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Judeo-Christian Principles December 29, 2011

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I’ve talked about this idea before. The argument that the United States was founded on Judeo-Christian principles is brought up quite often. The more I think about the argument, I have to consider that it might be true. I mean, Christianity was popular when the U.S. got started, and it could be argued that the “principles”, which I take to mean morals, were based on Biblical beliefs. But so what?

So what if the U.S. was founded on those principles? It’s not like we are still living in that time period, where women were second class citizens in their own country, and black families were literally slaves, and reduced to almost animals within societies that held their Bibles high and proud during this period. We’ve changed, and we’ve changed for the better.

Do we get to claim that the principles we were founded upon were actually quite bad? Or will this turn into yet another excuse from those who believe those principles were something to be proud of, or perhaps even return to? No matter how you slice it, the U.S. was explicitly endorsing some morals that have since been abolished completely, because they were literally awful, in every way.

To tear families from foreign countries, rip them apart, and feed them into the slave trade to American businesses and families is so disgusting, it would simply never be tolerated today. It has been cited as one of the main reasons for the Civil War in the U.S. Two sides of the argument, holding their Bibles in the air, while proclaiming that slavery was OK, and slavery was not OK, and then going to war over it.

To treat women as second class citizens has very strong Biblical roots. There is plenty of scripture that supports misogyny, and placing women in subservient roles within the family. Today, women have equal rights, they can vote, and they can work alongside men in competition for the same jobs that were once restricted. It took time, but we evolved away from the founding principles that the United States was founded upon, and for good reason – they were horrible. And by the way, women have not yet gained equal status to men in certain measures, such as income for the same jobs as men.

If I were a Christian, I don’t think I would make the argument. It does not look good when considered for a few minutes. Of course, there are still some Christians who are not happy with the equal rights for women, and the abolishment of slavery (luckily, they have been marginalized). But we still have active hatred and bigotry against gays, and non-believers. So we are still battling some of the same principles that sprung from the pages of the Bible, according to some Christians.

In the end, it may be true that the U.S. was founded upon Judeo-Christian principles. But luckily, those principles have been replaced with better ones. Since human morals evolve over time, based on prevailing tolerances and standards set by those societies, we can be sure that they will continue changing, and continue to make things better for each of us. And hopefully we can stop arguing over how the country was founded, as though it is something we should aspire to. Yikes!

My Last Post? May 19, 2011

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I feel compelled to throw out some final thoughts, since the end of the world is upon us! Yep, May 21, 2011, according to this Pastor. Oh well, so much for my plans to become a rock star.

Anyway, of course I don’t believe anything this nut has stated, and neither do most of the Christians I personally know. Weird though, wouldn’t it seem that all Christians should heed this particular warning? I mean, if they know Jesus will return, and the world will be destroyed, how do they know it won’t be this Saturday? What if this pastor has a luck guess? It’s not entirely impossible. I digress.

So, what would you do if you knew the world was ending? I haven’t given it that much thought, but here are some of my ideas. I would definitely want to be with my closest family members, currently my wife and young son. I would definitely eat some really great, and not too healthy meals. I would play my guitar as loud as my amplifier will go! What else?

Let’s see, Giving away money or possessions would be a waste of effort really. But it might be fun to visit someplace I have never been to – assuming I had enough time. The more I think through this, the more I end up just being with my family, and maybe closest friends if possible. I’m somewhat of a recluse socially. I would rather be at home than running around in my community.

I know that the world is not going to end this Saturday, and I really do wish that people would never take this stuff so seriously. Even if you have a strong belief that there is a plan to end the world as we know it, there is simply no reason to spend your life fearing it, or hoping for it. We should be living our lives as though we have one chance to do it, and to do it with compassion and freedom to explore our aliveness.

If you are a believer, keep believing, but don’t worry about this nonsense!

Christian Persecution May 8, 2011

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Are Christians being “persecuted” around the world? Or maybe in one part of the world, like the U.S.? That’s what some Christians would have us believe. For example, one friend told me that not allowing the Ten Commandments to be hung in a U.S. Courthouse is active “persecution” or restriction of religious freedoms guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. Removing prayer from public schools is another restriction on religious freedoms. But they are completely missing the point of religious freedom.

There is simply no rule or law that say’s a person cannot pray in a public school. No one in the government is telling people that they are not allowed to practice their religion in a courthouse. What is actually going on, is the removal of government endorsement of a specific religion. That’s why the Ten Commandments cannot be hung in a government courthouse. That’s why public schools, funded by tax paying citizens, cannot endorse a specific religion, by opening school each day with a Christian prayer.

To be sure, there is evidence through recent surveys that people are leaving their religions at a faster rate than in the past. Non-belief is growing, and switching denominations is more popular as well. Younger people are not attending church at the same rate as in the past as well. But I see that as a reflection of personal decisions and values from people who don’t seem to have a need to be told by a church, exactly how they should be living their lives. It may also be the result of the Catholic Priest pedophile scandal, as well as the 9/11 bombings, and resulting ten year “war on terror”, which seems laced with religious ideology as a basis for hate.

One common reply on this issue is that the United States was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and morals. That the founding fathers were Christians, and even held religious services in the Capitol Building long ago. But I say that doesn’t really matter. If we want to stay true to the spirit of this country, we must never allow a specific religion to be endorsed by our government, or in any way forced upon citizens who are not Christian. It makes no difference how many people in this country claim to be Christian. If the founding fathers wanted this to be a “Christian Nation”, they would have explicitly stated so, and they would not have provided a platform where religious freedom was a central idea.

Religion does not make a person better, or morally superior, to others. That takes personal responsibility, courage, and the willingness to accept that we each have a right to be here, and to enjoy our time on this planet without the fear of being looked down upon by someone who claims a moral high ground. This country is great because it allows everyone to believe, worship, and pray to whatever idol they so choose. We’re even allowed to invent a religion if we so need to. It’s time that those Christians who think they are being persecuted, to look in the mirror, and ask themselves what it really means to be a Christian, and stop whining about persecution. Not to mention there are 400,000 Christian churches dotting the United States that prove otherwise!

Been Gone May 1, 2011

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I’ve been away from the blog lately. I’m still a heathen, but I’ve been busy on different forums doing the good work of the outspoken non-believers. One of my activities is somewhat of a private forum, where I was debating and discussing with people I see every day! That is weird, to say the least. But, we’re all good friends, and we really try hard not to get too abrasive. I will say, it is very difficult, and I can feel some pressure from both sides, which tells me we are edging closer to a fatal point where no useful dialog can actually occur.

After thinking about that last sentence a bit, I am inclined to ask myself why I debate with theists. It seems that there really is no point, when both sides are sure they are right, and seem unwilling to consider the other side. But that’s how it goes in our human world, I suppose. As an atheist, I would not accept the reality of a god without something tangible. And if that showed up, I like to think that I would simply accept that there is a real god. I can’t say what that would do for my specific approach to gods and religions, but I won’t deny that which is demonstrably true, through observation, evidence, and facts.

I am not certain at all what would cause a theist to abandon their beliefs. My instinct tells me that it would require a specific and thoughtful journey of research, rational thinking, and stepping outside of the faith. I have heard that some people are looking for a true support group to switch to, which is very difficult to find if you live amongst a highly religious group of neighbors, and work mates. The power of family, friends, and neighbors is strong, and difficult to escape from when matters of religion, and sometimes other world-views are prevalent. When enough guilt or shame is “in the air”, many people will elect to just go along, and stay quiet.

One thing that has surfaced for me recently, is the idea of writing a book. It seems daunting, and I am certainly not a professional writer, but it could be an interesting project. The focus, without giving away the full idea, would be on the differences between believers and non-believers. I’m still tossing the idea around in my head, so I won’t say any more right now.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about the respect of ideas in the debate between belief and non-belief. I was thinking just today, that I have been called out, almost directly, but not quite, on what my goal is in “attacking” a belief system that I don’t even believe in myself. After some thought, I decided that it is certainly a fair question. And I have an answer. But what I would like to know, is why it is seemingly OK and/or socially acceptable to assume that believers are correct, and to give their ideas respect, just because. After all, this debate only has one answer; there is a god, or there is no god (yes, there could be multiple gods, but I’m going for simplicity).

In the end, atheists think they are right, and believers think they are right. So, technically, neither side deserves more respect than the other. But it seems apparent to me that the non-believer side is far less socially accepted. As I watched a clip from Christopher Hitchens recently, he was talking about believers who sent him messages asking if he was now ready to accept Jesus (he has been in the hospital in cancer therapy). And Hitchens basically said that it would be unbelievably rude for atheists to go running into hospital rooms to convince the dying patients that the whole religion thing was a scam. And that’s only one example where belief in a god is given special status as more socially acceptable than non-belief.

Anyway, I’m going to start writing some more – even though no one is listening! (Except for you three…)

The Modern Word February 6, 2011

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In this age of instant information, I was wondering why God could not use tweets, youtube videos, and instant messaging to update the masses? I mean, strictly speaking, there has never been a time in human history when information from just about any corner of the globe cannot be instantly routed to the entire world, and in multiple languages! So, why not?

Assuming God is real, and is the creator of the universe, then God would be fully aware of these technologies, and would also be aware that there is literally no more effective way to spread the word to so many humans. And just imagine if twitter accounts and youtube accounts were spontaneously created with no apparent “owner”, followed by scads of messages from God himself. This would be epic, and worthy of consideration from atheists like me. To be fair though, it would have to be verified.

Verification, admittedly, would be tough. But hey, maybe the messages could contain personal details unique to each receiver, that could only be known by those closest to the person. What group is that powerful? So, it would not be impossible. Not to mention that some of the messages could be a precise prediction of the future, with enough detail to remove doubt. Who knows.

Wouldn’t God be powerful enough to transmit to everyone’s electronic devices, a unique message for each person, all simultaneously? Seems doable, if you’re omnipotent.

God, if you’re real, IM me. You know my address!

I Cannot Make the Leap January 9, 2011

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Many Christians support their beliefs with faith. They say that without faith, they might not believe. And I am left wondering why faith is necessary at all? If God is real, then why do we need faith to believe? Well, for one thing, we cannot actually see God, or can we?

Exodus 33:20
There shall no man see me, and live.

John 1:18
No man hath seen God at any time.

Exodus 33:11
And the Lord spake to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend.

Genesis 32:30
And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.

So, here are four verses that claim we both cannot see God, and that God has been seen. I guess we’ll never know, and to be honest, I have never met a Christian who claims to have actually seen God. So, faith it is then.

But faith is a leap, isn’t it? That’s what we mean when we say “a leap of faith”. It means that we figuratively jump, or “leap” to a belief, despite not actually knowing that the belief is real, or true. And it is this leap that I cannot make, at least not with any honesty.

And why should I? What exactly am I leaping to? A god that is so powerful as to have created the entire universe and everything in it, yet cannot make a simple appearance to me? I don’t understand this. According to Exodus, God can and has been seen. I guess I am supposed to conclude that I am not as important or special as Moses. And frankly, according to Exodus 33:20, no man has seen God and lived! No thanks!

As a person who has been trying to understand what all of the fuss is about, I have yet to be shown a clear method to join the believers club. But the one thing that continues to surface, is that I have to believe with all my heart, and have faith. As much as I might want to believe with all my heart, I simply cannot. I don’t know why, either. I don’t hate God, I don’t hate religion. I’ve spent plenty of time in church and sunday school, so I know a lot of the major stories in the Bible. I know that I will burn in Hell for all eternity if I don’t accept Jesus as my savior. Yet, here I am without the ability to simply believe with all my heart.

Faith is empty when it comes to God. It is a leap to nothing. It is exactly like having faith and believing with all my heart that Santa is real. And I realize that Santa is nothing at all like God, but believers must realize that to me, Santa is exactly like God. Imaginary. And no amount of faith is going to change that. I need something else. Something that Christianity simply has been unable to provide. Evidence.

Is There a Fate Worse Than Death? December 29, 2010

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I heard the phrase “fate worse than death” on an unrelated YouTube video, and it got me thinking about the topic. For humans, we know that we will all die one day. Of course, there are many who believe, or at least hope, that there is some kind of life after death. These beliefs are all over the map in terms of details, but they are quite popular. I don’t even have to wonder why this is the case, as I myself do not want my life to end. Or, so I say.

My personal belief is that when we die, we revert back to the same state we were in prior to conception. Which is my way of describing to others the state I believe I will be in; that of non-existence, and with no ability to recognize or acknowledge my existence. Before the egg and sperm united that created me, I was not, nor was I even intended. I was a rather rare luck of the draw, so to speak. And so it will be, I presume, after I die. But for some, there is a fate even worse if one considers death to be a bad thing.

Christianity claims that those who do not get accepted into heaven will be doomed to Hell. And Hell is described in most sects as an eternal lake of fire, or an eternal burning, gnashing of teeth, etc. Sounds awful to me. Yes, it sounds far worse to me than being a corpse, even if my body were cremated, the burning stops once the fuel (my body) is consumed. But Hell is an eternal burning of my body, while I am aware and alive, and while I can always feel the burning! This sounds horrific. To be fair, not all Christians believe in this type of Hell.

But, no matter how I look at it, if rejecting God, Jesus, or Christianity is going to land me in this awful place, this fate, then I don’t see any way to call Christianity a loving or peaceful religion. I don’t see how I have been given the “free will” to accept or reject this god, if this punishment exists. There is nothing more evil and despicable in my book. As a parent, I would never hold a punishment so severe over my children, for any reason. It is simply not necessary. However, I hold no delusion that fear is not the greatest motivator for most humans. And if Hell is real, it has certainly scared many people enough to keep them at least pretending to believe.

I know there are Christians who will say that the love of Jesus and the promise of Heaven are far greater rewards, and that this is the reason they choose to accept Jesus. But those same people refuse to renounce the punishment of Hell. In other words, they claim that they are not afraid of Hell, because they believe, but they simultaneously claim that we have a choice to believe or not. So, if I don’t believe, they prefer to claim that I don’t want to be in Heaven, or to accept Jesus as my savior. And they believe that it is always my choice to believe, or go to Hell.

If there are in fact only two fates, Heaven or Hell, then the only rational choice, according to believers, is to believe! It never occurs to many of them that a reward alone should be enough to gain believers. It never occurs to some of them that the reward of eternal life would still work for most believers, and that NOT making it to Heaven is punishment enough. Why add Hell to the mix at all? Well, if you’re a god like the one in The Bible, you can add Hell as the ultimate punishment, thereby cutting off all options and choices for everyone. What choice does anyone actually have if the reward and punishment are equally eternal, and at polar opposities in terms of fate?

I do not want to die. But then again, do I really want to live forever? We’ve all seen enough fictional movies to see where eternal life could get awfully boring. For me, Heaven is a human idea designed to ease the finality of death. You don’t come back, as they say. And if that’s what it takes for many humans to accept the finality of death, that’s OK with me. I know I have one shot. And I know it is relatively short.

I can say that at this point in my life, I am happier than I have ever been with the knowledge that I was able to be so lucky to be here, and that I was able to experience the love of my family and my children. I want to be there for my youngest son, and for my grand-children, but I know that I cannot be here forever. That makes everything I am doing right now even more important. It makes me want to be as kind and helpful as I possibly can. It makes me want to share my knowledge, help others in need, and smile a lot more.

But what do I know, I’m just a godless heathen!

The Young Versus the Old December 24, 2010

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I’m talking about our planet earth, and it’s age. How old is the earth anyway? According to science, our planet is approximately 4.5 billion years old. Within the scientific community, there really is no debate worth considering over this, as the facts and evidence to support this estimate are well documented and tested.

On the other hand, there are many people, especially in the United States, who believe that our planet is somewhere between six to ten thousand years old. The scale of difference between 4.5 billon and 6 thousand is not even worth writing down (.0000013). Sorry, I couldn’t help myself.

So why do people believe this young and very absurd age? Because they were told that the biblical story of Genesis pinpoints the beginning of the earth, God’s creation, at about 6,000 years ago. That’s it. God did it, they believe it, end of story. Science be damned, they say. Although, to be fair, I think that most of these people just don’t want to challenge religious doctrine, or biblical stories.

But this also poses what I consider a serious problem for Christians who hold either the young earth or old earth position. Yes, there are Christians who reject the young earth idea, and adopt an old earth version of creation, which they somehow have decided matches very well with science. Go figure. The problem is that only one of these positions can be true, and Christians do not agree with each other.

So, what if Genesis is just a metaphor for how God created the earth, and science has it about right? Well, Christians still get to believe that God did all of this work, and they can rest easy knowing that science is finally catching up to the truth of God’s creation. But if they believe the rigid accounting from The Bible as accurate, then they must hold that the earth is much younger than science thinks it is. This of course creates all sorts of problems for scientists if it is true, but whatever.

One thing I would like to add to this is the fact that I personally know Christians on both sides of this issue. And when I challenged them to this obvious difference, I was astounded to hear them both agree that this difference in no way affects their salvation! What? Seriously? Apparently I am supposed to sit back in awe of Christian knowledge of scripture and science catching up to scripture, and just ignore this magnanimous, blunderingly sad excuse for an explanation?

Christianity holds that accepting Jesus is the way to eternal life and salvation after we die, as well as the horrific fiery torture and burning in hell for not believing. So when people like myself want to find out why we should accept Jesus as our savior, we are expected to suspend all critical thinking and only be concerned with salvation? Is that it, really? And if this is true, then I ask this simple question:

Why do Christians care about anything in scripture that does not speak directly to the faith-based acceptance of Jesus for one’s salvation? And please don’t try to tell me that every word in scripture matters, if you can’t agree on how old the earth is based on scripture.

What About the Failures? October 19, 2010

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You simply cannot have it both ways. For almost every miracle, there is a failure, or more often, massive failure. When a bus goes over a cliff, and a single person survives, God gets the credit for the miracle. But why does God not also get the blame for the other deaths? The moment you give credit to God for a miracle, you are by default stating that God is also responsible for the tragedy as well. Even the Chilean miner accident had tragedy.

Sure, all of the miners were saved – thanks to the rescuers, and everyone else involved. But a miracle from God? Are you kidding me? Someone even claimed that God was the 34th person in the mine along with the miners! Seriously? What was he doing down there? If God’s miracle saved the miners, why were they stuck in the mine for more than two solid months? How much more incompetent can the creator of the universe actually be? And how is the collapse not the fault of God in the first place?

Anyway, it sure gets old hearing about all of the miracles of God, while conveniently ignoring the disaster that required the miracle in the first place! It’s disgusting. And many people do this without giving it a second thought. God, they say, was the reason that there were survivors in a particular disaster. But simultaneously, God certainly is not to blame for the tragedy and untimely and horrific deaths of the rest of the group. And no one seems to notice, nor care. The last thing on the mind of miracle thumpers is the fact that the miracle was even necessary.

I suppose that if California ever experiences a massive earthquake, one that has long been feared and seems as likely as all of the prior earthquakes, God will get all of the miracle credits, while perhaps hundreds of thousands will surely die as the ground swallows them whole, or perhaps a large chunk of the coast crumbles into the pacific, forever reshaping the coast line. But who will actually blame God for the disaster? Did God create the earth, and all of it’s natural disasters? There are certainly plenty of Christians who have no problem blaming tsunamis and earthquakes on sinners. I guess we’ll never know for sure, since God is conspicuously absent from modern times (assuming you believe he physically interacted with ancient humans some 2,000 years ago and earlier.)

As one who is quite certain that many modern humans are simply unable to abandon imaginary gods, I have to say that I am wholly unimpressed by miracle claims where credit is given to God. This god, who is also given full credit for actually creating the entire universe, and everything in it, is apparently incapable of managing the world, and the universe in such a way as to allow his beloved humans to live without fear of getting buried alive by a volcano, or be drowned on an otherwise beautiful beach by the sudden appearance of a tsunami. There is even a ready made excuse for such ineptness – free will! That’s right – free will is the reason that suffering is allowed by God.

Yeah, I tried to understand that one, and I was left with the same bewildered feeling. Pathetic.

Religion Cannot Win. October 17, 2010

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Religion cannot win. It simply cannot maintain any level of higher morality, higher moral values, better quality of life, or any other measure related to human social norms. I suppose it is presumptuous for me to claim that any of these things are the true goal of religion. But if not, then religion is reduced to nothing more than worship of a god or gods, in order to appease and perhaps gain entrance to eternity, or some other prize after our bodies physically die. That makes religions seem less appealing to me.

I have seen no evidence whatsoever that religious people are any better than non-religious people, and there is certainly no evidence that suggests one religion produces better morals than another. What with terrorists acting in the name of Allah, or Christians murdering abortion doctors, it is apparent to me and many others, that religion by itself is unable to satisfy humans as a method or approach to living better lives on this planet.

Being an atheist, having abandoned the idea that there are any real gods out there who are concerned with our species and how we live our lives, I can say with great certainty that my personal moral standards are higher than the highest self-proclaimed “men of God” in the largest denominations of Christianity ever known, including any and all Popes who ever lived. And my basis for such a claim is the simple fact that I have never stood before any large crowd of people and proclaimed that I have superior knowledge of a god, and that I am speaking on behalf of said god. I have never told anyone that they must behave a certain way in order to avoid eternal hell, or gain eternal life. That, is immoral.

Religions and gods have come and gone for millennia, and although it seems there is no end in sight, I have more faith in the human race to shake itself free from the shackles of all dogmatic thinking, all imaginary gods, and all outdated moral sets that create massive division among otherwise happy and healthy societies. There is simply no way that the major dogmas hidden behind Jesus Christ, or Allah, for example, will remain unchallenged, or blindly accepted by everyone as time marches on.

Religion is a tool of fear and control, directed by men who literally have nothing better to do with their personal time on earth. Many of those men have been disgraced by scandal or blatant hypocrisy while standing before their flocks, and their imagined god. And slowly but surely, the flocks are shrinking, and finding better ways to think about why we are here, and where we are going. Humans have all the tools they need to make their short and unique lives the best they can be, without the need for a god or a preacher, or an ancient human named Jesus to guide them. Heck, if you like the way Jesus lived his life, then you should be willing to live your life in a similar way – now there’s a true challenge!

Peace, and may religion die sooner, rather than later!

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