A friend of a friend has started a (Christian) blog. I find blogging to be a great way of getting one's thoughts out, almost like journaling, something I did for nearly a decade before switching over to blogging. (anyone remember Xanga?) Yesterday, a link was posted to said blog with the promise that this will explain why this blogger believes in God, with evidence to back it up. Now, I am still very open to the idea that there may be a god out there. It's an interesting hypothesis and one that I don't mind people trying to find evidence for. I was disappointed to find that it was a series of paragraphs containing all the worst logical fallacies and Christian-isms.
Many would argue that religion is based on faith and secularism is based on evidence therefore a belief in God is invalid.
I would argue that both should be based on evidence. Not having evidence doesn't invalidate belief, but it makes it highly suspect and relegates it to an "unknown" territory, requiring either further investigation and/or agnosticism.
In [Timothy Keller's Making Sense of God,] Keller argues that "reason and proof must start with faith in reason and belief in some particular concept of proof" (Keller 2016, p.34). He goes on to say that there is even more faith involved in ordinary rationality than that as many great twentieth-century thinkers (Martin Heidegger, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Ludwig Wittgenstein to name a few) have argued that all reasoning is based on prior faith commitments to which one did not reason (p. 34).
Firstly, reason and proof do not have to start with faith in reason and proof. This is presupposition. Faith assumes that something is true without anything to back it up and then seeks out "evidence" to make those claims true. Science has a process in order to find evidence. It begins with a hypothesis. Before Einstein proved (a loose term since a hypothesis is never considered truly proven) thermodynamics, it was just an hypothesis. Then he used a complex series of tests and experiments showing that the process was repeatable with the math to back it up. Those tests could be run by anyone and they would get the same results, which then led to it becoming a theory. In science, if a hypothesis proves to be untrue, the idea is abandoned. If you follow the Big Bang Theory (yeah yeah, hear me out), this season Sheldon and Amy stumbled upon an idea concerning super asymmetry. Super excited, they were sure this would lead to accolades and promotions, along with their names in the history books. Then when Leonard comes across a paper disproving super asymmetry, Sheldon loses his mind. Here's the important part: Sheldon gets upset because, like a good scientist, he knows that this is the end. He cannot keep trying to prove something that someone else had already disproved. All his dreams were dashed, he's upset, but he immediately stops trying to prove this hypothesis. Faith does NOT do this. It claims something is a law, a fact and then, with or without evidence, it insists on continuing. It forces fact to conform to it's own logic and ignores anything that does not. If something about the faith doesn't make sense or line up with known facts, the faith is not abandoned.
An example that he gives is the faith we have that our eyes, ears, minds, and memories are not deceiving us (p. 34). Their reliability cannot be tested without using and therefore assuming their reliability (p. 34).
Actually, scientists don't rely on eyes, ears, minds, and memories. We have categorically proven that none of these things can be trusted. Optical illusions prove that our eyes can easily be deceived. We are also aware of things like face blindness, synesthesia, dyslexia, and pareidolia, all of which affect the reliability of our sight. Our ears can also be suspect. How many times have you thought you heard a doorbell or someone talking, only to realize there is no one there and you are alone? People with schizophrenia hear distinct voices and can have conversations with said voices. Our minds are also tricky. One little thing gets out of whack and all kinds of interesting things can happen. Foreign accent syndrome happens when someone is brain damaged and they end up with a speech impediment that sounds, to our ears and theirs, like an accent from a different country. Nevermind that we know so much about psychology, that we are aware how the mind can change and twist things, sometimes to the point of mental illness. My son has been through so much trauma, abandonment, and neglect that it has permanently brain damaged him. And his mind isn't to be trusted, because his trauma has taught him not to trust adults, that he isn't safe anywhere, and that lies are necessary for one to get their way in life. Memories are actually the worst though. Our memories are entirely unreliable. It's why eyewitness testimony has become a more and more an outdated way of presenting evidence in court. There have been eyewitness accounts that have been completely refuted by video evidence and those people refuse to believe the evidence because they "remember" it a different way. All that to say, you can absolutely test something without first assuming it is reliable. In fact, all the studies that show those things are unreliable came after everyone just assumed they were. It took someone questioning that reliability in order for it to be tested.
The assertion that science and empirical evidence are the only ways to understand reality also requires faith (p. 35). Science is only fit to investigate the natural world but not fit to investigate whether anything exists beyond it (p.35).
This is the logical fallacy called 'Appeal to Faith'. This assumes that the only way to understand something is through faith, therefore all understanding is based on some kind of faith, even things that have proof and evidence. The whole point of having evidence is so we don't have to rely on faith any longer. Also, we may not be able to test whether a metaphysical god exists, but we can certainly test the things that its followers claim as signs from those gods. Christians (along with several other religions) claim that God heals through prayer intervention. A Harvard study looked at people who had just had bypass surgery. Their findings were that those who knew they were being actively prayed for actually did worse than those in the control group who either weren't being prayed for or didn't know. Knowing people were praying for them to do well put some kind of mental pressure on the patient who in turn did worse. There have been several studies done about parapsychology and there is absolute nothing to back of their claims of being clarevoyant. In fact, when looked into, most of the claims concerning predictions of the future have been dead wrong. And Christians write those off as people who weren't really listening to God. The problem lies in the fact that the people who are claiming to be prophets of God and psychics really believe they are though. My son is convinced he can see the future. He is so obviously full of shit, but a religious group would probably exploit this to their advantage, which is why he goes to an Unitarian Fellowship that doesn't believe in that crap. We can absolutely test faith healings, prophecies, prosperity doctrine, etc. The problem is that even when there is evidence contrary to religious claims, the religious refuse to accept it. Religion is not open to investigation.
If the universe cannot possibly have created itself, then it is plausible to believe that something created it. That something would have to exist outside of it and therefore would exist outside of the constraints of space and time making it impossible for us to explain using something that could only explain the natural realm. This being would be SUPERnatural.
Why must we assume this? It would seem more logical to say, "So far we don't know how the universe began. We will keep searching for the answer." And that's it. So far the answer hasn't led to God either, because there is no proof of there even being a god. Why do we automatically jump to the 'God of the Gaps' fallacy? The universe cannot possibly have created itself is not a fact, although it certainly seems like Keller is saying it is. The universe cannot possibly have created itself is a hypothesis and without any proof, the religious are trying to say that a god did it.
More evidence that points to the existence of a creator is the order and design that is seen in the natural realm. The Earth is located in just the right spot in relation to the sun. If it were any closer, it would be too hot for life to exist. If it were any farther away, it would be too cold. Coincidence? Also just look at plants, animals, people, and just nature in general. Pick up a biology book and read about how complex life is. Even something as tiny as a cell is so complex. It is so tiny but is necessary for life to exist. The oxygen we breathe here on earth and the water we drink are necessary for life to exist. There is a reason we haven't found life anywhere else. That is because these conditions for life don't exist everywhere. But they exist here. What are the odds that everything winds up in the perfect harmony that we see here by accident. I'm guessing very astronomical.
Christians assume the planet was made just for them, rather than that we (all living species on the planet) adapted and evolved to live on it as our planet became more and more habitable. While it is true that the Earth is in what astronomers refer to as "The Goldilocks Zone", it is also obvious that Keller and the author of this blog are unaware that our planet is constantly wobbling and we are in an eliptical orbit which means that there is no actual "sweet spot". Our planet is constantly heating and cooling and is affected by the other planets, our moon, and the sun on a constant basis. A current hypothesis from UC Santa Barbara is the idea that our planet's bulk composition with all its uranium, thorium, and potassium are part of what makes our planet habitable. The odds of our planet being habitable ARE astronomical if you think in small numbers. But when you think of things in terms of billions of year and you also look at how big our universe is, they aren't so astronomical. We are a blip in the cosmos, but we aren't a singular anomaly. I should also point out that despite the complexity of life, it is not perfect in any way. The human eye itself is a terrible design, one that we would send back to the shop if someone made it for us. The complexity of cells is amazing, but it doesn't mean that a god made them.
A third reason why I believe God exists is the existence of morality. Going back to Tim Keller's book Making Sense of God, Keller states that most secular people today hold a set of ethical beliefs about the nature of human life (Keller, 2016, p. 41). They are committed to science and reason, to progress and the good of humanity, and to the rights, equality and freedom of every human being (p. 41). He goes on to state that Secularism is marked by a call to take active responsibility for making a better world and for the betterment of other people of all races and ethnicities (p. 41). They would argue that removing religion from the world would help us to realize these values (p. 41). The problem is, they cannot explain where these values come from. None of them can be proven empirically and they do not follow logically from a materialistic view of the world (p. 41).
They come from us. There I explained it. Morals and values come from the culture and people groups who create them.
From a materialistic view of the world, you are made strictly of matter with no soul. You have no purpose. There is no after-life and the world will eventually burn up in the death of the sun. Nothing we do here in this world matters because it will not make a difference in the end (p. 42). If this were true, we should be inclined to live as selfishly as possible (p. 42).
Human evolution shows us that we form groups in order to survive as a species. Within those groups there have to be laws (morals) that govern the way we interact with and support each other for the continuation of our species. Being selfish would go against the group's self-interests on the whole. You don't need purpose or an after-life in order to take care of the people you love on this planet. Just because we are a blip on the universe' radar doesn't mean that you can't have meaning in your life, only that there is no grand over-arching cosmic plan.
While there ARE people who live pretty selfishly, there is something in us that knows that is wrong. What put those values in us? I believe that the existence of those values point to the God who put them in us.
Let's discuss some of these so-called morals from God shall we: 1 Samuel 15:3: "This is what the Lord Almighty says ... 'Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.' " This is a common thread. The God of the Bible has no problem with mass genocide having orchestrated the supposed flood, the death of everyone in Jericho except Rahab of course, and the countless other cities that were destroyed by the Israelites. Let's remember, these soldiers were killing babies. With swords. On God's orders. We consider that a human rights violation now. Sounds like we have developed some morals that extend beyond God. There was also that time God sent bears to maul some children to death for bullying a bald man. Leviticus 21:17-24 tells us that God discriminates against people with disabilities. They can have some bread from the church, but God makes it very clear that he does not want offerings from anyone who is disabled. The idea that a disabled person couldn't take communion or worship God would appall Christians today, but their God clearly doesn't like them. And when people got upset with Aaron and Moses (Numbers 16:41-49), God sent a plague to kill over 14,000 people. So what if Jesus came and said some peaceful stuff (not all of it mind you), the Bible isn't just the New Testament. If you say that your morals come from God, then that means all of them. No cherry picking.
In summary, I have shown why I believe that it is plausible to believe that God exists. You may say that I have't proven anything but I can also say that you can not absolutely prove that the universe always existed and everything in it was created by it. None of us were there at the beginning of time to see how everything began so it is difficult if not impossible to come up with absolute proof of how it happened. Every explanation is theories based off of evidence.
I don't really see anything plausible in these arguments for the existence of a god. Nevermind that my own disbelief in a god is not formed around how the universe started. Frankly, I don't really care about how the universe was formed or how it happened. I care about whether the Christian God, and all other gods for that matter, is a real entity or not and whether the holy books are accurate and true. Anthropological, historical, and archaeological accounts show a very different picture from the Biblical account that has been so widely accepted. I see a book written by a nomadic people who created a god to help explain their understanding of the world and to give them authority to take over and slaughter other neighboring kingdoms. This was followed by the New Testament where another more gentle god was created around a holy man, myths were added to his story to align it with Old Testament prophecies, and a religion was formed mostly by two men who couldn't even get along most of the time. There may well be a being out there that started the universe. The chances of that entity being the god of the Bible is almost comical. The chances of any of the holy books being accurate is just as laughable. We human want so badly to understand our universe and our place in it. We want death and life to have meaning and purpose. And we created religions to that end.
What would be more honest on the part of this blogger concerning his belief would be this: "I believe God is real because I was taught from a young age that he was. This was confirmed constantly by believing parents, a country full of theists, the churches I attended since childhood, the college I chose to attend, and my wife. As a teen I re-dedicated my life to God after a tragedy in my family and this faith helped me get through some very difficult times. I constantly seek out information that confirms my beliefs and biases, even though I know (because I am educated enough) that this is intellectually dishonest. There is little chance I will ever leave this faith because believing by faith is far more important to me than actual evidence. Nevermind that I don't believe my life will have any purpose or meaning if there isn't an afterlife. I like the idea of an afterlife. It means that I will see the people I lost again. That thought is more important to me than anything in the world, real or not. I need that. So I will continue to create rationalizations for the irrational as long as it means I feel comforted in some way.
Lately, I've seen a lot of the non-religious rejoicing over the fact that religion, particularly the more conservative Evangelical types of Christianity are on the decline. Now, I personally have not seen much evidence of this. Then again I live in the Bible belt where Jesus and cornbread go hand in hand and the chances of people deconverting from religion are extremely low. I also live in a state where, if religion continues to go into more of a decline, there may be a serious vacuum left behind when it comes to social justice and services for the needy. Where I live almost every area of care is dominated by religion. Foster care, adoption, soup kitchens, battered women's shelters, halfway houses, pregnancy care for the impoverished. If the groups are not run directly by a church or religious organization, then it is guaranteed that the volunteers within them are religious. At our local soup kitchen, churches and religious small groups take up the majority of slots for volunteers. I've seen the list. Such and such Methodist church is serving breakfast (10 volunteers), First Baptist Church youth ministries for lunch (14 volunteers), Main Street Lutheran Church for dinner (8 volunteers). Our local homeless shelter is run by a Christian family and they consider it a ministry. They have a shelter, soup kitchen, battered women's shelter, employment help. You name it, they are doing it. They have several thrift stores as well. Both Goodwill and Salvation Army are also religion based. The Salvation Army requires their employees to sign statements of faith. I just met, for the first time in four years, another foster/adoptive parent who isn't religious. That's rather telling I should think. Let's also not forget the various churches who do things like feed the homeless at a local park every Monday night or the ones who do coat drives for the school down the road. Several churches in my area have clothing and food pantries as well as help to pay bills for their parishioners in need. (we'll ignore the fact that many come with strings attached)
Now, I'm sure you are wondering about one of my earlier posts when I spoke about how many of the churches in my area could shut down and it wouldn't affect anyone. This is still true. There is such a glut of churches in the Bible belt and so many are insular to the point that their presence makes absolutely no impact on the community around them. However, within that glut there are a handful of churches that are really living out the calling to take care of the "least of these". Their contribution is considerable and cannot be scoffed at or ignored, even if they may have ulterior motives (evangelism) at their core.
The truth is, if Christians go into the decline, we still need people to step up and take over these much needed organizations. We still need volunteers. And here's where I am going to be really honest. I do not see enough people doing that outside of a church. My work used to organize regular volunteering events, but once the woman who organized them left, they disappeared. There was no mandate by the company or any kind of religious/moral reason to do it, and so it just stopped. No one wondered or seemed to care if a vacuum was left if we stopped. Only 2% of the US population adopts children. The vast majority of the people who do are religious and say that they are adopting not only because they want children, but because it is important to their religion. I fear that the current foster care crisis will only grow larger if there are less Christians working in it. Do I think we would be better off without a whole bunch of Christians doing "orphan" care that is really just extreme evangelizing and indoctrination? Sure. But kids deserve families and I don't exactly see people in the atheist community stepping up here. I can't name a single soup kitchen in my Tri-city area that isn't run by a church or religious organization and I do NOT see non-believers making their own.
Here's what I do see. I see a bunch of social justice warriors pulling down statues because statues of dead white southerners offend people. I see people stopping traffic over the fact that the big university nearby isn't diverse enough, completely ignoring the homeless man on the corner. I see people so concerned about gender politics and putting people's pronouns in their emails, but don't help out the LGBTQ kid who is homeless down the street because they look dirty. I understand we can't all care about everything. I know we can't champion every cause. What I have noticed though (and done some research too) is that the things the Christians are doing for their community are very different from what matters to those outside of it. If religion continues to decline, someone has to pick up the slack. And frankly, I doubt someone who flees in the middle of the night from their abusive spouse with three kids in tow gives a damn whether you use their proper pronouns or if the statue down the street is of confederate general. And while we are all busy talking about whatever hashtag social justice trend is in the news at the moment, there are real people in crisis now. It very much seems like the non-religious community is happy to allow the Christians and inter-faith ministries to worry over things like the homeless and poor. This is going to bite us all in the ass in the future if we can't figure out ways to shift that load off the churches. We can't rely on the government either, because anyone can see that our leadership cares more about staying in power then they do about the least of these in our nation.
Disclaimer: I absolutely think that things like confederate general statues belong in museums. I also think that if I had to choose between two things to be outraged over, I'm going to go with the increased homelessness in my city hands down. I can care about both, but I'm not putting all my energy or anger into an inanimate object.
It's Christmas time and you know what that means? Christmas music! I love to sing so really, I love any kind of music I can sing along with, but Christmas music is one of my favorite. Frankly, even thought I am just shy of being an atheist for five years now, I will sing along with any and all Christmas music from Frosty the Snowman to O, Holy Night to Away in a Manger. I mean, I sing songs about Yellow Submarines and Ziggy Stardust and neither of those things are real either. But I definitely have some favorite and I am going to share my top 10 Christmas (non-religious) songs with you.
I've written before about how intimately familiar I am with sickness and death. I've had friends and family die from old age, drunken car accidents, stroke, drug overdose, and lots of cancer. Cancer is horrible. The treatments for cancer are horrible. I've seen enough people die from it to know that there isn't a magic cure through a doctor or a god.
Last night I learned that my aunt, only a few years older than me, probably has breast cancer. This is terrible news for anyone, made worse by her age, newlywed status, and the fact that he best friend just died of breast cancer three years ago. She is trying to find comfort in any way she possibly can. Some of the things she said to me last night: God will be glorified through my death. God will be glorified through my life. I think they already have a cure for cancer. My doctor is really amazing, but she wasn't very reassuring. I'm not going to do radiation, it doesn't work. My mother-in-law is a 15-year cancer survivor and she did radiation. I believe God will heal me. I don't know why God didn't heal my friend. I don't want to be a cancer survivor. This isn't a battle I want to fight.
I tried to just listen to her. I offered one sloppy attempt at reassurance and immediately regretted it. This information is too new. She is testing out what "thing" will make her feel better. Being religious, she'll probably land on something god-related. Even if she is cured through medicine or surgery, she'll still give the glory to a god. I've seen it over and over again. Even on their death beds, these people will say that they know God is going to heal them. When my ex-boyfriend died of brain cancer, people were angry because his wife wouldn't allow any visitors who were coming to say goodbye. You had to believe, or at least pretend to believe, that he was going to be healed. No goodbyes. People were upset because they loved him and in the end, they were denied an opportunity to see him one last time because they didn't believe God was going to magically heal him. Side note: That widow is now an anti-vaxxer who does raindrop therapy and is a vegan.
Watching someone slowly die of cancer changes your view of doctors, medicine, healing, alternative medicine, etc. You realize that doctor's are just people who make educated guesses, which, when you are dying, never feels like enough. You want there to be a bad guy, someone to blame for your illness. Some blame a devil or think that their "sin" created their sickness. Others blame Big Pharma or the unknown researches for holding out on them. "I would be better if only medicine wasn't such a business. Someone has the cure and they are just a money-grubbing asshole who is allowing over half a million people to die every year in order to make money." I personally, find the cure conspiracy theories to be the most ridiculous things because it shows an extreme lack of knowledge in how cancer works. Even if a cure was found for one type of cancer, it doesn't mean for all. For example, we do have a cure for HPV (a fact that many conspiracy theorists seem to ignore). Having a vaccine with a very high success rate doesn't seem to matter though because people still die of brain cancer, therefore all researchers are holding out on us. I also find this thought process personally offensive, because I have several friends who work in various forms of research for cancer and AIDS. They are good people. All of them are Christians too. There is nothing in the world that would make them happier than to see a cure in their lifetime and there is no way that they would accept a pay off if they did. When someone says that Big Pharma already has a cure for cancer, they are also calling into question the character of anyone (my friends included) who are out there doing medical research. There is a fantastic Humans of New York interview series at a children's hospital. One man has been researching the same child brain cancer for 30 years. It has a 100% mortality rate. This man has devoted his life to trying to find a cure. The heartbreak he expresses at not having found a cure and that all his patients die, is terrible. To look at that man and say that you think he is just holding out on you implies that you think he wants his patients to die. It makes him into a monster. Easier to blame a monster than accept that your body is frail. Sometimes our own DNA betrays us. Sometimes it has to do with our environment. It isn't anyone's fault.
My aunt has breast cancer because sometimes, particularly as women age, some women get breast cancer. It may or may not be caused by something in her environment or some drug she has been taking. A doctor will give her options and it is up to her how she chooses to fight, even thought this a fight no one wants to be in. She can work with modern medicine despite its flaws or she can try alternatives which are a crapshoot at best. If she finds solace in a god, then more power to her, but it won't matter. Half a million people dying of cancer every year in the US tells me that this particular god isn't in the healing business.
I love my aunt. I don't want her to die or be sick. I don't want to watch yet another loved one slowly succumb to cancer. There is a very real possibility that this could be her last Christmas with us. This makes me so incredibly sad. This could also be a quick surgery, one boob less, and she is on the road to recovery. But I refuse to play this game of make-believe where I think there are magical answers in either science or religion.
Ahhh, Thanksgiving. A time for food, family, and awkward conversations about religion. To give them credit, my in-laws are actually pretty good about avoiding politics and religion. My mother-in-law is a staunch Trump supporter who hates Obama/democrats and yet manages to not bring this up 97% of the time. So I'm okay with this.
My husband's cousins on the other hand, just can't help themselves. *Abby is one of those people. She once came in while we were on the couch and was weeping over how wonderful the church service she just came from was. She was also the person who talked about there being a "witch" that they prayed over in service. Abby was concerned that our son has been going to a Unitarian fellowship. "Aren't you worried that those other beliefs will rub off on him." I'm counting on it. She was surprised by this. I explained that my kid has made up his own religion that is absolutely ridiculous. I hope people challenge him in those beliefs. I hope people call him out when something sounds religious. I'm glad they are encouraging him to learn more about all religion because he knows nothing about any of them and refuses to learn from me. I didn't bother to mention that the kind of church she goes to, the one that believes in demons and witches, is the exact kind of church I am avoiding. Since I don't feel like vetting every Christian church out there, it felt smarter to take him somewhere where he would be free to explore his beliefs in an environment that doesn't play on his dark fantasies.
Then she shifted the conversation to talking about hearing the voice of God when it came to jobs. Now, this is where I should let you know that Abby has had a rather tumultuous professional life. She doesn't have a career and bounces every few years to various clerical jobs. Nothing wrong with this, but there is clearly no plan in place on her end. Her past two jobs have ended because of layoffs, which she admits that she saw coming but didn't "feel peace" about leaving. This is Christian-eeze for, I felt uncomfortable leaving and didn't have another plan so I just stayed. It doesn't matter if things worked out well or not, these people always find a way of spinning it so that their decision was good.
Which explains why she was so miffed when I told her that I have never heard the "voice of God". Ever. Even when I was a Christian, I never felt like God was speaking to me. In fact, it often made me wonder if I just wasn't praying hard enough or not listening hard enough. What I didn't trust were my own thoughts, because those sounded suspiciously like my own thoughts and almost always aligned with what I wanted. From what I read in the Bible, it seemed to me that if God wanted me to do something really important, that not only would I know that it absolutely came from him, but it may not always align with my own feelings on the matter. Of course, I used to Christian-eeze phrases like "the Lord led me" and "I felt called". In truth, those were just decisions that made sense. So I told Abby this. That I have never heard the voice of God. "But, how do you make decisions?" she asked, completely mystified. Easy. I weight the pros and cons, talk it over with friends & family, and make the best choice based on the available data. I don't trust my own gut feelings, because life has taught me that feelings are fickle and should only be used when feeling danger. And just like Abby, some of those decisions have been beneficial and some have not.
Here's an interesting thought experiment: Where do you think you would be right now if you only listened to your gut feelings and inner voice?
I live in the Bible belt, which means that there are five churches within one mile of my home. One in particular has had the same thing on their church billboard since we moved in almost three years ago. All it says is 'COGIC FIRE'. That's it. So one day I asked aloud, "What in the world is that?" A quick Google search revealed that it stands for Church of God in Christ and 'Fire' was a conference that was done in 2015. Now here is my question, what is the point of that sign? Why advertise something that is basically in code? Obviously the sign doesn't change that often, but someone at some point thought it was a good idea to make sure that the people who drove by knew about it. Not all of it, but they felt the need to let everyone know about it. This inevitably led me to a bunny trail where I started to pay attention to church signs.
Now, I don't give a shit about the dumb quotes that are posted. I know for a fact that they make books full of them, just for churches to copy. They aren't original or interesting. No, what interests me is the advertising. A Pentecostal church down the road from me had an advertisement that read: Brother Greg Coone. Friday, September 18. 7pm. Who has ever driven down a street, seen an advertisement for some random traveling preacher and thought, I don't know who that person is but I am going to that? A church right up the road from me is constantly putting up expensive looking banners about BBQs and Men's Breakfasts and Homecoming. Has anyone who doesn't go to that church thought, hmmm....I would love to go to that random church where I don't know anyone because I might get some free BBQ? Okay, there probably are one or two, but your average person just isn't going to do that. I used to be a Christian and I NEVER drove past a random church advertising a revival, preacher, group, or event and thought about going. It didn't even cross my mind. So who are those signs for?
My working hypothesis is that those churches are using these signs as a lazy form of evangelizing. Anyone who lives in the south knows that the churches here are segregated and insular to the extreme. If all five of the churches down the road closed, it would have absolutely no impact on our community whatsoever. The members would find other places to go and their minimal impact on their communities would be absorbed by other churches doing the exact same thing.
It's Halloween again and once more, I will be doing the most boring thing in the world...nothing. Having not celebrated the holiday growing up, this holiday means absolutely nothing to me. I have no fond memories, no favorite costumes, no traditions. I've tried to create some of my own by carving pumpkins, going to the pumpkin patch, dressing up at work, but I'm usually the only one and it just makes me feel lonely. I also don't like scary movies and find things like zombies to be grotesque and pointless. Nevermind, I have a kid who is obsessed with the occult and has trouble distinguishing between fantasy and reality. If you only knew how many conversations have resulted in me firmly reminding him that, "Zombies are fantasy. They are NOT real." I DO watch Supernatural, but can't watch it anywhere near my kid. After all, he has used Supernatural as one of the cornerstones of his made up religion.
There's a part of me that is sad that this holiday will always be tainted by the way I was raised. The Satanic Panic was real when I was a kid and we went to extraordinary lengths to not celebrate it. One of my strongest memories of my parents irrational behavior concerning all things Halloween had to do with a "spooky" hay ride where my dad ended up shouting at the driver, made all of our family disembark, and then walk a mile back to our car because my dad thought spooky=Satanic. It was beyond embarrassing and I remember thinking, I love my parents, but these people are nuts. There's also another part of me that is just like, whatever. I don't celebrate Diwali either, even though there are celebrations in my city. It just wasn't a part of my culture growing up and therefore has little meaning now.
All that said, we are buying this house and I may just consider doing a Halloween party next year. I love dressing up and a fancy dress party would be fun.
Husband and I are under contract for a house. This is exciting and although not a done deal as we have three weeks before closing, I don't forsee this going south on us. It's a huge house and although I really like the house, I am still mourning the fact that we won't be building our dream home. This home has a lot of what we want, but not everything and that makes me a little sad. I posted a little bit about this on social media and as you would expect, there had to be one person who says, "Sometimes God completely changes the direction of what we thought we wanted or needed, into something just as beautiful!"
Now, I agree that sometimes Plan F can be as awesome as Plan A. Rarely is it something better, but it will do just as well. This house IS beautiful, but it is also three stories on 1/3 of an acre with a ton of carpeting that my cat will most certainly tear to shreds. Not the one story house on 3 1/2 acres with hardwood floors that we could grow old in. We will have to sell this house when we are old because I will not be climbing those stairs at 80. Obviously, I don't believe that God was the one who orchestrated this change. I can also already see the downsides of this, the first being that our friends who were going to build a house next door to us are now going to be a 15-20 minute drive away. This makes me incredibly sad. It also means that we are still in a bad school district, which isn't great for any future kids we adopt. No. We made this choice. We could have chosen to wait and get a different house. We live in an area that has a lot of great houses on the market in our price range. But we decided to jump on this one.
Also, the idea that there is a god out there controlling where people live is absolutely ridiculous. I've been following Humans of New York (HONY) for years on Facebook and this week he is in Rwanda. The stories are horrific. Are you telling me that a loving god who cares what neighborhood I live in, didn't think it was important to control where Tutsis were residing right before the genocide that killed over a million people? You mean he didn't tell all those people, some of which were surely Christian, to move? Or for a closer to home example, I have some friends who moved into a house that they were told was pet free. This is important because my friend's husband is deathly allergic to cats. Turns out, this was a lie. The second day there he was cleaning out the basement and went into anaphylactic shock. Turns out the people before them had a cat and the landlord thought that if he cleaned it good, it wouldn't matter. It did. Landlord ended up paying the medical bills and let them out of their lease. Did this god not care about this man's life? They could have chosen other places? If there is a god out there who truly cares about where people live, then why would he put them in such a situation? To me the answer is simple...if there is a god, he doesn't give a flying shit about where you live. It doesn't care about what you want or need, nor does it have any cares about whether your living situation will harm you, make your life miserable, or even kill you.
At almost every intersection of life, we human make choices that create ripples out into the universe. Since we have no idea what those butterfly effects are, we can only do our best. The purchasing of this house could be great for our family, or it could be a terrible choice. Time will tell. Either way, I rest easy with the knowledge that I am the orchestrator of my own destiny and future, for good or bad.
Recently, my husband and I were having a conversation about Catholic hospitals who refuse to perform certain procedures on the grounds of religion. "They have a right to follow what they believe," he quipped. I could immediately think of a half dozen responses to this, but decided that arguing about it was pointless. Do you have the right to follow your heart and religion? Absolutely. For me, that right ends when it infringes on the rights of others or when you are providing a public service.
I have no problem with an individual Catholic refusing to take birth control and not ever having an abortion. That's awesome that you are living by the truths you believe in that govern your life. On the same note I take no issue with a Jewish or Muslim person not eating pork, a Hindu being a vegetarian, Mormons wearing special underwear, Amish people refusing to use technology, and New Age enthusiasts using crystals and Raki to align their Chakras. Where I take issue with those things is when you are providing a service to the public.
Let's create an example using a devout Catholic man. His name is John and he grows up in a mostly Catholic town in New England. It is there that he is instilled with the idea that birth control is a sin and he should never have sex outside of marriage. Fast forward to his late thirties. John has a gaggle of children and now owns a rather successful music store chain that sell everything from guitars to saxaphones to pianos. People love shopping at his store and he never asks any of his customers any questions about their sex lives in order to do business with them. However, because John is so anti-contraception, he has decided that the insurance plans he provides for his staff will not cover birth control for women. It doesn't matter to him if those women are Catholic or not. He feels that by allowing an insurance company to provide this medicine, he is somehow supporting the practice of it. It also doesn't matter that although people may use his instruments at night clubs or gay bars or for a striptease, he continues to sell his products to them no questions asked. Of course, there is the very real possibility that if he found out that someone was going to use an instrument for something he didn't agree with, he may refuse to sell them the item in question. Where in that scenario does John's rights end and another person's begin? I would say that his rights end at his body. If he is usurping his will and beliefs on another person, particularly one who doesn't believe the same as he does, then he is wrong. Period. It is wrong to force someone to follow your religion, particularly if you have a public business that hires people of multiple belief systems and provides products and services to people of the same.
It is wrong of Catholic hospitals to refuse to treat a patient over a religious belief. It is okay for an individual doctor to say no, I can't do this personally, but there should always be someone else on hand who can and will.
Disclaimer: Although it may seem by this blog that my husband and I argue a lot, that would be untrue. There are certain things that we disagree or don't see eye to eye on. I was aware of most of these things before we got married and decided that they were not deal breakers for me. They drive me nuts sometimes, but on the whole we agree about more than we disagree and get along very well.
I am in the middle of reading The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins, an interesting book that lays out a fairly succinct argument in defense of evolution. Full of studies, statistics, and information, Dawkins walks through the various elements of the theory of evolution from fossil records to carbon dating to what the word theory means in a scientific context. Some of it is information I already knew, but what I like about this book in particular is that occasionally it mentions the Young Earth Creationist (YEC) arguments that are used in an attempt to discredit whatever information is being laid out. For example: The chapter I am in currently is discussing "The Missing Link". What does that mean exactly? Do we really have gaps? Where are those gaps and what does that tell us about fossil records? Can we accurately look at the fossil records and make the types of claims that Darwin and his successors have used concerning the origin of the species? Having grown up in an environment where YEC was paramount and facts were ignored if they didn't line of with a YEC way of thinking, I find this type of book useful. I began to reject YEC in my late teens. I knew that a young earth didn't match archaeological data. Yet there was a part of me that was afraid to explore further. I knew one could believe in an old earth and God, but the two seemed incongruous. If the earth itself, and every species on it, formed on its own for millions of years, what did that mean about God? I knew this kind of questioning would not lead to a deeper belief in God so I left it alone. It wasn't until my late twenties that I actually started to read books about evolution or science books that just assumed evolution was fact.
One area where my husband and I often have disagreements is this very subject, which is surprising because this man claims to believe evolution is true. From my perspective it seems that, although he understands there is a lot of science to back up evolution, enough of the church has weaseled its way in for him to be very skeptical of it. "I'm a skeptic," he claims, followed by something like, "It's only a theory, not a law." Here's the thing about skepticism. I absolutely believe you should question everything, particularly things that you have been taught that have very little evidence. You should seek out that evidence and if there is none, move into the category of I-need-more-evidence-before-I-believe-this-is-true. But if there IS evidence to back up a claim, then, at the very least, it needs to be moved into the this-is-plausible category. At the very least. A few days ago my husband started ranting about carbon dating and how scientists had been wrong about the age of the Earth because of it. Woah woah. Slow down buddy. Scientists didn't use carbon dating to determine the age of the Earth. Scientists use radiometric dating, not carbon dating to determine the age of things older than 12,000 years old. Carbon breaks down at a faster rate than uranium and can only be used to date relatively young things. Radiometric breakdown can be tested and is proveable. We know how long it takes to break down. It isn't a guess. If you had the right tools, you too could watch and estimate this on your own. That is what makes it into a scientific theory, which then makes it a fact. Because in science, theory is a homonym. It has more than one meaning. It does NOT mean guess work. It means that someone had a hypothesis and then they proved it using measurable data that was then peer reviewed and tested by other independent parties. With this information in hand, knowing all the facts about how it works, I have reached the conclusion that the earth is therefore roughly 4.3 billion years old as scientists now estimate. They didn't make a guess, it isn't a hypothesis. But to hear my husband talk about it, you would think it was a bunch of idiots sitting around holding rocks and going, "Yeah, that rock seems really old. I'm going to guess it's a billion years old." And that's the YEC pseudo-science creeping in. You aren't a skeptic, you're a Christian who doesn't accept scientific facts. That thing about carbon dating is straight out of the YEC handbook, so don't act like you know all about science when you are still using Christian pseudo-science talking points.
Is there science I am skeptical about? Sure. The multi-universe hypothesis is interesting and has some mathematical data behind it, but as of yet, it is nothing more than an interesting guess. Therefore, it goes into the I-need-more-evidence-before-I-believe-this-is-true category. Technically a hypothesis is never 100% proven as there could be some variable that the experiment has not encountered that could render it untrue. That is what I love about science though. It is always open to being proved wrong. Sure, the scientific community might fight against it sometimes, but a good scientist should be open to continued peer review and testing. We all know there were a number of scientific "theories" from yesteryear that were treated as fact even though they often had very little evidence and couldn't be repeated by another independent party. Take the maternal impression theory that concluded that a mother's thoughts created birth defects. There was absolutely no experimental support and was rendered obsolete by genetic theory, which has a mountain of data to support it. The Azoic hypothesis, which was at the time considered fact, stated that marine life couldn't exist below 200 fathoms. This was quickly disproven in 1850 with the discovery of Conocrinus Iofotensis.
The Bible is not open to being proven wrong. It claims to be 100% right and demands it's followers find ways to prove it. They work backwards. Instead of coming up with a hypothesis and then trying to prove it, they give you the "fact" (the Bible is true) and then force you to find a way to prove it. And this is nearly impossible. They use archaeology like a weapon. See, Ur is mentioned in the Bible and we found the city of Ur, therefore the whole of the Bible is true. See, Solomon's temple is mentioned in the Bible and since we can see the remnants of Solomon's temple, all of the stories in the Bible about Solomon are true. No one could have possibly made them up after the fact. There's no way Solomon lied about his father in order to make himself more important sounding and to give him credence to take over the throne even though he didn't have royal blood. Mount Olympus is a real place and people really did once worship Zeus. Does the fact that it exists and had devout followers, make it true? A Christian would tell you of course not. Don't be ridiculous. I was even taught that the people back then didn't really believe in the Roman and Greek pantheons. But that isn't true. I've read several historical contemporary accounts and people really did believe. They were convinced that this is how life came to be and it is no wonder they rejected the Christians only-one-god claims when they first started shopping their religion around. For years archaeologists believed Troy wasn't real because it was in The Illiad. That is until they discovered the remnants of Troy. Does that make The Illiad true? I don't think there is anyone out there who thinks it is. It's just a story that happens to use a real place as a way to anchor the story to our world.
I honestly think my husband is in the same place I was at one point. I was interested in science, but scared to learn more about it as I feared it would drive me further from my faith. I knew enough to sound like an idiot and definitely made the carbon dating argument at one point. My husband did not like it when I corrected him on this fact and immediately jumped into the "I am a skeptic" mantra, trying to make himself sound smart by rejecting science he doesn't understand. I would give him a pass on this if I saw him actually studying and trying to understand the science. For example: We watched The Cosmos together and instead of looking up some of the information he didn't understand or wasn't sure about, he just pronounced that he didn't think something was true based one....what...his armchair science degree? He claimed he already knew all about this and he didn't deem the science to be factual. I on the hand read articles, studies, research papers, journals, in an effort to understand the concept I wasn't understanding. I didn't accept the science blindly, but I also didn't reject it out of hand simply because it didn't match up with my religious views. If you really are a skeptic, then you should also be a seeker of knowledge. This may mean that you, just like science, need to be open to change. This does not mean you will lose your faith, but it may mean you have to admit that science does actually have some answers and they may not align perfectly with your holy book.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.