Death for me over the years has rarely been difficult to process and move on. I've buried quite a few, only mourned a couple. The two I mourn are now memories I guard so earnestly a mother bear could not rival my ferocity. These two people immediately bring on the wet eyes and short tight breaths when I just so much as think on their lives, their influence, and my loss.
This past January I experienced a third loss of someone very important in my life. It's hit me very hard, and I am surprised it's taken me this long to be able to pick up a pen and put it to paper finally. It's been thirty days, and this is still difficult to even bother to proof read. I did pour out my initial shock and pain all over social media. I tracked every article on his death I could find. I even found video from where he was that day and watched a VBIED explode in the distance. I had to somehow be there. Witness his chaos, hear the intensity, and visualize the finality that damage brought on in the war he volunteered to fight in.
Albert Avery Harrington had volunteered to fight with Kurdish forces against ISIL two years ago. When he had initially announced his plans, I debated, I argued, and I even pleaded for him to reconsider and find another way to render aid. I knew he would end up severely injured, or worse, dead. But he went anyway, fully accepting the almost guaranteed risks that would change his, and the lives of all who loved him, forever.
He sought life and purpose on his own path, and if death found him, at least it was while he was in pursuit of what made his existence fulfilled. This outlook on life is the only reason I can accept his death without anger or regret. No anger at his dying in a situation that he willingly allowed danger to follow, or regret that I never convinced him to put down this flag for a noble cause.
Our last goodbye was back in September. He'd asked me if I could use my press privileges and get him in to Kurdistan. I'd laughed him off, quietly relieved he wasn't currently in harm's way for the moment. I knew it was only a matter of time though, and once again I would get erratic messages from the front lines in Kurdistan where he would complain about needing sleep and I would promise him the juiciest burger money could buy once he got back.
But he didn't make it back. January 18th he and four others were hit by not one, but two, VBIED (vehicle-borne improvised explosive device) during a special offensive titled "Wrath of the Euphrates" in a small village called Suwaydiya-Saghirah village in Raqqa. The goal was to cut off the supply line to ISIS's stronghold in Raqqa. Three men were instantly killed, and Avery succumbed to his wounds in the morning hours of the 22nd at age 50. He is listed as a martyr with YPG/MFS Kurdish forces and buried in the land where he fought to defend innocents against ISIL's tyrannical cult. It appears their sacrifice has paid off since Kurdish forces have wrested control of Kukhkhan and Bir Said villages from ISIL in northern Raqqa.
While the progress made since his death has been bittersweet, seeing the word martyr was a difficult thing to process at first. See, like myself, Avery was an atheist. He was living proof of atheist in foxholes and he was very much a humanist. One I try to model myself after. Honestly, I don't know how he gave so much of himself to so many. I get exhausted, but Avery thrived on it, I believe. "Give me a mission," he would say. So, when I saw him being referred to as a martyr, my teeth began to grind. The days to come proved even harder when others began to share their own pain and thoughts on his passing.
As I followed up on news posted on his remembrance page, I began reading the thoughts and prayers comments. I also had to walk away from my computer a few times when I read speculation about whether he'd gotten right with god or turned back to Christ on his death bed.
At first, I interpreted this kind of talk as an affront to what he stood for. His legacy should not be tarnished with the idea he was going to Hell unless he managed a last minute conversion. Could people not see the insult to everything he stood for by questioning his very humanity based on a belief system he did not even ascribe to? Those questions and speculations made me cry. They made me angry. I felt Avery's very purpose of pursuing a larger case for compassion on the world stage had been overshadowed. And after my rage subsided, I realized what was wrong with all these thoughts that were screaming in my head.
The word "I".
The long and the short of it all comes down to the fact Avery is dead. He can no longer be personally offended. He can't feel. He is oblivious to the world as he lays in his box under hundreds of pounds of dirt and rock in Syria. This is about my desire to preserve his memory in my life as I feel it should be. When the desires of other's to do the same do not match up to mine, then I want to stomp them out. And this is incredibly unfair. It minimizes the grief of others, it alienates in a time when coming together is most comforting.
The desire or belief that Avery found God and is now in Heaven does no harm to his memory in my life. It puts a comfort to the personal loss of another, and I don't have the right to control another's grieving process by demanding their hopes be dashed. Just as Avery showed understanding for religious culture and customs of those he sought to protect, why can I not afford the same respect to those who now have a gaping loss to deal with in their lives like I do?
This is a practice I will struggle with for years to come, as do all of us, but for those of us who do not believe in a hereafter, we feel the loss even more permanently than those who do believe. Why should I make a demand for conformity on behalf of those who are dead? Why allow the anger to take away from what we have lost? Do I really need to ask them why their God saw fit to allow such atrocity that eventually motivated Avery to protect those God would not? No, I won't do that. Even if when some say this god supposedly had a plan for Avery.
Grief and loss do not belong to only one individual, though the process is individually different because of perception of the relationship one shared with the deceased. All of us who loved and cherished Avery have one thing in common, his death. Some of us will look forward to dining with him at the table in Valhalla, the rest of us have only his influence to pass on through our own actions so he may life on in the life of others - even if some who will be influenced by him, won't even know his name or know he is the source of their benefit.
I can honestly say that my relationship with Avery ended with no regrets, and the past is forever the past, and tomorrow will always show me where we once were together.
I love you, Avery. We miss you.
"The Bible is not like any other book!" When someone is trying to convince you that the god they call "God" is real, that Jesus was/is this god's son and is deity himself, and that you should reconsider the things that made you finally conclude, after months or years of intense Bible study, that there's nothing to the religion after all (after having been a believer since you were old enough to believe anything at all), this is one of the arguments they often think you can't possibly have an answer to.
So, let's look at that argument. Is the Bible unlike any other book?
This post, an article called "Why Reading the Bible Straight Through is Usually a Bad Idea," makes the point the the Bible is unlike any other book because it isn't actually a book, it's more like a library. That's true, but it isn't a reason to believe it. In fact, as the article points out, "the books have different genres, written in different styles with different purposes." What's more, the books were written over many years by people who had different beliefs about the nature of God.
You've no doubt heard the statement (made by the folks at "Answers in Genesis" here) that "despite forty authors writing from three continents over nearly two thousand years, it maintains a perfect consistency of message" (or something similar). The usual scripture that Biblical inerrantists like to use is 2 Tim. 3:16-17: "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." They interpret this to mean that everything from Genesis to Revelation is 100% true and 100% consistent. They assert that because this god is omniscient and omnipresent, he could have made it that way, and therefore he would have.
This post on cfaith.com states that explicitly. And unlike the first article linked above, if this reason it's unlike any other book were true, it would be a reason to believe it and to be a Christian. But is it true?
The books of the Bible comprise something more than just different genres with different purposes. They comprise a range of beliefs, showing us how the beliefs of the various "inspired" authors, spiritual leaders of the nation of Israel, changed over the centuries. Inerrantists try to impose the ideas in the New Testament upon the Old Testament, but those ideas don't really fit. In fact, the Old Testament itself shows quite a bit of evolution of beliefs from the beginning to the end.
Take the ideas of eternal reward and eternal punishment: This is nowhere to be found in the Old Testament! We see Enoch and Elijah being taken up and never dying, but other than that, there's nothing about people going to be with God. Nothing in the Law of Moses or in the books of the prophets threatens the Children of Israel with eternal punishment if they're unfaithful. The only threat is that their nation will be taken away from them. We see a few non-specific mentions where someone who died is said to have gone to "be with their fathers" (referring to the burial place in their homeland, not to the hereafter), and David, when the child of Bathsheba dies, says "he can't come to me, but I will go to him," but we can't infer that the place he thought he would go to was Heaven. In fact, when the witch of Endor summons Samuel (I Samuel 28), Samuel comes up, not down. Up from where? The "underworld" seems the most likely place, as most ancient people believed there was a place that departed spirits went that was below the Earth. That's what the Hebrew word Sheol means. Both the good and the evil were thought by the Israelites to go there when they die.
This is wholly inconsistent with the New Testament. Somewhere between Malachi and Matthew, the Jews picked up a belief in not only being rewarded by going to live in Heaven, but of the possibility of being punished eternally in Hell. The Sadducees did not believe this! This article from Britannica.com states "the Sadducees refused to go beyond the written Torah (first five books of the Bible) and thus, unlike the Pharisees, denied the immortality of the soul, bodily resurrection after death, and the existence of angelic spirits." We see this in the Bible as well. In their view, the idea of life after death was unscriptural! But it was widely believed in the first century, and thus became part of Christian doctrine. We can clearly see that this is a change in doctrine from the beginning to the end of the Bible.
My favorite example of evolution of beliefs is that found in the "Song of Moses" in Deuteronomy 32. Here we see how the Children of Israel believed that The LORD came to be their god. You should read this in the English Standard Version because it uses older manuscripts as its source than most other Bible translations. It states there that the Most High god divided the people of the Earth into nations -- one nation for each of his sons -- and that "The LORD's portion" were the descendants of Jacob. In other words, they believed at that time that The LORD (probably "Yahweh" originally) was one of the sons of the Most High god. He was far superior to his brothers, who ruled the other nations, but at this time he was not believed to be the only god. The belief that The LORD was the only god, and the same as The Most High, came later, and you can see this change in beliefs as you read through the Bible. In fact, in Psalm 82 we see these other sons of God losing their divinity and being told that they will eventually die. They can't lose their divinity if they never had it!
An interesting thing in the case of Deuteronomy 32 is that when the Masoretic text was compiled (600-1000 AD, not BC), the scribes/scholars changed the wording here! (Most Bible translations use the Masoretic text as their Old Testament source, so compare any other version with the ESV.) Why would they do this? Well I wouldn't suggest that they were being dishonest. They may well have thought that the phrase "sons of God" was an idiom. After all, they didn't believe that Yahweh had sons, so they tried to figure out what the original author meant. They came up with "children of Israel." In making the assumption that the original wording represented an idiom, they unknowingly imposed their 7th century beliefs upon the ancient text. They tried to force the entire library that is the Bible to be consistent. But it wasn't!
There are many other examples of inconsistencies in the Bible, not just differences between the beginning and end, but irreconcilable differences within just the Gospels which were written within a period of only 40 to 60 years! These that I've pointed out are enough to prove that the claim of the inerrantist is false.
There's a tendency by inerrantists to blame the reader for not being able to ignore the contradictions, as in this article, which states " if we cannot resolve a difficulty, that is a problem with our understanding, not a problem with the Bible." The truth is that there is often no way around the discrepancies. The truth is that there are prophecies in the Bible that didn't come true, such as the conquering of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar in Ezekiel 26 -- Nebuchadnezzar besieged Tyre for 13 years but failed to take it. The outline linked here is from a Biblical inerrantist who explains in section IV that Nebuchadnezzar failed, but in section V dismisses this failure and states that the specifics of the prophecy eventually all came true. If they weren't fulfilled by the one prophesied to do it, then the prophecy was wrong. Of course, this isn't a book written by Ezekiel, it's a book written about Ezekiel. This is a story about a prophecy, written many years later. The error here is that the author got his history wrong, not that an actual prophet predicted an event that failed to come true.
The truth is that the Gospels contradict each other. In John 20, Mary Magdalene tells Peter and John that someone has taken Jesus' body out of the tomb, and the two of them run to the tomb to see that it is empty. In Luke 24 the women were told, right there at the tomb, that Jesus had risen. They go tell the 11 remaining apostles, and Peter runs to the tomb to see. Both stories cannot be true, and it is not a failure of the reader to understand. These stories are very clear!
There is a sense in which the Bible is unlike other books, but it isn't true in the claimed way, and that should be enough for anyone who has believed this to change their mind. Perhaps it doesn't mean they would no longer believe in this god, but they certainly ought to change their views about the nature of the Bible and their religion. Most Christians are not fundamentalists. Those who are need to learn that Fundamentalist Christianity is based on assertions about the Bible that are demonstrably false, and then begin to search for the truth. Whether that leads them to mainline Christianity or to the belief that Judaism and Christianity are simply mythology like all of the other religions that are practiced now or are long dead, they'll be better off.
And there it is... a guilt trip masquerading as sympathy.
My wife's name appears in the church bulletin every week (email only, not printed). She's on the list of people who have health conditions that often prevent them from being at church. She has fibromyalgia, and insomnia, too, and she doesn't "do mornings." Doctor appointments are always scheduled in the afternoon. We don't have service people come to the house in the morning, either. That just doesn't work.
This is a 3-times-a-week church: Sunday morning, Sunday night (the majority of the people at that service were also there in the morning), and Wednesday night. My wife doesn't often make it Sunday morning, but she's usually there Sunday night. She's on the list because she wants to make sure people understand that there's a reason she's only there on Sunday night, and so they won't think she's just a "weak Christian."
The church has four "encouragement groups" that occasionally get together at someone's house for a meal, but mostly what they do is meet after the Sunday night service once a month and sign cards to be mailed. When my sister died, I got one card from an individual, and one card from one of these groups. This is a church with about 200 people in attendance on a typical Sunday morning.
My wife gets a card from one of the groups about once a month. Usually the notes say something like "we've been missing you." The thing is, if they were paying attention they wouldn't be missing her, because she's usually there on Sunday night. They have to walk right past her to get to the card-signing session! And she doesn't leave in a hurry once church is over, either. She's one of the last people to leave. She gets cards, but what she never gets are phone calls from people asking if she'd like them to come visit, or perhaps bring some food over, or if she's feeling up to it, to go to lunch, or even just calling to have a friendly conversation. Just cards.
The last card she got had a note from a person that really shows the purpose of these things: It's a guilt trip. While most people say they miss her and hope she starts feeling better, and that they're praying for her, this person wrote "We hope you'll be able to encourage us with your presence soon!" That's Church-of-Christ thinking. If you're not there, then gee-whiz, someone else may notice that, get discouraged, and not show up next week! You wouldn't want that on your conscience, would you?
Of course, I already know that they think this way, but it was funny to see someone actually put it in writing on one of these "thinking of you" cards.
I came from the flavor of evangelical Christianity where God was intricately involved in every aspect of my life. God was interested in getting me a better job, finding me a husband, and clearing out a primo parking space at Trader Joes. Oh yes, He was blessing me every. single. day.
The conversations would go like this:
"God blessed me big time today. You know that dress I really wanted to my anniversary dinner? It went on sale! I mean, God knows how tight money is with us, and I just can't believe He would make a way for me to be able to buy it." Or, "God just knew I needed a phone call from (whomever) today. He just knows exactly what I need."
You get the idea. I just knew that God was interested in every single detail of my life.
Pure Western Christianity ego-centrism.
So now, let's juxtapose this with the prayers of a refugee in a war torn country. Afraid for their children, they're praying desperately for a way out that never comes. Or the mother with the child who is desperately ill and in pain. Does that child get relief from the very real pain? What about the dying child? These seem like answer-worthy prayers. In fact, they seem (and mind you, I'm just a human, so I can't claim to know God's priorities), those prayers seem like they might just outrank the dress going on sale, or the best parking spot He decided to bless you with.
I have two thoughts about this.
One: When God fails to answer our prayers, he's got a mighty "get out of jail free" card. It's called His Will. When worthy prayers are not answered, then it's His "mysterious will." God is not to be questioned. His ways are higher than ours. You know the drill. However, when he finds me a parking spot, he gets all the praise. How many Christians ever stop to think how incredibly self-centered they sound as they make the (supposed) God of the Universe their personal prayer bitch? Did they ever stop and think about the really horrible things that happen to people in this world, whose prayers go completely and totally unanswered?
Two: Wow and double wow for your close personal relationship with God. He's intimately involved in every aspect of your thoughts and your life, and He's always going before you to make a way and bless you. Did it ever occur to you that your life is actually blessed by virtue of where and to whom you were born? DIdn't think so.
So the next time your Christian buddy thinks being religionless makes you selfish, this might be a good object lesson to bring up.
What are you known for? Is it your love for others? If someone were to read your social media posts, what would it reflect? What about your comments? Christians, I'm talking to YOU.
It seems the ship has sailed on loving others. Especially other Christians with whom you disagree.
I truly believe that social media has shone a stark, bright spotlight on the hearts of men (and women) and the verdict is in:
Christians have just as much hate, anger, judgement and vitriol in their hearts as everyone else.
Let that sink in. And then get angry. But not at me. I have to call it like I see it (or in this case, read it). Every. Single. Day.
Obviously, everyone is human. We all have those emotions and feelings. What I'm talking about is if you call yourself a Christian, you are held to a higher standard. Especially where your behavior towards others is concerned. But I have a question for you:
Are you the called ones? Or the ones tasked with calling everyone out?
I'm weary. Really weary.
Weary of seeing your Bible used as a weapon. So much so, that prior to my deconversion, when I did still did devotions, I would come across verses that are typically the "clobber verses," and I couldn't focus anymore. It destroyed the Bible for me. [Cue the judgmental rant: "Well, that's YOUR fault! It must be YOUR relationship with God. YOU need to work on that!] No, it could not possibly be the effect of other Christians' behavior. Nope.
I'm so weary of the superiority and judgement of believers. [Cue the proof texts about why it's OK to do this....]
I'm sick of the Christian double standard which goes something like this: "I'm on the side of God, therefore when I call you out, it's a holy calling. My behavior, however, is not up for discussion."
I see this play out day after day online. And in real life too.
I'm weary of seeing Christians nod in agreement about loving others during a sermon, and go home to eviscerate someone on Facebook who dares to have a different opinion. Especially political.
Sit tight Christian. Buckle up. I've got some news: God is not a Republican or a Democrat. When your church becomes a mouthpiece for a political party, you cease to be the church. In the words of one of your own pastors, Carey Nieuwhof:
I could not feel more strongly about this. Especially in political discourse.
Every day, I see people with little to no understanding of theology use the Bible as a weapon to make a point or win an argument. We call it "proof texting." You know what? It's destroying your witness. It's destroying other believers, and it's destroying any chance someone wants to jump into your cesspool of hate.
The rhetoric I see vomiting out of Christian mouths every day turns my stomach.
The message, more often than not, is "I love you, as long as you agree with me." If not, all bets are off. I don't recall Jesus saying that. In fact, he talked about enemy love. Another long-lost Christian command that no longer exists in Evangelical America.
What happened to being peacemakers? Instead you pledge allegiance to America First. It seems the "kingdom" that holds first place in your heart is not God's. It's man's.
This has been a long time coming.
I've yet to write my ex-timonial outlining the downfall of my faith, but that's coming. I think it's fair to say that after twenty-five years inside of evangelical Christianity, it's going to take a bit of processing and healing to get it all sorted out enough to write it all down. The best way I can come up with to describe my slow and painful exodus, would be to say it felt like death by a thousand paper cuts. The metaphor works, because any one of the "reasons" I could give, wouldn't seem on its face to be enough to walk away. But over a period of many years, it wore me down. Down to the core of my soul. So much so, that when I finally found the strength to walk away, I felt like I'd been robbed of those years. I was left trying to figure out who I was without the identity of "believer." And in truth, I didn't know. I'm still learning. I can't go back, but I can move forward, living my best life now.
These days, I am "closer to fine" than I have ever been. Ironically, I feel free and unchained. Funny, that's what Christianity tells us will happen when we accept Christ. That was even true for me, in the beginning. But what I didn't know, was that Western Christianity also comes with a lot of unspoken and unwritten "rules."
In the end, the rule book grew heavy, and the veil that was torn off was the real truth of the Bible: that it's peppered with inconsistencies that most Christians will never hear about in church. We don't have original manuscripts. The gospels were not written by apostles of Jesus. There was political infighting among various church factions that lasted over a century about which manuscripts would be considered "inspired," which was decided four hundred years after-the-fact.
As I was beginning to become a student of the real Bible (not the sacred, inspired, "either it's all true of none of it's true" Bible that evangelicals tout), Western evangelicalism decided it was time to get in bed with politics. That was my final straw. That, and the absolute hypocrisy of other evangelical Christians. There is no more discipleship. There is no more open-mindedness. No more quest for truth. The only usefulness the Bible holds for many Christians, is to use it to "proof text" other people. Including other Christians that don't see it exactly how the evangelical does. I left disgusted. I still am.
So, here I am. I've found a home at Exchristian. Shockingly, they know how to be respectful when disagreeing. I guess "godless" people aren't so bad after all. Imagine that.
Spring is coming, and the weather was so warm this evening.
I had the opportunity to go play card games with some co-workers, but I passed as I was tired from two long days of work. And I wanted to come home and enjoy peaceful time outside, enjoying the above-60 degree weather.
I weight lifted, which I've been doing consistently the last year or so.
I went on a long walk with my boyfriend, enjoying the outdoorsy, open areas near our place.
And then I did some yoga.
I did a yoga class back in high school for a year, so I have familiar with the various poses and such. I can't recall what compelled me this past weekend, but I thought - why not try to get back into yoga? To try and train myself to find inner peace, to love myself, to build up my core and body strength? To connect mind and body?
Mind you - I'm not spiritual at all. Not one bit. Since losing Christianity, I've lost belief in god altogether and also the belief of a soul. This hasn't really helped in my search for finding "purpose" in life. If you're a fellow ex-Christian, then you probably know what I mean, the difficulty in finding purpose again.
But this yoga thing. I discovered this Youtube poster who's a yoga instructor, and I'm not sure, but the way she talks you through the exercises and workouts, she's motivated me to keep up with this new yoga habit I've started. And interestingly enough I have found my moods lifting since.
And my abs quite sore.
More updates on this to come.
I don't get on here very often, in fact the last time was sometime in November. Whoops!
Anyway, since I have had some conversations with some of you, I thought I would share an update.
Still an atheist, although I call myself an apatheist - I don't really care if God exists or not.
In December, my wife left me and took my daughter with her. There are a lot of reasons why, but one of them is that the church world is all she's known since she was a pastor's wife and us losing all of our friends and connections - essentially our entire world - has taken a toll on her. We are separated but are about to start getting into talking about big issues and seeing if we can come back together.
I am a mailman during the day, and by night I was working at a grocery store, but in January I was able to quit that job and have been working part time for my friend Bart Campolo, who is the humanist chaplain at the University of Cincinnati and the son of famous preacher and author Tony Campolo. I mainly produce and edit his podcast, run his social media, and update his website. His podcast is called Humanize Me, and I'm pretty proud of the work we've done on it. He has some really good conversations with people. You can find it here: https://bartcampolo.org/humanizeme
I'm doing a lot of "soul"-searching, lots of reading (working through all of the Ehrman books again), and spending time with my two cats and a bunny. Every other Sunday I help Bart put on a humanist community dinner in Cincinnati. It's been a great way to connect with people and I'm excited about the future.
So. I’ve been called a „Putin apologist“ lately, by certain people in here. You know who you are, I will not mention any names.
Let’s get some things clear here about my views on Putin and „the West“. Just as a short PSA, so that you at least can bash me for what I really think mmmmkay?
„Putin is an autocrat / dictator / (insert your preferred label here)!!!“
Yes he certainly isn’t a leader who supports democracy and human rights to their fullest. Not at all. I have not denied that, and I do not deny that now either. However… is that any different in „the West“? Oh yes, the repression system isn’t as drastic and in-your-face here – generally – as it is in Russia. But look your own mirror image in the eye and try to honestly tell yourself that it’s any different in our respective countries, if you really have plans that would change the system. We’re not in danger of falling victim to a Strange Accident™ normally, but when was the last time you have seen anyone promoting real change not getting fought tooth and nail by the ruling system, across all official party divides, including all the major media? Sure, normally such parties/candidates are just not talked about by the journaille, or if they are, then they are badmouthed as much as possible. But is that any different in outcome? We’re allowed to disagree on minor issues, but never on the core issues, namely the rule of the 1 %.
Also, totalitarian or not, he is an officially elected leader. If we’re not happy with that, that’s our right. But if we want to change that, does anyone think that saber-rattling will do the job? Ever checked how much public support Putin enjoys from the Russian people? You let the tanks and bombers roll into position, you only reinforce the impression that the average Russian has of The West.
„Putin annexed Crimea!“
Annexion, last I checked, was defined as violent takeover of a region that does not agree to you marching in.
Crimea had declared itself independent of Ukraine and invited Russia. We can certainly argue whether that declaration of independence was or was not engineered by Russia, but that’s a different question. Calling the Crimea thing an annexion is, flatly, a lie.
Oh right, why would anyone want to leave Ukraine after what happened a few years ago? Well even western media with their obvious bias didn’t stay silent about the new regime having recruited far-right groups to support itself very fast.
When was the last time you agreed with anyone calling bona fide nazis a group of good people?
This here has become infamous over here, a screenshot from our state-owned "quality" TV. It shows one member of what the TV station called "Ukrainian freedom fighters against the Russian threat". You may notice a certain thing in that image. When called on it, the TV station said "sorry our fault"... then promptly did it again. Several times.
Besides, that the West started meddling in Ukraine at all leads to the following point.
„Putin is a dangerous aggressor!!!“
How many countries did Russia conquer and/or wreck since Putin got into office?
Let’s look at the West during the same time mmmkay? Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria… these are just the ones that occur to me spontaneously. Yeah some of you will now mention Russia’s involvement in Syria. Folks, Assad officially invited Russian forces to his country. According to international law that makes the Russian forces the only foreign military that’s allowed to be there. We can certainly argue whether or not Assad is a good leader or not, but see above, he also is an officially elected leader. If we want to work to change that, fine, but we’ll have to do it in accordance with international law. Hint: Sponsoring rebel groups or bombing anyone or anything in that country is not in accordance with the law.
Two wrongs do not make a right.
For most of the world, yes there is a global superpower throwing its weight around and acting like it’s allowed to do anything according to „might makes right“. I point you again to the list of aggressive acts I provided above. Doesn’t look like that’s Russia does it?
„Putin was boss of the KGB! Of course he’s an evil asshole!!!“
He was KGB officer from 1975 to 1982. After Glasnost became a thing under Gorbachev he had a nice number of other functions, being a bona fide mayor for example. He only returned to intelligence work, kind of, as boss of Russia’s internal intelligence (the FSB) from July 1998 to August 1999. For those who don’t want to bother looking it up, that was under Yeltsin, with whom the West was always a-ok. Funny how no one ever even mentions all the other points Putin has been at during his career. That is, funny unless you look at propaganda values.
„Putin’s a threat!!!“
Ever looked at Russia’s current military spending? Or do you remember the far-beyond-desolate state the Russian army found itself in after the collapse of the Soviet regime?
Did you know that Putin recently announced that Russia would decrease military spending soon?
Putin’s Russia is only a military threat to those who can’t call upon NATO or other powerful allies. And that assumes that he’s planning an aggression. If Trump gets his wish and all NATO members increase their military spending, Germany alone will invest as much into new war toys per year as all of Russia. Now add to that the other NATO members, and the US with their obscene military budget. Who’s the threat here?
By the way, after the collapse of the Soviets, a certain US official had assured Gorbachev that NATO would, literally, advance „not a single inch“ eastwards. Now look at the map and wonder how trustworthy NATO looks to the average Russian. Just sayin‘.
Yeah sure, Russia still has nukes. And if you assume that Putin is a card-carrying moron that’s certainly an option to him. Only a moron would launche those missiles knowing that his own country would end only minutes later too.
Russia may well be a threat to certain individuals, see the Skripal case if the evidence is good (I have objected to UK’s May blaming Putin because I’ve yet to hear any strong evidence besides her „I said so!“). In such cases, of course that criminal act has to be dealt with. We have to do it right though, the proper way. Unless we no longer want to claim that we’re the Good Ones™.
By the way, don't point at secret services as source of "evidence". Remember those WMDs in Iraq, which were supposedly such a threat even though no one ever found a trace of them? Or Tonkin? Northwoods? GLADIO? All that came from secret services and the like. Guess how much I trust them.
And while we’re at it, yes those who spit on democracy and human right should be dealt with. However, looking at how the Western nations have acted in recent times, they definitely have no right to act as judge. You know who should hold court over that? The United fucking Nations. That’s what we have them for.
But strangely, no one, not even the most „but we’re the good virtuous ones!!!“ Western nations, considers them much. Wonder why…
(EDIT: Aaaaand I'll just leave this link here.
"The best the MSM have come up with is that a St. Petersburg outfit called Internet Research Agency (IRA) placed $100,000 in ads on Facebook (compared to the $81 million Facebook ad spending by the Trump and Clinton campaigns), some of the Russian ads actually directed against Trump. As Jeffrey St. Clair pointed out in the pages of CounterPunch, in the key states where Clinton lost the election, the traditional Democrat strongholds of Michigan ($832 spent on token IRA buy ads), Pennsylvania ($300), and Wisconsin ($1,979), all but $54 of this amount was spent before the party primaries even started.
Facebook’s vice president for advertising Rob Goldman said that in fact most of the total Russian ad buys occurred after the presidential election."
" Even if there were genuine evidence that Russian officials had hacked the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign manager John Podesta emails, as originally claimed by the intelligence agencies, one should put this in context of the long history of the CIA’s efforts to overthrow many democratically elected leaders who had the temerity to stand up to the superpower. These would include Allende, Arbenz, Mossadeq, Lumumba, Chavez, Goulart, Ortega, and others. The list of US interventions in foreign elections just since 1948 (Italy) is voluminous. ")
From a Church of Christ preacher's post on Facebook:
"Even an atheist doesn't want to be punched in the face. If there is no God, then there are no moral absolutes. Yet 'no one ever hates his own flesh, but provides and cares for it' (Ephesians 5>29, HCSB). This instinct for self-preservation is the basest, most universal expression of self-love. Atheism cannot explain why or how people know it is wrong for others to hurt them."
I don't know that I've ever seen a more ignorant statement. We'll disregard the mistaken idea that atheism attempts to explain anything and just deal with what he says here. Is he saying that if there were no god to give us moral absolutes, we wouldn't know that we need to respond to a punch in the face? Yes, that's exactly what he's saying. While atheism doesn't explain things, the need for self-preservation is one of the most basic drivers of evolution. And even more obvious: We can feel pain! He's saying that without a god to give us moral absolutes, we woudn't have the urge to retaliate because we wouldn't understand that the other person had no right to cause us injury.
Christianity, on the other hand, eschews the idea of self-love. Christianity says "turn the other cheek" when someone punches you. (And while there may be expedient reasons for doing so, it is not our nature.) That instinct for self-preservation is anti-Christian.
To top it off, the absolute statement that no one ever hated their own flesh is false, as well. It may be true that most people do not hate themselves, but it is not true that no-one hates themselves.
He goes on to say "the universal law of 'ought' shows 'the work of the Law written in their hearts' (Romans 2:15), which points to a universal lawgiver." Again, this is a statement that sounds "thoughty" but which turns out to be shallow, what Daniel Dennett refers to as a "deepity". Yes, we have a sense of right and wrong, but if a person thinks this wouldn't have evolved, they don't really know much about evolution or about memetics. Organisms live to reproduce if they have a way of defending themselves. Societies thrive if the members of the society defend one another. The Bible even says so: Ecclesiastes 4:12 -- " And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken." That's memetics in a nutshell, right in their own "holy" book! When people started farming, when they became stationary and began to live in communities, writing was developed and rules were written down. Communities where everyone pitched in to hunt and farm, and for defense, thrived. And while selfish individuals never disappeared and could actually thrive within a community, the community itself had to comprise mostly altruistic individuals in order to thrive, which resulted in our current mix of individuals today, comprising mostly altruistic people with some selfish people in the mix.
This isn't hard, but if you start by saying there's a creator and that you must base all of your beliefs on that, then you have to come up with deepities to allow yourself to continue without experiencing significant cognitive dissonance, and you never think you need to find the truth or question your beliefs. You're looking for a quick and dirty "answer" that doesn't have to be a real answer at all, just a place for you to stop thinking about the subject. If you start with the real world and try to understand why things are the way they are using forensics, you'll always have unanswered questions and you'll sometimes have to change your beliefs, but you'll generally be on the right track and there will be a lot that you can know for certain. But you never stop thinking about the subject because you have a thirst for knowledge.
We had a blow-up last night. Maybe I overreacted. She was reading some apologetics stuff and wanting to order a book from Amazon with a title something like "100 OT Prophecies Fulfilled By Jesus," but it was only sold as a used book by 3rd party sellers, and there were actually a couple of different books and a tract with the same title but different authors. She hadn't ordered anything via Amazon by 3rd party sellers before, so it confused her and she was asking me about it. No problem -- happy to help her find what she's looking for.
Then she hit me with "do you know about the prophecy about Bethlehem Ephrathah?" Well, I've read that stuff before and don't specifically remember what I've read about that, so I wasn't prepared to answer. I don't remember what transpired, exactly, but it ended up with me feeling like I just couldn't stand to be there. We've been married 36 years and I've never felt that way before. She has packed her bags a few times, a couple of them when the kids were in elementary school, but I thought she was just doing it as a threat. I talked her out of leaving those times. Last night I found out that it was real.
I don't want to have those discussions. She's truly afraid that if I die I'll wind up in Hell, so she sees the discussions as imperative. I get that -- I used to believe. But I go to church (more often than she does) and I live my life as if I am still a Christian. I actually told her that if "God" were real and if he would send a person to Hell who lives like a Christian, simply because that person doesn't really believe in him, then that's an evil god. She just keeps thinking "what if I can point out something you weren't aware of that will make you change your mind?" (Her words.)
I didn't want to leave because I was angry; it was because I could not bear the conversation and I could not bear to be there at that moment. I'm not sure I can explain the difference, but it was not because of anger. It was more of an empty feeling, like I didn't belong there. I got a suitcase down and took a couple of items off of hangers, thinking I would spend the night at a nearby hotel. Interestingly, she didn't try to talk me out of it. But we talked about what had just happened and I didn't pack anything. Somehow we both managed to sleep all night.
Today I called her while on my lunch break and she apologized. I told her again that I understood where she was coming from. I do! But I don't know if it's possible for her to see where I'm coming from.
So once or twice a year we have these blow-ups. I cannot say everything I'm thinking. One of our sons is a non-believer and it tears her up to think that his daughter might grow up to be a non-believer as well, even though they're taking her to church at the moment. What I didn't say was that I doubt that our preacher-son's kids will still believe by the time they're 30. There's just very little chance of that in today's world, because no matter how much you teach them your version of the Bible stories and try to teach them not to investigate outside of apologetics material, once they're grown they'll probably find out the truth. That's the risk you take if you're a fundamentalist.
Come to think of it, the atheist son and his wife are going to a Presbyterian church (my wife doesn't know that), and if they don't teach a literalist version of the Bible, it could be that that grandchild will grow up to be a Christian and the others will deconvert at some point.
Anyway, the blow-up is over and I expect a long period of time without any of that discussion. It just takes a few days for my heart to stop pounding.
I'm 58 years old, and it was right at 6 years ago that I realized that the religious book I had believed since I was old enough to understand anything was, in fact, a book of myths, legends, and embellished history, and that even if there were any such things as gods, Yahweh certainly wasn't real.
It's been interesting, in some ways great, in some ways awfully stressful. I've kept quiet for the most part, but have managed to beg off of responsibilities at church and I've cut my contribution way down, skipping writing the check most weeks and writing a small one when I feel like I need to be seen. Staying in the closet seems to require only modest effort.
I was outed a year ago and at first thought that might be a good thing, but I quickly found out it wasn't going to fly with my minister son. The "outing" was an indirect result of my other son's deconversion. The two of them are sometimes cordial to one another and sometimes, not so much. Family members are hard on the atheist. He even went forward at church and "repented" just to get people off of his back and so that his wife's brother wouldn't shun him, but he's going to the "wrong" church, so people are still critical. But I think it's working for him, and I'm happy about that. I just wish that minister son didn't care.
And once in a while my wife starts to worry about my "soul", so we have a day or two of uncomfortable conversations. The problem there is that she thinks I can be converted. I can't really participate in the discussion without making her mad and having her accuse me of thinking I"m smarter than other people, so I generally just refuse to have the discussion. It blows over for awhile, then a few months later it pops up again.
But we love each other and care about each other, and neither of us is about to throw away 36 years of marriage, shared experiences, and future experiences which include visiting grandchildren.
I do hope that minister son gets a real job in a couple of years. Who knows, maybe Bible-study-induced cognitive dissonance will cause him to become an atheist! I would say that's too much to hope for, but that's what happened to atheist son and it took me completely by surprise.
So while there's some stress involved in being in the closet, it really isn't that hard to keep up appearances to the extent that no one is on my back, and I know it's all bullshit so none of it bothers me. Sometimes the sermons or Bible classes make me mad because they're so ridiculous, but most Sunday mornings I'm there by myself due to my wife's various health problems, and I sit there and read books on my phone. It's a good way to sneak in some "me time."
When atheist son is with us he doesn't sing or bow his head during the prayers, and this upsets my wife. He's not very diligent about being half-closeted (hehe)! Can't say I blame him, but I find it easier to have my wife wonder if maybe I still do believe. When she's there, I sing quietly, and bow my head even if my eyes are open during most of the prayer. Doesn't hurt me any.
And while I do get mad at the religious nuts who are running the country today, I think their time is running out. The younger generation is going to make this country a better place unless they become conservatives when they get older. Even if they become more conservative, I doubt they'll ever be religious nuts the way my generation has turned out to be.
The simple fact that I know that Christianity is bogus makes my life better, even if I do have to make accommodations for the believers around me. That's worth celebrating. (Quietly. In my own mind. And here among other ex-Christians.)
I lay next to my boyfriend, he to my right and the window with pale sunlight to my left. I watch him sleep, his back to me. It's a quiet Saturday morning.
I look at where we are now, 2.5 years into our relationship. He's back in school looking to earn his Bachelor's degree, maybe even Master's. I'm almost 2 years into my first professional job, which has been a great success overall.
You could say we are the epitome of a healthy relationship. We care for each other when we are sick. We never go longer than 5 minutes upset with each other, always working to improve our communication with each other. We say "thank you" when completing household chores. We have hobbies together and hobbies apart. We've had a few critical points in our relationship, such as finances and future goals.
Everyday I wake up thinking that I made the right choice to be with him, and that firmness grows stronger moment by moment.
We have our moments, of course. Sometimes we are worn down and exhausted; sometimes we say things out of frustration, without thinking. But in the end, we always end up back in each other's arms, learning and growing through each obstacle and experience.
Yet sometimes I recall two years ago, when I was still a Christian. My boyfriend was an atheist at that time, and I went through one of the deepest bouts of anxiety when struggling with the thought of loving someone who would be doomed to hell when they would die (I was raised with conservative Christian, bible-based teachings). I remember being so distraught that I couldn't eat. I remember trying to break up with him three times over three days just to escape the anxiety. I remember being unhealthily obsessed with researching the Christian concept of hell. I felt eternally stuck - after all, how could I talk myself out of the deeply held conviction that hell was real?
What triggered it? My former best friend, also a conservative Christian, disapproving my decision to enter a serious relationship with him, all based on the fact that he was not a "fellow believer." Mind you, I had been so supportive of her when her and her now-husband started dating, and even got married. But of course, since I wasn't following the bible-based teaching of dating and marrying a fellow Christian (a debatable tenet, but still taught and maintained in my religious circles), I didn't deserve the same support.
Looking back, I wonder: perhaps I should thank her? It was really the Christian wake up call I needed that ended up driving me to losing belief altogether. See, it's easy to believe in hell when everyone in your closest circles believes in Jesus, constantly reaffirming your belief system. But what if you have many close family members who didn't believe to the same extent as you, or even at all?
I'm grateful that my boyfriend and I ended up working through my religious difficulty, and we came out all the stronger. I had a kind religious mentor in my life at the time that was helping me navigate, with prayer and fasting, the emotional difficulty of dating a non-believer. She was sure god was at work, you see, and was sure that our relationship was happening for a reason. I am grateful I had someone like her ground me in faith and maintain my relationship.
Though after a few months, the thought of hell started haunting me, not just with my boyfriend, but with my extended family as well. How could god banish one of my aunts to hell, just for not believing? This aunt who is like a mother to me.
I started having questions to the tenets I used to hold so dearly, questions that the usual Christian answers didn't seem to satisfy. Eventually, after more breakdowns and lots of research, I lost my belief altogether.
But I look back now, and my heart breaks for anyone who makes a decision on behalf of a religion that is not true. Whether it means breaking off a great relationship for a difference in beliefs, or behaving a certain way because you believe that "god" wants you to? Why is it religion gets the exception of understanding? Is it because we humans are so sensitive, so afraid of the unknown, of death, that ignorance is essential in living a productive life? I don't get it, and looking back now, I don't feel it was fair that I was blindly mislead, made huge decisions in my life in that blindness that I would not have otherwise decided.
Some might argue that it's all part of the human experience - we change over our lives, make decisions differently than we used to. But I can't help but wonder how drastic those decision-making skills would change if religion didn't exist at all...
Food for thought.
School shootings bring out all kinds of reactions. Some folks immediately seek to speak on gun rights, and how guns don't kill people, people do. Some folks focus on the murderer(s). Why would they do this? Were they sick in the head? And some only speak on the victims and the lasting emotional/physical trauma that has been inflicted.
About three weeks ago, there was another mass shooting in Kentucky at Marshall County high school. This shooting came up in my office break room. I just kind of walked in on the conversation and I agreed it is ridiculous we've already had (at that time) a little over 20 mass shootings since the beginning of the year. One co worker looked away, saying,"You need to double check your sources. They're actually counting shootings with just bb guns in those numbers."
I tried to explain that I only use federal numbers, but she continued on the same tangent.
Look, I get it. There's a lot of bullshit news in the world today. But, if you're going to make a claim that the numbers being cited by the news from governmental reports are bogus because they are using bb gun assaults in with mass shootings, maybe think for two seconds that you might want to check YOUR information since there are multiple sources out there who track their own data. This co worker has also called gun ownership a "god given right" on several occasions. So, this is confirmation bias at play, and I'll tell you how I know this.
I looked up her fucking claim.
The only source busted for padding mass shooting numbers is shootingtracker.com. Supposedly, according to this pro NRA website(http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2015/10/foghorn/shootingtracker-com-uses-pellet-guns-to-boost-mass-shooting-numbers/) that published the article she must be referring to, this shootingtracker.com site is "is maintained by a small group of rabid anti-gun activists". Okay, so much for unbiased reporting. With this allegation, I started looking for the articles that mainstream news agencies were "too lazy to do their own research, they have begun relying on advocacy websites like ShootingTracker.com".
Not a single msm quoted shootingtracker.com. Her website source calling bullshit? Is full of bullshit. Well, more like pandering to ease-your-conscience-about-your-right-to-kill-others-if-threatened-over-a-parking-space-at-Walmart.
With that said, I know there had to be a source out there that has been quoted and people didn't bother to double check the information. And there was. There was another site that stated that this past Wednesday's school shooting in Florida was the 18th school shooting of the year. Technically, that is correct....by their standards...which are clearly stated on the website. This organization is called Everytown for Gun Safety, and they have a clearly defined parameter for what they consider a school shooting:
“any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds.”
A death does not have to occur. An injury is not required. It is simply a firearm being discharged on school grounds. One cannot say they are misleading as they have their shooting parameters clearly stated on their site for all to see. It isn't their fault the average American is too lazy a shit to bother with reading the organization's process. And that last statement includes Bernie Sanders. What a moron.
Something my coworker can't seem to get her head around is that it isn't bb guns making the statistics of mass shootings so hard to get a handle on. It's the ever changing definitions that Congress uses, which makes incidents seem even more frequent on a smaller scale. The government's meddling with definitions of what constitutes a mass shooting to manipulate numbers for their agendas is what contributes to our ever growing apathy and normalization of gun violence. How about we drop the word mass, and just evaluate gun violence as a whole in schools and other soft target venues? Instead of looking to nitpick at the count of "school shootings" or "mass shootings" this year, why not just look at how many shootings take place in schools. Does it matter if it is 24 dead at once or 24 dead over a one month period? To me, it doesn't.
When did the body count in a single instance become the standard for concern? There have been a total of 30 mass shootings in the US this year. What's considered a mass shooting? Depends on the agency you go by. I go by the FBI's definition, which is:
"FOUR or more shot and/or killed in a single event [incident], at the same general time and location, not including the shooter."
This means of those thirty shootings, three of them were on school grounds if you bother to look up the locations where all the shootings have taken place so far. But this whole diatribe brings me back to that break room conversation. I let it ride, and didn't argue as I didn't feel it was appropriate to get political at work. I've only been there a few months now. I just assured her I check my resources, and let her feel like she had her victory of reason.
Fast forward to this morning.
She comes rushing into my office to apologize if she sounded dismissive the other day. I was in the midst of doing payables and was completely bewildered what she was going on about. She then starts to explain that, "With the shooting yesterday in Florida. I still think taking away guns isn't the answer. The system is broken. Mental health is neglected in this country. And I wish they would let veterans bet there as resource officers." She continued for a few minutes, very rushed and determined to shore up her earlier arguments from a few weeks ago that I hadn't given another thought.
It's mind blowing. She couldn't take a moment to just speak on her feelings as a parent to how tragic it must be for the victims and their parents right now. She just wanted to get into debating the politics of it. I just assured her that whether he had a gun or knife, someone was going to die that day, but we have a major systemic failure where we do not put any money into our system for prevention. She seemed disappointed that I didn't agree with her assessment that a resource officer was the answer. More "good guys" with guns. I could have drudged up the reality that where there is a gun, the chances for an incident triple. I don't think I could have gotten her to understand our culture encourages an almost Hammurabi code. An eye for an eye. A life for a life. And in today's age, rejection for a life. Your life for someone's frustration in life.
When you live in a society that glorifies a deity that supports this type of ideology, you breed this as a cultural norm until it hurts innocents. Then you scapegoat mental health issues. How much of this is mental health though? I find myself thinking if we didn't set unreal expectations on the behalf of a god like figure, and use threats of torment and failure to enforce this concept, could we have less of these incidents in our society? Our culture revolves around the idea that not only will you be punished for sin in the after life, but while you walk the earth, this god's followers are empowered to punish on his behalf. We live in a society where it is perfectly acceptable to shoot first simply for feeling your life is at stake, regardless if this is the reality of the situation. We have large groups of religious organizations who scream that an unborn child is a life and abortion is murder, but they will turn right around and support discriminating against that unborn child years later when they find out the child is gay. Even if it is their own.
And it is all justified whether by scripture or their misinterpreted analysis of what the Constitution stands for. As long as it confirms what they believe, it passes as truth.
On the other side of the table, I have been already approached with the latest school shooting being a false flag. The fact that people can say that a school filled with over 3000 students alone could pull off a fake shooting incident without anyone being the wiser...including the students involved...needs to go back under their rock of denial. Just no time for your nonsense. I'm sorry you feel the need to get your authority by dismissing the tragedy of others, but you have no real voice in the conversation unless you attend that school or have to pick up your child's body riddled with bullet wounds.
America has a culture of retribution guised as consequences, cased in brass. No amount of mental health spending, gun restrictions, or increased number of armed "good guys" will be effective until we change how we place value on punishment over solution.
I had drafted this a few months back:
It's been 1.5 years now since the moment the concept of the Christian god no longer made sense to me.
It wasn't like I chose for this to happen. There was something deeper that changed, where my inner logic snapped out of the Christian mindset and started nodding along with the agnostics, atheists, the non-religious.
The problem is that I had deep dark voids within myself that religion used to fill.
Lack the love, compassion, and attention of an earthly father? Well, don't worry - your heavenly father loves you eternally.
Spent nights alone enduring arguments and occasional physical abuse in an unhealthy home environment? Don't worry - imaginary saints, angels, god are all there with you carrying you even when you can't see them.
I was taught to seek external validation constantly. I was taught to do everything perfectly out of fear for if my mother was in a bad mood, she would lash out at me. So don't do anything that could possibly upset mother.
And yet sometimes the abuse would come without doing anything wrong at all. For being a kid.
I've clung to imaginary religious figures my entire life, through depressing, lonely nights in my youth. Through breakdowns in the shower so nobody to could hear the sobs through the water. There were voids, hate for myself, all that religion just "miraculously" filled.
But now that religion is gone, and the voids have returned. So what do you do? By default you fill them with whatever closes good thing you have. In my case, it's my relationship.
But the obsessive dependency religion slowly trains you to have is not healthy. Why is it we have this weird acceptance in society that being obsessively dependent on religion is OK but not otherwise, such as in a romantic relationship?
It should never be OK.
So now I'm left with those voids and trying to figure out how you're supposed to fill them in a healthy way.
I also don't how to define a life purpose now, what should motivate me to want to wake up everyday because deep down I don't have a reason right now.
It's challenging when hardship comes. When I consider my life, it seems more negative than positive, with a few shining lights along the way.
Now adding from present-day, I feel alone. I've moved away from family/friends for work. My boyfriend and I - both atheists - have trouble meeting people like ourselves. Though we consider ourselves outliers of common society.
Sometimes while driving on the interstate, I just get this urge to keep driving. Where, I don't know. My aunts and uncles, grandparents, are all getting older. I'm watching my parents age, watch them struggle in poverty and emotional chaos, the chaos that once chained me for so long.
I'm watching my dad suffer from depression, from lack of social skills. He says he doesn't want to wake up. My mother looks to me like I'm her mentor. I'm only 24. How backwards this life seems to be.
I seem to be one of the strong few who can pull it all together in times of doubt. But as I get older, and these difficult situations arise, and now that I don't have god... I don't know if I can do it.
My brother is 9 years my senior, and yet he's not ready to deal with the emotional damage from our childhood. I guess that makes me the wiser one here. The rock for everyone else. I'm playing the role of project manager in helping my dad get help, helping my mom get her life together. Only because she's finally ready to help herself.
But deep down some days I just feel empty inside, lacking motivation to do anything I used to dream of doing. The music within me feels like it's dying out, and I'm not sure how to get it back.
Religion used to be my steady ground. But without it now, I feel like I'm over a deep, depressing abyss that is always under my feet, just every once in a while hidden by the pale glow of fading sunlight.
Thank you, false hope and ignorant religion, for adding to my list of disappointments.
A woman I knew in high school in the 1970s, and who was ordained as a Methodist minister a few years ago, posted some photos on Facebook of a trip she took to Israel a few years ago. Along with the photos, she commented "The prayer that never fails, 'Thy will be done.'"
I would call that "the ultimate salve for cognitive dissonance". In "the Lord's prayer" Jesus reputedly said "thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven."
James 4:13-16 says " 13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. "
In Mark 11 Jesus is said to have claimed that if a person has faith, they can tell a mountain to move and God will make it happen. In James, it is said that if you're sick and you call the elders to pray for you, you'll get well. These promises don't have caveats (except for a lack of faith in the first one). Ask for it, and as long as you have faith it will happen -- period!
But when people add "if it's your will" (or, more likely the antiquated English phrase "if it be thy will"), they provide an "out." This "out" isn't for their god, but for themselves. If they add "if it be thy will" then when it doesn't happen, they don't have to wonder why their god didn't keep his promise. They can just say "I suppose it must not have been God's will." Between that and "God's ways are higher than man's ways" they give themselves a way to ignore the fact that the relationship between saying prayers and things actually happening is completely random. There's no positive correlation unless people are praying for things that are likely. There's no negative correlation unless they're praying for things that are unlikely. Saying "thy will be done" allows them to count the "hits" and ignore the "misses."
The terms "Postdiction" and "Hindsight Bias" usually refer to the way psychics go back after the fact and "prove" their abilities by telling you about the things they got right, but it applies to prayer even better, because with prayer, the believer has been taught ahead of time that if what they are praying for doesn't happen, it's not because there's nobody listening -- it's because it just wasn't what their god thought best. You've no doubt heard the expression that some unfortunate person "can't win for losing." Well, people's gods can't lose for winning!
Recent studies have shown that when people are shown statistics, they will often dig in their heels regarding their false beliefs. That being the case, how would you go about showing a Christian or other religious person that "thy will be done" is an evolutionary adaptation of their religion to keep itself replicating throughout the ages?
It seems so obvious from the outside.
Having a friend make headline news by becoming the embodiment of everything wrong in the world was not how I imagined my evening would begin. Scott Smith, one of the hosts of the Recovering From Religion podcast, top dog activist for Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF ), father of three, and all around good guy, turned a very dark corner earlier today. He shot and killed his wife and then took his own life just as police arrived. Three school age girls are going home to relatives instead of their own bedrooms and welcoming arms of their parents. The footsteps of mom and dad in the hall to tuck them in are now permanently relegated to memory and dreams. The loving smile of dad is now a porcelain veneer of menace boiling beneath.
Some might take offense to all this imagery, but the reality is whether mental illness was the primary cause or not (many say it was his losing to ptsd), he murdered his wife. He committed domestic violence. I feel that the constant woe of his ptsd being the cause removes some accountability from Scott's plate, and I am not going to have that. We can discuss this reality without eviscerating him. This was a man who was keenly aware of how ptsd affected him. His years in the military and then learning to live as a civilian activist out there to protect vets and bring further understanding to ptsd is important. He is not without his own weaknesses, and maybe the news of his wife's divorce pushed him to an edge he had never traversed before. This does not lessen or change the fact he committed domestic violence. He murdered his wife. He took an opportunity to control his life how he saw fit, and forced his soon to be ex-wife to follow. He even called the police and told them what he was doing. Once again, someone burned it all down because it wasn't going their way and they had to have absolute control.
Does it really need to be said for the millionth time that mental health is a huge issue that is still taking baby steps to become a mature discussion in this country? And right now is the time in our community of freethinkers to seriously evaluate this issue in our own ranks. We cannot always see or know what is going on behind closed doors in our friends' lives, but we can consistently promote a very personal avenue of communication to find these dark moments in our impulses and try to diffuse them before they become tragedy. We can be active participants in our local communities to demand better crisis services without stigma. We can educate our communities that staying in the hospital for mental health reasons is not a thing to be embarrassed or ashamed of. Self-care must happen or we cannot take care of those we love. We will hurt them as we hurt ourselves. I have personally been to that dark edge and back, and luckily my family and I walked away intact. I didn't hide, but embraced help for once. But that was only after barely waking up from an intentional overdose because I couldn't process my guilt.
Some might look back and say Scott was a good man who had his own demons that got the better of him. Some might look back and say he was a bad man, letting this murder define his legacy. What we should be looking back on is how we can help prevent more of these types of violent episodes from occurring due to any number of reasons, simply by being present and demanding we all take care of ourselves through proper programs and resources instead of the way Scott did it in the end.
PTSD didn't kill his wife. He did. Let's prevent this from happening again.
It was a timing much like other realized moments of accounting in my life. I sat at the red light. Chest tight, my eyes wet and slippery, the church on the opposite corner rang its bells. Its enormous clock had struck 7p while I was waiting at the intersection. Like a reverberant pang of regret, the tolling of the bells echoed the hollow sentiments that had gripped a of hold me. The deep pangs of grief I had begun wrestling with physically pulsed in my ears as every dark note rang out from that church tower. The red light seemed to last forever. Seconds like minutes. My thoughts becoming a monsoon of physical discomfort. And that red halo cast down onto the sliver hood of my car, also colored me with a shade of self loathing I hadn't experienced in years.
A cold reality I had doggedly avoided for almost two years now, crept into my future planning quite painfully just a few minutes before I had reached that light.
I sat there, seething with a raging disbelief that I had once again shown my penchant for using shitty enabling patterns for coping in life. I once again ripped my own heart to shreds. I knew I had willfully ignored the flags for months. I once again ignored the lack of results when expressing my own needs. I had straight up given away three years of dedication under a personally enforced blind eye - and now was being asked for potentially fifteen years more of the same. To continue a perpetual state of unsatisfying relationship roles. I sat at that red light and blistered with incredulous laughter, tears, and white-knuckled fingers on a steering wheel.
Could I really be so angry at him for what I so plainly continued to enable? A friend in public, but spoken for in private. His holding back on communicating relationship issues with me under the guise of "looking out for my feelings". His absence in my everyday life. No. I wasn't going to lay all of this at his feet. He didn't make this the norm. I allowed it. I did this. My fear of demanding for myself that which makes my life enjoyable. My fear of admitting it isn't okay and it needs to change immediately. My lack of belief that I do deserve the good things with someone I care about. With every bell that tolled, I was mentally going through the checklist of what I needed, and not one box was marked off. A voice that was not just acknowledged, but respected and adhered to. Equal control of the relationship. Self-respect to demand and enforce what I need to be happy too. A fucking picture together. A good hump at least once a week. Yeah, three years - no pictures together. What was I thinking?
The light turned green, the bells were silent. My mascara shown all over the back of my hands in that emerald hued spotlight as I made my turn. No goddamn picture. Still invisible to the public. So many flags and no check marks.
This is the devastation many feel in life. Especially when you have all the dreams in place at the other's behest, but not a single step has been taken to make it a reality. It's devastating because you realize that you compromised yourself for a shiny, dangling piece of fancy that you eventually knew wouldn't take off - but you chased it anyway.
Now three more years of my life are gone, and it isn't even a new lesson learned.
Ah, life in the closet! Fodder for blog posts!
Sunday morning's sermon was called "Motivations for Holy Conduct." Sermons usually have 3 main points, and number three, which the most time was spent on, was "The Wrath of God."
This was pretty ironic, because I spend my time during the sermon reading in the Nook app on my phone. Right now I'm reading "The God Delusion," and I'm in chapter 7, "The 'Good' Book and the Changing Moral Zeitgeist". Part of the chapter deals with the wrath of this supposed god.
So while the preacher is droning on about how afraid we ought to be of going to Hell, and therefore motivated to do good, I'm reading a chapter that directly dismantles these arguments.
The wrath of Yahweh presented in the Bible has him bringing about natural disasters, or instructing the Jewish army to perpetrate war crimes (killing all men, women, and children, except for virgins, whom they could take home and rape), or punishing the wrong people -- Abraham passes Sarah off as his sister instead of his wife (twice), and the kings who take her into their harems are punished, rather than Abraham, who told the lie because he was afraid they'd kill him to take her if they knew she was his wife. Yahweh also gets really upset when Israel or Judah starts to follow one of his brothers, such as Baal. He'll wipe out a bunch of people just because he's jealous. It even says his name is "Jealous!"
Many modern theologians would protest that these stories are just metaphors for something. Of course, I'm in a fundamentalist church, so the preacher insists that these stories are real. Regardless, there's no moral lesson in these passages. The god depicted is capricious, unfair, and just plain evil.
The Old Testament in no way depicts modern morality, even though fundamentalists portray the book as being 100% consistent from beginning to end. This god of the Old Testament was ruthless and evil, and if he were real, we certainly would be afraid of his wrath, and on pins and needles because we would never know what little thing we do in ignorance might piss him off.
In the New Testament, we're supposedly forgiven because Jesus suffered in our place. The only thing is, "salvation" seems to be a sort-of light switch, constantly turning off and on. If I mess up, I'm headed for Hell until I repent. Not that anyone would directly say that, but it's implied in every sermon.
I suppose the most ironic thing about this "motivator for being holy" is that it's entirely fear based. God, in this picture, is an abuser. He's irrationally angry and will send you to eternal punishment ("where the worm dieth not") for really minor infractions, and for things that are considered sinful for no logical reason. It isn't a "works salvation," but it is. You can't earn salvation, but you have to try. You can be a really good person, do all of the things Yahweh insists upon, and still go to Hell because, well, works don't really count -- thought crimes will get you. Your church has an organ! Sorry, you're going to Hell! Oh, you thought you were saved before your were baptized? Sorry, your obedience doesn't count... off to Hell for you, too!
Illogical. But we aren't supposed to trust our own judgment, we're supposed to figure out what this inconsistent book is trying to tell us.
In Ron Reagan's FFRF ad, he concludes by saying "Ron Reagan, lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in Hell." When I first heard that I wasn't sure about its effectiveness, because to Christians this would sound arrogant. But the truth is that there's no reason to be afraid of burning in Hell. There's no reason to fear the wrath of a mythological being. In my imaginary conversations with Christians, I would ask them if they were afraid that Zeus would strike them with lightning. Their answer, of course, would be "no." Why? "Because Zeus isn't real." But aren't you afraid that he'll strike you with lightning for saying he isn't real? "Well, no, because he can't, because he isn't real!" Exactly! Yahweh can't send me to Hell because he isn't real. He can't get mad at me for saying he isn't real, because he isn't real! If you aren't afraid of Greek gods, you shouldn't be afraid of Hebrew gods, either.
If you haven't seen it yet, there is a hashtag floating around the past week that says simply #MeToo. This is in response to the growing fire storm in the media this past week about Harvey Weinstein's despicable behavior towards women he worked with. Many have come forward alleging instances of unwanted sexual advances, sexual touching, and even rape. Additionally, some other male actors have come under close scrutiny after being confronted about their own behaviors towards fellow female actresses in Hollywood. Much of what has always been acknowledged in the movie industry is now becoming a banner to rally under for the respectful treatment of female peers not just in the acting industry, but everywhere across the United States.
But, as I posted my own recognition of this very important hashtag, it brought out a lot of deeper reflection on what this is all about. This is not just about women coming forward and sharing that they have been sexually harassed or abused in life so that others do not feel alone in their suffering. This is about male victims too. And it is a physical showing of hands on the national stage. It is a movement that is putting a sea of faces out there for all to see and measure. It is showing the grim reality that it isn't a rare occurrence at home, work, school, or public bar scene. Turns out that sexual harassment and assault are more common place in our communities than most want to admit or ever realized. This is mostly in part due to under reporting to appropriate authorities. Under reporting is a tell tale symptom of the lack of support we have in our nation for those who suffer sex crimes. As a victim, I can appreciate this feeling of lack of support. In my case, police officers had my father's own admission, and they still insisted I go back home later that night after everything was brought out in the open.
This is the cruel reality for many sexual abuse victims.
An even crueler reality? There is a growing awareness in this country of what is happening, but it stops there and isn't blossoming into a larger community outreach to fix this problem. Case in point. Friend of mine and I were discussing my own sexual abuse and assault experiences, and he made a comment along the lines of this kind of thing is all too common a story among the women he knows. He then recounted how one previous girl friend had been raped by an ex that broke into her home one night, another by her father growing up. Another close friend of his had been molested by family members growing up. Then he recalled his own half sister having been raped repeatedly by his estranged father. He found out about this from his half sister some years ago. Even worse, her mother knew about it, and even watched and yelled at her during the event because it was considered a just punishment. All of this he found out years later from his half sister, and at that point he pretty much decided he would avoid his dad from then on.
But our conversation didn't stop there. He then realized he knew at least two men who had been sexually abused in their youth. And then of course his own experience of being fondled by a Boy Scout troop leader when he was young. He often down plays this experience though, as he doesn't see how it has affected him other than it being awkward, and never went further than fondling. Nonetheless, our conversation really made him put into words what many are realizing this week: The majority of people he knows have been sexually abused, molest, assaulted, etc.
What does this awareness accomplish after this moment? What do we do with this shared knowledge and perspective once we have it? Does it mean he is now more sensitive to trauma? Possibly. Is he going to call up his local city leaders and state level officials to start putting money into programs to help victims report the abuse? Maybe push for a counseling initiative? Or insist we get comprehensive sexual education in schools? Probably not.
What do we do once we get others aware of the epidemic that is sexual abuse?
Not everyone can be the activist that is beating down the doors of legislators to get funding in place. The reality is that this is where the local community has to step in and find their own initiatives to develop solutions to under reporting, lack of education on sexual consent, and poorly funded crisis counseling. It could be something as simple as volunteers getting schools on board to do two week elective classes on sex ed and consent. Or volunteering at crisis centers to man the phones and be that rock for victims to cling to at 2 a.m. in the morning after being hurt by someone they trusted. Awareness is a key part of the problem, but it is not enough. We cannot just leave it as sexually abusive behavior happens everywhere to everyone.
If you cannot contribute money to funded education or crisis programs, consider contributing your time. Or at the very least, sit down and have that conversation with your kids, your parents, your neighbors, or a teen that you know is possibly struggling with these issues. Have the conversation and get them help immediately. Don't just be a visible reminder of the trauma, help fight it any way you think you can.
I'm just going to say it.
I have had it up to fucking here with the Atheist Role Model Who Is Causing A Lot Of Drama In My Personal Circle bullshit.
This is utter BULLSHIT. I have had the opportunity to interact with him for a three years or so now. Granted, it was usually one sided, and when he wanted something, but I have been privy to a lot of background discussion he authors. Ever having a shoulder and ear that many of us mutually shared to let him vent his woes. In all honestly? I'd known him approximately 6 months, and tried to shake off my red flag warnings. But goddamn, once again, I should have listened to my inner voice. He is a dishonest person, and while we can't be perfect, repeat behavior like this is a problem.
A little background as to why I am so vehemently stepping out here. As many of you know, I'd dealt with a dishonest man for 17 years. Prior to that? Well, let's just say my ex-husband didn't fall far from the tree on the standard mistake of men I have a penchant for. He was father of the year in the streets, a selfish bastard in the sheets. He would always tell me to communicate with him what I wanted, and I'll be damned if he would ever acquiesce. All the way down to coitus. He would ask my advice, if he didn't agree, he treated me as if I were infantile, and then of course, if he would use my advice? Declare he had come up with the chosen action all on his own. I was never considered a contributor, unless he was showing off his family. Relationship wise? Oh, we were monogamous, but he would serial cheat, telling the other women either that he was single, or in an open relationship. Of course he would insist I pleasure him on demand whether I wanted to or not (god forbid he went more than 3 days), and blame me for everything that ever went wrong. If the world wasn't in agreement with him, then surely something was wrong with the world.
So, when dealing with a certain atheist super hero of the South, I began to feel an odd atmosphere of deja vu. I tried to shake it, but then the drama with a particular non profit erupted. And seeing and hearing his own testimony, behind private group doors, on what was going on versus what they said, I took a grain a salt from both parties. Worse, I let slide the fact this atheist "role model" only approached me if he wanted "crowd sourcing" ideas, wanted to be sure whose side I was on when I was reading through past posts of the non profit mess, or shared a thumbs up if recent pictures of my tits looked amazing. In all honesty, I could give two shits less if he didn't stay with the non profit, I just didn't want a good service disappearing due to drama that BOTH parties should have taken to arbitration. I know damn well if he were in the right, that non profit would have been on the hook for the arbitration bill, and vice versa.
I now am faced with what I suspected he would do to a friend mine, who is also a former girlfriend of his, coming into reality. Trash and burn. And frankly, I understand that it is his relationship and none of my damn business, except...
He violated consent. Not once, but at least three times. With his now ex-wife. With my friend. And now another friend. And I don't mean he sexually assaulted anyone, but he took sexual advantage. He changed the rules without consent. Cheating is a serious consent issue if you didn't know. If I am in a monogamous relationship, and I decide I want to sleep with other people and not clear this with my partner, or the other partner I am sleeping with, I am taking away their consent to the relationship because I have changed the dynamic of the relationship. Yes, if you sleep with a different partner, and the other does not know, a little bit of advice: DO NOT FUCK YOUR ORIGINAL PARTNER AGAIN UNTIL YOU TALK ABOUT IT. More partners mean more risks. Health wise, emotionally, and financially. I used to take a very different attitude about cheating. My standard rule of thumb has been if someone cheats, just move on, let it go, and treat it as another lesson learned. I no longer take it so lightly because of the earlier mentioned reasons. I've been a victim of disease being brought to my bed. I've been a victim of the emotional toll of desperately trying to save a relationship I was told was still monogamous-despite his cheating. And I have been a financial victim because I had to move almost immediately as my ex-husband couldn't stand me living in the home if I wasn't going to be in a relationship any longer, or wouldn't at least still fuck him in the mean time till I moved. And I have walked the fine line of cheating, more like disappointing future expectations, but still came clean before engaging my partner again. I gave him the option to stay or walk, and he walked. Deservedly so. I gave him the choice to continue. I gave him a voice. I didn't lie. I didn't hide my actions. I didn't seek to possess him on terms that would have been against his will.
So, I do not take this continuation of behavior as just a "life lesson" that this role model continues to repeat.
Does he really need consent explained? I highly doubt it. In fact, I think he needs to be honest about who he really is, and what he wants in a relationship. Quit being a coward. If he wants an open relationship, then go into a relationship that is open. Do not promise whatever the lover wants to hear in order to have this person in your life, making you feel special and wanted. That person is not there for you only, and selfish desire is never a good reason to manipulate someone to get what you want. If this person isn't open to being open, then you can't lie and violate them like that. No, means no. You will just have to live with the rejection and move on.
FWIW, my ex-husband got 17 years of my life. 17 years of constant lying, possessiveness, secrets, disease, narcissistic torture, and violation of my consent to the terms of the relationship. He never once said to me,"Kate,I cannot be in a monogamous relationship." He never gave me the opportunity, or even show the respect to allow me to participate in our relationship. No, he used me. He abused my role as mother and caregiver. He also stood on the backs of countless other women in order to fill his starving ego and insecurities, and he also used them to punish me, and further his career that took him out of town for weeks at a time.
This role model for secular and exiting religious alike, is violating consent on every level. It is disgusting and below him, especially when writing
"“We are a sex positive community if we are nothing else. Personally, I’m proud of that fact, because as a former Southern Baptist I am so very done with the body shame and antiquated approach to sexual relationships that I inherited. But people also use the freedom this affords to exploit others and take advantage of them."
What he is doing isn't just a small matter of cheating. If what is said is to be trusted, he outright abandoned a family he created, and then proceeded to wreck another.
So why am I acting like I have any part of his circus? His behavior has had a negative effect on my own social life within certain secular circles. I passed up on what he refers to as a "fight club" get-together last year because I knew he would be there. You know, some of these gatherings are a very intimate settings, and the idea of even shaking his hand, or worse hugging him, made me sick to my stomach. I skipped out on two conventions because I knew he would be there, and there was no way I was going to stand by with a happy shit smile.
And the fact I am passing up on events to avoid him, and the drama attached, is bullshit. Who is he to have this effect over me? I will tell you. He is a trigger zone of red flags for me. I know his fan club will be jumping all over me, and so be it. Unlike the majority of them, I have dealt with him on a much more intimate level. I've seen and read enough from his fingertips to be justified in my scorn. To be clear, my scorn isn't for him to personally answer to. He owes me nothing, and this word salad might seem unnecessary to many, but it's my rally cry for him, and others like him, to get help. This role model is burning out fast, and I don't know if he can see it. So let me hold up that mirror for him, and let him decide. He can claim that this is me projecting past bad relationships on to him, but it isn't. His own actions have triggered my own warning flags to stay away and avoid.
Please do better, oh Southern Secular power house. Your own kids could be your next victims simply because of the example you have set.
****Special Entry Update****
I have screenshots from the accusers, and am not going to retract one iota of what I have penned here now that I have read it all. I am glad they are working together to not only share their experience and eventually put the screens out there, but are keeping a stiff upper lip with the absolute hatred they are receiving in the fall out. There have been some who question the use of words and phrases like "sexually violated", "sexually assaulted", etc. I leave that up to the discretion of the accuser, as I am not in her shoes. I will say a violation of consent is most definitely an issue here, and I stand by my assessment that the women involved were most definitely sexually taken advantage of by this spokesperson I am blogging about here. Don't like it? See my field of fucks, and that it is barren.
Oh, the joys of being semi-closeted! I knew I'd hear some ridiculous stuff after hurricane Harvey hit our area.
My wife's sister and her husband lost their home. They're insured, but the house was paid off and they intended to live in it until their kids told them they were too old to be on their own. It's going to be a multiple-months long headache rebuilding. They're with us for the moment, and she was in Walmart the other day waiting for the next self-check register when the woman ahead of her randomly spouted off that she thought all of the events had been good for us, because it brought us all together. My sister-in-law replied that her house was literally under water, and she didn't think that whatever social impact it may have had was worth it.
Of course, that wasn't a Christiany opinion that the woman had, just a generally clueless one.
Then there's the facebook share of an article claiming that this must have been a miracle, because only about 60 lives were lost and with a flood this size you might have expected 1000 or more. So, what, your god underestimated the number of angels he needed to save people, and sent 60 too few? Or maybe 59 too few, because that husband and wife in Katy -- the husband was a beloved pastor -- could have been saved with the help of only one angel. Tell the families of those 60 people that this was a miracle. What a wimpy god you folks believe in!
And then there was church Sunday night. In churches of Christ they don't believe in miracles, but they do believe in divine providence (which really is just miracles that aren't obvious). So the preacher was talking about "the chastening of the Lord" and about how sometimes problems are the Lord's chastening, and sometimes they aren't. He talked about how ol' Yahweh said that Satan had incited him against Job, even though Satan was the one doing the work. So Yahweh sort-of took credit for the actions of Satan. The conclusion of the lesson was that it's impossible to tell whether it was random chance, the work of Satan but allowed by God, or the work of God himself trying to bring about some eternal good, but that we should use it to strengthen our faith. Because what really matters is salvation, of course, eternal life, not this temporary life on this wild and woolly planet Earth.
I wonder when people say things like that if there's any cognitive dissonance. Or maybe it's evidence that he's found a way to get rid of the cognitive dissonance. But I don't think he knows what he said, which is that is that it's impossible to tell the difference in a world with this kind of god in charge and in a world without one. There are no obvious happenings that would show us that there are invisible helpers (or invisible hinderers). Church-of-Christ folks know this, yet they still believe!
My sister-in-law and her husband have been going through a lot in the last few years, and just a week ago a major difficulty in their life was worked out. They thought they were finally going to get some rest. For one day. She basically said that she figured she'd learned enough patience, and didn't need any more training. I think maybe she has some doubts. But she'll shove them down and get on with her life, and continue practicing her mythology. They'll continue to live a life where they take care of way more than their share of their own and other people's burdens, and never see that it's they who are "angels," not any invisible beings. They'll attribute their own strength to the help of this invisible being, despite the clear evidence in their own lives that that god doesn't exist.
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?
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:
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
Update: I think I'll use this post for interesting links. Here's one from Bob Seidensticker's blog Cross Examined about the ancient "combat myths" of the creation, and how the Bible actually describes Israel's version, even though Christians don't recognize it. (These are considered "difficult passages" because they don't agree with Christian belief, so Christians just write them off as "difficult".) http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2017/02/combat-myth-the-curious-story-of-yahweh-and-the-gods-who-preceded-him-2/
Here's the Wikipedia entry on Yahweh explaining where he came from. Seems he wasn't originally an Canaanite god, but may have come from Egypt. I need to read more about this. Israel was Canaanite nation, worshiping "El" (IsraEL), El having had 70 sons (among whom Baal is the most prominent). Yahweh was eventually conflated with El. I'm not sure how this works with Deuteronomy 32 (though that passage is mentioned in the Wikipedia entry).
Here's an article about the declining numbers of Church-of-Christ affiliated students in Church-of-Christ affiliated colleges.