Oh Yes, I Remember It Well

false-memoriesI was having a conversation with my older son, Rob, the other day and the death of my best friend, Melanie, came up.  She had passed away when my younger son was 4 or 5 weeks old.  Rob began to tell me about the day I received the phone call informing me of her death.  He said that he started questioning God that day, because he knew she wasn’t a Christian and he couldn’t wrap his head around someone as good and kind as Melanie going to Hell.  I was surprised to hear him retell the details of that day—not because of his questioning god, because that would have been understandable, but because he wasn’t there when I got the phone call.  He wasn’t living with us when she died.  If fact, he didn’t come back to visit until my younger son was almost a year old.  It wasn’t that he was lying.  I could tell he truly believed what he was saying.  It could be that he remembered me calling and telling him about her dying or hearing me talk about that day later, but he was not there when it happened and yet he told the story, with great detail, as if he had been.  If I was not positive of the timeline, I would have believed him, without a doubt.

This got me thinking about how unreliable our memories are, which reminded me of when I began to doubt the infallibility of scripture.  When I first started to research the Bible and its roots, I was surprised to learn just how much of the Holy Scriptures came from the oral retelling of the facts and none of it was written down as it was happening, or even soon after.   So, the Bible is based on stories that were passed down from generation to generation. Ever heard of the game telephone? I was also surprised to find out how long after Jesus’s birth, death and resurrection the gospels were written.  There is even debate as to who the true authors of the gospels were–that they could have been written after the disciples were long gone.

That’s just the gospels.  What about the foundation of Christianity, the Old Testament?  I remember a discussion I had with my sister.  I asked her if she knew who wrote the book of Genesis. I wasn’t sure; she didn’t know either. Some say it was Moses, but that wasn’t my point.  I pointed out to her that whom ever wrote it, was not there at creation—couldn’t have been.  So, I asked her, how could Moses have known what happened?  She confidently told me, “God told him.” Hmm…that’s exactly what Joseph Smith and Mohammed say about their revelations.  The truth is that the stories of creation, Noah’s Ark, Sodom and Gomorrah, etc., were stories passed down through families orally.  So, long story, short; if my son creates a false memory from a situation that took place just seventeen years ago, How can anyone believe that the Bible, most of which was written well over 2,000 years ago, is infallible, or reliable at all?  Why don’t Christians think about that?  Why do they continue to live their lives in obedience to this book and most importantly how can they condemn to Hell, anyone who can’t? Maybe I should stop thinking so much…someone actually said that to me once :).

Well…He says He’s a Christian…

LINCOLN BIBLE-AP PHOTO-OBAMA OATHMark Driscoll is the pastor of Mars Hill, a mega church in Seattle. One Newsweek blogger, David Sessions, writes that Driscoll is “a testosterone-oozing Calvinist bruiser who shouts at his congregation, swears from the pulpit, and sometimes seems to think that if you’re not cut out for the locker room, you’re not cut out for heaven. If you’re a woman, you’d better make sure you keep your husband fed and serviced.”   I thought that sounded a bit harsh, so of course, I did my own research.  Come to find out, this particular blogger was way too kind.  I was shocked at what Driscoll is quoted as saying and writing.  Even as an ex-Evangelical, who has dealt with more than a few narcissistic pastors.  I want to spend some time on Driscoll in upcoming posts, but for now I want to touch upon one of his recent tweets and one of my pet peeves about the Christian community and more specifically Christian pastors.

Here’s the tweet: “Praying for our president, who today will place his hand on a Bible he does not believe to take an oath to a God he likely does not know.”  

There it is.  Pastor Driscoll knows the hearts and minds of men and has deemed Obama a non-believer.   Well, he did say, “likely does not know,” psh! When I read that tweet, I got so angry and I’m learning that if I have a visceral response to something, a tender, and not yet healed area in me has been jabbed at.  I figured it out pretty quickly.  It reminded me of how important it was to look and act like a “Christian,” in the Christian community:  Show no cracks, have no struggles, unless they were acceptable struggles, follow the rules, and most importantly, you and your kids better “look” Christian.  Driscoll’s whole attitude brought to mind how Christians constantly judge other Christians and, as a Christian, you are always on your guard, because you certainly don’t want to be judged and your authenticity questioned—but it is; it always is.

The associate pastor at my old Church, Parkway Community Church, was always saying, “Well, they say they’re a Christian,” which always suggested that their salvation was in question for myriad of reasons.  These reasons, of course, were confidential and so you wouldn’t find out just what they were until your small group offered them up as vicious pieces of gossip—oops!  I mean prayer requests.

Christians who would say that this does not take place in their church on a regular basis, is lying to themselves, or…they are the one who is most guilty of doing it.  To be fair though, some churches are worse than others.  I have found it more prevalent in Calvinistic churches.  Calvinists are just meaner than your average run-of–the-mill Evangelical, and I say that having been one—an Evangelical and a Calvinist.  Looking back, I can see how the more Calvinistic I became, the meaner I became—seriously mean and judgmental.  I saw it happen in others too.  I wonder why that is?

As far as Driscoll’s tweet on Inauguration Day goes, I hope he is right about Obama.  I would feel better knowing that our President doesn’t live his life according to a book of myths and seek help from an imaginary friend, but as awesome as Mark Driscoll thinks he is, in the Christian world, he can’t know a man’s heart.  No one can.  He’s in my cross hairs now and I will have more to reveal about him very soon.   I mean, I’ll have some prayer requests to share…

Come, let us Cringe Together

Calvin Kneeling Praying At Cross 2As I have been thinking about it, there are many things that are cringe-worthy in the Christian world, well, probably the religious world, but Christianity is usually my point of reference and so I’ll stick with what I know. It’s so strange to think that at one time many of those cringe-worthy things seemed like a good idea to me and now I am faced with how embarrassing they all are. There are expressions of Christianity every where I go and I’m not even looking for them.  They are constantly thrust in front of me, even just driving around town, on the bumpers and windows of cars:  Calvin kneeling at the cross, “NOW–Not of This World,” “I’m Not Perfect, Just Forgiven,” “Body Piercing Saved My Life,” etc. (I’m serious.  It really said, “Body Piercing saved my life” with Jesus on the cross—crucified.) I think Christians believe they are making some sort of powerful statement that is a witness to the world, or at least to those who see their message.  I know I did.  Now, it is a reminder of just how brainwashed (for lack of a better word) I was.

One that bothers me the a lot is the Calvin decal. I really cringe when I see it.  I did when I was a believer too though–for different reasons.  Anyway, poor Calvin, portrayed as kneeling at the cross, I mean, I really don’t think Calvin would ever want to do that. His creator isn’t a believer, so I’m pretty sure Calvin isn’t either.

Calvin once said to Hobbs, 
 “This whole Santa Claus thing just doesn’t make sense. Why all the secrecy? Why all the mystery? 
 If the guy exists why doesn’t he ever show himself and prove it? 
 And if he doesn’t exist what’s the meaning of all this?

Hobbs replied: 
I dunno. Isn’t this a religious holiday?

To which Calvin said, 
”Yeah, but actually, I’ve got the same questions about God.

If Calvin were real, I think it would piss him off that he is portrayed at the foot of the cross—kneeling in submission.  He is the poster child for rebellion and non-conformity after all.   Perhaps he is praying for forgiveness for all of that…Now, that’s a strong message.  Hello?  HE’S NOT REAL, but Jesus is…ummmm…never mind.

The irony here is that this decal is a perfect example of blatant copyright infringement—you know, stealing? Hmmm, Christians stealing to get their message out.  I guess they get a pass though.  All bets are off when you are glorifying god and witnessing to a lost world.

I never had that ridiculous Calvin decal on my car window. I had something way more articulate and rational: A bumper sticker that said, “Darwin is Dead and He Ain’t Comin’ Back,” with a Darwin fish, legs in the air.   What?

Oh, there’s more…

A Bully By Any Other Name

facebook_like_butonWell, my family (parents, sister, brother–in-law, and brother) all got together for Christmas.  I was not invited.  That’s not really a surprise, but I won’t lie; it hurts deep down, kind of in a place that I don’t let my heart go very often, but I have gotten used to it and it’s easier than spending time with them, the way things are, what with them practicing unconditional love and all, but I digress.

Anyway, my baby brother, who still loves me and wants to spend time with me, (he’s an atheist as well) told me that my name came up over Christmas dinner and my brother-in-law said that I was hectoring on my facebook page…hectoring.  Words mean things and that is a pretty strong one.  It means to treat with insolence; bully; torment, to act in a blustering, domineering way; to be a bully.  Wow, I am hectoring people on my facebook page.  I have to admit I was surprised to hear him say that.  I can’t, for the life of me, why me voicing my opinion on my personal facebook page, would be seen as hectoring.  The funny thing is, the status update he referenced to my parents, was when I said,  “Happy Winter Solstice.”  Wtf?  That’s hectoring?   Truth is, I love the Winter Solstice.  It means that spring is coming, and then summer. I can’t begin to understand how that could be construed as hectoring.  What the heck?

I do write things that confront Christianity and I do post things that Christians have said or done that are embarrassing for other Christians to read, but I am the first one to admit that I have said and done many of those things.  I have also posted things that I personally don’t like that Christians have done to my family or me, and I don’t like what Christians say about non Christians and when they do, I will confront it, BUT I don’t post anything on my family’s or friend’s walls that is controversial or confrontational in any way, so the strong reaction confuses me.

I was thinking that if I were a Christian and had de-converted from some other cult, all my Christian family and friends would LOVE it if I spoke out against my former belief system and attacked it.  They would go out of their way patting me on the back for revealing a false religion and standing up for “truth.” Yet, because I openly reject THEIR belief system and expose the problems with it, or even acknowledge a non Christian holiday, I’m a bully—mean, negative and hateful.

Christians think it’s my right to believe or not believe.  They tell me that all the time, but what they don’t want is for me to talk openly about it.  If I do, all bets are off.  They can write lame things like they are praying for a sports game or they prayed for a parking place at the mall and god provided one; they can say mean things about atheists, or things that could totally be refuted, even on MY wall, and that’s okay, but if I ever respond…well…that’s just mean and negative.  Double standard much?

Socks

socksOnHomelessMan200wYesterday, I had the privilege of helping out with a group called “The Homeless Project.”  A young, non-believing woman in our area, Amanda, recently took it upon herself to collect items such as socks, gloves, scarfs, canned food, and blankets, and then she would go to the homeless encampments in our area and give them out, all by herself.  She started doing it because it has been extremely cold here at night–well below freezing—and she felt like she needed to do her part to help those who are down and out.  She has now recruited others to help her.  She’s not part of a church group, she isn’t doing community service for college or high school. She just hated the idea of fellow humans freezing and going hungry right under her nose.

Anyway, while my daughter and I dropped off the things we had gathered and/or purchased, I mentioned to a young man that was helping, that I had lots of socks.  His eyes brightened and he turned to a homeless man that was kind of hanging back said, “Tom, did you get any socks yet?”  The older man said that he hadn’t and that he could really use some.  As the young man handed Tom some brand new socks, he smiled. As the little  old guy walked over to a place where he could put them on, I thought of my brother, who is homeless.  It felt so good to see this man get socks–my socks.  Last night as the temperature began to to drop, I remembered Tom and thought about how his feet are going to be warm and dry because of my socks.  Something else struck me as well.  When I encountered that homeless man yesterday, I never once wondered if he was “saved” or if I should share Jesus with him.  I also never wanted to figure out why he was on the streets just so that I could judge whether he was worthy of help.  All I really cared about was that I got to help a fellow human being be more comfortable for a little while.

Amanda, my daughter, and I, are all atheists.   Christ does not dwell in us, nor does the Holy Spirit.  How can it be that we would want to reach out to help others?   How can it be that I felt such joy helping someone less fortunate than me?   Is it possible?  Can one really be and do good without god?  Christians say no; they are wrong. Doing for people feels so much better than doing for Jesus…any day of the week.

I’m Just a Soul Whose Intentions Are Good…

156416_476006925752847_33225970_nI read an interesting article this morning, entitled “In a Crisis Humanist Seem Absent,” by Samuel G. Freedman.  It was in the New York Times and I found it pretty thought provoking.  I’m just going to cover one of the issues I have with this article today, because there are many, and of course, I’m hoping to glean several posts from it.

The first issue that caught my attention was found here:

“It is a failure of community, and that’s where the answer for the future has to lie,” said Greg M. Epstein, 35, the humanist chaplain at Harvard and author of the book ‘Good Without God.’ “What religion has to offer to people at moments like this — more than theology, more than divine presence — is community. And we need to provide an alternative form of community if we’re going to matter for the increasing number of people who say they are not believers.”

First, What Epstein fails to understand, and he claims to be a humanist himself, is that without their theology and their belief in a divine presence, there would be no community. The religious community is predicated on the idea that you believe what that community believes, or, guess what?  You are no longer welcome in that community.  It is a community made up of rules and regulations, and goes after the most wounded and vulnerable in order to convert them into their community. Yes, I am certain proselytizing took place as these so-called communities “reached out,” to the victims of Sandy Hook.

As I read this, a question came to my mind: Why must we, as non-believers, provide an alternative form of community, as this fellow humanist suggests? What does that mean anyway?  We should start organizing, perhaps meeting together once a week, or we start making up rules, or even better “bylaws”? Maybe make some sort of a pact or “covenant”? I don’t know…that kind of sounds like…church, doesn’t it?   We don’t have a “humanist community”;  we are IN our communities as humans.  I’m willing to bet that non-believers, atheists, agnostics, humanists, “nones,” what ever, were very present at Sandy Hook, they were just not standing under a god banner, or preaching from a pulpit, or praying at candlelight vigils.  Yes, I’m sure they were there.

Proof of that is found right in the article itself, when the author writes:

“While tacitly excluded from religious coalitions, humanist groups did respond to the Newtown killings. The Ethical Culture Society chapter in Teaneck, N.J., helped organize a gun-control rally there. The Connecticut branch of the American Humanist Association contributed about $370 to Newtown families from a winter solstice fund-raiser. The organization American Atheists reports on its Web site that it has collected more than $11,000 in online donations toward funeral expenses in Newtown. A secular support group called Grief Beyond Belief operates on Facebook.”

So, with that said, I am a bit confused.  How were we absent?  Did we appear absent because we failed to  have an alternative community in place?  I do not believe that is the case.  I believe what humanists, atheists, agnostics, etc., provide something much more valuable and that is physically and monetarily reaching out to those in need, not out of obedience in the hopes of being rewarded by a mythical god, to bring the “lost” to Jesus, but to reach out in genuine care and compassion to hurting, fellow human beings.  Can we do better?  Of course, all of us can do better, but for me, it’s a quality over quantity thing.

One of the things I came away with from this article was just how misunderstood we, as non believers, are.  It’s pretty clear that part of the problem is that so many look at us through the lens of religion and when they do that, we cannot be seen. Until our country learns to take the “god glasses” off, we will never be fully understood, or appreciated.

Suffer the Children

67938_305412512908484_1193109497_n-1Today’s post will be short, because most of the work was done for me.  Thank you Crazy, Sappy Christians, on facebook.  Anyway, so this picture and the following poem were on the wall of a friend and it pissed me off so much, I had to comment.  I didn’t want her to be all hurt and mad, so I found the original poster’s wall and commented there. You would not believe some of the comments people wrote–embarrassing.  There’s not enough room to share them, but I wanted to share my comment because it is exactly how I feel.  I’m going to post the poem first, to give context and then I’m going to share my comment, with commentary.

Here’s the poem:

Twas’ 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38

when 20 beautiful children stormed through heaven’s gate.

Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.

They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.

They were filled with such joy, they didn’t know what to say.

They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day.

“Where are we?” asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.

“This is heaven.” declared a small boy. “we’re spending Christmas at God’s house.”

When what to their wondering eyes did appear,

but Jesus, their savior, the children gathered near.

He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same.

Then He opened His arms and He called them by name.

And in that moment was joy, that only heaven can bring

Those children all flew into the arms of their King

and as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace,

one small girl turned and looked at Jesus’ face.

And as if He could read all the questions she had,

He gently whispered to her, “I’ll take care of mom and dad.”

Then He looked down on earth, the world far below

He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe…

then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand,

“Let My power and presence re-enter this land!”

“may this country be delivered from the hands of fools”

“I’m taking back my nation. I’m taking back my schools!”

then He and the children stood up without a sound.

“Come now my children, let me show you around.”

excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran.

All displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can.

and i heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight,

“in the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT.”

Written by Cameo Smith, Mt. Wolf, PA

— with Andrea Marie.

Here is my original facebook comment:

“There are so many problems with this:  First, so Jesus has the power to protect and alter things and yet he let the children be slaughtered. Second, he promises that he will take care of the one little girl’s parents after he stood by while their lives were decimated?  What kind of monster would do that? Third, he’s going to retake “His Nation” now? When is he going to retake the nations where women are treated like animals and children starve to death in the arms of their mothers by the hundreds? And finally, I don’t get accompanying picture.  Do the little children have to go to school in heaven or was Jesus in school with them and stood by as a young man mowed them down? Perhaps he’s decided to start hanging out there again. I’m not sure why this would comfort anyone and why anyone would consider this beautiful…I guess it’s just me.”

It’s obvious that the idea that the massacre was due to god’s judgment is the underlying theme in the poem, because it says that Jesus is now going to deliver the country from “the hands of fools” and he’s now decided to let his “power and presence, reenter this land.”  So, evidently we were bad and so he wasn’t here.  Also, where are the adults that were killed?  What about Ms. Soto, the teacher that hid her children and lied to protect them and lost her life?  From some of the comments I’ve read about her, made by Christians, she showed way to much cleavage and supported gay rights…Well, I guess we all know where she went.

I’m sorry.  I’m not feeling very empathetic today.  Christianity is gross

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