Is Christianity Dying?

Is Christianity Dying?

Is Christianity Dying? – Russell D Moore asks rhetorically in an article sent to me by a friend who serves in the ministry, wanting my commentary or insight as Dr. Moore explores the results of the latest Pew Religious Landscape study and what those results mean for the Christian church.

Dr. Moore and others would have you believe that a 6.8% increase in people who don’t identify with any religious group and a combined decrease of people claiming affiliation with Christianity, between mainline and evangelical Protestants plus their Catholic counterparts, of 7.4% is largely due to atheism being in vogue enough for the people that have long sat in the pews without actually maintaining religious belief has given them license to speak up about their lack of faith…as if answering an anonymous poll is risque.

Read more

broken-self

Unbreaking the Broken Self (pt 1)

 

On my way home to work last night I was listening to fellow Southern apostate Neil Carter’s guest appearance on The Humanist Hour and I heard him talk about  being less judgmental toward other people since leaving the faith and diving into humanism and atheism.  After that he talked about being less judgmental toward himself, something many who have never been Christians will actually understand – because they’ll lack the context for understanding it. Most atheist activists understand how Christianity and religion in general harm those outside it’s walls – but because so few have a perspective on Christian philosophy  as devoted insiders they’ll struggle to understand how it’s doctrines lead to a broken self.

 

How the children of Christianity become broken.

I was six years old when I first learned to hate something about myself.

At six years old I had already attended three separate churches, exposing me to different types of preaching, but the one I had attended the longest at the time was a fairly small Pentecostal church in the town of Chester, Georgia. It’s the church where I was “saved” – which meant that someone had convinced me that I was a sinner and that I needed to believe in Jesus in order to be saved from the punishment I so rightly deserved.

This doctrine of depravity, which teaches that all human beings are born into sin as a result of the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden, permeates all major denominations of Christianity in one form or another. It is a foundational and cardinal doctrine of the Christian faith as a prerequisite need for the sacrifice of Jesus as an atonement for mankind’s sins.

Jesus had to die because of me.

Believing that I, singularly or as a part of the human collective, was responsible for Jesus death on the cross was a heavy burden as I understood it. It was something I received with sincere pangs of long enduring guilt and my young mind didn’t know how to turn that guilt into a simple understanding of the Gospel message – it had to be, and demands to be a Gospel that destroys the self.

A Broken Self Image

As a child that grew up in an unrelenting culture of fear based preaching and sermons focused on how depraved humanity inherently was I was never able to find much self worth at a young age. All of my value was stored up in Heaven and in the refuge of Jesus’ love for me as displayed by his death, for me. Those of us who grow up believing in this way have a difficult time seeing past our own flaws to find a decent human being – every sin is picked apart and over analyzed, we beat ourselves up over every aspect of our lives that doesn’t align with what we believe – and because what we believe as our goal is so incredibly in-acheivable there’s an awful lot of self deprecation that happens.

By the time I was 13 I had no recognizable self-esteem.

All I knew how to do at such a young age was hate the things that characterized normal and natural adolescence. It was my belief that those things separated me from God and separation from God was separation from the only consistent and worthy part of my life. There’s nothing healthy and nothing good about growing up with those ideas in your head, for those lucky enough to escape that sort of religion; I envy you.

Proof-texting our inadequacy

Growing up fundamentalist meant that finding the answers to practically any question began and ended with a piece of scripture. It was an ignorant belief, sure – but one held dear and practiced on a nearly daily basis for me – and I was not only able to remember how the pastors, past abusers (which is a different story for a different time), and other adults had drilled into me the fact that I was a sinner – I was able to “prove” it against the Biblical standard of truth.

Romans 3:23 told us that each and every individual was a sinner that had fallen short of God’s glory.

Psalms 51:5 tells us that we are born in sin.

Mark 7:21 tells us that men’s hearts are full of evil thoughts and even murder.

Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that our hearts are deceitful and sick.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 tells us that there are no righteous men on all of the earth, there are none who live without sinning.

Titus 1: 15-16 tells us that those professing to know god often deny him in their disobedience. That purity is witness only to pure acts.

Galatians 5:21 says that if we do as the flesh desires (sin) we will not inherit God’s kingdom.  Verse 24 says that we must crucify our flesh in order to belong to Christ.

If you believe the words in this book to be true then it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that you are born as filthy rags that must be washed clean – and that you must continually fight against all the evil desires you hold.

It’s no wonder the people who leave this faith often struggle with feelings of inadequacy for years after the fact, suffer nightmares of Hell, and find it difficult to adjust to the idea that – in fact, they aren’t quite as bad as they’ve been conditioned to believe.


 

 

In my next post I’m going to talk about overcoming the psychological effects of the broken self, how I’ve managed to feel whole again after leaving the Christian faith and the doctrine of depravity – and why I believe society could improve wholly by rejecting this idea outright.  Please, share this post on social media if you’ve found something of value in it.

 

Source: http://all-len-all.com/duck-dynasty-star-let-everyone-at-cpac-know-stds-are-the-revenge-of-the-hippies-video/

The Phil Robertson Rape Fantasy

Phil Robertson, patriarch of the Robertson clan of Duck Dynasty fame, is a diamond of the neoconservative right wing’s eye; he’s independently wealthy, loves to shoot guns, and believes that America is a Christian nation – and if you don’t like that you should get the hell out. Recently, when Phil Robertson was speaking at the Vero beach Prayer Breakfast, he shared – in Pentecostal pulpit style – what I’m calling the Phil Robertson Rape Fantasy, complete with murder and a beheading.

I’m going to attempt to break down Robertson’s insanity into chunks  and analyze what I think he’s really trying to say – right after I share this disturbing audio.

Note: This is disturbing stuff, not for the faint of heart or easily offended. Don’t listen if you don’t want to hear about murder, rape, and decapitation spoken in one of the most hateful tones possible.

Read more

Is Christianity Dying?

Why this generation is really leaving Christianity

Christians on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have been sharing a deluge of recent articles from “hip pastors” about how young people are leaving the church and leaving Christianity. Each of these articles posit a number of reasons why they think this diaspora is occurring, and I’m sure there’s a nugget of truth in each of them – but the one thing I’ve noticed among the articles I’ve read is that they lack any real experience in the matter, and none of them seem to be asking the people who are leaving Christianity why it is that they are doing so.

I’m a real life apostate who left the church and eventually the faith and some might say I know more about why people actually do leave as opposed to some pastor who’s trying to sell a book, but no one is knocking on my door to ask me or any of my apostate cohorts – and nearly every time I try to inject some experience into the conversation these believers are having about us I’m met with negative remarks and accusations about the likelihood that I’m possibly attempting to quell some hidden belief in god with a rage against him.

So, I’ll do what others on the inside have failed to do – I’ll give the outsiders view of why we are becoming outsiders of the church and Christianity, I’ll try to give my own reasons for leaving the church and leaving the faith (two separate things), and I’ll try to do my best not to pigeonhole those that have left by assuming the reasons I’m listing here are theirs – but I’m hoping I’m going to be in the ball park for a lot of you based on my own experiences and my interactions with the ex-christian community.

Read more

Bruno

The Three Great Dangers of Religion

I’m the type of person that can sit across the table from a person of any religious background, no matter how fundamentalist they may be, and find a common humanity to build a relationship from – that’s a personal trait I’ve worked hard to hone and that I’m actually quite proud of. Often in doing so I’m asked the question, “so what if it’s not true, what’s the harm in believing?” While the answer to this question can’t be summarily truncated into a single list, I thought it might be a good idea to present the 3 greatest dangers of religion in the more generic sense for the purpose of quick reference and in a way that can be applied to most situations and conversations – so that if you are asked this question in your conversations with the religious you’ll have something to refer back to.  These three examples of the dangers of religion aren’t examples of fundamentalism in and of themselves – but they are fundamental tenets of every major religion alive in the world today, and so they are a constant part of the way the world is viewed by the religious.

1. Religion teaches us to be satisfied with easy answers

How often have you been told that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” in your life?

Giordano Bruno

Giordano Bruno – Burned at the stake by the Catholic Church for proposing a heliocentric model of the universe and claiming that stars were actually distant “suns” in 1600 .

Giordano Bruno – Burned at the stake by the Catholic Church for proposing a heliocentric model of the universe and claiming that stars were actually distant “suns” in 1600 – Source

 

This principle is fairly common among most of the major religions in the world in that they all, generally, require us to have faith rather than to seek out evidence for that which we believe.  This is dangerous to humanity on a number of levels, in the largest part because it generates a complacency for our curiosity and our yearning to know more.  The religious often confuse their faith with knowledge and believe that their faith satisfies the human need for real understanding of the world and universe around us – but without curious minds, unhindered by this complacency, asking the questions of “what, when, where, and why” modern science wouldn’t exist as we know it today and we’d still be plagued by diseases that have long been cured, we’d still believe that Earth was the center of The Universe, and we’d have never made it to the Moon.

While some of the most brilliant scientific minds of the last 500 years may have indeed been people with faith, they didn’t allow their faith to keep them from asking uncomfortable questions – and letting the answers speak for themselves when the answers were contrary to their faith. They were, ultimately, not satisfied with easy answers.

2. Religion teaches us that we are evil

The fulcrum of nearly every religion that has survived to this day has been that humanity is irrevocably flawed (evil, fallen, or

Albrecht Durer's Fall of Man

Fall of Man by Albrecht Durer, Engraving 1504. Shared among a number of ancient mythologies, man fell after eating a forbidden fruit – the female is depicted giving the fruit to the male figure. This has long solidified the woman’s place in religion as the lesser.

sinful ) and that religion X, Y, or Z has the cure.

A modern equivalent to this is having a vacuum cleaner salesman come to your door, show you how dirty your carpet is, and then explain to you how their vacuum (and only their vacuum) can clean it properly with a demonstration of it’s amazing sucking power!  Had you never met this salesman you would have kept using your old vacuum cleaner, never knowing that it was inadequate or that your carpet was a breeding ground for dust mites – and so you would have been happy, but ignorant.  While this technique of identifying a problem you didn’t know you had and selling you the solution works great for vacuums and other demonstrable devices – it’s absolutely terrible for religion, wherein there are no adequate demonstrations as to the veracity of the claims being made.

The sales aspect aside, how terrible is it that we allow men from stages to tell us that we are vile creatures – destined for one form of punishment or another if we don’t abide by a given set of principles? What terror could this perform on our individual and collective psyche as we, generation after generation, continue to believe that we have something wrong with us that needs to be fixed by god?

“If all this isn’t true, what harm is there?” – well, you should be overjoyed if it isn’t true and you aren’t the scum of the Earth!

3. Religion promises us eternity

Scarcity increases value – we all remember that from our high school economics class right? If you don’t, it’s one of the driving factors behind capitalism and it’s the basic premise that the less of something you have the more valuable that something is. Markets  and commodity prices are driven on the premise of scarcity and demand.

The one thing we all know is that we have a limited number of is days to live, however, nearly every religion in the world promises some extension of life into eternity.  When life is no longer 70-100 years long and is instead infinity long days are no longer scarce – this translates into a lack of value for your own life, the lives of others, and the future of the planet.

Those convinced that they are going to live for eternity or that a great apocalypse is soon to come are far less likely to believe that it’s important to preserve the planet, seek out cures for disease, or spend their limited time on earth doing good for people that don’t believe like they do – instead, they’ll spend their time trying to convince others that they must believe like they do, or else.

 

The Dangers of Religion – Fundamentalism

When we take these three things and combine them into a single person – a person who believes he’s been given all the answers to life’s difficult questions , who believes that although he may be a sinner he’s been saved and sanctified – maybe even chosen by god, and who believes that he’s been promised eternity in exchange for a life devoted to his religion’s message – we get a person who is more than likely to be detached from reality.  The mere existence of religion and the fact that these fundamental elements are necessary in order for religion to exist and to spread make fundamentalism a trait that is frighteningly common in our modern world.

While many good, reasonable, intelligent, and loving Christians and Muslims may exist who are moderates in our society, and while they may even be in the majority of their respective faiths – their respect of these basic fundamentals gives credence to them, which paves the way for more dangerous and more viral forms.

A better society, a truly secular society, must be compelled by evidence to believe, must embrace it’s goodness, and must act today to save tomorrow.

The dangers of religion are many and I’ve only scratched the surface here – what would you say are the most poignant dangers of religion as you’ve experienced them?

White-Privilege-AMEX

Recognizing my White Privilege

White Privilege – many deny it’s existence, unaware that the leg up they’ve received in their own lives simply because they’ve been born with the right skintone – yet in the wake of Mike Brown’s death in Ferguson, 12 year old Tamir Rice’s murder in Cleveland, and Eric Garner’s murder at the hands of police in New York many other whites are still having a hard time recognizing their own white privilege.

While I personally posses a trifecta of privilege – being straight, white, and male – I cannot deny that white privilege has probably been the most beneficial to me throughout my life, and most detrimental to my black counterparts throughout theirs.

Defining White Privilege

“Experts define White privilege as a combination of exclusive standards and opinions that are supported by Whites in a way that continually reinforces social distance between groups on the basis of power, access, advantage, majority status, control, choice, autonomy, authority, possessions, wealth, opportunity, materialistic acquisition, connection, access, preferential treatment, entitlement, and social standing (Hays & Chang, 2003; Manning & Baruth, 2009).”

Vang, C. T. (2010), An educational psychology of methods in multicultural education, New York: Peter Lang, pp. 36 and 37, ISBN 978-1-4331-0790-0

 

 

Read more

Why I’m an Atheist Activist in the Deep South

The Historic Train Depot in Eastman Georgia Copyright jOgdenC 2014 on Flickr

The Historic Train Depot in Eastman Georgia Copyright jOgdenC 2014

 

There are a couple things everyone assumes about the people they meet here in the town of Eastman, Georgia; you probably vote Republican, and you probably self identify as a Christian; whether or not there is any evidence of that identification in your life. Eastman is your typical small town in the deep South, complete with a history of dirty politicsa long one, a ratio of people to churches that makes Vatican City look secular, and a general fear of progressive values which keeps our economy lagging behind larger cities (Like Blue laws which prevent bars and fine dining establishments from opening).

These things aside, I actually like my town – it’s generally quiet and I feel safe here. I like most of the people here and I have a growing business that I’m proud of with a client base ranging from the most affluent individuals and businesses to those individuals you would consider the most in need. I’m well known, both as a business owner and as an outspoken atheist activist that stands up for what he believes in – and despite the latter, I gather that I’m actually fairly well liked. Most of the people here are nice, and even in the things we disagree about they are well meaning in their endeavors and beliefs and most people here aren’t your stereotypical mouth breathing “rednecks” who can’t put together a coherent sentence to save their life. We have incredible teachers in our schools who are dedicated and who break their necks to educate with the resources they have who I believe lend to the “Yankee’s” surprise when they hear us use complex language and ideas.

Regardless of what I believe I’ve always found myself at odds, in some ways, with my community.  Some of my rebellious nature has waned as I’ve aged and matured, but I’ve always felt a need to stand as a representative for some form of social justice and of rightness in the ways that I can – even if those ways were misguided in the past, I’ve never been afraid to say unpopular things in sometimes unpopular ways, though I believe I’ve progressed in the way I present myself over the years and honed my approach toward my community, which has helped me build more good relationships than bad ones.

The question still remains –  why, would I ever become such an outspoken atheist activist in the Deep South knowing full well that it might prevent me from ever finding another job, expanding my business, or becoming any more than a social pariah? Why would I take such a risk.

Read more

Grief and the loss of your faith

Moving Mountains

A poem written while reflecting on the loss of faith and the beginnings of my own personal grief.

This particular post is being written with the ex-christian and ex-believer who has embraced atheism or agnosticism in lieu of their former faith. This is done because this is where my best experience lies, however – for those that leave their faith for another many of these same words will ring true, and so I hope you will still read and take from it what you can – and share with me your own experiences if you are so willing.  I don’t write in this way to alienate anyone and I hope my words don’t do so – my goal is to provide those experiencing these emotions with some feeling of normalcy over what is happening and an understanding that they are not alone.
 
 

A couple days ago Neil Carter over at Patheos’ Godless in Dixie (Which is currently my favorite atheist blog btw) was gracious enough to use one of my posts from 2011 as a guest post on his very popular blog. That post, entitled “It Get’s Better: A Letter to Doubters” has made the round a number of times since I originally published it 4 years ago now and I’ve always felt like I’ve needed to follow up on it in some fashion, if you haven’t read it – I recommend you do. The emails and comments I’ve received since it’s appearance on Godless in Dixie have confirmed that need more than ever – and so today I want to discuss the process of grief and the loss of your faith.

The Death of Faith

Traditionally grief is a process that occurs after the death of a loved one and for many in the ex-christian and ex-believer communities the loss of their faith is very similar to the death of a loved one. I personally believe that just how death-like this process might be depends on how sincere and life consuming one’s faith has been – but even the nominal believer will experience the symptoms of loss when recognizing that he or she no longer holds the same beliefs that once rang true.  In other words – the devotion you have to your god or faith will be directly proportional to the pain you will feel as that faith dies.

This faith death is often spurred by a series of realizations, often the embracing of doubts that have long been quieted by the desire to leave well enough alone. Whether it be a recognition that  your particular holy book doesn’t meet the criteria for evidence and truth that you once thought it did, or  the epiphany that your own cognitive biases have held you in a belief system that new information simply can no longer reconcile. Whatever the reason and however abruptly or agonizingly long this death takes to occur the end result will seem very confusing and difficult to explain – most people say that they feel alone in the world and, despite a sense of data overload that accompanies all the new information coming to you about the faith you no longer hold, a sense of quietness that seems unlike any other that you may have experienced before.

Read more

Debating God In The Bible Belt

Some months ago I was contacted via email by the organizers of the God or No God Debate and issued a challenge to debate the topic of God in the town of Waycross, GA – about 2 hours from my home town. Public forum debate is not a common occurrence around here, this is the buckle of the Bible Belt and that most people believe in God is a foregone conclusion – in fact, the most common question I got for years after coming out as an atheist in my town was whether or not I worshiped Satan (we don’t, by the way).

To say this invitation/challenge came as a surprise was an understatement, but if anyone knows me you know that I’m always up for a discussion or a debate – and so I immediately said yes, and we began settling on a time and a topic.

On Wednesday, September 17th my wife and I traveled to Waycross to meet the organizers at the middle school’s auditorium (It’s a very nice auditorium for plays and school events) and Pastor Rip Snow to debate the topic we decided earlier:  God or No God: Which Explains Reality?

There was a fairly standard format of two 15 minute opening statements, two 10 minute counters, a 15 minute cross-examination period, and two 10 minute closing statements followed by 35 minutes of audience Q & A, all of which is available below. (A few parts had to be removed from the Q & A due to one disruptive participant.)

(Please note:  The audio and video gets better at the 10 minute mark, my apologies)

I’ll probably post my own critique later, both of my own arguments and presentation – and a further critique of things I didn’t have time to deal with of Rip’s arguments. For now, I submit this for your approval, commentary, and for you to critique as much as you like – so long as you do so with as much respect as possible.

The Day I Gave Up My Hindu Faith

Krishna

Today we have another episode of “Your Stories”. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to post one of these, but this one comes from a friend of mine who shared this on his Medium account – when I read it I knew I had to share it with my own readers and help them follow the posts he’ll be using to follow up from this one. So please, follow my friend Prashant Patel on Medium so that you can read the next in this series as I’m positive they’ll be informative posts that you can reflect on and identify with. While Prashant is an ex-Hindu turned atheist – people from any religious background should recognize many of the same feelings portrayed here.

This was originally posted on Prashant’s Medium Page Here.

I’m writing this to explain why I moved on from my religion. I have been asked many times about how it happened and I often think about this most when I think of the event that pushed me over the edge. So here’s that event and the context. In the future, I’ll be writing about what effect this has had on my life and what it could mean for you should you also be questioning your own faith.

The Context

So first of all, it didn’t really all happen in one day. For me, it was gradual with some major turning point along the way (I suspect the same is true for many people who change some important viewpoint they hold). My major turning point was September 27, 2003 (11 years ago today).

It all really began a few years before that day. Our temple had youth education known as Balvihar (it’s pretty much like Bible study or Sunday school for Hindus). Younger children were regaled with various religious mythology and how the heroes of history overcame the evils that threatened our world. As we got older, we were moved into a different group where we sat with a respected member of our community and discussed various religious texts we had been assigned to read. Our discussions often focused on why we maintained certain traditions and held certain beliefs. These discussions are what led to my first debates about my faith. I’m purposely not going into details because you already know the problems with major religions and it won’t add anything to this story. Anyhow, these debates were the tremors leading up to the earthquake that was September 27, 2003.

Read more