Friday, September 07, 2012

Christian Persecution

I have heard so many people talking about the persecution of Christians in the United States. Funny, I didn’t think it was possible to persecute a whole segment of a society where the victims represent at least 75% of the population and have the backing of the politicians in the government at all levels; but what do I know.

Persecution is about the systematic mistreatment of individuals or groups often involving harassment, imprisonment, torture, and denial of basic human rights. This was happening in America? To Christians? I was shocked to hear that such horrendous acts were occurring right under my very nose and yet, I was oblivious to them.

I sat in my car facing the “In God We Trust” motto on the license plate of virtually every car in front of me, with a Jesus fish on their trunk lids, or the “No Jesus, No Peace; Know Jesus, Know Peace” bumper sticker, and the crucifix dangling from rearview mirror, while I waited at the stop light at the intersection of Catholic and Methodist churches watching the guy in the mega-church parking lot with his “Real Men Love Jesus” tee-shirt load a box of NIVs in the trunk, as I fiddled with the radio past several evangelical preachers talking on AM stations and overheard the teller at the nearby bank tell the couple in the minivan to “have a blessed day”; I couldn’t understand how religious persecution of Christians could be happening in America.

We daily wade through rivers of religious information, imagery, and institutions; we cannot drive down any street in any town without being inundated with the claptrap of Christianity. We have “under God” in the pledge and trust in God is proclaimed on our currency. Based on nothing of substance, we have granted tax-exempt status for churches and politicians are unendingly vying for a Guinness Book entry on who can say “God Bless America” the most in one speech. There is a continuous drone of meaningless platitudes from the pulpit, prayers from their pious parishioners, and pathetic pablum from pontificating preachers on public access. We have all of this religious inertia in our society and yet…

Oh, wait a minute, what’s that? No torture, no denial of human rights, no imprisonment? What then? The application of Church-State separation in public school science classes, expansion of civil rights to non-traditional couples, intervention in child healthcare issues, and inclusion of other religious and non-religious groups in department store greetings and inaugural addresses. Seriously?

Not being able to enact or interpret laws that impose your religious views on others is apparently the new definition of persecution. This new definition denigrates those in the world who truly are persecuted, including Christians in other parts of the world. I guess I missed that revision to Webster’s.

Trying to live up to the ideals of “religious freedom for all” that our forefathers saw fit to establish in our Constitution is frowned upon these days. Equality, justice, and reason are out; science is a lie; prayer takes precedence over action; and the purveyors of salvation are surveying the road to theocracy. Conspiratorial Christian consorts of those that are buying the reigns of power are bullying the dissenters and clawing their way through courts, classrooms, and Congressmen to strangle rights and to defile education while attempting to erect legal barriers to any opposition.

Welcome to the new persecution of Christians…I hope the rest of us can survive the onslaught.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Reason, not Faith

If you arrange the education of your child (i.e., home school or private school) in such a way to ensure that they are taught that the Earth is 6,000 years old and that evolution is a lie, you are destroying your child’s mind and you are contributing to the intellectual destruction of America.

You are teaching them that science is false and denying them the joy and amazement of investigating the universe and understanding its true grandeur. You are tossing aside centuries of progress in geology, cosmology, biology, chemistry, and physics that we rely on everyday for survival. Even worse, you are teaching them that they cannot rely on logic or reason or evidence – that their investigation of the universe is not only flawed, but meaningless – that no answers are worth discovering on their own, because, by God, we already have all the answers in this one cobbled-together, ancient text.

You are teaching them that blind faith – believing on no evidence or contrary evidence – is better than investigation, application of critical thinking, collaboration, and actual evidence of your claim. You are teaching them to cling to fairy tales and to abandon truth. You have forced them to intellectual slavery where thinking for one’s self is met with disdain and rebuke, but being a sheep is applauded and admired.

You are teaching them to be gullible, to become prey for every charlatan out there that relies on the lack of critical thinking skills to capture, financially or emotionally rape, and dispose of their victims. Where critical thinking is not nurtured and praised, but instead denigrated, they become evermore credulous and unable to make wise choices.

You are teaching them to place allegiance to interpretations of out-dated, Bronze-Age myths above compassion for their fellow human beings and the reality of how the world really works. As a result, they support laws that support their religious goals rather than the well-being of society and the individual rights of others.

You are teaching them to stop thinking, period. You are stunting their intellectual growth, their sense of curiosity, and their ability to eventually contribute to the intellectual growth of society, all by providing God as the non-answer to every question. You are figuratively decapitating them, but literally poisoning the stream of American scientific progress.

You are intellectually abusing your children and willing plunging the United States into an abyss of scientific ignorance and illiteracy. You are responsible for the decline of America’s dominance in science and technology and its rapid decline into a third world country, intellectually. Cures for diseases, improvements in food production, and overall quality of life are heavily reliant upon critical thinking and science; but progress will come to a screeching halt, if we no longer have new generations to carry if forward. Instead of having progress, humanity will be huddled in a corner praying to a non-existent deity for assistance that will never come…and eventually the prayers will change to prayers for an end…any end…to the suffering.

You who claim peace and compassion are causing grave harm….STOP IT. NOW! Or your children and your children’s children will pay the price for many generations to come.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Open Letter to an Old Friend

You were my friend; one of the first and best I ever had.  Now, you are a stranger; a person so far removed from what I thought you were and yet still wrapped in a cocoon that resembles the old you.

On the surface, you are sweet, kind, caring, and never antagonistic; underneath there is a current of bigotry, oppressiveness, and unjustified arrogance - a deep, dark current to which you are oblivious.  Perhaps it is all in my head; perhaps I am just projecting some deep-seated anger onto you, but I am fairly certain that is not the case.

I am sure that within your current circles, you are the epitome of compassion, goodness, and the subject of much praise.  In any group, there are those that shine; those that are the ideal of what they long to be.  But when the charter for the group is built on a misguided sense of truth, when concepts of fairness and justice are no longer viewed with an open mind and heart, but instead viewed through a clouded lens where evil ideas and acts are contorted to look good, when rational thought and evidence are abandoned for unproven, ancient rhetoric; is it desirable to be among the elite of such a group?

You have traded reason and rationality for blind faith.  If it only affected you alone, that would be sad enough, but you propagate your dangerous, prejudiced, ignorant views onto your friends, your family, and let it influence your decisions about the leaders that you elect; thus affecting us all.  You swim in the blindness of your intellectual dishonesty while those around you drown in the wake of your ignorance.  You fail to understand the harm that is caused and you seem not to care; it is a conflicting image to see someone so compassionate and simultaneously so emotionally disconnected from the negative impact of their efforts.

It is difficult to be a friend to such a person.  I imagine that is somewhat akin, though to a lesser degree, to being a close relative of Hitler, bin Laden, or McVeigh; that conflict of loving the person, but despising what they think and do.  What you believe is harmful to others, whether physically, emotionally, mentally, financially, etc., it all causes harm in the end.  Anti-gay, anti-choice, anti-science - my exact opposite.

As you know, I have chosen to end the friendship.  Not because of what you believe, but because of your total unwillingness to examine what you believe in any open and honest way; your lack of acceptance of the fact that you could be wrong, your total blindness to the potential harm, your absolute certainty of your own mental perfection, but mainly because I can't stand to see you like this; tarnishing the memories of the better person that I once knew.  I have tried to stay the course, but you have been more than reluctant to engage in forthright conversation.  I have done all that I know to do.

I may have formally severed the contact, but I cannot sever the feelings; I will always have you in the back of my mind and be hoping that someday a glimmer of light will shine in that dark and dusty head of yours and you will realize that all of my bitching and moaning was because I cared - about you and all of those that your actions affected.  And I hold out a little hope; however irrational it may be, that you will change, at least a little; enough to listen to reason.  Until that day, I wish you well, but know that I will be working against the implementation of your beliefs at every possible turn.

"God" My Nickmame for Ignorance

People are ignorant; we can't help it.  It's not a derogatory term, if used properly; it just acknowledges gaps in our understanding.  There just isn't enough time, desire, or mental capacity to research, comprehend, and remember everything.
Those who are intellectually honest will admit to their ignorance and to varying degrees will prioritize it and try to eliminate it.  Those items that will have a more immediate impact on their lives or are simply of more interest will get moved to the front of the line.  Other topics, deservedly or not, will never be broached again.  For me that would be anything related to NASCAR, the history of Rap, or Lithuanian folk dancing; I am simply not interested.
I don't give my ignorance any special name and try to disguise it or pretend that it doesn't really exist.  If I don't know the answer to your question, I will tell you so.  I am not afraid or embarrassed to admit that I don't know something - a lot of things.
Unfortunately, others do not do the same, in particular, the fundamentalist branch of Christianity (and probably any other religion).  Members of this group often relabel their ignorance and call it "God".  Don't understand how the universe formed? God did it.  Don't understand how evolution works? That's fine, God created everything.  Rather than simply being honest and saying "I don't know" or "I don't understand", they label their ignorance "God" and count this name game as a valid answer to the question.  
Even worse, they expect us to accept it as "the" definitive answer.  Once you have accepted this answer, no amount of evidence can change it.  The evidence must be wrong, corrupted, or misinterpreted because they already have the only answer they will ever need to any question.  Intellectual blindness and dishonesty at its best.
Accepting this non-answer of "God" is dangerous.  It inhibits your ability to evaluate evidence and come to valid conclusions.  Actions taken on misinformation or in despite of information can lead to all sorts of dangers.  How many children die each year because of their parents religious beliefs about medical treatment?  How many people die of AIDS because of lies spread about condoms?  How many unwanted teenage pregnancies occur because of "truths" of what God wants? How many GLBT individuals are bullied and discriminated against because of the answer "God"?  
The so-called Good Book is never questioned or examined against the evidence to see where the ignorance really lies because God is the only "answer" that is needed.  If the evidence contradicts belief, then the evidence always loses.  Fact always fails to move faith; at least for a certain fundamentalist mindset.
I am not asking you to give up your faith cold-turkey, but only to stop labeling your ignorance with an all encompassing non-answer of "God did it" and to apply reason and logic to the evidence.  If God actually exists, he should be able to withstand the scrutiny as well as the exposure of the true mechanisms at work in the universe.  As the one that you claim endowed us with the enquiring minds that we have, he would probably be quite upset that you didn't use yours to its fullest.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

"But You Choose Hell"

Recently on a podcast, someone made a statement that I have heard repeatedly from my Christian friends, “God doesn’t send you to Hell; you choose to go”.  To which I respond, “Bullshit”.  I can tell you right now that I do not choose Hell.  Of course, I wouldn’t choose Heaven either if the prick in the Bible is actually in charge as they claim.  Going to Hell is purely the fault of God.

First, God created Hell.  He could have just had us non-believers wink out of existence after we die, but he didn’t.  Instead, he created a place of eternal torment.  God is responsible for the existence and conditions in Hell.

Second, we are all supposedly born sinners and doomed to Hell unless we repent and accept Jesus.  But why are we born sinners?  Because God decided to not just blame Adam and Eve for disobeying him, but to spread the blame around a little and condemn us all because of their actions; another example of good old fashioned biblical justice.  So, from the moment we are conceived, we are already doomed to Hell.  We can avoid it by accepting Jesus, but the default mode for our existence after death is already predetermined: Hell.  Isn’t that good evidence of a loving god?  He creates a very nasty place that no one would want to go to and then blame everyone for something their ancestors did wrong so that from the moment of birth you are doomed to go there.  There is no true choice.  A true choice would allow you to not play the game in the first place, but you can’t opt out of this one. 

Even for Adam and Eve the game was rigged.  The only way that they could know that disobeying God was wrong was to have knowledge of good and evil; however, the only way to gain that knowledge was to disobey God and eat from the Tree of Knowledge.  They were damned from the beginning and due to God’s version of justice, so were we.  So, no, we do not choose Hell.  Hell is the default position established by God.  I use the term “God” lightly because no being worthy of the name would set up such an immoral system and the idea that Jesus suffered for us and offers us salvation is very warped, not generous.
By way of analogy, here is what the God/Jesus/Hell scenario boils down to.   Imagine a ship’s captain kidnaps several people, drugs them, takes them to the middle of the ocean and throws them overboard.  That is the situation that God set up by making Hell the default position.  Now imagine the first mate stands at the bow of the ship and offers to sell everyone a life vest and that the cost of the vest is everything the person owns.  This is Jesus offering salvation by giving up your life and your freedom of thought to him.  In the scenario with the ship’s captain, I know of no one, including my Christian friends,  that would disagree with the fact that the captain is an evil ass, but God/Jesus get a pass from the Christians and are considered loving and worthy of praise.

It is an immoral system that is supposedly in place and we most definitely do not choose Hell, we simply do not choose to believe in or follow despicable monsters from a theological version of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.  Those who do accept this story and consider it good, just, and moral are just as warped as the God their “holy book” describes.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Request For When I Die

As I lay dying, respect my wishes enough to say no prayers to save my non-existent soul.  You may pray as much as you wish to hasten my demise if it makes you feel better, it will do no harm to me.  Do not come to my bedside to proselytize or send a pastor or priest to do the same; allow me the decency to die in peace free from religious noise.  Do not approach my family and offer any religious sentiments; if you really care you will only offer secular words of comfort.  

When I am dead, should you care, do not pray for me or my family, but leave them to grieve without the stale odor of religious platitudes.  Do not claim I am in a better place - I am worm food - good for them, not so much for me.  Do not make false claims about my character, either good or bad, but speak the truth whatever it may be.

When I am gone and can no longer speak for myself, should you hear from someone that I have had a deathbed conversion, DO NOT believe it.  Let me assure you that there is no god that I have heard of that I believe in or would turn to in my last moments.  Reason, fairness, and compassion for all living things has been my guiding light, not some musty, Bronze Age book of fairy tales or the stories of some demented father figure.

If you are a true friend, you will honor me most by honoring my wishes.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Omni Fallacy of God (Part I)

According to those that believe, God is the great superlative in every category.  He is all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful, and he is everywhere and everywhen.  But based on what the Bible and your neighborhood church teach, these can’t all be true.

God created humanity, according to the Bible, but man is a completely flawed creature or so the churches would have you believe.  Did God create a flawed being on purpose or was it the best he could do, or didn’t he realize the flaws existed?  If he didn’t know, he isn’t omniscient.  If this was the best he could do, then he isn’t omnipotent.  If he did it on purpose, he isn’t omnibenevolent ; creating a flawed being doomed us to much pain and suffering . 

Some would argue that it was a loving gesture to create humanity with so many imperfections because only through suffering do we learn life’s lessons and finally come to appreciate what God has to offer.  I could possible buy that if the suffering were not so extremely different from person to person and if it eventually ended in a positive manner for everyone; however, this is not the case.  This supposedly all-loving god will banish you to an eternity of torture in a flaming Hell simply for not believing.   If even a mere mortal such as me finds that scenario totally reprehensible and insufficient in compassion, then how could this all-loving god find this an acceptable result.  Clearly he is not all-loving.

And what about being everywhere and everywhen?  Think about that for a moment.  If he is omnipresent, then he is right there with you through every moment of your life.  He is there when you are born and when you die.  He is there when you have sex or take a shower.  He is there when the drunk gets in his car and drives away.  He is there when moments later the same drunk plows through a sidewalk full of school children.  He is there for every beating by a bully, every rape of a child, every plane crash, every terrorist attack, and every murder.  He is there when every horrendous act occurs, but does nothing to stop them.  Nothing.   This is all-loving?  Of course, you will hear the argument about not interfering with our free will, but then these same people will talk of miracles – times when he clearly interferes.  You can’t have it both ways.  He either interferes or he doesn’t and an omnipotent god should be able to figure out a way to step in and help without affecting our free will; if he can’t he is not omnipotent.  If he choices not to, he is not all-loving.

If he is not all-loving, all-knowing, and omnipotent, then he is not a god.