10/31/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Under His Robes


By David H

Hi Everyone, I'd like to share a narrative I wrote for my writer's group, the objective was to write a piece describing God as if he were sitting in front of you.

Under His Robes

God is sitting across from me, his long, generous robes and silky white hair flowing to every edge, so no part of the chair is visible; he appears to be floating. I squint, scrutinizing his visage. Nearly invisible, are tiny jutting angles at various points all over his body, which is very curious, so I ask,

"May I?" Reaching over to lift one of the folds in his robe.

"If you must." He responds. So I very carefully raise a portion where one of the jutting points is visible. The fibers stick to, but easily lift from, very small wooden braces that look like wooden rollercoaster scaffolding. Curiosities taking hold of me, I keep pulling the fabric away, muttering, "This can't be real," and revealing only more and more latticework. His face and hands now appear to be some sort of fabric as well, pulling off the frame as if they're attached to his robes, almost as if it were one large skin, supported by the wooden frame. There's a hollow sigh as the last of the drapery comes off.

When finally the entire scaffold is revealed, I look down through the hollow cavity and see a large box, that's completely black, with no visible seams. Now, completely forgetting that this was once a being, or seemingly a being, I lift the scaffold up off the box. The wooden planks, of which the scaffold is assembled, collapse and break into pieces, as the framework is dislodged from the box foundation. I let the pieces fall to the floor beside the now plainly visible chair, and focus my attention on the ominous black box.

The box is, or appears to be, a perfect cube. I pick it up and turn it over in my hands, it can't weigh more than what I imagined it's constructed of, some kind of cardboard or heavy paper. Suddenly, I hear something click, and the box unravels, all sides, not only unfolding, but rolling out in all directions, as if constructed of rolled up paper. The box contains nothing, but the inside faces of the box, the top portion of the unraveled box, is the kind of thin rice paper one might find in holy books. Written on it, in very tiny lettering, over and over, running the length of the scrolls, are the words: "There is no magic."

10/29/2008                                                                                       View Comments

You Fools...A Response

By Neal Stone

Benny and Dana:

You came to our website the other day and proceeded to put us down and call us foolish. I am sure that this was in Christ's love you did this, and you were only concerned for our souls and wanting to save us from our sins.

You and another poster proceeded to put us down. Why? Because we believe differently from you? Because we say what you don't want to hear? Perhaps it's because you can't handle that Christianity isn't perfect after all?

You said we were angry, resentful and had issues. You are right on all accounts. But we are at least honest and open about this. We are also working to resolve these issues as well. That's why we have this site. Christians have tons of sights for the same exact reason, to find resolution to the issues in their lives.

Our issues were caused by the religion we were taught to live and most importantly, by people like you. We were told if we served the Lord that the following would happen.
  • God would supply all your needs.
  • God will heal.
  • God will give us the desire of our hearts.
  • Even a little faith we could move mountains.
  • We would find a place to belong, be loved and be healed.
  • Even the odd ones who didn't fit in were supposed to be welcome.


Instead of healing us and our families we were told to wait on God, serve the church, give 10% and God will do the rest. "Wait on God and he will answer." I had strong faith many times about all of this.

I needed a job, direction in life, and healing both physical and mind. Every time I asked for advice it was the same old "wait on God" routine or trying to get me to speak in tongues. Never was I really given any real answers -- just generic answers used on everybody else.

For 23 years I served in God's army. I was taught to pray for those without God and to be kind and loving to them regardless of who they are so as to be a good testimony and show them that Christians are different. I don't recall being taught to call sinners pathetic or accuse them of having issues. I don't recall being taught to attack with hate and anger either. I was taught to even love my enemies. I guess we must have gone to different churches?

This site has helped me more in the few months I have been here than the whole 23 years of church I attended.

It seems to me that all you guys wanted to do was prove yourselves. You didn't! All you proved is what we have been saying here all along. You proved us right about how we feel and what we believe. Thank you for that, by the way. It's always good to have evidence to back up what you believe.

The real reason you hate this site is because it's a mirror, and you can't stand looking in it, because all you see is you looking back. The truth hurts doesn't it?

You Christians claim that the large number of Christians proves Christianity is true. So then it would be logical (that means to think) that Nazism, the Klu Klux Klan, and Communism are also correct.

We enjoy this site and we enjoy finally being free. If you really want to see someone with issues, go to church and watch the preaher! Look around your church pews, and you will see people with issues.

I have been struggling with my beliefs and about becoming an Atheist. Thanks to you two I am becoming closer to being an Atheist. After all, how can I believe in a loving God who has children like you.

Morality and Spirituality: How Communication Technologies Define the Dialogue

By Valerie Tarico, Ph.D.

When moral and spiritual ideas were handed down via oral tradition, they could evolve with the cultural and technological context in which they existed. Some stories were repeated often around the fire while others, less favored, eventually faded into the hazy past. Uninteresting details might be omitted by a storyteller, others elaborated. New implications might be extracted—rules, roles, and ideas about the natural world--depending on the needs of the era. The gods themselves matured.

The advent of writing changed this. On the one hand, writing was one of humanity’s most powerful inventions. It allowed information to be transmitted directly between people who didn’t know each other. It allowed knowledge to accumulate. But it also allowed ideas –especially those that couldn’t be tested—to stagnate. Written words are frozen in time, a snapshot of the mind of the writer at a specific point in history. Allegiance to a set of civic, moral or spiritual writings allows a person or a group of people to become developmentally arrested, bound to the insights and limitations of the authors.

As a problem that originated in communications technology, the nuclear standoff of tribal fundamentalisms in which we live may be transcended also by communications technology. Canonization, the process by which an authoritative body designates a specific set of writings as complete, perfect, or more holy than all others, makes this worse. Prior to canonization, a single fragment of text may be static but the mix can evolve, with some documents moving to the fore and others falling out of favor, perhaps being lost altogether. Canonization freezes the mix, giving priority not only to the written word, but to a specific set of written words that have received the blessing of a specific human hierarchy.

Ironically, the invention of the printing press, a world changing wonder insomuch as it accelerated the growth and spread of human knowledge, made even worse the opportunities for developmental arrest. By making a static set of sacred texts widely available, it removed yet another form of flexibility and spiritual/moral growth. Clergy could no longer selectively emphasize those canonical texts that fit the moral consciousness of a given time period (omitting the rest), without losing their authority in the minds of many adherents. Some scholars have suggested that fundamentalism had its birth in the invention of the printing press, and that its spread across the planet region by region, religion by religion, has paralleled the growth of literacy.

This leads to two conclusions:
  1. Religious fundamentalism, a phenomenon that many consider one of the top current threats to our longevity as a species, can be thought of as problem of communication technology. Specifically, it may be thought of as book worship or, in religious terms, bibliolatry. Recall that an idol is an object (shaped by human minds and hands) that attempts to represent and communicate the essence of divinity. For pre-literate people, statues, images, icons, and sacred spaces filled this role. In an age of mobility and literacy, what better idol than a book? And what more likely idolatry than bibliolatry?

  2. As a problem that originated in communications technology, the nuclear standoff of tribal fundamentalisms in which we live may be transcended also by communications technology. Problems introduced by technological evolution frequently are solved by further technological evolution. In fact, I might argue that they are rarely solved otherwise.

In this light it is tremendously exciting that now, for the first time in human history, we have communication technologies that combine the best of oral tradition and the written word. For the first time, utter strangers thousands of miles apart can exchange ideas and information via living documents that evolve continuously.

A book, they say, is out of date the day it is in print. Not so with the Web. Web 2.0 allows an individual text to evolve the way that oral instruction once did. Wikipedia articles change daily as new information becomes available. The Web also re-opens evolution at the level of the collection—a rich, indexed, ever-changing library replaces a canonical list of authoritative texts.

Savvy, entrepreneurial fundamentalists have latched onto new web technologies as a means of dispersing the words and world view of our Bronze Age ancestors, just as their ideological forebears did with the printing press. But in their devotion to this world view they miss the stunning opportunity we have been given.

Now as never before we have the means to honor not the answers of our spiritual ancestors but their questions: What is Real? What is Good? How can we live in moral community with each other? Because we have moved beyond the age of the book and of sacred books, we have the means to make this a conversation, not of a priestly class nor of a single culture, but of scholars and seekers and life lovers from every part of this precious planet. Together we can take the conversation from where it got stuck and set it free once more to flow forward on the currents of human need and knowledge.

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought. --Basho


Valerie Tarico, Ph.D.
Seattle, 2008
www.wisdomcommons.org

10/27/2008                                                                                       View Comments

The Little Things

Image of Sam Singleton  from TwitterImage of Sam Singleton Annotated by God, through Sam Singleton Atheist Evangelist

One of my beloved sisters was thoughtful enough to deposit on Brother Sam's mental linoleum the following inspirational message tracked in from the Web. Instead of shit-canning it like the rest of the bilge that washes anew across the bow of the 700-foot floating studio and transmitter MV Sister Singleton (from which broadcasts the 100,000kw pirate station the Voice of the Ozarks as it plies international waters), I felt led of God to annotate that motherfucker in his name. God did the actual analysis; I just took it down word for word.

The inspirational message (sic throughout) starts out:

As you might know, the head of a company survived 9/11 because his son started kindergarten.


And God says:

9/11? Whuh? I don't remember anything major ever happening on any 9/11. Are you sure you've got the date right? Hold up. It's coming back to me. There was a fire or something. That guy's kid was in afternoon kindergarten. He didn't have to be at school till noon. And the nanny was taking him anyway. Your bigshot company head was late because he spent an hour bawling out his Salvadoran housekeeper (to whom he pays five bucks an hour off the books) because she omitted the Lilac Vegetol spritz from his 1,200 thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets. This is exactly the kind of asshole I go in for. That's why I reward so many of them with wealth. And why I chose to hang on to this one.

Another fellow was alive because it was his turn to bring donuts.

Lucky for him, I have a thing for Donut Pub crullers. If he'd gotten Krispy Kremes, that would've been his ass.

One woman was late because her alarm clock didn't go off in time.

What a big fat goddamn fib. "Oh! My alarm clock didn't go off!" I let her live, but she's definitely going to hell for lying.

One was late because of being stuck on the New Jersey Turnpike because of an auto accident.

. . . which I caused. The truck driver that burned to death and the young mother who was paralyzed from the neck down? They were expendable, mere pawns to be sacrificed for this more deserving commuter whose name escapes me.

One of them missed his bus.

Because he was out all night messing in stuff he should've been leaving alone and overslept his ass. See: Alarm clock. Hell for lying.

One spilled food on her clothes and had to take time to change.

Same deal. Hell for lying.

One's car wouldn't start.

Goddamn. This is becoming repetitious. Hell. Lying.

One couldn't get a taxi.

This guy happened to be telling the truth. All taxi drivers are all going to hell.

The one that struck me was the man who put on a new pair of shoes that morning, took the various means to get to work, but before he got there, he developed a blister on his foot. He stopped at a drugstore to buy a Band-Aid. That is why he is alive today.

I put that blister on his foot. Later on, just for fun, I put another one on his penis just to hear him explain it to his wife.

Now when I am stuck in traffic, miss an elevator, turn back to answer a ringing telephone . . . all the little things that annoy me, I think to myself, this is exactly where God wants me to be.

No shit? You do that every time you're in one of those situations? You are a liar from the pit. When you get to hell, say howdy to the alarm clock woman, the turnpike commuter, Bus Boy, the messy eater, Mr. My-Car-Wouldn't-Start, and the cabbies.

At this very moment . . .

Next time your morning seems to be going wrong: the children are slow getting dressed, you can't seem to find the car keys, you hit every traffic light, don't get mad or frustrated; it may be just that God is at work watching over you.

Fact is, punctuality just kind of pisses me off. That's why I spared the fuck-ups and layabouts that showed up late.

May God continue to bless you with all those annoying little things. And may you remember their possible purpose. Pass this on to someone else if you'd like. There is NO LUCK attached. If you delete this, it's okay: God's Love Is Not Dependent On email! (that's the cool part) Amen

Thanks. Goddamn. you're something of an annoying little thing yourself. As your maker I'm pretty goddamned impressed with myself for whatever it is you do, which in this case, I take, is somehow related to thinking. And despite your limitations, you've managed to get the whole 9/11 thing exactly right. All those children and parents and siblings and friends and rescuers who died because they were NOT where I wanted them to be? That's my little joke; since they couldn't help BUT be where I wanted them. Too bad. And too bad for everybody who lost a loved one, or a means of support, or their sense of safety and security, or their civil rights. Amen.

Sam Singleton is a fictional character whose stories are based on actual events.



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10/26/2008                                                                                       View Comments

God's Will, Minister's Paycheck

By TheOtherRainMan

The following is an article from my blog 'The Deist Fool' that I wrote a while back. I added some more info and personal commentary.

Andy Sachs: That's not what I... no, that was different. I didn't have a choice.
Miranda Priestly: No, no, you chose. You chose to get ahead. You want this life. Those choices are necessary. - The Devil Wears Prada


This conversation between Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep's characters come at the end of the film, The Devil Wears Prada. Hathaway's character (Andy Sachs) is responding to a comment made by Miranda Priestly, editor-in-chief of a famous fashion magazine (Streep's character), who said that Andy was becoming a lot like her. The quotes above are Andy defending against the statement, and Miranda saying in a hatshell, you picked this path. I find this similar to what Christians call "God's Will".

For those who have no clue what "God's Will" is, it can be summed up like this (if you are a Christian, this would what you would probably say).

You see, God has a plan for all of us, even YOU! He knows when you'll be born, who you will marry, what your job will be, who will be your neighbor, he knows everything! Don't bother changing what you want to do in life, because God will come along and change it! And if you don't follow it, you are going to suffer and perish in hell!

Now, I think God's will is a load of crap made up by the church for many, many reasons. Namely because of the facts that:
  1. God's Will is used to make people in non-desirable positions feel special and that they need to stay in their position, no matter how bad their situation.
  2. God's Will encourages people who even passingly consider religious life that it is a calling and that it should not ignored at any cost.
  3. Ministers use this to lure people in to these prophet events and crap for the sake of money.
  4. Many use God's Will to justify for their actions and gain support, even if the action or object of support is outright wrong.

1. God's Will is used to make people in non-desirable positions feel special and that they need to stay in their position, no matter how bad their situation.

The church relies namely on the believer's faith (belief without evidence) to keep them in their religion. Many of the church's believers have either mundane average lives, are miserable, and/or have little to nothing (family, freedom via jail/military, debt, etc.) To them, them hearing that they'll do great things or that God has special plans for them gives hope and meaning to their lives. Now, I'm cool and fine with giving people hope, but it becomes more of a "God put you there for a reason and you should stay there".

If "God's Will" doesn't exist, then my life has no purpose?

The answer is no.
It doesn't encourage people to branch out and follow their dreams, to take a risk and view life from another side. It says that God put them in that position for a reason and they need to keep with it. It's like what you tell a "mentally-challenged person" to keep them loyal at a job at McDonald's. You say to them that they are going a great job, you are proud, have a great future in the restaurant, etc. You don't really mean this 100%, but your trying to keep them encouraged. Knowing that they are mentally challenged, they probably won't question what was said to them because of the fact that you gave them HOPE.

2. God's Will encourages people who even passingly consider religious life that it is a calling and that it should not ignored at any cost.

The church loves its priests. Is it because that they are loving and kind people that care about their community? Is it because of the fact that the church is the most loving body of people? Or is it because of the fact that they are so knowledgeable about everything? Well, no. The reason why the church loves it priests are for one reason and one reason only; they do all the dirty work for the church while the pope and higher official sit on their asses doing nothing of use to the world. The church gets whole credit while the priests get treated like crap and no credit.

I had an experience similar to that in my leadership program that my school has. The stated purpose of the leadership program is to "welcome new freshman into the school community and help them with their problems". Now, when they first presented us with the leadership program as freshman, I loved the people that I was grouped with, especially the upperclassmen that led it. Of course, naturally, I was excited when it came time that I could be in leadership. When I finally got into leadership, it was nothing as I expected.

I was placed in a group with mainly intelligent people (all but two of them were in AP courses), which made me feel out of place, and the one leading this group was the head of campus ministries, an old lady who basically questioned my intelligence (or lack thereof..) on numerous occasions. What about the freshman? Well, only about two grew to like me. The others either made fun of me, or basically just didn't really care for my existence.

Now, how does this exactly relate to the topic at hand? Well, when we weren't helping freshman, we were doing the things that, well, needed to be done. Basically, we did all the administration's dirty work. That included putting up posters, making little carts so a wreath can stand on it, making a big poster of colleges that no one will look at and so on. Yet, the administration blamed us whenever something went wrong and threatened to give us hell, despite the fact that we were giving up our free period to put up with their whining.

It's sorta like what the priests go through, except they are clueless to what goes on. Whenever a person leaves a church and it has to do with sex, we go blame the priests. Whenever the church community doesn't like the flowers in a flowerbed, they go whine and partially blame the priest for that. The thing is that priests give their own lives practically for their faith, and all they get in return is whining. They do all the dirty work that comes with running the church. But many are blind to what's really going on because they think they are doing Jesus and God "justice". They don't see that all their doing is leading the blind into a ditch of narrow-viewed thinking.

3. Ministers use this to lure people in to these prophet events and crap for the sake of money.

Although this mainly applies to TV evangelicals, it comes down to the same principle that a man named George Carlin stated:

And the invisible man has a list of 10 specific things he doesn't want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, and burn, and scream, until the end of time. But he loves you.

He loves you.

He loves you and he needs money.

Now, recently the other night I was watching BET at two-threeish in the morning (when its most entertaining) when I came across Peter Popoff and his miracle manna! He promised that everything going wrong in your life will get better if you eat this manna.

The commercial starts with numerous amounts of money flashing on screen. 200, 250, 700, 314,564! The narrator then goes on to say that the lord can bless you financially if you do as this Peter Popoff said when you received this "miracle manna" that he was given to him by "God". What follows are testimonies of people cured by his manna, both at his healing events at different Airport strip Marriott Hotels and letters sent to him.

Now, this is starting to sound fishy. There are kids suffering in Africa, and "God" is going to give "Peter Popoff" the formula to manna so it can help Americans. Big, lazy, fat Americans. Oh no, he's not going to help those who are actually suffering in places where suffering is common. He's gonna help the Americans, who are far better of than those kids in Africa.

Of course, he brings up you making a kind and prayerful donation. Now, every minister asks for money. And when I mean every minister, I mean EVERY MINISTER. There are some who legitimately need the money. Even then, I question their need of it. If the church can afford to give the pope his own popemobile and take care of Vatican city, then why can't they afford to keep a church running?

How does "God's Will" figure into all this? Simple.

The minister says that it was God's Will that you are in this church and it was God' Will that he was there. He then states that he needs money to keep the church alive. Everyone donates.

What about the people like Peter Popoff and Benny Hinn? Well, they say that it was, guess... God's Will that you tuned in to this channel at this time. After an hour of "miracles", they say that the... they mean God needs money and urge you to donate! Come on, pick up that phone and give!

4. Many use God's Will to justify for their actions and gain support, even if the action or object of support is outright wrong.


With the nomination of Sarah Palin as McCain's VP, Christianity has been put into the spotlight a lot more. In fact Palin is putting the election in "God's Hands". During an interview with Focus on the Family, she stated the following:

"I know at the end of the day putting this in God's hands, the right thing for America will be done, at the end of the day on Nov. 4."

Just about every televangelist and Joe the Plumber that has airtime has been talking about how Palin is a "Godsend" and how she'll make the US a Christian nation (although it never was). They then to continue to say how Obama will ruin us and charge you higher taxes, and how he will bring Armageddon.

Now, I'm no Politics-nut, but something does not seem right. And from what I have seen, my gut is right in this situation. Palin has used government dollars for her evangelical trips to see people such as Billy Graham.

Now, I turn eighteen in July and I start paying taxes. If there is one thing I will not fund, it is Palin's Jebus trips. Think about it for a second. I'm fine with paying taxes to care of government expenses, but I'm not funding Palin's strengthening of faith.

Her use of government funds are questionable as it is, but yet everyone is endorsing her! In fact, she plans to do "God's Will" in office!

So....

If "God's Will" doesn't exist, then my life has no purpose?

The answer is no.

What I learned from my current life experiences is that only you are responsible for what happens in your life. Not "God", not Peter Popoff, not me, only you.

- TORM

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Imitation is the Best Form of Flattery

By Neal Stone

We've all heard that said before. How imitation is the best form of flattery.

In the Buybull (Gee, finally spelled that right.) we are told Christians aught to "come out from among them" and that Christianity is pure and to avoid the world. Yet many of the aspects of Christianity are influenced by worldly traits and activities.

Let's start with hymnals. Sung in churches for decades and still sung by churches who do not want worldly Christian Rock in their churches. Yet the majority of hymnals are taken from old bar songs that were sung in pubs. This was to attract worldly people to church so they could be "saved."

Many churches justify this by saying that people's lives are changed for the better. The fact is ANY organization that makes it a goal to help others can actually do so religious or not.

And we all know about Christian Rock. This also came about for the same reason as above. Blend rock and Christians music to attract others who would not otherwise go to church. I have been to these types of churches and am amazed at how many of these people are not really there for God, but to just "hang out" or pick up on the girls.

Dear Christians:

Knock off the candy ass rock concert church act. You want us to join you? Give us something real and pure!
Then there are the stupid t-shirts with the worlds logos converted to a Christian message. "Coke, the real thing" becomes "Jesus the real thing." One that really blew me away was one that was made to look like a "Jack Daniel's" t-shirt but said "The Book of Daniel." I actually thought it was a Jack Daniel's t-shirt till I got up close. Does that tell ya something?

Christians even go as far to have their own movies and music and awards programs to go with them. The "Dove Awards" is one big one. This is to honor those Christian artists for their work. Um, isn't God supposed to do that? And aren't Christians supposed to be humble and not seek attention for their works but rather work in secret so God can award them openly?

I thought the whole idea was to live a powerful Christian life so the world could see what God has [not] done for you so those without Jesus would want to worship him? But instead, they resort to the old "bate and switch" routine. Problem is many don't buy it but are happy to stick around and bring some worldly influence into the church.

Do you quench a car mechanics thirst by mixing gasoline and water? No, you give him pure clean water that is void of impurities. He will no doubt desire to have that water and accept it easily. If the water is pure, anyone will desire it and drink it. So if this is true about Christianity, then why do so many turn away from it? Why do Christians have to go through such great lengths to sell their religion if it is so desirable? I don't buy that "narrow is the way" crap either.

Since I have stopped going to church and worked out my life, more people have wanted to be like me or admire me for what I have done in my life. Could it be I have something so pure that these people desire it? What is it I have that makes people feel this way? I am not a public figure, I get no annual rewards at some ceremony, I just live day to day the life I desire. I live by logic and reason. I think about what I believe and not just accept it by faith. As far as I know, no one eve committed suicide living by logic and reason. I wonder how many committed suicide because their faith failed?

Dear Christians:

Knock off the candy ass rock concert church act. You want us to join you? Give us something real and pure!


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10/24/2008                                                                                       View Comments

This is Your Brain on Morality



Jonathan Haidt is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia. He studies the emotional and intuitive foundations of morality. His current work is based on the idea that morality is a team sport and that political liberals don't understand the game the other side is playing. He is the author of The Happiness Hypothesis and is currently writing The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.

This video is approximately 30 minutes long.

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10/20/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Tested by God

An angel prevents the sacrifice of Isaac.Image via WikipediaBy Neal Stone

In the Bible we read how God tested Abraham by asking him to sacrifice Issac his son. Of course God stopped him, but that is beside the point. God actually asked one of HIS followers to kill his own son as a test of faithfulness. Sick, just plain sick. What is even sicker is that Abraham was willing to do it. This is the same God who supposedly ordered the genocide of races who practiced ritual human sacrifice.

Then we have the story of Job. God placed a bet and then allowed Job to be brought near death after losing his family, possessions, and even his health. All because God wanted to test another follower.


There is nothing wrong with your life. You are in control. You control the horizontal. You control the vertical. You control the direction. YOU CONTROL!If your spouse asked you to kill one of your kids to prove yourself faithful, you would have your spouse locked up, or at least leave that person and take the kids with you.

Daily, Christians suffer some fate or go through something terrible -- such as an unexpected death of a loved one -- and say that God is testing them. They even have pride in this! Hello! Red flag! What kind of God requires some kind of suffering as a test and then leaves you guessing as to what the test is for?

When in school, I knew the test was coming, what it was for, and what the outcome was when it was QUICKLY over. If I failed, I got to study and retake it.

Either God gets some sick pleasure from all this or is just so plain insecure that he constantly has to prove himself. How sad either way.

My take on it is this: There are no tests -- never were. Life just has its ups and downs. I don't need to cry out to God for help. Rather, I can logically look at the situation and see what went wrong. I can then find a reasonable resolution to the problem.

I think of all the Christians I know who still have lives that suck after all the years I have known them. If they just stopped asking God and just took action, they could change their lives forever and for the better. I did it! Christians seem so afraid of reason and logic and would rather throw faith onto someone they can't prove exists or even see.

If you are a Christian, I ask you to stop and really think over your life. Use reason and logic and skip faith. Take control of your life and make it what you really want it to be. Free yourself from the trap of faith and "God's will." You can still have a purpose and fulfilling life without God or Jesus. It is possible to get through the day without prayer.

Everything I believed was spoon fed to me from the pulpit.

"Who is the bigger fool, the fool or the one who follows him?" -- Ben Kanobi.

My purpose in life:
  • To help and to be there for others.
  • To make the lives of those I come in contact with better.
  • To be an example of what it means to reach for the impossible, even when the odds are greatly against me.
  • To be living proof that what people call miracles are really self initiated events built on hard work and determination.
  • To show that if a person is willing to work hard and take a few chances, life can be better and more fulfilling, regardless of the situation the person comes from.
  • To live the impossible dream and not just dream it.


There is nothing wrong with your life. You are in control. You control the horizontal. You control the vertical. You control the direction. YOU CONTROL!


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10/19/2008                                                                                       View Comments

The real difference between liberals and conservatives



Psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies the five moral values that form the basis of our political choices, whether we're left, right or center. In this eye-opening talk, he pinpoints the moral values that liberals and conservatives tend to honor most.

Read Haidt's article by clicking here.

Questioning God?

By Lance

OK, so how many of you have been in a discussion with a Christian and you get so some point where their religion simply does not makes any sense? Oh, of course; like all the time. Things such as, how could a good and loving god send his children to eternal torment? Or, how could a loving god order his chosen people to commit genocide on a regular basis? Or to flip it around, how could a loving god allow someone else to commit genocide on his own chosen people, aka the Holocaust? How could a good god condone slavery? How exactly does killing things, animals or Jesus, make this god happy when we do things he does not like? That is just weird.

I think you get the point. The contradictions, logical fallacies, and general weirdness of the bible and the Christian religion go on and on and on. We all know that this stuff does not make any logical sense whatsoever.

But here is the funny thing. We all knew this in some way even when we were Christians, and current Christians know it now. They just have an escape route. You know what it is. I'm not saying anything new here. They say of course, "We can't understand God's ways."

So why am I writing about something we have all known for a long time? Do I have anything new to offer? I don't know -- maybe for some.

What inspired this rant is when I recently saw "Religious" by Bill Maher -- great movie by the way -- and this idea of not questioning god came up several times. I did not think he responded well at these points in the film. For example when Ken Ham asked Bill "Are you god?" Which is just another way of saying we can't question god. Bill just shook his head and said "No." Or when the actor playing Jesus at the theme park said "God's ways are higher than ours." All Bill said was something like "Maybe our thinking should be higher."

I have a suggestion for Bill and anyone else that has not already thought of it.

Here it is: I am not questioning god. I am questioning a fictional character in a book written by humans. It is OK to question a fictional character in a book, right?

Here are some things I can get Christians to agree on:
  1. It is OK to question books and the info they contain. In fact they do it all the time with other books.
  2. It is OK to question the authors of books. To question who the author is, to question their intent and motives, to question the events that were going on at the time of the writing, etc.
  3. It is OK to question the actions of characters in a book. Fictional or not.
  4. If the book is supposed to be history or biography, it is OK to double check the facts to see if they match reality. For example, is there any evidence for the ability of a person to live in a fish?
  5. It is OK to question the editors and publishers of a book; to look at their intentions and biases.
  6. All the deities in the books of the other religions are fictional, and it OK to question them.
  7. Etc.


  8. They will have to agree that it is OK to question books in this regard. They have to agree to this because they do it with everyone else's book but their own.

    So in essence, what the Christian is saying is not "You can't question god." What they are really saying is, "You can't question my book." To which I reply with a firm and resounding "Bullshit!"

    They do not have a real god, all they have is a book. That is all, plain and simple. Nothing more. If you question the book, the whole thing crumbles.

    At this point of course, their response turns into a death spiral of circular logic. You have all been there. "God inspired the book." How do we know? "The book says so." Why can we trust that? "Because god inspired the book." And around and around she goes.

    All I am suggesting is a way to get them off the merry-go-round. If the Christian enjoys their spinning, there is not much we can do for them. But let's take the focus of the argument off some invisible, unprovable being and put it right where it belongs -- the bible. Show that the bible is a pile of crap, and any belief in the god of the bible is crippled.

    To conclude: We and Christians all agree that a lot of their religion -- which you and I know is based on nothing more than the book -- does not make sense to us humans. But they say we must believe it anyway, or as the book says, god will send us to a lake of fire.

    I simply say, if the book does not make sense, then I see no reason to believe it.

    I am not questioning god. I am questioning a book written by humans. Simple as that. If a god ever decides to stop pretending not to exist, I'll be happy to hear what it has to say. But to rely on some book in the mean time? Oh come on, don't be ridiculous.



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10/18/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Husbands As Stay-At-Home Dads

If you're a Christian, the husband goes to work and the woman stays home with the kids -- PERIOD!

Don't believe me? Well, Pastor Mark Driscoll insists that anything else would be non-Biblical!

Hey Sarah Palin! Are you listening?



What are your thoughts on stay at home dads if the woman really wants to work? Or even if both want/need to work?

This question was posed to Pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife Grace at the end of Pastor Mark's sermon called Sweet To My Taste, which can be found at http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/t...


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10/17/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Have you ever seen a conservative Christian...

Sent in by Christopher

Something has occurred to me as I am following the race for the American presidency. Jesus would be ashamed of the Christian right -- straight up mortified by them. Jesus (if he even existed as he supposedly reported in the bible), was all about selflessness and discarding worldly pursuits to help out his fellow mankind, no matter how lowly that person was.

Have you ever seen a conservative Christian do that? Ever?

I haven't.

Would they ever give up their new SUV, $250,000 home, and all their toys to follow in the example of the man that they worship and call Lord and savior?

No.

Not in a million years.

Would they ever be seen offering a prostitute love and taking her to the doctor to get be checked up and get any medicine that she needs at his/her expense?

No.

Would they invite a crack dealer to their homes or the homes of their friends and cook the dealer a fine meal out of kindness?

Hell no!

A multitude of other examples could be named, but you get the idea.

Why is this? one must ask.

The answer is because they are no better than the rest of us -- at all. This is simple human nature. We protect our own because it is evolutionarily advantageous to do so. Their holier-than-thou, moral superiority complex is totally baseless. People are people. They (Christians) simply cant turn their inflated egos around and see that, in the end, we all want the same basic things.

Christians are NOT special.

Side note: Sarah Palin scares the f**k out of me. Talk about the most unqualified pick possible. If McCain is elected and dies in office, we'd be stuck with her. (shivers)

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10/16/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Skeptic Bible Study: Sexism in the Bible

By JohnLArmstrong



Conservative Christians love Palin but how do the reconcile their support for her bid for office in the face of what the Bible says about a woman's "place" in society.

Debunking Christian Apologetics: "Relative to the Time"

By JohnLArmstrong



There is no middle-ground. Either the Bible is the Word of God or it isn't. Here's why the "relative to the time" argument falls apart as a justification for the moral and scientific problems of the Bible.

10/15/2008                                                                                       View Comments

An open letter to Sarah Palin, from Marlene Winell, Ph.D.

Posted by Valerie Tarico

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 25:  Republican vice-pres...Image by Getty Images via DaylifeReprinted from the Daily Kos. If you are a member there, please recommend this article so that it will get more discussion time!

Dear Sarah,

As a former fundamentalist, I'd like to call you on what you are doing.

The media has found you "opaque" about your religion. Why? You have not been honest about the most important thing about you: the fact that you are a born-again charismatic on a mission from God. Most people who have never been entrenched in the subculture of fundamentalist Christianity may not understand what this really means, but I do. Like you, I was raised in the Assemblies of God and I was a zealous part of the Jesus Movement. Like you, my life was consumed with seeking God's will for my life and awaiting the imminent return of Jesus.

Former fundamentalists like me know that your worldview is so encompassing, authoritarian, and powerful that it defines who you think you are, the way you view the world, history, other people, the future, and your place in the world. It defines you far more than hockey mom, wife, woman, hunter, governor, or VP candidate.

You believe that every bit of the Bible is God's perfect word. You have a supernatural view of reality where Satan is a real entity. You believe that alongside our material plane of existence, there is a more important spiritual plane where good and evil beings are engaged in "spiritual warfare" (Ephesians 6:12). As a leader in the war against evil, you believe that God has "called" you and "anointed" you to do his will. This is why you have accepted blessing for office through the "laying on of hands" and prayer to protect you from witchcraft.

So what does this mean for governing? What could Americans expect with you at the helm?

You cannot affirm basic human decency or capability, because according to your dogma, we are sinful, weak, and dependant on God. And so, your decisions would not be based on expert advice or even your own reasoning, but on your gut-level, intuitive interpretation of God's will. This would allow you to do anything and claim you were led by God.

Your thinking necessarily is black or white. People and policies are either good or bad. After all, Jesus said, "He who is not with me is against me" (Matt. 12:30). Under your leadership, diplomacy and cultural nuance would be less important than not blinking. In a spiritual war, you don't negotiate with the devil.

Regarding social policy, as a believer in individual salvation, you would have an individual approach emphasizing morality and responsibility, not a community approach emphasizing structural solutions. You would be judgmental and controlling of personal behavior like sex, reproductive choice, and books borrowed from the library instead of addressing global warming, poverty, and world peace. Your belief in eternal hell-fire, your deference to a literally perfect Bible despite its cruelties, and your indoctrination to disbelieve your own compassionate instincts, may leave your moral core numb. You might recall the verse, "If a man will not work he shall not eat" (2 Thess. 3:10). However, faith-based initiatives would be okay because they would use caring to evangelize.

How about science? As it has in your governorship, your interpretation of the Bible would trump scientific scholarship and findings. You would deny the human role in global warming because God is in control. More importantly, you would not make the environment a priority because you do not expect the earth to last.

International affairs? Since your subculture has identified the establishment of Israel in 1948 as the beginning of the end, you would see war, epidemics, climate change, natural disasters, and water shortage, all as hopeful signs of Jesus' return. You would be a staunch supporter of Israel and deeply suspicious of countries like Russia identified with the antichrist in the end times literature. (You have publicly said that you expect Jesus to return in your lifetime and that it guides you every day.)

The Christian fundamentalism that has shaped your thinking teaches that working for peace is unbiblical and wrong because peace is not humanly possible without the return of Jesus (1 Thess. 5:2,3). Conflict, even outright war is inevitable, for Jesus came not to bring peace but a sword (Matt: 10:34-37). Like millions of fundamentalist Christians, you may actually find joy in global crises because these things portend His return (Luke 21:28).

But all of this certainty and fantasy in today's complex world is dangerous, Sarah. There was a time when all of humanity thought the world was flat. Today, the stakes for such massive error are much higher.

My message for you, Warrior Princess for God, is from all of us who know what you are about. How dare you presume to take responsibility for our country and our planet when you, in your own mind, do not consider this home? I mean home for the long haul, not just until your rescue arrives from space. How dare you look forward to Christ's return, leaving your public office empty like a scene from the movie, Left Behind?

What if you are completely wrong and you wreak havoc instead with your policies? If you deny global warming, brand people and countries "evil," support war, and neglect global issues, you can create the apocalypse you are expecting. And as it gets worse and worse, with worldwide crisis all around you, and you look up for redemption, you just may not see it. What then? In that moment, you and all who have shared your delusion may have the most horrifying realization imaginable. And it will be too late. Too late to avoid destruction and too late to apologize to all the people who tried to turn the tide and needed you on board.

And you, John McCain, how dare you endanger all of us for the sake of your politics? How dare you choose a partner who is all symbol and no substance, preying on the fears of millions of Americans. Shame on both of you.

Leave this beautiful, fragile earth to us, the unbelievers in your fantasy. It's the only heaven we have and you have no right to make it a hell.

Sincerely,

Marlene Winell, Ph.D.
October 15, 2008

Marlene Winell is a Bay Area psychologist who specializes in recovery from fundamentalist religion. She is author of Leaving the Fold: A guide for former fundamentalists and others leaving their religion. She is the daughter of Assemblies of God missionaries.

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10/14/2008                                                                                       View Comments

The Holy Spirit Can't be Real

The Death of Ananias, by MasaccioImage via WikipediaBy Neal Stone

In Acts Chapter 4 we read the story of Ananias and Sapphira.

First off we find the believers of one heart and mind. Try and find that in today's church.

As the story continues we find people who had houses and possessions and would sell them to help those who are needy. How awesome. Today you wouldn't even think of doing that. Not because we are selfish, but because we can't trust those in charge of churches to handle that kind of money. If we were to do this today a majority of the money would go to "administrative costs." Churches today are big money machines.

As the story goes on, Ananias and Sapphira decide that they would sell their possessions but keep half while claiming to give all. They had in fact lied to the church and put on a show to impress the other church members. We all know that NEVER happens today. NOT! One of the reasons I quit church was I was tired of the show offs. They would be praised as spiritual giants and yet were the biggest liars.

But that is not even my point.

When Ananias and Sapphira lied to the church the Apostle Peter they were immediately exposed for their lie. How was this to be? Simple, according to the Bible Peter was filled with the Holy Ghost who told him these people were lying.

So tell me this. How is it so many churches, preachers and the like are deceived on a daily basis? How is it big phonies are lifted up as spiritual giants in churches? Those who really want to serve and be good Christians are often swept under the carpet while the big showoffs are praised and lifted up.

Either the Holy Spirit is a lie, or the churches of today are filled with something else. So many times did I desire to be filled with the Holy Spirit, but was left wanting.

How sad that so many are deceived by these phonies. Well you can count one less to be fooled. The truth has set me free!



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10/13/2008                                                                                       View Comments

The Man With No Eye

My family's spiritual journey By Sam Singleton

We took up with Brother Vernon Redstart's little band of pilgrims meeting in one end of the Quonset hut, out on the River Pike, where he had his auto repair and salvage business. The Glorified Temple of the Blessed Redeemer. That's where I saw Ronald Coyne, the Man With No Eye. And of all the people that ever frightened the feces out of me, he produced the greatest amount in pure poundage.

If my family's spiritual journey had been an actual trip, we'd still have been driving some beat up old heap like the Chevy. Our spiritual journey was just like that car, all crappy. And no matter how many times we had to get out and push, always in the rain or snow, my folks wouldn't quit and admit that they had no fucking idea how to get where they were going or if their destination even existed. My father would be the only one driving and he'd all the time be getting mad about something he heard or saw along the way and just take off in a different direction. The tires would be bald and the engine would be burning oil and knocking and the brakes would be bad and he'd be barreling along narrow winding roads with all of us in there with him and we weren't supposed to say anything.

Ronald Coyne, the Man with No Eye, flung himself headlong into our path and what followed would trouble my sleep for years to come.

When Ronald Coyne was a little boy in Oklahoma he lost his right eye on a barbed wire fence. But god had fixed it so that he could still see from the empty socket, or that's what he said. Now you might think that having the sight in his poked-out eye restored would be enough. But where everybody else could see only a hideous oddity, Ronald Coyne saw a killer gimmick and a god-given competitive advantage when it came to beating other crooks and charlatans out of the nickels and dimes of the trusting poor. He figured out the great truth of evangelism, which is, you can get total strangers to cover your cost of living even if they can't pay their rent or buy food for their children.

That's how Ronald Coyne wound up at the Glorified Temple of the Blessed Redeemer. It was a Sunday morning in August. Brother Redstart dispensed with the usual order of worship and turned the service right over to the evangelist.

Ronald Coyne went through his story about getting his eye poked out and how god fixed it so that he could see without it. And in case anybody had any doubts, he asked for a couple of volunteers to assist him in proving that the same god that healed the blind man at the gate could heal a little one-eyed boy in Oklahoma. My father and Brother Hobart stepped right up. He had them bind up the right side of his face with a bunch of gauze and adhesive tape. Then he popped his glass eye out and held the eyelid open so that everybody got a good look at the empty socket. There wasn't but a couple dozen people there, but he definitely had everybody's attention. Everybody else looked away when he came down the aisle, but I stared straight into that hideous hole. He got back up to the front and told Brother Hobart to give him anything at all to read. And Brother Hobart fished around in his billfold and came up with a card.
"Redstart's Auto Reclamation. Mason Star Route. Nunley, Arkansas."

Half the congregation come up short, gave a kind of a gasp, and the rest went to praising god like he'd just got back from a long trip.

Ronald Coyne said to my father, "If you would hand me the bible where you opened it there."

The Man with No Eye was not a good reader but everybody was too busy crapping themselves to notice.
"Matthew 15:14. 'Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.'"

I know for a fact that my folks put a fiver in the offering basket. Quintuple their the usual offering.

A new series premiered on the Bad Dream Network that night, featuring a one-eyed Okie monster in a Robert Hall suit.

Part of what bothered me was that god's approach to miracles was exactly as half-assed as my father's approach to working on cars. When my father lost the key to the trunk, which he always did early in his relationship with any automobile, rather than having a new key made, he would just gouge out the lock, so he could thereafter open it by poking a screwdriver into the big ugly hole. And god, rather than keeping Ronald Coyne from getting his eye poked out in the first place, or healing his original eye, or giving him a new one altogether, leaves this ugly-assed empty socket. It still works, but nobody's ever gonna compliment you on its looks.

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Before and After God

By Neal Stone

Before: Unhealthy and unattractive. Couldn't get a date to save my life.

After: In great health and married.

Before: Insecure and unsure of my future, career options and life.

After: Able to stand on my own, more secure in myself and have a great job and a great life.

Before: Never fit in and always was alone. Always sat alone in the break room.

After: Have plenty of friends and my co-workers like me.

Before: Frustrated with my life and the way it was going or not going.

After: happy as could be with my life.

Before: Depressed and unable to find God's will and my place in his will.

After: Happy go lucky me. Enjoying life and living by my will.

Before: Always guilty feeling and afraid.

After: Love life and filled with happiness. What's to be afraid of?

Before: Always asked God to show me the way and answer my problems.

After: Make my own way and solve problems as they come.

Before: Judgmental and critical of those who did not believe what I believed.

After: Guess who my best friends are? :)

Before: No talent and real skills.

After: Computer guru and can do the Rubik's Cube in less than 3 minutes. :)

Before: No personality at all. Just a robot.

After: People love my personality and my humor.

Before: Limited my learning to God only stuff. Stocked up on tons of books and Christian Living.

After: Can't get enough of science, computers and other books about the world we live in. As for the Christian books? Landfill or fireplace.

What it comes down to is my life is my choice. No preacher, God or anyone else has the right to tell me what it is going to be. I live life freely and no longer fear it!

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10/12/2008                                                                                       View Comments

"Atheist in a Minivan" blog attacked by television fan club

Crossposted from "The Calladus Blog"

If you read Atheist blogs, you've probably come across the blog "Atheist in a Minivan". If you've recently tried to read it, you'll notice that it has been set to "private".

Here I explain how one of the best family-centered Atheist blogs on the net was hounded offline by a group of people who displayed a cult-like behavior. - Calladus

- - - - -
One of my favorite blogs went dark this week. The following is my attempt to explain what happened, and it is also a rant about the cult-like rabid fan-club that is responsible.


Background:

The author of one of my favorite blogs was raised as a Roman Catholic and started her journey toward Atheism sometime before 2004. Before her de-conversion to Atheism she tried hard to be a "good Christian", and even wrote about it in an earlier online journal. But she came to a point where she couldn't stomach the hypocrisy, couldn't resolve biblical contradictions, and finally she came to doubt her religion.

She finally "came out" as an Atheist in 2005, and on Saturday, August 19, 2006 she started a brand new blog called, "Atheist in a Minivan". In this no-frills blog using a canned layout from Blogger she started writing about her life and the lives of her husband and four children under the pseudonym, "Possummomma".

Possummomma knows what it is like to be Catholic, and pointed out when and where Catholics were wrong. She also spoke out against "Quiverfull" families. She has always stuck up for children - I think that at least some of the attacks that P-momma has endured is due in part to her willingness to stick her neck out for the welfare and happiness of children.

On top of that, she isn't well. P-momma has a chronic autoimmune disease called SLE that was until recently a death sentence. Although there still is no cure for SLE its symptoms can be treated, and life can be extended. But the symtoms can be terrible and are triggered by environmental stresses like infection, hormones, stress, and sunlight. Even necessary medications may trigger an SLE outbreak.

Her disease traps her. Even the sunlight through the windows of her home caused SLE symptoms, so she was often imprisoned inside her darkened bedroom.

Writing, and making friends on the Internet became her escape.

And she's a good writer. She's passionate about her children and about the mistreatment of children. She's passionate about religious abuses. Her own experience with religion taught her that in following religious rules she acted in ways that hurt herself and her family. In a way, by teaching her children to think for themselves P-momma seemed to be atoning for the religious damage she did to herself and to others. And we were all lucky enough to read along as she did this.

Possummomma made a lot of friends through her writing. And we slowly found out that she was reluctant to talk about her disease and how she was forced to live. One of her online friends realized she was often trapped inside her bedroom cave and decided to do something about it. Berlzebub researched SLE and found out that it is UV radiation that aggravates the symptoms. He took the initiative to research UV blocking film for windows, and when he found out how much it cost he realized he couldn't afford to help - at least not by himself.

So he spread the word to P-momma's readers and they came through! But there was a small irony - Berlzebub collected too much money. It wasn't his fault, he knew that the price to professionally install film on all of P-momma's windows would be several thousand dollars. What he didn't realize was that 3M, the company that makes this film, would help with the effort. A gentleman from 3M also volunteered to install the film for free.

Finally the film was installed and the balance of the money collected was sent to P-momma as a gift. As one of the donators said,
Nobody donated money because P-Momma 'needed' it. Whether she needed the money was never in discussion. They all did it because they WANTED to help. How and how much is totally up to the people involved.
But Possummomma did us proud. She spent a small fraction of the money on UV blocking items that would be useful to her, and then sent the rest of the money on to a family that needed it more.


It's really no wonder why so many people care for her. What is amazing is how she attracted so many hateful and crazy people.


A taste of Crazy:

Her outspokenness toward Quiverfull families and her thoughts about raising freethinking children brought her to the attention of some real religious nuts. Possummomma and her family were attacked online via email, comments and in blogs, and they were stalked in real life.

When Possummomma posted an essay written by her oldest daughter, it attracted the attention of some very venomous Christians in the comments. One of the people who commented was a Baptist preacher named William. William later stalked P-momma's children and P-momma was forced to call the authorities.

And this wasn't the last time. There was an incident that shook the Possum parents badly. Possummomma almost went offline then. I know what happened, and I won't say anything more without Possummomma's permission.

The latest incident involved a preacher by the name of Tom and his wife Nancy. This couple had Quiverfull tendencies - they have six children and Nancy was pregnant with the seventh at the time. Tom created a website that used the "Atheist in a Minivan" blog as an example to his congregation.

It was obvious that Tom and Nancy were more than a little eccentric, and it very quickly became obvious that they justified some forms of child abuse through their religion. Nancy said that the whole family practiced "fasting" for their sins and in order to curry God's favor. Fasting, as an adult, is a mostly harmless practice if done in moderation. But Nancy said that fasting was required for all of her children, including her two youngest - aged 2 and 4 years old. This is obviously a dangerous practice.

Tom also made it clear that he would not "spare the rod" in disciplining his children. This, together with their comments about fasting, led Possummomma to voice her concerns to the authorities. We don't know exactly what happened after that, all the authorities have said is that they've placed some conditions on Tom and Nancy.


The Cult of the Gosselins:


But the incident that knocked "Atheist in a Minivan" offline, the incident that caused Possummomma to go dark, had nothing to do with anything that P-momma said or did. What put P-momma offline was the rabid fan club of a cable reality show on TLC.

The reality show is called "Jon & Kate plus 8", and it details the life of Jon and Kate Gosselin and their 8 children. The reason why the Gosselins are famous is due to Kate's infertility problems. Jon and Kate relied on fertility treatments in order to have children. Kate's first pregnancy resulted in twins. But Kate wanted another child, so the family again went back to fertility treatments. Her next pregnancy resulted in the birth of six more children!

There was really no way that Jon and Kate could afford to raise 8 children, so they've turned their life into a reality show by putting themselves and their children on display to make ends meet. The result is sort of like a mixture of "Big Brother" and the Jackson Five, except no one can sing or dance and nobody gets voted out of the house.

Reactions to the Gosselins are polarized. One blog, called "Gosselins without pity" took issue to the Gosselin philosophy that "God will provide". This conviction is based upon the prosperity gospel which encourages the faithful that they will be given the means to prosper if they - through faith - leap blindly toward their goals without consideration of possible consequences. Although that blog started out nobly it sometimes misses the mark and becomes a "things I don't like about the Gosselins" blog.

On the other side exists a blog called "Gosselins do not need our pity" (GDNNOP) which consists of the aforementioned rabid fan club of Jon and Kate and family. This blog tends to treat the Gosselin reality show like a religion, and anyone who doesn't show proper respect gets slammed - hard.

So how did Possummomma get involved with the GDNNOP fans?


Anti-Serendipity:


It was pure unlucky happenstance. A relative of P-momma is a fan of the Gosselins. She went by the name Penn-mommy. Why she chose that name, I don't know. She also may have exaggerated her relationship to the Gosselins - but that is hearsay to me and I don't know for sure.

What I do know is that Penn-mommy is a somewhat distant relation to Possummomma, and that Penn-mommy's son Jason came down with appendicitis in September. He didn't get treatment in time, and he died on October 2nd. Possummomma's extended family came together for a brief period in Bakersfield, and while there Jason's brother William borrowed Possummomma's wireless account to post online. In trying to deal with his grief, he posted his brother's photograph and a brief tribute site. In posting the photo, William used Possummomma's Picasa account.

But Possummomma was dealing with her own family's problems at the same time. In a terrible coincidence Possum #3 had also come down with appendicitis, and by September 24th, she had her appendix removed. (I've communicated with Possummomma, and P3 is doing well.)


So, here's where the weirdness happens. GDNNOP fans, who were already starting to be suspicious about Penn Mommy, started poking around to see what they could learn. William complained that some of their actions included calls to the hospital where his brother was being treated, and to the coroner to confirm Jason's death. He accused the GDNNOP fans of attempting to impersonate family in order to get information. (Note: I get this info from the GDNNOP blog, I've found an example of William's writing here.)

The crazed fans then added two plus two and got the USA National Debt as a result. Because they traced William to Possummomma's IP address, it was "obvious" that Possummomma faked everything, including Penn-mommy, William, and Jason.

Guinevere, from GDNNOP explained that it was obvious that Penn Mommy and Possummomma are the same person. In fact, she seems to think that Penn mommy and her family are fictional, and that Possummomma is sock puppeting the whole deal, and even suggests that P-momma is faking her own condition with SLE, and that P3's illness was faked. Why? Guinevere "would not guess" but then goes on to suggest that it is all some sort of money scam.

There are 35 comments to Guinevere's post, all thanking several people involved for their great "sleuthing", and condemning the "evil Possummomma / Penn-Mommy". Yet when Possummomma's friends tried to set the record straight they were blocked from commenting.


Supporters of GDNNOP started leaving nasty comments in the "Atheist in a Minivan" blog, and then started leaving nasty comments in Possummomma's Picasa photo album. P-momma set her blog to "private" but wasn't able to stop the nasty comments on Picasa without some drastic measures. Picasa and Blogger are both Google services, and one way to delete a Picasa account is by deleting your google account. When P-momma did that, she lost access to her own blog! (It's a good thing that her co-bloggers still have access.)

Venomous Christians, threats, and stalkers. Enough was enough. Possummomma has been libeled and attacked online, and stalked in real life. This isn't good for her family, or for herself. Stress aggravates the symptoms of SLE, and who needs that? This is one more drama, and P-momma just doesn't have the energy to deal with it. She's offline now, and the rabid Gosselin cult can high-five the fundamentalist preachers with a hearty, "Well Done!"


Evidence:

So what evidence does Guinevere talk about in her post? I'll go through the bits that she's numbered.

1. 5-year old daughter had an appendectomy. That would be P3. I saw the photographic evidence of P3 recovering in her hospital bed. I'm a big fan of P3 - she told me about her "Princess Piggy" when we were at the zoo.

Why didn't Possummomma talk about the death of William in her blog? I dunno. I expect it would be for the same reason why I haven't spoken of the recent death of my uncle-in-law, or the not so recent death of an aunt that I loved very much. I do so out of a respect for privacy, and because it really isn't central to my blog. We each share what we want on our blogs, and leave out the parts that we think are uninteresting, or none of someone else's business.

2. P-momma did call CPS on Tom and Nancy. She also corresponded to CPS via email afterward. She was nice enough to copy a few of us with the CPS response. None of us, including P-momma, knows what the final outcome was of that, we do know that there was something. There was at least enough to keep the investigation open.

3. The "Cease and Desist" spat. This one is really a stretch. Martin Wagner, of the Atheist Community of Austin, and blogger on The Atheist Experience website, wrote a post that totally demolished Yomin Postelnik's article entitled "Logical Proof of the Existence of God, Why Atheism is Not Logically Sound". Martin's post, "Yomin Postelnik, poster-boy for arrogant theistic fractal wrongness" made Yomin pretty upset. Yomin went through an amusing online meltdown and finally committed libel against Martin, and then had the temerity to send Martin a "Cease and Desist" letter! Martin created a blog to explain what was going on, and asked for some help. The online Atheist community was notified, and we passed it around among ourselves. Possummomma made a post about this too.

I wish Guinevere would explain why she thinks this means anything. Does she believe that Possummomma is sock puppeting Martin too? I'm interested because I've heard Martin speak on the Atheist Experience Podcast, and I've heard Possummomma speak too. Just how, exactly, does she get her voice to change?

Guinevere doesn't enumerate all of her evidence. One thing I object to is her implication that Possummomma is faking SLE. I doubt that she's faking because I recently had the chance to visit P-momma and her family as they toured the Fresno Zoo.

I'm not a doctor so I am not able to say if Possummomma does or does not have SLE. But I do know what it is like to live with someone who has a chronic illness. I know that there are good days and bad days, and that it is possible to "juggle" medication in order to have a good day. (But you pay for that, usually with a really bad day!)

I think P-momma may have done something like that, but she still spent the day in a wheelchair conserving her strength while her family enjoyed the zoo. She stayed out of the sun as much as she possibly could, and used UV blocking clothing and sunscreen. I can't diagnose SLE, but I'm curious and observant - and what the sun did to P-momma's skin that day scared me. I hate to think of the painful price she paid for that trip.


Guinevere also said:
Reading through this woman’s blog, she appears at times to be fairly normal. The subject of the blog, incidentally, is one that is certainly incongruous with the persona that Penn Mommy presented – this blogger is a fervent atheist (which made me a bit queasy, considering how many times PM and “William” entreated posters to pray for “Jason”). She appears to have issues with certain choices the Gosselins have made - possibly their religious devotion and the fact that they chose to have multiples. This may explain how she became involved in the Gosselin blogosphere and made the decision to create Penn Mommy.
Jon and Kate didn't "choose" to have multiples. According to their appearance on Oprah Winfrey, after their first two children Kate wanted one more. Six more children were a shock!

Possummomma has rightly pointed out the hypocrisy involved when Christian parents are willing to second guess "God's choice" for them and take fertility drugs when they are infertile. But when the mother is pregnant with too many children the same parents shudder at fetal reduction because it would be against "God's Will".

Possummomma's rant on this subject was about a healthy woman who after conceiving three children normally, persuaded her doctor to give her fertility treatments. The result was another seven babies!

And that post was the only post that I found on the Atheist in a Minivan blog that mentioned the Gosselins in any way. I've read where Possummomma took apart the Duggars, and where she pointed out the problems with other Quiverfull parents - but the Gosselins are not Quiverfull. They're merely some people who figured out a way to make a good living off of their situation by giving up some privacy. But for a Gosselin cultist, a passing "suck on that, Jon and Kate" is serious heresy.

Guinevere says:
Doubtlessly, we will be accused of being no better than those who have stalked and harassed the Gosselins.
No, you are worse. Because not only are you and your fellow fans guilty of stalking, but you are all guilty of gross negligence due to stupidity. The members of the GDNNOP cult have cloaked their crotchety pettiness behind a mangy merkin of supercilious righteousness, and when their wild accusations miss their mark and hit an innocent bystander no one feels anything but smug.

You think you feel "queasy" around "fervent atheists"? I assure you that regarding your cult, the feeling is mutual.


Postscript

No, I don't know if Possummomma will ever blog openly again. I'm a member of her private blog, but she hasn't updated that recently, probably because in deleting her Google account, she deleted her own access to it.

Yes, I do talk to her via email, and I keep promising to talk to her via phone, but my life is busy enough that I don't get much opportunity for either. (I seldom have time to talk to my own sister! - sigh -)

"Atheist in a Minivan" is set to private, and is currently controlled by her co-blogger Berlzebub. I don't have access to that blog except through Google's cache, which I used to create the hyperlinks above. Those links may disappear in the future, depending on whether her blog is retained or erased. I hope someone archives her blog, because there is a lot of good stuff in it!

I created a graphic to show my support for Possummomma. If you like the graphic, and want to use it to show your support you are welcome to copy it to your own blog. The image is of "Trichosurus vulpecula" also known as a "Brushtail Possum". The image is CC licensed, and you can find the the Creative Commons license for it in my Public Picasa album.

I used an Australian possum because in Australia their proper name is "possum", not "opossum" as it is here in America. And possum is closer to the wordplay on which Possummomma based her name. (Besides, the Aussie possums are cuter than ours!)


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