The Saddest Funny Story

Sad Emoji

We recently had to attend a funeral service for one of the wife’s sisters. That was only the beginning of the sadness. A nephew of the wife’s sat down opposite us, and related his sad tale.

For about five years, he’s been fighting a neuropathy, a neurological syndrome which has been causing increasing pain in his extremities. First his hands, then his feet, became agonizingly sore. He was up to gobbling eight Oxycodone tablets a day, just to keep the pain level down to a 2.

He married a New Order Mennonite girl who increasingly involved him and the kids in their church. There had been a two-day weekend Salvation Convention. The church brought in speakers to lecture on different sins, and what to do to get rid of them.

After one seminar session, the moderator paired each attendee off with another church member who they were not particularly close to. They were to go to small tables, where each one would confess his/her sins to the other, who would then pray for them and forgive them. Then the process would reverse.

He said that he hunched over the table and told the other man about all his sins. The farmer devoutly prayed for him, and told him that he was forgiven. He said that he suddenly realized that he could no longer feel the continuous pain in his hands and feet. He called the pastor over and told him this, and the whole room had a Glory, Halleluiah, Praise-The-Lord, prayer session of thanks. God had cured him.

I manfully tried not to smirk, and wondered if his posture had kinked, or un-kinked, a spot on his spine, or if the power of suggestion had caused a psychosomatic (perhaps temporary) cure. He might even provide the possibility of a God-answered-prayer miracle. I was all ears!

He continued his tale. He can now not feel anything with his hands. His legs are numb from the knees down. When he had to call an ambulance for his wife’s apparent heart attack, he stood outside for ten minutes, in a foot of February snow in his bare feet. This condition is dangerous, especially for him, because he works in HVAC. This is like leprosy, or diabetes. If he cuts or burns himself and doesn’t notice it, he may have to have an amputation, if infection sets in.

This is the normal, worsening progression of the disease. GOD didn’t cure him, but he believes that happened. I just sat there in stunned disbelief, thinking that it was his belief that was stunned.
What’s the problem with a comfortable delusion?
There are none so blind as those who will not see.

IS ATHEISM A RELIGION?

Religions

‘Theism’ means ‘belief in a god or gods’. Believers usually sign up to the values and principles of a godly belief system: it’s an ideology. Theistic ideologies are commonly known as faiths or religions. Many ideologies have the suffix ‘ism’; for example, liberalism, socialism, and communism but, in the case of ‘atheism’, the ‘ism’ ending has merely been inherited from its root: ‘theism’. The prefix ‘a’ turns the meaning around to the negative, that is, ‘not a belief in a god’, so ‘atheism’ is as far from a faith or religion as it’s possible to get.

Atheism is not a belief system, so that should end this article right here, but theists will likely not be satisfied. They might point to the things atheists and religions have in common: religions form churches, atheists form associations; churches and atheist associations appoint members to formal roles such as bishop and president; church members give offerings, atheists pay subscriptions; churches hold services, atheist hold meetings. Churches and Atheists both have literature they value and people they admire.

The problem is, these are superficial similarities and if they make Atheism a religion, they make political parties and table tennis clubs religions too. That is obviously absurd.

There is one organization in the United States which makes it their job to decide which group is a religion and which is not, and that’s The Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Religions receive highly favorable treatment in the USA and the IRS wants to avoid giving these advantages to organizations that are not genuine religions. So the IRS has a set of criteria they apply to any group claiming to be a religion. The primary criteria are listed below with how Atheist groups qualify [shown in parenthesis].

  1. Distinct legal existence [Some Atheist groups are legal entities.]
  2. Recognized creed and form of worship [No creed or forms of worship.]
  3. Definite and distinct ecclesiastical government [No ecclesiastical governance.]
  4. Formal code of doctrine and discipline [No doctrine.]
  5. Distinct religious history [No religious history.]
  6. Membership not associated with any other church or denomination [Atheists may join any number of atheist groups.]
  7. Organization of ordained ministers [No ministers of any kind.]
  8. Ordained ministers selected after completing prescribed courses of study [No courses of study.]
  9. Literature of its own [No literature reserved for one group.]
  10. Established places of worship [No worship.]
  11. Regular religious services [No religious services.]
  12. Sunday schools for the religious instruction of the young [No instructing the young.]
  13. Schools for the preparation of its members [No atheist schools.]

With only one criterion applicable to Atheists (and that one all political parties and many clubs share), the IRS won’t be granting religious tax exemptions to Atheist groups any time soon.

Theists might follow-up by asking why Atheists bother to meet to talk about gods they do not believe in. There are several reasons atheists meet but none of them are to talk about gods they don’t believe in. A common reason, especially in very religious countries, is to find some time to socialize with like-minded people who are not preoccupied with religious beliefs.

In many cases, atheists meet as a reaction against religious intolerance, the infiltration of religious dogma into schools and legislation, or the entanglement of church and state. They meet to get organized in an attempt to combat these religious excesses.

Let’s spell this out; Atheists have no beliefs in common, no gods of any kind, nothing they worship, no scripture, no shared values, and no dogma. They have no clergy, no schools, and no sacred buildings. The only thing all Atheists share is a lack of belief in gods.

Why then do the religious so often claim that Atheism is a religion? I don’t know, you’ll have to ask religious people that question. Perhaps it is to try to establish a false equivalency, an attempt to drag Atheism down to the level of a religion—a set of unsubstantiated beliefs, in a landscape where beliefs are held only on faith. If so, they would be completely wrong about that too. 😯

 

A Collection Of Atheism-Related Quotes

atheist-i-am

“Through the prior assumption that his beliefs of faith are true, the Christian necessarily concludes that any ‘conflict’ between reason and faith is a mistake. He does not want contradictions, so he will refuse to accept anything as evidence of a contradiction. There is no apparent contradiction that cannot be explained away — even if it entails the castration of the Christian religion and the sacrifice of reason.”

George H. Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God

“Whenever a man imagines that he need only believe the truth of a proposition, without evidence … he becomes capable of anything.”

Sam Harris, The End of Faith

“Because religious doctrines are supposedly ordained of God, the religious adherent cannot easily question the teachings of his chosen church, even when those teachings are provably false. The scientist, on the other hand, is most rewarded when he proves the conventional wisdom wrong and revolutionizes our understanding of the universe.”

David Mills, Atheist Universe

“At this very moment, millions of sentient people are suffering unimaginable physical and mental afflictions, in circumstances where the compassion of God is nowhere to be seen, and the compassion of human beings is often hobbled by preposterous ideas about sin and salvation.”

Sam Harris, Letter To A Christian Nation

“Monotheists have to practise intellectual gymnastics to explain how an all-knowing, all-powerful and perfectly good God allows so much suffering in the world.”

Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

“Religious faith is, precisely because we are still-evolving creatures, ineradicable. It will never die out, or at least not until we get over our fear of death, and of the dark, and of the unknown, and of each other.”

Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great

“Being an atheist is nothing to be apologetic about. On the contrary, it is something to be proud of … ”

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

 

What’s Wrong With A Comfortable Delusion?

What’s Wrong With A Comfortable Delusion??!  Take a look here.

Delusion

Some Christians get upset when others argue against all their unproven assumptions. There’s everything from the ranting and raving, “How dare you disagree?” to a less confrontational, honest request for quiet acceptance of their beliefs and actions.

This morning, I found a YouTube video from The Atheist Experience, with the above title. Then I came down to read the newspaper, and found this article.

Farmer burned down barn, shot at house

Actions a ‘cry for help,’ judge says, sentencing man to 22 months for arson, firearms offences

In a ‘cry for help’, a depressed and guilt-ridden Mennonite farmer set three fires on his property – including one that burned his barn to the ground, killing seven cattle and a horse, causing $400,000 damage. Later he shot five or six times at his house with a .22 caliber rifle, while his wife and two young children were inside.

“It would appear that much of his angst arose from guilt that he felt over pursuing some secular interests that may have been contrary to his religious teachings.”

His lawyer was asked outside court about his secular interests. “He got a phone, as necessary for the operation of his cattle farm. The cell-phone was a Smart Phone, with access to the internet, and he started to retreat to the barn to watch Hollywood movies. So he was watching movies like “Superman” or something. It wasn’t pornography or anything.”

What’s wrong with a little comfortable delusion? Nothing, until it changes to psychopathy, and becomes uncomfortable, both for the deluded person, and the rest of society.

This is not an isolated incident, and it’s not restricted to Christians. The same paper contained an article about a Christian Pakistani woman who has been held in jail for 7 years, much of that in solitary, because a neighbor accused her of blasphemy. The raging mob demanded her execution, and that of the judge who finally freed her.

Don’t be deluded; it can be very dangerous.

Speaking of being deluded…. My contract says that I’ll be back here in a couple of days, I hope, with a new 100-word Flash Fiction.  Don’t let me down.  🙂

 

Dismantling Of Faith

Big Bang

In the middle of a discussion thread on an Atheist blog-site, about the above title, ‘Ron’ showed up.  The following is my part of the amusement and puzzlement he caused.

Have you never read the laws of Thermodynamics, you can not create something out of nothing. Most sciencies are best guess answers. Even Darwin at the end of the day realized there was an intelligent design. Even Stephen Hawking, the physicist, knew that there was a intelligent design at work. Faith can be proven but not through man.

After the author explained that he was an engineer, we got

You can’t create something out of nothing, you don’t understand, how do you get past that.

After contradicting half a dozen commenters, and stating ‘facts’ that science clearly contradicts, he dropped

I might of misspelled the word it is a belief that everything has a spirit trees plants sun stars ect. It predates mans religion’s by thousands of years. Look around n you see the same belief structure. Faith is synonymous with belief this has lasted for thousands of years. It showed up n sumerian cuneiform about 6000 bc.

After another half dozen desperate ‘create something/nothing’ assertions, I thought that I might step in.

If the Big Bang Theory is even vaguely valid, In the Beginning, EVERYTHING existed…. every erg of energy, every quantum entanglement, every sub-atomic particle! All that has happened in the intervening 14 Billion years, is some minor rearranging.
If you want to go back before the bang happened, there was no Time, there was no Space, and there were no rules. Even now, sub-atomic particles appear to be winking into and out of existence.
There may be a parallel dimension, or an alternative Place???, which is a cosmic junkyard, and crap is just getting flushed into our Universe. But it could all occur without the need for or presence of an unverifiable God.

I got 4 likes for that comment, and this reply.

I will play your circle of reasoning before the big bang there was black matter. Black matter has a structure they just can,t figure it out. The cern collider is looking for what is called the God particle. Your argument falls to the ground.

I calmly responded

‘Inside the Universe,’ before the Big Bang occurred, no matter existed as such, including Dark Matter. If you are positing that Dark Matter exists/existed outside the universe, I am unaware of any scientific theory that it does, but you have provided a theoretical place, and a thing, where you have intimated there is ‘Nothing,’ for something to be created from, but still no proof of, or need for, “God.”
BTW; The CERN collider apparently has found the Higgs boson. As a snide, sarcastic dig at religious fundamentalists, it has been nicknamed The God Particle, because it seems to do what fundies insist only God can do, as usual, with no proof, only desperate hope.
It seems to be your argument which has collapsed.

I got 2 likes, and this rebuttal.

You quit learning there is a smaller particle then the Higgs boson. They are revamping the collider to find the next smallest particle which they call the God particle. Besides of which if you remember simple mathematics to negatives make a positive. That is Black matter it is not complicated.

The thread went on for 284 comments, at least half either from, or directed at, ‘Ron’ and his inane claims.  I decided that it was time to bow out with

The Higgs boson is called the God Particle because it is believed to give mass to matter. It does not automatically give up that title and pass it on, simply because a smaller particle(s) exists.
If a smaller particle is proven, it is unlikely that is comes from the Higgs. Even if it does, the complete, assembled boson is still required to impart mass, and the title remains.
Given the seriousness and complexity of the subject matter, it is difficult to take a discussion seriously, when the comments are replete with punctuation, spelling, usage, and construction errors. I’m done, as are you.

I didn’t want to descend to, what might be construed as a personal attack, but, honestly, I’ve had better submissions from 5th graders….but this guy appeared to believe that he understood Cosmology, Astrophysics, The Big Bang, and thermodynamics, when he couldn’t even correctly assemble a simple sentence or argument.

I recently published a post titled Desperation, in which I showed the amusing and troubling problems of trying to have a calm, reasoned discussion between Science and Christianity.  It can be done – just not if desperate, Chicken Little, hyper-Apologetics like ‘Ron’ are allowed to range free.  😯

Why (Fundamentalist) Christians Hate Atheists

….Agnostics, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists….pretty much anybody who’s not them!

Smartest People.jpeg

‘Good Christians’ often paint themselves into a corner with reality and society. The more Fundamentalist they are, the more numerous, and tighter, the corners.

Churches are not bastions of religious discussion. They are merely echo chambers.  Congregations congregate in buildings which are full of people who think exactly like them – no further thought required.  The strangely-dressed bellwether at the front says ‘Baaa’, and they all nod and pass the collection plate, eager to be fleeced.  There’s a reason that they’re called a flock.

Atheists are happy to be on their own, thinking their own thoughts and making their own decisions. For many Christians, it is not enough that they accept the existence of God, and Christ as their Savior; they must Have Faith, and Believe, to be able to go to Heaven.  The mere existence of Atheists, to say nothing of some of their more loudly-held opinions and arguments, undermines that faith and belief, and it scares the Hell into the Fundies.

If someone tells you that they CHOOSE TO BELIEVE – in God, or anything else – they’re full of bullshit, and they’re trying to feed some to you.  People believe because they are convinced.  They can become convinced, but it’s not controlled by an on/off switch.  They can claim that they’re convinced.  They can fool others.  They can even fool themselves, but if the God that they ’believe’ exists, really does, they’re not going to convince Him.  And so, the hatred of, and discrimination against, Atheists begins, to remove all doubts.

I can’t count the number of blog-posts and articles I’ve read, where someone raised in a ‘Good Christian’ home, becomes an Atheist. It seems the more Fundamentalist and Evangelical the household – the more likely it is to happen.  Possibly it’s because the mistakes and hypocrisy and fuzzy logic are more apparent, and easier to see.

It is sadly amusing how so many of these poor souls realize and admit that, based on the claims they’ve heard, they find no proof that the God described really exists. Many of them strongly resist calling themselves Atheists, because they’ve been taught that Atheists are evil, nasty and sinful.  I’m not evil, nasty, or sinful. I’m a nice person.  I can’t be an Atheist!  But the Christian families that kick them out, or entire Bible-belt towns who shun them, harass them, and force them to move away, are evil, nasty and sinful.

I’ve been preaching for years about the ego and insecurity that fuels this type of behavior. Sacred cows make the tastiest hamburger.  You don’t have to blindly believe in My truths, because, while I’m not imaginary, I’m only G.O.D., not God.

Flash Fiction #147

Humbug

PHOTO PROMPT © Björn Rudberg

HOW THE GRINCH SOLD CHRISTMAS

Christians own the entire Christmas season!

That’s what he told me when I mentioned Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, Yule, Solstice, Boxing Day, New Years, and even Japanese Bonenkai.

There was no Biblical “Love Thy Neighbor.” He’d have none of that inclusive ‘Happy Holidays’ crap.  It was ‘Merry Christmas’ only, or return the Inquisition.

How dare those heathens celebrate when he wanted to celebrate, even if Christ was really born in April?  He even bad-mouthed the Orthodox. Christmas was the 25th – but he wanted the whole month.

I looked around the ‘Good Christian’s’ shop. Bah!  Humbug!  Merry Merchandising, and a Happy Capitalism.

***

My apologies for a non-original, variation on a theme. The first, and hopefully only, Op-Ed letter from someone much like the sadly non-fictional shopkeeper above, was just published.  It seems the more insecure the Christian Fundamentalist is about his beliefs, the less he wants to admit that other religions or even variations of opinion have the right to exist.  He would be appalled to be compared to the likes of ISIS, or al-Qaeda.

A happy and joyous season to all of you, and I hope that none of us meets one of these Grinch’s trainers. 😀

***

Go to Rochelle’s Addicted to Purple Addicted to Purple site and use her Wednesday photo as a prompt to write a complete 100 word story.