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Showing content with the highest reputation since 04/06/2019 in Blog Entries

  1. 4 points
    I am reading a blog post on Patheos by an Evangelical author, Philip Yancey, called "A Time to Doubt" here. The post doesn't allow comments, which is not unexpected given the subject and some of the things he says. The comments section could easily get out of hand and really would serve no purpose, but I want to comment on the article on my own blog, so here goes: One paragraph says "Often seems silent." I would have worded it this way, also, when I was a Christian. Jehovah often seems silent. But eventually I realized that those times he seems silent are the times I'm expecting an answer. All of the times I'm expecting an answer. The times you don't notice Jehovah's silence are the times you're not expecting anything. In other words, the reality is that there's never actually a word from Jehovah. When I was a believer I didn't actually go through many periods of doubt that Mr. Yancey is describing here, because I didn't actually need anything. And when I first deconverted, it had nothing to do with Jehovah's silence, but shortly afterward I realized the truth -- that (as Annie Laurie Gaylor says) nothing fails like prayer. As a Christian, convincing myself that "God's will is always done" was pretty easy, and so when any struggles didn't actually get resolved (simply delayed for later) I accepted the caveat that it wasn't the god's will, and that it would make me stronger, or more patient, or some such. Only afterward did I realize the obvious -- that nothing magical or supernatural ever actually happens. Life is just life. Yancey writes about the Jews who had escaped from Egypt: Of course, the author of the books of Exodus and Numbers are writing many years later of the legends passed down to them, not about current events. For the most part, historians doubt that the descendants of Jacob were even in Egypt. But even if they were, go back and read the accounts in the Bible! The Bible says these people doubted even though they'd seen obvious signs of Jehovah helping them. I can't help but think that this is the author's perspective, passed down to him through many generations, and specifically related to him by a believing elderly relative. The more likely conclusion is that the people who doubted never actually saw any evidence. If anything like the events recorded as the Exodus actually happened, the people caught up in it very likely saw nothing that made them think this god of theirs was real. Further in the article, Yancey says Again -- proof within the Bible itself that the evidence isn't actually there, and wasn't there during the time the events were supposedly happening. And there's the real evidence against there being any such being as Jehovah. The people alive at the time weren't convinced. The writers who came along later claim that the evidence should have been enough to convince anyone alive, yet they admit that those living at the time didn't actually find it to be convincing! It's only by asserting, after the fact when no actual witnesses to the time are alive, that all of the miracles happened, that people can be convinced. The people who were alive at the time saw only life as usual with nothing supernatural going on. Yancey makes the typical objection that we were all taught to make as Christians: It's nothing but a "get out of jail free" card for Jehovah. The truth is that the Bible makes specific promises about what this god will do. When those things don't happen, Christianity has evolved the mechanism of accusing the accuser -- of saying "you have no right to 'test' God". That came along early, too -- before Christianity even -- in the book of Job, where the god basically tells Job he's just a stupid human and has no right to question the god. A paragraph further on, in his outline of an article, is entitled Now here, Yancey is correct! The famous statement in Hebrews about faith ("faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen") makes it clear, if you pay attention to what the author is actually saying, that faith is a substitute for substance and evidence. As a Christian, I'm not sure I ever had faith. I was most certainly a believer -- a true Christian! But I thought there was evidence for my beliefs. Faith is what happens when you just assume something to be true without evidence. It's belief for no reason other than that someone told you so or you read it. Yancey then makes a blatantly false assertion: No. "Unbelief" is honesty. "Doubt" is the path to unbelief and honesty, but that path is often not traveled due to the fear instilled by the religion itself. The meme of Christianity has evolved to continue to exist by overtly stating that doubt is caused by external, evil forces -- by a powerful being (somehow not credited as being an evil god) who has the power to literally plant thoughts in people's heads. "Reason" is of the Devil, Christianity asserts. The moment you start to wonder whether the god is real, your Christian indoctrination makes you think that doubt has been implanted in your head by the evil god Satan. But that's not what's happening. The god Satan isn't real. The gods Jehovah and Jesus aren't real. You're doubting because you can plainly see that the claims of the Bible about Jehovah and Jesus are simply untrue. Yancey then talks about Mother Teresa: She knew! She knew it wasn't real! She knew Jehovah wasn't there, doing anything at all on the Earth. Yancey goes on: She conducted her life in order to help people, "despite her doubts". I would say, "despite her eventual coming to terms with the fact that her faith was baseless". In the end, she was good without god, as we all are, really. People are generally good -- no gods required.
  2. 3 points
    There's a saying by Reinhold Niebuhr known as the "Serenity Prayer." It says "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference". A discussion in the forums made me realize something today: For a Christian, the above is impossible, or nearly so. That's why they think the prayer is so important that they post it on knick-knacks all over their houses. They want their god to grant these things to them, but because they really think that by praying they should be able to change those things that are beyond their control, they will never have that serenity. But as an atheist, this is easy! Once I realized that there was no such thing as Yahweh or any other god, I actually gained that peace that is beyond the Christian's understanding. I know for a fact that there are some things I can change, and some that I can't, and so accepting the things I cannot change becomes easy. There are many things that Christianity claims for itself that are merely wishful thinking. The "peace that passes understanding" is once. Another important one is "ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." These are things that only the atheist can enjoy.
  3. 1 point
    Bernie Sanders has said that: "I think the overwhelming majority of the American people know that we have got to stand together, that we're going to grow together, that we're going to survive together, and that if we start splintering, we're not going to succeed in a highly competitive international economy." Bernie supporters, I ask you this honestly. How does one affect change when even the DNC is actively splitting apart its base with supposed corrupted delegate counts like that in Nevada this past week? Is Bernie Sanders in denial of the reality that is American politics right now? Are the GOP and DNC splintering, and isn't this exactly what he was calling for not even a month ago when saying principal DNC party members are part of the "establishment"? How does one affect change when failing to secure the nomination? Or when standing in support of the same problem that is being targeted by your campaign as too corrupt? You do not affect change in this manner. Bernie Sanders has a massive following within the DNC base. As it stands today, he has an estimated 42% of the raw vote count, not talking super delegates here, just popular votes among Democratic voters. The reality of the actual delegate race (which I agree is ridiculously controlled by the party), though, makes it clear he will not be getting the delegates he needs. Super delegates will not bend to support him despite the wishes of their constituency. This reality is what made me hold back my enthusiasm for Sanders since he has made it abundantly clear he will unite with Hillary Clinton when push comes to shove. I've often pointed out that Sanders, whether he realizes it or not, is a shill for Clinton's campaign. Before you quit reading this article, bristling at the way I sound dismissive of Sander's efforts, please understand I am not even going to approach that type of narrative. Hear me out. There is only one reason why he is a shill for Clinton's campaign: he won't break away and run independently, and he isn't holding all parties to the election process accountable (which includes the voters). He has made it clear he will support Clinton if he loses the nomination. His inevitable endorsement of her will cause some of his supporters to swing her way. These will be supporters she wouldn't have normally received as his crowd is rife with first time and disaffected voters. Those who feel they have finally found a candidate that wants to move this country forward from corrupt government's suffocating control of the populace's will. With all the apocalypse style headlines bombarding this group, they will back Clinton out of programmed fear that the United States will regress to a pre Suffrage Movement type of government if Republicans win the general election. I'll give my thoughts on this scenario later in this article. Then you have those who self describe themselves as "Bernie or Bust" who will not cast a ballot for any candidate except Sanders. The number of voters with this mindset shouldn't be downplayed. It's nearly 25% of his supporters. Now, imagine if Bernie decided to go ahead and run independently. How many of his base would follow? I would wager more than that quarter iF it is under the explicit understanding it isn't because we want him to become president. This is where things might seem almost anarchist on my part, and maybe it is. My political atheism is going to flame brightly here, and I really believe it has some merit. Whether you are Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or feeling the Bern, you have to understand that we have to break our system. Let me put out a quote from George Washington's "Farewell Address to the American Nation" to frame my argument: ".....With such powerful and obvious motives to union affecting all parts of our country, while experience shall not have demonstrated its impracticability, there will always be reason to distrust the patriotism of those who in any quarter may endeavor to weaken its bands. " This first quote states the obvious. Any individual, any group, any government, any media, any nation, that would want to purposely weaken our unity as a republic should not be trusted. Whether the motivation is to push agenda, create a better economy, or better the lives of our people, doing so by the alienation of the other, or worse, depriving voice and freedom to decide, we have to step back and recognize this is not how we do things at all. It is evident that creating distrust, breaking the bonds that join us together, and creating future generations of apathetic citizens in our wake, is precisely what President Washington is cautioning against. It's not always about influences from outside countries. We all have heard the saying that the ones closest to us can hurt you the most. And lately, it seems that has come true. This threatens the very bedrock of our nation's founding and future. As a unified nation, it is hardly contested we get the job done the majority of the time. All corners of our country, while separated by state borders, still rely on one another. It takes all of us together, not a handful of states, to send aid to stricken countries. It takes all of us together to keep our populace safe and protect our liberties not just from influencing powers abroad, but sadly from our self-created oligarchy. To be clear, I am referring to unity as a people, not political parties. We, the people, do not stand for "we the appointed bureaucrats," "we the corporate lobbyist," or "we the self appointed." Sanders, as I had quoted earlier, pretty much touches on the same idea, but not to the extent that President Washington did. At this point, his campaign should be about splitting up the corporate lap dog that the DNC has become. Even more importantly, continuing to wake up his base to the fact their consistent lack of participation enabled a lot of the political misery we are enduring today. To be American includes to be accountable, but not just holding everyone else responsible and standing clear of the consequences one helped enable to occur. This is the toxicity within our system we suffer from now, as parties and factions represent the majority of our patriotism for us. This, again, is something that President Washington warned about, and I cannot help but share his cautioning before I go into why these parties need to be destroyed, or at the least, rendered powerless. "I have already intimated to you the danger of parties in the State, with particular reference to the founding of them on geographical discriminations. Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the Spirit of party generally. This Spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but in those of the popular form it is seen in its greatest rankness and is truly their worst enemy." (George Washington, Farewell Address to the American Nation) Yes, I said destroy, or at the least, render nearly powerless. I do not view parties as inherently evil, but it's plainly evident that they cannot have the level of influence within our republic as we have allowed them to possess because parties are polarizing in the long run. I've yet to experience a party that doesn't utilize alienation and divisiveness among the public of this country to accomplish specific agendas. This is where I've been called a social terrorist, an anarchist, and an idiotic cunt, for my views several times because of the short-term consequences I think we as a nation deserve to endure. Many, like myself, who favor more progressive, humanistic, invested social policies, and funding, tend to lean towards the DNC. I will admit, though, I am like Sanders and remain independent because I am well aware of the less than unifying way the party goes about pursuing a handful of interests we share. This has left me feeling dirty for the past decade when casting a vote. I know that voting for a ballot in support of local health levees is worthwhile; it was also a formal agreement to other issues I don't agree with continuing to be lobbied and pursued in separating tactics among my community. I wonder sometimes if it is worth the price tag, and more and more I am thinking it is not, unless we actually change the terms of the political process. Namely, break the system. I know I am not the only one watching the run-up to election day feeling that shame, frustration, and motivation to change things. Many of us have watched the political sideshows that are purported as primary elections. The incidents up in Chicago, Nevada, and other primary events have us wondering who to believe anymore. In a nutshell, it is you and I, dear readers, who have assembled a Frankenstein's monster of a political system. Our previous generations of Americans more than participated in this cobbling together of political gamesmanship too. The purported incidents of voter fraud we have watched blasted across every television, radio, and social media feed the past two election cycles show this is a systemic issue. But there is something about this broken process that no citizen owns up to. These conventions followed the rules. Sanders' campaign wanted the rules changed without following the rules to change the practices. Everyone is upset that such standards exist to begin with. That last sentence is critical, by the way. Please don't focus on what Sanders did or didn't do to dismiss the reality of that statement. All I can do is wonder how much more can Sanders' campaign be anymore polarizing? Sure, he is exposing ridiculously contrived rules designed to not exactly keep things clear and fair to the public, let alone actually reflect what the majority of the voter districts want (super delegates are a leash to control the general population's voice). Still, it cannot be ignored; he is also failing to expose a more significant injustice: the failure of the citizenry to participate and understand what rules they are playing by before it comes time to elect. Bernie needs to be made great again. Pointing fingers and yelling, "cheater, cheater!" isn't what makes this outspoken politician inspiring. It's his honesty, and he needs to be more honest with his supporters. Go ahead and show everyone the lopsided favoritism to be found in party politics. Expose the easily bought out politicians who offer contracts to their biggest super PAC contributors. Quit scapegoating corrupted politics and money as the only reasons why America is struggling. This nation's corruption is only a symptom of the larger issue of the electorate remaining complacent. Let me go back to splitting up the parties for a moment, though. For me, politically, the DNC plays just as dirty as the GOP when it comes to facing a loss of control and platform purity. Like I stated earlier, I've not seen a political party system that does not put self-serving interests above congruity. Change is merely a selling point, but not an actual practice when it comes to structure and control. Only in policy making do I give the DNC higher props than the GOP, and it's barely a few points above. Seeing the dirty tactics that have been purported upon the DNC base, and the GOP base for that matter means that Sanders' true calling isn't the presidency. Yes, I said just said that. The presidency is not his calling. It's busting up the system. It's breaking the monopoly-like control that is being exercised over the voting constituency. It's the chance to use our power above and beyond the party leashes. This would be Sanders' true mission if he were serious about bringing reform to Washington. He would be much more than another spoiler like Nader was. Sanders would be an authorized catalyst brought on by the American people to wake up a party, and maybe awaken the awareness of future generations of voters, that has fallen into the abysmal practices of bureaucratic mafia politics. The idea being he would be the start of a more significant movement by other public servants, and local citizens, to break a few cogs in the two-party political machine that is eating up our unity to further special interest gain. Please don't misunderstand my vision here. Sanders is only a single man who isn't wearing the tweeds of unity all on his own. He gives us a face to connect with a broader ideology we all desire within our American dreams. Until the last few weeks of his struggling campaign (you can deny the mathematics all you want), he has been a speaker of thousands of voices to our disconnected population. He somewhat neatly articulated what many of us wish not just for our future policy-wise, but also the path that requires us to travel away from the two-party system that has slowly been tearing our brotherhood apart. Unity between us as a people, not politics. This is why Sanders needs to continue his campaign, and I am glad he hasn't resigned yet. I hope he finds motivation to break from the DNC if he loses the primary and continues as a third candidate option. Could a Trump presidency be corrupt? Yes. Will nominations for the SCOTUS go to pot? Likely. Will women's right, feminism, racial equality, wage disparity, and healthcare get sidetracked? Quite possibly, and some of these issues will suffer more than others, even overlapping. I'm not trying to come from a position of privilege when I state this. This is something that troubles me deeply. What cost is too high for a long-needed reshuffling of our political system that is already barely giving many disadvantaged minorities and workers minimal benefit anyway? That I cannot say, because I cannot speak from one of those categories. So, what is the benefit of throwing votes to Sanders? What would his garnering enough popular votes to create a third party recognize? Or worse, what would his further damning Clinton, and the DNC agendas, accomplish, besides setbacks? It sets a lifetime example of what the authority of what the American people can do to the oligarchy that is overrunning their will. It demonstrates that yes, indeed, we have the power to give and take away said authority, even if it means some of us have to suffer to teach that lesson and help a system see we are seriously demanding it to straighten up its act. The GOP is nearly in the same boat right now with Donald Trump. I feel that Trump has been a very healthy disaster for the GOP in the long run. The party has lost control of its support base and is scattered within its congressional ranks thanks to Trump's securing the lead position in the nominations. Short of outright ignoring the very pronounced decision of its constituency, the GOP has zero options, but to accept their agendas are about to become more moderate. Nearly a third of their party doesn't even know if they can identify as Republican anymore because of Trump's less than conservative views on many different platforms. Now it is the DNC's turn to feel the same within their ranks with a leader like Sanders to help deal just as hard of a hit. While it is true, the GOP will likely come out ahead this election season (numbers are not favoring Clinton), their candidate, and a good 2/3 of their party support his less than conservative and openly compromising style of authority. Will he be a disaster in the area of foreign affairs? I have little doubt. Thankfully, he will have an extensive Rolodex of cabinet options to tap, and one thing Trump has never shied from is delegation. Knowing he is in the Oval Office still makes me wince, though, but we survived Reagan, right? To see party systems genuinely scattered is a valuable demonstration to the control we Americans hold over the powers that be in Congress. Instead of allowing ourselves to be bombarded with fear and propaganda about loss of guns, loss of privacy, loss of jobs, and keep allowing these parties to hold our processes at a virtual standoff for even more decades to come, we now tell them," Here is the real apocalypse you have been worried about, Senators. You must rebuild and listen, or continue to be powerless. Even to our own short term detriment." And that is the final piece of this article I want to end with: short-term and long-term detriment. Short-term would only be a few years to a decade. Long-term is a generation. To make this type of commitment is to be selfless and accept that this will be a generational change, and we might not reap benefits until my generation sees retirement, or possibly longer. Somehow our nation has been sold on the idea that change happens quickly, painlessly, consequence-free, and under the leadership of one man. When you buck the system, causing necessary chaos to create a realigning of interests and purpose, sometimes those who are forced to restructure will purport to fall out as a reason never to do such a thing again. This is an attempt to stop one from realizing the long term benefit of the short term price. What we see being depicted as chaos within the party races right now is not that. It is a controlled burn, like you see with forest fires, to curb the direction of the flames engulfing the landscape. You see, we are the controlled burn. A more vivid example would be imagining a fox hunt. We are the fox, stumbling in a panic through a forest of politically charged issues that are hounding us towards the glen where we will be caught by the awaiting party-line voting agenda we have been carefully chased toward. We can feel the breath of disparity on our heels chasing us. We can smell the overbearing scent of degradation. And we can hear the trumpeting blasts of potential powerlessness in our ears as we are pursued to the trap waiting for us in the perceived path to safety that all these outside divisive issues are doggedly running us toward. And the first few years in that political cage seems like the right choice until you realize it was an orchestrated path to get us there, to begin with, by both factions of our political system. Then the fatal bullet of complacency ends it all for us, as we refuse to realize we enabled our entrapment to begin with. We become content in that cage, forever a victim of our own refusal to take a stand and bite back. Or, our fear to handle the consequences of tearing down what we allowed to be constructed around us. Sanders brings about a need for selflessness, investment, and willingness to pay part of the price. Unfortunately, he needs to add on the price tag of what we owe as a nation and brotherhood, not only what we are owed by a construct we helped create. If he would do this, and break the system, the ensuing chaos would help put steps forward to not only end the monopoly in politics, but it would demonstrate what we have forgotten we have: authority.
  4. 1 point
    Ecclesiastes 12:13 (ESV): The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. To which I ask: That's all you've got? I've never set goals. Really! Oh, I did finish college (after changing my major 3 times), but I've always lived my life a day at a time. And I've always found my "meaning" in my responsibilities. I have work, I have family, and I have things to do. What more meaning do I need? Well, I know what's going on in the world and have discussions about it, and contribute to causes and organizations that I feel are important, and I vote -- so there's more meaning. I'm thinking more and more about how I'm going to be able to retire and I should have made that more important many years ago, but even now I wouldn't call it a goal. I need to get as much put away as I can, but I don't really think I want to retire. I just know that I'll have to some day. The meaning in life just comes along. I have grandchildren and I love to spend time with them. I love having grown-up conversations with my kids and their spouses. I enjoy spending the evenings with my wife, even when it's boring, because we're together. I enjoy listening to music, but not as much as I used to. I listen to podcasts in the car while commuting every day. All of that stuff is just there, but it has meaning. Largely, this day-to-day attitude that I was either born with or picked up somehow has meant that I never thought about Heaven or Hell, and certainly never imagined what they would be like. Apologists sometimes say that without eternity, life is absurd. Maybe that's so, but eternity is absurd, also. How can sitting in front of a throne worshiping a deity forever and ever be meaningful? "Meaningful" is making things work, getting things done. Meaningful is enjoying a good meal. Meaningful is enjoying a fast-food meal. Meaningful is laughing with your friends and family. Meaningful is laughing at a TV show or a movie. Meaningful is experiencing anything -- a relationship or a story or anything -- that brings out emotion, happy or sad or just deep. Meaning and purpose are found in the everyday tasks and entertainment and relationships we experience. No ultimate goal is required. In fact, believing that there's an ultimate goal takes away from the true meaning, which is found in the everyday. And after life is over? Meaning is for the living who remember you. Maybe you're young and don't have some of those things, but you still have a 24-hour day that's full of meaning. Over time, the meaning changes, but it's there already, every waking hour.
  5. 1 point
    I posted in the forums about how my older son discovered the truth about the Bible after he decided he really needed to study more. He had managed to come out of the closet and, he thought, not destroy his relationships. Well, it turned out to be more complicated than that, and it got really complicated for me, as well. My son and his wife had a baby. They live in another town, and his in-laws live there, as well. So we went to see meet new granddaughter. They weren't at church that Sunday, and in fact left the hospital for home about the time of the evening service. My wife and I went to church. We noticed my son's father-in-law looking what we thought was his usual odd self. We didn't really want to talk to him because even though our son was accepted as a "visitor" and "former member" by the church, his father-in-law is one of the "church discipline" types who thinks you can't have anything at all to do with any Christian who is "living in sin," and that being a Christian who has rejected God is "living in sin." (In other words, there's no such thing as an "ex-Christian." If you leave, you're an "erring Christian.") So when it was over we answered a few questions about the baby for the people who were asking and congratulating us, and then we made our way to the car. We planned to pick up dinner and take it to our son's house. But father-in-law went out a side door and intersected our path! As he approached, making a bee-line for me, my wife congratulated him on the new granddaughter, which interrupted his train of thought. He turned to her and shook her and and said "you -- congratulations!" Then he turned to me, refusing my hand, and said "and you... I KNOW YOUR SECRET." I replied "ohhhh kay?" and we proceeded to the car. Boy, was my wife mad. I was shocked. How in hell did he know I was an atheist? It was a tough night, but I didn't really know that anything would come of it. Our son already had a chilly relationship with him. The following Wednesday night I went to Bible class, and as usual, afterwards took our older granddaughter outside to play. But a little while later one of the elders came out and found me, and asked if they could speak with me. I took my granddaughter to our other son and told him the elders wanted to see me, then I went to the room they were meeting in. Only two of the three were there. One of them said to me, quite sheepishly, really, that they had been told I had a blog called "The Closet Atheist." Well, of course, that was true, but in my shock I was able to act shocked enough to deny it and, I thought, seem believable. I asked what it was, and he started to explain to me what a blog was. When I said, no, I understood that, he told me how there were pages and pages of posts dating back several years. After attempting to deny it, they said that they weren't inclined to believe it, but that they felt they had to ask. I wandered out in a daze and went home. My wife hadn't gone that night and I didn't say anything to her. She was unaware of the blog. So, I need to back up a bit. When my son first indicated that he was doubting, he also implied that his wife was kind-of on board with him. That was wishful thinking. In an effort to be supportive (and, frankly, because I was so happy for him) I told him about the blog, and even said he could tell his wife about it. I wanted her to know that even if they didn't agree, that didn't mean he wasn't the person she married, and it didn't mean their marriage was over. The baby's birth was four month's away at this point, and it really seemed important that she not suffer any undue stress. In reality, the realization that there are no such things as gods shouldn't cause anything but joy in one's life, but when you have fundamentalist family, it isn't simple at all. I wanted to help. But his wife really still believed, and she's not one to keep secrets, so when conversing and seeking advice from her parents, she mentioned my blog. Later in the week the elders emailed me wanting to meet again. I had to tell her now, and she yelled at me about how naive I had been. She's never been more right. I trust people. My daughter-in-law loves me. She wasn't trying to sabotage me or betray me, yet that's exactly what she did. My honesty plus hers combined to start an avalanche. I didn't know whether to be relieved or scared to death. My younger son and his family were moving... that Wednesday was to be the last one at this church, and they were headed on a vacation/journey to a new home on the West Coast. They left before I could talk to him. Right here -- this is it. The ONLY reason I cared whether anyone knew I was an atheist is because I was afraid it would affect my relationship with this younger son, and that he wouldn't want his daughter to be around me much. That's it. That's the only real negative that could happen in my life. And if that happened, my wife would never forgive me. Literally, not metaphorically, never forgive me. The blog was somewhat cryptic, in the sense that if someone had stumbled across it they wouldn't have suspected it was mine. Yet there was enough information in there that if someone said it was mine, and someone else read it, I wouldn't be able to deny it, so before my meeting with the elders I decided I'd better come clean. I admitted it was mine, and I said that I would go before the congregation and ask for forgiveness. I took the blog down before sending the email. I also said that I would begin a Bible study via email with a preacher who was well educated, but a member of a "mainline" church rather than one of the non-institutional groups. (My thinking was that this would keep the rumor mill quiet. I didn't have to tell that preacher what was behind it, and he wouldn't have any discussions with "our" preachers.) The next Wednesday night I showed up early (along with my wife, who went into the auditorium to both suffer embarrassment and to be comforted by the other ladies who were there early. I went into the office to meet with the three elders, and the preacher was there, too. He didn't know much about what was going on except for what the elders had told him in a few minutes, and he had not seen the blog (which was gone by this time). He was aware of my older son's deconversion and had actually had a number of discussions with him about it. Again, I made my promise to study, and I indicated that I wished to continue to be a member of the church. I was to go forward to offer public confession after the "invitation" was offered ("invitation" is Church-of-Christ speak for "altar call") and "acknowledge my sin." One of the elders remarked that most people in my situation would just say "I'm outta here!" and he wondered why I didn't respond that way. My honest reply was that there was simply no advantage to it, and that it would cause too many problems within my own family. They accepted this reasoning. So then there was the confession: This was tough. I told about the blog, and explained that I needed to confess because that was public and required public "repentance." I apologized to my wife and thanked her for putting up with me. Then one of the elders got up and made a few comments. I interrupted to ask that nobody call my younger son, who was on his way to his new home, because I hadn't talked to him yet and he didn't know what was going on. Then they prayed for me. Afterward, people offered all sorts of words of encouragement. Several people wanted to talk way too much, and in the next couple of week some brought me reading material. I called my son the next day and left a message. He eventually called me back. He was upset, but he said he wasn't surprised. I talked to him about how Moses apparently believed that there was more than one god, and he said he knew that already! (So why is he still a believer.) I didn't tell him everything, but at the end he asked me to please say that I still believed that Jesus was the son of God, so I lied and said "yes." Since then, he hasn't said a word about it and I really think he doesn't want to know any more. And since that time, I quit leading singing. One of the elders did ask several months later if I was going to start leading singing again, and I indicated that I was pretty happy to be retired from that. I may get that uncomfortable question again, but I can easily dismiss it if my wife isn't around. (When she's around it's harder to just dismiss, because it embarrasses her and she doesn't go to bat for me -- she takes the side of the person who's bugging me. I end up having to try to justify my decision. It's a pain, especially because she knows I'm an atheist!) Occasionally, one of the other elders asks me how I'm doing, meaning "spiritually," and I say "pretty well." That's all there is to that conversation. And that's it at this point! I show up most Sunday mornings by myself and use the time to read, and I go other times when my wife makes it, but not usually by myself. Nobody really expects much of me any more, and that's quite a relief. I hope that some day my younger son won't be able to avoid the truth, and we can just be done with it. My older son surprised me when he figured it out, so it could happen. I may decide to write a book someday. I wrote this post because I had never written this stuff down. It's kind of hurried, so there may be typos and awkward wording, but if I wait any longer I'll forget things.
  6. 1 point
    "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.
  7. 1 point
    Hat-tip to Bob Seidensticker at Cross Examined for inspiring this post with one entitled More Damning Bible Contradictions: #25 Was Jesus Crazy or God? Did you ever wonder what was up with Jesus' mother, Mary, in Mark chapter 3? Mary and Jesus' brothers show up where he's been preaching to his followers, and they're wanting to take him away because they think he is, perhaps, mentally ill. (Well, they thought he had an unclean spirit.) But we know the stories! The angel told Mary about the immaculate conception! When Jesus stayed behind talking to the elders, at age 12, with the wisdom of an adult, she "kept these things in her heart!" (Luke 2:19). How could Jesus' own mother, who knew better than anyone that he was the "Son of God," now be wondering what's wrong with him. I remember wondering that when I was a believer, but the answer didn't occur to me until I read Bob's post today. The gospels are different stories. We have studies in "the harmony of the gospels" in order to try to gloss over the contradictions. This story wouldn't normally be included because it isn't one that shows up anywhere besides in Mark, but in hindsight the reason is obvious. In Mark, the oldest gospel, there's no story of Jesus' birth and no story of his childhood. He starts off preaching and right off the bat his family is worried about him. By the time the other gospels were written, stories of his birth had been imagined and these writers included them, as they were now part of the narrative. But with stories about Mary knowing her child is the "Son of God" now as part of the narrative, Mark's much older story of his mother and brothers' worry made no sense, and so the later authors left those out (even though they copied from Mark a whole lot!). This is just one more of those things that I once thought curious but never bothered to pursue, which now from the outside seems obvious. And just one more bit of evidence that the Bible isn't inspired by a god. When you think it all has to be consistent it's impossible to answer the questions you might have, but when you're able to step back and see the stories for what they are, there's not even anything to be curious about. But the Bible is a lot more interesting now!
  8. 1 point
    Merry Christmas! 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?
  9. 1 point
    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!
  10. 1 point
    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?
  11. 1 point
    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!
  12. 1 point
    Oh, the joys of being semi-closeted! I knew I'd hear some ridiculous stuff after hurricane Harvey hit our area. My wife's sister and her husband lost their home. They're insured, but the house was paid off and they intended to live in it until their kids told them they were too old to be on their own. It's going to be a multiple-months long headache rebuilding. They're with us for the moment, and she was in Walmart the other day waiting for the next self-check register when the woman ahead of her randomly spouted off that she thought all of the events had been good for us, because it brought us all together. My sister-in-law replied that her house was literally under water, and she didn't think that whatever social impact it may have had was worth it. Of course, that wasn't a Christiany opinion that the woman had, just a generally clueless one. Then there's the facebook share of an article claiming that this must have been a miracle, because only about 60 lives were lost and with a flood this size you might have expected 1000 or more. So, what, your god underestimated the number of angels he needed to save people, and sent 60 too few? Or maybe 59 too few, because that husband and wife in Katy -- the husband was a beloved pastor -- could have been saved with the help of only one angel. Tell the families of those 60 people that this was a miracle. What a wimpy god you folks believe in! And then there was church Sunday night. In churches of Christ they don't believe in miracles, but they do believe in divine providence (which really is just miracles that aren't obvious). So the preacher was talking about "the chastening of the Lord" and about how sometimes problems are the Lord's chastening, and sometimes they aren't. He talked about how ol' Yahweh said that Satan had incited him against Job, even though Satan was the one doing the work. So Yahweh sort-of took credit for the actions of Satan. The conclusion of the lesson was that it's impossible to tell whether it was random chance, the work of Satan but allowed by God, or the work of God himself trying to bring about some eternal good, but that we should use it to strengthen our faith. Because what really matters is salvation, of course, eternal life, not this temporary life on this wild and woolly planet Earth. I wonder when people say things like that if there's any cognitive dissonance. Or maybe it's evidence that he's found a way to get rid of the cognitive dissonance. But I don't think he knows what he said, which is that is that it's impossible to tell the difference in a world with this kind of god in charge and in a world without one. There are no obvious happenings that would show us that there are invisible helpers (or invisible hinderers). Church-of-Christ folks know this, yet they still believe! My sister-in-law and her husband have been going through a lot in the last few years, and just a week ago a major difficulty in their life was worked out. They thought they were finally going to get some rest. For one day. She basically said that she figured she'd learned enough patience, and didn't need any more training. I think maybe she has some doubts. But she'll shove them down and get on with her life, and continue practicing her mythology. They'll continue to live a life where they take care of way more than their share of their own and other people's burdens, and never see that it's they who are "angels," not any invisible beings. They'll attribute their own strength to the help of this invisible being, despite the clear evidence in their own lives that that god doesn't exist.
  13. 1 point
    Ah, life in the closet! Fodder for blog posts! Sunday morning's sermon was called "Motivations for Holy Conduct." Sermons usually have 3 main points, and number three, which the most time was spent on, was "The Wrath of God." This was pretty ironic, because I spend my time during the sermon reading in the Nook app on my phone. Right now I'm reading "The God Delusion," and I'm in chapter 7, "The 'Good' Book and the Changing Moral Zeitgeist". Part of the chapter deals with the wrath of this supposed god. So while the preacher is droning on about how afraid we ought to be of going to Hell, and therefore motivated to do good, I'm reading a chapter that directly dismantles these arguments. The wrath of Yahweh presented in the Bible has him bringing about natural disasters, or instructing the Jewish army to perpetrate war crimes (killing all men, women, and children, except for virgins, whom they could take home and rape), or punishing the wrong people -- Abraham passes Sarah off as his sister instead of his wife (twice), and the kings who take her into their harems are punished, rather than Abraham, who told the lie because he was afraid they'd kill him to take her if they knew she was his wife. Yahweh also gets really upset when Israel or Judah starts to follow one of his brothers, such as Baal. He'll wipe out a bunch of people just because he's jealous. It even says his name is "Jealous!" Many modern theologians would protest that these stories are just metaphors for something. Of course, I'm in a fundamentalist church, so the preacher insists that these stories are real. Regardless, there's no moral lesson in these passages. The god depicted is capricious, unfair, and just plain evil. The Old Testament in no way depicts modern morality, even though fundamentalists portray the book as being 100% consistent from beginning to end. This god of the Old Testament was ruthless and evil, and if he were real, we certainly would be afraid of his wrath, and on pins and needles because we would never know what little thing we do in ignorance might piss him off. In the New Testament, we're supposedly forgiven because Jesus suffered in our place. The only thing is, "salvation" seems to be a sort-of light switch, constantly turning off and on. If I mess up, I'm headed for Hell until I repent. Not that anyone would directly say that, but it's implied in every sermon. I suppose the most ironic thing about this "motivator for being holy" is that it's entirely fear based. God, in this picture, is an abuser. He's irrationally angry and will send you to eternal punishment ("where the worm dieth not") for really minor infractions, and for things that are considered sinful for no logical reason. It isn't a "works salvation," but it is. You can't earn salvation, but you have to try. You can be a really good person, do all of the things Yahweh insists upon, and still go to Hell because, well, works don't really count -- thought crimes will get you. Your church has an organ! Sorry, you're going to Hell! Oh, you thought you were saved before your were baptized? Sorry, your obedience doesn't count... off to Hell for you, too! Illogical. But we aren't supposed to trust our own judgment, we're supposed to figure out what this inconsistent book is trying to tell us. In Ron Reagan's FFRF ad, he concludes by saying "Ron Reagan, lifelong atheist, not afraid of burning in Hell." When I first heard that I wasn't sure about its effectiveness, because to Christians this would sound arrogant. But the truth is that there's no reason to be afraid of burning in Hell. There's no reason to fear the wrath of a mythological being. In my imaginary conversations with Christians, I would ask them if they were afraid that Zeus would strike them with lightning. Their answer, of course, would be "no." Why? "Because Zeus isn't real." But aren't you afraid that he'll strike you with lightning for saying he isn't real? "Well, no, because he can't, because he isn't real!" Exactly! Yahweh can't send me to Hell because he isn't real. He can't get mad at me for saying he isn't real, because he isn't real! If you aren't afraid of Greek gods, you shouldn't be afraid of Hebrew gods, either.
  14. 1 point
    In "The Case for Christianity" C.S. Lewis wrote: Can you see the problem here? He says "God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way." According to the Bible, there was no "if." Jehovah purposed to send the redeemer before the foundation of the world. Ephesians 1:3-5 says: Christians who don't believe that Jehovah predestined each individual who would be saved, such as those in churches of Christ, believe that this is saying simply that Jehovah knew people would sin so he predestined the method by which they would be redeemed, and it seems to me that the wording supports that view. Let's dissect this: The definition of "sin" is simply doing one's own will instead of Jehovah's will. Jehovah cannot sin, by definition, because whatever he does is his own will. Without free will there is no sin, so when Jehovah gave the angels free will he created sin. He didn't sin himself, because that is impossible by definition, but also by definition sin virtually came into existence the moment the option was opened up. The ironic thing here is that it says he predestined us to adoption according to the kind intention of His will. The "kind intention of his will" is that he was going to create a class of eternal beings, give them the ability to choose to follow their own will instead of his own, knowing full well that's what the majority would do and that he would have no choice but to send them to Hell, which he created for the Devil and his angels (to whom he had also given free will, by the way), and he did it anyway! So according to the Bible Jehovah created two classes of eternal beings -- angels and humans -- and gave them the ability to sin. He apparently had better luck with the angels, since only a portion of them chose to do their own will (but without the avenue of redemption), whereas every last human ever born chooses to rebel against him. Does that definition of "kind" seem different than the one you normally use? This cannot be stated too strongly: According to the Bible Jehovah knew ahead of time that the majority of humans would wind up in that place that he supposedly didn't intend them to be in. This discussion is not intended to say that Jehovah is evil or malicious or anything of the sort. This discussion is intended to make the reader realize that Jehovah is a not-well-thought-out concept of a god that obviously does not exist. And while C.S. Lewis wrote this in defense of Christianity, does he not himself sound full of doubt? It's as if he's saying "I don't know why Jehovah created free will; it doesn't seem to be a good thing, but he's God so he must know what he's doing." There's another quote that is relevant here. It's reputed to be by Epicurus, although that seems doubtful since his Greek culture was polytheistic and the quote is about a monotheistic god. Nevertheless, it presents something that through the ages has been referred to as "the problem of evil," and it's about as good of an argument against the existence of the god of the Bible as I've ever read: Why indeed? Why even think such a being exists?
  15. 1 point
    I don't know what it's like to not think about Christianity. Having been told the Bible was non-fiction from the time I was old enough to understand, and then in my 50's realizing that it's really just a book of myths, legends, and embellished history, it has thus-far been impossible for me to let go of this near obsession. Christianity affected nearly everything in my life, and realizing that it isn't true does not lessen the impact of it on my life in any significant way. Living in a place where nearly everyone believes it doesn't help. What must it have been like for the Romans and Greeks who first realized that their gods weren't real? I suspect that I can identify with them to some extent, except that they may have been in danger of being arrested. 500 years ago a person who told the truth about the Bible might have been arrested, too, but fortunately that isn't so today (at least not in the U.S.A.) What I really hope happens soon is that I forget about all of this, that I do not spend so many of my waking moments obsessing about Christianity. It's a mentally exhausting preoccupation. I hope that writing about it here provides the catharsis for me to put it in the past. Now that I'm on the outside (mentally at least, though being in the closet I still go to church), it occurs to me that there are some words and phrases I used as a Christian that make no sense any more, and ways of expressing thoughts that now seem bizarre. These terms and phrases were designed to keep people in, and from the outside they're meaningless. Here are a few of them, with an explanation as to why they're so strange to me now. 1. Lost their faith As a Christian, I don't think I even understood what this meant. When someone quit going to church, we said they had lost their faith whether they publicly declared that they didn't believe the Bible or not. If they quit going to the Church of Christ and started going to the Methodist church, we still said they had lost their faith. I don't think I ever thought about what faith really meant in this context, if it was a thing that could be lost or found. Mark Twain is wrote the following: Now that I'm no longer a believer, I realize those who quit Christianity don't do so because they've lost anything. OK, maybe Twain was wrong, because a person who believes the Bible to be the word of Jehovah doesn't know it isn't. The sad thing here is that we're warned so much about losing our faith that we go to great lengths to protect it. When we start to question, we do not launch an investigation to determine the truth. Instead we buy books and talk to people who are supposed to understand the Bible better with the goal of convincing ourselves that it's all true. Faith requires ignoring the cognitive dissonance. When you realize the truth the phrase "losing your faith" no longer makes any sense, because all you've really done is realize how foolish (or simply fooled) you were before. To borrow another Biblical term, faith isn't a thing to be grasped. That isn't to say that faith isn't real. My wife has faith in me and I in her, faith that we are both as committed to one another as we claim to be. This faith comes from experience, having developed trust in the other person. That faith can be destroyed by the other person, but we can't simply lose it. To make that more clear, I would not suddenly wake up one day and wonder whether my wife would cheat on me. I would not even, over time, begin to wonder whether she would cheat, eventually losing my faith in her. This could only happen if she were to do something to destroy that faith. Faith in Jehovah can't be "lost", either, and Jehovah can't destroy it, because it was based on fiction in the first place. Once we no longer have faith in the god of the Bible we can't say we've lost anything, only that we've learned the truth. 2. Fell away I picture an open airship of some sort that a person can accidentally fall off of. Maybe I should picture a cruise ship, as drunk passengers do occasionally fall off of them. They fall away and get left behind, and it's a tragedy. I get it. I've been on the end of having someone I cared about "fall away". From the inside it literally feels like a death in the family! But from the outside you realize that no such thing has happened. From the outside, being mourned for realizing there are no gods makes about as much sense as going into a deep emotional pit because your child realized that Santa Claus isn't real. To the person who supposedly "fell away", what really happened is that their eyes were opened to the truth. It's a time of rejoicing, because I'm no longer deceived. And it's a time of rejoicing because I'm no longer afraid that my relatives who "died without knowing the Lord" are in torment awaiting Hell! I haven't fallen: The scary ride just finally stopped and I got off. 3. Believe in As a Christian I thought (like everyone around me) that you could choose to believe in things, and that you could reject a god that you knew was real. If a person who had been a Christian "fell away" it was probably because they didn't want to live according to Jehovah's rules. There must have been something they wanted to do that was sinful, so they just said "I don't believe in Jehovah" as a way of deceiving themselves. Now I understand that the term "believe in" doesn't even apply to things that are real. A child believes in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. If Santa Claus was real, they wouldn't have to believe in him! A person doesn't believe in their house or their job or their spouse, because they know their house and job are real and their spouse is a part of their life. There are even things you can't see that do not require the phrase "believe in," such as bacteria. But a person who says that Jehovah is real must say they believe in him. 1 + 1 = 2. I don't have to believe in that, I simply understand it. Though I had to be taught what the symbols meant, the concept is intuitively obvious. Not so with Jehovah. Jehovah must be taught. Jehovah must be imagined. The most important thing here is that you cannot choose whether you believe in Jehovah or not. You believe in Jehovah only because you've chosen to ignore evidence to the contrary (or perhaps never paid enough attention to notice it), and generally you seek out reasons to believe. Once you become aware that there's no such thing you don't choose to not believe, you simply cannot force yourself to believe something that isn't true! 4. Atheism is a religion 5. Evolution is a religion Atheism is by definition not a religion. Atheism is the understanding that there are no gods. Atheism does not require one to pursue it. Although I'm a bit consumed with it now, atheism does not need me or anyone else to follow it. And there's not any such thing as an "evolutionist"! Evolution is simply a field of study. Nobody worships Charles Darwin, and people who study evolution are quite aware of where he was right and where he was wrong. He did a really good job at getting the field started, but science is about learning, about understanding, and it requires knowing that there's always more to learn. Science, and in particular the field of evolution, can be pursued, but nobody thinks of it as a god. By the way, there are plenty of Christians (who you, if you are a fundamentalist, might refer to as "so-called Christians") who accept evolution. Michael Behe, the fellow behind the "irreducible complexity" theory that "Intelligent Design" people love to use, believes in common descent. Young Earth Creationists quote Behe, but only so far as irreducible complexity is concerned, because he believes that evolution was guided by Jehovah. 6. Money or fame or fancy cars or television or celebrities are gods It's good not to get too wrapped up in stuff. A person can get obsessed with things and lose sight of what is most important in life, namely, relationships with other people. To say those things are gods can only come from a religious perspective. That saying implies that the person pursuing those things is substituting them for Jehovah. They aren't, because there are no gods. The problem with saying these unimportant things are our gods is that, from the Christian perspective, even things that are truly important are seen as usurping Jehovah in our lives, therefore becoming our gods. If we spend time with our families, whether it's Wednesday night Little League games or vacation in a place where we may not go to an "established church" on Sunday, our family has become "our god" and we have sinned. Family is not a god, but family is important. The same is true of caring for other people. Some really good teaching on this is attributed to Jesus. The person who pursues material goods in this life to the exclusion of relationships may be selfish or simply clueless when it comes to establishing priorities, but those things aren't a substitute for "Jehovah", they're a substitute for the better things in life. 7. "This life" I actually typed "the person who pursues material goods in this life" above, then I realized what I had done. There's no reason to specify this life, because there is no other life. This is all we have, so we'd better try to make it as pleasant as we can for ourselves, for people around us, and for the generations to come. To do good is not to try to get a reward in a future existence whether that's a better position in a reincarnated life or a place in Heaven, it's to go through life spreading happiness. 8. Without the objective standard that the Bible gives us, nobody can say what is good and what is evil. This. Is. HUGE. There are more people in the world who do not claim to be Christians than there are who claim to be. There are people who practice Buddhism and Hinduism who are very kind and good people, and they don't look to the Bible to find out what is good and what isn't. The saying among Humanists is "be good for goodness sake", which sounds like a Christmas song. But the Christian says we cannot know what "good" is. The Old Testament actually condones evil in some cases. The case of Israel being told to kill every man woman and child among the Amalekites is literally genocide. If a nation at war were to do that today, we would try the generals, corporals, and even some privates for war crimes. Why? Because even if they were just following orders, they're supposed to know better. It is immoral to kill non-combatants, downright evil to kill children except in self defense, and we know this. But if we were to depend on the Bible for our moral code, we would allow such horrible things. But that point is not necessary to reach the conclusion. Even if there was nothing evil in the Bible attributed to Jehovah, he wouldn't be necessary for us to know the difference between good and evil. There's a very good question that has been asked, but is hard to word coherently. I'll try here: Is a thing good because Jehovah says it's good, or does Jehovah inform us of what is good because it is inherently good and he wants us to know? If it's good because Jehovah says so, then it's arbitrary: Capital punishment for adultery is somehow "good". But if Jehovah tells us what is good because it is inherently good, then his existence is not necessary for there to be such a thing as goodness. The truth is that we know what is good and what is bad. Yes, there are sociopaths who seem to have no concept of right and wrong, but most people know that if you do something hurtful to another person, that's wrong. And you don't have to have religion to know this. Evolution actually explains this quite well: Those members of the species who cooperated fared better than those who were selfish. Some people insist that "survival of the fittest" means "might makes right" but the overly selfish animal or person is not particularly fit. The Bible even says "if two lie together they can stay warm." Evolution agrees. If what you do harms another, it's bad. If harm cannot be avoided, for instance if you have to choose who to favor, then do as little harm as possible. But causing deliberate harm to another is evil. Speaking to the reverse, we really should be trying to help, not just avoiding harm. We should be doing good. And billions of people around the world know the difference even without the Bible.



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