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Everything posted by Dexter

  1. This is more a rant than a question so I am putting it here. But what is the deal with the persecution complex? It is baked to deeply into Christianity that to go through life without having been persecuted means that you were a bad Christian. Everyone in the church wants to convert the world but yet could not live in a world where everyone is converted because then there would be no one left to persecute them. Perhaps one of the most eye opening things for me when I was still amidst my Christian walk was the rare instance when someone would ask me how, precisely, I was more persecuted than they. This was once asked to me by an atheist and of course my default reaction was that he has the support of all the world (because I was the one against the world) so it was laughably absurd that an atheist could ever be persecuted. He then asked me how exactly I think it would go if he ran for public office on that platform. And of course I saw right away the arguments of most people asking how they could trust someone who believes in nothing (and even that argument as was beginning to see was fallacious). But persecution is a right of passage. It's a barrier of entry. You MUST be persecuted or you are no follower of Christ. How sad for Christianity, then, that it became so powerful. People scream persecution as the smallest things but I feel that in their hearts, even they know it's not really true. As I listen to my aunt gravely tell tales of children being throw in prison for praying in schools, I notice that she does literally nothing about it and the very next day posts about her blessings. "God Bless America and the Freedom of those who have fallen in defense of our country!" ((As a momentary aside in respects to my friend Guan who died in a freak accident while on active duty, fuck off with your blessings. It wasn't for your god that he served.)) I see my mother comparing news articles about how the government ordered some ridiculous number of rail cars and that some chain manufacturer was involved and concluding that the government was going to put Christians in rail cars and ship us off to camps. "Just like Hitler!" My pointing out that she was getting lost in the imagery and that rail would be an absolutely abysmal logistical solution in the US fell upon deaf ears. Even at work, my boss is an active Christian and he is always hesitant around me, the gay atheist. When a co-worker's mother died, my boss bought a card for the department to sign but before he handed it out to anyone, he cautiously asked me if it was offensive. The card just had some general 'sorry for your loss' platitudes and a verse from Isiah on it. My co-worker is an active church-goer. I asked how it could possibly be considered offensive (unless my co-worker was not a Christian) and my boss was just fearful that the existence of a scripture verse on anything at work would get him into trouble. There is also a Caroling Choir at work who go around in the middle of the day (when they should be working) singing hymns and carols. And the Christians in my lab are shocked whenever they sing a carol that has the word "Christmas" or "Jesus" in it. Persecution is baked in. "Facebook is trying to take down this Christian Flag! Share immediately" "What the public schools don't want your kids to hear." "It's not against the law to say Merry Christmas." "Keep Christ in Christmas!" To Christians in the United States. You are NOT persecuted. If you want to genuinely understand persecution, reach out to North Korean missionary C.Y. Kim. He'll educate you on the true reaches of persecution.
  2. Well... I may have since been to a few that are, um, pretty “dynamic” even by secular standards... but by in large, they are just casual enjoyment. Now of the more wild parties I have since attended... I apologize for nothing!
  3. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, "Who touched my clothes?" -Mark 5:30 Ok, so it didn’t bug me so much but it made everyone I was talking to about it (including the preacher present) deeply uncomfortable. It was an innocent Bible study and I said. ”That’s really interesting! So God’s power is something that he can perceive to flow and it can do so outside his knowledge. Granted, Jesus did not always seem carry the omniscience of God the Father. Presumably God the Father revealed knowledge to Jesus as appropriate. Still it’s interesting that Jesus can perceive his own power in a tangible way and not know to whom it flowed. I wonder if the triggering event for its activation was God willing it without Jesus’s knowledge or if the woman’s acts were the triggering mechanism outside of God’s direct influence, i.e. a fundamental atribute of reality itself...” I was thanked for my perspective and curiosity but told not to look too deeply into God’s power. That was not for us to understand.
  4. I am still in the closet so I haven’t felt the brunt of this yet. The joys to look forward to.
  5. I still have facebook too and it’s mostly for three things now. 1) Reading the Navy Times 2) Trolling AiG 3) Making sure no one is hurt, sick or dead (it’s my families primary platform of communication) There is no hope for those in it. The echo chamber reverberates so loudly that nothing short of turning off FB’s server farms could interrupt it. My aunt is so deep in the echo chamber that she literally believes a child can be arrested and thrown in prison for walking into a school while holding a bible.
  6. Oof, this hit home with me. I never had things to throw out because I never let them into my life in the first place. Not secular material and certainly not friends. Now at 33 I am JUST NOW beginning to learn that “parties” aren’t evil.
  7. Same as everyone above. My final hold to Christianity broke when I finally saw that my God was a scarecrow. Something I had constructed, projected myself onto and believed in because he was so very real to me. Whereas many people’s scarecrow gods are full of wrath, punishment and condemnation, mine was not. That is probably why I held to it for so long. See, I believed that I was evil and wicked in all ways and it was only through god’s influence in my life that I was good. That my mercy, love and forgiveness were god’s gifts to me and not intrinsic to me. I was evil but god told me I was ok and that I could do anything. I didn’t encourage me but god did. But when I finally realized that my scarecrow god was a personification of myself it took me awhile to actually accept the thought that, maybe, just maybe, I’m not actually evil and that I might genuinely be a good person all on my own. ((NOTE: It took me several minutes to write that last sentence. The voices of descent in my head declaring me evil are still very strong))
  8. This is often how I handle it. I'll post and AiG article or religious publication and just ask, 'who DO those pesky atheists think and why?' Either they will become better apologists or better anti-apologists. Either way I'd call it a success.
  9. Part of why I do not come out as an atheist is that I do not want to lose contact with my nephews who are still teenagers none have left home yet. They largely look up to me as the "cool uncle" and respect my opinions. I take this with serious gravity. If I came out as a gay atheist, I know I wouldn't be excommunicated per se, but the dynamic would change and I know my sisters would be less eager to let their kids hang out with their lost and sinful brother, lest their children become corrupted by my sinful ways. But at the same time, it is not my intention or desire to directly influence my nieces and nephews paths either. That is a weight of responsibility that I prepared to take on. So for a time I promised myself that I'd in no way influence them one way or the other. That lasted all of about two weeks before I realized this was an un-keepable promise. One of my older nephews sent my video through facebook that told a story about an evil atheist philosophy professor that was showed up by a devote Christian student. I asked my nephew if he realized that was just the plot to God's not Dead. He said he did and I jokingly replied that no straw man would be able to stand before him now. He didn't understand and asked what I meant. It was a couple days later I was reading through some AiG articles (unhealthy obsession) and ran across one that opened with how society is in decline. It gave some bullet point example citing the lack of bible teaching in public schools, the war on christmas and not being able to discriminate against gays as evidence for this decline. So I texted my nephew and asked him if he was ready for a pop quiz. He acknowledged and I sent him that article asking him to go bullet point by bullet point and tell me a counter-argument. How would an atheist reply to these bullet points? The purpose of this was to see if he could conceptualize a counter-argument. Not to tell him what's right or wrong, but rather to see how expansive his theory of mind is. And his answer actually really surprised me in a good and bad way. He said that he didn't know. He couldn't conceive of a counter-argument to any of it. This saddens me for how limited his worldview is but also pleasantly surprised me that he was able to admit to himself and to me that he has a gap. He does not know. A younger me would've tried to make something up. He then asked me what could be a counter-argument. Again, I do not want to influence him by giving my family-unapproved opinions so I told him that I was crafting a persona of a typical social-liberal and set about counter-arguing each bullet point. I didn't go particularly deep but I did give very serious arguments (rather close to mine, in fact) against each point. And my nephews mind was blown. He had never even conceived that counter-arguments to the worldview he was taught even exists. So I wonder, am I being disingenuous by testing my younger relatives in these thought experiments when, in fact, I do not hold the position they believe I do? I am not trying to tell them not to believe to even abandon their positions. But I do want them to think broader than my sisters have taught them to do.
  10. The only apologetic I ever heard for someone fervently praying while in an abusive situation and God doing nothing is the William Lane Craig argument that I am going to paraphrase badly. Basically he claims that you cannot know to what greater good an evil can bring about. That lesser evils are used to inspire greater goods. Imagine a martyr scenario where a saint is brutally tortured and killed, but their death is used a rallying event and inspires mass conversions as a result. So if you asked why god would allow... the answer would be because some greater good came of it. Now, that being said, this apologetic pisses me off. Because I have worked with abused people and some of their stories are so goddamn tragic that anything less than a cure for alzheimer's is insufficient to be called a "greater good." I once heard a great podcast where this scenario was presented. What if there was a machine that could cure infant cancer but to run it, lesser evils like pain, abuse and suffering have to power it. Would you then see why there is pain and suffering? The atheist podcaster said he did see - that we need to find a new power source for the baby cancer machine.
  11. Thanks for the advice. What I know on an intellectual level that none of this is my fault, it still feels that way on an emotional level. From where this comes from, I do not know. But everyone seems to be on the same page and I feel that this is the approach I will take. Not to try to "disprove" anything but rather steer her towards chemo as well. The struggle is the alt med doctors have already scared her into believing that Big Pharma is literally trying to kill her.
  12. Dexter

    What now?

    I really do appreciate everyone's help and encouragement. It means a lot. I still find I am on a hair trigger but I've managed to start fewer fights and walk away from AiG's facebook feed for awhile. It was a bit of a cathartic release, I think, to cause mayhem there. It was certainly not constructive and probably not healthy either but I am far from perfect. I am kind of settling into this new reality. Strangely, the one constant that I have managed to cling to in all of this is that the majority of the world is crazy! I just used to exempt my own community from that evaluation.
  13. I remember a family in my church who had one of their own end up in an abusive relationship. When they discovered the extent of the abuse, they took it upon themselves to fix it, and they went in, took her away from her abuser and told him to never darken their door again. But to their shock she turned on them, accused them of “ruining everything” and rushed back to her abuser. They didn’t understand that, noble as their intentions were, she was not yet to a state where she could leave.
  14. About a year and a half ago my parents went to the doctor for a checkup. They never went often but my father was having GI troubles and had a family history of more serious problems so they both decided to have full physical examinations done. My father turned out to be fine after some low-grade antibiotic treatment. My mother was found with a tumor in her colon. The tests came back that it was cancer and had likely been there for years. After surgery a couple weeks later, the tumor was removed and tested to see if the cancer had reached the lymph nodes. After several agonizing days later the word came back. It had. The cancer cells were now free-floating in her body. The doctors advised chemotherapy. We have all seen people in church go through Chemo. The weakness, the hair loss, the helplessness. It’s awful. The treatment is barbaric, though it is the best we have for now. And I yearn for the day that future generations look back on cancer treatment the same way we look back on leaches and bloodletting. Because even with the treatment, the doctors told her it was a 50/50 chance that it would put the cancer into remission. As we started preparing ourselves for this new reality, faith kicked in. Either way, it was in God’s hands so why worry? And this thought did comfort us, but I soon realized that it also opened us up for all types of external suggestion. While we told ourselves that either God wills it or not, my mother did not want to die. She was going to do everything in her power to fight it, to stay with her family as long as possible, and she was going to do it through her faith in God. So the very first MLM Supplement sales person in our church touting a cure for cancer had a meeting with my parents the very next day. You see, it was through God’s help that she was going to fight this cancer. Why wouldn’t a cure come through a respected member of the church? And a week later, boxes of supplements arrived at their house. My mother spent hours at her computer watching videos and doing research. She saw the scientific videos, but they just talked about the difficulties of treating cancer, how much and yet how little we still know and the heart-breakingly slow progress we are making. There were the awful stories of people who underwent Chemo, were laid low by the aggressive treatment and before they had even recovered, the cancer had returned and they never got better, dying puny and pitiful; a mere husk of the person their loved ones once knew. No one ever wants to see that. But there were other videos; videos of hope. Videos that knew the cure for cancer and they even said it was God who revealed this to them. A sign! A hope! After all, God is the great healer, right? It’s through God, not man who admits he cannot cure cancer, that you will find healing. So does it not then logically follow that God put the cure for cancer right in front of us, if only we had the faith to trust Him and just reach out and take it? My mother tasked me with researching terms and concepts. I struggled to find any scientific journal articles on most of them. The ones that did have journal articles dealt with high-level concepts and had nothing to do with its application in treatment. During a conversation with my mother that ended up devolving into her shouting at me that I had no faith in God (it hurt back then), I pointed out that there was no correlation between treatments and results for the things she was looking into. Almost none underwent double-blind testing and the ones that did were at best inconclusive. But she knew God would save her. How could I trust man’s fallible science over God’s ultimate power? I looked to my sisters for help. They too were worried and concerned but my youngest sister told me she’d do some hard questioning of her own. My mother turned down Chemo, deciding instead for a combination of self-treatment with a new aggressive diet that completely does away with all sugars and found an alternative medicine doctor who touted all these alternative treatments that Big Pharma would never allow to be used in hospitals, because they work so well. It was then I realized that this questioning my sister was doing was not demanding evidence, but rather demanding answers. She went with my mother to meet this alt med doctor and from what I am told, she gave him the third degree, questioning everything and demanding answers. But one does not go into alt med without having a strong sense of self-assuredness. He answered all of my sisters questions and she left confident that she had done her task well. Had we been taught how to actually question in our youth, she would have. I can ask an apologist any question. They will always have an answer. I know, because I always had an answer. So too did he. I’d like to take a step back and say that the decisions that come after a cancer diagnosis are hard and deeply personal. Chemo, while about the best we have for the moment, is not a great option. I would not want to base my life and my everything on a coin toss. So I can completely understand if a person declines chemo, choosing to optimize the quality of their remaining life rather than the quantity of it. And were that my mother’s decision, I would be, well… I won’t say happy… but I’d be at peace with that decision. But now, my parents are tens of thousands in debt. My mother’s hope all rests on these… charlatans. And I simply do not know what to think. If I were to bore in and try to convince her that this is all bunk, I am terrified by the thought, ‘What if I actually succeeded?” Am I prepared to deal with picking up the pieces of a shattered mother whose inevitable next step is heavy depression and thoughts of death? Am I prepared to deal with the knowledge that I caused it? Am I prepared to deal with driving a schism right through the center of my family. Even if I got saddled with all the debt from this, is ~$100k really that much compared to our family unity that we all rely upon?
  15. Dexter

    What now?

    I thought I was being melodramatic when this thought kept occurring to me. But yes. This is what it has been for me exactly.
  16. Dexter

    What now?

    It’s social manipulation. I know it is. I’ve employed it knowingly and intentionally on others, of course tailoring the message as needed sometimes even removing the god part entirely. It’s my go-to “talk them off the ledge” script. But the amazing thing about social manipulation I learned a long time ago is that you can tell a person it’s coming and it’s no less effective when it comes. I did this experiment with my friend, Chris where I told him that I was going to emotionally manipulate him. So he threw up some quick defenses while I looked him square in the eye and told him how disappointed I was with him. How he was not living up to my expectations. I was about to start doing some knife twisting when he asked me to stop. Even knowing it was coming, even me telling him it was coming and allowing him to prepare, it peirced right through his defenses. I knew it would, not living up to his grandfather’s impossible expectations is one of his core damages. It would have taken a LOT more preparation for his regrets to not resonate with my words. Manipulation is an art. And I am not immune.
  17. Dexter

    What now?

    Steven, it’s ok. I hear you. I understand how much you hurt. And we probably weren’t there enough to help you through it. You’ve always been a very independent person. But no man is an island and no one person can face the world alone. You haven’t given up on God, and He hasn’t given up on you. Tell Him your troubles, your doubts, your questions. He’s strong enough to handle them. I too went through a time when I fell away and doubted God (insert story here) but in the end I realized that it was God’s love that carried me through. Steven, we love you. And God loves you, no matter what you’ve said or done. And I love you. You will always be my son/brother. Let’s pray together and ask God to help you find peace and reconciliation. ...and I would. I know I would pray. Because I need those words. I need those words spoken to me. And I am too weak to refuse them even if I know where they come from.
  18. Dexter

    What now?

    I can already conceive of an argument my family would employ that would be extremely effective on me.
  19. Dexter

    What now?

    I could say that it’s about helping others out of the faith but I know that this is not actually true. I am just easily triggered by the arguments I’ve abandoned as wrong. I have considered purging theism from my life but I have concerns with doing this, for trading one echo chamber for another. Because a person is an atheist does not mean they are not deep in the same confirmation bias as a theist. But then, we do not exist outside of community. Do I delude myself to believe that I can now suddenly prevent others from indoctrinating me? In the same way people escaping abusive relationships learn there lessons and never fall back into them again? Yeah, right.
  20. How long does this disillusionment last? How deep do these roots go into my appearently non-existant soul? I am tired and frustrated and angry. I’ve caught myself starting fights in my old haunts and offering poorly vieled ire to believers who genuinely don’t deserve it. I see trusted debate partners tiptoing around me at the moment and one asked me if I am ejoying my flamethrower amidst a straw man army. I wouldn’t say I am directionless but I do not know where to go from here. I was playing the long game. Running the race, as it were, though I had awhile ago stopped running because I had lost confidence. But now I am just standing wondering, “What now?” What do I do now? What happens next? I don’t know where to go. I just find myself lamenting the path I’ve come.
  21. I used to think I understood science. Not long ago, I had a rude awakening. I was reading a story, a fan-fiction story, but whose auther is a real-world scientist. In the story, one character was teaching another about the scientific method and they conduct an experiment. The teacher develops several hypotheses and devises tests to distinguishes between them then sends his student out to collect the data they needed. After a couple hours the student returns and rushes to give his teacher the data but the teacher stops him and says that based on his hypothesis, he predicts the data should reflect a certain way. The student was confused and the teacher explained that anything can be “explained” but a good hypothesis can make predictions. And so after predicting the outcome the teacher said, “Now let’s see the data.” And then my brain was flooded with a montage of memories of these words spoken in an Australian accent “...interpret the evidence...” “With our Biblical glasses we can interpret the evidence...” “Athesits interpret the evidence...” “If you look at the evidence through God’s word...” “We all have the same facts. It’s just the lens through which we interpret the evidence. Are you going to trust God’s word or man’s?” Then a thought occurred to me, ‘If Biblical Creation is true, what would I predict the world to look like?’ And I realized, I don’t know science. Not well enough to actually apply it in my life. And I work in a scientific field! I was curious if anyone had any book recommendations for a recovering creationist. I am looking for something in practical applied science. Not really interested in pop-sci as I realize know that’s all I ever knew.
  22. Even when I was still devote, I cringed when I heard a preacher or believer cite the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy). While I told myself that it wasn't irreconcilable (it is but I hadn't come to terms with that yet) the analogy I gave to Christians who were incensed that I suggest we not use those books was like this. The Pentateuch is 'Nuclear War with Russia' level apologetics. Yes, you can probably condemn your opponent with those books, but if they are even mildly well-versed in scripture they can turn them back on you too. Mutually assured destruction. I don't know the etymology of the expression but I'd assume it's Biblical. Don't get me wrong, I've dealt with sheep and they are annoying stupid creatures. But the Bible uses the imagery of the sheep to such an extent that I don't see how it couldn't have permeated into the vernacular.
  23. Interestingly, I was always aware of the emotional manipulation. But then, ever since I started learning about communication, I learned that all communication is manipulation. So working on the tech side of the service, I knew when the key changes were coming or when bridge was about to pop in to change the active or tempo. We knew what chords evoked what emotions and what songs to play when. It was all mapped out ahead of time. Start with something high tempo and upbeat to get the congregation engaged for a couple songs, then key it down a tad for the next song to evoke solemness, then a much older and more "ancient" sounding song to get people into the ritual of communion etc. etc. If you came to me for the song list, I could show you what emotions you'd be feeling and when. Even if you actively resisted those emotions you'll still feel something (usually annoyance or anger at being actively manipulated). But especially in video editing, choice of the right song and the timing of it is beyond critical. I was once making a video for veteran's day for my church and it was my mother's idea to highlight all the service members in our church. So I decided to do it in order of all our wars from inception to present. My mother gathered everyone's military service pictures and I started it making it. Basically, I either had a background that clearly defined the era or a video background. By the way, it is very hard to find WWI and WWII camera footage of boring recon missions and non-combat situations. I chose "Freedom" by Micheal W. Smith (good song, btw) and when it got to my uncle's era of service I remembered him talking about his service aboard the USS Forrestal when they landed a C-130 on the flight-deck (first and last time it's even been done) so I found footage of that to use as the background while his service picture and other's of that era showed up in the foreground. But in a glorious coincidence of how the video lined up in the timeline, as the song "Freedom" was starting to do a building crescendo, the C-130 was coming in for a landing on the Forrestal's flight-deck and I gasped as the timeline was playing saying out loud, "...is it...? ...IS IT?!" And in the instant of the crescendo's climax, the C-130's wheels touched down and I was in tears of joy screaming loud enough for the neighbors to hear because it was beautiful beyond words! The video matched the music. My uncle who remembers that event asked me for a dozen copies after the fact to send it his Forrestal buddies the video left such an impact on him.
  24. A few years back, I was talking to a casual friend and during our conversation I commented that I have a "weird" family. She rolled her eyes and said that everybody has a weird family. I told her that I didn't think she understood what I was talking about and recounted a story from a few months prior where my aunt who lived in Illinois had a father-in-law who passed away but she wasn't going to be able to make it to the funeral in Missouri without help. So my family who lives in Indiana pulled out our 15-passenger van, gathered some other extended family and made a day of it. We traveled from Indiana to just across the Illinois state line to pick up my aunt and grandmother, then cut south for Missouri. It ended up being a 14-hour day. But by the time we were dropping off my aunt and grandmother, we were still laughing, smiling, telling jokes and enjoying each other's company. At no point in all those hours, cooped up in a 15-passenger van did anyone lose temper, throw accusations or get angry. And this was very normal for my family. My friend was shocked and replied that that is very weird. I have often wondered why my family got along so well when I so often heard stories of other people's nuclear families nearly jumping across tables at each other during even the most simple of gatherings. Like they couldn't keep their animus to themselves for just a few hours. And often friends commented they liked our family gatherings because they were so stress free. I took this as a matter of pride but the inquisitive part of my mind also tried to solve why this was. The "correct" answer I was often given is because we were a godly family and that faith in god came out in various blessings like having a family unit so cohesive that (with only one exception) even our in-laws sometimes take their family vacations with us. But this reasoning was never an adequate explanation for me. There were plenty of families in the church and the default norm for many of them was tense yet obligatory family gatherings where someone's unresolved anger at another was going to come out and sour everyone's turkey. Were we just better? Well, ok, I am not totally devoid of arrogance, I did privately feel we were better than most. ((I'm getting better about that, I promise.)) Even still, I had a mind that grasped statistics well enough to know that we shouldn't have been THAT much of an outlier. So I accepted the god's blessing explanation because it was the best, albeit imperfect, explanation I had. At least until I started losing god. Now, looking back at it, I think I actually do have a better model and explanation for this. It, ironically, IS a blessing of "god." Not that god willed it as there is no will driving it rather than our own, but rather, I think that in the population statistics of my family, we had another social factor at play. Hegemony. Even within Bible-Believing families, there are differing interpretations and schisms from one generation to the next. But ours was not so. It was almost as though we had reached this critical-mass of like-mindedness that the social pressures to believe differently were less desirable than conformity. But not in a punitive sense, rather, in a positively reinforced sense. Who wants to sulk outside of a genuinely fun party when there is literally no social pressure to do so and in fact people go out of their way to include you in their conversations and games? And I think we always had a sub-conscious and unspoken rule, uncomfortable truth stays at home. So how "weird" was your family?
  25. Yes. And I do not think having that conversation with her is wise. She's buried herself extremely deeply into the home-school, S-A-M and church culture and I know at this point that many of her responses will be canned responses. I guess the feeling of wrongness in me is the observation that the fiery independence I once knew her for has regressed. Not like she was beat down, do not misunderstand. But like, she choose a corner to put herself in. But again, I am extremely cautious to take this view as I cannot know her thoughts and I do not presume to think that I know what another person should do. What I do know is the sibling rivalry that we once had has long been settled. Her school was far more prestigious than mine, but I never stopped learning. She did.
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