Showing posts with label christian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label christian. Show all posts

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Anglican Church Cannot Accept Gay Marriage Because "Christians Could Get Hurt"

Head of Church of England, Archbishop Justin Welby (source)
The head of the Church of England, Justin Welby, was on a radio program not long ago where he had a very interesting response to the question of his church accepting same-sex marriage.

African Christians will be killed if church accepts gay marriage warns Anglican leader
He was asked by one caller as to whether the Church of England would accept same-sex marriage after it was legalized. 
Welby replied, "The impact of that on Christians in countries far from here, like South Sudan, like Pakistan, Nigeria and other places would be absolutely catastrophic and we have to love them as much as the people who are here."
Basically, he's saying that although it pains him in the middle of the night to see the mistreatment of LGTBI people in Britain, he has to balance that suffering with the kind of persecution Anglicans may receive in African states where being gay is illegal.

This comparison is pretty odd on this front alone, but what's really odd is how he seems to completely ignore the plight of LGBTI people internationally.

I'm sure Welby is a smart man - he was made head of a major international religious organization. So I can only imagine that he must be aware of the dreadful treatment of homosexuals in places like Nigeria or Russia - where they are stone to death and beaten in the streets. Surely that would change his calculus?

I don't really know what to make of him simply leaving these people to suffer and die when regional church leaders often use the positions of organizations like his to justify ongoing persecution.

Savi Hensman on his blog over at Ekklesia asks the same question that hit me.
I do not doubt his sincerity. However in the interview he failed to acknowledge the even greater suffering of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) Christians in some non-western countries, and the responsibility of certain church leaders there for stoking up violent hatred, which may have backfired.
Amen!

Perhaps Welby is more worried about the future of his Church than the future of LGTB people in the UK and all across the world. Perhaps he doesn't want a schism similar to the internal conflict that struck the church regarding women clergy.

One bishop, the head of the Uganda Anglican Church, has already more or less threatened they'd leave if the C. of E. ever endorsed gay marriage.

Priorities. Priorities.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Trinity Western Law School: Setting The Tone For Discrimination

(source)
At the time of writing this post, in the United States, seventeen states have already legalized same-sex marriage. Things are changing faster than anyone could imagine with the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell (DOMA). Internationally, it seems like another country legalizes same-sex marriage every other week.

Here in Canada, we enjoy legal same-sex marriage in all of our provinces and territories. We were actually the fourth country to legalize it, which makes me very proud to be a Canadian.

University of Ottawa law student St├ęphane Erickson wrote an excellent opinion piece in the Globe & Mail about how the upcoming Trinity Western law school is in the wrong for discriminating against students who are in relationships with partners of the same sex.

Trinity Western law school has no right to judge its gay students

But all legal jargon aside; let’s call a spade a spade. This is wrong. It’s plain wrong. Denying access to education – above all legal education – based on one’s sexual orientation or lifestyle choices is wrong. Whether it’s a private institution or a public institution, it remains wrong. It’s wrong because it is hateful. It conveys the message that religion can indeed be used as shield, as a cloak, to discriminate, to judge and to perpetuate vile and harmful ideas – be it against women, ethnicities, sexual minorities, or other contributors to society that have been historically and systematically forced to silence, to shame, to the periphery.
Erickson has a good if not tragic point; he is himself a gay Roman Catholic. The Vatican has a huge problem with homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

His questions are good ones. How can a single law school respect both secular laws and their bronze age mythology at the same time? How can they serve two masters?

At the end of his piece, he asks this poignant question.
I therefore ask this of Canada’s soon-to-be law school: If a person is gay and loves another person of the same sex, and seeks to further his or her understanding of the law, notably in the areas of religious freedoms, and has good will, on which authority do you stand to judge him or her?
My answer is a simple one. They base it on their book, naturally. How could they do otherwise?

This new institution is for young students who ultimately wish to learn about the LAW. This is more than the petty laws of humans; those which have helped bring about some measure of equality for men who love men and women who love women. These young minds will learn how to fold and bend human temporal laws to serve their ultimate religious law, to serve their mission.

I think this will be a school which enslaves the law of the land to the verses of a book which would ultimately have gays and lesbians regulated back to their historical position of persecution.

Erickson deftly expresses concerns that underlie my objections to the school and no doubt the objections of many others.
The obvious questions follow: How is a law school, which does not recognize the legitimacy of civil unions, same-sex marriage, and non-traditional family structures, going to ensure an accurate and sincere legal education? How is the Charter going to be taught with respect to women’s rights, LGBT rights, and other issues pertaining to sections 15 and 7? Moreover, and maybe most importantly, how is the school going to ensure that students feel safe in an environment morally bound by religious doctrine and skewed interpretations of sacred texts? All these questions have been asked, with no – or very few – answers from the University.
I think the answer is apparent. They have no real intention of doing this. This is why they require their own separate school. This is why they have cloistered themselves away. Society is growing increasingly suspicious and intolerant of their attitudes towards LGBT rights.

Canadian society and its laws have become a hostile place full of scorn and ridicule for those who do not approve of the increasing public acceptance of LGBT people.  They cannot tolerate LGBT people being in relationships with those they love, marrying, having or adopting children -- living their lives and treated like human beings.

The condemnation of the homosexual lifestyle as a kind of sickness by the religious seems more and more ridiculous and vile with each passing day. As multiple sexual orientations and gender identities become ever more normalized in a more broadly inclusive society, it is these people who are left in the dust. Frankly, they start looking like the religious who were on the wrong side of the civil rights movement.

I believe the creators of this new law school don't like the direction things are going. Maybe they will try to raise an army of lawyers to swing the pendulum backwards. One can only hope they fail.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Churches In Kenya Refusing to Vaccinate Their Children

Okay, this weeks' Witchcraft Wednesdays is too action packed for me to fit into a single post. So I'm breaking it up into mini posts. Here's the first ranty one.

So, religiously motivated anti-vaxers in Kenya.

Sects lock health officials out in polio vaccination drive
Health workers administering the polio vaccine faced fierce resistance Tuesday from more than 30 families who subscribe to a sect that does not believe in modern medicine. Armed with machetes, stones and other crude weapons, villagers from Piavi-Subukia in Njoro, Nakuru County, protested against the vaccination, hurling insults at journalists and health workers as they locked their children in the houses. The villagers are said to be members of a sect called Church of God.
I like how the article refers to the church as a sect rather than a church even though I'm pretty sure it's just another brand of Christianity. At least this implies they also believe these families are nuts.

The CDC gives Kenya a Level 2 warning on their three level severity chart when it comes to polio risk. So polio is a real risk in Kenya.

One parent claimed that since Jesus never took drugs (cuz it don't say in the B-ay-b-el) it means his children shouldn't either. It's surprising to me that he didn't recall that he's the one who believes this Jesus fellow was god and rose from the dead. Those are some pretty spiffy tricks that I doubt his children have when it comes to polio affliction.

Authorities did the right thing and wrestled the villagers down forcing the vaccine drops into the mouths of the children -- who are innocent in all of this tragedy and do not deserve to be crippled or die because their parents think medicine is witchcraft.
“You are worldly people out to tarnish the hearts of our children. You are evil and your drugs are witchcraft,” he shouted amid fist fights.
Many of the women were in tears watching their children get the drops. One woman told media that she forgave her parents for forcing her to get the drops because they were unsaved.

Another religious cult resisting immunization is called Yesu Ma Kende, which I know has something to do with Jesus because Yesu is apparently Jesus in Swahili. However, ma seems to mean Mother and Kende apparently means scrotum or testes. So, yeah, I'm not sure what's going on there. Any Swahili speakers, please help me out.
‘‘You are my enemies and are looking for trouble; you are going against my faith. I have always tried to explain to you my case, but you don’t listen. I made a vow with my Lord that I will never accept immunisation, lest disaster befalls me,’’ she said. 
It really goes to show how religious faith and conviction can really backfire and lead to people being immunized from facts and reality. And of course, it's little children that will suffer.

And another church.
The couple, members of a Dini ya Yesu church from Nyamusi area, said they believe it is only God who has powers to heal humankind. Followers of the church believe the sick should not seek treatment from hospitals. 
Isn't it amazing how religious superstition can delude parents enough to turn against science and ultimately let their children die of polio?

Here's a picture of iron lungs that were used in America as recently as the 1950s to keep adults and little children alive when their own muscles were too weak to even breathe after their bodies were wracked with polio. Oh and if you do survive, you can end up with permanent damage and crippled for life.

Iron lungs (source). I believe the person to the lower left is a young child.
During the polio epidemics, the iron lung saved many thousands of lives, but the machine was large, cumbersome and very expensive: in the 1930s, an iron lung cost about $1,500 - about the same price as the average home. The cost of running the machine was also prohibitive, as patients were encased in the metal chambers for months, years and sometimes for life: even with an iron lung the fatality rate for patients with bulbar polio exceeded 90%. (source)
Could you imagine your son or daughter being constrained to a breathing machine for life because they didn't have access to a few drops of vaccine? Thank you, religious nonsense.
In the United States, the 1952 polio epidemic would be the worst outbreak in the nation's history, and is credited with heightening parents’ fears of the disease and focusing public awareness on the need for a vaccine. Of the 57,628 cases reported that year 3,145 died and 21,269 were left with mild to disabling paralysis.
Read my lips: Take... the... drops... because... Jesus... didn't... help... these.. children.

Friday, 3 January 2014

Nicholas Frankovich Wonders If Atheists Really Exist

William F. Buckley Jr. leaning precariously, as he often did. To my knowledge
he never fell while on the air.
Back in 1955, legendary conservative brain-person, William F. Buckley Jr. -- with whom I would have loved to hang out in his younger days were I alive and had enough cash on hand -- founded a magazine called the National Review.

He was no doubt a very smart and charming sort of fellow. This made him all the more aggravating to listen to back in my proto-liberal childhood days.

I was subjected to near lethal doses of him on his Firing Line programme, where he always seemed to win pretty much any argument. I didn't understand the topics at hand, but I can remember waiting and hoping he would fall over on his chair from over extending the upper part of his body to the side.

I suppose this made me a mischievous little runt, but please forgive me. If memory serves, he came on right after the Lawrence Welk Show and no amount of bubble machine could save me from that sheer boredom. So by the time Buckley's stuffy baroque theme song bounced around our living room, I was already desperate for stimulus. I'm sorry, Bach.

I also recall eating a lot of roast beef with horseradish and Yorkshire Pudding on those evenings. Honestly, if we were any white-Traditional-Catholic-conservative the albedo of the planet would have increased and global cooling would have surely set in.

Buckley wrote this:
“I believe that the duel between Christianity and atheism is the most important in the world. I further believe that the struggle between individualism and collectivism is the same struggle reproduced on another level.” 
Meanwhile, Nicholas Frankovich writes for the National Review and he wants to know if atheists exist.

Do Atheists Exist?

A new “godless” church makes you wonder. 

What other kind of church would atheists make?

Of course, William F. Buckley Jr. had that one right. Yes, Nicholas, they do exist. Let's dive a little into his interesting essay anyway.

He's talking about the Sunday Assembly phenomenon, which I've been covering on and off since their beginning.
“Church has got so many awesome things going for it (which we’ve shamelessly nicked),” Jones and Evans confess in a short piece that appeared in the New York Times to mark the launch of their venture. Stuart Balkham, an earnest convert, told the Guardian that at a London meeting he attended the Assembly was “unashamedly copying a familiar Church of England format,” which he thought was great.
Frankovich can't understand how atheists, agnostics and nones can just get together in a room and be happy together while celebrating life and science and feeling awe at existence.

His first mistake seems to be to assume that atheism could actually be a religion -- which it isn't. But even if it where, this doesn't make it something other than atheism. Like many other religious writers I've seen, he seems to smuggle extra meaning into a word that ultimately means nothing more than non-belief in any gods and then tries to cancel it out.
If “religion” remains the inevitable word for a certain moral and philosophical seriousness, however, atheism is, or should be, counted as religious after all.
No. A certain moral and philosophical seriousness does not have to be religion. In fact, I would say that religion lowers the bar, muddies and dilutes proper consideration of ethical questions. Anyway, he makes a pretty good point that some mainline Protestant religions and some world religions are either so watered down or overtly atheist. It then sort of gets thrown away.

Okay, I love this sentence!
We live in a post-secular age, having run up against the limitations of procedural liberalism, which, while regulating the market on which God and the Devil compete for souls, remains scrupulously disinterested in the outcome.
I believe the theory is that secularists now have control over the rules of war between these two fictional characters and they don't care -- maybe because they are made up characters.

He then mentions a few atheists whom I've never heard of who are actually suggesting more religion for us all because our culture derives its morals from religion. My only response to this is relief that I've never heard of these so-called atheists, because they sound like terrible human beings if their only solution for us is to feed more delusions to the hoi polloi. Really, shame on them for thinking so lowly of human kind.

He then proceeds to pick away at the stated goals of the Sunday Assembly.
Wonder more: No one disputes that atheism is compatible with wonder at the physical universe and how it works. Wonder at how it came to be just so, however, soon leads to wonder at how it came to be at all, a question that atheists typically sidestep. The pleasure of contemplating it is forbidden fruit to which the Sunday Assembly approaches nearer than a good atheist ought.
Wow, does this ever annoy me. It's astounding that the finger is pointed at us for sidestepping the question of why there is something and how it came to be. While an honest admission of we don't know (yet) is apparently a sidestep, the bold and unsubstantiated claim that some magical man in the sky did it all by snapping his fingers is a perfectly reasonable solution to the problem? He then caps this off by throwing in what a good atheist ought not to do. This motif of defining our proper behaviour - what a good atheist should be -- from without is showing up with ever increasing frequency in theist essays.

He seems to almost recognize that accusing atheists of not having a proper answer for everything demands he back it up with his own theory. He does this in the ever predictable way: Mystery that nobody can ever hope to understand!
Philosophically if not historically, the theism of Judaism and Christianity, as well as of Islam and major religious currents outside the Western tradition, begins with the observation that the mystery of being is irreducibly mysterious, absolutely immune to attempts at demystifying it. 
You atheists don't have an answer! But we do! It's God! What's that, you ask? Mystery!

Then, like Dante, we are whisked down into several strata of something, I guess. The path is so windy, it's hard to say where we're going. Once someone pulls out Wittgenstein, you can bet that all hope for clear understanding is near totally lost.
The articulation of thought about what that mystery is — “Not how the world is, is the mystical, but that it is,” in Wittgenstein’s succinct rendition of the matter — has been so honed by succeeding generations of thinkers descended from the union of Greek philosophy and Jewish, Christian, and Islamic theology that it’s now difficult for anyone, whether theist or atheist, to improve on their exact formulations. So the atheist seeking to communicate an accurate answer to the question “Why is there not nothing?” will find himself borrowing theologically inflected terminology. Inescapably, he affirms the most fundamental of theological precepts. He agrees with it implicitly. He asserts that he doesn’t. His disagreement is first of all with himself.
Yeah, sure. Now which shell is the peanut under? I've completely lost track.

Well, once that's all been explained, he moves the post further by claiming that the God folks like Dawkins is attacking isn't the real God anyway. How convenient. 

Next stratum: Talking about Greek and Hebrew translations of the verb to be.

Next stratum: Hellenism's spread over the Mediterranean. Plato. Aristotle. Thomas Aquinas. Latin translation of the verb to be.

Next stratum: Moses asking God why there's something other than nothing and God can't stop talking about himself.

Next stratum: Atheists attack a personal god who's a patriarch -- you know, the one in the Bible -- but that's not really God (see above).

Next stratum: He blames Atheists for being too impatient in their understanding of God. They are too quick to assume the've understood God (something that apparently cannot be understood at any intellectual level) before dismissing him (as some kind of funny feeling). Apparently, the closest answer to the question is a feeling. Yeah, not good enough. The burden is on the theist to make their case.

Next stratum: Quantum theory. The nothing of vacuum that still has the random coming into existence and bursting away into non-existence of particles. Brace yourself for a possible Chopra Maneuver.

Finally, God is stripped of any sort of personal or knowable structure and reduced down to Nothing at all! Because, nothing is still something.
It’s become too familiar, this ordinary English word for what we tend to talk around rather than talk about. So forget “God.” Call him “Nothing,” if you prefer
The mistake Frankovich seems to make here seems to be common among theists. Everything is something in language. Nothing, like God, is a word. I can make up another one -- blauberbluch. I define this word to mean both nothing and something at the same time. After all, nothing is something... it's a word. 

There is no such thing as nothing because as soon as it's something it's not nothing -- unless you're just talking about words.
Notice how “nothing” can function for the atheist as “God” does for the theist. Are the two only using different linguistic tokens in parallel efforts to express the same ineffable thought? 
It's amazing. It's like God and nothing are somehow equivalent!
No, following wonder to its logical conclusion does not by itself make an atheist suddenly Jewish, Christian, or Muslim. It only means he’s not an atheist. Someone should tell him. 
No. He's still an atheist who is filled with awe for life and the world and happy to be on this planet.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

My Manic Mailbag: Christian Leadership Coach Wants Me to Publish His Articles or Review His Book?

(source)
I guess my blog has been around long enough to attract a higher level of spam these days. And it's only with the spirit of Christmastide that I now share it with you. Happy Holidays!

I got this email a few days ago from Sarah.
Hi There  
I am Mark Furlong's assistant. We are very interested to contribute to your site.  You can view our website here: http://www.markfurlongcoaching.com. We can deliver quality articles that your readers will certainly be interested in. We will also promote your site in return for this favor. 
Mark Furlong also just recently published a new book entitled The Divine Design: How to Receive God in Your Everyday Life.  It is a short book (25,000 words) which focuses on the priority of connecting and receiving the life God so gladly shares through Jesus. He is a Bible teacher and leadership coach and these teachings have been well received wherever he taught them. It is available here http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00FOG58CA .
Let me know if a book review or a guest post will do better for your site. 
I am excited to hear from you. 
I'm also very excited to do such a review! I eagerly emailed a response saying it would be my utmost pleasure to review the book on my site. The last review of a Christian book took up a whole series on this blog. Granted, it wasn't a very favourable review. But who knows! Maybe this book will convert me to Jesus!

Mark Furlong's site promises that his services will help you:
Maximize Your Impact. Become an Entrepreneurial-Minded Business or Ministry Leader People Want to Follow.
Well, I've heard from people in the Clergy Project that running a ministry is very much like running a business. In fact, it's often one of the only truly transferable skills ex-pastors can leverage when coming out as atheist.

Anyway, here's hoping I get my free copy!

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Conservative, "Radical" Feminist & Evangelical Christian Want Team Up to Block Online Porn

A few seconds of "stable" image (source).
I can remember when my father bought me a combination boombox and black and white television. It was a highlight of my childhood.

Sitting in my room, alone, I laughed at David Letterman (I think he was better in the 90s) and terrified myself watching The Day After and other nuclear war themed movies from that era.

Then there were those latenight softcore movies always on the French channel - a stark contrast to the anglophone offerings of blood, guns and explosions. Inevitably, things would just start getting interesting at the moment they cut for commercial!

And then there were those scrambled channels on the downstairs television, which was hooked up to cable. I can remember weekends after staying up watching a 2 hour Doctor Who marathon on PBS. I would tune into these channels and wait, hoping to catch something for a few seconds when the picture stabilized. The colours were all still inverted, of course. Around the same time, modem-based BBS systems allowed me to download images at a painfully slow rate - so long as my mom didn't pick the phone up.

Forgive me. I was a 12 year old boy.

Well now a conservative MP, a radical feminist and an evangelical Christian have joined together to block online porn.

Apparently, it's become a PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY SITUATION by just the sorts of people you'd expect to find it so.

Conservative MP, radical feminist and evangelical Christian come together to block online porn in Canada

They want to have ISPs monitor and block objectionable online content -- for now, it's pornography, maybe later atheism? -- and force people to opt-in if they wish to see it. They claim to be doing it to protect the children but I think it's pretty evident none of them would shed a tear if all porn just disappeared completely.
“If we can get a man on the moon, certainly we can figure out a way to protect children from unwanted porn,” said Winnipeg Conservative MP Joy Smith, who is formulating a private member’s bill that would automatically block access to online pornography. Anyone wanting to access porn would have to contact their Internet service providers.
And, naturally, the ISPs would have to charge some kind of fee for this activation. It would drive up the price of such material and likely have a negative impact on the porn producers - but it's all for the kids.

There is, of course, a simpler approach. It involved monitoring your kids rather than letting the computer be a babysitting device. In fact, it's evangelical Christians who have come up with services to do just that. There are many monitoring and blocking services out there for parents to choose from. It is even possible to monitor the sites visited at the hardware level in your router itself.
Anti-Internet-censorship activist Bennett Haselton, founder of peacefire.org, a website that creates portals to get around blocked sites, said the burden of proof should be on anti-porn activists ‘‘to show that what they are blocking is harmful somehow.” 
“In the United States and Canada and most other developed countries, an entire generation now has grown up that, for the most part, actually did have unrestricted Internet access, and they’re not mentally warped by it. There’s no evidence that they’ve been harmed by it,” said Mr. Haselton.
Even so, as a parent, I don't want my child to see pornography. Listen, I get it.

So, for the time being, I've locked the IPAD and have removed the web browser ability. We've also put in "safe browsing" mode for the Youtube app. Later, when he gets more savvy, I will add reporting software to our router so I will be kept abreast of which device is going where. Perhaps I'll also purchase some additional software.

But among some of my most technically savvy friends there is one common thread. They all know that the best filters and blockers (even run by the ISP) can be worked around.
Mr. Haselton, however, said filters may not pose accessibility issues for internet-savvy individuals. “No filter blocks new proxy sites after they’re released, so if people can get access to proxy sites, then, yes, they can get around the filters,” he said.
And that's why my geeky friends all use the simplest and most effective means. They put their child's computer in a public place, like the kitchen! And they turn off the Internet connection or block the device from the Internet during times where it cannot be monitored. It's simple! It's like the television.

I tell you what. Why not have this as opt-in program for parents who wish to have their Internet filtered by censoring companies - who may very well either be fundamentalist Christian or have a widely evangelical customer base. Then, rather than charging people who do not want every website they visit logged, scrutinized, categorized and potentially blocked, they can charge those who don't mind some company controlling what they should or should not see.

The Conservative MP, Joy Smith, claims she received a letter from a distraught 10 year old who feels horrible for having viewed porn.
“Yesterday, I got a letter from a young boy 10 years of age telling me he was addicted to porn,” she said. “It just brought me to tears.”
For real? What 10 year old boy would even know he's addicted to porn? And what ten year old boy would think of writing a letter to his MP!  Please!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Atheist & Pastor Develop Temporary "Mini-Shelters" For Homeless

Jeff Gruban (left) and Pastor Ward Draper. (source)
It's nice to see atheists and religious folk cooperate. I don't mean backing down or compromising your beliefs or principles. I mean setting them aside every so often to combine forces and do some good for the community.

Well, this happened in Abbotsford, BC recently.

Mobile homeless shelter tested in Abbotsford: 
Home on wheels developed by local pastor and atheist for $200

It's actually all over the local news. Ward Draper is pastor of 5-and-2 ministries while Jeff Gruban is a spokesperson for the Fraser Valley Atheists, Skeptics and Humanists.
The shelter – two metres long by 0.9 metres wide by 1.2 metres tall – has an axle with two hard wheels on it and a castor on the front, along with handles, a locking door, a sliding window and some shelving. The structure also has a sealed corrugated plastic roof. 
"These little shelters are more sealed than a tent and they're up off the ground so people can stay drier," says Gruban.
The city mayor is impressed with the initiative but is cautious for now and would like to halt further development. He would like to ensure that the structures are safe and meet various fire and health codes.
Banman said he didn’t want to see the city become “the bad guy” if it had to nix the shelters if serious concerns arise after they’re built. 
Fire safety, adequate ventilation, exiting the shelter and personal security were all issues that need to be examined and vetted with fire, police and health officials, he said.
Draper believes these structures (which can be locked from the inside) are far safer than tents - many homeless use candles for light and presumably warmth. Besides, these trailers are off the wet ground and more sturdy in winds.

They plan to build around 40 units and secure some land for a semi-permanent homeless trailer park similar to Portland's Dignity Village homeless community. The goal of such a community would be to house homeless people until more permanent housing could be built.

Stanley Woodvine on his blog sqwaab is not impressed by the new mobile structures and has some good points.
Remember, this is Abbotsford, part of British Columbia’s Bible Belt — God forbids a lot here. But I agree with his Worship, the boxes look like rickety fire traps. And, I for one wouldn’t want to be tucked into one when rowdy, young, weekend drunks happen along. This is a class of individual who never tire of knocking over mailboxes, and, newspaper boxes, and, occasionally setting fire to things.
He also brought up waterproofing issues with the particle board and how the mayor put out a soundbite that he was impressed with the initiative and then, at the same time, put on the brakes so no more could be made.

I guess these houses on wheels would also be easier for police to whisk away than tents as well?

Well, anyway, it's nice to see people working together.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Hold On To Your Brains, Seattle!

1950s horror movie meets evolutionary pseudoscience... with a dash of
religious philosophy.
At least a decade ago, used to frequent a local repertoire cinema here in Montreal.  Almost every Friday they would offer up some ghastly B-movie for our viewing pleasure and I would eat that cheese up with extra crackers.

So, Seattle, what are you doing this coming Friday?  Well, our spinner-of-pseudoscientific-yarns friends over at the Discovery Institute have just the thing for you.  It's a double feature! Bring your 3-D glasses and sick bags because it's going to be a B-movie kind of ride.

Friday in Seattle, Plantinga Will Speak on "Why Science Needs Religion: Science's Untold Conflict with Atheism"




You know, what remains of my brain after the understandable mind-implosion his material caused can remember little of Plantinga's work.  I think it was Jon Loftus' book Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity that introduced me to him but my memory for things like this is fuzzy. Perhaps my subconscious mind is shielding my ego from past traumas? All I remember is whatever Plantinga was trying to convey to me didn't seem to resemble anything vaguely close to Christianity - at least on this planet.

You can find some discussion of Plantinga over at the Sandwalk blog, Alvin Plantinga Explains Why Naturalistic Evolution Is a Self-Defeating Proposition.
Alvin Plantinga looking like he needs a heated
room with a chair.
Since the Renaissance, atheist academics have preached that science is the antidote to belief in God. In response. Plantinga (Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism) claims that atheism in fact undermines scientific theories and that religious beliefs support and encourage scientific inquiry. ...
In Where the Conflict Really Lies, he explains why claims by leading scientific atheists are unconvincing and shows how science can in fact bolster the case for theism. 
And his ideas are taking the scientific community by storm!  Right now, as we speak, Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss are holed up in an undisclosed location, doors barricaded... in hiding!  No, wait, that's not happening at all.  In fact, it seems to be the opposite, actually.  I wonder why that is?

You'll also get to see Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Jay Richards, who famously debated Christopher Hitchens as a lead up to the movie Expelled.  Ben Stein moderated.

As you probably know, the Discovery Institute in Seattle have been known to have an out of this world view of science that only vaguely resembles the scientific consensus of this planet.  They're the ones who push Intelligent Design with publicity shots of fake scientists.

Well, why not find out for yourself? Bring your biologist friends! Dress up as a transitional fossil!  It's FREE!
Dr. Plantinga's talk begins at 7:00 pm at University Presbyterian Church at 4540 15th Avenue NE, Seattle, and will be followed by a response by Discovery Institute's Dr. Jay Richards, co-author of The Privileged Planet, and by a Q & A with the audience. 
While the event is FREE to the public, registration is required. RSVP online now! Tell your friends! For information about event parking, visit the UPC website. 
The event is sponsored by the Ideas and Arts Task force at University Presbyterian Church and by Discovery Institute's Center for Science & Culture.
In all seriousness though, it is good to be exposed to opposing arguments and Alvin Plantinga is probably the most renowned Christian philosopher around these days.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

The Banana: Created By God To Be Ray Comfort's Worst Nightmare?

The first time I heard of Staks Rosch was on Stacy Transancos' Accepting Abundance, which is still, by far, my favourite Catholic blog ever.

Stacy was addressing Staks in her post Schooling an Atheist on Grammar, which I found so very delightfully irritating that I was forced to launch a series of posts in response.  I never did quite finish those because I promised to read some book about Catholic Theology and, well, I'll still reading it.

Staks returns into my little godless world to tell me all about how the banana is no longer the Atheist's Nightmare.  Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron declared this to be true some time ago and the video made its way to be infamous.  It gave Comfort the title Banana Man.  I know I always think of bananas when I see Ray, he is simply bananas.

Ray Comfort: Doesn’t like the ‘B-word’

'B' is for banana.

I personally don't care who Ray bans from his Facebook wall, as I have little desire to visit or read it.  Although he did recently declare war on atheism on his Facebook page - so I guess some monitoring is in order for intelligence purposes: monitoring troop movements etc.

Anyway, Staks sums up the irony rather well here.

Here, Comfort implies that he would ban atheists from his page if they even mention the fruit. While he of course has the right to ban whoever he wishes from his page without explanation, it is a little ironic that he has such a strong reaction to the thing that he claimed was an atheist’s nightmare.

Ironic indeed.  Maybe, if there is a God, He finds Ray and Kirk so annoying that he actually didn't create the banana specifically for us as humans to eat.  Perhaps the banana was specifically designed by God to become Ray's namesake, a fruity focal point of ridicule just to get back at Ray Comfort.

The banana is so perfectly suited to make Ray Comfort look ridiculous that I fear he'll have to admit it, God created it to make him look silly.  Maybe God has lost faith in himself long ago and has become an atheist and so passes his time creating yellow fruit in order to play an elaborate joke on Ray.  If I were a god I might do it.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Canadian Government Shows Its True Colours By Funding Anti-Gay Religious Groups In Uganda

Julian Fantano (source: CBC)
So, I turn my back for a week or so to fund-raise for a school that could very well be part of the solution to social problems in Uganda and look!  The government goes and gets caught red-handed adding to the problem in Uganda. They've been funding an anti-gay organization working within one of the most homophobic countries on the planet.  The group is Crossroads Ministries, who make that terrible show my grandma used to watch all the time, 100 Huntley Street.

The first thing I heard about this was on the evening of the 11th.  I had just finished furiously typing away to finish off the landing page for a fundraiser to benefit the Kasese Humanist Primary School in Uganda.  This is a school that is actively working to stamp out homophobia and religious superstition in one of the most homophobic and religiously superstitious places in the word.  Sort of ironic, isn't it?

Due out the door, with other tasks pressing, I peeled off my first tweet about the fundraiser and seconds later I got a tweet back from Kevin Smith, the president of CFI Canada.


I honestly was so pressed for time that the reference to Julian Fantino went straight over my head.

Julian Fantino is the minister in charge of this business and he defended his stand by claiming they fund results-based programmes.  It has absolutely nothing to do with religion!

I guess this isn't much of a surprise.  Just recently it was found this government has been very keen to work with religious charities over and above secular ones.  Don't believe me? First, you've got the study by the Canadian Research Institute on Humanitarian Crisis and Aid that shows the Conservatives boosting funding to religious organizations by 42% between 2005 and 2010.  Then, you've got folks like Conservative MP David Anderson who's primary concern seems to be to ensure public sphere space is given to religious institutions and people who are speaking to faith issues and then the initiative they need to take in order to have their voice heard.  You know, like promote Jesus and stuff, which is evidently way more important than feeding them or teaching them about science.  Results, results.

Now that I look back at all this, I wonder how many Humanist schools, gardens and chicken coops $500,000 would buy?  I'm sure Crossroads is doing many great things to help Ugandans. Don't get me wrong!  But wouldn't it make more sense to help initiatives that do not see homosexuality as a sin (had to use the Google cache version) in a country where gays and lesbians risk death?  I mean, why strongly condemn Uganda's medieval stance on homosexuality with your mouth and support an anti-homosexuality group with your wallet?

Meanwhile, I know it's a day late, but a tardy Valentine is a Valentine nonetheless.  Why not pop over to this Change.org petition to end the Kill the Gays Bill in the Ugandan parliament - you know... what our goverment should be doing rather than fund an anti-gay organization in a country where gay people could get killed for merely existing?


Thursday, 10 January 2013

Now William Lane Craig Goes After Darwin The Dog!

Craig's gunning against Darwin the Dog - a danger to the
youth.  I can already imagine the upcoming debate.
Remember that Dallas preacher, Jim Denison, who went after the American Humanist Association for daring to put up a website for kids (Kids Without God) that promoted critical thinking and Humanist values?  For shame!  His video was funny.

Well now my least favourite apologist, William Lane Craig, is also picking on poor Darwin the Dog.

Just read  ATHEIST WEBSITE FOR CHILDREN HAS ONE-SIDED ARGUMENTS!  Don't worry, it's a brief plug for Craig's site article that's only a few short paragraphs long.

The whole criticism of the site is that it doesn't provide all-sided arguments on the basis of reality.  No, wait, I think it actually means Craig is annoyed it doesn't consider his own argument about the basis of reality - God did it.
The website promotes the virtues of critical thinking and scientific reflection on evidence claimed to disprove one's faith, but Craig notes that the site never examines critical arguments against atheism.
No, the site attempts to foster critical thinking and skepticism in general of everything. From the Kids Without God website Parents section:
The goal of this website is to encourage curiosity, critical thinking, and tolerance among young people, as well as to provide accurate information regarding a wide range of issues related to humanism, science, culture and history. 
We hope that you and your kids will enjoy reading about Darwin the Dog, who is committed to an uplifting, altruistic morality without the influence of religion; and who is able to enjoy mythology while still differentiating between the real and the imaginary.
You know, rather than just drilling dogma into the children's brains.
Craig says a child's views are not solidly formed enough to understand the false arguments, let alone be able to defend them, so they can be easily misled.  Craig believes an excellent website for arguments in defense of faith is ReasonableFaith.org.
You know, like being easily brainwashed into believing ancient mythologies.  Because every other Christian children's site out there need not present the arguments against Christianity - but the only Humanist children's site out there... they ought to be presenting the arguments against their worldview.  Double standard stemming from a privileged Christian outlook?  I think so, yes.

Oh and ReasonableFaith.org is Craig's own website.  Nice self plug there.  Real classy. Well, I suppose I might be just as shameless peddling my own stuff... or maybe not.

I also find it amusing that both this story and the previous one never provided an actually link to the Kids Without God campaign website.  Heaven forbid someone actually click on it for themselves!

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

More "Merry Christmas" Fallout In Saskatoon

Ashu has earned the epitaph Saskatoon Grinch.
More about the Ashu Solo vs the City of Saskatoon story I posted about yesterday.

The Center for Inquiry Canada just released a statement concerning this whole affair.  You can find coverage of this over at Canadian Atheist.

From what I read, they always prefer a cooperative approach (read: no gratuitous complaints to human rights commissions).  This is pretty much my point of view that I relayed in my last post.

However, like me in my post yesterday, the CFI also seems to notice that the city's reaction (or lack thereof) suggests a definite preference to the Christian religion - which is worth discussing.
Saskatoon Mayor Don Atchison has been uninterested in following up on any attempts at a conversation and instead this week argued that Saskatoon was founded as a Christian city and is currently a faith based community. Given the Mayor’s own response, perhaps the debate about “Merry Christmas,” trivial though it may at first have seemed, now provides a much needed opportunity for a bigger picture conversation about what role religion did historically play – and should continue to play – in the public square of our society.
Well now the usual suspects have begun the counterattack so to speak.  Fox SunNews, who thrive off these kinds of stories, has picked this up.

No support for Saskatchewan man who wants 'Merry Christmas' off buses
A local man who has vowed to continue fighting to get "Merry Christmas" off city transit signs isn't getting much support -- not even from people he says he represents. 
Non-Christian religious groups and secularist groups say they don't agree with Ashu Solo.
Here's a couple of SunNews talking heads - neither of whom I would ever invite to dinner party - bashing Ashu Solo.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Dallas Preacher Goes After Darwin the Dog

Looks like I've been wandering around Youtube again.  Last Monday, I found this video about the Office of Religious Freedoms.  Well, last night I found a video all about a new atheist strategy for children.

The video features Dr. Jim Denison, president of the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture.   He's got problems with the American Humanist Association's Kids Without God website (www.kidswithoutgod.com), which looks excellent by the way.  I recommend you visit it and show it to your kids!

The American Humanist Association (AHA) has launched a new initiative aimed at kids. Their website, www.kidswithoutgod.com, is "a site for the millions of young people around the world who have embraced science, rejected superstition, and are dedicated to being Good Without A God!"


The children's section introduces us to "Darwin" the dog. He "loves to enjoy stories from a long, long time ago." But he "also knows that these are just stories, though, and that they aren't real." There's a teens section, with videos that coach young people on becoming atheists and telling others about their decision. The parents section offers tips for "helping our kids become humanists."

Watch the video below and follow along!


This is a logical fallacy known as "affirming a disjunct," where we are erroneously told that if A is true, B must be false. 
What I find hilarious about this is all those arguments that go something like: "You can't prove the Big Bang was uncaused - therefore... God!" or "Evolution is a myth - therefore... God!" or "The Bible was right about this one thing - therefore... the Bible is true... therefore... God!"
Many are absolutely sure that absolute truth doesn't exist.
How clever!  Nobody can be absolutely sure of anything - except perhaps mathematical  truths.  Am I absolutely sure that absolute truth doesn't exist?  Well, it may exist (read: some math and logic).  Oh wait a minute, I know your game:  Absolute Truth... God!
How can Christians respond to this strategy aimed at children and young people? By offering what no non-Christian can: a genuine encounter with a loving God. 
Well, someone should search for this loving god, because he sure isn't in the Bible.  I'll pass on an encounter with the Christian god, thank you.
In my view, the rise of "aggressive atheism" is directly related to a decline of love for God in our churches.
Since when is having a website just for the children of Humanists agressive atheism?  How is this any more agressive than Christian sites for children of the same age?  Is the site's mere existence that threatens you, Mr Denison?  It's a real good symbol of the kind of Christian privilege that's been the status quo for so very long.  The mere notion of other groups expressing themselves on an equal footing is seen as strident, agressive or threatening.

So is atheism directly related to a decline of love for God in our churches.  Well, I can't fault his logic there.  Of course a direct rise of atheism in America would have a very profound effect on the love of God in the churches!
If more of us were in love with Jesus, fewer in the world would be led away from him.
Well, amen to that.  I think it's his crazy dad people are beginning to lose faith in.  But I suppose they're both the same thing anyway.

What a ringing endorsement for the site!  Thanks Mr Denison!


Why not visit this great site for kids and teens: http://www.kidswithoutgod.com/

Monday, 29 October 2012

US Christian Pastor: Hurricane Sandy Caused By Abortion, Homosexuals And US Foreign Policy With Israel

The horrendous storm that's battering the East Coast endangering the lives and welfare of millions hasn't even reached its climax and  some crazy US preacher has already blamed it all on abortion clinics, homosexuals and US foreign policy.

The preacher in question who gets this fifteen minutes of fame: John McTernan.

From RawStory:

“Just last August, Hurricane Isaac hit New Orleans seven years later, on the exact day of Hurricane Katrina. Both hit during the week of the homosexual event called Southern Decadence in New Orleans!”
We've seen this before with other preachers and Hurricane Katrina.

He then does like a lot of other prophets seem to do and tried to prove his hypothesis with a bunch of numerology:
“Twenty-one years breaks down to 7 x 3, which is a significant number with God. Three is perfection as the Godhead is three in one while seven is perfection,” he explained. “It appears that God gave America 21 years to repent of interfering with His prophetic plan for Israel; however, it has gotten worse under all the presidents and especially Obama. Obama is 100 percent behind the Muslim Brotherhood which has vowed to destroy Israel and take Jerusalem.”
Right.  Well that just proves it.  Where have I seen this insanity before?

Further coverage on GayStarNews:

McTernan had planned to host a prayer meeting tonight (29 October), which would be streamed online on his website. 
However as the storm is scheduled to go right over his house, the preacher has warned the sermons may be stopped if the power goes out.
Seems like a strange way to punish the gays, eh?  Unless McTernan himself...

You can visit McTernan's site here.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Guest Post: Sheldon Cooper, From Christian Fundamentalist to Closeted Agnostic Blogger (Part 2)

Guest Post by Sheldon Cooper

Editor's Note: Here's the second part of the de-conversion story of blog reader Sheldon Cooper (not his real name).  Sheldon comes out of a fundamentalist Christian household and had to overcome deep religious programming, OCD and depression in his quest for truth that finally brought him to Agnosticism.

You can find the first part here.


The Seeds Of Doubt

There was no apparent reason for these doubts to come upon me as quickly as they did, but they arrived and struck hard. I would read the Bible and all of the passages that I thought made sense  or that I had long tried to rationalize/explain away suddenly didn't make sense or seemed downright indefensible. Reading the Old Testament again with a fresh perspective was very shocking. Children had to be stoned to death for disobedience to parents? Women who were raped were forced to marry their attacker?.

I started reading the Old Testament's Mosaic law, and I started to notice that it's not all that much better than  the Islamic Sharia law.

Imagine my confusion when comparing the New Testament to the Old Testament. I felt like I was reading about two different gods entirely. The Old Testament depicts a god of vengeance and death and Jesus in the New Testament tries to depict a god of mercy and love. Even more confusing is Jesus' contradictory attitude towards the Mosaic law. He seemed to oppose the law and its harshness, telling people to turn the other cheek, and saving a woman from a Pharisee lynch mob that wanted to have her stoned to death for having an affair. On the other hand, he says in Matthew 5:17 that he did not come to destroy the law.

My doubts grew even more when I looked at all the impossibilities: Noah's Ark; a talking snake deceiving a woman; and a talking donkey telling off Balaam.

Just taking the story of the Ark literally is mind boggling. Apparently all the Earth's creatures, plus feed for them fit into a wooden ship that, based on the dimensions listed in Genesis, would have only been about half the size of the Titanic!

Another funny thought is that termites and carpenter ants would have had to have been on the Ark as well - a wooden ship!

Here's an unpleasant thought: If Adam and Eve and family were the only people on earth in the beginning, there's no other way that humanity could have multiplied without incest. Never looked at it that way, have you?


New Channels Of Communication

It was during this time of doubting that I  started becoming a regular contributor to a local website's discussion board and I started to get to know some people from there.  At this time I still hadn't decided to give up my beliefs, but I was still searching/questioning.  I was starting to think that maybe, just maybe, the god of Christianity isn't such a loving, merciful god after all.

Then I got to know a husband and wife who ran a music store specializing in hard rock memorabilia and CD's. I don't know what led me into the store, that day I first entered.  Growing up, I was never allowed to listen to anything considered "rock music" - definition: any contemporary music, (but country was allowed, ironically!).  So, it was quite an experience: first going inside, with all the the T-Shirts and other assorted memorabilia (almost all black), some with death metal themes, and music playing from speakers.

Though I don't agree with Wiccans
 on anything spiritually related, I find
 it to be a very beautiful religion, the
symbolism, the history, and the open-
mindedness of it's adherents. 
What was a culture shock more than the music and its related memorabilia, was the fact that the wife in this family was Wiccan. I had never met a Wiccan before, not in encounters online, and definitely not in person. You see, growing up fundamentalist, I had always been taught the lie that Wicca = Satanism.

Imagine my discomfort at the time when I found out she was Wiccan? Her life ran completely contrary to what I was brought up to believe, and in fact she proved to be a better person than most of the fundamentalists I knew. She was far more open-minded, more accepting of me for who I am, and had this practical wisdom that I haven't seen in very many people, as though she was more mature and had learned more from life than 5 people in their lifetimes.

I'm saying all of this to demonstrate that to remain in fundamentalism, it's necessary to isolate yourself from the outside world.  It's the only way to go if you want to keep up the illusion that the outside world is evil and to be avoided.  Once you enter the outside world, you find that some people are indeed evil people.  But by and large, most people are good and are just like you. Many people live out their lives in a fashion that is just as moral, or even more moral than the circles than you are used to being in.

It was also astonishing to me how much more direct people were outside the regular circles.  It's as though most people didn't feel like they needed to put on a veneer, to hide what they did or who they were.  For better or for worse, people are more honest because they are not trying to put on a veneer, and put on an act of "holiness" to mask who they truly were.

It was not long after this that I knew that I could no longer deal with with the doubts and conflicts that came from attempting to believe something that deep down wasn't true. I  knew I wasn't a fundamentalist anymore nor a Christian of any variety.  But it took me a good year to finally figure out that I was an agnostic, and admit that to myself - which didn't come without a struggle of its own.

I knew that I could no longer believe in a god who was neither just nor merciful.  Just looking at the realities of the world around me proved both concepts to be rather ludicrous in my mind.  But giving up the concept of there being something divine out there proved to be a challenge.

A world without a spiritual realm or deity seemed empty, pointless, as life had no meaning.  But after some time, I started to get my sense of wonder back. It seemed incredible and awe-inspiring to me, that of all of the billions of years that this earth has existed, that we are here for just a short time, to enjoy its vastness and infinite beauty.

For a while, I knew that I was an agnostic but I didn't really feel motivated to talk about it.  I'm still mostly closeted to this day and have only told three people from my past fundamentalist circles about my change in beliefs. I had no interest in becoming a blogger, or taking part in online discussions, but I started becoming curious about what led other people to leave their faiths, especially Christianity. Did they leave for the same reasons that I did? What is there stories?

My searching led me to the website ex-christian.net, where I found some great people, many of whom had stories similar to mine, and some far worse.  It was a great place to unload, and share our stories and frustrations. My search for atheist and former Christian blogs also led me to this blog. I find the perspective here interesting, and it is a great insight into daily life in Canada.

I became a regular commenter here. Once, I made a rather long-winded comment, and joked that it should become a blog post in it's own right.  Godless Poutine made the suggestion that I should start my own blog because it was good therapy.  I considered the suggestion, but I really didn't know what I would blog about. I started the foundations for the blog in Blogger, merely as an experiment to see if I could do it, I figured if this doesn't work out I can delete it. I just started posting random observations on life from my perspective, I didn't think the blog would amount to much. I never believed that I would be able to keep going with new material for the blog, or that people would read it. I was wrong on both counts.

Jack Schaap.
One day, I had found out that my sister's former pastor, Independent Fundamental Baptist (IFB) minister Jack Schaap, had been arrested, and later plead guilty to sexual abuse charges. I started researching the IFB movement, and found that it was much like a onion, the more you peel back the layers, the worse it stinks.

I hadn't had much contact with the group since my childhood, and the horrible things that I was finding out about them in my research, I knew I couldn't keep silent. This group, which I had been a part of in the past, I was beginning to find out, is really just an organization of sociopaths, and much deserved the "cult" label that many of it's critics and former members gave it. This harmful organization needed to be exposed, and I had found my inspiration, my mission as a blogger.


Check out Sheldon's Bio Page or jump directly to The Ramblings of Sheldon.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Guest Post: Sheldon Cooper, From Christian Fundamentalist to Closeted Agnostic Blogger (Part 1)

Guest Post by Sheldon Cooper (not the character from Big Bang Theory!)

Editor's Note: Here's the first part of the de-conversion story of blog reader Sheldon Cooper (not his real name).  Sheldon comes out of a fundamentalist Christian household and had to overcome deep religious programming, OCD and depression in his quest for truth that finally brought him to Agnosticism.

From Christian Fundamentalist to Closeted Agnostic Blogger (Part 1)

I look back now at my past life, and wonder how I did not question Christian fundamentalism or leave it behind long before I did. I was deeply involved in fundamentalist Christianity for 16 years, from the time I made a profession of faith at only five years old (and was baptized at seven), to shortly after my 21st birthday.

There are so many impossibilities and the contradictions to the Bible, that it's hard for me to believe now that, with all my intense study of the Bible for so many years, I didn't see them and start doubting long before I did.

I was part of three different denominations: the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement (IFB), which has been called a cult; the Pentecostal group the Assembly of God, in which I had my first "speaking in tongues" experience at 11; and the Southern Baptists, in which I was a Biblical Studies minor in one of their more well known universities.

I believed it fully and with a passion until my crisis of faith a little over two years ago which eventually led me to becoming an agnostic. But before my crisis I didn't question my faith. I was one of those people who agreed fully with the Bible and thought it should be taken literally in all circumstances unless the passage clearly stated or implied that it was figurative. Looking back at that now, it's kind of embarrassing, I mean, have you really taken a look at Genesis lately?

Generally, whenever I would encounter biblical contradictions, I would try to rationalize them or explain them away. I have said before that if you approach the Bible with the belief that it is absolute truth, it will always make sense, but if you look at it from a doubting/questioning point of view, like I did when I started questioning my faith, it rarely ever makes sense.

So you may be asking what led me to start doubting in the first place. For the answer, I need to go back about five years and talk about my personal life and the struggles I had before I started doubting.



Life's Struggles

I was a Biblical studies minor at a prominent Southern Baptist university, I went into that college after being in an Accelerated Christian Education (A.C.E) private school from kindergarten to the 5th grade. (For more on A.C.E, read the blog Leaving Fundamentalism.)  I was home-school with this curriculum until graduation.

Being in that kind of isolated environment, combined with my pre-existing depression (and what I know now to be the effects of  OCD), made me unprepared and ill-suited for a college that, despite its Christian fundamentalism, was structured  much like any public college. Things didn't turn out well.  The depression hit hard and my inability to relate to people caused by the isolation of my childhood and my OCD made studies very challenging.

(I've wondered sometimes if people have confused me for an autistic due to my social skills, or lack thereof in some cases. I felt lost and almost like I was an immigrant in some foreign country at times, even though I had only moved 200 miles away from home.)


Breakdown

Depression attacked with a vengeance with both emotional and, worst of all, physical symptoms. The fatigue became so severe that I couldn't get out of bed most mornings.  It sometimes took 4 or 5 twenty-ounce bottles of Mountain Dew to get through a 4-hour shift at the college cafeteria.

Muscle weakness and pain also became common and. although less frequent, it still persists to this day. Some days I would nearly collapse getting out of bed.  My legs wouldn't hold me up and I would have wait several minutes until I could try to stand up again.

I also started to get severe panic attacks. I probably had about twenty severe attacks that year.  Luckily I haven't had one since that year.

Needless to say, everything fell apart.  I had to return home, to face everything that happened, to pick up the pieces. You think my fundamentalist family would be supportive, right? Think again. Though they helped me to start over, for which I was grateful, I was emotionally knocked around every day.


Back To God

Apparently, my depression was nothing more than "guilt". I needed God back in my life. I began to believe that everything that had happened, even my depression, was my fault.  That maybe I did something to cause this.

Thus began a long process of begging God for forgiveness, and doubling down on my previous commitment to fundamentalism. I finally came to the point where I felt like God had "forgiven" me, but I still felt like there was no real connection there at all. However, I kept going anyway. I felt like my faith was strong nevertheless.

I felt fine in my faith for about two years afterwards, until all of a sudden, doubts and questions sprang up on me...

Next Part... The Seeds of Doubt 

Editor's Note: The second part of Sheldon's story will include the circumstances of his de-conversion from Christianity.  It includes a Wiccan - which will be a festive addition to the Halloween/Samhain season!

Check out Sheldon's Bio Page or jump directly to The Ramblings of Sheldon.

Friday, 24 August 2012

No Longer A Slumdog Book Review - Part 5 - Prayer

Over the past few weeks I've been reviewing No Longer a Slumdog, a book I got sent to me for free from the Gospel for AsiaK.P. Yohannan's organization.  I believe it's given me a window into how such an organization works.  You can follow all of the instalments in the series here.

I'm thinking this will be the second-to-last review of the book.  I made it all the way to "Chapter 6: What Now?".  And so, what now?

Towards the beginning of the chapter six we have more of the harvest imagery we had in the last chapter.  Apparently it's evident that God desires some change in these young lives.  I'm thinking: a morsel of food?  Some work to gain enough wages to feed themselves and their families?  Some clothing?
It has already become evident that the Lord greatly desires to see these young lives reached, and He has given us this unique privilege to join Him in a great harvest. Let us take advantage of this opportunity to get involved in His awesome work.
No, I think this just means to preach Jesus at them.  But surely there must be more.

Up to this point the book has been a heart-wrenching catalog of the absolutely brutal mess of human cruelty and suffering his god has let the world descend into over the past 3000 years or so.  We're shown the horrendous caste system that has extended slavery into the modern day.  We're shown the terrible poverty and disease innocent children endure daily.  At this point Yohannan asks us - What are we to do now?  According to him and his organization, what should be our first step in making things better?
The question I need to ask is—and I ask on behalf of these children and the God who cares for them—what will you do now?
Alright, what can we do now?
When you see these photos of children or hear the stories of what they have suffered, don’t let heartbreak and compassion be the extent of your response; begin to pray. There is nothing so crucial to our ministry as prayer.
Fuck.  Yes, that's it.  First course of action: Pray.  My silly atheist mind completely missed this crucial step.  It started uselessly thinking about how I can get food and supplies to them.  Perhaps this next quote from the famous nineteenth-century agnostic orator Robert G Ingersoll may express my feelings of utter frustration and exasperation in reaction to Yohannan's suggested first action.
"It may be that ministers really think that their prayers do good and it may be that frogs imagine that their croaking brings spring." - Robert G. Ingersoll
Of course, since you're praying to a god who has infinite magical powers (except when it comes to actually helping these children or preventing these circumstances from happening in the first place),  you need not even specify which child to help.  You can just make one up - apparently God can somehow channel your special undirected prayer-power to help some random kid.
If you don’t know the name of a given child, make up a name.  God knows whom you are speaking to Him about and will do His work to change that life.
What a bloody waste of time!  Children are dying horribly and our first level of support should be to go plead to the very diety that's allowed this to happen for countless generations.  A diety who can apparently rectify this problem on a whim he's been fully aware of while millions die but has chosen not to until someone gets on their knees and begs.  This is the way the oppressed are forced to deal with tyrants.

The book goes on to relate a story about the miraculous power of prayer.
For some time, our staff has been praying against the sexual assaults that happen to little girls in Asia. Recently, we were encouraged to hear this story of how God has answered. 
In Sri Lanka, there was a village of laborers who lived in shanty homes. Every night, men from the neighboring areas would come and rape the young girls. There was nothing the laborers could do to stop them. The poor workers lived in constant fear. 
When one of our missionaries found out about this situation, he went to the authorities. They responded, assuring protection for the people. Furthermore, they allowed the missionary, Pastor Sampath, his wife and several women from the church to minister to the people of this village. They now give the children baths, trim their fingernails, feed them balanced meals and pass out clothes to wear. The Lord is working. I believe He heard our prayers for these little girls.
Well, the Lord may have heard their prayers but who actually did something to help them?  That's right, the humans did.

Thank goodness one of their missionaries didn't fall on his knees and join the other staff members in prayer when he discovered this deplorable situation.  Thank goodness this person did the rational thing, the right thing.

Pastor Sampath took real action.  He didn't just grovel to a non-existent sky tyrant but instead actually did something!  And it wasn't rocket science either - he did the most obvious thing I can think of - he informed the authorities.  He then went beyond his duty as a citizen and helped these children in real tangible physical ways that make a difference.  He was being a good human being.

Prayer didn't help.  God didn't help.  The GSA staff didn't help. People helped with concrete action.

Incidentally, this chapter begins with this quotation from James Russell Lowell.
Every man feels instinctively that all the beautiful sentiments in the world weigh less than a single lovely action.
Entreating the aid of a non-existent entity on behalf of others has no practical effect at all. I'm doing just as much for the poor in India by watching a movie or writing this post as someone praying for them.

Group prayer is highly encouraged in this chapter - which I suppose ties up even more resources that could be doing something actually useful!

Just to really hammer things home, the book goes on to promote Gospel for Asia's own brochure on how to have effective prayer meetings - which I suppose is a meeting that leaves the attendees feeling good. Really, I have no problem with that - so long as they don't pretend sitting in a room asking the air to do something for others constitutes real effective aid.
I wrote a brochure about how to have an effective and lively prayer meeting. This brochure, Guidelines to Effective Prayer Meetings, can be downloaded for free online. Please make prayer a regular part of your life and be confident that God hears and answers. You will be blessed also as you come before the Lord and seek His face.
You can find the prayer brochure here: http://www.gfa.org/prayer/

Finally, in the second half of this chapter at the end of the book, at long last(!) Yohannan asks people to do something useful.  He asks them to bring them hope.
I encourage you to take yet another step.
You can have a direct impact on the life of a child through our GFA Bridge of Hope ministry. You will have a specific child to intercede on behalf of, a young boy or girl somewhere in Asia. The money you give, just US$35 a month, will provide that child with food, clothing, school supplies and an education.

Yes!  Please!  If by yet another step you mean an effective, possibly useful step.
Once you become a sponsor, you then have the incredible privilege of praying for and writing to your child. You will receive his or her prayers and letters in return. Your child will never forget you or what you have done.
Uh, yeah sure - pray for them - sure... uhm... great.  If you must! If the religious song and dance is required to get food into starving children's mouths then I won't stand in their way.  I'll question why it seems so necessary though.

Towards the end of the chapter Yohannan goes on to extol a simple and frugal lifestyle - something I can finally get behind.  While doing this he goes on to mention that of course those people who are wealthy shouldn't feel ashamed of it.
Please don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying that a nice car or new clothes or anything like that is a bad thing. If poverty made us more spiritual, then there would be a lot of really spiritual people all over South Asia.
Gee, there just aren't enough spiritual people in South Asia.

Maybe, because I'm just not there, I have always had gross misconceptions about South Asia.  But, from where I'm sitting this region has always been positively filled and likely overburdened with superstition and spirituality - hundreds if not thousands of religions and metaphysical systems.  I always thought they had too much spirituality there.  Perhaps Yohannan only means Christian spirituality.

Anyway, near the end of the chapter we find this call to action.
While we care for our own children, let us remember that there are millions walking on the streets, homeless and helpless.  There are hundreds of millions more suffering in the remote villages. They live their lives in conditions we cannot fathom. Their little hearts suffer more pain than anyone should have to bear.  Many children honestly believe they are worth less than a dog.  But you can help change that. You can bring hope to a little child.
It's pretty obvious God hasn't done much more than let them live a short time to suffer brutally.  He doesn't have their backs.  He isn't doing anything - he doesn't exist.  So I agree with Yohannan wholeheartedly here ...

Please, Christians!  Get off your knees and help the children!