October 27, 2013

Demons In An Atheist’s Closet

Posted in psychology, theology at 9:19 am by Jerry

personal demonsAccording to christian theology: God expected humanity to consistently please him, obeying him all the time; and any actions of ours that don’t please him, that disobey his will, are called “sin”; and it is for the existence of “sin” in our lives that we need to accept God’s forgiveness.

Looking back, it’s incredible that I had at one time thought this belief to be realistic. How can anyone please or obey anyone else all the time? It can’t be done. It is highly unrealistic to even consider the possibility.

There was never a time when humanity wasn’t trying to learn how to improve their lives, trying things out, observing what does and doesn’t work. There was never a time when anybody consistently walked the proverbial “narrow path”. We are always off balance to some degree, weak, vulnerable to the unknown that lies ahead of us. Sure we try to center ourselves, walk whatever balance beam we’ve created for ourselves. But to expect us to never fall over one side or the other is not reasonable.

And yet, to become a member of the christian church, it is expected of you to accept God’s forgiveness for the existence of sin in this world through his human sacrifice 2000 years ago.

Of course, christians are free to believe what they want to believe, but I don’t see how it’s necessary to accept God’s forgiveness for the existence of sin in this world. And believing in a God that sanctions a human being to be tortured and hung on a cross until death to represent this forgiveness is horrifying.

Jesus-on-the-cross-1

A reasonable God would not deem the mere existence of sin worthy of being considered an offense. And a moral God would not expect a human sacrifice to overcome this offense, to represent forgiveness. Seeking forgiveness from someone is done after realizing we have hurt them. We didn’t kill Jesus. Nor should we consider the existence of our sin to have killed Jesus. And it’s not necessary to believe that God’s feelings are hurt by our inability to please or obey him all the time! No all wise and knowing God would stoop to such pettiness.

But I did. I believed it whole-heartedly. I lived it, breathed it, taught it, preached it. My past is a closet filled with all sorts of theological beliefs that are now my personal demons. And today I live with the embarrassment and shame, knowing that these ugly, superstitious views were once mine. Of course, I shouldn’t let it get to me. What’s in the past is the past, right? I need to forgive myself for painting the world over with a wide biblical brush, for categorizing or boxing in myself and my fellow human beings in iron age views that judged us for not measuring up to the standards of an imaginary supreme being.

But I didn’t just dabble in it now and then. I wasn’t a “Sunday christian”. My theological daydreaming consisted in believing in all sorts of crazy, egotistical things. There was a time in my past when I believed that I could sense the presence of angels. I once hallucinated that northern lights formed into a picture of a man kneeling outside of a fish’s mouth (read: the book of Jonah). I contemplated the destination of people who had died in my lifetime. I had opinions about what I thought was the “will of God” in certain situations.

For 30 years I believed these kinds of things. It’s not easy for me to get over this. In fact, I’m bitter. I’m bitter that the majority of my life consisted of this kind of behaviour, these kinds of beliefs. And even though I may have a special appreciation for secular humanism coming from an evangelical background, I envy “cradle atheists”. I know we are all guilty of all sorts of foolishness in our lives, atheist and believer, but the kind of foolishness which is my religious past weighs heavily on me.

September 23, 2013

Where Did Religious Rules Come From?

Posted in theology at 6:28 pm by Jerry

Jesus has rules

If a christian relies on a substitutionary purpose for Jesus’ death, that christian is still practicing religion. That christian is still living by the archaic rules written in the bible. That christian’s lack of legalistic ritual in everyday living to satisfy salvific restraints still rests on the theological belief that there are sin-revealing rules aimed to condemn humanity despite Jesus’ interception. Any emphasis from that christian on the “freedom” Jesus provides is also an emphasis on those God-given rules.

It’s popular to paint religion as the enemy and Jesus the hero but, to me, the only way Jesus could be portrayed as a hero in this scenario is if those “holy” standards could exist apart from the existence of God. But God is said to be the beginning of all, and his standards are based on his character – which HE deems to be holy. So, these rules used in the evil practicing of christian religion came from God himself. And as much as these rules were/are able to train you in the way you should go they are also able to condemn you to hell if you don’t have a special loving, worshipful relationship with God.

For those believers who like to tout that their beliefs are not religious, non-believers like myself still manage to be condemned by “sin” said to be revealed in us through christian doctrine. How is that not a practice of religion?

June 13, 2012

The Strength of My Former Faith

Posted in atheism, theology at 3:09 pm by Jerry

There was a time in my christian past when I was afraid to be *emotionally* swayed by evil ideas.

But, eventually, I became more confident “in Christ”, rejected my fear of views opposed to christianity (I deemed them unworthy of my fear because I had faith in a greater power), and started studying what atheists thought about christianity — not to test my faith, but to make it stronger, deeper. I wanted to use “my God-given mind” to be intellectually intimate with God, not just emotionally intimate.

Most of my life I studied what/who I was or wasn’t by reading from Christian voices. But I believed I had reached a point of maturity in my faith where I was ready to contemplate what non-christian voices had to say about my world of belief. It was long overdue! After all, I was an evangelical! I should be able to hear from those whom I wanted to evangelize (share the knowledge of Jesus) with. I should be able to *explain* to them the obvious truth of the Christian reality.

The more I read about atheism, the more I adapted my explanations in an attempt to present a more reasonable one. And as a result, my theological views slowly moved from a more conservative leaning to a more liberal leaning, and eventually becoming an atheist myself. Some may think this is reason enough for them to not contemplate the views of atheists, and that my faith wasn’t as strong as I had thought. I disagree.

“Faith” is one of those words that believers (in my experience) put far more meaning into than any dictionary could (or would?). One aspect of faith is the kind of willpower to maintain a commitment — no matter what. Another is the relational/emotional attachments like love. Here, faith in God is more than just a choice. It’s innate, inevitable, a part of the unconscious core of your being. These two descriptions alone show how “trust” is not a proper synonym for “faith” in the mind of a believer, and probably why we often hear the cliche, “Christianity is a relationship, not a religion.” (To me, this just explains how all religions can be claimed as ‘relationships’.)

So, was it my lack of willpower that lead me to apostasy? No, it didn’t weaken. My willpower was as strong as ever until I purposely pulled it away from my commitment to Jesus. Then, was it that I fell out of love for God? Had I neglected this spiritual relationship to the point of ruin? No. I was more devoted at that time then I had ever been.

The problem was, next to the abundant willpower to commit to God and loving devotion I had for God, my relationship with God lacked an intellectual intimacy that could satisfy my conscience. I couldn’t get close to proving God’s love unless I ignored gratuitous suffering and biblical genocide. I couldn’t prove God’s existence outside of anecdotal evidence from a Christian society. I couldn’t even make the christian ideology seem like the most probable explanation for our reality. I couldn’t provide a reasonable explanation of the belief I had dedicated my whole life to. My theology seemed so lame compared to a materialist explanation — even though a materialist explanation didn’t explain everything.

I know I shouldn’t expect reasonable explanations to legitimate all my life experiences. But reason is an important part of the human experience. And I just couldn’t live the rest of my life like so many of the faithful over the centuries before me, who had embraced the unsatisfactory ineffable stance that, however indirectly, justified ethical dilemmas within the troubled Christian theology. I NEEDED a reasonable explanation. My moral journey required it.

And so, despite the strength of my former faith in God, for the good of my soul, my conscience, it was necessary that I break away from this being who I loved more than family and friends but couldn’t entrust my life with. It was necessary that I reject my commitment to: a God that seemed irresponsible and a belief that seemed intellectually unlikely. And after I rejected this spiritual relationship, feelings of love for “God” did remain, although, the feelings grew more and more nostalgic while “God” shrunk into the size of an imaginary friend – what I now accept “God” to have always been.

November 2, 2010

I Think I’ve Already “Found” My Life

Posted in atheism, family, fatherhood, film, friends, marriage, scripture, songs, theology at 8:57 am by Jerry

Every now and then I end up mentioning the valuable point that its reasonable to require evidence for the existence of a “God” before praying to this God, much less believing this God exists. And still, this point is so easily brushed away in my encounters, as if it has nothing to offer. Instead, I get hypothetical scenarios like, “But what if God did make his existence a matter of fact for us all? What then? How would you respond to his existence?”

Well, there’s so many questions I could come up with, questions I’d like to ask God. In fact, there’s so many that my list of questions would probably outlast my lifespan. But, if God were to turn to me and others, saying the same kinds of things written in the Christian bible, like:

“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. “For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD. “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. “And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. “He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”

Matthew 10:34-39 NASB

…And if God were to turn to me and others, saying, ‘It’s not your questions that will eventually decide your destiny, its your loyalty. So, are you with me or against me?’ …how would I respond?

Well, it’s hard to say I know exactly how I would respond in the future. However, I can’t help but think there would be a strong possibility that I would love others more than I would love God. And even if God managed to be my greatest love (which sounds so strange from a materialist’s point of view), if any of those whom I love just a little less than God choose not to be loyal to God, and therefore eventually are separated from this Kingdom of God that I’d be living in, how could I be satisfied with such a separation? How could I be content while being separated from those who I still have so much love for? (And God better not suggest to wipe away all my memories of them. THAT would piss me off!)

So, if this God does exist, and eventually reveals himself to all, there’s a strong possibility that I wouldn’t forsake my life for a life with him. Because, the more I think about it, the more I think that I have indeed “found” my life. My life is with those closest to me, those whom I love the most. And, based on 30 years experience of loving “God”, I think the earthly love I’m able to experience is far greater than any kind of love I could have for God. So, instead of an eternity of mediocre love with a supreme spirit while being separated from the love of others I care about, I’ll take the greatest kind of love I’ve ever experienced within a mere human lifespan. And with these loved ones, like the song goes… “Forever is our today”.

*This video is about warrior (sword wielding) immortals outliving those they love, those closest to them. (It’d be great if this video above manages to stay available. The song suits the post and I’ve been enjoying my second time through the Highlander TV series, too.)

October 24, 2010

Where Science and Theology Collide

Posted in atheism, science, scripture, theology at 10:32 pm by Jerry

…The words NATURAL and RANDOM are not meant to exclude an intelligent agent: they are meant to accurately describe the process. The fact that gods become redundant is a side effect of the power of evolutionary explanations. All of our observations of evolution are adequately explained by random chance as the dominant force in our history, with directionality and function conferred by local, short term adaptation. There is no teleological force. There is no evidence of divine or even intelligent intervention in our past. Is this smart theology? To promote the counterfactual and unsupportable? It’s cunning and weird and increases the complexity of the model to postulate imaginary and unexaminable forces, but it doesn’t make it right.

…This “monogenism” is apparently an important (and sophisticated!) assertion. It’s an insistence on the idea that Adam and Eve were unique, real, and literal individuals and that the entire human race is directly descended from them with no other contribution from other individuals of that time. Some are fine with the idea that Adam and Eve were themselves the product of evolution and had non-human ancestors, while others insist that they had to have been divinely and magically created without parents, but at some point in time the Catholic god set these two, and only these two, people apart, bestowed them with souls, and set them to work procreating to generate the entirety of the human species.

That’s some genetic bottleneck. One pair. That’s it. Talking about populations defies sophisticated Catholic theology.

Unfortunately for them, it also defies population genetics and again violates the principles of evolutionary biology. Evolution is precisely about changes in populations over time, not individuals, and furthermore, a relatively recent bottleneck in genetic diversity that narrow would be apparent in our genomes. When you get right down to it, it turns out that Catholics are not supposed to accept evolution — they are only expected to embrace a superficial and literally falsified version of evolution that strips out the entirety of its mechanism.

…They also declare that Adam and Eve were real people and the sole progenitors of the human race, for exactly the same reason: original sin. Christian doctrine is built on the notion that all people are intrinsically guilty and sinful, and the specific crime they are guilty of is the act of disobedience by Eve described in the book of Genesis. While much of the rest of Genesis can be treated as poetic metaphor by Catholics, that ‘fact’ must be indisputable — we’re all sinners because Adam and Eve broke the rules in the Garden of Eden.

I know. Inherited guilt is absurd, but that’s how sophisticated theology works.

Why do Catholics have to prop up this concept of original sin? Because Jesus’s sacrifice makes no sense if it wasn’t done to atone for a universal crime. We all must have inherited that sin, or some of us are innocent and Jesus was irrelevant to us. Can’t have that! That would mean we weren’t subject to the domain of Christianity.

via

October 23, 2010

I Wish Believers Had Faith In…

Posted in church, culture, film, marriage, psychology of religion, scripture, theology at 8:03 pm by Jerry

I wish believers had faith that same sex attractions were not sinful.

I wish they had faith that same sex marriage is righteous, Godly, beautiful.

I wish they had faith that wherever the bible seems to stand on a committed same sex romance, someday, God would reveal to biblical scholars and theologians that same sex marriage is God’s plan.

I wish believers had faith in THIS kind of love.

March 14, 2010

The Means of Maintaining the Mystery

Posted in art, atheism, culture, film, history, mythology, religion, science, scripture, theology at 6:04 am by Jerry

February 9, 2010

Global Genocide: the Means to a Christian Utopia

Posted in atheism, family, film, friends, religion, scripture, theology at 8:26 pm by Jerry

Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. The LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, from man to animals to creeping things and to birds of the sky; for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. (Genesis 6: 5-8)

And Jesus answered and said, “You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you?” (Matthew 17:17)

For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matthew 24:37-39)

..through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men…  ..the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. (2 Peter 3:6-7, 10)

December 30, 2009

A First Century War On Mythmas

Posted in church, culture, fiction, history, mythology, politics, scripture, theology at 6:05 am by Jerry

Under the Caesars, Augustus and Octavian, the mantle of divinity was claimed for the Roman emperor. They claimed the titles Lord, Son of God, Bringer of Peace, and Savior of the World.

First century Christians remembered very well that according to Jesus “You shall love the Lord your God with heart, mind, soul, and strength.” Jesus was their Lord. They did not have divided loyalties.

The ancient world was full of miraculous birth stories. It was a favorite way for rulers to claim divine rights. It was a literary tool that was waiting for early Christians to use to declare the divine specialness of the one they called Lord.

The birth narratives that were eventually attached to Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels, were stories that were created and circulated to counter the claim of the Caesars to be divine and worthy to be called Lord. Every claim of specialness for Caesar was countered by the claim that all his titles belonged to Jesus.

The birth narratives are as much political treatise as theological statement. They cannot be found as a part of the earliest memories of followers of Jesus and make sense only in the context of their Roman oppressors claim for divinity…

Broadly speaking the authors were storytellers. They were not historians. Their work cannot be understood as history.

The birth narratives are properly called myths. A myth by definition is any story or report in which God or a God is the primary actor. Angels, free-moving stars, dreams, and unexplained bright lights are a part of the tools of mythology. Christians and the world at large have not been served well by attempts to read the birth narratives as history.

Just as many children feel deceived when they find out Santa is not real, many Christians feel deceived when they conclude that Jesus was not born of a virgin and that a star did not travel through the sky and come to rest over a particular place in Bethlehem. (bold mine)

Rev. Howard Bess is a retired American Baptist minister, who lives in Palmer, Alaska.

December 29, 2009

What Does It Mean To Give?

Posted in art, atheism, culture, religion, scripture, theology at 7:40 am by Jerry

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