3/30/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Christians, if your body is a temple then why are you so fat?

By The New Heretics
Fat ChristiansI am sorry, but I have to let this one out.

I can not count how many times I have seen Christians waddle up to some poor kid with piercing, tattoos, weird hair, or clothing that does not meet their approval and wave their fat little fingers in their face and quote:

1 Cor 6:19
Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?

Seriously though, are these people really this blind? They are implying that this verse states that our physical bodies need to be in pristine physical condition, because anything less is not fitting it being a temple of the Holy Spirit. That it is a sin to not take care of our physical bodies. That it is a sin to not have a body that does not physically look like it is fitting for God to dwell in.

If that was the case, then Christians should be the most physically fit people on the planet. If we truly believed this, I do not think that any Christians would be without a gym membership. Heck, we would be handing them out at the alters upon conversion.

It would be like:

“Welcome to Jesus! Here is your gym membership. You need to drop about 20 pounds and start dieting. We recommend running 2-3 miles a day to start, and please come by on Wednesday nights for weight training.”

Oh by the way, maybe a few of you should get some plastic surgery done as well… cuz you may be a bit too ugly for God to live in as well. You are a temple you know.

So that you know, to this verse does not have anything to do with your physical appearance. It was actually talking about not sleeping with hookers. If anyone uses it against the way you look, they are making mistakes on many levels.

Yet there are many verses in the bible that speak our against the fat, the lazy, over eaters, sloths, and gluttons. The bible does declare it to be a sin, and it is classified as both an addiction and a sign of a total lack of self control.

In a churches do they allow a person that is openly struggling with drug abuse to be a leader? Would they allow a sex addict to lead, or someone who is abusing their spouse or children? No, of course not. Although all leaders are not perfect, they do expect them to have some of the basics down. Self control is one of these basics, and so is not being a slave to addictions. So why are you allowing gluttons onto the pulpit?

My dad tells a funny story from when he was a new believer. He drove all the way across town to some church to hear a guest speaker talking on “Self Control”. When my dad walked into the service the speaker was already on stage. The man was hefty - grossly overweight. My dad just took one look at him and walked out the door. “Seriously” said my dad “how can this man teach self control?”





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Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands

By DocMike

I don't understand how any modern woman can buy into the teachings of the . It's so obvious, the book was written by men; specifically men who believed that women were inferior. And I'm not even talking about the here. This one is from Ephesians:

5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
5:24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

Yeah, I know it goes on to say that men should love their wives even as Christ loved the church, but love is not equality. You can love your pet or your big screen TV, but you don't think of them as equals.

Here are a few more from the :
1 Corinthians 11:3
But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
1 Corinthians 14:34-36
Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
Colossians 3:18
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
1 Timothy 2:11-15
Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing.
1 Peter 3:1
Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands.

(See The Skeptic's Annotated Bible for more examples)

For more comics and commentary, please visit ByTheBookComics.



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3/28/2009                                                                                       View Comments

On Death

By WizenedSage

storm-swept desolationImage by dawn m. armfield via Flickr

Occasionally I will read that death must be terrifying for those who believe there is no God and no after-life. It makes death so final, so empty!

I guess I must be a little odd, because I find it a great relief that there is no everlasting life. Of course, anyone would be relieved on coming to believe there is no hell - but no heaven? Well, frankly, I cannot imagine anything that wouldn’t get boring after hundreds or thousands of years of it, especially groveling before some egocentric god.

So what is death? Well, functionally, all the evidence suggests the death of a human is merely the end of awareness for that human; he is no longer conscious. This doesn’t frighten me in the least because it happens to me every night when I go to sleep. And while I’m asleep, I don’t miss my family or friends or any of the other things I love since I’m not aware that they (or I) exist. There is no pain, no longing, and no sadness.

But aren’t I sad that I will never again get to see my loved ones, even in heaven? Sure, I’m a bit sad while I’m alive that I can no longer see those loved ones who have died, or talk with them, or be with them, but after I’m dead that will never occur to me. The pain of missing them will be over.

I will never be able to witness my own death because I will have no awareness at the moment I die. And because I will have no awareness, I will not miss life in the least. We cannot miss something we are not aware of, and from that moment, I will not be aware of ever having lived. Oddly enough, for me, once awareness is gone, even death will not exist.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love life. Although I am of the gray haired set, I still enjoy life greatly, and there are still things I hope to accomplish in this life. But at the same time, I see no point to fearing death. I won’t even know it has happened.

As Mark Twain noted, I was dead for billions of years before I was born, but I don’t recall it being of the slightest inconvenience. Similarly, I am utterly convinced that I will never experience my death as an inconvenience.

Kind of ironic, isn’t it? It seems that billions of people through the ages have accepted religion, and tenaciously clung to religion, for fear of something that they will not even be aware of once it happens.



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Holy War?

By dealdoctor

Recently there was an article in the New York Times placing focus on a debate in Israel between secular and religious Jews concerning the role of religion in their military. It seems that now there are large numbers of conservative religious Jews in the military there who have risen to positions of great authority. The top-ranking rabbi is seen by many as encouraging wars of Israel to be seen as holy wars. A recent tract sent to soldiers quotes and Scriptural verse that amounts to saying any mercy on the enemy as contrary to Scripture. In addition there is also a debate in the religious communities about the role of religion in the military. Which comes first holy land or people? It seems liberals and conservatives just can not agree all around the world.

What is going on in Israel is strangely reflective of the same issue of right leaning evangelical Christians in the U.S. Army using their positions of power to pressure troops under their command to participate in prayer meetings and other religious activities that has also been in the news of late. What are your thoughts on the role of religion as a motivating factor in nationalism and its role a nation's military forces?

Read the NY Times article here: A Religious War in Israel’s Army



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Think about it

By Brenden

S103-E-5037 (21 December 1999)--- Astronauts a...Image via Wikipedia

I'm just about to turn 19 in a fairly religious close-knit family, and I'm an atheist. I don't particularly like the word atheist, because it places a label on the exact people who don't want one.

I used to believe in God and all that jazz. Although I never read the Bible, I did attend Sunday School, and I even got confirmed a Lutheran -- by orders of my mom.

That's when it all started. She forced me to get confirmed against my will, but I did it anyway -- went through the classes and what not. But, as I got older, I started thinking more logically. I was (and still am) a huge fan of The Science and Discovery channels. I'm fascinated with space, and the thought of other life.

If God does exist, why can't He just show me? Why do prayers go unanswered?

I started asking myself these questions and more, and realized, "Duh, all that stuff isn't real."

Think of religion as the game Telephone. Someone says something, and as it gets passed on it changes. Over time it becomes so twisted that it's nothing like the original statement or purpose. That's what I believe is happening with religion. Here's an analysis of a story. In one story, Jesus healed a paralyzed man -- so says the Bible -- but what if the original events were not that he healed him, but helped him cope, and after many years, the story gets twisted.

I completely believe that religion is holding us back from truly exploring the universe and other scientific achievements not yet possible. It also goes back to the question, "If God created everything, then who created God?" But if God created everything, he must've created evil, too, because if He didn't, He wouldn't be omnipotent, and therefore not perfect, and therefore not worthy of our worship.

I'll let you think about that for a second.

See? It contradicts itself! If He did create evil, then why did He create it? Should we be afraid of Him instead of loving Him?

Just think, what will happen if we could somehow disprove the entire Bible. What will Christians say? They, of course, will get scared, and find some radical religious explanation (excuse). Even scientific evidence won't make them happy if it means destroying the one thing they love most, but can't see.

I have some friends who believe that Earth is less than one million years old, and that Earth has the only life in the universe because, "If there were more life, it would've been mentioned in the Bible, which it's not." That's a very naive statement. What if we find some? What then?

Think about it.



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3/26/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Struggling to Leave Your Religion?


Come to a powerful weekend with others who can understand and support you.

“RELEASE AND RECLAIM” Recovery Retreat
May 1-3, 2009; Oakham, Mass. (near Worcester)
Friday at 7pm until Sunday at 3pm,
at a beautiful lakeside home on six acres with hot tub, canoes, and more.

This program is for you if you want to let go of toxic, authoritarian beliefs and reclaim your ability to trust your own feelings and think for yourself.

Leaving your faith can be a very difficult process, but you don’t have to go it alone.

At a Release and Reclaim Recovery Retreat participants can:
  • Share personal stories
  • Examine key issues
  • Learn coping strategies
  • Meet others and build a support system
  • Enjoy meals, relaxation, and fun


These retreats are led by Marlene Winell, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion. Dr. Winell has a private practice in Berkeley, CA and also consults by telephone.

COST: Sliding scale: $220 - $320 for workshop, $125 for room and board (all meals included). Other financial help available.

TO REGISTER:
Write to recoveryfromreligion@gmail.com (subject line “retreat registration”) or call Dr. Winell directly at 510.292.0509. Retreat space is limited so contact us as soon as possible.

WANT TO TALK?
If you are unsure if this is for you, please feel welcome to call and chat. Just call Marlene at 510-292-0509. You can also talk with someone who has been to a retreat (we have had six so far).

FOR MORE INFORMATION, testimonials, and videos, please visit http://www.marlenewinell.net

MORE RETREATS in Denver : June 5-7 & June 12-14





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Religious Belief May Increase End of Life Medical Costs

By Valerie Tarico

ValerieTaricoCroppedValerie Tarico -- Image via Wikipedia

Are more social ills associated with religion or a lack thereof?

If you’re honest, your answer to this question probably maps to your belief status. After all, most of us like to think we’re on the side of the elves, not the orcs-- that we and our kind are making the world better. In the absence of clear evidence, the religious and the nonreligious both believe this. Every once in a while, though, we actually get a bit of data that lands on one side of the question or the other, and last week some interesting research hit the press.

One of the oft touted benefits of religion is that it eases our dying. Guess what. According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (Jama), “Terminally ill cancer patients who drew comfort from religion were far more likely to seek aggressive, life-prolonging care in the week before they died than were less religious patients and far more likely to want doctors to do everything possible to keep them alive.”

Religious patients were less likely than secular patients to sign do not resuscitate orders or to create living wills. They were more likely to want ventilators to keep them breathing till the bitter end. They got more ICU care. Doctor Holly G. Prigerson, an author on the study, offers a very benign explanation for this pattern: “To religious people, life is sacred and sanctified,” Dr. Prigerson said, “and there’s a sense they feel it’s their duty and obligation to stay alive as long as possible.”

If you are a nonbeliever, set aside your annoyance at her implication that life isn’t sacred for the rest of us. The problem with this explanation is that it simply doesn’t map to the facts of the situation. These patients knew they were already in the final stages of the dying process. They also knew that their use of extraordinary measures was costly, though they wouldn’t incur that cost themselves. Medicare spends one third of its entire budget on people in their last year, much of this on people in the last week of life. In a world where children go without immunization, women go without prenatal care, and young adults can’t afford insurance, the choices these patients made did not increase the sacred and sanctified life on this planet. The opposite is true.

Why might devout believers avoid preparing for death and then want anything medical science has to offer to prolong the dying process? I can’t help but put on my therapist hat here and offer a hunch.

The fact that devout patients more often failed to take preparatory steps like living wills and advanced care planning gives us a clue. It suggests that they were avoidant—coping with the dying process in part by not thinking about it. As a coping mechanism, avoiding works really well in some ways and not so well in others. It can shut out a host of negative emotions, but it also can get in the way of doing what needs doing, on a practical level or an emotional level or both. Then, if an avoided reality breaks through, you’re not ready. Think, for example, about how you avoided studying for exams.

Avoidance suggests anxiety or fear.

We are made to be scared of dying—to to fight for life and as the poet Dylan Thomas put it to “rage against the dying of the light.” Nonreligious people have to face this head on. They have to wrap their brains around the idea of non-existence, which frankly is rather hard to grok. Emotionally it raises not only fear but anger, confusion and grief. Religion offers a shortcut. Death isn’t really death. It is a transition to the next phase of life. In Christianity, when you die you retain your personal identity and memories. You become either a perfected or perfectly tormented version of yourself. For the Christian believers in the study, this is what their religion teaches, and as believers they expect to be perfected, not tormented.

The fact that devout patients more often failed to take preparatory steps like living wills and advanced care planning gives us a clue. It suggests that they were avoidant—coping with the dying process in part by not thinking about it. But very few people believe in heaven or hell the same way they believe in the floor beneath their feet. If they did, as Christian philosopher Ken Himma has pointed out, it would be unconscionable for them to have children and risk the latter. This week a devout airline pilot was convicted of manslaughter, because, in the face of potential disaster he handed off controls to a copilot and began praying. (Sixteen people died.) Cases of this type are mercifully rare; if they weren’t, the devout would not be entrusted with planes. Faced with the prospect of fiery death, usually prayer isn’t quite as trusted as the control panel.

In psychological research, stated beliefs don’t always match what subtle indicators like eye movements, sweating or reaction time reveal a subject’s underlying assumptions to be. Freud was wrong about many things, but he was right that a whole lot of stuff going on in our brains isn’t available to our consciousness. We know this to be true of religion. (Pascal Boyer)

Implications? Even though belief offers a shortcut around anger and fear at the thought of death, it isn’t a perfect solution. At some level, a believer may wonder or even know that he simply doesn’t know, but belief itself precludes the hard work of coming to peace with nonexistence. So, in those hard final days, faith is there, but subterranean fear is too. We are all human, after all.

That is my best guess about what is going on with those cancer patients.

As a society, it is becoming more and more clear that we have to make some hard choices about medical care. We have been living high on the borrowed hog, pretending that we can have it all. But in a world where economic theory meets reality, unlimited access to dialysis and respirators has an opportunity cost. The tradeoff is less healthy children and young adults because of money not spent on simple preventive measures and early interventions.

Will religion help us make these decisions in the most moral way possible? (Our wisdom traditions, both religious and secular, do archive the best ethical thinking of our ancestors.) Or-- will the yearning for eternity make it harder to tend the precious fragile lives that are sacred to all of us here on earth?

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of The Dark Side: How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love and Truth and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.






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3/22/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Nice Wake Up Call- NOT!

By Mriana

My alarm went off and I woke up to a local United Methodist Church advertisement, which stated, “If you have values, then people trust you.” Then some mumble jumble about Methodist doctrine concerning values and the man ended with, “Come visit Schweitzer United Methodist Church...” This was not the dance music I like to awake to of a morning with one or all three of my cats wanting my loving attention, nor was it the sound of birds celebrating the spring morning, much less my values, but rather an assault to my morning senses and thought processes. Not to mention, my cats had no clue as to why I suddenly jump to smack the radio with annoyance.

First thing in the morning, before one has a chance to become fully conscious, they are told that unless they have Christian values — in particular, Methodist values — they are not trustworthy. This is a very bad message, especially when one first wakes up in the morning, and it begs the questions, “Values? Who’s values? Are you telling me, first thing in the morning, that one has no values unless they are Christian, in particularly Methodist? Nice! NOT!” Of course, at this point, smart people shut off the radio alarm, probably with some irritation due to the early morning wakeup message, which is not necessarily discussing their values. I suspect what kept me more or less sane at that moment was one of my beloved cats purring close beside me, as one does or all three do most every morning.

Such a message makes no sense at all when so many philosophies and religions share common values, such as the Golden Rule, which I prefer to say, “Do no intentional harm.” The Christians would quote the two New Testament commandments, if not the Ten Commandments too, but even those do not appear to be followed as literally as Evangelicals say they take the Bible, either that or they do not think. For me, this “no intentional harm” includes animals and not just humans, but not all philosophies or religions include animals in their “Golden Rule.”

Humanists do consider animal rights in varying degrees, depending on the person. Hindus, Jains, and Buddhist do too, again in varying degrees, but Evangelical Christians, not to mention many Islamic people and some Jews, do not appear to share this value. Some will tell you that animals are here for our use and have no regard for animal welfare on any level. Apparently, they do not realize that what hurts animals could eventually hurt humans. Gee, I wonder if such Christians ever take time out to enjoy the wakeup call their pets give them?

Then there is care for this earth. I have found very few Christians care about the earth, especially Evangelicals. Their attitude seems to be, “Why bother when Jesus is coming back?” Well, it has been nearly 2000 years, their Jesus has not returned, and other worldviews do not share the same values concerning the earth or nature in general. So what are they going to leave their children, their children’s children, and all other generations with their lack of consideration for others? Probably some nuclear holocaust, as Gene Roddenberry surmised in Star Trek: The Next Generation, because they do not take into account that what they do affects others, are not other people’s values, and usually ends up in some sort of Crusade or Jihad in the case of Muslims or war in general. Do these people take time out to smell the roses even or appreciate spring flowers?

Torture does not appear to be an issue for some Christians, especially Evangelicals. They practiced it during the Bush Administration and some even act as though they think, “If you don’t believe as I say, then you will go to hell and be tortured for all eternity.” Ironically, they seem to torture people, in various ways, here on earth before they die. Yet this is doing harm to others and they do not appear to care or comprehend, because they see it as “God’s Will” and apparently, this early morning torture is also in that category, in my opinion. It was not only a form of torture for me, because it was not my wakeup routine I enjoy so much, but also most likely their means of doing their deity’s will, which they do not consider as doing harm to others. They only take into consideration what they believe their so-called god wants and any other individual who has different values does not matter. I was nice and just turned them off a bit roughly, instead of lying there for a few minutes, listening to the radio and other sounds around me as I do most mornings. Some people would have cursed them first, and then turned off the radio. Do these people even have one ounce of compassion for others, especially of a morning?

Lastly, since we could go through a list of so-called Christian values, especially Evangelical values, that are harmful to others, is the imposition of their religious views, especially early in the morning when one is just waking up to a beautiful spring day, with purring cats, birds celebrating the warmer weather and the return of life to nature. This time of day is a vulnerable time because people are coming out of sleep mode and sounds that are pleasant to them are more preferable. Thus, whatever they hear from their alarm sounding, be it an annoying sound, music, or some stupid church advertisement, could easily trigger a dream about what they are hearing. In this case, it cannot be good, because one is being told, while they are arousing from slumber, they are bad unless they follow Christian doctrine, specifically Methodist doctrine. I can imagine the dreams some people could have due to this, but I do not remember if I had a dream before I awoke in the middle of this advertisement.

I also do not know how one can trust another if the other is going to harm others in various ways and call that “values”, of course in the name of whatever deity they worship. Torture so early in the morning does not help with the trust factor either. It is like saying, “GET UP! Go to THIS church this week and accept OUR values, or we’ll torture you various mornings until you do.” I rather hear my cats begging for their breakfast, if I must hear something other than purring and chirping. Forbid I wake up to a dominating male of any Abrahamic religion with an ad for a particular dogma playing. I could easily have my head chopped off for blasphemy. Trust dogmatic ideology and call those values? NEVER! Sorry, but my catma can claw their dogma to shreds as far as I am concerned, especially that early in the morning.

Obviously, I was not a happy camper waking up to this nonsense, instead of my usual music, purring cats, and singing birds I enjoy hearing when I first awake. These people have no sense of reason and compassion for others, much less do they even consider other people’s values. Secondly, I like to be in a good mood when I turn off the alarm this time of year, so I can hear the birds having their early morning spring party and my cats purring their morning song to me. I do not want to be assaulted with anyone’s dogmatic ideology first thing in the morning, especially when I have my own set of values. I only end up annoyed and the rest of the day does not go as well after I start out the day irritable, “for they know not what they do”. I could very well snap at the next religious person who crosses my path talking about their dogmatic values, which probably do not mean didley to me, nor do I trust a person who imposes their dogmatic values. Humans have mercy, especially early in the morning!





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Of Rainbows and Jesus

By WizenedSage

It occurs to me that rainbows have a great deal in common with Jesus. When we see a rainbow, we see a magnificent, beautifully colored arc across a vast expanse of sky. It has the power to transfix one with its awesome presence, its beauty. It is clean, it is perfect, and the colors are always in perfect order.

For all of this, perhaps the most interesting thing about the rainbow is that it is not really there, up in the sky. Rainbows are seen by the eye when there is rain or much water vapor in the sky opposite the sun (the sun must be behind the observer and low on the horizon). The light from the sun is refracted (bent) within, and reflected by, the water droplets. Because the water droplets bend different colors (light frequencies) differently, the colors seen in a rainbow are always in the same order, top to bottom.

The refractions and reflections are just physics, of course, but take away the eye, the observer, and there is no rainbow. There is nothing up there in the sky but light and water droplets in no particular order. Further, if two people stand side by side, they will see two different rainbows since a rainbow’s arc is always centered exactly on the observer. Another interesting property of the rainbow is that if an observer moves toward it, the rainbow retreats an equal distance.

Some folks say there is a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. But as we have seen, it wouldn’t matter if it were a pot of gold or everlasting life, one can’t move any closer to it, no matter how hard he tries, because the rainbow only exists in the mind And, of course, it’s absurd to think that one could follow something that isn’t really there to its source.



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Is the Bible the best guide for teaching morality?

By KSS

Day 6: The Jesus Storybook BibleImage by Travis Seitler via Flickr

I wonder why the Bible is used a source book for morality? I was listening to local Christian radio and I found it distasteful to hear them trying to raise funds to put "a Bible into the hands of every child".

Why is that a good thing?

I am amazed the Bible is used as a book for moral teaching. I have a young child that just started Sunday School. The things being taught are shady, to say the least. But looking at the 'curriculum,' I can see things getting more difficult for me to stomach as the children grow up. If the teaching was all nice, I would be OK. But it's heavily spiced with blood, murder, God's anger, cursed humanity, etc. It's like a dark play, theatre noir. And the fact that it is presented to young minds as "absolute truth" is a big concern to me.

It also worries me that the pre-teen children in Sunday School are very well versed and "know so much". They can recite all these Biblical principles and concepts. I think it is considered a "training in righteousness" ... I don't like it.

I've been reading Karen Armstrong and Joseph Campbell. Now when I open the Bible I cannot see it as one integrated "golden thread" but as a huge mix of material from different times and various anonymous editors. And I doubt its value.

I think it's pretty obvious that Bible stories aren't very good for moral teaching. What does Noah teach? (Obey God or drown?) What does David teach? (Kill your enemies and love God?) What is taught by Jesus on the cross? (Give up your life in a bloody sacrifice?)

During the week we try to protect our pre-school child from bad influences. We avoid DVDs with violence and inappropriate behaviour. But for some reason this book ... can be opened on a Sunday -- and read from -- because, it is the Word of God, divinely inspired.

Surely there are other books we could use for moral teaching for children, books that don't have this strange, dark baggage of blood and terror?

Somebody needs to call this. Is the Bible an OK guide for teaching morals to children?





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3/19/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Doubt was the enemy

I went to elementary and high school in the rural South in the late fifties and sixties. There was no Internet, and information sharing was much filtered. One knew that there were such things as atheists and the really strange -- vegetarians, but there was no real sharing of the reasons for their "evil or odd" beliefs.

The entire authority structure in the home, school, and government was all of one religious opinion. To seek to resist that power and expose ones self to rejection would have taken a great deal of psychological independence. It would have been like putting a target on at a firing range. For the same reason in Martin Luther's day to resist the Pope took an incredible courage but to resist religion itself would be unthinkable. Fish might swim in different directions in the water but to jump out on the land????

The very solid scientific theory of evolution in my schools was not taught in in any serious way as if it were true and this was more than a hundred years after Darwin who in England is buried in Westminister Cathedrial as a national treasure. In other words, how might one come to the conclusions of atheism so long as there was no strong voice with its best arguments that was even allowed to speak.

Even as the Civil Rights movement had its battles in our Southern towns and highways, it was all played out in God language. If someone raised even a doubt of Christianity, the doubt itself was the enemy, not any opposing thought system. Reason was fine within faith but never as a challenge to faith. It was said faith goes beyond reason but not against reason in the more progressive circles and in the less progressive that too much "book learnin" might cause one to lose their religion. Reason in this view was an actual enemy of the faithful. In the latter view at least they understood that reason and faith were opposites. One sought evidence and logical argument and the other sought the opinion of authority without consideration of the facts. To close ones eyes in prayer might be an apt symbolism. To call bread and wine something else than what ones eyes see them to be confounds reason altogether right at the point of the law of identity which says A=A. To make A equal not A is to enter the world of the insane.

Even as the Civil Rights movement had its battles in our Southern towns and highways, it was all played out in God language. M.L. King, Jr. was, after all, a Baptist preacher. It was a "God's laws are higher than man's laws" kinda thing that would even get an ear as having any weight in calling the South to change its ways. On the segregationists side all sorts of convoluted theological arguments to support separate but equal were raised, but either way God talk was involved on both sides.

Today no matter the issue there is a much broader information sharing in the public arena. Television is more than the three major networks. Its content brings perspectives from many different cultures with their own reasoning included to support their case.

The arguments that lead to the Enlightenment are finally filtering down to the common people not just as history but with passionate appeal. Evolution is taught in the classrooms with a stronger sense that it is the best science even if it does get scoffed at from the pulpits on Sunday. There are two voices in the debate now.

In my opinion America will become much more like Western Europe in this generation. It was the Philosophies in France like Voltaire who gave the reasons that lead to change there. The priest as well as king were drawn as the enemies of the man in the street.

That crowd of atheistic teachers was muffled by the authorities of my youth. Their books were not banned but just not revealed probably because they were mostly unknown.

Today many voices are heard in places where they were silenced before. The cow is out of the barn and it is impossible for the authorities to control the flow of information. How different from the middle ages in Europe when the pulpit was the source of news of the world outside like a town with one radio station.

This new flood of information is a bit like the situation of child abusing fundamentalist LDS that were on the news cycle being removed from their little ranch. On that ranch everything was a world in a bubble. Suddenly a larger world rushed in and it was traumatic for everyone there exposure of America to that little world was also a shocker. Likewise the larger world is rushing into American now as well and the pace of the flood of information is increasing by the moment. This will threaten those in protected bubbles of one kind or another and it is really a threat to Islamic fundamentalists in around the world that have a bubble of their own. Anger and resentment like the South during the Civil Rights era will result as different worldviews collide.

In many ways America's history, say some political scholars, is now a good DNA to see what is going on in the world as our culture of free market capitalism and democracy has been exported. Our population today is much more reflective of the world mix than it was in our earlier days as a colony of Europe. So too our philosophical and religious reflection is different today as well. I wonder how well we will do off the "ranch"?



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3/18/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Recovering from Christianity

By The New Heretics

In psychology we began learning about the effects of childhood guilt, which unchecked later turns into shame. This was spoken in the context of abusive family situations, and led into a long discussion on dysfunction.

I came to find that I suffer from these symptoms of guilt, but I was not “abused”: we just called it being Christian.

It can rightly be said that as a person believes themselves to be - so the are (or act). If you believe yourself to be fat, no matter how thin you get you see yourself as fat. If you think you are a loser, you tend to behave as one. If you believe yourself to be bad - you tend to behave that way.

Self-image tends to dictate all, and is a demon that is very hard to fight. For those who come from physically or mentally abusive situations there is this deep-seeded twisted sense of self that must be broken with a new sense of truth. This truth however becomes very hard to know or fully realize since it is in direct opposition to years of conditioning.

Now I was not beaten, and I was not abandoned. Nobody neglected me, or poked me with hot sticks. However, I realize that I have a very poor self-image: for I think that deep down I am bad, evil, sinful, and worthy of hell. This was the gift of my Christian upbringing, and as I think therefore I am.

As a child I was taught to believe that I was born a sinner, that I was born fundamentally flawed, displeasing to God, and that I was only capable of selfish acts of destruction. From the tender and impressionable age of 5 and upwards this fact was breathed into my soul by my loving parents, my pastor, youth workers, and a Christian school system. In church every Sunday, youth group, home, and in our Christian media I was bombarded with the knowledge of my regret for being born as myself.

There was nothing that I could do that was ever right or good. Nothing would ever be good enough to please these people, or my God. I am detestable, and utterly sinful. In fact, even if I somehow manage to do something good - it is really not me doing it, but it is God doing it through me: for I am only capable of evil.

In fact, the pinnacle of this religion is to be as little like myself as possible (since I am evil), and to try to “be” someone else (Christ) who is good. To the degree to which I am not like myself (or dead my self) and am more like another person (Christ) is the very degree to which I am pleasing God, others, can be “happy”, and am to measure myself.

Abuse and dysfunction also relates to kids who were abused by being told they had to be more like their “good” sister or brother. If God is the father, and we are all Christ’s sisters and brothers - then imagine the level of dysfunction we have here.

There was nothing that I could do that was ever right or good. Nothing would ever be good enough to please these people, or my God. I am detestable, and utterly sinful. In fact, even if I somehow manage to do something good - it is really not me doing it, but it is God doing it through me: for I am only capable of evil.

Recently there was a lot in the news about a couple who named their son Hitler. He was later taken from them by Social Services. However, I think I can one-up them on that one:

I remember vividly a youth group retreat where the youth pastor spoke a very moving sermon to us all on Hitler and other evil men: killers, rapists, child molesters, gays, and um… cannibals. We were told that inside us was the very same evil just waiting to come out. That the only thing stopping it was Jesus, and that without Jesus in our lives we were destined to only hurt other people and ourselves. Quick, run to the altar and repent for being born: detest yourself, embrace the guilt, let the shame we give you control you and bind you to this religion.

It bound me so much that I actually believed it. I have been bound by this religion for so long due to this shame, guilt, and the fear of what would happen if I were to simply be myself (since my self is sin). In fact, I was initiated in this religion at such a young age that I can not think of a moment where I did not have this sense of fear and shame. It controls me, and keeps me in line or bondage to this religion.

Where is the Christian Socal Services to take this poor child away from this youth group? Where is the support group that I may attend as yet another Recovering Christian?

I tried a couple times to break free from it and just be a good person on my own, but I eventually did make some mistakes. It is impossible not to: who do you think I am Jesus? Then, immediately the voice kicks in: “See, you are evil and you are hurting others and yourself. You are a sinner, you are sinning, and you need to come back to the fold”. We hang our heads in shame and do one of two things: we either crawl back to an altar and repent, or we go off and hurt ourselves in self-hate or punishment.

I realized finally that I am not ready to enjoy the freedom of leaving Christianity until I can get over the guilt, shame, and negative self-image that it instilled in me. As long as I believe myself to be bad I am under its control, and I am also more-likely to self-destruct or behave poorly. Simply put, if I think I am going to leave and then be sinful then I most likely will do that (think therefore I am) and I just fall into the trap of self-fulfilling prophecy. Once this happens I am going to only “prove” to myself that I am bad and that I can not exist and be a moral human outside of the guidance of the Church.

As stated earlier self-image tends to dictate all, and this false sense of self can sometimes be the result of years of conditioning. Even if you “know” the truth in your mind it is not real knowledge until it makes its way into your belief system and actions. You very well may “know” now that you are not a looser, but until that knowledge becomes more than just a fact you are sill going to behave as one. That fact needs to break through the conditioning.

So what happens now? What is the first step?

Take a deep breath, and consider the following 5 things:

  1. You were not born evil
  2. It’s OK to be you
  3. You are capable of doing good without a God
  4. In fact there may not be a God
  5. But if there is one, He probably likes you just as you are, and I bet He gets a kick out of you




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Losing Your Religion? How to Talk to Your Kids

By Valerie Tarico

Some time to think things over...Image by carf via Flickr


Sometimes I get letters from former Christians—the evangelical/fundamentalist type—who are also parents. “What do I say to my kids?” they ask. “I raised them to believe that without the blood of Jesus they are evil sinners. What a horrible thing for them to think! I feel guilty.” “All of their friends are members of our old church, so we keep going. I don’t want to tear them apart, but it’s getting harder and harder for me to pretend.” “When I try to talk to them they just cry. They think I’m going to hell.” No matter what age the kids are or what the situation, telling them you no longer believe can be tricky. Here are three things to remember.

  1. Help them to understand your changes as a matter of spiritual growth rather than spiritual abandonment.

    Valerie Tarico is the author of The Dark Side: How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love and Truth and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.orgThe bottom line is that your personal evolution is very much in keeping with the history of human religion, including Christianity. Every past generation answered our deepest questions as best they could. What is real? What is good? How can we live in moral community with each other? But every generation was like the blind men and the elephant. They were limited by their cultural and technological context – their point in history—as well as the fact that they, like us, were imperfect. By outgrowing the answers that were handed down to us, we honor their quest and continue their journey.

    Here is how I explained my own loss of faith to my extended family.

    Even if you emphasize growth, both your own and that of our ancestors, your kids will ask about your current beliefs. After all, you’ve probably taught them to think that it’s the answers that matter, not the process. Do you believe in God? Are you a Christian? Do you believe in Jesus? Are you going to Hell? Try to anticipate their questions and think ahead about some simple responses that are both honest and reassuring. But let them know that you are still learning and that you expect to keep learning for the rest of your life. The nice thing about this framework is that it allows your conversations to continue evolving.

  2. If your children are still at home, don’t forget that they may need a new community.

    As you continue to grow and change, you may find community online or with your spouse or you might simply prefer solitude and good books in this next phase of the quest. But if you have raised your children with religion in the center of their lives, they will have their own need for explicit conversations about religion, spirituality and morality. What should replace Sunday school or Pioneer Girls or Bible study?

    On top of this are their social needs. Did your church reach out to kids with fun and music? Your kids may have their friends, their weekend activities, and their summer camps all integrated with religion. It’s not fair to cut them off abruptly just because you’ve hit your own tipping point.

    Think about seeking out a moral/spiritual community that allows room for doubt or even atheism. A Unitarian church might be a fit, or a Quaker meeting or Ethical Culture Society. Within Christianity there are traditions that would allow your children access to familiar rituals and stories without feeding the belief that the Bible is perfect and their parents are doomed. Traditions I might look at include United Church of Christ, United Methodist, and Episcopal. All of these recognize the human handprints on the Bible and traditional dogmas—and they allow a humble, inquiring approach to the meaning of the Christian faith. However, this very much depends on the individual minister. Openness to interfaith or “interSpiritual” work can be one indicator that a group doesn’t make exclusive claims about truth and salvation. Pay particular attention to whether your children would be offered explanations of the world that seem real and right to you, and whether they would have a group of peers.

  3. Trust yourself, even when you are feeling your way in the dark, to be a spiritual guide for your children.

    You may feel less wise or less confident than before, but that is because you have moved forward. Don’t be afraid to talk with them about spiritual matters, just because you no longer have a clear set of pat answers. What you do have still is deeply held values and principles that guide your life. What are they? Have you ever put them into words? At the Wisdom Commons or the Virtues Project International or similar sites you can find quotes, stories, and curriculum materials to help you talk with your kids about your moral core.

    As complicated and awkward as it may feel to find the right words for all of this, it’s worth it. You have the chance to model for your kids what it means to be a lifetime learner -- someone who cultivates the curiosity and humility that can make it actually feel good to discover you were ignorant. Along the way, if you keep asking questions, you will be making some wonderful discoveries, and part of the delight can be sharing them. You once gave your kids a fish. Now you can invite them on a fishing expedition.


Valerie Tarico is the author of The Dark Side: How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love and Truth and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org






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3/17/2009                                                                                       View Comments

A list of atheism vs. theism debates

Religious DebateImage by AndyBodies via Flickr

Video
  • Peter Singer vs. Dinesh D'Souza: video. Topic: existence of God.
  • Richard Carrier vs. Mike Licona: video, dvd. Topic: resurrection.
  • Dan Barker vs. Mike Licona: video. Topic: resurrection.
  • Dan Barker vs. Hassanain Rajabali: video 1 2 3. Topic: existence of God.
  • Dan Barker & Richard Carrier vs. Hassanain Rajabali & Michael Corey: dvd. Topic: existence of God.
  • Louise Antony vs. William Lane Craig: audio 1 2, video 1 2. Topic: Christian morality.
  • Elaine Pagels vs. Mike Licona: video. Topic: gnostic gospels.
  • Christopher Hitchens vs. Al Sharpton: video. Topic: existence of God.
  • Christopher Hitchens vs. Marvin Olasky: video 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8. Topic: religion and politics.
  • Christopher Hitchens vs. Peter Hitchens: video 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14. Topic: brother vs. brother. Only part of the debate is on religion.
  • Christopher Hitchens vs. Frank Turek: video, audio. Topic: existence of God.
  • Christopher Hitchens vs. Shmuley Boteach: video. Topic: existence of God.
  • William Moore vs. Kent Hovind: video. Topic: creationism.
  • Bart Ehrman vs. Mike Licona: audio, video. Topic: resurrection.
  • Rational Response vs. Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron: video. Topic: existence of God.
  • Frank Zindler vs. William Lane Craig: audio, video. Topic: existence of God.
  • Gordon Stein vs. Greg Bahnsen: audio, video 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14. Topic: existence of God.
  • Antony Flew vs. Gary Habermas: video 1 2 3 4 5. Topic: resurrection.
  • Daniel Dennett vs. Dinesh D'Souza: video 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15. Topic: morality, existence of God.
  • Michael Shermer vs. Dinesh D'Souza: video 1 2. Topic: Is Christianity good for the world?
  • George Smith vs. Greg Bahnsen: video 1 2 3 4 5 6. Topic: existence of God.
  • Eddie Tabash vs. William Lane Craig: audio, video. Topic: existence of God.
  • Eddie Tabash vs. Jason Gastrich: dvd. Topic: existence of God.
  • Michael Newdow vs. Cliffe Knechtle: audio, video 1 2 3 4 5. Topic: existence of God.
  • Tim Callahan vs. Gary Habermas: video 1 2. Topic: resurrection.
  • Clancy Martin vs. J.P. Moreland: video. Topic: resurrection.
  • Jeffrey Shallit vs. Kirk Durston: video. Topic: science and religion.
  • Sam Harris vs. David Wolpe: video. Topic: existence of God.
  • Sam Harris vs. Reza Aslan: video 1 2 3 4 5. Topic: existence of God.
  • Peter Atkins vs. Alister McGrath: video. Topic: existence of God.
  • Peter Atkins vs. Dinesh D'Souza: video. Topic: existence of God.
  • Kenneth Humphreys vs. Gary Habermas: audio, video. Topic: resurrection.


Audio
  • John Shook vs. William Lane Craig: audio. Topic: existence of God.
  • Paul Draper vs. William Lane Craig: audio. Topic: existence of God.
  • Austin Dacey vs. William Lane Craig: audio. Topic: existence of God.
  • Greg Cavin vs. William Lane Craig: audio. Topic: resurrection.
  • Robert Price vs. William Lane Craig: audio. Topic: resurrection.
  • Robert Price vs. Phil Fernandes: audio. Topic: is Jesus the savior?
  • Robert Price vs. Greg Boyd: audio. Topic: Historical Jesus.
  • John Blanton vs. Don Patton: audio 1 2. Topic: fossil record.
  • Marcus Borg vs. William Lane Craig: audio. Topic: resurrection.
  • John Shelby Spong vs. William Lane Craig: audio. Topic: resurrection.
  • Hector Avalos vs. William Lane Craig: audio. Topic: resurrection.
  • Richard Carrier vs. Gary Habermas & Mike Licona: audio. Topic: resurrection.
  • Eugenie Scott vs. William Dembski: audio. Topic: intelligent design.
  • John Dominic Crossan vs. N.T. Wright: audio. Topic: resurrection.
  • John Dominic Crossan vs. William Lane Craig: audio, book. Topic: Historical Jesus.
  • Gerd Ludermann vs. William Lane Craig: audio. Topic: resurrection.
  • Gerd Ludermann vs. William Lane Craig (2): audio. Topic: resurrection.
  • Sam Harris vs. Chris Hedges: audio. Topic: religion and politics.
  • John Loftus vs. David Wood: audio. Topic: problem of evil.
  • John Loftus vs. Peter May: audio.
  • Keith Parsons vs. William Lane Craig: audio 1 2. Topic: existence of God.
  • Michael Shermer vs. William Dembski: audio. Topic: existence of God.
  • Kenneth Miller & Lawrence Krauss vs. Stephen Meyer: audio. Topic: intelligent design.
  • Kenneth Miller vs. Paul Nelson: audio. Topic: intelligent design.
  • Kenneth Miller & others vs. Phillip Johnson & others: audio, pdf transcript, transcript. Topic: evolution and creationism.
  • Lee Silver vs. William Dembski: audio. Topic: intelligent design.
  • Vincent Cassone vs. Michael Behe: audio. Topic: intelligent design.
  • Madalyn Murray O'Hair vs. Walter Martin: audio. Topic: existence of God. Debate from 1968!
  • Peter Ruckman vs. Karl Keating: audio.
  • Bart Brewer vs. Karl Keating: audio.
  • Bill Jackson vs. Karl Keating: audio.
  • Matt Slick vs. Mark Bonocore: audio.
  • Cal Thomas vs. George Will: audio, transcript.
  • Richard Dawkins vs. Alister McGrath: audio. Topic: existence of God.
  • Richard Dawkins vs. John Lennox: audio 1 2 3. Topic: resurrection.
  • Christopher Hitchens vs. Alister McGrath: audio. Topic: existence of God.
  • Christopher Hitchens vs. Edd Doerr: audio. Topic: merits and faults of religion.
  • Daniel Dennett vs. Alister McGrath: audio. Topic: existence of God.
  • Theodore Drange vs. William Lane Craig: audio.
  • Paul Kurtz vs. William Lane Craig: audio. Topic: God and morality.
  • Brian Edwards vs. William Lane Craig: audio 1 2. Topic: existence of God.
  • Eric Dayton vs. William Lane Craig: audio. Topic: problem of evil.
  • Emery vs. Norton & others: podcast. As a podcast with dozens of shows, the debators have time to go into more detail than in most debates.
  • Dan Barker vs. Peter Payne: audio 1 2. Topic: religion and ethics.
  • Dan Barker vs. Phil Fernandes: audio 1 2 3 4.
  • Dan Barker vs. Jason Gastrich: audio
  • Richard Dawkins & others vs. Edgar Andrews & others: audio 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9. Topic: evolution and creationism.
  • Christopher Hitchens vs. Dennis Prager: audio. Topic: existence of God.
  • Christopher Hitchens vs. Mark Roberts: audio 1 2 3. Topic: existence of God.
  • Peter Atkins vs. William Lane Craig: audio, videotape. Topic: existence of God.
  • Reggie Finley vs. Matt Slick: audio. Topic: existence of God.
  • John Callahan vs. Kent Hovind: audio. Topic: creationism.
  • Peter John vs. Phil Fernandes: audio 1 2. Topic: existence of God.
  • Jeffery Jay Lowder vs. Phil Fernandes: audio 1 2 3 4. Topic: existence of God.
  • Keith Augustine vs. Gary Habermas: audio 1 2 3.
  • Skeptics vs. Gary Habermas: audio 1 2.
  • Doug Krueger vs. Shandon Guthrie: audio.
  • Hugh Schonfield vs. Walter Martin: audio. Topic: Historical Jesus.
  • Ron Barrier vs. Ray Comfort: audio.
  • Eugenie Scott vs. Ken Ham: audio.
  • Ray Bradley vs. William Lane Craig: audio, transcript. Topic: God and hell.
  • Sue Blackmore vs. Alister McGrath: audio.
  • P.Z. Meyers vs. Geoffrey Simmons: audio. Topic: evolution.
  • Massimo Pigliucci vs. Kent Hovind: audio. Topic: creationism.


Text
  • Michael Martin vs. Phil Fernandes: transcript.
  • Michael Martin vs. John Frame: transcript.
  • Walter Sinnott-Armstrong vs. William Lane Craig: book
  • Bart Ehrman vs. William Lane Craig: transcript. Topic: resurrection.
  • Bertrand Russell vs. Frederick Copleston: transcript. Topic: existence of God.
  • Antony Flew vs. William Lane Craig: book.
  • Antony Flew vs. Terry L. Miethe: book.
  • Woolsey Teller vs. James D. Bales: book.
  • J.J.C. Smart vs. John Haldane: book.
  • Quentin Smith vs. William Lane Craig: transcript.
  • Quentin Smith vs. William Lane Craig (2): transcript.
  • Edwin Curley vs. William Lane Craig: transcript.
  • Kai Nielsen vs. William Lane Craig: transcript.
  • Kai Nielsen vs. J.P. Moreland: book.
  • Massimo Pigliucci vs. William Lane Craig: transcript.
  • Corey G. Washington vs. William Lane Craig: transcript.
  • Douglas M. Jesseph vs. William Lane Craig: transcript.
  • Michael Tooley vs. William Lane Craig: transcript.
  • Richard Taylor vs. William Lane Craig: transcript.
  • Frank Zindler vs. Duane Gish: transcript. Topic: creationism.
  • Frank Zindler vs. John Koster: transcript.
  • Frank Zindler vs. John Morris: transcript. Topic: Noah's flood.
  • Alan Hale vs. Anonymous: emails.
  • Ken Saladin vs. Duane Gish: transcript. Topic: creationism.
  • Paul Draper & others vs. Alvin Plantinga & others: transcript.
  • Dan Barker vs. Michael Horner: transcript. Topic: resurrection.
  • Steven Carr (7 debates): transcripts. Several debates, on one page.
  • Farrell Till vs. Norman Geisler: transcript. Topic: resurrection.
  • Farrell Till vs. Douglas Wilson: transcript.
  • Farrell Till vs. Michael Horner: transcript. Topic: resurrection.
  • Robert Price vs. John Rankin: transcript. Topic: Historical Jesus.
  • Irwin Tessman vs. William Harris: transcript. Topic: prayer.
  • Jim Foley vs. Richard Milton: transcript. Topic: evolution.
  • Theodore Drange vs. Douglas Wilson: transcript.
  • Keith Parsons & Michael Martin vs. Douglas Jones: transcript.
  • Richard Carrier vs. Tom Wanchick: transcript.
  • Bill Cooke vs. Imran Aijaz: transcript.
  • Doug Krueger vs. Christopher McHugh: transcript.
  • Phillip Johnson vs. Kenneth Miller: transcript.
  • Richard Dawkins vs. David Quinn: transcript.
  • Johnny Skeptic vs. Jason Gastrich: transcript. Topic: resurrection.
  • Sam Harris vs. Andrew Sullivan: transcript. Topic: Is religion a lie?