Lerk

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Lerk last won the day on June 2 2016

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About Lerk

  • Rank
    Strong Minded
  • Birthday 08/18/1960

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  • Gender
    Male
  • Location
    Houston, Texas
  • Interests
    science, energy
  • More About Me
    I am a computer programmer, married over 35 years, with two grown children. My wife's father was a minister, and our younger son is a minister. My older son, fortunately, discovered the truth awhile back. The real truth, not the "capital 'T' Truth".

    Still attending church weekly. I was actually outed last year, but knowing how badly that was going to go, I jumped back into the closet. That has turned out to be pretty comfortable because people don't expect anything from me now, religiously speaking.

    I've explained to my wife how I came to understand that it was all mythology, but she really doesn't want to believe it, and I still say a prayer with her at dinner! But we're starting to skip that more often.

    In some ways, Christianity has kept my life and my family stable, and I appreciate the regular moral training about being a responsible citizen and family member, and about caring for others. I don't know that, without the "you have to be there every week" attitude, I would ever have accepted that training and my life may not be as good as it is. Then again, my life could easily have been better, and churches certainly don't have a monopoly on morality. (In fact, sometimes they're just downright immoral.)

    On the other hand, I wish I had all of those Sundays back to spend with my family doing things that would have kept us closer. I can't really blame religion for a lack of recreation in my life, as many 3-time-a-week Christians do, in fact, spend more time in recreation with their families than I did. My problem may just be the fact that I was just too "responsible", and I don't know whether religion did that, or if I was just born that way. (I know I have always tried to do what was expected of me, even as a child, so it may just be my neurological makeup.)

    Regardless, I wish I had the Sundays back, and that all of that money given to the church could have been used for enjoying life with my family.

    Regarding how I came to realize that Jehovah is a myth like all other gods, it was in church, and I was 52 years old, when the preacher read a couple of verses of Genesis 3. Having turned there I read the entire chapter and realized, for the first time, that there was no Satan in the chapter. It was an ordinary snake! I knew I didn't believe it as written, and that neither did anyone else present. We had, all of our lives, believed that Satan had used the serpent, yet the Bible said nothing of the kind. There's not a single person in that church, not a single person I know, who believes Genesis chapter 3, yet nearly everyone says it is true.

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  • Still have any Gods? If so, who or what?
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  1. What Is Faith?

    Mark Twain supposedly said "Faith is believin' what you know ain't so." Peter Boghossian, in "A Manual for Creating Atheists," insists that faith is pretending to know things that you don't know. And he insists that other definitions of faith, for example faith in a person's ability to do something, are not really faith, because they're based on your knowledge of the person's ability and history. I think he's wrong to say that this definition of the word is invalid, because it's certainly how it's used most of the time. What he's trying to do is get people to see that that sort of faith does not equal faith in the Biblical sense. That's true -- it's a different thing, and perhaps it gives people who have religious faith (belief in gods and spirits and miracles) some reason to think that their faith is reasonable, because the same word has a meaning that reflects faith justified by evidence. But what does the Bible actually say? Well, most everyone has heard the verse: Hebrews 11:1 -- "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Christians (and many non-Christians) can quote this off the top of their heads. But what does it actually mean? It is the Biblical definition of faith. What is it getting at? This verse begins the passage often referred to as the "Hall of Faith." The Hebrew writer goes on to talk about what certain Old Testament heroes did because they had faith. Generally speaking, the point is that they couldn't see the future things that their god had promised them, but they believed it anyway, and acted accordingly. The story of Joseph is that on his deathbed he gave instructions that when Israel would leave Egypt, they should take his bones with them to the land of promise. They weren't even in captivity yet. There weren't enough of them to be a nation yet. But he believed that his descendants would eventually go to the land that their god had promised them, and he wanted to be buried there. So let's break that definition down. "The substance of things hoped for." If you're hoping for something but you don't have it, have never seen it, and nobody has ever seen it, then there is no "substance" to it. Faith takes the place of substance, allowing the believer to, well, believe. "The evidence of things not seen." This is essentially redundant. What is evidence? Evidence is the set of facts, observations about either physical specimens or the leftover effects of physical processes, that lead one to believe a certain thing exists, or a certain event happened. But "evidence of things not seen" implies belief without what would normally lead to belief. To put it more succinctly, faith is a substitute for substance, and a substitute for evidence. So Boghossian's definition fits the Bible definition here. Twain, of course, was jesting. People don't know that what they have faith in isn't really so, but his statement is a way to call attention to the fact that Biblical faith allows people to believe things that they can't possibly know, and, in fact, to believe things that are demonstrably false. There's no dome above the Earth, as early Bible passages describe. The Universe is 13.8 billion years old, not the 6000-10000 you would calculate using the Bible, and it has been proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The Hebrew writer was trying to assure his readers that there is an afterlife. There's no evidence for this at all, so in order to believe it one must accept that the New Testament writers knew it to be true. Yet the Hebrew writer himself has no confidence other than faith -- he substitutes faith for evidence, and even tells us that's what he's doing. Not very confidence inspiring, is it?
  2. Fundumentality

    I've said on occasion that I'm glad I was raised in a fundamentalist church (Non-institutional Church of Christ, to be specific). The reason I'm glad is that if I had been raised in a mainline Christian denomination, I might never have had a reason to question what I believed. So what is it about "fundamentalism"? How am I defining that? Essentially, it's the belief that the Bible is the word of Yahweh, that every word, while written by people, was overseen by the Holy Spirit and therefore is exactly what Yahweh wants to convey. The Bible itself does not assert such a thing anywhere. Peter does refer to the writings of Paul as "scripture" at one point, but that's about all you've got. The reason fundamentalists have this belief is that they assert that Yahweh could have made "his" book perfect, without error, and 100% consistent from beginning to end; because he could have, he would have, and therefore he did. That's it! But to hold this belief, fundamentalists must impose whatever beliefs they've settled on, on top of every passage in the Bible, whether it really fits or not. The truth is that beliefs of the Old Testament writers barely resemble the beliefs of the New Testament writers. And the writers of the first books of the OT had substantially different beliefs than the writers of the later books of the OT. And all you have to do to figure this out is to start at the beginning and read it with an open mind. I say "all you have to do" as if it's easy -- it isn't. When you've spent your entire life being taught that it must all fit, and you have all of the "answers" to make it fit, it's pretty hard to read without imposing the things you've already been taught upon it. But it can be done. If you're interested, start with these two things: Genesis 3 -- There's no "Satan" here. Yes, Jesus in the NT says something that may lead you to believe that Satan is that serpent, but ignore that for a few minutes and just read the chapter. "The serpent was more subtle than the beasts of the field." Does that sound like Satan did this, or is it just that snakes are sneaky? No, you don't and I don't believe snakes are smart enough to be sneaky, but the author did. Deuteronomy 32 -- Read this from the ESV. The ESV uses the Septuagint here, which is older than the Masoretic, and the Septuagint agrees with the Dead Sea Scrolls. (Oh, they told you the Dead Sea Scrolls didn't have any significant differences from the Masoretic? Not so! Especially here!) In this passage, we see that the Most High God divided the people of earth into nations based on the number of his sons. Each got a portion, or a nation. And the Lord's (aka Yahweh) portion were the descendants of Jacob. Yahwah/Jehovah/The Lord/Adonai INHERITED Israel. The rest of the chapter explains how The Lord is much better at leading his people than his brother gods are. The other Bible versions use the Masoretic text here, and that version of the Hebrew Scriptures came along several hundred years after the Septuagint and the Dead Sea Scrolls, and its compilers deliberately altered the text here to align with their belief that there was only one god. Those two passages alone should be enough to disabuse anyone of the idea that the Bible is 100% consistent. And if you're a fundamentalist like I was, that's enough by itself to turn you into a non-Christian and allow you to start looking for the truth.
  3. Jews and Christians-End Times Stuff

    Tell'em Jesus said "my kingdom is not of this world." Tell'em that if it was Jesus plan to set up an earthly kingdom, that means he failed and he's going to have to come back and try again. Do they believe their lord and savior failed?
  4. Finding life purpose is hard!

    I agree. There's no such thing as "meaning" in the Biblical sense, which is an externally imposed meaning. Ecclesiastes says that the fear God and keep his commandments is the whole of man. That's bullshit, of course. We don't have a purpose for being put here, because we weren't put here. We weren't born for the reason of fulfilling some future purpose. But that's not to say that life is futile! In fact, it's the opposite. If our purpose is to please a creator god, then life is truly futile. But now that we know there are no such things as gods, that frees us up to simply enjoy our lives. Oh, sure, there are always going to be some unenjoyable things in life, but wow, there's so much to look forward to! I like my job. I'm not anybody's boss and at age 57 I'm way past the point that I'll ever climb the ladder, but I can see exactly what part I play in the big picture, both for the company, and the part my company plays in the economy. I'm not irreplaceable, which is good, because I'd like to retire in 8 years or so. Until then, having the job makes me feel like a productive member of society, and it provides me the funds to enjoy life outside of work. We've traveled to the West coast 3 times since December to see our grandchildren! Two are just babies, but the older one is 3 and she leaned over on my shoulder at lunch one day and -- completely unprompted -- said "Pops, I love you!" Who needs an eternal purpose when you have that?!?!? So being young, you don't have that yet, but you have friends, you're about to start college and you'll learn a lot and have new (hopefully non-Christian) friends, and you'll be on your way in life. Look for the joy in it... there's your purpose.
  5. I like this! There's no way I can be a cultural Christian, having been raised in a fundy church. I suppose if my family would convert to liberal Christianity, some of it might be fun. But really no better than being a cultural American. Thanksgiving turkey and Christmas ham and presents don't have to be associated with religion. About the only good thing would be the music, in some cases. But right now, I hate the acapella Church of Christ music that I used to think was awesome. A church where there's an orchestra and no singers might be nice! On the other hand, season tickets to the symphony would be a lot cheaper than a weekly contribution to a church.
  6. Living without absolution

    No, I don't think that's normal at all. I agree with the other commenters here. Forgiving is more normal than not forgiving. Forgiveness isn't a Christian thing, it's a human thing. If you can let things slide that he does that you don't like, then he can do the same. Besides, who says the things he doesn't like are even justified! You have every bit as much right to be you as he does to be him! It's also normal to stand up for yourself. Now that's something Christianity doesn't teach! You may very well overlook his habits that you don't care for, but don't overlook his being hard on you. Don't forgive his lack of forgiveness. Let him know he needs to cut it out.
  7. Links

    This isn't a blog post, really, just a place for a couple of bookmarks. I follow Captain Cassidy on Twitter, who writes the blog "Roll to Disbelieve" on patheos. She recently tweeted a link to an older blog post of her own called The Four Facts of the Resurrection (Aren’t) Here, she discusses how four "facts" about the resurrection that even non-believers don't dispute, aren't facts at all, aren't well attested, and are certainly not accepted by non-believers. These facts are: 1. Jesus’ burial 2. the discovery of his empty tomb 3. his post-mortem appearances 4. the origin of the disciples’ belief in his resurrection. And in that post, she links a site discussion the lack of ancient sources that reference Jesus. That site discusses what Christian apologists call the 10 / 42 argument, which claims that there are more ancient attestations of Jesus than there are for Tiberius Caesar. Not surprisingly, this turns out to be not even remotely true. Find that web page here: Ten Reasons to Reject the Apologetic 10/42 Source Slogan Cheers!
  8. An Extra Facet Of Coming Out

    Although I don't have much in common with you, as a straight, white, late-50s male I can actually identify with the not knowing what you want to wear part! About a year ago I ordered some nice shirts from England because I went through a phase where I thought I should, and actually wanted to, look "better" for work. I look at those shirts now and am horrified at the thought of wearing them. No way am I putting those ties on! Sometimes one things feels comfortable for the occasion, and sometimes another. And often what seems right for the occasion doesn't seem comfortable on a personal level. Those days are miserable.
  9. Yearly update - short hand version

    Interesting! I'm not into any of that (except work, and after a two-week vacation where people I met asked if I'm retired, I'm wishing I could be). But it's pretty cool that you have your life organized like you do, and that you're accomplishing things. Good job!
  10. The evolution of Political Ideologies as we age

    I voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980, the first election I was old enough to vote in. I voted for Ross Perot whatever year that was. But since then, I've become more and more liberal. The "under 30 / over 30" quote seems really backwards to me. People under 30 seem to think they know everything. I certainly did! It's a lack of experience that makes a person think that. It takes experience to understand nuance. Maybe I was most conservative as a young man because I thought I had it figured out before I actually had to take care of myself. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that middle-aged people are likely to be the most conservative. And the most heartless. Now that I'm headed toward senior-citizenship I realize how privileged I've been throughout my life, and I can see that there are a lot of ways our society needs to change. Maybe that takes both brains and heart. I agree with Geezer about how "the left" shutting down free speech makes no sense. Doesn't seem liberal to me at all! Things are changing. Jobs that are gone aren't coming back, and more will be going. I'd bet that in 20 years the job of "truck driver" will no longer exist. Farm tractors use GPS to go in straighter lines than a farmer could ever drive them in. I don't know whether America will survive long enough for it to happen here, but some day enough things will take care of themselves that universal basic income will be a requirement, and any job a person holds will simply be for enjoyment or increase the amount of luxury available. We're talking a century or more in the future, I suspect, and there will probably always be work that can only be done by humans, but I just don't think there will be enough of it to go around. (Another possibility is that there will be a massive population implosion and then, even with machines doing most of the work, there will be jobs for everyone.) Anyway, interesting topic JadedAtheist.
  11. And Then it Happened

    It was a pretty quick decision on my part. I was really, seriously considering just saying "screw it". Had it not been for my son who is a minister, I would have. He's on the west coast now and in a very short time has changed his stance on some "Southern" CoC positions. He actually studies the Bible to find out what it says, not just to prove what he already believes, so I'm hopeful that someday he'll either reject it altogether or at least evolve a bit and move into liberal Christianity. But if that never happens, I don't want to risk losing my relationship with him, nor being kept from my grandchildren. Odds are that, even if they are kept in a homeschool bubble, once they're older they won't fall for the mythology. I want to be there for them if they need someone, and if I'm kept away from them for the next 10-15 years, that may be difficult to accomplish. Of course, that's all speculation at this point. I'm really just playing it by ear. I managed the "going forward" easily enough (though it was a bit traumatic). Now that it's over, I can sit on the back row and nobody expects anything from me.
  12. And Then it Happened

    I posted in the forums about how my older son discovered the truth about the Bible after he decided he really needed to study more. He had managed to come out of the closet and, he thought, not destroy his relationships. Well, it turned out to be more complicated than that, and it got really complicated for me, as well. My son and his wife had a baby. They live in another town, and his in-laws live there, as well. So we went to see meet new granddaughter. They weren't at church that Sunday, and in fact left the hospital for home about the time of the evening service. My wife and I went to church. We noticed my son's father-in-law looking what we thought was his usual odd self. We didn't really want to talk to him because even though our son was accepted as a "visitor" and "former member" by the church, his father-in-law is one of the "church discipline" types who thinks you can't have anything at all to do with any Christian who is "living in sin," and that being a Christian who has rejected God is "living in sin." (In other words, there's no such thing as an "ex-Christian." If you leave, you're an "erring Christian.") So when it was over we answered a few questions about the baby for the people who were asking and congratulating us, and then we made our way to the car. We planned to pick up dinner and take it to our son's house. But father-in-law went out a side door and intersected our path! As he approached, making a bee-line for me, my wife congratulated him on the new granddaughter, which interrupted his train of thought. He turned to her and shook her and and said "you -- congratulations!" Then he turned to me, refusing my hand, and said "and you... I KNOW YOUR SECRET." I replied "ohhhh kay?" and we proceeded to the car. Boy, was my wife mad. I was shocked. How in hell did he know I was an atheist? It was a tough night, but I didn't really know that anything would come of it. Our son already had a chilly relationship with him. The following Wednesday night I went to Bible class, and as usually, afterwards took our older granddaughter outside to play. But a little while later one of the elders came out and found me, and asked if they could speak with me. I took my granddaughter to our other son and told him the elders wanted to see me, then I went to the room they were meeting in. Only two of the three were there. One of them said to me, quite sheepishly, really, that they had been told I had a blog called "The Closet Atheist." Well, of course, that was true, but in my shock I was able to act shocked enough to deny it and, I thought, seem believable. I asked what it was, and he started to explain to me what a blog was. When I said, no, I understood that, he told me how there were pages and pages of posts dating back several years. After attempting to deny it, they said that they weren't inclined to believe it, but that they felt they had to ask. I wandered out in a daze and went home. My wife hadn't gone that night and I didn't say anything to her. She was unaware of the blog. So, I need to back up a bit. When my son first indicated that he was doubting, he also implied that his wife was kind-of on board with him. That was wishful thinking. In an effort to be supportive (and, frankly, because I was so happy for him) I told him about the blog, and even said he could tell his wife about it. I wanted her to know that even if they didn't agree, that didn't mean he wasn't the person she married, and it didn't mean their marriage was over. The baby's birth was four month's away at this point, and it really seemed important that she not suffer any undue stress. In reality, the realization that there are no such things as gods shouldn't cause anything but joy in one's life, but when you have fundamentalist family, it isn't simple at all. I wanted to help. But his wife really still believed, and she's not one to keep secrets, so when conversing and seeking advice from her parents, she mentioned my blog. Later in the week the elders emailed me wanting to meet again. I had to tell her now, and she yelled at me about how naive I had been. She's never been more right. I trust people. My daughter-in-law loves me. She wasn't trying to sabotage me or betray me, yet that's exactly what she did. My honesty plus hers combined to start an avalanche. I didn't know whether to be relieved or scared to death. My younger son and his family were moving... that Wednesday was to be the last one at this church, and they were headed on a vacation/journey to a new home on the West Coast. They left before I could talk to him. Right here -- this is it. The ONLY reason I cared whether anyone knew I was an atheist is because I was afraid it would affect my relationship with this younger son, and that he wouldn't want his daughter to be around me much. That's it. That's the only real negative that could happen in my life. And if that happened, my wife would never forgive me. Literally, not metaphorically, never forgive me. The blog was somewhat cryptic, in the sense that if someone had stumbled across it they wouldn't have suspected it was mine. Yet there was enough information in there that if someone said it was mine, and someone else read it, I wouldn't be able to deny it, so before my meeting with the elders I decided I'd better come clean. I admitted it was mine, and I said that I would go before the congregation and ask for forgiveness. I took the blog down before sending the email. I also said that I would begin a Bible study via email with a preacher who was well educated, but a member of a "mainline" church rather than one of the non-institutional groups. (My thinking was that this would keep the rumor mill quiet. I didn't have to tell that preacher what was behind it, and he wouldn't have any discussions with "our" preachers.) The next Wednesday night I showed up early (along with my wife, who went into the auditorium to both suffer embarrassment and to be comforted by the other ladies who were there early. I went into the office to meet with the three elders, and the preacher was there, too. He didn't know much about what was going on except for what the elders had told him in a few minutes, and he had not seen the blog (which was gone by this time). He was aware of my older son's deconversion and had actually had a number of discussions with him about it. Again, I made my promise to study, and I indicated that I wished to continue to be a member of the church. I was to go forward to offer public confession after the "invitation" was offered ("invitation" is Church-of-Christ speak for "altar call") and "acknowledge my sin." One of the elders remarked that most people in my situation would just say "I'm outta here!" and he wondered why I didn't respond that way. My honest reply was that there was simply no advantage to it, and that it would cause too many problems within my own family. They accepted this reasoning. So then there was the confession: This was tough. I told about the blog, and explained that I needed to confess because that was public and required public "repentance." I apologized to my wife and thanked her for putting up with me. Then one of the elders got up and made a few comments. I interrupted to ask that nobody call my younger son, who was on his way to his new home, because I hadn't talked to him yet and he didn't know what was going on. Then they prayed for me. Afterward, people offered all sorts of words of encouragement. Several people wanted to talk way too much, and in the next couple of week some brought me reading material. I called my son the next day and left a message. He eventually called me back. He was upset, but he said he wasn't surprised. I talked to him about how Moses apparently believed that there was more than one god, and he said he knew that already! (So why is he still a believer.) I didn't tell him everything, but at the end he asked me to please say that I still believed that Jesus was the son of God, so I lied and said "yes." Since then, he hasn't said a word about it and I really think he doesn't want to know any more. And since that time, I quit leading singing. One of the elders did ask several months later if I was going to start leading singing again, and I indicated that I was pretty happy to be retired from that. I may get that uncomfortable question again, but I can easily dismiss it if my wife isn't around. (When she's around it's harder to just dismiss, because it embarrasses her and she doesn't go to bat for me -- she takes the side of the person who's bugging me. I end up having to try to justify my decision. It's a pain, especially because she knows I'm an atheist!) Occasionally, one of the other elders asks me how I'm doing, meaning "spiritually," and I say "pretty well." That's all there is to that conversation. And that's it at this point! I show up most Sunday mornings by myself and use the time to read, and I go other times when my wife makes it, but not usually by myself. Nobody really expects much of me any more, and that's quite a relief. I hope that some day my younger son won't be able to avoid the truth, and we can just be done with it. My older son surprised me when he figured it out, so it could happen. I may decide to write a book someday. I wrote this post because I had never written this stuff down. It's kind of hurried, so there may be typos and awkward wording, but if I wait any longer I'll forget things.
  13. Serenity

    There's a saying by Reinhold Niebuhr known as the "Serenity Prayer." It says "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference". A discussion in the forums made me realize something today: For a Christian, the above is impossible, or nearly so. That's why they think the prayer is so important that they post it on knick-knacks all over their houses. They want their god to grant these things to them, but because they really think that by praying they should be able to change those things that are beyond their control, they will never have that serenity. But as an atheist, this is easy! Once I realized that there was no such thing as Yahweh or any other god, I actually gained that peace that is beyond the Christian's understanding. I know for a fact that there are some things I can change, and some that I can't, and so accepting the things I cannot change becomes easy. There are many things that Christianity claims for itself that are merely wishful thinking. The "peace that passes understanding" is once. Another important one is "ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." These are things that only the atheist can enjoy.
  14. It's All So Scary.

    "This world doesn't make sense at all. Not even remotely." It's when you realize that, that it does start to make sense. The fact that there's nothing behind it, no "plan" as it were, no grand scheme and no ultimate authority, means that what chaos there is, and what order there is, what good and what bad, all make sense, because it's all the result of a complicated system that nobody is in charge of. Some of the order is the result of the laws of physics and biology. Some of the order (and the disorder, as well) is the result of humans who do have control over small bits of the whole. In other words, the world is exactly what you would expect. I'll tell you what, once I realized that I pretty much quit being afraid of anything, quit worrying about anything. There are some miserable things in my life right now (I don't like where I'm living and my grown children have moved off, taking my grandchildren with them; my sister is very ill and may not live long, and my mother is becoming very feeble; my wife suffers from depression, and has since before I ever met her), but there are other things that are good (I have a good job and have managed to get out of debt in the last 6 or 7 years, and think I may be able to retire at least by the time I'm 67 (10 years away).) But I think just the fact that I know that there's no mystical cause of anything, that it's all natural, allows me to do that thing that Christians try so hard to do and fail, and that is to change the things I can and accept the things I can't. For a Christian that's impossible, because they always think their god should be doing something. For an atheist, it's simple. Even death doesn't bother me in the same way. I miss my dad terribly, and I shed a few tears this morning, but he was so tired and miserable the last few years, even though he still had his mind. So now he doesn't exist except in memories and photographs. And I'm happy he was my father, and I'm happy that he's no longer suffering, and I don't care that he's not somehow living in "paradise". He lives in our memories, and when everyone who knew him is gone, he'll be gone, too, I suppose (as will we all), but the world goes on and babies are born and there's happiness and sadness and everything in between. I just want to leave some little piece of the world in better shape than I found it. I want to leave behind happy memories. I want to send money to places where it will make someone else's life a little better, someone I don't know and whom I'll never meet. "This" world does make sense, after all. I suspect that there are other worlds out there, too, and wherever intelligent life is found, situations are probably much like situations on this world. Because it makes sense.