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Entry 17 – R-E-S-P-E-C-T, this is what it means to me…

December 1, 2009

I guess in trying to sum up the theme of the entries I’ve posted to date, I would say the theme is this…simply asking from my family and friends of the Christian faith for a little respect.  Respect for my choices in this life. 

I respect your choices to believe in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit to guide your life.  You have your own reasons for choosing this as your world, and ‘other-worldly’, view.  I would hope that you also could see that I have my own reasons for not choosing this world, and ‘other-worldly’, view.  And I hope that you could see that I would never try and impose my own personal choices onto you (unless those choices are directly related to public governance, which, of course, is another topic altogether). 

I think there has to be some recognition of the fact that some people are just not going to want to believe in the God of the Chrisitian and Jewish traditions.  The God you find so endearing and loving, others find quite abhorrent and unloving, even, at times, vindictive and spiteful.  I hope after reading my entries to date you know that I believe the Christian and Jewish God is of the latter persuasion. 

I’m not trying to offend here, truly I am not.  I just have come to different conclusions than you, my family and friends of the Christian faith, about your God.  This website is my best attempt to explain why I feel this way.  I am actually quite happy to elaborate further on my reasons for feeling this way to anyone who asks me.  I’d just prefer to do this elaboration in a cordial, rational, and mutually beneficial dialogue.  If we start from the point of accusations that I am going to hell, well…that is not going to lend itself to a very good conversation.    

Honestly, I think that at this stage of my life, post 30, almost 40 years of age, most of us are already pretty set in our ways, so to speak.  I don’t expect my family and friends to try and see it my way.  What I would hope though is for my family and friends to try and think a bit more about their efforts to proselytize me, and win me back over “for Christ”. 

Please, and I mean this in all sincerity, if you are still trying to convince me of your way of thinking about the world after reading these entries I’ve posted over the past months, I humbly ask you to reread what I’ve written up to this point.  I’ve given these entries a great deal of thought.  I hope you will at the very least read with the same.

Next time, I’d like to address the bandied notion that the United States is a ‘Christian’ nation.

Until next time, thanks for stopping by.

TRC

the.recovering.christian@gmail.com

Entry 16 – Science in the everyday workplace

November 21, 2009

I think whatever business you find yourself in, be it the tech sector, politics, law, business, education, and yes, even religion, you carry out elements of the scientific method to do your job.  You have to see needs to supply a ‘product’ in a market place.  You have to go about studying the market, and the science behind the ‘product’ needed.  You have to learn how best to obtain good people to help you bring said ‘product’ to market.  And after many years of trial and error and experimentation you hopefully find a “formula” that works, and you are able to pass on that knowledge to others to keep the ‘product’ flowing. 

Science and the scientific method doesn’t have to just exist in a laboratory with white coats and beakers bubbling.  The scientific method is actually at the core of what I think we all do on a daily basis to make our decisions.  Sure a scientist will use the scientific method more rigourously day in and day out to test hypotheses, but we all use the scientific method without really realizing it to test our own hypotheses about life.   

For example, you are presented with the question of whether or not to refinance your existing home mortgage loan.  The rates look good, but what will the closing costs be, and will it be worth it to you over the long term of the loan to go through the hassle of refinancing? 

You have to do some research on what rates are available to you.  You also have to look at how your tax rates will go up or down if you refinance.  Finally, you have to look at possible credit problems that have accrued between the time you signed your original mortgage and now.  You formulate a hypothesis and test it to see if you will refinance or not.  Maybe that hypothesis goes something like, “If the annual percentage rate is below a certain percentage point, and the closing costs are such and such, I will accept the hypothesis that I can refinance.  You go out and test it with different banks in different situations and look at the data that comes out of those tests.  You then come up with conclusions based on the test, and voila, don’t look now, but you have just done your own version of science, and carried out a version of the scientific method.  You may have also looked at others who have done the same thing, your neighbor who refinanced last week or a family member who refinanced who shouldn’t have.    

You utilizing the work of others in figuring out whether or not to refinance, while a bit of a stretch, is similar to Einstein who built on the theories of Newton to explain the photoelectric effect and how light behaved.  Newton built off of Galileo’s observations of the heavens from his homemade telescope.  Galileo benefitted from Copernicus and his models of planetary motion.  Copernicus didn’t forget what the ancient Egytians recorded from their meticulously night sky watching.  And there are countless other scientists today who are doing the same thing in their respective fields; building on the successes and failures of other scientists.  And while they may or may not be aware of it, they are making the world a better place one small step at a time.

As Bernard of Chartres said back in the 12th century, and Isaac Newton picked up on this in his work in the 17th century, “We are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants.”

Are there days when it seems like the giants are now the dwarfs, and the world will end at any moment?  Sure.

Are there massive setbacks each and every day?  You bet. 

But along and along we have made great strides as human beings on this planet, and we should all share in the pride of that accomplishment.

We should also marvel at the fact that we are all here in the first place, and that we have the chance to live, if even for a brief moment.  We should all use the life we still have within us to help others, and to make the world a better place every day we are here.  There is simply no time to waste with all the problems we face and need to solve.  No time at all.  And when we solve problems, we feel better about ourselves, we are happy. 

And we can all do this problem solving with or without supernatural beings controlling things. 

I choose to believe the latter.  The majority of my family members, and some of my friends, choose to believe the former. 

For next time, R-E-S-P-E-C-T and the persistent notion that the United States is a ‘Christian’ nation.

Until next time, thanks for stopping by!

TRC

the.recovering.christian@gmail.com

Entry 15 – This I Believe…

November 20, 2009

Keeping it short today…

Here is my quick 5-step, final summation of what I believe: 

  1. We are a part of an amazing story that involves science as the central character, not a supernatural being like a god. 
  2. The history of science is one of the most incredible stories ever told; more incredible than any religious sacred text, and one in which I think every person on the planet should come to appreciate.
  3. All the effort and energy from human beings to try and figure out natural phenomena through science and reason, and make the world a better place, is simply remarkable. 
  4. An idea is more powerful than any supernatural being we can imagine, and the building of such ideas from one generation to the next, the continuing struggle to come up with solutions to life’s most pressing problems is what gives life meaning. 
  5. The human mind, collectively speaking, is limitless in its ability to produce solutions when challenged with problems.  

Interestingly, these 5 things don’t have to preclude ‘faith’ in a god or anything supernatural for that matter.  I just happen to have come to the conclusion that I don’t need supernatural beings in my worldview.  Faith also doesn’t have to exclude following the scientic method to come up with amazing ideas. 

For next time, I’d like to go into more detail about faith, the scientific method, and how science applies to everything we do!

Until next time, thanks for stopping by!

TRC

the.recovering.christian@gmail.com

Entry 14 – Are you saved?

November 15, 2009

Have you ever had someone just point blank ask you if you are ‘saved’?  I actually used to be ‘that guy’.  I would come up to you on the street and ask you this same question.  Granted, I was scared out of my mind to do this to total strangers, but I felt my religion compelled me to share the good news I had been given. 

Yes, I would walk up and down the streets in my hometown, and actually try and convince people that they needed a saviour, Jesus Christ, to save them from their sins.  I now cringe when I think back to those times, and how invasive and personal a question that was.  

As an agnostic today in 2009, I find myself often on the receiving end of that same question, and more times than not, not quite sure how to answer it .  So it is that I wanted to talk a little bit about this question that often gets bandied about from believer to non-believer. 

Believer – “Are you saved?”

Non-Believer (ie. Me) – “If you mean to inquire whether I am going to heaven or hell due to whether or not my sins have been ‘paid for’, then I guess I have to answer you with ‘No’.  But let me qualify that with the fact that I don’t believe in a supernatural heaven or hell, God, Satan, angels, demons, or the like.  I also don’t accept the concept put forth in the Christian Bible, or many religions for that matter, that sins have to be ‘paid for’ with blood sacrifice.  ‘Heaven’ as I see it is plain and simply, quality time spent with people you deeply love and care about.  There really is no greater joy in this life as I see it.”

That is how I hope my next interchange starts with someone who comes up to me and asks the same question.  I wonder what the follow up statement from the ‘Believer’ would be.  Believers out there? How would you follow up the Non-Believer’s answer?  Non-Believers out there?  Would you add or subtract from this hypothetical answer to the question? 

Now in the same way that many of my family and friends long for me to be ‘saved’, accept Jesus back into my heart, and start being a “Christian” again, I also, and I might add, quite sincerely, long for these same family and friends to accept where I am coming from.  That being, there may not be any God whatsoever, and that this life is all that we have.  I believe this, not in a depressing sort of way, but in an enlightened, ‘we have to make the most of every day while we are here’ kind of way. 

I do long to be able to talk about many pressing political and social issues with these same family members from the perspective of “How can we make the world a better place today and tomorrow through rational thought, science and technology, basic human decency, and the like?” rather than “The world is going to Hell in a hand basket and the end days are near!  It’s in God’s Word.  Read Revelations. It’s clearly spelled out!”  I am not being flippant here either.  I do truly long for these things with my family and friends who are heavily invested in Christianity.   Probably to the same degree that these believing family and friends long for me to be ‘saved by the blood of Jesus’.

In my short life of 39 years here on the planet, I think no two concepts have been so freeing in terms of solving the issues I had in my 20s and early 30s than these:

1.  There is quite possibly no supernatural being watching over me keeping score of every little thing I do against or for this supernatural being

2.  This life is quite possibly all that I have. 

I realize that my acceptance of these two overarching concepts in my life is most incredibly blasphemous, and a ‘deal killer’ if you will, in terms of you, my family and friends of the Christian faith, ever wanting to associate with me.  But in the same way you feel you must be true to your faith, I must be true to my non-faith.  I must write and live what I truly believe.  And the more I don’t say things because I don’t want to offend anyone’s sensibilities, the more people come back with what I consider nonsense from the Christian Bible to “share” with me. 

I have to speak my mind if my family members are going to continually try to speak theirs to me.  I don’t think I ever have tried to sway my family or friends to my way of thinking, but for some reason, and I’m not saying my family and friends aren’t well-intentioned here, they think it’s fine to try and sway me. 

I would hope in reading this post that you, my family and friends who are steadfast believers in the Christian faith, might understand me just a tad better, and might reconsider asking people like me that pointed question, ‘Are you saved?’

For next time, I’d like to sum up my beliefs as an agnostic, and how they guide me in my everyday life.

Until next time, thanks for stopping by!

TRC

the.recovering.christian@gmail.com

Entry 13 – A Purpose-Driven Life without God?

November 13, 2009

I was given Rick Warren’s 2002 New York Times Best Seller “The Purpose Driven Life” by a family member last year.  In the gift exchange, this family member asked me to read it, and, when I was done, feel free to discuss it with him/her (anonymity of family member respected).  Regrettably, after finishing the book, I didn’t quite feel comfortable discussing the book with this particular family member for reasons which really aren’t all that important here.  I think part of it, as you will see in this post, is my rather terse assessment of Warren’s thesis.  

As I read Warren’s book, it seemed to me that my whole meaning in this life revolves around a supernatural being (ie. ‘God’, ‘Jesus’, ‘Holy Spirit’), and that my daily activities, both my thoughts and actions, should be geared always toward the worship of this supernatural being.  And, if I follow this prescription of worshiping said deity, my life will be meaningful.

 While I do understand how people want this kind of God to be true; one who is intimately involved with their thought life, as well as what they actually do on a daily basis, it is hard for someone like me, who, if you’ve read any of the posts on this blog to date, believes such supernatural worlds with said supernatural beings existing in the first place highly unlikely.  But again, I must reiterate in all sincerity, it is not lost on me the tremendous and alluring appeal of a God who knows every hair on your head, every cell in your body, every thought in your brain.  

Believe me, I used to be one who constantly was encouraged by this line of thinking.  I spent the better part of the first half of my life on the planet banking on this reality assessment.  Of course it’s comforting to believe that an all powerful deity cares about you in a way that a mother or father might care about their child.  Of course it makes you feel safe.  Are their times when I wish I could go back to believing that there is a God looking after me?  Sure.  We all want that kind of security.  But, I have to go with what makes sense to me and the evidence, in my humble estimation, is just not there .   

I liken this ‘letting go of God’ (yes, a shameless borrow from the extremely wonderful Julia Sweeney and her recent book and movie) to my previous beliefs in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.  Think about it…wouldn’t it just be the most incredible thing if these 3 mythical characters in all their globe galavanting glory were real?!  I mean, really, it would be just incredible wouldn’t it?!  An obese white bearded man riding on a reindeer sleigh that could in one 24 hour period deliver gifts to all the children of the world and somehow transmutate his large belly to wiggle into many of the tiny chimneys that still exist all over the world?  A large rabbit hopping at supersonic speeds complete with a never ending supply of gift baskets full of faux grass (not to be confused with the expensive duck dish foie gras)? A Tinker Bell like creature flying into your home late at night to gently swoop up your sleeping head, take your tooth, and leave a little bit of money to go buy baseball cards the next day?   I SO wish these three were true. 

But, alas and alack, reality sets in, and if I’m honest with myself, and evaluate the evidence of the world I see and experience around me, it becomes highly unlikely that such beings exist.  Let me just say though again, I can’t prove it!  There’s still a possibility that Old Saint Nick is just so clever as to evade all honing radar devices and modern detection systems year in and year out, and he’s holed up in a large cryic man-cave in much the same fashion we assume Bin Laden is holed up in the Pakistani mountains. 

Everybody, I think, if they’re completely honest with themselves, has this certain longing to be a kid again…to live in a fantasy world.  But, at the end of the day, and I realize this is going to ‘sting’ for some people, I have come to think that the concepts of “God”, “Jesus”, and the “Holy Spirit” are really just adult versions of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy.  The latter three just lack much in the way of supporting documentation (ie. Bibles) from adults who need the stories to be true.  Again, I wish sometimes I could turn my brain off and believe again in these ‘giants in the sky’ so to speak.  It would be so nice to have that celestial grandfather to depend on, seeking ‘His Will’ for all the answers in life.  It would help explain some things I’m sure like why I didn’t go into the Christian Mission field, or stay with a particular girlfriend. 

But, you know, other things though, like evil, bad things happening to ‘good’ people, the age of the Earth, natural disasters, and the like are actually better explained with science and reason.  And you know, actually, having spent the last 16 years slowing coming to a worldview based on science and reason, that journey is one I wouldn’t trade for anything or anyone. 

For now, I think I am finally seeing the world as it really is.  And you know, it’s not as ugly a place as some Christians I know would like to paint it at times; the ‘going to hell in a handbasket, don’t be of the world, Jesus is coming soon’ mantra.  The world we live in is actually quite beautiful, and quite explainable by natural laws, emphasis on NATURAL.  Are there horrible things that happen on this planet?  You bet.  Every day, every minute, every second.  But there are equally beautiful things happening as well in the same time frame.  The smile of a child, the discovery of a new pathway for an electron to take enabling alternative energy options to vie for market share, a kind word or deed between strangers.  My purpose is to seek out those beautiful moments, as well as to try and make them happen on a daily basis. 

For next time, I’d like to talk a little bit about the whole “Gosh, I am so sad that you’ve rejected God/Jesus/Holy Spirit, and won’t be saved” sentiment I often get from family and friends.  

Until next time, thanks for stopping by!

TRC

the.recovering.christian@gmail.com

Entry 12 – “Cherry Picked” Bible Verses – to follow or not to follow

November 7, 2009

From last time,  I mentioned briefly that I don’t believe most followers of sacred texts said to originate from supernatural beings adhere to all the tenets of said respective texts.  They do a fair amount of “cherry picking” if you will of which rules to follow and which to ignore.  For example, the book of Leviticus is very clear on how to deal with people who blaspheme ‘the Name’ (ie. ‘Yahweh’).  Here is the New International Version or NIV (a very popular translation of the Christian Bible) of what happened to Shelomith’s son who made the mistake of cursing God (Chapter 24):

10 Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father went out among the Israelites, and a fight broke out in the camp between him and an Israelite. 11 The son of the Israelite woman blasphemed the Name with a curse; so they brought him to Moses. (His mother’s name was Shelomith, the daughter of Dibri the Danite.) 12 They put him in custody until the will of the LORD should be made clear to them.

 13 Then the LORD said to Moses: 14 “Take the blasphemer outside the camp. All those who heard him are to lay their hands on his head, and the entire assembly is to stone him. 15 Say to the Israelites: ‘If anyone curses his God, he will be held responsible; 16 anyone who blasphemes the name of the LORD must be put to death. The entire assembly must stone him. Whether an alien or native-born, when he blasphemes the Name, he must be put to death.

A disturbing tale to say the least.  I don’t even want to disect it really, except to say that I think most Christians and Jews today would find such practices reprehensible, and a bit much in terms of punishment.  I hope that is the case anyway.  In essence then, this verse has been ‘left on the tree’ so to speak.  It wasn’t ‘cherry picked’ for obeyance (ie. it’s not followed by today’s Churches).  We don’t see ‘blasphemer police squads’ running around on Saturday nights taking people out of the bars who are cursing God for various and sundry reasons to have their heads essentially bashed in by stones or their internal organs bruised beyond repair by quartzitic sandstones hurled with violent force.  And again, for that I am so grateful. 

Instead what most Christians do is take a lot of the Old Testament, call it essentially ‘Old Skool’ if you will, still good, still God’s “Word”, just ‘We don’t do that kind of thing anymore”, “That was Then, This is Now” kind of a retort.  Most Christians today go with the more socially acceptable, peace loving parts of the New Testament; the Joel Osteen-ey, feel good Jesus-isms from the New Testament.  For example, Jesus heals a crippled woman on the sabbatth in Luke Chapter 13 of the Christian Bible.  The Jewish leaders were none too pleased and basically just came out and said he had disobeyed the law of God.  Jesus’ fiery comeback to these “indignants” is “You hypocrites!” and goes on to excoriate them for thinking what he has done was a violable act.   In essence, Christians “cherry pick” this very rebellious, yet compassionate move by Jesus in disobeying the rules of the Sabbath in the New Testament and say that it is OK to help people even on Sundays.  Jesus has made it OK and created an exception to the very strict rules for sabbath adherence set forth in the Old Testament.  Again, quite grateful that this cherry picking is going on. 

But here is the ultimate rub with sacred texts and their respective religions.  Which statements out of these sacred texts are the majority of people going to follow and which ones are going to be ignored?  Is there any verse in the Bible where one can read that there has been an expiration of the need to stone people for blaspheming “the Name’?  Someone who doesn’t know any better could turn to Leviticus and say, “Well, I guess according to this text we need to get this guy who just used God’s name in vain outside and start pumping him full of sedimentary rocks!”  Granted, most people have enough sense in our culture to not do that.  Again, very thankful for that.  Still, we have a sacred text that doesn’t have any kind of expirations on these laws.  Last time I checked Leviticus is still a part of the Jewish and Christian sacred texts; canonized, often cited, widely read, and continually studied. 

And I am only keying in on one verse amongst a sea of verses in the Christian and Jewish sacred texts.  I’m even not venturing into the realm of the Koran or the Upanishads in Islam and Hinduism, respectively.  There are countless morally questionable treatments for how to deal with ‘wrong doers” in all manner of sacred texts that it is impossible to know which “cherries” to pick and which ones to leave on the tree.  Which brings me to my own conclusions on this matter…we shouldn’t rely on these sacred texts for how to behave in a decent manner to our fellow human beings and other carbon based life forms on the planet Earth.  Rather we should strive every day to use logic and reason to come up with just punishments for people who don’t behave decently toward one another.  In essence, we do that on a regular basis already by participating in a democracy/republic/parliament, you name it.  As far as I can tell, we don’t need a supernatural being to be involved in these proceedings of the “halls of justice”.  Not that the supernatural being CAN”T be there, just that we are perfectly capable of coming up with our own naturalistic ways of meting out humane and ultimately progressive punishments for the citizens of our world that disobey the law. 

For next time, I’d like to make a few comments on a book that was given to me by a family member, the very popular best seller, “The Purpose Driven Life”, by Rick Warren.

Until next time, thanks for stopping by!

TRC

the.recovering.christian@gmail.com

Entry 11 – Is it really that bad? Religion, root of all evil?

October 25, 2009

Let’s continue on with this ‘evil deeds’ theme from last time.  What is the relation between someone’s religion or the lack thereof, and their respective capacity to do evil?

I will say up front that I think many people of faith today are not ones to condone violent acts as laid out in their sacred texts like the Christian Bible or Jewish Talmud. Most people of faith pick and choose their favorite passages out of their respective sacred texts to live by, and, on the whole, do not practice the more obscure and questionable laws as set forth by their respective supernatural being or beings who preside over their respective faiths. I am actually quite thankful for that. There are just too many unbelievable and unremmitingly violent rules and regulations in Exodus and Leviticus alone in the Jewish and Christian sacred texts that should have most rational people saying, ‘What was God thinking?!’

In the same vein, and with fairness, people who lack a belief in the supernatural are just as capable to commit horrendous crimes. And they do. No single belief holds dominance over another when it comes to weilding the ‘sword of inhumanity’ so to speak. What I am asking people on both sides of this proverbial ‘aisle’ to consider is that it doesn’t take a belief in God to sway one away from violence or evil deeds any more than a lack of belief sways one to violence. Rather, people are people (see Depeche Mode early 80’s), and depending on many variables that scientists I don’t think have quite completely worked out yet, will on any given day commit senseless acts of violence. If you look at the numbers, we have nearly 300 million people in the United States. How many of those 300 million do you think are incarcerated right now in our nation’s prisons and jails? The number is a little over 2.3 million or about .8% of the population. Granted, 2.3 million is a lot of individuals who have committed crimes, but on the flip side, 99.2% of the population of the United States are not in prison. Most people are living lives where they do no harm to others.

Where I think we run into trouble is accusing another’s’ belief system (ie. not ours) as being the ‘root’ of these violent acts. I am halfheartedly alluding to statements made in the new crop of atheist best sellers by authors like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins about religion being the root of all evil. I love both of these authors and their books, but what I would like to try and do instead of bringing heat to this argument is shed some light on what we can do together to work up solutions to the problems of violence we see around us. Whether violence occurs against another human being, another animal, or our environment we need to be ready for rational reasons why it is occurring and equally rational strategies for how to mitigate it. 

But, and this is a big ‘But’, just because most people of faith do a biblical ‘cherry picking’, if you will, with what to follow and not in their sacred texts, doesn’t put religion or belief in a supernatural being or beings out of the realm for criticism. If nothing else, it invites the criticism even more.

For next time, I’ll explore more of this ‘cherry picking’ that people of faith practice, and how the cherry picker to continue said analogy goes about picking the “right” cherries.

Until next time, thanks for stopping by!

TRC

the.recovering.christian@gmail.com

Entry 10 – It’s a wonderful life! Yes, even without [insert deity]!

October 25, 2009

Ah, the age old question, ‘What is the meaning of life?’ Most have pat answers, and those answers can vary quite dramatically from person to person, culture to culture, religion to religion, and philosophy to philosophy. I think more importantly than answering the ‘What is the meaning of life?’question though is figuring out what is a meaningful life. And I think figuring this meaningful-ness thing, if you will, out is intricately tied to the discussion in previous entries about being “good” (see Entries 5, 6, 8, and 9). If you are doing good things for others, your family, your friends, your community (see Entry 6), then I think you are well on your way to living a meaningful life.

But let’s take a stab at the meaning of life question, TRC style. Life and the meaning of it are actually quite simple as I see it; they involve no supernatural beings or supernatural explanations for things, and they allow you to be a free thinking, fully ethical individual. Now,  before I continue, let me just say, I’m not trying to be flippant with the following simplistic 8 step program for a better life, nor am I trying to be disrespectful to people of certain faiths in the supernatural. The following is simply something that I’ve come up with that makes to sense to me and gives me the freedom to think about the world in a much less rigid way:

A. We are born
B. We have physical and emotional needs
C. Hopefully those needs are met by the people responsible for us when we are born.
D. We grow stronger and larger literally until we can take care of ourselves.
E. We strike out on our own.
F. We try to make a positive contribution to the society in which we live through our work, and our time away from work.
G. We try to repeat A through F by starting a family of our own, whatever that family may be, biological or simply a chosen, close association of people that we care about, or both.
H. We die, and our bodies become a part of the soil with its amazing cycle of elements continually used and reused to support life on this planet so that A. can happen for someone else.

Quick caveat – Part F can take a while for most folks to get to, myself included. I think we in large regard as adults focus in on F as we get our basic needs met, and can move past just the daily struggle to put food on the table.

Now certainly you can insert a supernatural being or beings into the 8 step program ‘mix’, so to speak. And I begrudge noone that option. I simply offer up that it isn’t necessary. I can still live out the remainder of my days as a recovering Christian, purposely not ascribing to any Godly/Supernatural influence in my daily walk, and come out at the end of a, hopefully long, life having helped others and made the world a better place. Why would I do that you may ask? Why would I want to do good without some kind of Godly/Supernatural influence guiding my affairs? Well, I throw the question back at you in a different way.  Why wouldn’t I?  Why wouldn’t I want to help others and make the world a better place? Why wouldn’t I want to live a life where I actively tried to better my community? Living a life full of evil deeds, hurting others in my path would actually be a much harder road to navigate in my opinion. It’s actually quite ‘easier’ to be a help than a hinderance.

For next time, I’d like to get into the “doing evil deeds” theme a bit further.  Explore what is the relation between evil and religion or the lack thereof.

Until next time, thanks for stopping by!

TRC

the.recovering.christian@gmail.com

Entry 9 – Goodness, God, why so bad?

October 12, 2009

I’m sure it’s a tired question but, what kind of a supernatural being creates something like a human with “choice”, and then, if same said human makes the wrong choice (ie. does not ‘believe’ in said supernatural being) sends this creation into an unquenchable fire to be burned forever and ever? Is this really the kind of supernatural being you want your children to be praying to each and every night before they go to bed? Is this really even the kind that an adult should be praying to?

In my feeble human brain, I can see maybe 20 years of solitary confinement combined with waterboarding Wednesdays for really bad people. Maybe for the most egregious, all of the above plus Thirsty Thursdays, where all day long you are like the rich man in Jesus’ parable of the same name (see Luke 16:19-31) begging for just a drop of water to wet your extremely dry mouth. But eternal torment by burning? Key word here is ‘eternal’. Eternal burning. Ad infinitum burning. Long, long, long time burning. Eternal.

How horrible do you have to be to condemn someone to burn forever? Key word here is ‘forever’. No let up burning. No mercy burning. No end burning. Forever. I’m going to stick my neck out there and say pretty horrible! Even more so, if this supernatural being is “our Father” as the Christian and Jewish Religious Texts tell us so, how could a Father do that to his own child?! Seriously, how could he do it?! I can come up with no plausible answer except that being is, in the deepest sense of the word, evil.

Which makes me think that being good to appease such a deity, as described above, is really not being good at all. Rather it’s being good out of utmost fear that you will be burned forever in a lake of fire and brimstone. Isn’t this just fire insurance against ‘The Man’. Isn’t this kind of moral practice like someone who does something nice for someone simply because they are afraid that someone may do something against them in the future. Self-preservation and self-interest, anyone? Not that self-preservation and self-interest is a bad thing. It more often than not is a good thing. I simply am trying to get at the essense of what is motivating followers of the Christian and Jewish scriptures to be good and moral. I think we should be allowed to call this out as easily as it is for the religious to make ridiculous statements that agnostics and atheists are amoral, hedonistic, and not worthy of U.S. Citizenship (see George H.W. Bush’s statements on this during his vice-presidency).

Just a quick little aside, the temperature of that brimstone lake where all bad people are thrown after they die (see Entries 7 and 8 for places where the Christian scriptures key in on this) is at least 396 degrees Farenheit (200 degrees Celsius). How do I know that? Well, in order to have molten elemental sulphur (i.e. brimstone), you must reach a temperature of at least 200 degrees celsius. I should definitely think God could burn a tremendous amount of human flesh at such temperatures.

I certainly spent a large portion of my childhood thinking about an eternity in Hell due to unconfessed sins; a cheating glance on a spelling exam, lying to my parents, being mean to my sister, to name just a handful. All of these unconfessed sins qualified for a ‘Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect Eternal Life’ card. Now, however, as an adult, I refuse to accept what is spouted by this supernatural bully telling me that I better be good or I’m as good as Satan’s barbeque. I have let go of such horrid fears, and chosen a different path. No, it’s not hedonism. Nor is it any New Age spirituality that lets one conceive of the supernatural anyway one sees fit. No, rather, its a reality-based outlook on life, grounded in the natural world, where I make a concious choice each and every day to be good simply because I don’t think there’s really any other way for us all to survive as human beings.

Morality, as I humbly see it, is a survival mechanism for our species and a number of others on the planet. Morality comes from simply being alive; living amongst other living beings, seeing other beings’ needs, and doing your best to help with those needs. That is in my humble estimation the essence of being good. You see a problem, solve said problem. Be good. No sacred book needed. No grand pronouncements from prophets with divine revelation. No more ‘sin smackdowns’.

We humans are FULLY capable to know how to live our lives best. We have brains and we can reason. We can choose to be good today or we can choose to be bad. Good happens on a daily basis everywhere on this planet; people waking up, rolling up their sleeves, and trying to make the world a better place simply because the alternative is much worse. Visit Doctors without Borders, Amnesty International, the Red Cross, and the United Way websites if you don’t believe me. Of course, the opposite occurs as well. People operating out of ignorance and fear torturing defenseless animals, fellow human beings, committing sensless acts of violence against children, you name it, it has been and is being done. Read or watch any news feeds coming out of war torn areas like Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sudan if you don’t believe me. We all must work for more of the good to occur, and an elimination of the bad. We all need each other to achieve a more perfect union in this country and in the world.

For next time, I’d like to get into more of the meaning of life as a recovering Christian.

Until next time, thanks for stopping by.

TRC
the.recovering.christian@gmail.com

Entry 8 – Goodliness is not next to God

October 6, 2009

Why be good without God? This is the other question I brought up earlier in Entry 2 which I wanted to answer for my inquisitive family members during that lunch over a year ago.

Let me be clear. I think our morals and our sense of wanting to be good don’t need to come from a supernatural being. Goodness can simply spring from perfectly natural sources such as our own level of human discourse and human decency toward one another. We are all human beings trying to survive on this very harsh, yet very beautiful planet. And in order for us all to survive well, we need to work together, help each other, and love one another.

Some feel the need to delegate the imperative to be “moral” and “good” to a supernatural being called ‘God’, who must be appeased or else those who are not appeasing said deity will be tormented and tortured forever in a lake of fire and brimstone (see Entry 7 or check out the following verses from the New Testament of the Christian Bible if you think this isn’t clearly spelled out to those who ignore this Godly appeasement if you will: Matthew 5:29, Matthew 10:28, Mark 9:43-50, Luke 12:5, Luke 16:23-24, James 3:6, Revelation 20:10, Revelation 21:8, to name just a few). If people want to believe in such a supernatural being with such a vengeful nature, that is clearly their right in this free country of the United States of America. I concede that such belief systems do work to a certain extent. I certainly believed this way for the first 23 years of my life here on the planet. I was scared to death that I might end up burning forever in hell if I didn’t confess all my sins, and assuage the jealousy of this Yahweh, the god of the ancient Jewish peoples, this Emmanuel, the god of the Christians. I have slowly let go of these beliefs, and come to understand a more evolutionary pathway to how our morals came to be.

If I decide that it is OK to kill my neighbor and steal his food to better my situation, then I run the risk of not surviving myself. Sure I may get his food, but there are others that may not like the fact that I killed him to get his food and I may, with retaliation by these others, lose my own life.

On the flip side of that, if I treat this neighbor with kindness and respect and show him love, we can both work together to share our food and survive much easier. A bit of a simplistic explanation on ethics, but I think effective nonetheless. I am open to debate this. If there are better naturalistic arguments for where our morals and goodness can come from, please share with me and keep the dialogue going.

The urge to do good in this world is really more, in my humble opinion, of wanting to survive and seeing that doing good actually in the long run is the best plan for survival. Choosing to live your life from a more self-centered approach lends itself to possibly ending your life quicker. Isolation is quickly becoming a thing of the past, as we must all work together to survive in this global economy that is quickly becoming oblivious to geopolitical boundaries.

When I volunteer my time in the community in which I live to help a young person learn science, or dribble a basketball, or read a book I am showing love to that person; I am doing good. I am helping that person develop skills that may help them later on in their journey called life. But most importantly I am helping myself. I am giving back some of what I have been given; a brain that functions, a body attached to that brain that can perform certain tasks, and logic and reasoning to say that people in my community matter.

It feels good to help others because we are taking part in the place in which we live, and saying that I care about how we all get along, and how we all can survive here together. If we don’t take time to help others, to love others, then we ourselves will not be helped, and not be loved and we will not survive. It’s a give and take always on this planet. What we do on one side, affects the other. No supernatural being is needed, as I see it, to encourage me to do this…this ‘good’. It is simply a part of being human.

For next time, I’ll address further the issue of whether the God of the Christian and Jewish sacred texts can truly be called “good”.

Until next time, thanks for stopping by,

TRC
the.recovering.christian@gmail.com