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Defending God and Genocide

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

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.

 

 

Choosing Hell

Choosing Hell

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

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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Testimony of a Dying Man

Last night a friend of me sent something to me from a friend of his who is dying. I don’t know the man who wrote this personally and his name is intentionally being kept anonymous, though I did get permission through my friend to post this testimony of the last days of this man’s life.

I’m thankful to this anonymous man, a former minister himself,  for the opportunity to share this very short but very touching part of his life with my readers.

It is often said that we unbelievers will find ourselves quick to repentance at the end of our days, grasping fearfully at the prospect of eternity. Here, proof otherwise.

Testimony of a Dying Man.

15 years ago I missed a turn and drove off a 30 foot cliff knowing absolutely that I would not survive when it was over.  I had often wondered through the years what I would say or do when facing certain death and I found out at that time. My wife was riding with me and as we went airborne I heard myself say “oh, sweetheart”… In that short moment airborne… And utter complete mental silence.  8 feet of snow saved our lives a second later.

A week ago I was scheduled for a gallbladder x-ray to confirm the presence of a problem which could be surgically removed… Perhaps even that same day.  Unexpected phone silence ensued.  My spirit began to open to other unexpected possibilities and to ready itself for whatever it may be.  My Catholic upbringing had instilled the concepts of sin, salvation, resultant heaven hell and purgatory.  My 44 year search since leaving that world view had exposed me to alternatives of every age of mankind.  During that 44 year search I have often wondered if, when faced with an ultimate certainty of death in the near future, would I resort to the old paradigm or could I bring forward and live within what I had found in the meantime…. For within the last year of my life I have arrived at a silent and deep knowingness that taking evolutionary cosmology to the deepest emotional level gave me the foundation I never found in an anthropomorphic God structure…. But I always had a slight wonder, “is it only conceptually deep?”

Five days ago, I and my wife listened to the words on the speakerphone as she sat opposite me and she later said that when I heard the words she saw a huge transformation of calmness and clarity come over me….”You have inoperable metastasized liver cancer, and may expect two months at the outside”.  And in the five days since that news I have experienced a calmness and centeredness such as religious faith had never provided.  I have found a sense of place and process within the world view of evolutionary cosmology such as I have searched for relentlessly in my 77 years…. And it is increasingly feeding my spirit daily with a sense of readiness for every present moment in this process of dying.

I am finally really learning how to live in the moment.  Fear and hope have no place in this process. It is a readiness and willingness of an utterly deep knowingness.

Farewell. We truly all are in this together.

 

Songs of the Deconverted by Jim Etchison- Review

Songs of the Deconverted by Jim Etchison It’s rare that I find stories that so precisely and eloquently put words to the way it felt for me as I lost my faith. It’s rare that I ever feel like someone actually gets it. Jim Etchison does such an incredible job describing these thoughts and feelings in his book Songs of the Deconverted, that I frequently found myself highlighting portions of the text and gasping for breath as I recalled feeling many of the same things described in the book.

Songs of the Deconverted is a collection of short stories, fiction, that reflect upon Jim’s own experiences. Each riddled with parts of his own life, they serve as the perfect allegory  for what it is like for the deeply devoted Christian to lose that which is most vital to him.

Jim says of his work:

I wrote this book of short stories for a rare group – those who dove in completely, let the current sweep them under, then realized their peril and swam for the shore. The people who climbed out, still dripping, and walk again on the dry land, are forever changed. The ocean won’t define them anymore.  Instead they will be defined by their singular decision to climb out of the roiling sea.

The stories introduce us to Andy, beginning with his climb up Tophat Ridge with an atheist friend who “baffles” him. By the time Andy and his friend reach the summit Andy too is without belief, no longer able to make God true after great revelations cause his religious infrastructure to implode on itself.

From:

Every action, every snapshot in time, was held up against the backdrop of God’s intention.

To:

…now I could see them [the clouds] for what they were: beautiful, gorgeous billows of white against a deep blue sky

Andy’s story is my story. Andy’s pain is my pain. Most importantly, Andy’s triumph is my triumph.

I highly recommend this book to anyone wrestling with deep and difficult doubts about their god, or for those just coming out of this transition period and waking up to a new life without.

Songs of the Deconverted is available on Amazon Kindle right now for only $2.99.

Tragedy sans God

Prior to last week I had never been to a funeral for a friend.

I’ve been to funerals of course;  when the parents of one of my friends died and they needed my support, or when an inlaw died in support of my wife.  This was the first time since I was probably 8 years old that someone that I called a friend, or someone I cared about directly died.

It feels different, emptier, and it makes me think about the brevity of my own life.

I’ve been mulling this over a great deal since it happened.

Then, today – December 14, 2012 – something like 20 elementary school kids get killed in a school shooting in Connecticut.

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Finding common ground with an evangelist street preacher

What’s a street preacher doing here?

This last Saturday I was doing some audio work at the local Pondtown Festival;  a little arts, crafts, and music festival in the tiny city of Rhine, GA about 20 minutes from where I live.  As I was sitting behind the sound booth I noticed a sign off in the distance amongst the crowds of people that were about a block down the road that said something about Jesus and Hell.  Immediately I knew exactly who it was though I couldn’t quite read his sign yet. This was a street preacher.

His name is Derek, and he is a street preacher that spends most of his time in the Philippines as a pastor and evangelist. Derek is from the same town that I’m from and he visits here every so often to see his family and speak at many of the local churches. On his current visit he’s been going around to various events performing street evangelism with a number of the youth from area churches.

After I noticed this sign in the distance I knew I had to take a few minutes to go talk to him – Derek and I know one another and I heard him speak a time or two back when I was still a believer so talking to him isn’t such a big deal. So, I walk up to him and ready the camera on my phone – he notices me and kind of gives me a smile and a laugh as I snap a picture.

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An Insurance Policy against Doubt

The Bible and the Qur’an are similar books, I’ve been clear on that before. One of the many similarities is a certain tendency to provide an insurance policy against the likelihood or fruition of doubt.

They both do so in the same ways; by ostracizing those unsure of their claims, demonizing them as deceivers, and apostatizing them in order prevent their dissent from spreading. Doubters and the questions that plague them, according to these holy texts, are like a cancer that will spread unless you cut it out and kill it.

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Wasted Potential: Church Buildings and Charity

Over the last two months or so I’ve been attending a weekly Bible study with a group of men at my local coffee shop (Yes, they all know I’m an atheist) and one of the recurring themes we’ve been going over in our study is the purpose, structure, and call of the Christian Church as established and described in the New Testament Epistles.  Last week I mentioned to the group that it was worth noting that when Paul wrote an Epistle to a group of believers he wrote it to “THE Church at (Thessalonica, Phillipi, Collosae, etc)” as opposed to “The Second Baptist Church on 4th Avenue”.  I think this not only highlights a problem with the modern church when compared to the Church of the Bible – but also a slap in the face to the ideas of charity and caring for widows and orphans (James 1:17).

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