In One Ear…

"And we all say, I will change tomorrow."-Voice of the Beehive

Rise From The Ashes of the Mind’s Eye

I feel like this bog post is about three years late, yet the timing is probably best.

I was raised in the Church.  It was practically in my DNA. At no time did I ever doubt there was a God.  Jesus was the answer to the questions of life.

I cannot say I believe this, after over 30 years of living.  It was about 38 years of living and believing to be exact.

About three years ago, I found I could no longer believe.

There is a quote that has been attributable to many writers, from Stephen Meyer to Josh McDowell. It goes “the heart cannot rejoice in what the mind rejects.”  I have long believed this.  It is why people can believe very outlandish things.  It is not really a defense, so much as a criticism…but you would not know it, because it is primarily used as a pro-conversion statement.

The road to no more faith in a god of any sort was tough.  In the beginning it was more about doubts of the Church and Bible.  The Church I was a part of encouraged using the “Year Through the Bible”.  It is a Bible structured so that each day, you read a portion of the Old Testament, New Testament and the Psalms (which is…uh, part of the OT, but whatever).  Now, I knew the Bible pretty well.   I studied it my whole life.  And my first pass was pretty uneventful.  I was focused on the “year-thru-the-Bible” gimmick.

It was my second pass.  The second year I was reading thru, stuff started to seem… a little off.  Do not get me wrong…there were uplifting stuff, encouraging stuff.  But more and more, God, proclaimed as good and great throughout scripture, started to show as ego maniacal, self centered, manipulative (“If you really loved me…”) and generally petty.  God exhibited qualities that I would never see as respectable in a person.  I mean, Donald Trump exhibits a lot of the same self regard that God does…I do not consider Trump worthy of worship.  The main difference with God seems to be super powers.  These qualities are not bad for God, because, hey, God is GOD!  Which is a pretty lame defense.

The story of Job shows God letting Job lose *everything* including his family to devastation and death simply to prove a point.  God is not innocent of Job’s suffering.  God stops show His favor to Job so He can prove Job does not need those things to love and worship Him.  There is no indication that God is bothered by anything Job is going through, because it is not about Job…it is about God’s ego.  Sure, God gave Job everything back twofold…well kinda.  It is not like God raised his children and servants from the dead.  No, those people were gone.  He just replaced them for Job.

I had kind of rejected Sola Scripture by this point.  That is the notion that scripture is the only source of wisdom from God.  It is circular logic, as the Bible never makes any such claim.  And the verses that speak of scripture being God-breathed were written when there was no Bible.  So, it got ridiculous.

I also confess that I gave up asking for anything in prayer.

Wait, let me re-state that.  I continued to pray.  But I stopped asking for anything for myself.  I focused on the needs of friends and family.  The common answer Christians give is that God’s answers are yes, no or not now/maybe.  So, God is a magic eight ball.

Anyways, I pretty much decided that I had to reject anything that seemed contrary to God.  I did not want to accept the idea that God might not be real.  I wanted to believe, so I just had to stop buying the idea that God was anything like other Christians were willing to accept about God.

I found other people who had similar ideas, which was a bit of comfort.  Unfortunately, they were not at Church, which eventually led to my dropping out.  I just could not worship that God.  I still participated in the video team, though less and less.  I like doing that stuff, I like helping friends.

I had been, for quite some time, finding that the concept of “Faith” as a noble and great thing problematic.  Faith in things unseen is actually pretty neutral.  Your faith in things unseen might lead you to start a hospital to help the sick or a food bank to feed the poor.  Of course, your faith in things unseen might also lead you to fly planes into buildings or shoot doctors.

About a little over three years ago, I was presented a question that I just could not get around.  “Could I prove God exists without resorting to it being a feeling or sense I had.

And I thought about it.

And I thought about it some more.

And even more.

And you know what I realized?

I could not.  Because that is what faith is.

I claimed a personal relationship with a person who did not answer me back when I spoke with them.  I could not have a conversation.  We do not get to know  people merely by reading about them.  I have friends that are very into reading books about various historical figures.  But no matter how many books they read on Lincoln or John Adams?  They will never be able to claim a personal relationship to either man.  They simply know facts about them.  They may feel a kinship, but there is no relationship.  If they quietly pray to them, it is not a relationship.  If they sing songs to them, it is still not a relationship.

Billy Graham was very fond of the notion that God is like the wind.  e cannot see the wind, but we know it is real.

Except wind and God are not the same thing.  Wind cannot be seen directly, but you can see it physically impacting things.  Smoke dissipates or bends to the wind.  Branches and bushes sway.  We feel it move across our skin.  We can hear it make noise.  Wind is truly verifiable.  If you put five people in a a backyard on a windy day, they will have pretty much the same experience.  The variations will be small.  But you sit five Christians together and you will easily get five different experiences that are very different.  Sometimes even contradictory.  Because, unlike wind, we do not hear God (we often claim it is a still small voice-our conscience…but it is not an audible voice that the other four people would hear).  Unlike the wind, we do not feel a touch of God on our skin.  We do not hear, touch, smell or see God.  We rely on feelings about events in our lives.  “This happened, it must be God speaking to me”.  I honestly do not know a single person who has ever made an indisputable case for God.  Instead, their believe is strictly based on a feeling.

I am not denying their sincerity.  They truly do believe.  They are certain the things they do that are good are because of a change God has made in them.  I actually expect sincere belief to change you.  If you sincerely believe something, you should be changing.  But it does not prove your belief to be true.  But honesty, a lot of the attempts I see to prove that Christianity is not simply a religion, but absolute truth ends up reminding me of those Ghost Hunter and Cryptozoology shows on Nat Geo.  They present a lot of unverified images and sounds and then demand you offer a better explanation than Bigfoot.

And so I am left having to side with the idea that I cannot worship that which I cannot prove the existence of.  I do not believe Christianity is al bad.  I do not believe religion has only brought pain and suffering.  But it certainly has not only brought good either.  The Bible has good concepts, it also has some pretty messed up ideas.  While many Christians reject slavery today, it is most definitely not because the Bible condemns it.  Slave owners used scripture to justify slavery.  Why?  Because the Bible addresses slavery…but it does not condemn it.  The holy scripture does not ever condemn the ownership of another person.  Of course, these things become less of a problem if you do not consider the Bible infallible.  If recognized as a book written by flawed humans with human flaws?  You can take note of and hold on to the good while leaving the bad behind.  Just like we do with any other book.

Honestly, to quote Steve Taylor, “Since I gave up Hope, I feel a lot better.”  I am not using that quite in the way Steve intended, but hey.  What I mean, really, is that I have found life to be filled with more hope than before.  Which surprised me.  I do not have all the answers, and I no longer feel like I have to.  I also appreciate that I am no longer paralyzed by wondering if my hopes and dreams are God’s will or my will.  Maybe I am the only one who ever found that an issue.  Do I want to tell stories because of what I want or is it God?  Do I want to share my art because it is God’s will or my own desire?  And so I would stop trying to accomplish anything.  Now?  Without being driven mad by such worry, I can pursue creative endeavors.

I realize that the reactions to this will be varied.  Some folks will be disappointed.  Some will not be surprised.  Some will mock.  Some will be supportive.  But I felt like it was time to say it.  You might wonder why it would be so hard.  One Christian declared not teaching your kids to believe in Jesus (which I could not do, and my sister is not doing with my nephews currently, though she believes in God) to be the ultimate form of (Cosmic) child abuse.  I have seen how some Christians have responded to Ojo Taylor from Undercover.   There is good reason a lot of former Christians (and other religions) kind of go underground.  And much of my personal life is steeped among Christians.  The majority of my friends and family are Christians.  My parents are very involved in Church.  My mom has terminal cancer that we discovered shortly after I stopped believing.  Do I really want to have ongoing discussions about why I should believe in the time I have left with my mom?  Not really.  I want to build as many positive memories in the time ahead.

But there it is.

I do not believe in God.  Or any gods.

Happy New Year?

 

On This Morn

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”

“I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

The Sound of Silence

So, part one of my thoughts on the situation surrounding the Rosa Parks of our generation. You might have heard about this. For reasons unknown to me, Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson felt the need to expound on who would be accepted into heaven. He was quoting the Bible and then covered his ass with the “but it is not for me to judge.” So, A&E suspended him. Of course, he had some rather “poor thoughts” on race.

First, A&E has every right to suspend or cancel a show. It is their network. It is funny how the same people who feel a cake maker should be allowed to discriminate are outraged that A&E should suspend Robertson. But here is my concern about the situation. I am a bit uncomfortable with the attempts to silence people who say things we do not like.

Life is incredibly complex. There is a Tumblr called Your Fave is Problematic. Read through it. Sometimes it is informative. Sometimes it is more an excuse to rant hatefully about people someone doesn’t like. The truth is, everyone I follow in Twitter, Tumblr, etc are problematic. Sometimes? Social justice minded people are the worst. They go so over the top, they become the very same person as the people they are ranting against.

When someone says something we find offensive, we rightfully express our displeasure. But so often, we see major pushes to get celebrities fired. Let us be honest, in real life, nobody campaigns to get the bigots in day to day fired from the local grocery. Celebrities are in a unique place. Every public word they express can work for or against them. And hey, you have to accept you might lose your job.

The problem with the campaigns are…well, they really do not do anything. Phil Robertson is in a long line of teevee and radio stars who said something unkind that were met with demands to get rid of them. When they are fired, everyone declares success. They always seem to land on their feet and and the attitudes are still there. And no actual life changing discussions. And sometimes, the attempt to Silence works in reverse…how many attempts have there been to dump Daniel Tosh? Tosh is still around. And rumors are that Phil will, in fact, appear in January Duck Dynasty .

Silencing tends not to be about true justice or changing minds and attitudes. It is about convincing ourselves we won. Except, we don’t actually win. No, it is worse. Those folks we work to silence? They go on Fox News, the Church Circuit or wherever…they preach their message harder, they play the role of martyr and the people who believed them support them more aggressively than before. Their message is pressed on.

What the world does not need? More “martyrs” and “patriots” of the Phil Robertson and Sarah Palin vein.

The other thing? Silencing can very much be used against progressive voices. And that tide could turn unexpectedly. In the pat, progressive voices were silenced. Even recently, gays have been forced by family to go to rehabilitation to be “straight”. We should not pretend reversing against those that we disagree with is somehow good. Reeducation camps are not a neutral concept. Silencing is not a good thing in a free world. The message offered by progressives is better. The message offered by progressives is stronger, and silencing rarely has the desired effect.

Silencing allows the alternative messages to grow. They retreat for only a limited time, because silencing only addresses a single event…not an attitude. Standing up, speaking our piece is going to do more to make a better world than getting a redneck off TV could ever do.

The Preface

I am working on a couple blog postings related to the general reaction to bigoted comments by celebrities and how these things are dealt with. I have conflicting feelings, and so I am breaking them down into (current plan) two posts. One focusing on my problems with “silencing” people we do not like. The second post will address why I do understand that very tendency.

I am opening with this preface partially to ask that if you take issue with the first post, to wait and see if I address the concern in my follow up.

Overall, December may be ending in a blogging explosion of thoughts from me.

Everybody’s Free

free en·ter·prise
noun
noun: free enterprise
1.
an economic system in which private business operates in competition and largely free of state control.

There was a news story on Fox recently which declared Free Enterprise dead. It was ridiculous, of course, for multiple reasons.

Primarily, it was because a Judge sided with a gay couple over a “Christian” maker of wedding cakes. I will be honest, if your Christian faith and view of marriage is so sacred that you will declare you would rather close shop if you cannot discriminate against gays? You are pretty much a lame Christian.

For one? The guy made a wedding cake for dogs. That is not someone treating marriage as a special and unique institution. Problem one.

More importantly, if your “Christian View of Marriage” is so important to you…why do I suspect this guy made cakes for non-Christians, people who were living together, people who were having pre-marital sex…why is he okay endorsing those unions? Problem two.

I have seen pastors refuse to marry people…a pastor and Church have every right to deny anyone access to their services. A guy making cakes is not a pastor or church. He is a businessman serving a larger public. And to be so inconsistent to deny one couple on grounds of faith while allowing others who ignore your Christian values to access your services is pathetic.

Look at the definition of free enterprise again.

an economic system in which private business operates in competition and largely free of state control.

Nothing there states you are free to descriminate. Free enterprise means you can have a business, not have a business and run it like a tyrant if you choose. There is a clear allowance of state regulations. The only person actually threatening this cake business is the guy who owns it. The state has not said his business has to close. That is all on him. The state simply says he cannot be so discriminatory.

Free enterprise still lives, this case is proof of that.

Lord of the Bloat

A common (and quite fair) criticism of Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth films is they are expanded and bloated. They often are incredibly busy and sometimes overwhelming in their additions.

And yet, it seems almost ironic. I read The Lord of the Rings books in my late thirties. Truth is, I find them bloated with needless story diversions, such as a 100 page excursion about a guy who proves the threat of the One Ring might be a bit overstated. It goes on and on and on.

Tolkien certainly loved world building (and really, language creation)…almost to the detriment of the story… He wanders on endlessly about the minutia of various languages. He also will spend pages telling us about historical myths and legends of Middle Earth that supposedly give us insight into the world, except they tend to drag the actual story down.

Really, I find the Jackson films are completely in spirit with Tolkien’s works. Entertaining, but bloated with needless detours and an obsession with minute details.

The Unfair Files: But the Real Victim Is The Perp!

Over the weekend I watched a documentary on HBO called Valentine road.

It tells the story of Larry King, who was tragically shot to death in 2008. You might recall the story from the news. On February 12th of 2008, Brandon McInerney(age 14) walked into class, behind Lawrence ‘Larry’ King (age 15) and shot him twice (at least once in the head). The motive turned out to be that Brandon was embarrassed and angry because Larry, a young man trying to find his identity (the information I have seen both suggest a young gay man or a trans girl… Two weeks after Larry started to accessorize (how the school referred to his wearing makeup and jewelry) and generally express himself, he was dead. This time frame matters, because there was something rather horrifying that developed.

A defense of Brandon’s actions crept into the public. We needed to consider just why he killed Larry. And yeah…things like motive matter. But this bizarre defense came about. It was Brandon who was harrassed…he was the victim in the situation and it is unfair to punish him.

This comes up in the documentary several times. He was greatly embarrassed because Larry had asked him to be his valentine in front of Brandon’s friends. And shortly after called out “love you, baby!” And one other time paraded around “flamboyantly” in front of Brandon and his friends. This was portrayed as a hard push campaign of harrassment by Larry against Brandon.

And you know what? I get being generally embarrassed by general activity like that… Sure, if someone you are not interested in makes a few overtures for your attention, it can be a bit uncomfortable and awkward….especially when your friends tease you about it. Young women are faced with that stuff all the time. They get uncomfortable because a boy they are not interested in is attempting to get their attention. And some of those incidents develope into real harrassment. There are a lot of factors that go into it all.

But the cold hard truth? Brandon’s embarrassment was his own. He could have told his friends to stuff it. He could have shrugged it off. He had a girlfriend, so he did not have to “prove” his heterosexuality to them. There is a long list of ways to handle the attention he got from Larry. Shooting him twice in the head was never an acceptable option. Terrifyingly, you would not necessarily know that from the reaction of some of the teachers and jurors interviewed in Valentine Road. It is heartbreaking to hear people take the side of a killer who killed with malice and forethought.

Imagine this… It was the unpopular girl. She is seen as a joke by classmates. Made fun of… But she takes the risk and asks out the cute basketball player. His friends tease him mercilessly. So, a day or two later he walks up behind her and shoots her twice in the head. Tell me, defense attorneys, jurors and teachers… Would you feel so comfortable suggesting she brought on her own death? That Brandon should be granted leniency?

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