Sunday, December 4, 2011

Taking Care of the Poor: Religion vs. Atheism

All mainstream religious teachings stress taking care of the poor.  Help your brother, they proclaim.  Jesus reportedly spent a disproportionate amount of his time taking care of the poor in Israel.  Islam preaches that if you take care of the poor and needy, you are an honorable person.  In the Hindu faith, taking care of the poor is considered an essential tenant.  Given this, one would expect that a religious physician would likely spend a disproportionate amount of his/her time treating the poor, like Jesus.  A new study in the Annals of Family Medicine shows what some may describe as a surprising outcome: religious physicians are less likely to work in underserved areas than Atheist physicians.

Are you surprised by these results?  I can't say that I am.  With all the hypocrisy found throughout the world's religions, it's not surprising that the practice of religion is just as hypocritic.  Hopefully this will begin to reshape any misguided images and preconceptions that people have about Atheists.  I'm beginning to the think the real reason why Atheists seem to have a bad reputation in American society has nothing to do with whether they are good or bad people, but more likely the fact that they have no public "face."  Religion is ubiquitous in American media, but Atheism is left conspicuously out.  People tend to fear what they don't know or understand, and if you don't know an Atheist that is open about his/her beliefs (or lack thereof), you may never realize how normal an Atheist person/family can be.

Take care,

-The Atheist Physician

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Why Christianity is Likely to be the Worst Religion on Our Planet

Christians should really be renamed, collectively, "The Undecided."  The Christian religion is notorious for its varying accounts and assertions about what happened in the past, and what will happen in the future.  There are various sects i.e. Protestants, Catholics, Lutherans etc.  None of which can agree, even on simple points of their religion, yet they are all classified as being Christianity.  I cannot possibly take a religion seriously, when I get wildly different answers depending upon the particular church door I knock on.

A few months ago, there was a fairly prominent Christian group within America that began making claims about the end of time, Judgement Day was coming, and those that have not been saved, would be banished to Hell for all eternity.  The Christian community was divided, some bought into this extravagant view, while others denounced it.  This of course, never happened, but what bothers me most is when I discuss this event with Christians, they claim to be separate from this group of world-ending-followers.  They make statements like "they are crazy!"  "That's not what Christians believe," and "I never believed in that."  My problem with all of this, is that Christians are refusing to accept responsibility for their even more eccentric group of followers.  The reality is that Protestants believe Catholics to be wrong in how they practice their religion, Lutherans believe that Methodists are a bit crazy and "have it all wrong." So how is this group of world-ending-followers any different?  They all call themselves Christians, and as such, need to take responsibility for all of their followers. 

Islamic followers have struggled with this very issue, as Islamic extremists are blamed for many terror attacks around the world, they are still considered followers of Islam, however, the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful and very against violence.  Likewise, there have been a number of terror attacks in the name of Christianity, most notably, the recent attack in Norway.  Interestingly, the whole of Christianity was not to blame (in the public's world view) for the attack, but Islam still struggles today to clear its name from its association with terrorism.

This all brings me back to the title of my post "Why Christianity is Likely to be the Worst Religion on Our Planet." This all seems to come down to interpretation.  It seems that every Christian interprets the Bible differently.  This difference is not so widespread with other religions.  In my experience, you are much more likely to get the same answers about a person's religion if they consider themselves anything other than Christian.  Ask two Muslims their religion's view on gay marriage, ask two Buddhists their religion's view on gay marriage, ask two Jews their religion's view on gay marriage, and you are likely to get similar answers within religions.  Ask two Christian's their religion's view on gay marriage, and the answers you receive are likely to be wildly different!

It's difficult enough as it is to argue rationally with someone that is not rational, but worse yet when the irrational people can't keep their stories straight.

If you are religious, and especially a Christian, I hope that you do not take offense to my writing, but rather, consider it a critical review of how your institution conducts itself.  We are all in need of a little self-review every now and again, and all too often the majority groups are too privileged to ever critique themselves, or receive a critique from others.  I hope you will consider these points, and use them to make the world a better place, with or without religion.

-The Atheist Physician

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

My Thoughts on the Israel, Palestine Conflict

One of the most infamous conflicts during my lifetime (and before it) has been the conflict between Israel and Palestine.  It's so ironic the transition this conflict has made in the last several years.  It has changed from being a simple conflict over land, between two groups, to genocide of a group of people.  The irony, of course, is because the country of Israel was founded by persecuted Jews following the Holocaust and the German ruling over much of Europe.  The people who were once hunted endlessly for their heritage and religion are now the ones doing the hunting of another group due only to their heritage and religion.  Worse yet, the tax money I pay to the United States of America supports this genocide.

It was only days ago that the U.S. withdrew from funding UNESCO following a U.N. vote to include Palestine as recognized entity.  I'm not certain that the U.S. government has thoroughly thought this move through.  The ramifications are extensive.  No longer is the U.S. agenda at the forefront the minds of the U.N.  Additionally, all of the countries (which was the majority of them) that voted to recognize Palestine will no longer support U.S. positions within the U.N.  Acting on one quick decision, the U.S. government has, in essence, made an enemy of itself to the entire world (not that we are all that high ranking in the popularity department to begin with, but it still harms us).  The U.S. is no longer as much of a super power as it once was, and no longer has the weight to throw around that it once did.  If my government does not begin to watch whose toes they step on, we may find ourselves in the midsts of yet another war, but this time it may be on our own soil.

The bottom line is that Israel should end its genocidal offensives on Palestine, and should turnover control of the city of Palestine (Israel calls in Jerusalem).  It's time for the U.S. to end its support for Israel, and allow both countries to coexist in peace.  This of course, is a long way from happening, but it's what I'm working towards, and I hope that others can see the destructive ways of Israel, and collectively, we can end their support, likely forcing a peace agreement.  Without weapons of war, Israel will be unable to continue its offensive.  The only down side from the U.S. stand point is that we will have lost one of our few remaining allies in the Middle East, which is really a very stupid reason to support genocide.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Beginning: How I got to where I am

If you're reading this, you've most certainly all ready noticed the name of my blog "The Atheist Physician."  Most would consider this to be an odd combination.  Truth be told, I've tried religion on several occasions.  I've tried christianity and buddhism.  Neither really seem to work for me, for so many reasons I can't even possibly begin to explain.  The bottom line is that I am a very logical person, I use logic every day, in everything that I do (imagine what your life would be like if you ran around making all kinds of illogical choices!) and I cannot simply abandon my need for logic when it comes to religion.  Religion is inherently illogical, and therefore not compatible with the way I view my life and the world around me.  My second defining characteristic is the physician portion.  To be honest, I'm not a physician yet, I'm currently in my third year of medical school, but I hope to continue this blog for some time into the future, so I assumed using the term physician was rather appropriate.  Now, on to how it all started.

Most of my life has been about learning, and most of what I have learned came from the mistakes I have made.  There's no problem with making mistakes, but there is a problem with failing to learn from them.  I grew up in small city of about 52,000 people in Southwest Michigan.   I had an excellent childhood, loving and caring parents who taught me good values and even better ethics.  All this, without religion.  I cannot thank them enough for not stuffing any one particular flavor of religion down my throat.  I'm not sure what I would have turned out like if they had, but I can only imagine that I would not be who I am today.  I didn't really work too hard at school until I reached High school.  Science was the only subject that I truly excelled in, and the biological sciences in particular.  I had long ago, decided I would be a research scientist and I was hell bent on finding a cure for cancer.  Eventually I realized this was a slightly far fetched hope, and that I didn't really want to spend my time cooped up in a laboratory somewhere.  I enjoy working with people more than anything, and I felt like someone hit me over the head when my favorite High school science teacher suggested that I consider a career in medicine.  It was perfect.  I get to meet and interact with a diverse group of people, and I get to use science.  What could possibly be better?  And that began my journey down the pre-med path when I started college.  My senior year of High school was when I first met my, now wife.  We worked together, and for some time she was even my boss, which does make for some interesting relationship dynamics.  We attended undergraduate college together.  I owe her a lot, not only has she always been there for me when times were hard, but she has taught me so much.  I was rather ambitious, when it came to school and completed most of my general education requirements at a community college while I was still in high school.  I never went to a full day of High school since my Sophomore year.  Once I graduated High school, I attended a major University, where I completed two bachelors degrees in a little over 2 years.  This is perhaps the accomplishment that I am most proud of.  I worked very hard during that time, and really didn't enjoy any of the typical college experiences.  I would probably give up finishing so early to relive some of those experiences, but again, this was yet another mistake that I have learned from: avoid wishing away your current situation, regardless of how amazing or terrible it may be, because you never know what lies ahead.  I was also fortunate enough to have received a full scholarship to complete both of my bachelors degrees, but I still worked throughout school.  I held down two part time jobs to pay rent and the bills.  During my last semester of undergraduates is when I married my wife.  Our wedding was extravagant, in an outdoor garden setting, complete with a non-religious ceremony, though we offered a time of silence for those that were religious, and wished to pray, meditate, or otherwise satisfy their religious requirements.  During this same time, I applied to medical school, and received several interviews.  I had my sights set on one particular school.  Luckily I was accepted early on, and was able to forgo many of my interviews (which saved me a significant chunk of change! Interviewing, with travel costs can be extremely expensive).  The first two years of medical school are really designed to test your ability to tolerate idiocy.  You work your butt off for just a passing grade and you see some sides of your colleagues you never knew existed, but eventually you all make it out together to enter the last two years, which are in the hospital/clinic.  Everything in these last two years are exponentially better than anything you ever experience during the first two years.  And that is where I am now.  Third year, complete with the short, white coat, and the chronic dumbfounded look you used to get as a kid, when someone would do even a mediocre magic trick.

Stick around, there will be more to come, both about atheism, and more about medical school.