I haven't mentioned The Bible Reloaded in a long time, mostly because there isn't much to share and I understand their humor is not going to be understood by everyone. It seems that the Christiano Brothers really don't get the humor. Or DMCA laws. Now, I'm not an expert on these things at all, but at this point it seems like the Christiano Brothers and their henchmen are taking the criticism of their films very very personally. Anyone who criticizes their films and isn't a Christian is instantly being reported to YouTube. It seems that the criticism and atheists are the two key issues here since they really don't have problems with Christians who like their films. And so The Bible Reloaded is finally taking action against them. Screw being nice. They tried that already. Time for real action. And I'm glad.
When I was a Christian and particularly when I attended more Evangelical churches, the people I knew actively tried to silence people who disagreed with them. I remember a youth pastor specifically stating that if you didn't like the Passion of the Christ movie then you weren't a true Christian, hence silencing any Christian in the group who didn't enjoy the film for fear of being ostracized. That was normal. What the Christiano brothers are doing is normal too. But it isn't right. You made some movies. Some people didn't like them, mostly because they sucked and also because of its message. You don't get to bully those people into taking down critical comments just because you don't like what they said. The Christiano brothers have been getting away with this for quite a while, shutting down smaller YouTube channels and with very little push back. It looks like they finally picked on some atheists who, despite trying to be civil, are done with their shit.
I have heard many atheists make random comments like, "You can't be an atheist and believe in ghosts" or "If you believe in ghosts then you are just an idiot." Of course, it is reminiscent of my religious fundamentalist days where I was told I couldn't be a lot of things and still be a Christian. (Example: You can't be Pro-Choice and a Christian) As much as I would like to completely dismiss all ghost stories as simply over-imaginative fantasies of the easily deceived, I have my own ghostly encounter rattling around in my brain.
Many years ago I used to work for a dinner theater. The theater had once been a nineteenth century train station that was converted in the 80's into a theater. It was a cool old building with big windows in the foyer, dark hardwood floors, a well-stocked bar, and large commercial kitchen. I spent many nights in there, building sets and preparing for shows, usually accompanied by my sound engineer, Terri. One thing of particular note was that the more noise we made hammering and whatnot, noises in the rest of the building would get louder. We always chalked it up to being an older building and echoes.
One night, Terri and I were working late, putting the finishing touches on two rolling platforms. The noises out in the foyer were so loud that we thought maybe one of our bosses was still puttering around out there. We both got up separately to check at different points in the evening, but there was no on there either time. At the end of the evening we both started locking up the building. The door in the kitchen had a tendency to not want to latch properly. It was a recurring problem.
The diagram above is the kitchen layout. We were working on the door on the left that led to a loading dock. The door no matter how hard we slammed it or pulled was simply not latching. It had been a good night and despite the frustration, Terri and I were laughing and joking. Then we both heard a crash. Turning, we watched dishes (represented by the blue boxes) slide off the shelf, and instead of dropping to the floor, they took a sharp turn and flew into the wall above the sink (represented by the green rectangle). We watched about five dishes take a 90 degree turn while in the air before we both took off out of the door. I don't even remember touching the ground until I was a good 100 feet from the building, screaming the entire time. Terri was right behind me screaming a garbled version of, "Fuuuucckkkk."
Hyperventilating, we both stared at each other. Had we really just seen what we had seen? Shakily, Terri pulled out her cigarettes and lit one. We compared stories. Yes, we had just watched dishes fly through the air. "Maybe there was someone in there with us?" she said, searching for a cause. "They were invisible then," was my reply. We threw around ideas while our nerves calmed. Maybe the dishes were actually on the other wall and it was an optical illusion? Perhaps our banging with the door knocked them loose? It didn't explain the 90 degree turn, but we were looking for something logical. We were terrified to go back inside. We called our boss who lived five minutes away, but he thought we were nuts and angrily told us to just close it up.
Together, Terri and I now stood on the loading dock. To say we were scared to go back in would be an understatement. We opened the door a crack and Terri yelled inside, "We've got mace." "What good is that going to do?" I asked. Terri shrugged. And no we didn't have mace. At this point I offered to pray. I should mention that Terri was a pretty adamant atheist, but she quickly accepted my offer to pray. So we prayed. Then I shouted through the door, "Whoever or whatever you are. We are coming in. We just have to lock up and clean the mess you made and then we will leave you in peace and quiet." Then we ventured inside. What we found were about ten broken plates, some on the floor in front of the sink and some in the sink. For the record, the dishes stored over the sink were coffee cups. We checked, because we were really hoping it had been an optical illusion and the plates had fallen from above the sink. So we cleaned up as quickly as we could and got out of there.
From that time onward, neither Terri nor I ever went anywhere in the theater alone. If I needed to run upstairs to grab something, I would let Terri know and she would inform me that she could help in 5 minutes and then we did it together. Our boss thought we were crazy, until he heard footsteps in the stairwell and turned, thinking it was me behind him. There was no one there of course, but the footsteps kept going. The woman who ran our ticket booth and reservation rolled her eyes at us because hello, she had been hearing weird sounds and voices for years.
Now, the logical part of me really wants to explain this incident away. I want to say it was an optical illusion or my imagination. I do think there is something to the multiverse hypothesis and so I wonder if ghosts may be places where those parallels have worn thin. We aren't seeing the dead, but rather possible variances of our own universe that can occasionally affect our own. It's obviously a stretch, but so is saying that nothing happened and there is no possible way it could be a ghost. Because I most definitely experienced something. It was unexpected and until that moment, I did not have the slightest belief in ghosts, even as a Christian. So, when other atheists say that there is no supernatural world at all, I just can't jump on that bandwagon. I want to, but I just can't.
God--Wow!! It just doesn't happen this way. On Friday morning, my computer died. Today Dell came and fixed it, no lost data, under warranty. On Friday afternoon, my dishwasher died. Just as I was getting ready to go to Lowes to look for a new one, an "inner prompt" led me to check the breaker box. Nothing was tripped, but I hand tripped the dishwasher switch, and Voila! Up and working. (I also had a similar prompt about an ailing dehumidifier--also fixed!) On Friday night my crawlspace flooded. On Saturday morning my realtor reached out to the contractor who had worked on this during inspection. He took responsibility and said he'll send a crew out. Most amazing is that God helped me to stay worry-free (well, okay, mostly, but WAY better than in the past). I know everyone has their world view, but I just can't see all this as "coincidence". Grateful. And encouraging all of us to remain grateful even when things DON'T work out this easily. I know many going through hard times--God is still good, still there, still loving. (And those of you who send prayer requests, I will pray.)
This is a post from an acquaintance on Facebook. Sometimes it takes everything in my not to reply with massive amounts of snark. Firstly, let's talk about technology. It is almost cliche these days to say, "Have you tried turning it off and on again?" It's the first thing you do whenever something quits working. According to Martha here, 'God' prompted her to check the breaker box and like fucking magic, it started working again. Even though there is an OBVIOUS scientific reason why this would happen, Martha chooses to give the credit to God. Maybe he didn't fix her dishwasher, but he told her to do it. Her computer was on the fritz and a repair person who has probably spent years studying and fixing computers, fixed it for her. But the glory goes to a deity, because somehow an item being fixed is an amazing work that only a creator could do. As for the flooded crawlspace. The people who put it in took responsibility, did their jobs, and fixed it. Again, no miracle here, just people making mistakes and fixing them. Of course, the real miracle for her was that she was not too too stressed out about it.
"I just can't see all this as coincidence," she states. All of what? Your computer being fixed, you knowing to trip a breaker box, and repairmen fixing their shoddy work? How is God even remotely responsible for any of that shit? And why would he even care? There are babies dying of bone cancer, but this supposed deity took time out of his day to give you an inner prompt about a breaker box? (which is the first thing a repairman would have done btw) Another person somewhere has a computer that died with far more sensitive information on it than you can even imagine and you are praising a god that yours was fixed with files intact? What makes you so fucking special? Abso-fucking-nothing, that's what.
And her final comment about being grateful. Well, that is a good feeling to have. But not to God. You should be grateful to the man who repaired your computer and the company that fixed your flooding issue. You should be thankful that you still have a good enough memory and recall, that you thought about flipping the breaker before you totally freaked out about a broken dishwasher. But for her, being grateful is remembering that there is an almighty god out there who, despite massive amounts of suffering on our planet, takes time out of his day to deal with your petty irrelevant shit.
This past weekend, I drove an hour to my hometown and crammed in as many friends and family as I possibly could. It was a good day. One of my friends, a woman I have written about before, is a devout Christian and is completely unaware of my deconversion. She is the one person who I thought, "If there really is a God, she is the one He would tell about my doubts and she will come and talk to me about it." I wanted that. Desperately. And yet, every time we talked, even when I dropped the occasional hint, nothing. Now, for me, our friendship certainly doesn't hinge on us believing the same thing. We've had some quite serious debates in the past concerning homosexuality, Calvinism, Evolution, and God's purpose. She is one of the few people in my life who has ever been swayed by my arguments, because she does genuinely listen. She isn't a Calvinist anymore, for an example. I do feel a certain amount of guilt for not telling her and yet, I also know how she has treated other atheists in the past.
Which is why I shouldn't have been surprised when we were discussing an old photo we had both been tagged in and she said randomly, "You know Jackie is a pretty militant atheist now. So weird because she seemed like such a strong Christian. It's just so sad." And I had one of those moments, the same ones I have when I am around my mom or my sister-in-law, where I think, I am never going to tell you I am an atheist. It isn't because what she said was so horrible, it was the deep sadness in her voice. As if Jackie had died. And to her, she has. I know that is how Christians feel about non-believers. That you are lost and going to hell and if you are a friend or family member, that is supposed to be incredibly sad. Of course, who I am as a person and my own character don't matter, not when your eternal soul is at stake.
My dad, strangely enough, has told me that he believes that if you have ever said the sinner's prayer, anytime in your life, God forgives your sins: past, present and future. Which means that you can't lose your salvation, even if you turn your back on God. God still sees you as his child. God knows you are going to sin and doesn't require you to continually beg for forgiveness just in case you die soon. This is actually very interesting theology and not one I have heard from very many Evangelical Christians. I like it only because it removes any sadness or fear if someone should go astray. You aren't praying for your atheist child's eternal soul because they became a Christian when they were ten. Of course, I don't actually think that I need eternal salvation, but it does make it easier for a now non-believing person's family and friends.
At this point, I'm pretty sure that unless I tell my friend I am an atheist, she will never know. There certainly isn't a god out there who is whispering secrets in her ear, which could mean a lot of things, but for me it is just another affirmation that there is no one out there.
I don't think religion is ALL bad, but when you watch something like this, one sees how easily it is for these things to turn bad. Poverty, ignorance, corruption, charlatans, false prophets, selfishness, and culture come together to form a toxic stew of religious sadism akin to the Spanish Inquisition. Worse in some ways as these abuses are visited upon the very young. Westerners continue to bring their version of religion to these countries with the hopes that they will somehow quit doing things like in the video above, yet it seems to have done little to stave off the mixing of religion and superstition.
Went and saw the Suicide Squad this morning with my husband and some friends. The nearest theater to us also happens to host a church on Sunday mornings. I get some weird sense of pleasure to walk past the church greeters and up to the ticket counter to buy a ticket for an R rated movie that half of them would disapprove of. (although might still go see) Also, knowing that I was going to be going to this church movie theater I purposefully wore a shirt that was a bit more low-cut than would ever be appropriate in church. Don't want to be confused for a possible parishioner. My husband would probably role his eyes about this. I roll my eyes at myself. What silliness to even care what these random Christians think.
Let's not forget how weird it is that these people do church in a movie theater. Seriously. Nursery is in the various 'party' rooms. They put fancy hand soap and towels in the bathroom. There are computers and tents set up in the foyer to sign in kids for kids church and hand out information about the church. They have a popcorn deal for parishioners, which is just bizarre. I'm sure the acoustics are fine, but it just feels like a church trying way too hard to be relevant and cool. That's the thing now, having church in unconventional settings in order to draw in a crowd that wouldn't normally go to church. It used to be that you would start in a school as a church plant and as soon as they have grown large enough they move to or build an actual building. Now, they just stay in that movie theater, school, bar, etc. forever, making their strange meeting place part of their identity. My old church meets in a school and there is no push to move to their own building. This has some problems obviously because without a building, you can't do anything on a Wednesday night or a Saturday morning. Youth group has to be at someone's house. Church potlucks have to be at a park or directly after church because where/when else can you meet? Small groups are at people's homes. Children's church is in a locker room or a party room or the green room of a concert venue. This also means that your church has no place to do outreach out of. You can't have a coat closet, food pantry, or soup kitchen without a building. So instead these churches must partner with other churches, but cannot have ministries of their own. (this can be both good and bad depending on the situation). There is also not a safe place within your community. No place for community activities and meetings. You aren't going to host a concert, invite a guest community speaker on a Saturday night, or invite a choral group to sing for charity.
If you are going to insist on a church being about community then it needs to be a part of a community and based on my years of experience, I just don't see that happening with these specialty churches. Their idea of outreach is meeting somewhere where people might feel comfortable enough to visit. And if they aren't comfortable, there's always a showing of the newest movie across the hall.
Oh and in case you were wondering, Suicide Squad was like an action movie with ADD. The plot was all over the place as was the pacing. It's never a good sign when you are sitting in a movie and thinking things like, "I wonder who did the sound mixing for this, because it is off that the music isn't louder at this point?" OR "Who directed that girl to move around like that? Was she told to act like the Queen of the Damned because that movie really didn't do well and it was weird there too." AND "DC really has no idea how to replicate Marvel's success. You can see them trying so so hard, but in the end...meh."
I have spoken before about the negative effects of the purity culture in my life. There are numerous books and programs out there that spout the belief that courtship was the appropriate Christian response in a sinful world full of sex. One of the most pervasive and damaging in my mind is I Kissed Dating Goodbye, a nearly two decade old book written by a then twenty-one-year-old, detailing a roadmap to a successful God-centric marriage. In the book, Joshua Harris lays out some "simple" rules for a Godly relationship. The first is easy: Don't date. Court. This means you don't hold hands (at least until engagement), you don't kiss until your wedding day, and all of your outings are accompanied by friends or family. The boy always initiates the relationship, never the woman, and he must receive permission in order to date you. And none of this happens until you are actually ready for marriage, which means that the first date is heavily weighted with the idea that this will probably be your future spouse. First dates are on the same level as an engagement. The idea is to marry the first person you date, to save yourself from heartache.
Obviously, the church was all over this. At least, the more charismatic and Evangelical ones who were already touting the whole virgin-until-married thing pretty hard. Before I was a teen, my mom was already teaching a series of classes called True Love Waits to the teen girls in our church. Notice the classes were only for girls. I don't recall any such class being offered to boys. Not surprising since there was definitely an underlying perception that "boys will be boys" and although it was recommended that they save themselves toward marriage, it shouldn't be unexpected if they can't quite manage it. Within this Evangelical subculture, my family was also deeply involved in the homeschooling subculture and those people were almost fanatical about this book. After all, that's why you are homeschooling right? So save your children from the corruptions of the world. And what is the biggest corruption of all? Sex.
The problem with all of this is that it created some serious issues in regards to sexuality. Recently Joshua Harris opened up his website for people to share their stories of how his book affected its readers twenty years on, willing to finally confront the harm his book might have done. Although there are a few people who managed to follow this courtship model and are happy, the majority of the stories are quite negative. Horribly so. There are tales of divorce, eating disorders, sexual immaturity, lifelong singleness, constant guilt. Some have come out the other side, but many state that this purity culture, fueled by Harris' book, have left them with lifelong scars. Oh and let's not forget the young people who had already had sex before they read this book. Either innocently or through rape or sexual abuse. The utter worthlessness that they felt after reading a book in which it says, in so many words, that they are damaged goods and destined for a bad marriage. My thoughts as I read these stories were, I'm not alone. There are others who were damaged by this kind of thinking. I'm not crazy for thinking this is not okay.
See, in Christian circles, stating that you think that the purity culture, emphasis on virginity, and no sex before marriage are not healthy is seen as a sin in itself. Of course, sex before marriage is bad. How dare you state otherwise? Except, my experience has taught me that not only is some sexual experience good, but necessary when you live in a culture where most people don't get married until their mid-twenties. By then, men have already passed their sexual peaks. I have only had one partner, my husband, and there are days when I wonder what it is that I missed. It's not that things aren't satisfactory, it's that there are certain things that we, as a couple, don't or won't do. Things that maybe someone else would have. I won't ever know some of those things (I am in a committed monogamous relationship folks) because they aren't my husband's cup of tea and so we don't really explore. He learned, after a number of partners, what he liked and didn't like. I'm only just beginning to explore that in a healthy context. A part of me is glad I was a virgin bride though, because I was so indoctrinated that to have had pre-marital sex would have wracked me with guilt.
I have tried to talk to my Christian friends and family about this. To tell them not to be afraid to talk about sex with their fiance. I never go so far as to suggest they have sex, but I really think they should just go for it. None of them has listened. My experiences, which are obviously not mine alone, are deemed as outlying. No possibility that the things we have been taught could have been wrong. I find it interesting that one of the primary teachers of this doctrine is now looking back on it and questioning his own words. Of course, as someone who has deconverted, I can definitely say that I understand. On the other hand, since he is still a Christian and now attending seminary no less, I wonder if he will ever go so far as to recant. Heaven forbid someone admit that perhaps the purity culture they helped create, turned into a monster. That although the intentions were good, it was written by a twenty-one-year old who didn't know the first thing about love or human psychology. Who thought that purity and virginity were more important than a healthy relationship or getting to know someone casually.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.