2/03/2010                                                                                       View Comments

Do You Believe in Magic? (And I Hope You Don't)

By Bret P

RAOK Suggestion #5 Do a magic trickImage by garethjmsaunders via Flickr

I'll freely admit that I've become somewhat cantankerous lately. It's not that I'm an angry person, in fact I'm far from it. I laugh at life's follies, and thoroughly enjoy my existence. I am frustrated however.

Because of my past associations with various churches and living in the bible belt for ten years, a good majority of my Facebook friends are believers. There is quite a range in the levels of rationality and amicability among them, but given my fundamentalist background, it's understandable that I would have a few that are extreme on the right (some of those who are extreme are attempting to understand, so I don't want to lump them into one solid mass).

Needless to say I really can't go a day (yes I'm a Facebook addict) without seeing some kind of "praise the lord" or other wishful thinking in my news feed. This isn't really a problem in and of itself, and far be it for me to curb anyone's freedom of expression.

I'm relatively new in my committed stance on the improbability of a deity. I'm coming out of the closet so to speak, and just feel the need to break the assumption that I agree with my former associated theists.

Once in awhile I'll post something on my wall that might be a little agitating to believers, but since it's on my own page, I feel I'm within my right to express my thoughts and feelings. For me it's more about initiating discussion and raising awareness, not just to be controversial. Well I posted a status update over the weekend that got some unexpected attention:

"I wonder what our national debt would look like if churches weren't exempt from paying taxes. Hmm. We probably wouldn't have a national debt."

Now I would hope it's somewhat obvious that I intended it to be a more tongue in cheek comment about the separation of church and state, rather than a solution for our enormous national debt. Of course not everyone knows me well enough to get my humor style, but boy did I get a couple of interesting responses.

One of my very conservative friends made a joke about the government taking the money and doing nothing with it, which I thought was clever and funny. I agreed and elaborated a bit on why I made the comment in the first place. No issues there.

My thread caught the eye of the daughter of one my former pastors, and without engaging in the discussion at all, she posted "Answer not a FOOL!" in the comment thread. I felt the need to address this, as I thought it very rude and immature, but she had de-friended me. Talk about a hit and run comment. No tears shed for this loss. I think it's actually quite funny (and also sad).

What I wasn't prepared for was a rather fiery reply from a former college classmate. The details aren't all that important, but she obviously didn't understand my intent. I called her out on some of her points, to which I got an even more fiery, condescending, and very defensive reply.

What stood out was her outrage that I made a claim that the church promotes scientific illiteracy, and ranted about how she had two science degrees (bachelor's in nursing, currently working on her master's) and still believes in creationism.

I think this is pretty easy to detangle. Just because someone understands how the body works, doesn't mean that they understand (or need to believe) the documented evidence of how it evolved in the first place. Do I really need to list the evidence for evolution, abiogenesis, and the big bang?

This person may be scientifically literate in the function of the human body, but failed on a fundamental level to apply scientific methods and principles to her own belief system. Since she is a self proclaimed believer in creationism, it's safe to assume that she believes in magic.

God magically created humans. God magically concocted the Genesis flood (by all scientific accounts, the whole story is absolutely absurd). Snakes and donkeys talk, bodies of water part into walls, a virgin was impregnated by a spirit, a man comes back from the dead, and an invisible spirit dwells and manifests itself in humans. The list goes on and on (which I'm sure most anyone who reads this is more than familiar).

Of course it's very likely that I may be de-friended when this gets published. I won't deny that there is commendable charity work being done by religious institutions, and for that specific work I believe that tax exemption is valid.

What I have a problem with is that these institutions have no reasonable evidence for their claims and beliefs, yet they use tax free money to proselytize, advertise, and exert influence on politics. This is a HUGE violation of the establishment clause in the first amendment of the constitution.

I'd absolutely love it if I could put on a concert and rant my ideals to a willing audience, and take up donations tax free. I understand why there was such fiery backlash as the Christian right gets quite defensive when their tax exempt status is threatened (and I'm severely skeptical that my Facebook comment has the power to do this).

Christians seem to be all for free speech, until someone criticizes their claims and status. I shouldn't be surprised how my rather benign observation created such a fired up response, but I am.

Everyone has the right to believe what they want, and I fully support that right. I also exercise the right to criticize claims of magic (even if it's disguised as miraculous events caused by almighty god). I find it far more inspiring to explore and try to understand the wonders of the universe than to be awed by anecdotes of magic. Even in disagreement may we continue to discuss, debate, and express our opinions in a civil and intellectually honest manner.

39 comments:

webmdave said...

He PAID for that hair? He actually went into a clinic, pointed to a picture in a catalog and said, "THAT's the hairstyle I want!"?

webmdave said...

John C -

Peter peddles his miracle manna and LeRoy sells his miracle water (from a well in the mid west - god told him where to drill). Richard Roberts is famed Oral Roberts' son. Paul and Jan Crouch founded the PTL Network television empire. You haven't lived if you have not seen Jan Crouch!! She has pink hair (not punker pink, old lady pink....she's in her 60's). She can't speak without crying (black streaks of eye liner running over her cheeks, a-la Tammy Fae); typical Pentecostal lunatic.

What can I say about Benny....maybe the richest and certainly the worst of the bunch; con-man extrordinaire! With all of his healing ministry he had to rely on getting hair plugs for his curse of baldness. His god wasn't even powerful enough to tickle his follicles into action. LOL (:D

XPD

webmdave said...

It seems christians in general are very much for rights when they apply to themselves and quite against rights for anyone who believes anything different.

webmdave said...

Yeah. I don't want to hide my nieces though, in case they say something I want to know about someone in the family. They live closer to other family members than I, and sometimes they will mention visiting someone and how that person is doing, etc.

webmdave said...

hey lisa, just wondering here. Did you get my thank-you message in your e-mail O.K. ( from my good christians with non-working noses ) post ? It was at the end of a long "back and forth", so I figured for sure you didn't get it. Anyway, Thank-You. summerbreeze

webmdave said...

Benny pops up on Australian TV but I have not heard of LeRoy and friends.
I pretty fond of Peter Popoff and his path to wealth and happiness through Miacle Manna.

webmdave said...

I just discovered that you can hide individuals from your news feed. At least I can reduce the number of posts I see.

That'll come it quite handy.

webmdave said...

Unfortunately, it is the mindset of many, that it's okay to spend billions (in defecit) to attack a nation that was not involved in 9/11, but it is socialism to use the same tax dollars to improve the lives of U.S. citizens.

webmdave said...

It's true! People around the world find it hard to believe that in the USA, in the 21st century, with all of the USA's achievements in science and technology, 80% of the population still believes in god and more than 50% believe in creation and nearly 60% believe in angels and demons !

webmdave said...

"all for free speech, until someone criticizes their claims..."

I just cannot understand it!!! If, in another situation, someone got defensive about criticism of their position on a NON-religious matter, the xtian would be suspicious of this person's position based simply on their defensive reaction to the criticism. Yet the xtian cannot see themselves as this defensive person in a religious context. This lack of consistent reasoning (or perhaps introspection) is what led me away from xtianity...or anything that behaves in the same/similar manner. Can anyone please explain this to me?

webmdave said...

Yup ! !

webmdave said...

Bret, you have my sympathy, you have fallen among evil companions. Beyond question, it it high time to appraise the lord. The young lady who called you a fool should be admonished. Jesus said that whoever calls someone a fool, is in danger of hellfire. ( She shouldn't sweat it too much, as the late JC also called people fools.) Encourage your religious kin & friends to read that goddam book-ALL of it. As the late great Mark Twain said: it's the worlds best cure for Xianity. I envy you the fun you're having. :-)

webmdave said...

Currently, the churches own, collectively, over 25 % of all the privately owned land in the United States-tax-free. This is the ONE thing our founders screwed up on. They envisioned the 'little brown church in the vale'. Pres. Grant was the last one to foresee the absurdity we have today. In his message to congress, he warned thet there would come a day when religion would be a BILLION Dollar A YEAR 'industry'. The whirring sound you may hear is Grant , in his grave, spinning like a pinwheel. His congress, like todays, ignored his warning.

webmdave said...

Hi reader, For what little it's worth, the religion industry (for that's what it is) has a GROSS annual income approaching 100 Billion dollars annually. About 5 % of this obscene amount goes to 'honest to god" charity. The other 95% goes to the maintainance of those august bodies. Even our wasteful Gov't can do vastly better than that.

webmdave said...

Here is my niece's daily contribution to FB. "Satan's number one weapon is pride. God's number one defense is humility. -- Larry Burkett"

I can ignore these little trinkets. I couldn't ignore my sister's post of "Letter From Hell" that she and others of her church were sending to children, especially her response to me when I told her I thought it was frightening and a bad thing to send out to kids. So, I actually un-friended my sister. (If you haven't seen this, look it up on You Tube. Disgusting.)

But, I keep my FB account in order to view photos of my grandbaby and keep up with my kids and a couple of old friends. Since most of my family are christians (except my kids), I don't post any atheist thoughts, but I do post intelligent thoughts by Twain, Jefferson, and others. I doubt that they will make my relatives think any more than their christian posts will make me a christian.

webmdave said...

Hey, Reader...you said = "The way the Government spends our money, AND ESPECIALLY THE WAY THE C U R R E N T ADMINISTRATION spends it, is a disgrace."..............What ? Were you living in a cave on the moon when "W" went thru A SURPLUS like it was water, and cow-towed to the super-rich, ignoring the average Joe, and left this country in the worst mess it has ever been in ? ? ? He'll go down in History as the worst President ever, I'll bet my eye-sight on it.

webmdave said...

I can relate to your problem with Facebook. I have deactivated my Facebook recently mainly for the same reasons you have been dealing with. I, too, live in the buckle of the bible belt and felt in the minority being an atheist. By the way, in my profile I did say I was an atheist. I would say about 95% of my FB "friends" were Christian. So many times I wanted to post something that I know would have caused a major uproar among my FB Christian friends so I refrained. I started to hide the people who were the most annoying Christians. I kept telling my husband, "if they (Christians) can express their opinions about Christianity why can't I express my opinions of not believing in God?" He thought especially living here in South Carolina that the Christian FB "friends" could not take it and it would cause an argument and make me very upset. So many times I would just sit silently and my poor husband had to hear me bitch about those stupid Christians.

Like you I was addicted to Facebook too. I made the decision over two weeks ago to deactivate my account. It was tough at first and I've had withdrawals but I don't have to read those Christian comments which made me angry and frustrated. I finally get that you can't argue with a Christian. I know because I used to be one of them so I try to remember how I used to be. I would not have believed an atheist and would have put them in an evil box and "pray for them". Those days are over! If I do decide to go back to FB, I will pick the "friends" I want and put the ones I don't on block.

webmdave said...

Forgive them, father, they know not what what they do - & say.

webmdave said...

From where we sit, it's an affirmation of GULLIBILITY !

webmdave said...

You can lead a horse to water
but you cannot make him drink
you can send a fool to college
but you cannot make him think

webmdave said...

Thank you! I have been collecting quotes for a while now and have a rather large collection scattered about in flash drives and on my computer. Now, all I need to do is consolidate it..... eeek

webmdave said...

I totally disagree. The churches get way too much money and they don't share it with many people. Yeah yeah every once in a while they toss a few coins out when others are watching, just to keep up appearances. I can't see how such an accumulation of secular wealth and land is a boost to spiritual health. If anything, they should at least be opening their doors to take care of the poor and the widows and the least of these instead of building bigger and fancier buildings for their weekly fashion shows. If they don't pay taxes then they don't need government services. Police and firemen have better things to do than watch over a building that is used once a week. How many homeless are there? How many abused women and children need a safe haven? How many people need help with providing basics like food, running water and power to their families? How many preachers drive around in expensive cars and wear fancy clothes?

At least with the government, all of us have a chance of getting something back from them but try going to a church and asking for help and see what happens. Make sure you wipe your feet.... you don't want to soil the new carpet.

webmdave said...

Zombies rise out of graves and amble around. Zombies do not possess higher reasoning skills. Zombies eat the flesh of others. If you eat zombie meat then you will turn into a zombie.


Jesus rose from his grave. People share communion where they eat the flesh of Jesus and drink his blood so they can be like Jesus.


O.o

webmdave said...

"she had two science degrees (bachelor's in nursing, currently working on her master's) and still believes in creationism." She obviously had bad tutors!

I find that totally ridiculous! This is the 21st century!

I also find it ridiculous that churches don't have to pay taxes when they just keep on accumulating wealth and realty.

At last count the RC Church owned over 1 billion dollars of real estate in the USA alone! That's just 1 church.

webmdave said...

I am always amazed at how many magical things christians will believe in. I guess if you are open to believing all the things you listed, why not add hobgoblins and poltergeists, zombies and guardian angels, bad luck black cats and knocking on wood?

Christians are the most superstitious people I know.

webmdave said...

"Christians really have no idea how what they say marginalizes others."

SOME of them know very well.

webmdave said...

I believe (it).

I get these little sayings from my nieces every day.

webmdave said...

My mom is a nurse with a PhD, and a super-Catholic. Recently, she directed a conference, and she did an excellent job. But several of the speakers mentioned God and smugly fished for affirmations, which they got in spades from the audience. “Yes!” “Uh-huh!” The keynote speaker, Ambassador Margaret Heckler, even had a personal faith-healing testimonial. The message was clear: in order to be a good nurse, you have to believe in God, and bring God into the healing process. (I presume no one noticed that God never showed up in the studies that were presented.) Half of me felt like shrinking into a corner; the other half felt like jumping up challenging that non sequitur. Christians really have no idea how what they say marginalizes others.

webmdave said...

The worst part is she's attending graduate school at Vanderbilt University!

Vanderbilt may be conservative, but they're still a top private university. Their science education programs are top notch.

One needs to only understand the function of the body to treat it, but one must understand evolution in order to make advances in medicine. It amazes me that she fails to see this.

webmdave said...

I'm all in favor of tax-exempt status for churches. The way the Government spends our money, and especially the way the current administration spends it, is a disgrace. I'd rather citizens have a way to funnel some of their money to the addiction or religion or debauchery of their choice than have Uncle Sam grab even more than he already does.

And I work for the government. :)

webmdave said...

Thanks for posting that, what a great quote!

webmdave said...

Spence -

You are right, but I think Bret was being more sarcastic than truly questioning in his rant.

I think it is a point that is well taken; it would be grand if we could live like Benny Hinn, Paul & Jan Crouch, LeRoy Jenkins, Richard Roberts, et al. (enter the name of your favorite millionare evangelist) under the guise of needing to be a Tax Free organization, because we are delivering goods and services to the poor and needy (which is why the tax-free status was first enacted).

As for the Nurse that still believes......I know all about that line of resoning. My daughter in law is studying to be a nurse. She is very intelligent (gets staight A's) but when it comes to the myth of religion, OH BOY! I have been forbidden from bringing up anything that goes against God or Catholicism in her home! My poor grand kids get drug to Mass every Sunday.

The medical field is full of believers, doctors and nurses - I'm not sure why that is the case? Good topic for Dr. Valerie Tarico.......what do you think Dr. Val?

XPD

webmdave said...

Well it is THE social networking site, after all. Being social help affirm our faith! 5,000,000 other people liked this

webmdave said...

Don't you know the rules? Status updates are for saying things like "I LUV MY JESUS!" or "HOW GREAT HE ART!" so all your friends can egg you on by clicking the little thumbs-up.

I have no idea how the silly idea got started that non-believers were allowed to post things that expressed their disbelief. Facebook is for praising the Lord and joining groups like "10 ka-zillion-billion Strong for Jesus and Sarah Palin".

Shame on you.

webmdave said...

What stood out was her outrage that I made a claim that the church promotes scientific illiteracy, and ranted about how she had two science degrees (bachelor's in nursing, currently working on her master's) and still believes in creationism.


And she's proud of it. This is why we're a planetary laughing stock.

webmdave said...

Bertrand Russel said "The degree of one's emotions varies inversely with one's knowledge of the facts: The less you know the hotter you get."
Keep that in mind when dealing with those who believe in magic.

webmdave said...

You know a person who's currently in graduate school and believes in creationism...?

Were you ever tempted to poke her with a stick? I always do that with the oddities I find laying about the beach or the woods.

webmdave said...

Bret,

The second half of this Free Thought Radio show has an interview with Michael Gordon an IRS tax attorney who addresses the abuses of clergy housing tax exemption. It covers some of the history behind the tax relationship with churches. Did Jesus have a multi-million dollar home like some of the televangelists and mega church pastors? I thought we were supposed to wait for that in heaven? Oh wait, that is for those in the pew. Here is the link:

http://cdn2.libsyn.com/ffrf/FTradio_193_010210.mp3?nvb=20100203103043&nva=20100204104043&t=030d8e9bc877216154762

webmdave said...

Sounds like familiar territory. Almost makes you feel more vigilant in actually wanting to try to get some of these idiots to think for themselves. I've only recently begun using Facebook, and while I don't really find it at all as appealing or "fun" as say, today's average 8th grader, it can still be useful in keeping in touch, catching up, etc.

I too have several believers as family and friends, and I have also noticed the way Christianity is injected into these everyday, eye roll inducing "status" updates, and however many of their friends "like" this or that. Just yesterday my own sister had posted some kind of "Message from God" type application which is a sort of "daily bread" tidbit that condescends to know just what God wants you to know today! I left a very sarcastic response to it, but it hasn't seemed to ruffle any feathers...yet. Either they don't know how to respond to it or just simply wish to ignore the flipside of the token like the good Christians they are.

Like the girl who "de-friended" you...ooooohhh, how devastating. Scriptures which include the passage "Have nothing to do with them" probably echoed off all four walls of her holier- than- thou little brain.

They post this mindless shit all over the place. Too many people live in fantasyland.