Archive for issues

Link: A (tweeted) picture is worth 1,000 words…

This should make you think… be sure to read the fine print in the lower right corner (a sentiment with which I agree wholeheartedly!).

 

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If you are a Ubuntu user and you value your privacy or security AT ALL, go read this NOW!

This is a REALLY big deal for anyone that is the slightest bit protective of their privacy or security, or that doesn’t want to be a potential victim of identity theft.  Seriously, if you use Ubuntu version 12.10, don’t do another single thing on your system before you go read this.  And if you use an earlier version, do NOT upgrade to 12.10, at least not until this situation is rectified.  I’d say now is a very good time to check out other popular Linux distributions (feel free to leave suggestions in the comments).

Ubuntu has a bigger problem than its Amazon blunder (InfoWorld)

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Was Jesus married? New evidence says yes!

This is only circumstantial evidence, but as I recall someone saying a long time ago, if you can sentence a person to the electric chair based solely on circumstantial evidence, maybe we ought to give it some credibility when it impacts our beliefs.

A Faded Piece of Papyrus Refers to Jesus’ Wife (The New York Times)

Papyrus discovery suggests Jesus married (stuff.co.nz)

Jesus had a wife, newly discovered gospel suggests (Yahoo! News)

Evidence that Jesus was Married (Unknown Country)

The idea that Jesus may have had a wife will probably impact the Catholic church more than most, as people will surely ask (or at least they should ask), if Jesus was married, why can’t priests marry?  Note that I am not Catholic and therefore don’t have “a dog in this hunt”, as the saying goes, but the ban on married priests was a late addition to Catholic theology anyway, and maybe now they might rethink that (of course, the problem there is they’d be in effect admitting that the pope that enacted that ban was wrong, and that would never do, since they like to think of their popes as infallible.  Whatever).

I’ve been saying for a few years now that the Bible we have today cannot be trusted to be accurate, since it was heavily edited and rewritten by the early Catholic church, which was really a group of pagans that had “converted” to Christianity (while still keeping most of their pagan practices and beliefs).  In truth they used the “Christian” religion (basically Paganism 2.0 with a “Christian” veneer) as a means to control people and make them subservient to the church leadership, which back then was pretty much synonymous with the government (no separation of church and state back in those days!).  If you want to read about how all this got started, go to your public library (remember those?) and see if you can find a copy of “The Gods of Eden” by William Bramley (the link is to Amazon but it’s not an affiliate link, and I don’t get any commission or payment if you buy a copy).

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Link: Can You Believe It? Legislation that Would Actually Help Fix the Patent System

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For expert, technically inclined Obihai users: Tweaking the Obihai Dial plan

This article has been heavily edited and moved.  Please click here to read it.

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Article worth reading (appeared in “This Week’s Top News” from Digg): How Religion’s Demand for Obedience Keeps Us in the Dark Ages

Every week I get an e-mail from Digg containing the “Best of Digg” for the week.  This appeared under “This Week’s Top News”:

How Religion’s Demand for Obedience Keeps Us in the Dark Ages

I will only say that one possible reason so many people haven’t left their religion is because they don’t know how the leadership of their religion really sees them.  I won’t spoil the article for you but it’s kind of an eye-opener, and I can see why it was voted up on Digg.

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Was the tomb of Jesus found back in 2010?

Nag Hammadi texts

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve come across a couple of stories today that are doubtless going to generate a lot of controversy:

‘Divine Jehovah, raise up’: Does discovery of this 1st Century coffin lid prove the resting place of Jesus is under Jerusalem tower block? (MailOnline)

‘Jesus Discovery:’ Jerusalem Archeology Reveals Birth Of Christianity (HuffPost)

Supposedly this discovery was made on June 29, 2010 and yet we are just learning about it today?  That in itself seem a bit odd.  Also, both articles lead off with a photo of a carved image that they identify as a “fish” — well, perhaps, but look closely.  Does that REALLY look like a fish to you?  I’ll grant that it could be (you never know what was in the mind of some ancient artist from a completely different culture) but keep in mind that, as the first linked article mentions,

“… iconographic images on ossuaries are extremely rare, given the prohibition within Judaism of making images of people or animals.”

So if it’s NOT a fish, what could it be?  I expect we’ll be seeing this photo on an upcoming segment of “Ancient Aliens“.

Now, despite everything I have written about my distaste for organized religion, and my belief that the god of the old testament was an evil imposter (probably an alien or an other-dimensional being, but one that didn’t show a great deal of love or compassion toward humanity, not even his supposedly “chosen people”), I still have no problem with the idea that Jesus actually existed.  I do tend to believe that he actually did exist, but like many early figures, much of the lore that has been written about him was complete fiction, while other parts of his story suffered deliberate editing by the early church to remove the parts that they didn’t want people to know.  I think that it’s much more likely that the reason Jesus came was something completely different from what the churches teach.  The real purpose has been pretty much lost to us, although you can still catch glimpses of it in the four gospels (the parts that survived editing and revision, not to mention deliberate and unintentional translation errors) and especially in the some of the writings found in the Nag Hammadi library.

Some of the people who believe that we’ve been visited by aliens in the past believe that Jesus may have been an alien-human hybrid.  Mary, of course, was his mother, but she was artificially inseminated with the sperm of Jesus’ father.  And when he spoke of his “heavenly father” (and keep in mind that when you see the word “heaven” or “heavens” in the bible, that’s often more properly translated as “universe” or “skies”), he was really speaking of his “father in the sky”, or perhaps more precisely, his father in the alien spacecraft, that had access to some advanced technology (including a way to send “voices from the sky” if the occasion called for it).  Again, that’s just a theory, and I’m not saying I believe it or disbelieve it (although in my mind, it’s more credible than some of the B.S. that the churches throw out there).  While his “heavenly father” could have been the god of the old testament (in which case, he must have mellowed out a lot in his old age — maybe they got him the alien equivalent of psychiatric help for his little issue with destroying humans right and left), I tend to think it was probably some other alien.  The Jews just assumed that his “heavenly father” was their god, and he wasn’t about to go out of his way to correct them, lest he be stoned to death before his ministry ever got off the ground.

Note that Jesus could never do any miracles in his home town.  Ever wonder why that was?  One guess is that he was using advanced technology (again, likely supplied by his “heavenly father” from the spacecraft in earth’s orbit — the same one the wise men had seen at Jesus’ birth, that led them right to the infant Jesus) and that in his younger days he’s already revealed some of his “bag of tricks” to those in his home town.  So there were too many people there who knew what to look for.  It’s the same reason a magician might not want to perform at a magician’s convention — if everyone there already knows the secrets, they aren’t going to be very impressed.  Another theory is that it wasn’t entirely Jesus performing the miracles per se, it was the combined faith of those around him — Jesus was just sort of a catalyst or a focus point for their faith.  In his home town, so many people had known him from childhood that they had no faith that he was anything other than an ordinary person.  Therefore, there was no faith to amplify — the crowds or individuals around him were giving him nothing (or perhaps even negativity and disbelief).  Again, my position is that “I don’t know”, but I do believe that had all of Jesus’ original teachings survived, many if not most of us could do the very same miracles that he did, and more.  Whether those teachings were “how to make advanced technology” or “how to amplify your faith” or whatever they may have been, the fact that the early church went out of their way to destroy the parts that would not cause people to become dependent on a “priestly class” was a great tragedy.

This in no way is intended to denigrate Jesus’ ministry, or the fact that he came to teach us things that the church later decided it doesn’t want us to know (such as the reality of reincarnation).  In fact, I believe it is the churches that are denigrating him every time they teach lies about him, or his reason for coming here (or give much more respect to the fake apostle Paul and his writings than they do to the teachings of Jesus).  But keep in mind that Jesus’ ministry was to the Jewish people of his time, and never to the Gentiles.  So the church uses Paul to try to place him as the “bridge” between Jesus and the Gentiles.  Which is fine in one respect — I’m not saying that, despite all of Paul’s flaws, he didn’t have a genuine ministry to a specific group of Gentiles back in his day.  But Paul’s writings, intended for specific churches in a specific culture at a specific time in history, should never have been considered as universal truths for the entire world at a time centuries in the future, while at the same time the clear teachings of Jesus have been all but ignored by many churches.

Ultimately, the problem with the discovery of this tomb is that it will be kind of like a UFO sighting — while it will be considered an interesting discovery and will provide additional “evidence” for the true believers, it will contribute very little to our actual knowledge.  Just as a UFO sighting tells us virtually nothing about what they are, where they come from, or who’s inside them, the finding of Jesus’ tomb will probably not add a whole lot to our knowledge of his life or his teachings.  I’d be much more excited if they’d found a first-century library that contained actual writings authored by Jesus himself, or even by one of the original disciples, written by their own hand.  Not that I honestly believe we’d ever be allowed to see such a thing if it were found, particularly if it directly contradicted what the churches are teaching!

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This is the biggest reason I no longer consider myself a “Christian”

Just in case it hasn’t become clear to anyone yet, I no longer consider myself a “Christian”, at least not in the way most people use that word today (I still believe that Jesus probably existed, but I think that nearly everything the churches want you to believe about him is a total and blatant lie, and that most preachers know better and are deliberate liars!).  There are numerous reasons for that (I have blogged about some of them in previous posts) but one of the biggest is because I started to realize just how hateful and evil so many “Christians” are.  For example:

Atheist Girl In Rhode Island Faces Stream Of Death Threats

Jessica Ahlquist is a 16-year-old self-described nerd who has garnered nationwide attention after successfully suing to have a giant banner emblazoned with an official school prayer removed from the auditorium of her public high school in Cranston, Rhode Island. The response has demonstrated the limits of Christian love — she has basically become the villain of her entire city, with her state representative, Peter Palumbo, called Jessica an “evil little thing” on the radio, and a sample of the online outpouring of hatred from other Cranston residents can be seen on JesusFetusFajitaFishsticks:

Click on the link to the article to see the image, but be advised that if you are a person with any shred of decency and compassion, you will be shocked at what has been said to this teenage girl.

I think that the reason people talk like this is because they are not following the true Jesus (the one that gave the Sermon on the Mount) and that the “god” they believe in was an evil impostor, not the true creator of all that is.  I’m not an atheist (and to be honest, I think some hard-core atheists are just as bad as some fundamentalists Christians) but I just don’t believe that a “god” who can wipe out three thousand of his own “chosen people” is anything other than pure evil (and that begs the question of why anyone who is NOT Jewish would believe that particular “god” wants anything to do with them). Of course the Jews had to manufacture a “devil” who is supposedly even worse, but as far as I am concerned they were probably all aliens (or other-dimensional beings, perhaps) with very human traits, including killing and lying (and actually we got some of THEIR bad traits because they mixed their DNA with ours, both through artificial insemination and through breeding, the latter as mentioned briefly in the book of Genesis).

Even if modern “Christians” weren’t so hateful, I still would not believe the way they do (if you want to know why, read William Bramley’s book “The Gods of Eden” as an introductory volume – you might be able to find excerpts online if you search for it).  Or you could look up the “Nag Hammadi Library“, an archaeological discovery in 1945 that most churches won’t even talk about.  I think what passes for “Christianity” today (and in fact, is the basis of ALL religions) is a desire by those of the clergy/priestly class to make money and/or control people (usually both).  I’m not saying the people warming the seats on Sunday (or Saturday) morning are all evil, just uninformed and in many cases quite a bit naïve, and I’m not even saying all churches are sinister, though many certainly are.

It took me FAR too long to realize much of this (and I wish I could get back the years I lost to that nonsense), but it sure helped when the Internet and search engines came along and I could start looking things up to try to determine what was true and what was B.S.  The information is all out there, you just have to be willing to look for it, the same way you might look up information on a multi-level marketing (pyramid) scheme that’s trying to sucker you into something so that someone else can exert power over you and take your money.  If someone doesn’t want to look, there’s nothing you can do.  And I do understand that if all your friends and social connections are in a religious group, and you know they will shun you if you leave, it would be very hard to leave – but the fact that they would shun you proves they are not as nice as you may think.  If someone will only “love” you because you believe exactly as they do and agree with them (or pretend to do so), then it’s not real love.  And if you worship a “god” because you fear he will strike you down, or send you to some form of horrific punishment when you die, that’s not love either.

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Two more links about religion that take an unconventional viewpoint

English: Medieval miniature painting of the Si...

Image via Wikipedia

I’m not going to comment much on these, in part because they are both from sites I’m not familiar with and in part because if you read them, you’ll already have plenty to think about without my added commentary.  The only connection between these is that I came across both of them within the last 24 hours purely by accident (that is to say, I wasn’t researching either of these topics; they just showed up, probably in a Twitter stream).

1. The “Following are biblical verses compiled by independent comparative religion scholar and Freethought Nation guestwriter Barbara G. Walker, concerning the supposed “morality” of the Bible. The paraphrases and commentary are Barbara’s, while the original verses are linked.”  You’ve probably read or heard some of this before, but not all in one place like this.  And yes, I’m aware that a few of these may misinterpret the verse shown, but not all of them do, and in some cases they are actually showing the fundamentalist view (which isn’t necessarily correct, but it’s what a lot of the “Christians in Name Only” actually believe).

Bible morality or depravity?

2. Quote from the introduction to the following article: “Editor’s note: The article below is written by Eric Allen Bell, a filmmaker who was recently banned from blogging at the “Daily Kos” because he wrote three articles that ran afoul of the mindset there, specifically naming “Loonwatch.com” as a “terrorist spin control network.” Frontpage invited him to tell his story, which he does below.

The High Price of Telling the Truth About Islam

I found both of these interesting, but that’s all I will say about them (in fact, that’s about all I can say about them that would not be simply my opinion).  As you probably know by now, I’m not a big fan of ANY organized religion, since it seems that organized religion has been directly responsible for so many atrocities throughout history.  Even as you read this, someone, somewhere in the world is being tortured or killed because someone else feels it’s their religious duty to do so.  When will it ever end?

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Why do people join fundamentalist religions? And why do they stay in them?

Nag Hammadi texts

Image via Wikipedia

There are really three main reasons (and one minor one) that people become members of fundamentalist religions:

  1. They were born or adopted into a family where other members are adherents.
  2. They were scared into the religion (the “if you don’t join us you could spend eternity in a lake of fire” inducement).
  3. They were brought into it by people who pretended to love and care about them.  I will explain why I say pretended in a moment, but note that in most cases the people attempting to show love believe it to be genuine (nobody wants to think of themselves as a phony, after all).
  4. (The minority reason): A relative handful of people experience a genuine spiritual encounter of some kind (or at least they perceive it to be such), but often misinterpret it as a directive to affiliate with a particular religious group.

The main reasons people don’t leave such groups:

  1. They fear that their family would disown or shun them (this is often not an unfounded fear).
  2. They fear that if they leave they will be “lost” (again, the fear of the “lake of fire”, etc.)
  3. Their only friends are other members of that group, and they fear that if they left they would have few or no remaining friends.
  4. They fear the loss of the love and acceptance they once knew when they entered the religion.
  5. A small percentage may find an outlet in the church for their talents and creative energies (I don’t want to be mean, but a lot of mediocre singers have a captive audience every week at a small church somewhere).
  6. In extreme cases they may feel that they will be directly “punished” (by either deity or others) for leaving.

The main reasons people want to leave after they have been in the group for a while:

  1. They start to see hypocrisy in the group (they are told to live a certain way, but see that other members of the group live differently and often suffer no repercussions).
  2. They find that the love and acceptance they were initially shown was conditional, often upon them agreeing with the group and/or behaving a certain way.
  3. They may be asked to take an oath or make an affirmation that they are not comfortable with or do not agree with.  They may even be told that if they don’t follow through with this, they should leave the group.
  4. They may be asked to help bring others, such as friends and family, into the group.  At that point, they may realize that most of those people already have much happier and more fulfilling lives, and it would actually be doing them a disservice to induce them into the religion.  Or they may realize that they, themselves, are not truly happy and that the religion has not met their expectations, so how could they justify inducing others to join?  Yet they are continually pressured to “witness” to others.
  5. In some groups, they may see that the group actively practices hate or disdain toward certain groups.  This may even include other groups of the same faith with which they have minor doctrinal differences.
  6. They may discover that their religious leaders have lied to them or deceived them, or withheld important information from them (for example, many “Christian” churches don’t even mention the existence of the Nag Hammadi library to their members).
  7. They may discover that their religious leaders are living a lifestyle that the “lay” people would be condemned for.  This is not just the common example of church leaders engaging in the very sexual practices that they preach against, but also church officials that live a life of relative luxury compared to those who are asked to contribute to their lifestyle.
  8. They may be asked to not only “tithe” a certain percentage of their income, but to give above and beyond that.  However, they may never know for certain that the money is being used for the reason it is being solicited, or for any good purpose.
  9. The group may ask them to participate in projects or rituals that seem (and often are) meaningless  In some cases these may be projects that ostensibly provide assistance to others, but there is no way to tell whether that assistance is reaching those who actually need it.
  10. They may start to research the history of their religion, or information on their religion’s beliefs or other information their religion from a “neutral” source (such as the Internet) and discover some disturbing facts or contradictions that don’t sit well with them.
  11. They may get tired of being told what they may and may not read, what they may and may not watch, and to some degree, what they may and may not think.
  12. They may find that they simply don’t like being coerced into attending religious functions at times they’d prefer to be doing something else, especially things that might make them feel happier and more fulfilled as persons.  Many people simply do not care for the traditional church service — there is absolutely nothing about it that appeals to them, except perhaps for the socializing that takes place before and after.
  13. They may find that in trying to raise their children in a manner approved by the church, other members of their family and others with whom they are forced to associate (not of their religion) may see them as cruel or abusive (or just crazy) parents.  In some cases that perception may be justified and in other cases it is not, but if a parent truly cares about their children, the perception that they are a horrible parent (by those not of their faith) may start to wear on them.  For example, many people would consider it emotionally abusive (with considerable justification) to instill a fear of a possible eternity in a lake of fire into a small child, yet many fundamentalist preachers have no problem doing this.
  14. A religious leader does something that truly offends them personally, such as the aforementioned scaring their children (to the point that the children are having nightmares), or telling them that a recently deceased relative is now spending an eternity in hell, or speaking against a beloved sibling or other family member who may happen to be gay, or may simply be a member of another faith or have no professed faith.
  15. In some cases they may discover that the leaders of the religious group have been abusing children (their own or someone else’s).  Any parent with half a brain and the smallest bit of conscience would get their family out of that group immediately and contact the appropriate authorities (and by authorities I do not mean other members of that religion, who may try to cover for the offender)!
  16. They may become troubled by the practice of taking scripture verses out of context (random verses from random places in the text) to basically form a doctrine out of thin air.  For example, most verses used to support tithing, if read in context, do not in any way indicate that believers are required to give a certain percentage of their income to a religious institution.  However, by taking individual verses out of context and stringing them together in a “creative” manner, preachers make the case for in effect stealing income from their followers under false pretenses.  This same practice is applied to create many other doctrines out of thin air (often relying on known mis-translations of certain verses).
  17. They may at some point become frustrated enough to earnestly pray that they be shown the absolute truth about their religion and those who practice it.  I just warn you, don’t pray for this if you really don’t want to know, because chances are you are not going to get the answers you expect.

My point is this:  I have found that most of the people you meet that are part of a religion, and that have been in it for a while are there because of inertia or fear.  Some relative newcomers are there because they feel that they are loved and accepted, but the problem with that is that in most cases the “love” and acceptance is extremely conditional.  If they are willing to adopt the teachings and opinions of the religious leaders and other members of that faith, then they may continue to experience a degree of love an acceptance, but they will never feel truly free to express any “variant” beliefs, or to say that they think the religion just might be wrong on some points.  On the other hand, someone who is more of a “free thinker” will usually find the “love and acceptance” gradually withdrawn, and if they become too “troublesome” they may be asked to leave the group.  I’ve seen people asked to leave a church simply because they disagreed on a minor point of doctrine (note that in some groups, there is no such thing as a minor point of doctrine.  There are even stories that churches have split over matters as insignificant as what color to paint the bathrooms!).

Unfortunately, people who are living in a constant state of fear will not be willing to accept the truth.  In fact, they won’t even want to hear any truth that contradicts what they have been taught.  When you try to show them the truth about their religion, they will react pretty much the same way you react when they hand you a tract about their religion (by the way, they use tracts because they are afraid to engage in actual conversation about what they believe — this is why, if they are going to hand you a tract, they usually do so at the last possible second before they end an encounter with you — they have been told by their religious leaders that they must “witness” to others, but realize that there is no way they can defend their beliefs in an honest discussion, so by passing a tract at the last second it lets them feel like they have at least “planted a seed” and done their duty, even if you throw the tract away the moment they leave.  In most cases the only way they will ever try to personally “witness” to anyone is if there are two or more of them, and only one of their intended targets present).

One of the reasons I have a link to Those Lazy Old Blokes of 1611 on my blog pages is to show that the fear that is pushed among “Christian” fundamentalists is founded on deliberate lies (in this case, a deliberately confused translation). But the people who most need to hear this information are often those most paralyzed by fear. They’ve been taught that they might go to hell for even entertaining a non-approved belief.  They are told not to read non-church-sanctioned books (the ones available at retail price in the church bookstore).  In many fundamentalist churches, they teach that going to the movies is “sinful.”  In other words, they like to tightly control what their followers read, see, and think, although that’s becoming a lot more difficult in this day of modern communications and the World Wide Web, and search engines that can bring you a multitude of views on just about any topic with just a few keystrokes.

I once (very briefly) went to a church where a preacher brought in an evangelist that basically destroyed the church. One of the things this evangelist taught was that if you spoke out against a preacher or an evangelist in any way, you were “touching god’s anointed” and therefore god might strike you dead (I use the small “g” because as I have pointed out in previous articles, I believe that the “god” of the old testament was an evil impostor, not the true God that most people think of as the creator of the universe, etc. As far as I am concerned, the “god” of the old testament was almost certainly a lesser “god” that might indeed destroy people on a whim, and often did if the old testament is to be believed, but it appears he’s departed the planet, or may not even be among the living by this point in time.  I’m not asking that you believe that, but that’s why I don’t use the capitalized “g” when referring to that “god”). Unfortunately, after the evangelist left, the preacher started teaching the same nutso stuff that the evangelist had taught, and therefore more and more people felt compelled (probably for the sake of their own sanity) to leave the church. The preacher then started accusing the other churches of “sheep stealing”, and then started accusing the “sheep” of stealing themselves!  This caused even more people to both speak out against the preacher (basically saying he’d flipped his lid) and to leave the church.  No deity (or entity pretending to be a deity) struck anyone dead in that case, but among those few who remained in that church the fear was palpable.  It’s amazing what people will endure because they are simply too fearful to question even the craziest teachings.

The reason I am bringing this stuff up now is twofold.  First, it appears that unless by some miracle Ron Paul becomes the Republican presidential candidate, the next U.S. presidential election will be a contest between a religious fundamentalist (or at least someone who panders to the fundamentalists) and a guy who has so far not kept most of his most important campaign promises, and has been a disappointment to many of those who voted for him.  I just want you who have never been part of a religious fundamentalist group to understand a bit of what makes those folks tick, so you can understand that they are often living in their own little world, and that you would not like it much if they had the force of government behind them to impose their beliefs on you or I.

And second, there are those who believe that 2012 is going to be a year that something big happens, that will cause humanity as a whole to become a more enlightened race, but that cannot happen as long as we are living under a fear paradigm.  Our religious leaders, our news media, our politicians, etc. at times seem to be pushing an agenda of fear fear fear fear fear fear fear fear 24 hours a day.  What I found is that the two things that have most REDUCED my level of fear are leaving organized religion, and NOT watching major media newscasts.  Both of those entities seem to be trying to make people afraid, and the world looks a whole lot brighter when you don’t listen to them.  I’m not saying you should avoid the news altogether, but just be more selective and avoid sources that are constantly harping on the negative.  And, this might be a good year to just consider whether you want to continue to be part of your current religion, if you are still clinging to one.  Does it really serve you, or are you just serving it with no return, not even happiness?  Do you leave a house of worship feeling fearful, unsettled, or unfulfilled? Remember that you can (and many do) pray or meditate without being a part of any organized religion.  The dirty little secret of the churches is that you don’t need them — you can achieve spiritual growth, if that is your desire, without involving them at all. Even Jesus did not come to start churches (he preached against organized religion, when he said anything about it at all).

(P.S. I mentioned Ron Paul above only because, as far as I know, he is not a religious fundamentalist nor is he beholden to them).

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Link: Believe It Or Not: 7 Facts You’re Not Supposed To Know About Religion

Just a pointer to an article I enjoyed reading:

Believe It Or Not: 7 Facts You’re Not Supposed To Know About Religion

The interesting thing about this one is that it doesn’t focus on any one religion. It’s a rather quick read and you might actually enjoy it!

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Hell hath no fury like a preacher whose theology is put in question

You may have read about the controversy that Michigan pastor Rob Bell has generated — if not, this Grand Rapids Press article will bring you up to speed.  Basically, it appears that pastor Bell has called into question some of the things the churches have been teaching about Hell for the past several centuries, and the squeal from the traditional preachers and the fundies has been heard around the world.

I’ve never met pastor Bell, have not read his book (nor will I), have never even seen his church as far as I know.  As I’ve mentioned on a few other occasions, I’m really burned out on organized religion.  But I realize that some people need it and seek it, because (for reasons I cannot begin to fathom) it gives them comfort.  I had a lot of feelings about church back when I used to attend, but a sense of “comfort” was not one of them.  But I digress…

Of all the strange doctrines that churches preach, I don’t understand how the “fire and brimstone” view of hell survives even to the present age, and why so many pastors defend it with such vehemence.  It seems to me that if you want to drive people away from a church, filling them with fear and giving them visions of terror (not to mention causing their children to have nightmares) is a great way to do it.  Of course, these preachers think they are preaching “the truth”, but in reality they are like any other person you’ve run into on the Internet that has an opinion that he believes is correct, and feels he must defend it to the death.

Unfortunately, if you know that the word “Hell” actually comes from three DIFFERENT words in the original languages of Biblical times, and that those words meant very different things, and that what’s preached it churches today is basically an amalgamation of the worst features of all three of those things (with a little Dante’s Inferno — which, we must keep in mind, is a work of fiction — thrown in for good measure) then you realize that there is much room for various other interpretations about hell.  If you haven’t yet followed my blogroll link to Those Lazy Old Blokes of 1611, that will help you understand (if you want to know) why what most churches preach about hell is a big lie.

Members of the clergy have been able to get away with telling whoppers to their congregations for so long because until the Internet came along, most believers had very little exposure to the beliefs of others.  You went to your church and you heard what they believe week after week, and since religion isn’t considered a subject for “polite” conversation, you might never know what others believe or why they believe it.  Now, suddenly, along comes the World Wide Web and suddenly people can find other views, and even proof (as much as you can prove anything that happened two centuries ago) that what they’ve been taught unravels very quickly when you pull at a thread here or there.

As a side note, I will just say, don’t ever pray to know the truth if you really want to cling to your existing beliefs — you may be very surprised at what you discover, and it probably won’t make you popular with your church friends.

Anyway, apparently pastor Bell dared to challenge the “traditional” view of Hell, and oh my, what a mighty cloud of crap that unleashed onto the various social networks, especially Twitter.  It seems like some that don’t share pastor Bell’s views would like to have him crucified, at least figuratively.  And in doing so, they do something they are very good at — selectively ignoring a part of the book they supposedly revere.  You know, that part where Jesus said “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”  Of course when you quote that (it’s from Matthew 7:1, in case you need to know), many of the fundamentalists will point you to other verses that appear to say that judging others is okay, without stopping to think that a) most of those other verses weren’t direct quotes of Jesus, and b) by doing that, they prove that the Bible contradicts itself, and therefore cannot be infallible.

I understand all too well that many of these religious folks (you’ll note I avoid calling them “Christians” — you can take that any way you like) as so sure of themselves and their beliefs that nothing I or anyone else could say will ever change their minds.  They think they have the truth, and they are not going to give an inch to anyone else’s point of view. But then they wonder why churches (especially the traditional variety) are becoming increasingly irrelevant to young people.

Well, here’s a clue for such folks.  If Jesus had gone around preaching the way you guys preach, he wouldn’t have had to worry about multiplying loaves and fishes to feed thousands.  He would have probably had ten or twenty old farts following him around, and the original food supply would have fed them all, assuming they even had enough teeth left to chew the fish.  Nobody wants to hear you attacking other preachers. That’s not why people go to church, and it’s not what they want from their leaders.  Plus, it makes you look arrogant — as if you believe that you alone hold the truth, and that you’re responsible for what your hearers believe.  You’re not.  Much  as you may like to think of them as “sheep”, those sheep have minds of their own, and the more you rail against something the more they start to wonder what you’re trying to hide from them.  I’ve seen it happen.  In fact I think one reason televangelists got such huge followings back in the 80′s was because so many preachers spent an inordinate amount of time telling their people not to watch those guys — and of course, everyone wanted to see what their preacher was trying to keep from them.  It’s just human nature.

This pastor Bell may well be on to something, or he may not be — I don’t know and I don’t really care.  But to see so many others freak out over it is both amusing, and at the same time, tragic.

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The most evil thing that Christian fundamentalists have done to us?

(Just so you know, I wrote this article a while back, but since we were almost into the holidays at the time I didn’t want to publish it then, because I was afraid that someone who is already depressed during the holidays might take it the wrong way — and for too many people, the holidays are by far the most depressing time of the year.  And even now, I will say that if you are feeling very depressed, please don’t read this article at this time.  Hopefully at some point life will seem brighter to you, so come back and read it then if you like.  Also, I had no idea when I scheduled publication of this article for the middle of January that the tragedy in Arizona would occur, so please don’t read this article as a response to that).

Of all the evil things to come out of fundamentalist Christianity, including the hatred of people who are not pretty much exactly like them (they don’t even like most other Christians), I think one of the most evil things is something they have promoted ever since the start of organized religion.  And that is, the fear of death.

Now, I’m not talking here about the normal human tendency for self-preservation.  I’m talking here about a specific control mechanism; the idea that they have planted into society that no matter how much someone is suffering, we must preserve their life above all else.  To understand this, bear in mind that for a major part of human history, there was no “separation of church and state”, and therefore we had what many fundamentalist Christians (the “Christian Taliban”, as some now refer to them) would like to bring about once again:  A government run by the most hardcore religious types.  These are people who seek money and power and control, not the betterment of humanity.  And here’s the thing to remember: The longer they can keep someone around as a productive member of society, the longer that person can tithe to the church (or, now that church and state have been separated, pay taxes to the government).

Some Democratic legislator, and I’m sorry but at the moment I can’t remember which one it was, recently famously defined the Republican health care plan:  1) Don’t get sick.  2) If you do get sick, die quickly.  This legislator was partly right and partly wrong about that.  Yes, that’s exactly how many Republicans seem to feel about people if there is no longer any hope that they will be productive members of society, and strangely enough, it’s also how some fundamentalist Christians seem to feel about people in general who aren’t part of their religion (try substituting the word “AIDS” for “sick” if it will help you understand how the fundies feel). But if there is any chance whatsoever that a person will live to pay more taxes or give more tithes to the church, then those institutions suddenly have a much greater interest in keeping that person around.

But the point is, for centuries the churches, in an effort to keep potential tithers from giving up on life and dying off too quickly (particularly during the huge chunk of history when many humans died in the prime of life), have promoted a theology that in a roundabout way taught people that they should fear death above all else — unless, of course, they were going into war on behalf of the church (the idea being that if you died in a righteous war, you got a free pass to heaven).  Not only that, they promoted the notion that suffering is a virtue, and that everyone must suffer during their lives.

They have been so successful in promoting this fear of death that it’s gotten to the point that even the fundamentalists themselves seem to fear death.  Oh, sure, on Sunday mornings they’ll sing songs about how they are looking forward to that “mansion over the hilltop” (A mansion? Where do they get these ideas, anyway? And just who’s going to clean this mansion, if no one in heaven has to do any work?), but they always want it to be “in the sweet by and by” — hopefully the very distant by and by.  Because their biggest secret fear — indeed, the thing that drives them in their madness — is the fear that they will be “left behind”, that they will somehow not be found worthy, that they will miss out on heaven.  And it’s a very real and present fear for them, because if you’ve ever heard a real fundamentalist loon preach, nearly everything is a sin, and any sin has the potential to keep you out of heaven (and you know what they think is the only alternative to heaven).  It’s not even just the actual sins you commit, even your sinful thoughts can keep you out of heaven, according to these guys.  It’s an impossibly high standard that no human could ever hope to meet, though that doesn’t stop them from trying.  Strangely, they don’t seem to see hate of those not like themselves as one of the sins that might impede their upward progress.

Guess what the biggest fear of most teenage and young adult fundamentalists is?  It’s that Jesus might return, or that they might die while they are thinking about sex, or heaven forbid, engaging in any “unapproved” sexual practice. I shouldn’t need to elaborate on this – if you’ve ever been there, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

So, we have the strange situation where the people who claim to be the most secure in the knowledge of what’s going to happen to them after death are actually the most fearful of death.  If you were to ask most of them (and if they were honest with you), their preference would be to die at a ripe old age, long after youthful urges and “impure thoughts” have departed, and possibly while in a state of partial dementia so that their deity couldn’t possibly hold them accountable for any bad thoughts on their deathbeds.

Now, this would not be a problem for the rest of us, except that these people have had enough control of our governments for so long now that our society is now permeated with an institutionalized fear of death.  Even when it makes no sense, we prolong life as long as possible.  In part, this is because fundamentalist Christianity teaches us that we only have one life to live, and that’s it, so we’d best prolong it as long as possible because in all eternity we’ll never again get this “wonderful opportunity” to incarnate as a human being. People of other faiths don’t necessarily believe that, many early Christians didn’t believe it, and a growing body of scientific evidence suggests it may not be true. But the church/government wanted to keep the tithe/tax-paying church members around as long as possible, so they discouraged any idea that you could escape a not so great life by dying, and possibly being reborn into a better situation (or at very least, one where you were not under the thumb of organized religion). Again, you have to keep in mind that virtually every church policy was designed to bring money and power to the church, and it just wouldn’t do for church members to be leaving this mortal coil prematurely, or to have small families or no children at all (which is why they’re really so opposed to family planning and abortion, not that abortion isn’t a gruesome practice, but sometimes the reason people say they are against something and the real reason they’re against it are two very different things).

When you think of it that way, you even have to wonder if many of the “compassionate acts” of the church had an ulterior motive.  If they built hospitals with the idea of saving lives, but only because they hoped that those whose lives they had saved would be forever indebted to the church… well, that sort of puts a different angle on their acts of compassion, now doesn’t it?

Let me tell you a true story that happened to someone I knew.  This lady was in her 80′s and had been very healthy, but then she developed a type of breast cancer.  The cancer was successfully treated, but the treatment (which included a harsh form of chemotherapy) apparently did something that affected her sense of balance, so she started having frequent falls and broken bones, all of which were very painful, and a couple of which landed her in a drab, dreary nursing home for a time (seriously, I think some prisons are probably more cheerful inside than that nursing home was). As an aside, this lady finally started taking a 1000 IU Vitamin D supplement pill every day, and never had a broken bone after that, even though she still had frequent falls — just something you may want to think about if you have any senior citizens in your family.

She lived for another full decade, but could no longer get up and move around as she had in the past.  She couldn’t do any yard or garden work anymore, something she’d always loved. If she went to the store, someone had to push her around in a wheelchair, or in one of those carts with a bench seat attached that’s designed for kids. In the final two or three years of her life, she started losing her eyesight to a much greater degree than she had in the past, so she could no longer enjoy watching her game shows and soap operas on television.  In short, her quality of life dramatically declined.

What I’ve omitted from this story is that not too long after she had finished her cancer treatments, her heart started skipping beats, eventually stopping completely for several seconds at a time, and she started blacking out.  The doctors wanted to install a pacemaker, and she didn’t want it but was talked into it.  The pacemaker fixed the problem of the irregular heartbeat but in retrospect, her family wonders if that was the compassionate thing to do.  On the one hand, she got to live long enough to see (as well as she could see anything) a couple of great-grandchildren she wouldn’t have seen otherwise.  But on the other hand, she was so unhappy and depressed the last few years of her life that in looking back, it might have been better for her if everyone had just let nature take its course, so to speak.  Chances are that she would have died peacefully in a still relatively healthy state, without having to suffer the broken bones, the failing eyesight, the indignity of soiling herself and urinating on herself, and many other afflictions that only beset those whose lives have been prolonged perhaps longer than they should have been.

Having witnessed that, I am convinced that this is NOT how I want my life to end.  So if you are a physician and someday I am forced to be under your care and you think I’m the “patient from hell”, it may be because I really, truly, don’t want your help.  Just let me go naturally, as the song says¹, so that I may get on to my next incarnation or the next plane of existence, or whatever lies ahead.  I’m no longer scared of the phony-baloney, un-biblical “fire and brimstone” hell that the fundamentalist preachers love to rant² about, because I know that even if such a place exists, it’s only for the devil and the sinning angels, not for any human being that has ever lived or will ever live (once again, I refer you to Those Lazy Old Blokes of 1611 if you need help understanding that the “fire and brimstone” preachers are pretty much pulling their teachings about hell out of their collective posteriors).

Along with prolonging life to the point that people suffer, it’s the self-righteous fundamentalists that are often in the forefront of the anti-drug hysteria.  Ever wondered why?  Well, it’s because certain “illegal” drugs, though definitely not all of them, have valid uses as religious sacraments, expanding the consciousness and in the process, potentially revealing that some of the fundie teachings are unadulterated b.s. The problem with that is that some of the drugs to which they are so opposed could dramatically ease the suffering of those who don’t have much time left (and often at far less expense than the “approved” painkillers that don’t work nearly as well).  What is so bad about giving heroin to a terminal cancer patient, to ease their pain and suffering? Seriously, you have to wonder how evil these people are if their goal is to prolong life, only to prolong suffering that they won’t lift a finger to relieve. Oh, they’ll pray for the sufferer? All well and good (and they should do that³) but sometimes a bit more practical form of pain relief is also needed. With some of these guys, you’d like to see which they’d prefer if they were in severe pain — a bunch of people coming around to pray for them for a few minutes, or a good strong painkiller!

I’ve said if before and I will say it again, if there is such a thing as an antichrist⁴, he or she or it will likely come right out of fundamentalist Christianity, and the fundamentalists will love him/her/it, because it will be telling them exactly what they want to hear – much of which is the exact opposite of what Jesus taught.  Hate your neighbor because he’s not a fundie like you? Have little to no compassion for the poor and the dying?  Preach doctrines that come straight out of a religion obsessed with power and control? Sure sounds like something an antichrist would do, doesn’t it?  Maybe organized religion is the antichrist, and if and when Jesus reappears, they won’t recognize him at all, and may even seek to kill him again.

As a parenthetical note, you may be asking, do I actually think there is a chance Jesus could reappear?  Well yes, but probably not in the way the church envisions.  There are three possibilities I can think of (which is not to say there aren’t others I haven’t considered).  He could reincarnate and be reborn into a new body, though I think that’s somewhat unlikely.  He could be an interdimensional being, and at some point he will use whatever advanced technology is available on “the other side” — or maybe some form of spiritual method, for want of a better term — to cross the veil between dimensions.  Or, he could be an alien from elsewhere in the universe, where the lifespans are much longer than they are here on earth (early Sumerian tablets say that the Annunaki had incredibly long lifespans compared to humans, such that our ancestors thought they were immortal). I tend to go with the second option, if only because it’s my belief that our universe is comprised of multiple dimensions and when we are resting between incarnations, we live in another of those dimensions, so there’s no reason to think that Jesus couldn’t occupy another dimension from us — that thought really shouldn’t even challenge anyone’s theology. But if he does come back, I suspect he’s not going to be any more approving of today’s churches, preachers, and evangelists than he was of the religious institutions and leaders of his day.

I just find it very interesting that of all the peoples on the earth, fundamentalist Christians seem to be more fearful of death than anyone, and their deep-seated fears have to some degree crossed over into society at large.  Yet those who have had near-death experiences usually say they have no fear of death at all (by the way, they also report that committing suicide is a very bad thing for your spiritual development and for those around you — I mention that only in case someone reading this is encouraged to think that suicide is a great way to escape your troubles.  It isn’t — in your next incarnation you’ll likely get the very same troubles, or worse, and some report that you don’t even get the usual rest period in between incarnations. So, don’t even think about it). And many people of other faiths, and even many non-religious people, seem to have far fewer concerns about death than the fundamentalists do.

I’m not looking to check out early or anything, but in some ways this life has been a disappointment (and I think a lot of older people feel that way, particularly when we realize that our children and grandchildren have less freedom and fewer opportunities than we did⁵).  So if I ever do get really sick, I’m probably not going to look too kindly upon any doctor or institution that tries to prolong my life.  The only thing I really want them to do is ease my pain insofar as is possible, and let me die naturally!

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¹ The particular song I have in mind is “And When I Die” by Blood, Sweat, and Tears, a song I hated when I was a teenager, by a group I didn’t care for at all. Possibly one of the more weird and/or depressing songs to hit the charts (at least for those times), but it comes to mind now because of this verse: “Give me my freedom for as long as I be / All I ask of living is to have no chains on me. / All I ask of living is to have no chains on me, / And all I ask of dying is to go naturally. / Oh I want to go naturally.” To me, this seems like a plea for freedom in life and death, and it seems like there are far too many in our society who are determined to give us freedom in neither.

² Does anyone besides me find the speaking style of some preachers really annoying? You’d think they were living in the days prior to the invention of vacuum tube amplifiers, the way they shout and carry on, but what really gets me is the way they deliberately change the inflections of their words. It’s almost as if they’re trying to hypnotize the audience by their speech patterns. If that’s really the point, then what does that say about the actual message? That you have to hypnotize people and turn off their critical thinking facilities before they’ll accept the crap you’re shoveling?

³ There is pretty good scientific evidence that prayer actually works — but the dirty little secret the fundies don’t want you to know is that no one religion has a monopoly on the power of prayer. So if you are sick and someone of another faith offer to pray for you, I’d suggest you don’t turn them down or assume that their prayers will be ineffective, because you might be denying yourself some real “help from above.”

⁴ When talking about Biblical prophecy, we must keep in mind that few or no prophets throughout history have ever foretold the future with 100% accuracy, mostly because the future is malleable and we do have the power to change it. Plus, there’s the case where Jonah (of “Jonah and the big fish story” fame) predicted the destruction on the ancient city of Nineveh, the people supposedly repented of their evil, and the god of the old testament changed his mind (leaving poor Jonah twisting in the wind — who’d believe him after that?). Maybe the people really did change their ways, or maybe the god of the old testament discovered that his destructo-ray wasn’t working as well as he’d hoped, and he wouldn’t be able to destroy the entire city (which was huge by ancient standards) — but the point is that a Biblical prophet foretold something that didn’t happen.  So maybe if an antichrist is supposed to make an appearance, something might occur to prevent that from happening.

⁵ I also tend to blame the fact that our kids have less freedom than we did on the fundamentalist “one life to live” philosophy, and the resulting desire to prolong this life as long as possible. Because that way of thinking has taken such a strong hold in Western society,  I think that today there is a very unhealthy overemphasis on safety, to the degree that our kids are only allowed to live life, and not really experience it as our generation did. Back then most parents did not know where their kids were every single minute of the day; all they knew was that we were out playing in the neighborhood somewhere. Now it’s like, ohmigod, if I let my kid out of my sight for two minutes there are ten guys hiding in the bushes waiting to kidnap him or her.  I’m just wondering how long it will take before out government decides we should all be locked in rubber rooms from cradle to grave so we can’t hurt ourselves or be harmed by anyone else.  At the same time, and on the flip side of that coin, our little darlings know that the government wants above all else to keep them safe, so if they want to get an adult in trouble all they have to do is lie a little and say that an adult did something that harmed them in some way, and suddenly the adult is facing an inquisition (if you know a teacher, ask them if any of the kids have figured out how to manipulate the system and cause trouble for school personnel they don’t happen to like).  I figure in about four or five years there’s going to be a huge market for wearable video camera/recorders, sold to adults who work with kids so that they have a video record of every interaction with a kid, to prevent trouble because some bored-to-tears kid lied through his teeth, just to create a little drama in his life.

Think about it: If you don’t fear death, and think that we come back (reincarnate) many times, you’re probably going to be less concerned about being absolutely safe at all times, and you’re probably going to be more willing to enjoy life and take chances. You might still be mindful that if you do something dumb and check out early, it’s going to make your relatives and friends feel pretty sad, but it won’t be the same kind of paralyzing fear that seems to grip many fundamentalists.

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