Harassment By Evangelicals Lit My Path To Atheism

by The Atheist Geek

The Watchtower and Awake from The Jehovah's Wi...Image by Dan Patterson via Flickr

II was almost 18 when I attended my first meeting at a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses. Or I would have attended it if I had found the Hall before the meeting started. I had been talking to a girl at High School about The Watchtower Society's teachings for a few weeks when I asked her for directions to the Hall. Her directions were wrong, so I was late.

I sat in the Kingdom Hall's parking lot for an hour that night because I didn't want to interrupt the meeting. The Witnesses were already leaving their book study when I finally walked up to the front door. The conductor was just locking up when I stepped into the light. He was a congregation Elder. He shook my hand as the girl who'd invited me came over to say hi. Then he accused me of attending the meeting just to get into her pants. A few minutes later, he was handing me a couple of magazines to read. I came back two days later.

Things went OK for a while. Everyone wanted to meet the kid with the strength to "do the right thing" against his parent's wishes. But this changed once the congregation got used to having me around. There was a lot of pressure to start proselytizing and to get baptized. They began to disapprove of everything about me, even my clothes and hair. I began conforming to their standards one at a time and even got baptized. That only made it worse.

I didn't blame God for any of this. It wasn't his fault or the Society's that the Elders at my Kingdom Hall were jerks. I had to stay loyal to the organization if I wanted God's approval. You can't live forever in a paradise Earth without that. Trouble was, did I really want to be a part of the New System if people like these were going to run the show? After nearly 6 years, I realized that the answer was no. For the first time, I wondered if I should take the Society's word when it claimed to be the one and only "True Religion." I wanted to get away from it all so I could sort out how it had gone wrong.

I stopped going out in field service, a big no no for one of Jehovah's Witnesses. Then I stopped attending meetings. I hadn't given up on God or religion, mind you. I actually prayed about it, hoping God would understand. I thought I would return if the Society became less haughty and its Elders less authoritarian. That never happened. But I digress.

No one was bothered by my absence from the Kingdom Hall for about two weeks.

The Dam Bursts

I remember coming home that first night and finding about 40 messages on my answering machine. Most of them were from people I hardly knew. This continued for weeks. It was a small town and I had been part of a congregation of nearly 250 people, so I couldn't go anywhere without bumping into one of Jehovah's Witnesses. "Haven't seen you in a while," they'd say as they snuck up behind me at the grocery store. Then they'd hassle me about my meeting attendance without a care for the attention they were drawing. I finally got my wife to run all of our errands so I could avoid them.

This was not an easy journey. There was a lot of pain and misery along the way. But it has been worthwhile. It made me who I am today. They began stopping by my home--always two or more at a time--to preach at me. My wife was eager to let them in. She was a Jehovah's Witness too and hoped they'd straighten me out. Instead, all they did was make me angry as they quoted scripture or the Society's literature. Both are deemed irrefutable by Jehovah's Witnesses, and both always "proved" that I was wrong. Years passed before the visits from Elders ceased. Other Witnesses continued dropping by to get their field service time started or stopped at my expense. (Witnesses add up the amount of time they spend preaching door to door and turn the tally in to an Elder at the end of every month. They can only start their time from the moment they start preaching to someone and must end it with the last person. The more hours you have, the more spiritual you are.)

Each confrontation put my stomach in a knot. To them, I was the dope who'd thrown away paradise to serve the Devil just because the Elders were picking on me. It was more than that, of course. But I had no answer for their accusations because I hadn't sorted figured it out for myself yet. Their presumptions and their arrogance still made me want to stand up to them. My experiences were painful, but I would have to think about them if I was ever going to do that.

They wanted to bring me back into the fold. Instead, their efforts only pushed me further away.

Search For Answers

I began researching the Society's literature to see if their claims were backed by evidence. I found a lot of web sites that were more about anti-Watchtower rhetoric than arguments of substance, but some were good. I paid special attention to the Society's "Creation Book" (AKA Life-How did it get here? By evolution or creation?). This was the Society's infamous attempt to refute evolution. I found that many had refuted it instead. For those of you who've never heard of the Creation Book, Richard Dawkins later talked about it in his own book, The God Delusion.

I came across articles on philosophy and especially atheism along the way. In reading these, I believed the arguments for nonbelief were irrefutable. I began to realize that I was already an atheist, but not a skeptic. I still believed in ghosts because many in my family had experienced poltergeists first hand. Still, reading articles about atheism made me realize that you don't have to be a skeptic to be an atheist. Then I discovered that there were rational, scientific explanations for my family's supernatural experiences. Soon, I became a skeptic as well.

Much Better Now

Ultimately, the efforts by Jehovah's Witnesses and others to aggressively convert me to their beliefs backfired. In trying to sort out my views on gods and the supernatural to stand up to evangelists, I began comparing the arguments for belief and non-belief because I wanted to know the truth. In my book, the atheists won. Now I'm one of them.

I admit that I fit several atheist stereotypes. I have had a bad religious experience. I don't get along with my father. I don't submit to authority for its own sake any more. Yet my reasons for being an atheist are too complex to write off as petty emotional damage. I didn't become an atheist to get back at a god I no longer believed in. My experiences simply put me in a place where I wanted to find real answers, even if they weren't answers I would like. So when I found atheism, I was open to it.

This was not an easy journey. There was a lot of pain and misery along the way. But it has been worthwhile. It made me who I am today.

I wouldn't change a thing.

VBS Nazis

By Daniel Brown

Summer is time for fun—swimming, fireworks, family reunions, and trips to Disney World. It’s also prime time for unfettered Christian indoctrination of our youth. Yes, I’m referring to Vacation Bible School (VBS).

One of the most effective ways to convert a person to Christianity is to capture their mind as a child. All religions and totalitarian regimes understand this. Take for instance the Hitler Youth. A ruthless and harsh organization whose goal was to indoctrinate German youths so that, once adults, they would fight faithfully for the Third Reich.

Likewise, Christians have established Vacation Bible School. By contrast, VBS is filled with fun, games, cookies, and harmless child’s play. However, at the beginning of each day, the children are called to congregate to recite Scripture, pledge allegiance to the Bible and Christian flag, and listen to a dogmatic lesson about a nonexistent afterlife and a zombie magician. As a child in VBS, I remember singing “Onward Christian Soldiers”—a blatant homage to the Crusades and song that is still sung today in VBSs across the Western world. VBS is full of war-related overtones.

Christians claim they are loving people who only care about the children’s souls, but it is more than that. It is a blind allegiance to a myth that is reinforced daily in their own lives and they feel driven to force it upon their children and the children of others. The following anonymous quote from a Christian parenting website demonstrates the Christian adult’s attitude toward discipline and indoctrination:

“If you don't chasten your children, if you don't use the rod in obedience to God's laws and drive that child's foolishness far from him, if you spoil that child by sparing the rod, you don't love that child or care anything about that child! You hate that child! God cannot stand any kind of unfaithfulness in His army anymore than any other Commander of any other military force can take a chance on security risks and disobedience and failure to follow orders and obey commands.”

Vacation Bible School is nothing more than an annual indoctrination program disguised as a harmless fun time for kids run by the most devoted, dogmatic church members. It is detrimental to the development of a child’s reasoning ability and corrupts his worldview. Christian indoctrination of children is utterly immoral and evil.

A Good Christian Wife

By Daniel Brown

Jack Whinery, homesteader, with his wife and t...Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

Christian men are very insecure. As with all insecure people, they must domineer others to feel good about themselves. Once they snag a woman, the goal is to force them to submit. Women must be kept under their thumb at all times. Physical abuse isn’t necessary as emotional, psychological, and religious abuse are usually much more effective.

Below are some methods whereby Christian men accomplish this:
  1. Make lots of babies. After all, this is her ONLY purpose in life. Right?
  2. Make the woman homeschool them.
  3. Keep her nice and plump so no other men look at her.
  4. Buy her books about being a “Christian” mother.
  5. Make her wear frumpy clothes.
  6. Encourage her to have a benign hobby like scrapbooking, Pampered Chef, etc.
  7. Send her to Beth Moore conferences.
  8. Demean her. After all, she IS beneath you.
  9. Buy her new kitchen appliances so she gets the hint.
  10. Break her spirit.

I’m sure there are other methods I’m unaware of, but you get the picture.

Militant Atheists

"Militant Atheists" - a letter on the term to those who use it.

A (biased?) Wikipedia article on antitheism and militant atheism:

ATHEIST (n.): one without a belief in, or one who lacks belief in, the existence of god or gods.

Secular Humanism:

Rejecting Atheism:

Christian Belief Through the Lens of Cognitive Science: Part 5 of 6

By Valerie Tarico

How Viral Ideas Hook Us

Did you know that Temple Baptist Church was built on land that sold for 57 cents, the amount saved by a little girl that had been turned away from their Sunday school? Did you hear about the guy who died in his sleep, killed by his own farts? Can you believe it?! Elvis Presley said, "The only thing a nigger can do for me is buy my records and shine my shoes." And,guess what--scholars at the Smithsonian Institution have uncovered new interpretations of Nostradamus that relate to Barack Obama.

The above statements are false. But that hasn’t kept them from circulating the internet for years. Each of them is the heart of a viral email, which means that each has some quality that makes people forward it, over and over and over. The first is a kind of message commonly known as “glurge,” too-sweet-to-be-true stories that nevertheless give people a warm feeling or even chills. The second makes us laugh and piques our sense of curiosity. The third plays with our contradictory fascination with celebrities, which includes a desire to tear them down. The fourth appeals to our yearning for magic. These stories all are drawn from the urban legends fact-finding site, Snopes.com. What is the common theme? Emotional arousal.

Comparing religion to chain mail seems crass, but the kinship is real. And as Francis Bacon said, “The eye of the understanding is like the eye of the sense; for as you may see great objects through small crannies or holes, so you may see great axioms of nature through small and contemptible instances.”

Viral email has a variety of reproductive strategies. Like computer viruses, many chain mail messages contain explicit “copy-me commands.” Some promise us good luck if we forward the message to ten people before the day is up – or a week of happiness, or even prosperity. Some threatens us with bad luck if we don’t. Some tries to shame us: “If you care about your friends, you’ll send this information about cervical cancer/visa fraud/brown recluse spiders . . .” But most viral emails simply contain something that makes us want to pass them on. They may make us laugh or feel validated and righteous. Many delight us. A few tap our sense of magic or mystery or transcendence.

The term “viral marketing” has itself gone viral recently, popularized by books like Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point, or Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath. Corporations have discovered that their best sales staff are satisfied customers, and they’ve been experimenting. Can we figure out the formula for starting a fad? Can we seed the virus with a few hired hands who create buzz? The Heath brothers offer communications professionals a simple formula which they call the “Six Principles for SUCCESs:” SIMPLE UNEXPECTED CONCRETE CREDIBLE EMOTIONAL STORIES. Look at the formula. Now think back about what I said regarding the boundaries of supernaturalism and the born again experience. The fit is remarkably tight.

In the field of medicine, epidemiologists study patterns of contagion. They might track, for example, how an influenza virus spread across one region and how it jumped from country to country in the bodies of specific carriers. Based on the way infections fan out, they may even be able to identify the “epicenter” of a disease. Some of the tools of epidemiology are now being applied to study the spread of viral ideas. But whereas diseases spread passively, meaning people rarely try to infect each other, viral ideas, also known as “memes” spread by harnessing the human desire to share what we know and to learn from each other. Memes get transmitted through established social networks. They spread horizontally within a generation, and vertically from generation to generation. That is why specific religions are concentrated in one part of the world or another and children tend to have the same religion as their parents.

For developmental reasons, children are particularly susceptible to simply accepting the ideas of their parents and community. If a parent says stoves burn you, cars can squish you, and bathing keeps you from getting itchy, kids tend to do best if they simply trust what their parents say. Nature has designed children to be “credulous.” This allows them to learn from the mistakes of their elders. It makes them more efficient in acquiring valuable information and adapting to cultural norms. It is also why evangelical parents are encouraged to convert their children. Research on identity development shows that if children can be contained within an enveloping religious community through their transition into young adulthood, few will ever leave. Bring up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

A successful religion needs to have the qualities of a successful virus. In a changing environment, this means it must have the ability to mutate and adapt. In the past, religions were spread largely by edict and conquest. Today, though, religion is perceived as an individual choice and religions must gain share by attracting adherents. This is why, today, the religions that are gaining mindshare are those that have good marketing, high birthrates, and what economists call “appealing club goods”. In the current environment, Christianity has been able to produce offshoots that need no edict or conquest.

Significantly, the religions that are growing right now are ones with strong copy-me commands. Evangelical Christianity is centered on what Christians call the Great Commission: “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, baptizing them in the name of the Father the Son and the Holy Ghost.” In addition, just as the Roman church latched onto the strategy of competitive breeding (keep women home, sanctify a high birth rate), so Evangelicals have begun to explicitly add this form of copy-me command to the mix. By contrast, modernist Christianity is more often centered on what Christians call the Great Commandment: “Love the Lord your god with all your heart, soul and mind, and . . . love your neighbor as yourself.” In a straight up competition, the copy-me command wins out, and in fact, evangelicals are gaining mindshare, while modernists are losing it.

One of the fastest changing aspects of our world is the growth of information. As knowledge grows, some varieties Christianity accept new scientific or historical findings and reinterpret their sacred texts and traditions in light of our best understanding of the world around us. Tangentially, this is the approach taken by Tibetan Buddhism. The 14th Dalai Lama has said, "If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own worldview.” This kind of adaptation is common for forms of Christianity that, like Buddhism, are more centered in praxis (practice) than belief. For those that are centered in belief, adapting to new knowledge is more difficult, and the survival strategy more often is a sort of fundamentalist retrenchment. Karen Armstrong’s book, The Battle for God, describes this retrenchment in the Abrahamic religions.

The need to adapt may seem at odds with the recent success of fundamentalism, but in actual fact, fundamentalism is an adaptation to a changing world. Rather than revising dogmas, fundamentalists develop stronger defenses against external threats to a traditional homeostasis. An extreme example of this can be seen in the case of the Amish or Hassidic Jews: the belief system sustains itself relatively unchanged by engaging people to re-create an ancestral environment in which the belief system emerged.

But most theological fundamentalists have a more hybrid approach. They protect their children from external influence by home schooling or parochial schools but don’t mind accessing creationist materials from interactive websites. They offer in-house social services that include pop psychology. They promote hierarchy and sexism but are willing to have women and children as spokespersons for these views. They play up the risks of inquiry and doubt and yet use scientific findings to make their arguments convincing. Fundamentalist populations resist ideological change, but they have learned to exploit popular culture, best business practices, new technologies, and even scholarship itself to maintain the survival of their beliefs.

Since a virus and host fit together like a lock and key, understanding viral ideas helps us to understand the human mind, and vice versa. Retro-viruses and influenza mutate rapidly, which makes it hard to develop immunizations against them. On the spectrum of religions, Christianity shows a similar flexibility, regularly spinning off new sects, denominations, and even non-denominational renegades. And yet each of these taps a familiar range of emotions and social mechanisms and is constrained by the cognitive structures that place bounds on human supernaturalism. Christianity has adapted to a broad range of human minds and cultures, a strategy that has resulted in success beyond the wildest visions of the patriarchs.

Learn More:
Memetic Lexicon
Richard Brodie - Virus of the Mind
Chip Heath & Dan Heath, Made to Stick:Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die(New York: Random House, 2007), 253-257.

If you don't want to miss any of this series, subscribe to Valerie Tarico at this blog or send email to vt at valerietarico.com and request to be added to her weekly articles list. Missed Parts 1-4? All past articles are archived at www.spaces.live.com/awaypoint.

Things I Wish to Say to My Mother

Greeting for mother and grandmotherImage by sakura_chihaya+ via Flickr

Although this may need some polishing, this is what I wish to one-day say to my mother, but having difficulty working up the courage due to her anger when I say something contradictory to her beliefs. It is more or less in open-letter form, boldly packed with much emotion, which I have yet to send to her, if I ever do. She will never see it on the net, because she has some issues with modern technology, but none the less I wrote it and maybe one day soon I can say these things to her or at least mail this to her to read. Regardless of the intent, I still see her reacting vehemently with anger. That is the way it has been when I stepped “out-of-line” in her view and probably will always be until one of us dies- hopefully in the order nature intended. The thing is I have always been better at saying my thoughts in writing than verbally, regardless of other people’s reactions to my words.

Mother, have you ever noticed that when I left home twenty-four years ago, I did not stay in the Lutheran Church ELCA, Free Methodist, Church of God, or any other church with remotely similar to Evangelicalism? Instead, in order to meet one of your requirements, I chose the Episcopal Church and spent many years studying various religions and philosophies in order to find my own way.

My rejection of the crucifixion because of its barbarity you forcefully pushed aside in favour of your dogmatism concerning it. Because you and my relatives said it was the ultimate sacrifice, that made it so in your minds and I had to believe it or else. However, just because authority and the Bible say so, does not make it so. It is all a human concept and the Bible is not the inerrant word of God, but rather the very errant word of Man, written and inspired by Man.

Your wish was to get me to attend church after your third born-again experience and even said you knew I would rebel if you chose something like my great uncle or grandparents’ church, so you chose the Lutheran church for us. Unfortunately, the one you chose carried the Evangelical label. While I have nothing against Lutherans, it was not for me, yet you did not comprehend why I stayed sick with anorexia and got upset when others blamed you, for you did not see yourself as abusive.

No, you were not physically or sexually abusive like my father, but the demand that I conform to your beliefs was and is abusive. It instilled fear of you and my other relatives, not of a deity, especially when you reacted with anger in response to what I said that you did not agree with.

The list of things that should have given you a clue that our beliefs differ somehow did not register with you or if it did, you pushed them aside, because you want to see your family in your very human concept of an afterlife. You did not notice that I went up to comfort you after you went up to my great uncle’s altar for a third time due to your “backsliding” and not to “be saved” nor did you realize that you wanted me to be baptized and that you and my great uncle were intimidating concerning the baptism.

Yet, when I attempt to tell you, “I’m a humanist” you cry, “You’re hurting me!” and then take an emotional turn into venomous anger as you demand to know what I believe under no uncertain terms. What do you expect me to do when you are rabid with dogmatic ideology? The only thing that calms you is to give you lip service and appease you. However, I am tired of playing the game and want to be myself with you and allow you to get to know me, not some fantasy version you desire.

How easily you forget the first seven years of my life, in which your raised me by the humanist philosophy. You may not have known it consciously, but the various influences were there, especially with Dr. Benjamin Spock’s childrearing ideas and the various books you were able to read to me without me throwing a fit about what others were doing.

Please do not regret that though, because I am very happy with my philosophy and live a good life of reason and compassion without reliance on any superstition or dogma. I strive for that at least. I thank you greatly for all the humanist influences you gave me during my very early years. In fact, since I chose humanism for myself in my thirties, my health has improved greatly over the last several years. I chose to live my life as I see fit without allowing others to do it for me. I chose to stand on my own two feet and face reality head-on as I brushed aside trying to be what everyone else wanted me to be.

I do not need anyone to send a letter to an adult Santa Claus because of it either. What I need is acceptance and real unconditional love that is not contingent on believing and conforming to what you believe. I need acceptance and acknowledgement as a human being who has a mind of her own and the capability to think for herself, not someone pounding me with their Evangelical dogmatic ideology.

Just once I would appreciate it if you called to ask, “How are you?” instead of the first thing I hear out of you being something to do with your religious beliefs only to bring you down with my lack of response to your enthusiasm. I have no logical or rational reason to get excited about such things, contrary to your belief.

You have a choice. You have always had a choice, but if your reaction is like that of my grandfather towards his brother, then it only serves to reject actually knowing who your daughter really is. I am still the same person, minus trying to appease and please you. Except for that one thing, nothing else about me is different.

I am not you. We are not the same person because you gave birth to me and it is well past time to change the all-inclusive “I” and “me” to “you and me”, because I am a totally separate person, an individual. I have never been you, either. My thoughts and opinions, which I kept to myself all these years, have never been your thoughts and opinions. They have always been my own, which I kept to myself, regardless of having a voice that is all mine.

Please keep in mind, that I am not that doll that you spoke so much about and supposedly prayed to come alive and a reality. A doll is something a little girl controls and manipulates, but it is not real. I am a real human being, not made of wood nor do I have a wooden heart. I am flesh and bone, which you conceived years ago, but not a doll that came to life due to a prayer answered by God. There was no fairy-winged angel dust that brought your doll from many years ago to life. It pains me to force you to see that reality, but it is a reality you must face.

Dolls are toys. Daughters are real and unlike dolls, they have feelings, thoughts, and opinions, which cannot and should not be manipulated, imposed upon, or ignored. There was no prayer in which some deity brought any doll to life. That is only a little girl’s childhood fantasy in relationship to a god concept about a favourite doll and nothing more.

By the way, I always hated that song “Wooden Heart/Muss I Denn” too, because for some reason, the actual words were ignored in favour of a fantasy of a doll coming to life by a little girl’s prayer to God. IF I lost my strings, then there is no more controlling or manipulation from anyone, not even you. It is time to give up such Pinocchio fantasies, especially when you know I never could stand Disney stories.

That is the first of many fantasies I wish for you to discard concerning me. The second one is your belief that everyone should share the same god concept, because not everyone shares your god concept. The rest we can work on slowly and at your own pace, but I do not expect you to disregard all your beliefs, which you hold so dear, nor do I intend to force you to do so, just the ones you impose and/or project upon me in relationship to what you believe everyone should believe. For me to do so would be psychological abusive to you and I do not want that either, especially since you held them for sixty-four years. However, those beliefs you hold so dear were imposed upon you and even enforced on you from day one of your life, yet you did not question them completely, even when you “backslided”.

Also, please do not send me any more propaganda about people having a bad relationship with their father reflecting their relationship with God. This has nothing to do with that, but rather an education, which you feared so much. I will grant you that a real education brings about critical thinking skills, which in return brings about reason and logic. However, an education did not harm or destroy any faith that I might have had, which was never the same as yours. Rather it answered my questions and doubts about religious beliefs, which I was denied until after I left home and made decisions for myself.

It took me over twenty-five years to get this far, but these are the choices I made for myself. I claim humanism as my own worldview. I did not choose disbelief in your god, but rather, it chose me years ago. Not once did I ever share your god concept and still do not. Whatever god concept I ever possessed was purely pantheistic, or sexed up atheism as Richard Dawkins calls it, and never theistic. Such atheistic beliefs do not require any religious text, so there never was any faith to destroy via an education. It all came from within myself and never was external or other worldly, which is something I do not expect you to comprehend, even if I explained the neurological basis of it to you. What an education did was help me understand the god concept I possessed as a child and gave me a greater appreciation for the human condition.

Sadly, your concept only brought me pain and misery. It was a source of misery and never a source of comfort, contrary to your belief. I watched our relatives over the years and I doubt such a concept ever actually brought anyone comfort, maybe pseudo-comfort, but not a real sense of comfort. The dogmatism behind it all did little except to perpetuate a cycle of abuse and neglect, which I am sadden you never saw. Trying harder to believe and clapping your hands together, like that in Peter Pan, will not change any of that.

I do not say these things to anger or upset you, but rather to continue my ongoing journey into adulthood and maturity, independent of any authority. In addition, I have not “backslid”, for I never dedicated my life to any deity as you have, but rather tried to keep you from being angry with me, especially as a child. My only regret is that neither you nor my other relatives ever saw what they were doing or even enabling with Evangelical beliefs, such as the abuse I endured from my father. I broke the cycle of abuse when I left home at nineteen, never to return or subject my offspring to such psychologically abusive ideology. You may be my mother and respect you as that, but not your beliefs. I never shared your beliefs and I never will. I cannot share your beliefs for it is not within me to do so and I am very happy to say my sons always had freedom of religion and from religion. There is no freedom of religion without freedom from religion, thus they had an advantage I never had until I left home.

I hope that we can move on from here without any more games or attempts to appease to keep the peace, because it is getting old and wearing thin. I also hope that we can move on from here as individuals who are respectful of each other’s worldviews without imposing on each other, as well as have a relationship that is more befitting of a mother with an adult daughter, because a non-theistic worldview such as humanism is not the end of the world, but a beginning. For me it is a way of life, which involves freedom, peace of mind, my own health, and well-being. This is not to anger you in any way, but rather a statement of my own independence as an adult and there is not a thing wrong with that.

Our forefathers made a Declaration of Independence to the Motherland years ago and today, the U.S. has a good relationship with England. In fact, it is a better relationship. Granted, there was a war, but it did not last forever and I expect, or at least hope, our relationship will eventually turned into a better one than it is now, regardless of your first reaction to this.

Note: “Backsliding” is a Wesleyan term that involves one being “born-again” or “rededicating” their life to the Lord Jesus Christ and can be repeated over an over again until one reaches “Christian perfection”, which are two of many Wesleyan ideological terms I may discuss in a later post. Thus, one of many differences between Calvinism and Wesleyan practices that may cause some confusion for some when I talk about the many times my mother has been “born-again”.

Time to grow up?

By Kevin B

ChimpanzeeImage by doug88888 via Flickr

It has been of my assertion ever since I broke free of childhood that religion quite simply does not make sense. It completely blows my mind to see intelligent people say they believe in Jesus and that they know that God exists. It makes me think to myself, humans as smart as we are, may not have the mental capacity to fully understand exactly what is going on. We have invented great things and advanced a long way but the basis of our intelligence may just be far too low to comprehend exactly how the universe and our world came to be.

We see this on earth, where a species can get to a level of comprehension of something but fail to fully understand. If you teach a chimpanzee to sign, does it really fully understand the language? Is it possible that we could one day teach that chimpanzee to talk and function in our world? The answer is no, and it is because the chimps brain is just not at a level to fully be on par with our own. I think this is where religion comes into play for humans. There are certain things about our physical world that are so far beyond us that we resort to religion so that we feel we understand.

Have you ever looked out into space and then looked at the ground you’re standing on and felt so incredibly small? We are smaller than a single bacterium on a grain of sand on a world sized beach. It seems however some of our bacteria believe they have solved our universe (based on nothing), and that the one Jesus bacteria is the answer.

I have come to peace with the fact that we may never know all the answers, but that to me is no reason to make them up. If we wish to be a species that survives and if we wish to be happy we need to give up on our archaic belief systems. They are no longer relevant and are only holding us back.

Science continues to give us more and more information about our universe, and hopefully one day we will gain a much better understanding of it. But in the mean time, while we are still waiting on those answers we need to focus on what we have already learned. We exist, we evolved, and we are now knowledgeable enough to overcome our tribal superstitions. It destroys families, kills friends, and cripples our ability to enjoy the very small amount of time we have to enjoy this planet.

Everyone, it is time for the next step in our evolution. It is time to break free, and be confident enough in ourselves that we no longer need a god to govern our society. We are a rational and emotional being, and we can function ethically without the threat of eternal damnation. As long as religion divides us, we will never all get along and never fully understand ourselves.

.....Let’s all grow up.


By E Chamberlain MD, San Diego CA

Washing off SIN (explored)Image by SamikRC via Flickr

The Apostle Paul reasons-- wrongly and without even bothering to cite evidence to make his case-- that one's failure to believe in God drowns the non-believer in a cesspool of immorality:

"Even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful."

Paul tries to sneak this tenet of his by us right from the start (Romans Chapter 1) and declines to acknowledge that one can be agnostic or atheist-- not liking to "retain God," at least not Paul's God, in one's knowledge-- and still be very moral, just as moral or even moreso than the best of Christians. An honest person would have acknowledged that many if not most non-believers are not the culprits and criminals that Paul describes. And one could very reasonably argue just the opposite-- that honest and thoughtful disbelief in Paul's God is not only a respectable moral choice, but is possibly a prerequisite to true morality.

A contrary conclusion 180 degrees opposite Paul's thesis should be considered in any contemplation of belief and its real-world consequences-- that belief in God can cause and has caused the cesspool of, in Paul's words, "things which are not convenient," such as a painful and counterproductive inordinately introspective neurosis about "sin" and a brainwashed, branded heart and mind, unwilling and unable to consider truth that conflicts with the supposed inspired revelation of the biblical text. And who can argue seriously that, as with other faiths, retaining the biblical God in one's knowledge can and hasn't caused a history of worse hate and worse moral horrors than "fornication, covetousness, envy, debate, whispering, spite, pride, and disobedience to parents?"

Similar falacious reasoning forms the foundation of Jesus' teaching. At the heart of his teaching is the premise that, he said, if a man lusts after a woman in his heart, he has committed adultery with her already. Is that so? Many, many thoughts will cross our minds in our lifetime. Like dreams, many are random, out of our will and control. We should no more be condemned for the bad ones than we should be rewarded for the good ones. In fact, it's when we restrain ourselves from following through on the bad thoughts that we should be most commended. That's what a mature, civilized person does. No, it's not the thought that counts. It's the action. And furthermore, by Jesus' same reasoning, if I have wanted or wished that I could help the misfortunate, heck, I've helped them already. But the bible doesn't teach that, does it? No, because Paul's and Jesus' aim was to make us all feel guilty and inadequate (sadly, with the attendant consequence of being depressed or neurotic or at least worn down by the inner self-loathing) so that we can see our "need" for the bible's god. Did no one see through this nonsense in Jesus' and Paul's day? Oh, yeah, I bet they did. They were called non-believers, heathen, and infidels and Christians were told not to keep company with them-- because they dared to think for themselves, something Christians learn not to do so they don't see the false teachings of their leaders.

Paul's and Jesus' two thousand year old premise is at the heart of much of Christianity's techniques, as Christians teach that lives become a wreck due to wrongs wrought from a lack of belief in the Christian God. Some down and out, sad and sorry souls convert to Christianity in hopes of a better moral life. Some attain a semblance of a better life. But at a price. And many do not. But one's lack of belief is not and was not the cause of immorality. And a false belief does not make for a healthy cure.

No matter what the moral or immoral consequences of one's beliefs, a false belief is wrong just because it is false, period, even if it did yield good moral consequences. Yet, to be clear, any of the good moral consequences attained by those believing in Paul's or another's god can be had without resorting to a belief in any god.

So next time someone says Jesus was a great teacher, you and I know the truth. And it shall set you free.

It's Mission Trip Time Again!

By Daniel Brown

It’s that time of year again! Pack your bags, round up your dusty ole passport, dig up that Hawaiian shirt you love so much (you know, the one that makes you look like Rick Warren), and get your flippy-floppies out—it’s mission trip time again! Time to go tell some third-world peasants about Jesus, hammer a few nails in a decrepit schoolhouse, and catch some rays!

Good times. I often reminisce about the days when I would travel to some god-forsaken place and tell uneducated, illiterate dark-skinned people about the zombie magic man. They latched on to the story immediately. Is there any wonder 500 people “come to know Christ” during these trips? A tall, well-dressed white man has come to their village to tell them of an invisible man in the sky who can give them anything they want if they just ask. Doesn’t matter if it’s true or not, as long as it makes you feel good. You're a god.

After being in that dusty place for a couple of days, it’s time for the real treat—the beach, shopping, or hitting the bars. My favorite mission trip was to France. I spoke to a group of youth for an hour, attended some dinner parties, then off to Paris! Ahhh…telling people about Jesus has never been so luxurious.

Upon return, it’s great to strut through the church—people patting you on the back for being a good Christian. You told those darkies about your white god. Show some photos of cute, foreign children, pass around a primitive looking headdress you picked from a street vendor, and cry when you describe the old woman you lead to Christ. You’re the man. You’re special. You “feel” like God has “blessed” you. You come home to 21st century amenities and all the peasants are left with is piles of LifeWay propaganda littering the streets.

Be proud! You're doing the Lord's work!

Christian Belief Through the Lens of Cognitive Science: Part 4 of 6

By Valerie Tarico

The Born-Again Experience

Split Personality Setup IImage by nickwheeleroz via Flickr

I prayed harder and just then I felt like everything I was saying was being sucked into a vacuum. When I stood up, I felt like thin air; I had to brace myself. I felt this energy, it was a kind of an ecstasy.” Cathy “Something began to flow in me—a kind of energy . . . Then came the strange sensation that water was not only running down my cheeks, but surging through my body as well, cleansing and cooling as it went.” Colson “It was a beautiful feeling of well-being, warmth and loving . . . I went home and all night long these warm feelings kept coming up in my body.” Jean “I felt something real warm overwhelming me. It was in just a moment, yet it was like an eternity. . . . a joy, such a joy hit me with such a tremendous force that I jumped . . . and ran.” Helen. – from Conway & Siegelman, Snapping, pp 24, 32, 12, 31

For many Christians, being born again is unlike anything they have ever known. A sense of personal conviction, yielding or release followed by indescribable peace and joy – this is the stuff of spiritual transformation. Once experienced it is unforgettable, and many people can recall small details years later. In the aftermath of such a moment, an alcoholic may stop drinking or a criminal fugitive may hand himself in to the authorities. A housewife may sail through her tasks for weeks, flooded by a sense of God’s love flowing through her to her children. A normally introverted programmer may begin inviting his co-workers to church.

This experience, more than any other, creates a sense of certainty about Christian belief and so makes belief impervious to rational argumentation. A believer knows what he or she has experienced and seen. Even converts who don’t feel radically transformed after praying “the sinner’s prayer” may feel overwhelmed by God’s presence during subsequent prayer or worship. Evangelical and Pentecostal forms of Christianity that are gaining ground around the world particularly emphasize emotional peaks such as faith healing or speaking in tongues. Worshipers may get caught up in exuberant singing, shouting, dancing and tears of joy.

Conversion is a process that begins with social influence. As sociologists like to say, our sense of reality is socially constructed. What most Christians don’t know is that these experiences are not unique to Christianity. In fact, the quotations that you just read come from two born again Christians, a Moonie, and an encounter group participant. Their words are similar, because the born again experience doesn’t require a specific set of beliefs. It requires a specific social/emotional process, and the dogmas or explanations are secondary.

Flo Conway and Jim Siegelman have written an excellent book on what they call sudden personality change, or “snapping.” The first edition of their book, Snapping focused on small countercultural cults and self-help groups that sprang up in the 1960’s and 1970’s such as Hare Krishna, Transcendental Meditation, EST, Mind Dynamics, Unification Church, Scientology, and others. When asked about whether Evangelical Christianity might fit the pattern, Conway and Siegelman were reluctant to say yes. Today they admit, “In America today, increasingly, that line [between a cult and a legitimate religion] cannot be categorically drawn. . . . Our research raised serious questions concerning the techniques used to bring about conversion in many evangelical groups.”(Conway, 37).

Conversion is a process that begins with social influence. As sociologists like to say, our sense of reality is socially constructed. We will come back to this later. Suffice for now to say that missionary work typically begins with simple offers of friendship or conversations about shared interests. As a prospective converts are drawn in, a group may envelope them in warmth, good will, thoughtful conversations and playful activities, always with gentle pressure toward the group reality.

In revival meetings or retreats, semi-hypnotic processes draw a potential convert closer to the toggle point. These include including repetition of words, repetition of rhythms, evocative music, and Barnum statements (messages that seem personal but apply to almost everyone-- like horoscopes). Because of the positive energy created by the group, potential converts become unwitting participants in the influence process, actively seeking to make the group’s ideas fit with their own life history and knowledge. Factors that can strengthen the effect include sleep deprivation or isolation from a person’s normal social environment. An example would be a late night campfire gathering with an inspirational story-teller and altar call at Child Evangelism’s “Camp Good News.”

These powerful social experiences culminate in conversion, a peak experience in which the new converts experience a flood of relief. Until that moment they have been consciously or unconsciously at odds with the group center of gravity. Now, they may feel that their darkest secrets are known and forgiven. They may experience the kind of joy or transcendence normally reserved for mystics. And they are likely to be bathed in love and approval from the surrounding group, which mirrors their experience of God.

The otherworldly mental state that I refer to as the domain of mystics is known in clinical terms as a "transcendence hallucination". The transcendence hallucination is an acute sense of connection with a reality that lies beyond and behind this natural plane. It typically lasts for just a few seconds or minutes but may leave profound impression that lasts a lifetime. For Christians it may be interpreted as an encounter with a supernatural person -- Jesus, or an angel. (A fan of the paranormal might be convinced of an encounter with space aliens or ghosts.) More often, it is a disembodied sense of connection accompanied by intense feelings of joy, wonder, peacefulness or alternately terror, depending on the context.

A transcendence hallucination can be triggered by neurological events like a seizure, stroke, or migraine aura; or by a drug such as psilocybin, but it also can be triggered by over or under-stimulation of the brain. Some mystics from the past have described or even drawn these events with such impressive detail that a diagnostic hypothesis is possible. Hildegard of Bingen, a medieval mystic created scores of drawings that show the visual field distorted in keeping with a migraine aura.

In modern times, author Karen Armstrong describes the seizures that she first thought to be triggered spiritually. In discussing an altered state known as Kundalini awakening, one migraine sufferer commented, “I usually don't follow any of the mystic/esoteric stuff, but I must say it is kind of strange to see all my symptoms lined up like that outside of a western/medical context." I should emphasize, though, that these altered states don’t depend on some kind of neurological damage or pathology. Sensory deprivation, fasting, meditation, rhythmic drumming, or crowd dynamics have all been used systematically to trigger altered states in normal people. From the moment snapping occurs, with or without a transcendence hallucination, religious interpretations of the experience are provided.

From the moment snapping occurs, whether or not accompanied by a transcendence hallucination, religious interpretations of the experience are provided. “Lacking understanding and with no reliable method for investigating the phenomenon, people through the ages have grappled imaginatively with their experiences, looking to some higher order and ascribing these abrupt changes in awareness to a source outside the body. They have been explained as messages from beyond or gifts of revelation and enlightenment, personal communications that could only be delivered by a universal being of infinite dimensions, a cosmic force that comprehends all space, time and earthly matter.”(Conway, 30) These explanations become the foundation stones on which whole castles of beliefs will be constructed. The authorities who triggered the otherworldly experience are trusted implicitly, which gives them the power to now transform the convert’s world view in accordance with their own theology.

The conversion process, as I have described it sounds sinister, as if manipulative groups and hypnotic leaders deliberately ply their trade to suck in the unsuspecting and take over their minds. I don’t believe this is usually the case. Rather, natural selection is at play. Over millennia of human history, religious leaders have hit on social/emotional techniques that work to win converts, just as they have hit on belief systems that fit how we process information. Techniques that don’t trigger powerful spiritual experiences simply die out. Those that do get used, refined, and handed down.

Conversion activities can be harmful, primarily because they go hand in hand with exclusive truth claims and tribalism. But with few exceptions the evangelists, from mega-church ministers to “friendship missionaries” genuinely think they are doing good. After all, they have their own born again experiences to convince them that they are promoting the real thing. Conversion feeds conviction, and conviction feeds conversion.

Essentials: Flo Conway & Jim Siegelman, Snapping: America’s Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change.

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Religious Reich’s Barbaric Death and Destruction

By Mriana

LiverpoolImage via Wikipedia

One of the things I have noticed over my lifetime is the death and destruction of the Religious Reich, everything from suicide to murder. They might not pull the trigger personally, but they do seem to find some poor bloke they manage to brainwash and mentally abuse to do it for them. All too often the Religious Reich wants to control the masses via religious dogma that makes absolutely no sense in light of scientific knowledge, especially and including Women’s Reproductive health. Sadly, when they cannot have control of the masses, they attempt to take it by force, in some manner, and then attempt to base it on their so-called “good book”, when that book can be shredded and put back together again after showing them just how much they do not know about it. I intend to do just that too, because as a Christian friend of mine has told others since the murder of Dr. Tiller, I will not back down or even stand down, at least not in writing, especially in the face of a heinous crime done in the name of religion. Trust me; it had religious dogma written all over it.

I never met Dr. George Tiller personally, but he was a man who helped women and saved their lives, even with late term abortions. There were many health reasons that he would perform such procedures and with some research with NOW, NARAL, and Planned Parenthood, a person can find some of these reasons, as well as get an education about abortions at any stage of gestation. I will only mention two extreme situations, due to space, for reasons a late term abortion would be performed.

One is that the baby died en utero before the ninth month and what the Religious Reich refuses to understand or even allow others to learn is this is dangerous because the woman can end up with an infection that is the same as if she had an illegal abortion. The body can literally attack the corpse as though it were an unwanted parasite, thus creating a very deadly infection. However, due to their ignorance, they still want the woman to carry a corpse to term. My question is what will they kill? The baby is all ready dead! You cannot kill something that is already dead and if they believe babies go to heaven, then why are they making her carry something that is nothing but an empty shell?

As for young girls who are victims of incest, they sometimes do not tell anyone until it is obvious that she is pregnant. A ten or eleven year old girl could be very afraid to tell someone about what happened until she is well into the third trimester. It is unreasonable to force her to do that because she is not physically grown enough to deliver and she probably does not have the psychological stability to raise her father’s baby. There are many things to consider about the little girl’s physical and mental health. To force her to give birth to the baby is completely wrong.

Lastly, many women who choose to have an abortion do not always have feelings of remorse. Such a myth is one created by the Religious Reich to scare women out of abortions. According to one of the Women’s Health organizations, many women feel liberated by it, but they go on to emphasize the need for birth control too, so they do not advocate abortion as the only source of birth control. However, without that option, many women would die from septic infections from illegal abortions.

The thing is the Religious Reich does not want anyone to know this, much less educate themselves about women’s health. They spout that there are Biblical reasons stating that God forbids “killing an unborn baby”. However, the Bible is virtually silent about abortions, does not even consider life starting until God breathes life into the nostrils (Genesis 2:7), and if they are talking about the Commandment that states, “Thou shalt not kill,” (Exodus 20:13) that is a questionable reference even then. In reality, the Bible, written and inspired by humans who had a fascination with stones that they attributed to their deity, shows just how primitive the authors were. Almost everyone gets stoned in the Old Testament and I am not talking about Maui Wow-ui either. In fact, people are happy to see babies thrown on stones (Psalm 137:9), stoning a woman, even if she is pregnant, is permissible… (2 Kings 8:12, 15:16, and other verses are quite morbid: http://www.ffrf.org/nontracts/abortion.php ) Oh hell, their fascination with rocks was so strong, I would not be surprised if there is a verse about stones singing, which makes you wonder what drug they were smoking.

Such Stone Age mentality and people still believe such barbaric crap? Anyway, enough of my ranting about what is actually said concerning women and babies. Frankly, I was amazed of all the Stone Age mentality in the Bible when I search for the exact chapter and verse of these things in the Strong and Vines Concordance and Dictionary. The Quran is just as bad too. I wondered how people could still believe in something that was written by cavemen due to how many verses in the Bible that dealt with stoning, stones, and rocks.

The Religious Reich has no Biblical basis for what they are trying to enforce on others. It is as though they have never read their morbid book, because it is not even pro-child or pro-woman. It is not pro anything, not even the righteous male, if Job is any example of that, because God slaughters all his children (Job 1:13-22). Test or no test, that is just plain obscene and barbarous. Not to mention, God kills 42 children for teasing his prophet in 2 Kings 2:23-24. Christians really need to “Go up!” on a mountain or some place secluded and actually read the damn book!

However, if one wants to be superstitious about miscarriages, also called spontaneous abortions, God does more abortions than human Ob-Gyns put together, because 90% of pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion in very early pregnancy. The murder rate for their deity is higher than that of Hitler, a Catholic, before one finishes the Old Testament alone. In fact, there is not enough space in this rant to include all the murderous deeds attributed their supposed god in the Old Testament alone. Add to that, the New Testament, in which the humans actually did the barbaric killing, he is attributed to killing his own son! Who kills his own child? This son is also himself, in a twisted bizarre sort of way, which I will not even go into, but it is truly barbaric and not the “greatest story ever told”.

Oh yes, this is also the very same god which Abraham nearly sacrifice his own son, Isaac (Genesis 22:8, Ishmael in the case of the Quran, which is just as horrid), until God offered him a goat instead. It does not make it any better, because animal sacrifice is just as horrid. This is also the same so-called God who made an agreement with Jephthah, if his side won the war, to kill, or offer, if you must, the first person who met him when he got home. Jephthah murdered his daughter, his only child, as the “burnt offering” and in that story, no animal was offered in her stead (Judges 11:29-40). Nice. NOT! Those were horrid ideas to begin with and in today’s society, any parent who thought God wanted them to sacrifice or use as a burnt offering his/her own child would be placed in a mental institution and their children placed in foster care. That is hardly pro-life, pro-child, or even pro-woman. In fact, the Bible, in Luke 23:29, blesses a barren womb, which is also not conducive to life nor does it support the idea that God forbids abortions.

Christians can twist the Bible any demented way they want, even say, “Well, God gave Abraham a goat and replaced Job’s children”, but murder is still murder and giving someone more children is not a replacement for the former ones. It is as bad as saying, “Well, we didn’t pull the trigger. That person was a lone gun man.” Right, just as the unstable person that the Right yanked his chain until he snapped, killed Dr. Tiller, and now the Right is saying just that, when they encouraged it! No, he was not a lone man. This Prolife group, which is very much delusionally religious, left Dr. Tiller’s home and church address on the shooter’s car dash. Therefore, they were very much involved in encouraging him to be a predator that hunted Dr. Tiller down and shot him as though he were wild game. Actually, I rather see a lion kill his prey to eat dinner than a human kill in cold blood, because it is less revolting and I actually think other animals are better in that they rarely kill their own species.

The Right has no care in the world for life- any life and why should they with examples such as that? They only thing they care about is controlling people, right down to what they think and what they do. When that does not happen, they take extreme measures by finding someone who does not care what happens to them if s/he does something in the name of their god. This is not just an Islamic extremist thing, but even a Christian extremist thing too. Just about every religion has their extremists who would go to extremes to force their views onto people.

In fact, some crazies are praying that God will kill Obama if he does not change his stance on abortion and one person even said on the Randi Rhodes Show “hate is good, because God hates”. What sort of god is that and since when does anyone tell said deity what to do? Last I heard you could not tell God what to do nor can anyone scream fire in a theatre either. The propaganda the Right puts out encourages such violence and when it happens they refuse to take any responsibility in the matter, but still state the person got what they deserved. I do not see how anyone deserves barbaric murder regardless of what a person chooses to have as a god concept. Gee, I wonder how they would react if someone murdered Fred Phelps? I think they would be just as upset as sane people are about the murder of Dr. Tiller, except they would be screaming the murderer would go to hell, instead of the victim. It is so insane.

Personally, I am sick of seeing the Religious Reich’s death and destruction, but as long as we have such delusional people wanting to control others, we will see barbaric acts that are worse than other animals. The worst predator is the human for it seems they will kill almost anything when they are delusional with some Stone Age myth. Dr. Tiller did nothing wrong and he was not a monster. He was a human being. In fact, he helped people, yet the Religious Reich blew what he did out of proportion and then found a crazed bloke to do their dirty work. It is worse than other animals and the Religious Reich has blood on their hands once again.

Do I believe the killer should be punished via “an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” mentality, AKA the death penalty? No, there has been enough of that thinking going around in this case and I think that should end now, especially when it should never been in the first place. It is time we said “Enough” and find another means to punish the person who killed Dr. Tiller. Maybe it is time we came up with penal colonies or something for such criminals.

(Endnote: Thanks to Rev. Atheistar and the FFRF for helping me with chapters and verses to document the stories and alike, which I knew were there, just not the chapters and verses.)

God needs something from us?

By Jack

A person too? The same needs and wants?Image by .craig via Flickr


So we have this god, who has infinite power, can do anything, and created everything. Anything he wants, he can get it at his finger tips (or whatever gods use). Wants to create a planet? Boom! The planet is HIS. Wants someone to have a billion dollars? It's all their's! Wants to eliminate anything that pisses HIM off? Darn right HE can do that!

Now we have us humans. Most of us would kill for a millionth of the powers god has. Sure, the majority of us can walk, run, talk, and complete tasks, but that is limited. I can only run so far, work so hard, and unlike god, I will, eventually, die. Because of my limited lifespan, strengths, and knowledge, I can only do so much for my fellow humans, and absolutely nothing I posses can please a god (considering god created me and everyone else). I. HAVE. NOTHING.

You'd think god would understand this and just want us to enjoy what ever life he gave us on earth, not worrying about eternal judgment. You'd think that unlike us humans, god wouldn't get worried about anything seeing he has all control over everything. And if god really loved humans, he wouldn't leave us on earth, expecting us to somehow find him before we die. He'd have it worked out for us and only have us worry about what we know here on earth. When I was first told about god in my preschool years, I was comforted by the thought there was a being that can do anything and make sure everything would work out. If you could do anything, wouldn't you make sure things would work out for everyone?

Well, according to Christianity, that is not how it works. Though god gave us 'free will', he doesn't want us using it. Any pleasure we seek is condemned; anything we want to do for ourselves is frowned upon; and the only things looked well upon are being board at church and being a meek servant (for what?). And because we cannot live up to this standard, god demands that we pay for it -- FOREVER.

And I know the first thing that's going to come to mind for Christians, "But god sent JEEZUZ to die so we'd be saved." I don't want to hear it. The mere fact that god demanded some kind of suffering to appease him is just plain wrong. We shouldn't have to jump through all these hoops to avoid eternal punishment. He could have easily overlooked petty mistakes. He created the universe, he should be able to find a less drastic alternative to sending someone else to suffer for us (assuming he even needed some kind of payback in the first place). A god that powerful could have probably avoided anything that peed him off (or foreseen it).

So what am I saying here? It's simple. God has everything, god doesn't need anything. We don't have everything and there are things we need that can be provided by god. But instead of providing them, he actually expects us to jump through hoops to repay some kind of debt THAT WE CAN'T PAY OFF IN THE FIRST PLACE. He expects us to be concerned about things that are beyond us on earth (we're supposed to just 'believe'.), and apparently doesn't give a damn about how shitty our lives are here on earth. And this is "love"? BULL CRAP! If anyone on earth were to deprive others of their basic needs despite being well off, we would call them a heartless bastard, but when god does it, who can EASILY better the lives of others and NOT send them to hell for not believing, we call it love. And if god really resents us so much as to put us through all that, than why the hell did he create us in the first place?!

Well, that ends my rant. Any feedback is welcome, especially if you're a Christian and can explain this. I would love to hear where I am wrong (if I am at all).

Ingersoll on Jesus and the Bible

Colonel Robert Green Ingersoll ( August 11 183...Image via Wikipedia

Today we are familiar with the “New Atheists” authors on the bookstands. Sometimes it does one good to read Robert Ingersoll, the prince of atheists. In 1894 he wrote “About The Holy Bible” and in the sections of that work below he discusses the two foundational beliefs of Christianity and slays them down to dust. What are we to think of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and the "inspired" Holy Bible? If they are rejected what is the real Bible? -- dealdoctor


Was he kinder, more forgiving, more self-sacrificing than Buddha? Was he wiser, did he meet death with more perfect calmness, than Socrates? Was he more patient, more charitable, than Epictetus? Was he a greater philosopher, a deeper thinker, than Epicurus? In what respect was he the superior of Zoroaster? Was he gentler than Lao-tsze, more universal than Confucius? Were his ideas of human rights and duties superior to those of Zeno? Did he express grander truths than Cicero? Was his mind subtler than Spinoza's? Was his brain equal to Kepler's or Newton's? Was he grander in death -- a sublimer martyr than Bruno? Was he in intelligence, in the force and beauty of expression, in breadth and scope of thought, in wealth of illustration, in aptness of comparison, in knowledge of the human brain and heart, of all passions, hopes and fears, the equal of Shakespeare, the greatest of the human race?

If Christ was in fact God, he knew all the future. Before him like a panorama moved the history yet to be. He knew how his words would be interpreted. He knew what crimes, what horrors, what infamies, would be committed in his name. He knew that the hungry flames of persecution would climb around the limbs of countless martyrs. He knew that; thousands and thousands of brave men and women would languish in dungeons in darkness, filled with pain. He knew that his church would invent and use instruments of torture; that his followers would appeal to whip and fagot, to chain and rack. He saw the horizon of the future lurid with the flames of the auto da fe. He knew what creeds would spring like poisonous fungi from every text. He saw the ignorant sects waging war against each other. He saw thousands of men, under the orders of priests, building prisons for their fellow-men. He saw thousands of scaffolds dripping with the best and bravest blood. He saw his followers using the instruments of pain. He heard the groans -- saw the faces white with agony. He heard the shrieks and sobs and cries of all the moaning, martyred multitudes. He knew that commentaries would be written on his words with swords, to be read by the light of fagots. He knew that the Inquisition would be born of the teachings attributed to him.

He saw the interpolations and falsehoods that hypocrisy would write and tell. He saw all wars that would he waged, and he knew that above these fields of death, these dungeons, these rackings, these burnings, these executions, for a thousand years would float the dripping banner of the cross.

He knew that hypocrisy would be robed and crowned -- that cruelty and credulity would rule the world; knew that liberty would perish from the earth; knew that popes and kings in his name would enslave the souls and bodies of men; knew that they would persecute and destroy the discoverers, thinkers and inventors; knew that his church would extinguish reason's holy light and leave the world without a star.

He saw his disciples extinguishing the eyes of men, flaying them alive, cutting out their tongues, searching for all the nerves of pain.

He knew that in his name his followers would trade in human flesh; that cradles would be robbed and women's breasts unbabed for gold.

And yet he died with voiceless lips.

Why did he fail to speak? Why did he not tell his disciples, and through them the world: "You shall not burn, imprison and torture in my name. You shall not persecute your fellow-men."

Why did he not plainly say: "I am the Son of God," or, "I am God"? Why did he not explain the Trinity? Why did he not tell the mode of baptism that was pleasing to him? Why did he not write a creed? Why did he not break the chains of slaves? Why did he not say that the Old Testament was or was not the inspired word of God? Why did he not write the New Testament himself? Why did he leave his words to ignorance, hypocrisy and chance? Why did he not say something positive, definite and satisfactory about another world? Why did he not turn the tear-stained hope of heaven into the glad knowledge of another life? Why did he not tell us something of the rights of man, of the liberty of hand and brain?

Why did he go dumbly to his death, leaving the world to misery and to doubt?

I will tell you why. He was a man, and did not know.


Not before about the third century was it claimed or believed that the books composing the New Testament were inspired.

It will be remembered that there were a great number of books, of Gospels, Epistles and Acts, and that from these the "inspired" ones were selected by "uninspired" men.

Between the "Fathers" there were great differences of opinion as to which books were inspired; much discussion and plenty of hatred. Many of the books now deemed spurious were by many of the "Fathers" regarded as divine, and some now regarded as inspired were believed to be spurious. Many of the early Christians and some of the "Fathers" repudiated the Gospel of John, the Epistle to the Hebrews, Jade, James, Peter, and the Revelation of St. John. On the other hand, many of them regarded the Gospel of the Hebrews, of the Egyptians, the Preaching of Peter, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Epistle of Bar nabas, the Pastor of Hermas, the Revelation of Peter, the Revelation of Paul, the Epistle of Clement, the Gospel of Nicodemus, inspired books, equal to the very best.

From all these books, and many others, the Christians selected the inspired ones.

The men who did the selecting were ignorant and superstitious. They were firm believers in the miraculous. They thought that diseases had been cured by the aprons and handkerchiefs of the apostles, by the bones of the dead. They believed in the fable of the Phoenix, and that the hyenas changed their sex every year.

Were the men who through many centuries made the selections inspired? Were they -- ignorant, credulous, stupid and malicious -- as well qualified to judge of "inspiration" as the students of our time? How are we bound by their opinion? Have we not the right to judge for ourselves?

Erasmus, one of the leaders of the Reformation, declared that the Epistle to the Hebrews was not written by Paul, and he denied the inspiration of Second and Third John, and also of Revelation. Luther was of the same opinion. He declared James to be an epistle of straw, and denied the inspiration of Revelation. Zwinglius rejected the book of Revelation, and even Calvin denied that Paul was the author of Hebrews.

The truth is that the Protestants did not agree as to what books are inspired until 1647, by the Assembly of Westminster.

To prove that a book is inspired you must prove the existence of God. You must also prove that this God thinks, acts, has objects, ends and aims. This is somewhat difficult.

It is impossible to conceive of an infinite being. Having no conception of an infinite being, it is impossible to tell whether all the facts we know tend to prove or disprove the existence of such a being.

God is a guess. If the existence of God is admitted, how are we to prove that he inspired the writers of the books of the Bible?

How can one man establish the inspiration of another? How can an inspired man prove that he is inspired? How can he know himself that he is inspired? There is no way to prove the fact of inspiration. The only evidence is the word of some man who could by no possibility know anything on the subject.

What is inspiration? Did God use men as instruments? Did he cause them to write his thoughts? Did he take possession of their minds and destroy their wills?

Were these writers only partly controlled, so that their mistakes, their ignorance and their prejudices were mingled with the wisdom of God?

How are we to separate the mistakes of man from the thoughts of God? Can we do this without being inspired ourselves? If the original writers were inspired, then the translators should have been, and so should be the men who tell us what the Bible means.

How is it possible for a human being to know that he is inspired by an infinite being? But of one thing we may be certain: An inspired book should certainly excel all the books produced by uninspired men. It should, above all, be true, filled with wisdom, blossoming in beauty -- perfect.

Ministers wonder how I can be wicked enough to attack the Bible.

I will tell them: This book, the Bible, has persecuted, even unto death, the wisest and the best. This book stayed and stopped the onward movement of the human race. This book poisoned the fountains of learning and misdirected the energies of man.

This book is the enemy of freedom, the support of slavery. This book sowed the seeds of hatred in families and nations, fed the flames of war, and impoverished the world. This book is the breastwork of kings and tyrants -- the enslaver of women and children. This book has corrupted parliaments and courts. This book has made colleges and universities the teachers of error and the haters of science. This book has filled Christendom with hateful, cruel, ignorant and warring sects. This book taught men to kill their fellows for religion's sake. This book funded the Inquisition, invented the instruments of torture, built the dungeons in which the good and loving languished, forged the chains that rusted in their flesh, erected the scaffolds whereon they died. This book piled fagots about the feet of the just. This book drove reason from the minds of millions and filled the asylums with the insane.

This book has caused fathers and mothers to shed the blood of their babes. This book was the auction block on which the slave- mother stood when she was sold from her child. This book filled the sails of the slave-trader and made merchandise of human flesh. This book lighted the fires that burned "witches" and "wizards." This book filled the darkness with ghouls and ghosts, and the bodies of men and women with devils. This book polluted the souls of men with the infamous dogma of eternal pain. This book made credulity the greatest of virtues, and investigation the greatest of crimes. This book filled nations with hermits, monks and nuns -- with the pious and the useless. This book placed the ignorant and unclean saint above the philosopher and philanthropist. This book taught man to despise the joys of this life, that he might be happy in another -- to waste this world for the sake of the next.

I attack this book because it is the enemy of human liberty -- the greatest obstruction across the highway of human progress.

Let me ask the ministers one question: How can you be wicked enough to defend this book?


For thousands of years men have been writing the real Bible, and it is being written from day to day, and it will never be finished while man has life. All the facts that we know, all the truly recorded events, all the discoveries and inventions, all the wonderful machines whose wheels and levers seem to think, all the poems, crystals from the brain, flowers from the heart, all the songs of love and joy, of smiles and tears, the great dramas of Imagination's world, the wondrous paintings, miracles of form and color, of light and shade, the marvelous marbles that seem to live and breathe, the secrets told by rock and star, by dust and flower, by rain and snow, by frost and flame, by winding stream and desert sand, by mountain range and billowed sea.

All the wisdom that lengthens and ennobles life, all that avoids or cures disease, or conquers pain -- all just and perfect laws and rules that guide and shape our lives, all thoughts that feed the flames of love the music that transfigures, enraptures and enthralls the victories of heart and brain, the miracles that hands have wrought, the deft and cunning hands of those who worked for wife and child, the histories of noble deeds, of brave and useful men, of faithful loving wives, of quenchless mother-love, of conflicts for the right, of sufferings for the truth, of all the best that all the men and women of the world have said, and thought and done through all the years.

The full text of this work along with many other writings of Robert Ingersoll can be found for free at http://www.infidels.org/library/historical/robert_ingersoll/.

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