Tag Archives: atheism

#67: The American Atheist Endorses The Pope


He reads that the Pope
has nothing against him,
in fact, sees him as an equal,
every bit as deserving
as the most devout religionist.
He sees the Pope coming out
for those who are coming out
and for those who have been
forever out of the closet.
He sees him saying that
market capitalism has run
amok and he sees the Pope
advocate, really advocate,
for the poor–in the way that
Jesus might have done.
This is all new, every day a new
wrinkle in the Atheist’s old faith,
the one he grew up with and finally
jettisoned because he’s actually
read parts of the Bible and been
sickened at heart by the atrocities
in the Catholic history, both recent
and ancient. And then he reads
that the Pope has said that parts
of the Bible itself are full of “later
interpolations contrary to the message
of love and truth” and finally, finally
he says that women should be ordained
and that one day he hopes
a woman will be Pope.
All this good news is not enough
to make the American Atheist “believe” anything
that he found impossible to believe
before Francis started changing the world,
except maybe for this:
that coexistence is possible
and hope is possible when
religious leaders start to use their minds
and are lead by reason, reason, reason,
and not the blind, unthinking, fundamentalist dogma
and anti-intellectualism that plagues
our country and the planet and in no exaggerated
way threatens our existence.
The American Atheist endorses The Pope
and says a very enthusiastic Merry Christmas
to the new Catholic Church.

Note:  This poem was in large part inspired by an article posted on The Mighty Social Network from a WordPress blog site called Diversity Chronicle.  Following a thread in this original post, someone made the claim that the article was a hoax, and, it turns out, from the blog site’s own disclaimer, that it might indeed be a hoax.  Okay, so maybe the Pope endorsed in this poem did not say that he hoped a woman could be Pope or that the Bible contains bullshit. But my bets are that he might at some point.  And, while I feel a little bit cheated by the Diversity Chronicle people, I am somewhat in agreement with the philosophy of the Lichtenberg quote on their disclaimer page:  “I ceased in the year 1764 to believe that one can convince one’s opponents with arguments printed in books. It is not to do that, therefore, that I have taken up my pen, but merely so as to annoy them, and to bestow strength and courage on those on our own side, and to make it known to the others that they have not convinced us.” – Georg Christoph Lichtenberg.  So let’s write poetry and fiction in which the Pope says women should be ordained and the Bible contains some stretchers, and maybe, through the pure force of imagination, we can make a new kind of reality.  Thoreau:  “If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.”


Filed under Religion

#46: Call Me Reverend


Call Me Reverend

Call me reverend, call me padre or father,
man of the cloth, pastor, minister, oh wise one,
leader of men, shepherd, or guy who became
an ordained minister on-line in less than
five real live human minutes.
Call me the guy who has credentials
to marry and bury and a parking permit
and a press pass and a free pass
and a bumper sticker that says,
“We are all children of the same universe”
above the symbolic representations
of all the faiths on the planet,
some of which he recognizes,
many of which he does not
and none of which represent
a faith he belongs to or practices.
Call me the Atheist minister,
the guy who became ordained because
someone asked him to officiate a wedding
and he said yes,
who believes in the basic goodness
and dignity of every living thing,
who believes not in an afterlife
of heaven or hell,
but of an afterlife in the memory
of those left behind and whose
lives he touched, for better or worse,
the guy who believes, in a nutshell,

that this is it,

and heaven or hell,
heaven and hell
are right here and now, baby,
and that one can be
exchanged for the other
with the right or wrong
kind of practice or with a good
or a bad kind of luck.
His ministry or creed:
be good to people and the planet
and all the living things upon it,
and that will go an awful long way.
It’s all we’ve got, in the end.



Filed under Poetry, Religion

#44: Sure, I Will Marry You


Sure, I Will Marry You

Sure, I’ll marry you, if you’d like.
That’s what I told a student of mine
who sent me this message out of the blue
fifteen years or better after he’d been
in my classroom reading some Shakespeare,
saying he had asked his girlfriend,
who was also a student of mine
fifteen years ago, to get hitched,
and for some reason, they thought
their high school English teacher
would be the perfect guy for the job.
Will you marry us, he said,
and I said, sure, I will marry you.
I was honored and happy.
I didn’t have a certificate to marry anyone
so I got on the internet and
in five minutes I was ordained
as a minister in the Universal Life Church.
I was pretty pleased with myself.
I’m not religious any more
but the Universal Life Church makes
no demand and sets no standard
for any particular flavor or level
of religiosity, no dogma to follow,
inclusive of even the Agnostic and Atheist.
Well, that’s my kind of church, I thought,
as I ordered up my legal certificate
to certify my reverential self to the State
and to the world.
I told my former students
that I wouldn’t be talking about Jesus
and they were all right by that.
Despite my lack of religion,
despite the fact that it’s probably
been thirty years since I last said a prayer,
I think of myself, still, in spiritual terms,
think there is a big difference between
spirituality and religion, and find much
in the world and in life to be reverential
and even worshipful about. So
I find myself pretty darn excited now
to be a man of the cloth, of some kind of cloth;
hell yeah, I’m now a reverend, and if you ask me
to marry you or bury you or make a blessing
of some kind, I’ll do my level best
to bring some thought, some levity,
some seriousness, and gobs of respect
to the occasion, because that’s what you deserve.
That’s what we all deserve.

Reverend Michael Anthony Jarmer

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Filed under Culture, Poetry, Religion, Self Reflection, Teaching

Of a Holy Secular Christmas

The only times I go into churches any more are for weddings and funerals, and, on rare occasions, when there’s no service, for a quiet space. I am not attending mass or any other church service on Christmas. And I guess, it needs to be said, and I’ll say it here publicly for perhaps the first time, formerly speaking: I am an atheist. And I’m celebrating Christmas. I love Christmas. But mine is a secular one, meaning that I have participated in most of the trappings of the season (tree decorating, music listening, goody consuming, gift giving, light hanging) but not in those trappings that are particularly religious (church going, Bible reading, sermonizing, prayer sending, nativity scene building)—and even when I listen to or perform music that is blatantly religious, “Silent Night,” “We Three Kings,” “O Come All Ye Faithful” (to name a few of my favorites), I will appreciate the beautiful melodies, the nuanced performances, the arrangements, and I’ll even admire the beauty of the feeling and the narrative behind that feeling, without a conviction that this music represents literal truth or historical truth.

I sometimes wonder if it is not somehow inauthentic to celebrate a religious holiday in a tradition one does not participate in or even remotely believe. Let me justify my position. I am not the kind of non-believer that suggests that Jesus never lived. Nope, I think he was an actual guy, as human as anyone—I mean, in the same way that Martin Luther King Jr. was as human as anyone. But Jesus was not born on December 25th. We don’t know when the guy was born, exactly, although most historians put his birthday early fall or maybe late spring. So why the 25th? Early Christians, in an effort to appeal to the Pagans and win over more converts, chose the 25th, a Pagan holiday called Saturnalia celebrating the Winter Solstice (which I understand was one hell of a party). So I can, in good conscience, celebrate Christmas as a Winter Solstice holiday, or, whether it’s his actual date of birth or not, I can celebrate the day as a symbolic birthday party for the guy who, while not the son of God, or God in the flesh, had a few really good things to say about how to live a life and how to treat people.

And I can celebrate the holiday as a kind of nostalgia trip. As I child I was spellbound, intoxicated, totally enthused by the season and this particular holiday. I was a believer as a child—and I know that part of the appeal of Christmas for the childhood me, beyond all the commercial stuff that’s been bastardizing the holiday for at least the last one hundred years, was a kind of wonder, a reverence and awe for the spiritual or religious aspects of the season. I know that added to the magic; and illusory as that magic was—the feeling was real enough. And I think about how I want my son to experience the holiday. I don’t want him indoctrinated but I do want him to understand some things.  I can teach him about the historical Jesus. I can teach him what Christians believe about who he was. I can honestly tell him where I stand (to do otherwise would be dishonest), and I can emphasize to him the importance of making up his own mind when he has the maturity to do so. But I imagine that part of the holiday magic, that spiritual part, might be something that is always lacking for him—unless the holiday can remain somehow holy without being dependent upon religious dogma and superstition.

I appreciate two of the five definitions of the word“holy” I find on my favorite web dictionary. Something is holy when it has the quality of being spiritually pure. Or, something is holy when it is entitled to worship or veneration—as if sacred. I can get behind both of these ideas. First, one can be spiritual without being religious.  Second, there can be something sacred, worshipful, venerable about the holiday if we take time to think about those values Christmas can represent—all of which are inherently good and secular to boot. Good will toward men and women. Compassion, tolerance, and generosity. Peace on earth. Gratitude. Childlike innocence and wonder. Quiet time with family. A really good seasonal ale. An attempt to resist materialistic excess. These things, when they occur, are just as magical as any story about a virgin birth–maybe more so because they are within the realm of possibility.  These things represent Christmas for me and will continue to embody the holiday for as long as I’m around, I suspect.

Have a holy secular Christmas, y’all, unless you’re inclined to do otherwise.  Then do that.  And happy new year.

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