5/31/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Raise a Child in the Way She Should Go… (Proverbs 22:6)

By Mriana

The crew of the original Enterprise, except Hi...Image via Wikipedia



As I mentioned before, I was born in 1966, a few months before the season premier of Trek the Original Series. I grew up with the saying, “We strive to better ourselves and humanity” among other sayings that are very much similar to what is found in the Humanist Manifestos and all prior to age seven.

The age of accountability among Christians is seven, but for seven years, I saw reruns of TOS and I remember sitting in a Lazy-Boy chair when I was four watching a “laughing Vulcan” who was sprayed with some powder from a flower, as well as Tribbles, and Apollo (see “Who Mourns for Adonis”). At the same time, we rarely went to church around this time, but there were rare occasions that we did. I have an idea of how old I was because we lived in Alton, IL prior to me going to first grade. We did not live in the country until after I entered first grade, so I have some demarcation of age.

There was a moment when my mother pointed to a time of drastic change in my parents’ relationship and as a preschooler, my mind was vivid with something that few adults my age seem to remember and no generation afterwards even has seen on TV. It was a night that was very creepy for me as a child and one in which my mother allowed me to stay up with her in the kitchen as someone knocked and knocked unceasingly on our door. In my mind, this was the dancing Butterfinger elephant knocking at the door incessantly. This was not good, because that elephant was very creepy to me even in the advertisements, but it was not some evil person or demon. That thought never occurred to me even when I started crying during the commercials that I saw this cartoon creature.

No doors, except the front door, were allowed to be closed, as per my father’s rules. Thus, I was exposed to almost everything, even to what many children should never be privy to between their parents nor did I ever get to take a bath or shower in private until my parents’ divorce- again as per my father’s rules. However, aside from not being able to close any door, except when we had company, I cannot remember any sexual abuse before I was seven, but the therapist I had after my first divorce, suspected there might have been, besides what I do remember around seven years of age to around fourteen years. I am also not sure why things happened in sevens when I was a child either.

Now my mother was still under the idea that a woman had to submit to her husband on everything, even if she disagreed, yet somehow she did read some atheist literature prior to her first born-again experience that occurred when I was around seven. She also read many Dr. Spock’s book and raised me by his professional child rearing guidelines. I know this because when I learned to recognize the name Spock and the abbreviation for doctor at a young age, probably around five or six, I went to her and said, “I didn’t know Spock was a doctor.” She laughed and said, “No, not Mister Spock. Dr. Spock. They are two different people. One is a character from Star Trek and the other is a real live doctor, fully human. Not a Vulcan.” I was a bit perplexed, but I quickly learned the difference that one was fiction and the other was not. This incident my mother and I have not forgotten and we occasionally still talk about my discovery of Dr. Spock and Mr. Spock, so the memory of her response probably lacks little difference. Ironically, Dr. Spock was a humanist too, but I am not certain my mother ever knew this nor have I told her, but maybe one day I will.

Like my older son, I guess I was a brilliant child. I often jokingly call my older son “my Wesley”, for he did many things early too, including learned how to read at the age of three, thanks to my help. I learned to read via Dr. Seuss and he learned to read via Dr. Seuss also, who was yet another humanist. Neither of us liked Bambi. In fact, my mother could not read Bambi to me without me screaming in tears, “It was the humans who did it!” However, she could read the Lorax to me and I was quite content. So, were my children who wondered after they got into school why they never heard the story of Bambi, which they both found disturbing too. That was precisely why I did not read Bambi to them. I could not stomach it due to the human element, yet we do find that in the Lorax, but the cute little guy is giving a message- UNLESS. That message is still important to me to this day, especially when it comes to Rapturists and Dominionists teachings. Unless they change their beliefs and attitudes, there will be nuclear war, from my point of view, and I have said this many times.

All the earmarks and influences for raising a humanist were very prominent from day one of my birth and I often half jokingly remarked that the Roddenberrys had a hand in raising me- as well as other well-known humanists. Yet, there is some irony in that joke too and I seriously doubt to this day, my mother realizes that she raised a humanist. This is not to say that the little exposure to my relatives’ Fundamentalism I had prior to her first born-again experience did not have any affect, but it was not as profound as it was after my mother’s first born-again experience. She actually talked to me and communicated with me before her born-again experiences, even knew what bothered me most too. She heard my tears and fears prior to her born-again experiences and actually tried to remedy them in little ways.

After her first born-again experience, she burned many things, literally in a bonfire. We lived in the country by this time, so this was not illegal or even prohibited, at least not in the early ‘70s. I watched wide-eyed as she burned the 8-track tape of Jesus Christ Superstar and our Ouiji board. I dearly liked JC Superstar because it was not gory and I could stomach that version of the story. I also played with that board, in which nothing happened unless I moved it. Yet when I asked her why she was burning those things, she replied, “They are demonic.”

I observed my mother and thought she gone crazy, because I never saw a thing wrong with them. I asked the board a question and it just sat there motionless, until I decided to move it to whatever answer I wanted it to give. She even played with me sometimes. In my young mind, I thought my mother had gone crazy as she burned everything she deemed demonic. I was a child on the outside looking in to something and I could not comprehend what it was, but I became very afraid of her and to this day, I cannot forget that incident anymore than I can the other profound things that happened.

On top of it all, I had a fiery-orange spaniel dog that I watched being born before we left Alton and my mother named him Satan, but because his name was “Satan”, my grandmother insisted his name be changed to Satin because we were calling “Satan”. Funny, I never saw a little red dude with a pitchfork when I called my dog. I always got my dog when I called the name Satan and I swear that poor dog of a few years old, was just as confused as I was because of it. Regardless, I was the only one who continued to call my dog Satan after all the insanity began, even though the adults told me not to call him that anymore. I saw no reason to change his name and their reason made no sense to me.

I also had a dog, named Sirius, named after the Dog Star, who unfortunately disappeared. The adults told me that someone must have took him and ran off with him. I thought there was something strange about that, but I chose to believe he disappeared because he was a special mix, a Chihuahua and Boston terrier mix. However, I look back and wonder if my assumption was true at the time. He could have very well disappeared for some sort of bizarre reasons.

None of it made sense, even when I told my mother what my father did to me prior to us leaving him and after we left I watched her go to my minister great uncle’s altar in utter fear. To me, he was frightening as he screamed and yelled, much like my abusive father. His demeanor was just as demanding and forceful as my father’s insistence when he touched me, which commanded all authority. While I froze where we had both stood, she went to his altar in tears.

I learned the difference very early in life between anger that was due to pain, such as my atheist great uncle’s during an argument with my grandfather over God and anger that insisted that you do something or else. The last scared me into a non-moving paralyzed state, like a doe in the headlights, and I knew in my mind it was “the adults who did it”, as Wesley once said in Star Trek: The Next Generation.

The last time she went to my minister great uncle’s altar, when I was fourteen, I dared to go up and comfort her. While she kneeled and cried, I patted her on the back as a means of comfort, yet somehow, to this day, I think the adults misinterpreted my intentions, yet no one thought to ask me why I went with her. There was no religious intent on my part with my actions, but the next thing I knew, my mother told my great uncle she wanted me baptized too.

Uncle Richard came to me with this weird grin and asked me, “Do you want to be baptized?” Now I was scared again. A child does not tell their elders “no”, so I was taught, even by my father. They must do what is expected of them and I knew I was expected to say “yes”, even though I did not want to do it. It would seem the moment she was born-again even the first time around, I lost my freedom to think and suffer the natural consequences of my action, something I understand to be part of Dr. Spock’s child-rearing practices. I was dragged along simply because I was her daughter was not actually given a choice in the matter.

So, where were all the Evangelical religious teachings? Well, I got some of it when I spent the summer with my grandparents, mostly after I was seven though. I knew about Jesus prior to seven, but not exactly indoctrinated prior to that. It was after that, that I everything became topsy-turvy in my world and church became a little more frequent, but not as frequent as it did after I turned fourteen and my mother had her last born-again experience.

One summer after I was seven and prior to fourteen, I sat in my grandparents’ church during a sermon studying the picture of Jesus behind the minister. He was White with straight blonde hair. This made no sense, because I realized he was Middle Eastern, given the location of the story. Thus, I remember thinking that he probably had the complexion of a Middle Eastern, as well as the hair and eye-colour, and possibly course dark hair much like someone from Africa. I could not comprehend why the picture made him White with straight blonde hair. There was no way that man could have had a White complexion. He was Middle Eastern-looking, African-looking, or somewhere in between, not White.

Therefore, between that and my grandfather’s version of the Bible in his home, I did get a good dose of Evangelicalism and even remember the words. I just cannot tell anyone the jest of it, or even what it meant, probably because my attention was not fully on what was said. This could have been due to boredom and lack of mental stimulation. Prior to my leaving religion, there were some things that bothered my psychic, such as John 3:16 and more recently while reading Marlene Winell’s book late at night and dozing off, I heard the words, “You need God”, thus some of it did sink into my mind. I was not completely oblivious to it even though I was paralyzed with fear as I observed the adults.

Now there was a difference in my concept of god and their God. The god I knew could not be described in human words, but I felt it when one of my pets sympathized with me after my father gave me a beating, physically and verbally, or forced himself on me (since it was not voluntary and between consenting adults, I do not view this as taking from my virginity, though some might). Each time I cried from such things one of my pets came to me, placed him or herself in my lap, and licked my face or purred. I looked into their eyes and got the most powerful numinous feeling that was beyond words. That was god to me.

When I played outside on my tire swing that sat in a position that when you swung, you went out over a hill. That feeling within nature was purely awesome. The same was true when I rode my pony in the field, because I had this feeling of being one with nature. I even felt as one when I received an honest and warm loving hug from others. As an adult, I still adore those transcendent experiences when they happen, whether they are mild or strong.

However, every time I attempted to express this, the adults told me that was not God and proceeded to informed me of what God really was. Regardless, I never let go of those feelings I so adored as a child and to this day, even though I now realize that it is all neurology, I appreciate those feelings, because they have meaning to me- a feeling of being part of the earth and equal to all living things on this planet. These feelings are my spirituality and they go deep into appreciating all life.

While I appreciate the words “do onto others”, I do not believe it was the teaching of those words that gave me a sense of “do no intentional harm”, but rather what I saw adults doing to animals and other human beings, including to me. It pained me greatly when my father harmed my pets that I loved so dearly. It pained me when I saw the other pigs trying to kill the runt and begged my mother to rescue him for me- yes, I named him Wilbur. It not only scared me when my minister great uncle went into his altar call, but I felt my mother’s pain when she was crying at his altar and knew it was related to his diatribe. I saw my atheist great uncle and knew he was hurting from what my grandfather said to him. I knew what it felt like to be hurt by others on so many different levels and could not bare to see others, be they human or other animal, being harmed. I still cannot bear to see others harmed.

Finally, and most vividly, it was the humans who tortured Jesus on the cross. I always said this even as a child. I did not care what others said, it was plain as day that the Romans, Jews, and many others beat him, spit on him, whipped him to a bloody pulp, and nailed him to a wooden cross! No one has ever convinced me differently and I even said it did not have to happen if the humans were not so mean. This of course was long before I knew the story was a myth. Of course, when I told my mother sometime between seven and fourteen years old, Jesus did not die for my sins and I did not want that for anyone, she started ranting that it had to happen, was glad it happened because if it did not happen blah, blah, blah, John 3:16 blah, blah… You fill in the rest, because I somehow quit listening and started focusing on her emotions, which were frightening to me.

I do not know how I got this odd sort of compassion for others or when exactly I learned to fear others when they exhibited certain behaviours, but I did learn this probably due to observing the adults around me as a child. As an only child, it was very rare when I was not surrounded by adults and rarer still were times I played with other children. Oddly, my other playmates were my pets, not by choice, but due to being sheltered not just by my parents, but other parents who felt something was very wrong in my family, thus did not allow their children to come over and play without them present. Thus, I learned to observe others and their behaviours very quickly.

However, I received a good dose of fear and guilt from the religious and my abusive father, but I never conceptualized the various dogmas and alike in a way I could put them into words. However, I know the actions and behaviours of humans very well and the reactions/results of those things. Throw out words or concepts such as “The Path of Salvation”, “the fruits of the Spirit”, and whatever other saying and I feel clueless. I even told my mother recently “I have no concept of “The Path of Salvation”,” she was utterly shocked. Ironically, this was after my grandmother’s funeral, in which I sat through that preacher’s sermon on the topic. I cannot tell you what she said, not even in my own words, yet I can tell you what some professor lectured on in his class the week before and after that. My older son could not make any sense out of sermon either, but I think, due to fear and observing people’s behaviours, I learned to put up mental shields or a mental force field, in which such things were more or less filtered and what little that did penetrate my mind was not as much. Thus, I ended up having my own diatribes concerning what disturbed me, instead of becoming part of a collective, yet at the same time I found means to appease them so that I would not experience their anger. Resistance is not futile, but that does not mean such things do not still have an affect on a person. It just means that when I hear Assembly of God/Pentecostal, Evangelical, Fundamentalism, or various dogmas there of, my mind raises a red flag, or goes to red alert, to stay uniformed with Trek metaphors.

Now that I am an adult, even after my mother entered my room and yanked the humanist information that I was reading out of my hands, when I was fourteen or so, I believe I have gone full circle. I have developed my own spirituality, rules, morals, and values that are not based on any religious text or dogma, but rather from personal experience. I am a Humanist, but it was not for lack of adults attempting to indoctrinate me into Christianity, but probably due to the years prior to age seven, in which humanism unknowingly was part of my life and my mother actually paid attention to me. There was little by way of religion in my very early years to stunt my curiosity or imagination concerning the world. Rather, prior to her first born-again experience, there were a whole lot of humanistic influences- not just via the media, but also parenting books, which my mother read to guide her in parenting, and children’s stories.

The years prior to seven are crucial to any child’s development and even if there was abuse and/or Christianity prior to that age, what I do remember are the things that stayed with me for a lifetime, which involved many humanists’ influences from different sources. However, there is a sense of irony in Proverbs 22:6, for my mother did not spend my early years indoctrinating me into Christianity, but rather raising me as a humanist. So what does this thing called “age of accountability” mean? I have no clue, but I do know reason and compassion are very important things and I probably knew something about it when I was young too, but lack the cognition to express it in words anymore than I knew what humanism was as a child. Yet, try as my relatives might, it is my guess that my mother did not raise a Christian, but rather, as the Rational Response Squad once said on the Humanist News Network podcast once, “a chicken-shit atheist”. Oh well, I am proud to be a humanist, even if some think it means I am “chicken-shit”, because I look back at Dr. Seuss, Dr. Spock, and the Roddenberrys, and think I’m in good company.



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5/30/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Healing on Demand

By Portland Wes

Healing Center Open HouseImage by CameraDan via Flickr

I still receive emailed prayer requests from the last church I attended, often asking for prayers for healing of someone who has a serious illness, or cancer, or been in an accident. I just received one this week, and it got me to reminiscing about how we used to pray for, and over, people who were ill, or who needed "deliverance" from a problem or a spirit of some kind.

The most vivid memory concerned the founder and pastor of a local Charismatic church/fellowship that was located in a small town on the south coast of England, just 6 miles from I used to live. It was one of the largest and liveliest congregations in that part of England. As is typical of charismatic gatherings, there was much talk of speaking in tongues, and miracles and healings of all kinds. We had several friends who attended there, although my family and I attended our local charismatic Baptist church (don't be shocked, Americans, it happens a lot in England!) that tended to be a little less "up front" about the tongues and healings.

This pastor, after many weeks of a lingering cough, was told by a doctor that he had cancer, and it would most likely be terminal. Of course, the pastor and congregation regarded this as a perfect opportunity to show non-believers the healing power of God, as shown in the lives of people who had faith in their saviour and healer Jesus Christ. I think they thought it would be a fairly quick and dramatic healing. Keep in mind that, in their theology, the only reason that a person is not healed of disease is because of their lack of faith. This is the normal teaching of "health, wealth & prosperity" or "name-it-and-claim-it" churches. (In a less charismatic theology, a lack of healing is explained simply as God must have something else he needs to teach the person).

As you may have guessed by now, the healing didn't happen. He made a sign and wore it around his neck, that said: "I AM HEALED". In other words, he was claiming by faith the healing that had as of then, not revealed itself in his body. I actually saw photos of him wearing this sign. As he got weaker and weaker, it seemed the congregation got a little desperate, as they realized that they would look pretty foolish to the community if their pastor actually died. Which is exactly what happened. The congregation, subsequent to his death, did split into factions that blamed each other for lack of faith, or neutralizing the faith that was there. Some people moved away from the area, embarrassed by what had happened.

Here in Portland a few years back, there was a similar prominent pastor of a Foursquare congregation (casually Charismatic) who contracted cancer and died, after much claiming of healing on his behalf. And there was a local couple in Oregon City taken to court by the county, after their child died after an illness which could have been quickly cleared up with an injection of antibiotics. They refused medical treatment because they (and the congregation strongly taught this) believed that God should heal a person, not medical personnel.

It is amazing how irrational people can act, by taking the accounts in the New Testament (healings by Jesus, Paul bitten by a poisonous snake, the raising of Jairus' daughter, etc) and transpose them to the present day. Of course after studying how the NT came together, I have my doubts that most of these events actually took place. But even given that they could have happened, I really doubt that Jesus (and I know many of you don't believe he existed) intended his followers to make a doctrine out of them. And the emotional anguish this foolishness leaves in it's wake is heartbreaking. To see individuals and families devastated because they blame themselves for not having enough faith is incredibly cruel. But hucksters like Benny Hinn, Paul Crouch and the TBN crowd are getting richer every day because there are millions in America who continue to believe and support this lie.



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5/28/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Christian Belief Through the Lens of Cognitive Science: Part 2 of 6

By Valerie Tarico

Why God has a human mind.

Jesus was a human, fathered by a god and born to a virgin. He died for three days and was resurrected. His death was a sacrifice, an offering or propitiation. It brings favor for humans. He lives now in a realm where other supernatural beings interact with each other and sometimes intervene in human affairs.

Gradually the mainstream of the American public is becoming aware that none of these elements is unique to Christianity. Symbologists or scholars who specialize in understanding ancient symbols, tell us that the orthodox Jesus story, as it appears in our gospels, follows a specific sacred or mythic template that existed in the Ancient Near East long before Christianity or even Judaism. In part this is due to the flow of history. Religions emerge out of ancestor religions. Though the characters and details merge and morph, elements get carried through that allow us to track the lineage. The Gilgamesh and Noah flood-hero stories are similar because the Hebrew story descended from the Sumerian story . The same can be said of the Sumerian “Descent of Inana” and the Christian resurrection story. Even religions that exist side by side borrow elements from each other -- a process called syncretism.

But another reason for similarities among religious stories is that all of them are carried by human minds. To quote cognitive scientist, Pascal Boyer, “Evolution by natural selection gave us a particular kind of mind so that only particular kinds of religious notions can be acquired. (p. 4) . . . All human beings can easily acquire a certain range of religious notions and communicate them to others” (Religion Explained, p. 3) Our supernatural notions are shaped by the built-in structures that let us acquire, sort, and access information efficiently, especially information about other people.

You may have heard the old adage: If dogs had a god, God would be a dog; if horses had a god, God would be a horse . . . . Humans are more inventive than dogs and horses, and not all human gods or magical beings have human bodies. They do, however, have human psyches—minds with quirks and limitations that are peculiar to our species. Philosopher John Locke believed that the human mind was a tabula rasa, a blank slate. We now know this not to be the case. (Leda, Principle 4). Because we need to learn so much so fast, certain assumptions are actually built in. This allows us to generalize from a few bits of data to a big fund of knowledge. It lets us know more than we have actually experienced or been told.

Let me give you an example that will illustrate the point. If I tell you that my "guarg," Annie, just made a baby by laying an egg and sitting on it, your brain says: Guargs (not just Valerie’s guarg) are non-human animals that reproduce by laying eggs. You have different categories in your brain for animal reproductive systems, and putting one guarg in the egg laying category puts them all there. To oversimplify, we have a built in filing system. Most of the labels actually start out blank, but some of them don’t. The preprinted labels appear to include: human, non-human animal, plant, man-made object, natural object.

A large percentage of our mental architecture is specialized “domain specific” structures for processing information about other humans. We homo sapiens are social information specialists; that is our specialized niche in this world. Our survival and wellbeing depend mostly on smarts rather than teeth, claws, stealth or an innate sense of direction, and most of the information we need to survive and flourish comes from other humans. Our greatest threats also come from our own species--people who seek to out-compete, exploit or kill us. For this reason, our brains are optimized to process information from and about other humans.

How does all of this affect religion?

Here is a concrete example. Our brains have a specialized facial recognition module. Studies of infants and brain injuries have taught us much of what is known about the inborn structures of our minds, and we know about the facial recognition modal from both. Shortly after birth, babies are uniquely attracted to two round circles with a slash beneath them. Later on, brain injury or developmental anomalies can produce a disorder in which people cannot recognize faces, including their own(!)—even though other kinds of visual processing are perfectly intact. This is called prosopagnosia. Most of the time, though, our facial recognition module overfunctions rather than underfunctioning. In ambiguous situations—looking at clouds, rocks, lumps of clay, or ink blots--we have a tendency to see faces. Our brains automatically activate our facial recognition machinery even though it doesn’t really apply. Through history people have seen gods, demons, ghosts looking at them. Christians, whose interpretation of hazy shapes is further shaped by belief in specific supernatural persons see Jesus, the Virgin Mary, an angel, a demon, or even Satan.

This illustrates a broader point that cannot be overemphasized in understanding the psychology of religion: when faced with unknowns and ambiguities, our brains activate inborn information modules even when they don’t really apply. We take unfamiliar situations and even random data and perceive patterns that are inherent, not in the external world, but in our own minds. Furthermore, our pattern recognition systems err on the side of being overactive rather than underactive. This is called apophenia. It is alarming to look at a face and not see it immediately as a face; it is quite common to see a face in an array of leaves or shadows.

When we look at the world around us, we instinctively see more than faces. We also “see” kindred conscious beings. Humans (and some intelligent animals) have developed a capacity called “theory of mind.” We not only have minds, we imagine that others have them, and we think about what they might be thinking. To guess what someone else might do (or to influence what they might do) it is tremendously helpful to think about what they want and what they intend. Theory of mind is so important in navigating our way through society that we can think about it several steps removed: I can imagine what Brian is thinking about how Grace intends to respond to Janet’s preferences. Furthermore, because our brains process information about minds differently than information about bodies, we can imagine human minds inside of all kinds of bodies (think stuffed animals, pet rocks or cartoon characters) or without any body at all, (think evil spirits, poltergeists or spirit-gods).

Because our theory of mind is so rich, we tend to over-attribute events to conscious beings. Scientists call this hyperactive agency detection. What does that mean? It means that when good things happen somebody gets credit and when bad things happen we look for someone to blame. We expect important events to be done by, for and to persons, and are averse to the idea that stuff just happens. We also tend to over-assume conscious intent, that if something consequential happened, someone did it on purpose.

This set of default assumptions explains why the ancients thought that volcanoes and plagues must be the actions of gods. Even in modern times, we are not immune from this kind of attribution: Hurricane Katrina happened because God was angry about abortions and gays; the Asian tsunami happened because he was disgusted with nude Australian sunbathers. If gods are tweaking natural events, then we want to curry their favor. Around the world, people make their special requests known to gods or spirits by talking to them and giving them gifts. Athletes huddle in prayer before a game, just in case those random bounces aren’t random. After a good day at the casino, a thank-you tip may go into the offering basket. Or it may be that the offering goes into the basket beforehand.

All of this builds on the idea that gods or other supernatural beings are akin to us psychologically. They have emotions and preferences. They take action in response to things they like and dislike. They experience righteous indignation and crave retribution. They like some people better than others. They respond to our loyalty by being loyal to us. They can be placated or cajoled. They like praise, affirmation, and gratitude. They track favors and good-will in a kind of tit-for-tat reciprocity.

Abstract theologies are a fairly recent invention in the history of human religion, and they tend not to govern religious behavior. Even people who describe their god as omniscient or who insist that everything is predestined actually behave as if they need to communicate their desires and can influence future events by doing so. The god of Christian theology and the god that ordinary Christians worship are two different creatures.

If the structure of our minds predisposes us to certain kinds of religious beliefs, it also precludes others. Nowhere in the world is there a supernatural being who exists only on alternate Tuesdays, or who sees everything but forgets it all in ten minutes, or who rewards us for ignoring and disobeying him. Nowhere is there a god who knows the future, but only the next hour, or a god who starves people to death whenever he is pleased with them, or who is exactly like an ordinary person in every way. Some ideas are simply not interesting to us. They may be counter-intuitive in ways that make them forgettable instead of “sticky.” Maybe they don’t make good stories or maybe we don’t have good places to file them in our index of memories.

You may have heard the old adage: If dogs had a god, God would be a dog; if horses had a god, God would be a horse . . . . According to Pascal Boyer, a good religious concept must strike a balance between being interesting and expected. It must activate an existing ontological category (let’s say “river”), add some counterintuitive tag (when dark and bubbling river turns to blood and heals people), and retain the default assumptions of the category except those that are otherwise specified (river is wet, flows, is longer than it is wide, has a bottom, etc.) We start with a familiar class of being or object then tweak it to pique our interest but leave intact our other basic assumptions about that kind of object or being. If the supernatural thing we are discussing is a conscious being, it also needs to have a basically human mind. Only under these conditions will it stick and get passed from one person to another. (Religion Explained)

Christian beliefs are highly successful at getting retained and transmitted. They fit our information processing structures and yet are counterintuitive in intriguing ways. They capitalize on our tendency to attribute events to human-like causal agents who have minds much like our own. They allow us to take machinery that is designed for processing social information and apply it to the problems of understanding inanimate objects and natural phenomena. They leverage our tendency to see patterns in ambiguous or random events. Consequently they are intuitive and broadly applicable and are easily remembered.

But if our brains allow for a wide range of religious concepts, how come so many people believe exactly the same thing? And what makes them so sure that those ideas are not only interesting—they are true? As we shall see in future articles Christian beliefs don’t just fit our mental categories. They also leverage powerful emotions and social relationships so as to become the core reality for those who believe.

Essentials: Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained.
Andy Thomson, Why We Believe in Gods; American Atheists, 2009.

If you don’t want to miss any of this series, subscribe to Valerie Tarico at this blog or send email to valerietarico at hotmail.com and request to be added to her mailing list for weekly articles.




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5/27/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Why I Moved to Linux

By Neal Stone

REDWOOD SHORES, CA - DECEMBER 20:  A sign with...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Now wait a minute Neal! This isn't a computer site, it's an Ex-Christian site for people who have left Christianity and Religion. Linux is a computer thing and has nothing to do with religion or leaving it for that matter.

Sure it does. Many people who use Linux do so because in the beginning the knew there was a better choice at their computer life. Then there are those like me who were devoted Microsoft followers for years. We would ignore the bugs and errors, because we thought it didn't matter. Microsoft was our truth and savior.

But once in a while someone, like me, sees the truth and realizes there is an alternative to following the crowd blindly. We then sit down and totally replace our Windows with Linux. We discover a true freedom that sets us apart from the rest. We find life easier to live and enjoy and discover others who have also found this truth. No more lies from the “company”, no more bugs or unexplained issues that people choose to ignore or accept as part of the great plan.

When you think about it, MS Windows is a lot like Christianity. Its expensive, requires tons of “experts” to explain, there are new versions promising a better experience and yet are riddled with the same old holes and issues as the old versions and the experience rarely is better than before, a thick manual is often needed to explain it in more detail, and if you find a problem there will be someone to explain a way around it. Not to mention the money Microsoft loses when someone chooses an alternative.

We have turned our backs on an entire industry that has decided what they think the standard is and expect everyone to follow. We have embraced a new truth where the software and the industry are in our control. We can choose and not be afraid of the repercussions.

We made that choice to boot that CDROM and tell the Linux install, zap it all and replace it completely for I want to be free and live life as I choose, not by what someone else wants me to do.

We find ourselves surrounded by Windows users who refuse to change because they just don't understand Linux and yet dealing with a system riddled with bugs and problems somehow makes sense to them.

It is no surprise that at the same time I started my journey away from Christianity was at the same time I removed Windows software from my computer and jumped head first into Linux.

Perhaps it was a driving need to be free in all areas of my life? Or maybe just a sudden realisation of how futile and ridiculous it was to keep going down the same road I have always been.

This quest for true freedom has influenced all areas of my life. Ironically, my nephew is taking the same journey in the same areas. Let's face it, freedom, TRUE FREEDOM, tastes so sweet.

So yes my friends, my move to Linux has a lot to do with this site. My goal now is to keep embracing this freedom in all aspects of my life. Live by example of how my life changes have made my life better. I HAVE TRUE FREEDOM AND IT ROCKS!!!!



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It is understandable

By Glen

I have been a good observer of man. Especially the ones that hide behind the church or Christian folds at times.

If it wasn't the drunken pastor that came to our door when I was younger, it would be people like my German mother-in-law -- and many things in between.

In her case, it would be the continued hounding of her daughter (my wife) of 29 years -- don't do anything on the Sabbath -- don't lift a hammer, etc. But it was okay for this evil German mother-in-law to gossip her brains out on the Sabbath, or destroy people. This would be the same woman that would get out of German Service on Sunday morning as we were going in -- grabbing my hand while looking around -- pulling me close, and trying to give me a kiss while others were looking. How pathetic can a person be. Also in church -- one of her class-act sons would accompany such a woman. Then out on the steps of the church, this fool of sorts, would use the Lord's name in vain. It doesn't stop there. This would also be the woman who would look at the color of one's skin. If you also wore jeans to church, or had a hole in your clothes, or you loved dancing -- and on and on and on. There also wasn't going to be any blacks or Jews in the family. And all this from one, short, fat, German woman -- at 94 years old today.

Ahh, but she wasn't alone!

Others could strike up quite the idea of it all -- 'church today.' They would watch us drive up in our rusty Honda, two-door. "Could we move it up the block," they would say! It was okay next week, when we brought our fairly new Astro van -- hypocrites!

Then there were those that would try and control the pastors. (Time them on the sermons.) Vote them out because they weren't becoming part of the 'Clique.' Get rid of them because they were remarrying, and they hadn't chosen some other woman.

At this particular church, I happened to be the grounds keeper for one year. That was all you could take. These pedestal walkers -- the up and ups in this church, didn't want to get their feet wet when arriving on snow or rain days. I never did dry the ground these fools walked on. (It was a German and Church thing -- I will say no more.)

Let's not pick on one 'church of man,' shall we. (What I have seen with my own eyes.)

How about a man I know at work, that goes to our sister church -- when we went of course. This fellow was not allowed to see his children because he and his wife couldn't see eye to eye. Sadly this is a part of life, many times these days. The interesting thing about this story I am explaining, is that the wife formed the little 'Clique' in the church of over a thousand members -- and gathered who she needed to 'hoop' him. (Then 'prey' the same day, the poor woman, while she looked good at 'secular Sunday.')

Then on a warning from one of our three sons -- he would say, "Dad, you have to witness this," at a church that we had friends going to. It was one of these 'charismatic churches,' full of fools that couldn't see the truth, if it was dropped on them from a thousand feet up. Him and I watched carefully, as a dynamic woman speaker, manipulated, and mellowed out the crowd for over two hours with her false teachings, then supposedly passing out on stage. Her list of phony youth pastors, elders, and senior pastors, would raise the stakes -- going into trances, and speaking in dueling tongues, amongst other things. Those in the bleachers, as I called them, were under the influence of mass hysteria -- some writhing under the benches like snakes -- 'all' of this my boy and I having no time for. (I had written about such things.) A person would try and take hold of me -- wanting to take me to the stage. There would be no part of it! Once fools realized that we weren't being influenced, or buying into it, these idiots of the day would pass us by. I'm sure the money poured in. There has been phenomenal growth. Of course there was -- it was like going to the carnival for a candy apple. Anything goes in the church these days -- right? We have other churches blessing animals in the sanctuaries. We've seen priests, that are better molestation artists, than they are human beings -- the b______s hiding behind the 'cloth'-- or should I say, towel.

And so this goes -- I will not bore you with what else I know, or what else has been seen in the shadows. Most churches these days, are just gatherings of a band of cutthroats. And just on a biblical note (relax...please.) If there was an 'end times' -- you would see all these churches and denominations operating under the 'banner' of evil!

Nuff Said...



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The Inane World of Christian Denominations

By Ray

Tomatina - found at en.wikipedia http://en.wik...Image via Wikipedia

Reading the comments on this site continues to remind me that there is a lot of anguish out there. CHEER UP! The dilemma you find yourself in is not your fault. I'm sure you can already tell that there are enough Christian denominations in the United States to drive just about anyone nuts. Most of them are selling theologies that are totally contradictory to each other. In other words, most of them cancel each other out. What one outfit labels as "saving truth" is immediately denounced by another racket as the work of "demon possessed agents of Satan." The crap never ends. It's a consistent and predictable 24/7 religious food throwing contest.

Just remember that this has always been true in the United States with the complete freedom of religion that our Constitution affords. Needless to say, anyone looking for a religious anchor or safety net out there is going to be mentally and emotionally bombarded from all directions. Just about anyone can invent a church, with someone always succeeding to suck many into the spiderweb of religious deception. With that said, one of the first steps in getting your anti-religion "shot record" up to date is to stop reading religious books all together. Also. get rid of the religious books you have and stop watching those religious channels on television, to include all those movies out there about religion. That brings to mind that stupidass series of books and movies called the "Left Behind" series which has probably made millions for its authors.

Christopher Hitchens is right. The title of one of his recent books "God Is Not Great. How Religion Poisons Everything" is right on target. Nevertheless it is people who invented religion and blamed it on God. Finally, don't feel that you have to become an atheist during the detox process. You may end up in that position, but it is not inevitable. Finally, continue to read the testimonies etc. on this website, and you will find that people are allergic to religion in general and not just Christianity.



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5/25/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Make the Petitioners Explain

By WizenedSage

Sunrise Portland Head Lighthouse, Maine, USAImage by freefotouk via Flickr

[The State of Maine very recently passed a gay marriage law. The law cannot take effect until 90 days after the close of the legislative session. So, of course, the religious Reich is preparing to force a referendum to overturn the law. I have submitted the following letter-to-the-editor to my local weekly newspaper as well as the state’s largest daily.]

You will soon see petitions and petitioners everywhere asking for your signature to help bring Maine’s new gay marriage law to public referendum. You need to be aware that the people behind this drive are there for religious reasons. Because of certain words in the Bible, they think homosexuality is immoral. Most of us these days understand that the Bible is not an infallible guide to morality, but many others just don’t seem to get it.

While the Bible commands the death penalty for disobedient sons (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), adulterers (Leviticus 20:10), witches (Exodus 22), homosexuals (Leviticus 20:13), and those who work on the Sabbath (Exodus 35:2), most of us today understand that killing people for any of these reasons would in fact be immoral. And, anyone who murdered another for any of these reasons today would be sentenced to a long term in prison to protect the rest of us from their warped sense of morality.

I urge you to refuse to sign the petition until someone can explain to you why you should always accept the words of the Bible at face value, or, more specifically, how it would be a moral act to kill your neighbor because he works on Sunday. And don’t let him tell you that Jesus changed all that savage stuff; according to the famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus himself says, "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” He was obviously referring to the Old Testament laws.

I don’t have the space here to debate whether a God played a part in the writing of the Bible, but it should be blindingly obvious to anyone who has actually read it that the handprints of primitive, barbaric men are all over it. No God worthy of the name would think it moral to force a woman to marry a man who had raped her (Deuteronomy 22:28-29), and no rational God would waste words on a command to not eat lobster (Leviticus 11:10)

The petitioners may tell you they are opposed to the law because they are opposed to changing the definition of marriage, but they are being disingenuous. They are opposed because Leviticus 18:22 states that homosexuality is an “abomination.” And actually, changing legal definitions can be a very good thing. Over the course of our history we Americans have changed the definition of “voter” several times. In Colonial times, voter meant a white man with property. Later it came to include all white men, then white women, and finally African-Americans. And each time the definition changed we became a fairer, wiser, better society.

They may argue that homosexuality is “unnatural,” but homosexual activity has been observed throughout nature, in over 400 different animal species.

They may claim that some people simply choose sin by choosing to be homosexual. But think about it; if you aren’t gay, then exactly when and under what circumstances did you “choose” to be heterosexual? Like many a five year-old boy, I fell in love with my very pretty kindergarten teacher. I made no choice. We don’t choose who we are attracted to.

Equal rights for all citizens is a necessity for a truly enlightened society, and the right to marry whomever one wishes to marry should be enshrined in our laws as a basic moral principle… just like the right to work on Sunday.



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5/23/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Who Has The Moral High Ground ?

By Sharon

Native Americans flee from the allegorical rep...Image via Wikipedia

For centuries Christianity has claimed that it inhabits the moral high ground.

This position has gone unchallenged until recent work in evolutionary theory has been able to provide a genetic/biological understanding of morality.
Belief in evolutionary biology and psychology is a superior belief compared to the Christian belief system, when making any decisions, especially those with a moral or ethical component.

In short, Evolution provides a higher moral ground than Christian ideology is able to provide.

Evolution tells us that Man/Woman has gradually improved from a lessor biological (and hence psychological) state, and that this improvement has occurred over vast spans of time. While on the road to improvement, certain biological features have remained for various reasons, and can be shown to have originated in lower life forms. Hence we have a biological connection to all of life on earth.

Christian ideology, which is based on the creation story, has no such connections, and hence no moral imperative to honor those connections.

The creation story, as told in the book of Genesis, provides the basis for christian morality and ethics. It is significant that this story indicates that all of life on earth is created separately from one another. So the zebra, for instance, was created separately from the elephant. The man was created separately from the baboon. And of course, since the woman was so obviously similar to the male, she must have been created separately, but using parts from the male. (One can only assume that the female zebra was also created using male zebra parts, for this logic to have any consistency).

But I digress.

So the creation story not only separates species as having no connection, it also separates tribes of humans, when you get a little further along in the story (so Caan becomes an inferior tribe which modern day religions, like Mormonism use to justify racism), thus providing justification for the extermination of said tribes.

This is the basis upon which all christian morality rests.

Evolutionary theory has a better foundation and hence a superior moral position.

In the Evolutionary way of thinking, all of life is connected and has a shared past. So in a very real sense what I do to any part of life on earth, I do to myself. There is a "circle of life" of which I am but a small part. From this position comes a strong respect for all of life, and a strong motive for protecting said life. Whereas the christian position, based on creation theory, is that I am separate and dominant, and can therefore do as I like with no regard for the "other". I am superior. This is immoral at its best, cruel at its worst.

It was the christian settlers who wiped out the American buffalo by slaughtering them for sport with no regard for the buffalo or for the effects of such "dominance" on the life of the settler, much less on the life of the American Indian. Whereas the American Indian, with no such christian belief was careful to only kill what they needed to provide food and shelter for their families, and they always conducted these buffalo hunts with great respect for the buffalo (often with ceremonies honoring the buffalo for giving its life).

Likewise the early christian settlers didnt hesitate to steal from the Indians, when they found food supplies carefully stored for the winter, siting these supplies as "gods providence" for them. Since they were "superior" to the Indians, and on a mission from "god" , any and all mistreatment of the American Indians was justified. This is just one example of a long list of outrageously immoral and cruel conduct on the part of the christian settlers in regards to the indigenous people they encountered.

How might this have been different had these early settlers been schooled in an understanding of evolutionary principles?

Well, first of all, they wouldnt have been traveling to an unknown area believing that there would be provisions for them when they arrived, "gods provision". Second of all, they might not have made the trip at all, because they wouldnt have been trying to establish a place of paradise, a "heaven on earth", you know "manifest destiny", we are to be a "light set on a hill". That type of thinking.

So lets say they arrived on the shores of America for other reasons, and understood evolution. Then they would have realized the interdependance of life and adapted to life in the wilderness using the strategies the Indians were uniquely qualified to teach them. More importantly, they would have respected the American Indians culture and skills, and NOT forced upon them the "god says I am superior to you and you must do as I do" mentality.

This is just one among many examples I could give of the inferiority of the christain foundation in matters of morality.

Let's look at a current moral dilemma that sparks heated debate. What is the moral high ground in regards to an embryo that genetic testing has shown to have an incurable devastating condition like spinal bifida ?

Well, an understanding of Evolution tells us that for any given moment of conception that it is possible for the genetic combination of the sperm and ovum to produce a defective embryo. Often the female body automatically expels these unsuitable products of conception, but sometimes this doesnt happen and the embryo emplants to begin growing as a fetus. It is at this point that a moral decision must be made, to allow the fetus to continue and become a full term severely damaged newborn? or stop the process before it inflicts horrible suffering for the newborn and the family.

What is the moral high ground?

The christian position, (based on the Genesis story of creation) says that god caused this particular sperm and ovum to unite, and therefore it would be immoral to stop what god has started. So irregardless of the overwhelming stress this will put on the husband and wife (who now have a nine times greater chance of divorce), not to mention the financial burden to society for the childs care (most families dont have millions available to provide medical care), and the emotional cost to any other children they may have, this pregnancy should be allowed to continue. This is cruel and immoral.

But if instead of relying on a fictional account of our origins, we instead look to the factual evidence from Evolutionary studies, then we have a clearer viewpoint from which to make such a decision. Although sad and difficult the moral choice is to stop the fetus (which cannot think nor feel yet) from becoming a thinking feeling newborn destined for horrible suffering for itself and for those responsible for its care. This is moral and kind.

So when contemplating private moral decisions, or broader societal decisions, pause for a moment and ask yourself "am I basing my assessment of this situation on the fictional story of creation, or am I using the knowledge we now have of our origins that is more accurate, to determine the best course of action"?

This is the moral high ground.



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Dangers of Savior Worship

By the great dreamer

Спас на крови    -  Church of the Savior on BloodImage by hide99 via Flickr

Savior worship has been around for thousands of years. It is the motivating factor behind many of the worlds religions. It is also one of the most destructive thought processes. It is a tool religions use to get what they want. A society they have total control over. People often hop from one religion to another, sometimes changing deities but rarely give up on savior worship. Savior worship allows people to put up with all sorts of traumas. "just give it to god", I'm sure you've heard that before. This is why religions implant savior worship into our minds, it makes us like clay which they can mold. We'll put up with most anything if it helps our eternal vision.

It has been over fifteen years since I threw away my religion and it's supposed savior. It was one of the greatest moments of my life, free at last. I've felt that way ever since. Unfortunately I have not had such an easy time getting rid of the savior worship mindset that religion put in me.

At first I gave up Christianity. Like most people, I tried other religions. They were really no different than Christianity, in the end only the type of chains that bound me were different.

So why did I keep seeking other religions even though every religion I studied seemed to mirror the same problems?

It took me a while to figure it out but the culprit was savior worship. My behavior after giving up Christianity showed me that savior worship is more dangerous than religion!

It is savior worship that kept me from taking charge of my own life. I would keep making mistakes so I would need to be saved. I couldn't understand why I had such a need to replace one religion with another. Religions can't fill the hole left once you lose your imaginary savior. After all an imaginary savior can only leave an imaginary hole which can only be filled by another imaginary savior.
Saviors are simply an extension of a child's security blanket. A blanket that only offers psychological protection from the fears one creates in the mind.
What would Christianity be without Jesus? Judaism! Christians are simply Jews who believe Jesus was their savior. Jews don't believe Jesus was their savior so they are still waiting.

Jews don't believe the world will ever treat them fairly but someday a savior will show up to save them from persecution.
The Christians believe their savior already came and died but since the world will never believe in him he will have to let it self destruct and then he will come back to damn for eternity non Christians while saving true Christians as god prepares a new world for them only.

The Muslims believe peace will come only after the world is completely Islamic and all non believers and infidels are extinguished.

Whew, no wonder we need saviors! We need them to save us from us!

We are trapped in a society built for the need of savior worship.

When the Russians had their revolution they closed down churches, eliminated public worship but kept savior worship. Their saviors were Lenin, Marx, and later, the evil Stalin.

Savior worship was the real reason Hitler was able to kill so many Jews. Hitler was the peoples savior, or else. So, they did what they were told. The Jews, they simply didn't fight back. They waited for their savior, he didn't come and they were killed in the meantime. They have been waiting for their savior for thousands of years.

How long does one wait before they realize the bus isn't coming?

Savior worship requires that a person has only one savior.

Remember the quote " man can't serve two masters"? Therefore my savior is right and yours is wrong. There can be no other way.

Savior worship causes us to do unthinkable things to prove our worthiness. Think martyr. Think car bombs.

It is true man can have only one savior and that savior is you!

Why were you born? Simply, to live. You are your own savior, it's your decisions that make or break you.

Savior worship creates others to bear and blame for your problems. It is an inevitable path that has only one conclusion. Destruction. That is what these religions want, total world domination or destruction. Since humans will never agree on one savior, destruction is the only possibility!

The only other choice is to give up savior worship as a whole. To defy those who perpetuate it. To become responsible for ones own actions and place in this world. To stand up for what is good and what is real, not imaginary.

If the majority of the worlds population gave up on savior worship we could stand up and control our own destiny. We wouldn't need religion. We could create a world based on reality not fantasy. A world that simply makes sense.

If we don't the world will keep repeating its dark past and no one knows who will be victorious, if anyone.



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5/22/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Salvation is NOT a free gift

By Marlene Winell

There is a fundamental contradiction in the evangelical message of salvation because, according to them, it is NOT Christ's atoning death that saves you, it is YOUR BELIEF in it. (otherwise everyone would be saved). Therefore, this is not a salvation by grace, it is another salvation by works, albeit cognitive work. You must DO several things - find out about and understand the atonement, accept that Jesus dies for your sins, feel guilt and express your sorrow for being responsible, ask forgiveness, and invite Jesus "into your heart" to rule for the rest of your life.

IF you are sincere enough and it works, you get your life insurance (or fire insurance). Many people do this many times because they aren't sure. What do these things mean? What does it mean to "believe," "confess sin," or "accept Jesus"? These are mental events with no objective evidence. And how does one force oneself to believe if the story makes no rational sense? Can you believe in Santa Claus again just because you need to save your life? With the threat of hell-fire condemnation, this is terrifying, crazy-making stuff. It's no wonder that "believers" exhibit so much mental illness, including psychosis. Taught to children, I consider it child abuse of the worst kind.

I've wandered a bit from my initial point, which was that this doctrine is a salvation by works, ie, it is the accomplishment of the believer. Maybe that is why fundamentalists are so smug.

Aside from the obvious problem of people being unsaved because they are too rational, smart, enlightened or integrous, what about those who, because of the requirements of this deal, are too dumb to understand it, don't know about it, only believe a little bit, etc. etc.? Even in our human justice system, people are not condemned for what they are thinking.

Here's an analogy. Say you are in danger of a calamitous death and someone comes along and puts a present near you which will save your life - a FREE GIFT our of pure benevolence!! But you can't have it until you notice it, find horrible fault in yourself, feel sorry and grateful, manage to get to it and pick it up, and then promise to devote your life to the gift-giver. If you are blind or lame or just don't want a gift, good luck to you. How can they ever say this kind of gift is unearned??? And isn't it pretty weird that the gift-giver is one and the same as the creator of the torment you get if you don't accept the gift? Talk about strings attached. Imagine if we gave each other gifts like that.

I just had a birthday recently, and I'm glad ordinary humans have a better idea of giving.

Marlene Winell, www.marlenewinell.net






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Human Sacrifice

By Mriana

Jean-Luc Picard as LocutusImage via Wikipedia

I am reading Marlene Winell’s book, “Leaving the Fold”, and I got to a point in the book that really hit very close to home. I doubted that it would for various reasons, but it did. My first reaction was to explode on her in an email, but my anger was not directed at her. Rather it was directed at two people who are now dead: my minister great uncle and grandfather.

What did she write that triggered this bout of anger? Where do I to begin? Let us flashback to a brief conversation with my minister great uncle and work from there.

“It is the devil that is scaring you, not me.”

“No Uncle Richard. It’s you! You scare me,” which was well within my right to tell him, but still my feelings were blown off and projected onto something that was no more real to me than a cartoon character, even as a child.

So here I was reading this part of her book about Family Background, subsection “Physical and Sexual Abuse” and so many memories were triggered within me, like a flashback to a time I would rather forget.

“I had no choice!” My mother has whined to this day about the situation and anything else related to religious beliefs and her actions. She had a choice, but was too delusional and blinded to see it. Still is for that matter.

Humans are not mindless zombies who cannot think and make decisions for themselves, but some people act in such a manner, especially the religious. Sometimes it seems like I was the only one who faced reality, because it was a battle between a child’s reasoned reality and the delusions of a tribal collective, much like Locutus of Borg/Picard. Even after his rescue from the Borg Collective, Picard still could hear a memory of their voices as he struggled to overcome what they did to him. The aftermath from the trauma of Evangelicalism for me is much the same and certain things trigger an emotional response.

As though Marlene had read my mind, she mentioned in her book the two verses in Ephesians that my minister great uncle used to keep my mother and me in such an abusive situation. Their words and the battle I fought started to return to memory once again. From there, the last nails in my great uncle and grandfather’s coffins and trust me; I wanted to hammer them in badly:
“…fundamentalist wives have difficulty stopping the cycle of violence in their marital relationships because of religious beliefs about marriage and sex-role stereotypes.” “Moreover, fundamentalist clergy are likely to be unsupportive or even unknowingly endanger battered women because of legalistic attitudes.” (p 127)
“Additionally, sexual abuse can occur because the belief system permits a father to be an authoritarian head of household. The Christian wife is less likely to question or interfere with his behavior. Children are expected to be obedient.” (p 128)

She confirmed, in a few sentences, what I knew and more, thus my anger. I was right, wished my theory had been wrong. The sons of bitches taught my mother to be submissive to males, even at the sacrifice of her own daughter, thus enabling the abuser. It is not surprising that my grandfather committed suicide, because he probably had so much guilt within him concerning what he allowed to happen to his granddaughter. He and my great uncle had complete and total control of the situation, over my mother, and even me, because they taught her to do as she was told without question and I was just a child. They had enough control to sacrifice a child to dehumanizing treatment from another man. As a minister, Richard had even more power and authority over the situation. The whole thing was all in the family, especially since practically the whole damn church appeared to be family at the time, not just figuratively, but genetically also. Neither of them cared about the human factor in the whole mess. All they cared about was scripture and doing the will of something they called “God” as they allowed a little girl’s childhood to end. And for what? I do not have a clue.

Yet my ability to empathize was not hindered, because I saw through the so-called “Ultimate Sacrifice”, in which they all said had to happen for the whole world. No, it did not! No more than what happened to me. The problem is, they somehow dismissed the human factor in the whole mess and placed it on some deity. “It was God’s will.” I cannot fathom any decent deity allowing the barbaric abuse and subsequent murder of an offspring nor can I fathom that any decent deity would allow the sacrifice of a child to dogmatic beliefs. IF such a deity were real and IF he were such a wonderful father figure, he would have taken his huge almighty hand, shaken up a few adults, and maybe even removed the child from the situation. Now that would be an interesting story to see “Apollo’s hand” grabbing a few humans and shaking them, just as the hand, which was actually Gene’s, in “Who Mourns for Adonis” grabbed the Enterprise.

Similarly, the authors of the Crucifixion story could have written the story much differently, in which compassionate human beings stopped the whole thing long before the fifty lashes. If I were the author, I would have written the story completely differently, in which people showed reason and compassion about the situation, but I did not and the truth is, “it was the adults who did it!” In addition, the adults were the ones who could have stopped it, not some fictitious character. There was no god who could stop it. It was only humans, just as my favourite childhood story, The Lorax, pointed out in Seuss’ story. Thing is, even in that story, it was left to a child to do something about the situation and change the course. Interesting how one of my favourite stories with a moral involved is not a Biblical story, but rather a children’s story.

However, many Christians learn that Biblical stories and inhumane behaviours are good things, which they are not. These attitudes destroy families and people’s lives, especially children’s lives, because they have no control over the situation. Rather, the adults who have all the control and especially Evangelicals take no responsibility for their actions. Instead, they place all the responsibility for their actions outside themselves as they make stupid excuses that even a child can see through and it is sad when a child recognizes that the very adults who are suppose to take care of her are not doing it. It is also sad when the child has to search for other adults outside her family who will help her.

Unfortunately, this child never led any adult anywhere, not even out of any delusion. Until the nightmare ended, the adults sacrificed her to their fictional beliefs, as she watched them do nothing about her cries for help, except attempt to “assimilate her into the collective”, which would not have changed anything. This is such a horrible lesson for a child to learn about religious people and it eventually puts “a wall of separation” between her and those who are religions, especially the delusionally religious, while she fights to keep her own sanity. It is amazing that I ever escaped it with some resemblance of sanity left.

End note: If you have not read her book, I do recommend reading it.






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