We don't agree about everything and that's OK. What we do agree on is the need to carry on the discussion in a civil way.

Before you contribute to a discussion, familiarize yourself with logical fallacies. Ad hominem attacks will not be tolerated.

The goal here is for civil conversation so be nice; no profanity. Anyone who calls another person an idiot will be banned.

Lastly remember, when someone disagrees with your views it does not mean they like you less as a person. If you can't handle being disagreed with then go away.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

An Open Letter to Rick Santorum

Dear Rick Santorum,

It may seem hard to believe today, but a few short years ago I was a Republican. I have switched to the Democrats party for a number of reasons. However, I struggle to recognize any Republican ideology in your campaigning.

You seem to have lost sight of the official Republican party platform. Knee-jerk opposition to everything President Obama does or says is not the definition of being a Republican. Your party stands for limiting government, promoting fiscal responsibility and encouraging economic growth through capitalism. Why have you lost sight of these important issues instead to focus on inserting your Christian beliefs into national politics?

Ours is a country founded on the separation of church and state; a stance you should be thankful for rather than repulsed by. Because of our wall of separation, the government, currently run by your arch nemesis, cannot decide what faith you practice, how you pray, or define what is holy.

You are Catholic and your faith is probably the single most important thing in your life. You have been given the great freedom to practice Catholicism: to believe that the communion wafer is actually transformed into the body of Christ and that the Pope is the earthly spiritual authority of God. Of course you recognize not all Christian's hold these belief and I hope you plan to allow them to continue recognizing communion as symbolic of the body and blood of Christ and rejecting the authority of the Pope.

By all means you should let your conscience be your guide at the polls and if your faith has given you the conviction that homosexuality is sinful then by all means hold tight to that belief and don't commit the act of homosexuality.

Your faith is yours, and yours alone. Practice it in your church, in your home and in your heart. Do not, however, presume to rule based on your understanding of the Christian faith. I implore you to consider the consequences of this ruling based on faith that you advocate.

What if Mitt Romney is elected President? Would you support outlawing coffee because God has instructed us to avoid "hot drinks?" What if a Jehovah's Witness were elected President? Would we replace all images of Christ on a cross with one of him on a tree, or outlaw blood transfusions?

You can be both a Catholic and a President without sacrificing your duties as either. God has called you to worship him through Catholic mass and the country calls on you to neither hinder nor encourage any religion. You can hold public office and oppose gay marriage for plenty of secular reason. You can observe the Sabbath and deploy the troops. You are not required to check your faith at the door when you assume the mantle of public leadership. But you are forbidden from legislating your particular beliefs on the entire nation.

Thanks to our forefather's instance on keeping faith and government separate, you are free to be a Catholic, Quaker, Buddhist, Atheist or any other faith you choose. All members of society are free to discuss their beliefs in the public square and to vote according to what they believe.

The government simply can't promote or hinder - that's all. So the next time you feel like "throwing up" at the mention of the separation of Church and State, I implore you to remember the freedom you have to practice your Catholic faith in country largely dominated by Protestants.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Stop the logical fallacies already!

I will also make you carry this sign.
I really enjoy a good, respectful intellectual debate, but I keep running into the same problem lately – people who don’t know how to make an argument without relying on logical fallacies. I took critical thinking my freshmen year of college, more than 10 years ago, and I still remember many of them, but it seems I’m in the minority. So, I’m instituting a new rule in trying to discuss religion or politics with me – if your argument hinges on a logical fallacy, I will walk away from the conversation and mock you endlessly for your pathetic attempts to sound smart.
Unfortunately, many of these fallacies are popping up in mainstream debates these days.  I can feel the nation’s collective IQ dropping.  Let me cover the logical fallacies I hear the most frequently lately:
Slippery Slope: Slippery slope arguments (falsely) assume that one thing will inevitably lead to another more horrible thing; therefore we shouldn’t do that first thing to begin with.
Example:  If I drink, I will get drunk. If I get drunk, I will like it so much that I will turn into an alcoholic. I should never drink.
Appeal to Antiquity: This fallacy presupposes that if it’s always been that way, it must be right. It’s pretty easy to see why this is a fallacy if you pick something like:
Example: We’ve been performing surgical operations without sterilizing our equipment for hundreds of years. That’s the way it’s always been and that’s the way it should be.
Appeal to Popularity: An idea simply must be a fact because the majority of people believe it. Popular opinion does not equal truth, especially in the light of evidence.
Example: Millions of people smoke cigarettes’, therefore smoking is a great idea.
Circular Reasoning: (Also known as begging the question) If the conclusion of your argument is also the premise, you are guilty of begging the question.
Example:  Of course the Bible is true; it says so in the Bible.
Ad Hominem: Literally, against the man. This fallacy deflects the validity of the opposing argument by attacking the person making the argument.  Sometimes, this can work if it shows an ulterior motive for the statement, but usually it’s just a case of being a meanie.
Example:  You would be in support of affirmative action, you’re the minority.
There are plenty of other logical fallacies, but these are the ones I see throw around as a valid argument the most frequently.  Look, you’re allowed to your own beliefs and opinions and I’m allowed to disagree with you. But if your argument hinges on one of the above fallacies, take a step back and reevaluate the argument. Do some research and support your opinion; don’t just throw something out there because it “feels” right. That doesn’t count as a reason to create a rule or a law (unless that rule applies to a person under 7 years old). You may be completely right - so demonstrate that.
My fingers are nearly betraying me to dive deeper into the specifics when I’ve heard these used as valid points, but I will hold off on that for now.  However, if you’re thinking of certain public figures or perhaps people in your life who are guilty of using these fallacies on you, tell me about it in the comments!

I love this.

"Most believers are not prepared to travel as far as I have from my former position as a fundamentalist believer. I implore such readers to consider a middle ground, one that acknowledges both the virtues and vices of the scriptures, as millions of moderate and liberal believes already do. While it is unreasonable to expect a large percentage of Muslims to abandon their faith, most of us can agree that the world would be a better place if Muslim fundamentalists moderated their rigid commitment to every precept of the Qur’an as the divine word of Allah, especially those that call for the destruction of infidels and apostates. Likewise, the world would be a better place if fundamentalists Christians could frankly acknowledge the good, the bad, and the ugly in their own scriptural tradition, whether or not they end up abandoning their faith outright."

From Ken Daniel's book: Why I Believed: Reflection of a Former Missionary.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Why I no longer believe (Part 2)

The deconversion discussion continues in part two. I have already talked about my past as a true believer with a voracious appetite for learning about all things denominational. Moving forward my reasons for deconverting are a lot more logical - this is where I need you, gentle readers, to participate.

In recognition of good faith on your part as believers and to ensure intellectual honesty please close your Bible, put it out of arms reach and answer the following questions based on what you already know about what the Bible and Christianity teaches.

1) Who wrote the four gospels?
2) Which gospel was written first?
3) When was the last supper?
4) How many people did Jesus appear to after his resurrection?

Okay, clearly I set you up to fail a little bit ... by now you've realized (hopefully) that the Bible can't be 100% divinely inspired because there are contradictions. Don't believe me? Here are the answers to the above questions:

1 & 2) We are supposed to believe that the Gospels were written by the people they are named after - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. But none of the gospel authors identify who they are. The most widely accepted hypothesis is called Markan priority - that Mark wrote his gospel first and Matthew and Luke borrowed from it (as well as the thus far unproven "Q source"). This seems to me the most logical conclusion based on the evidence. First because the grammar of Mark is rough, essentially unedited, so if one were to start copying some where (or using as "notes") you would clean up the grammar. Moreover, about 80 percent of Mark is found almost word for word in Matthew and and Luke. When Matthew and Luke aren't copying from Mark, they disagree with each other.

3) The last supper was right before Jesus was executed, but what I really mean is WHEN? Was Jesus eating a Passover Seder? The synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) indicate that it was a Passover Seder. John on the other hand explicitly explains that the last supper was eaten before Passover, on the day of preparation for the Passover.

4) How many people did Jesus appear to after his resurrection? According to Matthew it's 13 - the disciples and the Mary's. According to Mark (at least the park that most scholars believe was added much later) 16 - the Marys, the disciples, Salome and two followers. According to Corinthian's more than 500 people.

Maybe you can harmonize all these things, saying each book is a unique person's testimony. We know the earliest any of these books were written were at least thirty years after the fact, and not a single one of them by eye witnesses. We have second hand stories passed down orally about the biggest event in man-kinds history. That seems like an awfully shaky foundation for an entire world-view and reason for judging other people.

Now, before I sign off I have one last argument to tackle, that will be the hardest, I know. It's the "I know it because I feel it" argument. This one kept me around the longest. I felt the love of Jesus when I prayed, I was slain in the spirit during revival meetings, no one could talk me out of that. But I ask you, in all sincerity to ask yourself how you can be so sure the people who know Islam, or Hinduism or Zorastiam are true are wrong.  You can't get inside their heads or their hearts to judge that, so why should your subjective experience be any reason to justify the gleeful condemnation to hell I see so many Christians guilty of?

This was my tipping point. I was incredibly overcome and emotional at a military event. God was never invoked, "two or more of us" were not gathered in His name, and I still had the same feeling I got from worship. That was when I said to myself "woah, am I worshiping Patriotism here, or have I just fallen prey to group think?" Upon reflection of the beliefs of others, I can confidently say, it was group think and self delusion.

A couple years ago I was given the great honor of meeting a reflection of my younger self. She was so in love with Jesus, he helped her straighten out her life and she wanted to share the good news with everyone, it was all she could talk about. In fact, she was so convinced and "on fire" that she nearly cried every time a Muslim woman walked past in her Burka. When I told her I had been exploring Buddhism, I think she went looking for Holy Water. She genuinely wanted to help these people find the truth, but the only reason she knew Christianity was the truth was because she felt it deep down, and "because the Bible tells me so." When I pushed her and asked how can you be sure the Muslims don't have the truth of it? They feel it to the core of their being - so much so that they walk around dressed like crazy people, and the Quran tells them so. All she could respond was that they were "deceived by the great deceiver."

So there it is, in a pretty long nutshell my main reasons for deconverting. I could give you more reasons, but those are the main ones.

I maintain a great sense of awe and wonder at everything in this great, amazing universe. I am so thankful for my life, for every second I get to be alive to enjoy it. I still feel a great sense of connection to some creator.
But I no longer accept that Jesus is the "way the truth and life." The Bible was written by fallible human men with political and social agendas to reinforce. They may have well genuinely believed it, but that doesn't make it any more true than Joseph Smith's tablets that founded Mormonism.

If you have a counter argument, I would love to hear it! Leave it in the comments. I'll probably address more of the things I have serious doubts about. What do you have doubts about? What are you convicted of? What would you say to an apostate like me to bring me back into the fold?

Why I no longer believe.

I "came out" as a non-Christian on Facebook last week and stirred quite a controversy. People I don’t even know found the conversation through the Facebook news ticker (you stay creepy, Facebook!) and were quick to throw in their two cents about how mistaken I am to abandon my Christian faith of yore.

My reasons for leaving the faith are varied, the path to get here was a long one. I don’t expect anyone to read this and suddenly declare “ah ha, the truth! I too shall leave the faith” it’s such a big decision. Admitting to myself that I’m not a Christian was really, really hard. I still haven’t worked up the courage to say it in person to my parents! (Yes, I know some of you are already going to tell me that it was so hard for me because the truth was written on my heart by God so I have no excuse to deny him. Romans 1:20)

All of my life, Christianity was the foundation of my identity. It was why I was a Republican, it was why I honored my parents, it was why I took communion with a grateful and thankful heart on Sundays. Jesus was more than “just all right by me” he was my reason for being.

That said, however, I feel like this was an inevitable consequence of the person I am. I’ve always been fascinated by faiths of all kinds. While I considered myself immensely lucky to have been born into a family and culture that recognized the real truth (Christianity) I was very curious why there were so many divisions within Christianity. My first foray into religious studies was understanding the differences in denominations. By the time I was a sophomore in high school I could lay out the main differences between the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians, and why they were wrong and we Pentecostal’s had it right.

My entire life my favorite church sermons and Pastors took the time to explain the original meaning of the Greek words in a specific verse and how it was commonly used in its time. I loved having the historical context to guide my understanding, rather than relying on a translation and interpretation. I thought about becoming a Biblical scholar specifically for this reason, I imagined hearing the words of God come to life in the original Hebrew and Greek languages.

When I went off to college I joined the Christian’s In Action group and made some great friends who later became my roommates.  These two ladies helped me understand that I was not in fact loved less by God simply because I was unable to speak in tongues. This had been a huge problem for me for years – I tried faking it, but I was never able to speak in tongues. I really, genuinely wanted to, I wanted the spirit of the Lord to move through my soul and speak in a language I had never heard, after all it was a sign that you were worshiping right, that God was moving through you. I never managed to accomplish that and it was a source of great guilt in my life. My roommates helped me see that the gift of tongues was a temporary tool the disciples needed because they were sharing the good news in a metropolitan area, where the people spoke many languages. The holy spirit empowered them to speak languages they had never learned on this specific occasion. It wasn’t a requirement or a result of whole hearted worship.

Huah, my understanding of scripture was wrong. How about that.

In college I took a class called The Bible as Literature. I actually thought we were going to discuss the beautiful prose of Psalms and the love poetry of Song of Solomon.  I nearly burst out of the class the first time the professor spoke of the story of Noah as the “flood myth.” But I stuck it out, learned a lot more about the history behind how we got the Bible. The Council of Nicea, I had never heard of it. The Apocrypha  - there was such a thing? This gave me considerable pause. I had always assumed that the Bible we had today was handed down in that form since the first draft of Genesis. I was blindsided by the idea that this could've been in any way a political devise. I believed in the infallibility of the scriptures; that God inspired every word of the Bible, not just the thoughts and ideas, so how on earth could there have been a council of men to decide which books were actually inspired? That was my first big stumbling block in my faith – realizing how changed our Bible today is from what the earliest Christians had, used and loved.

I also studied logic and critical thinking in college. Some of the hardest, yet most interesting courses I ever took. I learned all about logical fallacies and immediately saw how frequently I used them to justify my religious and political viewpoints …I resolved to work on that.

But, despite my liberal education I came out committed to Christ and carried on with my life. I’m sure by now you’re all expecting to hear that I asked God for something and he failed to deliver and thus I became an apostate. Or that I shacked up with my boyfriend and couldn’t justify the whole pre-martial sex thing with my beliefs so I “changed my creeds to match my deeds.” Sorry to disappoint you, that’s not what happened.
Yes, I had prayers that went unanswered but I had always firmly believed that sometimes the answer is just “no” and that I must have faith and “know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28). Yes, I stumbled and sinned. I repented and thanked God for His grace and forgiveness. I did not walk away from my faith just because I was disappointed with how God was running my life.

It was gradual after that. I became friends with a Jewish person. I helped her out at her synagogues youth group and starting poking around Judaism. I flirted with it in college; after all we often forget that Jesus was Jew. He said “Verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one title shall in no wise pass from the law until all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:18-10). So I started seriously toying with the idea of being a “Jew of Jesus.”

My first step was to understand why the Jews reject Jesus as the Messiah. Turns out, there are some pretty good reasons to do that. Jesus didn’t gather all the Jews back to Israel (Isaiah 6:23) he did not unite all humanity into worshiping one God (Isaiah 2:17) and weapons of war were not wiped from humanity (Ezekiel  39:9). There are plenty more unfulfilled prophecies and I know the Christian response is that Jesus will fulfill the rest of them when he returns. 

But Jesus was an apocalyptic Jew who thought that world was ending really soon.  He told his disciples “But I tell you the truth, there be some standing here, who shall not taste of death, till they see the kingdom of God.” Well, all of them tasted death and we’re still waiting for Jesus.

I have so much more to add but have run out of time for now! Stay tuned for part two tonight.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Modesty Survey

Turns out, the way I walk, the shoes I wear, the adjustments I make to my clothing and even the way I sit are "stumbling blocks" for many young, Christian men.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tea Party

This is a topic that has been on my mind for a while, so in honor of California's Supreme Court overturning Prop 8, I thought this would be a good time.

I've been given a mission from God to get the Tea Party out of America's politics. Okay, I don't think God spoke to me, but I do feel a strong compulsion to stand outside of their gatherings with picket signs and shout hateful things ...

The Tea Party first came to my attention thanks to Sarah Palin. I actually kind of respected them at first, despite my doppelgangers participation in the party. Although I wasn't on board with their platform, who among us isn't disaffected by politics and the two party system? I was encouraged to see a grassroots movement taking place. But somewhere along the lines things went wrong, terribly wrong.

Their entire party platform has moved from advocating smaller government and fiscal responsibility to trying to turn America into a theocracy. Many of the things they claim are either mostly or entirely false, and now they're trying to rewrite history! How are educated people letting this happen?

Truth be told the only people I know who openly support the Tea Party are my parents. Their reasoning is as a counter balance to Obama's liberalism: "Obama's extremely liberal, it's time to get someone in the White House who is extremely conservative."  I bring this up because I love my parents, and out of respect for them we don't talk politics. So if any of you, my gentle readers, are fans of the Tea Party, I want to hear from you.

Here is my problems with the Tea Party politics: Christianity.

"America is a Christian nation."

Glen Beck, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann and Newt Gingrich love to trot out this argument, so let's know it over first. For starters, lets look to the Treaty of Tripoli, Article 11, signed by John Adams in 1797: "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion." So there's that.

Also, even though many of the founding fathers were in fact Christian, that does not imply they meant for the country to be ruled based on their religious beliefs. Like many American's today, Thomas Jefferson considered himself a Christian, but one only needs to look at the Jefferson Bible to see he wasn't a traditional Christian (if you don't know what the Jefferson Bible is, he cut out all the miracles including the resurrection).

And even if they did intend for America to be ruled based on Christian principals, that doesn't mean we have to be that way now. Our founding fathers meant for all ruling to be made by white, property owning men, but we don't run government that way anymore either.

Whose version of Christianity?
The denominations within Evangelical Christianity alone raise this question. Then you add Catholicism, Anglicanism and Mormonism and you have widely divergent beliefs. Yes, they all agree on whatever the politicians are pandering to now (gay marriage) but what about when they've gained power and want to start further enforcing their beliefs? Once they outlaw gay marriage will they require everyone to acknowledge the physical presence of Jesus when taking communion? Will they require schools to teach that the earth is 6,000 years old or that God used the laws of evolution to create mankind? Where will they draw the line? (Yes, I'm aware this is the slippery slope fallacy. I am only trying to make a point.) These were very real, very divisive issues in t he theocracies of old. Look at the number of Lutherans burned at the stake at the hands of Catholic Mary Tudor.

John Macquarrie

I've only just learned who this dude was and I'm sad that he passed away before I learned of his tolerance.

It is my most sincere wish that more people of every religion would model his words:

(stole this from Wikipedia):

Macquarrie believed that truth value could reside in other faith traditions, although he rejected syncretism. In his book Mediators Between Human and Divine: From Moses to Muhammad (1996)] he wrote:
In 1964 I published an article entitled 'Christianity and Other Faiths'... [and] I continue to hold the views I expressed then... I believe that, however difficult it may be, we should hold to our own traditions and yet respect and even learn from the traditions of others. I drew the conclusion that there should be an end to proselytizing but that equally there should be no syncretism of the kind typified by the Bahá'í movement. (p. 2)
In that book, Macquarrie commented on what he called 9 historical figures who were viewed by their followers as mediators between the human and the divine (however it was conceived), MosesZoroasterLao-TzuBuddhaConfuciusSocratesKrishnaJesus, and Muhammad. Regarding these "mediators," Macquarrie wrote that
[T]here will be no attempt to show that any one of [the mediators] is superior to the others... what has already been said... has shown the impossibility of any such judgment. No human being - and certainly not the present writer - has the exhaustive knowledge of the several mediators or the requisite criteria for making such a judgment. Neither does he or she have the detached situation that would enable a purely objective view of the question. Only God, I suppose, could make such a judgment. (p. 12)
He concluded that
I do not deny for a moment that the truth of God has reached others through other channels - indeed, I hope and pray that it has. So while I have a special attachment to one mediator, I have respect for them all and have tried to give a fair presentation of each. (p. 12)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Hey, let's rewrite history!

This is unacceptable, reprehensible, and irresponsible. I consider it my personal mission to spread truth! Who wants to help?

This article comes from the Huffington Post.

Tea Party Groups In Tennessee Demand Textbooks Overlook U.S. Founder's Slave-Owning History

A little more than a year after the conservative-led state board of education in Texas approved massive changes to its school textbooks to put slavery in a more positive light, a group of Tea Party activists in Tennessee has renewed its push to whitewash school textbooks. The group is seeking to remove references to slavery and mentions of the country's founders being slave owners.
According to reports, Hal Rounds, the Fayette County attorney and spokesman for the group, said during a recent news conference that there has been "an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another."
"The thing we need to focus on about the founders is that, given the social structure of their time, they were revolutionaries who brought liberty into a world where it hadn't existed, to everybody -- not all equally instantly -- and it was their progress that we need to look at," Rounds said, according to The Commercial Appeal.
During the news conference more than two dozen Tea Party activists handed out material that said, "Neglect and outright ill will have distorted the teaching of the history and character of the United States. We seek to compel the teaching of students in Tennessee the truth regarding the history of our nation and the nature of its government."
And that further teaching would also include that "the Constitution created a Republic, not a Democracy."
The group demanded, as they had in January of last year, that Tennessee lawmakers change state laws governing school curricula. The group called for textbook selection criteria to include: "No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership."
The latest push comes a year after the Texas Board of Education approved revisions to its social studies curriculum that would put a conservative twist on history through revised textbooks and teaching standards.
The Texas revisions include the exploration of the positive aspects of American slavery, lifting the stature of Jefferson S. Davis to that of Abraham Lincoln, and amendments to teach the value of the separation of church and state were voted down by the conservative cadre. Among other controversial amendments that have been approved is the study of the "unintended consequences" of affirmative action.
The board approved more than 100 amendments affecting social studies, economics and history classes for Texas's 4.8 million students.
The influence of the amended textbooks will likely reach far beyond the state of Texas. The state is one of the largest purchasers of textbooks, and many other states adopt Texas's books and standards.
The curriculum changes were pushed through by a majority bloc of conservative Republicans on the Texas school board, who have said the changes were made to add balance to what they believe was a left-leaning and already-skewed reflection of American history.
"There is some method to the madness besides vindicating white privilege and making white students feel as though they are superior and privileged and that that it is the natural order of things," Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas State NAACP, told The Crisis magazine last year about this time. "The agenda being pushed and the ultimate impact intended is to make young people automatically identify with one political party."
The groups sought a federal review of the state's public education and have raised claims that the Texas State Board of Education has violated federal civil rights laws. In a formal complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Education, the groups charge that the new curriculum was devised to "discriminate."
The measures went as far as to replace instances of the trans-Atlantic slave trade with "Atlantic triangular trade."
"It is going to be extremely psychologically harmful to African-American young people because they are marginalized in the curriculum," Bledsoe said. "It will require them to be taught things such as the benevolence of slavery and the problems with affirmative action rather than the good and the bad."
"They voted down a motion that requires students to be taught about the terrorism brought about by the Ku Klux Klan and what they did to ethnic and racial minorities, but they turn around and pass a provision that requires the teaching of the violence of the Black Panther Party."