God Can Be Googled, but The Way to God is The Story

By U2bian Synic

:00 Mind-fuck party crash
:30 Not much new under the sun
1:00 Static content vs. dynamic discourse
1:30 The journeys the thing
2:30 Story patterns reveal a bigger picture...?
3:30 The Big Sell=Forgiveness + Purity
4:30 Slave to my own paradigm
5:30 Fear shuts down sincere communication
6:00 Seeing through a fear lens
7:00 Christian fear: The devils in the discourse
8:30 Atheist fear: Lords of war & domination
9:30 Anger a manifestation of fear
10:30 Fear saturates the conversation

A response by ChuckyJesus666

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Faith and the Chair Argument

By Neal Stone

LONDON - JUNE 13: LONDON - JUNE 13:  A Christi...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

When Christians go out “witnessing” they often will challenge someone who isn't interested with the chair argument. The idea is if you resist faith in god, then they say use the chair argument saying that “you have faith to sit in the chair”.

So basically if you can have faith in a chair you have never sat in before, then you should be able to have faith in god.

This is by far one of the stupidest arguments ever. I know as I used to use it a long time ago. I would argue that you are going to sit in that chair and not bother to check it to see if it will hold you? Then you have faith!

In most churches it is 100% OK for the pastor to come up with some lame “Lord works in mysterious ways/has his reason” generic answer. The problem is this. I can see the chair, I can prove it exists and know that someone built it for the reason of it's design. Of course Christians say this too to support their arguments about faith in god. But they forget one thing, no evidence of god's existence, and no way for anyone to perform any tests to prove his existence and real ability.

Faith is nothing more than trust. It's just a matter of where you put that trust and why. Christians put trust (faith) in god because someone convinced them too in most cases.

Let's look at some things in my life I have faith in.

My Computer. I have faith in my computer. I built it from scratch, choose the parts and understand its workings inside and out. I can test and diagnose the computer for problems. I can gauge its performance. If it fails to work as expected I can research and find out why and then fix the issue. If it fails to start or takes way too long to start I can look into it and resolve the issue.

Can I say that about god? No!

The Car. Well I didn't build my car nor do I know it's workings in and out. But if it fails, I can always find someone who can look at it and GIVE ME AN ANSWER. If you went to a mechanic and he said “The car works in mysterious ways and you can't understand the cars will all the time.” would you still go to this mechanic? Only if you are an idiot. What if he just told you to read the manual more and talk to the car more and then demanded 10% of your income? I would laugh my ass off!

Yet people go to church every week and that is the advice they are given when something can't be explained. AND IT'S OK WITH THEM! In most churches it is 100% OK for the pastor to come up with some lame “Lord works in mysterious ways/has his reason” generic answer.

We have plumbers, mechanics, repairmen, accountants and other professions where problem solving is a big part of the job, How would it go if these people used the same generic answer? Would you hire them? No!!!! Not unless you were a total moron!

If I ask someone a question about my car, computer, home, etc., I can usually get a good answer to what the problem is and how to fix it. Try that with a Christian. Not gonna happen in most cases.

People respect me as a computer guru because I can either give them an answer to their problem or at least a direction in finding out or at least take the time to sit down and see what is going on.

Yeah, I have faith. Faith in my abilities to reason and think and solve problems. No more waiting my time on useless answers given to me over the years by various religious leaders.

And you know the real sad part? When a "real" answer is given, it is often to the benefit of the church or pastor and not the person asking the question.

It usually plays like this:

Wife: "Pastor, my husband and I are thinking of divorce because we are growing apart."

Pastor: "Maybe you should get more involved in the church in one of our many ministries (which usually involves them working apart)."

Well just another shot from my keyboard.


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Why We Believe in Gods - Andy Thomson - American Atheists 09

Dr. Andy Thomson gives his talk titled 'Why We Believe in Gods' at the American Atheist 2009 convention in Atlanta, Georgia. Filmed and edited by Josh Timonen.

Dr. Thomson is a psychiatrist in Charlottesville, Virginia. He has a private practice of general psychiatry and forensic psychiatry as well as serving as a staff psychiatrist at the University of Virginia's Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy and the Counseling and Psychological Services of the University of Virginia Student Health Services. Born in Washington, D.C. he received his B.A. degree from Duke University and his M.D. from University of Virginia School of Medicine. Robert Wright's book The Moral Animal introduced him to the emerging discipline of evolutionary psychology. It is that new lens of evolutionary psychology that informs his recent work on a comprehensive psychological formulation of suicide terrorism.

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Evangelicals do more harm than good

By Mriana

Borg Queen in First ContactImage via Wikipedia

A few days ago, I went to work and when I got there, I started spouting off about Christians. Then the other day Valerie made a post and off I went again on another rant (she can take it, I’m sure), once again and in part due to her encouragement, I am yet again writing (people want me to write, yet I’m a starving artist). This time it is a rant and the outcome of both incidents. Ah, well… maybe it will do someone some good. Maybe me, if I can get out of my cynical mood.

In response to my rant at work, a younger co-worker said, “Oh tell me about it!”

I started to back down on my rant, realizing that I was at Taco Bell across from the Assembly of God’s (A of G) Theological Seminary. This is a temporary job until the economy gets better and I can find something more fitting to my degree fields, but I have to keep this job.

My young friend called me on backing down and I said, “I don’t wish to offend anyone.”

She spouted off some more about me backing down, but the last thing I want to do is step on someone’s toes.

Suddenly she defensively shouted, “I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN!” and started her own diatribe as though she felt I was going to preach to her about something.

I softly said, “Hey, it’s OK. I’m a Humanist.”

She softened a little and said, “OK” and that was the end of her angry rant.

If our boss, who is a churchgoer, had heard her shouting in such a manner and went to the point of threatening to fire her, would I have stood up for her and taken some of the blame or would I have coward like I usually do? After all, it was partly my fault.

I have yet to see any Evangelical actually give help to anyone. Most of the time, they are either preaching or on their knees. Neither one gets anything done and to say anything about it gets you at the very least verbal abuse, if not more. This city is a difficult place to live in as a non-theist, because religion is all around, so much so that it seems God is the only thing on people’s minds. I walk out my door to walk to work and there, in front of the A of G College is a sign that says, “Nothing is too hard for God”, with someone sitting on their butt fretting or something. You turn the corner onto the business highway and there is another. On another busy street is a bigger sign of the same thing! Downtown, where the A of G headquarters is the same sign and then these same people who put the signs up complain there is no food in the food banks. They wasted all that money on signs, when they could have been helping to feed the poor instead. Honestly, these people need to get off their knees and do something for their fellow human being before they get housemaids knees. I learned over 30 years ago that there is no god who will save us, we must save ourselves, and the way to do that is to take action. There is not going to be any manna falling from the sky. Therefore, unless these A of G’ers stop wasting money and put it into the food banks, there isn’t going to be any food in the food banks to give to the poor. Oh but leave it to them to screw up that too! For what? Because the Bible says the poor will always be with us? Well that is a horrible way to help humanity, in my opinion.

Everywhere you go in this city, you see nothing but Christian dogma, right down to “right to life” propaganda and more. Get on the bus and someone is talking about their “relationship” with a zombie Jesus, putting new meaning to necromancy. There is always someone carrying around the Bible or their copy of “The Purpose Driven Life”. It is Borg-like Collective mentality at its finest and whatever their church is feeding them, they spit back out just like a Borg drone.

I take the payments for food and get a debit card that is AGCU. This is the A of G’s Credit Union debit card. I cannot help but think, “Almost as bad as Sharia Law” when a delusional brainwashed theist hands me one. The A of G has a whole system to keep people delusional and brainwashed in this town. They have at least two neuro-stimulating mega churches, at least one brainwashing bookstore, the Christian version of Sharia banking, at least one mind-numbing school… the list goes on and on for what seems like forever, not to mention a plethora of businesses with half a Pisces on the front. The Council of Churches runs a food bank, as well as other things around here and even the Catholic Church has their own system much like the A of G. You cannot escape religion in this city, no matter how hard you try. It is there all day, every day, and I seriously doubt they actually care about anyone. They only care about keeping people in the delusional zone and that is about it.

Even our boss talked about church and how none of her employees would “know where a Good Friday Service is being held” on Good Friday. I know of five places, more if you count the Catholic Churches around here, but I had no plans to go. This was not the only time she talked to us that way either. It just does not stop with her or any other Christian. They do not even see the flaw in the very basic part of the violently barbaric and hideous theology they celebrate! That being “Jesus died for our sins”. Try to point that out to them and they refuse to see it as they quickly contrive crap to patch in the holes you punch into it or even become venomously angry.

The business next door to our home is a BBQ place and the owner is a Pentecostal minister also, whom I tried to work for once. Every single day he would come in and spout religion, in his Southern Black preacher accent. “Have you heard of a Testimony Sermon?” Of course I have. Hasn’t everyone? *rolling eyes* “He is risen! He is risen!” I looked out the window to see the late morning sun and thought, “Yes, the Sun has risen.” Another day he came in and said as he swayed excitedly back and forth, “I’m immortal! I’m immortal!” I thought, “Step outside during a drive-by and we’ll just see how immortal you are.”

Now I really would not wish that on him, but my mind just could not resist. I felt smothered and had to get out before I ran my mouth. Therefore, I gave him two weeks notice, after only working about two months for him, with the excuse, “I’m not cut out for this job” and with stuff like that every day I was not, but I was not going to tell him that.

Leaving did not escape him though, because when my sons, their friends, and I walked by to go to the store or something, he would see us, and confront the teens, “Do you know Jesus?” UGH! One of the teens said, “I know of Jesus, but I don’t know him personally.” WRONG ANSWER! I wanted to run and hide while the man went on a sermonette to the youths. GRRRRR! Boldly, yet cowardly, I said, “They have their own churches.” Steve gave me a dirty look, but let it pass and we were on our way again.

Another day, I was talking to someone I considered a friend about my headaches with my younger son and she said something religious. I forgot what it was, but I must have had a facial reaction because she suddenly said with an expression that was both threatening to me, yet seemed to ask if I was sick, “You do believe in God?” I coward. I did not give her eye contact as I sheepishly nodded my head without any vocal responds. I kicked myself for not standing up to her and being honest. I cannot keep from having the same response as a child no matter what. I wanted to run then, just as I do now, but just as I did then, I freeze like a doe in the headlights.

Then there is my mother, who just loves to give a modern day Inquisition if you say something that is contrary to her beliefs. Not long ago, she practically pinned me to the wall, as she angrily demanded to know what I believe and I am almost 43 years old. I felt panicked and gave her lip service. She heard the words she wanted to hear, but I was not happy because it was a lie and I was a hypocrite.

How was I a hypocrite? I do not believe in lying, yet I lied to her, just so I could get her to back down. I am so scared of what believers will do to me, especially with behaviours like that, if they knew I was not a theist. I have seen what they do to others and it literally scares me, because it is very much snake-like behaviour. Thank goodness, I do not live with my mother or I would have a harder time “charming the serpent”. However, it was from her relatives that I ended up relating “a brood of vipers” to Evangelicals and to this day, I have a snake phobia that is as bad as my fear of Fundamgelicals. My mother tried to relate my snake phobia to Freud’s theory. HA! I have the same paralyzing reaction to a garden snake as I do to a perceived Inquisitor. I know full well it is not Freudian in nature.

Yet every day of my life, Christianity is all around that it feels like that is all even I can think about as I think of rebuttals to them. Yet, those rebuttals go out the window when confronted directly. However, I must admit, when my mother called Easter Sunday and asked, “Did you go to church?”, her reaction to my saying “no” was better, even after I ranted about the last church my sons and I attended several years ago.

I want out of this city so badly, but it is not feasible at this time and I seriously doubt anyone is going to listen to my rant and change things. I truly believe that if I could get out of this town and move to a place where religion is not predominant, I would not think about it almost constantly. The Fundies would probably run me out of town, rather then listen to what I have to say though. Damned if I do and damned if I don’t. Hopefully, wherever I ran to, religion would not be in my face as much and people would not wear it like a badge of honour, but this is part of the Bible Belt. It is the Belt Buckle of the Bible Belt in my opinion, in part because the A of G has their headquarters here and practically runs this place, right down to the movies that come here. They got that movie, Hunchback Mountain or whatever it is, banned from theatres here and when the local university showed it for free, the Religious Reich here was outraged about it.

Religion, at least its extreme form, is like a thorn in my side and I would love to remove it, if I could. As is, religion is a constant that I wish would go away and worst of all, it did not stop the abuse I suffered as a child. In fact, religion was an enabling factor, which left me with loneliness and despair, because the adults were too deluded in their beliefs about God to do what they should have done.

Returning to my young friend at work, I found it rewarding that I could calm her with a few code words of my own, but I also wish I could tell her about this site. It is not that I am afraid. I do not know how old she is or if she lives with her mother, who goes to church. I took an opportunity to feel out her mother one day while we were on break together and told her about the incident with her daughter. Her mother said, “Yes, she gets that way, but her father shoves it on her.” Amazingly, my telling her daughter I am humanist did not appear to bother her either.

The young woman has so much anger and I truly feel that if she had a place to vent, it might help her in some way. It might also tell her she is not alone, but how can I when I worry about her mother getting upset? Well, I eventually found out what I needed to know and I slipped the young woman the URL without permission from anyone. When she saw what was on that slip of paper and understood what the site was she beamed with joy and thanked me. I hope that we will see her here soon, because at the same time, she has a lot of guts too. More than I would probably ever have.

Two people at work know I am a humanist, so I must have some strength somewhere within me. I dared to calm someone’s wrath, with six little words. Out of compassion for the young woman, I even dared to talk to her mother, who incidentally appears to be a Christian, and outted myself to her too. Neither one of them asked me what a humanist is, so they must have some idea what the word means. I must be gaining some strength from somewhere to do that much.

Yet at the same time, even though I am tired of religion being a constant, I have no backbone to stand up to the religious, face to face. The desire is there, but when faced with it head on… I’m a coward. I always cop out of saying what is really on my mind and lie out of fear just to get them leave me alone. Just once, I would love to be “Stands With a Fist” from “Dances with Wolves” and give the vipers my “Ghetto Gospel”, metaphorically of course, because I refuse to submit to mental slavery.

The thing is I look back on that incident with the young woman and think, “If our boss gave her problems and some threat concerning her job, would I have backed her?” Yes, I think I would. I would at least claim part of the responsibility for the incident, because I started it. My young friend would not have started screaming about Christians and all if I had not said a word. The day would have begun without incident and without risk of insulting however many Christians were in the building at the time if I had not come in ranting about Christians to begin with. She would not have screamed, “I AM NOT A CHRISTIAN!”, for everyone to hear, if I had not started in on a rant, but luckily it did not cost either of us our jobs. It could have though, especially in this town, but I believe I would have taken partial blame and risked my job with her.

However, I am also glad to know I am not alone at work and there is another non-theist. The question is how do I get the strength to deal with invasive and pushy Christians? I have no clue. Thus, I continue to hide, cry, and rant behind the religious people’s backs concerning their behaviours towards others and keeping my sarcastic remarks as inside jokes, never verbalizing them aloud until the pressure gets to be too much for me and I rant verbally, only to back down so not to offend others.

Maybe my young friend is right. Maybe I should not back down when I start to rant aloud about Christians, but I do not like confrontation anymore than the next person does. However, when it comes to the consequences of such things, I am chicken sh**. A chicken with a lot of pent up anger due to the injustices I see being committed in the name of a very human concept. The inability to speak my mind without fear saddens me more than anything else does and it would be nice just to be myself, without fear of others, not even of my own mother.

The thing is, I have yet to see any Christian do anything for others or if they do, they do not take any credit for what they do, leaving the door open to low self-esteem and other issues. Those who place what they do all on God, it makes me wonder if they did it out of the goodness of their heart or if they did it to gain brownie points with whatever their god concept is. However, I have yet to see any Evangelical actually give help to anyone. Most of the time, they are either preaching or on their knees. Neither one gets anything done and to say anything about it gets you at the very least verbal abuse, if not more.

Religion truly is a source of misery and has yet to resolve any of the world’s problems. If anything, it has enhanced them and has even created people who are terrified and distrustful of the religious. It has helped to create many a mental health issue, yet people refuse to face that reality because religion is to be off limits, creating a vicious circle between guilt and depression. Children die due to abuse, but if religion is involved, that poor child goes unsaved by humans, as they leave him for a mythical deity to take care of. It is all a sham right down to their so called charity, words for them are lies, and I say it is time to confront all these atrocities, yet I am scared to death of the religious extremists. The same people who would leave me to die at the hands of an abuser are the very same who would spout verbal abuse and in extremely rare cases more.

I maybe able to come out and express my thoughts to those I trust and/or know are not theists, but I do not know if I will ever be able to express what I feel and think to those I do not trust, which is generally theists. Evangelicals did not put the fear of God in me. Instead, what they put in me is the fear of religious humans, especially those with serpentine behaviours. I have yet to see a brood of vipers do the world good.

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Find Inner Peace and Solace -- Entirely Without God

By summerbreeze

Banff Avenue, CanadianRockiesImage by NileGuide.com via Flickr

With Earth Day being in the month of April, I wanted to share my story with all of you.

I had dumped a very good " friend " years ago when for the first time in my life, I reached out to God. That good friend was my deep love for the natural world, the wilderness and all of its' creatures.

When I was a Christian, I spent so much time with my nose in the bible, doing bible study home-work and having End-Times rhetoric thrown at me, that I lost track of what was real to me, and what truly had always given me peace and comfort in my past.

By nature I'm a mildly nervous person (exaggerated my the meds I have to take) and admittedly I am way too overly sensitive for my own good! So in the early days of my being a Christian, I assumed that the longer that I was a Christian, even more peace and tranquility would come into my life, kind of like a side bonus.

It's interesting, that I know several Christians who permanently walk around in a kind of " daze ", a self-induced euphoria brought on by their certainty that they have ALL the answers, and that they are numero-uno in Gods' eyes. This is a false serenity at its most delusional.

Since leaving the fold, I have thankfully re-discovered my source of peace and connectiveness with the natural world, NOT THE SUPERNATURAL WORLD ! On the opposite side of the coin is the basic Christian attitude towards the earth " Why bother, it'll all end soon anyway " and their attitude towards animals " Man has dominion over the animals, so to heck with them, they have no feelings anyway. " ---wow

A Killer Whale, and an Elk both helped me to come back to my roots, come back to my connection with our natural world again.

- Here's what happened -

While visiting Mickey in Florida, we went to a local theme park on an " off " day, very few visitors. Leaving the show to find the restroom, I walked alone on the side of the gigantic semi-circular "glass" Orca tank. No one else was about. I was looking at the tank, watching the killer whales as I was walking, then I noticed a killer whale slowly following me, while watching me. I went up to the tank and put my hand on the glass, with fingers spread out, and he came right up to the glass and put his nose DIRECTLY on the palm of my hand! He kept it there for a while, while I was so relishing the indescribable sensation radiating from my heart. Here we were, two different species making a connection------going back to our primordial roots !

My second little story happened in the Canadian Rockies, beyond Lake Louise between Banff and Jasper in the province of Alberta, Canada.

We had rented a tiny cabin there, it was our 3rd visit to that area,
( my favorite place on earth ). Our car had developed some problems so my husband made an appointment with a mechanic. I didn't feel like going to town, so I decided to stay at the cabin for some "me" time. My husband would be gone for some 5 or 6 hours, so I thought I could catch up on some reading. His last words out the door were " don't go in the woods ". Well after a while I became so bored out of my gourd, plus reading on such a beautiful day didn't make sense to me. My husbands' words rang in my ears, but I'm a rebel, so off I went. ( like in PeeWee's Big Adventure: " that old highways' `a calling " ) ha .......however I WAS practical in that I did wear my bear bells on my daypack. (It's not a good idea to startle a Grizzly.)

It was a beautiful Autumn day, the sky was unbelievable, the color of Bachelors' Buttons, such a deep intense blue. After an hour I was at an elevation where I could see a lake in the valley below. It was surrounded by Pine, White Birch and Quaking Aspens' in their fall colors. All lakes in that part of the Rockies are a brilliant turquoise blue due to the minerals in the rocks, etc. - How can anything get better than this, I thought.

While looking at the lake, sitting quietly on a rock on an over-crop, I came to feel that someone or something was watching me. I slowly turned around to see a magnificent Grand-Daddy of all Bull Elks, only yards away just across the trail. His antlers were incredible. Instantly my minds' eye flashed to a few days before when we witnessed a Bull Elk charging two photographers who dove into a large culvert where they were trapped for some time, as the irate Elk peed on their equipment ! Feeling half frightened out of my wits, and half in total awe of him, we just looked at each other for about 3 or 4 minutes. Then he slowly turned and walked into the trees for a bit, then paused to turn back to look at me ------ as if to say `Bye'

My feelings were so similar to my killer whale experience. The rush of emotion, the feeling of " oneness " with another life. Like the Grinch, my heart grew two sizes that day !

When I sat in a church pew, or listened to a sermon, I had never, ever, felt the peace that I receive from being in nature. Living in a fantasy world full of myths and falsehoods cannot hold a candle to living in the real world. A world that we must protect instead of blowing it off, thinking it will end soon anyway.
If you want inner peace, find it in solitude, not speed.
And if you would find your-self, Look to the land from which
you came, And to which you go ----- Henry David Thoreau

Thank you for letting me share, this is a wonderful site and I'm grateful for it.

Thanks !

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If the Bible Were Law, Would You Qualify for the Death Penalty?

By Valerie Tarico

Casting an axe in the bronze ageBronze Age casting of a bronze axe. smiling_da_vinci via Flickr

This week the Supreme Court declined to review a Texas murder case in which a juror brought a Bible into the sentencing process – showing that the Bible recommends death for anyone who kills another person with an iron rod (Numbers 35:16).

Let me say for the record that I’m not against the death penalty, and in this case it sounds like the defendant fit my criteria, too. I know I'm ruining my liberal credentials here, but I frankly don’t have any moral problem with the jury condemning him to death. However, to do so based on the sanctification of a Bronze Age legal code is somewhat horrifying—especially given the list of other "crimes" that are recommended for capital punishment in the Bible.

Yes, yes, the court assures us that even though bringing the Bible into the sentencing was improper, there is no evidence that it swayed the jury. Rest assured that when the Bible and other authorities (like our judicial system ) are at odds, we can trust Texas jurors to ignore the Bible and do what is right. Even though half the country believes that God made humans in their present form because the Bible says so—we can count on Texans (school boards excepted) to follow the evidence and the constitution.

All the same, just in case an issue like this should come up in your state, thirty six different offenses in the Bible qualified for capital punishment. Do any of these apply to you?

Cursing Parents
For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him. Leviticus 20:9

Working on the Sabbath
Whosoever doeth any work in the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death. Exodus 31:15

Premarital Sex (girls only)
. . .If, however, this charge is true, that evidence of the young woman's virginity was not found, then they shall bring the young woman out to the entrance of her father's house and the men of her town shall stone her to death, Deuteronomy 22:20

Disobedience (boys only)
If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not obey his father and mother, who does not heed them when they discipline him, then his father and his mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders of his town at the gate of that place. They shall say to the elders of his town, "This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard." Then all the men of the town shall stone him to death. Deuteronomy 21:18

Worshipping any god but Yahweh
If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the LORD thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that . . . hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded; . . .Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die. Deuteronomy 17:2-5

Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. Exodus 22: 18

Wizards (epileptics? migraine sufferers? schizophrenics?)
A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them. Leviticus 20:27

Loose Daughters of Clergy
And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire. Leviticus 21:9

Girls who are Raped within the City Limits
If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city . . . But if in the field the man finds the girl who is engaged, and the man forces her and lies with her, then only the man who lies with her shall die. Deuteronomy 22:23-25

And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death. Leviticus 24:16

Anyone Who Tries to Deconvert Yahweh Worshipers
If anyone secretly entices you--even if it is your brother, your father's son or your mother's son, or your own son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your most intimate friend--saying, "Let us go worship other gods," . . . you shall surely kill them; your own hand shall be first against them to execute them. Deuteronomy 12:6

Men who Lie With Men
If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. Leviticus 20:13

And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. And the man that lieth with his father's wife hath uncovered his father's nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. And if a man lie with his daughter in law, both of them shall surely be put to death: they have wrought confusion; their blood shall be upon them. Leviticus 20: 10-12

Men who Lie with Beasts and Beasts who Lie with Men
And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast. Leviticus 20:15

So. Are you up for the death penalty?

Just so you know, it could be worse. As I am reminded by people who want me to make nice, this list represents an advancement from mob justice. They are right, and the Levitical Code would a fascinating window into human moral history were it not for the fact that juries in Texas, politicians in Colorado, and clergy in Africa all advocate the death penalty for one person or another on the basis of these texts (murderers, homosexuals, and child witches respectively).

When people put God’s name on Bronze Age documents, and then make those documents a golden calf, they get stuck with Bronze Age moral thinking. Maybe it’s time to take the Bible down off of its pedestal, and acknowledge the obvious human handprints on the texts. Maybe it's even time to do again what Thomas Jefferson did: cut the book apart, keep the parts that are worth keeping, and leave the rest on the cutting floor of history.

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By Danny,

Are you unable to think for yourself? Will you believe anything as long as lots of other people believe it too? Do you enjoy reading the same stuff over and over and over the rest of your life? Then you need religion!

This video made the front page of Digg.com and Reddit.com. For some reason, YouTube decided to remove it from their servers, subsequently sparking an online controversy which led to numerous YouYubers uploading this video to their own accounts.

The vid ended up with around 250,000 total views on YouTube.

Watch closely. There's a subliminal plug for ExChristian.Net!

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Faith VS Religion

By Shannon Hughes

Faith... monochromeImage by gaspi *your guide via Flickr

Wikipedia defines Faith as a belief in the truth of or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing, that is characteristically held without proof.[1] [2] Informal usage of the word "faith" can be quite broad, and may be used standardly in place of "trust", "belief", or "hope".

For example, the word "faith" can refer to a religion itself or to religion in general, where in this context faith would encompass not only a belief without evidence but also a belief which can oppose scientific evidence. As with "trust", faith involves a concept of future events or outcomes.

Faith is quite literally the belief in that which is not seen, known or realized.
The architects of all the monumental achievements of humankind both good and bad, structural and social have all been a tangible result of the creations of the mind.

Those who built the Pyramids, Colosseum , Democracy, Auschowitz, the nuclear bomb, and many other great and dreadful things first had to envision that which did not exist and believe and pursue that vision until it manifested in reality.

I believe the power of faith is best demonstrated in the extreme opposite examples of Hitler and Gandhi. Both used the same tool and formula and power that lies in all of us to change the ENTIRE world!

Both of these leaders defined a vision and those who followed them shaped their individual belief structures to accept a reality they could not see and achieve and do things that their minds would rationalize in many diverse ways. This is the duality of the power of faith which is a tangible unbiased force and different from religion which is an institution with a pre-structured set of beliefs built in.

Religion is dangerous because like so many things it is a double edged sword and because it is the dominant force in almost every culture on the planet it can propel or stunt and even possibly end the future growth of humankind.

The very belief that your life is preordained by some deity or force with a master plan and that we have no control over the events that exist in this life is a disabling belief. By thinking this it becomes your reality.Literally many cultures on earth are both consciously and sub-consciously steering the ships of state with this belief.

Governments with nuclear weapons and massive armies and untold global impact are leading their countries with a common belief in some version of doomsday or Armageddon that could become self fulfilling for all religions and humankind as well.

Religion is wrong because it lets those who don't have all the answers believe that they do. The ancient coping mechanism that created thunder gods to explain the sheer terror of lightning to the Neanderthal is now limiting our scientific and social advancement.

In order for the human race to evolve we MUST learn to put our power of faith into a common purpose and to be as blunt as the English language will allow Religion is screwing that up. The built in failsafe mechanisms of almost all religions do not allow for dissent without eternal and temporal consequences which are to many to list.

Overcoming the limitations of religion is the most important of all humankind's future challenges.

Maybe the answer lies not in eliminating religion or trying to de-convert all the "believers". Maybe the answer lies in educating all we can about the power of FAITH. Perhaps this is the path of least resistance.

Maybe by sharing some of the above observations openly with all who would listen we could help even those who choose to hold on to their religion to at least abandon the limitations of their denominations.

No matter what you believe surely we can all agree to this?! When you wonderful people on this website share your stories both positive and negative you could very likely be helping someone else reclaim their life and even possibly be the first rays of light in the dawn of human thought.

I have been inspired and to a large degree "saved" by the stories I read here,but, without a doubt you have all helped me find clarity and a ray of sanity in an all too often insane world. Thank you all.

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An Easter reflection

By Wendy

Easter float -- JesusImage by Urijamjari via Flickr

I went to church this Easter. I did it because my entire family was going and I didn't want to upset anyone. I expected the regular sermon about Jesus being crucified, resurrecting, etc.

As I walked into the gospel church, I almost thought I was walking into a fashion show! Everyone had their most expensive Gucci suits and Prada bags and shoes. I was willing to brush this off. Then, there was an impressive light show with the choir -- fancy flood and theater lights lit the stage in the building that holds 2500 people. I wondered how much money went into that and where the money was coming from. Then I found out the source: the choir leader went on for 15 minutes on why we should give money. She ended her little speech with, "Don't you dare leave here without giving anything! Your money is a seed for growth. If you have to, ask your neighbor for a quarter and pay them back later!"

I didn't give anything.

This kind of crap really upsets me.

The sermon didn't even make sense. The pastor was going on and on about Jesus dying and having to resurrect in order to save us. The more he talked, the less he answered questions I have:
  • Why is sin so bad anyway?
  • Do I really deserve to burn in hell for having premarital sex or for coveting what my neighbor has?
  • Why did God create us with curiosity then?
  • Why did he create the serpent that approached Eve?
  • On that note, why did God lie to Adam and Eve and tell them they would die if they ate from the tree of knowledge? The only thing the serpent did was tell them the truth God had lied to them, so why is the serpent always badmouthed?

I went a little off the topic there. But anyway, I concluded that I would have rather spent Easter celebrating Easter, not passover. Easter, by the way, is derived from a Pagan celebration after the Spring Equinox.

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Holy Week: a High Fast, or an ingredient in the recipe for an eating disorder

By Mriana

Today's ImageImage by charluna via Flickr

I have mentioned a few reasons, including disbelief, as to why I left the Church and can never go back even just to attend for the social aspects, like Bob Price does. Here is yet another reason as to why I know I can never go back. The Episcopal Church, as well as other churches, has major fasts and feasts, as well as minor feasts and fasts. Except for Easter, because I have always loved chocolate and the new life Spring brings, I never did celebrate feast days. At one time, when I went to church regularly, I could name all the fast days and seasons. Lent is another one in which fasting is involved, but the majority of healthier people do not literally go on a forty day food fast and for me, religion was a part of my own eating disorder.

This year, I did not realize that it was Holy Week nor did I even pay attention when it was Ash Wednesday this year and therefore took no notice that it was Lent. I had completely forgotten it until someone mentioned Easter is next Sunday. So, here it is Maundy Thursday and somehow I have been oblivious to it all. I have been for a few years now. The liturgical calendar has no importance to me anymore. (Yes, I wrote this towards the end of Holy Week, thus why it’s late)

However, I was not always that way. I use to revel in fasting for days and the weight loss during this time of year would be quite noticeable to many people in the church, especially towards the end of forty days. Most in church did not say anything, but two people did. One, who was a psychologist, approached me directly with concern, but the religious aspect of it all was never addressed or even discussed. I was a perpetual faster, but a few of my adult years were extremely bad; almost as bad as when I was a teen. It did not even go unnoticed by Mother Kathy (http://www.episcopalchurch.org/34318_34129_ENG_HTM.htm?menumenu5260 ), who takes what she knows people are struggling with, weaves it into her sermons, “so that those listening almost always feel like the sermons speak to them”, and oddly enough she gave a Thursday night homily to a very small group of parishioners, during a time of fasting, concerning her name sake and Patron Saint, Katherine.

The story about this saint, as far as I can remember her telling it, went something like this: This saint was very intelligent, seemed to fast all the time, was always sickly, and when she died, she was extremely emaciated. (I think this is the link, except it begins with a “C” not a “K”: http://www.3op.org/stcatherine.php, some details seem different though.) From what I gathered from Mother Kathy’s version, this saint died, probably much like Karen Carpenter- heart failure. The thing is Katherine was not the only person in religion to do herself harm. There were many men and women, who were self-abusive and ironically became saints or noted in some manner within Church history. Martin Luther whipped himself. The Buddha even fasted to emaciation until he became “enlightened” and started eating again. Religion and self-abuse seem to go together, just as religion and abuse by others seems to go together.

As far as an eating disorder goes, I realize there are nay-sayers who believe one can still chose not to fast as part of the worship. However, the temptation for those who enjoy the feelings that come with fasting is too great a temptation, especially when people are being encouraged to fast, almost like permission, a free ticket, to not eat. Not only that, once one, who is prone to anorexia, gets started, it is difficult to stop. In this case, permission to fast in the name of religion is practically handed to them on a crown of thorns- metaphorically of course. However, one should not think that the anorexic is only thinking about the religious purposes of fasting, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and God. Not just God at least. In fact, the thoughts are a long ways from God, except maybe when they feel the overwhelming feelings of transcendence and then there are those calories in the communion wafer and the sip of wine. So, the Church’s observance of fasting is only the start and the observance feeds into the eating disorder, which is just as twisted and bizarre as religion itself. Who tries to count the calories in communion wafers and a sip of wine? Besides someone with anorexia.

The thing is I actually did revel in the fasting, especially when I attended a service after several days of fasting. Everything within the service was more vivid and sensual to the point of being surreal. The transcendent feelings brought on from the regal smell of incense, the majestic sounding music, vivid haloed candles, and even going through the motions, especially with the lay minister’s robe was intensified by the fasting. The feeling was almost like a drug that is better than sex. I doubt any of the ancients who did schrooms or soma could have had a better experience, because theirs was not natural, at least not in the sense of the body itself producing the chemicals. Then again, I have never done drugs so who knows, and I even doubt those who cavorted had a better experience. Regardless, it is very questionable that one actually gets the treatment they need when religion is so tied up in their disorder due to how people view religion.

However, during fasting one does not have visions, or rather what is said to be visions. I didn’t. I just had euphoria and numinous feelings that felt so damn good. I had the very same experience at a sweat lodge I attended. Fasting was involved before and during the Sweat, so it was no surprise to me when I had the same feelings after it was all said and done. The only difference is the feelings lasted longer, probably due to the addition of being a bit dehydrated from the Sweat.

These things are, again, neurology pure and simple, but the chemicals in the brain can be very much like a drug and while feelings of transcendence are part of the human condition, too much of a seemingly good thing is a bad thing. Overindulgence in anything is not good. Moderation is the key, even when it concerns religion. Skipping a meal or two here and there is not harmful to most people, but religion has a tendency to emphasize fasting a great deal in part because the human being is never good enough and has to sacrifice something, even if the supposed ultimate sacrifice was already made for them-via yet another God-man myth. The thing is it is possible to fast to the point that one intensifies the feelings of transcendence, which are triggered by external sources, and even cause them to happen more easily in certain settings, such as church. All too often though, people believe they felt the present of God, the Holy Spirit when they have these feelings. Truth is, it is nothing but external stimuli triggering brain chemistry and the person who is deprived of food is more susceptible to the dramatic stimuli. They become more sensitive to external stimuli, which would not necessarily be a bad thing for one without an eating disorder. However, keep in mind that God is not actually the focus or at least not the total focus for one with an eating disorder. They might call it God, but they might not necessarily be talking about the same thing as other people.

The religious rituals that included fasting were, in a sense, my drug of choice, but it was not illegal, not technically in the DSM-I, II, III, IV, or V, and technically there is no recovery program either because such religiosity is not actually considered an illness, which gets confusing at this point. Religion itself is not considered a mental illness, just the illness it contributes to, in this case anorexia, and it is not even recognized as contributor either. The eating disorder is the mental illness, but one of the causes goes unnoticed by the masses because it is religion and is even denied as being something that contributes to a mental illness. People close their eyes to the one ingredient that contributes greatly to “the people pleasing, perfect little angel’s” eating disorder.

Two things about a person with a predisposition for an eating disorder: perfectionism and striving to please, yet at the same time be in control of something. In this case, when it comes to religion, especially in Evangelical circles which I came from before becoming an Episcopalian, nothing about the human is good enough, because Adam and Eve ate of the tree of knowledge, whatever that is. They have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Of course there are a multitude of verses in the Bible that talk about food and the body being a temple of the Holy Spirit to go with this too. If one adds to that the idea that God is in control of people’s lives and not them, mix it with how the rest of their life and family dynamics are going, and no control over much of anything in their lives, you have the whole recipe for an eating disorder. So, I’m not saying religion is the only contributor to the problem. Eating disorders are very multi-faceted and religion is the one ingredient that is neglect in treatment.

Pick your poison- addiction, substance abuse, eating disorders, mental illness… I believe you can find it among the masses in the various churches, but in many respects, the Church perpetuates and encourages eating disorders and for addictive personalities that is not good whether the Church knows and admits it or not. It did not matter if I was pre-teen in the Evangelical Church where the adults frightened me, because there I had the various verses I pulled out of the Bible to justify and keep myself in such a mentality. In the Lutheran Church as a teenage acolyte or in the Episcopal Church as an adult participating in higher and lesser fasts contributed, along with the religious ideology behind the fasts. Religion was essentially giving me permission to fast.

While religion might not be the cause of eating disorders or any other mental illness, it certainly contributes to the illness. Genetics is a big part of most any such illnesses, as well as environment and nurture. In many cases, religion is supposed to be nurturing in a specific environment, but it does a very poor job of that, regardless of what the devoutly religious say. Granted, by the time I became an Episcopalian I was an adult, but I was still concerned about pleasing others and the idea of someone else being in control instead of me was still there. Even in early adulthood, I did not feel I was in control, except when I fasted, which was a habit I began around eleven years old. So, from the age of eleven to sometime close to my mid-thirties, I believed the only thing I did have control over was whether or not I ate, BUT religious fasting is suppose to penitence, self-sacrificing, self-denial, “act of discipline”, and basically just beating yourself up for not being perfect “in the eyes of God”, thus why we fast during Lent, Holy Week, Advent, and other times during the liturgical season. No matter what “tools” I was given to help me “grow and change”, even if they were handed to me with a communion chalice and a license to lay minister, it all still fed into my eating disorder because the permission to not eat was still there.

It was not until I left the church I actually started getting better and staying at a healthful weight. I have been away from the Church for almost 7 or 8 years now. I have lost count, just as I have lost track of the liturgical year. Do I miss it? Sometimes I miss the sounds, smells, sights, and even going through the motions very badly because I want that overwhelming surrealistic feeling of being at one with my surroundings, but I realize I cannot go back. If I want such feelings, I can listen to music, go on a nature walk, or even just sit near a river as I commune with nature. It is not as intense, but there are no fast days or seasons to encourage and/or contribute to unhealthy behaviours. However, to go back even just to have those transcending feelings or social interactions could very well trigger old habits and I do not feel that is productive or even living a fulfilling life. The two are too much intertwined that it would be regressing instead of progressing. In my opinion, because these things and more are intertwine it would behoove those leaving the Church to avoid too many activities that strongly resemble religion.

Regardless, fasting is not celebrating life and since I left I try to avoid extremes in everything. I try to celebrate and cherish life right down to the food I eat. I do not fast now, unless the doctor requests I do for some medical purpose, like a blood test, and view fasting as being extreme. Easter has become Chocolate Day and I celebrate life being renewed within nature during this time of year, AKA spring, not the barbaric crucifixion, death, and resurrection. As Deanna Troi said in Star Trek, “Chocolate is a serious thing” and “I’ve never met a chocolate I didn’t like”, so therefore I have even more to be happy about this time of year. All my allergies aside, I find the new springtime sun, vivid colours of various plant life, and lively animals celebrating spring very energizing, because it is life.

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Does Evangelical Giving Do the World Good?

By Valerie Tarico

Who do we trust...?Image by carf via Flickr

This week, Barack Obama is expected to sign into law the GIVE Act, which aims to increase volunteering. It gives young people a way to pay for education with public service. Some right wingers have been squawking because the plan excludes religious activities like church attendance and outreach from the social service hours that can be applied for credit. Personally I’m relieved. I want my taxes to pay for programs with clear benefits, and I want the wall separating church and state repaired. But before we secular types get all high and mighty we should take a look at why some people think that faith based programs are necessary for the good of society.

Several studies (e.g. here and here) show that religious people give more dollars and volunteer hours to charity than do nonbelievers. Evangelical Christians have been trumpeting these findings: No matter what you may think about our exclusive offer of salvation, our religion is a social good.

As a former Evangelical I tend toward skepticism, especially when it comes to data that have been assembled and promoted by ideologues. And yet I’m inclined to suspect that these results tap something real. Sociologists have found that tribal identity increases altruism toward other members of the tribe (though at the expense of outsiders). In many ways, a religion functions as a tribe. Besides ordinary in-group/out-group effects, religions explicitly teach that we are made to serve something larger than ourselves. They encourage members to give of themselves to gods, co-religionists and others---in part by promising deferred compensation. But perhaps even more importantly, they provide a community and structure for doing so.

Let’s assume that religious people are more generous or altruistic. An interesting follow-up question is this: Where is this generosity directed? Does it serve the cause of goodness? By a scientific definition of altruism, suicide bombing is an altruistic act supported by religious attendance. It is the individual sacrificing his life (and reproductive potential) in the service of another individual or the greater collective--in this case Allah, Islam, the Muslim brotherhood. But is it as a social good?

A belief set can redirect altruistic do-gooder impulses away from activities that actually serve human well-being and onto activities that serve to replicate the belief set itself. Within conservative Christianity, a tremendous amount of donated time and money is solicited for conversion activities: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Is religious recruiting a social good? On this, most evangelists and I would have opposite opinions, at least about Christian recruiting. (We might be more in agreement about the proselytizing done by Hare Krishnas or Scientologists.) It is only fair to give evangelical missionaries credit for their intentions. If you truly believe the unsaved are going to be tortured eternally, then there is no greater good than to spend your life saving their souls. By comparison, nothing else matters. A missionary, operating on this premise, may experience herself as highly generous, because she is.

She also might protest that independent of afterlife benefits, accepting Jesus makes people happy in this life, here and now. This is true. Sometimes. Jesus worship can fill people with deep joy. It can get alcoholics to stop drinking and abusers to stop abusing. It can save marriages. But sometimes the opposite happens. (See thousands of testimonials at exChristian.net). Pentecostals point to happy African church-going children singing and dancing. A former Pentecostal might point to the African children who have been kicked out of their communities or killed because new converts to Pentecostalism saw them as witches and took their took their Bibles literally. The net here and now benefits of proselytizing are arguable.

A darker way to look at Christian "outreach" is as an example of how viral beliefs, sometimes called meme complexes, can exploit the human tendency toward altruism. What I mean is that a belief set can redirect altruistic do-gooder impulses away from activities that actually serve human well-being and onto activities that serve to replicate the belief set itself. When the Asian tsunami hit, a highly successful Seattle mega church directed members to do three things: pray for people who were affected, give to Mars Hill Church, and give to the Mars Hill church-building work in India. Why not reverse this--pray for Mars Hill church, pray for our missionary work, and give money to the people who were affected? Churches that make suggestions like these are, on average shrinking. Churches that follow the Mars Hill model are growing.

Daniel Dennett in the first three pages of his book, Breaking the Spell, beautifully narrates how a similar redirection occurs in nature. An ant climbs to the top of a stem of grass and lingers there. Why? Not because it is adaptive for the ant. Rather, another organism has take charge of the ant’s brain and to reproduce it needs the ant to be eaten by a cow. When a person’s altruistic impulses are directed toward winning converts, it is valid to ask whether they are actually serving human wellbeing or simply serving a mind virus.

If we don’t count their recruiting activities, do Evangelical Christians actually give more than non-religious? Do they give more to things that we humans pretty much agree are social goods? Sorry, all you fellow secularists, thought the gap narrows the answer still appears to be yes. Besides outreach, giving to churches funds what economists call "club goods". Churches often do a wonderful job of providing and organizing members services: warm meals for kids with a sick parent, adventures for teenagers, housing for young adults, support during bereavement, even free counseling or legal services. And with regard to outsiders, even if food, medical care, or friendship is offered primarily as bait to set a fish hook, the food and medical care are real.

But even beyond the money given to churches, religious people appear to give more to ordinary charities than secular folks do. At least based on self report data, religious participation and religious giving are positively correlated with giving to nonreligious charities like educational institutions, social services, even blood banks. This appears to hold true for the 40ish percent of Americans who self-describe as Evangelical or born again as well as their more theologically open counterparts. If this makes those of us who are freethinkers squirm a bit, perhaps it should.

You might protest that that charity should be only a way station on the road to justice, and that your energies are better spent working for structural change. Many secular folks and liberal people of faith believe this is true. I know I do. As a non-theist, I once sat on the nonprofit board of an organization called the Washington Association of Churches because their mission was my mission: Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly. Like me, they sought solutions that went beyond charity.

But even if justice is the destination, those way stations are still needed. Most of us agree that both generosity and justice are virtues. We prefer to live in a world where both are in rich supply. Maybe, now that freethinkers are coming out of the closet it is time for us to begin thinking about how to create our own communities and structures that empower personal generosity. Since we don't have a sales mandate or a promise of treasure laid up in Heaven, we--unlike many Christians--are free to give without expecting something back except maybe a bit of good will. Recently Seattle Atheists organized a blood drive for members. Now, that’s what I’m talking about.

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The Stage Is Just Way Too Big

By WizenedSage

Foto of the Milky WayImage via Wikipedia

According to the Bible, we humans are clearly the crowning achievement of God’s creation. We are what it’s all about, the central actors, what it was all made for. But, there’s something terribly wrong with this picture.

Consider for a moment, if you were staging a play for a half dozen actors, would you build a stage four miles on a side for the performance? Wouldn’t this be a bit like building a universe several billion light years across and then putting your actors all on one tiny planet in the suburbs of a fairly average galaxy, revolving around a relatively modest star?

It is not easy to grasp how big the universe is. In fact, it is probably impossible to truly wrap our minds around it. But let’s try shrinking it down to a model so that we might just begin to get a feel for the immensity of this stage we are on.

Let’s imagine that our sun is the size of a typical grain of sand. If you put 1,000 of these grains end to end, they would measure about 1 yard long (or one meter, we are only approximating here). Now imagine laying out 1,000 such strings side by side, so that you had a sheet of 1,000 x 1,000, or one million grains. Now let’s stack 1,000 of these sheets one atop the other. Now we have a cube 1 yard (3 feet) on a side, containing 1,000 x 1,000 x 1,000, or 1 billion grains of sand.

It is not easy to grasp how big the universe is. In fact, it is probably impossible to truly wrap our minds around it. The Milky Way galaxy, in which we reside, contains (depending on source) somewhere between 100 billion and 400 billion stars. So, let’s take a midpoint and assume it’s 200 billion. In our model, then, our galaxy of 200 billion stars could be represented by 200 cubic yards of sand. Now, of course the stars are not really aligned edge to edge as in our model, but we are just trying to get a rough picture of what 200 billion of something might look like.

A typical school classroom might be something like 21 feet wide, by 30 feet long, by 9 feet high. This would amount to 210 cubic yards. Close enough. So, if you fill this typical classroom with sand, it would contain roughly 200 billion grains (stars), and our star, the sun, is just one of those grains. Just one.

And as the infomercial says, “But that’s not all!” Astronomers’ estimates of the number of galaxies in the universe range from about 100 billion to 400 billion. Let’s take the midpoint of 200 billion again (can you see this next step coming yet?). Now let’s return to our classroom full of sand, but this time each grain of sand represents a galaxy containing, on average, 200 billion or so stars. So now, our star is represented by one two-hundred-billionth of a grain of sand in a room containing 200 billion grains of sand.

Now that is a mighty big stage. But, of course, we have totally ignored the vast reaches of space in our example. In our model, to get distances correct, the nearest neighbor grain to our grain-of-sand sun (at 4.3 light years) would be roughly five miles away, and the distances between neighbor galaxies is typically millions of light years.

I will grant that you could legitimately quibble a bit with my estimates of the dimensions of sand, stars, galaxies, etc., but there is no escaping the essential fact that the stage is awfully, awfully big for our little play. In fact, it seems the ultimate in hubris to claim, as the Bible does, that it’s all about us. In the grand scheme of nature’s universe we may amount to less than a tick on an elephant’s ass.

[Note: The Hubble Ultra Deep Field photo of deep space also helps to give a feel for the vastness of space. This is an image of a tiny field of sky about the size of a dime at 70 feet, and vacant in any small telescope, yet it contains an estimated 10,000 galaxies.] http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2004/07/

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Easter, Death, and Life

By Marlene Winell

Vintage Easter #14Image by OldPixels.com via Flickr

It’s Easter; I have memories of getting up early year after year as a child to go to Easter Sunrise Service. We gathered somewhere outdoors, simulating the women and disciples who went to Jesus’ tomb in the early morning on the day of his resurrection. We sang certain hymns that were only for Easter – “Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Ha-a-a-a-He -lelujah,” “He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me and talks with me, along life’s narrow way!” I liked it – the brisk early morning, the feeling of life and hope, the joy of the music. Unlike a lot of other church experiences, it was a day of celebration. And what a profound message – death has been conquered! Just put your faith in Christ.

mwinell [AT] gmail [DOT] com
Recovery retreats May 1-3, and June 5-7
And now? It’s been many years and I’m no longer a Christian. I do not believe I will continue after I die. In my work as a psychologist, I work with people coming out of religion. There are many issues to deal with, and top or the list for many is this question of death and hellfire. The indoctrination is deep and insidious, a form of child abuse in my opinion. Even without hell, the idea of nonexistence (if that is the direction of change in belief), is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow. Fundamentalist Christianity downgrades a human lifetime compared to eternity and denigrates the whole world as fallen. How many times were we told to focus on where we will be in the hereafter? The result is fear, because no one is certain, and also neglect of the life that we have now.

For those of you who are anxious today and struggle with the idea of death, I can tell you that it is possible to stop fearing damnation. I certainly have and many other former believers have too. It is a phobia indoctrination that serves the religion. If you think you should believe “just in case,” think about what you would be missing. Essentially, your life. The greatest challenge for a human is to know about death, and live fully in the face of it. Other animals can more easily “be here now,” and we can learn from them. However, we have more awareness and it is our existential dilemma to make peace with death.

In a way, we do continue on. Our molecules get rearranged and become other things; nothing is lost, not one atom. All matter and energy in the universe is conserved, according to physics. I find it beautiful to walk in a forest and see a fallen tree where it is decomposing, nourishing the earth, and causing new life to spring up. And if you worry about your soul, ask yourself, “Where were “you” before you were born?” Is that so frightening?

No, we are better off paying attention to the present. This life is limited but so are a lot of things. The Christian attitude of denigrating life because it is short makes no sense. Is a wonderful meal any less wonderful because it ends? When you are listening to incredible music, are you upset because you know the piece will finish? Hopefully not, and we can extend that lesson to life itself. People who have a brush with death often learn to appreciate life in a special way. Our time on this earth is precious. Perhaps when we cherish our days, honor what is possible, love our fellow humans as best we can, and look at the world with awe and wonder, we can achieve a spirituality of a different kind. Of our own free will, we can commit acts of random kindness and dance for no reason at all. Death be damned.

For the recovering fundamentalist, reclaiming intuition and learning to trust one’s inner wisdom is an exciting process. We are not empty, weak, incapable, or bad. We are all interconnected and a part of our amazing universe. Even Einstein said thinking we are individuals is an illusion.
One day, when I was a little discouraged, I wrote to myself from the wise part of me (yes, we are all multiples), and then wondered about that voice. This is what emerged, and it applies to all of us, so I hope you find a bit of inspiration too. I asked where the encouragement was coming from:

“This is from the force that makes the new shoot grow between concrete slabs. This is from the symmetry of fractals. This is from the incomprehensible distance of space, this is from the sound waves that blend and beat and tell you to dance, this is from the little child that looks at you clearly with no fear and says hi, this is from the unadulterated force of the sea under you and all around you when you swim in the ocean, the sea that takes no prisoners when the tide comes in, the sea that spawned life, and the same sea that sends a wave spreading up the sand to your bare feet, with rhythmic purring caress, bringing you the gems that make you smile - the perfect tiny shell, the fragment of blue glass that you tuck in your pocket.

mwinell [AT] gmail [DOT] com
Recovery retreats May 1-3, and June 5-7
“This is from the cosmic red afterglow of the big bang. This is from all eleven dimensions, from all the things you don't understand and like that you don't understand. This is from the parallel universes that come with the eleven dimensions, penetrating the membrane. This is from the aquifer beneath all of you, the source feeding flashes of human greatness. This is from the massive network of fungus, hidden from view under seemingly separate plants. This is from the power behind the form, the elusive explanation, the delectable mystery. I only have one thing to say to you right now - and that is REMEMBER ME. You are not alone. You always have a reason to go on. and there is no choice; you will go on anyway. Ineffable and inexorable, both. The tide is coming in again today; the ocean has not been deciding.”

Happy Spring.

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