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.

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.

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.

Why Afterlife is Scarier than Death

The worst thing about becoming a christian as a teenager was the thought that consciousness never ever ends. I actually struggled with the whole concept of death because all these different ideas of ‘heaven’ and ‘hell’ and ‘ghosts’ and ‘afterlife’ sounded absolutely tortuous.

Heaven

I remember our youth pastor saying that in heaven we will be singing songs to god for the rest of eternity. I thought (and was fairly certain I detected that he though this too) that sounds like the most boring eternity ever. Yet he asserted it was biblical. What would be the point of going through all of this life here on earth then if in the end we just end up mindlessly worshipping in an endless cycle? It makes no sense.

Even thoughts of a heaven that contain everything you could ever want sound a) illogical and b) like the novelty would wear off very quickly. First of all, how would you divide all the individual heavens? People would have to have separate dimensions because each person’s heaven would be so incredibly different and highly conflicting. The show Supernatural tried to illustrate this when Sam & Dean went to heaven, but it quickly becomes confusing jumping from one person’s heaven to the next. Is heaven filled with memories? Fantasies? Does gravity exist in heaven?

Not to mention the many times I was told that there is no marriage in heaven. Although, other faiths do have marriage in heaven. Some say that we won’t know our family members, but then how could that be heaven without the people we love the most? That, and animals don’t go to heaven so our sweet pets that have departed wouldn’t be there.

Then of course there is the novelty factor. I liken it to an ongoing video game like World of Warcraft or The Sims – collecting, questing, working toward something is way more fun than having everything. It gets boring really quick. I imagine sitting in heaven with all your gold crowns walking on streets of gold would get old with nothing new or unexpected.

Hell

Taken from jesus-is-savior.com because nothing says come to me, a loving god, like this image right here.

Eternal torment simply does not fit with the image of a loving god. I remember trying to rationalize this and make sense of the fact that people who didn’t know jesus were supposed to suffer for all of eternity because their names were not written in the book of life. (This all sounds so stupid to me now). I wondered if maybe god gave everyone a second chance to accept him when they are being judged.

What really blew my mind is the friend of mine who was our resident expert on christianity believed that hell was simply ceasing to exist. God would annihilate all of the souls that rejected him. In a way, this ‘mercy’ fits better with the image of the loving god. I think it helps believers sleep at night. Yet, to me, the concept of heaven and eternity was so problematic that the thought of life just coming to an end like a good sleep at the end of a long day sounded the most appealing. Being forced to continue to live forever in any of the heaven scenarios I described would’ve been my personal hell.

Afterlife

There are so many speculations and doctrines and ideas about what lies beyond the grave. I think being aware of our own mortality is difficult to come to terms with so we make up stories to bring comfort at the thought that our loved ones still exist somewhere, that we will not cease to exist. In the last year, we have been living in a more rural environment and we’ve seen lots of life and death of animals. Baby goats, chickens, puppies, squirrels, birds, and all sorts of animals. We have also seen dead animals that have been hit by a car, caught by a dog or cat, died of illness or old age. The bodies are lifeless. An empty shell. One moment the creature was alive and the next it is dead. There is no coming back. The rest of the squirrels continue on with their squirrel business and life goes on. Creatures are born, age, mate, eat, sleep, play, die. We are no different. Our body shuts down and our brief mark in history is over.

At first I was relieved to know this for the reasons mentioned earlier, but occasionally it is a difficult pill to swallow. The reality that life will continue to go on in our absence is disquieting because it delivers a blow to our ego. How can the world go on without us? And yet, I have had friends whose spouses have died and left children behind and while it is incredibly sad and the spouse is missed, the children continue on with their lives and adjust to the absence. I realize that sounds insensitive, but it is true. That is the ultimate goal of parenting, right – to raise kids to become self-sufficient and able to get along without you? I wouldn’t want my kids to fall apart if I died. I would want them to keep on doing exactly what they are doing and grow to be capable adults.

I only even thought of all this tonight because I watched the movie, Dream House. Without giving it away, let’s just say there are unresolved issues as there are in most all scary supernatural movies. It was unsettling for me, not because it was scary or supernatural but the thought of having died and being stuck freaks me out. Limbo, purgatory, ghosts haunting houses, whatever you want to call being stuck in the space between the living and the dead or heaven and hell just sounds awful to me.

It is not because these concepts are unappealing that I no longer believe in them, by the way. There is simply not enough evidence to believe in any of it. As much as I would like fairies and unicorns to exist, wanting them (or not) to exist does not make it so. There is no evidence and so I do not believe unicorns exist (even if the bible references them). We have no evidence of an afterlife and quite frankly, it’s rather arrogant to think that we are important enough to have an eternal consciousness.

I will say that the one thing that I am sad I will miss out on is storytelling. Stories like Harry Potter, video games, movies, literature – all the creativity that sparks our imaginations. I am sad to miss out on future stories, but that’s all the more reason to be grateful for today and relish every moment of it. We have one shot. Life is so much sweeter when you realize it is only temporary. When you are always looking forward to life after death, you forget to cherish life here on earth.

So, today and every day I will try to be conscious about the mark I’m leaving on this world and love every minute of it. Hug your kids. Encourage. Inspire. Love. Create. LIVE.

Thought Experiment

If you’ve read the Bible (as I have) join me for this thought experiment . . .

Think about . . .31db1133b827dd0c78b04f2df4b21b45
– The tower of Babel
– Adam and Eve
– Instructions for slaves and masters
– Stoning as a punishment for so many things
– Lot and his daughters!
– Bashing babies heads against the rocks
– Killing of all the first born sons
– Women should keep silent in church
– A woman can not teach a man
– Blood sacrifice
– Painting doorways with blood
– Eating flesh and drinking blood
– All the bits of the Bible that make you cringe

If you are like I was, you have a reason for each and every one of those things and you’re probably offended that I am bringing them up out of context.

Now consider for one moment – just one moment – that the bible is an ancient text written by primitive men. Now look back up at that list.

See how suddenly all those things make sense and you don’t have to rationalize them?

Christianity Doesn’t Make Sense – Part Two of My Deconversion Story

In my last post, I touched on some of the things that were unsettling over the years that inevitably led me to question my faith. I didn’t walk through the actual dismantling that occurred over that final year. Because this blog is really about me working through the departure from religion, I think it’s worth sharing.

So, let’s begin our descent . . .

#1 – Teaching My Kids About Ancient Cultures

I began a book series with my kids that covers the entirety of human history. I believe the author is christian, but I may be wrong. It was recommended me by christian homeschooling friends who believed in a classical education.

The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child: Volume 1: Ancient Times: From the Earliest Nomads to the Last Roman Emperor, Revised Edition

It is a really good series that was not overtly christian and discussed early human history based on historical drawings and writings, not the bible. As we progressed through the book, I also got additional books to go along with whatever ancient culture we were learning about. We read about mythologies in Ancient Egypt, Greece, China, and all over the world. What was fascinating to me was that many of the stories were all too familiar. We came upon story after story that could have been straight out of the bible. I remember telling my kids “Wow. That sounds just like the bible, doesn’t it? Maybe they were reaching out to our god and just calling him by a different name.” or “Wow. A baby floating down the river? That is familiar. Maybe at some point these things happened but different religions all interpreted the events with different names and details.”

But it didn’t make sense.

Why would stories written earlier than the bible contain bible stories? The only reasonable explanation is that the bible borrowed from ancient mythology. But, that would mean . . . the bible may not be original or even accurate. No. No. No.

I pushed that out of my mind.

#2 – My husband, the scientist, ‘believed in’ evolution. 

My internal dialogue went something like this – “Well of course evolution is true, just not the origin of the species. Evolution happens all the time. We can see the effects of it everywhere, but God still created life. Hmmm. Well maybe God USED evolution to create the first humans. But then Adam and Eve must’ve been cave people? Or Adam and Eve didn’t exist at all and the story was just allegorical. Then which parts are true and which parts are just illustrations? Was the flood real?” and on and on.

The story of creation did not fit with our modern scientific understanding.

#3 – We tried to find a church. 

We had just moved to a new area. We absolutely LOVED the church where we were living. It had taken us years to find it and the teaching was excellent. Now, we had moved because my husband got a new position and in this new area we tried a few of the ‘best rated’ churches around. Each one was more uncomfortable than the last. The preaching was boring or extremist and one church was so deeply offensive and hateful that I wanted to run out of the doors. The pastor was speaking about how we are in the end times and sharing a LOT of anti-Muslim sentiment. After that one, we laid off trying to find a new church for awhile and just adjusted to the area without attending church. It’s funny how your mind can wander when you are not having the same beliefs reinforced every week, multiple times a week if you are attending bible study. This period of ‘rest’ from a steady flow of christian messages allowed us to discuss and question and think outside the jesus box. Of course, we could do that while still attending church, but that quieting of constant messages was helpful.

#4 – Songs popped in my head

I don’t often listen to music in the car. I usually drive in quiet and spend the time thinking. When we were attending church faithfully and hearing worship music every week, this was often the only music I listened to. Then if I was driving and a worship song popped in my head, I would be touched that God was ‘speaking’ to me by bringing up that particular song. I would pay attention to the lyrics and try to apply them to my life or just spend the rest of the drive thinking on and worshipping Him. But, a funny thing happened after a few months of not attending church.

Katy Perry songs started popping in my head. Randomly. Just as the worship ones did. Either God was trying to tell me that California Girls were awesome or the reality is that music just pops in our brains at random based on what we are listening to most at the time. But, this would mean that all those worship songs were not really God speaking to me, but instead just songs from the week popping in my head during the silence.

It was right about this point that I was ready to say ok I will acknowledge that I am agnostic and I don’t exactly know what I believe, but it is not Christianity.

#5 – Time

There was no atheist conversion experience. The transformation was gradual and the further I moved and was able to look at religion, as a whole, objectively – the more it seemed . . well . . . crazy! I started a Pinterest board called Religious Detox. I took Christian off my Facebook profile. I slowly started to become a bit more vocal about my questions on my FB page. Predictably, the more extreme christians I knew got very ruffled by this and vowed to pray for me and were sad that I was leaving the faith, etc. Eventually I decided to blog about this journey and in the middle of it all, I have found story upon story about similar experiences. I only recently began self-labeling as an atheist. I did so for 2 reasons –

1) The Dawkins Scale

The reality was that I was a weak or de-facto atheist.

2) Atheist was always a repugnant term and it evokes entirely the wrong perception. Atheism is simply a lack of belief in Gods. I think we need to stop vilifying this word so more people can ‘come out of the closet’ and stop hiding. Words like secular and humanist help, but at the core they point to the same lack of belief.

So, there you have it. The little sparks that finally changed my label from Christian to Atheist. My move from Dawkins’ 1) Strong Theist to 6) De-Facto Atheist took about a year. It was hard to admit that everything I had dedicated my life to was just a fairy tale and superstition with no grounding in reality. But, again, once I entertained the supposition that God did not exist, suddenly all the inconsistencies didn’t require lengthy explanations. They simply made sense.

Fear without God

I have noticed that there is a significance decrease in fear in our home since we adopted reason over faith. The kids are able to distinguish better between what is real and what is fantasy. We indoctrinated them into Christianity from birth (which I regret) but their beliefs are their own. At this point, the focus is entirely on critical thinking and the ability to make informed decisions for ourselves. We have shared the whole process of how our beliefs have changed, not in one long talk, but in the everyday interactions when it comes up. Over the last year, I’ve seen them start to evaluate situations and look for rational explanations.

My 7 year old son claims to be a universalist. He simply believes that all Gods throughout history are real. He thinks it’s funny the things that different religions believe and are scared or mistrusting of. We answer all his questions and he is working out for himself what he thinks. He still struggles at times with fear before bed but NOTHING compared to what he used to. And who could blame him when I was over there telling him there were angels and demons fighting over his soul or that the devil is real and there is a spiritual war going on that we can’t see, but this other entity that we can’t see (God) is more powerful than the invisible devil . . . HOW COULD HE HELP BUT BE CONFUSED AND SCARED??

It has always been easier for my daughter to dismiss things that are not real. She does not believe in monsters or ghosts. She has no need to sleep with a nightlight, no fear of the dark. She is 5 and says she still believes in God because we told her that God created her. She doesn’t have the same fear that my son has been working hard to let go of.

In short, a lack of God has led to a reduction of fear for our kids. Amazing how those two things are related.

You Have My Sympathy

Good morning. Last night I was so frustrated, I couldn’t even articulate it if I tried.

A Christian friend of mine posted something about defunding Planned Parenthood, which is timely and makes sense to share his view. The article was understandably biased. This friend and I have a history of intellectual discussions. In fact, we used to get together every week to discuss a new topic. So, I figured it was safe to share my 2 cents on the article.

Nope.

A friend of his jumped in straight away. Now, let me preface this by saying I do not mind disagreement. I enjoy critical thinking and discussion. By all means, let’s discuss. But, this guy was so unbelievably condescending and smugly self-inflated. I supposed I shouldn’t be surprised because so many of us ‘intellectual christians’ are. I was, of course. I think that’s why it bugs me so bad – because I used to act like that.

Here are a few of the response gems I got.

“you have stated there are details in the article you are choosing to ignore in order to maintain your position on this subject. If you were willing to lift the restrictions in your first comment, this could be a more open conversation” – I stated no such thing by the way. 

“I know being well informed about a topic is a good base for forming an opinion, so when I hear the people on one side putting a great deal of effort into knowing as little as possible. This worries me”

“(Alice) is saying if she limits the information she will look at she can defend her view of what is going on. When there needs to be so much effort put into limiting knowledge of the details, it is time to rethink your views.”

I can go through and dissect each of these, post the whole conversation but it would be a waste of time. This guy was on attack mode. He didn’t address anything I was actually saying, yet accused me of being close minded and ill informed. I was not as enlightened as he because I had a differing opinion. Do you see the brick wall of faith logic? There is no discussion, no new information, challenging what they think (in most any topic) is futile because their position is ordained by God, hence the superiority.

Here is where it gets really annoying . . .

“(Alice) you can still rise above this. At the very least you’ve thought about today.”

“I fear this issue is not academic for (Alice), and if that is so, she has my greatest sympathy.”

UGH. I finally had to step in and say that out of respect for my dear friends, go ahead and get your last dig in if you must, but I’m out.

“You have my sympathy.”