24 Jun 2014

Why Cling to Faith?

2 Comments Doubt, Embracing Doubt

People of faith  often share an experience that is so rarely discussed among themselves that, at first glance, it seems as if it’s existence is completely covered up – this quiet secret is not rare in any way at all, however, and most people of faith know more about doubt than they are willing to admit in public or even in private to their peers. There has to be a reason for this hush surrounding the uncertainties that are likely to accompany faith and that often do – that reason is that with doubt comes consequences.

And so doubt is buried and ignored and handled with no real help at all.

The first moment in which a person has an inkling of doubt about something foundational to their understanding of reality and something they have up until this time known to be true is utterly terrifying. Most people, as they test these feared waters, find themselves bravely dipping their toes in and then quickly retreating as soon as they realize just how difficult this will inevitably become.  Faith is that thing we most fear questioning as the implications of being right vs. being wrong are eternal and severe.

“I’m going to start by questioning the goodness of god,”  or “I’m not sure who Jesus really was,”quickly turns into supplications made out of an overwhelming fear often generated by the simple thought of this intent toward questioning. Fear is faith’s built in survival mechanism, you threaten faith – even momentarily and even in the most seemingly miniscule way, and fear will overcome every crevice of your person. This is precisely why many never fully experience doubt – they try it out, become overwhelmed by fear, and retreat to the comfortable lie they’ve always known.

Those who fully embrace doubt do so at the expense of every comfort they’ve ever known.

The first time I started to approach my doubt I recall being absolutely terrified to the point that I trembled.  I would lay awake at night pouring with sweat as I prayed for forgiveness for my uncertainty, knowing – like Pascal – that the price of being wrong was heavy and eternal and yet at the same time fiercely angry at the god who would allow for such muddy waters where the truth about his will and existence were concerned. It’s easy to be a young man who knows only his faith and only the basics of even that – it’s much more difficult to have a library of religious knowledge at your feet and still view your own faith with the same objectivity that worked previously.

Unlike Pascal and nearly every young apologist I’ve ever encountered I understand something about belief that, upon first approach, is very difficult to swallow; you are not in charge of what you believe, you will believe what you are convinced is worthy of belief – but never anything that hasn’t met that criteria. You may study and learn and throw yourself into your faith – but if you, for whatever reason, later become unconvinced of the truth of that faith – not believing it’s tenets is entirely out of your control. Simply put:  You cannot believe what you do not believe.

That’s what makes doubt so dangerous, once it’s seed is planted it cannot be stopped – and once well rooted and growing it won’t be pulled out by any amount of force. Of course, there are counter measures one can make – all of which are, in my experience, temporary.  Most who experience doubt retreat quickly and then employ some sort of cognitive dissonance to explain away their experience – but as I said, these efforts are generally fleeting and as long as they may last the dormant root of doubt one day revives and lays the faithful to waste once again. I certainly experienced this a number of times throughout my life as a Christian. If I look back on it the times that I was most outwardly devout they are likely also the times I was most fiercely attempting to dissuade uncertainty. I think many people are the same way; their desperation leads to devotion – strained though it may be.

As surprising as it may seem to those unfamiliar with this territory, I’m not describing any unknown phenomena. There isn’t a pastor alive today with more than a few years experience that hasn’t been precisely where I’m describing, in fact, there are ministries set up just for pastors who are so burned out that they are in peril of losing sight of what it is that led them into the ministry in the first place. Doubt, despite it’s obvious existence in the day to day life in even the most average of Christians – is a topic spoken of like Voldemort in the Harry Potter series. “That which shall not be named,” largely due to an overwhelmingly and absolutely justified fear that a congregation that gets even the slightest whiff of doubt may oust their beloved clergyman altogether.  Uncertainty a dangerous thing to admit to when your financial well-being depends on a steadfast commitment to absurdity.

Clergy aren’t the only people with a vested interest in maintaining a faithful status quo. The average believer will have invested a good chunk of his or her life into building a social construct consisting mainly of people who won’t challenge their beliefs. Within this social construct exist friendships and families, churches and social clubs that watch out for one another; if there is anything that the religious are good at it’s being inclusive of those with homogeneous stances and beliefs on the issues deemed important by the bodies that make those decisions.  It should be noted that they are also incredibly good at being exclusive to those who fail to fall in line. It doesn’t take long for a convert into your average religion to notice what happens to those that begin to fall out of line, many of us grew up hearing the gossip about the backsliders in our churches and watching how those people slowly became appendages of little or no use – only to be cast away.

Not only does the average believer have an interest in maintaining membership in “The Social Club”, they also generally want to maintain the simplicity of faith.  It’s altogether easier to believe that every disastrous moment in the life of a person is a part of some divine plan, and to rely on whispered prayers in times of difficulty or crisis for comfort rather than facing this cold and unforgiving universe as it is. I don’t even have to mention the benefit of promised eternal heavenly reward (even if imagined) to make the ease of faith seem like an improvement over the harshness of a life without those small comforts.

The faithful cling to their faith in lieu of exploring the questions and uncertainties haunting the back of their minds for many reasons – most of them having to do with the sheer terror they face when attempting to approach those questions, the danger of losing their social or family structure as well as their membership in a believing majority, and the exclusion provided by those that remain – who exclude for fear that doubt may be infectious.

And it is.


Discussion points:

Are you a Christian or other person of faith clinging to your faith?

What keeps you from embracing the questions and critiques you have about your beliefs?

Are you a former believer who has experienced something similar to that which is described here?

What made you finally decide to begin allowing your questions to drive your thoughts? Where did they lead you?

20 May 2014

Defending God and Genocide

No Comments Atheism, Christianity, religion

I don’t spend the time on Facebook and Twitter making trouble (read: attempting to dialogue with Christians) that I once did . I do, on occasion, find reason enough to interject my opinions into discussions with believers and one such instance occurred rather recently.

Morality is a subject many Christians feel they have the upper hand over the atheist on, it would seem that having a single and all powerful moral lawgiver gives one the ability to diminish the moral grounds upon which others stand – especially those whom don’t claim to abide by the rules given them by a supreme being.

Below is a screenshot of a conversation I got involved with that turned into a morality debate – as I expected.  I often feel the need to discuss morality when it comes up because I’ve seen morality expressed in what I would call a more superior form thru atheists and Humanists than thru Christians since leaving the faith – not as an overlapping general statement about Christians, but as an observation about mature atheists and humanists. All communities, of course, contain within them examples of abhorrent behavior and so it is never my prerogative to hold those things against the members of their respective communities, unfortunately the same cannot always be said about my faithful counterparts.

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03 Apr 2014

World Vision, Gay Marriage, and the Death Throes of the Christian Religion

No Comments Christianity, Dear Church, LGBT

Note: This blog would have been posted much sooner than it was – unfortunately a series of unfortunate events have occurred around myself and some of my friends, including the sudden death of a dear friend. While it may be a week late for this to seem topical, I believe it very much is and the repercussions of the World Vision whiplash from two weeks ago will be an impact felt throughout the rest of Christian history. (and before you say it, I know, the accusations made here don’t apply to all Christians, so you needn’t comment letting me know that)

Just as I was about to begin writing about World Vision Ministries’, one of the few Christian ministries I quite like and appreciate in that they feed and clothe thousands of people around the world, decision to start employing married homosexuals, or rather – to reverse their decision which strictly disallowed the practice – a new article stating that the decision had already been reversed has come out - less than 24 hours after the original announcement. This decision, the subsequent commentary from many Christians after, and the near immediate reversal does, in my opinion – signify one of the many death throes of the Christian religion – and I’ll tell you why.

Forgive me for a moment while I put on my Christian hat for a little bit of old fashioned simple exegesis (Yes, I am still allowed to do that).

The Apostle James – the brother of Jesus and leader at the church in Jerusalem wrote an epistle to the Christians scattered throughout the various churches in Israel. It’s important to note that James was probably the one individual most intimately familiar with Jesus – he had grown up with him and was familiar with his eccentricities and knew what was important to the now dead resurrected and gone Messiah.  In that letter, the First Epistle of James, he closes with the following two lines:

 

1 James 26-27 (Emphasis Mine)

26If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain. 27Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

There’s an awful lot of important stuff in just these two little verses about expected conduct for a Christian and what is and isn’t acceptable in the eyes of his God.

First, he deals with those that seem religious, meaning that they have an outward appearance of religiosity – but because of the way they wag their tongues (read: speak toward others, as in – with unkindness, lasciviousness, and guile) have deceived themselves into the belief that they are righteous. I’m sure that sounds familiar to many, I’m sure you can name 10 people befitting this description just off the cuff. I can.

After, James addresses the definition of pure religion – we can almost interpret the word Pure here to mean holy, clean, or acceptable (to God)  – as visiting, the word episkeptomai is used here which can be translated as ‘to look after, check on, or care for’ – those that have no fathers or that are widowed – adding only keeping himself clean from the wiles of carnality and worldliness, making no mention whatsoever of his approach toward others either inside or outside the faith.

I think there’s something significant about the idea that James, brother of Jesus found it more necessary to admonish the members of The Church to keep themselves spotless – rather than encourage them to go out to their community or the world at large in an attempt to clean up the world. James is telling you to be concerned with your sin. He’s not telling you to debate about what is and isn’t sin, to point out the sin of others, or even to reject the sinful from amongst the congregation.

James was on to something here too. You see, James knew that keeping oneself spotless from the world was such an endeavor – such a feat – that doing so would require an enormity of focus on doing precisely that and that in that focus no believer would have time to find himself concerned with the sin of other people.  James was telling Christians to look inside rather than outside.

World Vision, for a very brief moment in time was saying, “We don’t have time to worry about the ‘sins’ of our brethren, we have a commission to fulfill” – but the outcry from that very simple and very Biblical sentiment was brutal.

World Vision thought better of it’s donors and supporters then quickly learned how far they had truly strayed from the path that James talks about - but over 2000 pulled their support from children sponsored through the charity. Lesson learned.

Christianity isn’t willing to feed people, clothe people, and simply love people if they have to do it while serving next to someone who is openly in a committed marital relationship with a person of the same sex.If this isn’t the case, it’s damn sure the statement being made.

Apparently there are some sinners you simply can’t associate with.

*Christian hat off*

As an outside observer I can’t help but wonder what this whiplash set of announcements is going to mean for World Vision and Christianity at large. World Vision is one of the largest Christian ministries in the world, so it’s largely representative of what Christians want their faith and their actions to reflect – it’s a bit of a litmus test for what direction the faith is going and – well, it ain’t lookin good if you ask me.

Gen X and Gen Y are full of young folks that are desperate for a faith with both an internal spirituality that was fulfilling and an external manifestation of what they envision as God’s love. The actions of many denominational bodies over the last couple of decades have certainly been trying to nail that coffin shut – but I almost feel like this might be the one that douses those final hopes for those that would make Christianity something that every humanist would love to stand next to and work hand in hand with toward some greater goal. If Gens X and Y can simply Do Good, finding within that the satisfaction they are seeking in spirituality they’ll grow out of a need for Christianity and a “relationship with Christ”  – because good deeds aren’t going to be tied to the faith or to World Vision any longer.  Stiff-neck religion is.

To repeat a sentiment I’ve shared here and elsewhere in the past:

Christianity won’t die because of atheists and homosexuals infiltrating and corrupting it’s core tenets. It won’t die because science finds all of the answers to the questions in which god currently fills in the gaps, or because kids aren’t praying in schools. Christianity, when it is gone, will have died at the hands of it’s adherents who refuse to emulate the name they proclaim so loudly – choking out the very thing that makes it a religion worth existing: Charity.

 

 

20 Mar 2014

Fred Phelps: In Memoriam

1 Comment LGBT, religion, Uncategorized
Fred Waldron Phelps, Sr. (November 13, 1929 – March 19, 2014)

Fred Waldron Phelps, Sr. (November 13, 1929 – March 19, 2014)

On March 19, 2014 Fred Phelps, founder of Westboro Baptist Church – owners of domains like godhatesfags.com, godhatesamerica.com, and godkillssoldiers.com and infamous for their protests at over 54,000 funerals of soldiers, gay activists, and child victims of massacres – died.

Phelps has long represented to me and many others just how dangerous unbridled religious fervor, manifested in hateful words on neon signs directed at societies outcasts, could be. His words hurt, and they infected people deep down – especially those sitting directly under his thundering voice, evidenced by his legacy in the continuation of Westboro.

Fred Phelps proved to us that words hurt; especially when sung loud enough, long enough, and with enough conviction behind them.

Phelps also proved that, when confronted with long and loud and convinced words of hate – it must be met by an equal or greater force. Fred showed us how to love the disenfranchised in ways that he couldn’t by forcing us to examine ourselves through his eyes and the eyes of his god.

I think Fred Phelps and his church and his family, for the fact that they have shown us how ugly we can be and in turn drive our desire to be better, are an invaluable part of the last two decades – despite the pain they’ve caused, the words they’ve used, and the passion with which their angered hatred burns.

Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church haven’t been successful in spreading their message. They’ve been successful in ensuring that it’s the most hated message in the country – they’ve been able to bring people together from all walks of life to shout louder, longer, and with deeper conviction a better message in opposition to that of Westboro:  Love.

That’s the real legacy of Fred Phelps – he’s unified a great portion of the country against his message, and the results of that unity have been beautiful.

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I’m not sure that the LGBT community would have the support it does without Phelps and Westboro. That’s a legacy Phelps may not have been proud of, but it is his – and I’m thankful for his life because of it.

In closing, I’m not going to give you platitudes about how you should react to Phelps death. I will remind you that, as the old saying goes, “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” and that perhaps during the Phelp’s families time of grief the rest of us ought to show the grace they haven’t.

13 Mar 2014

Choosing Hell

7 Comments Atheism, Christianity, Dear Church, Doubt, Embracing Doubt, religion

Choosing Hell: Leaving faith against your will

 

Any atheist who has spent any time talking with or debating with theists is going to have heard it at least a dozen times, “You have just chosen not to believe” or “You’ve chosen one faith over another faith” or some derivative of this idea. Personally, I’ve heard it hundreds of times – largely because of my status as an apostate.

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28 Feb 2014

Georgia’s Preservation of Religious Freedom Act and the Right to Discriminate

No Comments Christianity, Civil Rights, LGBT, Politics, religion

By now many of you have heard about Arizona S.B. 1062, which essentially grants any business or individual the right to deny services to any person based solely on their religious convictions (This bill was vetoed by AZ governor Jan Brewer just before publishing this article). In lock step with Arizona the poor marginalized Christians of the Georgia House and Senate have found it necessary to propose their own bill – Georgia H. B. 1023 – dubbed ” Georgia’s Preservation of Religious Freedom Act” – aptly titled considering the long list of religious freedoms being threatened and/or taken away from people of faith currently. For reference I’ve compiled a comprehensive list below:

 

Oppressed Religious Freedoms

A comprehensive list of all the freedoms Christians and other people of faith are currently losing, lost, or at risk of losing.

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20 Dec 2013

Much Ado About Ducks, the Church,…and Anuses?

4 Comments Christianity, Civil Rights, Dear Church, LGBT

Phil Robertson from A&E's Duck Dynasty

As usual I’ll be late to the party in my writing about Phil Robertson’s recent interview with GQ, in which he discussed homosexuality and race in not so PC terms, and his subsequent suspension from A&E show Duck Dynasty.

 

If you live under some sort of rock or don’t have any social network accounts whatsoever and you don’t know what Phil said I’ll give you a refresher:

 

Regarding Homosexuality:

 

It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. That’s just me. I’m just thinking: There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. I mean, come on, dudes! You know what I’m saying? But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.”

 

and

Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men,” he says. Then he paraphrases Corinthians: “Don’t be deceived. Neither the adulterers, the idolaters, the male prostitutes, the homosexual offenders, the greedy, the drunkards, the slanderers, the swindlers—they won’t inherit the kingdom of God. Don’t deceive yourself. It’s not right.”

And regarding African-Americans prior to Civil Rights:

 

I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field…. They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”

To me the offensiveness behind these comments is fairly obvious. I mean – Phil is making arguments that many of us in the South hear rather frequently from homoantagonists (a word I’m using for people that I don’t believe are fearful of homosexuals or homosexuality, but antagonize them just the same. Morgan Freeman once tweeted something to the effect of “You aren’t a homophobe, you are just an asshole” and I think homoantagonist is a word that covers that.) regarding the perceived slippery slope that is homosexuality. I have to wonder how many homosexuals Phil Robertson knows, and furthermore how many he knows that also have sex with dogs, cats, and sheep. A local Christian blogger has a take on this I really thought was insightful – over at Square Watermelons.
I don’t know that I even need to touch on his comments regarding “blacks”…to me its even worse and its pretty embarrassing as a Southerner.
Robertson’s defenders were quick to rush to Facebook and other social media outlets to praise him as “Standing up for the Bible and Christianity”  or to claim that he was being persecuted because he was expressing his freedom of speech. Now, I’m no expert on Constitutional Law…but the last time I checked – while the Constitution does indeed guarantee the right to free speech it does NOT guarantee the right to a multi-year reality TV contract. I think we call what A&E did to Phil Robertson “business”, not persecution.

I still haven’t fully figured out why the persecution complex amongst Christians is so serious, especially this day and age – and especially over the right to say things that can be absolutely devastating to people – and this is where I get into the meat of this post.

 

Grasp, for a moment, what people are defending here:

 

A straight white male is claiming that homosexuality is illogical because vaginas look better to him and then he is claiming that homosexuality inevitably leads to bestiality because…just…because.  Oh, then he tops it off by telling homosexuals plus a bunch of other sinners they won’t make it to heaven because of something Paul said.

Dear Church,

Put yourself in the position, Dear Church, as I’ve asked you to do before – of the LGBT community – especially here in the South – and as I appeal to you I’m going to put on my Christian hat do to so:

 

LGBT people are often alone in their communities with few people who understand their daily struggles and who care deeply about what they go through or have been through since they recognized that they were “different” than everyone else. They’ve asked god to take this away from them, to purge from them what they don’t know how to control.   Imagine sitting in the church Youth Group as a young pastor talks about how the inclinations you feel toward the same sex are disgusting and immoral and vile leading  you to believe that you are evil and hell-bound…and nothing you do, nothing you say, no prayer you recite can change the way you feel. This doesn’t just go on for a week or a day – this goes on for a lifetime for many.  Try to stand in that place. Try to be that broken, hurting person. Empathize.

Then answer these questions:

 

Do the words of Phil Robertson and your defense of them exhibit love to that person?

 

Do the words of Phil Robertson and your defense of them exhibit grace to that person?

 

or

 

Do the words of Phil Robertson and your defense of them further alienate that person?

 

Do the words of Phil Robertson and your defense of them feel like hate to that person?

 

 

Answering these questions should lead you to a fairly simple conclusion, a revelation maybe:

That the common Christian response to this whole thing hasn’t been at all what it should, and that rather than crying “Persecution!” every time people disagree with your opinion on something that doesn’t concern you in the least you should attempt to understand why it is that people don’t agree with your opinion. Maybe, just maybe – these words cut deeply. Maybe what you believe about homosexuality doesn’t matter and exposing the world to your  malformed and hurtful opinion is doing more harm than good.

 

Most importantly, what you should be recognizing is that what the Phil camp is so upset about is the wrong thing entirely – they should be upset that this stanchion of Christianity led such a terrible example of how to be a loving person in word and deed. The critique from the Church should be directed at Phil, not A&E and not the LGBT community – they should be examining their own as they are instructed to do in the Bible – they should be telling Phil that  when he speaks in disgust he can’t possibly speak in love too because you can’t love someone who’s life and deeds you are examining closely enough to be disgusted by.

 

Phil Robertson’s mistake isn’t having his convictions, it’s thinking that they are more important than loving people exactly where they are.

 

Taking up the cross on the “gay issue” is almost like the Church’s soup du jour for believers that don’t want to live it the rest of the time. They’ll flail their arms around anytime a deeply offensive opinion gets someone in trouble like the rest of us are supposed to believe like they love Jesus every other day of the week.  I think most of us know better by now. You can stop pretending to love Jesus when homosexuality comes up, when the atheists are taking Christ out of Christmas (where you never put him in the first place), and when “Freedom of Speech” is threatened because Jesus – from the Gospels I’ve read, had bigger fish to fry – and he wasn’t into religions of convenience…assuming he did exist of course.

 

In the end of all this I just want my Christian friends to not say hateful things that hurt my gay friends. I hate seeing them hurt. I feel like they’ve hurt enough and it drives me insane that somehow it’s still OK to stomp all over their emotions because of the perception that someone tried to silence an unpopular opinion. If your words are potentially harmful to someone – stop talking. Censor yourself because you want to be a beacon of love, then no one will need to do it for you when you ruin their platform.

 

 

 

17 Oct 2013

Gut Check for the New Atheist Jerks

5 Comments Atheism, Christianity, Civil Rights, Politics, religion

Note: In this post you’ll notice that I lump various groups into a single group. I call atheists, skeptics, agnostics, and etc all Humanists – largely based on the assumption that most of us are. If you don’t identify as a humanist please don’t take offense to this post or that categorization, it was done for the sake of simplifying the language of the post and for the sake of brevity. For the sake of clarity I am providing a link to the Humanists Manifesto II.

- – -

New atheists, we non-believers who dare to speak out against the evils we perceive inherent to religion, are consistently victims of a great number of stereotypes.  “Atheist jerks” or “angry atheists” are pretty common perceptions among those who maintain a faith system, but now it seems that those within our congregation might be growing weary of the people that cause these brash stereotypes to befall  the rest of us.

Don Rasmussen recently implored his fellow atheists to “stop being jerks” and identifies a number of things that he believes atheists should stop doing in order to improve our public image. Most of the things he alludes to — suing to keep manger scenes off of public property, suing to keep religious displays out of schools, etc. — really aren’t so ‘jerky,’ as they are intended to enforce the establishment clause of the Constitution, but that doesn’t mean that Mr. Rasmussen doesn’t make some very good points.

He says,

How can I ask 27 million Texans to put up with me if I act like they not only disgust me, but I’m entitled to legislate my disgust upon them?  How many nativity scenes have to be banned before Christians accept me? It’s a ridiculous strategy that makes enemies, divides people and carves up freedom; throwing away the parts that aren’t easily digestible.

In small part here, I think Mr. Rasmussen is dead on but please allow me to correct bits of it:

I don’t believe that lawsuits over manger scenes curtail freedom at all, people are allowed to put manger scenes on their private property all day long and I’d never even suggest that lawsuit is appropriate – it’s the fact that we all pay for the public lands and grounds that makes it reasonable to protect them from religious display.

Where Rasmussen is correct though is that it DOES divide people, and it DOES make enemies.  Atheists today don’t need more enemies and our country doesn’t need more division.

I’d like to pose an alternative to the American Atheists model of throwing lawsuits at every cross they find – here’s a screen cap from something I posted on my Facebook page in June of 2012:

American Atheists

This model doesn’t focus on being in the right, it focuses on being good and doing good.

I’m going to call this model the “Do it better” model. You see, atheists and agnostics don’t have a deity telling them what to do – we don’t have a James 1:27 telling us to care for widows and orphans like Christians, and unlike Muslims, we don’t have the zakat requiring that a percentage of our income go into helping the poor. What we do have, what all humanists have,  is a shared existence on this planet with theists. That shared existence leads me to a humanists  philosophy that requires as much social endeavor toward goodness as any other philosophy might but for some reason this endeavor hasn’t manifested itself in these cost efficient, good ways of helping real people.

I propose that we atheists of the world put our humanism into practice first before we concern ourselves with litigation and division. I propose that we solve what the combined efforts of Christianity and Islam have failed to do for the last couple of millennia  by focusing the bulk of our efforts on the truly important things: ensuring that the people in our world can eat, protecting the weak from abuse, and ensuring that liberty is extended to all people. I’d like to do these things better than those with a mandate to do so. I believe that this sort of action would not only repair the damage done to the atheist/humanist/skeptic/agnostic communities by fundamentalist religion thru the hate and propaganda we’ve earned by spending our time on less pertinent actions – it will also endear us in the hearts and minds of those we’ve taken the time to do good for. When we’ve become what people expect from big religion we won’t have to worry about fighting legal battles anymore because people will respect us enough not to push those buttons.

One of the giant 1.1 Million dollar crosses that have been built across the country by Cross Ministries

One of the giant 1.1 Million dollar crosses that have been built across the country by Cross Ministries

The way to transition from the most hated minority in the USA isn’t to call the ACLU every time someone wastes money and effort on a public religious display or spends millions of dollars erecting giant crosses throughout the country – it’s to do what they should be doing with their time, effort, and money: fulfilling the duties they are currently too distracted to worry with.

Let’s face it, they have more money and power than us – but I believe we have the compassion required to do this right around the world.  Let them spend 1.1 million dollars on a giant white cross in the American South (because we don’t have enough crosses around here) while we spend our efforts on food banks in our local communities and finding other ways to help real people with real problems. Without the distraction and threat of Hell we can focus on real problems.

Now, let me be clear for just a moment – I don’t believe that all Christians and all Muslims do nothing for other people. I don’t believe that at all. I know that the majority of the charity in the world comes from people that are either Christian or Muslim, of course – one would expect that considering they consume the majority of the population. Consider, however, that so much of the charitable giving that Christians do goes directly to their churches and then directly into overhead – like pastor salaries, staff salaries, building mortgages, taxes, and evangelism that simply isn’t focused on helping people in “non spiritual” ways. So little of the donations churches receive actually goes into feeding the hungry that it’s an absolute travesty – I suspect that if most Christians were more aware of the expenditures of their church they’d actually pull out (and you do, by the way, have the right to view the financial records of any church you are a member of – it’s the law). These “charitable” businesses simply aren’t efficient at helping people, even if well meaning members and donors believe they are!

Humanists, atheists, agnostics – the whole lot of us should rethink how we do things. I think I’ve given a brief argument for the way I think we can do good and make our name good:

We can do what they should be doing better than they are. It’s really that simple and it starts with me.


14 Oct 2013

On Being Nothing: Strong Belief, Strong Doubt, and the Skeptics Role

4 Comments Atheism, Christianity, Doubt, Embracing Doubt

Strong Faith, Strong Doubt

 

Authors note:  This post will use a lot of Christian catch phrases and paraphrase a lot of Bible verses, so if I use the term “soul” I’m not stating that I believe in a soul, I’m putting myself in the position of a person who does and who uses their scriptures to justify the idea of one. The same goes for terms like holiness, luke-warm, or any other typical Christian colloquialism that may be used in those particular circles – as I’d have used while I was still in those circles. Please also note that I’m not attempting to address any specific theology, but the potential aftermath of any personal theology. This is not a counter-apologetic critique of any belief system and this can be applied equally to Christianity, Islam, Judaism, et al.

 

God created the world out of nothing; so as long as we are nothing, he can make something out of us. ~Martin Luther

One of the foundational aspects of my former faith was the futility of my efforts toward being, doing, or realizing goodness.  The most important lesson my faith had to teach me, the thing that brought me to obedience and surrender to Christ was acknowledging that I am ultimately nothing.

Worthless, degenerate, corrupt: these are the terms that identify the Christian disciple before his god as he strives to meet his creator in the terms set by that creator.

The nominal Christian will never grasp this idea, he’ll reject it in lieu of scripture that affirms his importance in the eyes of god or that talks about how the hairs of his head are accounted for. The nominal Christian leads an easy, luke-warm life of faith where he actually feels worthy. The disciple, however,  is convinced only of the opposite. The average Christian life and the life of the few who believe Luke 14:33 and attempt to live by it are miles apart.

The latter was my faith, the scars from which I still struggle against as they sometimes feel freshly carved.

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30 Aug 2013

Book Review: Zealot by Reza Aslan

No Comments Book Reviews, Christianity, religion

zealot

Reza Aslan has been burning up social media with his hilarious Fox News interview, which has helped his new book Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth skyrocket to the top of the New York Times bestsellers list. In his interview his interest, as a Muslim, in Jesus of Nazareth is questioned as opposed to his scholarly standing – it is truly worth a watch. The interviewer even quotes William Lane Craig, calling him a Philosopher.

As a lifelong “lay scholar” if you will with some familiarity with the scholarship behind Jesus of Nazareth and his historicity I was immediately interested in this book, and so shortly after seeing the interview I had to order it.

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