Archive for the 'Religion' Category

My Mom’s History with Religion (Part 2)

The following is a guest post from my mom, I hope you enjoy it an I’m interested in hearing your thoughts!

Hi everyone, I’m back. Sorry I am taking so long to post another piece. It has been a struggle deciding what thoughts, feelings and information to share about my life. The struggle is about respecting boundaries…mine and others. Something that is helping me make decisions in this regard is this new favourite saying of mine by an unknown author; I heard it on one of the latest episodes of “Being Erica”…

“Life they say can turn on a dime. In a world that constantly shifts beneath our feet, the only thing we know for certain is how we feel. The love we have, the fear we hide from, the pain we push away…give them a voice and the rewards are peace of mind and a peaceful heart.”

During the process of composing a future post about how psychology has influenced my life, I have been finding myself constantly questioning “How relative is this to the rest of the content of Lindsay’s blog? Are people really interested in knowing about my personal struggles? What in the world is my intention for sharing this information with Lindsay, her spouse (the only people I actually know that read this blog) and the anonymous strangers that read this blog?”

So I feel a need to preface any possible future posts with this one. I need to express up front that I feel like some sort of interloper on this blog. Even though Lindsay has assured me that whatever I write is okay, I am still having trepidations. Even though I am quite motivated and feel my intentions are honourable I still need another shot of encouragement, reassurance and permission that this is the right forum to tell my story.

I can somewhat justify that my history is part of Lindsay’s and therefore has some relevance to her blog on the basis that my story has influenced her life directly and indirectly. My intentions have a great deal to do with providing her with a bigger, clearer picture of who her mother is. Also, the process of writing this is helping me focus on the parts of my life that I think are most valuable to share.

My initial interest in telling my story was sparked in my early thirties when I briefly attended a bible study group. This group began each session with someone telling “their story” with the intent of showing how God was working in their lives. I remember being in awe of those who volunteered to do so. First and foremost, I admired their ability and willingness to articulate and share their innermost struggles with others. I also envied them for being able to express their most authentic selves, something I desperately wanted to do, but felt I couldn’t without betraying the confidences I felt I owed to others. Finally, I was amazed at the creative ways they were able to see the big picture and create a story out of their lives. In essence they were speaking about the cards they had been dealt, how they coped, and how everything shaped them into who they were today. In addition, I appreciated the positive outcomes that their collective stories offered. It didn’t matter so much that they attributed their outcomes to God, what mattered to me was the inspiring messages of hope that I always took away. It was then that I first realized and had come to believe in the healing power of sharing one’s story. It was a healing that seemed to occur not only within the teller but to the listener as well.

So over the past few decades I have persistently tried to tell my own story hoping for the restorative qualities I believed it would provide me and ultimately my family. My attempts took many forms mostly involving journaling and talk therapy. My major stumbling block was always the feeling that I would be betraying another’s confidence so I mostly limited myself to letting my inner life unfold within the confines of a therapist’s office. Unfortunately, what I have finally come to realize is that in the effort to protect others I was sacrificing my own authenticity and in a sense I was betraying myself. Is this making sense to anyone?

Sharing my innermost thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and hopes with a counsellor definitely helped me find peace of mind, yet it still felt like it wasn’t quite enough. More and more I felt as though I needed to share my authentic self with my family and the community at large. When my husband left me in September of 2009, I immediately began to feel less constrained about speaking about my past. While his leaving wounded me deeply, it also opened me up to new possibilities. Suddenly I was able to be myself more with my children, friends and other family members. It has been a huge relief to be able to talk to them about some of my struggles and it is my hope that in the knowing, my children especially, will gain something…whatever that may be.

To conclude, I am unaware of a forum that provides atheists an opportunity to tell their story. So, perhaps in addition to Lindsay’s unique and creative way of telling her story, the telling of mine, will provide further inspiration for others to speak of theirs. That is one of my hopes. I think it is important to know what you don’t believe and why. Equally as important is to know what you do believe and how you came to believe that. Would you like to know more about me? More of what I believe? Is this the right place to voice my story?

My Letter to the Bishop

I don’t really have any comments, I just think this is cute so I thought I would share! Here’s the rough draft of the letter I wrote to the bishop when I was being confirmed in the Catholic Church. I think I was 13. It’s kind of funny to read it now because it was a bit like a resume – listing off my good deeds. As if the Church would turn someone away!

Responding to a Christian’s Arguments for God

Hello everyone! In the comments on one of my previous posts, commenter sabepashubbo (I’ll call him Sabe) offered to give me his case for god, and I accepted by saying that I would blog about it. He dutifully emailed me his case for his god, and I haven’t found the time to respond (sincere apologies Sabe!). Now I’m on a 2+ hour flight, so it seems like a good time. And this way I think it will be better because I don’t have access to wifi up here in the air, so all of the responses will be mine alone whereas normally I may have used other peoples’ material in the formulation of my answers. I’m going to put Sabe’s entire email here so that you can read it in full if you wish, and my reactions will be in red.

Thanks for taking the time to hear me out. I feel like I ought to break this up into several parts, because each one can be dissected. However, as a whole, I feel like it makes the case for the existence of God not only compelling, but the most plausible perspective to have. Although I’m sure you’ve heard most of this before, I would love to see what questions you have and answer them to the best of my knowledge.

I would like to start with the Kalam cosmological argument. No doubt you’ve heard this one several times. I have indeed, and it has never been even remotely convincing to me. This deductive argument is as follows:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause. Well, there has to have been something, somewhere along the way that didn’t have a cause, that was just always here, right? So there is at least one thing that didn’t have a cause, whether that be God or the universe or the multiverse or whatever.
  2. The universe began to exist. Sure.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause. Yup I suppose so.

Why did the universe begin to exist? Damned if I know! This is a logical conclusion based on the 2nd law of thermodynamics, which at its lay conclusion indicates that the universe is moving gradually to a state of non-existence. So if the universe has a definite end, it must naturally have a beginning, for nothing in the natural world has been shown to have an end without a beginning. Well I think we already pretty much know that our universe had a beginning and will come to an end, I don’t get what this has to do with godso far.

So what was responsible for this beginning? Don’t know…we can’t observe outside of our universe, so it’s kind of impossible to do anything other than theorize about what we think might have set the Big Bang in motion, isn’t it? Well, for starters we must look at what our universe is doing now. Thanks to Hubble, we know now that the universe is expanding. So if we use infinite regress and look backwards at our universe, it would collapse in on intself. So our universe must have some “ex nihilo,” or “out of nothing.” I’m no physicist or anything remotely resembling a physicist, but I believe they most commonly say that our universe was in one state, and then the Big Bang changed it into a different state. So it’s not that there was nothing and then something just popped into existence, rather there was something, and that turned into something else.

The question then becomes this, “Is this possible naturally?” The earliest cosmic event we know of is the Big Bang. Of course it was, because time began at the Big Bang. On a recent episode of the Atheist Experience they were talking about this, it was pretty entertaining – how since time began with the Big Bang it’s meaningless to talk about “before” the Big Bang…you should check it out. Sabe maybe you should call that show and try to make your case for God on the air! According to Wikipedia, “Without any evidence associated with the earliest instant of the expansion, the Big Bang theory cannot and does not provide any explanation for such an inition condition; rather, it describes and explains the general evolution of the universe since that instant.” The Big Bang is not determined to be the beginning of everything, so that’s not the answer. But we do have it on pretty good evidence that the Big Bang did, in fact, happen. So what caused the Big Bang? We don’t know…yet! Although I have a more-than-sneaking suspicion that “I don’t know” isn’t acceptable to you – you need to fill in that gap with your god.

The best current scientific hypothesis is that “virtual” particles pop into and out of existence based on quantum fluctuations, and that this is what happened to create the Big Bang. However, there are several major flaws with this concept:

  1. If these are “virtual” particles, how can we determine their mass?
  1. How can virtual particles pop into and out of existence? Can’t this be explained justas easily as transfer of energy? How does nothing become something and then nothing agin, and why hasn’t this happened to our universe? And what does this say about mass that is no longer transferrable (e.g. black holes)?
  2. These current quantum fluctuations discussed are extremely minute exchanges. Like, inside of a proton minute. These fluctuations have not been determined to exist in larger such entities. The Big Bang at its very essence is the opposite of minute, so to say that these types of quantum fluctuations cause the biggest explosion in the history of the universe is a HUGE leap to make; a leap of faith exponentially larger than belief in any God, I would submit.

Honestly I don’t understand any of this. I’m not going to pretend to have any kind of notion of what quantum physics implies or what virtual particles are…my brain just won’t have any of it. It doesn’t penetrate my skull. But I’m going to stick up for the theoretical physicists and say that their hypotheses don’t require the faith that a god does, because they test their ideas using mathematics and by trying to see if they can make predictions based on their hypotheses.

So there are clearly issues with the current scientific view, though even leading scientists (e.g. Lawrence Krauss) still claim to have no answer to the question about how the universe began.

Yup Lawrence Krauss claims to have no answer to how the universe began – this is honest. Krauss doesn’t need an explanation. He’s fine with saying “I don’t know, lets wait and see.” As am I.

Now, theism (and specifically Christian theism) has put forth a view that the universe came from nothing, which is consistent with current science. Seriously? Theism is consistent with science? Give me a break. Science actually makes an effort to provide good, solid explanations for things and the Bible has a story that a child could writeabout how God did magic and voila! Universe! It’s not even on the same level. This view has been around for a minimum of 4,000 years, written in the Bible. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been around, it’s just a story in a book. There are religions older than 4,000 years, why is the Bible story more convincing or trustworthy? And this answer has gone unchanged throughout the course of human history. Whether the Bible is factual or not is not at play here; only that this theory was written down in it is relevant.

So if there is a viewpoint that lines up with the best current science we have, and has been around for 4,000 years, doesn’t that make it the most plausible worldview? No! It doesn’t line up with science, aside from the part about there being no universe one day, and a universe the next. Weak. The phrase I use often is this: An answer with some science is better than no answer with some science. I am not saying that you can never be an atheist; just that if you are using reason to place your bets with the most plausible worldview, you must be a theist until science is able to come up with conclusive evidence for a better answer. I submit that it will not happen. But based on the information we have today, theism is the best explanation for the existence of the universe.

I completely fail to see where you provided any argument that theism is the most plausible worldview. Why should I be a theist just because science doesn’t yet have all of the answers? I don’t see any value in supplementing gaps in knowledge with fairy tales.

Using things like the Kalam cosmological argument is just playing games with words. If you really want to show that your god is real, you’re going to have to gather up some real evidence. You believe that the Bible lines up with science, but I think you need to thing more critically about what the Bible actually says compared to the Big Bang theory. Why do you find the Bible to be such a reliable source of information? Why aren’t other holy books just as reliable in your eyes?

It would also be useful to know exactly what this god that you’re arguing for is. You need to come up with a definition for your god, because there are so many different ideas about what the Christian god is. What characteristics does this god have? How do you know this god has these characteristics? Are any of these characteristics testable? If so, have the tests been done?

I think that a good place to start would be why you started believing in the first place. I seriously doubt that Kalam made you realize that the Christian god is real, so what was it that convinced you that there is a god? Maybe that would convince me too?

I’m disappointed that all you really did in presenting your case for god was point out places where we don’t have all of the answers, and fill in those holes with your god. You didn’t provide good reasons why your god is a good fit for these unknowns in science, I wasn’t even able to get a sense of what kind of thing your god is. It seems like you’re arguing for a deist god with Kalam, but yet you’re a Christian. There’s a disconnect there.

I Used to Be One of those Awful Christians that I Can’t Stand

So I’m still in the process of moving, and I wasn’t planning on doing anymore blogging until I had made a significant dent in my unpacking, but I came across something today that I couldn’t wait to write about so here I am!

I’ve kept a lot of things from my childhood like letters, cards, journals, newspaper clippings, etc. and as I’m  unpacking I decided that I would go through this stuff and try to get it organized. I found a bunch of journals from when I was much younger, and I started reading one that I had to write in as part of our daily class participation when I was in 10th grade (15 years old).

At first I was cringing at what an annoying keener student I was, constantly pestering the teacher about different assignments and class work. But then about a month into the journal things got interesting. After we made our journal entry for the day, the teacher would read it over and put a comment in the margins.

On March 7th, I’m guessing in response to something we had talked about in class, she wrote “Are you involved with your church?”

She would probably regret writing that for the rest of the year, because this was the perfect opening for me to try to save her soul. Some of the things I wrote were unbelievable. I knew that I was passionate about Christianity in highschool, especially in Grade 10, but I had no memories of being so obnoxious about it.

To give a little bit of background, 10th grade was my first year in highschool, and it was also my first exposure to evangelical Christians. These new friends had a big influence on my thinking about Christianity, and they introduced me to the wackaloon ideas of the Rapture and the end times. They also got me hooked on reading that ghastly Left Behind series (click the link if you don’t already know what that is, the rest of this may not make sense if you don’t).


Alrighty, time to start showing you what an insufferable Christian I was when I was 15…here are selected quotes from my journal (leaving my poor punctuation choices intact), with the notes from the teacher in italics, and comments from me in red, starting with after she asked about church:

March 8 – I wouldn’t say I’m involved much with my church because the sermons don’t really capture me, and I don’t feel I belong. I’d like to start going to [the local evangelical megachurch] because I’ve heard a tape of their pastor, and he’s really good. This is explained in a note I found in my memories box from an evangelical friend, who lent me a taped sermon on prayer from her church. I remember listening to that, and I seem to remember the minister talking about how dinosaur bones were put there by the devil to test our faith. I took notes from these tapes in my Bible, which I talked about in this post. I’ve been really devoted to God ever since I started reading this book series. The first one is called Left Behind…you should read them because they might save your life. Save your life??? WTF was wrong with me?

“I have faith and am an active member of my church. Thanks for giving me the names of the books though.” In other words, please stop pestering me.

April 27 – Have you ever read the books called Left Behind? I guess I forgot that I had told her about them already. I love those books! …It’s a series, and they’re really amazing…When you read the back it will sound like science fiction, but it’s soooo not! Of course it’s not, no science fiction could be as craptastic as the LB series. READ THEM!!!!!!!!! You’re guaranteed to love them. They get better each new book!!! Tell me if you read them!

“I will.” She then went on to explain how she doesn’t read much fiction, she probably thought that would be the end of it. Ha! I’m trying to save her soul here!

April 28 – No you have to read them!!!!!!!! It’s not fiction at all!!!!!!!!! All the stuff in them is taken from the Bible! The only thing made up are the characters!

I guess I misunderstood. I will tell you if I read them. Ha, she can’t get rid of me that easy!

May 5 – Today the world was supposed to end! Guess not! Huh? I had no idea what I was talking about here, so I looked up 05/05/2000 and found this. The world won’t ever end. First Jesus comes and takes all his people, then theres 7 years of destruction on the Earth, then the world is rebuilt and living on Earth is like living in heaven! Source: a crappy fiction series loosely based on the zaniest book in the Bible. I got no response from the teacher on this one…

May 9 – Aren’t you going to answer our journals from May 5th? Have you read those books yet? You really should!

“I haven’t read the books. I’m pretty much at peace with my beliefs. Thank you for thinking about me.” If you thought I could take a hint, you thought wrong.

May 10 – You really should read them, though. What are your beliefs exactly? Have you read the Bible? She wrote “Yes” in the margin. I love reading the new testament. It’s beautiful. My favourite Bible verse is 2 Corinthians 4:8-9 “We are often troubled, but never in despair. dometi…I forgot it! But it’s beautiful! Oh Christ I can’t believe how annoying I was.

Yes it is beautiful. I don’t discuss my faith because it is so personal and important to me and I don’t feel I should have to explain it or defend it. I am happy that you have found your faith and that you have such serenity. I definitely didn’t have serenity with my faith if I was spending so much time trying to tell someone that the world would end soon.

May 11 – I disagree that you feel you shouldn’t discuss your faith, because it’s very important to share, and in doing so you may save other people. But I understand that it’s against policy for teachers to discuss subjects like that, even though I believe that rule is wrong. That’s right, I was one of those ignorant buffoons who thought that Christianity should be taught in schools.

There is a difference working in the public school system and the private school system. At [Mennonite School] or [Catholic School] religion is separate and integrated so teachers talk about their faith. The public school system has students and teachers of all faiths and if religion is discussed it can offend Buddhist students or Jewish students or Jehovah Witnesses – all of whom have distinct beliefs they value. You will notice there is no public praying in schools.

Although she was a Christian, she made a compelling argument against faith being brought into school, but of course 15-year-old me couldn’t let it go. When I read this next part today I was horrified, my face turned red, and my husband wondered what was wrong with me…

May 12 – I still hold to my belief that Christianity should be brought into the school, because all those people who are in those other religions are going to hell, pardon, I was pardoning myself for saying a swear word, not for saying those people are hell-bound…oh the horror! and same with the kids who don’t believe anything. kids! And I had no problem with this stuff! People think that being a good person will get you to heaven, but you have to confess your sins and ask for forgiveness from God and truly believe in Jesus and God and know that Jesus died to save us to get into heaven. And that’s a fact! Why do people think atheists are the smug ones? This might make it seem like God’s bad, um, yeah. but it’s man’s fault, because when Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they gave the world to the devil, so he’s controlling everything on earth. And you could say God’s like a car, and we’re his gas. He needs our prayers to help us, and he wants us to go to heaven, but some of us don’t believe, and the devil keeps them to himself and they go to hell.  What the poop was I talking about? If this journal weren’t in my handwriting I probably wouldn’t believe that I could ever write down such ignorant and awful things.

In your adult life perhaps that is one of the ways in which you can serve – get involved in politics and make changes in the way schools are run. Translation: I’ll ignore the part where you went batshit insane and insulted almost everyone in the world and try to focus your crazy into a future goal.


The journal went on and I would say it even got worse, but for now I think I’ve put you through enough. When I found these words that I had written what I really wanted to do was to burn them so that nobody could know about these horrible thoughts I had, but I swallowed my pride because I think it’s interesting to show how far I’ve come.

Finding that journal has shown me that it’s possible for people with fundamentalist beliefs to learn to use reason and to come around to a skeptical worldview. I’m so glad that I’m not that person anymore.

I may blog about the rest of the journal another time, but I also came across a few other interesting artifacts from my religious past: (1) a letter I wrote to the Bishop when I was confirmed into the Catholic Church, (2) a letter explaining why I wanted to quit going to my church, and (3) a philosophy paper from my first year in university in favour of the existence of God. I hope to write about those soon!

Now back to unpacking…or to bed, wow it’s late!

How Can Women Stay Catholic?

I’m sorry about the rare posting lately, July has proven to be a crazy month. I bought a house so I’m packing up the apartment, looking for new tenants for our old place, I’m also in a wedding party for a wedding next week, going camping with the fam soon and getting ready for a trip to Europe next month. So I think I’m excused for my poor attendance on my blog lately!

What prompted me to write today was a post on Friendly Atheist. You may have heard about this recent news out of the Catholic Church:

The Vatican today made the “attempted ordination” of women one of the gravest crimes under church law, putting it in the same category as clerical sex abuse of minors, heresy and schism.

The new rules, which have been sent to bishops around the world, apply equally to Catholic women who agree to a ceremony of ordination and to the bishop who conducts it. Both would be excommunicated. Since the Vatican does not accept that women can become priests, it does not recognise the outcome of any such ceremony.

I want to talk about the question (more like a questatement) that Hemant Mehta posed on his blog post in regards to this news:  “I really want to know why any self-respecting women would remain in a Church that treats them so poorly.”

It’s an interesting thing to think about, and I’m sure a lot of atheists would have a hard time seeing why any person would remain in the Catholic Church even before these new rules came out. I know I express all the time my incredulity at anyone who stays in any religion. But really, for most of my life I was religious, and there are billions of people out there who have no problem belonging to religions that tell them they’re worthless without their god of choice.

So why is it that people will go on believing in a religion that has so little respect for them?

Here’s the comment I posted on the Friendly Atheist post:

When I was a Catholic I accepted that as a woman I was inherently inferior to men due to Eve’s mistake. Stupid, I know…but if other Catholic women think like I did then they’re not self-respecting women, so the Church’s declaration would probably just be swallowed like all the other bullshit the Church dishes out.

I want to elaborate a little on that because it got me thinking back into the mindset I had when I had no problem accepting such a harsh doctrine.

Growing up my parents never pigeonholed us into gender roles. My brother played with Barbies and I played with Hot Wheels and they never discouraged us from doing non-girly or non-boyish things. So where did this idea come from that I’m inherently inferior to men? I think it started when I was in highschool and I became friends with a couple of evangelical Christians. We had our spares together, and my friend would bring her Bible and we would discuss various topics of interest to Christians. I only had a passive interest in my Bible until she started telling me about this and that inspirational story, and that’s when I started really looking at the thing (of course I looked selectively like a true Christian would, see the post on my childhood Bible).

I think that once you allow yourself to be immersed in the culture of Christianity it’s only natural to start to believe things like abortion is always wrong, homosexuality is a sin, women should stay in their place, etc. I believed that the Bible was true, and I believed that God was good and loving. I also bought into that crap about humans being sinners who need to repent. I believed that all humans had to pay for the mistakes of Adam and Eve, and somehow it didn’t cross my mind that God was at fault for putting the apple in the garden to begin with. And of course, I believed that Jesus would save me from my sinful ways.

I remember once telling someone…I can’t remember who it was, or what we were discussing…I think I was telling someone why I believed feminism is stupid, and my reasoning was Eve ate the apple and that’s why women have the joy of menstruation and that’s why our job is to serve men. Women have to pay for her mistake, too bad, so sad. I have no idea if that’s really what the Bible said, but it was enough that it seemed like something that the Bible would say, because it was nice to have a pat answer.

Christianity was easy. It had black and white responses for almost everything. Rather than delving into the complicated ethics of abortion, I could just refer back to “thou shalt not kill.” I think that’s a large part of what drew me to the religion. I thought I had all the answers, and I felt like I was in on the secret to everlasting life in heaven. It’s a nice feeling provided your thoughts don’t drift to those poor souls who haven’t heard the good news.

Okay I’d better get back to the topic, which is why Catholic women stay in a church that treats them like second-class citizens. When you’re a part of a church you generally buy into the idea that you’re a sinner, and that this church has the answers you need to gain entry to heaven. The problems that exist in the world are caused by the evils of humans rather than of God. You trust the church leaders because they speak with authority, they’ve studied the religion all their lives, they must know what God wants you to do.

Once you’ve accepted this then it’s in your best interest to act how your church wants you to act. When I went to church on a regular basis with my family, I revered our priest. I felt like when he shook my hand or handed me the sacrament that I was getting a special gift from a holy person. I trusted that what he taught was the truth, and I thought that all churches were probably like mine because what I was being taught just seemed to make sense.

It’s hard for outsiders to see why someone would associate themselves with an organization that, it seems, is always in the news for the horrible things it says and does. But when you’re indoctrinated to believe that you’re a worthless sinner, you don’t have self-respect, and you go along with what the Church wants you to do because that’s the way to be saved from your horrible self. Although it may seem from the outside that women shouldn’t belong to an organization that has so little respect for them, that’s just the harsh reality that the believer accepts. You believe that the Church has your best interests at heart, and that when they say something like “the ordination of women is a crime,” they’re really just trying to save the souls of would-be female priests.

Atheist/Rationalist Reading the Bible

Just sharing a link,

Here‘s someone who is reading the Bible cover-to-cover, and rationalizing as she goes. The tag line:

My journey through the pages of “The Holy Book,” what I uncover and how my knowledge of history and my rational thinking explain its secrets.

She’s plugging along at a good pace too, so if you’ve ever wanted to read the whole book you might want to read along with her!

Good stuff!

Update 2 – Jesus Camp Kids, Where Are They Now?

A long time ago I posted a couple of unsatisfyingly vague blog entries on what I could find out about where the kids from the documentary Jesus Camp are today. Based on the amount of people that get here by Googling “Jesus Camp where are they now”, this is something that a lot of you are interested in, including myself.

Personally, I was hoping to find out that the reactions to the movie made them question the beliefs they were brainwashed into. Unfortunately, today I found this video of Levi O’Brien, which shows that the camp leader Becky Fischer’s brainwashing worked, at least in his case.

EDIT: I obviously wasn’t paying close enough attention when I watched the video – this is actually Levi’s brother Luke.

If you don’t remember, Levi is the boy with the rat tail who started preaching at a young age. The video I linked to shows Levi preaching. His preaching style matches that of Becky Fischer in the movie perfectly…it even sounds like he slips into speaking in tongues at one point, though he might be scatting? Can’t be too sure…

It doesn’t say it on the video, but a bit of quick research tells me this was filmed in July, 2009 at the Kingdom of Light Conference, which I believe is put on by Kids in Ministry International. He’s 17 in the video.

In case you can’t watch the video, here’s my transcript. It was hard to hear at parts, so I tried to get it as close as possible to what he actually said:

It says in the Bible “the kingdom of God”, that’s how it starts out, and we know the kingdom of God, “God is light”, so the kingdom of God we could call it the kingdom of light. It says the kindom of light is an ever-increasing kindom.
Right? So you can get the light. You ask Jesus into your heart, you get the light, right? But then, look at this, it’s up to you. It is an ever increasing kindom, but it’s up to you how bright your light is. I want my light to be so bright. You know really I hate this line “this little light of mine”, I hate that line, it’s in Samantha’s song but then she says “it can grow” or something like that so I’m not putting that song down, I love that song, she wrote that song, isn’t that great? I love that song.
But “this little light of mine”, why I hate that song is because we can choose to have a little light. It’s up to us how bright our light shines. So this little light of mine, it’s up to me how bright my light is. I can have a little light if I want to. Just a little light, I can be saved going to heaven, but if I only want a little light you know what? That’s all God will give me. You just want a little light? I’ll give you a little light. But it’s an ever increasing kingdom, which means it never stops how bright your light can get, boys and girls. It never stops how bright your light can get. Which means it can get brighter and brighter and brighter. Just ask, just ask God I want to be brighter today than I’ve ever been before. Ever been before.
You know what lets stand up I’m getting pumped up. I’ll have Emily come play piano. I want to be brighter than I’ve ever been before, right? Isn’t that the way it is? If that’s you just get up here right now. I want to be brighter, I want to be brighter than ever before.
I gave you my light, and I say let me go! I want to be bright! And God I make a statement right now, I won’t turn back, I’ll keep getting brighter! Amen! [theaudience is repeating after him throughout this prayer]
Jesus! Thank you, just praise Jesus right now. We thank you God, we thank you God that you gave us a light, you gave us a bright light. I’m just going to pray, see what God wants us to do right now. Shoobeedoobeedoobeeshweebeedoobee…Jesus! Jesus! You know what? Just keep this in your hearts, keep this in your hearts. And tonight, tonight I believe there’s going to be an explosion tonight. It can be exploding you right now but lets wait until tonight. Keep that in your hearts. I believe God wants us to go out and pray for everybody right now. I guess it’s close to break time it’s like 12:10, but tonight it’s going to explode. We can get brighter and brighter, it’s an ever-increasing kingdom. God bless you guys, thank you.
And guess who walks up on stage at the end? None other than Becky Fischer herself.
I don’t get what he’s trying to say…God is light so the kindom of God is the kingdom of light, but he wants us to try to get a bigger and bigger light so does that mean we’re claiming more and more of God to ourselves? And if a little light will get me into heaven, why be so greedy? Why would I need more? Maybe get a little light and then stop spending time demanding more light from God? And I guess he doesn’t mean literally “light”, but what does he mean? I don’t understand…but making sense and preaching don’t generally go hand in hand.

Can There Be a Naturalistic Replacement for the Benefits of Church Membership?

One of the many arguments for religion is that belonging to a church is beneficial (I didn’t say it was a good argument). Being part of a church means having a large support group, having options for family-friendly activities, and being a part of a community that is easily mobilized for volunteer and charity work.

I have lots of good memories from when my family belonged to a church. They had a special family service with great music, and afterwards we would socialize. The church was big enough that my siblings and I would all have people our age to hang out with while the parents chatted. One weekend I took part in the 30-hour famine with the youth group in the church basement, that was a lot of fun and it was the first time I stayed up all night so that was exciting. During “the flood of the century” here in 1997, the church organized a group of us to go out to someone’s farm and sandbag to save their home. I could go on…

Although churches often have a downside (indoctrination, hate-mongering, sexual abuse, etc.), they can be very helpful to people who are looking for a place to socialize, and to find some options for volunteer work in their community. From stories I’ve read on blogs and in books, a lot of people who belong to churches are actually non-believers, but enjoy church and the benefits they get from belonging to one.

Personally, I don’t think I could belong to a church. I sometimes watch TV preachers and I can’t really stomach their messages, which are accepted without criticism from the audience. I also wouldn’t want my money going towards and institution that spreads untruths, or towards charities that may work harder on converting people than on doing actual good.

So for people like me, is there an alternative? Can I get the sense of community and the other benefits that come with church membership without the supernatural overtones? I know there are non-believing groups out there that can replace what people get out of a church without the supernatural overtones. Do you belong to one of these groups? Do you think atheists and skeptics should try to create a naturalistic alternative to church?

It’s Draw Muhammad Day!

Nobody should be threatened with violence or death for drawing a picture. But some Muslims want to use threats to force everyone, including people who don’t share their beliefs, to comply with their doctrine against depicting their prophet Muhammad.

Because some people are currently living in fear of being hurt or killed by extremists for doing nothing more than putting pen to paper, I’m joining in on Draw Muhammad Day. I support this day because (a) it’s fun, (b) it’s peaceful, and (c) I believe that if we’re flooded with images of Muhammad, depicting the prophet will be viewed as less shocking (and eventually banal), and Islamic extremists will have less power over our freedom of expression.

Since I’m terrible at drawing, I pasted together some Google Images and some Word Art. Here’s what I came up with:

In case you don’t recognize the image on Jesus’s shirt, it’s the cartoon (minus the words, which I added in) drawn by Kurt Westergaard, the Danish cartoonist who now has to live under constant police protection as a result of drawing it.

“The Pope is an Evil, Disgusting Piece of Garbage” -Me

So a little while ago when all of the news started coming out linking the current Pope to cover-ups of sex abuse in the Catholic Church, I posted “the Pope is an evil, disgusting piece of garbage” as my Facebook status.

A little while after that I got a response from my mom, who expressed her opinion that she didn’t think that name-calling fit in with my new philosophy of reason and critical thought. She said that I would have gotten farther with explaining where I was coming from, and that a dialogue would have been more constructive rather than typing words that might put people on the defensive.

I thought about it for a bit, and this was my response to her:

I guess I was pretty angry when I wrote that, as I had just heard about how the Pope was (allegedly) involved in a cover up  of a priest who had raped 200 deaf boys, so that’s where I was coming from when I wrote that.

But actually I’m not sure I would take it back now that I think about it…If I were involved in as many awful things as the Pope has been since he became the Pope and before that, I would expect people to call me much worse names.

He hasn’t been convicted of anything in the court of law, but it would be nice if he had to face consequences for the most recent scandal, in which a letter surfaced signed by him that explained that he wouldn’t defrock a convicted pedophile priest because he was looking out for the interests of the church:

Other more concrete examples of the Pope’s evilness:
-Opposing gay equality laws in the UK:
-Spreads lies about condoms and AIDS in AIDS-ravaged areas (the Pope is said to be infallible, but he he spreads lies that cause poor people to have children they can’t afford at the same time as condemning abortion, and that contribute to the spread of AIDS)

So although maybe I didn’t express my feelings in the best way in that Facebook comment, I honestly can’t say I feel bad about calling the Pope those things. He’s in a position that makes him trusted and respected by millions of Catholics, but he hasn’t earned that respect. He’s supposed to set a moral example, and before he was Pope he was still a church leader so his career should have been characterized by thinking about morality, yet time and time again he rejects reality in favour of doing the wrong thing as long as it conforms to the Catholic Church Dogma. And the worst part is that since he’s got that whole religion thing going on, people will allow him to spew nonsense, and he’ll never be held accountable for the consequences of his words and actions.

I try not to call names, but people have this unjustified respect for the Pope, so by calling him names on Facebook I’m protesting the idea that he should be shown respect by default because he’s a religious leader, and showing explicitly that he doesn’t have my respect.

I want to add a couple of things. The first is that I do often post links to stories that are damning for the Church, but I think this was one of the times where I just wanted to express frustration and didn’t bother attaching a link that supported my thoughts. And second, I grew up belonging to a Catholic Church and called myself a Catholic throughout my life until recently, so although my experience in my Church was a positive one, part of my goal in putting down the Catholic Church on my Facebook wall is to distance myself from the organization.

So what do you think? Am I putting people in a defensive position with regards to the Pope or the Church? Is it sometimes effective just to name-call? What do you think is the most constructive way to express an opinion like anger at the Pope in a social medium like Facebook or Twitter?

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