Archive for the 'Non-Christian attitudes' Category

24
Jul
11

Advantage Atheists?

As my post a few days ago makes clear, I see parallels often between fundamentalist Christians (or any religion’s fundies, really, I guess) and hardcore atheists.

Let’s face it: Both groups have their aggressive and argumentative evangelists, and are every bit as annoying as their mirror-image dogma-pushers.

Looking more broadly, rank-and-file Christians and rank-and-file atheists (that is, the ones who just aren’t that into converting folks or really fretting about differences in thinking) generally don’t care about their “opposite number.” Really, the average atheist can get along fine with the average Christian and vice-versa.

Yet, I have to admit that the advantage may go to atheists in one respect. Specifically, in that group of people who are serious about their beliefs (religious or non-religious) and like to espouse their opinions but aren’t trying to convert anyone. They’re the people who are just trying to prove to everyone else they’re right and looking for as much validation as they can from like-minded folks and don’t care whether you convert to their side. In fact, many of them would prefer that you didn’t because they want to continue to dislike you.

Because in that subset of Christians and atheists, they are often trying to explain things and defend positions about things like morality, environmental issues and the like. And frankly, the people who take the Bible too seriously are way more annoying and off-the-rails wrong about issues like those than are atheists using science and logic as their foundation.

Not that this realization makes atheism in any way enticing to me. Why would it? I already have made peace between faith and reason in my life. Between spirituality and logic. Between the ethereal and the carnal. But it does make me wish I could do more to shut up the embarrassing folks who keep trying to justify so many wrong attitudes in life with the Bible, citing damn near every part of it except for Jesus’ teachings.

20
Jul
11

Common Ground

I welcome spirited debate at times (and like to passively watch it occur at times) with conservative Christians and with atheists.

Lord knows, I’ve pissed off both groups, which in my mind tells me I’m doing something right.

But it occurs to me lately that both groups share some similar problems in their approach (which often makes it impossible for me to talk intelligently with some of them): Problems of context and translation.

That is, when they either go on about the inerrant nature of the Bible or the ridiculousness of its teachings, they often pay no mind to that fact that the words that they either uplift or denigrate are not always what they think they are.

Translations are sometimes not accurate, owing to a lack of precise words to capture the original meaning in English or other languages…as well as to the fact that English itself has changed since the days of the first King James Bible. Also, context is key. Teachings in the Bible were often designed for the society of the times, and it does no one any good to either shoehorn them into doing something they aren’t meant to do or can no longer achieve…nor is it good to act like they were never meant to adapt to realities of a changing world.

But hey, on the bright side, at least the most obnoxious fundies and the most aggressive atheists are working from some common falacies.

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01
Apr
10

Making the Change

It’s time. Time to bow to the inevitable. It’s been pointed out to me so many ways that faith and reason don’t mix. I’ve been faced with contradictions and challenges in my faith walk.

So I’m hanging it up. Stepping off the path I’ve been walking so long. There’s no proof of God or any higher power, so why keep looking for one?

After all, my moral code doesn’t require a higher power, does it? I can do the right thing without a god watching over my shoulder, much less an invisible one.

My circle of friends will improve. Instead of being surrounded by mindless sheeple, I can cast off those losers and move on to people whose heads are firmly in reality.

I’ll be able to reopen my mind to expand and to grow. No longer anchored by superstitious nonsense, I can stop being held back. Now when I read a book on some social issue or historical situation or intriguing person, I won’t be filtering it through my religion-clouded mind.

I will become a fully actualized human being. I will evolve to the level I was intended to. I will be free…

OK, if the sarcasm is too subtle, and you’ve forgotten that it’s April Fool’s Day, I’m doing none of that. Well, not giving up my spiritual walk, thank you very much. The growth, intellectual ability, and the rest I will pursue, but then again, I’ve always pursued them. Because believing in God and in Jesus has never held me back from any of that.

This wasn’t a post meant to tease my agnostic or atheist readers into thinking they converted me. This wasn’t meant to confused or dismay my readers who believe faith has a place in life. But being April 1, it seemed as good a time, and as good a way, as any to make a point.

The point that faith is not garbage, and it is not some universal “idiot maker.”

I’ve been down this road before in other posts, but there’s a little twist I want to make this time, based on some blowback I got at another blog when I called the blogger on some bullshit. He was making a point about the stupidity of religious folks, in this case those who believe in the Rapture, by using a video of a prank perpetrated on a Christian to make her think the Rapture had happened and she’d been left behind. Problem was that the prank was clearly a fake. Clearly it had been scripted, it was badly acted, and wasn’t a prank at all. This was pretty universally acknowledged by the blogger and the many commenters who were enjoying sticking it to the faithful.

And yet, it was still maintained that making using the video as an example of Christian stupidity, even though it was a scripted/fake situation, was justified.

Moreover, in my criticism of that tactic, and my defense of faith, some interesting comments were being hurled around. Basic themes were:

Religion/faith prevents people from engaging in critical thinking or being progressive socially and politically

Religion/faith are holding back human evolution and progress

Believing that there is no God is a harder but more rewarding path than faith

If you believe in a higher power of any kind, you are not intelligent

Those are the biggies.

Except they aren’t true. Sure, there are people who don’t think and are faithful. But you know how many people don’t really practice their presumed religions in any way…or who don’t believe…and are ALSO idiots? Do you truly think that every person who wants their “life doctrine” fed to them is religious? Really? If so, do you get out much? Not many people call President Obama the antichrist, at least not in comparison to the number who call him a socialist or fascist or jihadist.

I have deeply held faith beliefs, and yet I engage in critical thinking all the time; sometimes about my own faith.

I spent most of my life irreligious, and frankly, it’s far easier to not believe in a God. It’s really freaking easy to go through life not thinking about any higher powers and to behave as if the only consequences to our actions are those we reap on this Earth. As to whether faith or lack of faith is more rewarding, I can’t say. I suspect there is no appreciable difference as long as the person feels fulfilled in their journey. But in many ways, a faith walk is far more challenging (when properly pursued) than a non-faith walk. So don’t tell me I’ve taken the easy way.

And finally, how has religion and faith held us back? I keep hearing from so many atheists about how we won’t move forward until we shed religion.

I keep hearing about how too few Christians are “progressive” yet the moment someone like me comes along shattering that image, and talking about friends who likewise shatter that image, we’re branded as apologists who just work in new fantasies to fill the gaps. We go from being socially irresponsible idiot to mostly harmless idiots.

Scientists can make as many fancy theories of unproved and unobserved things as they want to fill in the gaps. But add an intelligence to something unseen and unprovable, and you’re a mindless automaton.

But you see, as much as these things annoy me, in the way they disregard and marginalize people like me, that isn’t the real point of my rant. Yes, once again, as so often happens in this blog, I’ve done something I almost never do in an article about some pharma business deal or information technology trend: I buried the lead.

Here’s what bothers me and what I don’t understand:

Why must the most intellectual and/or pompous atheists insist on a “scorched earth policy” in which the only good world is one without religion, whether formal and institutionalized or a more personalized spirituality?

I mean, really? These folks claim that religion hampers our progress.

Truly?

How?

Most of our technological and scientific and artistic outpourings have taken place in cultures in which religion was important. Even in these relatively secular days since the late 20th century, we still have an estimated 5 or 6 billion people out of around 7 billion who claim to have some kind of religious or spiritual belief. And yet we have these huge advances in genomics, information technology, energy, conservation, and more. Art continues to be put out, whether purile or thought-provoking, family friendly or aggressively provocative. Social advances continue.

Even with the most egregious example lately of religion and science butting heads, which would be the embryonic stem cell debate, religion stopped nothing. In fact, it hardly even put a dent in stem cell research, even with President George W. Bush backing it. In fact, that debacle, as embarrassing as I may consider it as a progressive Christian, ultimately forced researchers into a much better direction anyway, and one that is more practical long-term: figuring out how to make adult stem cells act more like embryonic ones so that they can be changed into any kind of cell in the body. Huge advances are being made there, and not an embryo in sight.

Where is this fantasy world that so many atheists concoct where they are persecuted and humanity is being held back in some primitive mode?

Because, frankly, science marches on, and so does everything else.

And oh, by the way, how about the large number of scientists who still believe in God? I’ve seen the figure at over 60% as recently as 2005. Just because some of the more notable ones with big book publishing deals like Stephen Hawking don’t believe in God doesn’t make it a universal belief.

Oh, yeah, I saw one guy dismiss that 60%+ figure by citing a survey of “leading scientists,” limiting the pool only to members of the National Academy of Sciences and ignoring the multitude of other scientists out there. (I guess by this guy’s standard, if anyone polls journalists about something, I can’t be included because I didn’t join a professional journalism society. So much for the bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and more than 20 years of experience…)

Science includes elements of faith. Faith can include elements of reason. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Moreover, if atheists are waiting for that magical utopia wherein there is no faith in higher powers, they are going to be waiting a long time. And when that time comes, if it ever does, I’m pretty confident we’ll have a world with just as much intolerance, just as much violence and just as much ignorance as we have throughout history so far.

11
Jan
10

People Treated Badly by Miz Pink

I forget how hard it is to be Christian because it’s so easy to be Muslim

– Aasif Mandvi, “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”

I’m a little behind in my viewing of Jonny Stewart (and my other honey-bunn…Stevie Colbert) but when I saw the segment in which the quote above took place, it made me laugh. It was in response to Brit Hume complaining about how Christians get crap the minute they spout their view (after he basically siad on air that Tiger Woods should find Jesus and repent and oh by the way Buddhism is a substandard faith.).

Now, I agree with Aasif and Jon at the juxtaposition of Christianity and Muslim faith here but I also disagree.

Ya see, it is true that is ain’t easy being Muslim these days especiallly here in the old U.S. of A. You get profiled and passengers look at you funny if you LOOK Muslim…even if yer just a secular Arab or an African or what have ya. Muslims as a whole get blamed for the evils of a select group and their religion is painted by many conservative frothy mouth types as being inherently violent. So yeah it ain’t easy being muslim.

On the other hand there is some truth to Brit Hume’s complain too. No Chrisitians don’t get persecuted and profiled but people do make big judgements if you ID yourself as Chrisitian or God forbid mention Jesus as anythin but just a cool guy with neato philosophies. If he’s your savior then you must be a kook. I have had peopel entirely revise their opinions of me at work after months upon months of knowing me and shun me because I mentioned in passing that I follow Jesus as my savior. They act like they know my whole personality and motives and secret plans (apparently to convert them) in ways they never to do to someone who IDs as a Jew or a Witch or a Hindi.

No its true that no one is going to strip search me for being Chrisitian in this country but it isn’t as easy being a Christian as a lot of non Christian types would like to believe.

30
Nov
09

Balanced, Not Superstitous

I’m sure this post will earn some guffaws and maybe some blow-back from my loyal readers who happen to be atheists or semi-militant agnostics, but here goes…

My belief in God, and Jesus for that matter, is not a sign of any of the following:

  • Fear of death
  • Insecurity
  • Superstition
  • Desire to belong to a group
  • An aching emptiness inside that I wanted to fill
  • Delusion
  • Idiocy
  • Lack of scientific awareness
  • Immaturity

In fact, I see a lot of maturity and balance in my worldview. And that is because I deny neither the scientific nor the spiritual. I’m not saying I have all the answers in life, but what I do have is a lot of internal security and well-being.

I don’t understand when entirely secular folks insist that to be fully mature, I must deny my belief in, and search for, spiritual meaning. Just as I don’t understand religious people who insist on ignoring science and reason.

Humans have sought spiritual discernment for a long time, and for quite a number of centuries (in fact, a couple millennia at least), it hasn’t been about explaining why it rains or how the sun moves across the sky or anything like that. It’s been about a deeper kind of meaning. People who dismiss religion as an artifact of ignorant ancient goat herders is doing a disservice to goat herders (many of whom, I am sure, had deeper thoughts than screwing their herd-stock and picking at their asses) and a disservice to spiritual seekers.

Yes, there was a time when religion was all about explaining worldly things. But as people have advanced, so has the depth and maturity of spiritual seeking. Sure, there are plenty of idiots in the world who follow religion and religious leaders blindly and skim only the surface of religious precepts, but most people seem to prefer following someone than thinking for themselves.

Funny thing is, spiritual seeking, while it cannot follow the scientific method, does still follow the same general progression as science. That is, as humans have advanced, so has the study. Science was once a pretty pathetically ignorant, simplistic and sketchy affair, just like religion.

The problem is that the more we figure out about the world, the more full of ourselves and our intelligence we become, and the more we think we don’t need God. We are not slowly disproving God, but simply pushing him aside unnecessarily.

If more believers would be mature about their spiritual seeking, and more non-believers would stop ridiculing those who are trying to find spiritual meaning, maybe religion wouldn’t be the mess it has become these days. Now, both sides, secular and religious, essentially call the other side a bunch of heretics, which solves nothing.

I can already see one retort coming.

But science is rational. Science doesn’t lead to oppression or wars!

Wrong.

Maybe it doesn’t have the same track record right now, but religion had a hell of a head start. People can blindly follow a scientific theory or finding as much as a biblical principle. Science and research can be twisted, skewed and misrepresented.

Hmmmm. Just like religion.

The Nazis based their genocidal campaign in World War II based on “science” that showed Aryans were superior. Noted intellects justified slavery by “proving” that Blacks weren’t as evolved or even as human as Whites. Medical science can downplay the horrors of abortion, even as it can also be used to overplay them. Research shows us that it isn’t cost-effective or “useful” to pay for certain types of medical screening or healthcare, and so insurance companies and hospital executives can oppress us to sickness or even death. Religious groups can call homosexuals deviant because they can point to a¬† lack of scientific proof that same-sex desires are inherited rather than learned or chosen. Need I go on?

Science is on pace to do everything that religion did and more. It can bring us together in understanding and truth and good guidance. And it can tear us apart.

Science is not the be-all and end-all of human experience, and it never will be. Nor shall religion or any kind of spiritual pursuit. I maintain that both are entirely necessary to being mature humans.

29
Aug
09

Me Myself and I by Miz Pink

pink-blonde-hairedI don’t have much pithy to say, but I did tell Deke I’d be popping in more. But going a little off the recent thread that had him and Big Man trading philosophical blows with Tit For Tat…

…why is it that I have to be judged by the people who share my religion?

I mean it’s one thing to be judged by the people I choose as my close friends, or to be judged by my action or something.

But by people in my religion?

Does that mean I have to judge all Democrats by the Kennedy family? Or all Republicans by the Bush family? Or I meet one Buddhist and decide that if he’s a jerk, all Buddhists must be be jerks?

I just don’t get how if folks do somethin nasty with the Bible and twist it all around why do I have to be the one to answer for their dirty deeds and why do I have to be judged by their bad example?

Did I miss the memo where each group is a monolithic entity and everyone in a certain group is in groupthink mode?

29
Jul
09

All Those Unanswered Prayers

So, I haven’t had much in the way of ideas lately (the blog will go on; just not sure if it will get updated more than a few times a week though…we’ll see) so I decided to pray for a little guidance.

And the answer I got was to, well, talk about prayer. Fitting, eh? Also, with this tiny revelation came the thought to link my topic with something another blogger, BlackGirlInMaine, had posted about recently at her place.

In her post “The follow-up” she reprints a column she wrote on the topic of race and more specifically perceived racism. In it, she notes that when she suspects racism against her, white people are often quick to come up with alternate scenarios, invalidating both her instincts and a lifetime of experience she had with something they have never had to deal with personally.

This is the way I feel when, for example, someone like The Word of Me (and I love you, TWOM, and want you to keep commenting; I’m not knocking you) comes into the comments and questions the validity of prayer, as he did for this post here in comment #10.

I could go on all day about what Jesus meant when he said anything asked in his name would be given, why God couldn’t possibly grant all prayers since some would be in direct conflict, the difference between a proper prayer and a selfish one, etc. etc. etc.

But I won’t.

What I will do is ask this: Why must some huge prayer-fulfillment event be the proof that prayer works? Why must most prayers be answered to prove there is a purpose and place for prayer? Why must I provide outside evidence of the power of prayer?

Much like racism, it’s something that one experiences quite personally. I believe in the power of prayer because prayers have been answered for me.

I pray for strength, and I usually get just enough fortitude to get me through what was previously crushing me.

I pray for help when a financial crisis rocks my family, and before long, I get a gift or an opportunity that provides me with just enough money to get past that crisis.

I pray¬†guidance in writing a blog post, and when I open my Bible, a highlighted passage is staring me in the face (and I don’t highlight very many passages in my Bible) and I almost immediately know what I am supposed to say about that passage.

No, not all my prayers are answered. But many of them don’t deserve to be, and I know that in many cases once I’ve had time to think about it. Hell, I know that a lot of the times when I’m doing the praying.

The point is, I have a very personal experience with prayer. To require me to seek out some proof of its power is to essentially tell me I’m delusional to some degree. Because you’re saying that the proof in my own life isn’t enough. That I cannot trust my own experiences.

I’m not the kind of guy who ever looked for a savior, you know. I’m not the kind of guy who ever wanted a God who expects me to answer for my sins. I’m really not. It would be much easier to pick a religion that is less demanding of my spirit or to pick no religion at all. But I am a Christian because I feel the truth in it, not because I chose it. Likewise, I have experienced what prayer can do.

I’m not saying that I can prove to you prayer has power simply based on my own anecdotal experience. I’m just saying that you cannot demand that I offer up proof it works¬†and that in the absence of statistics and correlations and visible proof I must reject that it has any value.

I can’t prove that I really love my wife or that she loves me. I can’t provide hard evidence that love exists between us. I can only say that I feel it and know it is there. But it would be easy to say it’s just a delusion based on neurotransmitters or that it’s something that only has short-term value and really never lasts.

And, as I noted before by referencing BGIM’s post, you can invalidate a person’s claims of racism by simply saying, “Well, how can you be sure?”

But that’s just a way to tear the other person down a little, whether you intend it or not. Because it’s easy to pick apart subtle or ephemeral things when you aren’t in the midst of them.

Prayer works for me. And so I know it’s real and powerful.

That’s may not be good enough for some of you out there. But it’s good enough for me.




Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley

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