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.