Encouraging ex-Christians!De-conversion stories and articles for ex-christian, former Christian and de-converting Christian readers.This blog exists for the express purpose of encouraging those who have decided to leave religion behind.It is not an open challenge for Christians to avenge what they perceive as an offense against their religious beliefs.
Back in the 1960's there was a popular TV series called “Get Smart.” The show was a spoof of James Bond-type counter-espionage. Agent 86, a.k.a. “Smart,” was played by Don Adams. I didn't see many episodes, but I do remember a gag he often repeated. When Smart reported to the head of his agency, he would sometimes say things like, “Would you believe there were 200 of them?” There would be a long pause, and then, “Would you believe 100? What about 75?”
Would you believe this report: a guy fed 5000 men with 5 loaves of bread and two fishes? Well, would you believe 50 loaves and 200 fishes? Would you believe 500 men, and no women and children? Didn't you believe me when I told you he also walked on water? Would you believe me if I said the lake was frozen? Would you believe a man lived to be 400 years old, and then he built a gigantic boat, when any 100 year old man would have trouble building a ship model? What else?
One commentator wrote about an atheist mother's experience reading Genesis to her little girl, when the girl burst out laughing; “A talking snake!” Now, that is funny. Wonder what language snakes speak: Hebrew? Greek? King James English? Did he talk with a lisp, like Daffy Duck? How did he pronounce those g's and w's? Would you believe a snake stood upright, when its whole skeleton screams “Crawl”?
Now, the entire book is filled with jokes. People tell you “God inspired” this ridiculous book. And here you thought “God” didn't have a sense of humor! How about a few hundred troops playing trumpets - would you believe those sounds knocked down stone walls 10 feet thick? O.K., would you believe 2 feet thick? Men floating up like balloons, through the clouds? Just remember what the Christian apologist Tertullian, who died 1800 years ago, said: “It is impossible for a man to come back from death; therefore, it must be true.” And: “It's certain because it's impossible.” Tosser!
It's astounding, just how gullible some people are.Now we have sci-fi. Back then, those gullible ignorant folk were entertained with inane stories projected larger-than-life, with their own Paul Bunyans and Supermen of the deserts. For example, the Egyptians have no records of a Moses ever being in Egypt, let alone a collection of all the bad stuff said to have happened to them, caused by a Hebrew god! If we laugh at scriptural silly, outrageous stories and claims, it's because they're laughable from the beginning to the end of time. They read like the tall stories of drunks, or men high on LSD. ( “Revelations”- they're definitely on hallucinogens.) Notice?
It's astounding, just how gullible some people are. If a salesman goes into a neighborhood and tries to sell insurance guaranteeing the purchaser will live healthily for a thousand years, not only would he find no takers, he'd be laughed out of the neighborhood. But if he puts on a black dress, hangs a cross around his neck, carries that gilt-edged book and is selling eternal life, you should treat him with respect?! Men who couldn't create toilet paper (something to really benefit humans), claim to be founts of wisdom and raise people from the dead, even one man so long-gone his body was rotting? Hilarious.
If you take outright lies, compound and embellish them, keep 'em coming one after the other until you get tons of them, you have created a giant joke book. Then you call it “tradition.” That's a good summation of “the Bible.” The Joke's on everyone who believes it. My mom would say, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Don't get fooled in the first place; you can laugh out loud.
The lies pile up into the thousands in that Joke book. Some folks take them seriously! What would happen if those serious believers elected a man for president who lies like their book does?
I got tired of news reporters announcing “shocking” news. I told my wife, “Who are they kidding? Nothing is shocking anymore.” Well, it turns out, people are shocked when they discover a family member or friend discarded the dogmas, those beliefs they don't care to think about. Why don't they care? Just when I pondered this contradiction, I found a quote from Bill Watterson. This is an excerpt from that quote, where he’s talking about how we ought to use our recreational time to re-create:
“Shutting off the thought process is not rejuvenating; the mind is like a car battery – it recharges by running. You may be surprised by how quickly daily routine and the demands of ”just getting by” absorb your waking hours. You may be surprised to find how quickly you start to see your politics and religion become matters of habit rather than thought and inquiry...”
The part about religion becoming a “matter of habit rather than thought and inquiry” makes sense. Worship is habit in much the same way typing or playing a tune on a musical instrument is habit. These actions would be clumsy and distracting if one thought about them while doing them. It explains the non-thinking about articles of faith, which believers say are the most profound reasons for living. In worshiping, the worshipers turn off their mental batteries of thought and inquiry, instead of recharging them. Societies would be better off if we could jump-start the thought processes of those who never questioned their habit of faith. As free thinkers, we are free to go where they fear to go. Let's do it.
One word worshipers habitually take for granted is “holy.” I awoke abruptly one morning with the question: What does “holy” mean? There's the Holy See (Vatican) Holy Father (pope) Holy Land and holy places (Jerusalem, Mecca, churches, mosques, temples), Holy “Ghost,” holy bible and holy wars, etc. Helluva lot of holies to start with. Am I the only one thinking about this label?
What makes places so holy that, like magnets, they draw millions of people to visit them, lay down their money, and have even laid down their lives for them? What's sacred about certain dusty towns in the desert? What makes Lourdes and Fatima, the Temple Mount, the alleged tomb of Jesus, etc., powerful? What is sacred about a cracker (Eucharist) a cup (Holy Grail) a sliver of cross wood (out of thousands of crosses), water + words (baptism), so “sacred” people have killed and died for them? Why are there “consecrated” cemeteries of so many different religions, when corpses have no beliefs?
What exactly do “holy/sacred” mean? Well, they're ambiguous; there is no “exactly.” “Holy” and “sacred” are used interchangeably. “Sacred” is something “dedicated or set apart for service or worship of a deity, or considered worthy of respect or devotion or capable of inspiring reverence among believers.” In short, defined by whatever culture those believers are born into. Holy buildings are set aside for the purpose of denying a finality of death, and deliberately planned to create sensations of awe, comfort, and obedience. They sponge up collective appeals to one or many invisible gods. Many have become huge empty ornate shells, as faiths died. Devout attendees abandoned these buildings along with their gods. They are splendid remnants of wishful-thinking. Holy texts, and especially apologetic writings, are also lavish absurdities. Nowhere in the words holy and sacred is anything supported by evidence - a prerequisite for making them worthy of special exemptions.
“Holy” is a universal bar code slapped on things by mere humans“Holy” is a universal bar code slapped on things by mere humans asserting themselves authorities on “mysteries.” They stand above us, talking to us as if we're children, telling us just what is holy, sacred, forbidden, worshipful, and blasphemous. (Churches require a symbiotic relationship between the clergy and congregants: Worshipers are content to be talked to like children in exchange for believing as children.) It's that simple and that dangerous.
Also, “holy authority” may also arise from personal hallucinations, revelations and visions. It can feed off mass hysteria. All of these are effects of brain disturbances. They are mental images, deceived by emotions into believing the effects are themselves open doors to inside knowledge of the “supernatural.” These are asserted to have magical and miraculous powers derived from sources outside reality. The purveyors of “holy” declare them unchallengeable. Structures like these holy and sacred places obviously have their counterparts in mental institutions, and their “holy” inhabitants are the unmedicated patients.
If you are in the habit of accepting holy/sacred as superior to thinking, reason, or life itself, re-read the Watterson quote. Think of your mind as a battery that recharges by running. You may be surprised how quickly you change your mind. And don't you dare throw this away – that would be sacrilege. I say so.
It can be said that Jesus, assuming he actually existed, was the engineer of the Christian religion and that Paul was the architect. As we know, in the design of any structure, engineers must work together with the architects to ensure a sound, functional, and aesthetic finished product. But it didn’t happen in this case.
Jesus was already dead by the time that Paul had his alleged vision, so a direct collaboration was not possible between the two men. But Paul had the ability to interview Jesus’ disciples and learn the essence of Jesus’ teachings. It is evident that he didn’t do this or even consider it to be necessary. He acted as if he knew more about Jesus than the disciples, a clearly implausible claim.
If Paul had been a legitimate ambassador for the Christian faith, he would have joined up with the disciples immediately after his flash encounter and learned what Jesus did and what he said. In his letters we should read things like this:
‘My fellow warriors in Christ, remember how Jesus taught us the parable of the talents and how each of us must take what God has given us and use it for the common good. Do not hide your abilities, but let them shine for the glory of the Lord.’
‘As Jesus brought forth Lazarus from the tomb, he also brought forth himself from his own tomb. My friends, what more do we need to have faith in our own resurrection at the end of times?’
‘I heard that Thaddaeus was chastised by you for gathering logs on the Sabbath. Remember not that Jesus said the Sabbath was made for Man, not Man for the Sabbath? Allow for grace and understanding to guide your actions.’
If someone today was writing about Ronald Reagan but never bothered to interview anybody who knew him, how much credence would you give his work? This is the situation with Paul. We can confidently dismiss his writings as that of a disjointed, egotistical fanatic who misinterpreted his dreams and visions as an authentic facsimile of reality. Considering that his were the original writings of the New Testament and that much of the gospels were influenced by them, the truth of Christianity stands on very fragile ground.
Theologian Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) thought he had the answer for this question. He said animals have souls, just not “immortal” souls, which he “knew” only humans have. Nowadays, the evidence proves humans share about 98% of their DNA with apes. (If his Catholic Church follows their Doctor Aquinas’ dogma, shouldn't it declare apes eligible for “immortal soul” status?) Aquinas based his arguments on faith and faith is based on ignorance. So what if he passionately, sincerely, believed in those arguments? He was fooled into believing foolish things.
Aquinas didn't accept the obvious: humans are animals. Thomas should have realized this every time he wiped his butt without benefit of toilet paper. His method of teaching was based on the belief that dogmas couldn't possibly be wrong, disregarding the need for evidence. From these he created explanations for assumptions. One assumption is: souls exist. What did he have to work with? Well, he did have the Latin root for soul - “animus,” an ancient belief that something invisible is the life force in all living things. He also had the biblical meaning of soul, where it is defined as “breath,” since the scripture said Yaweh breathed life into Adam, and the fact that breath departed the body at death.
Believers who speak of a soul don't go to theology or dictionaries for their definition. If they did, they'd find the word “animation” derives from the Latin “animus.” Religious believers appear to liken the soul to a cartoon animation, where an assumed god, rather than Chuck Jones, is the animator, both having in common a belief the soul is as indestructible as Wile E. Coyote. When the projectionist stops projecting, so dies the animation. The difference is, they believe the projector starts again, re-animating the “soul” in a distant theater. But, in both scenarios, however convincing, the animation is still an illusion. The projection is in the projector and dies with the animation; and there is no projectionist. “That's all, folks!”
In this belief in immortal souls, each human is endowed with an “animus.” But, if breath enters and leaves the bodies of humans and animals alike, it stands to reason all share common beginnings and ends. It's human fear and arrogance to believe human “souls” will exist post-death. My ex-wife and I had the experience of seeing her dead mother walking 12 feet in front of us, in broad daylight. She asked me if I saw what she saw. The woman was the same weight and height and had her hair fixed the same, but, most convincingly, walked and moved her arms exactly like her mother did. It wasn't until she turned that we saw the difference. Even her clothes were of her mother's taste. People who claim they've seen ghosts always see them clothed, never nude. I wonder: Is their clothing made of spirit- cloth? What people describe as a “soul” is an individual's personality, experiences, expressions, and interactions with others. This also applies to other higher animals. The only “soul” that's popular has to do with feelings of being high-spirited, awe-struck, soulful, dedicated, over-friendly, bluesy, etc.
It's human fear and arrogance to believe human “souls” will exist post-death.Some pet owners will tell you their pets treat them with more attention, not to mention, love, than their spouses. Others prefer them to humans. Wouldn't some insist their pets have immortal souls? Believers in souls might describe the psychopaths their God created “in his image” as “soulless.” Interpretations of soul describe a being with personality, whether human or other higher animal. This includes me, since, without my body, there is no “me.” Without my bodily consciousness of reality, reality doesn't exist for me. And if I were a victim of dementia or Alzheimer’s, I wouldn't be “all here” either. These simple realities disturb faith believers. That's their problem.
I imagine running away from the abyss of death must be like leaving the warm frying pan of existence and jumping into the fire of immortality. Not me. Living “forever” frightens me. (That thought once kept me awake at night.) Now, my having no fear of returning to a state before I was conceived, of re-joining the cosmos from which I came, is to most people, unimaginable, and absolutely unacceptable. So this is why they created belief in an immortal soul which they cling to so strongly they'll die and kill for it! Tragic. I am determined to live life as fully as I can; and never to live as a preparation for dying.
Someone once asked me, “Don't you believe in something greater than yourself?” I answered, “Of course I do. The Universe is greater; in fact, many bacteria are greater, since they can kill me.” She was referring to a her god as “greater,” but that god is tiny compared to Nature and the Universe. She just hadn't thought about that. I'd waste my life if I spent any part of it giving a god my affections or thoughts instead of her.
It's absolutely essential for religions for people to believe they have immortal souls. As one wise man noted, if people didn't, they'd drop their gods immediately; which means they'd drop the clergy. Even after gospel Jesus promised eternal life to anyone who simply believed in him, he changed his tune. He said: Okay. I decided everyone has eternal life, but you must make a choice between how you will spend it - eternally happy or eternally tormented. Oy vey! Now your fate must be decided by whether you can't or won't believe what he and his shills tell you to believe! No thanks. That “immortal soul” belief is really gambling. If you prefer to gamble, then gamble. But remember: Reality always wins.
Those who have ears to hear, let them hear: There is a hoarder I know. After her husband died many years ago, she began to acquire and amass interior mountains of “stuff,” so that her grown children became agitated about her state of mind and health. Moreover, the city's health department threatened to condemn her property and evict her unless it was brought up to standards within 90 days. Of course she was emotionally upset, but unable to come to terms with her problem. Professional counselors for hoarders came to talk to her, but were unable to make any headway. Time was passing.
Finally, her family found just the man for the job. It didn't hurt he was charismatic and handsome, and lived “right here, in our town!” He was well known as the savior of “lost causes” like her. It helped that he reminded her of young men she had fallen in love with. There was something mysterious about him. With him, she felt special; she felt she had a new lease on life. She felt the love she'd come to accept as lost forever was born again in her. “Things” were no longer a substitute for relationships. Her outlook on life shifted away from the accumulated comfort blanket of memories around her. She still had difficulty accepting one fact: not only had accumulations “grown on” her, they identified her.
But under the skillful and tender loving care of her savior, she began to relax little by little, while watching her accumulations being taken away, which meant grieving. Each item held memories for her, so she experienced a sense of losing her past. In some way, we can relate to this. Still, our minds try to understand how the roots of security, even false security, run deep, and deeper for some people than others.
Whatever the savior said, or however he listened to her, he succeeded. She decided to move on with her life, but how? What about the future? Those who knew her well suspected her hoarding would return, since deeply entrenched habits are hard to quit. Her savior had a sixth sense about this, and planned a solution: After her place was empty and sold, they would together experience new, beautiful memories in another.
In her cleared-out house, now down to the bare essentials of comfort and memories, she and her savior sat at the table, where he laid out his plan: This would be a secret between the two of them. Trust him; his father owned many mansions; he will find her a beautiful new house, where she can, undisturbed, pile up new things to her heart's content. She had to sign over her life insurance and social security into his care, and he would sell whatever antiques she had and give the proceeds to charity. In the meantime, she must forgive anybody who had offended her, taking their focus off her, so they'd not have an inkling about their planned spiritual elopement.
His assurance was balm to a sore soul. “Be at peace, everything will be perfect.” She obeyed. He told her he was returning to his father's house, where they would prepare for hers. ”Don't worry, it's in my hands,” he said. ”I promise you I will return, and soon.”
Days went by, then months and years. Decades. She became homeless. And still she waits and hopes.
Mind·fuck: [ˈmīndˌfək] NOUN. A disturbing or extremely confusing experience, in particular one that is caused by deliberate psychological manipulation.
Some stuff people tell you messes with your head if you buy into it. Maybe it’s self-contradictory. Maybe it doesn’t line up with what you know about yourself or the world around you. Maybe it makes you question the evidence of your own senses or your ability to think straight. Maybe it muddles your intuitions about right and wrong, making you ashamed of doing things that don’t actually harm anyone—or, conversely, prompting you to do things you would otherwise be ashamed of.
Perhaps at the hazy edge of your mind something seems a little off, but the idea comes from a person or community you admire and respect (and maybe need), so you nod along, pushing aside any misgivings—even parroting their words to yourself or other people. Then, hours or even years later, the trance shatters, and your mind clears and you think, wait, what?!—And you can’t believe you actually believed it.
Some people call that a mindfuck, and when I think about mindfucks I think—as a former Evangelical—about Evangelical Christianity, which traffics, wholesale, in mindfuckery. Here are some doozies that rank among Evangelicalism’s top ten.
1. It’s not a religion, it’s a relationship. This quip is popular with campus evangelism groups like Athletes in Action and Cru. You might even have seen it on a bumper sticker at some point, because it’s one of Evangelicalism’s favorite ways of saying, We’re not like all those other (obviously false) faith-based belief systems. We just love Jesus and Jesus loves us, and he loves you, too.
From the inside, this relationship thing feels really real and really good. But from the outside it's a bunch of transparent hooey. Your born-again Christianity is a love relationship—with a character whose name and history you got from a set of ancient texts that were compiled and handed down by a vast hierarchical organization that once torched dissenting texts (and people). And this not-religion has sacred writings and rituals and leaders and schools of systematic theology, and it dictates what people are supposed to believe and how they’re supposed to behave. And it provides all the same social functions and structures as religions. But Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship. Uh, huh.
2. That’s the OLD Testament. In my childhood Bible, the Old Testament is bound together with the New Testament in a gold-stamped blue leather cover with these words on the title page, “The words of Scripture as originally penned in the Hebrew and Greek . . . are the eternal Word of God.” This statement is followed by a verse from the Old Testament book of Isaiah. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever (Is 40:8).
To Evangelicals, the Old Testament is the timeless Word of God, except when the vile atrocities described there become inconvenient or when people quote horrible verses—say those that demean women, endorse slavery, condemn homosexuality and shellfish eating, promote the idea of Chosen bloodlines, or make statements that are scientific nonsense. Then it’s just the Old Testament, and Evangelicals pull out all kinds of fancy “supersessionist” language to explain that those verses don’t really count because of the “new covenant” or the “Dispensation of Grace.” But just try suggesting that a Bible believer take the Old Testament out of the Holy Bible.
3. Yes, no, maybe. God answers prayer. Except when he doesn’t. The New Testament says, And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive (Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24). But everybody knows that in the real world that doesn’t happen. Christians face bankruptcies and bad test scores and death at the same rate as other people. God answers prayer at the margins of statistical significance, if at all—even when parents are asking for their kids to get healed from cancer, or kids are pleading that parents stop hitting them.
How does one explain that? The age-old Christian answer has been that when your prayers aren’t answered you should doubt yourself rather than God, assuming that your faith was too weak or you wanted something you shouldn’t. But Evangelicals have come up with something even more clever: God does always answer! It’s just that he sometimes says no, or maybe, instead of yes. That ask anything and it shall be done Bible verse really meant, ask selectively and he might say yes.
4. Be selfless for your own sake. If you want to be great in God’s kingdom, learn to be the servant of all, say the lyrics to one Christian song. Got that? “If you want to be great,” not “if you want to do the most good in the world.” Granted, learn to be the servant of all beats some other paths people take when they seek status, but it is a path to status nonetheless, which is why the church is full of self-proclaimed servant leaders who actually aspire to great man or woman status.
5. Christianity is humble. According to Catholic theology, pride is one of the seven deadly sins. Evangelical preachers tell us it was Satan’s original sin. Pride cometh before the fall, so humble yourself before God. Couple this claim about humility with the idea that you should preach [your version of] the gospel to every creature—and things get turned inside out and upside down.
Famed Puritan hellfire-and-brimstone minister Jonathan Edwards said, “We must view humility as one of the most essential things that characterizes true Christianity.” Edwards also expounded with righteous certitude about the torments of the wicked in hell—wicked meaning anyone who didn’t share his Puritan beliefs.
Anyone who has spent much time in an Evangelical church community knows that superior humility can be a powerful form of one-upmanship. But competitive humility aside, what could possibly be more arrogant than thinking the universe was made for mankind, that only we bipedal primates are made in the image of God, that all other sentient beings are here for us to use, that you happened to be born into the one true faith among the tens of thousands of false ones, and that the force that created the laws of physics wants a personal relationship with you.
6. Christianity isn’t sexist; God just has different intentions and rules for men and women. Just because in the Old Testament God (identified by the male pronoun) makes man first, puts men in charge (male headship), gives men the right to barter women and take them as war booty doesn’t mean they’re unequal. Just because the New Testament forbids women to speak in church, tells them to cover their heads and submit to men, and excludes them from leadership positions doesn’t mean that women are inferior to men!
The Bible may be rife with stories with predominantly male protagonists. It may show women competing to have sons. Genealogies may be determined by paternity. God may convey his word exclusively through male writers and may take the form of a male human. But that doesn’t mean men and women are unequal! They’re just “different.” All of those generations of Patriarchs and Church Fathers and Reformers and Preachers who said vile things about women—they just misunderstood the Bible’s message on this point.
7. Believe and be saved. Right belief, according to Evangelicalism, is the toggle that sends people to heaven or hell—as if we could simply make ourselves believe whatever we want, regardless of the evidence, and as if the ability to do so were a virtue. Right belief makes you one of the Righteous. Wrong belief makes you one of the Wicked. God may have given you the ability to think, but you follow logic and evidence where they lead only at your own eternal peril. If you don’t believe, it’s because you secretly just don’t want to.
Granted we all are prone to a greater or lesser degree, to what psychologists call “motivated belief,” which follows from confirmatory thinking, our tendency to selectively seek evidence for things we either want to be true or, more rarely, fear to be true. But this is hardly a sign of robust character or moral virtue. Quite the opposite.
8. God loves you and he’ll send you to hell. And once you die, it’s all irreversible. George Carlin put it best: Religion has convinced people that there's an invisible man ... living in the sky. Who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn't want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer, and suffer, and burn, and scream, until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you. He loves you and he needs money.
OK, Carlin didn’t have his theology right, at least not from an Evangelical standpoint. You don’t go to hell for violating the Ten Commandments. You go to hell for not accepting Jesus as your savior. But yeah, he loves you, loves you, loves you, and if you don’t love him back and worship him and accept his gift of forgiveness for your imperfection, he’s going to torture you forever. Wrap your brain around that definition of love.
9. Free choice under duress. Why is the world full of sin and suffering if God is all powerful and all good? Because he wanted us to worship him of our own free will. He loves us too much to force us, so we had to be able to choose—so the story goes.
But, but, if what he wanted was love and adoration, freely given, then why did he entice us with promises of heaven and threaten us with eternal torture? Can someone really love you if you demand their love at gunpoint?
10. Lean not unto your own understanding. Faith is just believing. Trust and obey. Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong (1 Corinthians 16:13). The fool has said in his heart there is no God (Psalm 14:1).
The idea that your own mind, logic, and the evidence in the world around you is not to be trusted may be Evangelicalism’s biggest mindfuck, because it is subtext in all the others. Any doubts are just evidence that your mind (and basic human decency) are shaky. Since doubt is a sign of weak faith—and sometimes even direct from the devil—you should never ever trust what you think, feel, see or experience over what the Bible says and the Church teaches. Walk by faith, not by sight. Stop asking questions!
To be fair, Evangelicalism is not a monolith. Some Evangelicals eschew one or more of these teachings. Also to be fair, theologians proffer complicated work-arounds for all of them. But each item in this list is embraced by tens of millions of people, most of whom earnestly want to understand what is true and what is good. That earnest desire gets corrupted when decent people mistrust their own capacity for goodness, set aside their ability to think, and instead embrace mindfucks posing as wisdom and truth.
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author ofTrusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org. Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including The Huffington Post, Salon, The Independent, Free Inquiry, The Humanist, AlterNet, Raw Story, Grist, Jezebel, and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com. Anyone who has spent much time in an Evangelical church community knows that superior humility can be a powerful form of one-upmanship.
“Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit. Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou be like unto him. Choose one.” ― Saul Bellow, Herzog
The physician's ethical dilemma: Should the doctor tell a terminal patient the prognosis indicates she has not long to live? Or should the doctor lead her to believe she will eventually recover, in order to allay her fears and/or, tell her what she desires to hear?
What about someone YOU care about who is struggling in a crisis of eroding faith? Should you tell her lies to make her feel comforted, or should you share what you know and be honest? Should you allow the person taking the slow-acting poison of beliefs to continue, because the person believes it's a cure?
Should you tell someone truths when that person is CONTENT with believing lies? When that person PREFERS to believe lies? When the person FEARS to question the lies?
SUPPOSE someone feels “special, being chosen by God” through a Cleric or Prophet? Should you tell that person, “You're not 'chosen' - you’re just gullible?” It might keep someone from joining a cult.
Should you tell the truth when a person begins to suspect what she has accepted as truths, are lies? OR, should you patiently WAIT and gradually accustom this person to the truths, so that she eventually concludes what she has been accustomed to believe as truths, may really be lies? EVEN IF this means the person comes to believe she came to the conclusions entirely on her own?
WHAT IF you yourself have the whole jigsaw picture, and you feed the pieces, one-by-one, to the person, until he or she “gets the picture?” What if you realize that when you were a believer yourself (as one of our contributors mentioned), you were using the wrong picture? Are you prepared to accept, even then: this person doesn't WANT the picture?
Would it be wise to point out that, whenever faith is involved, one man's truth is another man's falsehood?Should you keep your mouth shut every time someone quotes, with absolute authority, from a book that constantly contradicts itself? You don't want to appear to agree with them, lest they continue to be wise in their own conceit. Would it be wise to point out that, whenever faith is involved, one man's truth is another man's falsehood?
To be or not to be, outspoken? Outspoken is to be vulnerable, but also to learn. “To be nobody – but – yourself - in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else – means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight.” e.e. Cummings “I doubt, therefore I think. I think, therefore I am dangerous.” - me.
What is MORE important, beliefs or life? Believers have a dilemma with this. The thinking nonbeliever has no problem deciding. It is the faith which must die. In my writings, I've put out something as bait, waiting for a response: I claimed that believers maintain faith is more important than life itself. No one has contradicted me. This is appalling. What have already been the consequences from such faith?
WHAT IF a sincere believer decides to kill his or her family, or a community commits suicide, as a result of believing their living on means they will abandon their faith and, as a result, will ALL be damned for eternity? Should I give up questioning why they believe this, hoping in the future that others with this dilemma will think through it and decide on a life-enhancing, not life- ending, solution?
Isn't it unethical, teaching children to believe that no matter how bad their actions may be, they will be forgiven? Ethically, shouldn't they be taught responsibility of not making excuses for their bad behavior?
Religious beliefs create ethical minefields for us, indifferent to religion but finding ourselves having to cross them, despite our best efforts to avoid them. There could be ethical “duds” mixed with those live mines, but you can't be sure of that. It can be a tricky and sensitive place, ready to explode with the lightest touch of reality.
I use Jesus as an example, but Allah or Heavenly Father or Prophet might work just as well. Let's just say for now we know Jesus alone has been the key, opening the barriers, accessing children for sexual exploitation, and lest we forget: gullible adult women and men. I have no doubt this has been going on for centuries. The “spiritual” come-on, like all like evolutionary adaptations, exists because nothing succeeds like success, especially sexual success. Cults, including the hyper-inflated cults which are the major religions, are excellent covers for sexual exploiters. They are in the business of channeling sex for their own purposes. Religions exploit our needs for affection and sensuality.
But you won't get affection from Jesus, guaranteed. “Come unto me for comfort, send your children to me,” gospel Jesus says. He ain't there. But his priests and prophets are on hand to act in his stead. Unlike you and me, they don't work; they have to be “available and understanding.” You won't get affection from Allah, etc., either. And those vestal virgins weren't there to please the gods. The Vatican, with its fathers and Holy Fathers, covers a multitude of child-rapes. Haven't you noticed such massive abuse of children has been done by those preaching that the triumph of superior spirituality comes by depriving “the flesh?” Hypocrites! Who do they think they're kidding?
Admit it, religions are in the business of teaching it's good to deceive one another and oneself, including lying about one's own needs. When I was young, Catholics were told masturbation is a sin, and pornography was forbidden. If we accepted that, we'd be lying to ourselves. The priests who preached this should have been thanking their god for masturbation and porno, for they tend to prevent rape, unwanted babies, and molesting of children.
Of all the traditions of religions, one of the worst is denying the need for affection. Sacred texts always concentrate on overt, often brutal, sexuality. They emphasize procreation, and totally ignore the sensuality and affection needed for humans to keep a sense of psychological balance and to thrive.
Religions have always seen the sensual pleasure of curiosity itself as a threat to their power. The closest Christians get to sensuality in religion is the glow of candles, the aroma of incense, the warmth of the massive organ (!) playing. It's the church's exploitation of creating a romantic setting. If you want true intimacy, then purchase your own candles, incense and music, bring your own organs, and really have memorable “spiritual” experiences.
In biblical traditions, there's no affection. It's either prostitutes or nuns, promiscuousness or celibacy, sex or no sex, even straight sex or none. Then there's the perverse “virgin-mother” iconography. It's cold. No nuances, affection, romance, gentle touching, or warmth. Religions have always seen the sensual pleasure of curiosity itself as a threat to their power.
The religious reaction to handling anger due to sexual frustration is to punish the frustrated individual, not to deal with his/her frustration, and this has transferred to our laws. Men are put into prisons where they are sure to be denied contact with women, and then punished for showing any affection to another human being! How much better life would be if men would be free to admit something obvious: most men need affection more than power. Society, “under the influence of” religion, doesn't accept them that way. And you can't make Christian soldiers or Islamic martyrs from men like that. For those purposes, you need sex-deprived individuals. It's an asset on the battlefield, but a hell of a bad deal for women. Things have become worse now that the Catholic Church has made showing affection for children into a fear that even consoling a child by your touch is perceived as a prelude to molestation. Yes, Jesus has been useful as The Way to gain sexual gratification. Way to go, Jesus.
It is one thing for Christians to say that God established a New Covenant that superseded the Old Covenant, allowing for the somewhat unusual though not totally implausible idea that God changed his mind about how he wanted to interact with humans. But it is altogether another thing to say that God changed his very essence. That is- after being a unity God, he suddenly split himself into three persons.
If God was a trinity of persons all along, how likely is it that that he hid this characteristic of himself for hundreds of years from his chosen people? And if he wasn’t a trinity of persons up until the time of Jesus, how likely is it that he split himself into three parts at that time? Neither scenario makes any sense.
Christianity suffers from its total dependence on Judaism as its foundation. If this god is real, he doesn’t change and also he doesn’t deceive, but Christians must concede one of those two options- either he did change or else he did deceive (and continues to deceive) the Jews. It would have been far better for Christianity to have immediately divorced itself from Judaism and proclaimed itself as an independent faith, with Jesus announcing that Judaism was fake and that he was the ‘real’ god. This would have jettisoned the Old Testament and all of the baggage contained therein that weighs Christianity down theologically, scientifically, ethically, and morally.