Tag Archives: church

Holy texts condone everything

25 Mar

Have you ever seen some extremely hateful people using religious texts to justify their actions? Have you seen some very loving people using the same religious texts to combat the hateful ones? Well they can’t both be right, right? Well no, actually they’re both correct about what they say their books condone.

Language is dependent on us using the same words to describe the same thing; when everything is open to “interpretation” then anyone can be correct about what a holy books means, even if someone is else is correct about a diametrically opposing view.

So does god hate fags? Yes, yes he does. Does god love everybody (including gays?) Yes, yes he does. It all depends on how to “interperate” the words in the bible. In effect the bible can be used to support whatever view you already have decided upon, and this is why so many people love the bible!

Should atheism organize?

24 Nov

Atheists  by in large are very individual people and we pride ourselves on this autonomy. At the same time we are not a religion, no matter how much the religious might like to paint us as such. We do not have tenets, we do not have doctrine, we do not have temples, we do not have leaders, we do not have tax exempt status, and we do not have political clout.

I want to suggest something a little faux pas for atheists: We need to get more in lock step.  Hear me out.

Today while listening to an atheist podcast I heard one prominent atheist lamenting the actions of another prominent atheist. Atheist A complained that atheist B’s lawsuits were not what we should be focusing on, and while atheist B is rightly upset about the things for which he is suing, his constant loses are setting bad legal precedent.

The cold hard truth is that we have a real problem facing the atheist movement. There are several major groups, all competing for funding, all with different missions, different legal strategies, different advertising strategies, and different goals.

These groups are all running in different directions and worse, sometimes squabbling with each other. The religious right could not ask for a better situation!

Atheists don’t want to imitate religion in any way and the thought of falling in line goes against our fundamental principles. Well guess what? Do you know why religions are so powerful? Organization!

A disorderly mob is no more an army than a heap of building materials is a house – Socrates

The Jewish lobby is a perfect example. The United States has a very small number of Jews (comparatively), and yet Israel is practically the 51st state in the United States. No matter what Israel does, we have their back. The Jewish lobby has an inordinate amount of clout for their population size because they are extremely well organized. Atheists need to do the same.

Organized religion is such an effective political tool precisely because it is organized. The people, the distribution channels, the chain of command, the networks, it’s all there. Whenever an issue comes up for a vote, the religious leaders need only give the signal, phone calls are made, people are mobilized, pressure applied, and votes cast. It is extremely effective and we’re letting them bury us with it.

We need to take this effective model from religion while trying to cut out as much of the dogma as possible. In the big picture individual views do not matter. What matters is that we converge on a platform and decide what is the most effective application of our energies. This may mean forgoing some legal battles and letting the religious right get away with small things…for now. For example: In God We Trust on the money and in the pledge is not a big picture issue. The collapse of our education system is. Stuff like In God We Trust is merely a distraction, one the religious right is happy to keep us focused on while they try to destabilize science education. The stakes are extremely high.

If we organize will they accuse us of being a religion? Of course they will! But when have you cared what they think of you? Why are you allowing that to keep us stuck in the gates? The religious right has us in the PERFECT position! We are too disorganized to pose a serious threat, and we’re too scared of mimicking them to organize. As long as we refuse to mimic them I can guarantee we won’t mimic their success.

Christian persecution

9 Aug

From time to time I hear somebody, either in person or on this blog, bring up the fact that the early Christians were persecuted by the Romans. This is true. Whether you believe in the religion or not, it is a historical fact that the Romans did horrible things to Christians. Since the formation of the church Christians have used the persecution they suffered under the Romans to say “Look! Look what we went through for our lord and savior! We were butchered whole sale and fed to lions for the amusement of Pagans!” I remember going to vacation bible school where some of the camp counselors would dress up like Roman soldiers and roam the halls of the church. Sometimes they’d bust into our little activity and tell the children that they were all going to die for being Christians. We had to respond by saying that Jesus is the son of god and we’d gladly give our lives for him. (Remember, we were elementary school kids) At this the camp couns….. er, “scary Roman soldier” would be shocked by our courage and we would “save” him. (But I digress)

Yes the Christians initially suffered horribly under the Romans, but I have a problem with modern day Christians trying to use this as an excuse or proof that their claims are somehow valid because they suffered. Here’s the thing. according to the story, Jesus started teaching sometime between 24 and 26 CE, when he was in his early 30′s. The Roman emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, along with the entire Roman empire with him, in 312 CE. If we go with the earliest date, 24 CE, that’s a period of 288 years that Christians were open to persecution.  Yes 288 years seems like a lot, but when compared to the length of time other people were persecuted, it’s nothing special. What Christians seem to fail to grasp is that while they were being persecuted, so were a handful of other people. The Jewish Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 CE, after the Christians came onto the scene. It was not just Christians. In fact, the Roman empire was persecuting and killing people centuries before Christianity was invented. They did not build the great arena’s specially for Christians. They were there long before. Even the cross, a symbol of a horrific and slow death, was in use long before the Romans ever nailed Jesus to one. Doing that to him was not giving him special treatment. They did it to thousands of slaves in the Spartacus rebellion almost two hundred years earlier.

The thing that really upsets me is how Christians who like to point out their persecution under the Romans just stop there. They leave out the bit about Emperor Constantine converting to Christianity, about Christians taking over the Roman empire from within. They leave out the part about how they became the Roman empire! Once that happened, the persecution of Christians by Romans stopped. The part that they really love to leave out is how they then turned around and started persecuting their old persecutors. (I guess “turn the other cheek” applies only when you’re the under dog, other wise you’re doing god’s will) Once in power, the Christians went about defacing art work, destroying temples, and forcing conversions under pain of death.

They continued the grand old tradition of killing Jews and burning their temples. After all, they were the Christ killers. (Or at least until the Catholics changed their minds about that almost 2000 years after the fact) At the height of the church’s power (also the darkest period in the “dark ages”…coincidence?) the church encouraged the wholesale slaughter and persecution of Pagans. Teutonic knights, warriors for Christ, hunted down Pagans through Germany and slaughtered entire villages.

Since that wasn’t enough, they invaded the middle east so they could persecute Muslims. Contrary to their modern equivalent, medieval Muslims were a lot more tolerant. Christians could live and practice their faith in Muslim territory as long as they paid a tax. (Much more business savvy than slaughtering them) As if all this bloodshed was not enough, Christians then turned in on each other for new people to persecute. The waged entire crusades against people who were “the wrong type of Christian”. (Google Waldensian crusade for example) This in fighting and persecution went right on up through the 1700′s. Remember why the pilgrims left England? It wasn’t that England was an atheist country, far from it, they were just the wrong type of Christians. What many Christians don’t know is that the bloodiest war in human history, up until that machine gun was invented, was the 30 year’s war, fought between Catholics and Protestants. It depopulated Europe. The death toll couldn’t be matched for another 300 years until we figured out how to mow people down with automatic fire.

But enough of the history lesson. The point is Christians have persecuted a lot more people since their faith took hold than when they were the minority in Rome. The worst part is when the people who bring up the persecution of Christians by Romans try to imply that Christians are still being persecuted. Really? Try being an atheist for ONE day. Don’t just pretend quietly. Be as open about it as you are about your Christianity. Say it out loud like you’re proud. (God will know you’re pretending for the sake of an experiment so you won’t go to hell) Just try it, see how other react and treat you differently. By the way, atheists have been persecuted by everyone since man created god, so we’ve got a couple of millennia on Christians.

***As an end note I just want to make something clear. This is all just an observation. This post is not intended to be an excuse or evidence that Atheists are correct in not believing in a god. That would be doing the same thing I lament Christians for doing when they point out their suffering under the Romans. The problem with these types of arguments “who was persecuted more” “who killed more” etc is that they try and establish validity through a body count. I’m not sure how you can discuss the past without making it seem like you’re trying to keep score. Regardless, these things happened and they should be open to discussion.

Atheist game quirks

4 Jun

This is kinda silly, but my atheism affects my gaming habits. How so? Well when I’m playing a game such at Total War, Age of Empires, or Civilization I will try and make my empire as atheistic as possible. In the Total War games I delete all the churches and instead build schools and universities. If I can’t dismiss or assassinate my own religious leaders, I send them off to the very corner of the map. In the Civilization games I refuse to adopt any religion when it is invented, and try my best to avoid researching religious techs. As for Age of Empires, I build the church grudgingly to get the technologies, and then delete it the moment I’m done. (When I played I usually played online and there are other non-religious techs available at the church, so I needed them to play my best against other people) Again, this is all really silly and I know that it’s just a mechanic of the game, but I like to imagine that somewhere, in an alternate universe, my little nation exists. It’s for this same stupid reason I hate to delete units. :-( I can just imagine the NPCs kissing their families and children goodbye before being executed, all at my command to make room for another 20 heavy infantry. (If I absolutely have to kill off villagers in AoE I delete the male villagers. Beautiful women being killed is a major pet peeve of mine) I know they’re just 1s and 0s, but I care….

Atheist resistance

20 Apr

So living in Lynchburg Virginia, home of “9/11 is god’s punishment ” Jerry Falwell and his penitentiary of brainwashing and bullshit, “Liberty” “university”, religious stuff is all over town. Every other car either has a LU sticker, the christian fish magnet, or “Not I, but Christ” sticker. The local stores are also almost entirely owned by the LU octopus. Falwall and his ilk even have their own section in walmart that sells only LU gear, along with religious books.

So as a way to stay sane and get some cheap thrills, I engage in a little Atheist resistance. First up is my car. When you’re stopped at a red light, that’s your 30 second chance to get a message out to the three cars behind you. (Assuming you’re in the middle lane)

I love these things. I change them out every so often, depending on what’s pissing me off that week. Sometimes it’s political, like pro-choice signs (which are a real hit in the area ~_^), but most of the time it’s religious. Currently I’m blasting the catholic church for their 2000 yr + child pedophilia scandal.

I figure the “liberty” kids in Lynchburg are constantly confined to their nice little clean bubble of rich, white, conservative christian fanatics, it’d be nice to jar them out of their comfort zone and make them realize they’re not the only game in town. If I have to sit in traffic and put up with their stupid signs, they can suffer my 1st amendment rights to mine. Yeah, some could argue that it might look a little trashy, but if nobody stands up and says something, they’ll think that everyone is just like them, and thus their beliefs will be all the further reinforced.

Secondly is pamphlets. In Lynchburg there are pamphlets all around. The LU kids stuff them inside beer cases, leave them in shops, in mailboxes, on dining tables, under your windshield wipers, everywhere. I’ve put a few of them up here on my blog, and they all say the same thing: You’re a rotten person that’s going to burn in hell forever unless you buy our product. So I decided to make my own. Here is one that I’m currently circulating:

Outside:

Inside:

I can’t make the picture any bigger, so incase you can’t read it, the outside when you first open it just says something like “Hey, you’re ok the way you are, you’re not a sinner, nor are you damned to some eternal punishment.” Then it goes on about how the pamphlet isn’t trying to get them to join anything, or give any money, unlike other religious pamphlets. The inside just asks 20 simple questions to get people thinking about their faith critically.

I get a real rush putting out these pamphlets. I have to be all ninja like so I don’t get caught. Sometimes I’ll sit down at a table with my stuff, wait a few minutes, and get up, conveniently forgetting to take the pamphlet with me. I love to put these in the religious books sections of book stores, there I can really hit my target audience.

The bumper stickers in the car give me a bit of a thrill, but not so much as sneaking around with pamphlets. I guess I just feel safer with a physical barrier between me and them. Though I have been honked at, shouted at, and flicked off before while sitting at a red light. (How christian, eh?) There have been times when I’ve nervously expected a bullet to come through the glass behind me and kill me, or for my car to be rammed, or for someone to throw something at my windshield. That’s all a thrill too, though it does make me wonder about my opponents when I have to worry about being physically attacked and they don’t. What do you think that says about them?

Why get dressed up for church?

11 Apr

Growing up I hated having to get dressed nice early every Sunday morning for church. I would ask my mom why we had to get so fancy just for church and she would reply with something along the lines of “we have to look nice for god.”

At the time that made sense to me, but now, looking back, it’s not very convincing. Why does it matter to god if we get dressed up all fancy? He already knows how pious or impious we are in our hearts; fancy clothes aren’t going to fool him.

The reason everyone gets all dressed up for church is simple. It’s a display of wealth. For the longest time, church has not only been about religion, but it was the main social gathering. In ye olden days, people would go there to socialize, gossip, and meet potential spouses. Church was where you were most public, where you wanted to show your status in the community.

Religious leaders are no exception. The most obvious example of ridiculous wealth being used as a display of status is the Catholic Church.

Need I say more? (And yeah, that’s the extreme end of the spectrum, but there still is a lot of gold in regular catholic churches)

Now,  a big part of the protestant reformation was aimed against exactly this kind of opulence and shameless display of wealth. While most protestant churches are definitely much simpler and plain than catholic ones, they don’t get off the hook completely.

Mark 10:25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God


Glenn Beck: Ignore Jesus

9 Mar

Now even though I’m an Atheist, I agree Jesus had some good universal ideas like love thy neighbor, look after the poor, do unto others as you would have done to you, etc… Social Justice.

But apparently Glenn Beck disagrees with Jesus on social justice:

Social Justice is a code word for fascism and communism? Run from the churches that preach social justice? Seriously?

Way to Beck. Jesus and his hippie love for the less fortunate can go to hell…

Christian Privilege

4 Feb

First let me define privilege.

Privilege is: About how society accommodates you. It’s about advantages you have that you think are normal. It’s about you being normal, and others being the deviation from normal. It’s about fate dealing from the bottom of the deck on your behalf. (Source)

This is usually (and rightly so) used when talking about Male Privilege or White Privilege.  These types of privilege are everywhere, but most evident in the media. My white male readers, stop and think about how many movie/books/video games are told either through the perspective of white male like yourself, or made with you in mind as the target audience? For many things in life, white male is the default.

I would like to argue that there is another type of privilege, at least in the United States; Christian Privilege.

America is an extremely religious country. 78.5% of the country alone is Christian. (source)  (The country’s constitution is secular, it’s people are not) Christian is the default. This is most evident at Christmas, the old pagan holiday adopted by early Christians and lately turned into a shopping orgy by corporations. Christmas Christmas Christmas! It’s EVERYWHERE! Everyone says “Merry Christmas!” as if everyone celebrated it. Nobody goes around on other holy days of the year saying “Merry _____”, just Christmas, because everyone assumes everyone else is Christian.

It’s common to just ask people if they go to church, assuming they’re Christian. Church is the norm. Our government starts meetings of congress with an opening prayer. The White House puts up a Christmas tree every year. People want to put religious monuments on public property. (What’s the problem? Everybody’s Christian right?) Anti-government tea-party conservatives want to force Christian music on children in California. The Christian god is on our money, in our pledge! Bibles are put in every hotel room and doctor’s office! Walk into a grocery store or Walmart, all the “Choice books” displayed are Christian books!

Atheists can’t get elected to office in this country. (One was, but he came out afterwards) 7 states have specific legislation banning Atheists from holding office. Political candidates where their religion like it’s a ticket to an exclusive event, or a flag. They always have to go on and on about their religious credentials. (If they don’t they won’t get elected) The US military is very Christian. Fundamentalists have been proselytizing for ages in the military. Just recently they were forced to remove bible inscriptions from sniper scopes being used to shoot Muslims in Iraq. Christian ministers are always the president’s “spiritual adviser”, they also give opening prayers at elections.

There are at least 335,000 churches in America. America is 3.79 Million square miles. That’s about 1 church every 11 square miles. (And this doesn’t count newly opening churches)

All these facts make Christians feel they are normal, and anyone who is not a Christian is not normal. I remember when I was a Christian I didn’t even learn that there was such a thing as “not Christian” until 5th grade. Even then I was only dimly aware of Jews and Muslims, but that was it. There was the Christian god and nothing else. Everybody knew that. I remember reading about Atheists in the news in highschool and thinking “Those people don’t believe in god? What the? How can you NOT believe in god!?!? Everybody knows there’s a god. They’re just crazy and luckily small in number…” For the longest time, I cringed when people said “I’m not Christian.” That was like the worst thing you could say. It shocked me when my college professor came out and said it. “That’s awful, you should keep it to yourself” I thought in my head.

Now that I’m one of those “crazy and few in number” people, I feel distinctly not normal. When you’re not a believer in an extremely religious country, you start to feel like it isn’t your country, like you’re a second class citizen. I put signs in my car window to try and remind Christians that they’re not the only ones here, but Christian Privilege is just so massive I don’t know how to fight it. Women have feminism to fight male privilege. Blacks have the NAACP to fight white privilege, what about Atheists? Trying to get us to work together is like herding cats. We have nothing in common except a lack of a belief in magical beings.

An Atheist visits a Cathedral

11 Aug

While I was in the UK for the past 3 weeks, I visited several old churches, the most grand of which was York Minster Cathedral.

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Now, despite being an Atheist, I LOVE visiting old places of worship, whether they be pagan, christian, or whatever. (I visited some old temples of Mithras while I was there too) Most normal houses of worship are small, humble buildings, but cathedrals are enormous, bold structures. They stand out along the skyline; they are built as a statement of god’s power, and the power of those who commissioned the work.

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I must admit, when I walked in my jaw dropped. I was just in awe of the sheer size of the place. I felt insignificant and fleeting in the face of the enormous stone pillars which have held this monument up for centuries. The beauty and intricacy of the artwork and statues took my breath away. I was reduced to a small child, wandering around aimlessly, captivated by it all.

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And that is exactly what the cathedral was meant to do. That is exactly the affect the builders wanted to illicit. Cathedrals, unlike regular churches, are propaganda machines in their very structure. They are meant to overwhelm the visitor with their size, complexity, and beauty. They are supposed to make the visitor feel insignificant in the presence of god.

I admitted to my self that if I went to church every Sunday in a place like this, I would feel more compelled to believe. ( I still wouldn’t believe, but I can see the allure of the place) Here is the twist to think about. Believers who are amazed by the place as much as everybody else see it as a symbol of god’s might and the insignificance of mankind. What they don’t stop to think about it who built the place. Humans built the place. Humans carved the artwork, cut the stones, and constructed the intricate stained glass windows. No one ever stops to realize that cathedrals are just as much a monument to human engineering, to the human spirit, as they are to god.

Seeing the world through the lens of reality

23 Jun

I think there is a very different way religious and secular people see the world. Do you remember the periodic table of elements from high school chemistry?

elementsHow often do you ever think of these elements? I’m not a scientist, but I think about them a lot. If you remember, everything in on this planet is made up of these elements. Everything. The screen you are reading this on, the chair you’re sitting in, the tires on your car, the food you had for lunch, the pillow on your bed, all are made up of some combination of these elements.

I look at a tree and don’t just see a tree, I see Hydrogen, Oxygen, Carbon, Nitrogen, Potassium, Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Sulfur, Sodium, Silicon, Iron, Boron, Strontium, and Aluminum. These are the elements that make up wood. (May vary slightly depending on the tree)

redwood-trunk

Basically, when I see something, I don’t just see the object, but I am consciously aware of the fact that that object is composed of various different elements. There is nothing magical, nothing supernatural about anything.

When you pray to a wooden cross, you are praying to a group of the above mentioned elements that merely have their atoms arranged in the shape of a cross. It has no special power. The same is true for every “holy object” in the word. They are simply objects with elements and atoms. Nothing special.

The wafer you eat at communion is just a wafer, the wine is just wine, with all the elements and atoms that make up the two. There is no special magical power.

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