Age Reflection

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Last week I turned 39 and this particular birthday marks the intersection of a few significant paradigms shifts.

I am finally at the age where today’s most popular songs sound like anything but music to me. My pop culture references are just old enough to retire because my students are too young to be familiar with them. Wrinkles are starting to be noticeable. I traded in my Prius for a minivan. And my oldest child just hit double digits.

It’s an interesting stage of life. Maybe this is my personality or a byproduct of my break from religious dogma in recent years, but I find myself reading so many different philosophical works and the writings of great thinkers throughout history and I just find it fascinating.

So much of my adult life was spent being scared of and closed off to the exploration of knowledge outside of one book. Now, it’s like I couldn’t close the door if I wanted to. I finish one book and start the next. My mind is flooding with ideas and being used in a way it just couldn’t have been for so many years. It is like I was trapped and didn’t even know it. Like my capacity to reason was impaired. When I would come to something that didn’t make sense I had the old stand by rationalizations to fall back on . . .

  • God works in mysterious ways.
  • God’s ways are beyond our human understanding.
  • We won’t fully understand everything here on earth until we get to heaven.
  • Maybe we just aren’t supposed to understand it ‘this side of heaven’. That’s why we have faith.
  • Faith is what fills in the gaps. I just trust that God knows what He’s doing.
  • There must be a reason. God works all things together for good.

I could fill a book with internal dialogue like this.

I suppose it’s just nice to reach a point in my life where things make sense. It’s not only philosophy preoccupying my thoughts these days though. I may watch a show describing a murder in the 1800s or how people would believe that their loved ones had been stolen by fairies and replaced by changelings that looked just like them. These were real people who had no idea what was to come in 2017. All they knew was what was available to them at that moment. Their beliefs, no matter how outlandish they may seem now, were true to them. How could they know differently? Their actions were also a product of their time. No doubt they thought things through and rationalized their decisions. I suppose it never really occurred to me to pause and consider the many consciousnesses that existed before me.

History has suddenly taken on a whole new significance.

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I find myself thinking about all the lives that came before mine and how full, how rich, how painful, how utterly encompassing the events were for those that lived them. People felt real emotions, formed intimate connections with others and some stopped to ponder the lives that came before them just as I am now. It’s surreal to think about. So many people have already lived and died. We are continually building on what they created. They laid foundations both literal and figurative. Some created works of art or advanced our scientific understanding and left the world richer for having had them in it. Some lives have been lived in the limelight, others in obscurity. So many are long forgotten. Millions of lives have been cut short in gruesome unfair ways. Others have peacefully drifted off to sleep surrounded by the people dearest to them. People have lived and died in a million different ways. No matter how rich or full a person’s life was at a particular point in history, in the end they met the same fate we all do.

It’s actually liberating knowing your time is limited. Every moment is so much more precious. This life is temporary but it’s not just a stop on the way to somewhere greater. It is great on its own. I am so grateful to have broken free of faith in what others said is reality and instead I can see, smell, hear, taste, touch, and experience all this life has to offer. I want to spend my brief timeline soaking up all the knowledge and wonder of this world that I can.

So I keep reading, watching, learning.

Only this last year did I discover Christopher Hitchens. Sadly, by the time I read his work, his life was already over.  I will never be able to tell him how connected I felt to his writing, how moved I was, how sad I am to miss the opportunity to thank him.

But he left his mark. I only hope that one day I will have left mine.

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Where was god last night?

Last night a 64 year old man opened fire from the 32nd floor of his hotel onto a crowd of people attending a country music concert in Las Vegas. No doubt you will have heard about it by now.

If you believe in an all loving god who listens to and answers prayers and intervenes on our behalf, WHERE WAS HE LAST NIGHT?

Did he just sit by and watch the massacre?

Why not reach a hand out over the crowd and stop the bullets from hitting them? How easy would that have been?

If you find yourself thinking well he did intervene in the form of the police and the guy shooting himself . . . How is that any different than the police coming in and the guy shooting himself without any god involved?

You know people were panicking, running, and praying with every fiber of their being for their god to protect them and let them survive this . . . And they died. Horribly. Others prayed to their god and lived. Why? Why should some prayers be answered and only some people be protected while others praying just as hard were not spared? It’s as though there were no god intervening at all.

And yet people will praise their god today. Even without any action on his part to prevent this or any tragedy. Death. Destruction. It doesn’t matter to a person of faith how completely horrific the crime, incident, event, tragedy is or how sick the idea is that he sits and watches it all unfold.

How does one reconcile these tragedies with a loving god? Free will, right? He doesn’t prevent the free will of humans no matter how depraved the act. The free will of the child rapist is more important than the life or well being of the child.

So, if he doesn’t intervene to preserve free will, why in the world would you pray to ask him to intervene on your behalf? You believe that he does in fact step in to answer your prayers, right? Why would he intervene to bring about good but not intervene to prevent bad? Wouldn’t that be ‘good’?

Do you see how little this all makes sense?

Not to mention, if you believe all it takes is a particular prayer/acceptance of god to get into heaven, then you have to reconcile the idea that the shooter could have done so at any time even up until the point of death.

Which would place him right alongside some of his victims in heaven for all eternity.

That is messed up.

This would also mean that like 99% of the prison population will be partying with you in heaven while 97% of the National Academy of Sciences are sent to hell to be punished and tortured for all eternity? All the freethinkers, philosophers, scientists, educators who did real good in their lives to help advance the human race – they suffer while murders and rapists party in heaven? With their victims?

Welcome to heaven. Say hi to the guy that raped and killed you.

Perhaps you find yourself thinking that some good must come of this tragedy in Las Vegas or Orlando or the hundreds of other acts of senseless violence happening around the world every day. Maybe this was necessary to bring people to Jesus. Not only does that reasoning minimize the impact of what has happened by suggesting it is in any way ‘good’, what kind of god would convert people in this way?!? Just think for a moment how sick and twisted that is. This person has a hard heart but in order to bring them into the fold, I’m going to allow the largest massacre in recent U.S. history convince them to come to me and worship me.

Disgusting. It reminds me of the words scraped into the wall of a German concentration camp – “If there is a god, he will have to beg my forgiveness”

Note that the Jews are his chosen people and he dropped manna from the sky to feed them, parted the Red Sea to ensure safe passage for them, but did nothing to save them from Hitler.

Nevermind that we see NO evidence of any such miracles today nor any evidence of miracles purported in the Bible. Archeologists (eager ones at that) have combed the Middle East for evidence but have not found the ark, the Ten Commandment tablets, evidence of the flood or of every animal migrating from the middle east to the ends of the earth where we find them now – nothinggggg.

I could go on and on about lack of evidence (despite having archeological artifacts from history before, during, and after biblical events would have occurred). That doesn’t matter right now.

We have a bigger problem to deal with.

When are we going to realize that the work of saving lives and preventing violence falls on us humans?

It is incredibly frustrating that we are not able to work on solving problems like guns + mental illness = mass death because we are too focused on rationalizing tragedy than working on solutions and prevention.

It is easy to be discouraged right now. We have come so far and yet people are attributing hurricanes to punishment for Obama, gay marriage or abortion. I have heard far too many claims recently that we are in the end times . . . as every previous generation has also asserted. The world is going to end. Let’s throw our hands up and wait for Jesus to come back.

I kid you not that I was told (jokingly, I hope) that one person wished the pale horse would ride in, Jesus would come back already and save us all from ourselves. The pale horse is a reference to the four horsemen of the apocalypse as told in the book of Revelations. This is the last horse: Death. Yes, let’s hope for the destruction of all life on earth. It’s just easier that way than having to keep enduring tragedy on earth.

How about we focus our energy and attention on doing our damndest to make sure events like last night’s shooting never happen again?

We are too busy searching for the silver lining.

Guest Post: Phillipa Gilbert

I have been so fortunate to be able to connect with other atheist women out there, many of whom have traveled similar roads as me on their journey. Some with entirely different stories. All of them interesting. Today’s post comes from one such woman who was kind enough to share her experiences with not only me, but with all of you as well. Reading her story reminded me of my own. Her dedication to her faith, her search for truth, and her painful moment of clarity felt all too familiar. I hope the words of Phillipa Gilbert ring true for you and bring encouragement to those who may find themselves walking a similar road. 

Roman-Catholicism

Being born in the ’70s in one of the most prosperous and traditionally European-like countries of South America, you could guess correctly with a 96% of certainty that I was brought up as a Roman Catholic Christian. I was so proud of my heritage. But what I was most proud of was that I used to keep my faith intact against all odds, all except one.

The first odd thing was that I never ever went to any mass of any type with my whole family. I just can’t remember doing that. My dad or mum drove me to the church and left me there and waited patiently outside the building. However, I was regularly in front of the Altar receiving the holy communion almost every Sunday and some Wednesdays, by myself, since I was an eight-year-old school girl until I was at the university. They didn’t ask me to. I made them do it.

At UNI, I went to mass or stood around the tabernacle maybe twice, three times per day between database design workshops and discrete math classes or any other time that I could have. No one asked me to. No one taught me how to do that stuff. I just did it. I was sure that I felt the Call.

Everything started when my Mum and dad diligently enrolled me in all-girls catholic school run by conservative Italian nuns. I can’t complain. I was happy there. I was shy and never got into trouble… oh wait, once. That time, I was boxing with one of the girls that was weirder than me. Just one punch, and one of her molar teeth flew over to the other side of the room. After that, my favourite nun, locked us in a bathroom without saying a word. Odd. Years later, I talked to my, now, best friend about the incident. We have been laughing about those school years and realize that in a way, the incident was the reason for our strong friendship. In the middle of the jokes and laughs, she turned very serious and told me that she lost her faith after that because “nuns are bad people”. I guess I didn’t get it because at that moment I laughed harder than before. I couldn’t grasp the possibility of someone losing their faith. That’s just impossible.

rosefrench_1295021220_pope_john_paul_ii_2005John Paul II, the pope, had a lot to do with keeping my faith stronger than ever. No doubts. He was the first pope to visit Venezuela and all the young Christians were more excited about his coming than any rock star alive. I went to one of his concerts, I mean, one of the gatherings and it was mesmerizing. I couldn’t talk about anything else for months. I was invited to enter a youth association and I got so involved that even being just a 19-year-old, I was appointed as a Youth Leader of Religious Education. First, I was my local group leader, one year later I was the regional leader and couple of years after that, I was the National Leader of Religious Education of this youth group. Those years were the most prolific of my young religious career. I organized several workshops and camps. People travelled great distances to get to one of those. The most memorable was a five-day retreat for thirteen and nineteen-year-old boys and girls and the main and only topic was: The power of praying. No one taught me how. No one asked me to. I was totally sure that I was called by god to do that.

I was never a religious fanatic though. I talked about god and religion just with people that were on the same page. At the same time, I was another student. One that did aerobics, swam at the uni swimming Olympic pool, went to classes, was enlisted in her first political and rights debate, walked around the place as if she owned it and had a whole group of male fans of her own. They could smell virgin blood wrapped in a very innocent looking 20-year-old girl in a mini skirt. Not knowing that when no one was looking, she went to the small room of the tabernacle, knelt with her face between her hands, bent down as close to the ground as possible to meditate and could stay like that for hours.  No one taught me how. No one asked me to. I just was trying to listen.

One very odd day, I couldn’t find one spot in the technology section of the library so I went to the humanity section. I sat down close to a guy that was reading another type of book: Yoga: Immortality and Freedom by Mercea Eliade. Every word of the title was a puzzle to me. I couldn’t help but ask the reader what it was about. That moment of curiosity changed my life forever. He photocopied that first chapter for me and gave it to me right there. I kept seeing him for a whole month and every meeting he brought me another photocopied chapter. That was my first book other than technology or Catholic Books. Hinduism? What was that? I started reading, and breathing, about other religions, history of religions, comparative religious ideas, sacred books of every major religion and some minor too, cults, different divisions inside major religions, biographies of the religion founders and cults, philosophy of religions, spirituality, new age, angelology, theosophy, anthroposophy (I think I read all that Rudolph Steiner wrote about this one), all against or pro. Maybe, this time, I thought by comparing what I have learned for so many years with everything else I could prove to others that my faith was the right one.

Years after years passed and everything was growing old or comfortable enough to consider it as part of my conscious being, until a couple of events that are odd enough to mention here.

The first one, the realization that the only way that I could use all this religious knowledge was being a priest. A female priest? Yes. Maybe. My admired John Paul II had said in an encyclical letter: “no way” for now and for ever. I was so disappointed. Probably, another Christian church, then. Conversion was never my plan. It would be a failure. “The Holy Catholic Church was the right one”, I repeated to myself, I don’t know how many times. All other churches were a posterior modification of that glorious first one. Or, should I pretend that I could convert and be an Anglican and forget all about the Anglican Kings and Queens killing thousands of innocent Catholics just because I want to properly and lawfully preach? It didn’t sound right. So, what to do with all this knowledge? I just want to be one of those people that people would like to listen to.

And the last and definitive event was the passing of a little innocent baby. Abraham was my in-law-nephew’s very sick baby. I didn’t have the opportunity to hold him or kiss him, not even once, but I felt how a part of my life went to a very dark place with the losing of him. I’d prayed for him not to die for months. I prayed to god, to virgin Mary, to Jesus and to all saints. Even other deities were called for their intervention. I performed every ritual or praying position that I knew. I said every single prayer known to religious people. I explored the meaning of the words and I know the intentions were the right ones. I prayed in different languages based on different traditions. I just wanted to be heard.

The day he died I wanted to die too, and in a way, I died. Someone called and my husband repeated the words he was hearing. His voice was extremely sad and he was in disbelief. He cried. I felt like something was leaving me and it did. I went down to the floor crying. Midway, I stopped crying for him and started to cry for me. I was so desperate, hopeless, betrayed and alone. How silly and innocent I have been. I heard my own voice saying “there is no one listening”.

In a split second, all the pain in the world made perfect sense: there is no one listening. So: paedophilia, human trafficking, foreign occupation, killing, raping, murdering, terrorism, horrible politicians, nationalisms, totalitarian regimes and all religions are just man-made acts based on one-sided opinions. There is no one who knows it all and at the same time is present and does nothing when things like these happen.

There is no one listening. So, natural disasters are just that – disasters that are natural – or even man-made sometimes. They are not signs of something different. They are not punishment for one or another convenient reason. They are not abominations of an all-knowing omnipresent but impotent god.

There is no one listening. Life has no intrinsic meaning. And, this is not the voice of depression. This is the voice of someone that is not looking for immortality anymore… just freedom.

Finally, I freed myself from my own search for meaning. No one taught me. No one asked me to. I just stopped that and it feels so liberating.

 

If you would like to share your story, email me at wonderlandatheist@gmail.com.

The ‘Liberal Brainwashing’ of College Campuses

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I have read quite a few articles now that assert that many republicans/conservatives think that college is a BAD thing and that higher education is, in effect, liberal brainwashing. Maybe because I am an educator and a huge proponent of higher education, I take issue with this. I do not think it is brainwashing at all, but development of critical thinking, exposure to new culture and ideas, and a new sense of empowerment as students navigate through the transition from high school to career-bound adult.

Students must take a critical thinking course to graduate college. An entire class that teaches them how to analyze information, evaluate claims and determine whether or not to accept them based on the strength of the logic, evidence and reasoning used. They are NOT taught to accept liberal claims and reject conservative ones.

When people go to college they are often exposed to other kids from all over and a variety of races, ethnicities, sexual orientations, beliefs, and in their classes they speak up and in turn, they learn from each other and realize hey maybe it’s stupid to hate this guy or wow “_____” people are not so bad. This repeated exposure to diversity leaves a mark on them. As a byproduct, when they graduate they may have very little tolerance for biogtry and narrow-mindedness anymore. This then is communicated to their families and then it must’ve been those liberals brainwashing them. Not possibly that exposure to many different subjects and people over 4-8 years might possibly have shaped them to think about how decisions or policies may affect others outside their group?

I think many students feel frustrated and passionate and, perhaps for the first time, realize they have a voice they can use to raise awareness and bring about social or political change. They also have the benefit of being together for months at a time all on the same campus discussing their perspectives and this often unites them. They begin to work collectively to express themselves. This often manifests itself in demonstrations and protests.

There is a perfect storm of conditions for a ‘liberal’ mindset:

  • Young adults shedding the last vestiges of childhood and moving towards adulthood.
  • Time to think through concepts with greater depth
  • Constant exposure to other cultures/backgrounds which may reveal biases they may not even realize they had
  • Close proximity to large numbers of people, which makes uniting easier
  • Reaching voter age
  • The realization that their age group has a voice
  • The desire to make a difference

I did a simple google search for the definition of the term liberal and the very first definition given says “open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values.” I fail to see what is problematic about that unless you get stuck at ‘traditional’ values. If we were never opened up to new ideas or modified our stances, we would still be owning slaves, women would not be voting, no progress could be made.

Perhaps you have a problem with these things and prefer to identify as conservative. I performed the same simple search to take the first definition and it is this: “holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.” While college campuses do encourage innovation and exposure to new ideas, that does not mean that conservatism is checked at the door.

Make no mistake. The conservative viewpoint has not been eliminated from college campuses. Far from it. I regularly have students proclaim their faith. There are Republican clubs, pro-life rallies, and the simple fact that Milo Yannolopis has made his way across the country speaking as a guest on campuses all over the nation speaks to the presence of not only right leaning perspectives, but alt-right ones. Racism, sexism, homophobia, and religious superiority are also alive and well on campus. We have disturbing comments posted on the free speech wall. Harassment of minorities, campus rape, and plenty of other adverse actions are still being heard and spread. However, some of these ideas are challenged not by instructors, but by fellow students.

Last year, I had a young male student in a public speaking class argue that abortion should be criminalized and when asked by the females in the class, he agreed (reluctantly) that he would have them imprisoned. What is lamentable about his position is that he was unable to address their concerns as his knowledge of fetal development did not seem to extend beyond the creation of the blastocyst. They asked him his thoughts on the morning after pill which creates a spike of estrogen that thins the uterine lining and allows the blastocyst to pass from the uterus just as nearly 50% of them naturally do. When this was shared, he became flustered and had no script for whether this was okay or not. It was a bit painful to watch but enlightening I think for the entire class on all sides. I had many religious students close up the quarter speaking about acceptance, tolerance, and love from a religious perspective in their final value speech. They used their platform to address their peers and encourage what they saw as essential American values: freedom, autonomy, the rights of an individual.

I have had students argue against raising the minimum wage, discuss what they believe to be threats against free speech, argue that welfare recipients should be drug tested, and many additional conservative viewpoints that the rest of the class takes in and listens to. We get topics from all sides and students learn to LISTEN to opposing viewpoints in their entirety.

I don’t forbid my students from sharing what is important to them if it is relevant to an assignment. That is how they learn from each other. Unlike some teacher memes I’ve seen that suggest god put every kid in your classroom for you to convert, I do not believe that my job is to shape opinions so that they all come out believing the same thing I do.

Rather, it is my job to spark critical thinking and teach them how to evaluate all ideas critically in order to determine what to accept or reject. No one can do that for them. They must do it for themselves. Thinking critically does not lead to one outcome or one belief or one idea. Their decisions are still determined by their own experiences and research. My “agenda” is to produce better communicators at the end of the quarter than the ones that walked in.

Closed mindedness does not allow learning to take place. It is okay for kids to go to college and hear a melting pot of experiences and ideas on which they reshape, revise, or reinforce their own. This isn’t something we should be scared of. If they come out with different beliefs or attitudes than their parents, so be it. The goal of child-rearing is not to create ideological clones (or at least it shouldn’t be). After all, it is their mind, their journey, their discovery, their education.

Hyperpersonal Fluff

Throughout the history of the blogosphere, I’ve taken up some space with a few different blogs, but personal day to day stuff almost always results in oversharing of hyperpersonal information. I’ve always been open to a fault and my honesty can be off-putting. This blog is perfect because it’s something I’m passionate about and the topic focus keeps my personal life out of it.

Today, I was able to record my first podcast laying out some background info for Leaving Wonderland and I think it went well. However, even though the podcast will deal with a variety of topics, the subject of this blog in particular creates a unique quandary for friends and family who have otherwise been encouraging of creative projects. This blog speaks to things they’d rather not think about. This is a strange situation to process on my end. And I process through writing. This blog isn’t the spot to get all personal, but then it hit me today –

In a way, I’ve got the perfect solution right in front of me.

I have a membership platform on Patreon.com. I can create posts exclusively for Wonderland Members and pour out all the behind the scenes drama there! That offers me a bit of a buffer so not EVERYTHING ends up out in the world.

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I think $1 a month is sufficient for access to personal thoughts, feelings, reactions to criticisms as well as the hate thrown at me from loving christian strangers. Funding the new podcast AND getting my own private little gossip chain?

Can you say . . . Win win!

And check this out, since the people closest to me just can not in good conscience support my pied piper path to hell, they’ll never be members and thus never be privy to the fact that anything they say (or don’t say) bothers me in the slightest.

patreon.com/leavingwonderland – Sign up and help me prove that yes, we DO need more secular female voices in the digital world.

The Bible: Fact or Fiction?

I recently wrote about how the Bible no longer seems to be a requirement for today’s Christian. Many have rejected it, often because of the cruelty contained within or the fact that we now know that evolution by natural selection was how human beings came into existence (as opposed to creation from dirt, breath and a rib) or any number of other reasons. The one common theme among those that reject the Bible either in part or in whole, is having READ it. Not just the verses displayed on church walls and discussed in Sunday sermons, but the difficult parts, the passages nonbelievers often quote. Many christians who still view the Bible as the perfect word of god are often surprised to hear what it actually says. It is easy to view the Bible as holy when you haven’t fully read it. There is no need to accept or reject what you are not aware of. However, the fact that so many who have read it have left the faith should arouse some serious questions for you as a believer.

The reality is that the Bible (and Christianity) are quickly going out of style. As a Christian, this should trouble you. No doubt it is the work of Satan leading people astray. Even if it is, wouldn’t it make sense to understand how or why so many are leaving? Why are your fellow brothers and sisters in christ rejecting the foundational text of your shared religion? I would think this would be a pressing area of inquiry for all members of the church right now.

Let me quickly point out that there are in fact believers who have fully read the Bible and are content with it. In the words of a reader earlier this week – the Bible is “living and active” revealing new bits of information to the reader like a magic tide of insight washing up different treasures each time you read it. This is actually a great rationalization because it points to mysticism instead of fact, an explanation that helps the believer to avoid asking questions about veracity because that is not the point. The point is the ebb and flow of personal messages from god to individual. This explanation helps keep doubt at bay.

Is the Bible the Inspired Word of God? 

This is an important question to start with because if this is true, many of us are horribly misguided. This question is not a question of opinion. This is a question of fact. Either he inspired it (either in full or partially) or he didn’t. Something happened or it did not happen. This leaves us with a few options here.

The Bible was either . . .

  • fully inspired by god as a whole and complete communication to humans
  • partially inspired as in god had a hand in only parts of it and humans were solely responsible for other parts (meaning some of the Bible is the work of humans alone) or
  • god had no part in it at all and it was entirely the work of humans.

If the Bible is not the work of god (because either god doesn’t exist or he had no hand in the writing of it), then it is just a story written by humans. This would mean that heaven, hell, the garden where god cursed Adam and eve (with original sin), Jesus as god or a part of god on any level, the entire concept of SIN, would all be completely imaginary because the Bible is the ONLY evidence we have for any of these concepts. This would mean Christianity is mythology as all the religions before it have since become. Read this sentence as many times as it takes to sink in: Sin does not exist outside of the Bible. People do bad things that we deem immoral but there is no cosmic judge to punish eternally for them. Not unless the Bible is true.

If the Bible is partially true and was part god’s message, part humans putting in stuff that had nothing to do with him – how would you discern which parts were his and which parts were human’s? The Holy Spirit? That seems plausible. However, if the Holy Spirit is the way humans are supposed to detect the god parts and the Holy Spirit is given to every christian, every christian that asked would be able to discern the same parts at different times without every having spoken to each other directly. They would all come to the same conclusion because there would only be one conclusion to come to. We would not see any disagreement because they were simply shown which were the correct parts. Obviously, this is not the case. There are a ton of interpretations and not only different but COMPETING interpretations – as in for one to be right, the other must be wrong. It is fairly safe to assume that the Bible is not some parts god inspired and some parts human writing only.

This leaves us with one final option. The Bible is fully inspired by god. Now, if this is true, then every disgusting act, every instruction, all the rape, murder, instructions for keeping slaves, incest, instructions on animal sacrifice, people being mauled by animals, blood spilling violence – ALL of it was penned and put together upon his instruction. Even if you believe that some of it is not relevant today (because many of the instructions given are morally wrong and could land you in jail if you followed them) – even IF he knew he was giving instruction to only a select group in a select time of history, even IF he was using metaphors of unspeakable things to illustrate a point – the fact is that HE THOUGHT IT PERFECTLY APPROPRIATE AT ONE TIME. The Bible says God does not change and yet if he does not hold you to live by his instruction as he held the men in the Bronze Age to live by, then how do you explain him changing his position on slavery, animal cruelty, etc? Why does he accept prison now when he commanded stoning then? Is your mind already going back to the but the Old Testament doesn’t count thing? I would suggest rereading Matthew 19 where it says not one word passes from the law and whoever obeys the law will be greatest in the kingdom of heaven. But, even if it does NOT count now, but counted at one time – it still counted and not only that, but he knew you would one day be reading it, yes? That millions would be seeking wisdom within its pages and would not only be confused but horrified at the position he used to take? Why would he choose to make things clear in the Bronze Age and revolting in the 21st century? Does that make sense?

The Bible Must Be Read in Context

I have been told many things about the Bible, but none as frequently as the phrase that the Bible must be read “in context.” Do you have to read The Odyssey in context? No, because you are not trying to say that there really was a cyclops in a cave or that supernatural stories really happened or are metaphors for our lives or that we can read any line of it and Poseidon will speak to you through it. Of course we don’t. That would be ridiculous. Instead, we read it and enjoy the stories, the adventure, the gods, and characters. There is no pressure to apply it to our daily lives or garner strength from it. However, the Bible must be read in context in order to make sense. Of course you don’t just READ it and UNDERSTAND it. You must study it, read books that others have written dissecting each and every word of it. Take entire classes in apologetics designed to teach you to how to respond when people point out inconsistencies, contradictions, or cruelties. You must memorize lines of text and repeat them in prayer, recite them in groups, sing them in songs, and commit them to memory.

So, let’s explore the context theory for a moment. What context are we talking about exactly? The time period? The culture? Why would an all powerful god be bound by the customs of one particular group of humans at one particular time in history in a tiny blip of the earth?

Seems silly that of all the time periods to choose from God chose to show up in the Bronze Age Middle East. Why not show up after the invention of the printing press or the camera or the internet? Isn’t it interesting that he is the most active in history the further you go back and the height of his appearance was at a time when people still didn’t know where the sun went at night? And that his appearances have strangely tapered off as we develop into a more and more intelligent, rational and technologically advanced society? No doubt some believers will say that this is because we have left him behind and that is our sin, not his absence. Think for a moment. Isn’t it at least POSSIBLE that it is because we understand that magic is not real and so have less cause to be amazed by things that happened thousands of years ago? If you came upon Abraham today putting his son on a concrete picnic bench in the park and raising a knife to bring down and kill him with – would you not intervene? Call 911? If he said god told him to do it, would you be satisfied with that answer? I’m willing to guess you’d want him thrown in jail just like any other parent that has attempted to murder their child. But WHY do you believe the Abraham story but don’t trust someone to hear the voice of god telling them to kill in present day? He has given kill orders tons of times in the Bible. Why wouldn’t he still be issuing them today if he truly does not change? What changed? You understand that hearing a voice telling you to kill someone is INSANE and delusional. THAT is what has changed from your Bronze Age brothers and sisters. We have evolved in our capacity for empathy, understanding, and morality well beyond the Biblical era.

God’s Word is Timeless, Therefore Compatible with 21 Century Understanding

Some believers argue that faith is fully compatible with science (it is not) and they contend that they can believe in god and still fully accept scientific discovery and evidence as fact. Science is simply the means by which God accomplished his work. I tend to think this is an arrogant position even though I once held it myself. Any new discovery is simply ‘claimed’ to be the work of God with no evidence to back up that claim. Either god did it or he didn’t. Something is there or it is not. These are facts we are talking about. Truths. And in order to assert a truth you need some sort of evidence to indicate that it is, in fact, true. I could just as easily say that there is a complex fairy society that orchestrates the creation of everything on earth. Is it true simply because I said it was? Do you believe it? No. Why not? Because I have given you no REASON to believe it because there is absolutely no evidence of a fairy society.

However illogical, let’s grant the premise that god did it (or Allah or the fairy society). In order to accept both faith and science in the way some believers suggest, they must minimize the value of their holy text.

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Christians must acknowledge the many inaccurate claims related to science or math in the Bible, such as classifying a bat as a bird or the fact that the dimensions given for Noah’s ark are far too small and create a structure that would be impossible to house 2 of every species. Not to mention, how did they separate predator from prey? What did the animals eat for 40 days? Did they bring extra animals to serve to the large carnivores? Insects to serve to the ant eaters? Where is the fossil evidence of a great migration of different animals from the Middle East where the ark was to all the rest of the continents of the earth where they are found today? How did penguins make it there and withstand the heat of the Middle East? The more you think about the logistics of the ark, the more it is absolutely absurd.

The ark is only one example. There are many, many more. In order to reconcile these inaccuracies or statements that conflict with reality, the believer must then look at these stories, not as literal fact but as allegorical fiction. Little by little, as we grow in our understanding of the world around us, the literal truth of the Bible keeps growing smaller and smaller. Think about that for a moment. Doesn’t that seem to suggest that perhaps the entirety of the Bible may be reduced to metaphor in our lifetimes? If it can move from what was once considered fact (the garden of Eden, talking snake – completely accurate) to metaphor (the snake just represents the devil, it wasn’t actually the devil in snake form), is it really that difficult to see that the possibility that it may be entirely fiction that we have held on to but seem to be outgrowing? Egyptians fully believed in Horus and Ra and Anubis. They were fully committed to these gods. We see evidence of their devotion to these gods in images, relics, and magnificent tombs. And yet here we are in the 21st century and we know their gods are not real and their belief system is classified as mythology, not religion? Is Christianity different?

Accept or reject it, but READ it before doing either

Today, the Bible continues to shrink into metaphor. Fewer christians are picking it up and the ones that do either leave the faith, reject the text as a christian (as I mentioned here), or are considered fundamentalists for adhering to it because it requires commitment to what are seen as outdated and oppressive views that seek to deny the rights of others.

I remember the first time my husband made the suggestion that the Bible was actually written by primitive men. I was so offended. I didn’t think about what he was saying, only that I couldn’t BELIEVE he just suggested that the Bible may not be the word of god. It is hard to think about the Bible not being a holy text. It’s scary to think that the words on the pages are barbaric because the men who wrote them were barbaric. That there is no greater mystery contained within them than in the Odyssey or in the images inscribed in an Eqyptian tomb. But there is great comfort in acknowledging this. It is intellectual relief and moral freedom. Not freedom to go out and be immoral, but to associate morality with suffering rather than rules that are centuries old. This means that what causes others harm or suffering and makes your heart hurt for them is immoral. It is simply the acknowledgment of the moral principles you already live by that are completely independent of the Bible. Freedom comes when you realize that you don’t have to worry about what choices other people make in their lives as long as they are not inflicting suffering upon others. You can accept them and love them without having to judge them at the same time. It is a beautiful feeling when love doesn’t carry conditions. It is freedom to embrace knowledge without worrying whether it conflicts with an ancient text. You can read philosophical ideas from so many great thinkers throughout history. You can study science and feel completely at ease acknowledging what we know to be true, what you can observe with your own senses. There is freedom in learning all that you can without worrying about whether that knowledge is too ‘worldly’. 

In closing, despite all of these things, there are still some believers who will not bother themselves with questions about inconsistencies or contradictions. Instead, they are content with the old standby of “you gotta have faith.” Faith used to mean believing without evidence, but now has come to represent belief in spite of evidence. I was guilty of inserting this stopper when something didn’t make sense and I remember feeling bad for people that had less faith than I obviously did, because they felt the need to question rather than just accept. Faith is a virtue after all. For the faith-ful christian, the Bible is not meant to be analyzed and dissected. It is “god’s love letter to humanity” and we may never be able to fully understand his wisdom. End of discussion.

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Are Christians Even Christian Anymore?

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I can’t be the only one who sees that present day Christianity is just more and more of a watered down ego stroke where every Christian is loved, is god’s favorite, is blessed, and god is their own personal force in the universe orchestrating every tiny detail to make them happy. Excuse my language, but this is total bullshit and completely unbiblical. Today’s Christian does not have to go to church to ‘know Jesus’. They don’t have to have read their Bible cover to cover before teaching their kids from a biblical homeschool curriculum. They know just enough to feel like god has their back, but not enough to be revolted by the biblical god. After all, Noah’s ark themed Christmas ornaments and nursery decorations are just precious, aren’t they? It’s hard to think about the extermination of like 99% of the human race as well as most all of the animals on earth (who did nothing sinful). Nope, the little zebras and giraffes walking in two by two are just too cute. Christianity is ‘comforting’ and the imagery familiar. There’s no need to question it.

And yet, many ARE questioning it. Christianity is losing numbers every day and the ranks are shrinking. Personally, I would attribute this to casualties of the war between the religious right in Washington and the growth of progressive ideals in popular culture. It becomes more difficult as time goes on to stay aligned with a religion that actively works to oppose the rights of others. It think it is this tension has caused many to take a look at their faith and distance themselves from it. Some individuals, like me, reject the faith entirely. Others reject only the “church” as a corrupt organization, but keep on loving Jesus because it’s a relationship, not a religion. Others adopt a “New Testament only” mentality wherein they just completely ignore the Old Testament or actively reject it because Jesus eliminated it for them. They are no longer bound by the law. Many have and continue to “cherrypick” the Bible, just focusing on the happy verses while explaining away ones that we know to be untrue, immoral, or bizarre as contextual or a product of the time period. (Why would god be bound by cultural norms of a specific group of people in a specific region of the earth at a specific time in history?) But, the oddest adaptation yet that is entirely new to me is people who categorically reject the Bible in its entirety, but still call themselves Christians. I won’t address what is theologically and logically problematic about these various approaches here. I simply want to acknowledge that while at one time, it would be unheard of to take any of these approaches to Christianity (except cherrypicking, that’s been around for a long time) – there is a new breed of 21st century Christian that is a stark departure from the fundamentals of Christianity.

I think it was easier to accept the premises of the Bible before the advent of the internet. Now, our understanding of the world around us far surpasses that of the Bible. So much so that many of us have been able to ‘break the spell’ so to speak and see it for the primitive text it is.

21st century Christians are the exact type of followers the Bible warns will be spit out of his mouth – lukewarm Christians. But if you are a Christian who has never fully read the Bible, you never have to face this reality. If you spend all your time repeating Jeremiah 29:11 type of verses to reinforce the idea that somehow this whole world and everything in it are all for you his most precious and wonderful child – then yah you aren’t going to see it.

Instead they may attend church on Sundays and hear over and over that they have been chosen by the one true God who loves them and provides for their every need (to the degree that their socio-economic status can provide for those needs). They are all to happy to hashtag #imhisfavorite or brag about god showing off for them by providing a beautiful sunset while completely unaffected by the suffering and torment in the world. Now, of course no one is going to walk around thinking about the world’s suffering every minute of every day and yes we are going to have moments of appreciation in our lives, but the idea of being god’s favorite speaks to a level of narcissism that is disgustingly arrogant. WHY would god ignore the pleas of a child asking that her mom’s boyfriend not find his way into her room again tonight or the heartfelt prayers of a million kids at that very moment asking that god end their suffering due to war, abuse, hunger or any number of unthinkable situations they may find themselves in. Do you not think that children who have been abducted, raped and murdered did not PRAY for help? Why would god ignore them and yet rearrange the sky to look like a beautiful canvas just for his one little favorite white middle class American adult? How do they reconcile all the cruelty going on at the very moment that god is making their day just a little bit brighter? It’s simple. They don’t. If confronted with the question, they content themselves to say the horrors of this world are a product of free will. After all, they can’t help it if there are sinful people out there doing sinful things. God doesn’t intervene because he respects the free will of his children, even the bad ones. Wait. This logic suggests that god respects the freewill of the rapist more than the body, dignity, or life of the child he is raping. (Funny how these are often the same christians that would do the opposite and deny a woman her free will but prioritize the life of a blastocyst to ‘save’ it. Weird.)

Either god intervenes or he doesn’t. Does he only intervene to bring about the good fortune of a happy Christian’s life but doesn’t intervene to save a child (even a christian one)? What kind of god would pick favorites like that?

If the christian god, the god of the Bible is up there watching all of humanity, what does he think about the partial or entire rejection of his holy book by those that claim to worship him? Do they actually worship him or the idea that the earth and everything in it has been created for them and that this all powerful being does them special favors precisely because he loves them soooooo much? Today’s christianity really is more like a security blanket, a stroke of ego, a constant reminder that each individual is truly the center of the universe.

If the Bible is no longer a requirement for christianity because it is wrong, unnecessary, or has gone out of date, what does that say about the god contained within it?

That is probably not a question that today’s Christian would waste time thinking about.

 

Conservatives Seem to Be Motivated by Fear of Facing a Reality Without God

I really and truly think the underlying root of all the discord and division in the U.S. lately can be attributed to one thing. Things like the rejection of science, mistrust of colleges and the public school system, increased # of families homeschooling with a religious curriculum. All of it comes down to a genuine fear of secularization.
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Ask yourself if any of this sounds familiar . . .
God is on the chopping block in this country and there’s no way we’re letting him go without a fight.
Public education teaches evolution which is in direct conflict with what the Bible says. If I homeschool, I can make sure my kids continue in the faith without being exposed to false theories. Then my kids can just associate with other kids at the same church and we’ll make all of their social events about keeping them closer to god.
College teaches liberal concepts that make young faithful kids turn away from god. They teach them to reject their beliefs and turn liberal. They limit free speech and teach kids to think things like a man dressing up like a woman is ok when really it’s an abomination.
Gay marriage and abortion are categorically wrong and voting left would mean being partially responsible for allowing all these people to sin freely with government support. It’s not what god wants. Obama was a Democrat and he desecrated the sanctity of marriage when he legalized same sex marriage. God will punish us for this depravity.
The only real choice politically then is to vote Republican only. I can pretty safely go down the docket and tick all the Republican boxes and trust that I will be in good hands, that they will be fighting against abortion and gay rights and preserving our right to think these things are wrong. We don’t have to endure them forcing their worldly views on us. Plus the church supports the right. Religious leaders vote republican. The left is too worldly. Too many unbelievers.
It is what fuels the fervor for Trump even though it means laughing off insults of about women/other races/politicians you may have respected, ignoring environmental concerns, looking the other way while groups espouse hate, not stopping to think about Heather Heyer’s death, ignoring those moments that just feel wrong. That is likely Satan trying to trick me into voting left and compromising god’s power in this country. There’s too much at stake here.

Kids raised without religion are more caring, generous, and ethical than their religious counterparts.

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An article from Patheos just popped up on my newsfeed that indicates that children raised in non-religious households tend to be more kind and empathetic than their religious counterparts. I know this may seem counterintuitive, but it is entirely true in my experience and other friends that have left the church and are raising their kids without religion.
Based on my experience, here are a few reasons that is so.
  • No guilt / sin / you fall short of the glory of god – so the child doesn’t ever look at themselves as a failure or disappointment in need of forgiveness. When they do wrong, they take responsibility for it and ask forgiveness of the person they wronged.
  • Others are not sinning. Kids just see people, not life choices to agree with or not. There is actually no thought to what category someone belongs in. They ONLY see the person, no judgment. I also find that they are the first to stand up when they hear people being put down.
  • Girls are equal to boys. There are no messages of women need to submit to men, let their husbands make decisions or speak for them. So both boys and girls just respect each other as equals and stand up when they see others being devalued.
  • The only truth is what is real and observable. The kids have no problem discerning fact from fiction or understanding the role that evidence plays in identifying reality. They do not believe in magic but absolutely love keeping magic alive in their imagination and pretend play.
  • No prayer means that when someone is in trouble, the kids think of active solutions to help the other or ways that they can support someone by listening to them, hugs, whatever. It also means that if they have a problem, they brainstorm and figure out the best way to solve it.
  • No angels and demons, god and satan always fighting over them. No figures standing over them while they sleep. No invisible eye that sees everything they do every moment. When we first stopped speaking as if there was, the biggest change I noticed in my kids was they were sooooo much less fearful of things.
  • No heaven or hell means that life right now has meaning. That every day is precious. Kids take much less for granted. There is no cosmic do-over. They have today to make a difference in this world. This also means that they do not have the burden of thinking that friends, family, people just walking about the earth doing their lives are going to hell. So they don’t feel compelled to intervene or invade others to make sure those others believe what they do.
  • No bible means no stories that conflict with reality. No cognitive dissonance trying to reconcile a loving god with slavery, rape, animal sacrifice, wiping out of the human race, a man sleeping with his daughters, a man willing to kill his son on an altar or any of the other atrocities in the Bible. We still have bibles in the house and the kids can read them whenever they want. They do on occasion and come to me in disgust or confusion because it doesn’t make sense.
Kids are naturally empathetic and without an us/them distinction or being told they are not part of this world and to avoid worldly things or others that may try to lead them astray . . they are free to interact with others that are different from them without fear. They can listen to the ideas and opinions of others with an open mind and consider what they are being told. They are confident in their own evaluation of information and in their own abilities. They don’t count on an outside invisible influence to intervene – they problem solve and take responsibility for their own actions, accept that those actions have real consequences, and actively work to make things better because they know the work of humans can change the world.