Luke: Search your feelings, Father, you can’t do this. I feel the conflict within you. Let go of your hate.
Darth Vader: It is too late for me, son. The Emperor will show you the true nature of the Force. He is your master now.
Luke: Then my father is truly dead.
Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi
So this weekend we didn’t hide eggs for Padawan Learner like we usually do. We didn’t get together with family like we have in the past – that whole distance thing. We didn’t gork out in a sugar-induced coma from dawn to dusk, like could reasonably have been expected. (A bit of chocolate and jelly beans – courtesy of my mother – did make its way into our bellies though.)
Instead, we went to a conference. A really good conference. A conference right here in downtown Des Moines. We went to the American Atheist national conference, and it was great. There were a few protesters, but not many, and it didn’t get nasty. No one was converted, on either side. A few dribbled inside to drill the people sitting at informational booths during the lecture periods, but they leaked away when their arguments failed to impress and no ire was raised.
Speakers of all stripes talked about some specifically religious issues, some legal issues regarding separation of church and state cases, the hidden diversity of atheists and why some people have a harder time “coming out” as an atheist (hint: fear of losing jobs, friends, and family), a science biography for a theoretical physicist, a discussion of “The Family” on C-Street in Washington, D.C. that had Dad Windu shaking when it was over, and much more. It was, perhaps, a bit of an unexpected weekend but, as always, it was nice to meet other like-minded people and spend some time together as a couple. (PL spent much of the weekend hanging out in the audience with a blob of other teens that attended.)
What does the quote up there have to do with it? That’s what atheists are often accused of: “hating” a god, religion, the religious – of being in general hateful. I can’t speak for every atheist, but that isn’t what it is for me or my family. Yes, we are angry at times about things that are done in the name of a deity, for the way that people look down on us for not believing in their or even just “some” higher power, and that we are statistically the most despised and mistrusted group of people in America (who wouldn’t be a little ticked about that?), but really it’s just about us trying – like everyone else – to make sense of this world and our place in it. We believe that life, meaning, purpose, and all the rest can be explained – yes, even best explained – without invoking the role of the supernatural. Hate me for it if you will, but that’s part of who we are.
“I need to speak to the Jedi Council. The situation has become much more complicated.” – Qui-Gon Jinn, Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace
I forget sometimes that I’m not considered OK by the majority of the homeschoolers that I meet around town, that I’m considered to be somehow defective – like a transmission that knocks and needs to be “fixed”. I wish it weren’t so, but I was reminded of it again today at Padawan Learner’s trampoline class. Before I go any further, let me say that I like these people. They are friendly and sociable, obviously love their kids, and are generally all-around, quite decent people.
Alright, back to my not-a-rant. As a couple of the moms sat around chatting, talk among them turned to Facebook. (I was half listening while I finished reading an article on math instruction. Yes, I am that exciting). They talked about who they have as friends, what their privacy settings are, who can see what, about keeping tabs on their kids and their kids’ friends, and getting back in touch with people from high school, college, and such this way. One mom laughingly mentioned that she sometimes worries about what her more conservative friends will think about her when they see pictures (e.g., devil costume on Halloween) or read comments (“Check out my belly piercing!”) from a former roommate of hers. She went on to explain that her friend isn’t a Christian, but is “just the nicest, sweetest, most loving and wonderful woman in the world.” She then explained that God has put it on her heart to make this friend her “little project”. Well, that caught my attention. She continued with a little laugh, “I need to ‘fix her up’ into a right relationship with Jesus.” The other women gave little laughs of understanding.
Since it was time to go anyway, I stood up, put my coat on and gently said, “I don’t know if you realize it, but like your friend I am not a Christian either. And I certainly wouldn’t want to think that someone considered me their ‘little project’.” And then I left. I didn’t rant and I didn’t rave, but I didn’t sit back and just ignore it like I normally would either.
I have friends in town and online that are Christian; I know that this attitude isn’t universal. That said, I do hope none of them consider me their “little project.” It’s very degrading to be called a “project,” even if its only in someone’s mind. So I said something today – came out, if you will – amongst a very evangelical group of Christians. That may cast Padawan Learner and I as undesirables among the homeschooling trampoline crowd, but I’m glad I said it.
I just don’t know what the fall-out will be. The situation there has become much more complicated.
“I don’t know who you are or where you’ve come from, but from now on you’ll do as I say, okay?” – Princess Leia, Star Wars IV: A New Hope
My son is a fan of all things George Lucas, with the Star Wars series being his favorite. He’s been watching the films, reading the books and learning about the “history” of the characters and a certain galaxy from long ago and far, far away since he was just a little guy. For the record, if you haven’t seen R2-D2: Beneath the Dome, than you just don’t know Star Wars. Who knew that such a strong, brave droid could experience so much angst….
Because of his obsession interest, there are many little quotes from the movies that frequently get bandied about in our house. Many. Frequently. One of the most common is after someone makes a demand for assistance (and forgetting to use the more polite, requesting, method) says, “Help me …” someone else will inevitably cut the request off with “Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.” Giggles will ensue and the request is repeated more appropriately. This eventually turned into Obi-Mom Kenobi being used instead when I was the recipient of the request and the expression stuck.
Perhaps you would like to know, since you’re still reading this, a little about me, Obi-Mom Kenobi, the person who is putting all this together. So here goes. First, my family is a little… different… from the majority of families in the United States. Not bad different, but we’re not really a mainstream family in a lot ways although we probably look like it at first glance.
- We don’t send our boy, my Padawan Learner, to school. That’s right, we’re a homeschooling family. Yes, that’s right. I know it can be very scare to hear that if you’re new to the concept. I am the primary person handling the teaching around here, but his dad, who is very like Mace Windu in wisdom and determination and will hereforth be called Dad Windu, has got a fair bit of teaching and sharing to do as well – in his own way.
- We try to live as lightly on this planet as we can (without turning our lives completely upside down). We evaluate decisions based on how they’ll effect the planet, how the local community will be involved and how the Earth will be treated in the production, delivery and disposal of our things. We’re not environmental saints, but we don’t ignore the fact that we’re the single biggest consumer nation in the world either. What we do, nationally and individually, is felt around the world.
- Dad Windu earns a decent wage but doesn’t make a ton of money. Instead, we life simply. I cook from scratch. We wear our clothes until they just can’t go any longer. My Padawan Learner and I walk, ride our bikes or use the bus to get around and Mace Windu carpools a couple of times a week with another guy from work that lives in the area so that we can get by with only one car. We live in a small, older house that we’re constantly making more and more ecologically sound – high efficiency appliances, pulling the plug on electronics when we’re not using them, reading together in the same room so that we don’t have lights on in three different rooms, etc. We borrow books from the library instead of buying – even used books take up space, requiring more bookshelves and, eventually, more “space” to store them in. Doing these things ensures that we don’t “miss” that second income that so many consider essential in today’s economy.
- We spend more but get less, and we don’t mind a bit. Huh? For example, we have an expensive set of pans that will last us the rest of our lives. I take extra good care of them because I know that’s the only way to make them last (virtually) forever. They did cost a fair bit upfront but whenever my mother, mother-in-law and Dad Windu would ask if there was anything I would really like for my birthday, Christmas and our anniversary, I requested a “share” towards the cost of a basic set of really wonderful pots and pans. I rest easy in this purchase, despite buying the pans being brand, spanking new, knowing that they were made here in the USA of materials mined in the USA and that I had wrung every last little bit out of the cheap set of pans that we’d gotten as a wedding gift.
- We barely buy anything at the grocery store. Instead, we get as much of our food from local farms as we can. Once a month, I order meats, cheese, eggs, locally milled flour and other basics from a food co-op. We’re also members of a Community Supported Agriculture farm (CSA) that, for a flat fee, ensures us a weekly share of locally, grown organic veggies during the growing months. We get all kinds of locally grown fruits at the weekly farmer’s market each Saturday, too. Between those three things, we’ve found a great (and cost-effective) way to ensure that we’re eating our recommended daily allotment of fruits and veggies, lean protein and plenty of fiber.
- We are a-theists, as in not-theists (Theist: belief in the existence of a god or gods). We’re not religion haters nor do we hate or ridicule people who are religious. We just don’t believe that there’s any proof of a “divine being or beings” or any special “members-only” truth to be found in in any of the world’s many, many religions. Nope, not even in the Jedi faith.