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    Future animator/designer looking forward to learning and experiencing life

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  • Still have any Gods? If so, who or what?

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  1. I saw the movie and it definitely exceeded my expectations for a WW film. Definitely as good as Man of Steel or the Dark Knight, so if you saw those movies and liked them you'll probably like this one as well. I did, however, have some issues with the near-end of the film, mostly having to do with the final climactic battle between WW and Ares, the God of War. If you haven't seen the movie yet, SPOILERS AHEAD! You have been warned... So, after WW corners and kills Ludendorff (who she believes to be Ares in disguise), she is dismayed to find that the humans keep fighting World War I, even without 'Ares' around to incite them against each other. Steve, however, knows about human nature, and gently suggests that mankind is more flawed than Diana originally believed, capable of great evil and violence as well as great good and beauty. As Diana struggles to come to terms with this terrible revelation, the real Ares appears. Now, I knew that from a movie perspective, there had to be a climactic final battle between Diana and Ares, or else everyone would have left the theater disappointed. From Ares' perspective, however, I fail to see how revealing himself to Diana accomplished anything. Think about it–all this time Ares has remained hidden, while successfully persuading the countries of the world to fight and occasionally inspiring their scientists with newer, deadlier weaponry to boost the body count. Without Diana's interference, mankind could well be on the road to extinction. The ONE weapon that can kill Ares (Diana herself) believes the God of War is dead, and is prepared to return home to Themiscyra bearing news of humanity's corruption. The Amazons will give mankind up as a lost cause and remain in their safe haven, leaving Ares to finish off the humans without anyone to stand in his way. Although I loved the twist that a god of war would masquerade as an man of peace, there was really no reason for Ares to show himself at any time while Diana was nearby, much less willingly inform her that she is the God-killer who can single-handedly put a stop to his plans. For someone who has thus far manipulated things perfectly from the shadows, the filmmakers' decision to 'out' Ares just felt wrong somehow. With all that said, I still liked this movie. As a little extra incentive for all the ex-Xtians out there, the film did a wonderful job of showing how humanity can be both good and bad, all without the influence of 'the gods' (or God).
  2. Thanks for the support guys. I have actually done some digging to find conversion stories from other faiths with some success, but I've found that they aren't nearly as well-known (probably because they don't fit the popular narrative that the Church wants everyone to believe in, and they simply get drowned out by all the Jesus). If anyone knows where I might find stuff from the Jewish or Hindu side of things, I would definitely be interested in looking at that; I've currently had the most success with Islam or Mormonism (which are both basically just offshoots of Christianity). One of the more interesting stories I came across dealt with a former Catholic priest who was in a coma for months (the result of a construction accident) and returned to the land of the living having seen, as he imagined, a vision from God–a god who called himself 'Allah.' After this supposed message from God, the priest converted to Islam and led some of his congregation to do the same. One thing I found interesting, especially when examining different converts' near-death experiences, was that even when they supposedly went to the same places (heaven, hell, etc.) the descriptions of those places and the details of what went on there were quite different–almost as if these 'visions' were the results of a highly imaginative brain... In a couple of cases that I read about, drugs were quite obviously at work. One former atheist credited his conversion to the incredibly 'realistic' encounters with demons he met while under the influence of drugs. Because of the way the man told his story it was so obvious that his demonic visitors were nothing more than phantasms created by his drug-addled brain, and yet he accepted the veracity of his experiences without question after the trip wore off. Emotion is a powerful thing, and even though I'm thankful for the different feelings and impressions that help color the world around me, it is nonetheless a little disturbing that emotion, if left to itself, can make just about anything seem reasonable (although the shrooms help too).
  3. Hello all, It's probably pretty obvious by now, but I'm definitely a novice when it comes to reevaluating many of the old religious claims and 'evidences' that just a year ago I would have accepted as truth without question. Although I have gotten better (I hope!) there are still times when I get niggling little doubts at the back of my mind, wondering if perhaps I was wrong to question faith in the first place. For those who've been in that situation before (and I'm guessing a lot of you have) it's extremely uncomfortable. In a nutshell, this is what I've been dealing with for the past day or so, thanks to a rather ill-advised journey into the bowels of Christian conversion testimonies (almost all of them 'miraculous' in some way), all collected and reported by Mark Ellis, pastor and president of GodReports. If you're ever looking for lots of conversion stories involving dreams and 'miraculous' healing for some reason, this is going to be your one-stop shop. I made the mistake of reading a bunch of these in one sitting without slowing down and thinking it all through, and the result was one of the worst periods of cognitive dissonance I've had for a while. Even as I realized that every story was being related by one man about whom I knew nothing and from whom I could expect little to no information so I could fact-check his claims, I found myself worrying whether these stories might actually be true. I read about Muslim leaders (even a former ISIS 'prince') coming to Christ after experiencing confirming dreams, Buddhists who were healed of stubborn physical maladies after prayer, and former atheists who converted after experiencing the horrors of hell, or the joys of heaven. Thankfully, I came to my senses and have since left that website alone. As I reexamined the stories, I noticed that everyone who had an encounter with 'Christ' had always had some prior knowledge of him–often converts' dreams would come some time shortly after the gospel was preached to them. The so-called miraculous healings were never instantaneous, as Jesus' were said to be; often it would be days, sometimes weeks after prayers were offered before a particularly stubborn illness disappeared. Partially thanks to this site, however, I have a newfound distaste for conversions post-Near-Death Experience; converts' experiences of heaven and hell were quite different and had little in common with the Bible's (admittedly) limited information on the topic. In my time perusing various testimonies, I did come across at least two that were of such dubious authenticity that I'm surprised anyone fully believed them. The first came from India via communications from an evangelist named Paul Ciniraj, a man who I later discovered has come under some fire for lying about his need for funds, as well as making unfounded and bizarre miraculous claims to keep the money pouring in. The story, 'Hindu snake goddess saw Jesus in dream and became His witness' (yes, you read that right) claims to tell the story of Nagamma, an Indian woman who as a child was bitten by a snake while feeding it milk. Although the venom was successfully treated, Nagamma afterwards began to exhibit snake-like behavior and, I kid you not, the color of her body changed. This bit was so ridiculous that it ruined any effect the rest of the story might have had on me–with such a preposterous tale, I wondered if I was reading a rejected superhero's origin story by mistake. You can read the full story here, if you want the scoop on the Stupendous Snake-Girl. Now if you'll pardon me, I have to snatch up this property before Marvel Studios gets its hands on the rights... The second story dealt with a group of missionaries who went to the interior of Malaita in the Solomon Islands to evangelize a tribe (the Kwaio) known for hostility to outsiders, including cannibalism. They arrived at the tribe's territory just as the Kwaio were preparing for the impending death of their chief. The missionaries managed to meet with the chief, who accepted Christianity just before he 'died.' Then, while the tribe was preparing the chief's body for burial, the man revived with a story of how Jesus Christ took him to heaven, where he was surrounded by throngs of worshipers, and met some Old Testament prophets. Of course, the chief also got a nice view of hell in the bargain. At the end of this vision, 'Jesus' told the chief he had to go back to earth for a short time to make sure his people knew about the one true faith. The chief died, for real this time, the next morning. Considering that medical supplies and expertise were almost certainly scarce in the jungle, it's a good bet that the chief was in a coma or slipped into a death-like state where he had a near-death experience about Jesus being the only way to heaven, which he had conveniently just learned hours earlier from the missionaries. Of course, the story could have been completely made up, but even if the details were accurate the tale wasn't convincing at all. Well, that's definitely enough out of me for one post. If anyone wants to check out this website and do some digging, I'd love to see what you come up with. I tried to find anything at all on boss man Mark Ellis to check his credibility, but I just got redirected to his blog and another ministry where he contributes once in a while, called Assist Ministries. Happy hunting!
  4. Welcome Ataraxia! As I'm very much a newcomer to the whole 'ex-Christian' thing myself, I'm sure we will have some interesting discussions in the future. Even though I was raised under the Protestant Christian school of thought, I did have a period where I researched Catholicism fairly extensively, so while I may not be an expert on the way things are done from the Vatican, at least I'm not ignorant about it. One of the things I found most interesting about the Catholic approach to faith was its insistence that the saints continue to intercede for the 'Church Militant' on believers' behalf, this intercession sometimes manifesting as miracles that, at least at that time, seemed to me to be signs that God was still working powerfully in the Catholic Church. At one point I decided to test this out myself and tried talking to Mary a couple of times, along with requesting the assistance of Saint Blaise on one occasion. I probably was doing something wrong from a purely procedural standpoint, but at the time I was definitely sincere. I would read up on stories like the Marian visions at Medjugorje and testimonies of individuals who had converted to Catholicism after receiving their own vision or 'message' from Jesus or Mary, and wonder if perhaps there really was something to Catholics' claims. Let's just say that I wasn't always the most critical thinker back then (I'm still working on it!) Of course now I look back on it all with a fair amount of skepticism, although the miracle claims do make me want to discover what is really going on–as natural an explanation as I can reasonably expect with humanity's limited knowledge, without the extra baggage of bizarre beliefs in the supernatural. Here's hoping your journey from here on is a pleasant one (at least as pleasant as can be expected) and I look forward to seeing you on the forums!
  5. A prank caller (OwnagePranks) rings up a born-again Christian lady to ask about her Valentine's Day fair. Enjoy!
  6. Is this a real thing, or just a prank? Either way it's hilarious.
  7. Indeed. The same thing happened in the aftermath of the Pulse nightclub bombing in Orlando, if you remember. While certainly not the majority, there were at least a few vocal pastors around the U.S. foaming that they had no sympathy for the victims–one preacher in particular I remember reading about (I don't recall his name, unfortunately) remarked that he was sorry the nightclub bomber didn't finish the job (killing all the 'sodomites' in the area). Watching this short clip was just as infuriating. I'd heard a bit about Ted Shoebat and expected him to say some insane stuff in the video; needless to say I was not disappointed. As he repeatedly reminded his viewers how little he cares about the victims of this attack, I wondered if the man is simply unable to empathize on a mental/emotional level, or if his particular brand of religion is to blame for his sociopathic tendencies. Probably, it's both. I thought his commentary on the concert-goers' pictures especially distasteful, and it was pretty obvious Shoebat was grasping at straws when he started ranting about how one man shaved his hair on the sides, marking him as a homosexual for all True Christians™ to see. If there was any point in the video where I might have laughed, it was when Shoebat tried to reassure his audience that despite his angry, hate-filled rhetoric against LGBT folks (or anyone who dresses or styles their hair in a way he doesn't like), he totally doesn't support blowing up people who disagree with him on these things. Not sure if I believe him, though... But seriously, if you have to go out of your way to make sure people know you're not okay with bombing innocent people (including children), you are doing something very, very wrong.
  8. The thing I find most disturbing about this inane rant (besides the fact that there's someone out there legitimately trying to rid the church of a 'spirit of Jezebel') is that this writer is telling his readers that compassion is bad. People who take this guy (or others like him) seriously would normally feel sorry for others who don't fit the 'perfect church' mold (i.e. the LGBT community, members of other religions and even more liberal Christians) and perhaps begin to question the reasonableness of their faith, but now they will squash those feelings because they've been taught to interpret them as the wiles of a demonic space witch. If only this writer hadn't left his night job as a Ghostbuster, we (and countless others) wouldn't have to read this kind of drivel.
  9. Now let's not be too hasty here! The man on the phone might have sounded crazy, but the weird bit is that this sort of thing actually happens in real life. Strange, I know, but it's true! Using certain words in a particular order makes good things happen, but someone can just as easily call upon dark, forbidden words to annoy you or make your life miserable. Want proof? Try shouting 'Accio, money!' or 'Accio, Jaguar (the car, not the big cat)!' As long as you speak these words in faith, whatever you want will magically appear, right in front of you! All your desires will be filled and your needs met forever. Just make sure your tongue doesn't slip so you 'accidentally' mutter Avada Kedavra when you next meet your annoying in-laws, or unintentionally Obliviate your significant other's memory of you and your children. If you're still trying and nothing seems to work, you apparently don't have enough faith in the power of your words! That, or you're just another Muggle. Okay, you're probably tired of the sarcasm (and Harry Potter references). I'll stop now. My family had a couple of years during which we met quite a few charismatic-type Christians. A couple of them made a big deal about the importance of 'speaking blessing' into our lives. Similar to the phone guy in the OP, they also refused to speak about disease or other unfortunate occurrences because they didn't want to speak that into existence. I think these people believed that talking about bad stuff gave the Devil an opening to bring the pain; I wonder what their excuse was when bad things happened anyway. Even as a believer I thought this was insane, and if someone said something similar to me today I'd have a hard time holding back the laughter (or shouting Crucio at them just to see if I get a reaction). It's just as superstitious as throwing salt over your shoulder so the demons don't get you, or saying 'Bless you' after someone sneezes so their soul doesn't escape through their nostrils and float away.
  10. So last night I got into a conversation with family about supposed mystical experiences in the Christian faith, and while I never mentioned that I pretty much consider it all 'woo' at this point I did make it pretty clear that all of the stories about speaking in tongues, demon possession, and being 'slain in the Spirit' could easily be the products of a mental imbalance or some other natural phenomena. This didn't exactly dissuade the fam (nor did I expect it to), and my mother briefly described a time about seventeen years ago when she was taking the Alpha course and a woman got up and started speaking in tongues. The thing is, this apparently wasn't your garden variety glossolalia babble, since someone else in the group actually understood what was being said. Things got even more interesting when the tongue-speaker revealed that she'd never learned the language that she had been speaking, and of course it was all attributed to God. It reminded me a bit of the Agnes Ozman story, where a woman (Ozman) reportedly had hands laid on her and suddenly began to speak and write Chinese for three days, helping to kick off the Pentecostal movement. I didn't press for too many more details, as I was trying to find a nice way to close the conversation without sounding rude or unreceptive, but later I did some searching and discovered that this phenomena–known as xenoglossy–has actually been reported many times throughout history, by Christians and nonbelievers, in both religious and non-religious situations. Of course, there's usually no way to accurately validate these claims, although a number of psychologists and linguists have tried. Outside of Christian circles, xenoglossy seems to often be associated with reincarnation, another concept that I am extremely skeptical of due to a lack of conclusive evidence to support it. Has anybody here had an experience with xenoglossy in the past, and if so what were your thoughts? Also, how might I reconcile the issue with a close relative who sincerely believes that she witnessed an instance of xenoglossy?
  11. Sometimes when I get stuck in a situation where Christian music is playing and I don't want to rock the boat too much, I'm surprised by how easily the songs (especially some of the older hymns) fit into a more, shall we say, irreverent theme. It's hilarious how so many of these songs sing about Jesus' love and how he wants to come inside everyone (homoerotic undertones much?) In your particular case, I remember the song 'Jesus Loves Me' quite well; the lyrics, re-imagined slightly, put Jesus in a hilarious (albeit creepy) light: Jesus loves me this I know For the Bible tells me so Little ones to Him belong They are weak but He is strong! It sounds like the Son of God is very fond of children. Maybe the Catholic pedophile priests are actually following in his footsteps after all? The song later talks about goodies like a 'heaven's gate' that will open wide so Jesus can 'wash away' sin. That doesn't sound dirty at all, now does it? Likewise, the song 'Deep and Wide' is all about a fountain flowing, as the title suggests, 'deep and wide.' I'm pretty sure you can guess where this is going...
  12. What if 'the Lord' was Eve's nickname for Adam's abnormally large package?
  13. Absolutely! That, or he was experiencing the symptoms of some kind of mental illness. I wasn't all that impressed either, partly because the author chose to submit his testimony anonymously. I mean, if I had ever had an experience like that in the past you can bet I would have let people know–not for my own fame, but for the glory of God. If I were in the author's place, I probably also would have left some form of contact information, just in case some poor lost soul got curious and wanted to know more about my encounter with God. As it is, we have no idea who the writer is, no other witnesses to the event (like friends or family members who knew the guy prior to conversion), and no way of following up on any details of his story–therefore no reason to believe it. As I've grown up in the church I don't recall seeing anything quite like this happen (perhaps because my family never was of a Pentecostal/charismatic persuasion), but I've lost count of the number of times pastors and Bible teachers have used similar methods in their sermons. They'll say things like, "Maybe there are some of you listening today whose marriage is falling apart. Perhaps you're a single mom with three kids and you don't know how to make ends meet. You might be a young man or woman struggling to overcome a porn addiction (or some other sin typically associated with the youth). No matter where you are today, I want you to know that God knows what you're going through and he will be faithful to see you through to the other side..." The church that my family goes to uses this technique fairly often in an effort to 'pitch' a relationship with Jesus. I can imagine how someone who is legitimately struggling might hear something like this and think, That pastor knows about my problems! God must really be speaking to him! Praise Jesus! In reality, preachers have just gotten better with basic pattern recognition; in 2000+ years, at least some would have perfected their craft.
  14. Truly inspirational. This makes so much more sense than Joel's typical preaching fare. My life is forever changed! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some 'magnifying' to do...
  15. Well, I suppose that depends on which New Testament teacher you listen to. Paul, at least, certainly seemed to think that the OT law was no longer in effect after Jesus' death. The interesting thing is that we don't get an affirmative from Jesus himself in the Gospels; in fact, he is reported to made some claims that seem to run directly counter to the idea that Christians don't have to worry about OT laws: "It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law." (Luke 16:17) "For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." (Matthew 5:18) "Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:17) This last teaching is especially interesting in context. Jesus supposedly said this to a rich man (the 'rich young ruler') who in verse 16 asks what he must do to gain eternal life. Now, if you were to ask any modern pastor this question, they would almost certainly tell you to believe in Jesus Christ and receive his sacrifice as a payment for your sins. After that, you're covered–wiped clean, as white as snow in the eyes of God. But that's not what Jesus says. And in case a Christian were to wonder exactly which commandments Jesus is referring to, verses 18-19 make this clear: "You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.'" All of these laws are major tenets of the Law of Moses. In brief, Jesus is telling the young man (and by extension, his followers) that keeping the commandments will get people into heaven. 'Faith alone,' prayer, a 'close relationship with God'–Jesus mentions none of these things as the One Way™ into heaven, even though he easily could have. [All Scripture references come from the NIV, in case you were feeling curious!]
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