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, July 10, 2012

What I don't believe

It's been a while since I posted anything here, so I thought I was due for a check-in.

First, my apologies to anyone who has been offended by what I've written. I never meant to persecute anyone and if you've interpreted anything I've said as persecution, I am very sorry.

That said, I will admit I was carrying around some anger for a while and poking fun at certain aspects of Christianity was very cathartic to me, after laboring under a repressive version of Christianity for years. I was angry at my church leaders who perpetuated hate, I was angry at the people who were so quick to condemn me to hell, and I was angry at myself for believing without question for so many years. What was I so angry about?

I was angry about these church teachings:
That black people are black because they are the decedents of Canaan, who committed an atrocious sin so God changed the color of his skin, and all his decedents skin so everyone else would know what horrible sinners they ALL are. That everyone who was not only NOT-Christian, but not our particular brand of Pentecostal Christianity was going to hell, a place of eternal, conscious torment. That as a woman, the thing I could do that would be most pleasing to God would be to marry a man would be my spiritual leader and submit in all things to his will. I was angry that I was taught the Bible was the infallible word of God, free of mistakes and easily understandable to all who read it. Because it turns out, none of that is true.  And not just because I don't like these things, but because these things aren't actually true according to the Bible itself. Shame on the system that perpetuates these lies because they're comforting to the masses, and shame on the masses who blindly believe these things and use them to justify their own personal prejudices and hates.

(I learned most of these at Emmanuel Christian Center. If you think I'm exaggerating, just visit the link they spell out everything they believe.)

I think because of some of that anger, I've misrepresented myself. I am not an atheist (well, I sort of am, many of you will think I am) and I don't bear any ill will toward most Christians (except those who so confidently proclaim that we can never know the mind of God, except that we know God hates gays, Hindus, people who work on Sunday, Democrats, etc.) And despite my aposty, I'm still very drawn to the Bible and Christian views. I am a philosophy nerd, I love studying world religions, and Christianity and the Bible are what I know the best. Christianity is like an amazing ex-boyfriend, the yard stick I compare all others to, but just can't be with anymore.

So with that long preamble, on to what I don't believe, and a little bit about why.

1) I do not believe in God. Yep, there it is, throw the label Atheist at me, it is sort of fitting. But look again, that is God with the capital G. The "God" I grew up with. The God who created a three tiered universe, who answers prayers, intervenes in human affairs and desires a personal relationship with us lowly humans. There is just no good reason to believe in this God. Prayer doesn't work - study after study shows that people in the hospital who are prayed for recover at the same rate as people who aren't prayed for. Maybe you feel like God has intervened in your life. I've felt that way too when I was a believer. I'm not asking you to answer the Problem of Evil because people smarter than you and I have contemplated that idea for thousands of years without coming to a satisfactory answer, but I do want you to consider the possibility that you misunderstood what happened or just made up a nice comforting story. Did God really align things just right so you could meet your spouse? That was nice of him. Why didn't he answer the prayers of a mother who pleaded for her child to survive cancer? Why didn't he answer the prayers of ten thousand starving people? Yeah, I know ... we can never know the mind of God and why He doesn't answer every prayer, we just have to be thankful when he answers our prayers. But if God is just, why would he give you beautiful weather for your family picnic, but not send some manna to a family starving to death? That is not just. So either God CAN do these things and just chooses not to, in which case he is NOT all loving. Or he CAN'T do these things, in which case he is NOT all powerful. As I've already mentioned - I'm a philosophy nerd so I've heard the explanations apologists come up with for this problem, but they just don't satisfy me at all. If this problem at all bothers you (and I will go so far as to say if the Problem of Evil doesn't bother you, then you are blind and deaf to suffering) at least be humble enough to stop publicly praising God for every little thing that happens to you that can much easier be explained by chance (did God really help you find that $20 bill on the ground? did God really remind you to run home to discover you'd left the stove on?) Neither of us have any good answer to why more than 20,000 people had to die as a result of the 2004 Christmas Tsunami and Earthquake, and neither of us have any good answer why it was not a rainy day when I got married - that's just the way things happened.

2) I do not believe in an eternal paradise or eternal torture after death. Have you ever really sat down and thought about what heaven would be like? I mean more than just how big the waterfall in the backyard would be and how you and your favorite people would ride around on unicorns (ok ... that's a holdover from MY view of what heaven would be!). If there is no sin, no sadness, no death ... is there free will still? If there is no free will, are we just happy robots? And if we have an eternity to lounge poolside, won't we get bored?  No, as wonderful as the idea of an eternal paradise where no one annoys me is ... I think this life is all there is. I can't speak further on this issue because I have no idea, I have no experience with this to go on, and science has no data on anything outside of biological death, but since I have no experience/memory of being alive before this life I can't expect to be alive after this life. I do know that the atoms that make up my body were at one time parts of stars, and will some day be parts of stars and trees and planets ... that's pretty awesome to me. In this way, I will go on forever. In the meantime, I will enjoy THIS life as fully as I can, because it's probably the only one I will have. I won't have eternity to figure out how ride a horse or paint a masterpiece, I just have this life so I plan to fully live it!  (And before you respond to this claim by referring me to books like Life After Life or Heaven is Real ... you know as well as I do that anecdotal experiences are not evidence.)

3) I do not believe Jesus rose from the dead. Moreover, I don't believe the earliest gospel writers literally believed this either. The earliest versions of Mark (the oldest gospel) ends with an empty tomb, it's a cliff hanger to be sure, but it's not a resurrection. At a later date, I plan to write about the process of midrash. In the meantime Google it. For now, it's enough for me to say that dead people don't just come back to life. But it does make for a great, symbolic way to tell a story that death has been conquered, that access to God is available to all. I think the earliest gospel writers were creating a myth. As Karen Armstrong describes it a myth is something that is true once for all time, not a lie. I think the gospel writers never intended for us to literally believe Jesus came back from the dead, that there are enough clues in the gospels to indicate this, in much the way that today's writers indicate a story is fantasy by saying "once upon a time." I promise to return to this at a later time because it's pretty critical to everything.

That's enough for now. I will return to address what I DO believe another day, and I think you'll be surprised. I've been greatly influenced in what I do and do not believe by Dr. Robert PriceKaren Armstrong, and Bishop John Shelby Spong, Each of these began their faith careers as fundamentalists and have since revised their views to varying degrees. I encourage you to read their works and diligently seek truth. We ALL spend far too much time confirming what we already believe; we could benefit from exposing ourselves to and understanding things we don't believe.