March 24, 2009

Jack Black Must Play Jesus from Now On

Posted in film, politics, religion, scripture, songs at 7:29 pm by Jerry

I stumbled upon this video over at Suddenly Atheist and I’m pretty sure no one plays Jesus better than Jack Black!

…Pants On Fire!

Posted in atheism, church, culture, family, friends, history, scripture, theology at 11:08 am by Jerry

It was more than 30 years ago that I started praying on my bed every night of my childhood…

“Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep,

If I should die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Amen.”

It was more than 25 years ago, while reading over, again and again and again…

“For God so loved the world,

That He gave His only begotten son,

That whosoever believeth in Him

Should not perish,

But have everlasting life.

John 3:16.”

…I cried through a prayer, thanking Jesus “for dying for my sins”.

It was more than 30 years ago that I started praying before every meal up until my late teens…

“Come Lord Jesus, be our guest,

Let this food to us be blessed.

Amen.”

During my teens my bed-time prayers became increasingly personal, expressing many of the thoughts some may write in a diary (or fear to). Many of those prayers were filled with emotional expressions like a warm smile or a flood of tears.

I was born into a family and culture that have been Christian for generations. I was not taught that I should skeptically look for empirical evidence of the existence of God. I was taught to develop critical arguments to defend the particular version of theology passed on to me from family, church, and Bible School. But questioning the existence of God or the bible as God’s revelation wasn’t a consideration. And while playing guitar and singing songs (some written by yours truly) in at least 4 Christian Rock bands across Canada and into Australia, I still never considered acknowledging the viewpoint of those who haven’t taken on the presupposition that God is real and he reveals it in his Son and the Spirit that worked through the Biblical writers.

After about the first 6 or 7 years of Bible College I came to an understanding that it is healthy to listen to everything others say with a skeptical mind in order to have an informed sense of trust or mistrust (or both) in what they say. After a summer of preaching, leading worship and youth groups at an average-sized church in Winnipeg, I continued to pursue a Master of Divinity. When my pride in my acquired seminary training in theology had somewhat subsided, I re-discovered that it was also healthy to be skeptical of my own assumptions – not just for intellectual growth, but also to benefit how I relate to others.

Just recently it has been suggested to me by someone who has known me (or at least about me) since I was born that either I’ve been lying throughout my two active (ie.blog) years as an atheist about being an atheist, convincing all those close to me..

OR

I lied throughout my 30+ years as a Christian about being a Christian, convincing all those close to me.

Maybe I lied about both! That’s right, folks! I am THAT good of a fraud! I have consistently fooled all those close to me through every word and action of mine concerning my heartfelt fundamental beliefs!

The Infamous Prayer Test

Posted in psychology of religion, science at 10:27 am by Jerry

Here’s a link to a news report on the test. In it you’ll find that the test was put on by the Templeton Foundation – which rewards (a financial prize consistently raised to be higher than the nobel prize) scholastic support of religion.

It seems, Dr. Harold G. Koenig, director of the Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at the Duke University Medical Center overlooked an important aspect of the test. The test wasn’t meant to make God do something he doesn’t normally do (and by ‘normal’ I mean the normal Christian claims of God being compassionate to all who suffer and actively/appropriately responding to righteous prayers).

Do I think this will make other Christians think God failed them?

I’m not that stupid. If the failings won’t be handed out to the test itself, it’ll be handed out to the spiritual lives of the Christians involved.

Either way, God must be faithful in his goodness, whether he shows it or not.

“Oh, but He does show it!” they say.

Enter in the Confirmation Biases

March 10, 2009

Coleridge Said That?

Posted in church, religion at 5:41 pm by Jerry

I stole this quote from Becky’s blog. Every time I read it, it leads me to different thoughts. You gotta like that in a quote.

He who begins by loving Christianity better than truth, will proceed by loving his own sect or church better than Christianity, and end in loving himself better than all.

-Samuel Taylor Coleridge

March 9, 2009

I’m Told I’m Still A Christian

Posted in atheism, history, literature, mythology, politics, psychology of religion, science at 2:05 pm by Jerry

I’ve been receiving some emails from someone I’ve known for a long time. I thought she knew that I wasn’t a Christian anymore, but it became unmistakably clear that this was not the case.

So, after the shock of reading in one of my emails “I’m an atheist,” there was an attempt to create a conversation that included an assumption about my professed lack of belief in ‘God’ – the assumption being that it’s “not possible” for me to lose my belief in God. And apparently, this blog you’re reading reveals that I’m just blaming God for something major that happened to me.

Here’s most of my latest response:

…If it’s not possible to you, then what more can I say? I’m not interested in trying to prove my own disbelief. I think if I say I’m not a Christian anymore, that should be enough for people to believe me.

…I don’t know how you got that out of my writings. You’ll have to point out where in my blog that I communicate this. And I’m troubled by this thought because the assumption here is that my non-belief is a purely psychological matter. That I don’t really believe that God doesn’t exist, I’m just mad at him. And any rationale I have for not believing should be discarded because it’s not Christianity that has failed me, it’s me that has failed God.

I thought ******’s testimony was interesting. Historicity is always difficult to address with ancient literature. The question of whether legend-making was involved is always present with every passage written and re-copied, translated and re-translated throughout the millenniums. I suppose, if God is real, it’s a shame he didn’t incarnate himself in this age where we can have empirical verification. For scientists, such as archeologists and anthropologists, the only thing consistent between the present and the past when studying the subject of powerful beings is the political influences found among man-made religions.

All present day “miracles” that are scientifically tested have been found to be hoaxes. And there is no sign of a supernatural “Spirit” working through it’s believers distinguishing them from other people. There has even been a test on the power of prayer and the results showed no difference beween people who prayed and those that don’t. So, my question is – what happened? We have religions in our present day just as there have been for millenniums. But there is no sign of the supernatural in our present day. If the supernatural is real, why only in the past? Did the supernatural realm and all the beings residing in it die? Or if a supernatural being(s) just decided to make their realm a private experience among individual believers across the globe, why? And why is it that no one can agree what the supernatural being(s) is like? Be it between different religions, different denominations, different churches/mosques/temples, different preachers/imams/rabbis, or different teachers of religious texts, no supernatural being(s) has made any effort to clarify once and for all the truth about the supernatural.

I’m worried that this email is going to come across as harsh because I decided to confront what troubles me. It’s just that I so badly want to deal with what is really going on. I don’t want to console myself with beliefs/worlds that are not real, beliefs/worlds that can be used to put off some harsh realities – like death, for instance. And if humanity isn’t in fact the center of the universe (literally or spiritually), I don’t want to fool myself in believing so — even if it would provide me with more good feelings about myself and the world I live in.

Now that I’ve given up a belief in the supernatural, I’ve discovered that there is plenty of purpose and meaning throughout my daily routines with family, friends or even people abroad. Life is filled with new wonders and beautiful discoveries without ‘God’. And we don’t need ‘God’ to experience reciprocal altruism. Everybody wants the good life, they just need to have the opportunity to know what it is and either receive it or learn to live it.

This is getting long so, I’ll end it here and hope that you’ll consider this email to be a good one.

Love,
Jerry

March 2, 2009

Old, Old, REALLY Old Sex

Posted in church, culture, history, marriage, politics, scripture at 12:49 pm by Jerry

Here’s an article sent to me that I thought worth posting. I’ve quoted passages that I think are particularly valuable for someone who is about to read biblical passages used to condemn homosexuality…

Providing a Historical Context

Biblical writers had no concept of sexual orientation or sexual development as we understand those today. Therefore, passages that reference same-sex sexual activity should not been seen as comprehensive statements concerning homosexuality, but instead should be viewed in the context of what the ancient world that produced the Bible understood about sexual activity…

..Biblical scholars have employed the social sciences to study the relational and gender patterns of the ancient Mediterranean world—the world that produced the Bible. Professor Mary Tolbert summarizes that research with the following words:

The single most important concept that defines sexuality in the ancient Mediterranean world, whether we are talking about the kingdoms of Egypt or of Assyria or whether we are talking about the later kingdoms of Greece and Rome, is that approved sexual acts never occurred between social equals. Sexuality, by definition, in ancient Mediterranean societies required the combination of dominance and submission. This crucial social and political root metaphor of dominance and submission as the definition of sexuality rested upon a physical basis that assumed every sex act required a penetrator and someone who was penetrated. Needless to say, this definition of sexuality was entirely male—not surprising in the heavily patriarchal societies of the Mediterranean.

Genesis 19

This story is not a condemnation of homosexuality, but is a story about rape and inhospitality. In other biblical texts (Ezekiel 16:49, Luke 17:28-29) Sodom’s ‘sin’ is not identified as homosexuality, rather, their sins were pride, failure to help the poor, and lack of hospitality to foreigners.

Leviticus 18:22; 20:13

this prohibition in Leviticus was an attempt to preserve the internal harmony of Jewish male society by not allowing them to participate in anal intercourse as a form of expressing or gaining social and political dominance. These verses in no way prohibit, nor do they even speak, to loving, caring sexual relationships between people of the same gender.

Romans 1:26-27

The “natural intercourse” of that day which Paul was referring to was “among unequals with the dominant partner always an adult male.”

In other words, all of today’s sexual acts between partners of equal status would be considered “unnatural” to biblical writers. Male and female may have been considered spiritually equal before God in the first century, but when it came to sex.. equal status was a sin.

So for all heterosexual wives in today’s church who think the private lives of our contemporary society should only have sexual practices in the biblical sense, I ask you, “Will you welcome others to judge whether your husband is truly dominant over you, greater in public and private status?”