Wednesday, April 29, 2009

A Murder in Paris

I don't mean to characterize all Muslims with this post. Nor do I intent to characterize all other theists.

I'm just sharing a story that shook me up.

A Murder in Paris

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Easter Beagle

Religious faith cannot seem to spread without a human being sharing it.

People must be the hands, eyes, ears, feet of and voice of God.

But people cannot always be trusted, yet we must discern whether or not their religious message is truth. To trust the religious message, we have to trust that the person is telling us the truth.

While watching the cartoon special It's The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown, I noticed a little quip about this sentiment.

Linus is known earlier to have unfounded faith in the Great Pumpkin during Halloween. Linus converts his persistent admirer Sally into a believer-- that is until she miss out on "trick-or-treats" because of the failed promise concerning the Great Pumpkin appearance.

Now, Linus is at it again-- this time about the Easter Beagle.

Linus declares to Sally that the Easter Beagle never disappoints.

Sally quips back at Linus, "I'm not afraid of disappointment from the Easter Beagle. But I am afraid of disappointment from you".

Thus my new found hesitation towards religion. Maybe God never disappoints. Yet, perhaps his followers (inadvertently or on purpose) will.

I also noticed another interesting irony--

The Easter Beagle did arrive in the form of Snoopy after all-- seemingly vindicating Linus' faith. The Easter Beagle gave eggs out to all the Peanuts (save poor ol' Chuck. He never catches a break).

Now, Snoopy had acquired the eggs by sneaking behind Lucy and stealing them as she hid them in preparation for the gang's Easter egg hunt.

Thus, the Easter Beagle's unexpected appearance made almost everyone a believer.

Except Lucy, though. She knew what was up. When the Beagle gave her an egg she lamented, "Some Easter Beagle! He gave me my own egg!!"

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Why I Still Can't Bring Myself to Believe Again

Much was brewing in my head, but I had no time to pour it out.

But now the time has come.

A frequent commenter here at this blog, Tandi, recommended reading an article: Why I believe again.

Tandi is a Christian who holds on to her faith. She also hopes that perhaps one day I will consider returning to the faith. Despite our present differences, I have high respect for her and I can understand her desire to win back the apostates of Christianity.

And since I have respect for her, I try to follow up on her reading recommendations.

So, I read the article that she suggested.

I will expound upon my feelings concerning the article in a "round about" and verbose way.

I wanted to keep it short, but I just don't know how. I was dreaming when I wrote this, so sue me if . . .

Ah, never mind.

If it helps, read my post in small chunks or parts.

Or I suppose you'd save more time by not reading my post at all, huh?

Um, let's not go there.

Well if you do stick around, I will start with an event that happened a week ago from this post.

I went to church Easter Sunday. Yeah, me. I went to church. Really.

Don't get too excited, though. I did it for my mom. My brother usually drops her off at church on Sundays but lately he is, er . . . incapacitated. So, I took my mom and my kids. My wife went the previous Sunday with my mom, so she refused to visit church this Sunday-- and forget about it being Easter.

Gee, Easter could have even been part of the reason for why she didn't want to go to church.

All in all, I guess it was finally my turn.

The church visit wasn't what I had expected; why, Church was actually quite pleasant!

I didn't realize that I had missed all the familiar faces. I also had to acknowledge that I missed worship and praise (just a little). The running around, the jumping and the hollering of praise at the top of one's lungs! Spontaneously running laps around the sanctuary-- people trying to keep a lid on their exuberance, yet they can't help themselves.

What a rush! I remembered when I was like that.

And the singing was beautiful. I was reminded of songs that I used to love and cherish.

I even sang along with some of the songs.

At service, we sang a favorite hymn of mine: Because He Lives. In the past, I was so convinced when I sang that song . . .

Because He lives, I can face tomorrow.
Because He lives, all fear is gone.
Because I know, He holds the future.
And life is worth the living just because He lives.

But this time when I sang along, I wasn't so sure.

And I wasn't so sure when the preacher kept repeating himself while trying to retell the Resurrection story. He was trying to give the Gospel accounts more life, but his message to me fell quite flat.

Sitting through the sermon was the worst of it. So, that is to say the church visit wasn't all that bad. I can forgive a bad sermon. I've sat through plenty in my life. One more would not hurt.

When it was all over, I walked away wondering why I had a nice time. Maybe it was time to go back to church again. Maybe turning to atheism was too rash of a decision.

Decision? Can belief (non-belief) be a decision?

Anyways . . .

I thought hard about my Easter Sunday experience for the next few days.

I reflected on how I could have ran around and jumped up and down like everyone else did. I felt that same energy I felt as though I was still a believer. But I didn't participate because I know that in my heart I didn't believe as I once did; I didn't want to be sacrilegious. To express that kind of praise and spirit-filled exuberance while still holding on to an atheistic mindset would be something of a mockery to their worship experience. I didn't want to do that out of respect.

And, I didn't want anyone to think that I had made new commitments to church again.

That realization reaffirmed that I was only a spectator.

I also noticed something else. I only enjoyed church because it was a welcomed distraction from the uncertainties I'm currently dealing with in my life. The running, the shouting, the songs of certainty all causes one to feel better.

I found myself thinking of my church visit in the context of the daunting personal problems which have recently started staring me in the face.

Life springs up fortune and misfortune. Blessings and catastrophe. Opportunity and famine. Life and death.

So then, certainty and uncertainty becomes the backdrop in which I reflect on my church visit. I noticed how in church, Christ is certain to have been raised from the dead, he is certain to return for his church, and his followers are certain to rise again through the same resurrection power of Christ-- unless while living they should look skyward and witness his return upon the clouds.

I am certain of death. I've seen it. I've seen my loved ones go the way of all the earth. I slowly and reluctantly trod the same path of my father and uncles while drawn by the same inexorable pull. I see my mother closer and closer to death, daily. She, following her husband. Me following my mom with my wife by my side. And our kids are not too far behind. We all are shackled together while being pulled to the grave-- like a line of inmates chained together so as to prevent any escape from incarceration.

Yes, I'm certain of death. But, I remain uncertain about what will happen to me after I die. Let alone, what will happen to me (and other loved ones) while I (and they) still live.

And now, I am beginning to think that religion is simply an anesthetic for the guaranteed pain and uncertainty of a life that must end in death.

In and of itself, using religion as an anesthetic is fine. But if that's the case, religion isn't the only worthwhile brand of anesthetic available in life. And I've come to terms with accepting the fact that life is indeed uncertain, fragile, volatile, and defined in the context of certain death.

Somehow though, I personally feel that I am better informed and more self aware after acknowledging that this life might be all that I get. I can stare back at the face of life and respect it-- daunting problems and all.

So when I read the online article in the New Statesman, the author seemed only to say that belief in Christ answers all uncertainty and is therefore the truth. The whole of life is best enjoyed when one believes in a creator and is therefore the truth.

I disagree on both points. Christ does not answer all of my uncertainties. He answers all questions, but I am not convinced of his answers. So, such answers are of no help to me personally.

And I find that I enjoy music, arts, and the nighttime sky perhaps more now than as a past theist. I love my favorite music and enjoy it all the more because I don't feel condemnation for listening to it any longer! (if it wasn't gospel music, it was ungodly in my former belief system. And sometimes certain gospel songs weren't even holy enough!). And for me, not knowing how the universe began and how the stars fell in place makes the nighttime view more magical to me. How fascinating that we may exist only because matter was simply doing it's thing! A billion-to-one chance out of billions upon billions of planets!

I also don't look down on creation as I once did as a believer. This is not to say all believers had this perspective. But, I know that I certainly did once. I looked at the world as the sinful leftovers of a fallen universe because Adam, Eve (Lilith?), and the serpent introduced iniquity into existence.

I see now that this universe may very well be all we have. We had better cherish it and enjoy it. Trusting in a next life, I found myself severely restricting myself in what could probably be the only life I will get to have. That is the mistake that I was personally making. I can only speak for myself and of my own Christian experiences.

Your millage may vary.

Some people do not want to face this uncertainty. And I suspect religion numbs this painful, unpredictable embrace between life and death.

That's fine with me. Nothing is ignoble or backwards about being attracted to religion for this reason. Just don't force your beliefs on others*. Share your beliefs-- but don't force them.

* Among those who have commented on my blog so far, I am not accusing anyone of this. I'm only trying to underscore my overall gripe towards fundamentalism of any sort.

Religion is a better anesthetic than hurting others and hurting oneself. But when it comes to dealing with life's uncertainties, being hurtful isn't the only option to practicing religion.

As for me, I numb the pain with enjoying my life while I can, assigning purpose to my life, loving my family, and doing the best I can to leave something behind for my kids.

I also numb the pain with coffee abuse, blogging, and good reading.

That "laughter stuff" is a good antiseptic, too. A very occasional drink helps me out. A fun movie. Even the routine drudgery of work. No matter how much I complain, I do like my job.

And there are some other things that I won't mention here. You know. I don't wanna be accused of TMI and all that.

So at this point in my life, I still can't bring myself to believe again. Religion doesn't help me with my uncertainties because I'm still uncertain about what the ancient religious texts assert.

In light of all this, I'd rather just face the uncertainties of life head on. Even death.

But I do appreciate reading the article in the New Statesman. While I do not agree with the author, I still respect his point of view.

Belief works for him. Non-belief works for me.

Perhaps my feelings about his article could be summed up as simple as that.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Uruk

Only one person has asked so far.

But, I have a feeling people might wonder where my alias Uruk comes from.

Since I am in the closet, you might have guessed by now that Uruk is not really my first name.

Uruk is the name of an ancient city found in an ancient story.

I can't say why, but when I learned about this place the name stuck with me.

Not long after reading about the place, I wanted to participate in an online forum. I needed a user name.

I picked Uruk.

OK, that was too short for a user name; Oops. I should have known that!

So, I picked: uruknomad.

Now my name is Uruk Nomand. There you have it.

Nomad was just picked at random. I haven't a clue why I picked that other than to lengthen my user name. I'm the farthest thing from being a nomad, I can assure you.

Maybe that was wishful thinking on my part.

Anyhow-- if you want to know more about the ancient tale that takes place in the city of Uruk, check out the link below:

The Ruler of the city of Uruk

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Happy Atheist Day!

Since I'm in the closet, most people still think I'm a Christian. Well, as a result, I got this cute little e-mail forward in my in box:

FLORIDA COURT SETS 'ATHEIST' HOLY DAY

In Florida , an atheist created a case against the Easter & Passover holy days. He hired an attorney to bring a discrimination case against Christians, Jews and observances of their holy days. The argument was it was unfair that atheists had no such recognized day(s).

The case was brought before a judge. After listening to the passionate presentation by the lawyer, the judge banged his gavel declaring, 'Case dismissed.'

The lawyer immediately stood objecting to the ruling saying, 'Your honor, how can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter, etc. The Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and Hanukkah. Yet my client and all other atheists have no such holidays.'

The judge leaned forward in his chair saying, 'But you do. Your client, counsel, is woefully ignorant.' The lawyer said, 'Your Honor, we are unaware of any special observance or holiday for atheists.'

The judge said, 'The calendar shows April 1st is 'April Fools Day.' Psalm 14:1 states: 'The fool says in his heart, there is no God.' Thus, it is the opinion of this court, that if your client says there is no God, then he is a fool. Therefore, April 1st is his day. Court is adjourned.

AMEN

Ouch!

Of course, that e-mail is just an anecdote designed to drive home a punch line with a little umph; the punch line being:

You're an idiot if you don't believe in God.


Yeah, the word fool is used. And I know, fool doesn't really mean idiot in the Bible. Fool generally means amoral, to my understanding. But clearly the sentiment of this particular e-mail is idiot.

Yeah, I felt a little insulted. I admit.

I won't resort to name calling . . . but theists who pass around this e-mail should be careful before implying insults against someone with an atheistic viewpoint.

Now, I had a nice little rant all prepared. But, after recently "preaching" about respect a day or so ago-- I guess I had better not.


Me and my big mouth . . .