Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Virtual Deaf Church Announcement

How can anyone deny this man’s reasons for becoming an Atheist?  Obviously he investigated Christianity as much as anyone can expect, obviously he was a true believer if he started this Church.  If the Bible were true the Holy Spirit would have been guiding him through his 'searching' yet all he found was the truth of atheism.  Either the Holy Spirit is not real or the Christianity that the world believes in is not real.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

Maybe Their 'Faith' Isn't Real Either

People don’t realize the anger that follows the realization of Godlessness.  After putting all your hope and faith into something, the letdown is tremendous.  A lot of my Christian friends would ask me “why are you getting so angry over this?”  This response to my announcement of atheism made me wonder if this whole thing wasn't that big a deal to them after all.  How could they ask such a thing?  Maybe their ‘faith’ wasn't real either, which made me even more angry because they were so insistent about Christianity this thing in the first place. 

Here is a great cartoon by the nakedpastor:

Amazing video that inspired this post:  Virtual Deaf Church

Monday, February 3, 2014

Perfect Society Ruined

Even as an atheist, I acknowledge that the Bible contains essential truths, maybe even the truth.  How can anyone deny the power of the Two Greatest Commandments or the Good Samaritan?   The authors of the New Testament had immense spiritual insight and knowledge no doubt.  They knew what was wrong with mankind and had the wisdom to fix it.  The novel part of their solutions were that they were simple.  For me the most dramatic example of their wisdom was The parable of the Prodigal Son.  It appears only in the Gospel of Luke.  The story is of a man and his two sons.  He is a wealthy man but also a kind and generous man.  He is a loving father to both of his sons, yet for whatever reason, the younger son decides he wants to leave, and he wants to take his portion of the inheritance with him.  Unwilling to wait for his father to die, he approaches him and asks for his part of the estate.  The father gives it to him and sadly watches his son leave never expecting to see him again.  The son, the prodigal son, lives up to his name, spending money lavishly and wastefully until it is gone.  When drought hits the land he is destitute, not even able to feed himself.  He decides his last recourse is to return home.  knowing he has brought disgrace and opprobrium upon his family, he doubts his father will accept him back as his son.  He thinks to himself, maybe father will let me be one of his servants.  I won't even ask him to pay me in money, just food.  Upon returning his father sees him approaching from afar.  It is not clear how much time has passed, probably years, nevertheless his father recognizes him even at a distance.  He runs towards his son, instead of rebuking him he embraces him, kisses him, and asks nothing about where he has been, brings up nothing of his previous acts of iniquity.  He takes off a ring, a ring that probably marks him as the head of the family, and puts it on his son's finger.  Not to offend the elder brother, or to announce the prodigal son as the new head, but to welcome him back into the family, and to assure that the son knows that all is truly forgotten.  It is an astonishing story. It is an act of absolute forgiveness.  He brings him to the house overjoyed and announces that his son has returned and orders the servants to butcher the fattest cow and prepare a feast.  There is joy and merrymaking. Yet the elder brother is angry, angry that he did everything right but his brother who has done everything wrong is now welcomed back into the family without any consequences.  The father notices this and tells him that this is part of being human, to forgive, and in order for there to be true forgiveness, it must be given by all.

Is this truth? Is this the path to God?  It doesn't matter, it is essential, an essential requirement if humankind is to achieve a peaceful society free of violence and anger.  Isn't this the same as knowing God? Isn't finding God just another way of ending human suffering?  Christians will say that the father represents God and all of us are represented by the prodigal son.  Maybe that's true, or maybe it is telling us that it's possible for all humans to practice this form of absolute forgiveness.  We can all feel the joy the father feels.  We as humans DO have the capacity for this level of forgiveness, we can forgive anyone for anything, we just need to be reminded of it.  Christians will tell you that we are not capable, that we are fallen.  Unfortunately history seems to be proving them right, but it's not forgone that we are to be this way.

This parable should have been the foundation for the entire New Testament, a foundation for a new and perfect society. Yet it was ruined.  When I first learned the concept of hell I was confused and then horrified.  When I realized what it meant for the Prodigal Son I was heartbroken.  The story of the Prodigal Son and the actuality of Hell cannot coexist.  The idea that we are all condemned to damnation for the crimes of our ancestors is the antithesis of the parable.  The same God could not have given us both.  The author's of the New Testament could not have been divinely inspired and what their intentions were is not entirely clear.  They were unsure of something, so much so that they had to create a God that was both forgiving and barbaric.  Didn't they see the contradiction in this?  Was this deception?   Are we to believe in a God that would tell us a story of unbelievable compassion and mercy only to then threaten us with the oppressive and unjust prison of Hell, to tell us the horrendous depictions of rotting corpses being devoured by maggots, flesh burning, voices screaming in agony, all lasting for eternity?  Do we not all have an internal sense of justice?  Was this not given to us by God?  Can anyone, sound of mind, say that guilt by kinship and eternal torture are just, let alone forgiving?  The Prodigal Son is the story of limitless forgiveness, and Hell is the story of uttermost injustice.  Hell destroys everything the Prodigal Son accomplishes.  The perfect society ruined.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Imprint

Christianity dominated my life for just under three years. It has been gone from my life for nearly that same length of time.  Going from thirty something Born Again Christian to Atheist undoubtedly affected me in complex ways.  For better or worse is hard to tell, as the measuring stick is hard to define.  My life before Christianity was full of confusion, depression and sleepless nights.  My life after Christianity was a nightmare in a different sort of way, drug addiction, severe anger issues, hopelessness.  The anger issues stemmed from the final realization that Christianity was false, the drugs were used to medicate the anger, then a chain reaction of problems ensued.  Those problems, for the most part, are resolved.  Yet Christianity affected me in other ways too. My philosophical views, political views, maybe even my day to day choices, all are different than those of the Pre-Christianity me.  The changes have to do with the theology of the Church I attended, my interpretation of the Bible, but mostly it has to do with the Christian community I was involved with.
The community, the Christian Community that is, was more influential than anything else during that time, as people often are.  As much as I hate to admit it, it was the best community/social circle I have ever had.  I tell myself that it was a false community, with false friendships, but it wasn't.  The friendships were real, they were just based on something false.  Yet that didn't matter; as long as you believed, your friends believed, your wife or husband believed, then everything seemed to hold together nicely.  The community was still genuine, the bonds that held it together still strong, the values and moral code still intact.  When someone fell, the community leaped in to help that person get back up.  The Christians of the community would tell you that it was God that helped that person back up, but it wasn't, it was the community, it was real people, they just wanted to give their God the credit.  In The Gospel of Mathew God says "if you loved one of your brothers you loved me."  Maybe that's all the authors of the Gospels intended.  Maybe they just made up the idea of God to get us to help one another.  Not just a moral code, but to act like a brotherhood, a sisterhood or a community.  Like the story of The Prodigal Son, the community could forgive anyone for anything.  Like the story of The Good Samaritan, the community could love even their enemies.  The community fulfilled these parts of the Bible amazingly, nevertheless they also fulfilled the more unsettling parts.     
The parables above were probably genuine, and had just intentions, but the belief system they were based on was not real, and it was too easy to realize this.  The authors of the Bible created a fail-safe for this problem: Disbelief and doubt are the because of God's nemesis, the Devil, whispering lies of deceit into our ears they would say.  Unfortunately, this fail-safe made Christianity even more unbelievable.  So more fail-safes were created, which made it all the more unbelievable.  Those who made it through all the fail-safes and still believed, are what The Book of Isaiah would call the 'remnant', a group that has been distilled down to the true believers, believers in all the fail-safes.  This was the community I knew, they were the remnant.  Unfortunately the remnant was a twisted form of the community intended by The Prodigal Son and The Good Samaritan.  They had the 'love one another' mentality, but lurking below they also had the fail-safe mechanisms ingrained in them.  All their acts of kindness became tainted, all the good things they did became undone; the division that was supposed to be healed, the enemy that was supposed to be loved, the prodigal son that was supposed to be forgiven and sometimes even the fellow Christian-brother or sister that was supposed to be helped, all tainted, all undone.
All of the good, bad and disturbing characteristics of the remnant were present simultaneously, and they all made one composite imprint on me. It has affected my perception of things in ways I cannot discern.  My views on abortion, marriage, divorce, pre-marital sex are all very similar to those that the Evangelical Christian Church holds.  I think it's hard for anyone to sort out where, when and how his or her worldview came into being.  I know my current worldview was partly developed long before Christianity.  Some of it was influenced by my personal struggles, by relationships, by failed endeavors, but more recently by Christianity.  My friends comment on the similarity of my arguments to those of Christians, I often engage in conversations with campus demonstrators who ask if I am a Christian, I have fellow leftist friends who jokingly accuse me of still being a Christian because of my Pro-Life stance, I often referred to events as 'destiny' or 'fate' directly following my departure from the Church.  Yet I am an adamant Anti-theist, my hatred for the Christian Right and their policies is severe, and my criticism of the Bible and the people who believe in it is uncompromising.  Like the imprint itself, the effect is mixed.    

When I was a member of the remnant, I said and believed everything they did; the solidarity made it easy.  They now say I was never a true believer. Was I?  Who knows.  Maybe there is no such thing as true belief in anything.  Maybe our beliefs are created and forced together because of our surroundings, the need for social survival, the need for identity, the need for stability.  I know there were reasons other than belief/disbelief that caused me to leave the Church, like the things I saw in the community when the remnant mentality came out, when the fail-safes came out.  Yet maybe some belief is still lingering in my psyche from the imprint, maybe I am a lost member of the remnant.  True believer or not, I fully accepted Christianity at one point in my life and now I have fully rejected Christianity, but the imprint it made cannot be erased and its effects cannot be undone.  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

There is No Misinterpretation of the Bible, Only Interpretation

The following response to many of the arguments against Christianity is a refrain I hear often:  They misinterpreted the bible.  This is of course uttered by Christians explaining how fellow Christians have done things that are no longer acceptable, blatantly wrong or so absurd as to make all of Christianity look bad. 

Christians quoted the bible and the concept of hell to justify the slaughter of millions of Native Americans.  Christians used The Gospel of Mathew 27:25 to justify the blood libel and consequently kill upwards of 200,000 Jews.  Women in the Church were oppressed and denied rights for most of Christianity's existence because of verses written by Saint Paul in The Book of Timothy. For 1500 years Christians thought that the Earth was the center of the Universe citing The Book of Genesis.  In all of these cases present day Christians acknowledge that these past Christians were wrong but give the same explanation: Those Christians misinterpreted the Bible.

This response is supposed to tell us two things: One, that Christians no longer commit such acts of violence or stupidity, and two, that today's Christians somehow know better. 

So did today's Christians receive some new divine revelation that was not given to previous Christians?  Does this mean all Christians somehow know the true interpretation of the Bible and all the denominations can now be unified under one Church?  No, this response doesn't mean either.  What it means is that in the face of science and a more tolerant society, Christianity has had to re-interpret the Bible in order to maintain relevance.  In addition, it tells us that the Bible does not contain any real truth, and whatever information it does contain is relative to person and epoch.   

Facing the questions about the morality of hell, many Christians like Rob Bell have started to suggest that Hell might not exist after all (I strongly suggest you read this article to see just how divided Christianity is on this).  Most Christians no longer agree with the interpretation in Timothy that says women should be submissive.  Were these previous Christians misinterpreting the Bible for the past 2,000 years, and it was only recently that Christians received some divine revelation of the true interpretation?  Or is it that our society has changed such that eternal torture and oppression of women is no longer acceptable, and the church has conveniently reinterpreted many of those verses to keep up with the times?  The Church had to re-interpret and revise their stance on cosmology and human origins in the wake of Copernicus, Galileo and Darwin.  Not only did they come to agree with Copernicus regarding the position of Earth in the Universe, they were arrogant enough to claim they knew this first by citing versus in Psalms and Ecclesiastes.  Recently, the Catholic Church said it was open to the possibility of evolution where before they were adamantly opposed to it.  Christians killed hundreds of thousands of Jews throughout the centuries claiming that the Jews killed Jesus and cited Mathew 25:17 to justify it (this verse also laid the groundwork for the Holocaust).  Of course today the practice of being able to murder innocent people with no consequences is unacceptable, so nearly all Christians have conveniently re-interpreted that part of the Bible. 

The examples above make Christians look foolish and ruthless, but the biggest problem they have by using this excuse of misinterpretation is that it reveals that the Bible contains no real truth at all.  For the past 500 years the church has had no single coherent message.  Why?  Because they cannot agree on an interpretation of the Bible.  Dozens of different denominations have been formed because of disagreement on this point.  Even within these denominations (especially the Evangelical Church) the interpretations vary widely.  So what claim to truth do Christians have? Can any one denomination let alone one individual claim that they know the correct interpretation? Or that someone else has misinterpreted the Bible?  What authority do they have to claim this?  I guarantee for every Christian that makes a claim of truth, I can find another Christian who interprets it differently, and will claim the first Christian is wrong.  Any Christian who claims misinterpretation by past Christians is also contradicting millions of other Christians.  Whose interpretation should we believe?  Who is correct?  The answer is no one's.  Interpretation is relative to time, place and person.  There is no such thing as misinterpretation, only interpretation. If Christians can't agree on one message of the Bible, then we have no choice but to reject it as false.

Not only is Christianity's claim to truth practically gone, but their claims to moral superiority and justice are gone.  Now, Christians past, present and future must stand accountable for their crimes.  Christianity can no longer hide behind the shallow defense of misinterpretation.  This means that Hell, the common idea held by nearly all denominations, and the horrid idea of guilt by association, are things Christians need to explain and justify thoroughly.  This means that the oppression of women and Jews is something that they need to answer for instead of using the excuse that for hundreds of years Christians were somehow misinterpreted the word of God.  If they can't, then our only choice is to reject Christianity as a viable way to achieve a just and compassionate society.  If Christians don't know truth or justice, then what do they know?  Other religions and Atheists can only use history and the effect it has had on society to judge the validity of Christianity, not the Bible.