7/30/2008 View Comments
This is really an adjunct to one of Sconner's comments in the Bibles to Bagdahd thread.
As a young (primary school) kid my parents took us off to New Guinea in the early 1960's. Though conservative and practising xtians they were not missionaries, but government employees. I think that their main reason for going was financial as they had been forced to sell the family farm in the 1960 credit squeeze and had worked out that a term or two in PNG would give them enough cash to buy another farm.
Papua New Guinea in the '60's was a place of hope and excitement but it was there that I first learned of the scourge of the missionary. The cash strapped Administration was cornered into a situation where it relied very heavily on missionaries and missionary organisations to provide the absolute basics of education. Outside the major urban centres the vast majority of education was the province of the missionary school. Coupled with the administration's almost complete inability to enforce its desired curriculum you can guess as to where the fanatical loyalties of the missionaries lay and just how much effort they put into complying with the government's plans for their people. It was not uncommon to find a 6th-grade-educated adult who had never read anything but biblical stories. Sunday School bible story books were used as reading primers. No Dr. Seuss or Enid Blyton for those poor students.
Worse still was the reason that these poor people bought all the crap they were dished out. They bought it because it came from the Europeans who obviously had a very much better and easier life. Who wouldn't want the *cargo* that the white man had. The unspoken undersell of the missionaries was that if you take on the white man's religion you'll be rewarded with his lifestyle. One of my native school friends said that his family only went to church because they thought that it was part of the process needed to obtain material wealth. I raised this with him again on the net about 18 months ago and his reply was that he was nearly 40 grand deeply in debt and totally stressed out before he realised that Xtianity is totally separate from economic reality and the whole thing is a fucking great con.
I have just finished reading several very recent reports on the surrender of a number of much vaunted Raskol Gangs (greatly feared and sometimes very violent ethnic and/or urban territorial gangs who usually specialise in "aquisitional crimes"). The Police claim that it is due to good policing (the truth is probably that police attitudes and tactics are a significant part of the problem). The missionaries, who are often important brokers in such surrenders, claim that the gang members have found religion and want to repent. And... the anthropologists who say that most gangs surrender because they are promised better access to community support and small business development funds. These promised funds mostly evaporate and the members of the group revert back to crime more disillusioned with the system than ever. So the con is still being practised.
While we were living in Port Moresby my Father became friendly with a missionary he met at the Golf Club. This guy managed a very large copra plantation for a major Church. The friendship was as rare as it was genuine since according to our conservative Presbyterian views other denominations were not "true Christians" and not cultivated socially.
Dad set off one afternoon for a twilight golf comp (9 holes played in the late afternoon) and returned very soon after he had left with his missionary friend. The man was obviously very distraught; it was one of the very few times I had seen a grown man crying (it was the emotionally repressed 60's after all). Although we kids were rapidly ushered out of the lounge room, the nature of a house virtually walled with louveres meant that we were able to eavesdrop on every word.
The source of this poor man's distress was that he was facing criminal charges for carrying out a head office directive where he was made to pay his native workforce in a scrip which could only be redeemed at the church-operated trade store. Although the face value of the scrip was the legal minimum wage the trade store prices were greatly inflated and the goods often very poor quality, frequently having been donated by Australian congregations collected and intended for free distribution. An Australian court had deemed the practice illegal and said that it was tantamount to slavery. A "concerned" missionary from a competing denomination had lodged the requisite legal complaint. Church Headquarters had completely abandoned this poor man, claiming they were ignorant and that he had acted on his own volition. The letters he had shown the prosecutor were dismissed as forgeries as there were no copies on file back in Australia.
He had been summarily dismissed and evicted from his house. Having carried out their wishes they were quite prepared to let him do time to keep their own noses clean.
I can clearly remember hearing him say that: "I sent over two hundred thousand pounds back to those greedy bastards last year and wasn't allowed to keep a penny to help the staff or fix the drying sheds... we never see a cent of any of the money they collect down South for the heathen... they're just bent businessmen selling salvation."
I learned much later as an adult that the case against him had been dismissed and that the church had been compelled to pay his family's costs to return to Australia. According to my Dad, it was not evidence but religious bias that got him off, apparently the judge that heard the case was also a prominent member of a
missionary Society and he was more interested in seeing the opposition denomination blamed than shooting the servant.
We had been back in Australia less than a month when door knocking proselytisers sought our generous donation for the poor benighted heathen of New Guinea. My Dad called out from the lounge room to ask what denomination the collectors were and we found that they were of the offending denomination.Dad arrived at the front door and asked. "What's the matter, Your plantation gone broke has it"? When he told them that church owned New Guinea businesses were sending very large sums of money to Australia and not seeing a cent (yes decimal currency had arrived in Oz) of church funds they rudely called him a lying nutter and left, without any donation.
Sconner, it's all about collecting money, forget about starving and sick children, god can perform miracles to fix them up (if he wishes). The really important thing is money. Collect it in the name of GOD and it's tax free and unaccountable, you have to do something blatant like flooding a war zone with unneeded bibles to show the donors that you are putting their cash to good works. That is that percentage of the cash you don't appropriate for your own lavish lifestyle. It's a necessary facet of the smoke and mirrors.
7/29/2008 View Comments
Originally posted April 2007, in the Calladus Blog.
I have a long post today that was spurred by the article that Abstinence Only education doesn't work. How odd - religious conservatives keep saying that it DOES work - so I wanted to find out why they would say such a thing. I decided to see if my favorite religious fundamentalist lobbying organization could shed some light.
Tony Perkins, President of James Dobson’s Christian lobbying organization “Family Research Council”, is a big advocate of Abstinence Only education programs for teens and pre-teens in public schools. On 23 March ’07 he wrote on FRC.com:
… stacks of peer-reviewed research are showing the direct impact of abstinence education, including a peer-reviewed study on America's largest and oldest abstinence program, Best Friends.“Stacks of peer-reviewed research” validate Abstinence Only education according to Mr. Perkins. This is the opposite of what is reported in March 8th’s edition of CitizenLink.com, a news publication of James Dobson’s “Focus on the Family”. This edition of CitizenLink quotes Linda Klepacki, R.N., M.P.H., who is an analyst for sexual health at Focus on the Family Action:
In Adolescent and Family Health, Dr. Robert Lerner's analysis of urban D.C. participants found that, "Despite the fact that [these students come from schools that]... are located in Wards that have higher rates of out-of-wedlock births, girls who attended the program are substantially less likely to...have sex than a comparable sample... The relative odds of 120 to 1 of a [high school] Diamond Girl abstaining from sex is a result so strong that it is unheard of in practically any empirical research."
What they are saying is that, in order to be medically and scientifically accurate, you must be verified and supported in your research by peer review," she said. "Abstinence education cannot get into peer-review journals because the journals are controlled by far-left liberal organizations that do not allow us to publish. That automatically eliminates abstinence-only education, from their standpoint.How odd. Is it just me, or does it seem like Dobson’s left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing? Are there really stacks of peer-review proof that Abstinence Only education really works, or are all the evil secular progressives using their Black Helicopters to prevent the overwhelming evidence from being reviewed in Lancet or Science?
And what about the peer-review journal, Adolescent and Family Health? I decided to do a little research on the AFH journal. It would seem to me that a good way to make sure that a peer-reviewed journal is unbiased is to check on who runs it, who supports it, and how long the journal has been in business. So I started with the AFH ethics policy which states that:
A conflict of interest may arise when an individual, organization, or other entity has the opportunity to benefit either by monetary gain, employment, or policy position, from an article published through the Journal.There is no mention of conflicts of interest due to religious idealism. This journal doesn’t seem to care that research may be accepted or rejected due to purely religious preconceptions.
The Editor in Chief of the AFH journal is Doctor Alma L. Golden. In order to hold this position Dr. Golden should have no political bias or scientific preconceptions so that she may evaluate all research with an open mind. Unfortunately Dr. Golden has a history of bias and preconception. Dr. Golden developed a taste for politics as an advocate for children’s health insurance in Texas. She then became a founder of the abstinence advocacy group, S.A.G.E. Advice. As the medical director and presenter of S.A.G.E. Advice, Dr. Golden not only advocated Abstinence Only, but also discouraged teaching the use of condoms. (Powerpoint link to S.A.G.E. presentation by Dr. Golden.)
S.A.G.E. Advice incorporated in 2001 as a non-profit group and started receiving large grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It is suspiciously odd that in October 2002, Dr. Golden was appointed to serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs (DASPA). According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
Dr. Golden [will oversee] the Office of Population Affairs (OPA) within [the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] Office of Public Health and Science. OPA advises the Secretary and Assistant Secretary for Health on a wide range of reproductive health topics, including adolescent pregnancy, family planning and other population issues. OPA also provides policy and administrative direction for the Title X Family Planning Program and the Title XX Adolescent Family Life Program.Is this a conflict of interest? Louise Witt, in an article in the April 14th edition of Salon points out the conflict of allowing an Abstinence Only advocate to oversee the OPA:
The Office of Population Affairs oversees Title X, which provides federal funds for family planning and reproductive health services, and Title XX, which funds research and projects on teens' sexual issues. In Bush's 2003 fiscal budget, the administration requested a 33 percent increase, or a total of $135 million, for the office's community-based abstinence-until-marriage programs. As one lobbyist for a women's health group put it: "It's the fox guarding the chicken coop."Well, the person who runs the journal of Adolescent and Family Health certainly seems biased to me. How about the people who support it? According to their website, AFH is a journal for the Institute for Youth Development (IYD), which was founded by Shepherd Smith and his wife Anita. Mr. Smith testified before the House of Representatives in March of 2003 in order to advocate Faith-Based Abstinence Only education and to discourage the promotion of condoms.
According to the IYD overview:
Since its inception, the Institute for Youth Development has been dedicated to ensuring the best possible future for America’s youth through the promotion of a risk avoidance message regarding five unhealthy risk behaviors: drugs, alcohol, sex, violence and tobacco.“Risk avoidance” seems to be another way of saying “abstinence” to me. And the IYD agrees on its FAQ page:
IYD supports a comprehensive approach to sexual abstinence. In fact, we believe that the abstinence approach should apply to all risk behaviors associated with the use of alcohol, drugs, tobacco and violence.The IYD FAQ page even has a blurb on the effectiveness of Abstinence education:
IYD believes that abstinence is indeed an effective approach to addressing adolescent sexuality. This message is being embraced by teens throughout the nation as evidenced by the 2001 Centers for Disease Control Youth Surveillance Survey. This survey indicated that 54% of teens have not had sex as compared to 45% in 1990. So, the survey indicates that teens are choosing to abstain from sexual activity. This year, the CDC reported that birth rates for unmarried teenagers continued to decline. Teens that choose abstinence are totally protected from the consequences that can dramatically alter their lives and their futures.This blurb is very misleading. The IYD is quoting from the CDC’s “Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report” a survey of trends in America. The survey they quote from is the “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance” survey. By comparing two of these surveys the IYD notices that sexual activity among adolescents declined, which resulted in fewer births. There is no indication of why there was a reduction of sexual activity – but Abstinence Only advocates are quick to take credit for it, and the IYD quotes it as an “effective approach.” This seems circular to me.
The people who run the journal, Adolescent and Family Health seem biased to me, as does the organization that supports it. So how long has the journal been in business? The journal’s welcome letter is dated January 2nd, 2001 and is published twice a year. After 2003 publishing of the journal becomes erratic. The last dated issue was in 2005. There is one undated issue after that. You can see the issues here, but you'll need a free registration to read their abstracts.
So what about the “Stacks of peer-reviewed research” that Tony Perkins writes about? Well, there seems to be only one. In Volume 3, Number 4 of the AFH journal, a submission by Dr. Robert Lerner is titled, “Can Abstinence Work? An Analysis of the Best Friends Program.” The full text of this particular article can be read under a free registration, even thought the other articles must be read under a paid subscription. How odd - this feels like a magician's force to me.
I’m not a statistician, nor am I a psychologist or medical doctor. I am somewhat familiar with peer-reviewed articles and basic laboratory procedures. So perhaps I’m being arrogant when I say that this submission reeks of poor science. Perhaps someone could check me on this.
A good way to judge that the results are sound is to examine the methodology, here is what I've found. The Best Friends program for girls was founded in 1987 and runs in over a hundred schools across the USA. Instead of analyzing the program in all of these schools, Dr. Lerner restricts his analysis to those in Washington DC only. Dr. Lerner doesn’t randomly pick test subjects and control subjects, instead he picks schools that have more or less comprehensive data. The Best Friends program requires students to fill out data sheets at the beginning of the program and the end of the year. Dr. Lerner compares this data to the state’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveys (YRBS) for the District of Columbia; this seems to be his control group’s data. Dr. Lerner never indicates how many students are in his study at any point. The Best Friends program data is self-reported by the students, there is no discussion about adjusting that data for reporting bias, and there was never even the thought of an attempt to gather original, neutral data for the purpose of analysis.
At this point, I can see that Dr. Lerner’s data is nothing more than the purest shit, absolutely useless for science. But Dr. Lerner goes off on several pages of text and tables, performing statistical masturbation. With this sort of scholarship, it is no wonder that Dr. Lerner's article didn't make it into a more mainstream publication like Lancet or Science. This article would have rightly been rejected out of hand as substandard by any of my laboratory professors.
And this is it. This is the often cited but never discussed peer-reviewed killer study that shows that Abstinence Only education works, that Abstinence Only is the only way to educate adolescents. This is nothing more than junk science in a biased journal supported by religious flunkies with a religious and political agenda.
The amount of dishonesty here should be astonishing, if it were not so common among religious conservatives.
7/28/2008 View Comments
Religious groups have been exploiting the US Military Postal Service to flood Iraq and the surrounding region with bibles since shortly after the World Trade Center atrocity. These organized religious operations operate under the stated goal of sending bibles to the troops, but the results tend to imply another unstated goal, the creation of a “subtle” Crusade that witnesses to and attempts to convert Muslims in and around Iraq.
Before the invasion of Iraq one organization, Campus Crusade for Christ, through their Military Ministry set up a program that would allow anyone to send a solder something called a “Rapid Deployment Kit”. These kits each contain a New Testament Bible, a written 90-day prayer devotional, and a ‘how to’ booklet used to instruct solders in the methods of witnessing to others. In other words this is a ‘religious conversion kit’ designed to help Christians proselytize and it is meant to be given to new Christians to reinforce their conversion and assist them in witnessing to others.
Initially these kits were sent to soldiers wherever a solder or the family of a soldier requested. But the number of kits ‘deployed’ rapidly increased. To date, Campus Crusade for Christ boasts that over 1.8 million Rapid Deployment Kits have been sent to members of the US military. And while some of the Campus Crusade websites are vague about which countries these kits are being sent, other Campus Crusade websites strongly imply that they are all going to soldiers in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq.
1.8 million pocket sized bibles – that’s over 257 thousand bibles a year. There are about 150 thousand American troops in Iraq, and another 30 thousand in Afghanistan and Kuwait. Many of these soldiers are on their third or fourth rotation, and most troops have been deployed to the Iraq multi-national force at least twice.
This means that new bibles are coming in every year to soldiers who are likely to have already received one of these bibles during their last tour of duty. If every soldier serving in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan gladly accepted a brand new bible every year, there would still be a surplus of 77 thousand bibles per year.
This leads to the obvious question – where are all the extra “Rapid Deployment Kits” going?
Campus Crusade for Christ is not the only organization sending bibles to the Middle East through the US Military. Tim Todd Ministries, of Revival Fires fame, is sending bibles by the box to Iraq and Afghanistan. Tim Todd’s bibles seem to be designed to look like the standard Good News Translation Armed Forces Military Edition, but the cover is slightly different, and the bible contains, “… devotionals and study helps specifically for U.S. Military”. Another organization, the Open Window Foundation’s, “Operation Worship” set a goal to send a hundred thousand bibles to soldiers over a period of a hundred days.
Individuals, like Brad Blauser, have also sent bibles to Iraq. Blauser sent 550 Zondervan “Starting Point Study Bibles” in 2006, with a goal to send 6,000 bibles in 2007. I have no idea how many bibles he has sent since then.
Obviously Mr. Blauser’s operation isn’t of the same scale of Campus Crusade for Christ, but there are a lot of individuals like Mr. Blauser, and from speaking to my religious friends I’ve personally heard of two Fresno churches that are also sending bibles to Iraq. That’s an unscientific and statistically meaningless sample – but it is easy to assume that there are others doing the same thing. I’m guessing, but I would not be surprised to learn that half a million bibles and associated materials are being sent to US military members in Iraq and the surrounding area every year.
Is this legal?
Campus Crusade for Christ, Tim Todd Ministries, Operation Worship, and Brad Blauser all have something other than bibles in common. They are all breaking Federal law, and they are encouraging military members to violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice – the laws to which all troops must abide.
The specific laws that they are breaking are the Federal Laws that provide for free or low-cost delivery of mail through the Military Postal System (MPS) – Title 39, Part 9, Chapter 3401 of Federal Code. This section details the way in which military members are allowed to post “free mail”. It also allows anyone located in the United States to post mail to military members serving overseas using domestic mail rates. Mail sent to APO / FPO addresses may be sent using standard postage – the mail is then collected at the APO or FPO and shipped using military transport to its final destination.
The Department of Defense Directive, Postal Manual DoD 4525.6-M (PDF) quotes Title 39 of the Federal Code as its authority to direct the actions of servicemen who work in Military Post Offices. This manual clearly states that military members are not allowed to receive mail as an “in care of” address for those who are not authorized to use the MPS.
Military members are not allowed to use the MPS as their own shipping pipeline for profit or non-profit purposes. For example, although military members or their spouses may be allowed to work from on-base housing, they are not allowed to ship products for their business through MPS. Mary Kay and Amway distribution through the MPS is strictly forbidden.
Even non-profit, charitable efforts are not authorized. Recently the Stars and Stripes Newspaper wrote about Operation Care, a grass roots effort to distribute donations from Americans to needy people in Afghanistan. Organized by military volunteers in Bagram Afghanistan, Operation Care solicited donations that were delivered through the Military Postal Service and then distributed to Afghanis. While commendable, it was against both Federal and military regulations.
In 2006, Operation Care processed 16 tons of goods. When this organization’s practices were brought to the attention of the Military Postal Service, the MPS ordered them to stop. From the follow-up Stars and Stripes article:
"Although Operation Care is a noble cause, it is in direct violation of multiple DoD (Department of Defense) Policies listed in the DoD Postal Manual 4525.6-M," wrote Army Col. David Ernst, deputy director of the Military Postal System Agency in an e-mail addressed to members of the group and various civilian and military officials.The military is actually being very kind to those who volunteer for Operation Care. It would have been well within their rights to bring those responsible before courts-martial. Military members involved are guilty of violating articles 92 and 134 under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and could be subject to anything from reduction in rank, to imprisonment plus forfeiture of rank and benefits.
"I appreciate your cooperation in helping to end the illegal use of the MPS to operate a business and transport humanitarian items for distribution," he wrote. "Please direct them to seek an alternative means to conduct Operation Care."
It would be possible, but more difficult to prosecute those civilians in America who organized the donations for Operation Care.
All of the organizations detailed here deliver bibles exclusively through the Military Postal Service.
This leads to the second obvious question – why are Christians getting this ‘free pass’ to flout the law?
The military does not like to be embarrassed. Article 134 forbids embarrassing actions by forbidding, “all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces”. But maybe they just don't know what is going on?
At approximately a quarter-pound per Rapid Deployment Kit, it is difficult for the military to ignore that the MPS is shipping well over 30 tons of these kits each year. This number only accounts for the Campus Crusade for Christ’s shipments, the tonnage is likely doubled because other organizations use larger bibles that contain both the old and new testament. Operation Care’s mere 16 tons of delivered goods doesn’t come close in comparison.
Presumably the US military has noticed this drain on their resources. Operation Care was founded in 2006 and was noticed and warned in 2008. Campus Crusade for Christ’s effort has been ongoing since 2002, and they have received no equivalent warning. It is reasonable to assume that the US military is not embarrassed to assist with flooding bibles into to an Islamic country. This implies governmental approval of this subtle crusade.
And the supposition that "the troops need bibles" is somewhat faulty. Military chaplains may order bibles through the military supply system in order to give them to troops who ask for them. Although the supply system is slower than MPS, ordering bibles through it can be logistically planned for in advance.
So assuming that the US Military realizes that they are flooding Islamic areas with bibles, it could also be assumed that they approve of the practice. Perhaps I'm building a house of cards here, but the Christianization of the US armed forces has been well documented (link 1, link 2, link 3, link 4).
I am all for military members getting what they want and need. Every soldier who wants a bible, or the Torah, or Talmud, or Qu'ran or any other religious text should be able to have one. And if the military supply system can't get a religious text to a solder then kind donations through the Military Postal Service should certainly take up the slack.
But just how many bibles should each soldier receive? And just what do these Christian agencies expect soldiers to do with all those surplus bibles?
I have written three other, shorter entries on the ongoing effort to flood Iraq with bibles, which can be read here. I am currently preparing one more entry on the subject of sending bibles to Iraq, so keep checking back.
7/24/2008 View Comments
"Igor, would you mind telling me whose brain I did put in?"
"And you won't be angry?"
- Young Frankenstein
At one time, I believed that (Christian) religion was required to experience ‘God’s Love’, which is often identified with an uplifting feeling of acceptance and comfort, or of reverence and awe. Religious people often say that they can feel God’s presence in their lives. They can feel forgiveness. This blinding moment of transcendence, of rising above and outside of yourself is often the defining moment in many ‘born again’ Christian’s lives. While I was Christian I experienced this feeling, and was amazed and humbled by it.
I no longer believe that you have to be Christian to experience this sensation of the divine.
I started thinking about this again when one of my friends recently told me that religion was difficult to give up because she needed the feeling of spirituality it gave her. As an American Indian, she enjoys rising above her consciousness and communing with others in her sweat lodge.
Here is a somewhat edited version of what I told her:
When I was a Christian, there were several occasions when I experienced the feeling of God’s divinity, when I felt like God was watching over me with warm loving acceptance. That feeling was one of the reasons why it was so difficult for me to leave Christianity. The bible was self-contradictory and spoke of an evil, mean, spiteful and jealous God. Religion didn't make sense – where was this feeling of acceptance and love and forgiveness coming from??
I finally read about how people of other religions, or practices, also create this feeling of transcendence, Bodhi, Satori, Nirvana or enlightenment in themselves; Monks from Tibet, Masters from India, or from elsewhere in Asia where they worship ancestors or animal spirits instead of God, sweat lodges, even fasting. Throughout history people have found different ways to attain these feelings, this insight, or 'god' feeling.
Since most religions are mutually exclusive, the feelings can’t all be coming from one god. Either there is a multitude of gods, or it is all in our heads.
The field of Neurotheology is currently a ‘borderland science’ that is still hotly contested. Religious results seem to be inconsistent when magnets are used to stimulate the brain – perhaps because individuals all seem to be ‘wired’ somewhat differently. In other cases there are firm results that show a connection between brain and religious experiences in people who experience seizures, or when electrical stimulation is applied directly to the brain during brain surgery. An experiment involving Nuns has also shown that a variety of brain locations seem to be affected during the recreation of religious feelings.
I find it very plausible that religious experience is created in the software of our minds as it runs on the wetware of our brains. I think this way because after I became Atheist, I was able to re-achieve transcending feelings of awe, of acceptance, of being comforted, and of reverence.
I don’t think that feelings of Nirvana come from outside of us because the feelings are not created by a common cause. Fasting in a sweat lodge, singing in mass, inspired group visualization (i.e. preaching) and meditation can all bring people to achieve these feelings.
Religion isn’t the answer because these feelings can be achieved in mutually exclusive religions.
I've managed to recreate these religious feelings as an Atheist by using music while meditating. Classical music will do it for me. Oddly enough, so will Van Halen's "Jump". It's the same feeling of love, peace and acceptance that I got when I was Christian, only now I know that I’m the one making it happen.
Sam Harris was, unjustly in my opinion, criticized by non-believers for his position on meditation in his book “The End of Faith.” Non-believers were upset that Harris seemed to be edging into ‘woo woo’ areas; especially since he seems to be saying that meditation can be used to discover new things.
I don’t think Sam Harris is talking about using meditation in order to somehow psychically gain new knowledge. I think that the experience of transcending one’s self can be profoundly life-affirming, even life-changing. Perhaps it is a necessary part of being a whole person. This experience allows us to find new insight into our lives. I think that although it may feel mystical, and magical, it's really just happening inside our heads.
What this means to me is that it is possible to be a spiritual Atheist, not in some pseudoscientific paranormal sense, but in the sense that ‘mind’, the software that runs on the brain, has the capacity to achieve a different level of awareness of itself.
7/23/2008 View Comments
This is an excerpt from my book, "Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion." I would be interested in your feedback.
Religion is supposed to be good for you. Yet people get hurt in religious systems, sometimes seriously. I used to think that although damage was done by so-called cults, most religion is essentially benign. It could give you some comfort as a child and teach you some values, but then you grew up and away from it. It wasn’t until I looked back on my struggle to grow free of my own indoctrination, and heard the stories of others, that I realized that this kind of emotional and mental damage can be profound.
In fundamentalist Christianity you are told you are unacceptable. You are judged with regard to your relationship to God. Thus you can only be loved positionally, not essentially. And, contrary to any assumed ideal of Christian love, you cannot love others for their essence either. This is the horrible cost of the doctrine of original sin. Recovering from this unloving assumption is perhaps the core task when you leave the fold. It is also a discovery of great joy – to permit unconditional love for yourself and others.
The problem of religious damage has not received much attention in our society, perhaps because Christianity is so much a part of our culture and real criticism is taboo. Just consider what we have done to so-called heretics throughout history. Religious damage may also seem less serious than other recovery issues such a alcoholism or child abuse. And since faith is thought of as a good thing in a world brimming with materialism, selfishness, and violence, many feel strange when complaining of church attendance or growing up in a religious home.
But leaving your faith is not like no longer believing in Santa Claus. It can be shattering to realize that your religion is creating problems in your life. Whether you leave abruptly or drift away over a long period of time, you may experience profound sadness and confusion about what to do, think, and believe. You may also feel the rage of betrayal or struggle with persistent depression.
Many people are reluctant to talk about this subject for fear of hurting loved ones, of alienating others, of appearing foolish and self-centered. They sometimes fear divine retribution. I have known therapists who were afraid to work openly with people on these issues because they were concerned they might be labeled anti-religious or anti-God. However, more often, therapists who have not been through the experience themselves do not understand the difficulty of recovering from an authoritarian religion.
But breaking away from a restrictive, controlling religion can be a wrenching, profound experience. You may be feeling confused, guilty, empty, or bitter. You may be depressed about life or scared of the future. Perhaps you have trouble connecting with other people and life "in the world."
You are not alone in your experience. Many, many others have been through this and gone on to reconstruct their lives in meaningful and satisfying ways. While the experience of losing your religion is often painful and confusing at first, there is much to be learned and ultimately a profound maturity to be gained. This book can provide some assistance in your recovery by clarifying the issues involved, offering ideas for healing, and suggesting directions for further growth.
In general, leaving a cherished faith is much like the end of a marriage. The symptoms of separation are quite similar-grief, anger, guilt, depression, lowered self-esteem, and social isolation. But whereas help for divorced people is readily available, little if any assistance is available to help you to leave your religion. The familiar sources of church support are no longer there, and family members still in the fold may actually shun you. Secular friends and even therapists may not understand what you have been through. Part of the difficulty is the anxiety, the terror you may feel about having to go it alone. After having been born again, leaving your faith can feel like being lost again.
There are many issues to work through-thoughts and feelings to process, new friends to make, new beliefs to nurture, and new ways to live. Because your religion took care of so much, defining and dictating reality in so many ways, you are now faced with largely reconstructing your life. Recovery begins with deciding to take that responsibility. This may seem overwhelming, but the benefits are indisputable. You get your life back on your terms. Indeed, the journey out can be thrilling as old fears and doubts give way to new and healthy possibilities.
Phases of Recovery
People seem to go through phases in their recovery from rigid religion, just as other life changes have typical sequences. This particular change goes deeper than many others and touches on all aspects of a person’s life. The following sections offer a very general outline of the recovery pattern that I have observed and facilitated in clients:
These are not discrete stages in the formal sense. There is considerable overlap between them and a person may be in more than one phase at a time. However, the overall pattern may help you understand where you have been, where you are now, and what you can expect in the future.
(Details are in my book).
Issues in Recovery
"I feel like a scared, lonely, abandoned little kid that just can't get it right and who must be a real "bad boy." I have a large sense of not deserving anything that finally I am not important. This is connected to my "nothingness in the eyes of God," which was taught very early. My mother dedicated me to God when I was an infant. God is what is important, not me. Am I worth taking care of?"
From what I have learned in my work with formerly religious people and from my own experience, certain issues of healing and growth appear to be common to the process of breaking away. Some areas of personal development continue to be important for many years. The areas of impact described here are typical consequences of leaving a conservative, fundamentalist church. They also apply in various ways to leaving other groups. The intensity of impact can range from simple life limiting to extreme harm.
1. Recovering a sense of self
2. Working through emotions of anger, guilt, anxiety, & loneliness
3. Learning how to be in “the world”
4. Accepting self-responsibility
5. Creating meaning and personal spirituality
(These will be explored in my next post and can be found in my book, as well as online for free at www.marlenewinell.net. They will also be covered at retreat weekends).
Here is an inventory you can use to assess how you are doing on these issues:
Directions: For each item, mark the number that best reflects the impact that issue or feeling has on your daily life. For example, mark 1 if the issue is mildly bothersome to you, 3 if it is moderately troubling, and 5 if it is severely disturbing. Mark 2 or 4 if the issue falls somewhere between.
Confusion 1 2 3 4 5
Anxiety or fear 1 2 3 4 5
Lack of clear identity and personal values 1 2 3 4 5
Negative sense of self 1 2 3 4 5
Emptiness, as if you have no core 1 2 3 4 5
Negative image of your body 1 2 3 4 5
and discomfort with sexuality
Lack of meaning or purpose in life 1 2 3 4 5
Anger and bitterness 1 2 3 4 5
Loneliness 1 2 3 4 5
Loss and grief 1 2 3 4 5
Depression 1 2 3 4 5
Persistent guilt 1 2 3 4 5
Difficulty enjoying daily pleasures 1 2 3 4 5
Unreasonably high expectations, perfectionism 1 2 3 4 5
Trouble appreciating people 1 2 3 4 5
Difficulty with self-responsibility 1 2 3 4 5
Lack of deep self-love and skills for self-care 1 2 3 4 5
Trouble thinking for yourself 1 2 3 4 5
Difficulty feeling and expressing emotion 1 2 3 4 5
External focus for satisfaction 1 2 3 4 5
7/22/2008 View Comments
"How to Get Rich as a Televangelist or Faith Healer" is quick read that is simultaneously entertaining, informative, and unfortunately, heart wrenchingly on the mark. Author Bill Wilson has written a 166-page volume that is at once funny and in some places, embarrassing -- to me. The embarrassing part was being forced to reflect on how I, members of my family, and many friends over the years have been (and some still are) stupidly suckered by Christian scam artists.
From the introduction:
"If you were to try peddling a phony medicinal cure for cancer, you may very well find yourself slapped with a lawsuit or even going to prison. On the other hand, if you tell people that that God will cure them of horrible disease if they send you an offering, you are safe since this is your 'sincere religious belief.'"
A former Bible college student who admits to being ripped off paying for several years of religious indoctrination disguised as an education, Wilson gives readers a revealing look at the techniques of televangelist ministers, offers pointers on launching an effective and profitable cult, and lays bare some of the idiotic doctrines of the Charismatics, the Prosperity Gospel pushers, and Jack Chick comic book "theology."
"It appears that the real, foolproof way to get rich in America is to learn about twenty quotations from the Bible, dress in an expensive suit with lots of gaudy jewelry, and rent an auditorium. Tell all the lies you want. Exaggerate your history or invent it entirely. Label all your opponents as tools of Satan. Answer any and all arguments and objections by quoting Scripture. Beg for money, incessantly. Oh, I almost forgot. Ordain yourself as an anointed minister of God. Then watch the money roll in. It's tax free, and you can use it any way you want."
James Randi on TelevangelistsHowever, Wilson's book is considerably more than a rehash of Christian lunacy, superstition, and the public foibles of such well known celebrities as Jimmy Bakker, Mike Warnke or Robert Tilton. Wilson presents the reader with an insightful look into how these fraudsters are so easily able to maintain the unshakeable devotion of huge numbers of good, god-fearing, moderately intelligent people who willingly surrender the contents of wallets, purses and savings accounts in exchange for little more than a false promise or an endorphin-laden, emotional high.
Wilson's book is not strictly anti-Christian. While some of Wilson's final conclusions differ from my own, I highly recommend this book to everyone who has any interest in how basic human needs play into the hands of religious quacksters devoid of conscience.
Oh, and since Wilson's book isn't currently available at Amazon.com, ExChristian.Net won't receive a penny from any sales. I just enjoyed the book, and thought you would too.
Click here to order: "How to Get Rich as a Televangelist or Faith Healer"
7/21/2008 View Comments
“A godless religion that retains all the dogmatic posturing of the faiths it so confidently denies, with few of the consolations”
~ Rick Bayan on Atheism
Atheism is a highly secretive religion devoted to private worship of the ultimate, all powerful goddess Athe. The goal of atheists is to destroy society by persuading people to join them in their faith through cunning arguments as to why it's better than anyone else's. Legend has it that Atheists got their powers of persuasion from a four-way deal thousands of years ago between the all powerful goddess Athe, the Ghost of Christmas Past, Xenu, was supposedly left behind by Richard Dawkins, also see: Paradox.
Since Atheists are so obsessed with reason, logic, science and math(s) they call their cunning argument(s) "organized religious algorithms" and model them on a computer before heading for the street. The main technique they use is to walk around a typical busy church shouting “you worthless sinners! I am holier than thou! My beliefs are better than yours! Come to Athe Jesus or and die!” Many religious people such as Satan, Kerry King and the Giant Panda like to claim that Atheists don't exist.
Read the rest of this insightful exploration of the religion of atheism at http://uncyclopedia.org/wiki/Atheism. After reading the article, return here with any comments.
7/19/2008 View Comments
Mr. Deity is a series of two - to four-minute comedy films created by Brian Keith Dalton and distributed by Lazy Eye Pictures. It stars Brian Keith Dalton, Jimbo Marshall, Sean Douglas, and Amy Rohren. It premiered on December 27, 2006. It was originally broadcast on youtube.com but is now broadcast on crackle.com. -- Wikipedia.
7/14/2008 View Comments
The commenting application for ExChristian.Net is seeing changes. Eventually, instead of the Blogger/Google commenting system, comments will be handled by Disqus.com
Questions, comments, complaints, compliments about the new commenting system? Leave a comment here or just message me. It will no longer be necessary for anyone to register in order to post. However, those who do register will find a wealth of features such as being able to edit comments, follow the posts of all and/or individual posters, follow comments on all and/or individual threads, receive email updates, create a profile, subscribe to rss feeds and a handful of other great options. One really cool feature is the option of posting a video comment. Another is a threaded reply ability which enables posters to reply directly to the OP or to a particular poster.
Note: Anonymous comments (comments by unregistered users) are moderated. Registered comments are not moderated and will appear instantly.
The way posts can be displayed is also enhanced. Comments can now be viewed on the page from older to newer, newer to oldest, etc. Some HTML markup is allowed for bold, italics, and links. A link posted without any markup automatically becomes clickable.
All comments posted prior to the new software integration will remain visible. All newer comments will have the new features and options.
The system is still being tested, so there may be more changes as we go along.
If you like the new commenting system, let me know. If you hate it, let me know.
Ready to register and give it a whirl? CLICK HERE
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7/11/2008 View Comments
A workshop for letting go of religious indoctrination and reclaiming your life.
August 8-10, 2008, Berkeley, CA, with Marlene Winell.
Do you feel alone in your struggle for healing? Come to a supportive and powerful weekend with others who can understand you -- an oasis from dogmatic teachings and judgmental groups. This program is for those wanting to let go of toxic beliefs and recover from an authoritarian religion such as Christian fundamentalism. We’ll rant and rave, tell our stories, discuss the issues, visualize, role-play, dance and draw – whatever it takes to think for ourselves and reclaim our lives. A joyful, empowered life is your birthright and you can start now.
WHEN: FRIDAY, August 8, 7PM until SUNDAY, August 10, 3PM.
WHERE: A beautiful house in Berkeley, California, with hot tub and other amenities.
COST: $320 for the workshop, $125 for room and board. $25 discount given for full payment by July 20. FINANCIAL NEED CONSIDERED and options available.
TO REGISTER: Call 510-292-0509 or send an email to email@example.com. A short telephone interview with Dr. Winell is requested. A deposit of $100 will then secure a space. Register soon as group size is limited to 8.
Note: These retreats are designed to help develop networks of support that extend beyond a single weekend. With time for sharing meals and relaxing in a house together, participants often make lasting friends - face to face, not virtual! We also have an online group and conference calls as a follow-up support system.
This weekend is available to professionals by arrangement with Dr. Winell.
Dr. Marlene Winell is a psychologist and author of "Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving their Religion." She has a private practice in Berkeley and also counsels by telephone. For more information, joining a mailing list, or comments about previous retreats, please visit: www.marlenewinell.net. Ph. 510-292-0509. firstname.lastname@example.org
7/09/2008 View Comments
For years I struggled to understand how the geologic data I worked with everyday could be fit into a Biblical perspective. Being a physics major in college I had no geology courses. Thus, as a young Christian, when I was presented with the view that Christians must believe in a young-earth and global flood, I went along willingly. I knew there were problems but I thought I was going to solve them. When I graduated from college with a physics degree, physicists were unemployable since NASA had just laid a bunch of them off. I did graduate work in philosophy and then decided to leave school to support my growing family. Even after a year, physicists were still unemployable. After six months of looking, I finally found work as a geophysicist working for a seismic company. Within a year, I was processing seismic data for Atlantic Richfield.
This was where I first became exposed to the problems geology presented to the idea of a global flood. I would see extremely thick (30,000 feet) sedimentary layers. One could follow these beds from the surface down to those depths where they were covered by vast thicknesses of sediment. I would see buried mountains which had experienced thousands of feet of erosion, which required time. Yet the sediments in those mountains had to have been deposited by the flood, if it was true. I would see faults that were active early but not late and faults that were active late but not early. I would see karsts and sinkholes (limestone erosion) which occurred during the middle of the sedimentary column (supposedly during the middle of the flood) yet the flood waters would have been saturated in limestone and incapable of dissolving lime. It became clear that more time was needed than the global flood would allow.(See http://www.seg.org/publications/geoarchive/1996/sep-oct/geo6105r1336.pdf for an article showing an example of a deeply buried karst. For a better but bigger (3.4 meg) version of that paper see http://www.netl.doe.gov/publications/proceedings/97/97ng/ng97_pdf/NG4-1.PDF
One also finds erosional canyons buried in the earth. These canyons would require time to excavate, just like the time it takes to erode the Grand Canyon. This picture was downloaded from a site which is now gone from the web. It was http://ic.ucsc.edu/~casey/eart168/3DInterpretation/Deltain3d1.gif
I worked hard over the next few years to solve these problems. I published 20+ items in the Creation Research Society Quarterly. I would listen to ICR, have discussions with people like Slusher, Gish, Austin, Barnes and also discuss things with some of their graduates that I had hired.
In order to get closer to the data and know it better, with the hope of finding a solution, I changed subdivisions of my work in 1980. I left seismic processing and went into The data I was seeing at work, was not agreeing with what I had been taught as a Christian seismic interpretation where I would have to deal with more geologic data. My horror at what I was seeing only increased. There was a major problem; the data I was seeing at work, was not agreeing with what I had been taught as a Christian. Doubts about what I was writing and teaching began to grow. Unfortunately, my fellow young earth creationists were not willing to listen to the problems. No one could give me a model which allowed me to unite into one cloth what I believed on Sunday and what I was forced to believe by the data Monday through Friday. I was living the life of a double-minded man--believing two things.
By 1986, the growing doubts about the ability of the widely accepted creationist viewpoints to explain the geologic data led to
a nearly 10 year withdrawal from publication. My last young-earth paper was entitled Geologic Challenges to a Young-earth, which I presented as the first paper in the First International Conference on Creationism. It was not well received. Young-earth creationists don't like being told they are wrong. The reaction to the pictures, seismic data, the logic disgusted me. They were more interested in what I sounded like than in the data!
John Morris came to the stage to challenge me. He claimed to have been in the oil industry. I asked him what oil company he had worked for. I am going to let an account of this published in the Skeptical Inquirer in late 86 or early 87. It was written by Robert Schadewald. He writes,
"John Morris went to the microphone and identified himself as a petroleum geologist. He questioned Morton's claim that pollen grains are found in salt formations, and accused Morton of sounding like an anticreationist, raising more problems than his critics could respond to in the time available. Morris said that the ICR staff is working on these problems all the time. He told Morton to quit raising problems and start solving them. "Morton chopped him off at the ankles. Two questions, said Morton: 'What oil company did you work for?' Well, uh, actually Morris never worked for an oil company, but he once taught petroleum engineering at the University of Oklahoma. Second, How old is the Earth?' 'If the earth is more than 10,000 years old then Scripture has no meaning.' Morton then said that he had hired several graduates of Christian Heritage College, and that all of them suffered severe crises of faith. The were utterly unprepared to face the geologic facts every petroleum geologist deals with on a daily basis. Morton neglected to add that ICR is much better known for ignoring or denying problems than dealing with them."Young-earth creationists don't like being told they are wrong. The reaction to the pictures, seismic data, the logic disgusted me. They were more interested in what I sounded like than in the data!
It appeared that the more I questions I raised, the more they questioned my theological purity. When telling one friend of my difficulties with young-earth creationism and geology, he told me that I had obviously been brain-washed by my geology professors. When I told him that I had never taken a geology course, he then said I must be saying this in order to hold my job. Never would he consider that I might really believe the data. Since then this type of treatment has become expected from young-earthers. I have been called nearly everything under the sun but they don't deal with the data I present to them. Here is a list of what young-earthers have called me in response to my data: 'an apostate,'(Humphreys) 'a heretic'(Jim Bell although he later apologised like the gentleman he is) 'a compromiser'(Henry Morris) "absurd", "naive", "compromising", "abysmally ignorant", "sloppy", "reckless disregard", "extremely inaccurate", "misleading", "tomfoolery" and "intentionally deceitful"(John Woodmorappe) 'like your father, Satan' (Carl R. Froede--I am proud to have this one because Jesus was once said to have been of satan also.) 'your loyality and commitment to Jesus Christ is shaky or just not truly genuine' (John Baumgardner 12-24-99 [Merry Christmas]) "[I] have secretly entertained suspicions of a Trojan horse roaming behind the lines..." Royal Truman 12-28-99
Above I say that I with drew from publishing for 10 years. I need to make one item clear. It is true that I published a couple of items in the late 80s. The truth is that these were an edited letter exchange I had with George Howe. When George approached me about the Mountain Building symposium, I told him I didn't want to write it. He said that was ok he would write it, give it to me for ok and then publish it. Since it was merely splicing a bunch of letters together, it was my words, but George's editorship that made that article. To all intents and purposes I was through with young-earth creationist (not ism yet) because I knew that they didn't care about the data.
But eventually, by 1994 I was through with young-earth creationISM. Nothing that young-earth creationists had taught me about geology turned out to be true. I took a poll of my ICR graduate friends who have worked in the oil industry. I asked them one question.
"From your oil industry experience, did any fact that you were taught at ICR, which challenged current geological thinking, turn out in the long run to be true? ,"
That is a very simple question. One man, Steve Robertson, who worked for Shell grew real silent on the phone, sighed and softly said 'No!' A very close friend that I had hired at Arco, after hearing the question, exclaimed, "Wait a minute. There has to be one!" But he could not name one. I can not name one. No one else could either. One man I could not reach, to ask that question, had a crisis of faith about two years after coming into the oil industry. I do not know what his spiritual state is now but he was in bad shape the last time I talked to him.But eventually, by 1994 I was through with young-earth creationISM.
And being through with creationism, I very nearly became through with Christianity. I was on the very verge of becoming an atheist. During that time, I re-read a book I had reviewed prior to its publication. It was Alan Hayward's Creation/Evolution. Even though I had reviewed it 1984 prior to its publication in 1985, I hadn't been ready for the views he expressed. He presented a wonderful Days of Proclamation view which pulled me back from the edge of atheism. Although I believe Alan applied it to the earth in an unworkable fashion, his view had the power to unite the data with the Scripture, if it was applied differently. That is what I have done with my views. Without that I would now be an atheist. There is much in Alan's book I agree with and much I disagree with but his book was very important in keeping me in the faith. While his book may not have changed the debate totally yet, it did change my life.
For an example of a seismic karst during the middle of the geologic column go to
Select 'publications' from that page
Select 'September and October'
Select 'pdf' from 3-D seismic reflection tomography on top of the GOCAD depth modeler
Jean Luc Guiziou, Jean Laurent Mallet and Raül Madariaga
Scroll down to page 6-8 on the acrobat reader. These are pages 1341-1343 of the original journal.
There you will see 3d seismic data that shows evidence of a subaerial erosional event supposedly in the middle of a world wide flood!For those who want to go to the library it is Vol. 61, No. 5
September-October 1996 Geophysics.
For more articles on this topic, visit noanswersingenesis.org.
“You were never a real Christian!”
That’s been the constant mantra in my life since 2001. Well, to be more precise, it’s never been my mantra; it is the mantra I hear from the mouths of innumerable zealots who feel duty bound to harangue me about my apostasy.
If I had ever been a “true Christian,” I was told for the thousandth time in a recent argument over the phone with a relative, "it would have been impossible for me to have every left the fold."
Conveniently, for the Christian, there is Biblical support for the “no true apostates” position. The writer of I John emphatically declares,
“They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” – Chap. 2 v. 19.
In other words, anyone who leaves the church was never a real born again, blood bought believer.
Of course the writer of Hebrews didn’t see it that way. That writer states quite clearly that “Those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit…” (Chap 6, v 4) can most certainly later on decide that Christianity is not for them.
"If I had ever been a true Christian, it would have been impossible for me to have every left the fold." Obviously there has been considerable disagreement among Christians over how to deal with apostates, clear back to very the genesis of the Jesus cult.
My purpose here isn’t to discuss which is the best Biblical interpretation, however. My purpose here is to illustrate the gross contradictions Christians embrace when it comes to dealing with the existence of ex-Christians.
Many Evangelical Christians insist that God holds freewill in the highest esteem. Evangelical meetings are all about enticing people to “Make a decision for Christ.” Christians constantly insist that it is the unbeliever’s God-given right either accept or reject the gospel message. The offer is made, but it is up to the individual to turn toward or away from Jesus. These zealots insist that God Himself won’t override a person’s freewill when it comes to letting Jesus come into that person's life.
Once HE has set up shop, though, apparently freewill is over.
Think about it! If no “True Christian™” can ever turn away from Christianity, then what happens to freewill? Do Evangelicals mean to suggest that only the godless possess freewill and believers are stripped of that nicety?
If believers retain full possession of freewill, then believers most certainly have the capacity to change their minds about… well, anything. Right?
Wrong! Believers who state there are no ex-Christians are claiming to be bereft of the ability to leave Jesus. Their wills are held captive and “No one can snatch them out of my hand.” – John 10:28.
Once HE has set up shop, apparently freewill is over. Freewill is a right so precious that supposedly even God refuses to violate that right when it comes to deciding to become a Christian, but once a person bends and bows, the right to reject His son is forever denied? In fact, the believer is not only denied the right to change his or her mind, the potential to even consider changing his or her mind is permanently removed?
“For if they had belonged to us, they would have REMAINED with us.”
Clearly, freewill believing Christians have no comprehension of what freewill really means. How could they? Once they were free, but now they are in bondage.
And how was their freewill removed? Why how else? Magic!
The magical power of the Holy Ghost, that same spirit who inseminated a virgin with a male-god version of Himself, is now invading the bodies of believers. While residing there, He so rearranges their genome that deciding to leave Christianity is no longer a possibility!
Yeah. Sure. Whatever.
Here’s a thought. Perhaps the reason the writer of John wrote his scathing denunciation of apostates is because there were so many people leaving his little cult that it was creating consternation among the remaining faithful. The loss of numbers is not something any cult leader wants to see. In just a few words the writer of I John not only marginalizes those deceptive apostates, calling them antichrists, but he bolsters the pride and confidence of those who remain as the “True” and “Faithful” and “Elect of God.” This John guy could have had a nice career in corporate public relations.
Well, if a person is able to make a decision for Christ based on currently available information, then that same person can come to a different decision when more information is acquired. There is no question that people can believe things with heart, mind and soul, devote a lifetime to a cause or two, and then one day figure out that some beliefs were based on erroneous and false information. It happens all the time. It is no different for Christians.
Believing in things that don’t exist or aren’t true are part of being human. Religious belief in all sorts of nonsense is part of being human. The reasonable human is willing and able to admit the possibility of being deceived, mistaken, or just plain stupid. The rational human can decide to be a Christian, decide to remain a Christian, or decide to cease being a Christian. The true human never loses freewill.
If we accept the “no ex-Christian” rhetoric as fact, then the only decisions a true Christian can ever make once having said the “sinner’s prayer” are those you’d expect of a mindless automaton.
What do you think?
7/06/2008 View Comments
Recently I attempted to engage an aspiring Christian apologist on his own blog-site in an attempt to oblige him on his site's supposed mission statement, which in part was to seek to "understand" Atheists. Let it be known that for this endeavor I even made sure to check my normally biting sarcastic edge "at the door," and I did my best to respectfully stick to the facts of the conversation.
Well, to no avail, nonetheless.
Christian apologist claiming to want to "understand" atheists, I call "bullshit."This person, who by the way, frequently makes guest appearances on this site (ExChristian dot net), and who has also posted his opinion about this site on his own blog, has recently removed our entire conversation, as well as other comments I've made. At one point - a point when he evidently could not address my questions with sound, reasoned answers - this person even sought out the assistance of an apologist "pinch hitter." His excuse and method for doing so was supposedly under the premise that if I had questions regarding the articles he posted, that I should address the author of the article directly, as opposed to asking him---that is, as opposed to asking the guy who links, supports, and extols the articles on his blog in the first place. The nerve of me.
In any event, his "pinch hitter", a "she", eventually showed up on the scene to presumably set me straight on one topic of discussion, which was who has the "Burden of Proof" between theists and atheists. Without getting into great detail, it was offered by this person that "initial plausibility" can be entered into the equation when determining who has the burden of proof, depending on the nature of the discussion..i.e..whether it's "formal debate," or "just a discussion." While both she and I concede/conceded that "initial plausibility" is a debate in itself, she, of course, maintained that her position is more "plausible." Well, I maintain that that amounts to special pleading.
As for our aspiring Christian apologist claiming to want to "understand" Atheists, I call "bullshit." For him, it is not about honest inquiry at all; it is about wanting his beliefs to be true, and thus, surrounding himself with people who agree with him and who support his worldview. The atheist?...huh, the atheist is the LAST person on earth he "wants to understand."
In reason, boomSLANG.
7/04/2008 View Comments
And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. -- 1 John 2:2
The doctrine of propitiation isn’t something that’s talked about too much in modern Christian circles. Hell, heaven, sin, repentance, prayer, Jim Dobson… these are all topics that get covered constantly, but propitiation? Not in any church I attended. I think I know the reason. The doctrine is bizarre, inconsistent and incoherent to even the most religiously brainwashed.
The definition of propitiation is “An atoning sacrifice to gain or regain the favor or goodwill” of God. To propitiate is “to appease or pacify” God.
As in the verse quoted above, Jesus’ purported death on a cross was to placate the wrath of a god who supposedly has a considerable grudge against humanity. Humanity just didn’t work out as He intended.
So, propitiation is a blood-soaked offering lifted up to appease the wrath of blood-thirsty deity. When this deity sees hemoglobin, he feels better about things and can finally overlook offenses that normally cause his eyes to blaze with righteous indignation.
When this deity sees hemoglobin, he feels better about thingsBut modern ears and minds aren’t accustomed to thinking of God in the throes of blood-lust. Why in the world would killing something and looking at its plasma satisfy anyone’s – including a deity’s – righteous indignation? Has God got a thing for vampires? To tone things down a bit for 21st Century Christians, propitiation has been repackaged for the modern ear. Christians are now told that all humanity has a “sin debt” to God: We are in debt to God for our sin and the debt must be paid. The death of God’s only son on the cross paid that debt, so it is said.
Enough of the introduction already – get to the point.
How many reading this have ever received a traffic ticket for some driving infraction? After paying the fine, do we turn around and cry out for forgiveness? Think about begging and pleading and weeping to be forgiven by the court for the traffic violation – after already paying the fine.
If the penalty has already been paid, there is nothing left to forgive.
In Christianity, however, the payment apparently isn’t sufficient. God won’t forgive your debt even though Jesus paid the full penalty for the sin debt of the entire world!
If the penalty has already been paid, there is nothing left to forgive. If while on your way to traffic court a friend unexpectedly steps in and pays your debt for you, do you still have to appear in court and pay your debt? Do you a have to beg anyone’s forgiveness to be free of the debt? Obviously, once your debt has been paid, it’s been paid! You are off the hook. You have no legal requirements toward the court or even toward your friend.
Forgiveness and debt paying are two different things. If the court forgives my debt, I don’t have to pay anything – the debt is forgiven. If, however, someone else pays my debt, then the debt is paid and I no longer need seek mercy and forgiveness to get out of the debt.
Forgiveness of debts and paying of debts are mutually exclusive exercises. Either one pays a debt or one is forgiven of a debt, but no one paying a debt begs forgiveness of the debt. Conversely, if a debt has been forgiven, there is no longer a requirement to pay the debt.
Jesus’ death on the cross is said to have paid the debt for the whole world of humanity, but all of humanity is still supposed to actively seek the forgiveness of God!?!
Has the debt been paid or not?
What I am suggesting here is that having been placated through the blood of His son -- the debt payment He supposedly required – God has nothing left to forgive. The entire debt has been paid. Even God can’t forgive a debt that has already been paid, because if the debt is paid, there is no longer a debt!
So which is it? Does God forgive sinners of their debt, or has the debt for sin already been paid?
Somehow, in Christianity, it makes sense to have a debt that has already been paid and yet still must be forgiven. Somehow forgiveness for a debt can only be granted once payment in full is credited to the account. And, once a person becomes a Christian, regularly groveling for forgiveness of daily stumbles is a regular routine, even though propitiation has already been made.
What do you think?