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.
At this time of year many people will read, or will have read in their presence, the following verses:
Matthew 1:23 Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).
Isaiah 7:14: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Matthew 1:23 is of course a quote from Isaiah 7:14. Have you ever read all of Isaiah 7 and 8? The context is fascinating! Ahaz, king of Judah, has heard that Syria and Israel are planning to join forces and attack Judah. Ahaz isn't a good king, but Jehovah isn't ready for Judah to be destroyed, so the prophet Isaiah goes to him with a message.
Isaiah tells Ahaz to ask for a sign, but Ahaz doesn't think it's a good idea to ask God for signs. Isaiah says "He's going to give you one, anyway!" Then comes the famous prophecy. Isaiah goes on to say (verse 16) " before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted." So a child will be born and before he's old enough to know right from wrong, Syria and Israel will not even exist as kingdoms any more!
But the story continues in chapter 8. There, in verses 3 and 4, we see " 3 And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the Lord said to me, 'Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz; 4 for before the boy knows how to cry ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.'"
Are you familiar with this? There, right in the next chapter, the prophecy is fulfilled! But wait! Was Isaiah's wife a virgin? Are there two virgin births in the Bible? Here's where it gets tricky.
I've discussed before how most of our Old Testament translations use the Masoretic Hebrew text as their source. The English Standard Version deviates from this in the case of Deuteronomy 32 because the Qumron text (aka "the Dead Sea Scrolls"), which are older, show the Septuagint (Greek language text used in the first century, which Jesus would have read from) to be correct. Well, Isaiah 7:14 is a place where every English version uses the Septuagint. The reason? That's what Matthew quoted. The actual Hebrew word in Isaiah 7:14 is almah, which means "young woman" (and possibly one that has never had a child). So Isaiah's wife wasn't a virgin, she was simply a young woman!
But wait again! Why, then, does Matthew say "virgin"? If you read the Wikipedia link in the last paragraph, you'll see that the Septuagint used the word parthenos, which means "virgin." But that Greek word changed meaning over time, as words do. It was probably a perfectly good word translation when the Septuagint originated, but over time the meaning changed from "young woman who has never had a child" to "virgin."
So there was never a prophecy that a virgin would be with child, but by the first century the Jews read this with the new meaning of the word and thought it must be about the messiah, since no virgin had ever borne a child. Somehow they ignored the context -- all of Isaiah 7 and 8 -- which shows the prophecy to have already been fulfilled. It couldn't have been fulfilled in their view, because they knew that Isaiah "went in" to his wife.
"Ah!" you say, "but what about chapter 9?"
"6For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upond his shoulder, and his name shall be callede Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. "
This indeed seems to be speaking of a messiah who will lead Judah to become a power and to create peace forever. But keep reading:
"8The Lord has sent a word against Jacob, and it will fall on Israel; 9and all the people will know, Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, who say in pride and in arrogance of heart: 10“The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.” 11But the Lord raises the adversaries of Rezin against him, and stirs up his enemies. 12The Syrians on the east and the Philistines on the west devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still."
It's still referring to the fall of Israel, only a few years from the time the sign is given. Judah was to have a messiah who would bring peace. Israel and Syria would fall, Judah would rise, and no-one would ever defeat them. Well, Israel and Syria did, indeed, disappear, but Judah never became independent, and the child born to the prophet never turned out to be a messiah. Judah became subject to Greece, then to Rome, and later (ironically, after the one Christians believe to be the messiah came) they ceased to exist, as well.
Matthew 1:23 is the most foundational verse of the Gospel, the reason Christians in the first century (and today!) believed that Jesus was the messiah. (Actually, that's backwards. The story that Jesus was born of a virgin likely came about because people already believed that he was the messiah: Because they expected the messiah to be born of a virgin, a story arose about Mary and the Holy Spirit.) Yet the idea is predicated upon a word whose meaning had changed over the centuries. There is no Old Testament prophecy that the messiah would be born of a virgin... the whole foundation of Christianity is based on a mistaken belief by first century Jews. It's no wonder that today's Jews don't accept Jesus as the messiah... he doesn't fit what they find in their scriptures.
Do you still believe this story is about Jesus? If so, why?
I just read, and really want to recommend, a post by David Madison on John Loftus' "Debunking Christianity" called The Christian Dark Ages -- Then and Now. Among the interesting insights here is the fact that during the 500 year period between the fall of the Roman empire and the end of the Dark Ages, a great deal of the knowledge accumulated by the Greeks and the Romans was literally erased and written over, and had to be re-learned hundreds of years later. The result of their following the advice to take no care for worldly things, because their Father in Heaven would take care of them (advice from Matthew 6 in the Sermon on the Mount), is that the world population plummeted: Millions of people starved to death. Villages disappeared and large cities became mere villages. The knowledge needed to sustain the population had simply been forgotten.
The "now" part of "then and now" is that belief in Satan and demon possession is on the rise. After more than 300 years of the age of Enlightenment, and 700 years of non-dark-ages preceding that, Americans especially are retreating into mythological beliefs in record numbers. Let's hope that the people who live in the real world continue to improve society's conditions despite the rejection of reason by so many.
In Genesis 1:26 we read "Then God said, 'let us make man in our image, after our likeness.'" Christian theology says that "us" refers to the Trinity -- the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The author of Colossians says (in 1:16) " For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him," implying that Jesus was there at the beginning. John 1:1-3 implies the same thing (while embracing the doctrine of the Logos, a topic for another time). While there are theologians who dispute the doctrine of the Trinity and claim that the New Testament doesn't support it, the fact that the New Testament claims that there is a Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit seems indisputable. The idea that they are three yet somehow one is, admittedly, confusing, and the Nicene Creed says (for all practical purposes) it's implied, so just accept it without trying to understand! But it's easy for a Christian to see the "three" here and impose that upon Genesis.
As I've discussed before, the writers of the first books of the Bible were henotheistic. They believed that there were multiple gods, but that they were to worship only their god, Yahweh aka the LORD. Deuteronomy 32:8-9 makes it clear that the Most High god gave the nation of Israel to the LORD as an inheritance. The other gods got other nations as their own inheritance.
Christians impose the beliefs of New Testament times (and beliefs of today that may not even be consistent with the New Testament) upon the Old Testament / Hebrew Bible under the false belief that it must be 100% consistent. It isn't. The Hebrew Bible is it's own book and has been co-opted by Christians. This is unsurprising, since the New Testament church comprised, at first, Jews, and came out of Judaism. But the idea of "God" had evolved throughout the ages that the Old Testament spans, and the idea that there is only one god coalesced somewhere in the middle, by the time of the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal. At that point, Baal had become a false god, rather than simply the god of another nation.
In Genesis 1, "us" means "the Most High God and the sons of God."
When you read the Bible, you need to read it to see what it actually says, rather than trying to force your beliefs on the whole thing. Christians claim that their beliefs come from the Bible, but the opposite is actually true: Christians start with their beliefs, then try to make the Bible fit. And it's not even the New Testament that they're starting with -- it's 21st Century beliefs. If you want to try to be Biblical in your beliefs, you're going to have to start at the beginning and read the book, noticing when the notions you have -- the things you've been taught your entire life and those you've come to believe over the years -- don't align with the text you're reading. If you won't do that, can you actually say that you're studying to show yourself approved, or that you're searching the scriptures to see what is true?
I have another blog that I've recently re-titled "Be Ready Always to Give an Answer," where all of my posts for the last few years reside. For the most part they deal with things Christians believe, and why they're wrong. I renamed the blog in hopes that it will show up in Christians' search results.
Having done that, there are things I want to post about that don't fit the theme, and would detract from that blog and the audience I hope to gain. Since this blog was stuck here, I'll just use it.
Today's post should be titled: I'm sick of it!
I'm a closet atheist because I have a son who is a minister, and when he got a hint that I wasn't a believer the conversation didn't go well. I tested the waters and found them to be too uncomfortable. My wife is a believer. She has doubts, but those doubts freak her out. She also has a lot of social anxiety problems, and health problems on top of that, so normally I end up going to church by myself on Sunday morning, and then I go back if she goes on Sunday night. But this church we go to has too many people in too small of a space. It's still growing, and as far as I can tell they don't have a plan to relieve the overcrowding. (They did something about it a year ago, but they've already outgrown that.)
Sunday a week ago I went in and found a seat. Then someone else came in and had to sit next to me. Normally I just read a book on my phone during the sermon, but that doesn't work if I have a neighbor. Anyway, being uncomfortable with the crowd (I guess I have social anxiety, too), I left after the Lord's Supper. Then yesterday I showed up, went in, and couldn't find a place to sit that wasn't next to someone. I'd like a space between myself and any non-family-member, please! I actually shook hands with one of the guys who takes roll (isn't it creepy that they do that?), but then I left. (And I was counted present!)
So that's two weeks in a row I've gone and not stayed. A week ago my wife wanted to go to a different church (a mainline Church of Christ as opposed to our usual Non-Institutional Church of Christ) in the afternoon. Yesterday she didn't want to go at all.
But what I'm sick over is how stressed this makes me. I don't believe a word of this, yet two weeks in a row I've been horribly stressed over the issue. If my wife were to decide to permanently go to a mainline church, I would only go when she did, and most importantly, I would not place membership there. If they bothered to put my name in the directory, it would have an asterisk beside it for "non-member." It might result in some argument with her about it before all is said and done, but in the end it would be done. And since our minister son and his wife always goes to the church we're at now when they're in town (even when they staying with his wife's parents, who go to another congregation of the same denomination!), I wouldn't have to worry about them ever finding out the people at the new church know I'm a non-believer.
But this is just stupid. I'm getting to the point that being in the closet is unbearable, but I'm not ready to face the consequences when it comes to our son.
Revelation 22: 6-7 says
6 And he said to me, “These words are trustworthy and true. And the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.” 7 “And behold, I am coming soon. Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”
Depending upon the theology taught by various churches, the visions in Revelation (most of the book, after the letters to the seven churches) may have to do with events that are still in the future as of today, or it may be that most of them were fulfilled when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, but some have yet to be fulfilled and it's hard to tell which are which.
Those who don't believe in pre-millennialism (the idea that the 1000 year reign is in the future) would say that Revelation is about Jesus using Rome to judge Israel for rejecting him. Others think it's about Jesus judging Rome itself for persecuting the Christians, and they're being encouraged that it'll happen in good time. Most evangelicals believe it's about a coming judgment -- the "rapture" of the saints and the remaining here on Earth of everybody else for 1000 years. One of the main arguments against pre-millennialism is the passage quoted above, where John sees Jesus saying he'll return soon. But verses 1-6 describe what's going to happen when Jesus comes. Verses 3-5, in particular, claim
3 No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.
If that's about a future on Earth, it hasn't happened yet. If it's about Heaven, the final judgment hasn't happened yet, either. If it's about Rome, well, Rome was never destroyed, it just gradually lost power (ceding it to the Catholic church). If it's talking about the church, which some theology teaches is the kingdom, it's a miss because this vision does not describe life as a Christian today. The "servants will worship him" could be said to be true, since Christians do worship, but the "seeing his face" and "no more night" parts are not a part of today's Christian life.
Matthew 24 is a similarly debated passage. The part about the "abomination of desolation" is clearly about the temple being destroyed, and Jesus telling his followers to (literally) head for the hills. Then you get to verses 29-31 which say
29 “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30 Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
This is all supposed to happen immediately after the destruction of Jerusalem. In non-pre-millennial churches they'll tell you this part is still in the future, but the part before already happened. In pre-millennial churches they'll tell you that none of it has happened yet. So is the pre-millenialist's conclusion more logical? Well, no, because Jesus tells them that they, personally, will be delivered up to tribulation and be put to death at that time. and if it's 2000 years in the future, they can't be a part of it.
The truth is that both Matthew 24 and Revelation 22 present events that are supposed to happen within a very short time span. There's no room here for 2000+ years.
By the time II Peter was written, people were beginning to wonder why Jesus hadn't returned. No wonder! He clearly said it wouldn't be long! So Peter just says "a day with the LORD is as 1000 years and 1000 years as a day" -- in other words, "soon" doesn't mean the same thing to the LORD that it does to people. And besides, he just wants people to have time to repent.
I was in a Bible class the other night where Ezekiel was being studied (Ezekiel having been reinterpreted to be about the Christian age, because everything in the Old Testament is force-fit by Christianity into New Testament theology). Revelation 22 was referenced, so I highlighted verse 7 and made a note in my (phone app) Bible: "For sufficiently large values of 'soon'." That's a math joke. There are equations that can be said to be true only for sufficiently large values of a particular variable "n". In those cases, the equation wouldn't be true for small values of "n". There's an explanation here that's sort-of cryptic to me. I grasp the basic concept, but couldn't quickly find a clear explanation online. Anyway, my note here simply means that Jesus' statement in Revelation 22 is true only for sufficiently large values of the variable "soon." The problem there is that "soon" implies a small number and 2000+ years cannot be construed as "soon", Peter's "1000 years is as" comment notwithstanding.
Jesus' own words in Matthew 7:15-20 say that a prophet is known to be true or false by their fruits. The most obvious of the fruits you might know a prophet by is whether their prophecies come true. The prophecy in Revelation 22 (John's vision of Jesus' words) and Jesus' own prophecy in Matthew 24/Mark 13 failed. Period. Peter's readers were right to reject Christianity, because the religion's prophecies were and are false.
In the American Southwest lies a hypothetical college town called Reflejos, AZ. It is a clean and quiet place only disturbed by the occasional school event. The peace extends from corner to corner of the city with once exception, a notorious street near the downtown area ironically named Church Ave. This area is rampant with criminal activity, drug dealers, prostitutes, gangs and has been common knowledge to the residents for decades. If you’re a law abiding citizen, you avoid this place and no harm will come to you. If you are a sketchier person then you’ll go there to indulge your every vice at your own peril. A mere couple of blocks away are the town’s main attractions, the music venues, clubs, coffee shops, etc. This downtown core has been expanding in lockstep with the growth of the college. One day, a college girl, who we will call Rachel and her friends wandered out of this area and into the worst part of Church Ave. Their buzzed state from the craft beer place combined with their unfamiliarity with the town led them there. Unfortunately, they were at the wrong place at the wrong time as a shootout broke out across the street due to a botched drug deal. One of the stray bullets hit Rachel in the chest causing her to collapse and bleed to death before help could arrive.
Rachel was the quintessential young adult with potential. She was well into medical school and was the first of her family to attend college. She had a cute inviting look which was complimented with a loving personality. The news quickly spread through the college and let many questions unanswered. First and foremost, if it was common knowledge that Church Ave was a cesspool of criminal activity (much taking place in plain sight), why did the police department turn a blind eye? Why wasn’t that issue being addressed? Why did patrol cars seem to graze by and ignore everything? Why was the person who fired the weapon still at large? The students who knew Rachel were having none of this and started a #justiceforrachel campaign. Though the power of social media this hashtag went viral and spread across the nation. It brought into question the effectiveness of police departments in a climate when cops are already seen with suspicion. Eventually, all of this boiled over and the Reflejos was inundated with protesters. The protests would eventually turn violent causing property damage and would be in national news.
The RPD (Reflejos Police Department) was under pressure to act. They started an unprecedented crackdown of the street from end to end. Tens of high profile drug dealers were arrested, prostitution rings were dismantled, and illegal weapons were confiscated. Furthermore, the city moved to demolish abandoned buildings that were known meeting places of this criminal element. Finally, something was being accomplished at it seemed that the area’s crime rate was plummeting. The perpetrator of Rachel’s death was caught and charged with manslaughter. By this time though, the news cycle had moved on to something else and the moral outrage machine rolled away. The campaign died down and the students at the college felt that they made something positive occur.
Months later, a disturbing trend emerged. Violent crime was starting to occur in quiet neighborhoods. There were drug dealers popping up near high schools and other sensitive areas. College students became prime targets causing an epidemic of armed robbery and muggings. Nobody felt safe going out and the vibrant downtown area saw business plummet. The randomness of these events is what had everyone thrown off. Law enforcement could not keep up with the spike in the crime rate and once again, outrage built up. You see, there was a reason why the police department ignored the happenings of Church Ave. They knew that they did not have the resources to deal with city wide crime. They had no way of procuring extra funds or resources to do so either. Instead they practiced a policy of containment by allowing crime to stay in one area. There was still violent incidents, but none like after the crackdown since as I mentioned earlier, law abiding citizens knew to avoid the street. When the police moved in the criminals scattered like rats all over the place. Now their activity is impossible to track. The situation is now far, far worse than it was initially. By now nobody from the outside cares anymore, the Rachel incident has passed and people have moved on to their next crusade.
The following has been a hypothetical but plausible scenario. If you feel strong emotions when you hear this type of story then it means you’re human. However, it seems that the masses have the emotional control of children regarding these issues. We want instant gratification, we want to get rid of the problem now. Solutions need to be acquired like a game of chess, you must think of your next few moves as well as those of your opponent. Outrage culture permeates everything now fueled by social media and traditional news seeking to bolster their ratings. If we see ourselves as skeptical, freethinkers then we must analyze the nuances of a situation and consequence of every action. We cannot be governed solely by our feelings.
For the readers, I’d like you to leave in the comment section any real life situations where an outrage driven solution made a problem worse. I can think of a few historic examples (like prohibition) but I’m looking for what you’ve notice more recently.
My new life verse: Ezekiel 23:20
"There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses."
So who says there's not great material in the Bible?!! 😂
Best answer I found in a Christian (yes, Christian) questions forum:
"Because man cares about genital size, and man created God in his image."
Glad that got cleared up! 🐴 🙄🤯
The following is adapted from my blog website. By now I've transcended opposing religion and go against ideologies as a whole.
Imagine if you will two very different college students, we shall call them Mary and Jake. They're starting their first semester and find the dorms lacking opting instead for small apartments near the school. All utilities are included with their rents except for cable and internet. With that said, they decide to head down to the Comspaz office (the local cable and internet provider). Jake is a big sports fan. He played on the high school football team and is an overall athletic person. He also enjoys having friends over to watch the game. Comspaz offers a premium package that includes ESPN, ESPN2, etc. However there’s content that Jake knows he’ll never see such as a cooking channel, a reality TV channel, etc. The package is expensive for a college student but it’s the only way he’ll be able to watch what he wants. He inquires “why cant I just get the sports channels I need?” The salesperson apologizes and tells him “unfortunately, that’s the only package that offers that content.” Jake begrudgingly signs the one year contract and a tech is dispatched to get his service up and running. Mary shows up an hour later. She doesn’t watch television as her parents never had a set at the house so her only need is fast, reliable internet. The Comspaz employee tells her that she’ll get internet at a lower price by bundling it with the premium package that Jake has. Her apartment doesn’t even have a TV but she also begrudgingly signs the one year agreement. When she gets her fist bill, she’s upset that she has a “sports broadcasting fee” and other taxes. She grills the Comspaz employee by asking “why do I have to pay for something I have no interest in?”
Nobody likes these types of combined products/services. I’ve worked in sales positions in different industries and everyone (save the impulsive shopper) just wants to buy exactly what they need/want and nothing more. When it comes to the beliefs that form the foundation of our lives however, we gladly accept any bundle. Jake is a Christian from a small town and the Baptist church he attends now offers what he’s looking for. He has a place of community with like minded individuals. He has an outlet to help poor children in the city and also joins a ministry where he helps the homeless attain employment. Unlike his church back home, this one is well funded, organized, and actually accomplishes what it sets out to do. Of course, anyone familiar with religion knows it isn’t all love and compassion. Jake sits through sermons condemning the LGBT community for example and the pastor also breaks into “fire and brimstone” warnings for the unbeliever. He’s also forced to listen to anti-science diatribe on a regular basis. Sometimes, the message is about theological issues that have no relevance to daily life whatsoever but this is the “bundle” he must accept if he is wants to be a part of the congregation. Jake might be a loving person but these ideas slowly poison his mind. He begins to see the LGBT community on campus with a sense of disgust. He looks at students of other faith with suspicion and/or targets of conversion. He becomes weary of scientific discoveries if they so much as slightly contradict scripture. I’ve publicly acknowledge that sometimes religion has the potential to create changes for the better (to an extent), even as an atheist. However, this type of toxicity will be always be there in one form or another.
Mary’s story is different but also veering off course. She’s in an atheist, pro social justice, pro feminist group on campus. The group has programs that encourage young girls to take interest in science. They also help with a woman’s shelter and empower victims of abuse to confront their abusers while bringing awareness these types of issues on a local, national, and international level. The organization branches off into other areas such as environmentalism. Their activism has managed to get the city to reconsider selling the nearby nature preserve to the school for development among other things. Furthermore, they also address income inequality and childhood poverty (what initially drew Mary in the first place). From the outside, everything looks positive (much like the work of Jake’s church). However, even here a “bundle” also exists and the group has become more and more radical in recent years. Many of the leaders believe that men are the problem in society, that we actively oppress women, that we’re all potential rapists. The organization has also taken inequality too far and have adopted outright communists ideas. They also see everyone who subscribes to religion as the enemy since it’s typically been used to justify oppression. These ideas also poison Mary’s mind and she starts seeing every man with suspicion. She walks past the campus ministry booth by the student union area and looks with utter disgust. He looks back at her with equal disgust as he sees her as a wayward heathen. The saddest part about this interaction is that if you removed all the ideological crap, both would get along well with each other and work towards similar goals.
I cannot ignore the countless individuals who’ve been hurt deeply by religion. I cannot ignore my own experiences in this area. I won’t turn a blind eye to the abusers in this world either or the injustices many face. I can understand the reasons why people gravitate towards such extremes. Like part one, the scenario presented here is worst case. Everyone will fall somewhere along the spectrum between neutral and Jake’s/Mary’s mentality. Bundled ideologies can often introduce people to new concepts. Jake initially learned about helping others through Christianity and Mary through activism. The problem is, there are also vile, poisonous details tossed in there. It’s like ingesting 99.9% food and 0.1% rat poison, you still die. The same applies to what we are taught, it doesn’t take much to kill your mind. No sane, respectful man wants to see a woman abused or oppressed. Many of us have or will put ourselves in physical danger to protect them from psychopathic males. Most feminists don’t hate men and will often reach out to us as allies. In fact, this a positive trend that I’ve been noticing. Extremists get all the attention these days but more and more people are rejecting the bundle. I’m seeing Christians who outright reject the condemnations LGBT, atheists, or other traditionally reviled groups. I know believers who take very progressive stances. I’m seeing some liberals acknowledge that capitalism has problems but it’s better than the alternative. Conservative atheists also exist, they just focus on the role of government and don’t give a damn about your personal life. People are starting to wake up to the fact that just because you accept idea A, doesn’t mean you have to go with B, C, and D. I can only hope this trend continues. The solution is readily available information and freedom of choice. Will this concept dawn on Jake and Mary? We shall see…
The flood survived by Noah's family and the animals they took onto the ark, was said to have wiped out all human and animal life on the Earth, to be started over by the inhabitants of that ark. Ironically, part of God's anger and reasoning for causing the flood were the Nephalim. In Genesis 6 we see that the race of Nephalim came along when the sons of god (El, not Yahweh) married the daughters of man and they bore children to them. It refers to them there as the "mighty men of old." In verse 5 God decides that this just isn't working out like he planned, so he starts preparing for Noah to build the ark so that he can try again.
So everybody's wiped out and mankind starts over with Noah and his family, right?
But wait! Centuries later (430 years, to be exact), after Israel has escaped Egypt and they're supposed to be getting ready to go into the land of promise, Moses sends 12 young men to have a look (Numbers 13). You are no doubt familiar with Joshua and Caleb, who end up leading Israel in the wilderness for 40 years while everyone else dies off. But who do the spies find in the land of Canaan that scare them so much? The Bible tells us that it's the Nephalim (verse 33). God went to all the trouble to flood the earth and wipe the people out, and the main ones he wanted to get rid of, these half-human half-god creatures, it turns out that their descendants are still around all these years later!
By this time, God Most High is gone and Jehovah his son is god of Israel, so he's stuck dealing with them. It'll be another 1500 years or so before Jesus, the son of Jehovah and the grandson of God Most High, comes on the scene. By that time, not only do the Nephalim seem to be gone, we see in Psalm 82 that Jehovah's brothers have lost their deity and have probably died.
The Bible is so much more interesting when you read what it actually says, instead of what they tell you in church. The Old Testament is a lot more interesting when you don't try to impose the New Testament on it. Seriously, this is almost as interesting as Norse mythology! Marvel needs to adapt these stories!
But we're the ONE TRUE CHURCHTM! We have to save them from Hell!
I still go to a Church of Christ for reasons that I've explained before. They would consider me a "struggling christian," I suppose, because I was outed as an atheist and managed to convince them that I was going to try to believe again. In the year and a half since that happened, nobody has questioned me. I kind of hate it but it keeps family relationships smooth.
Anyway, being that I'm still a member, I'm still on the email list. Monday, the following email (names redacted) was sent to the congregation:
This was out of the blue. We weren't there Sunday night, so I have to assume that an announcement was made. This couple are not members of our congregation!
James 5:20 is the verse that says if you turn a sinner from the error of their ways you'll save them from death and cover a multitude of your own sins (and I thought God didn't keep score!).
So, two hours later:
As I said, this couple are not members of our congregation; yet this elder, in his concern for their "souls" (they've joined the Catholic church! We have to get them back to the Lord's church!) published their email addresses, phone numbers, and home address to the entire congregation (everyone on the email list, anyway). You can see the polite reaction of the man, saying essentially that they don't want to be bothered, they just want to figure this out, and that their searching for the truth is long overdue. I doubt they would sue, but if contact from people they've never met becomes a big enough hassle, they might be seriously tempted.
I don't know how this happened, but I would speculate that the woman mentioned as having received the text must have been really worried about her friends from another congregation, and brought her concerns to her own church, asking for prayers, and the elder(s) decided it would be good to be proactive. (After all, nothing fails like prayer.) I'm just guessing, here. It could easily have been someone else asking for prayers, and this woman just happened to follow up. People in the NI-Churches of Christ know a lot of people in other local congregations. (I'm surprised I don't know this couple; I would bet that my sons and their wives do, though.) I don't know if I'll ask anyone how this came about or maybe just leave that up to my wife. I try to be as uninvolved as possible.
But I'd like to send this couple a card congratulating them on their decision to pursue their doubts and try to figure out the truth!
"The Bible isn't 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 (in the Old Testament, the spiritual leaders of the nation of Israel, and in the New Testament the proponents of Christianity) 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.