you can hope for.

Grammatically Poor, Semi-Chronological, but Hilarious Review of New Moon

Note: Contains run-on sentences and general grammatical confusion which I have no desire to fix.

The redeeming feature of the Twilight Saga is that it’s so bad that it’s a satire of itself. Thus, it actually does make it worth it to go see it and laugh at it, and what’s the most hilarious night to go watch the latest installment of the series? Opening night when all the fangirls scream every time Robert Pattinson takes his shirt off!

So here’s a list of my favourite moments from New Moon and if you can make sense of what I’ve written here then perhaps there is hope yet for stuff that I write under sleep deprivation. Continue reading

Happy Carl Sagan Day!

Well, actually it’s Monday, but in honour of it coming up and the lectures done in Florida today about him, I’mma leave this old Johnny Carson clip here…

European History, Science, and Eternal Life

So I’m taking European history this year in school and I have this teacher whom I’m rather fond of. She’s not exactly a fundamentalist Christian, but she is at least moderately Christian. Today we mentioned the scientific revolution while studying about the witch trials and she goes on a small tangent that goes something along the lines of…

So are you going to put your faith in the scientific revolution? Tell that to a dying cancer patient! Science isn’t going to get you eternal anything.

So it’s not exactly standing up and preaching, but it is sort of clear that she’s trying to convince her audience (public school students) that they need to worry about how they’re getting eternal life and science is useless because of that.

Of course, I disagree with her argument. Epistemology does not get chucked out the window as soon as you’re uncomfortable with what it says because that would be beside the point of having an epistemology (unless you’re of the truth-is-whatever-makes-me-feel-comfortable-with-death-ists). I’m more concerned with how I live the life I know that I have than with another life which can be verified about as convincingly as Invisible Pink Unicorns.

But here’s the thing… for the most part this teacher does not talk about her personal dislike of science, but this is not an isolated incident. It’s happened once or twice before. Do I…

  1. Let it drop
  2. Just speak out in class the next time
  3. Start recording and call the ACLU (I list this in jest… sort of)
  4. Do something else?

Oh, and why the bloody hell do people like to bandy about the word “faith” to people who happen to like science and reason? The most faith involved in science is that this isn’t all some giant hallucination that we’re all sharing, or that we’re hallucinating that people are sharing the same reality. It’s a small amount of faith, yes, but I think of it more as agnostic disbelief. I can’t prove that I’m hallucinating and I can’t prove that I’m not… but if this is a hallucination, it sure is an elaborate one and no harm is done in carrying on with 99.9% certainty.


Ah, humanity…

A few of the tweets from people who read “NASA launches rocket into the moon” and react foolishly…

Dear Nasa, you are the spawns of Satan who wants to blast the Moon JUST FOR SOME DAMN WATER!! WHAT THE HELL??!!!

From @TimelessEssence

This person describes themself as:

Gorgeous, Intelligent, Silly, Random, Proclaimed Buddhist, Dreamer, Writer, Activist, Loves to laugh, Future Archaelogist, Nerdy, and the FUTURE!


They might fuck up the tides if NASA fucks the moon up. I’m not trying to see that blow up. NASA always plotting something.

From @JesseLetson

Okay. Nasa blows a hole in the moon today, to see if there is water on it. If we REALLY went there in 69, this wouldnt even be an issue.

From @Alisonsscrescendo

Before we lose faith in humanity, from @Submanic

Call me a nerd, but I kinda like finding more information about our universe. #NASA

And just for the record, I think the moon’s still up. You can check to see if it’s still there before smearing your idiocy across the Internet and making fools of humanity.

Also, this is not the first time America has crashed something into the moon. It happened in the 1960’s when we were still working on getting there and before figuring out how to land. See here.

Facebook Friend Stats and Gender Ratios of Skeptics

Only a cold-hearted scientist can take their friends and turn them into numbers. Courtesy of the Friend Facts Facebook app, I have the following statistics regarding my Facebook friends:

Gender breakdown: 33% female / 67% male
Relationship status: 57% single / 43% taken
Political breakdown: 97% democrats / 3% republicans
Geographic distribution: 12 countries, 24 states
Most common zodiac sign: Aries (20 friends)
Favorite music: Pink Floyd (16 friends)
Favorite TV show: House (17 friends)
Favorite movie: Fight Club (12 friends)
Favorite book: The God Delusion (21 friends)
Favorite activity: Reading (23 friends)

Now, my Facebook friends are pretty much entirely comprised of skeptical people because they come seeking me because I’m mildly Internet-“famous”. Of course, these are mostly skeptics who like me (there are some who don’t) so it’s biased in that way, but humor me for a little bit.

I’m unsurprised but highly amused by the most common activity, book, and TV show. I’m mildly surprised by the political distribution although I’d have suspected it. However, since this app does not take into account the Libertarians I must be friends with, I’m going to go ahead and assume I generally only piss off the socially conservative of the fiscally conservative population.

But I suspected all along that you shifty Aries were more disposed towards skepticism of astrology!

What’s really bothering me, though, is the gender ratio. From what I’ve heard, TAM 7 (or was it 6? I’ve forgotten already) also had a similar ratio. Most skeptics were saying that was only because women aren’t as inclined towards going to conferences and that outside of the conference the ratio was more balanced, but I didn’t meet all these people at TAM.

Seeing that I’m a blogger, however, perhaps it is true that the number of skeptics in general has a balanced gender ratio but women are less interested in skeptical activism.

But, of course, this is just my Facebook and I’m but one person. I can only speculate a little.

Now, this isn’t very scientific, but I’m just a little bit curious. I’d like anybody reading this with a Facebook to use this app and post your stats in the comments.

The Future of Elles?

I suppose in making this post my purpose here is to simply mark a time of ambiguity in my blogging career.

In case you haven’t noticed, I don’t blog very often any more. At least, not as much as I used to.

Most of this I attribute to the fact that school keeps me increasingly busy nowadays so I don’t keep up with stuff as much, anymore. Part of it I attribute to my Twitter account. Instead of posting articles I find and my commentary here, I usually just put it up on my Twitter and sum up my likes  or dislikes in less than 140 characters. And, there’s also the matter of Teen Skepchick, which I know I can cross-post stuff from there onto here, but I try to keep content rather separate, so when I do have something to write about it usually goes there.

But sometimes I wonder if it’s just because I’m sick of repeating myself. How many times can you refute the same tired old creationist question of “if humans came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys”?

Yesterday, I realized that I have been posting slightly more regularly on Teen Skepchick than on this blog, and I kind of feel like the reason I’m doing that is it seems a more important project to me. So what if I stopped posting here altogether? Well, I dunno.

Apparently, I’ve also just changed my blog name from Splendid Elles to Plain and Simple Elles on a whim. The “plain and simple” bit is a reference from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine which I’ve been watching a lot of, but I won’t go into a description of the particular scene because it’s not that important. I think it’s because I, Elles, am many things, not just “splendid”, and I want people to think about me as a complex whole that is Elles, and not just “The Splendid One”. I may change the name back, we’ll see.

Advice is welcome, but I promise you that when I do have time, and when I do see misinformation in the media, in creationist propaganda, or anywhere from an Internet chatroom to a lunchtime discussion, I’ll be here to call “them” out on it.

Where’s My Cookie Dough?

This is the sort of thing I do in history when we’re talking about people like Aquinas:


  1. I can conceive in my mind of the tastiest batch of cookie dough.
  2. Existence is tastier than non-existence.

Therefore, the Tastiest Batch of Cookie Dough must exist.

I think I’ve said that on Twitter in one form or another before, but I was just going over my notes and noticed it… along with some rant about Star Trek. I think that means I need to pay more attention in class?