8/31/2009                                                                                       View Comments

The Vatican is Bullshit

by Penn & Teller

Death Cult

by Mriana

death cultImage by pyota via Flickr

I have not said very much about this because I find it a very painful and upsetting subject, even though it comes out in bits and pieces sometimes. However, I do not think my story would be complete if I did not touch upon the subject of taking religion so far that it causes death. Not just death, but even attempted suicide in some cases. For me, my grandfather was the first in a series of such things and I was twenty-three years old with a newborn son at the time.

About twenty years ago, my grandfather killed himself. He did it in a manner in which my Evangelical Fundamentalist relatives could excuse it and say, “God called him home”, but I cannot believe that. In my honest opinion, it was suicide, pure and simple. In my opinion, they are making excuses and denying what his death really was.

What exactly happened to this strong man that he would take his life? Well, first, he believed in an afterlife, but granted that alone is not enough to trigger suicide in most believers. Secondly, he had a heartache, one in which he did not do something that he should have done and that was save his granddaughter from the hands of sick man and I think he lived with this pain for a few years after he finally granted my mother permission to divorce her husband.

He apparently had an idea of what was happening, but did nothing for seven years. Why seven? I do not know, but every time he offered me a hug, even after the end of my parents' marriage, I could see pain in his eyes, because I did not feel comfortable giving him a hug. If I had a bad dream while spending the summer with them as a child, instead of allowing him to comfort me, I went and crawled into bed with my grandmother. They had twin beds, but still, I did not want to lay beside my grandfather, no matter how innocent his intent. I was scared of him because he was a man. I dreaded the thought of what he could do to me, even though he never laid a hand on his own daughters, not even to spank them.

Was he really a righteous man? He was human, but righteous is not exactly what I would label him, even though he finally allowed my mother to divorce and helped to get full custody of me. He paid for the divorce, but would not allow me to press charges against my biological father, stating, “We have you away from him, that is enough. God will take care of him.” God? I retorted angrily, “What about man's law?” It was then he firmly informed me that anger was a sin. I knew that was not what the Bible said. It says, “Be angry and sin not.”

I had a lot of anger towards the man and I believe that might have been part of his depression that led into a psychosis. A depressive psychosis is not funny, especially when it leads to suicide, but my assessment of what led to the depression is probably only a small part of his depression and not the whole of it.

His doctor diagnosed him depression and suggested that he see a psychologist. My grandfather spouted that psychologists are of the devil and will steal one's soul. He refused treatment and even began to say that the doctors were playing god and insisted that God wanted him home a long time ago. He then stopped taking his heart medication and died a few days later.

My mother, grandmother, and aunt would not allow me to say what he did was suicide, but in essence, that was what it was- suicide. It has been only recently my mother has conceded that if my grandfather had not stopped taking his medication, he might have lived longer. I finally got her to admit that much, but the truth is, there was far too much religious delusion in his psychosis that I cannot deny that religion was much a part of his suicide.

A few years later, just before my grandmother died, my mother began to speak of wanting to “go home”. I am not talking about the apartment she lives in, but rather her concept of a heavenly home. She truly believes this is not her home and she is just passing through, just as her sister does.

My mother did not tell all her doctors what each of them was giving her by way of medication and she admits to knowing better. She even admits that she did not care at the time, because all she wanted was to “go home”. I cannot surmise the trauma she might have been experiencing at the time or what might have led her to wanting to die, but something did. However, she frightened me once again because she was sounding much like my grandfather before he died with her talk of wanting to “go home” and she would not leave her home, not even to go out to dinner with her own mother. Even her mother, before she died, said, “It's not healthy to stay locked up in your home all the time.” My grandmother knew something was seriously wrong with my mother too, but did not attribute anything else to it.

The landlady found my mother passed out on the floor of her apartment, which is one for the elderly and disabled, and called 911. The emergency room staff saved my mother's life, but at the time, she refused psychological help and sadly, she attempted suicide a second time and her excuse to me was that she did not care, she just wanted to “go home”.

However, between myself and her doctors, she finally went into counseling and a day or so before she went, she called me saying she did not know how to call a cab, which is a simple thing really. Then she asked me, “What if my counselor is not Christian?” I tried to convince her that that is not an issue to be concerned about, unless she wants to deal with that topic.

I do not know how long we were on the phone talking about all her phobias and insistence that she did not know how to do various things. It seemed like forever to me as I exhaustingly used all my own knowledge of psychology on my own mother, trying to treat her as I would anyone else who needed to get help. I was worn out by the end of the phone call, but she did go to therapy, only to call me again a few weeks later about a group the psychologist wanted her to attend. Again, I found it tiring to push aside the fact I was talking to my mother and just consider her a person who needs psychological care, but once again I did it and reassured her that her psychologist probably would not refer her to the group if she did not think she needed it, but again, she feared the others in the group might not be Christians and feared they could damage her faith. Again, I reassured her that was not why the group was recommended to her and nothing like would happen unless she wanted it to happen.

Well the psychologist got my mother to socialize again and it appears she is better in the respect of not wanting to commit suicide. Her religious ideology is still over the top though, but unlike her father, she is still alive and did get psychological help for her death wish. I managed to help my mother with what I learned after my grandfather died, but sadly I was not so lucky with a step-cousin.

Mike attended my grandmother's funeral, but I did not know that his extreme sadness was more than just our grandmother dying. He had more issues happening with him than what I realized at the time, but I do not believe the sermon the preacher preached at my grandmother's funeral was of any help.

My grandmother, who was extremely religious, lived a very long life only to die in her sleep a few weeks after her 94th birthday. The story about her is that she sat at her mother's knee and gave her life to Jesus at four years of age and she never once backslid. Cute story, but in all honesty, I do not buy that she willingly turned her life over to some fictional character. She was brainwashed at a very early age, but she was not exactly hammered by the religious like they did my step-cousin.

My step-cousin had four back surgeries and was still in a lot of pain. The people at my relatives' church tried hard to convince him that if he turned his life over to God/Jesus, his back pain would disappear. They constantly bugged him about giving his life to Jesus and of course there was the sermon about “The Path of Salvation” at my grandmother's funeral.

Now, I do not remember the exact words of the sermon, but I can say this, it was, to my older son's disappointment, not about my grandmother. He had hoped that he would have learned something about her at the funeral, but it was not about her. It was about God, Jesus, salvation, religion, and more religion. When my aunt and mother invited us to attend church with them the next morning, I turned them down without consulting my eighteen year old son. After we were in our rental car, I asked my son if I had spoke for him instead of allowing him to say he wanted to attend. He shouted, “NO!” Then paused to say in a softer tone, “I mean no, I didn't want to go, so it was OK you did not ask me.” Several days later, maybe months later, he said, “I am glad you did not take us to an Evangelical church when we were children. What exposure I got from great grandma's funeral was more than enough and I am beginning to understand you more.” His words gave me comfort and reassurance that I did well raising them when it came to religion.

It was not long after he said that to me that my mother called me with news about my step-cousin. She was talking about Pastor Betty almost convincing him to turn his life over to God and all sorts of crazy babble. I finally said, “Mother, what happened?” She said, “Mike shot himself in the head.” I thought, “What? You bitches drove him to it!” Then she continued on about how Pastor Betty was trying to get him to turn his life over to God while he was on full life support while the doctors were trying to convince his half-brothers to pull the plug because he was brain dead. I said to my mother, “Mike was brain dead and your pastor was still trying to get him to convert?” She said, “Oh yes and she believed she had almost done it too when they came to pull the plug.” My mind screamed again, “HE WAS F*****G BRAIN DEAD! DON'T YOU GET IT?” I could not believe how stupid people could be nor could these people see that they helped lead Mike to committing suicide with their constant talk about conversion and “The Path of Salvation”. They pestered him to death and beyond, literally. Between his sever back pain and their constant pestering clear past brain death with false promises and conversion, it is a wonder the doctors were even able to pull the plug.

We finally hung up and I told my sons, “Well, your relatives and their crazy friends drove another relative to suicide.” I told them what had happened and they were sadden, but could see how religion was once again involved in another death of a relative.

We did not go to his memorial, but my mother called with exuberance and stated that Pastor Betty preached on “The Path of Salvation” again, adding that she wished we had been there. Then she said the most ignorant thing I have ever heard. She stated that Pastor Betty believed that Mike had turned his life over to God just before they pulled the plug. I thought, “OH COME ON! He was brain dead! He shot his brains out of his skull with a gun. Give me a break!”

While my grandmother's neurology just shut down like an old computer when she died in her sleep, my step-cousin blew his brains out with a gun. In essence there was nothing left to even hear with because he severed the mother board from the rest of the computer. That is a crude, but almost apt analogy, but I did not dare tell that to my mother. He did not scramble the circuits, he cut and destroyed them by blowing them up and out, yet they are convinced there was still a soul that could hear, a human being to save and convert. Honestly, sometimes I think people are really ignorant of their own bodies and these particular Evangelical Fundamentalists took the cake concerning ignorance.

Sadly, it was his younger brother who saw him kill himself and according to him, there was no talking his brother out of shooting himself. Of course, this younger brother is older than I am, but still, I worry about him because he saw it and he lives among these crazy people. Who knows what will happen to him.

However, I have not been able to tell my surviving step-cousins, my mother, or my aunt, that I truly feel that their pastor and all the members of their church, including them, led Mike to kill himself. They would take great offense to such a statement, no matter how true it maybe. The thing is, all this insanity as led my older son to say, “Mama, please don't tell Grandma I'm a Buddhist.” I do not even dare to tell her that I am a humanist, much less tell her my son is a Buddhist, because I know what these people can do to one's psychic. It gives me a headache just thinking about all of what has happened, even within my sons' lifetime, and so much of it involves religion.

Some may question as to why I attribute my relatives' religious beliefs and alike to pushing them and others over the edge. Some may say that religion does not contribute to mental illness and/or suicide and make some sort of excuse, but I truly believe that religion was part of the suicides and attempted suicide of my relatives. I believe this because I too had a depressive episode that involved a psychosis before I even finished a degree in psychology, only my psychosis did not involve religion.

I fell into a deep depression a few years after my first marriage, which involved a lot of abuse, ended in divorce, but before I finished getting a bachelor in psychology. The thing is, I did not know I was having a psychosis until it was over and my therapist explained it to me.

I lived in a world where the characters of Star Trek were so real I could touch them, but reality felt unreal. I especially lived The Next Generation episode “The Loss”, although I cannot tell you what I lost to this day. I could quote almost every single line Deanna Troi said and a few more of the other characters too. I could also quote lines from other episodes and oddly enough, my therapist saw that I was living this fantasy of Star Trek. However, she did nothing to destroy the fantasy because I was of no harm to myself or others.

My grandfather spouted that psychologists are of the devil and will steal one's soul. He refused treatment and even began to say that the doctors were playing god and insisted that God wanted him home a long time ago. He then stopped taking his heart medication and died a few days later. Gene Roddenberry buried a lot of humanist's thought in Star Trek and even though I had not yet declared myself a humanist and was still attending the Episcopal Church, I was following via Star Trek, humanism. I followed it clear up to the point I felt like killing myself and beyond. What stopped me from killing myself? The words still ring in my head to this day, especially when I look back on the incident and those words were of Deanna Troi to Worf when he was about to kill himself in the episode where "one moon circles" and no one but Troi reached REM sleep. I forget the title of that episode, but Deanna ran into his quarters and shouted, “Worf! NO!” just as he was about to kill himself with a Klingon ritual knife. She managed to stop him, tells him it is just an illusion, and guided him to Sickbay.

With Troi's words, ringing in my head, I snapped out of my delusion and began crying, wishing I could die, but somehow that did not seem like bettering myself. I felt lost because I could not touch the characters I loved so dearly any more. They were not real to me any more, but reality was and I could touch it again. Something at the time I did not wish to do.

I do not know how hard I was crying, but I managed to call my therapist and told her I wanted to rip every Star Trek picture off my wall and destroy all the memorabilia I had. She told me not to do that because I would regret it. I do not know what else I said, but in her opinion, I was obviously suicidal and she wanted me to call her every day at said time, whatever that was for I cannot remember now, except on the days I saw her in person until she deemed I was not a threat to myself any more. She would have hospitalized me, except because of my sons, she knew I would not go and she also knew I had no help with my sons either. The other thing was, it was my sons who were keeping me alive also.

Here is the difference between my relatives' psychosis and mine- theirs dealt with an afterlife, mine had no afterlife. This is it and once a person is dead, there is no bringing them back. That is also another aspect of humanism- no afterlife and no reliance on anything supernatural. Humanism uses reason, compassion, and science to solve our problems. A lot of this can be found in Star Trek too. There was no religion in my psychosis nor was there anything supernatural or an afterlife. So, in a sense, Gene and Majel Roddenberry's philosophy indirectly saved my life, even though my psychosis was purely a creation of Gene's mind.

A few years after I snapped out of my psychosis, I started exploring humanism more thoroughly and although Gene and Majel are not gods nor were they all-knowing and all-powerful, they indirectly saved my life also, by introducing me to humanism at few months after I was born, via the media with the very first episode of The Original Series. I had not realized, until I began researching humanism, just how much of the philosophy Gene put into his show and how much it influenced me over my lifetime. If it had not been for this influence and subsequent psychosis, I might have had a religious psychosis and then my story may have turned out differently. Thus, I feel I owe them both a debt of gratitude.

When I asked my therapist why she did not snap me out of my delusion sooner, instead of allowing it to run it's course, she explained to me that at the time, it was keeping me alive and from self-harm. To force me out of it would have done more harm than good. So in a sense, she too saved my life and afterwards we did address some of the religious issues of my relatives, but not all of them. She was a Christian, but explained to me that they corrupted religion in a way that was harmful and she did this without preaching her own theological view point, which was good, because I probably would have stopped listening to her. However, she gave me my first clue as to how mentally damaging religion can be, yet a non-theistic view could be less harmful mentally.

No, she was not trying to lead me to atheism or humanism, but her approach was very humanistic in that it was centred on the human. She set aside her own beliefs in a god in favour of treating the human and in my case, given my history with religious ideology, she did well to point out how it was corrupt and damaging to me as a person. She knew my case history with my biological father and my other relatives, including their religious beliefs. She also had met my mother at least once, because we invited her to a session or two and knew how she reverted back to insane doctrine. Right in front of my therapist, my mother insisted she had no choice concerning my father, because it was all God's will and other crazy dogma, even though I asked how child sexual abuse was “God's will”. My mother's statements were truly bizarre and even illogical.

The therapist even knew what my grandfather said to me when my mother finally gained full custody of me. She knew all the crazy ideology that I experienced growing up, even my grandfather's psychosis when I was twenty-three, and she still allowed me to have my psychosis that had no God or afterlife in it for better or worse. I think it was for the better though as I look back on my life, because in the end, it saved my life and did not end it like it did my grandfather's ended his nor did it lead to attempted suicide as my mother's psychosis did hers.

The other thing was, she eventually stopped inviting my mother to my counseling sessions. So, in a sense, she also pushed the religious dogma out my life during therapy and even suggested I avoid my mother as much as reasonably possible, until I was better.

Thus, my conclusions about religious extremism and beliefs. My life experience has led me to believe that, in some cases, religion does more harm than good, contributes to mental illness, and can even lead to suicide, where as, a non-theistic belief can actually save a person's life. Granted, this is not necessarily true with all Christians and other people of belief, but in the case of Fundamentalism, it very well can lead to death. Humanism, on the other hand, is very much life-affirming as it inspires one to better themselves. I never did see any of that in what my relatives believe(d). All I saw was degradation and dehumanization concerning their beliefs and that is not healthy.

Some say the wages of sin is death, but I say, the wages of extremism is death. I do not like extremism of any sort, not even extremism in disbelief for that matter, even though I am not a believer of any religion or deity. That too is also another part of the Roddenberry philosophy- having some tolerance for other people's beliefs, but I doubt either one of them accepted extremism, because there were times that even they poked fun of religious beliefs, even in Star Trek.

The truth is, religion can be very degrading and very dehumanizing and sometimes, in order to find one's humanity, a person has to let go of superstition, in favour of reason, compassion, and science. Religion can also contribute to mental illness and lead to tragic consequences, where as, a non-theistic philosophy can lead to living life and a very fulfilled one at that. I would not have it any other way for myself, because I have seen what religion does to my relatives and it is not good. I have no intentions of dying as they did nor do I wish to make religion or a belief in a deity the main focus of my life. For me, there is nothing more fulfilling than striving to be fully human, living life fully, trying to better myself, and having compassion for my fellow human, as well as myself, all within reason, of course.



8/29/2009                                                                                       View Comments

A Brief Guide to Deconversion

by Matthew Dolezal

Saint Matthew, from the 9th-century Ebbo Gospels.Image via Wikipedia

With the chaos of daily life in modern Western civilization, the consideration of a deep philosophical question like "What is the meaning of life?" seems quite low on one's list of priorities. There are countless tasks I must complete each day in order to maintain my socio-economic and cultural status. After realizing this cycle appears infinite, one assumes his/her "purpose" is to be a cog in a machine - indeed, the word "career" seems to have replaced "purpose" in our society.

But eventually, there is a break - you have a moment of time that has not been reserved or booked or clouded with efficiency, and you look up at the stars and wonder what it’s all about. This is inevitable. Our brains are machines of curiosity. We wonder and speculate, and then, if the curiosity gets the best of us, and we begin to investigate.

How did this all come about? What is my purpose? What will happen after I die? I used to have simple and comforting answers to these questions. “God created the earth and its inhabitants in seven days. My purpose is to worship my creator, and spread the good word of His son, who died as a sacrifice so that we can have eternal life. If I have faith in Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth, and the light, I will go to heaven when I die.” This explanation was sufficient for almost two decades of my life, but eventually my mind started to wander. I became a bit more inquisitive. I had more and more time to look at the stars and ponder.

I began to ask myself questions like, “How can God be a single entity, yet also three?” “If everything is predestined, how can we also have free will?” “If god has chosen souls in advance for heaven, why would he create people just so they can go to Hell?” To these sorts of questions, I would always get a response like, “He is God, and mere mortals cannot understand his infinite nature.” That explanation is adequate, but if that is the case, why do we claim to know when he has answered a prayer? And how can we have the ability to determine which parts of the Bible should be interpreted literally, and which are metaphorical? I wanted to find out more about God, but I wondered how much I could trust Man in this pursuit. How do I know that what I’ve been taught and raised to believe all of my life is actually true? What if I had been born in Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia? Would I be an adherent of Islam today?

Founding Father Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “Question with boldness even the existence of God; because, if there is one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.” So I decided to investigate. As I searched, I began challenging myself, and my presumptions. I later realized that instead of finding justifications for my faith, I only found more questions.

Devout Christians often claim the Bible is God’s word, and thus “inerrant”. After examining the canonical gospels, however, one might beg to differ.

The most minor issue with the New Testament has to do with a number of discrepancies between the gospels. For instance, Jesus’ famous “Sermon on the Mount” takes place on a “plain” in the book of Luke. Matthew recounts eight beatitudes, while Luke only mentions four. Matthew places the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead in a different location than Mark and Luke. Matthew, Mark, and Luke place the cleansing of the Temple at the end of their gospels, while John places this event at the beginning of his. There are myriad other similar examples, but let’s move on.

Throughout the book of Matthew, Jesus makes it clear to his followers that the “Son of Man” will arrive very soon. However, there is no indication that this event transpired within the set timeframe (or at all).

Matthew 10:23:
“…I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”

Matthew 16:28:
“I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

Matthew 24:30-34
“…the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds…he will send his angels…they will gather his elect…I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”

If the gospels accurately depict the life of this Christ character, why do the Epistles of Paul (written before the gospels) contain no mention of Christ’s virgin birth, his miracles, his parables, his sermon on the mount, or the Lord’s Prayer? If these attributes were known in the first century of Christianity, Paul would have been the one to know them. Paul does not even pretend to have met a savior such as Jesus Christ, and knows nothing of his teachings, since he does not include a single sentence quoting Jesus in any of his writings.

Christ was said to have been a Jew living in Palestine during the first three decades of the Common Era, thus he and his followers would have spoken Aramaic. Why then were the gospels written in Greek? Authors far removed from the purported events must have written these accounts. Indeed, the authors of the four canonical gospels are not known, nor is the time or place of their authorship. There is no mention of these documents in the historical record until 150 years after the events they describe allegedly took place (the first mention of a canonical gospel – John – was by Theopholis of Antioch in 180 AD). Even if Mark was written shortly after 70 AD, as many apologists claim (though there is no evidence of this), there is still a 40 year gap between Christ’s alleged death, and the first written account of his life. This means that no account of Christ’s life in the Bible was written by someone who had met him, or even seen him. All accounts of his life and teachings are based on hearsay, and 18 years of Christ’s life are missing from these writings.

There is no mention of a Jesus of Nazareth who was called “Christ” from any of the nearly two-dozen historians who lived or traveled in the Mediterranean region during the time Jesus is said to have lived (though there was later a popular forgery, but for concision’s sake, I won’t get into that). This is odd because he was allegedly quite popular, often preaching to large crowds, and having a very controversial execution, according to the gospels. After Christ’s death, the following event takes place (in Matthew): “…many bodies of the saints…were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.” This zombie-related incident was not recorded by any historian. The same can be said of other Biblical events that would have been witnessed by many, such as Herod’s mass slaughter of infant males.

Like myself, Robert M. Price was a Christian fundamentalist for a large portion of his life. His interest in apologetics eventually led him to receiving his MTS degree in New Testament studies, and later his Ph.D. in systematic theology from Drew University in 1981. After several years of pastoral work and teaching, Price enrolled in a second doctoral program at Drew, receiving his Ph.D. in New Testament studies in 1993. But the more he learned, the more he discovered “that traditional Christianity simply did not have either the historical credentials or the intellectual cogency its defenders claimed for it.” Price explains: "...Thus I forswore the harmonizations used by apologists to keep the Bible sounding inerrant and authoritative. I concluded that my faith must in the end be sacrificed to keep myself honest with the text. Otherwise, if I twisted the text for the sake of my faith, what could my faith possibly be worth?"

Justin Martyr, one of the first Christian apologists, wrote the following:

“And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter.” (Apology I – chapter 21)
Aside from historical improbabilities, inconsistencies, and other major errors, another cause for my skepticism regarding the claims of Christian dogma is the “hero archetype” that Christ fulfills. There are dozens of pre-Christian pagan messiahs with whom Christ shares many traits. These include Attis of Phrygia, Buddha, Dionysus/Bacchus, Hercules/Heracles, Krishna of India, Mithra of Persia, Quirinius of Rome, Jao of Nepal, and many others. For instance, Horus of ancient Egypt was born of the virgin Isis-Meri, accompanied by a star in the east. He was a child prodigy, teaching in the Temple at age 12. At age 30 he was baptized by Anup, and began traveling with 12 followers, performing miracles such as walking on water, exorcising demons, and raising Osiris from the dead. Upon his death, he was buried for three days, and then resurrected. His followers called him “Anointed One”, “Good Shepherd”, “Lamb of God”, “Lord of Lords”, “King of Kings”, etc.

Justin Martyr, one of the first Christian apologists, wrote the following:

“And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter.” (Apology I – chapter 21)

“And if we even affirm that He was born of a virgin, accept this in common with what you accept of Perseus. And in that we say that He made whole the lame, the paralytic, and those born blind, we seem to say what is very similar to the deeds said to have been done by √Üsculapius.” (Apology I – Chapter 22)

But this vehement advocate of Christianity also had a simple explanation for all of these antics: It was the Devil’s fault…

"It having reached the Devil's ears that the prophets had foretold the coming of Christ, he set the Heathen Poets to bring forward a great many who should be called the sons of Jove. The Devil laying his scheme in this, to get men to imagine that the true history of Christ was of the same character as the prodigious fables related of the sons of Jove..."

In its context, this could be a valid excuse. However, this explanation cannot be found anywhere in the Bible. If god is omniscient, and he wants us to believe the Bible is his word, why didn’t he include some text clarifying these matters? Why did god feel it was necessary for his son to fit the savior archetype so well? It would have cleared up a lot of confusion if he could have simply stated why pre-Christian myths feature saviors possessing the exact same supernatural attributes as Jesus Christ.

Where is the evidence of omniscience in scripture that apologists claim? There is no mention of the discovery of electricity, or DNA, or the various technological advances that would take place, such as the development of automobiles, or satellites, or the Internet. There is no cure for cancer. A mention of any of these or similar topics would lend credibility to the claim that the Judeo-Christian scripture was divinely inspired. In reality, everything in the New Testament could have easily been written by a man living in the Middle East during the first or second century CE.

*


It can be said that the Bible’s claim to inerrancy is problematic, as is its historicity. “Okay, fine!” one might say, “These so-called ‘holy books’ are just a bunch of plagiarized mythology carelessly throw together and given a historical backdrop. But they still contain wonderful moral precepts like the Golden Rule. I mean, where would we get morality if not from religion?”

Is the Bible really a reliable guide to morality? Many would agree that the Old Testament can be counted out as a candidate, since God advocated the death penalty for the most mild of offenses, allowed fathers to sell their daughters into slavery, allowed masters to beat their slaves, encouraged sectarianism, and implemented genocide on a regular basis.

But the picture usually painted of Jesus Christ (in Sunday school and in mainstream discourse alike) is that of a great moral teacher who healed the sick, advocated on behalf of the poor, and resisted an oppressive and unjust Roman empire. However, when reading the gospels objectively, one would not find consistent moral teachings and actions. In one breath, Christ would say, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” and in the next, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother…a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” He goes on to say, in Luke 14:26, that “if anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children…he cannot be my disciple.” Before Jesus is crucified, a woman pours ointment over his head to prepare him for burial (as was the custom). This bothers Jesus’ disciples, who think it is a waste of money, which could have been given to the poor. Jesus responds, “…you will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me (Matthew 26:11).” Also in the book of Matthew, Jesus compares a foreign woman to a dog, curses a fig tree, and recommends castration to his followers.

Needless to say, the aforementioned information (which is just the tip of the iceberg) has contributed to an erosion of my faith. I find it confusing when others still believe so vehemently, even claiming certainty, that the Bible is the perfect message of an omniscient deity. However, this phenomenon of irrationally persistent belief has been studied meticulously. In psychology, "confirmation bias" is a tendency to search for (or interpret) new information in a way that confirms your preconceptions. As professor Tim van Gelder puts it, "...One of the most obvious manifestations of belief preservation arises when we consider whether a claim merits our acceptance. When we have a pro-attitude to the claim we tend to actively seek evidence confirming or supporting the claim, and fail to seek evidence going against it. That is, in our search for evidence we try to bolster our beliefs rather than challenge them." Psychologist Robert E. Ornstein once observed, "Conceptions often act as barriers to understanding." He further explains, “It is quite difficult for us to alter our assumptions, even in the face of compelling new evidence. We pay the price of a certain conservatism and resistance to new input in order to gain a measure of stability in our personal consciousnesses."

*


Either Yahweh created the universe, or he did not. Either he inspired the Judeo-Christian Bible, or he did not. Both cannot be true. If the Bible contains errors, then it is not the word of an omniscient god, but of Man. If it is the work of Man, then it is open to interpretation. If it is open to interpretation, it is open to analysis. Upon analysis, I found countless errors, inconsistencies, and mythologies. Any Christian would agree that these problems occur in other religious texts as well. Absolute truth exists, though it is not always accessible. There are some questions we will never be able to answer, and that vulnerability scares many of us. But pretending to be certain in the face of mystery does not make us correct.

After the aforementioned realizations, I was no longer safe in the comfort of my dogmatic shell. I could no longer have simple black and white explanations for the intricacies of existence. I could no longer let theologians and priests think for me…

I must state plainly that I am not claiming to be certain that Yahweh does not exist. Far from it - certainty requires proof, and proof is hard to come by. In fact, the only thing I can prove, beyond any doubt, is that I exist. I am constantly experiencing my own consciousness. Whether the sensations, memories, and events I experience are illusions or not, I cannot be certain. Instead, I will opt to act according to the consistencies I have observed around me.

Conclusions are formulated by analysis, by weighing evidence. Many conclusions are temporary, and can be altered according to new information. In the case of religious dogma, my reasons for doubt significantly outweigh my reasons for belief. But uncertainty isn't acceptable for some people - they fear death. They need an absolute explanation, even if there is no evidence to support it. "Someone, hurry up and answer me! I just want to be comfortable and docile, and follow orders!" scream the bewildered masses. Most people seem to accept the supernatural explanations that are most popular in their region of birth. Americans are overwhelmingly Christian. Iranians are overwhelmingly Muslim. Vietnamese are overwhelmingly Buddhist. Why doesn't the same thing happen with fire? Why is there such a global consensus that fire is hot, and that it can burn things? It is simply because the existence, properties, and effects of fire are testable. There is no way to test the existence of an invisible entity that does not leave footprints, or DNA, or any evidence of its presence. There can therefore be no proof that these entities do not exist. No one can prove that Yahweh does not exist, just as no one can prove Zeus, Santa Claus, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster do not exist. Again, the evidence that they are only mythological characters outweighs any other unfounded claims.

Well, now that I have to think for myself, make my own decisions, and accept responsibility for my own actions, with no divine assistance, I’ve got some very profound philosophical questions to answer…

What is my basis for morality? Well, first of all, the “moral teachings” of Christ that would actually be accepted by today’s progressive standards (love, generosity, equality, etc.) were also written about by secular philosophers like Plato and Socrates centuries before Christ’s alleged existence. These are clearly not his own ideas. Plato and Socrates were mere humans, making moral observations without even pretending to receive divine consultation. It seems that morality is innate – derived from human experience, observation, and remarkable intellectual capacity to imagine the situation of others. This is known as “empathy”. From this perspective, one might observe: “To cause, proliferate, or contribute to human or animal suffering is immoral.” Does someone need to believe in a specific supernatural entity on insufficient evidence in order to conclude that torturing children is morally wrong? What is morally upright then? To help others, to love others, to live in harmony - refraining from murder, theft, etc. A general moral outlook would suggest that we should seek to understand, empathize, and co-exist with everything around us – all life on earth. After all, there is lots of evidence that earth exists, and no evidence that heaven or hell exist. I think Earth should be a higher priority.

Another question would be, “Where do I find happiness?” I must admit theism offers quite a bargain in this department. As I recall, no matter how bad things got, I could always take refuge in my imaginary friend. And no matter how many naughty things I did, I could always transfer the burden of guilt to his shoulders. Happiness can be different things to different people, but I am personally glad to be autonomous, and delighted when others can live happily and peacefully, free from arbitrary constraints. I am also happy that I no longer fear a cosmic dictator who has me under constant surveillance, legislates against certain uses of my genitals, and threatens me with an eternity of torture if I question his infinite love. Fear can cause a lot of anxiety, not to mention irrational submission. Aside from conquering fear, I also enjoy creative expression, free inquiry, traveling, visiting with friends and family, music, learning, etc. I also appreciate the small things in life, like taking a walk, or cooking. John Lennon would say, “Happiness is a warm gun.” I would say it’s a warm burrito.



8/28/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Failure of the Prophet System

By WizenedSage

Isaiah's Lips Anointed with FireImage via Wikipedia

If you were God, would you provide your message exclusively to one prophet? Wouldn’t it occur to you that some people would try a prophet scam once they saw how a prophet is revered and the recipient of special favors, money and power? This was an essential message of Al-Razi, a freethinking Moslem (864-930 CE) that seems to have slipped beneath the radar of many of us moderns.

Of course, we can all see that at least some so-called prophets are not legitimate; even the religious can see this. No one today believes Jim Jones was an authentic prophet, and comparatively few believe in Joseph Smith. And, in the Western world, Mohammad is widely seen as a fake. Clearly, anyone with the gift of eloquence, especially if he also knows a few nifty magic tricks or illusions, is a potential prophet. Prophesying can be profitable.

Al-Razi’s point here is not just that there have been many false prophets, but, much more importantly, that no sensible god would ever use such a system to get out his message. If we humans could so easily foresee the flaws of such an approach, why would anyone think a god could be so naive as to miss them? Even if there were one true prophet, his followers would inevitably have to compete with the followers of false prophets, humans being what they are. The Crusades and Inquisitions resulting from disputes over prophet legitimacy could have been predicted by even the dumbest god.

The Christian might argue that God wants us to use our free will to believe in the message of Jesus regardless of evidence. After all, Jesus did say, “…blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed (John 20:29).” Such a God would have to be very ignorant of human nature or willfully malicious. How are we supposed to be able to tell the authentic prophet from the clever, silver-tongued fake? We humans have obviously done a very poor job of it over the course of history since billions believe in Mohammed, millions in Joseph Smith, hundreds believed in Jim Jones, dozens in David Koresh, and this list could be extended for several more pages. I repeat: a God who left it to us to sift through alleged prophets to find the real one would have to be either very stupid or willfully malicious.

Since no prophet could ever hope to convince every last human that he is the one true prophet, such a system would inevitably be a disaster for the human race. Any rational god would surely see that if he has an important message for us, then all people should receive that message directly. I believe that Al-Razi was dead-on; since no rational god would ever use the prophet system, then all prophets must be false. Furthermore, since we didn’t all receive a Godly message directly, to forestall this phony prophet disaster, there very likely is no god at all - or, at least, none that gives a damn about us humans.




8/25/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Profession of Faith

by Shawn

Faith and HopeImage by A Perfect Heart via Flickr

Since my de-conversion there is one statement from believers that irritates me time and time again. We have all heard it, it is the common fall back for just about every argument against Christianity. Every time I have argued the plagiarism, absurdities, contradictions, lies, cruelty and intolerance of the Bible, this statement, or something similar, invariably gets thrown in my face: “You just have to have faith”.

Faith in what I ask. Define it. Describe it.

I have faith. I have no shortage of faith, in fact, I have faith in spades.


I have faith that through science we will be able to help the blind see, the mute speak, the deaf hear and the paralyzed to walk again. I have faith that if I do the right things, lead a good life and help my fellow man that I will live on, beyond my years, in the memory of my community, my children and my family. I have faith that if there is an afterlife that it is for us all, that it is something that no one could ever understand and is not reserved for a select few.

I have faith that my children will do the right things and grow to be men and women to be proud of, not because of some religious indoctrination, but because I set a good example and instilled in them a commonsensical set of morals and ideals.

I have faith that there is something greater than myself; Humanity. I have faith that one day we will realize our potential as a race and, finally working together, reach heights that we can now only dream of. I have faith that through setting aside our petty arguments of religion, race, gender, sexuality and creed that we can finally work together to end war, hunger, injustice, prejudice and suffering.

I have faith that there exists, somewhere, a politician that is doing their job because they want to help people, not for the fame or power, not to spread wealth to themselves and their friends, but because deep down they want to help their community, their country and the people around them. I have faith that if I am wrong, somewhere, sometime, and perhaps under a guiding star, a politician will be born who will actually care for those they govern; a politician who refuses push their moral agenda, but one who speaks for the people and works as a servant of the people. I also have faith that some people will find the guiding star reference in the last sentence amusing.

I have faith that with technological breakthroughs we will fix global warming, create powerful and cheap sources of renewable energy and sustainable fast growing crops that could feed the masses. I have faith that through technology we will reach out for the stars, colonize distant planets and discover the origins of time and the universe, and, I have faith that someday Windows wont suck so much.

I have faith that some day, through science, we will find a cure for cancer, AIDS, hepatitis, and other ailments that afflict mankind. I have faith that through science we will be able to help the blind see, the mute speak, the deaf hear and the paralyzed to walk again. I have faith that diseases of the mind, once taught by religion to be caused by daemonic possession, will be curable.

I have faith in these things and much more. I do not however have faith in a flawed book, full of inaccuracies, contradictions, lies and fairy tales. I do not believe in fire and brimstone or a deity who would punish souls for eternity just because of the randomness of when and where a person was born and its affect on their access to information about his “son”.

You may call me an idealist, a dreamer or an optimist, but you can never say that I am a man without faith. My faith is strong and pure. It is without conditions, without exceptions and without caveats. Actually, given the history and current state of the world, full of its hatred, injustice and prejudice, it takes a lot more faith to believe in what I have stated above than it does to have faith in the mythology of the Bible.

8/24/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Look Out For Those Lookouts

By Carl S

On lookout dutyImage by Gary Henderson via Flickr

My wife tells me that I think too much, to which I might point out that I’m just compensating for all those who refuse to think. For example, she watches those TV nature shows with animals in their native habitats. These shows aggravate me. I want to watch animals, but they keep interrupting by showing the faces of narrators or cameramen. Also, some insist on giving the animals names. I’ve watched gatherings of geese, ducks, turkeys, etc, and notice how at least one of them is assigned as lookout. So, I have my own commentary that ties into thinking too much, and here’s how it goes.

“Harold” is lookout. He might not be the brightest or wisest, but it’s his turn. It’s a lot of responsibility, so he’s hyper-alert, stressed. Now if Harold has eaten the wrong grass, has had a hard previous night, and is super vigilant, he just might see things that aren’t there, sound the alarm, and everyone scatters. When all are scattering, doubt is not a consideration. It is my observation that religious beliefs can cause the same reactions, for the same reasons.

As higher animals, with more complex brains, ergo imaginations, humans make ambiguities into entities such as souls, gods, devils, genies, etc. Then humans give adoration to these idols of ambiguities. Not only that, but humans are often turned into symbols. If you think about it, this would explain the fears, phobias, and panics which lead to persecuting “Christ-killers,” killing witches, etc. Doesn’t this talent for making abstract ambiguities equal to or superior to realities make humans their own worst enemies, much as the lookout-dependent herd can be led into unnecessary panic by a lookout who sounds the alarm for some threat which doesn’t exist? And if everyone has been eating certain grass…well, you can see where religions amplify this effect.

We ought to take a good look at all those “Word worshippers” out there who are constantly stirring up the herd into not only unfounded joy, but bizarre fears. As animals capable of analyzing ourselves, we ought to seriously ponder the possibility that these gurus and prophets and their followers have been brain-washing the crowds and themselves. We should also note the very real possibility that the catnip that turned on all the “holy men” to their visions came from syphilis, hallucinogenic plants, mercury and lead poisoning, peyote, wine, etc., all veritable factories of visions and miracles.



8/21/2009                                                                                       View Comments

A Believer's Last Prayer

by JezuzFree

himmelwärtsImage by derpunk via Flickr

I'd like to share with you the last prayer I uttered as a Christian a few weeks ago. After 28 years of being a Christian, I'm now a very happy Atheist.

This morning, Lord, I come before You
A Holy Soldier at Your feet
It is I, Nobody Special
A Jar of Clay that You complete

I’ve lived my life as a Believer
Extolled Your virtues, praised Your name
A Demon Hunter, Holy Soldier
Saved by Grace, my only claim

I’ve lived by faith, my Creed persistent
A Living Sacrifice for You
But where’s the proof? It’s nonexistent
Imaginary will just not due

An Ultimatum is before me
Set by me by my free will
The Crucified or rationality
I want real truth to set me free

My mind’s made up, I choose You not
It’s Evanescence of the faith
At Six Feet Deep I’ll simply rot
The soul’s not Payable On Death

I will not cry for Your Deliverance
When my time comes As I Lay Dying
Will love my neighbor and Die Happy
Will change the world or will die trying

A Barren Cross is a nice story
But so is Santa and Mother Goose
I believe not in eternal glory
Not by Christ, Allah nor Zeus

I’m not the Bride, and not the Stryper
I nailed You not to cross nor tree
I am no longer Your Disciple
From this day on, I’m JezuzFree

I can only hope that this is of some encouragement to those still “on the fence” between Christianity and Atheism. It was a big step for me, and one that I’m very happy to have taken. The recent Christian might notice that the names of multiple Christian bands are mentioned in the prayer. They’re the bands that I listened to for many years. Don’t be afraid, help others, live for love, and enjoy life. You only get one.

There's a reading of the prayer on my YouTube channel: http://bit.ly/i6R74.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

This is me, living JezuzFree.



Flame War

By Astreja

I work in a large metropolitan hospital. Every day, thousands of people come and go -- Doctors, nurses, secretaries, housekeeping staff, maintenance... Police, paramedics, pharmacy technicians... Hundreds of delivery vehicles, dropping off everything from paper towels to transplant organs... And, of course, the patients and their families and friends.

This is a good place to work, but at the same time there's a bittersweet mood in the hallways. People come here because they need help for illness or injury. My daughter and I have both been patients here, as have many people that we know.

On the way to the bus one day, I took a moment to really look at the people in the hallway. I don't know who they are, or what they believe; but I'm going to assume that they're essentially decent, caring individuals.

Just like the people outside the hospital: My bus driver; the clerk at the convenience store; a man and woman waiting for the "Walk" sign at a major intersection on the route.

I'm also going to assume that none of these people are "perfect" in the sense that our Christian visitors usually interpret the word. According to them, we are all so deeply flawed and so irretrievably evil that their "loving" god has no choice but to sentence us all to eternal torment.

The nurse who was up all night tending to a premature infant in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. The taxi driver in the patient drop-off loop, helping an elderly woman into his cab and then carefully folding up her walker to put it in the trunk. The teenage boy who broke his arm in a rough-and-tumble in the schoolyard, here to finally get the cast removed. The cashier at the snack bar, calling out numbers and handing out freshly-made sandwiches to people taking an all-too-brief break from their work.

We are the ones whom the believers condemn to the flames, in the name of their unproven overlord, in the hopes of frightening us into sharing their sick blood-sport delusion.

And they wonder why we get angry...


8/20/2009                                                                                       View Comments

8/19/2009                                                                                       View Comments

I'm Not Ready to Make Nice

By Mriana

BEst-FriendImage by Untitled blue via Flickr


"And how in the world
Can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they'd write me a letter
Saying that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over."

That is basically the response I got from a long time friend that I thought I could trust or who I thought was a friend that I could trust, but, and I hope I am wrong, apparently there were conditions to that friendship. Before it was over she was telling me what I could not say, what I should write, and eventually, when I asked her two honest questions, she gave me what was, in my opinion, a trained response. It really was like I had threaten her beliefs and I could not believe she was a person who would feel insecure about her beliefs when someone expresses a different view, but I guess I was wrong.

The words to the song ring so true, especially when it comes to the idea that one can just get over it and accept “true religion” as opposed to what my relatives believe, which is not “true religion” apparently. Such a statement, as I told her, is the same thing as my grandfather saying, “Calvinists are wrong and Wesleyans are right”. Sorry, but I have never and will never never achieve Christian perfection- Wesleyan doctrine. There is no such thing from what I can tell, because every sect believes differently and many times they each have a different human concept. You name it and it is probably a different concept.

This same friend seemed to resent my saying that even her beliefs could become authoritarian. She does not believe she is authoritarian, but in some respects she comes off as such. Telling someone to not call certain groups certain things is a form of authoritarianism. Telling a person trained responses is a means, given her profession within the Church, to keep the masses in line and not get out of control with their own thoughts. Her responses only gave me red flags to leery, no matter how hard I tried not to be.

Sorry, but I have a right to my own thoughts and opinions. So does everyone else and I am willing to allow her to believe as she wants as long as she does not impose those beliefs on me. What she was spewing was PURE Wesleyan- Christian perfection, although the Episcopal Church is not necessarily either Calvinism or Wesleyan. Both men came out of the Anglican Church and both men strongly disagreed with each other.

Sorry, but I am not ready to make nice with Evangelical Fundamentalists. She may want to make nice, but I do not wish to do so, due to the wrongs they have committed and are committing. However, I was willing to reach out a hand in friendship and hopefully achieve a mutual understanding, but I get the feeling she is not, much less reach any understanding of me and other non-theists. She may say she is being open-minded, but with statements such as, “have you read the New Testament lately?” it does not bode well with understanding a non-theist. All such statements are same old, same old tired remarks of many Christians who are confronted with a non-theist.

The other thing was, she almost demanded that I write a chapter in my book on how religion can be healing, adding that my book would sell well because “Christian bashing is in” or something to that affect. My only response was that I would not know about how religion could be healing and that was an attempt to make nice with her and give her an in to express herself in greater detail. She missed the opportunity. Thus, I felt I was basically told to shut up, stop bashing Christianity, and write what she wanted to read for a change. It is not going to happen, not in my book. “Shut up and write or you're life will be over.” Not her words, but I feel like she might as well have said that.

As I told her, I have not removed my membership as of yet from the Episcopal rolls, thus she has power to have me declared as a heretic or even excommunicated. I practically dared her to do it, but she backed down, saying, “You are not a priest” “who vows to uphold the teachings of the Church” and that she rarely uses the ““h” word”. No, I am not a priest and I never intended to be a priest and much less she did not know how we got into such a dispute any more than I did, adding that she did not have a problem with humanism. My older son thought what she said was a “half-ass” apology, but what does he expect? For me to demand a better apology? I cannot demand such a thing from anyone.

Even she did not know how our argument got so far out of hand, but it did and I will still say and write what I want about any group of Christians I so choose. I will call them what I want to call them and I will believe what I so choose. She has no right to dictate to me any of those things and when I ask her a question, I expect her to stand by her words of “I am not your priest and you are not my parishioner” and address me as a friend, which is what I thought we were.

Just as the Episcopal Church has a chance to reach out to gays, lesbians, transsexuals, and bisexuals, she had a chance to understand a lapsed Episcopalian turned humanist/agnostic and left the Church. She missed the opportunity and I do not know if she will ever get such an opportunity again. I have nothing against the Episcopal Church and I have not said anything bad about that particular church itself, only individuals who behaved badly within the Church. I also said good about her and other individuals, but currently, I am very hurt and angry by how all of this turned out, especially when I was trying to treat her as a friend, which is apparently what she also wants too from what she says. Thing is, she may say it, but sadly, and to my sorrow, she does not seem to follow up with her other words.

However, when she is ready, I will be here, willing to talk, answer any questions she may have, as well as ask questions I may have. I just hope it does not take too many years for her to take that opportunity. In the meantime, I doubt she realizes that she too has hurt me, not so much with religious dogma, but with her words and attitude that defied the notion that I could trust her. I have tried to communicate with her why I have taken the position I have, but she does not seem to be listening to her anything but her own dogma, which she states is grace and not a set of rules. In my honest opinion, dogma is not grace.

Oh I have listened to her, maybe a little too well and I feel she is not hearing me, because I regret coming out to her as a humanist and agnostic. What better position to take, after weighing all that I could than to say, “I know what it is not, but I do not know what it is” or to just say, “I do not know”. This is not a denial of her god nor is it an affirmation, thus it should not be an affront to her beliefs, but it appears that it is and not matter what I do or say, it all seems to just get worse, as she responds with trained and unquestioned statements. The worst one being, “All of history, including the revelations of other religions, prefigures, leads up to, and prepares the human race for the coming of Christ.” What a well trained and well-ingrained response to something that threatens one's beliefs. We have all heard similar things from other theists. It is not new nor is it one bit true. It is not even a thought out answer for oneself, but something she was taught and she accepted without question. Thus, it was like saying, “how dare you question the teachings of the Church”, in my opinion. Thus, I was not talking to a friend, as I had hope and as she wanted me to treat her, but rather a member of the clergy. I even told her, I did not want her to respond as clergy, but as a friend, with her own thoughts and opinions. I have come to the conclusion that she does not have her own thoughts, but only those she was trained to say.
I'm through with doubt
There's nothing left for me to figure out
I've paid a price
And I'll keep paying

I even told her I have done my own research, just as I was allowed to do and came to my own conclusions about it all. I asked, got what I asked for, and I have paid the price for it, but I am glad I did it, even though sometimes I feel sorrow over it. However, I do not feel sorrow currently. Right now, I am glad I did it and would not change it for the world. If she truly wants me to think for myself, as she says she does, then why take so much offense to the words I say?

She was surprised to be lumped in with those who have hurt me with religion? She was not and I said nothing but good about her and I tried to show her that, by sharing the blog post where I did talk about her. Thus, she was not lumped in with Evangelicals and she is still not, but that does not mean she has not hurt me. That is, she had not until now and if she never brings herself to read what I have written here, then what can I say? It only tells me that she does not want to even try to understand my point of view or even from where I am coming.

I still appreciate her as a friend very dearly and will even miss her friendship, if it is truly lost, because she is like a sister to me, but I cannot see how it will work if this is what I get in return, even with honest questions in which I mean no ill-will towards her. Apparently, we have both learned all we need and there is nothing left to figure out, leaving us to pay a price, which one or both of us will keep paying. I, for one, am grateful for what I have learned, for it has left me with little doubts, and obviously I am still learning, but her behaviour is not going to change any of my views. Neither one of us can change the other and I never once expected to change her views or beliefs, whether she realizes it or not. I value our friendship too much to impose my views on her, but that does not mean, I will not ask her tough questions when they come to mind, if she decides to stay friends that is and allows me to have my views. However, I am getting the feeling that will not happen, no matter how many openings I give her to expand on her statements.

All I can do is sigh and keep any further thoughts I may have to myself. What did I expect of her? I expected far better of her than this. Sadly, I did not get what I expected from her and I doubt that I ever will, thus all I can do is sigh and say my fellow non-theists were right about pretty much everything. I wanted to say to each and every one of you, “You are wrong. Not all Christians are like that. Not all Christians are threatened by us.” Sadly, I cannot and I am only left to retreat from this whole situation, back to those who share my views leaving any hopes of making any headway into even one single Christian understanding any of us without feeling threatened. You all were right and I was wrong. Needless to say, I am heartbroken that it looks like I have lost a long time friend in the process, but what was I suppose to do? Continue to lie about my views and pay her lip-service, when she herself said she “would rather see someone commit fully to another religion than half-ass their way through Christianity”? Even though humanism is not a religion.

No, I need to tell the truth about my non-theism, instead of hiding in order to please and appease others. I cannot continue to be quiet about religious abuse. I need to share my story and speak my mind. If I do not, the same patterns will continue. Regardless, it is sad and disheartening “that the words I say can send somebody over the edge”. What I have written stands and what I publish in my book will not change much, except to polish and expand a little on some of the things I have written. Of course, this and many of my other rants will not be included in my book.

That said, it would be far more healing and not at all a dishonour, if we could still be friends. In the end, it could be a potential means of gaining some understanding and compassion for the views of the other, especially of non-theists. I am not so sure it will begin with the two of us though, because I have a feeling she would rather turn a blind eye to religious abuse or call it not true Christianity, than confront it. When and if she is ever ready, I will be here, even though religious abuse is only one reason I am a humanist and if per chance she sees this and reads it, I hope she realizes that I have nothing against her, but am deeply sadden by how things seemed to have turned out between us. However, I hope, if this is not truly over, we can still be friends, regardless of our disagreements, because it was never my intention to hurt her.

* The two quotes above are from "Not Ready To Make Nice" by the Dixie Chicks.



8/18/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Their eyes were holden that they should not know him

by Doc Mike

According to the , ' closest friends didn't recognize him after the resurrection. John tells us (in 20:14) that , a woman Jesus had a questionable past with, looked right at him but didn't know who he was. In Mark 16:12, two of Jesus' disciples didn't recognize him because he "appeared in another form." And according to Luke 24:16, their eyes were "holden" so they wouldn't know him.

Assuming there was ever a historic Jesus and that the were even loosely based on actual events (which I greatly doubt), I think there is a much simpler explanation. Maybe it wasn't him at all! Maybe the disciples didn't recognize him because it wasn't the same dude! Maybe they wanted so much to believe that he had risen, that they voted in a new Messiah.

"Sure, he looks different and walks with a limp, but he knows all the scriptures and what a great story this will make! He rose from the dead! Praise the Lord!"

What do you think?

John 20:14 And when she [Mary Magdalene] had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

Mark 16:12 After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country.

Luke 24:16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.


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8/14/2009                                                                                       View Comments

Soul Food for Thought

by WizenedSage

A painting of God watching as an angel and a d...Image via Wikipedia

Consider the matter of the soul. Ask a Christian when the soul enters the body and he may say at conception, or some number of weeks after conception, or at birth. Ask him how he knows this and the only answer he can give is that he read it, someone told him, or “it just makes sense.” Christians have been arguing amongst themselves about this for thousands of years. Ask him how big the soul is and he may answer that it’s microscopic, or fills the whole body, or anything in between. Again, he knows this because he has read it or been told it. Ask him where in the body the soul resides and he may say the heart or that it’s diffused throughout the body. Again, he’s read this or been told this.

Ask four Christians to define soul and you’ll likely get four different answers. Ask him if a six-month old baptized baby who dies will spend eternity as a six-month old baby and watch him squirm.

If it happens that the soul simply doesn’t exist, then Christianity has a huge problem concerning the afterlife. Ask him why science has never been able to detect or measure a human soul and he will likely answer that’s because the soul is immaterial. So is it matter or energy? He will likely say it is energy. What kind of energy - electrical, magnetic, gravitational, or chemical? He will probably say that it isn’t any of those, but something entirely different that science can’t detect. How does he know this? Well, because science has never detected it, of course. The circularity of this answer may or may not occur to him, but even if it does, it’s not likely to trouble him because he takes it as a given that the soul exists and, if no scientific instrument can detect it, then that’s just too bad for science.

Ask the Christian if anyone ever demonstrated to him the existence of the soul and he’s going to have to think very hard before answering. The real answer, of course, is no, but he may well come up with some cockamamie story that purports to be a demonstration.

The problem here is that all the evidence for the soul, ALL THE EVIDENCE, is hearsay. People have written about this entity, and they have talked about it, but as far as anyone truly knows, it was all just made up. No one has ever demonstrated the existence of the soul, and this is why no one knows - so there is no consensus on - when it enters the body, how big it is, where it resides, or what it’s made of. Even the Bible is curiously silent on these issues.

If it happens that the soul simply doesn’t exist, then Christianity has a huge problem concerning the afterlife. Obviously, the human body does not survive death since it is routinely either buried or cremated. Then what does survive, if not the soul? Without the soul, heaven and hell are meaningless concepts because there is no way to get to either. And, how an immaterial entity could contain the essence of an individual human – his memories, his beliefs, his personality - simply beggars the imagination. Is it like the code in old American Indian smoke signals? Now it’s not surprising that the Christians have made something up, but how many are aware of just how little evidence there is for the soul, on which depends the essence of their entire religion? How many, do you suppose, have ever given a serious thought to this problem?




8/12/2009                                                                                       View Comments

A Debased Mind

By Aaron

Hi. My name is Aaron. I was a Christian for the better part of 24 years. I was very closed minded, fearful, rejecting of any other walk of life, and judgmental of any and all nouns not associated with my belief system. I also had a false moral compass. But that's not what I want to write about today... Within the past 2 months, I have deconverted, and now consider myself mostly to be an agnostic theist.

Yesterday, I got my first phone call from a Christian acquaintance, asking me why I haven't been in contact. I explained my situation to him openly, and honestly. He responded, paraphrasing scripture: "Aaron, God will give you over to a debased mind if you want it. You have free will. But you need to know that you’re being a coward by dropping your weapons." This is me paraphrasing his paraphrasing, just to be clear.

COMMENCE RANTING:

A "debased" mind?

Apparently, when a person decides to reject a man made ideology which is riddled with closed-minded rhetoric, the literary god of that ideology gives that person over, without hesitation, to a debased mind.

Well thank god!

The same god that said it's okay to murder as long as it's for "His" glory, but also clearly stated that "Thou shalt not kill" (among many other clever dichotomies), also said that it's okay for you to "corrupt" your mind with a capacity for free thought. How wonderful!

I admire this rhetoric for its monumental potential to seize the minds of impressionable people. In tandem with the concept of eternal fire and brimstone for those who reject the Holy Book, this creates a very efficient fear-based system that keeps the reader on his or her toes!

It's no wonder that the Holy Bible is a best-seller. I have much respect for the authors of this book - they paved the way for televangelists, preachers, priests, pastors, and Christian authors to make obscene amounts of money, by taking advantage of those fearful followers.

Now, let's break this section of the best-seller down, from a logical, rational, and most importantly, OBJECTIVE standpoint (i.e. I have no reason to defend it anymore, since I am no longer consumed with blind faith and cognitive dissonance):


From Romans Chapter 1 (English Standard Version):
"[28] And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. [29] They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, [30] slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, [31] foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless."

This is to say that once one rejects the ideas of a supreme being as dictated by the Holy Bible, one becomes susceptible to all of the horrible things listed in verses 29-31.

Let's break a few of these down, from a biblical and righteous perspective, shall we?

"evil," "inventors of evil," :
"And it came to pass, when the evil spirit from God was upon Saul, that David took an harp, and played with his hand: so Saul was refreshed, and was well, and the evil spirit departed from him." (I Samuel 16:23, KJV)

"And the evil spirit from the LORD was upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his javelin in his hand: and David played with his hand." (I Samuel 19:9, KJV)

"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things." (Isaiah 45:7, KJV)

So, we've established that the LORD invented and continues to invent evil. Here we find that by denying the Holy Spirit, you can become godlike! Cool! Well, unfortunately I have no desire to create evil. Unlike "God", I'm more compassionate, loving, and accepting when it comes to people of all walks of life (yes, even if it does go against what the Bible says, then doesn't say, then says again, etc., ad nausea).

"unrighteousness," "covetousness, malice." "envy," "strife, deceit, maliciousness." "gossips, slanderers," "insolent, haughty, boastful," "foolish," :

Sounds like social interactions after Sunday church service to me! All kidding aside - as a former Christian, I witnessed more of these "qualities" (heavy emphasis on "gossip", "malice" and "slander") in people back then than I do now in a community with free thinkers. My only explanation for this is that I've put some distance between myself and fundamentalists! Go figure.

Moving on.

"disobedient to parents,"
"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple." (Luke 14:26, KJV)

Well I can see why one would hate one's own parents, especially in the case of Lot attempting to whore his own daughters out for the sake of two angels.

(Note: For the sake of continuity, I won't be referencing those verses in full text, but I can direct you to Genesis Chapter 19, if you're unaware of this biblical atrocity.)

Well, apparently Lot's daughters didn't think much of his evil actions, given the fact that they got him drunk soon thereafter, and engaged in incestuous sexual acts with him, in order to preserve his coward seed.

It's a shame Jesus Christ hadn't come around yet. He could have made Lot's daughters his disciples, and they'd have hated their father! Oh wait, that's right, according to the bible, women are inferior and can't become disciples. Too bad.

(The contradictions and conundrums here are overwhelming.)

Moving right along!

"murder"
"The righteous shall rejoice when he sees the vengeance. He shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked." (Psalms 58:10)

There are many, many verses in Holy Bible promoting murder (even in the New Testament), as long as it's the wicked being killed. And the word "wicked" is a loaded one. It could mean "unbeliever", "homosexual"... Hell, it could even mean a murderer! Well, I am a firm believer that "an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind". And yes, I know, Christ came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. To absolve man from the punishment from God's [man-made] laws concerning evil things like premarital sex, and free thought. Well all that tells me is that Jesus came a few thousand years too late. And with events like the Crusades, the Inquisition, and god-fearing groups like the "God Hates Fags" cult (all of which can be "justified" through scripture), I can only conclude that the punishment of God's law was truly a man-made concept, and Jesus could have done a better job of dying for our "sins".

So, if another Christian tells me that God is giving me over to a "debased" mind, all I can do is ask:

Whose mind is really debased here?