Saturday, August 28, 2010

Baby Steps

In my previous post, I discussed my recent feelings about whether I should remain in the closet or not about my atheism.

A day needs to come where keeping my dirty little secret no longer feels necessary.

Again, I'm not doing anything radical at the moment. But here's my first baby step towards coming out to the real world.

See . . . I never dropped my membership from the denominations with which I am still affiliated. I grew up being part of the Missionary Baptist Church but converted to Apostolic Pentecostalism at 18 years old. I never formally cut ties with the Baptist church when I moved. My last years as a Christian were spent being part of the Church of God based in Cleveland, TN. But, I never formally cut ties with the Apostolic Faith Church, either.

So, for my first baby step, I wrote a letter to the Church of God state office in my area and formally withdrew my membership. Below is a copy of the letter I wrote. I have edited out any personal information because at this time, I am not yet ready to share those details online:


XXXXXX COG State Office
XXXXXXXXXXX
XXXXXXXXXXX


To whom it may concern,

Please accept this letter as my formal request to withdraw my membership from the Church of God organization headquartered in Cleveland, TN. At the time that I joined this denomination, I was attending XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX.

My personal beliefs concerning God, Salvation, and the Bible are no longer fully aligned with all of the statements of faith held by the Church of God organization.

No one has done anything to drive me away from XXXXXXX or from the Church of God organization as a whole. I do not harbor any animosity towards anyone in the organization and everyone at XXXXXXXXXX was very kind and caring towards me and my family during my membership. My decision to withdraw my membership solely rests upon the personal changes in my faith when compared to the doctrines of the Church of God.

I realize that this letter will not be pleasing to receive, but ultimately I must be honest concerning the conflicts between your articles of faith and my current personal beliefs. Therefore, I hereby tender my withdrawal of membership and I wish you good fortune in all your endeavors as a church and organization.


Respectfully yours,


XXXXXXXXXXX


I know that this letter isn't radical. But this was a very big step for me. I didn't just ask to withdraw my membership. I let them know that I don't agree with their doctrine any longer. Although, I didn't say way or how.

And I think that may be the crux of the whole issue between the religious and the non-religious.

I shouldn't have to explain. And I won't. If someone from the church calls, I will simply say that my private beliefs have changed. It's honestly not the business of anyone else what I believe about God and why. My right as a human being, as an adult, and as United States citizen is to have my own private opinion about God and exercise that belief to my liking.

Well . . . assuming I'm not harming others, being cruel to animals or destroying the property of others, that is.

Anyhow . . .

That is my First Amendment right -- just as the members of other religions may enjoy this right, too.

I hope to one day write the other two denominations a very similar letter. But, my ties with the Church of God were much weaker and shorter lived. I'm not making too many waves writing a letter to them.

I need to grow up a bit more before writing to the other two denominations. I hope to develop the strength in time.

I'm proud of my little baby step. Even if it is only a small one.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Concerning the Idea of Coming Out

Anyone who has followed my blog for any length of time knows that I've tried to remain anonymous. I want my blog to remain a place where I can freely voice my thoughts without worrying about some acquaintance or family member outing me. I also stay anonymous to avoid any possible persecution or discrimination in the event that a customer of my employer or a co-worker find this site and pin it to my identity.

Perhaps I'm worried about nothing. But, I don't really want to take that chance. So, I seriously doubt I will ever disclose my full identity on this blog.

However, I do feel that I need to start making steps to come out of the closet in the real world-- apart from cyber space.

Recently, two bloggers that I follow were outed in different ways-- only days apart from each other. Both seemed very displeased about the whole ordeal, but found that their world didn't totally crumble once the smoke cleared. Yes, they must make adjustments now that important relationships have become strained and stretched. But a bit of relief seems to have come as a result of taking off the mask.

And another benefit may come from being outed.

According to a recent talk given by Greta Christian entitled "What Atheists Can Learn from the LGBT Movement", she states that the number one phenomena that generated more tolerance for the LGBT community was the coming out of members.

Coming out of the closet, according to Greta Christina, causes people who would normally be intolerant of the LGBT community realize they personally know someone from that community. Potential opponents are forced to put the human face of a friend or loved one up against their intolerance. As a result, tolerance slowly displaces prejudice because the members of the LGBT movement are no longer "them". Rather, they are now our brothers, cousins, sisters, fathers, mothers, friends, and children.

As it should be.

The people who were outed by their blogs may wished it never happened, but these outings may actually serve as two more important steps forward for the atheist community as a whole.

In light of Greta Christina's talk coupled with the outing of the two bloggers I've mentioned, I now have a much stronger desire to come out of the closet myself.

Again, not here on this site. Although, I think I might start sharing a few details about myself that I would normally keep private. I'm mulling it over for the moment.

But as for life outside of the blogsphere, I have decided to slowly take baby steps towards coming out to the people from which I've hidden for several years now.

In my next post, I'll share my very first baby step towards coming out of the closet.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Demon Busters

Spiritual Warfare is a theme that I haven't talked much about.

You know, Demon Busters.

People who believe that every malignant thing that happens is caused by a demon.

Did you talk back to your parents? A demon influenced you to do it.
Did you get too lazy to pray today? A demon did it.
Are you depressed? A demon is oppressing you.
Do you feel surrounded by constant bad luck? A demon has invaded your life.
Are you sick? Never mind microbes-- you've got a sick demon riding your back.

And demons should be cast out of you. Some person close enough to God has the power to lay hands on you and call that demon out of your life.

In recent years, I wondered why calling upon an omnipotent God to remove a demon more powerful that you was always a struggle.

There is always this big display. Lots of crying, bucking, and jerking. Eyes start rolling in the back of the head as one starts foaming at the mouth . . .

Heck, Jesus just said, "Come out!" and they did. Rarely did demons talk back. And when demons did talk back, he told them to shut up and sent them off into swine who subsequently ran themselves off a cliff and to their deaths.

And Jesus said that his followers would do greater works than those that he accomplished.

So why is demon busting so hard?

Because the demon buster and the demon possessed both have to get their minds worked up to play their respective roles.

See, those of the demon busting type believe that Christians are not exempted from being demon possessed. Even those filled with the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues could become demon possessed. No one is safe. Not even when God's Holy Spirit dwells within you.

Ain't that a bitch!?

So then, just as self-hypnosis can cause someone to behave like they're possessed by the spirit of God, they need that same state of mind to play the role of a possessed person.

Or the "demonic" is simply playing along for grins and chuckles.

So, I believe the preacher and the possessed get worked up together. Because a preacher usually has a language of sorts that he speaks when he (or she) is casting out a demon. First, they tell you that you have one.

Then they start to speak against it and pray for you with the laying on of hands.

Then, they get all wound up. They probably won't quit if you don't exhibit some sort of show yourself.

Or, if you're wrapped up in that sort of thing already, you'll subconsciously play along. You would believe that you are really were possessed because the anointed of God just told you so. Such believe is no different from when I once believed that I actually spoke in tongues.

I think it's a damaging thing to tell someone who is clinically depressed that they have a demon. If the demon could only be cast out, they'd be happy again. Until they commit suicide. Why suffer that when an anti-depressant can possibly save someone's life and make life worth living again?

Telling someone that their cancer is a result of a demon can't be much for emotional morale. What if the demon is "cast out" but the cancer never leaves?

And I feel really bad for homosexuals who are caught up in Pentecostal movements. Homosexuals get picked on really badly. They are talked about openly and abrasively in many Pentecostal circles. Their lifestyle is always described as a "condition" at best. And often, homosexuality is a demon to be cast out. I don't see how a Pentecostal who is homosexual could ever be happy. Having a demon buster talk a homosexual into being unhappy for the rest of his or her life can't possibly be healthy.

I find it highly suspect that an omnipotent God must use us frail humans to struggle with the eradication of a demon.

Something just isn't right about that.

On a side note, I visited Demon Buster.com in preparation of this post. They say that a midi file plays when you visit their site-- Oh, The Blood of Jesus. I'm quite familiar with this song and I'm quite familiar with the emphasis demon busters place on the name and blood of Jesus.

The web site puts so much emphasis on the blood of Jesus that they claim that anyone who is annoyed by the midi file on their site probably has a demon in their home-- if not, then the demon is in you.

But I didn't hear any midi file when I first visited the page.

So what does that mean? I guess I'm so demoniacally oppressed that the demons keep my ears from hearing the midi file play through my demonic laptop!

I guess I'm going to bust hell wide open, huh?

Or maybe you don't hear the midi file when you visit their site either.

Ah, but I went to my Windows desktop, the song finally played.

I guess Linux is the OS of the devil.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Quiz Show

A funny (at least, I thought) video, compliments of NonStampCollector.

But, I gotta give a hat tip to Tristan for having other videos that lead me to this one.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Planetarium

My local Jesusland planetarium sucks.

People who don't wanna be told that Earth is four billion years old will not support a planetarium that tells you so.

As a result, our local planetarium is shoddy, run down, and antiquated.

Many areas in Jesusland are poor. When money is scarce, my local government thinks four times over before spending money on science or education.

That's why I live in one of the poorest, least educated provinces of Jesusland.

I have some family here. I enjoy my job a quite a bit. But this atmosphere bothers me sometimes. I may need to migrate from here one of these days.

If I do ever move, maybe I'll base my relocation upon the quality of the city planetarium.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Just Give Us the Facts

Around 2001, students from Jefferson High School in Lafayette, Indiana petitioned the school board by requesting that Special Creationism (Intelligent Design) lessons be taught along side evolution.

These students were not asking for evolution to be muted in their classrooms. They simply wanted Special Creationism to be taught along side evolution.

These students articulated that they wanted to be given all of the facts and then be allowed to decide for themselves what was true. They felt that Special Creationism had merit and needed to be taught along side evolution so that they can make an informed decision.

While this petition was student led, I'm confident (though not certain, of course) that an adult or two were behind this effort.

I suspect this because I started a bible study back in my high school years. Despite my religious enthusiasm in those days, an adult prompted me to meet with my high school principal to gain permission to meet. He prepped me with legal information as leverage (which actually backed my principal into a corner when she first seemed hesitant to comply). Also, adults supported our meetings which furthered our drive as students. We didn't impose our meetings on others and did not meet during school hours. We could meet before or after, according to the law at the time (which I think is still valid, for those of you who insist that prayer has been taken out of school).

So, I'm confident these students had similar influences even thought they were probably just as passionate about this debate as the adults who possibly put them up to this petition.

During the formal presentation of their petition to the school board, the students eloquently made their case. And many of the students who supported the petition donned black T-shirts with white type that read:


Just give us the facts and then let us decide.


And on the back of their snazzy black T-shirts was printed the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Nice touch, I must say.


Students kept insisting to the school board that they deserved to have all the facts. Somehow, they seemed to "know" that Special Creationism was as valid as evolution and deserved to be taught in their biology classrooms. "Just give us all the facts and then leave us to decide", they reiterated.

Interesting . . .

Honestly, I loved their T-shirts. I want one! But I don't think they really understood what they were asking. I think they only fashioned their words to sound like they wanted all the scientific information that was available to them.

But what they really said was:

Just give us the facts and we'll decide which ones we like and don't like.

Because the fact is, Special Creationism is not a scientific theory.

Nope.

Special Creationism doesn't help us understand why a monster strain of Tuberculosis is on the rise. Nor does Special Creationism give us clues as to how we stop it.

Intelligent Design doesn't answer questions about why certain people are immune to the AIDS virus and how that may one day help us achieve a cure.

Special creation "theory" doesn't help HIV patients live longer by understanding that the virus evolves as it continually duplicates inside it's host-victim.

For example:

As an HIV patient takes medication for a while, a variant of the AIDS virus becomes resistant to the medication as the other variants of the virus die off in the patient's system. As a result, a dominant strain overcomes the medication and causes the patient's condition to worsen.

If planned carefully, medication can be paused for a period of time. During this time, the resistant variant starts to make varied strains of the virus again. But in doing so, the resistant HIV population becomes dwarfed by it's own diverse offspring of viruses which are once again susceptible to medication. This tactic has extended the survival and health of patients who are battling AIDS.

The insight for this treatment plan comes from acknowledging and studying evolution. Not from studying Special Creation or Intelligent Design.

Nope. Sorry.

Think of another example. What if you were studying fish in a pond? You needed to find out why the fish were contracting a fungus that was killing many of them. You soon discover that some of the fish are sexual in their reproduction and others are asexual (clones).

You learn from observation that the healthiest fish are offspring of sexual parents while the asexual fish become sick by the fungus most often.

Why?

During your study, the pond dries up due to a drought. All the fish either die or migrate. But fortunately, the pond fills up with water again after the drought and the fish population returns.

Ugh! But you see the previous health trends reverse! Now the asexual are healthier than the sexual fish and the fungus seems to hit the sexual population extra hard.

Why?


Can Intelligent Design answer this question?

No. But studying evolution can.

The genetic diversity in the asexual fish is always very low. So the fungus can run amok with the asexual fish because they have little diversity driving traits that resist infections.

But when the pond dried up, the fish population shrank so much that the sexual population of fish had to inbreed in order to survive! As a result, the sexual fish became more clone-like than the asexual fish; the diversity of their gene pool fell lower than their asexual counterparts!

After understanding the problem, the solution can easily fixed the problem. Find some genetically diverse fish that reproduce sexually and add them to the pond. The offspring of the sexual fish become resistant to the fungus just as before-- all thanks to studying evolution.

If you must insist that Special Creationism is science, then the ways of creation must be studied through the theory of evolution.

Evolution is a fact. Of course we don't understand everything about it. And while we don't know if we humans came from slime billions of years ago, we do know that we have common ancestors with other species of apes from millions of years ago.

So when you say that you simply want the facts, be sure that you really mean that. That's what a good scientist strives for-- just the facts.

Even the uncomfortable ones.

So those students in Lafayette, Indiana were getting the facts. Some of the students simply didn't like what the facts started to imply concerning their literal interpretation of the bible. As a result, they decided that they wanted an alternative to the facts instead.

As it turns out, the school board kindly and gently rejected their petition.

And most of the biology and chemistry teachers at Jefferson High School wiped sweat from their brows as they sighed a great sigh of relief.