Incommunicado

 

Bible Dictionary

 

 

 

 

 

Is there something about religion, especially Christianity here in North America, which warps reality, halts comprehension and communication, defeats logic, and fans the flames of paranoia? There’s definitely something which fertilizes the feeling of entitlement, and encourages complaints about the expression of any unwelcome facts or opinions.

After my Dazed And Confused Op-Ed post, letters kept trickling in from Christians, dismayed and defiant, about things that were not said, and claims that were not made.

I was away on vacation, so I’m not familiar with what led up to the last letter about prayer. But two thoughts come to me in reading it, the first is that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

The second thought I have is that Christianity and its beliefs seem to be fair game these days for skeptics and pundits alike. We would not tolerate a public discussion of another religion’s deity or its practices in the glib and derisive way the writer does. Irreverently speaking or writing about God amounts to blasphemy, and I for one am offended by it.

So, you don’t know what’s going on, but you’d like to add your 2 cents worth anyway. I don’t see how you relate ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ to the previous letter, but you prove that it applies to your own.

Christianity is not the only religion these days which is fair game for skeptics and pundits, but it’s the one closest to (your) home. When you publicly broadcast your blind faith and belief without any proof, you create skeptics in job lots.

There’s no glib and derisive treatment of any other religion? Really??!  There’s even a word for it – Islamophobia.  Perhaps you’ve noticed some other ‘Good Christians’ doing it.

Speaking of ‘a little knowledge’ – a pundit is a learned person, not merely some street yob, spray painting anti-religious graffiti.  Scientific studies prove that most Atheists and Agnostics know more about Christianity than most Christians, often including priests/preachers.

Merely writing about what God (allegedly) does, or does not, do, is a statement of fact, not an irreverence. It is not blasphemy.  (See ‘little knowledge’, above)  Other people have faith and belief that your ‘God’ does not exist.  Respect their opinions.  I am offended that you worked so hard to be offended.

Pray? What For?s writer does not realize that those of us who pray do not need to justify it to him or anyone else, for that matter. Prayer is simply a relationship with or a conversation with God. He must know this, but for some reason seems to need to attack those of us who pray. And to attack people because of religion or because we pray for those affected by Irma is a new low. Perhaps this says more about him than it does about anyone else. He is free not to pray but those of us who do are doing just fine. Who is he trying to convince that prayer does not work, him or me? He should remember the saying that, “There are no Atheists in foxholes.” and it seems to me that someday he will realize this.

Despite your fevered, misplaced paranoia, the writer – Did not ask or expect anyone to justify their praying. – Did not attack anyone, especially for praying, or for their religion, or praying for the victims of Hurricane Irma. – Did not suggest that anyone must stop praying – though I doubt that he’ll join you.  You even admit that it’s “simply a conversation with God,” not actually productive.  What he did, was point out that, after all your self-congratulatory, self-satisfied praying – the Southern U.S. is still a mess.

Much of it is still flooded. Hundreds are dead.  Hundreds of thousands are without homes, food, water, and clothing.  Billions of dollars of property damage has been inflicted.  A National Day of Prayer has been held, and your God is throwing another hurricane toward Florida.  Aside from making yourself feel good – YOUR PRAYER CHANGED NOTHING!

Even if, somehow, some Southern victims were aware of your prayers, they might still give you the evil eye and ask why you didn’t donate – money, food, clothing, your time and energy to drive or fly down and help clean up and rebuild. Organizations like Red Cross and FEMA are doing that – without all the useless, feel-good prayers.  (Your perhaps imaginary) God helps those who help themselves – and others.  Get off your prayer beads and actually do something – besides whining about how attacked you feel.

An Atheist in a foxhole might strongly wish that there were a God, a Heaven, and a life after death. If wishes were horses, then beggars might ride.  Faith is when hope replaces reason.

Dazed And Confused Op-Ed

Extra Extra

PRAY! BUT TO WHOM?

Re: ‘Pray for everyone in Florida-Sept. 11

Who would not want to respond to the heartfelt cry from Florida Gov. Rick Scott? It calls to us again in this harrowing description of Irma’s relentless advances, indeed a terrifying and devastating onslaught.

Pray! But to whom?

The U.S. Supreme Court has banned prayer in schools. In Canada, courts found that the use of The Lord’s Prayer in schools infringed on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Defining the above rulings, as has been done, to mean that teaching religion in school is illegal, teaching about religion in school is legal, has excited argument rather than agreement.

Veteran education journalist Linda K. Wertheimer has written a book, “Faith Ed: Teaching About Religion in an Age of Intolerance.” She explores the diversity of cultures and religions as they meet in the classrooms and community, with many stories of teacher-pupil episodes, as well as parents getting involved.  Pray! But To Whom?  That’s a book I plan to read.

Cora Wright

Cambridge

***

Pray Where?

Cora Wright’s Sept. 16 letter confuses and disappoints. “Pray! But To Whom?”  Doesn’t she know?  A clergyman could direct her.

Perhaps she could pray to an English teacher, who would help her differentiate between ‘where’, and ‘to whom.’ She expends much ink and angst, listing public places where the Christian religion may not be monopolistically imposed on the multicultural population.  She fails to mention her chosen place of worship, the privacy of her home, or the sanctity of her own mind.

As for whom she may pray to, in these locations she is free to pray to God, or Yahweh or Allah or Zeus or Odin, or The Flying Spaghetti Monster. It doesn’t really matter.  The observed results are all indistinguishable from random chance.

Yours truly

Grumpy Old (logical, freethinker) Archon

***

Aside from my negating arguments above, here in Ontario, in schools run by the Catholic School Board, teaching religion is still legal, although this unique privilege is being considered for cancellation. Catholic schools accept non-Catholic students (to increase their declining enrollment-generated Government grants), but they, and even Catholic students, are allowed to opt out of religious studies.

In both the American, and Canadian rulings, what has been banned is the exclusive use of Christian prayers, to the omission of all other religions.

While her letter seems to show her as open-minded, she puts a lot of energy into the Christian faith.  She may be surprised and disappointed when she finds that Wertheimer’s book doesn’t treat Christianity as an only child.

***

Someone else had a Word to say.

Pray? What For?

Re: Trump’s National Day of Prayer

If we are to believe our religious friends, everything that happens is the handiwork of their all-powerful God. If this were true, it would be logical to assume that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma were the creations of their omnipotent and loving God.

With this in mind, I find it difficult to understand the declaration by Donald Trump of a National Day of Prayer, following Hurricane Harvey. It is a mystery to me what the prayers are meant to accomplish.  The devastation and destruction having already occurred to lives and property, it seems illogical to appeal through prayer to the very entity that created these hurricanes, guided their paths, and allowed said devastation and destruction to happen.

It is noteworthy that Trump did not declare a second National Day of Prayer following Hurricane Irma. Perhaps he was not impressed with God’s response to the first one.  😳

 

Frankly, A Great Challenge

Footprints Challenge

AFrankAngle has issued a fiction challenge. He is asking his readers to take the above photo, compose a 150 word story about it, and link to his post.  Stop over there to see what he, and others, have written about footsteps in the sand.  Here is my offering.

FOOTPRINTS IN THE SAND

Bobby was almost six. A fisherman’s son, he lived on an island off the Carolina coast. He’d had an argument with his Mom.  He wasn’t going to blindly obey her rules any more.  He would run away from home, and live on his own.

He packed what he thought he’d need, and marched down to the shore. The mainland was a blur, and he couldn’t run a boat.  Fine, he’d find a spot in the grass or trees to live.  With his driftwood ‘staff’, he trudged up the beach.

No suitable spot appeared, so he kept slogging – on and on. He finally came around a headland….and there was the dock again.  There was the big log on the beach – and somebody was sitting on it.  It was his Mom.  She just held out her arms and said, “Lunch is almost ready.”

Oh well, he could run away some other time.

Footprints Victory

For Frank, and others, I also offer the story of a devout man who died and went to Heaven. Before God actually ushered him in, He showed him his life with God.  The man saw it as a walk along the shore with God – two parallel lines of footprints in the sand.

At certain spots in his life, there was only one set of prints. When he looked closer, he realized that these had been the hardest times of his life.  He said to God, “How could You have abandoned me when I most needed You?”  God replied, “My child, those were the times when I carried you.”

Oh G.O.D.!

Fishing Boat

So a girl brings her new fiancé home to meet her parents. Boy looks like a hipster (scarf, big bushy beard, etc.) Understandably, her father would like to know the boy better and so he takes him to his study for a private conversation.
Dad: “So, John. What do you do for a living?”
Fiancé: “Well, I’m an artist.”
D: “So you’re doing well?”
F: “I paint, and God provides me with all I need to live.”
So the dad is a bit confused.
D: “And what will you do when you marry my daughter? Will your art provide for the two of you?”
F: “I will paint, and God will provide for us.”
D: “And when you have kids?”
F: “I will paint, and God will provide for my family.”

The dad nods and walks out of the study. Outside, his daughter is anxiously waiting for him. Daughter: “So, daddy? What’d you think of him? He’s great, isn’t he?” “Well, sweetie,” says the father, “I don’t like his job choice. But, on the other hand, I LOVE what he calls me!”

***

A young guy from North Dakota moves to Florida and goes to a big “everything under one roof” store looking for a job.

The Manager says, “Do you have any sales experience?” The young guy says “Yeah. I was a vacuum salesman back in North Dakota.” Well, the boss was unsure, but he liked the kid and figured he’d give him a shot, so he gave him the job. “You start tomorrow. I’ll come down after we close and see how you did.” His first day on the job was rough, but he got through it.

After the store was locked up, the boss came down to the sales floor. “How many customers bought something from you today?” The kid frowns and looks at the floor and mutters, “One”. The boss says “Just one? Our sales people average sales to 25 to 30 customers a day. This is gonna have to change very soon if you’d like to continue your employment here. We have very strict standards for our sales force here in Florida. One sale a day might have been acceptable in North Dakota, but you’re not on the farm anymore, son.”

The kid took his beating, but continued to look at his shoes, so the boss felt kinda bad for chewing him out on his first day. He asked (sarcastically), “So, how much was your one sale for?” The kid looks up at his boss and says “$124,548.88″. The boss, astonished, says $124,548.88??? What the heck did you sell?”

The kid says, “Well, first, I sold him some new fish hooks. Then I sold him a new fishing rod to go with his new hooks. Then I asked him where he was going fishing and he said down the coast, so I told him he was going to need a boat, so we went down to the boat department and I sold him a twin engine Chris Craft.

Then he said he didn’t think his Honda Civic would pull it, so I took him down to the automotive department and sold him that 4×4 Chevrolet Suburban.” The boss said “A guy came in here to buy a fish hook and you sold him a boat and a SUV???” The kid said “No, the guy came in here to buy tampons for his wife, and I said, ‘Bro, your weekend’s a mess, you should go fishing.

 

 

 

A Lotto B.S.

lotto

I recently watched a video where Atheist, Richard Dawkins spoke to a group about the non-existence of God, or Jesus, and took questions/comments after his speech.

One well-mannered, deeply-faithful man stood up and said, “You claim that God, and Jesus do not exist, but I experienced Jesus personally. He came to me and stood before me, and said to me that if I believed in him, I would be saved.  What do you say about that?

Dawkins quietly replied, “You suffered a delusion.”

The man did not relinquish his spot at the front of the line, and instead said, “My friend has allowed me to take his place. God and Jesus must exist.  I cannot afford to be in error about my salvation.  I have too much invested in it. I have seen the face of Christ!  He has spoken to me!   What is your response to that??!

Again, quietly, Dawkins told him, “You have experienced an hallucination.”

But there, ladies and gentlemen, you have the truth about religion, and it’s not an honest truth. Unwittingly, he has revealed that Religion is a commercial transaction – “cannot afford – too much invested”.  If you do something for me now, later on, when nobody can see, or prove anything, I promise to do something nice for you.”  Police break up similar scams and people go to prison on a weekly basis, for cons like that.

A moderator on the Atheist Experience show had a similar protest. (They are all too common.)  His response was, “It’s like the man who, all through his working life, took every dollar not spent on food, clothing, housing, etc. and bought lottery tickets. Now that retirement is looming, and he has nothing in a retirement fund, he is forced to keep buying lottery tickets in a desperate attempt to beat the already-proven shitty odds.”

Which brings us, strangely, sideways, to Bob. I worked with Bob.  He was a gorgeous creature.  He could have married anyone he pleased – he just didn’t please anyone.  He had the body of an Adonis….and the mind of a milk-cow.  Strong like ox – almost as smart.  No-one ever suggested that was because his gym membership included an all-you-can-eat steroid buffet, because they might have caused ‘roid-rage’ or testosterone-induced posturing.  If Bob had been any meeker, someone would have had to water him twice a week.

My wife worked with a young woman in her late twenties, who had gone to school with him. Bob had no wife or kids.  He lived in a nice apartment, owned a nice car, a big flat-screen TV, a high-end computer when they were expensive and not common, stereo, and furniture almost as gorgeous as he was.

The two met one day in a supermarket, and Bob bragged about all his beautiful possessions. Somewhere, he had obtained black satin sheets for his bed, and insisted that she come to his apartment to see them.  (Yeah, right! Oh well, could be a fun tumble.)

He showed her all his fabulous furniture, and took her into his bedroom and showed her his magnificent black satin sheets and then, having bragged about his beautiful possessions (again), he all but pushed her out the door.

When our standard, net, weekly take-home pay was $383, one week Bob decided that everything was paid for. Instead of depositing his paycheck in a bank, he took it to a Lottery kiosk, and spent the entire sum on Lotto tickets.

He told people at the shop what he had done.  Me??  I’d have kept my mouth shut.  When the inevitable question was asked, “How much did you win?” the answer was, absolutely nothing! Not $10.  Not $5. Not $2.  Not even a free ticket for next week’s draw.  $383 for a handful of something that couldn’t even be used as toilet paper.

I could never afford to do that, and probably wouldn’t, even if I could….but some people can and do. A young, dot-com millionaire received a half-million dollar bonus that he hadn’t expected.  He flew from LA to Vegas, dumped $500,000 in cash on a roulette table, and bet it all on black.  It came up red.  He shrugged, and picked up his empty briefcase.

When someone asked him how he could calmly do such a thing, he replied that he still had a small fortune; as much as he’d had yesterday, and he’d had fun. He said that, if he’d won, he’d probably just have wasted it on something.  Not a church, though.  You always lose, betting on salvation.

 

You Better, You Better, You Bet

coke-vs-pepsi

O Great God CONFORMITY, give us the power to make everyone else, just like us!

conformity

Yea, verily, in the beginning was the EGO. And the EGO begat an Opinion.  And the Opinion fed upon the EGO, and the EGO raised up the Opinion, until it was greater than Creation itself.

fixing-others

This was going to be a light, fluffy piece about the cola wars and pizza, until I realized how serious and ongoing this idea actually is.

The very history of the human race is a history of those with any kind of power, forcing the rest to agree with their often-incorrect opinions.

It was already old 4000 years ago, when Moses climbed a mountain. When he finally came back down with the Ten Commandments, the first thing he and his cadre of cronies did, was disobey Commandment number four – Thou Shalt Not Kill – and executed 3000 Israelites without a chance to recant, for holding an opinion that wasn’t even officially prohibited before Moses left.

The Inquisition was 500 years of torture and murder of anyone who dared stray from a very narrow religious path. The Crusades were a series of long distance religious disputes.  The Thirty Years War was not fought for riches or territory, but for the right to impose opposing Christian dogma on individuals, cities and nations.

Towns near the ever-changing line of combat could have their religious allegiances forcibly changed from Catholic, to Protestant, and back to Catholic, half a dozen times in a year. One town was known to have a number of….weirdos – vegetarians, artists, free-thinkers, Gnostics – heretics of the worst sort.  When Tilley and his forces arrived, he gave the order, “Kill them all!  Let God sort them out.”

Every man, woman and child; every dog, cat, pig and chicken was slaughtered. The town was burned and pulled down, razed to the ground till no stone stood upon another.  Thousands of innocents were slaughtered, just to ensure the elimination of a few who held contrary opinions.

Too often I’ve heard the Coke is better than Pepsi claim, or listened to gearheads argue whether Ford or Chevy is better.  When I researched for my P Is For Pizza post I was amazed at the vehemence of opinions.  Theirs was right, and everybody else was wrong.  Thick crust!  No, thin crust!  New York style!  New York sucks, Chicago style rules!

This might be understandable, if all people, and all colas, were the same, and some folks were willfully disagreeing, just to be disagreeable. To some people’s taste buds (mine included), Pepsi is refreshing, and Coke is too sweet.  It makes no sense to hold forth on whether Doc Martins are better shoes than UGGS, to a person in a wheelchair.

Other than my (often) aforementioned ‘Ego And Insecurity’, I don’t understand the driving need of so many people to foist their opinions upon others. ‘Live and Let Live’, or the Biblical, ‘Do Unto Others as You Would Have Done Unto You’ doesn’t seem to enter into the equation.

I know that none of my gentle readers would force their beliefs on others, but I’ll bet that you have seen, and been peeved by, all too many who have.  Anybody want to cite specific examples??

Religious Addiction

Bible

A letter came to a pastor recently, from a middle-aged woman determined to take her own life. She has already made an attempt.  She suffers from extremely low self-esteem, depression and other afflictions.

She feels desperate, “cut off from God” and beyond divine forgiveness. Certain readers will already be saying to themselves that she needs to be “saved,” to be “born again,” and to join a church where they “preach the Gospel.”

However, this woman has already been through all that. A Theologian read her letter and felt it was quite obvious that she suffered from far too much literalistic fundamentalism already.  Like hundreds of similar others over the years, she is being tormented by the very religion she once turned to for comfort and “salvation.”

Briefly stated, she is suffering from a form of religion that is ‘bad religion.’ It’s growing and becoming very powerful in some quarters today.  It can look successful on the outside, even imparting a glazed but glowing countenance, but it can tear apart people’s souls.

This form of ‘addictive’ religiosity is not confined to circles dominated by TV evangelists or excessively zealous priests. It cuts across all Christian denominations and, in varying degrees, all other faiths.

Here are some of its major characteristics. It touts black and white answers to every problem – from hormone issues (sex), to when and how the universe was formed.  It encourages passive dependence on a host of authorities, from sacred texts, to faith leaders at every level.  It fosters simplistic, ‘magical’ thinking.  It diminishes one’s autonomy, self-reliance, confidence in one’s own inner voice and ability to grow either emotionally or intellectually.

It views all other faith stances as wrong – or even Satanic, leading to “Hell.”  Such a system whines a lot about what “miserable sinners” we all are and yet never asks itself why it leaves such incredible guilt, anxiety and loss of self-esteem in its wake.

Priest

Yes, it can produce an overinflated ‘high’ at being on the “winning side,” as “God’s elect,” but at a terrible price. This is referred to as loss of authenticity and of one’s inner convictions.  The God being served is too often a narrow, small, vengeful, tribal deity, who is nonetheless supposedly loving.

The Churchman reflected on this phenomenon as he worked on answering the suicide note. Suddenly, with a genuine synchronicity, his mail arrived with a copy of an article from Pastoral Psychology, a magazine dedicated to learned articles on various aspects of soul-care – mainly for clergy, psychotherapists and other counsellors.

It was titled “Religious Addiction, The Subtle Destruction Of The Soul.” It was written by Patricia Anne Venderheyden, a psychotherapist in private practice in London, Ontario.  Her Master’s thesis is from Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, and was focused on this same issue: religious addiction.

As she told him in an interview, this isn’t a subject that has received much attention in the past. It certainly deserves it today!  She had pondered for many years, beginning with her own experiences of certain faith groups, why it is that so many in every religion gravitate to authoritarian cliques with such alacrity and yet, in the end, with such disastrous results.

She wrote: “I observed how people’s inner authority was compromised in order to fit in with a system of belief whose standards were impeccable – and unattainable. I saw people accepted into groups only if they ‘jumped through the right hoops’, dotted their i’s and watched their p’s and q’s.” The ‘addicts’ had a show of freedom, yet their proclamations seemed ‘hollow and empty.’

She saw many such persons blindly accepting the words and advice of religious elders. All critical awareness and thinking for themselves had long since been suppressed.  “The addicts wanted to be told that he or she was absolutely right, and that any form of questioning is evil.” she said.

Certainly, authorities can help someone at first, but if they are compulsively used ‘as a way of avoiding one’s own reality,’ they ruin one’s hopes of ever becoming mature in either mind or spirit. The addicts she describes are ‘religious junkies,’ obsessed with mood alteration and a quick fix to face life.

There’s no need to assign blame. Religious leaders can nurture an addictive faith unwittingly by never stopping to ask questions of the style and content of their ministry, such as: To whom does it cater, and why?  With what results?

Believers who are really avoiding the shame and pain within by refusing to tackle it, and by ‘leaving it all to God,’ need to stop and realize that the rigidity and exclusivity of addictive religion can one day leave you empty, out of touch with your real self and, hence, engulfed by fear and despair.   😦