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Franklin Graham asks us Where Would Jesus Bank?

Where Would Jesus Bank | Why Franklin Graham doesn’t understand Jesus

The Story

Franklin Graham – who rode the coat tails of his famous preacher daddy Billy Graham into Christian fame as the head of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association ever since the elder fell ill, recently announced that the ministry and churches associated with BGM would be pulling all accounts from Wells Fargo (and boycotting Tiffany & Co.) .  Why?

This ad:

(Warning, grab a tissue)

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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.

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Book Review: Zealot by Reza Aslan

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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Jesus for Sale: The Church and Capitalism

I know it’s an unpopular idea and somehow it’s a surprise to most Christians today but the early Christian church was an organization with Communism at it’s core.

The book of Acts is replete with references to communal life, there is no question that the Book of Acts describes a decidedly communist church with verses like this one:

All that believed were together, and had all things in common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. (Acts 2:44-45)

When I was a Christian this verse along with many others that support the idea of a Communist church led my political ideals which eventually led me to become a member of the Socialist Party USA.  It was at this point that I recognized the disparity between what I see as a clear mandate from the Bible and what the modern Christian church actually puts into practice.

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The New Charismatics: Debunking Experiences with God

People "Slain in the Spirit" at a Pentecostal church service

People “Slain in the Spirit” at a Pentecostal church service

There seems to be a modern resurgence of the Christian charismatic movement that is focused largely on evangelizing young people, hyper-emotional worship services, and “experiences” with the “Holy Spirit”. The kids these new ministries are reaching out for are largely between the ages of 10 and 18 and tend to take on a very “Jesus Camp” like atmosphere.  Some of the trends I’ve seen in these groups I find rather disturbing because of my own past experience with similar groups.

When I was little (between 6 and 10 if my memory serves correctly),  I attended a Charismatic Pentecostal church – of the  Church of God denomination. There was always the typical fire-breathing and fear mongering but with that was coupled this amazing experience….what I was told to believe was the result of God’s “Holy Spirit”, the third person of the Hypostatic Union – or Trinity that identifies the currently “orthodox” Christian deity.  The experience was amazing, for lack of a better word. I remember this feeling of euphoria as I begged God to bless me with his physical presence – a heat would overwhelm my body,  I shook uncontrollably, cried tears of joy, and sometimes when the pastor or evangelist would pray with me directly lost the ability to stay on my two feet – a phenomena called being “Slain in the Spirit“.  These experiences were magnified when I would attend a yearly summer camp – it was like a week long charismatic church service – kinda like the one in this video except with mostly kids under the age of 12 and in a dark room with a full light show like at a rock concert:

 

*Watch this whole video, an excerpt from Jesus camp – it’s something important for people to see.

These experiences, for many many years, solidified my belief in god – they were physical evidences of spiritual truths that my god had gifted me with the ability to experience.  I still remember them strongly and I still feel that immense “heart tug” when I hear the sort of worship music that was present during those times…if ever an atmosphere was ripe for manipulation of young minds it was this one and I was it’s victim.

Today I’m not really writing to tell my story – I’m writing to try to explain the dangers of experiences like these pose to young people and how some of these youth will ultimately be let down by these experiences and why they, as great as they may seem, are the result of psychosomatic responses to emotional over-stimulation.

 

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Proof and Evidence

I recently witnessed an assertion about proving god’s existence to atheists by a Christian that made the following claim:

Ask 1000 people what proof/demonstration by God it would take to belief in Him and you may get 1000 different responses. At the end of the day each person has different doubts and needs, and their proof of God’s existence will be different to meet their needs.  ~Anonymous

I think statements like these highlight the fundamental difference between a person that talks about evidence and proof, and a person that actually knows what evidence and proof actually are.

Proof and evidence aren’t words that can simply be exchanged for each persons perspective. Something either proves a hypothesis or it doesn’t so if the data analysis from two different people determines that the evidence either proves or doesn’t prove something one or both are incorrectly analyzing the data.

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It Gets Better: A Letter to Doubters

I remember thinking – knowing really, during that indescribably difficult and painful time of my life when all of my doubts were finally being dealt with, that this darkness and self-hatred was  something I was destined to endure until I died. I remember this feeling, hopelessness, being all that I could feel for some time.

I was losing my faith. I was losing the core of who I thought I was. I’ve tried to describe this pain before but my words can’t do it justice. This was an involuntary reversal of that which I once KNEW; that my god existed, loved me, and had plans for my life. To know something and then to no longer know that something, especially something so vital to my own existence can be absolutely devastating.  It was for me.

For over two years I wanted to end my life every day. It seemed like the only way.

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Sudden Uncontrollable Fits of Jesus

Has anyone else out there ever noticed that when someone you previously had no clue was  “religious” finds out that you are an atheist – that they suddenly have this uncontrollable  internal revival?

I’ve had one of these rather entertaining experiences recently, while sitting at my desk at a location I dare not mention I overheard two gentlemen talking about  women, particularly the naked kind.   As one of these gentlemen walked past the desk I was at he noticed the book I was reading – The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins. He asked me about it and I explained that it was about evolution and explained the premise of the book….

Instantaneously it’s as if all this mans years of church going culminated in this one moment as he asked, “You think we came from monkeys?  So god didn’t create you and me?”

I said, “Apes actually – and I don’t believe in god.”

The other gentlemen then exclaimed, “if we came from apes how come there are still apes?”

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The Frontlines of The War on Christmas

If you’ve never been exposed to the annual deluge of commentary from Christian pundits and lay persons alike, consider yourself lucky. In America today, especially in the Bible Belt (where I so begrudgingly abide) you can’t look twice before you find someone claiming that there is some sort of “War on Christmas or Christianity”. I wouldn’t have a problem with people like Glenn Beck or Bill O’rielly if they actually had a leg to stand on when they make these egregious claims, but the simple truth is that they do not. Today I am going to explore not only why these consistently bad claims are entirely incorrect but also give a surprising retrospective view of my own position on Christmas and other traditionally Christian holidays.

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Religion vs Relationship

Recently I put one of my infamous controversial Facebook statuses up that garnered a bit of a response. Some of the responses got me thinking about the subject matter of this post. Here is the status I put up that day:

I rejoice when others doubt the myth and misery of Christianity. I know the pain that pursuing the non-existent can cause a person and it makes me glad when someone escapes it!

I was inspired to put this up when I got to thinking about the rejoicing I would do when I was able to successfully share the “gospel” of Christ with someone and how glad that would make me. I remembered Luke 15:10 which states, “Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.” (KJV) and began thinking about all of the trouble, confusion, and pain that comes with living in the Christian faith.

One of the responses I received was from a local youth pastor of one of the larger Baptist churches in our small town. I’ve met this fellow before, but we really don’t know each other in any way beyond that of a passing acquaintance, he is good at what he does and has always come off as a very nice guy so I am in no way attempting to start beef with him – this is just something I have heard before that I wanted to take the opportunity to address for the edification of my Atheist and Christian friends. Here is what he said:

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