Friday, December 16, 2011

Christopher Hitchens

I never managed to finish a Christopher Hitchens book, and in general, I found that his voice had a droning quality which put me to sleep. But in case you like Hitchens, you might be interested in the links featured on the C-SPAN video library blog.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Have I ever prayed? Yes. I grew up in a church, so we prayed a lot.

There was the formal prayer that we said every week--was it before or after communion? The Lord's Prayer. There were sung prayers--the Doxology, which we sang every week. Hymns either took a position about life--e.g., "Count your blessings"; tried to teach us how to be Christians--e.g., "Have thine own way, Lord"; or were about hanging out with Jesus--"I come to the garden alone", but quite a few were either prayers or designed to teach us how to pray.

We prayed at Sunday School. In movies, we saw images of people who prayed before meals, although in my family, we only said a "thank you" prayer, a grace, on Thanksgiving.

One of my childhood books was a book of prayers which included that bizarre poem (at least to a 20th century kid) "Now I lay me down to sleep" since it was about children dying before we woke up.

And during one years-long OCD-infested period, I prayed every night for everyone. It took 45 minutes. Breaking free from that prayer was as useful as finally coming to terms with my lack of belief. Life became simpler after that.

Last week at my temporary job, a temporary colleague said, when she saw my wet hair, "No wonder you have a cold." I told her that it was an old wive's tale that you could catch cold from having wet hair, and she disagreed. I know better than to do the research that would prove her wrong. I've tried that tack before. If she is 50-something years old and still chooses to believe in the fantasy that going outside with wet hair will give you a cold caused by a virus, she isn't going to change her mind now. That's the way belief is--it's like a bad cold that keeps you from thinking clearly because your head is stuffed with nonsense.

The idea that asking for something from a non-existent being could change things--it's nonsense that I outgrew a long time ago. "I'll pray for you" or "I'll pray about that" or "God answers prayers" is such nonsense, but at least it gives you a clue about the person who makes the statement, and warns you away from revealing your true self to the one who prays.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Dinosaur, Schminosaur

If this doesn't work when you try to play it, turn off the auto option.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Atheism and faith

I read a lot of atheist blogs, which might be why I haven't posted in such a long time. I'm constantly annoyed by things I read, by other's perspectives, by plans by atheists to "convert" others to their points of view. I subscribe, then unsubscribe, and sometimes *re-subscribe* to blogs like Pharyngula. It's as though I have a desire to connect with other atheists on some level, but I'm easily appalled by actions and viewpoints of other atheists.

This is probably why I'm an atheist in the first place--I seem to be incapable of agreeing with anyone else about faith, religion, and atheism. One of my colleagues explained my atheism to another person this way (interestingly enough, he was a still-believing former minister): "She's an atheist because she *thought* about it."

Tony Blair explains that his faith and values are important to him and affected his decision-making, but he draws the line at someone who believes they have a direct line with God (yeah, because *that* would be crazy). It's gibberish, but he seems not to notice.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

But of that day and hour knoweth no man

People are interested in the latest prediction of the end of the world--perhaps not because they believe in it, but because someone has the audacity to make a prediction and, as has happened before (see William Miller), the one making the prediction has followers.

Every Christian knows Matthews 24:36-44. In the King James version, the verse reads: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man." So if you're a believer, and you dare to make a prediction of the rapture, it seems as though that alone would negate your prediction. Atheists are having a great time making fun of the prediction. See Friendly Atheist here and here. But not all Christians think the prediction should be taken seriously. See: Varieties of end-time believers and Why there will be no rapture. I frequently think that atheists without a religious background find it easy to disparage all of Christianity because they view it as a monolithic entity, ignoring the diversity of opinion, interpretation, and belief that has splintered the Faith since the Reformation.

Matthew 24: 36-44:

36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. (Matthew 24:36-44, New International Version)

Friday, May 20, 2011

High school graduation

Friendly Atheist posted today about a student who complained about graduation prayer and is suffering hatred from his classmates. I quit my last job because it was impossible for me to feel comfortable in that public school with its prayer, not just at flag poles, but before track practice, at football games, and at graduation; with teachers who taught US history, but didn't mention Watergate and seemed to have never read the Constitution; and from Christians who frequently expressed frustration with the persecution they suffered, but who openly professed their faith while the atheists could never have "come out" safely in that school.

Right on, Damon Fowler. Well done. I'm glad that atheists who are wealthier than I am are pitching in to give you a college scholarship.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Matthew 5:1-12

Another rather fun passage of the New Testament is the Sermon on the Mount.

What makes it fun are the strange, contradictory, and confusing statement Jesus makes. Christians spend a lot of time and energy analyzing the Sermon on the Mount, but a lot of it doesn't make sense. A believer might pray for understanding, or believe whatever their denomination says.

Verses 3 through 12 are called the Beatitudes, or blessings. Basically, the beatitudes say, hey, don't worry, if you don't have it now, you'll get it later. If you're poor in spirit, you get the kingdom of heaven; if you're in mourning, you'll be comforted; if you're meek, you'll get the earth; if you aren't getting righteousness, you'll get it later.

Those verses--3 through 6--cover people who are lacking something. In verses 7 through 11, Jesus addresses people who have good qualities and says they'll be rewarded. So if you're merciful, you'll be shown mercy; if you're pure in heart, you'll see God; if you're a peacemaker, you'll be called children of God; if you're persecuted because you do the right thing, you'll get the kingdom of heaven.

In verses 11 and 12, he expands on the idea of people who are mistreated. "Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you." I'm sure this verse brought solace to centuries of Christian martyrs, but I've also had it quoted at me by Christians who felt I wasn't getting their message. Encouraging martyrdom in this life because things will be better in the next (imaginary) life after death was one of Jesus's worst ideas.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pope John Paul II is apparently now a saint

I suppose it's because I was raised as a Protestant, but this strikes me as exceptionally silly:

Yeah, right, and miracles really happen. Prove it. Actually, the Vatican examines miracles, and apparently they are proven to their satisfaction.

I found out because of the photos posted on this blog.

I realize that this makes a lot of people happy, but to me it is disgusting.

The Historical Jesus

I'm watching Introduction to New Testament History & Literature with Professor Dale B. Martin, one of Yale's open courses. It reminds me of being back in Sunday School. In small town USA in the 1960s, the only moderately intellectual pursuit open to an intelligent kid was Bible study, so I spent hours studying the Bible. I especially feel like I'm back in Sunday School when Professor Martin asks us to "Open your hymnals to..." (a mistake he's made three times when he meant to say, "Open your Bibles to...").

This isn't a class you can watch in the background while you're cleaning; you actually have to pay attention.

As an atheist, I found the most recent episode interesting and worth other atheists' perusal, so I'm embedding it below. If you don't want to watch the program, however, you can read through the transcript, which is online as well. My favorite quotation?

Now there's no way you can basically get these two narratives to fit together in any respectable historical way. Does that mean that nobody's ever tried to do it? No, of course you've got all kinds of very, very smart fundamentalists who believe that the New Testament has to be accurate in every historical and scientific detail or they believe then it can't be scripture. They will figure out some way to try to make sure that both these narratives can be fit together, but what I'm telling you is that no reputable historian will accept this because you just have to fudge the stuff too much; you have to fudge the data.

Sunday, April 24, 2011


When you're an atheist, a religious holiday sneaks up on you. Someone on Freecycle asked for plants and I offered her one of mine. I told her she could pick it up any time. "Oh," she emailed. "I don't want to interfere with your Easter. I'll pick it up sometime on Tuesday."

I replied that we don't celebrate Easter, so she could drop by any time.

Life is easier without silly holiday celebrations, whether secular or religious.

When I was a kid, the day started early with Easter sunrise service at 6 a.m., followed by a special breakfast served the men of the church, then a brief break for secular Easter egg hunting, then back for Sunday school singing, then the major big deal church service, then an afternoon of sleeping. It was both fun and exhausting: exhausting because we got up so early; fun mostly because we sang the "Gravy Song" (Up from the grave he arose) and "Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia."

The last time I attended church on an Easter, they didn't bother singing either of those hymns.

When I was a pre-teen, I wrote a joke in my Bible: "Easter's been cancelled; they found the body." I see that you can now buy a t-shirt with that saying.

If church were just about the singing and the songs, it would be a great place to hang out. But throw in potlucks, baptism, sexism, and a requirement in faith, and you lose me.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Matthew 4: 12-25

In Matthew 4:12, Jesus heard that John had been put in prison so he withdrew to Galilee. Here we have Jesus hiding out again. Herod threatens--time to head to Egypt. John the Baptist is arrested--time to head to Galilee. Specifically, Jesus headed to Capernaum, which Matthew says fills another prophecy from Isaiah which shows that Jesus is the Messiah.

Capernaum is one of those words that has always bugged me because of its pronunciation. One would think it would be straightforward, but you can hear it pronounced here. How do you get a "knee" sound of "n-a"? As a kid, I always figured that Capernaum must be roughly in the same location as Capernium, so it was annoying to find out they were the same place. At any rate, Capernaum is a pretty place to hang out and conduct a ministry since it's on the Sea of Galilee.

Jesus starts collecting disciples, the twelve guys who'll hang out with him throughout his ministry. Either Jesus is extremely charismatic or the disciples are tired of their jobs, because they all readily drop their life pursuits to follow him. He meets two of them, Simon Peter and Andrew, fishing and says, follow me. So they do. In the version I'm reading, the New International Version, he says Come, follow me, and I will send you to fish for people. Fish for people just isn't as poetic as the King James version: I will make you fishers of men.

He gathers a couple more disciples, Zebedee and John, who again drop everything and follow him.

Jesus teaches in synagogues, tells everyone that the kingdom of God is at hand and he heals sick people. It's the healing of the sick that makes him famous. Verse 24 lists the type of people he heals: those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy, according to King James, or those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed according to New International.

In the diverse thousands of denominations which are part of Christianity, you end up with a lot of interpretations about demon-possession. Some denominations feel that the times of demon possession are past; others interpret demon possession broadly to cover problems ranging from disbelief to the perils of modern life to the kind of possession that you need an exorcist to cast out. I view these denominations on a scale of fairly rational people to absolute whacked out crazies. But hey, they all get tax-exempt status on church property and even when they don't respect each other's beliefs, we, as atheists, are supposed to respect (or at least tolerate) them all.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


I just watched Gasland. It's more or less obligatory if you live in Garfield County, Colorado, since we're featured in it, although I more or less doubt that any of these people will watch it:

These three Republicans do not care about the environment. These three Republicans want growth, growth, growth at all costs. Let's have fewer regulations! Bring on the gas wells!

Oh, well. I've never figured out how to be a happy environmentalist Democrat in Garfield County, Colorado.

Brilliant--the Garfield County Republican party website has a link to the "2010 CENCUS" Right on, dudes, keep up the good proofreading. You're trying to prove to me that you're ignorant illiterates, right?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Civil War

I read too many blogs, in part because of intellectual curiosity, but in part because I feel that I should try to understand all sides of every issue. Silly me.

On the atheist side, there's Friendly Atheist, who posts too much but hey, it's Hemant, he's cool, and how else would I know about the latest atheist billboard? or, every time he posts something about vegetarianism, I would miss reading the virulent viewpoints of meat-eaters (carnivores are as ADAMANT about meat as atheists are about NO GOD).

There's Pharyngula, who thrives on being a total jerk, but occasionally posts a nice photo of a cephalopod and encourages us to Pharyngulate stupid online polls (which is fun to do). Without Pharyngula, I would never have (briefly) subscribed to Ken Ham's blog, so I wouldn't know that Ken Ham is crazy.

On the Christian side, there's a blog by one of my former ministers, a man who is nice enough, but gees, he created 3 children, and two are ministers (girls can't be ministers in the denomination I was raised in, so his daughter married a minister). I read his little mini-sermons on sex in marriage and the importance of family and how he scrubbed the floors before company because his wife was ill, and I know where's he coming from because I was raised in that church, and I always wonder why some people believe that silly book and others leave.

Christian bloggers don't offer me anything. I've been there, done that, and left decades ago. I may be mildly interested in re-reading the Bible, but there isn't much point in finding out Christian opinions about it. The world isn't about an epic struggle between good and evil; the world is about shades of gray. Life isn't about meaning; it just is. We will NEVER agree, we will always be at war, and our illusion of meaning will disappear.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Matthew 4: 1-11

I'm back after a long hiatus due to illness. It wasn't enough for me to catch something--I then took care of my mother, and caught her illness too. But all is well now, so I'm back to posting more regularly.

While I generally think of the New Testament as a vast, boring, contradictory wasteland of nonsense, much of which makes me angry, it turns out that I do like a few New Testament passages. Matthew 4, verses 1-11, is one of those. In this passage, Jesus is tested by Satan in the wilderness. Jesus is "led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil" as the New International Version puts it. He fasts for 40 days and nights, so naturally, he's hungry, but when the devil says, "Hey, Jesus, why don't you use your powers to turn these stones into bread?" he replies "Man does not live by bread alone..." Then the devil says, "Hey, you're Jesus, throw yourself off the temple because God will send his angels to save you." Jesus replies, "Nope. We're not supposed to test God." So then Satan says, "I'll give you all this great earthly splendor stuff if you'll deny God and follow me" and Jesus replies, "Heck no, I'm only going to serve God."

Why do I like this passage? For several reasons. It starts with the 40 days and nights of fasting. That always reminded me of American Indian vision quests, and it also alludes to the 40 days and nights that it rained on Noah, and the 40 years that the Israelites spent wandering in the wilderness. I also like that Satan tests him 3 times, which is the same number commonly used for tests in fairy tales. In fact, the fairy tale aspects of these verses might be my favorite part.

I also like the language, from stones being made into bread to "Man shall not live by bread alone."

You can read the entire passage here: New International Version or King James Version.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Good vs. Evil

One of the Christian blogs I read posted about good and evil.

I responded:

You're mixing up evil--for example, humans who choose to murder other humans--with nature. An earthquake isn't a product of an evil force. It's a product of shifting tectonic plates. A cholera outbreak is a consequence of political decisions made a long time ago, combined with the destruction of infrastructure in an extremely poor country. The view that everything which happens is a consequence of a struggle between good and evil like the one between God and Satan in the book of Job, or like the good guys and bad guys in an old-fashioned western, is one of the more ridiculous aspects of Christian thought.

Christians and atheists frequently share an interest in discussions of ethics and purpose. When you start with the assumption that God exists, everything stems from that assumption. A blogger I formerly read, Sprittibee, railed against the HPV vaccination (which would imply that her daughter or her daughter's life partner might have sex with another person--since that would never happen, why would her daughter need to be vaccinated?). The HPV vaccination was an example of our un-Godly culture (e.g., people have sex outside of marriage), not a medical advance that could save lives. At the same time, she asked us to pray for a child who received a heart transplant. The transplant took place in a hospital, and the child spent his last hours in that medical facility. When the child died, the discussion was all about God's will and how the child was now in heaven ("God took the child home). No one mentioned the role of medical science in the heart transplant. The doctors weren't praised or blamed. I was surprised, though, that these Christians would reject one medical advance because it was viewed as an assault on Christian ethics while they embraced the other. A devout believer would say, "God led those men to develop heart transplants" so does that mean Satan led doctors to develop the HPV vaccine? But the HPV vaccine can save lives, so is it really the product of Satan? So God is responsible for everything that happens, from a child dying in a hospital to Ted Bundy to cholera in Haiti to earthquakes in Christchurch--no, you silly atheist, that's not God. Those things are bad, so that's Satan. But God made everything? Yes, everything. And God created Satan, and thereby evil. Well, no, the Christian says, Satan chose to disobey God. You're forgetting free will. Men can choose to believe and follow God, or they can follow Satan. Right. Whatever. You've lost me.

I can understand the need to explain what happens on our planet and in our lives. I still wonder why my father developed chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Was it because we were in the fallout path of the above-ground nuclear testing in Nevada? Was it because he worked in a molybdenum mine? Maybe he contracted it because he prospected for uranium. He always blamed excessive x-rays given to him in the 1940s. He might have had a genetic predisposition to develop it since his first cousin also died from the same illness. I never thought, well, God has a mysterious plan for our lives, and it includes the need for some people to develop leukemia and die. I also never thought, well, leukemia is the work of Satan.

I read religious blogs, astonished by the hours and days and months people spend analyzing the Bible and trying to use it to explain their lives--scoffing at those of us who attempt to remain rational. If you start from a faulty premise--i.e., God exists--you're going to spend a lifetime explaining away the inconsistencies of religious texts and making up silly theologies and exclaiming that you're right and the other guy is WRONG WRONG WRONG because he interprets things differently than you and how many Christian denominations are there in the U.S. anyway, each denomination expressing the RIGHT interpretation?

Everything makes more sense when you start from the premise that God doesn't exist.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

No doggie heaven

I just returned from watching an amazing dog die. He was so sick that he could barely walk, but all his wits were about him, so he tried to let me know that he was happy to see me earlier in the afternoon. It was hard to let him go, and as he died, I felt myself wishing that there was a doggie heaven where he would end up chasing butterflies and balls, but even as I wished for that, I knew that it was just a silly human desire to not let go of one that we love.

All we really have is here, and while Togee was here, I loved him and took the best care I could of him. While he was mine, I gave him a good life, and he returned my affection. Any time I want, I can pull up a memory of me dodging to the left, and Togee running circles around me, or of him bouncing up, wide awake at 4:30 a.m., saying "Let's go for a walk!" and me reluctantly crawling out of bed, putting on his leash, and getting home by dawn. Or I can remember the time he said hello to me for almost 20 minutes because he was so happy to see me. Or the time his owner first put doggie booties on him and he tried to buck them off. Or saying goodbye to him this afternoon.

I have many memories of this wonderful dog.

Now is all we have.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sixty-Six Clouds--Word Cloud Bible

Someone made a Word Cloud out of every book in the Protestant Bible (Apocrypha excluded). Matthew's Word Cloud starts at 2:13. I recommend muting the schmaltzy background music, but to each his/her own.

I found it here. They're making money on the idea here, but you can easily make your own Wordle for any chapter you desire.

Revelation is interesting because of the dominance of the word "beast." Leviticus is interesting because of the prevalance of the words "offering" and "unclean." Matthew is all about "Jesus."

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Matthew 3

Hieronymus Bosch 090
In Matthew 3, we meet John the Baptist.

Since we are all products of our time, and I was a kid in the 1960s, I always envision John the Baptist as the quintessential Woodstock-era hippie. The New International Version describes him: "John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey." Hieronymus Bosch's interpretation is in the illustration above.

What would camel's hair clothing look like? Would it be comfortable? Is his attire and diet a sign of his religious asceticism? Or maybe he's more like Daniel Suelo, who gained notoriety for living in a cave near Moab, Utah, but lately has been wandering.

John the Baptist is a prophet, foretelling the coming of the Messiah. John condemns the "Pharisees and Sadduccees", the perennial hypocrites of the New Testament, calling them a brood of vipers.*

John was the original Bible-thumping, hell-quoting preacher. He uses an allegory to let them know what's coming to them: "The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

This is an important chapter for those Protestant denominations, such as Baptists, who contend that only adults (or at least older, thinking children) can choose to be baptized. It explains that baptism is for repentance, a sort of get-out-of-jail free card for those who sin. John describes Jesus, who as John puts it, "will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” With this allegory, Christians find out what happens to nonbelievers. They learn that all atheists, like me, are bound for hell. In reading Christian blogs, one gets the feeling that many Christians can hardly wait for the world to end so they can say "Na-na-na-na-na-na" at the atheists. Unless they happen to be related to one of us, they desire less to convert us than to jeer at us when the world ends.

The chapter ends with the baptism of Jesus. Again, advocates of full immersion point to the fact that Jesus was fully immersed as an adult to support their contention that sprinkling infants isn't right. On the other hand, Roman Catholics, among others, are infant sprinklers. For more information on the Roman Catholic perspective, you can read the article on baptism from the Catholic Encyclopedia. Among other insights, that article says that even heretics or Protestants can perform valid baptisms if they use the right words. That seems fairly accepting of them. The article states the position on infant baptism as "The fate of infants who die without baptism must be briefly considered here. The Catholic teaching is uncompromising on this point, that all who depart this life without baptism, be it of water, or blood, or desire, are perpetually excluded from the vision of God."

It's much easier to be a rational atheist than to follow the history of interpretations, exegesis, and dogmatic proclamations instituted by generations of men reading a few verses of the Bible.

Right after Jesus is baptized, an interesting event happens. The Bible says "he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'”

God said, "Here he is. This guy did the right thing. He's my son" thus setting up Jesus to begin a cult. But again, Christians make it much more complicated than that. Many Christians believe that baptism by other men (or priests) can lead to a second baptism by the "spirit." Pentecostal Christians, for example, believe that this "spirit baptism" is demonstrated by speaking in tongues. We'll get into more about speaking in tongues later after the crucifixion when Jesus comes back.

Illustration: Hieronymus Bosch (ca. 1450(1450)–1516) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

*This makes me want to create a Biblical insults t-shirt. Brood of vipers would be a good start.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Leaving church

Why do some people leave church and others stay?

I'm asking myself that question now because my mother just showed me the Christmas letter she received from a minister friend of hers. He has three adult children, and the two men became ministers while the woman married a minister. All of them bought the party line.

I read a lot of religious blogs. Some claim to have rational explanations for their beliefs. They carefully analyze Bible verses. They write about the theological explorations of believers before them. They try, try, try to understand and to apply what they learn to their own lives and to the modern world.

Like this blog I briefly read, or like my Facebook cousins, some people don't really think about what they're taught. Thus, it's easy for them to stay in the church. To my grandmother, it was social unacceptable to avoid church. If you were a moral person, you went to church. I could never really figure out if my parents believed in the party line. I think my dad went to church partly to please my grandmother, partly because his best friend also attended, and mostly to sing. If I had managed to make friends in the church, would I have stayed? No. In the end, a love of singing wasn't enough to hold me.

I researched our church's history for an online friend and as part of that, I went through the church roster of baptized members. I was surprised to see that my grandfather was baptized. Since he died years before I was born, I know little about him. We only have one decent photograph of him. My dad told me that when he was little, his dad always joined the other men in cooking breakfast for the women and children who were upstairs attending Easter sunrise service. Even though my dad couldn't cook, he made coffee for that same breakfast. Somehow, even though I knew my grandfather had cooked breakfast, I never pictured him attending church. I should have known that with my grandmother for a wife, he wouldn't have had a choice.

Was he a believer? Possibly. He was baptized. So was my dad. It fell apart in my generation. My older brother was baptized, and in a way he's the only one who's stayed "religious" although his religion is decidedly wacky. My other brother is an atheist, but he never really tried to learn much about the Bible. As an example, he was astonished when I answered a trivia question about the "original writing on the wall" with the words Mene, mene, tekel upharsin.

"How do you know that?" he asked.

"I've read the Bible," I replied.

To me it always seemed as though, even though we were all given a choice of the path to follow, the people who stayed in the church didn't really have a choice. Like me, they were thoroughly indoctrinated in the Bible. Our lives revolved around church. We read and studied and were given interpretations for many verses. They chose to be baptized and to stay in, while I opted out. Why did they stay? I think it's because their worldview had become so Bible-oriented. They filter everything through the Bible. I'm not able to do that. So they stayed and I left.

I looked up my former minister's blogs, as well as those of his children, and so I'm now reading even more religion blogs. I found a link from one of their blogs to one blog which seems to be worth reading. It's called Thinking Christian. I read through the post about Sam Harris's latest book. I thought about re-reading and blogging about "Why I am Not a Christian" by Bertrand Russell, a book I haven't read since high school. Maybe I'll read Sam's book first.

The photograph below is of my paternal grandfather, who was apparently a believer. The photograph is part of a family portrait taken in 1935 in the church where I grew up. In the larger version, you can see the curtains in the window. The last time I visited the church, the same curtains hung in the window.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Why gays should be able to marry

I posted this as a comment on an anti-gay, pro-religion blog, the Blog for Life, Marriage, & Religious Liberty. Since it seems unlikely that they'll actually publish it, I thought I'd publish it here.

In the 1950s and 1960s in small town USA, we weren't all that aware of gay-ness as an issue. Betty and Pat ran the airport together, and everyone respected them and treated them well. In 1979, my boyfriend was in a car crash which left him partly paralyzed. An employee at the rehab hospital rented rooms to those of us with relatives in rehab. My housemate wasn't as lucky as I--his girlfriend was in a wreck which left her brain damaged. My boyfriend could say, "I want my girlfriend here." She couldn't say that about him. When her parents visited, he was excluded. That's when I learned what it was like for anyone who isn't married. Later that summer, my boyfriend and I married, and when he went into the hospital, it made a huge difference in the way I was treated. Only those who are married have the right to a real say in their loved one's treatment. That's when I became an advocate for gay marriage. I was able to make it easier for my boyfriend and me; my housemate, however, had no say in his girlfriend's treatment, and since she was mentally disabled, he couldn't just marry her. That's when I realized how unfair and horrible it would be to be gay and unable to marry. That's why I believe that the right to marry is critically important for gays, and I can't figure out any reason why they should not be accorded that right

Friday, January 7, 2011


I re-created my Facebook account for one reason--to share photographs with cousins. Thus, I have only 8 Facebook friends, and almost all of them are relatives. Two of my cousin/friends are LDS (Mormons); two are born-again devout Christians. At least the Mormons aren't overally racist like my other two cousins. Those cousins have posted links to "Preserve our right to keep and bear arms" and "John Boehner"; and their friends have praised Jesus for healing their cancer without even mentioning the important role of modern medicine and science. Although we were happy together as children, I wouldn't even want to try sitting down with them in the same room for a conversation. The last time I tried it, my cousin yelled at me because I am not a racist. The only safe subject for us is the past, as reflected in the photos I post on my Flickr page.

Bill O'Reilly Proves God's Existence

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Bill O'Reilly Proves God's Existence - Neil deGrasse Tyson
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogMarch to Keep Fear Alive

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lesley Hazelton: on reading the Koran

I love this Ted Talk about a journalist/author's reading of the Koran.

The Word is God

It seems that this might be a good year to read the Bible in the King James version. In honor of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, Shakespeare's Globe theater is mounting a production called The Word is God where actors will read the Bible on stage from, as they put it "Palm Sunday to Easter Monday." While I can't imagine heading to London to see this (since I lack both funds and a passport), I imagine that it will be a wonderful experience.

I would especially like to hear them read Leviticus and Deuteronomy. I wonder how you could make those books interesting enough to hold a theater-goer's attention. Perhaps that's when everyone will take a break from listening and head to the lobby.

I purchased a version of the King James Bible on audiocassette once. It was narrated by James Earl Jones. That sounds like a wonderful idea, and it would have been if they hadn't backed up his sonorous voice with cheesy hymns. They didn't allow even a moment's respite from the background noise. James Earl Jones could have carried it off without the "help" of music. As usual, not everyone agrees with me. Apparently, the reviewers at Amazon generally like the hymns.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Matthew 2: 19-23

In Matthew 2:19-23, the family of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus is still hiding out in Egypt. But an angel drops by to let Joseph know that it's safe to return to Israel. The family ends up in Galilee, in the town of Nazareth.

The problem with setting yourself the task of re-reading the Bible starting with the New Testament when you don't really *like* the New Testament is that it's difficult to stay motivated. Thus, I haven't really read the Bible in months. But recently, another atheist started re-reading the Bible. He's starting with the Old Testament. He blogged briefly about one of my favorite stories in the entire Bible, the story of the Tower of Babel, saying "Once again we learn that knowledge is frowned upon." Well, that's one of the lessons, I suppose. At any rate, because he's blogging about the Bible, I'm inspired to take up the habit again, power through, and read the New Testament so I can get to the good stuff in the Old Testament.

When we were taught about Jesus ending up in Nazareth in Sunday School, we were specifically told that he moved there to fulfill a prophecy, yet another proof that Jesus is the Messiah. I could never find much meaning in the fact that Jesus fulfilled prophecies made in Isaiah and other Old Testament books perhaps because, unlike the ancient Hebrews, I've never been looking for a Messiah or Savior. Whether he was accepted as the Messiah or rejected (e.g., by the Hebrews who didn't convert), it seemed like ancient history because it is. Matthew wasn't thinking about me when he wrote the verses to prove the prophecy; he was speaking to other scholars of the time. Perhaps that's another reason why the prophecy is irrelevant to me.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Oprah Schmoprah

Oprah is apparently continuing her non-skeptical and nonsensical beliefs into her new "network", OWN.

One of the shows is called "Miracle Detectives" described as a journalist believer and a skeptical scientist who travel throughout the United States investigating miracles.

Here is one of the comments from the website above:

There will always be the believers and non believers. But honestly we have a choice so what is the best choice. To think there is something more powerful, loving, gracious and wonderful watching out for us and we have a definite purpose here or to just think we are in this alone and isolated and there is no wonder to the wonderful there are only cold facts not loving revelations and gifts. I personally have had miracles happen to me and it's funny because I rarely watch TV and the other day I was actually saying I could use another miracle and I went upstairs to my suites in my Bed & Breakfast to water some plants and clean up a little and I thought I should put the TV on ( because that is the only place I have a TV is in the suites) and there was Oprah talking about her new network OWN (love the name) and the show on MIRACLES I couldn't believe it, no I could believe! Something very profound will happen to our scientists and skeptics of the world and they too will believe. Oprah I do know is a believer in Miracles, she is living them and has all along. She was put on this path to help other people and bring so much information and good on that grand scale and she has made a difference in so many lives. I'm glad she is in my circle of beliefs! I will be watching without a doubt! A Dream by the Sea Michelle New Jersey

Right when she needed a miracle, she went to water her plants and there was the news: An Oprah show about miracles. It was a miracle!