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Entry 38 – Uncovering ‘Recovering’

June 4, 2011

I received a recent message thru Facebook asking me to clarify what exactly I meant by ‘Recovering’, and to define exactly what I am recovering from.  At first, when I got the message, honestly, I thought I would just send this person the link to my first entry on this site.  I decided to reread my first entry from September of 2009, and I realized that I hadn’t addressed much in terms of my naming this whole venture, ‘The Recovering Christian’.

In many respects this term, ‘The Recovering Christian’, is a nod to Alcoholics Anonymous whereby people who attend the meetings are recovering or attempting to recover from a life of addiction to alcohol.  In my case, I am recovering from being led to believe certain things about the world that I now consider to be not based on good evidence.

So, to be clear, I am no longer a Christian.  I am an athiest.  But, I am, and probably always will be, recovering from being a Christian as, if you look at my previous entry #37, I  still have anger issues regarding what I was taught about the world and my place in it.  I conciously can reason that my parents were just doing the best that they knew how to do, but in the end, I am human, and sometimes I have a hard time not blaming them.

So that is the ‘recovering’ part for me.  I often times long for the fellowship, comradery, and community that I had as a Christian.  But I am slowly but surely finding the same sorts of friendships amongst secular social circles.

For the person that sent me the Facebook message, ‘Thank You’.  Your question helped solidify some of the things I am still battling with as a ‘Recovering Christian’.  I hope this post was somewhat clear, and that it might help others who are struggling to come to grips with their ‘ungripping’, so to speak, of the Christian faith.

Again, if you are someone in need of talking about the highs and lows of losing one’s faith in faith, feel free to drop me a line via the.recovering.christian@gmail.com.  I’m much more apt to read a message via email than I am thru Facebook or Twitter, although I do get around to checking these accounts periodically.  Would love to hear from you.

Thanks for stopping by,

TRC

Entry 37 – Not as calm, cool and collected as I thought I was

January 9, 2011

Happy New Year!  Over the holidays, I got into a discussion with a family member over yes…you guessed it…Christianity.  I thought I was ready for it (the conversation)…but, unfortunately, the conversation got the better of me.  More on that later…

I write because I want to share with you the reader that this conversation taught me a valuable lesson. 

On the outside, I try to present a certain person to my family members who still hold to their Christian faith.  I try to present that I have no problems with people who still hold to a Christian worldview.  What I learned though through this conversation with the family member was that deep down I very much DO have a problem with people who hold to a Christian worldview.  I honestly wish I didn’t.  I wish I could just let these kinds of things “go”, so to speak, but in the end, if I don’t address this issue, I am only fooling myself by trying to remain tolerant of the Christian faith. 

So, back to the conversation…

Somehow we got onto the concept of sin and I recounted as a young boy how I was completely terrified of what might happen if I didn’t confess all my sins before I went to sleep.  I littorally spent sleepless nights worrying about this worst case scenario with my , who I considered at the time to be, Creator…God.  It’s probably hard for someone who hasn’t grown up with this concept of sin ingrained in them from a very young age what it’s like to think like this on a daily basis.  Even now as I recount this episode in my life 30 some odd years later I am hardpressed to truly recreate what I was feeling at the time.  All I know is that I was a pretty miserable 5th grader.  I wish that no child has to go through the same thing I did.

So I became more and more incensed at the doctrines of Christianity, especially the concept of a Hell where all people who don’t confess their sins and trust in Jesus go to be tormented forever.  I wanted this particular family member to see just how ridiculous the concept of Hell was, and how unloving a God would have to be to create such a place.  And the more I wanted this realization to take place in this other family member, the more they became unwilling to concede such ‘sightedness’. 

Conversation basically ended with me saying I was sorry for getting so emotional over the whole thing, and that I didn’t want to be proselytized any more from this particular family member.  They agreed not to do any more proselytizing, and we agreed to disagree on matters of the supernatural.  I do wish that this family member would be able to have a different understanding of the world and how it works (i.e. a secular rather than supernatural approach).  But I have resigned that this won’t be possible any time soon. 

I’ll close with something I heard recently from Sam Harris.  He made an interesting comparison of the various religions to the numerous sports we have created.  Just as sports like badmitton and football are incredibly different from one another, religions are also incredibly different from one another.  He gave an example of a religion of peace and non-violence, Jainism, and juxtaposed its beliefs against Islam which claims to be a religion of peace and non-violence.  Despite their incredibly different sets of values espoused, they both still fall under the rubrick of ‘religion’. 

Christianity and Islam have radicaly different teachings on how its believers should view the world.  However, both religions appear to have an incredible ability to engender exclusivity and certitude about end of the world scenarios, and where believers and non-believers will spend eternity.  I find these similarities to be particularly dangerous in any person or sets of persons holding to a belief system. 

On the converse, maybe Christians and Muslims think I am just as dangerous holding my own set of beliefs that we don’t have to fear a supernatural being who is going to judge all of humanity for their ‘sins’ against God.

I’ll leave it there for now.  My thoughts on all of this are a bit muddled and incomplete.  I wanted to merely introduce the reality I am facing now of being much less tolerant than I thought I was of other peoples’ faith.  But, I am human, and like all humans we are flawed characters in this crazy act we call, “Life”. 

Thanks for stopping by,

TRC

Entry 36 – Halloween Comes Early With A National Day of Prayer ‘Scare-Mail’

October 21, 2010
I received an Un-Snopes-ified email recently that was another attempt to keep fear alive in this country about our current president.

The email, almost in its entirety, is below…but first, I’d like to share a few comments.

1. Even if the United States was brought into being from bible-believing, evangelical Christians (it wasn’t, but even if it was), I would hope we would have the decency and fortitude as a people to resist putting a ‘Christian’ label on our Republic, and rather, insist that our government proceed in a purely secular manner.

Think about how it feels when you’re the odd person out in a game or conversation. Do you really want to be that person that continues to say, “Oh, you wouldn’t understand, it’s a ‘Christian’ thing…” when asked by the person who isn’t a Christian why they have to support a government that keeps having a ‘conversation’ or plays a ‘game’ that excludes other peoples of faith or non-faith not in the majority?

Thankfully the same forefathers that some Christians claim as their own had this aforementioned fortitude, and made sure that the Constitution, our one and only governing document for these United States, was a secular one, and appealed to all peoples regardless of their belief or lack thereof in a supernatural being. It could have easily gone the other way.

2. If you are a Christian, I do not begrudge you your right to practice your religion. I really don’t. What I do begrudge is when you, as the practitioner of the dominant religion in this country, Christianity, try to make sure that your religion is represented at the highest levels of government. I am talking most specifically about the ‘National Day of Prayer’.

3. If you have a problem with Barack Obama catering to Muslims in his administration (I’m not agreeing that he is doing this, just saying that if you believe that he is), I would ask you to consider that Christians have been the ‘catered to’ group for quite some time in our republic. And actually, having another religious group ‘catered to’ should be a wonderful ‘wake up call’ to any and all people that think Church and State should be brought back together.

The government has no business catering to any religious group, PERIOD. Rather it should be devoted to governing large diverse populations of people from every religious and a-religious walk of life.

4. I often hear that people think our country is going in the ‘wrong direction’ and we need to return to ‘God’. I ask you to reconsider this romantic, in my humble opinion, Urban Legend-esque period when we were ‘with God’ . Was it during the late 1700’s and all through the early part of the 19th century when a black person was still considered just 3/5 of a human being? Was it during the early 1900’s when a woman couldn’t even vote in this country? How about the 1930’s, 40’s, and 50’s where black people in this country, under the guise of Christianity, were hunted down at night, tortured, and killed (ie. lynched) by cruel people dressed in sheets and brandishing fire crosses?

I thank our collective reasoning abilities as humans that we’re not heading in those directions anymore. We’re slowly but surely making this world a better place to live in and thrive. The average lifespan of a human being at the time the Declaration of Independence was written was less than 45 years. Today that same statistic is close to 67 years. And while some will claim this longetivity a miracle from God, I put forth that this is a testament to the collective human mind that day in and day out tries to answer questions about how the world works.

Let’s all just take a collective deep breath, and realize just how far we’ve really come as a species on this planet. It’s truly an amazing thing to contemplate! Truly amazing!

Let’s also forget about all the things that make us think we’re so different from one another. We’re not. We’re all pretty much the same amount of sloshing water mixed in with some minerals, protein, fat, and carbohydrates trying to acquire more of these things to keep us going. And no, that previous sentence doesn’t mean life is any less important or meaningful. It’s actually just the opposite, it makes living this life right here, right now, all the more prescient and important.

So with no further ado, here’s the ‘scary’ email:

In 1952

President Truman established one day a year as a “National Day of Prayer.”
————————————————————————————-

In 1988

President Reagan designated the First Thursday in May of each year as the National Day of Prayer.
————————————————————————————-

In June 2007, (then) Presidential Candidate Barack Obama declared that the USA
“Was no longer a Christian nation.”
—————————————————————
This year President Obama canceled the 21st annual National Day of Prayer ceremony
at the White House under the ruse Of “not wanting to offend anyone”
————————————————————————

BUT… on September 25, 2009 from 4 AM until 7 PM, a National Day of Prayer
FOR THE MUSLIM RELIGION was Held on Capitol Hill, Beside the White House.
There were over 50,000 Muslims in D.C. that day.

HE PRAYS WITH THE MUSLIMS!

I guess it Doesn’t matter if “Christians” Are offended by this event –
We obviously Don’t count as “anyone” Anymore.

The direction this country is headed should strike fear in the heart of every Christian, especially knowing that the Muslim religion believes that if Christians cannot be converted, they should be annihilated.

The words of 2 Chronicles 7:14

“If my people, Who are called by my Name, Will humble themselves And pray, And seek my face, and Turn from their Wicked ways, Then will I hear from Heaven And will forgive their Sin and will heal Their land.”

We must pray for Our nation, our communities, Our families, and especially our children. They are the ones who are going to suffer the most.

If we don’t PRAY May God have Mercy. IN GOD WE TRUST.

__________________________________________________________________
Snopes has a great write up for these claims in the email. Click HERE if you’d like to read it.

The claims about Obama are patently false, but that usually doesn’t stop people from sending out misinformation when it disagrees with what they WANT to believe is true.

The writer of the email puts in a bible verse from II Chronicles for good measure. If only he or she had also put in the verses from Deuteronomy 7:1-2 to counter:

“When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations…then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy.” Deuteronomy 7:1-2 ”

The rest of the email is a plea to get people to read to the end of it so that they receive a blessing from God and forward the email on to 10 friends.

Click HERE if you want to read the rest of the email I received. It’s stock ‘footage’ that gets appended to most emails of this sort to get people to read the message in its entirety.

I actually feel sorry for people who write this kind of stuff, and the people who buy into it. I think both types of people REALLY believe both what they are writing, and what they are reading, and I think they WANT to believe it. It’s an easy solution in search of a problem that doesn’t exist. It’s good drama for sure, and it makes Glenn Beck a good living.

However, at the end of the day it’s all just scare tactics and noise based on little semblance of reality, fact checking, or reason. Rather emails like this simply appeal to good old fashioned fear; fear of the unknown, fear of policies that aren’t the policies of the previous administration, fear. If only all of us could wake up and smell this kind of nonsense for what it really is, and begin to think critically about the claims being put forth in these emails.

Again, I will keep hope alive in this regard and despite the scariness around me, will still enjoy Halloween next week 🙂

Thanks for stopping by,

TRC

Entry 35 – Atheism Under Attack For ‘Nothing’

September 23, 2010

Very quick post today that I put on my Facebook page, and thought it worthy to place here as well…

Article appeared in an Albany, NY newspaper Monday by a Frank S. Robinson responding to an accusation that atheists believe in “nothing”: http://www.timesunion.com/opinion/article/Atheists-indeed-have-a-strong-set-of-beliefs-666738.php.

Enjoy and thanks for stopping by,

TRC

Entry 34 – September 11th Anniversaries, Islamic Cultural Centers, and Koran Burnings

September 18, 2010

The September 11th anniversary last Saturday of 9 years seems different to me than the one’s before.  I think much of this has to do with the controversy that is still continuing over a proposed Islamic Cultural Center to be constructed a few blocks away from where the World Trade Center once stood, and a book burning (postponed) of the Koran planned by a small Protestant Church Congregation in Florida. 

The destruction and killing that took place over 9 years ago was something most Americans, myself included, were not used to seeing.  The World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania were in many respects giant torture chambers for the over 2,700 people, many who had to make the horrific choice of jumping from 40 stories up in the air to their death, or being consumed by an unquenchable fire.  These were people like you and me reading this right now who, through no fault of their own, found themselves working in an impossible situation.  People who went to work that day never had a chance against those hateful people who were bent on killing indiscriminately. 

I know there are many out there who think the people who committed this killing were religiously inspired.  Yes, for the most part I think that’s true.  And I also know there are some who blame Islam for all the lives lost on September 11th.  Now while I think Islam does have alot to answer for itself, as best an idealogy based on the supernatural revelations of its prophets and holy people can, I think in the answering, one must undergo a simple thought experiment.

We have a number of ‘holy’ books that various billions of people on our planet attest to as the one ‘true’ sacred revelation from ‘God’; think Bible, Koran, Talmud, Upanishads, Vedas, etc.  If we single out the Bible in our thought experiment, surely we can find passages where genocide and retribution toward those who work against ‘God’ and ‘his ways’ are justified.  Don’t believe me?  Look up in your Bibles the following passages:

When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you may nations…then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy.” Deuteronomy 7:1-2, NIV.or…do not leave alive anything that breaths. Completely destroy them…as the Lord your God has commanded you…” Deuteronomy 20:16, NIV. 
 

Now just because there are passages in the Christian Bible that approve violence, I don’t know too many Christians who would take these same passages to heart and actually use them to commit egregious acts against an entire group of people.  However, the fact remains that in your ‘Holy’ book, you have passages that don’t necessarily paint a glowing picture of your all loving, yet quite jealous Deity.   

So, let’s continue our thought experiment, and extend it out to someone else’s ‘Holy’ book, oh let’s see, how about the Koran, Islam’s sacred text and oral traditions.  I’m sure, like we did with the Bible, we can find plenty of examples in the Koran where violence is sanctioned, possibly even encouraged against people who disobey God. 

In the same breath though, remember that Islam is practiced by over a billion people on our planet.  Let me say that again, Islam is practiced by over a billion people.  At last check, I didn’t see over a billion acts of utter carnage flowing from all corners of the world.  Like Christians who know which verses to cherry pick and live their lives by, Muslims do the same with their Koran.  We should all keep in mind that the small subset of Muslims who practice terrorism and violent tactics in some parts of the world is just that, a small subset of the entire religion of Islam.  There were and still are small subsets of Christians who practice acts of violence against minorities, most noteably blacks and homosexuals.  Do we need to condemn an entire religion for some of its followers who probably would kill and do bad things regardless of their belief in any supernatural being.   

The real threat to our country, and the world, as I see it, comes not from a particular religion looking to gain a foothold (SPOILER ALERT: They ALL do!  They all want to spread their “good news”), rather it comes from uneducated masses of people who act out of fear and irrationality, rather than calm and reasoning.  I’ll take a religious person every day of the week and twice on Tuesday with the latter traits, over an areligious person with the former. 

If we want to have a better world, we need to teach our children, as well as our adults the importance of a secular democracy where church and state are separate, religious people can practice their faith without reprisal, and all people, religious and areligious, can have civil discourse and debate of ideas using logic and reasoning.

My thoughts (which are incidentally my prayers) are with the families of the people who lost their lives over 9 years ago in New York City, Washington D.C., and Pennsylvania.  These family members who remain come from all walks of life, and as I’m sure with the loss of any loved one, still ache for that person to return and be with them again.  I lost my Dad over 2 years ago to cancer, and while I know it’s a far cry from losing someone in a terrorist attack, losing him is still as fresh today as it was 2 years ago, and I miss him more today than I did yesterday.  

Thanks for stopping by,

TRC

Entry 33 – A Faithless versus Faithful Life

September 4, 2010

Donald Clegg, a writer for the Spokesman Review, wrote an interesting piece today about finding meaning in life without a belief in a particular supernatural being. 

I really liked the article and recommend a read of it HERE…

What really caught my eye though was a comment made by ‘Romans 13’ on the article itself.  It reads:

“I don’t know who told you that if you don’t have God you might as well start “raping and looting”. I am confident it wasn’t a Christian. Your argument is the equivalent of saying if we punch someone, we might as well kill them. If you are going to use ridiculously extreme positions to prove your point, then you can use my example, too. And if I steal a pen from work, I might as well embezzle $5 million since I’m a thief anyway. What’s the point of arguing extreme examples that are ridiculous from the outset?

As for morals, where do they start from? I’m not talking about your parents, or their parents…I’m talking about the very beginning. We evolved from ectoplasma goop into beings that could have their synapsis electrically fire in the appropriate succession to create a universal “right and wrong” on basic issues such as murder, rape, stealing, etc? No. God’s word is written on your heart so there will be no excuse during the day of judgement. God’s word. Is it easier for you to believe we evolved from swampy goop to being the creatures we are now, or that an intelligent being made us wonderfully and fearfully! If we evolved from goop, who made the goop? Who made the laws that allowed the goop to cling together? Who made the atom to follow specific and consistent physical laws? My brother, if you sought God as much as you seek to defend your position, you would be pleasantly surprised. Let your conscience be your guide. Shalom.”

Wow…where to start…

1st – I think the extreme position Clegg’s bringing up is his whole point, Romans 13, which you beautifully defend.  And for that, I thank you.  We should no more accept that an atheist can’t be a good person, than we should accept that a Christian can’t be a bad person.  They both occur equally.

2nd – Morals don’t need to have a supernatural creator any more than the ‘goop’ you refer to needs a ‘gooper’ (ie. someone who makes goop).  Sure it’s quick and easy to just say, ‘God Did It!’ or ‘Let Go and Let God!’ or any of the other platitudes that people use for a God of the Gaps argument about the origins of life.  As a scientist I don’t ever pretend to know how we came to be.  It is most certainly a mystery.  I’m just not all that bothered by the fact that we don’t know.  Seems to be it’s the fervently religious people who are so bothered by people like myself who aren’t bothered. 

3rd – Letting conscience be anyone’s guide is a dangerous, slippery, and quite uncomfortable slope to travel.  Who is to say even what conscience is, and who the people are who possess the right levels of this kind of intuitive understanding of right versus wrong?  When it comes to guides, law that is precise, reasonable, and written with the greatest good for the greatest number of people in mind is a better starting place than someone’s conscience in my humble opinion. 

I realize it’s difficult for Christians to admit that a meaningful life can be had by an atheist who rejects a belief in a supernatural being.  All I am asking is that you please try.  Please.  It’s not difficult for atheists to admit that religion does a lot of good for alot of people.  It also does alot of bad.  Atheism isn’t immune to this either.  It can do both good and bad things for people. 

Again, let’s move on past this arguement, and acknowledge that people on both sides of the supernatural fence can be good, and get about the business of being good to one another. 

Thanks for stopping by,

TRC

Entry 32 – Obama’s a Muslim! Yawn.

August 26, 2010

Disclaimer: I have only read part of the article published August 23rd in the Christian Science Monitor by Peter Grier, and only a few of the comments posted to the CSM website.

But even so, why do we even give the tiniest amount of oxygen to this most flammable of conversations? 

Why should we care what religion President Obama or anyone else for that matter practices?  

How does one even go about trying to prove someone follows a particular religion anyway?  Church-time?  Minutes spent in prayer in public at an eating table?  [Insert Sacred Text] special study attendance on a weeknight?  And does someone who goes to Church, prays before every meal in public with a bowed head, and is front and center at the [insert sacred text] class, constitute a full fledged practicing [insert religionist]? 

What if that same person is also cheating on his or her spouse, involved in risky business deals that gamble away his or her family’s savings, or committed some other heinous crime? (see numerous members of Congress who profess a belief in Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour).

My point here is that we are wasting unbelievably precious time talking about something that can never be proven or disproven. 

President Obama could hold a press conference, address congress, make a special plea to the Nation via the three major networks that he is a practicing Christian, produce church logs that he was sitting in a pew at a Christian Church for X number of Sundays, and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference.  People would still believe what they want to believe about him. 

This whole issue of Barack Obama as a Muslim is patently absurd for a Nation as well-educated and technologically advanced as the United States to be having for its national discourse.  We should be ashamed that with a constitution that states in Article VI that there shall be no religious test as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States, that we continue to test people based on their religion or the lack thereof. 

Can we PLEASE close this ugly chapter of our national discourse on this topic, and move on to more pressing matters like what to do about jobs for our many citizens who are out of work, and helping the unfortunate people in Pakistan recover from numerous devastating natural disasters?

PLEASE, let’s be better people, and close this book for good.  This conversation on Barack Obama is hateful, fearful, does nothing but spread discord throughout our great country, and is quite frankly, tiresome. 

Again, PLEASE, let’s stop this right here and right now.  We can all do it…yes we can!

Thanks for stopping by,

TRC