2/19/2010                                                                                       View Comments

2/04/2010                                                                                       View Comments

Faith In Hearsay

By WizenedSage

Religious fictionImage by ajschu via Flickr

Christian, your faith is not really in god and Jesus. Your faith is really in those men who wrote those ancient texts that now comprise the Bible. Now I’m not going to ask you to believe anything without providing evidence; I wouldn’t insult your intelligence that way. But let me show you the other side of this “faith” coin.

Let me repeat my thesis; your faith is really in those men who wrote those ancient texts. This is a very important point which, I’ll wager, you have never seriously analyzed. As you well know, you learned about god and Jesus from another human who told you about them. God and Jesus did not just appear to you. Someone told you about them, and you may have learned more by reading about them in the Bible and other books. This is what our courts call hearsay evidence, which can be defined as “evidence based not on a witness' personal knowledge but on another's statement.” It’s all about what other people have said or written. There’s nothing out in the world that we can all see together or test with instruments and come to the same conclusions about (this is why there have been so many gods claimed to exist). It is vitally important that you recognize that all anyone today really “knows” about god or Jesus is based on what was written by primitive people that you never met and know almost nothing about.

Neither god nor Jesus has ever shown himself to you directly in an unambiguous way. You may have had feelings, but feelings are just emotions and the only thing emotions can prove is that you’re human. When the Muslim says he has felt the presence of Mohamed, are you convinced? Couldn’t it just be a shot of adrenaline in his brain that caused his skin to tingle and the hairs on his neck to rise? Couldn’t that explain your feelings just as well? Could the Muslim suicide bomber blow himself up if he didn’t have convincing feelings? Yet, you know for certain that the Muslim is wrong about Allah and Mohamed.

You may argue that you have a “relationship” with Jesus. But how does one have a relationship with a being who has never acknowledged your existence? Have you actually seen him? Has he talked to you or left you a phone message? Is that really a relationship? Isn’t that pretty much the same kind of “relationship” I had with Marilyn Monroe when I was a teenage boy?

All you have learned about god and Jesus comes directly or indirectly from the Bible. Now how do you know these Biblical authors were telling the truth? How could you? They wrote about things that supposedly happened thousands of years ago; things that left little or no archaeological evidence, no confirmation by unbiased contemporary historians, and there are no photos, film, or DNA. And don’t just read apologist literature to prove I’m wrong here, read the other side too. You must know that the apologists only see what they want to see and ignore the rest.

And what do you really know about these Bible writers and the quality of their testimony? Can you be sure that they weren’t just drunk or eating mushrooms, or schizophrenic, prone to epileptic visions, delusional, or simply con men seeking power and influence? Do you really know for sure? How could you?

Yes, I’ve heard the story that Jesus’ disciples were willing to die for him, so that proves he was the real thing. This is really a silly argument. Jim Jones’ followers in Guyana were so convinced he was a genuine prophet that they drank the Kool-Aid. Does this make him a prophet? History is full of examples of people willing to die for things that weren’t true.

You are perfectly aware that these authors wrote some incredibly unlikely stories about things that you wouldn’t believe if you read about them in any other book. You would not believe that knowledge of good and evil could reside in a piece of fruit if you read it in any other book. And if you think those stories weren’t meant to be taken literally, then how do you know that for sure? The Bible itself never provides a clue except on those few occasions when Jesus announces he’s going to discuss a parable. And if those other wild Bible stories are just metaphors, then how can you be sure that the Resurrection was not also meant metaphorically – or heaven and hell, for that matter? Was Jesus just a metaphor? And what about god?

Obviously, everybody will draw the fact-fiction lines in different places if the Bible is full of metaphor. How could a god actually teach the facts, the truth that way? Isn’t that why there are so many different Christian sects, because everyone makes his own determination of what’s real and what’s metaphor, and what’s important and what’s not? Why would a god leave so much up for interpretation about stuff that’s vitally important, even life and death important? Wouldn’t that be rather careless for a god? Doesn’t all this suggest pretty strongly that men wrote this stuff all on their own? Wouldn’t a real god have done a much better, much clearer job of it?

If you take the Bible stories literally, then how do you hold down the doubts? Those writers wrote about talking animals and magical fruit trees and food falling from the sky and dragons and unicorns and 900 year-old men. How can you read of such things and not have serious doubts about the accuracy of those authors? Why do we never see any of these amazing things today? Did the world used to be full of magic and now it’s not? If god used these awesome signs to convince people in those ancient times, then why does he expect us to just take these writers at their word for them? If god thought he needed to show those primitive people signs, then wouldn’t it be pretty unfair of him to expect us much better educated, more skeptical people to just believe without any signs?

And surely you know that some of the things they wrote have been proven to be scientifically wrong or impossible. For example, they wrote that the world is flat (Daniel 4:10-11), but we now have pictures that prove it’s a sphere. They wrote that the earth is fixed, didn’t move (1 Chronicles 16:30), but we now know the earth moves very fast as it orbits the sun. The Bible authors wrote that all those tiny points of light called stars would someday fall to the earth, but they’re billions of objects which are all vastly bigger than the earth. They wrote that disease is caused by demons. We have since proven that disease is caused by microorganisms, congenital defects, or toxic chemicals. They wrote, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree (22 Matthew 13:31-32).” We now know many other plant’s seeds, such as orchids, are smaller, and shrubs do not grow into trees. They also wrote about 4-legged fowl (there never were any) and rusting gold and silver (they don’t rust – never have).

These writers were obviously very ignorant about how the world really works. Isn’t it likely that they made stuff up to fill the gaps in their knowledge? In fact, haven’t we just proven that they did so, given their theories of the flat, immovable earth, tiny stars, 4-legged birds, etc.?

Of course, the Bible says you just have to have faith. But, if someone says to you, “Just take my word for it,” aren’t you suspicious? Shouldn’t you be? Doesn’t that suggest pretty strongly that he can’t make a very good case for whatever he’s selling? Don’t you suspect that he might be hiding something? This is the same tactic used to fill the mosques and Hindu places of worship, you know; people are told, “You just have to have faith.” Does it really make sense to you that a god created human intelligence and curiosity, but wants you to just shut it off when it comes to religion?

Everything that has been said or written about god or Jesus in the past 2,000 years and more is based on the writings of these ancient, unknown primitives. EVERYTHING! You see, your faith ultimately depends on these writers, one-hundred percent. Your faith is not really in god and Jesus, your faith is in these anonymous scribes and the hope that they were telling you the facts, the real truth about things. If they were wrong, then so are you. How can you have so much faith in people you never knew, people who may have been utterly whacko or devious, people who have, in fact, been proven to be wrong about so much? That is a faith with a pretty shaky foundation, isn’t it? What did those writers do to deserve such trust from you? Shouldn’t you think about this some more?




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.

2/02/2010                                                                                       View Comments

Deprogramming the Deprogrammer

By Dealdoctor

What We Call a Sinny Sinny SinImage by Chicago Man via Flickr
As you read the material below which I found at some website that probably has a Christian bias and defines a “cult” as something other than Christianity. As an Ex-Christian you might find something enlightening in the fact that Christianity is obviously a “cult” itself and there is a bit of humor in those in a “cult” seeking to deprogram someone who is entrapped in a “cult”. The de-conversion process is nothing other than being deprogrammed from the Christian “cult” in the same way that Christians want their “wayward members” who have fallen into the clutches of an evil “cult” to be deprogrammed. It might be interesting as you go through the process of de-conversion out of Christianity or as you reflect on your own de-conversion out of Christianity think about what that that adventure has in common with the instruction given at ehow.com to those who want to learn how to deprogram a religious “cult” member. I will put a few comments of my own in CAPS and you might think what comments you might have made to this article.



How to Deprogram a Religious Cult Member

Deprogramming of religious cult members is a controversial topic, primarily because it is often done without the consent of the cult member. Families of cult members often resort to kidnapping them to get them away from the group. If you feel you have no choice but to deprogram a loved one who has joined a cult, be sure to use the help of a professional exit counselor.

Step 1
Isolate the cult member from the group and bring them to a safe and secure place.

DID YOU NEED TO GET OUT OF THE CHURCH TO HELP YOU HAVE A CLEAR PERSPECTIVE THAT WOULD BE DIFFICULT IF YOU WERE THERE EVERY WEEK?

Step 2
Use a professional counselor to conduct exit The counselor will spend the entire first day trying to get the cult member to think through the reasons he joined the religious cult.

DID YOU NEED TO HAVE SOMEONE WITH A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE THAT CHANLLENGED THE STANDARD CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW ENTER YOUR LIFE?

Step 3
View video tapes with the cult member about other religious or political mind controlling groups. Discuss these groups and the reasons the members followed them.

DID YOU BEGIN TO SEE THAT CHRISTIANITY HAD MUCH IN COMMON WITH OTHER GROUPS UNDER THE SPELL OF DOGMA AND SUPERSITION?

Step 4
Show the cult member evidence, such as newspaper articles, of her organization being a cult. Allow the member to challenge the evidence. Discuss the subject until it is somewhat resolved.

DID READING MATERIAL THAT CHALLENGED THE CHRISTIAN WORLDVIEW HAVE A PART IN YOUR COURGE TO SAY GOOD-BYE?

Step 5
Discuss what the member feels is right and wrong about his organization. Read passages from the Bible that contradict what the cult leaders have said. Talk about how the leaders lied to and misled the members.

I FIND FUNNY HERE THAT THE BIBLE IS TO BE CONSULTED TO PROVE THAT THE CULT IS NOT SO GOOD FOR SOMONE. WHAT ABOUT THE ATHIEST PRINCES VOLTAIRE AND INGERSOLL?

Step 6
Ask the cult member if he is ready to make a decision regarding future involvement with the religious cult on the third or fourth day of deprogramming. Often by now he is ready to choose not to return to the cult.

WAS THERE A DAY OF DECISION FOR YOU WHEN YOU LEFT THE ADULT SANTA JESUS IN THE SAME WAY YOU LEFT THE CHILDHOOD SANTA? DID A DAY OF RECONING COME FOR YOU IN WHICH YOU MADE A CHOICE TO LET GO?

Step 7
Provide a safe place for the ex-cult member to stay. Follow up contact with the exit counselor is an important step in the deprogramming to help her to stay strong in her conviction not to return to the organization.

HAVE YOU FOUND A SAFE PLACE TO BE A NON-BELIEVER?


How to Identify Cults

Instructions

Step 1
Watch for changes in the individual's personality and a growing estrangement from or even hostility towards family and friends. Cult members are discouraged from remaining in contact with former associates who might cause them to doubt the teachings and practices of the cult. Members are indoctrinated to distrust anyone who criticizes the cult or leader(s).

DO YOU MEAN HOW THOSE BORN AGAIN ARE IN CHURCH EVERY TIME THE DOORS ARE OPEN AND NO LONGER HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THEIR OLD SECULAR FRIENDS?

Step 2
Be aware. Cult members are often convinced to contribute all of their money and goods to the cult as a sign of their commitment. There is a strong emphasis on collecting money, which is often made by selling goods to the public and then donating it to the cult as part of their ministry. They spend much time recruiting other members, which they do by preying on their emotions.

DO YOU MEAN LIKE THE EARLY CHRISTIANS TOOK ALL THEIR POSESSIONS AND LAID THEM AT THE FEET OF THE APOSTLES OR HOW MODERN CHRISTIANS TITHE? OR ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT THE CHURCH BAKE SALES AND RUMMAGE SALES. COULD YOU POSSIBLY MEAN HOW CHRISTIANS TRY TO EVANGELIZE EVERYTHING THAT BREATHES? BUT OF COURSE NOT THAT WOULD BE “CULT”.

Step 3
Recognize the lack of control over the member's private life. Cult leaders monopolize the member's time and relationships, cultivating complete dependence on themselves and the cult. Members are taught to distrust anyone outside the cult and are discouraged from reading any material except what is provided or approved by the cult. Marriges and living arrangements (usually communal living) are dictated by cult leaders.

DO YOU MEAN HOW CHRISTIANS ARE ALWAYS TALKING ABOUT HOW COOL THEIR PASTOR IS OR HOW THEY SPEND ALL THEIR SPARE TIME AT THE CHURCH, WORKING TO EVANGELIZE FOR THE CHURCH OR HOW EVEN THEIR MARRIAGES HAVE TO BE CONFIRMED AT THE CHURCH?

Step 4
Note that cult members are discouraged from thinking for themselves. They are given little or no time alone and are constantly engaged in physical or group activities. They are engaged in mind altering behaviors, such as chanting, denunciation of selves and others and encouraged to report suspicious behaviors of other cult members, including their own families. Shame and fear of alienation cements their dependence on the cult.

DISCOURAGED FROM THINKING FOR THEMSEVES? WELL “CULTS” SURE BUT THE CHURCH REALLY IS ALL ABOUT FREE THINKING, RIGHT? (GRIN). SHEESH!

Step 5
Notice the unquestioning dedication which cult followers exhibit towards their leader. They learn to rationalize his behaviors even if these contradict previously held beliefs or common sense. They believe happiness and redemption comes solely from their leader(s) and they will sacrifice nearly everything for the benefit of the cult.

DO YOU MEAN HOW CHRISTIANS IDOLIZE JESUS? OR HOW THEY IDOLIZE THEIR PASTORS? I AM UNSURE JUST WHAT CONNECTION I SHOULD MAKE HERE?

Step 6
Keep in mind that forcing or coercing a member to leave a cult can cause psychological and emotional damage. They have been programmed to believe God will punish them if they leave, and threats are used to force them to maintain silence about cult activities. It is necessary to get help from a professional deprogrammer and assure that they are kept away from other active cult members.

OH, YOU MEAN HOW CHRISTIANS ARE MADE TO FEAR HELL IF THEY LEAVE THE CHURCH OR HOW THEIR OWN FAMILIES GIVE THEM HELL IF THEY QUESTION CHRISTIANITY? NO? WELL OF COURSE NOT THAT WOJLD MAKE CHRISTIANITY ITSELF JUST ONE MORE CULT!

Gosh, we better get serious about getting folks out of those horrible “cults” and back in the church pews where they belong. Is that why they call it Christian CULTure? I think there needs to be someone who is out there to deprogram the deprogrammer. How about you?