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?

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.

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 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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


How to Identify Cults


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?

Does Christianity Deserve the Respect it Demands?

By Bret P

2006-08-22 - Road Trip - Day 30 - United State...Image by Wellington Grey via Flickr

Christians seem to whine a lot about how they're ridiculed and disrespected in the media, and how this fallen world is somehow persecuting them. I think it's an absolutely laughable claim, especially here in the United States where Christians have far more influence on public and foreign policy than they should.

Now of course there is a spectrum of attitude among the entire Christian community, but I think it's safe to say among the evangelical (basically Protestant non-liturgical) denominations they believe they're being portrayed unfairly by a liberal, intellectually elite media (insert laugh about Fox News here).

Here's a list of my top 10 reasons (listed in no particular order) why Christianity shouldn't be given the respect it demands (and in many cases, should be ridiculed):

• Suspension of Critical Thought - Have "faith like a child" and "lean not on your own understanding". Basically, don't think for yourself, and if you question any logical fallacy, your pastor and fellow flock members can give you plenty of explanations.

• Promotion of Scientific Illiteracy - Evolutionary biology in it's entirety is as much a fact as the earth's orbit around the sun. It's not a matter of opinion, and there is no "alternative" explanation. The bible is not by default correct, nor does it have the authority to trump scientific evidence. Humans were not "created", and it's unlikely that some unseen intelligence put everything into motion (and if you have some tangible evidence to the contrary that is testable, replicable, and not from scripture, I'd love to see it).

• Willful Ignorance and Mistrust of the Scientific Community - When I've asked Christians to define the theories they oppose (evolution, abiogenesis, and universe origins), it's clear that they don't understand them (or the scientific method for that matter). When I offer resources to clarify the theories (with evidence), the usual response is "I'm too busy", or an outright "I don't care to know, and wouldn't believe it if I did see it".

• Intricate Maneuvering of Tough Questions - Ask a Christian the tough questions about contradictions, the suspicious origins, historical inaccuracies, and downright absurdities of the bible, the nature of god, and so on. Most likely you'll get a wide range of parroted responses that are rather elaborate, and in turn create more questions than answers. If it were all true, wouldn't it be pretty simple and straightforward?

• Blatant Dishonesty - Creationist propaganda alone is enough to prove the point. There's no way around it; creation apologists blatantly lie without excuse. What does the scientific community have to gain by lying about its evidence and theories? Nothing! A better understanding of our world helps us make progress, and it improves our quality of life. What do creationists (and subsequently churches) have to lose? A whole lot of tithing, that's what. There's also blatant political propaganda on which party you should vote for (ever so subtle), that gays and lesbians are detrimental to family values, and that our wars are justified because we have god on our side to help us eradicate evil.

• Extraordinary Claims - Do I really have to present the long list of absurdity? To believe in any of it, your critical thought process has to pretty much be eliminated. Christianity claims to factually know the origins of the universe, the earth, life on the planet, and ultimately the future of humankind without sufficient tangible evidence. Christianity also rejects any reasonable argument and tangible evidence against their claims, while demanding respect. And apologists say non-believers are arrogant and closed minded?

• Repulsive Attitudes - What is god's obsession with blood? For millennia he required blood sacrifices for atonement of sin. Of course the ultimate blood sacrifice of Jesus was a human one (and it changed all the rules!). How is a bloodthirsty god who accepts human sacrifice (if you look in the old testament, there are plenty of other human sacrifices) better than any other god? And why does god need to sacrifice Jesus (who is also himself) to appease himself when he created humanity fallible in the first place? Also checkout the long list of atrocities (rape, genocide, slavery) that are condoned (no matter which testament you read).

• Cherry Picking Theology - As we become more civilized, the bible becomes less palatable, but apologists will continue to preach the divinely inspired universal truth of the bible, frequently claiming the new testament trumps the old. The good things Jesus said (like the Beatitudes) are highlighted, but you forget that Jesus is also god (and the same god of the old testament). As mentioned above, that old testament god condoned slavery, rape, and genocide (and within any context is repulsive). Even Jesus condoned (not condemned) slavery. Yes, Jesus was passionate about his ideals (that were well ahead of his time), but he also had a lot of crackpot ideas that most modern Christians don't follow (like abandoning your family, killing people who deny Christ, selling your home and all worldly possessions to give to the poor).

• Atonement - God created humans, knowing that they weren't going to be perfect. When the first humans sin, all subsequent generations are cursed because of this. So basically you're born a rotten human being, repulsive in god's eyes, but he loves you so much, you just have to believe in Jesus so that he won't have to torment you in hell for all eternity. That really can't be good for anyone's self esteem.

• Absurd Worldview - Christians are apparently not citizens of this world, as it's just a temporary place to prepare for the afterlife. Why bother making this world a better place for humanity when it's all going to be destroyed soon once the rapture happens and the apocalypse destroys the planet? I know from personal experience that most evangelical Christians view a global economy and government as a sign of the antichrist appearing. It explains why so many Americans (dominated by Christian ideals) are notoriously opposed to globalization (although you'd think they'd be all for it, if it would speed up Christ's return). Personally, I'd like to see the evidence for an afterlife. Modern science shows us that there's no reason to believe that consciousness continues after our brains die (because the mind is the function of the brain).

I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but I just think it's amusing to list some of these things. I'm surrounded by people who believe this stuff, but of course I do not deny their right to do so, nor do I devalue them as human beings. Nonetheless, it shouldn't come as a surprise when the media ridicules, criticizes or portrays Christianity in a less than favorable light.

And on that note, I would like to make a final point. Christianity tends to ridicule it's Mormon and Jehovah's Witness cousins (like the kooky family members no one likes to talk about it), although they unite on the political front. I think the cult spawns of Christianity are slightly more absurd, but Christians really shouldn't throw stones. Christianity is just as ridiculous, it just has a larger following.

"Good Christians" with non-working noses

By summerbreeze

Arbeit macht frei [Il lavoro rende liberi]Image by maxgiani via Flickr

Listening to the news about Haiti, and hearing the News Commentators talk about "the stench of death", revived a memory of what my Dad had said about his service in WW II. He had fought in the Battle of The Bulge, among other battles, and told us several times about how once you smell a decaying or burning body, you instantly know that it is human, and you never forget that smell. Dad was a very sensitive man, and you could see that even decades after-the-fact he was still disturbed by it.

There's a reason that I'm bringing up this unpleasant subject.

Over two decades ago, my husband was an Army Officer and we lived in Central Germany "off post" in a rented house among the German people.

While living there, we used to love to spend every week-end exploring German history from Castles to Concentration Camps. We're both History Buffs in a big way.

On a days' visit to Dachau, I was struck by the close proximity of the town of Dachau to the Concentration Camp. It is only three kilometers between the city's train station and the camp.

I clearly remember thinking as I looked over at the town... "Those people could see from their 3rd-story windows what was going on." Not only could they see, but they also surely could have smelled as well, and that thought was very unsettling.

As we went through the gates at the Concentration Camp, my oldest daughter said "Mommy I don't like this place." I'm sure that she picked up on our somber vibes.

Looking through the lens as an atheist now, I wonder about the mind-set of the average religious person living in Dachau at that time. Catholicism and Nazism had a complicated relationship, and nearly every person in the Nazi hierarchy had been or was a Catholic. Hitler himself was a Catholic (in spite of how Catholic's today denying it), although he also was anticlerical. I'm not saying that every single Catholic endorsed the Nazi Party, just that a large percentage ignored the atrocities.

I have a tremendous respect and awe for the courage that some average Germans had in WWII to save Jews by sheltering them or helping to secretly relocate them. Obviously these single acts of heroism show that a 'higher thinking' was able to transcend centuries of Antisemitism that had been spewed from every pulpit.

I had a German friend in my neighborhood there who was open-minded, and I guess I could describe her as an agnostic. She told me that her parents, grand-parents, etc., as far back as she could remember, sincerely believing that the Jews were "the Christ killers."

Had the Vatican spoken out so much more forcefully, and more often, would the result of the "final solution" been different? Me thinks that in their eyes, that would have meant acknowledging that just perhaps, they may have been wrong about the "Christ killers" package that they'd been delivering to Catholics for hundreds and hundreds of years.

Just how deep does the delusion, the self-brainwashing, and the hatred have to be when it takes precedence over the natural, in-born human compassion we all share ?

After our U.S. troops liberated Dachau, several of our soldiers were so horrified and repulsed by what they saw, the bodies piled high, the gas chambers and the walking corpses, that they opened fire on many of the guards there. Could you blame them ?

Our troops also went into the City of Dachau and rounded up the citizens and forced them to look at the horror inside the camp. I remember seeing pictures of the local men and women with wide-eyed "disbelief" on their faces.....then our troops forced the citizens to help clean up the camp---BRAVO !

At that point, I'm wondering just how many of them gave a sober, hard look at their belief and perhaps wondered just how one can believe such a doctrine of hate and at the same time be a loving human being.

Just as Christopher Hitchens says : "Religion Poisons Everything" ...............minds included.

Nothing Fails Like Prayer

By Mriana

In previous postings I have blasphemed the Holy Spirit, God, and Jesus in various ways. This time I am going to say something about prayer, which all too many Christians seem to think that getting housemaid's knees and praying to something that does not exist really does come true. If one tries to point out that it is nothing more than the role of the dice and pure superstition, they act like they are trying to save Tinker Bell from certain death by saying, “It's true! Prayer really works. I do believe! I do believe!”

Ah! Clap if you believe in fairies!

Now I realize many Christians who visit this site will insist that prayer really works, especially if you have enough faith, but that simply is not true. It truly is a role of the dice. A form of gambling, because with or without prayer, one has a 50-50 chance of whatever.

Take for example the co-worker I have who believes and often says, “Prayer really works!” A while back she gave me a ride to Walmart so we could cash our paychecks. Now, this is the bugger about it all -- for some reason, the paychecks where we work do not clear the bank. They often bounce and if you try to go to our boss's bank, they will not cash it due to “insufficient funds.” So, we were at Walmart, and she stated she had said a prayer that they would cash it. Walmart cashed our checks and she was going on and on as to how prayer really works and that was the example she gave, saying, “See? Prayer really works!”

The people do not need to be born again. They need to grow up. They need to accept their responsibility for themselves and the world. Reality check: We had a 50-50 chance of Walmart cashing it. Plain and simple. Prayer had nothing to do with it. They either would or they would not. She did not have to say any prayer and I bet we would have had the same results.

Again, some Christians may say that she had enough faith for the both of us, but that simply is not true. I could have gone in by myself and had the same results without prayer.

I was a Christian for several years and every night I prayed the same prayer before I went to bed. It went like this:
“Dear Heavenly Father (just as I was taught), we thank you for this day and all the help you have given us. Guard us, guide us, and protect us from all evil.”

So far it is a standard prayer and probably beautiful to many Christians, but from there, I would say,
“Do not let anything or anyone in our house tonight or any other night.”

Now, before my mother started taking me to church regularly at the age of fourteen, I did not pray before going to bed and no one intruded into our home. There was no change, even after I moved out of my mother's home and prayed that. So far there has been no intruder, with or without prayer and the truth is, it is the same toss of a coin.

Reality check: As long as one locks their doors and windows before going to bed, it is less likely one will break into one's home. Prayer has nothing to do with it. To make such a request of a supernatural being is purely superstition and luck of the draw. Such a prayer is basically a throw back to the days of primitive man, before we had door locks. I think Valerie Tarico put it best when she was on Mark Mythos show and I will try to recall it from memory that best I can. She used the example of primitive man thinking there was a lion or something out there that could harm their family. If you stayed awake and you were wrong, then you lost nothing but sleep, but if you went to sleep and there was a lion around, you could lose your life and your family too. It was something like that at least. I think such a prayer fits that primitive position, but we do not live in caves or in trees anymore. We live in a modern world in which we can lock out the outside world and cut down on the risk of an intruder and if we can afford it, we can install a whole security system in our homes.

However, if someone choses to break into your home, with or without you being there, there is nothing any man-made deity can do to stop that person. Your best bet is to lock your doors and windows.

Now here is the kicker. I also prayed for my sons. I asked God,
“Please do not let my sons become involved with gangs, drugs, or crimes, and to keep them safe from all harm.”

I truly believed that God would protect them from these things and keep them from getting involved with bad things. I did not consider freewill, in part because I never knew exactly what that was and having grown up with Wesleyan doctrine, freewill was not discussed very often. So it was never actually defined.

Again, my odds were 50/50 and most of it also had to do with parenting- two parents, not just one. I took my sons to church, specifically an Episcopal Church, because I did not like Fundamentalism. While my older son grew up to be a fine [Buddhist] young man, I did not have as much luck with my younger son, who admired his father.

Mind you, I left and divorced their father when my younger son was six months old and he did not have very much involvement with them due to his own problems. However, it would seem genetics played a role in my younger son's life, because he did become involved with drugs and alcohol by the time he was 13. At this time, I was still saying that prayer and wanted to believe that God would protect him from such things, but he was slowly making a spiral down a bad path as he made bad choices in his life.

When he became involved with the Disciples, I have no clue, but he did and now he is 18, serving 60 days in jail due to a series of MIPs (Minor in possession/intoxicated), trespassing, shoplifting (alcohol), stealing, and one other charge. His bond for the trespassing alone was $5000. He was there until the judge saw him and ended up with 60 days, is ordered to go to a drug and alcohol rehab program for 28 days after he serves his time, has a large fine, and two years supervised probation.

So much for prayer.

Now one might say that it is because I stopped praying, but if that were true, then it seems to me, he would not have started when he did, because I was praying then and faith that this unseen being would take care of my sons when I was not around to know exactly what they were doing.

Reality check: We all make choices and it is our responsibility to make the right choices, even as teenagers, and young adults. My younger son made some bad choices, plain and simple, and given that his father is an alcoholic and drug addict, genes also had a role to play in the matter too. It had nothing to do with prayer.

Both my sons had a 50/50 chance of being substance abusers due to genetics. They also had more influences in their lives than just myself. The rare visits from their father was apparently just enough to influence one of them as well as they friends they chose.

To say one did not have enough faith, did not pray hard enough, or did not pray at all, is to not face reality. In this case, the reality is genetics and the choices my younger son made in his life. My wishful fairy tale prayer, irregardless of enough faith or not, had nothing to do with it.

We all have responsibility for our own lives. As the retired Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong has said,
“The Church doesn't like for people to grow up, because you can't control grown ups. That's why we talk about being 'Born again.' When you're born again, you're still a child. The people do not need to be born again. They need to grow up. They need to accept their responsibility for themselves and the world.” -- ref.

I find this to be true especially when one is trying to rely on the superstition of prayer too. To beg, plead, request, some parent figure in the sky to do something is not taking responsibility for yourself, especially since there is no parent figure in the sky. One is doomed to fail if they believe some parent figure in the sky will take care of everything, including their children. This simply is not true and I wish I had listened to Bishop Spong, Don Cupitt, Anthony Freeman, and other Anglican ministers like them a whole lot sooner, because maybe I would not have fallen into that trap. Of course, I probably would have left the Church a whole lot sooner too, if I had started listening sooner, because when I started listening, I started questioning, researching, and studying more than I ever did before.

The truth is, prayer is no better than meditation. It can comfort some people or it can make them more fretful and anxious. More often than not, I became more fretful and anxious when I prayed, because I would started praying for what was troubling me over and over again.

Yes, I had heard of the saying, “Let go and let God,” but I had also heard, “God helps those who help themselves,” and when I did not know what to do to help myself the anxiety kicked in even with prayer.

However, prayer, like meditation, can trigger neuro-chemistry in the brain, which can have a calming affect too. This has been seen in Buddhist monks concerning meditation, as well as Catholic nuns concerning prayer, but prayer has no affect on the outcome of reality. If it helps you relax, like relaxation techniques help others to relax, fine, but it does not do much more than that and your requests are nothing more than playing the lottery. You can pray for someone all you want, but in the end, it is they who need to take responsibility for their lives and make good choices. You praying the right way and/or to the right god has nothing to do with it and more often than not, if you put faith in prayer and your god concept in order to make people do what you desire, it will surely fail. When it comes to other people, it is not the prayer that gets them to do what you desire, whether it be to cash a check or to stay away from drugs and crime, but rather the choices they make in their lives. You also cannot make someone do what they have not chosen to do for themselves with a prayer to your god concept either. Again, they have to chose to do it and in the end, you would be better served in getting what you want by asking or seeking help from a real person.

Therefore, do not pray for me, do not pray for others, or yourselves. If you want to help others, do something besides get on your knees. If you want help for yourself, go seek help from another human being or more than one human being. Because prayer is just a crap shoot and no invisible being is going to intervene to make anyone do anything for you, themselves, or anyone else.

Disbelief in a NON-thing

By dealdoctor

Still frame from the animated cartoon "Th...Image via Wikipedia

Disbelief in a NON-thing is different from disbelief in an actual thing.

When someone is a believer in the Spirit of God they rarely consider the fact that a spirit of any kind is not a defined thing. Our nouns are people, places or things which might be found and examined in the world in which we live. When we use the word “God” or “Spirit” however we may not consider that belief or disbelief in such an entity does not involve a limited person, place or thing that might be found in our world. So the word God is a very funky word. It does not work well in any context including arguments about its own existence.

What I am saying is that for most of the words we use as we speak to one another a real physical thing comes first and the word is secondary. First there is a real tree and then the word tree that refers to it. You know how could Adam name the animals (grin) if there were no animals there in the first place to be named, what sense would naming them make at all? The thing can be touched and has limited dimensions and a limited lifespan just alike all other things. To simply use a word IMPLIES that it is first real and that includes the world God. Of course there is no real Santa but be careful to use the word IMPLIES there was first a real thing to be named at all.

When we bring in “God” or “Sprit” there is no actual limited physical object that precedes the word we are using. I enjoyed reading once that someone might believe in a spiritual body but exactly what could that possibly mean? Take Casper The Friendly Ghost of TV cartoons of days gone by who could walk through doors but who could also catch a ball when it was tossed to him. Really? You can’t have it both ways. A body is limited and physical and it can catch balls or it can pass through doors untouched but doing both is really not so logical. Right? A spiritual body is not possible it is an imaginary physical body. I mean why do angels need wings anyway. Isn’t it birds in this world that need wings? See it gets really stupid.

Now what about “God”? IF God is a thing to be there then one might believe in God or not believe in God. If a horse was said to be in the barn one might believe it to be there or doubt it to be there but there would be a limited horse in a limited barn that was being evaluated for belief. With God and Spirit, since they are not limited things there is actually no PARTICUALR thing to be believed in or doubted, then believing or disbelieving in God is DIFFERENT.

Atheists quickly say, rightly, they cannot define God and the odd thing is that believers say they also cannot define God. To state any limits for God is impossible because God is NOT a limited thing to be defined to any limits. So here in that God has no DEFINITION both sides, atheist and theist, are in harmony. The Infinite does not do definition very well. God is really slippery. Ghosts seem to wear no one certain shoe size. Papa Bear’s bed might be too big ;Mama Bear’s bed too small ; but God’s bed is really neither big nor small because we are unsure what size is required for a being with no limited body. God is “infinite” and “ infinitely small” at the same time. He knows the full extent of the Universe as a grain of sand and yet is able to know the inner workings of the smallest cell. Sure. Really? Eats fire and shits ice and is going to win an Oscar for acting this year too! Anything else? If you do not need any physical evidence then you can make any statement you want. Religions do just that and then, get this friggin’ argue about who is right!

What does this have to do with us atheists anyway? Well when you do not believe in God you are an atheist. BUT the WORDING is such that one might assume too quickly that God IS something like a horse in the barn that MIGHT be there but in your case you personally do not believe is actually there in the barn due to the lack of evidence. BUT, if God is NOT a thing that should even have a word assigned to it in the first place then someone would be an idiot to believe in God. If there is no tree then to believe that the word tree means anything is just plain stupid. IF this is so, and it is, not believing in God is different from not believing in the horse in the barn. The horse is a real thing that might be there or not. God however never was a real thing to begin with and saying words will never make God real. To be an atheist is to be someone who does not believe in something that is actually nothing at all.

This atheism we have is a different kind of disbelief than ordinary disbelief. Atheism, properly understood has no THING at all in which it does not believe. It is a NOTing of something that NEVER WAS in the first place . I do not believe in Round Squares . I also do not believe in the content of what rocks dream about when they are asleep. Let the word “God “become as empty of content as a thought of a rock when it is asleep. If someone DOES however believe in such things as round squares and the thoughts of sleeping rocks it is up to them to bring forth such things as they claim to be real from their non existence in their own imagination into the very light of day! If someone believes in a yesterday that is coming up next week, well, you get the idea. Such people make about as much sense as round squares, the thoughts of sleeping rocks, fat-skinny people and “God”.

If we do not believe in “God “let’s make sure this “God” we do not believe in not only is a thing that is not real for us but never is a “thing” that never could actually ever BE just like an the word up which could actually never mean down. When the WORD “God” is properly examined and found to be no real definable thing disbelief in any real thing represented by that word God is the only sane position.

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