7/30/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Imagining the merits of an Ex-Christian Bible

by oddbird1963

The Strawberry Fields Memorial in Central Park...Image via Wikipedia

I believe an unofficial anthem for many who frequent ex-christian.net is John Lennon’s song, “Imagine.” Certainly, it is the theme song of the weekly broadcast of the Freedom from Religion Foundation on Air America.

Lennon’s goal in this classic musical piece was that the world would somehow join together in unity. I see in “Imagine” an implication that along with no heaven, no hell, and no religion, there would be no Bible in the traditional Christian, Muslim or Judaic sense.

In other words there would be no myths and no commandments. If all religions were to suddenly go away overnight along with their sacred writings, would that not actually leave a void in humanity? What would there be to unite human beings together? What ideas could human beings draw upon to capture the collective imagination, inspire us to be better people and provide solace for us in times of inner conflict?

The thought of an “ex-christian” bible or a “secular bible” has been on my mind. Not as an authoritative book for dogma. I am thinking more in terms of an exercise in discovering what books, stories and treatises we have out there that a large number of people could draw upon. What material might provide us all with a common basis for building lives, making laws and relating to each other as human beings? What could we put together in the form of a manual that has a breadth of coverage, a depth of subject matter and a simplicity for wide accessibility?

At least one person posted such a Secular Bible. I’m sure there are others out there. What I would like to solicit from members of the ex-christian.net community is ideas for the content of such a collection. It does not have to necessarily be a book. It could be in some other format. What stories, essays, and other literary works out there could be put into the collection? What topics should be covered in such a work that most sacred writings don’t provide? What would you call the thing.

Let me provide you with ideas that have been going through my mind:

Possible Names:
  • The Secular Bible
  • Non-Theist Bible
  • The Ex-Christian Bible
  • Handbook for Living
  • The Atheist Bible
  • Freethinkers Manual

I really would prefer to avoid the word Bible. But, for good or ill, the word “bible” conveys a meaning that can serve to be concise yet actually void of its connotation of sacredness. You ever heard of the Excel 2007 Bible or Boston’s Gun Bible?

Possible objectives:
  1. Communicate the latest scientific theories concerning the origins of the universe, the earth, life on earth and human beings.
  2. Survey, through symbolic, literary or philosophical means several viewpoints about the meaning of life or how one might discover the meaning of life.
  3. Consider when it might be acceptable to go to war.
  4. Develop universal principles all human beings might live by in order to promote and maintain harmony between people in society and personal well being.
  5. Provide original works to cover needed topics not normally covered in sacred writings.

Some group or foundation could review the publication or release every 10-15 years and release a revised or “rebooted” version. Quality, conciseness and clarity would be the goal with hopes of achieving a sense of completeness about achieving “the good life” from a non-theistic worldview.

I would think, the size should be somewhere between that of the Protestant New Testament and the entire Protestant Bible in size. If some other form of media is used, no single segment should be longer than an hour in length.

Ecclesiastical, governmental, political or corporate authority would not be the basis for compiling such a book. A “book’s” inspirational value, literary excellence and ability to be profound, yet accessible to a wide audience would be paramount criteria for selecting works to be included. The collection would need to have an internal authority that comes from its ability to inform, inspire and promote dialog.

If students of all ages, teachers, ministers and philosophers began to refer to it as a starting point for covering subjects in the various walks of life, then it would be a success. If possessing it and just having it on a bookshelf or a coffee table provided a basic level of credibility, it would be a success. If preachers, priests, Imams and conservative politicians began to rail against it as threatening “traditional values” or trying to usurp the authority of their institutions, then it would be a success.

So what about it, Ex-Christian community? What would you suggest for an “Ex-Christian Bible?”

What I’m asking you to do is to dream along with John Lennon with me. What might we put in a collection of works to help us live as one? If there could be a secular book to help us share the world, what would be in it? Is the song “Imagine” worthy enough to include in such a book?

I eagerly await your insights.

7/29/2009                                                                                       View Comments

AN ATHEIST’S GUIDE TO BECOMING RELIGIOUS

by Troy Conrad

Lately, I’ve had many atheists write to me, asking if now is a good time to become religious again. It seems that the departure of the Bush Administration has awoken the vast majority of the atheist community to the simple fact that theocracy is no longer a threat here or abroad. It is high time to embrace what we once called superstition, dust off that Bible lifted in protest from the Holiday Inn, and delve once more into the church, dear friends.

For some, a conversion or reconversion to reverence seems a daunting task. As freethinkers, we’ve gotten a bit rusty in the worship department. When working out the faith muscle, we must start slowly so it doesn’t get overtaxed. Start out at the Joel Osteen level, before you consider going full Falwell. If you’re one of the 5% still on the fence about taking this sacred surge, ponder the inarguable, massive benefit of taking the faith train to Godville.

Huge time savings. Take into account how much time you spend thinking. Now cut that in half. Now cut that in half, and repeat until you reach zero, because you now have a handy-dandy book that makes your decisions for you. As Ted Haggard said: “We don’t have to have a debate about what we should think about homosexuality. It’s written in the Bible.” Add up the time it would have taken you to mentally debate this, and use it to go golfing. It is estimated that by eliminating thinking by 95%, the average American would save 14 hours per week. Based on the new U.S. minimum wage increase, that translates to $5,278 per American each year. That’s almost enough to purchase a Smart Car.

It should be quite clear that there has never been a better time to stop and smell the rosary. Though there are obstacles ahead for the skeptical mind, here are some simple, tested guidelines to help you go from “infidel” to just plain “fidel” in just a few short weeks.

Make meaning out of small things, so that you can be trusted to make meaning out of large things. Before you can calm your inquisitive mind and embrace the idea of a loving, caring, and jealous God, you’ll need to start with baby steps. Reading tea leaves and taking fortune cookies literally is a good start toward making meaning out of everyday situations. Is a tearful image of God’s only Son right there in your bag of Funyons? Has an outline of the savior shown up on your shower curtain? Did your lawnmower leak lubricant, only to leave a loving image of God’s only Son on the garage floor? Course through all snack foods, pre-made burger patties, tortillas (both corn and flour), breakfast flakes, nut mixes, or hastily topped frozen pizzas. If the image of Christ or Mary appears, remind yourself that it is not simply coincidence.

Re-read The God Delusion with a more critical eye. Maybe Richard Dawkins himself was sent to test your faith. Have you considered that maybe the only reason Dawkins even writes books is because he thinks he’s better than you?

Develop your ability to follow orders. For freethinkers who have not been in the military, you have a problem with obedience to authority. This can be remedied by wearing a rubber band around your wrist. Simply snap it against your flesh each time you become inquisitive. Do this every day for 21 days, and obedience will become your second best friend. The virtue of obedience will also prepare you quite well for the workforce should something open up.

Watch The Flintstones. Seeing humans and dinosaurs co-exist again will help free the mind from any previous knowledge of anthropology, paleontology, or history. Likewise, shows like Two and a Half Men will leave you with no compulsion to watch documentaries and other shows that contain information.

Be stingy with your new virginity. Since virginity is restored when you become a Christian, don’t just go and give it away now. You need to save it for marriage or Senior Prom. Post a pledge to Bristol Palin’s abstinence organization, and join Promise Keepers right away to build a solid, iron-clad moral and ethical foundation. Additionally, the purchase of a Smart Car is a great way to keep from losing your virginity in the backseat this time around.

Invent a new controversy. If it’s possible to revive a formerly settled debate such as creation vs. evolution, surely there are scores of other settled controversies to renew. These new debates will bring more validity to your newfound belief system, and balance out all the science that’s stuck in your head. Next time you hear people arguing about abortion, say something like: “Whoa! This is almost as heated as the ‘prayer vs. single payer health care’ debate!”

Use the “caps lock” on your keyboard. Many atheists are prone to using a lower case “g” when typing the word “God.” This habit, left unchecked, is an embarrassing mistake for the newly anointed. Using the caps lock is a foolproof solution, making it impossible to mess up a phrase such as: “MAY GOD BLESS E. E. CUMMINGS.”

White-out the violent parts of the Bible. Let’s be honest. Any book that condones rape, murder, genocide, and incest can be a real bummer. Just memorize the parts with the word “love” if you want to really make a difference.

Put “under God” back in the Pledge. You may have loudly objected to the addition of those two words added to the Pledge of Allegiance during the McCarthy era. Noble at the time, but you’re a believer now. Besides, why not prepare yourself for a visit to Ireland? They’ve just passed a bold new Anti-blasphemy Law. It would be rude and illegal to omit “under God” when saying the Pledge in the Emerald Isle.

Write down what you would like your City of Gold to look like. You’re going to get one when you die (Revelation 21:18), so sit down and design your city intelligently. Gold is currently near an all-time high, so guess who just picked a great time to be a Christian?

Purchase a firearm. God loves you now, and you’ve taken an oath to “treat your body as a temple.” If someone is loitering near your temple, you better have the stopping power to keep it looking good. A .50 caliber Smith & Wesson will clear out anyone’s temple. Though Christianity is a religion of peace, there’s a nugget of wisdom in the phrase: “Kill ‘em all, and let God sort ‘em out.”

Try a night of gay sex. If you end up liking it, you will meet more people to share your faith with. If you end up disliking it, then your repentance and faith will just get stronger. Either way, God wins.

(Note: Though it’s our responsibility to vote against same-sex marriage, same sex-one-night-hookups are not specifically forbidden by name in the Book of Leviticus.)

It is my hope that these steps to religiosity can help spark a return to the peacefulness of the Middle Ages. I am currently compiling some tips for nonbelievers with a background in Islam, so that they, too, can enjoy the massive benefits of a religious society. So, my fellow former-faithless friends… I am glad that we can all be a part of this new “beginning of faith” together, and I look forward to seeing you all at the Sunday meetups. I’ll be the guy in the Smart Car.

Troy Conrad is a comic, writer, and filmmaker living in Los Angeles. He is the creator of The Comedy Jesus Show, which toured internationally, and has just received distribution on DVD. He is featured in the upcoming Paul Provenza book “Satiristas” with Janeane Garafalo, Stephen Colbert, and George Carlin. To see videos from The Comedy Jesus Show, go to www.atheistcomedy.com or subscribe to “comedyjesus” on Youtube. This article was originally written for The Metro State Atheists and is posted here by permission of the author.





7/27/2009                                                                                       View Comments

The Insanity of It All

By Mriana

I need to rant, because I am currently sick of religion and apologize for not responding to many blogs lately due to being sick of religion. Sadly, living where I am, I see and hear it all around me almost every day, but it is worse when it is in my face.

Let us start first with Separation of Church and State, which appears to be nonexistent where I live. I tried for years to shelter my sons from Evangelicalism, even here in Pentecostal Land, but that ended for my younger son when he first went into treatment four years ago.

None of the programs were ran by churches, but two of the treatment programs were specifically State ran and you would think those horrid Fundamngelicals would not be involved, but they were and even though I signed a statement concerning religious teaching, those bastards had to get their hands on my younger son.

When I visited him one day, he said, “Mama, what’s the Rapture?” I thought, “Oh my god! They did it anyway!” and tried to explain it to him and he laughed, but still the institution exposed him to it and, in my opinion that did not help him. I was lead around Robin Hood’s barn just to talk to someone about going against my wishes concerning not exposing him to Evangelicalism. In the end, they told him I got mad about church so he could not go to church with the other boys.

That is not exactly what happened and I explained that to my son. I told him he can go to church, if he wants, as long as it is not an Evangelical one, but the problem was the State ran program did not offer anything other than Evangelicalism. Such is what happens when Evangelicals get to enforce their “Faith based” crap on people who need psychological help.

Now, four years later, he is still ill with various problems, including drug and alcohol abuse. A week ago, my mother wanted to give him an anointing via proxy. Now she is calling him a demon, spouting the story of God throwing out demons when He threw Satan out of heaven, stating it was Biblical. Then she apologized for not giving me “a proper Biblical education” when I was a child.

I have heard the story of God throwing out Satan and demons, but my son is not a demon and I find it very delusional and superstitious of her to call her grandson a demon. He is not a demon, but rather a human being who is sick and has some mental health issues to deal with.

Along with all of that, she talked about backsliding, which is a term used in Wesleyan theology. Why? I do not know, but I must ask how one can backslide if they never believed what the adults forced upon them as a child? I do not believe it is possible to backslide when one never believed what the adults tried to teach them as a child nor did I teach my sons such doctrines either. So how can my younger son backslide if he did not learn such dogmas until the Pentecostals found a way to get their hands on him?

Then we go into the topic of the Pentecostals, which I guess relates to her grandson’s exposure in treatment over these last four years. I am not sure how it fit other than that and she stated, “Calvinists are not Christians.” Really? That was when I told her, “Well, you know, they say the same of those who are not Pentecostals, thus you and everyone else who does not believe as they do are going to hell.” She knew they taught that, but she believes Calvinists are going to hell, because they are not Christian. Nice one, Mother. I have to roll my eyes at how she turns the tables concerning others. Let us not get started on Episcopalians, which she believes I am still involved in, but if she would read the writings of Spong, Cupitt, and others like them, she would get an idea of what I once believed. The thing is I am now more in the neighbourhood of Robert Price’s beliefs than I am of Spong and Cupitt’s.

What exactly is “a proper Biblical education” when there are so many different Christian doctrines and ideologies out there, not to mention dogmas? Be that as it may, given that I once tried to tell her what Spong teaches, only to hear her shouting, “THAT’S NOT CHRISTIAN!” and giving me an Inquisition until I gave her lip-service, I would suspect that reading Spong alone would send her into a conniption, not to mention Robert Price would send her into religious convulsions. Thus, I do not dare tell her where I am right now, or she, her sister, and all their crazed church people would pester me to death, much as they did my step-cousin who committed suicide. They would not let me go without a “Crusade”, so to speak. However, I will not go out like that, but probably make matters worse before it was finished. Worse yet, I would hate to see them go after my younger son in the manner they went after my step-cousin. My mother has not spoken to her younger grandson in a while, in part because he is never here and in part because I will not let her preach her dogma to him.

How delusional of her to believe her younger grandson is a demon and to apologize for not giving me “a proper Biblical education” when I was a child. What exactly is “a proper Biblical education” when there are so many different Christian doctrines and ideologies out there, not to mention dogmas? AND if my younger son is a demon, what does that make me, his mother? Satan’s mate, who gave birth to his spawn? How delusional can one be? It is ALL INSANE! It is also very insulting and I would hate to think how her dogma would affect me if I believed it.

Of course, let us not forget that the Rapture believing A of Ger’s who cross the line concerning Separation of Church and State. They did not “cure” my younger son of his problems, but I suspect they contributed to them with their guilt-ridden dogma. So who says Wesleyan teaching is better than Calvinism? Both are dreadful, in my opinion.

Oh, yes, genetics played a big part in this too, for not only was my father an alcoholic, but my sons’ father is both a drug abuser and alcoholic. I will also grant that even though I was there during his IEPs for his PDD-NOS in school and his treatment for substance abuse over the last few years, as well as other things, I probably play some part in this mess too, especially since I was the one who raised him. I would not dismiss that I might not have been the perfect parent either, but I did not impose religion upon him. Rather, I gave him a choice of any religious service he wanted, other than Evangelicalism. The problem is those bloody bastards had to cross the line of Separation of Church and State, not to mention his delusionally insane grandmother, who now calls her grandson a demon.

How damaging is that? I am glad he was not around to hear the latest his grandmother said about him. It would not have helped him and now that he is 18, I am having a hard enough time trying to convince him that he needs to seriously seek treatment before he does himself serious harm. Unfortunately, he is in denial.

The problem is my mother and every other Fundamngelical needs to realize that he does not need religion to get better. What he needs is to make a choice to help himself, before he finds it is too late. Drug and alcohol abuse is only the part of his story. It is far worse than that, but the crazy dogmas that surround him are not the answer to his problems nor is calling him a demon healthy for anyone either. None of that is going to help him decide that he needs to live a healthier lifestyle, if that street tattooist did not give him hepatitis already. Again, what I have said is only the tip of the iceberg concerning my younger son, but such ideologies are not helping.

If only we could rid the world of such ugly and dehumanizing dogmas, then maybe we could concentrate on the real issues that cause people problems. The issue is not religion nor is it more religion, but rather the human being who is suffering with a problem. Religion is not the answer nor is using religion to dehumanize the person the answer either. Rather it is time we talked about the real problems and find ways to help the people who have problems, be they physical, mental, genetic, or something else, without religion. We need to face the reality of all these issues head on in order deal with these issues, not run away from them via superstition or place the remedy for such things on something outside ourselves. The individual also needs to stand squarely on their own two feet and make rational decisions, but they cannot be rational with religion, mental illness, or substance abuse.

Personally, I think my mother and all the other Fundamgelicals need help too, but under the current environment, that is not possible. I am waiting for the day when religious delusions and extremism are in the DSM, which at the rate things are going, could be in the tenth version of the DSM, if not later.

Like I said, it is ALL INSANE!



7/26/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Thunderf00t vs. Ray Comfort

A 10-part YouTube discussion between YouTube atheist commentator Thunderf00t and well known Christian evangelist/apologist Ray Comfort.

7/25/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Give Me Reason

By Neal Stone

Hillbilly bonfireImage by mysterious briefcase via Flickr

So here I am. My life is good, not perfect, but good. Happily married, nice home with a nice big yard, motor home, hot tub, good job. I have food in the fridge and my bills are paid. This all has come about AFTER quitting church.

My “godly” examples that surround me, friends, family and so on, are always saying I need to get in church and follow god or get right with god.

My “godly” examples are people who are always getting fired, can't pay their bills, life is a mess with divorce, dead end jobs. Let's take a closer look shall we.

Parents: Total Christian right wingers who think we all need to be in church serving the lord. My step-dad is always unemployed and is always ruining the cars he drives. He fails to pays bills and things get turned off all the time. In fact they are in the process of being foreclosed on. He is always getting laid off or fired from his job. He is rude to his neighbors and co-workers alike. It has been this way for 30 plus years.

My best friend spent more time working for a lying dishonest “Christian businessman” than taking care of his own family. He was warned by many to get out while he can but refused to listen because he was “doing the right thing”. He lost his home, possessions and sadly, his family. He suffers from depression and drinks and gets drunk and goes to church on Sundays.

He is now on the same road I was years ago. I know where it ends and I hope that I can help him off that road soon. But is deeply rooted in his religion so I doubt I can help him.

Another friend joined the military to be a Christian Chaplin. He spends his weekends drinking and getting drunk. On Sundays he goes to church.

I have another friend who is a pastors son. He works for the church and is treated poorly by the church. He always gets blamed for things that aren't his fault. On the bright side, he is a cool guy (as are my friends above) and fun to hang out with.

I have other family whose lives are a mess or a big ball of stress anyway. They too preach at me. Saying I need to be in church and follow god.

I am not passing judgment on these people. Just making a point. My life is good now. Surely someone out there can take of the Jesus glasses and really take a look at that and maybe realize the truth? Nyaaaa!

How is it that people who have messed up their lives seem to have the dire need to tell me how to live mine when they can't even manage their own?

They can keep god. I already know how that story turns out.

GIVE ME REASON! (to cross this new divide...to freedom)


MY QUALMS WITH PAYING ALMS TO THE PSALMS

By E. Chamberlain, MD, San Diego CA

St. Florian's psalter, XIV/XV c.Image via Wikipedia

So...

Christians say the bible is the inspired word of god. We know we can destroy that claim by a simple honest appraisal of any one of thousands of bible verses. And I think it's crucial that we attack the bible at every turn of the page.

But, I haven't seen much in the way of an assault on the Psalms. So, for a change of pace from our more common criticisms of Christianity, this essay challenges the claim that the Psalms are beautiful, inspired, or brilliant. My conclusion is that they are wholly uninspired-- even given the context and culture and level of education of their day. And none of the Psalms could make the top 40 in any year of pop music in my lifetime nor are they "classics" of literature, despite the lip service given them. More beautiful and profound things-- and more truthful things-- have been said by heavy metal and grunge rock bands inspired by alcohol and drugs than by the angel dust sprinkled down from the Christian god of heaven. (I especially love the lyrics of "Sandman" by Metallica and I see nothing in the book of Psalms that tells me that any real god inspired David rather than Hammett, Hetfield, and Ulrich of Metallica.)

Too often-- in what I guess is a polite attempt to meet bible believers half-way and seem fair-minded-- some non-believers have conceded, as one of my favorite and recently best-selling anti-Christian author has, that "there are sections of the bible that are ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT AND POETICALLY UNRIVALED" [Emphasis mine].

But, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute here! I don't see it. And I think it's a mistake to compromise our positions in these matters. Give them an inch and they'll take a cubit. While it's quite reasonable (though not necessarily effective) to try to be considerate and civil toward believers, remembering if we can in the heat of the battle that "We" once were "Them," I think we give too much deference to believers and their book in meeting them half-way and saying that any part of the bible is "brilliant and poetically unrivaled." What part would that be? Again, I don't see it.

Because the author I'm referring to is only one example of this attempted polite deference and still commands my utmost respect and has done more for the cause of exposing Christianity for the danger that it is than I have, and because the focus of my essay here is to expose that compromise and not at all to criticize him, I'll leave his name out of this and wouldn't hesitate to recommend every consonant in every syllable he has to say otherwise.

But, the assertion that "there are sections of the bible that are ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT AND POETICALLY UNRIVALED" teaches, all over again, if left unchallenged, that the bible somehow warrants respect-- in this case as literature-- and I find fault with doing anything of the kind to perpetuate the myth that the bible deserves our respect, even as literature. Christians had their 2000 years of ignorance to build up this undeserved respect for their holy book. That's quite long enough.

Now... This assertion that the bible's words are at all "brilliant and poetically unrivaled" brings to my mind first and foremost the book of Psalms (and some passages in other parts of the bible as well that have a hint of prose, though I don't see any high caliber poetry). Beyond the Psalms, I suppose there are parts of the bible that can be construed as somewhat poetic, like the acclaimed, but lame, Song of Solomon. Even that is not "brilliantly" poetic at all. Instead, the Psalms and all else is, on the whole, uninspired and uninspiring. I'm not at all impressed. And even when I believed that stuff, I don't remember ever running to my friends and saying, 'Wow, did you read that!'

Some Christians probably would make the weak argument that the original Hebrew language of the Psalms was more beautiful. However, even if this is the case (which remains to be seen and which I have no reason to believe), only a negligible percent of Christians can or ever could speak Hebrew (even the ones who speak in tongues-- isn't that interesting.) If a Christian makes this argument, then, he is blowing more smoke (after inhaling?) than hovers above the fire and brimstone in the book of Revelation, expecting not to be challenged by anyone around these days who knows Hebrew. Even if the Psalms were more beautiful in Hebrew, essentially no convert to Christianity since its inception could have appreciated the Psalms in Hebrew, as there have never been many Hebrew-speaking converts, by the bible's own admission, and even the language of Jesus' time and place was Aramaic, not Hebrew. Israel's population in the year 2000 was only about 6.2 million-- about 1/1000th of the world's total population (6.3 billion). Even adding in the U.S. Jewish population-- probably very few of whom can speak much if any Hebrew-- the total Hebrew-speaking population in the world remains nil and negligible. Therefore any supposed beauty of the original Hebrew translation of the psalms is lost on the masses, Jews and Christians alike, let alone the rest of humanity.

Yeah, yeah, some devotees find comfort in the reading of the Psalms. But it seems readily apparent to me that this is because they believe that the bible is God's Word and when they read the bible they bring to their reading a mystical expectation that God will "speak" directly or indirectly to them in their reading. This gives an inspired and inspiring quality to their reading-- moreso than to the writing-- of the Psalms themselves. And, similarly, some of the solace a devotee obtains when reading the Psalms-- as with reading the rest of the bible-- transpires simply because he is studying the bible, which he is commanded to do. So, when studying the bible he can take solace and feel confident that he is doing "God's will"-- a confidence which is otherwise hard to be sure of in other aspects of day-to-day life (as confident understanding of what God's will is eludes even the most devout). And, frequently, a Christian will read the bible "prayerfully" and prayer itself, once again being God's supposed will and commandment, lends that same solace to the Christian. And, some of the believers' infatuation with the Psalms develops because there are lines that Christians apply to themselves-- stretching and straining the passage out of shape and out of context to misappropriate the Psalms' "blessings" to themselves. But without these artificial predispositions, I find virtually nothing to rave or write home about.

And, it shouldn't be forgotten that very much of the praise lauded on the Psalms, like the praise lauded on the rest of the bible, is simply a blind devotion to a holy book. Some of this praise is perpetuated by those who, though they are believers, don't know much more than small parts of, say, Psalm 23 ("The lord is my shepherd.... yeah, though I walk through the valley of death... blah, blah, blah").

Worse still, one must tediously pore through 150 of these Psalms to find the very little that is, to the devotee, so endearing. And many of the apparently endearing parts are redundant, redundant, redundant, with subsequent repetitions adding little or nothing to previous passages. Arrrgh-- One-hundred-and-fifty such Psalms is way too many. Even the best or worst double album or CD has only about 20 songs at most. If their god was any kind of Artist, he would've quit while he was ahead instead of trying to package and sell us all this second-rate material that will never merit any airplay. Even angels would probably rather strum their harps to Metallica's "Sandman."

I find nothing at all in the Psalms to suggest inspiration by a superior being. And, self-serving though it could be, I refer you to my "epic" poem/ lyric titled "Day Eight" in the Creative Works Forum here at http://ex-christian.net and ask you which seems more inspired to you-- "Day Eight" or any of the Psalms? (This is the second time in the past few weeks that I've referred readers to that posting, for which I apologize, but it is a worthy comparison, smashing home my conclusion that man has written better stuff than "god." And there are probably enough brilliant lines in pop-rock music over the years to put the Psalms in their place.

ADDENDUM: "Day Eight" added here, so no one has to hunt it down--

DAY EIGHT
Eddie Chamberlain


Day One, it's empty, it's black, it's void.
Nothing yet made, damned, or destroyed.
There's only Nothing, nothing to avoid,
Nothing untrue, taboo or tabloid.
A piece of the world a peace enjoys,
Til in due course, God his force employs
And commences remorse with the noise of his voice.
The god du jour was not so annoyed
Til his Almighty alchemy injected steroids
Of Somebody's sin, deep in the muscle of choice.

Day Seven from heaven, in an age long ago
When the sky hung down heavy, treacherously low,
So close that the ancients say God could converse
From behind his dark cloud blackening earth
In banging, clanging, language not understood
For whatever, for evil, forever, for good,
The God of Nothing, red as fire, red as blood,
Hands soiled with man still dripping with mud,
Black as a serial Edgar Allan Poe,
Bags his John Doe, tagging the toe.

He plunges his sword in the Adam just made
For death, with the breadth and depth of the blade.
In holy scripts he dips down deep his pen
In his lake of fire and in blood of men
To scribe and scratch and lacerate
The heart, the soul, the mind, the man he creates,
And etches his crevices, cracks, and earthquakes
In terrible tremors that tremble and shake
With unbearable things that only God could think,
In the heaviest hand, in the blackest of ink.

On the rising horizon then comes the beast,
An ambition, a mission to increase the deceased
Assembled, aligned, like plagues He released--
A malicious, mid-evil mid-east of priests,
Alloys of allies, corrupted, corroded
With verses of curses, mistaken, misquoted,
Scarred en bloc and carved in a rock,
Shards bombarding Adam's stock, shell-shocked.
In sacred scriptures on scrolls they portrayed it,
A God priests and prophets hallucinated.
They dare to swear they know Beginning and End,
Unaware to beware the prayer they pretend.

Soon commences the sacred hatred of war,
Nothing but what God in their image is for:
Conquer, convert, love to hate, life to the grave,
And the rest that won't rest in peace, enslave.
And peering up from blood with periscopes of prayer,
They're scared of a God of Nothing, Nowhere,
And for all their pretensions to transcend the dark,
Still, their sentence of life ends in question marks.
From the depths of their hearts in their darkest of nights,
Still, they see no god in sight.

Day Eight, their world finally spins around,
Their violence is silenced, their riots quieted down.
Only the cruel, corrupt, and criminal conceive
The faiths that Adam's been deceived to believe.
But never forgotten in man's misbegotten myths
Are the deep weeping wounds they left the world with
And the fragile fragments of what someone said that God said,
A god that Adam created in his head.
At the last, with their last tears shed and lives bled,
In their own dirt and dust, buried with them, God is dead.


7/23/2009                                                                                       View Comments

The Story of Joe B.

By billybobbibb

"Why me?"(Book of Job) by Einar Háko...Image via Wikipedia

This is the story of Joe B., a ten-year-old boy. Joe B. lived with his mother, Mrs. Smith, in an upper-middle class neighborhood. He got decent grades in school, and he was remarkably obedient to his mother. He was diligent in all of his chores, especially feeding his cat Skittles and his dog Fluffy. He would often create artwork and presents for his mother, which she enjoyed very much. For Joe B., loving his mother was second nature.

One day, Joe's aunt Lucy came to visit. Lucy watched Joe's diligence and love for his mother. Lucy pulled Mrs. Smith aside.

"The only reason Joe B. loves you so much is because you spoil him rotten and give him everything he wants," Lucy opined.

"Nonsense! Joe B. is a wonderful boy and he loves me no matter what happens. He is the sweetest boy a mother could ever hope for", Mrs. Smith retorted.

"Oh, really?" Lucy shot back. "I bet if I took all his toys away, he would hate you!"

"No, he wouldn't"

"Prove it, then"

"OK, Lucy. I will go away from this house, and you take care of Joe. Nothing you can do to him will lessen his love for me. All I ask is that you do not kill him."

"It's a deal". Lucy and Mrs. Smith shook hands, and Mrs. Smith spirited away without so much as a goodbye to Joe B.

Lucy poured herself a martini and surveyed Joe's little world, his toys and games, his sports equipment, his computer and the game console.

Joe came through the door, puzzled. "Aunt Lucy, what are you doing here?"

"Oh, I've come to take care of you for a while. I plan on making your life utterly miserable until you tell me that you hate your mother."

"Why would I say that? I love Mom!"

"Very well, then..."

Lucy went to the garage and returned with a claw hammer. She began smashing the TV to bits. She dug the claw into his game console until wires were hanging out of it. She found his laptop computer and smashed the screen and keyboard.

"What are you doing?" Joe cried in fear.

"Do you hate your mother?"

"No! Stop wrecking my stuff!"

"Not any time soon, little boy", she snickered.

Lucy grabbed Joe and tied his hands behind his back and put a piece of duct tape over his mouth. She tied his feet together, then dragged him out to the backyard. She drove a stake into the ground and chained him to it so he would not escape.

Lucy went back into the house and returned an hour later with several boxes containing all of Joe's belongings. His board games and sports equipment were in one box. His clothes were in two other boxes, and books were in other boxes. She placed the boxes within his view, and squirted lighter fluid all over them, and set his belongings aflame in a towering blaze. While he watched his belongings burn up with a foul smoke, Lucy took it upon herself to run over his bicycle with her car. She came back to where he was tied.

"Do you hate your mother, NOW?", Lucy interrogated.

Joe shook his head no, with tear-glazed eyes. Lucy gave a harrumph and walked back into the house.

The black smoke rising got the attention of his neighborhood friends, Billy and Tommy, who ran over to see what was the matter.

"Oh no!", cried Billy. "Look what's happened to Joe!" Billy removed the tape from his mouth. "Joe! Are you all right?"

"I don't know what's going on! Aunt Lucy broke my Xbox and my computer and she burned all my stuff! I'm so scared, I don't know what she's going to do next!"

"Where is your Mom?", asked Tommy.

"I don't know. But I know she'll be back soon and it will be all right", Joe fumbled.

"Wow, you must have really gotten your Mom really mad to let this happen!", said Billy.

"I don't know what I did! I wish she were here to tell me, so I could apologize and make this all go away"

"Maybe you didn't do your chores right. I sometimes get yelled at when I screw something up", Billy added.

"Here, let me try to get you out of these ropes and chains, dude", said Tommy.

As he said that, Lucy emerged from the house wielding a shotgun. "Just what do you boys think you're doing?"

"Dude! We'll get you some help!" Billy shouted as he and Tommy ran away.

"Do you hate your mother?" Lucy demanded.

"No way! You're a witch! Leave me alone!", Joe screamed.

"Have it your way", she giggled. "By the way, these shells are merely bird shot. They won't kill you, but I can guarantee you will be in a lot of pain." She pumped the shotgun and aimed right for Joe. The first shot burned with heat and a rain of pellets that buried into his chest and torso. She fired another shot at his legs. She kicked him over with her foot and fired another round into his back, then another into his buttocks. She rolled him over one more time and shouted "Close your eyes!", and delivered the final shot to his face. Blood trickled out the numerous wounds that covered his smooth skin.

"Do you hate your mother?" Lucy demanded again.

Barely able to speak, Joe mumbled, "I want my Mom. Bring me my Mom".

Lucy then pulled out a gallon of vinegar and a cloth. She began swabbing his wounds with the vinegar-dampened cloth. Joe howled in agony as his lesions burned with intensity.

"Do you hate your mother?" she roared.

"Nooooooo!", Joe howled in pain.

"OK, then, say goodbye to Mr. Skittles". Lucy took the cat under her arm, and with a Bowie knife slit the cat's throat. Skittle ran for a minute before falling over dead. Lucy placed the cat's carcass next to Joe's face.

"Tell me that you hate your mother!" she demanded.

"No no no no!" Joe could see his dog Fluffy running in the yard in bewilderment, and he anticipated what would happen next. Meanwhile, Lucy chambered a few rounds of buckshot into her weapon. "Run, Fluffy!" Joe shouted, but to no avail. Lucy took aim and dropped his favorite pet with a single round. Then, inexplicably, Lucy departed.

Joe lay on the ground, bleeding in agony, angry and sad at the death of his beloved pets, bewildered by the awful events. Joe cried out "Mommy! Mommy!" but no one answered. He stared up at the empty sky, and thought how much better it must be to die than endure this torture.

After what seems an eternity, Joe heard footsteps coming toward him. It was his mother.

"Mommy! I'm so glad to see you! Help me, please!", Joe stammered.

"I am here" she replied, releasing him from his bondage.

"Why did you let this happen? Didn't I do my chores right? Didn't you like my artwork?", Joe wondered.

Mrs. Smith stood up straight with indignation. "How dare you criticize me, you insolent little brat! Don't you know that I birthed you, and without me, you are NOTHING! You are worthless! Everything in your life comes from ME! Don't you ever let me hear you take that ungrateful tone of voice again!"

"Mother, I am so sorry. I am so worthless. You are the only thing that matters in my life", Joe apologized.

Mrs. Smith did take Joe to the hospital and they removed the birdshot pellets from his skin. His skin did heal, though numerous scars remained to remind him of his ordeal. Mrs. Smith was able to replace the toys that were destroyed, and she bought him an XBox AND a Wii system. She even went to the pet store and got two cats and two dogs for Joe to keep as pets.

And Joe lived the rest of his life wondering what the moral of this story is and why his mother had allowed him to endure such agony.

Religious apologists continue to employ contorted thinking to justify what a great mother Mrs. Smith is, and how much we can learn about dealing with pain and suffering from the events of this story. When you take the Book of Job out of the bible and put it in a modern-day context, it is very easy to see how despicable and utterly depraved this story is, and just how stupid people are who claim to derive some sort of "wisdom" from it.

7/20/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Mourning for the living

By summerbreeze

Hippie couple, a great loveImage by Javã Társis via Flickr

I recently returned from deep in the Bible Belt, having attended a nephew's wedding. ( one atheist amongst 300 fundamentalists ! ) My brother and sister-in-law, and my nieces and nephews are the only members of our family who live in the "Deep South."

Prior to moving there, my brother and sister-in-law ( known from now on as Ellie ) were bona fide hippies.
  1. they loved everyone
  2. they were super tolerant of everyone
  3. they were environmentalists

After the hippie era they became " back to the land people", organic farming, etc., but they still kept their hippie ( love everyone ) philosophies. Then the worst thing that can happen to any family, happened. Almost over-night they were indoctrinated into ultra conservative fundamentalism.

Almost suddenly :
  1. they only loved fellow believers
  2. they had zero tolerance for atheists & agnostics
  3. they viewed the earth / nature thru fundamentalists glasses ( why give it too much of a worry, we'll all be swept away soon anyway

My relationship with Ellie changed completely. For many years I felt like I was attending a funeral that never ends. She and I had even had a deeper friendship than my brother and I had had ( due to the fact that my brother was always on the "indifferent" side ). I felt like she had died, and in essence, she has.

A few years back I had a health crisis that for the first time in my life, propelled me to seek "god." I became a Christian. This , of course, was such good news to my brother and Ellie ! They welcomed me with open arms, suddenly I was one of them ( joining in with the delusion ).

After a while, I began to be very resentful of the entire situation.

HOW DARE THEY, I thought, use a belief in god as a requirement, as a measuring stick of how much love and respect they will dole out to me !
My value as a person increased a thousand-fold IN THEIR EYES, once I was a believer !

My journey to atheism was actually very quick. Many things contributed to it, but I give the most credit to good old common sense.

I am the only atheist in my family, with my children and their spouses, and grandchildren, and husband, all being at varying degrees of Christianity. If I came out to one, I'd be coming out to all, so I continue my academy award winning performance as a " Christian ".

There are two very important issues that drive this. The first, is that the son-in-law who is the biblical " ruler-of-the-roost ", would limit my access to my grandchildren. I have NO doubt about this.

My second reason, is that I want my fundie relatives to be there with love and support for my children & grandchildren when I die. I don't think there would be much comforting and support if it were found out that I was a HEATHEN ! ( guilt by association, you see )

In regards to my brother and Ellie, well I've given this a lot of thought since I became a non-believer. If I had ever tried to explain to them where I am, and how I've gotten there, it would be akin to talking to an iron door... and then that iron door would slam shut.
"for I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a mans' enemies will be the members of his household." Matthew 10:34-39


Yes. Family unity. Thank you Jesus. Unfortunately your words have helped to fuel family disjointedness for eons.

I would really appreciate hearing the experiences, etc. from my friends at ExChristian.Net, and others too, in regards to their feelings about "losing" friends or family to fundamentalism.



THE TEN SUGGESTIONS

By agnosticator

The Ten Commandments displayImage via Wikipedia

Most Christians in America agree that THE TEN COMMANDMENTS are the pinnacle of morality and think they should be displayed or read at every opportunity. If we all obeyed or valued them, our country would be moral and crime free! At least this is what they seem to saying. But do they realize there are two other sets of THE TEN COMMANDMENTS they ignore ? One version differs considerably with their preferred set, and is found in Exodus 34:14-28. Another version is in Deuteronomy 5:6-21 and is similar to the Christians' top ten choice from Exodus 20:2-17.

This discrepancy is only the beginning of their problem. How can purely religious commands (1-4) cause us to be morally good? The first four commandments are about a relationship between the Christian and god. It has nothing to do with relationships between humans, i.e. morality.

The sabbath (#4), is not kept by Christians. They keep the Lord's Day. To say the command was changed, directly implies that the rest are also subject to change or irrelevance! Additionally, god admits he is jealous, and will punish children due to the sins of their fathers to the third and fourth generation (#2)! Now that's quite a grudge, and a fine example for the Christian to emulate.

Commandment 10 makes our thoughts and desires a crime worthy of eternal damnation. To want what our neighbors have is the American way, so many Christians are guilty of this. But morality is how we treat one another-not what we feel or think. The other five commandments are good advice (#5,7,9) and basic to morality (#6,8), but nothing that hasn't be said before by non-Christians.

So what is so special and compelling about THE TEN COMMANDMENTS? Many believe Christ summed them up: Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to its neighbor. But how is love related to THE TEN COMMANDMENTS? Love is a positive, life-affirming feeling towards someone we value. We can't love people we are not intimate with. Not harming another person is not love, so what else can we say? The link between love and the commandments is nonexistent. There is nothing special about them, especially when Christians don't practice most of them.

Forgive them, lord. For they know not what they do...or believe...or what the bible really says!





7/18/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Christian Belief Through the Lens of Cognitive Science: Part 5.5 of 6

By Valerie Tarico

A: An organized system of learned behavior tha...Image by zachstern via Flickr

How Beliefs Resist Change

The Jesuits have a saying sometimes attributed to Francis Xavier, “Give me the child until he is seven, and I will give you the man.” The Jesuits were a tad optimistic, but ample research on identity formation shows that religious, cultural, and political identity become established by early adulthood and rarely change thereafter except in response to crisis. In fact, even in the face of crisis, core beliefs about who we are and why we are here, can be remarkably resilient.

This is due in part to the fact that individual beliefs do not exist in isolation. Rather, each exists as part of a whole network of other beliefs, memories, and attitudes. The more central or important any given belief, the more it is entangled with the rest of our world view. And the more it is tied into the tangle, the harder it is to change. Because religious views are so central, they are particularly resistant to change.

To make things even more complicated, each religion has what can be called an immune system. Because traditional Christianity is centered on orthodoxy, meaning right belief, the immune system consists of a set of teachings that guard against other beliefs or loss of belief. Christianity’s immune system includes the following teachings:

· Doubt is a sign of weakness or temptation by Satan, the father of lies.
· False teachers (those whose theology differs) should be cast out.
· Believers should not be unequally yoked (partnered) with nonbelievers.
· Nonbelievers have no basis for morality, so their motives are suspect.
· If Christians act badly, the flaw is in the persons, not the religion.

Given that core beliefs are naturally resilient and given the power of messages such as these, it will come as no surprise that people go to extreme lengths psychologically to defend religious dogmas.

Cognitive dissonance theory, helps us to understand what happens when people are confronted with contradictory beliefs. If, for example, I believe the world is fair (called a Just World Hypothesis), but a kind, generous neighbor gets assaulted and hurt, I am faced with a contradiction. I can revise my view of the world (it isn’t so fair), the neighbor (she isn’t so good), or the harm done (it wasn’t so bad). Surprisingly often, people resolve such contradictions in favor of a treasured belief rather than in favor of the evidence—even if this requires blaming victims for their own suffering or coming up with elaborate justifications for catastrophes. When the catastrophe is the apparent failure of a prophecy or the moral failure of a religious leader, such justifications can be spectacular.

In Doubting Jesus' Resurrection: What Happened In The Black Box?, Kris Komarnitsky offers an nice overview of cognitive dissonance concepts followed by a series of jaw dropping stories from history – each showing the extreme contradictions believers can accommodate. Small apocalyptic cults suffer the devastating failure of end-of-the-world prophecies and yet each, faced with crushing disappointment, finds some interpretation that leaves the cult belief system intact. In this light, Komarnitsky examines the pressures faced by Jesus followers when his triumphal entry into Jerusalem was followed by torture and death.

Each religion has what can be called an immune system. A small close-knit cult fending adjusting to the disappointment of another ordinary sunrise is just an extraordinary example of ordinary – the human tendency toward confirmatory thinking. All of us are biased to seek information that fits what we already believe. Confirmatory evidence jumps out at us, and we find it emotionally appealing. It’s like our minds set up filters – with contradictory evidence stuck in gray tones on the outside and the confirmatory evidence flowing through in bright and shining color.

Unfortunately, confirmatory thinking causes all kinds of problems. Corporate leaders fall into group think about the best competitive strategy. Jurors assume an accused criminal is guilty. Politicians fabricate reasons for war—sure that the real evidence must be there somewhere. Confirmation bias is so built into human thinking that the whole scientific endeavor is structured essentially to get around it. The scientific method has been called, “What we know about how not to fool ourselves.” And yet, as we know, even scientists end up embarrassing themselves from time to time by getting a little to eager to confirm their pet theories and forgetting how easy it is to fall prey to our own filters.

Even outside our personal information filters is a set of ring defenses: our communities. Who forwards you email? What magazines do you subscribe to? What shows do you watch? Because confirmation is so satisfying and contradiction is so uncomfortable, we surround ourselves with friends and colleagues and coreligionists who think like us. Often, we join groups that do the filtering for us: Democrats for America, The Nature Conservancy, Assemblies of God, The National Rifle Association. These groups provide a steady flow of information confirming and elaborating what we think we know—and ensuring that a lot of contradictory information never makes it anywhere near our brains. They let us short-cut. Instead of weigh the quality of arguments and evidence – we look at the source and either raise or lower a draw bridge.

In an even more impervious form of this, we form a group identity: I’m a Catholic. I’m a Republican. I’m an American. I’m a Woman. I’m Hispanic. I’m a Calvinist. Each of these identities creates what I call a tribal information boundary (TIB). TIB’s are remarkable efficiency devices, allowing us to weave coherent story lines about the world around us. But for someone seeking to understand complicated realities, they can be tremendously costly.

When we actually allow ourselves to bump up against the limitations of our world view, when we acknowledge we’ve hit a wall and then find a way over or around it—that is when growth is most likely to occur. In the 1998 comedy, “The Truman Show,” the protagonist, played by Jim Carrey, pushes past an information boundary and realizes he is living in the artificial world of a television set. From childhood, Truman has accepted the explanations and roles offered him. But he is confronted with small discrepancies, and one day he ignores his own fears and barriers that his community has erected, and punches through to the world outside. The movie’s message to us all: It is possible.



7/15/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Write for Reason

By WizenedSage

How well I could write if I were not here!Image by Esther_G via Flickr

Those of us who read these pages regularly know well how destructive Christianity can be to society and personal mental health. It is important that we fight this superstitious nonsense whenever and wherever we can. Personally, over the past few months, I have taken any mention of the Bible, Jesus, etc. in the letters to the editor of our local weekly newspaper as an invitation to counter with the message that the Bible is not a fit authority on anything. Frankly, I have been amazed on several occasions at what the editors will publish; with just how far they will go. Below is a letter I wrote which came out in the paper just today. I encourage any and all of you to help spread the word of reason in your area. You might be surprised at what you can get published.

“This is written in response to last week’s letter by Gearry Ranger which called Carl Scheiman to task for his earlier letter on these pages.

Mr. Ranger’s was another of those all-too-frequent letters which quotes the Bible as the ultimate authority on everything, insisting we will find truth in a book containing a cast of dragons, unicorns, a talking snake, 900 year-old men, and a magical fruit tree. And, of course, reminding us of the enlightened words of Jesus Christ, a man who claimed a true-believer could command a mountain to move and it would move (Matthew 17:20). A man who assured us that whatever one asks of him in his name, he will do it (John 14:13). A man who promised in no uncertain terms that he would return with the Kingdom of Heaven before all of his own generation was dead (Mark 9:1). How are mere mortals to argue with such an unimpeachable source?

Of course some folks would argue that the primitive authors of the Bible simply made up all of this stuff, or were just repeating superstitious nonsense. But really, why couldn’t every species of animal in the world have lived within walking distance of Noah’s house? And why couldn’t Sampson’s colossal strength have resided in his hair? While these nay sayers claim to base their arguments on the evidences of science and history, the evidence of reality, it should be clear that they simply lack imagination. After all, even little children have the capacity to believe such wild and weird stories; why else send them to Sunday school?”

7/13/2009                                                                                       View Comments

My Thoughts on the Life Changing Power of Religion

By Bill J

change your lifeImage by Yersinia via Flickr

Most people view the architecture of life rather simply. This life is a process of purification, or separation for the next world, the real world. This life is like a boot camp, do it right here and you will reap the rewards in the next life, or fail here and find yourself separated from everything good. Most people believe in eternal life, a god or life force. Most people base their entrance into the good life based on what they do now, or how they treat people in this life, fundamentalist Christianity does not. In fundamentalist Christianity there are no second chances in the next life and what you believe now is everything and if you really believe, good works will follow.

We can’t really judge a fundamentalist Christian by his or her actions. Have you ever tried? Tell me what you hear. Usually I get answers like, just because I am saved doesn’t mean I’m perfect, or we all have a sin nature to deal with, or I am redeemed but still battle with a heart that wants to do evil, etc. In my experience, one can never pin down this type of Christian when they have committed a wrong. Do I mean that they don’t apologize or take responsibility? No, I don’t necessarily mean that. What I mean is that they are no different than any other religious believer or non-believer.

Are they less likely to get a divorce, struggle with greed, lust, gluttony, bigotry, selfishness, unfaithfulness, anger, etc? In my humble opinion, the answer is no. When I was a Christian I struggled with some of these things. I found that all my friends and parishioners did too. Yes, some had come from a life of drugs or crime and they had stopped this behavior, but they still struggled with other internal and external issues. They still ate too much, said hurtful things, lusted after another, looked at porn, got divorced, spent too much money, failed to tithe at least 10%, lost their temper or acted selfishly toward their family, spouse or friend.

Is there really any difference? I don’t see it. What I do see is people who often had no direction in life because of childhood neglect, or abuse find something to help re-parent them. I also saw people who were substance abusers find support and acceptance in a community which helped them stay safe and sober. I found people who grew up in church doing one of three things, rebelling against it, embracing it, or going with the flow. Did any of these later converts demonstrate a greater spirituality or morality? I couldn’t tell other than they seemed a bit naive and sheltered. They struggled with the same stuff. Did I see miraculous demonstrations of faith; no.

What sets fundamentalist Christians apart from everyone else? In my opinion it’s simply their rigid beliefs. They are plagued with the same issues everyone else is, but they strive to prove that they are different. They often try to appear more moral, ethical and honest.

With the rise of the internet and access to so much news I got tired of reading about pastors, youth ministers, Sunday school teachers, deacons, boy scout leaders, priests, church leaders and the like getting caught for thefts, sex offenses, domestic violence, fraud and other such immoral behaviors. Quite honestly, I don’t see any greater sense of compassion, love, fairness, mercy, honesty, accountability faithfulness or anything that sets them apart from other religions or lack thereof. Do you?

When I went through training as a sex offender specialist for the state I was introduced to the typical sex offender profile. It was supposed to help me prevent, capture or simply be aware of the sex offenders on my caseload. I was still a Christian at this time and I was discouraged when I learned that the typical profile is a church going, 40 something, white, educated male. Really, church going? I remember thinking to myself, how is it that we Christians, who have the Holy Spirit in us, are not able to discern this kind of evil, or immoral behavior in our churches? Why can’t we prevent any kind of immoral action in our Christian church families if we have God in us and on our side? Didn’t we pray for God to keep our children safe?

Like most religious people, I didn’t really have an answer that totally fit these questions. I sort of believed that without Christ in their lives people were doomed to be immoral and blind to the truth as I knew it. I kind of had this image that people were all sinners waiting to be punished for their sin unless we Christians could introduce them to the life changing love of Christ. Today I understand that people are people and no matter what they believe there isn’t any supernatural character, or ability to avoid being Homo sapiens and all that this entails. We are a mix of both primitive and sophisticated mental drives and motivations. We know that our character isn’t fixed and people, even highly religious people can do terrible things given the right circumstances. My faith in Christianity to make people better in some tangible way, or any religion is nil for that matter. As much as I longed to demonstrate that I was different, when I was a believer, I found that I wasn’t. If given enough time, I saw the same flaws, or different ones in my Christian friends, leaders and people I admired.

Do any religions truly change our fundamental make-up? None of them do in my opinion. In so much as you count changing lifestyle habits or addictions, or healing emotional pain, or making positive self improvement as proof, then I guess you can claim something, but hardly supernatural. Frankly, every religion claims these things and can easily demonstrate those claims. As a counselor & and as a parole and probation officer, I help people make changes all the time without any religion. Do I still know Christians who are obese, lie, lust, overspend, neglect their spouse, etc? Yes I do. Are they an example of the supposed power of Christ; absolutely not! Do I wonder if they are aware of how clearly evident their lack of power, lack of proof, lack of abundant life, or even lack of personal change is apparent to me and everyone else? I think at some level they are aware, but to admit it is another thing. If they do admit it, they find ways to rationalize their behavior as some personal failure on their part, thereby excusing the power of their god from transforming their lives.

One of the reasons I left Christianity is because I discovered that religions, faith, love of Jesus or a spiritual life in Christ didn’t really change people or me. I was just as blind to my faults as the next person when I was a believer. Education, self examination, learning thru suffering and the assistance of caring people helped me change. Even after giving up religious beliefs, I still continue to change based on these same factors. I’m not the fool who’s wisdom is darkened by my lack of belief in a god and I’m not the pagan hedonist who thinks of nothing but his own pleasure at the expense of others.

I’ve changed some of my values, and I’ve learned to be much more open minded, but since leaving the fold, I find myself learning more about me, my family and people then I ever did as a believer. I am more accepting of some things and more tolerant then I was as a Christian. I find myself free of the false guilt and shame I struggled with as a Christian. I don’t mean that I no longer feel guilt for a wrong done, or shame over a thoughtless act. I simply mean that I no longer worry about trying to be all things to all people trying to prove my changed nature, or demonstrate why we Christians are full of love and grace. I no longer worry about trying to be perfect or holy, always in the back of my mind wondering if I am loving people as God would, because I’m supposed to help people find the love of Christ. I no longer find myself having to befriend people I wouldn’t ordinarily befriend. I am no longer driven to do things against my will because God is watching. I am myself and I love, or like people for my own reasons, which are mostly based on being treated respectfully, honestly, compassionately, mercifully and so on. I find that even if we don’t agree on every issue, I can find friendship based on mutual respect and care. I find that relationships are much more important than religion. Many of my Christian friends don’t even talk to me simply because I no longer believe. I have even received insulting references to being a fool because I don’t believe in their god.

I really do wish life continued on long after death, but I just can't find any reasonable evidence that it does. I wish there was a loving kind power, or personal god that cared for us and helped us in this life and the next. I just don’t see this anywhere except as claims in the minds of believers and in their books. This desire for a caretaker is a longing that seems embedded in our DNA and quite possibly as a result of thousands of years of human development and our need to explain the mysteries of life and feel special.

Life is a journey in my opinion, but one that ends at some unknown point in time. I don’t believe it is eternal. I don't believe in a personal god, or otherwise and I don’t believe there is a judgment for wrongs done by a supreme judge, even though this goes against my own human desire to see justice. Life is what we make it and for whatever reason, I intend to keep learning, loving and taking account for my actions if only just to grow personally and connect more deeply with those I love and care about. I intend to be honest with my love and transparent with my faults and fair to people I don’t know.

Personal change can come from any number of methods and be beneficial even if the method isn’t perfect. Does religion change people for the better? In some ways I believe it does; however some of those changes come with additional luggage and at a price. It’s a cost that is far too great when it excludes people based on sexual orientation, traps people in irrational thinking and isolates them from both self awareness and the ability to question their beliefs. For me life is the freedom to be your self without having to be something for an invisible and unknowable god always hoping you are hearing him or obeying his will. I don’t believe life is a process preparing us for the next one. I believe living is the destination and one we can relish with great joy if we live in the moment. Life is amazing and I intend to enjoy it as much as I possibly can. Of course life isn't fair and no one hands us meaning. We live the hand we are dealt and we do the best we can to make life meaningful by doing things that are meaningful to us.

The reality is, that in the end, we get old, sick and die, or meet our end unexpectedly, so why make it harder believing in things that don’t really change people as promised and don’t have any evidence to support a life transformed full of power. Reality showed me a different picture then what I was taught to believe, what I hoped for and what I wanted. As hard as reality is, it’s far better in my opinion to meet reality head on verses looking through a set of religion colored glasses. I have yet to find these so called transformed people who don’t judge, are full of love, impartial, honest, ethical and are unified in mind and spirit, let alone heal the sick, walk on water, move mountains and do greater things then Jesus is supposed to have accomplished and promised his followers. If I ever find evidence of such people I will be sure to let you know.

Sincerely,

Bill J.

P.S. If you are a Christian and reading this, please don't take away from this the idea that I am bashing you as a person. I tend to seperate people's beliefs from who they are in character, and personality. My friendships with some of my Christian friends is based on our mutual care for each other and our respect for one another. I don't have to agree with someone to be their friend, but I do have to respect them.



7/12/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Does this make sense to you? It makes sense to Christians!

By Neal Stone

Candied ChildImage by Sir_Robin12 via Flickr

You have two children. A son and a daughter. You place a bowl of candy in front of them and tell them not to touch it. You leave the room. They give in and eat the candy, you come in and not only punish them but their children as well who weren't even involved.

Does this make sense to you? It makes sense to Christians!

Your children now have a large family and many of them disagree with you and refuse to live by your rules. You get angry and dig a series of large pits and throw many of these children into the pits and bury them alive.

Does this make sense to you? It makes sense to Christians!

You have an enemy who challenges one of your children's belief in you. To prove yourself and your child's belief you kill all the child's offspring, destroy his property and make him sick with boils and suffer great agony all to prove a bet. On top of that this enemy can talk to you face to face, but your own creation can not because they once obeyed this enemy.

Does this make sense to you? It makes sense to Christians!

The idea the earth and the universe were created from gases the existed forever and exploded is false, yet the idea that a god who existed forever just spoke it all into existence is true.

Does this make sense to you? It makes sense to Christians!

God who is so powerful he not only spoke the universe into existence but can control the most absolute smallest particle and yet his solution for mans plight is to be born of a virgin so he can grow up and be killed by his own creation.

Does this make sense to you? It makes sense to Christians!

Instead of pushing man to better fulfillment and a brighter future, god instead pushes to end it all in a most horrible manner all because he lost control a long time ago.

Does this make sense to you? It makes sense to Christians!

God has a war with his worst enemy and yet he doesn't destroy him nor locks him up in prison but instead he releases him to roam the galaxy freely so he can cause countless problems. But it's ok, god will get him someday. (wolf, wolf)

Does this make sense to you? It makes sense to Christians!

You are not to think for yourselves or about what you believe, but rather just have faith in the Bible and what the preachers teach you without question.

Does this make sense to you? It makes sense to Christians!

You pray and ask god to answer even though he rarely answers you or anyone, but you are just to have faith and keep believing regardless of the lack of response from god.

Does this make sense to you? It makes sense to Christians!

When you really sit down and use your brain, Christianity does not make sense. We have a shot to build a better world, but god and his followers want it to end. It's all senseless. I was once a Christian and believed all that above and yet somehow it made sense to me at the time.

Then I started to think...

7/10/2009                                                                                       View Comments

ATHEISM IS NOT NEGATIVE

By Stephen F. Uhl, Ph.D.

Is that a negative?Image by Stitch via Flickr

I am overly fed up with the use of the term, atheism, as a negative epithet. And I am now just about as fed up with how we tolerate eminent humanist writers saying atheism is a negative concept; it may look like a negative word; it is not a negative concept; it is a nonnegative concept.

Now my (mostly forgotten) Greek is probably a lot better than average, so hold on regarding the Greek prefix, alpha, being negative. As for the actual concept of a-theism being negative, I will unswervingly go for the two negatives making a positive here. We atheists are non-believers, non-bullshitters! Are you going to try to tell me that the second term is negative! If something is nonscientific, that sounds negative; if something is nonfalse, that is positive; so is nontheism, atheism.

So it is time for all of us atheists to 'quit hiding our light under a bushel.' The term, secular humanism, is not generally as positively clear in its uplifting realistic meaning as is the term, atheism. When we atheists admit who we are and call ourselves by our right name, the believers are positively impressed; they positively know where we stand.

As for atheism the false accusation that atheism does 'not point towards any unifying set of positive principles,' I think that is patently false. Most sincere atheists are positively convinced that this natural, asuperstitious [sic] life is the real life that is the only real positive source of reliable human happiness. And to be true to ourselves, we work to make this the best possible life for ourselves and our planetary neighbors, hopefully friends.

If I had my 'druthers,' I would suggest that all of our free thinking sympaticos admit to the positively clear posture of atheism and let all the world know clearly and positively that we are one positive bunch of friendly kin trying to make our common neighborhood better. That's why I wrote Out of God's Closet.

In fact, I would like for all of us freethinkers to win the friendship of our planetary neighbors as we gently, but unequivocally, let them know what our positive principles of friendship really are. Very happily I am finding less shock and negativity connected with atheism than at any time in my life. The unifying hope I have for every reader and his/her neighbors is expressed in the following little ditty:
I MET A FRIENDLY ATHEIST TODAY

I know ‘atheists are bad people’ some say.
But this nice person was really good for me
and helped me drop a childish fantasy.
Atheists I know now are not all bad;
I hope that makes no one sad,
for here and now I enjoy this life more;
their New Golden Rule helps my spirit soar,
for now that I know this life’s no rehearsal,
with mutual help we manage every reversal.

Stephen F. Uhl, Ph.D., www.OutOfGodsCloset.com
Author of Out of God's Closet: This Priest Psychologist Chooses Friendly Atheism
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