Monday, December 28, 2009

Loving the One You Fear: The Peculiar Christian Dilemma

Imagine, if you will, being devoted to and in love with someone who has committed mass murder and various atrocities throughout his life.

Imagine this individual set up a test for his earliest relatives knowing in advance they would fail and that he would punish their progeny for ever. He readily admits he killed his own son, and was psychotic enough to demand another man kill his only child as a test of the man’s fealty -- stopping him at the very last moment.

Consider that this person created a place of eternal pain and everlasting horror and has the power to commit you there if you don’t profess your love for him. Of course he says that you have free will to love him or not, but if you choose “not,” he’s going to send you to be tortured forever.

He demands that you to praise him for these things… regularly; he expects your worship of him and him alone; he wants you to eat his body and drink his blood in exchange for his benevolence.

What if this was your father, or husband, or boy friend. Could your love be genuine? Could you profess it freely and without intimidation? Would you acquiesce to his demands out of fear? Or would you try to find an out, an escape, a safe house, perhaps seek an Order of Protection?

The description above sounds like it could be the movie script for the next “Saw” sequel. But it’s much worse than a horror film. There are two-billion people to whom this being is not some fictional movie fiend but their much admired and beloved “Father who art in heaven” to whom they profess their undying love and devotion. Father!!???

Many abused and battered women have so little self esteem, so little confidence in themselves that they cling to their abuser and genuinely believe they love him. They will say -- “Oh, that was the old him…he’s changed now. Besides, it was my own misbehavior that provoked him and made him do these things. He promises me I’ll be rewarded eventually. It’s all good.” But all the while they know the possibility exists that if they slip they will be horribly killed, or continuously punished. The unpredictability of this demented thing adds another dimension of horror. It is their fear that cements their “love.” It’s a terrible fact of reality for some women. Society as a whole abhors and condemns it.

And yet, when that fiend, that bully, that psychopath is the imagined Supreme Being that has been thrust upon them since childhood, society says “This is good. How could you not want such a Father? Join me in my love born of fear.”

What a hideous dilemma and existence Christians submit to: indoctrinated to love something by fear of its power and wrath; and let it rule your life even when it doesn’t exist. When confronted with this reality they will deny their fear, even employing words like “respect” to define "God Fearing." But repression of the facts do not change them. To me that sounds like the definition of Hell on Earth.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Repost: What are atheist apologists afraid of?


Hemant Mehta happens to be one of my favorite atheists. I visit his blog “The Friendly Atheist” at least once a day religiously.

The other day he posted an article about a North Carolina atheist group who won the right to post a sign (see above) adjacent to a Christmas display on city property. You can read it more clearly here:

While most of his readership approved of the sign and commended the organization for it’s commitment to not acquiesce to this Christian need for implicit governmental endorsement by promoting their beliefs on public property; some of them were less than fully supportive. Here are some of those comments:
  • “… a lot of those ignorant people will react immediately with anger, not curious thoughtfulness, when they see this” ... “I’m still undecided on how I feel about this.”

  • “I like the message on the sign. However, since it mentions “mythological gods” in reference to Jesus, people will be utterly outraged.”

  • “… it sounds to me as though it’s saying “No stupid, Jesus isn’t the reason it gets cold in winter – that’s because of the axial tilt”, as if religious people are beyond understanding that (when in fact, it’s not what religious people are saying anyway)). I don’t like it at all.”

  • “I think the holiday displays should be inspirational and could do without the lesson.”
    “[atheist’s] confrontational messages can sometimes come across as being snippy or negative….”

Yes, some theists will react with anger. Yes, it implies Jesus is just one of many gods man has honored on Dec 25 and that they are all mythical. Yes, it clearly states Xmas was co-opted from pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. Yes, it could be interpreted as confrontational; and the mindless who intentionally deny history and object to realty may well be offended. So what?

And if Christians need to draw “inspiration” from illuminated plastic statues in a publicly owned arena, then their “faith” is pretty damn weak. I have no obligation to underwrite their inspiration. They can draw their inspiration from plastic religious displays on private property, thank you.

Exactly what are these ambivalent atheists so tentative about? Is documentable truth so painful that it must go on tip toe so as to avoid bruising the sensibilities of the deluded who demand their religion be given special governmental endorsement by singular placement on public property? Is a believer’s potential offense by the secular sign more valued and more worthy of respect and sensitivity than my offense at their religious intrusion on property I pay to support?

Do we really need to worry about appearing “snippy” to theists lest they might think ill of atheists and condemn us as immoral, unethical, godless communists unworthy to hold public office and seeking to destroy the country? Oh, wait… they already do that!

Sure, let the apologizing and accomodating atheists wring their hands over possibly offending the willfully ignorant with a truthful statement on the origin of the holiday season. Maybe when the annual Holocaust denier convention comes around the same weak kneed atheists should scorn any attempts to offset the haters' denial and ignorance with truth and reality, lest it injure the sensibilities of the anti-Semites.

I love that atheist group's sign. There should be one where ever religionists seek to use public property to promote their beliefs. No apologies necessary.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Reflections on an Atheist Christmas

As Christmas rapidly approaches I found myself straining to come up with an article that properly addresses the season from an atheist’s perspective; one that hasn’t been done to death.

It would be easy to drag out the usual atheist harangue about Christmas having been co-opted from pagan winter solstice rites; about the pagan roots of the Xmas tree and Yule log; about how the traveling to Bethlehem story to be counted in a census was nonsensical and antithetical to Roman logic…etc., etc. But, while all factually correct, rehasing all that would be as interesting as watching “Charlie Brown's Christmas” for the 45th time or worse, listening to "Alvin and the Chipmunks" while trapped in an elevator.

Instead, something I saw posted on Facebook by an atheist caught my attention. It said this: “Ugh, it’s Christmas, the most annoying time of year for an atheist.”

I pondered that for a few seconds and found myself in total disagreement. More than that I couldn’t even understand how anyone could be annoyed by Xmas …well, besides store salespeople, UPS drivers, postal workers, and JW’s who view the celebration of Xmas as an abomination. What is it about a gift giving holiday that could make an atheist “annoyed”?

My earliest memory of Xmas and the excitement it heralded was as a four year old. My parents were non-practicing Jews. Perhaps “Theist-Lite” would be a good descriptor. But they always celebrated a secular Xmas for the kids as well as giving us one gift a night for each of the eight nights of Hanukah.

My mother brought my brother and I to the department store Santa with our wish list. We didn’t have a Xmas tree (that was for the "goyim"), but we did hang stockings. I recall on that Xmas Eve my father called my brother and I to the window and pointed out a flashing red light in the sky telling us we’d better get to bed because that sure looked like Santa flying in over Long Island.

Early the next morning we dove into a pile of carefully wrapped gifts, new tricyles & bicycles, sleds, and stockings full of goodies. I don’t recall ever being disappointed. Years later I often wondered how my father, who was totally non-mechanical, was able to assemble toys without their falling apart on the first touch.

My wife and I continued that tradition with our sons. Naturally, being a Christian of sorts, my wife is really into the decorating thing, and gift overload. The boys were never disappointed. Setting up bikes and Darth Vader’s Death Star Command Post, slot car race tracks, etc., through the night I was always a bit stressed to meet a deadline, but it was a labor of love.

Naturally the best Christmas' then as now were the snow covered ones … White Christmas’. With ten inches already on the ground and more on the way we’ll be having a White Christmas with our sons and their better halves this year here in New Hampshire. On Christmas Eve afternoon we’ll go down to the town garage and partake of their annual Xmas party amid the lifts, tires, and tool boxes. Later that evening we’ll stop by the neighbors for drinks and finger food with the neighborhood.

And in the morning aside the wood stove, sipping coffee in our jammies, Mrs. Hump and I will relive our own childhoods vicariously through the kids as they open their gifts, tease each other, make a mess with the paper, all while the dogs run through it yapping and chewing on their own new toys.

Christmas by any other name is a day of family if you’re lucky enough to have one. It’s a time to share drinks and food with friends. To show your appreciation to your loved ones and people who do so much for us throughout the year. And to share what bounty you have with those less fortunate.

For this atheist and his family it’s never been about impossible man-gods, or mythical virgin births, or denying reality. Just the opposite -- it’s a celebration of family, friends, and snow covered childhood memories. Nothing is more real than that.

Have a safe and fun holiday everyone … whatever you name it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Oral Roberts Dead at 91— Obituary for an Iconic Shaman

Oral Roberts died today. Let me say right off that I will not be donning black, buying Mass cards, sitting Shiva, lighting candles or otherwise mourning the passing of this charlatan and purveyor of brain virus to the masses. Fact is, as far as I am concerned, Oral was 40 years late for his funeral.

This may sound a bit harsh, but I never claimed to be John Donne -- any man’s death does not necessarily diminish me.

Among the nation’s earliest Televangelists, Oral made a name for himself attracting an enormous following. Although a few years too late to be the inspiration for the ne’er-do-well false prophet evangelical minister in Sinclair Lewis’ Elmer Gantry, he well could have been.

Oral’s claim to fame is epic:
  • In the ‘30’s he was a traveling tent healer, who shouted abuse at the ill and crippled when they failed to respond to his healing touch.

  • In 1977 Roberts claimed to have had a vision from a 900-foot-tall Jesus who told him to build the City of Faith Medical and Reseacrh Center (a faith and medicine hybrid concept) and that the hospital would be a success. Built in 1980; it closed its doors in 1989. Giant Jesus lied.

  • In January 1987, during a fundraising drive, Roberts announced to a television audience that unless he raised $8 million by that March, God would "call him home"… i.e. “Gimme money or you’re going to kill me.” He sucked $9.1 million out of his fearful sheep.

  • Oral announced that through the Roberts ministry god had raised the dead. His son Richard claimed to have witnessed his father bringing a dead child back to life. The kid was never named.

  • He was forced to resign from the presidency of Oral Roberts University due to some funky business about the use of university funds for personal and political purposes.

[ Read all about his illustrious career here: ]

He was a pioneer of sorts, paving the way for the legions of despicable, bombastic, fanatical religious shaman -- con men, hypocrites and buffoons all. Men who have made it their life’s work to heap more ignorance upon the ignorant, fleece the gullible, make promises they could never keep, sell the snake oil of belief and earn millions doing it.

Perhaps hundreds of thousands of pious lemmings will mourn Roberts' passing. But not I. That’s not to say I wouldn’t want to honor him. Given the opportunity I would gladly pour a bottle of 18 year old Glenfiddich scotch over his grave ... as long as he doesn’t mind if it passes through my bladder first.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Youth Pastor Wanted: Gump was right "Stupid is as stupid does."

“Celebration Family Church is looking for a self-motivated leader with a passion for preschool and elementary age children …” “… Children’s Ministries Director will be responsible for overseeing leading and guiding Children's Ministry which focuses on infants – 8th grade. [Bold emphasis mine]

The above ad for a Youth Pastor position nearly knocked me on the floor (not the church sign… that’s fake). It reminded me of those funny headlines Jay Leno reads on his show, you know, the kind that make you say “What were they thinking???!!!”

Given the nationwide epidemic of clergy pedophilia, with a goodly number of Youth Ministers/Pastors among them, you’d think the folks at the Celebration Family Church might have used slightly different phraseology. But my guess is they are so unthinking that they are completely oblivious to the implications of a clergyman who has “… a passion for preschool and elementary age children.” Of course, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt by assuming they are comatose or imbeciles. The alternative would be to suggest they are actually encouraging pedophiles to apply -- a front for NAMBLA.

Some irate Christian reading this will no doubt feel the need to defend this ironic and patently stupid ad’s wording. They will accuse me of being puerile at best, or a lascivious degenerate at worst. After all “passion” has many meanings of a nonsexual nature. But that’s just denial, something Christians are trained to do. The reality is clergy molestation has dominated the news for years. Just do a Google Images search for “Youth Pastor / Minister Molesters” and the crowded gallery of faces will disgust you. One would have had to have just hatched from an egg not to see the unfortunate inference in that ad’s wording and not be stunned by its insensitivity.

I would be remiss if I did not make an observation about the last sentence in the advertisement. Exactly what does a church person do with infants as it relates to “leading and guiding” them? Lead and guide them to what? When my sons were infants Mrs. Hump and I pretty much lead them to open their mouths for their “flying airplane” baby food spoon; and guided them not to use their feces for modeling clay. Somehow I don’t get the impression that food and feces is the focus of a Youth Ministry’s guidance.

Evidently the concept of “Get ‘em while their young and moldable” is a common theme for both pedophiles and religious indoctrinators ... both of which are criminal, or should be.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Crediting Chance and Self-Determination: Hump “Witnesses” for Reality

“[I] cannot comprehend [the things that happen in my life] being chance ... - if there is proof that these cannot be God [’s influence] or that He doesn't exist - I am willing to consider it.”

My Christian pen pal, a pastor’s wife, wrote the above after recapping for me some good results, predominantly financial, that came out of some recent unfortunate circumstances in her life. She credits God. My response to her follows -- slightly revised and extended.

Dear M,

I do not credit chance with everything in life. I do credit chance with some number of things. The fact is we influence our life, and whether we capitalize on those chance occurrences are often up to us. Let me give you an example.

I went to college and graduated with a BA in psychology, and a minor in religion. I had no idea what I was going to do when I graduated. So I went to campus interviews with every company that I could. I received offers mostly from insurance companies, and retail companies. I picked retail because my father was a retail executive all his life. I had no particular interest in retail management, but I had some idea what it was.

Neither fate, nor chance, nor the influence of the supernatural played any role. It was simply the fact that my BA in Psych qualified me for nothing more in the business world than an entry level position in management. The retail and insurance industries would take people with any BA degree and a mediocre 3.0+ GPA.

I was assigned to a really good manager, who taught me the ropes and was my mentor. But I brought with me an innate skill set: a sense of urgency, a forceful persona, an analytical bent, and a dreadful fear of failure. I excelled in my assignments. I was promoted often; given progressively greater responsibility; succeeded in most every challenge. My income rose proportionately and faster than many of the MBAs the company hired from better schools.

Chance played a role in who became my role model. Had I been assigned to a lesser manager -- uncaring, inept -- perhaps my advancement would have been slowed, maybe not.

My upbringing was responsible for my other qualities and attributes. Certainly had I not been raised by upper middle class, non-religious, educated parents who were achievement oriented and success driven, who taught me personal responsibility and self-reliance, it’s more than likely my business career would have been negatively influenced. Chance determined who my parents were, and what my socio-economic status was; I could not influence either.

I was successful enough that I could easily retire to our New Hampshire home at 55 years old and not have to work to support my wife and I. But it wasn't chance / luck that allowed me to retire early. I invested well. My education / understanding of human behavior served me well. I learned quickly. I established personal goals and targets. I worked long hours, often six days a week. I hired the best people. I shared my knowledge, developed people’s skills. I took certain risks and made innovative changes that cemented my credibility with the organization. I understood corporate politics, albeit, I was often a maverick. Based on a combination of chance, personal qualities and decision making grounded in logic and intellect, I was able to significantly influence if not entirely control my destiny,

I can account for how each and every stage of my development and business success was influenced by chance, or by my upbringing, or by my own initiative. Not a jot or tittle of supernatural influence is in play. I expect the result would have been the same had I gone into insurance, real estate, or manufacturing.

Perhaps you’d still credit all that to a higher power. I'd guess you’d protest that you need “proof to the contrary” that a higher power didn't influence who my parents were, or influence my business life and manage my career for some "greater purpose." In fact, I’d wager that as you read this, you are compelled to look at each detail and put it into surpernaturalistic interventional terms. I attribute that to your religious indoctrination, dependency, and a sense of helplessness that upbringing imparts.

I can't possibly prove that no supernatural influence exists, just as I can’t prove that leprechauns, alien abductions, ghosts, or Thor don't exist. You could not disprove that a being that resembles a squid isn't circling a far off star, if I made such a contention. No one can prove imaginary things don't exist, and why bother? It is futile and non-productive exercise. But not being able to disprove the imagined doesn't make these things real by default, or even suggest they are acting upon or influencing anything.

Some people dismiss chance, self-reliance, personal accountability, and the impact of life’s cumulative experiences, preferring to credit all outcomes to "powers" from the beyond. It brings to mind the ancients who attributed war, famine, and every other natural event to supernatural influences. Such people lack the confidence and self-respect to credit their achievements to their own positive attributes and luck; or acknowledge that their failures are due to chance, bad decisions, and/or their own inadequacies. It’s too clear, too personal, too simple, and too real. Their lot in life “must” be in the hands of something else, an unseen spirit -- an uncontrollable influence—anything but their own hands and chance.

I went to Vietnam after almost flunking out my first year at school. When I came home from Nam people said: "God must have been watching over you, it's a miracle you weren't killed." But they spoke from ignorance and superstition. The reality was that of all the people who served in Vietnam “only” (only is a horrible word here, but the only one that fits) 58,000 died out of the 2,100,000 who served. That’s less than 3.0% fatalities. My odds / chance of being killed were higher as an infantry-rifleman, but even then comparatively small at perhaps 7%- 11%.

God/gods had nothing to do with my survival. Miracles didn't save me, nor was it God’s will that killed the evangelical sitting across from me in the bunker who was so busy praying he forgot to keep his head down and reload and fire his rifle. To those theists who like to say "Well, God had a purpose for saving you." I respond “Then your ‘god’ must not believe in itself, since evidently its purpose was for me to help bring as many theists as possible to their senses.” an explanation every bit as rational as their postulation.

The "reason," "greater purpose" for that Christian kid and thousands like him dying, resides only in the imagination of religionists. The only "reason" is that some people die in war; nothing supernatural about it. Or as we used to say “defecation occurs.”

But, what can convince an indoctrinated believer that god / supernaturalism isn't an influence in everything they do, or that happens, or is done to them? Reason, logic, and analysis of influences -- cause and effect -- are replaced by "God did it" by those who accept supernaturalism over reality. That will change only through the evolution of thinking, and the extinction of myth dependency. It’s coming.

Yours in reason,

Saturday, December 5, 2009

"Where are all the people??": Young Earther's Classic Argument from Ignorance

One of the most inane arguments I ever heard for Young Earth Creationism is that the current population of the planet is just not large enough to support an old Earth “theory.”It's a fundamentalist apologetic predicated on the concept that if Man's appearance on Earth was very much older than the biblically calculated 6 -10,000 years the population of the planet would be monumentally larger than the 6.8 billion we currently have. Q.E.D the planet is only 6 – 10,000 yrs. old

The math, logic, and (no surprise here) understanding of birth rates/fertility as influenced by food availability, dramatic changes in human aging/longevity, infant/child mortality rates et al is so lacking as to be laughable. Just a little research would enlighten most people. Here are just a very few anecdotal statistics out of hundred of scientifically supported examples:
  • The average life span from the Neolithic age to medieval Europe averaged 18-25 years old.*

  • 75% of children born in London between 1730-1749 died before the age of five.

  • In Zurich a cemetery that was in use between the 9th and 12th centuries show that 50% of those interred had died before the age of 18.

  • In Britain, a 6th century cemetery at Cannington reflects 64% of its residents died before age 18.**

  • Child mortality in France, as late as the early 18th century, was 45% between the first and fifth years of age alone. ***

  • In the hunter gatherer societies of the Paleolithic age, fertility rates varied as food supplies increased or declined. Their reproductive spans were short, and it is estimated that 80% + of children died within the first 5 years. ****

Of course, none of this speaks to sub-Saharan populations whose child mortality rates even today are horrendous, never mind what they were tens of thousands of years ago. And never mind the wide spread famines and plagues, the latter of which accounted for the decimation of upwards of 50% Europe’s population in the 1300’s plague event alone. In fact it wasn’t until the early 20th century that the average life span reached 35-40 years old. Only in the past few decades did human life span reach an average of 65 years old.

Bottom line is that population growth is a brand new phenomena relatively speaking. Earth went from 1 billion people in 1750 to 6 billion in 2000, that’s a population growth of 5 billion ONLY in the past 250 years.

But all this is mind boggling and way too involved for your average Christian fundie. Besides, facts just makes their heads hurt. They “don’t need no ‘steenking’ facts,” or science, or forensic evidence. It’s enough to just toss out the statement “Where are all the people?” for the most backward sheep to baa in lemming like unison.

I've actually seen that fundie argument proffered three times. Each time I explained about the factors that impacted on population growth since homo sapiens appeared some 200,000 years ago. Two of the fundamentalists admitted they didn't know anything about those things nor cared about them. Of the two, only one had a high school education. They simply took it off a fundamentalist website and accepted it as "gospel." They likely still do.

The third proponent attempted to provide proof that "scientists and anthropologists" have confirmed this “not enough people” argument, stating and even those scientists were baffled as to why we have a population of "so few when there should be so many more." Naturally, these “scientists” accepted the Young Earth Creation myth as a result. It didn’t take long to find out the "scientists and anthropologists" were unaccredited and/or were YEC fundamentalists, who were employed by YEC fundamentalist foundations. No surprise there.

This is what passes for truths to those who will grasp at anything, distort and ignore volumes of corroborated historical research, and invent support for their unsupportable belief. And all along they know their accepting audience lacks the intellect and curiosity necessary to learn the truth about human development.

Whenever I hear this kind of idiocy I have to remind myself it's the 21st century…
for most of us.

**Europe after Rome: a new cultural history 500-1000 By Julia M. H. Smith, page 66
***Murder in Parisian streets: manufacturing crime and justice in the Popular By Thomas Cragin, page 245

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Mike Huckabee: Another “Good Christian” with Blood on His Hands

Mike Huckabee can kiss his presidential aspirations goodbye. Thank Dog! One less Creationist Supernaturalist God Fearing mental midget to compete for the Presidency.

When Southern Baptist preacher Huckabee was governor and head Creationist of Arkansas he commuted the sentences of 1,033 prisoners… twice as many as did his three predecessors combined! It was no secret that he was prone to reduce sentences of convicted felons who testified to having come to Jesus and seen the error of their criminal ways, thus appealing to Mike’s Christian values. One would be hard pressed to find many Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Wiccans, or atheists who benefited from Mike’s mercy.

Maurice Clemmons, the piece of human flotsam that executed those four police officers in Seattle last week, was a beneficiary of Mike Huckabee’s Christian mercy. He had written a letter to then Governor Huckabee attesting to his Christian beliefs and having turned around his life.

Bam! A felon with a long list of crimes on his record, and with a long sentence still to finish, was released with a stroke of Pastor Mike’s pen. The rest of the story is the sorry history we are reading about today.

Huckabee had also released a convicted rapist of a teen aged girl, who promptly committed murder after his release. It would be safe to assume that of the 1,033 good Christian prisoners whose sentences were commuted by Pastor-Governor Huckabee, some significant number went on to resume their murderous, raping, robbing Christian ways.

But Pastor Huckabee doesn’t want to own any of this. Why would he? It doesn’t speak well of his respect for the criminal justice system, his concern for the well being of his law abiding constituents, his rationality, or his ability to separate his faith from his duties as a public servant. In short, a typical religious fanatic whose lack of judgment, common sense and regard for reality wreaks havoc on society.

We already had eight years of one of those. Been there, done that. We don’t need another. Perhaps Mike can go back to ministering to the flock full time. He can start by telling the families of those police officers how their loved ones are in a better place and it was all God’s will.