Prayer to end atheism

Ok, so I’m writing this on the fly, with a bit of whiskey. So here we go.

I heard on a podcast today that there was a global prayer to end atheism on August 12th. I’m assuming this was a real thing. If not, please let me know. If it was real, as far as I can tell, it didn’t work. Shocking. It seems to me that God curing cancer, growing back limbs of amputees, creating clean drinking water for everyone on the planet, turning water into wine, etc, would effectively end atheism. At least I would think so.

What would a prayer to end atheism sound like? Most Christians I know believe that we have free will. So to pray something like, “Dear God, please make all the atheists believers in ****”, seems like it would go against that. Surely people wouldn’t pray that God would kill all the atheists, right? But, according to the Bible, God does have a history of killing people, so I guess that’s not completely off the table. Is this kind of like praying that LGBTQ people won’t be LGBTQ anymore? That whole, pray the gay away, bullshit. That doesn’t ever seem to work, either. Shocking!

Just some thoughts, and a little venting. I’ll be back.

Thus sayeth the Lord…

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this in other posts, but I’ll do so again for any new readers. The last 21 or so years of my life as a Christian were spent in word of faith/charismatic churches. We believed the Bible was inerrant, spoke in tongues, prayed for the sick believing that Jesus still heals, believed that God wanted us to be “wealthy” (yep, one of those), and we had a decent amount of prophecy going on. Not all the time, but often enough. I found this definition of prophecy that fits what I experienced:

A prophecy is a message that is claimed by a prophet to have been communicated to them by a deity. Such messages typically involve inspiration, interpretation, or revelation of divine will concerning the prophet’s social world and events to come.

Now, in the churches I was in, you didn’t have to be considered a prophet to prophecy. But it was usually a minister of some kind that gave these “words from the Lord”. I’ve done it myself. Not so much over a group like the church I was preaching in or a country or anything like that. Mostly it was one on one, praying for somebody, and something would come into my mind that I thought I was supposed to share with them. Usually, it was pretty general. Some kind of encouragement or blessing.

Most religions have their superstars. Whether they be popes, bishops, pastors, prophets, gurus, llamas, or whatever the title. I think you know what I mean. My flavor of Christianity was no different. When one of these ministers got a word from the Lord, it was serious business. The ones I heard were generally about God prospering His people, some kind of major spiritual breakthrough, supernatural protection, great parking spots for life, never losing your keys, etc. There was very little correction or doom and gloom. I guess because that’s not as popular. When prophesying over the coming year, the prophecies would often rhyme. “2008 is gonna be great!” “The church will be fine in 2009!” “You’d better jump in, in 2010!” And yes, even when I was guzzling the Kool-Aid, these still made me cringe.

There are often prophecies about things like, who will win presidential elections. The person prophesying has a 50/50 chance of being right. But for whatever reason, I never questioned when prophecies went completely differently than expected. To be honest, a few weeks after hearing it and the goosebumps wore off, I usually forgot about it. But looking back, these words from God promising prosperity and healing, spiritual breakthroughs that we’ve never dreamed of, millions of people getting saved (according to our rules, of course), cats and dogs living together… I don’t remember seeing any of this. Well, maybe some cats and dogs living together, but I think they were doing that anyway.
And personal prophecies that ministers have spoken to me or about me. Some were vague enough to look back and kind of see it happening. But like I talked about in my post, ask the questions, no one in my circle ever went back and looked at these prophecies to see if they came to pass or not. Maybe because many of them were out in the future somewhere, and people just forgot what was said? I don’t know? I do wish I had questioned things more along the way. Not so much in a skeptical sense that I do now, but just to check. Are these things that people say will happen, happening? Does this person have an agenda? I believe that most of the folks that I listened to and was around who gave out words from the Lord were as sincere as could be. I believe that the thoughts coming into their heads and out their mouths were from a heart to help and bless people. I do. I know there are charlatans that make up things to trick people, but I was fortunate enough to not have been around these folks. Not as far as I know. But ask the questions.

People still email and text me things that they believe God is showing them. Most of my minister friends don’t know about my shifting beliefs. So I’m keeping the emails and texts, and I’ll go back to them at a later date and just see if what they thought God was telling them about the future actually came to pass. I think it will be interesting.

Still here!

Hi all, I’m still around and have many ideas for blog posts. I’ve been working a ton of hours again and just haven’t had the time or energy to put things in writing. I want to write on the subject of prophecy. In the Christian churches that I came out of, there was a lot of prophecy going on. I wanted to address some things there. I also want to write a post about homosexuality. Having spent years as a devout evangelical Christian, of course I was taught, and believed, that homosexuality was “wrong”. Well, then shifting beliefs happened. I’d also like to address what the Bible supposedly says, and doesn’t say, about homosexuality. So hopefully I’ll get my writing shit together soon and will post some new content.

I hope everyone is doing ok, staying safe and healthy, and all those good things. See you soon.

Family, friends, and back to Hell

I got to see my parents and other family members this last weekend for the first time in about 18 months due to COVID and scheduling issues. It was really good to see everyone and we had a great time. I also got to see a good friend that I haven’t seen in as long. He and I were on a very similar path for about 7 years as far as our skepticism towards religion. In August of 2020 he did a complete 180 back to Christianity, big time. Which is totally fine with me. We are still great friends with lots in common outside of religion.
During the visit, some topics regarding Christianity came up. Included in these topics was the subject of a literal hell. I’ve written about Hell before, but I want to revisit it. Hell being, in the Christian belief, a fiery place of eternal torment created for those who do not accept Jesus as their savior. Not every Christian believes in a literal hell, but most do. Now that I am no longer a believer, I’m often amazed at the lack of logic and reason when these kinds of topics come up. I asked my friend if he still believes in a literal hell. He said yes, he does. When I asked what his belief was based on, I got the same answers that I used to use when I was asked the same. A handful of scriptures that seem to indicate a hell live Christianity believes in and stuff about God being holy and can’t stand sin, etc. So I asked some more questions, leaning a bit on logic and reason. Do you think the punishment of eternity in hell fits the “crime” of not believing in Jesus as savior? What about people who decide they believe only because of the threat of hell? If God created hell, knowing that hundreds of millions, or even billions, of people will be there forever, doesn’t that make God the most horrible monster, ever? Have you ever studied the history of the doctrine of hell? What about people with down syndrome or Aspergers or any number of conditions like this? Where is the cutoff for people who are responsible for believing the right thing and those that are not capable of making that choice? What about the scriptures that talk about death either being the end, or of the unbeliever, annihilation? Could you really enjoy an eternity in heaven knowing that there are so many suffering the flames of hell for all eternity? If a literal hell exists, wouldn’t there be a LOT more scriptures that are very specific on who goes there and who doesn’t? There is a great post by Michah Redding on this subject here:
https://www.micahredding.com/blog/2008/09/15/there-no-hell-part-1/
He wouldn’t entertain these questions at all. He just kept saying that he believes the Bible is clear on the subject and he won’t change his mind. Sigh.
It seems to me that if someone believes in hell, then nothing else in the Bible should matter. Why would it? That’s a big fucking deal! How to not go to hell should be the only sermon ever preached. This should be the only subject talked about in the break room at work. This should be the only thing ever prayed about. People should spend all their “free time” stopping people on the street, passing out literature on the subject everywhere they go, begging people to pray the sinner’s prayer with them… But almost none of the people I know who say that they believe in hell do any of these kinds of things. I didn’t either when I was a Christian. Does that mean people like that are just shitty, selfish people? Or could it be that deep down, they really don’t believe such a place exists?
Things that make you go, hmmmm…

Ask the questions!

I think that most humans are naturally inquisitive, especially when we are young. What parent hasn’t gone through the “why?” phase with their kids? Why is the sky blue? Why do dogs bark? Where do babies come from? You remember this phase, right? And for whatever reason, we kind of “grow out of” that phase and often we seem to lose that inquisitiveness. I’m sure there are many reasons for this. One thing I’ve enjoyed about studying Buddhism is that the questions are often more intriguing than the answers. And there is often more than one answer and no absolute right answer. When I was involved in religion, I was definitely more interested in the answers than the questions. Something that should have raised several red flags was that we were told not to ask too many questions. Certainly don’t question the Bible or God. I now have many issues with this.

If your doctor told you that, based on your recent bloodwork, you were going to have to have a procedure done. But didn’t tell you what the procedure was, or what it’s supposed to fix, or any pertinent information. Wouldn’t you have questions? Or taking your car to a mechanic because the check engine light is on. He comes out and says that he has it figured out and will start working on it, but won’t say what he will do or how much it will cost. Again, wouldn’t you stop him and ask questions? These two examples pale in comparison to the possibility of some kind of eternal destination after we die, don’t you think? People will spend hours researching the side effects of a medicine that their doctor wants them to take. Or hours upon hours researching a medicine that their vet wants to give their pet! I would do the same thing for my cat. But, many people will just take the word of a man or woman with a Bible and a charismatic personality regarding how the universe came into being, how humans came into existence, what happens to us after we die, etc. All without spending much time at all, if any, doing research on the history of the Bible, the particular denomination they are in, the history of the Christian church, etc. And the people who do generally only look at Christian sources.

Without asking questions, or asking very few questions, people will throw themselves into a belief system, give 10% of their income and more to this belief system, pray to a God that they have no real evidence exists, turn their lives upside down for their beliefs… you get the point. I know, because I did this very thing. Several times during my life! And one day, a friend questioned something that I was teaching at a home Bible study, the same thing that my pastors and teachers taught me, and I said that I would dig into it more deeply. Well, once I did some digging below the surface level and started asking hard questions, I realized that many of the scriptures I was using were taken out of context, and that I was only getting part of the story, so to speak. I’ll be honest, it freaked me the hell out! I thought, if I’m wrong about this, what else could I be wrong about? And so I started digging and asking and digging more and asking more. At the end of all this, and by the way, I’m still digging and asking, I decided that I just don’t believe anymore. That’s where the answers to my questions led me. And if I find legitimate information that changes my views, I’ll go that direction. The whole shifting beliefs thing. I’m not going to tell you what to do with the answers you find to your questions, but I do encourage you to ask. If the group you are with discourages you from asking hard questions, ask anyway. The internet has plenty of resources you can go to for answers. Don’t just go to one source, go to many sources. But ask, and keep asking. See if you can stir that natural inquisitiveness that most of us had at one time. I think you will wind up surprising yourself. It’s a lot of fun.

Can we really “know” God?

Through the years I’ve seen many books, workbooks, mini-books, and devotionals that basically said, if you’ll read this, and do what it says to do, you will know God better than you do now. And of course, multiple sermons on the same subject, many of which I preached myself. Religions throughout human history have talked about knowing their god more intimately. And many followers have made claims about doing this very thing. But since no god has ever actually revealed himself/herself/themselves, we can only take these people at their word.

In the Christian tradition that I spent most of my adult life in, we were told that the main way you get to know God (assuming, of course, that the Christian god is the only true god) was through the Bible. At first glance, this seems simple enough. Lots of authors through history (supposedly) writing about the same god, they surely will all be saying very similar things. After all, Jesus/God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is the lord, and he changes not. All those good things. It would be like asking several of my friends and relatives to write about me. Surely there would be enough consistencies to be able to piece together a fairly accurate picture of who I am and what I’m like. I would think so. Yet, the God of the Old Testament is anything but consistent. There are so many places on the internet where you can go and see all the inconsistencies and contradictions concerning God and His character in the Old Testament. I will not spend much time here. But I do think of a quote by Richard Dawkins from The God Delusion that fits nicely here: “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” In my humble opinion, well said, Richard.

Then, along comes Jesus. It’s like good cop, bad cop. In the book of John, it’s written that Jesus said, if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father. But I don’t see the same thing. From the start, this schizophrenic God looks nothing like this Jesus we see in the gospels. A quick side note, I do not use the term “schizophrenic” lightly and I mean no disrespect to anyone suffering from this condition or having friends or relatives who do. So, as far as knowing God through the scriptures, its seems like a tough thing to figure out. I know all the evangelical, Bible school, word of faith answers, but those answers no longer make any sense to me. So when I see a devotional or book or whatever that says that I can know God better, but the book is based on the Bible, I’m skeptical.

What if we try to know “god” through our life experience, and the experience of others? Nope. That’s a totally fucked up method. I don’t think I need to elaborate on this.

Within Christianity (I will stick with this because this is my back ground) ministers, lay minsters, and plain ole’ church folk can’t agree on the nature, personality, motives, desires, or any other trait, of God. You could put 10 ministers from the same denomination in a room together, bring up a scripture about who God is and what He is like, and it’s likely that none of them will agree. That’s just a guess because I’ve not done a scientific study on this. But, my flavor of Christianity taught that God wants us healthy, wealthy, and happy. Many other flavors think the opposite, or something like that. So, between a Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Word of Faith/Charismatic, Church of Christ, etc, and subgroups within these groups, they all “know God” differently. And they all believe that they are right, and others are wrong.

And then there is the extremely small possibility that the Christian god is not the “real god” (eye roll), will the real God please fucking come forward! Don’t hold your breath, people. Some religions say that god is knowable like the Christian religion. Others claim that we can never “know” god. And some claim that we are all god in some way. What about that? Do we just know ourselves?

Anyway, I was “inspired” to write this because of a devotional that I saw called Knowing the Heart of God. Which is even crazier than just knowing God! Knowing his heart? Shit, I don’t know my “heart”!! Whatever the fuck that is?!?! So, if you know how to know god or the heart of god, please share so we can all have this pleasure. In the meantime, I’m going to do my best to stay grounded in reality, being aware of what’s going on around me, and sometimes “inside” me. I hope you all are doing ok during the pandemic and all. If not, or if you have lost friends or family, my heartfelt condolences.

Peace, y’all.

Get out of jail free card

I’m not sure if this post can be defined as a rant, but I’ve been thinking about this for a while and it’s really bugging me. So I thought I would write about it.

Just to make sure we are all on the same page, the “get out of jail free” card is an element of the board game, Monopoly. It has also become a popular metaphor for something that will get one out of an undesired situation. The metaphor is what I’ll be talking about in this post. It’s kind of like the phrase, being let of the hook. With that being said, it seems that the Christian god and the Bible have get out of jail free cards for just about every situation. And it’s annoying.

I used to do it. When I was a Christian, and someone questioned god’s character or the Bible, I felt obligated to defend him. Isn’t that funny? It seems like if god existed and is as powerful as people think, this god should be able to defend himself/herself/itself. Maybe he/she/it isn’t concerned about such trivial things as having to explain why something did, or did not happen. If a person applies sound logic and reason to any situation regarding god or the Bible, Christians have to jump through a lot of hoops to explain away said sound logic and reason. One interesting thing about that is that the hoops are not consistent. Different Christian groups will use different hoops depending on their theology.

The examples are endless. But we will look at a few. COVID-19. Some say it is god’s judgment because there is so much sin in the world. So this is our/humans fault, not god’s. “He’s not judging the people, he is judging the sin”. Oh, bullshit. According to the Bible, didn’t god’s judgment fall on Jesus for us? “There are still consequences for sin”. Ok. Whatever. Even when you have all this prayer going on all over the planet, Kenneth Copeland “blowing” the virus away, and any other examples you can think of, it’s still here. When all else fails, things fall under god’s ineffable plan. People will say, “I don’t know why these bad things are happening, but I know god is good”. Hmmm…. So this good god still gets the get out of jail free card.

A quick side note, speaking of god’s ineffable plan. If you haven’t seen Good Omens on Amazon prime, I highly recommend it. I enjoyed the hell out of it. See what I did there? Hell out of it… There is scene where an angel and a demon are talking after Adam and Eve have been cast out of the garden. The demon thinks that god overreacted and doesn’t see the problem with humans knowing the difference between good and evil. When he expresses this to the angel, the angel says that it’s best not to speculate. It’s all part of the great plan. The great plan is ineffable.  Another scene is at the building of the arc and the angel has told the demon that god is going to drown everyone except Noah and his family. Again, the demon thinks that to be a bit harsh, but the angel again talks abought god’s ineffable plan. God gets out of jail, again.

All the suffering in the world? It’s because of sin and/or the devil. Not god’s fault. I prayed for healing and didn’t get it? I didn’t have enough faith. Not god’s fault. What about all the contradictions in the Bible? They are apparent contradictions, but it’s really just humans not being able to understand some things about god. After all, his ways are higher than our ways… Again, total bullshit. What about errors in the Bible? Nope, the Bible is perfect. It must be human’s lack of understanding that makes it appear like there are errors. You get the idea. God is never at fault, never just being an asshole, it’s always either the devil or we humans bringing all the bad stuff on ourselves.

I read an article lately that started with, “I have to say, the Bible is a poorly compiled piece of work”. And I agree! Where I am now in my beliefs, or lack thereof, is because I studied the Bible thoroughly with my brain on, using logic and reason and what I know about science and history. There is a YouTube channel called Leaving Religion hosted by William Jones. In the intro to all his videos he says, “The purpose of these videos is to get you to think. Turn your brains on and think. Use logic, use reason, and realize that religion is fake”. I was talking to someone recently who had been doing some critical thinking, and she said that it seems like if god allows things to happen, it’s the same as… she wouldn’t finish the thought, so I did it for her. It’s the same as he caused it to happen. She flinched a little, like I might get struck by lightning. Yep, let a little bit of logic and reason slip in there and you might be thinking all kind of shit you never thought you’d think about god.

When I was in church, we heard it on a fairly regular basis. Never question the scriptures or god’s goodness. If something happens in your life or you read something in the Bible that makes you question god’s character (his character being that he is good, and he is good all the time), it just means you don’t understand. God is still good and faithful and all that. So quit trying to figure it out. Ugh!

It seems to me that if you take god out of the equation, life on this planet just makes a little more sense.

The Liberated Atheist

One of the blogs I follow is The Liberated Atheist, previously The Covert Atheist. It’s well thought out and well written and the posts are topics that interest me and that I can relate to. The latest post is called Leaving a Relationship With Jesus. Many things are said in this post that I’ve been thinking of how to write about. But said better than what I had in mind for my blog. So instead of trying to re-write a well written post, I asked for, and was given permission to share the post here. Please check it out, along with other posts. I think you will find some interesting writings and good food for thought.

https://thecovertatheist.wordpress.com/2020/08/07/leaving-a-relationship-with-jesus/

 

Atheists among us

3 weeks ago, a friend that I’ve known for about 17 years sent me a text. He asked, “Do you follow Seth Andrews?” Seth Andrews is the host of The Thinking Atheist podcast. I had made a comment on one of Seth’s posts on social media. None of my close friends or family know that I’ve left my Christian beliefs behind. I simply answered my friend’s text, “Yes I do”. He then told me that he saw my comment and was curious. He started following Seth about 3 or 4 years ago, after a change in beliefs that he can’t talk publicly about. I was like, holy shit! So I said something about me having a drastic change in beliefs about 3 or 4 years ago. And the flood gates opened. As a closeted skeptic/agnostic/atheist in the south, you don’t realize how badly you desire the company of another skeptic/agnostic/atheist until you meet one. And in my case, it’s a good friend of mine! We sent several long texts back and forth. It was quite refreshing.

We wound up going to dinner about a week later and talked for three hours. And yes, we left a generous tip. I could tell that we were both excited and really needed someone to talk to about all this. Even crazier is that our serious questioning of our faith happened around the same time period. We both started our individual in-depth study of the Bible, hoping to strengthen our faith, around the same time. And then we both wound up deciding that it was all bullshit around the same time. He has a friend who is an ex-minister who is now an atheist that he wants me to meet. That should be fun!

It makes me wonder how many Christians from my past are no longer believers. I belong to a couple closed groups on social media for ex-religious folks. I keep waiting to see if anyone I know pops up. So far it hasn’t happened, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t out there. Everyone has the inherent desire to feel safe and secure, and human behavior revolves around the need to garner that sense of physical and emotional security. We all want to be accepted and validated in some way. That’s part of why I belong to the groups on social media. But I’ll tell you, it’s not the same as with a close friend. I’m so glad that I posted the comment I did on Seth’s page and that my friend noticed it. I’m sure that some great conversations await. 🙂