Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Christian Ex-Atheist

Jesus was not the first character to be born of a virgin, to be adored by wise men, and to heal the sick, to suffer and die on a tree or a cross, to be buried in a tomb, and to rise again on the third day only to ascend into the sky. This had happened before. This is an old story. And Christianity's way of dealing with this problem is to ignore it.

-- The God Who Wasn't There -- movie trailer


Despite my beliefs concerning god's non-existence, I still think one may not be able to disprove (or prove) god's existence. Also, deconverting from Christianity does not mean one's only option is to become an atheist. One may certainly remain theist while still discarding religious practice -- or choosing some other set of religious beliefs to replace the former.

But, I'm particularly puzzled at how an atheist can deconvert into a Christian. The ex-atheist seems to have been genuine in his or her former skepticism; no different from my former and genuine adherence to Christianity.

But after that similarity, the experiences of the ex-atheist seems to be the inverse of my experience as an ex-Christian.

What happened? How does the ex-atheist make such different decisions with the same information that I now have? Or, did they every have the same information after all?

As for me, faith is a veil that hides facts and observations. People ignore alternative ideas when they blindly hold to faith -- regardless of how much truth may be in the alternative way of thinking.

I'm an ex-Christian because I finally learned about textual criticism, archeology, and that the bible is quilted together by various authors with various agendas -- none of which are divine. I've learned about the mystery religions and that actual contradictions do exist within biblical scripture.

How does someone develop a new trust in Christianity if such facts never change?!
How does an atheist one day turn around and allow faith to take over their reasoning? How does one start ignoring such evidence after seeing it?

I'll admit, one doesn't have to become an atheist after discovering the fallibility of the bible. And one doesn't have to remain atheist if something causes that person to suddenly believe in god.

And of course, anyone has the right to become a Christian ex-atheist.

But just remember . . . converting to Christianity from atheism requires actively ignoring a lot of important facts.

I guess that is why Christians walk by faith and not by sight.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Saint Nick versus Noah's Ark

I know Christmas is over now, but I can't resist making this point:

NORAD has a tradition where they "track" Santa Clause as he journeys across North America to deliver toys.

We know that this is only a tradition. Of Course Santa Clause cannot traverse all of North America -- let alone the whole world -- climb down someone's chimney, deliver toys, climb back up the chimney, get back on his sleigh, then stop again next door.

He can't do this for any home, let alone each home in North America before morning!

Don't get me wrong, we like to imagine Santa making his delivery; many of us still like to pretend. Fiction and fantasy are wonderful as long as we keep these elements in their place.

But, keep in mind, the same kind of physical impossibilities that prevent Santa Clause from going to each home across North America -- and the whole world -- are the same type of physical impossibilities that Noah faced when trying to get a pair of every species of every animal (and in some cases seven of each clean animal) onto his ark. Animals that don't even live in his climate had to somehow find their way to Noah and board his boat.

Lets not even go into the sanitation problems he'd have on the ark. A pair of each animal from all the animals of earth trapped on a boat with only eight or so people?!

The animals outside of their climate would die. And what would the carnivores eat? They'd starve to death after breaking loose and eating Noah and his family.

And the other animals on board, too.

Whoops, their goes humanity!

And I'm not sure, but I don't think there is even enough water to cover the surface of the whole earth anyway? At least, not from rain. Not even from busting out from under the ground, either.

Santa Clause has a better chance of being real that Noah's attempt to save the world -- and what we pretend about Santa is certainly impossible!

Oh well . . .

Monday, December 29, 2008

Is the Vatican trying to rehabilitate Galileo, or the Image of the Church?

The Vatican wants to express to the world that their treatment of Galileo Galilei was in error. The Vatican also wants to create the image that they are not only tolerant of science and new ideas -- but that a bridge exists between reason and religion. The Church wants to express that the two concepts of faith and reason are compatible. The Vatican implies that Galileo Galilei embodies this compatibility because he was a man of faith and science.

In my opinion, the tribute that Pope Benedict XVI recently paid to Galileo doesn't prove the church is any more tolerant of reason than in the past. Nor does the Pope's extended hand to Galileo help bridge reason and religion.

Why not?

Galileo's discovery was observable and logical. However, because his findings defied the tenants of faith, Galileo was punished. The Vatican has taken 400 years to officially admit this mistake. Do you really think much has changed?

Also, think of all the modern day feats of science and logic that many religious faiths continue to reject because of religious tenants:

Contraception
Stem Cell Research
Secularization of Culture
Separation of Church and State
Acceptance of Homosexuality
And the most notable Theory of Evolution

Lets not even talk about the current exploration in the Big Bang, String Theory, Dark Matter, and Dark Energy!

These concepts I just mentioned above make up the modern day version of Galileo's expressing that the sun was the center of our solar system and that the earth was a round object caught in the sun's orbit. What he observed in nature opposed what the bible inferred and what Church tradition accepted by faith.

Many faiths remain intolerant of reason and the path to which free thinking leads.

Thus, the Pope's words change nothing.

This is why you won't find a true bridge between faith and reason. The paths of faith and reason do not lead into the direction of the each other.

Read the news story, here: Vatican rehabilitating Galileo

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Great Trickling Away

Let no man deceive you by any means: for [that day shall not come], except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.

2 Thessalonians 2:3,4

I'm not qualified to interpret these findings with any authority. But, I am entitled to an opinion.

And so are you.

So, check out these Gallup Poll findings regarding how much Americans think religion is a influence in our country. Another set of findings show an approximation of how many Americans believe in God, or a "Universal Spirit", or in neither (Atheism).

The implications of these findings are interesting to me. After reading over this, I'm of the opinion that a slight dip in religious influence is starting to happen along with a slight rise in skepticism. Nothing major -- but I think these numbers express a very slight decline in literal, fundamentalist religious belief. But, see for yourself and you decide. I could very well be off base in my opinion.

But if this is true, I would not be surprised if the religious right start to vigorously campaign against this trend away from strict faith. I'm also of the opinion that this cycle of belief and non-belief could simply be a natural occurrence that will continue to rise and fall in or society.

So maybe these number are only meaningful in our generation.

Here are the links below:

Americans Believe Religion is Losing Clout

Belief in God Far Lower in Western U.S

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Lucifer Effect

Does morality have to come from god? What if religious people are susceptible to cruelty just as secular people are? The following study shows that people tend to obey authority figures even when the requests solicit immoral and cruel behavior. And in a series of requests which demand ever increasing immorality, people remain surprisingly obedient. Yes -- even when each subsequent request demands more and more cruelty, people still tend to comply.

People have a harder and harder time refusing subsequent requests once they have committed to the first request. And if the requests become gradually more demanding, people's tendency to continue to comply to cruel requests remain. And to make things even worse, people tend to trust and obey someone who appears to be an authority figure -- usually with little or no question.

If both religious and secular people are susceptible to these human faults, what does this imply about morality?

Read about the study: The Lucifer Effect

I also mention morality issues in these previous blog posts:

So, Now I can be an axe murderer, right?

A Little Perspective


Martin the Mean

On a side note, confidence schemes and cult leaders often use the tactic of gradually raising the steaks of their requests to their own advantage. Keep an eye out next time you run across some smooth talking scoundrel. Such people also like to paint themselves as authority figures, too. Victims don't question their predator's motives as often. Pushing victims outside of their comfort zone in small increments causes them to commit acts which they would hardly ever do under normal circumstances.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Two Thousand Years too Late

Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him--even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the earth will weep because of him. Yes! Amen!

Revelations 1:7


In a recent blog post, I wondered what would people start to say when another whole millennium passes and Jesus still hasn't returned.

After some reflection, I think I might know what would happen now.

Nothin'. Christianity will still be going strong.

Here's why I think this:

The first Century Christians seemed to believe that Jesus was to return within their lifetime. But, Jesus never returned as expected. Yet, Christianity still rolls on. After Jesus' failed promise to return, one would think the church would have died out.

I won't try to defend the argument that first century Christians expected Jesus to return within their lifetime in this post. Rather, read this article by Dave E. Matson. Edward Babinski posted the article on his website.

So if the over due return of Christ is well founded, how can Christianity still survive with this glaring failed prophesy?

Robert Cialdini cites an eye opening study in his book Influence: Science and Practice. Cialdini cites how a group of social psychologists infiltrated a cult that believed a UFO would come and carry them away from earth just before the "great cataclysm". The study was done by Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter.

This team also produced a book entitled When Prophecy Fails as a followup to their experiment.

This group of social psychologists predicted that the exclusive UFO cult would change their habits and proselytize others once their cult leader's prophecy failed. The psychologists based their prediction on the principle of cognitive dissonance.

Keep in mind, the cult was exclusive before the UFO was expected to arrive. This cult grudgingly accepted new members, did not actively proselytize and shunned interviews from the news media in their town. That's another point which makes this study interesting. The three psychologists had to make personal sacrifices to "join" (infiltrate) this cult and get reliable data for their study.

The UFO cult waited in eager expectation to be exported away to another world. But, nothing happened! The group had to do something to deal with their disappointment because of the large amount of personal sacrifice each cult member had made -- particularly their leaders. While some members left in disgust, many members still stayed and hoped for answers. Soon, the leaders "rationalized" that the earth was spared for now; therefore, they should spread the message to the world and actively take new disciples into their cult.

Sound familiar?

I found the results of that study quite chilling when the implications finally dawned on me.

Perhaps since Jesus never came back from the dead, the disciples had nothing left to do but spread the gospel in order to deal with their disappointment. And, since he never came back for his growing church -- nothing was left to do except spread the faith even more.

And since the return of Jesus is constantly delayed, nothing is left to do but spread the Christian belief perpetually. Surely this could apply to any belief system where people make great personal investments and sacrifices.

Such a cycle just goes on and on -- far into the future.

Nonetheless, the fact still remains; Jesus is still 2000 years too late.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Er, I mean, Happy Solstice and Yuletide cheer!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Santa-God

I read an article that gave suggestions on how parents might deal with their child's belief (or non-belief) about Santa Clause; this following paragraph really stood out:

One example of how to deal with a child questioning Santa might go something like this: "Yes, Tommy, Santa Claus is very real, and if you listen to the laughter and excitement of children at Christmas you are hearing him. It is true that many of the stories you have heard about Santa are fantasies to help you have fun. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa's workshop at the North Pole and Santa squeezing down your chimney are all fun things to imagine, but they are not real. But the love and joy that Santa represents to us, the kindness and the generosity that we show each other in his name are all very real and very special. You see, Santa is really a feeling - a part of the spirit of Christmas - and when we are filled with that spirit we become like Santa ourselves. So, yes, Santa, like love, kindness and generosity, is real and lives in the heart of every one of us."

My thoughts: touching, but no thanks. Being an atheist now, that just sounds so very strange to my ears. Cult-like, even.

I'm surprised that at the end of this paragraph the author didn't add:

In the name of the Santa-father, and of the Santa-son, and of the Christmas Spirit. Amen.

Or maybe the author should have made a parody of Colossians 2:9 & 10 and said: In St. Nick dwells the fullness of the Santa-God bodily, and Christmas is complete in him.

If you want, check out the whole article: Psychology: When it comes to Santa Claus, you've gotta believe

Monday, December 22, 2008

Santa Clause versus the baby Jesus

I saw a nativity scene where Santa Clause was kneeling down and praying to the baby Jesus.

But honestly, I think the scene should have gone the other way around.

Santa Clause owns Christmas.

I know, I know, Jesus is the reason for the season.

Well, actually, as I've read in other places, the tilt of the earth's axis is the reason for the season.

Anyhow, Ole Saint Nick seems to have true supremacy over the Christmas holidays.

I think Santa Clause has an advantage. You can't listen to Christmas songs for too long without hearing something about Ole Saint Nick. I don't think too many popular movies hit the box office about the baby Jesus either -- not like you see movies about Santa Clause. Besides, you can find Santa Clause in any color! Caucasian-American, African-American, or Asian-American.

Besides, who can resist that magical sleigh with reindeer, that jolly laugh, and all those free gifts?!

I bet in a few years, you'll even find Hispanic-American Santa Clauses running about.

But, I've never seen anything other than a blond haired, blue eyed baby Jesus.

Now, with grown up Jesuses, I've seen all kinds. I've even seen an African-American Jesus with a perm.

Or, maybe he just had good hair. Naturally, Jesus would have good hair; he's the Christ, for Christ's sake!

Maybe if baby Jesus would let people depict him as other races, he could finally get one up on Ole Saint Nick and take Christmas back.

At the very least, baby Jesus should let people depict him as Jewish -- don't you think?

And he should bring all the kiddies lots of new toys. That always helps.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Santa-skeptic

My seven year old son doesn't believe in Santa Clause. He displayed a very bad attitude a few Christmas seasons ago. At that point, I proceeded to inform him that I was his Santa Clause. If he didn't like it, then Santa just won't visit him in the future on Christmas day.

He was quite grateful for his gifts, after that.

Nowadays, when I pick him up from the bus stop after school, he complains about how all of his friends still believe in Santa Clause.

"They just keep thinking he's real. They won't listen to me. I try to tell them. Geesh! They won't even listen".

I try to help him understand that everyone isn't ready to face the reality of Santa Clause not being real. Their parents keep telling them that Santa is coming. I think many parents use Santa Clause as leverage for good behavior. Also, my son's friends probably want Santa to be real. After all, Santa will deliver exactly what they want for Christmas.

My son is still happy and enjoys Christmas even though he doesn't believe in Santa Clause.

He even enjoys watching movies about Santa such as the Polar Express or The Santa Clause.

But, dismissing Santa Clause is easy. People claim that Santa Clause lands on your roof top and comes down your chimney.

People say that he brings toys and lives at the North Pole.

I know that if I don't place gifts under the tree for my kids, nobody else will.

My son believes in god. He does because both his grandmothers spend a lot of alone time with him. They both lay it on thick.

But, I teach him a lot about the nature of the world we live in -- the solar system, the weather system, history. Little tidbits of the basic things.

He notices contradictions in what he hears from his grandmothers and what I tell him from time to time. How can god control the weather if rain comes from clouds? If god does control the weather, then why does he let hurricanes hurt people?

My son noticed problems with Santa Clause before I ever admitted that Saint Nick didn't exist. He asked how Santa Clause could visit our home since we didn't have a chimney (at the time, our home did not have a fireplace).

Maybe he was already turning into a Santa-skeptic before I even told him the truth.

Maybe deep inside, he's becoming a god-skeptic, too.

Time will tell.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Nobody At Home

A winter weather advisory recently went out for my local area, but everyone was expected to still come to work. But as the day went on, businesses decided to close and let employees go home early due to the worsening conditions of the weather. Icy rain and high winds were causing accidents on the interstate and power outages in some residential and business areas.

I made my way home after our employers gave us permission to leave. Shortly after getting home, my wife also arrived. She said that she heard some schools may let out early. Maybe our son would come home early, maybe he wouldn't. She wasn't sure.

Then I though, "Gee, I wonder how will we know if our son's school has dismissed early? The local news doesn't always announce this kind of information. And, I can't always hear the bus drive past our home. And how will my son know that we're home should the bus drop him off? He will most likely assume no one is home if he doesn't see some obvious sign that we're here. I'd better let the garage door up, or something."

I understood my son's mindset. As a result, I predicted that he wouldn't ring the door bell because he would assume nobody was at home -- I knew that he wouldn't see any use to knock or ring the door bell.

So to prevent unnecessary suffering for my son, I figured I should leave some sign that we were home. Just in case his school had an early dismissal.

Then just as I perceived all of this, I allowed myself to get distracted and failed to lift the garage door to our home.

I totally forgot to follow through with my plan. My idea melted away as I became concerned with other things around the house. I also think that in the back of my mind I had a mindset too -- I partially assumed school would not dismiss early.

A good hour or so went by before my wife decided to sit down on the couch to watch a movie. Then she heard a whimpering sound at the door.

There was my son, standing in the icy cold rain, crying and lamenting that no one was home to let him in the house! He'd stood at the door crying for about an hour before we realized he was there!

Yet all along, we were home. He just didn't know we were inside. And we didn't know that he was outside.

We whisked him into the house and got him out of his cold, wet cloths. We dried him off and had him put on some warm pajamas. Then we quickly made him a hot cup of coco.

We treated him like the prodigal son who finally came home.

We profusely apologized to him and let him know that we didn't realize he was standing outside.

We felt horrible. Personally, I felt like a very bad parent. I felt especially bad because I figured this would happened, but I neglected to prevent it. I simply forgot to push the button to the garage to let it up. All of this could have been avoided.

But after he got warmed up, he started to play and was happy again.

On that day, I learned the dangers of making assumptions. Mindsets should constantly be challenged. And, if you have a good idea -- follow though with it. Especially if that good idea can help someone or even save a life.

But, I learned even more a few days later.

At the time when I was just beginning to suspect the bible was man-made, I prayed. I begged god to help me avoid the path of non-belief.

Just like my son crying at the door to get in from the cold, I cried out to god for help. I begged him to rescue me from the assault against my beliefs.

Yes, it was very bad of me to anticipate our son's early dismissal, and yet I still forgot to prepare. But I can say that when we heard him crying outside, we let him in -- and we did it quickly.

But, when I cried out to god in my hour of need all I heard was silence.

I felt remorse on the day that my son was locked out in the cold. But, I also realized deep down inside, I was simply a good person who made a bad mistake. I will learn from my past negligence and become a better parent because of it.

But for god to ignore his children at their darkest spiritual hour -- what does that say about him?

Maybe that means god isn't home.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Mighty Thor Lost the Battle, but Won the War

An Ancient Germanic tribe used an oak tree as a point of veneration towards Thor.

That is, until St. Boniface came along in 723 AD and had the tree chopped down as a way to proceed with his Christianization campaign.

Since Thor did not send lightning to save his sacred tree, many of his followers turned and sought baptism on that day. Christ "proved" stronger than the now weaker Thor who no longer deserved worship.

Well, if you want to use that kind of logic, why is a Muslim mosque sitting on the site of the former ancient Jewish temple?

Shouldn't a Christian church be erected at that ancient site instead of a mosque? Why hasn't Jesus moved that mosque out of the way yet?

Maybe it's time we all started calling on Allah. YHWH got stomped by Allah, apparently.

I bet that logic doesn't sound so good now, huh?

Either way, did St. Boniface really win back in 723 AD? Think of all the Christmas trees everywhere during Christmas time nowadays.

Looking at it that way, I think Thor ended up kicking Jesus' ass after all!

Read about it: Thor's Oak

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Join the Atheist Blogroll

I've added my blog (My Dirty Little Secret . . .) to the Atheist Blogroll. The Atheist Blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world.

So, check out some of the blogs found in the Atheist Blogroll. You'll find some very interesting content in my opinion. You can find the blog roll in my side bar.

If you would like to join the blog roll, please visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Way of the Open Mind

Reason requires an open mind. An open mind considers facts, even if these facts are contradictory to what one wants to believe due to bias, prejudice, preconceived notions, or mindset.

A closed mind clings to intolerance, suppressing proper reasoning power. A closed mind has established an unwise resolve and will not consider crucial facts when such information does not already align itself with the current mindset.

Where then, is the key that opens the closed mind?

Find that key and a lot of closed minds can be freed.

This post was inspired by my current reading of the book Clear Thinking. Consider reading or recommending this title to a friend.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Passion Against the Christ

Now that I have labeled myself as an atheist, I'm beginning to see how colorful and amalgamated my new cohorts truly are.

I see many who have deep passion for action and change. Brimming with ideas on how to make society become more accepting of our non-belief, many atheists wield an unfettered openness and fearlessness. I see people anxious to go "head to head" against the status quo concerning the negative views theists generally have against atheists.

I believe these sentiments are noble and worthy; I privately watch such atheists with admiration and envy.

I also see many who are passive and quite. Change is desired, but prudence restricts their openness. A sensitivity is there amid a simmering passion for change. Caution is on the lips of such an atheist. This type of non-believer constantly reiterates the fact that we need to evaluate our activism before we try to change the world around us.

I am one of the latter types. I'm still in the closet, peeking through the crack I've made in the door frame. I want to come out, but too many people are watching me. I don't want to ruin important relationships that are too meaningful to me. I'm flexible enough to accept any changes they might make, but perhaps they wouldn't know what to do with me. We're simply not at the same level of tolerance.

I'm not referring to the casual acquaintance or even the stranger on the street. I don't mind if these people know about my non-belief. Rather, I refer to family members which I love deeply; loved ones that may only have a few precious years left in my life. Should I become open before such people, I would lose them long before necessary. I also have close friends that would perhaps feel betrayed should I ever come out in an open, fearless, and brazen fashion.

And then, there is my place of employment. One never knows how Christian employers my treat an apostate atheist.

Hey -- I gotta eat.

So, I keep quite -- except around a few select people and within the medium of this blog.

I think nearly all atheists can agree that we want more acceptance from the religious world. We want to know that we can be open and expressive about our non-belief without the backlash of possible discrimination.

We want others to realize that we atheists do not have horns on our heads and a pointy tail. We are not amoral by default. We're not imps of the devil.

In light of this, we must also be careful that we remember that religion in and of itself is not always the problem. Intolerance is the problem. Yes, religion easily fuels intolerance. In many cases, religion even creates intolerance.

But the religious have a right to enjoy and express their beliefs just as we as atheists desire the same rights to free expression of non-belief.

I've noticed that many people who possess high mental acumen in a particular subject matter -- or overall -- have a tendency to be impatient with those who do not share their mental gift.

Have you ever talked on the phone with a tech support representative who was gruff and terse? Usually this is because they do not want to spend time helping anyone with such elementary things as double-clicking. Geeks generally do not want to help someone figure out a problem which, in their minds, has such a painfully obvious solution. Either that or they were busy being geeks and didn't want to be bothered by your support call.

This seems to happen in any facet of life.

I think the same happens between many atheists and theists. The logic that convinces one to become an atheist becomes so apparent and obvious. At the very least, all the faiths of our time are mythological at best. So, should god truly exist and the atheist were mistaken, god would still probably be far more understanding at our mistake than his alleged followers would ever be. After all, shouldn't god actually transcend humanity? Isn't that the whole idea of being a deity?

So, I think many atheists become impatient with theists. Why can't the religious zealot open his or her eyes and see? Can't theists see the abuse? Why don't they see the hurt? Don't they see the obvious mythological elements to their beliefs?

No, they don't. Because they are brainwashed.

I was brainwashed, too. At my earliest memories, I was Christian. Family members have told me that I tried to witness to people when I was very young. My devotion to Christ spans beyond my own memories.

Can you imagine the difficulty in deprogramming this mindset? Impacting such a phenomena takes time -- and the results happen at a pace of one person at a time in many cases.

But, to imply that the religious are totally devoid of reasoning is dangerous. I wouldn't be writing this blog today if that statement were true for every religious person.

If atheists are to do much good in changing how the religious sees us, we will have to be tolerant, patient, and understanding. We can't simply reduce the theists and religious to "dummies" or "idiots" all the time. Name calling and being belligerent won't help -- even if many religious people are that way towards us. Theists need patient help over time before they can have any hope of overcoming the hurdles of their own bias concerning their faith and their misguided feelings towards the atheist. This change must come in small doses. A little here, a little there.

So be patient with anyone who doesn't see eye to eye with you -- regardless of what you believe. Be patient with anyone who hasn't arrived to where you are yet.

Be mindful that your impatience may undermine your passion for activism and change. Your zeal for tolerance may produce the very intolerance you despise.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Oath of Office

Keith Ellison is the first Muslim ever elected to the United States Congress. Ellison swore in with the 110th United States Congress using a copy of the Koran which once belonged to Thomas Jefferson. This decision drew a lot of criticism. One of the most notable critics of Ellison's swearing in ceremony is Dennis Prager. In November of 2006, Prager's criticism raised a controversial question:

Why doesn't US law only allow the Bible to be used during oath of office ceremonies?

Prager basically argues that American government's core values are based upon the Bible; therefore, using the Koran in it's place is un-American and unconstitutional.

Prager apparently has never read the First Amendment.

Also, Prager probably has never heard of the Treaty of Tripoli.

I've said this in a recent post . . . I don't mind our currency and our Pledge having "God" included. I don't even mind swearing on a Bible -- although the Bible has a few scripture passages which expressly forbid swearing or taking oaths. Check out Steve Wells' blog entry about swearing oaths at Dwindling Unbelief. He does a good job of making the same point I'd like to make about using the Bible in oath ceremonies.

But in the end, none of this should matter. Ellison should get to use his Koran. And let Prager use his Bible. Should more atheists become a part of Congress, let them use thin air (as many Congressmen already do --regardless of faith). Or maybe atheists can use Steve Wells' The Skeptic's Anontated Bible.

Now that would be a great leap forward in the freedom of religious expression!


With President-elect Obama's inauguration drawing near, I wonder what text will he use. People have accused Obama of being a Muslim all this time; people fear a Muslin taking high office and derailing America through abusing the executive powers of the office of President.

I wonder how many people would explode if Obama were to swear on a Koran.

I hope Obama would choose to use nothing at all. But even that action may incriminate him in the eyes of his critics.

So to be safe, Obama will probably follow suite with the other Presidents before him and take his Oath of Office on a Bible.



Hell . . . in the end, that's fine with me.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

I Can't Find My Soul

I can't find my soul.

Do you know where it is?

Is the soul the seat of personality?

Or is that just the brain?

Genesis says that man became a living soul. But, people often speak of the soul as a thing we have in addition to our lives.

What does it really mean to say that my soul will be lost?

Or saved, even?

Consider this: if you're depressed and you start taking medication. You slowly lift out of your depression. No, life won't be perfect and you'll still have some tough days. Yet, life will get remarkably better -- assuming you find a medication that is a good match for your unique physiology.

If you stop taking your anti-depressant suddenly, you tend to rebound. That spells serious trouble! Many people commit suicide after abruptly stopping an anti-depressant. Discontinuing an anti-depressant is dangerous even under a doctor's watchful care.

Now, consider this: if you're happy as can be and take some experimental drug, you're mood could go south really, really quick. You can become depressed and suicidal. Angry and bitter for no good reason. You be just like any other person with depression. You'll sleep all day. You'll want to be alone. You'll snap at everyone whenever you do come out of your dark, black agoraphobic hole.

Then, when you stop taking that experimental drug, you'll rebound -- just like the depressed individual mentioned above. Except, you'll become manic for a space of time until you come back down to your old self again.

Now, consider something else: You watch a loved one forget everyone he knows. What a sad and difficult time watching a loved one's very person and essence fade away! Pieces of your loved one's past flake away over time until nothing is there.

What about the schizophrenic who can cobble his or her life back together with medication?

What about that man who has no short term memory? Every time he sees his wife again, he thinks he hasn't seen her since he came back from the hospital 40 years ago after his head injury.

What about soldiers who come back with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or some serious head injuries due to military action? Their personalities are fractured and they never go back to being the same as before they left home.

Where is the soul in all of this? What is the soul?

Can you blame all of this on demonic activity? Can you really say the devil has invaded each person's soul in all of the above situations?

I don't think our soul is some part of us or some thing of ours that God wants.

Either we are souls, or we have no souls at all.

In other words, we're just people with brains. You can call our brains our soul, or not.

Maybe that's why I can't find my soul.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Buddhism Bail-Out

My jaw dropped when I read the following headline:

Mass Rally in India at Which Tens of Thousands of Outcastes Renounced Hinduism

To my astonishment, a rally was planned back in 2001 where a massive group of Dalta's would renounce Hinduism and convert to Buddhism. Maybe I was hiding under a rock when all this happened and I should have know about this already. I just learned about these events this week; So, I realize this is old news.

But, I still found the news to be interesting despite the news being old.

Members of the lower castes systems were growing tired of the obvious discrimination created by their religious faith. So, they decided to rally together and collectively renounce Hinduism for Buddhism instead.

Then, a group of Christians heard the news. They made plans to join the rally and give out copies of the Gospel. One million people were expected to attend as the time for the rally drew closer.

The plans didn't unfold as expected. The government got involved and tried to shut down the rally. Military involvement created a scene where hundreds of thousands of people were turned away at gun point from the proposed meeting place for the rally. The government didn't want Christian groups coaxing caste members to become Christian. The government did not want one million new Buddhists on their hands, either.

The government at that time was controlled by members of the higher caste system. The government really wanted the Daltas to stay in their place. Religion justified all of this. That's what this was all about.

The Daltas were hoping that Buddhism would bail them out of their troubles and make a statement to the Indian government.

I'd like to think converting from Hinduism to Buddhism is a step in the right direction. I could be wrong, but Buddhism tends not to have strict religious rules, angry deities, and all powerful clergy keeping followers under foot. Otherwise, this conversion would have little difference from moving out of a small jail cell and into a more spacious, comfortable jail cell.

The Daltas would still be in jail. Especially since the government doesn't seem interested in upholding basic human rights in this case.

Out of the fire . . . and into the frying pan.

Consider reading a detailed summary of the Daltas' rally and how the situation unfolded. The implications of the whole event are worth reflecting upon in my opinion.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Tolerance

With all my God-bashing lately, perhaps I sound a little harsh and intolerant.

I don't mean to sound that way . . .

I don't have an issue with someone practicing religion. I don't mind that United States currency says, In God we trust. I'm not bothered by the Pledge of Allegiance including the phrase, One nation, under God. However, I do wish that more people realized that our Pledge never included this phrase until 1954.

I don't really mind prayer in schools. Besides, students can pray in their hearts whenever they want; prayer cannot truly be stopped. Here is a seemingly little known fact: student lead meetings of a religious nature are allowed in public schools. Federal Law allows this. Yep, that's right. Students may have a Christian club or prayer meeting before or after school as an extra curricular activity and pray! pray! pray! And believers of any faith can enjoy this freedom. This can also be practiced during a school's "activity period" or "booster club" period. The only catch is that the organization must be student prompted to ensure the free will of all participants.

So, people should stop saying that prayer has been taken out of school. Rather, such people should use their present freedoms to continue praying in school. Then, focus their rant towards something else more needful -- like generating better funding for their neighborhood school.

Now, I'll tell ya what I truly dislike: intolerance.

Religion should be a private matter because free will must be upheld. This is why prayer in school may continue if students organize for themselves; free will is exercised. The prayer sessions are made private, yet the schools are not forcing religion of any sort. That's the spirit of the First Amendment.

May I also submit that Christians should exchange the notion that culture should be dominated by Christian principles with the idea that they should simply attempt to witness to people. Our government is secular and doesn't need to specifically reflect Christianity. Such a mindset comes from a distortion of an Old Testament concept which assumes the United States has replaced Israel as God's chosen people. Just try to win souls one by one. After all . . . didn't Jesus say, "render to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's"? Consider the notion that Christians should have desire for the advent of the Kingdom of Heaven . . . and not to busy themselves with turning the world into the Kingdom of Heaven.

And what of Paul the Apostle's words when he says not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers? He says to "come out from among them and be separate".

Paul didn't say, "You will be assimilated. Resistance if futile."

Christians shouldn't act like the Borg.

Be tolerant of other people's faiths and the lack thereof; I will be tolerant of yours in return.

Share your faith. Make your point. Disagree with me; Witness to the world.

I'll make my points and share my non-faith. I'll disagree, too. Enlighten the world.

But, if we agree to disagree -- no one has to get nasty.

I think we can all get along just fine with that attitude.

If everyone within the spectrum of faith and non-faith could better get along, I would be quite glad!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Exactly Where is Heaven, Anyway?

My son has become hypersensitive to how a person uses his or her "middle finger".

He feels that every time someone throws the bird with his or her middle finger, that person is pointing that finger directly at God.

While I'm not eager for my son to become religious, I'm not eager to flood him with my current philosophy.

I can't have him blowing my cover. My son is an all-in-one tape recording blabber mouth machine. My son would blab about my skepticism and force me out of the closet!

But, I couldn't resist when my son persisted to talk about how the bird was a direct insult to god.

I clearly expressed to him that I certainly do not want him to use this gesture. However, I did not want him to obsess over the matter either.

So, I had a little talk with him:


"Son, where is up, anyhow?", I challenged.

"Up is up there, Daddy. Don't you know that"? (yeah, my son is a smarty pants).

"Ah, but son, we live on a globe. From your present location, pointing up is not the same direction as if you were -- for example -- pointing up while at the South Pole".

"Yes it is", he corrected. After all, my son is seven and knows everything.

I showed my son an apple and preceded to further illustrate my point.

"Do you see what I mean, now?" I thought my illustration was definitive, but he still didn't want to give up.

"But, you're still pointing out to heaven . . ."

"How so?" I further challenged. "Where is Heaven, anyhow? It's not in the sky or the clouds. Heaven isn't at the moon or the stars. Where is up? Where is heaven?"

"Well", my son surmised, "Heaven must be in the fourth dimension".

Well, at least I got my son thinking . . .

Then my son really got wacky . . .

"I wish my birthday was on Christmas . . .", he said, out of the blue.

"Why?" -- I thought his mind was still chewing on the Heaven paradox.

"I'd be closer to God because my birthday would be on the same day as God's."

"Son", I replied, "we celebrate Christmas on December 25th only because it's a tradition. No one knows exactly when Jesus was born."


Maybe I should have just let that one go . . . but I didn't want him developing a complex over this idea, either.


"My bible says Jesus was born on December 25th." My son seemed so confident.

"Nope. No date is given. People can only speculate." I could see he didn't agree.

"I read it in the Bible", he proclaimed.
"In which Bible? Where? I can tell you that you did not read such a thing. I dare you to look for a place that says Jesus was born on December 25th within the scripture text. If you find it, show me. I'd like to see it."

But then I added, "Don't just take my word for it. Look it up yourself one day."

With that, he gave up.

I didn't directly tell him that Heaven or Jesus were myths. But, I wanted to remind him to think beyond what he's told by various people and seek out reality for himself.

For Heaven's sake! I sure hope he was listening.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Six Silly Sayings

I recently ran across some material that made an attempt to prove God's existence in six points.

I will share each of the six points. Following each point, I will give my opinion about why I think these are weak arguments. I'm not saying that my rebuttals will disprove God -- but these arguments are not strong enough to prove that God exists.

1. Our planet's complexity points to a deliberate Designer who not only created our universe, but sustains it today.

My rebuttal: Science shows us that at the very least the Biblical account of creation is a myth. Science proves the Earth is billions of years old, not just thousands or a few million per the Biblical account. If God did create us, he used evolution to do it.

But more importantly, the perceptions and assumptions we humans have concerning the "obvious" are often flawed in critical ways. We assume that everything with structure needs a builder because we must build and design. That assumption does not have to be true for our universe.
For example, observe the image to the right:

The two lines that run across the star burst pattern appear bent; however, they are parallel lines. If you could print out this image (or one similar) and check the lines with a ruler -- you would observe that they are indeed straight lines. Our perceptions can be fooled. We assume the lines are bowed at first glance. But upon further inspection, the lines are actually straight lines.

A complex universe and complex life doesn't mean a creator is necessary. Evolution is a complex process that took millions of years -- yet few people want to say that God created us this way.

2. The complexity of the human brain shows a higher intelligence behind it.

My rebuttal: This second point is really just restating of the first point. I will only add here that evolution shows us that our brains developed over a painstaking process over millions of years. Biologists have found caves where no sunlight reaches inside them. Therein, you can find a pond that has formed from a stream of water that flows inside. Fish swim around in the ponds. Since there is no light, these fish have no eyes! They only have nodes or bulbs that have formed. Biologists surmise that the ancestors of these fish had eyes. After millions of years of swimming in the dark, natural selection decided not to bother forming the eyes in these fish any longer.

Is that intelligent design?


3. Natural causes and chance are insufficient explanations for our existence.

My rebuttal: This third point is barely different from the first two points. Evolution, again, shows us that our course of development is left to a process of natural selection. Perhaps this isn't pure chance, but the survivors and offspring in any given species continues to thrive as long as they are well suited for the environment in which they live.

Also, scientists have found that when non-organic elements found in asteroids are mixed with non-organic compounds found in earth a chemical reaction happens and organic compounds are created. Just like taking oxygen and hydrogen and putting them together -- you get water. Or, just in the same way that you take sodium and chloride and form table salt. Asteroids pelted the earth during it's early formation. Life easily could have formed from this natural occurrence.

Besides, saying that God created everything is insufficient as well. We still have questions. Who made God? Saying that he always existed is no different from simply saying that the matter and material of this universe has always existed.
4. The enormously vast number of people who are passionately convinced that there is a God must be ignored should you say God does not exist.

My rebuttal: Galileo Galilei had to ignore the enormously vast number of people who were passionately convinced that the earth was the center of the universe. Nuff said.

5. We know God exists because he pursues us. He is constantly initiating and seeking for us to come to him.

My rebuttal: You cannot say that this pursuit is true for everyone because you have not met everyone to ask them if God has sought him or her out. Besides, why is God so subtle if he is pursuing us?!?!?! Also, since so many people have a vast difference of opinion in who God really is, (because he's so subtle in his "pursuit") how can you say the same God is calling a Muslim to pray when at the same time he calls a Christian to prayer? Perhaps God only exists because we still have questions about ourselves. The more questions we answer with science, the less we need God and scripture to explain everything.



6. Unlike any other revelation of God, Jesus Christ is the clearest, most specific picture of God pursuing us.

My rebuttal:

The Pagan Origins of the Christian Myth
The Bible's Buried Secrets
The Hidden Book of the Bible

And that's just for starters . . .

I'm not declaring that I've disproved God's existence in my rebuttals. However, I am saying that the six arguments offered for God's existence are not sound and cannot prove his existence, either.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Oh My God . . .

I thought the word holiday was akin to the word vacation.

Somehow the words holiday and vacation seem to only mean busy and work.

Anyhow, I have finally found a moment to post.

Why do theists generally believe in certain gods while excluding other gods from belief?

Christians tend to only believe in Christ.
Muslims generally only believe in Allah.
Jews tend to only believe in YHWH -- minus Jesus.
Cult followers tend to only believe in their wonderful leaders.

Consider the ancients of long ago. They tended to believe in the respective gods of their time -- Thor, Oden, Isis, Dionysus, Zeus, Ra, and so on and so on. Even the polytheistic worshipers had to sort out the rivalry within any given pantheon.

But reason and logic seem well equipped to explain why Jesus, Allah, Thor, Oden, Isis, and the other gods of history are nothing more than characters of mythology. Flawed religious texts and doubtful "eye witness" accounts are all that proclaim the divinity of these mythological beings. Archeology, science, and astronomy sorely contradict the so called truths of scripture and human experience. The earth, solar system, and universe could not have been created in the manner that ancient scripture texts have claimed in the past based on current scientific discoveries.

And just like that -- the weak and flimsy notion that any of the previously mentioned deities serve as Governor of the universe is easily cut down by Reason's razor.

Upon considering this, I've realized that discussing God and his existence becomes murky if we do not pin down a definition for exactly what or who God is.

I've often heard that the idea of God can neither be proven nor disproved. Reason and logic alone may not have enough facts to totally explain why God cannot possibly exist. Nor, can reason and logic seem to explain why God must exist.

I can feel quite sure that none of the mythological figures of the past are true manifestations of God, should he possibly exist. After all, if God should exist -- he wouldn't be a myth, now would he?

And should God exist, what definition might God offer of himself that we might know who he (or she) is? (Remember, we have already discounted the Bible and other religious text for the reasons mentioned above).

Well . . . unless God comes down from the sky and convinces all of us of his (or her) nature, I'm afraid we will only end up with a new myth on our hands.

Perhaps God is frustrated that he (or she) cannot communicate with all of us. Perhaps God is like a tesseract -- a four dimensioned object which can only be expressed as a shadow in our world. In such an event, God would be ill-equipped to communicate with us.

That idea is starting to sound like deism to me.

Agnosticism
, anyone?

By the way, why should I bother with being a devout deist if God doesn't even interact with us?

Why hold to theism if we must all conjure the definitions of God and worship him (or her) in those very terms which we create. I might as well make an idol with my own hands and worship it.

So, here I am . . . staring at atheism.

Oh my God! Maybe you can prove God doesn't exist!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Dependency

I was thumbing a book titled The Ideas That Made the Modern World. As I looked over the introduction, a summation of the Enlightenment caught my eye:

Thus science shatters the systems of theology and metaphysics. But it is not just the victory of scientific knowledge as such, but the scientific method and mindset, which routes the old and obfuscatory orthodoxies. Indeed it is also a question of attitude that is the key here, as indicated by Immanuel Kant in his celebrated essay, What Is Enlightenment? "Enlightenment," he wrote, "is man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one's understanding without guidance from another. This immaturity is self-imposed when its cause lies not in lack of understanding, but in lack of resolve and courage to use it without guidance from another. Sapere Aude! 'Have courage to use your own understanding!' that is the motto of enlightenment."

When freethinking is absent, one must be dependent upon others for an understanding of reality concerning social, religious, or political issues. This sense of autonomy and responsibility created the fruits of the Enlightenment -- political revolutions, explosions in science and technology, and miraculous advances in medicine.

This concept made me think of when a well meaning minister told of how a church member was depended upon her too much. She would call her at the worst times in need of emotional comfort. The church member seemed to struggle with a nervous condition -- on the edge of paranoia or anxiety disorder. One evening, the church member called at an inopportune time; the minister was extremely drowsy from taking medication in addition to simply being sleepy from a long day. The minister even tried to warn the church member that she wasn't really in the condition to talk, but she didn't want to disappoint. After all, this person was depending on her.

The minister stated that though she tried her best to stay awake on the phone, she woke up to:

Minister! Minister! What do you mean they're going to get me in the morning?!

The minister never received another call from that member again.

Holding the minister to such a high standard was unfair, in my opinion. But, the member couldn't resolve her own problems herself. While we all find ourselves needing help and guidance from others, she seemed to be in a situation where medication could be in order. But, she will not pursue such an avenue because she has been trained to think that God and the clergy can fix all these problems in her life. She is depended on the establishment that runs her religious faith because free thought is highly discouraged by overt and subtle methods in many churches.

She can't think for herself. She's on a leash so tight that she can't even pursue adequate help.

But that's what the Enlightenment did -- it cut the leash of dependency with the razor of free thought.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A Little Perspective

I've had the pleasure of receiving several great recommendations for short videos, books, and documentaries over the past week or two. I have a lot to soak in; there is much to see. I still haven't had the chance to follow up on all the suggestions yet, but I am eager to do so.

One short video so far has truly impressed me and has opened my perspective concerning this planet we all share.

Carl Sagan provides an amazing perspective concerning our existence in a short video called The Pale Blue Dot. Watch it. If my link doesn't work, simply visit YouTube and search for:

The Pale Blue Dot -- full speech

I found the film humbling and touching. Somewhat saddening and quite sobering; yet, somehow the film was still very inspiring and hopeful all at the same time.

And I must say . . . people who argue that morality cannot exist without god would be challenged after gaining this new and awesome perspective. After seeing where and what we really are in this universe, I can't help but to have the desire to cherish life. And not only my life, but the life of every other human being around me.

Isn't that sentiment morality enough?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why Doesn't God Heal Amputees?

Scientists have almost completed the genome sequencing for the extinct woolly mammoth. Upon finishing this feat, scientists will have a realistic chance at causing an elephant to give birth to a modern day woolly mammoth!

Mr. Snuffleupagus lives!

I wonder if we'll see a neanderthal resurrected one day? The genome sequence for our cousins is almost complete, too.

Also . . . a woman who suffered from tuberculosis received a new windpipe transplant. But the organ was grown using her own stem cells! She's gone from nearly disabled to 95 % healed!

All this brought back to my mind a website that a dear friend shared with me:

Why doesn't god heal amputees?


Science is toiling away at trying to heal human sickness. For crying out loud, doctors have figured out how to grow internal organs! A bladder was grown for a sick person a short while ago. Extinct animals (and humans) are poised to come forth from extinction again while lab rats are regenerating vital organs and limbs in test labs! A man appears to be free of HIV after a bone marrow transplant! So . . . if man is learning how to do these things, why isn't god doing these things to help mankind?

Why didn't god just heal the poor woman's windpipe?
Why did god let the woolly mammoth flash freeze in ice?
Why did god let the neanderthal become extinct?
Why is god letting sick people die of things we're learning how to cure?

Why won't god heal amputees?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What If?

Contrariwise, continued Tweedledee, if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't.

That's logic.


-- Lewis Carroll

Someone asked me once, "What if you were not born in America? Do you really think you'd still be a Christian"?

I stuck my chest out, "Why, of course I would! I know God would lead me to this way".

My challenger pressed me a little harder, "So, you mean to tell me that if you were born in Saudi Arabia or in Africa, or anywhere that Christianity was not main stream -- you'd still magically be a Christian"?

The incredulous tone in his voice caused me to reconsider my previous reasoning.

"Well . . . I supposed not. But, I'd like to think God would reach out to me and show me the way". My response even sounded weak to my own ears.

"So then" he replied, "what of all those who never see the way? Why would God reach out to you if you were born into another religion and not do this regularly for everyone else?"

Hmmmm . . .

So, what would I be today if I were born in a non-Christian environment?

Why did I get this "privilege" while others who were born in non-Christian environments have an increased chance at being doomed to hell?

I was forced to realize that I grew up Christian only because my dear mother made me one; I didn't choose Jesus. Jesus didn't choose me.

Momma chose Jesus for me.

That day, I decided to become a Christian for myself by my own choosing.

That was also the day I (unwittingly) proceeded to unravel my ties to religious faith.

So then . . .

If I was born Jewish, I might still be; and if I were born Muslim, I would still be; but as it isn't, I grew up a Christian. And, now . . . I ain't.

Thanks to logic.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Good Riddance!

Relative to this blog post, I recently admitted that I sometimes miss God.

But far more often I say to myself, "Good riddance"!

I'll never miss getting up in the morning to get dressed and go to church. What a demoralizing process that was! If you can't fit your monkey suit, people call you fat at church. If you're late, people say you don't try hard enough. If you haven't been to church in a while and you're trying to get back into the habit, people ridicule you for staying away so long.

And in my world, church wasn't just on Sundays. Even sinners go to church "on Sundays". But saints of God went to church every night of the week! Prayer service, Missionary Service, Bible Study, Youth Service, Evangelistic Service, Choir Rehearsal, Sunday School, Sunday Morning Service, Sunday evening prayer, and then Sunday Evening Service.

*Whew*

And that's just your reasonable service!

Then you've got tithes and offerings -- 10% of your gross income plus a free will offering.

Building fund pledges . . .
Bake sales, hotplate sales . . .
Sowing seeds to the Man of God . . .

I was so broke!

I was behind in my bills and I was in deep debt. I was borrowing money from my relatives to pay my tithes!

I didn't get out of debt until I stopped paying my tithes!!!

That window of Heaven never opened up for me to pour out great blessings.

So, I had to open my own window . . . to climb out and escape!


Then, there was confessionals to the pastor and the risk of being excommunicated or "dis-fellowshiped" if you crossed the line too many times with breaking church rules and morality.

And the constant emotional beat downs . . . wow!

You'll never be good enough to serve God.
You can never truly please God.
God isn't pleased with us.
We can never do enough for God.
We're not ready for heaven yet.

Geez . . . if I'm not ready for heaven with all this stuff I'm doing . . . how will I ever be?!

Why am I doing all this if I can't get to heaven like this? What is all that "grace" stuff for, anyhow?

This fear is agonizing. Tears steam down your face and you beg God to have mercy on you.

Only God and the preacher know for sure what your status is concerning heaven. And neither of them seem to ever let you know if you're doing things right.

But they can be crystal clear when you're doing things wrong. That's seems to be 99.9% of the time.

I don't miss any of that one little bit.

Good riddance!!!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Hate -- the "Nondiscriminate" Killer

An unfortunate and sad event has been reported in the news recently. I alluded to this problem slightly in an earlier blog post when I said:

If my freedoms are taken away because some group doesn't like me, your freedom can just as easily be taken away, too, regardless of your skin color. Don't believe me? Learn the truth about why this country was born in the first place.

A woman contacted a Ku Klux Klan group in Louisianan and expressed interest in recruitment. Though she began initiation, she developed a change of heart for whatever reason and desired to return home.

Upon her request to leave, she was shot dead.

This was a white woman -- by the way.

Her color did not matter. They murdered her anyhow.

As I said earlier . . . the hate found by people like Klan members is generated by a desire to control and remove the rights of others. Their issue with skin color only justifies their illogical way of thinking.

Hate like that doesn't take much to generalize when it is superficial in cause.

Those Klan members killed her because they wanted to control her. At that point, she was no different from any other minority.

I bet they thought God wanted them to murder her, too.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Broken Friendship

I do admit -- sometimes I miss god.

Sometimes.

He was my friend.

He gave me comfort and I felt secure when I trusted him and stopped worrying about imagined and actual problems I faced in life.

I could cry out to him and feel better. I could praise him and fall into a world of euphoria. I could fall out before him and have a cathartic outburst and feel relieved.

He was a true friend to me.

Among my favorite hymns was What A Friend We Have In Jesus. I would sing that song and wonder why anyone would ever feel troubled. Just pray. Like the song said:

Oh what peace we often forfeit! Oh what needless pains we bare.
All because we do not carry, everything to God in prayer.
My troubles would melt away.

When I first realized real evidence existed against the Bible, my heart sank.

Whoa! All that time and energy I spent!

But worst of all . . . I lost a really good friend.

God changed from a Person into an imaginary friend.

I didn't want to stop believing in god at first. But, once you have that moment -- that stroke of insight and reason -- your mind just stops believing; your faith just shuts off. This is really no different from realizing your parents were playing the role of Santa Clause all along. You catch them wrapping your gifts and placing them under the tree as you sneak into the living room to catch Santa visiting your home.

After that, you just can't go back to believing Santa Clause exists.

I lost a friend when I lost my faith in God.

But, that's okay. With a little time, I could happily move on.

And so I have.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Preach the Word!

What if you visited a church and the preacher started saying things like . . . .

Now, you men . . . you listen up! God's got a word for you -- He's got a word. Next time you have your buddies over for a few drinks and you guys are watching the game . . . keep the word of the Lord in mind! If you ever have a gang of gay men start banging on your door 'cause they want your buddies' booty, you remember God's will is for you to give over your daughter or your wife. Homosexuality is so nasty that you should let them rape your daughters and wives before letting those gays get in your buddies' booty holes!
Or, what if you heard something like . . .

God wants us to be fruitful and multiply! Multiply! This is important. If you don't obey God's commands He will be angry with you! If you can't have children, you need to get your sister-in-law, or somebody, and make sure you have yourself a man-child . . . or at least try. God wants us to fill the earth! If your daughters can't get nobody and start havin' babies . . . then daddy . . . you need to do the deed yourself!

Or, how about something like this:

You people goin' round depressed all the time . . . you just ain't praying enough. You don't fast and pray. Done just let the devil get into your homes and your lives. Can't even get a prayer up. You need to fast and pray and break the power of the devil in your home. You don't need no anti-depressants! You don't need none of that stuff. You just ain't trying enough . . . praying enough . . .


No . . . I've never heard these exact words in a sermon before. I've never heard a preacher utter words quite like the ones above. (well, I have with the depression bit)

But, I have read in the Bible on two occasions where men visited someone's home and a mob came to the house demanding to have intercourse with guests inside. And on both occasions, either daughters were offered up or a concubine. In the first story, the daughters were spared. But in the second case, the concubine was ravaged all night long and died from the punishment. This was more acceptable than the male guest being ravaged. Granted, neither the guests nor the concubine should have been threatened. But somehow, pushing the concubine into the mob was the lesser evil.

On several occasions, women felt so pressured to have children that they tricked people into having sex with them. Before you get excited at the idea, Judah was tricked into having sex with his daughter-in-law and Lot with his two daughters! And Onan was ordered to sleep with his deceased bother's wife and impregnate her so that his brother's name could live on. Onan didn't follow through and was killed by God.

If sex is so taboo, why was Onan killed for not impregnating his sister-in-law?

If continuing one's name is so important, why doesn't God strike down everyone that uses birth control?

If the rape of a woman is less heinous that homosexuality, why do we punish rapists over homosexuals?

What would your wife do if you pushed her out of the front door and into a mob that was trying to break into your home for sex?

What if God told you that you were not fit to serve him if you took time to tend to your own father's funeral before leaving home for good?

What if you have a real, legitimate biological condition that needs medical treatment, but the church made you feel guiltily for accepting it? They guilt you into believing that you simply are not praying enough and you avoid the treatment that you really need.

Before you get defensive . . . before you give into that urge and say that I'm taking these scripture passages out of their context, put yourself into the shoes of all the people in these passages.

Do you think like any of them, today?

Do you think you are worshiping the same God that they were? Are you really holding to the same ideals as the characters in the example stories above?

Do you still think that the events I've just mentioned happened for real?




Sunday, November 9, 2008

Truth Seekers

Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.

John 8:32


Many Christians say they believe in truth. People who fervently adhere to doctrine are often said to "love truth".

However, real truth often gets overlooked in the Christian world.

The abuse by ministers often gets swept under the rug. The victim is simply told that the abuser should be forgiven and the matter dropped . . . Many times, the issue is never addressed at all.

Why? Because, God's "truth" must prevail.

What is to be said about God's truth when it contradicts the reality you know?

What happens when you realize the earth has to be billions of years old? Much older than what they Bible claims.

What happens when you realize the stars and planets in the sky are millions of miles away and no heavenly throne is found in the sky?

What happens when you realize the stars cannot fall to the ground like figs?

What happens when you realize ministers from all faiths everywhere ignore and even hide abuse, though they claim the church is a place of safety and refuge?

What happens when you realize life is most probably forged through the process of evolution and that life is most probably scattered throughout this vast universe? Even if we never find other life, chances are good that within the billions of stars and planetary systems life similar to ours might exist.

What happens when your realize God's "word" is nothing more than the collective writings of mere men?

What happens?

You break free.

Jesus was right about one thing. The truth shall make you free.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Hope For Tomorrow

Many people seem to look to religion for hope. Hope for tomorrow. Hope for the afterlife.

People cling to religion to cushion the blow of our mortality.

If that helps, that's fine with me.

But religion often perpetuates the very fear we want to escape as we practice religion.

I don't like the idea of dying. But, I hate the idea of dying and going to hell even worse. I'm not too excited about the idea of heaven either.

Regardless of how euphoric god's presence would be, what autonomy will you have in heaven?

Maybe that's why the sinner can't go to heaven; The sinner isn't ready to surrender self.

That's sort of like dying, too, though. But, the priests get to stay in control though.

Death worries me some, still. But not like when I was Christian.

I've come to accept that in the end all people are terminally ill. We all have a disease called mortality.

But I have hope for tomorrow. I enjoy life and I look forward to tomorrow. This life now is precious. This is all I know until I pass on.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Soon and Very Soon . . .

What if another century goes by and Jesus never returns?

What about another millennium?

Two?

What if during that time, a cure for cancer is found? What if cloning technology allows us to make genetic material from scratch and clone humans? What if we eventually map out DNA in all life and then discover how to turn off the aging and "death" signal to our cells? What if mankind eventually achieves immortality?

What if our conscience could be uploaded from our minds and one day downloaded into a new clone of ourselves -- allowing us to not only live forever but also move forward into time?

Okay, that last one might sound far out.

But think about it. What if Jesus never comes?

I know what some nearby Christian is thinking, "What if he does come? Then you'll burn in hell!"

When I read comments like these from Christians on message boards across the Internet, I get the feeling that they relish the idea of non-Christians burning in hell for eternity.

This eagerness and enjoyment sounds sick, vengeful, and evil to me. If you can't wait to see me burn in hell, then you should wonder whether or not you're saved.

Ah, I digress.

Growing up in church, we often sang a song:

Soon and very soon, we are going to see the king.
Soon and very soon, we are going to see the king.
Soon and very soon, we are going to see the king.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! We are going to see the king.

And after converting to Pentecostalism, we were bombarded with the idea of Jesus coming at any moment.

Could that moment happen right now while I'm writing this?

Could that moment happen right now while you're reading this?

Has Jesus come and gone already and I didn't even get to finis . . .

People have been waiting for Jesus for a long time. Some argue that the disciples expected Jesus to come in their lifetimes. And since Jesus obviously hasn't . . . well . . . I guess that would be the end.

In the Pentecostal church I once attended, people felt certain that Jesus would come in our lifetime. That was back when I was a teenager. Well, sure it's still my lifetime. But, people didn't think the pastor of that generation would fall ill and die after reaching just over eighty years of age. People thought he was too close to God and too important of a spiritual leader for him to die before Jesus would come.

I've read a saying that circulates on the Internet among other skeptics:
Today's Religion is Tomorrow's Mythology

How long until Christianity becomes commonly known as mythology in the United States?
Not very soon, I'm afraid -- especially since Jesus' 2000 year delay is still considered soon.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Land of the Free

At the time of this blog post, Sen. Barack Obama has been announced as President Elect.

This whole day has been very interesting. From voting at the polls to watching the political analysts, I must say today has been fascinating.

I feel great pride today because I am a citizen of the United States. I can participate in my government and my voice can mesh with my fellow citizens and can be heard.

We are not ruled by some monarch or priest who imposes his will upon us based on some obscure divine law made up at his own whim.

And despite my personal rejection of religious faith, I must say that I am impressed by the spiritual aspect of so many Americans rallying for a singular cause. At times, religion and god can inspire people in a positive ways. And sometimes as skeptics, we discount that fact.

People cried today out of joy at Mr. Obama's election. And people cried at Sen. John McCain's defeat.

I must also say that Mr. McCain's concession speech was a noble attempt to remind all Americans to stand behind our new President Elect, no matter the political or racial differences. He urged his supporters not look down upon African-Americans who celebrate this great evening with pride and happiness.

This openness is wonderful and precious. To have religion or not. To agree or disagree. To be in the racial majority or minority -- we are all free. We all can pursue happiness. We are all American.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Is God a Democrat or a Republican?

Skipping the details, I can say that I run across a lot of e-mail.

Over this election period, I've seen quite a lot of e-mail where people are urging each other to pray, pray, pray for the outcome of this election.

Christians desperately call on faithful prayer warriors to cry out to God so that Sen. John McCain gets elected and takes back our country for the Christian cause. Sen. McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin are anointed by God to lead this country back into the center of God's will. Take up your arms in spiritual warfare and beat back the demons of Kenya that are supporting Sen. Obama and causing a dull stupor to fall over the American people.

On the other hand, other Christians desperately call on faithful prayer warriors to cry out to God so that Sen. Barack Obama is kept safe and secure from all the racial hate and bigotry that is percolating. As the election comes to a close, people are praying that God will let justice prevail. People quietly pray and silently yearn for Sen. Obama to have the opportunity to set this nation back on track in a way that will gain the world's trust and respect once again.

And people are quietly, prayerfully, offering up their condolences at the passing of Sen. Obama's grandmother. She passed away the day of this blog posting -- yes, just one day before the most anticipated presidential election to date.

With such sharp distinctions between these two camps, can they possibly be worshiping the same God even though they both say they are Christians?

So, you tell me. Is God a Democrat or a Republican?

We'll find out Tuesday, won't we?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Terror is ordered by God

I try to avoid two things in this blog:

1) Giving away my identity

2) Openly endorsing any political party or candidate.

I will still attempt to do this. But, this will be difficult as I share my feelings and experiences concerning the topic at hand.

In my local town, authorities have uncovered a plot where a hate group was planning to identify and terrorize minorities in the area.

The backdrop to this news is that on Tuesday, November 4th, the United States will have a historic and unprecedented presidential election where Sen. Barack Obama has an extremely good chance of being elected over his opponent Sen. John McCain. Mr. Obama is African-American. So, the endangered minority group in my town is naturally African-Americans.

This news unnerved me. I felt like my family and I now have a big red and white bulls eye target on our home, our cars, and on our backs.

I have two young children who are innocent and oblivious to this whole plot. How could someone bring themselves to even consider doing such a thing?

Now one can see why Jeremiah Wright was so angry and why Michelle Obama is quoted as saying that for the first time she is proud of her country. They have lived through this before during the Civil Rights era in the 1960s (well, maybe not Ms. Obama, but Rev. Wright has).

African-Americans still feel threatened today despite race relations being better. Otherwise, Mr. Obama wouldn't be ahead in the polls. But, the positive reality is still hard to accept and believe after I heard this threatening news today.

I didn't even want to leave my home after this news. But I needed to go to the grocery store. I mustard the courage to go because if I didn't, my life would be just as dead as if I were shot dead in my own home.

I went because I didn't want my wife to go alone.

I went because last time I checked, this was the United States of America and I'm a free citizen.

I have freedom of thought and opinion. Freedom of speech and the pursuit of happiness. If my freedoms are taken away because some group doesn't like me, your freedom can just as easily be taken away, too, regardless of your skin color. Don't believe me? Learn the truth about why this country was born in the first place.

I felt like I was taking the biggest risk of my life by simply going to the store. Thankfully, I arrived home safely with my family. But before leaving the parking lot of the store, I saw an old truck with a bumper sticker as I pushed my grocery cart to my parking space. I felt directly threatened all over again as I read it:

Terror is ordered by God


The sticker sited a verse from Leviticus. I couldn't keep the verse reference in memory. But, the Chicago Nazarene Theological Seminary was mentioned on the sticker.

Can this be taken out of context?

My life is in some measure of danger simply because of my skin color.

And this assassination order upon my life was ordered by God himself!


One more good reason to continue being an atheist.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Tight Rope Act

How many people truly believe in god?

Polls say that among the US Population, 10% of the country is non-religious. Of that 10%, only 3% will label themselves as atheist.

But of the other 90% . . . do they really believe in god? Really?
I know they make the mental ascent. But, do they believe to the point of action?

When I was much younger and a fervent believer, I heard a neat little anecdote:

Crowds gathered at the Grand Canyon to see the great spectacle of a man who had wired a tight rope across the great expanse. He fearlessly and skillfully cross the rope, drawing awe and thunderous applauds from the fixated audience. He could traverse from one side to the other, effortlessly and skillfully. The people that continually gathered were utterly amazed.

When everyone thought they had seen the height of his performance, he wowed them even further.

He produced a wheelbarrow and nimbly drove the one-wheeled vehicle across to the other side of the canyon along the treacherous tight rope. He turned around and came back with the same ease.

He then faced the amazed crowd and cried, "how many think I can do it again?!" The crowd roared with excitement and cheered him on to another performance. He took his wheelbarrow and pushed it along the tight rope again -- turned around and came back without once seeming to loosing his balance.

Upon his return, he looked out at the crowd and exclaimed, "And now, I will load my wheelbarrow with bricks and carry them across! Can I do it? Will I make it?! Who believes?"

The crowed hushed with amazement as he loaded bricks into his wheelbarrow. After he stacked the bricks high, he started his journey. As effortless as before, he transported the cargo across the abysmal canyon without losing a single brick to the abyss below.

The crowed greeted him with ecstatic praise as he returned from the other side, every brick still in place inside the wheelbarrow.

He motioned with his hands to calm the crowd. After a few moments, he regained their attention. They now eagerly waited to hear his about his next performance stunt.

"You've seen me cross the canyon effortlessly", he cried. "You've seen me take a wheelbarrow across just the same. I've even taken bricks and filled my wheelbarrow and did not lose a single one! Now, for my next act! Who will volunteer and let me carry you across the Grand Canyon as a passenger in my wheelbarrow?"

At this, the crowed gasped and murmured. The man attempted to convince anyone he could from the audience to step out into his wheelbarrow. But before too long, the man was accompanied only by his wheelbarrow.
That anecdote was about contrasting true Christan faith with lip-service. If you truly had faith, you'd get inside the wheelbarrow. For faith was not just the mental ascent to an idea -- but the following through of it's implications.

Why do so many Christians refuse to follow through with the implications of their own beliefs?

With an angry God starring down at you and with the blood of a gentle Jesus upon your hands, why don't you follow his commands?

I'm not talking about omitting the "sin nature" and "nobody's perfect" clause; I'm including that into the equation.

Even considering that issue, why do so many Christians refuse to follow through with the implications of their own beliefs?

For example:

If Jesus fulfilled the law and has freed us from following the letter of the Law of the Jewish people, why do so many Christians churches demand tithes? (You know, that 'Paul' guy in the New Testament . . . he talked about being free from the Law a whole bunch).

If Islam is about peace, why do so many ex-Muslims fear for their lives when they leave the faith?

Why do so many Jews follow the writing of Rabbis when the Old Testament is clear that God's law is all they need? Why all the extra commentary and tradition heaped on top?

Why do hate groups in the US tend to default to a pseudo Christian faith? Maybe they recognize the inequities in the scriptures and truly want to follow through on them. Maybe they are the true believers in Christianity? (Ouch!)

But should these type of things be said . . . the believers of their various faiths get offended.

I don't think they really want to get into the wheelbarrow because deep down inside, they don't really want to take that trip across the Grand Canyon.

But they are happy just standing there, cheering on the mythical man who can effortlessly keep going across.

I think more than 3% of us are atheist.

I think more are atheist than any of us are willing to admit, I'm afraid.