Saturday, December 14, 2013

Happy Monkey Day!

We just finished celebrating Monkey Day at our house. We had a monkey piƱata, Ellie received a little stuffed monkey and we had ice cream cake. What, you've never heard of Monkey Day? Well I hadn't either before this year.

The story begins with Ellie's interest in planets. I mentioned that Saturday was named after the planet Saturn, which lead to the natural line of questions about what the other days were named after. So we head to wikipedia to learn about the Sun, the moon, the god Tyr, the god Woden, Thor and the goddess Frigg. That lead to looking for other days, such as Ellie day, flower day and eventually lead to searching for monkey day. Yes, Virginia, there is a Monkey Day.

I told Ellie we would celebrate Monkey Day and I marked it on my calendar. So today, we celebrated Monkey Day.

I love the power of technology that gives us incredible information at our finger tips, that can turn information seeking into a game, that can lead to a silly event, like celebrating monkeys. I'm not sure what we'll do for Monkey Day next year, but I think we have a new tradition. Now I just need to figure out how to celebrate Monkey Tuesday Monkey Day with Penn Jillette in 2021.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Am I Ashamed?

I saw this post on my mom's Facebook feed today.

I'm not quite sure I want to shout it, but I'm not ashamed that I have been baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.

As I'm sure you know, if you have enough interest to read this, I was once a Christian, but I no longer believe. But I'm not ashamed of that. Sometimes I wonder how I believed as long as I did. Sometimes I wish I had not believed. I wish my life had been guided more by empirical evidence and less by pretending to know things I didn't know. I also wish I hadn't been ashamed of who I was.

I find it very odd to expect people to not feel shame over an act of belief in a system that promotes shame. I always felt out of place because my religion taught me that it was wrong for me to want to enjoy the "things of the world." Things like certain types of music, certain types of entertainment and my natural sexual desires. It was wrong to want to dress in certain ways, to say certain words, to look at certain things. Religion taught me that I was naturally flawed and that I was unworthy of the love of a perfect God.

So I lived a life of shame. I hid many things and lied about who I was and what I felt. I spiraled into deep self loathing until I could no longer contain it and I started turning that anger and hatred on everyone that came into my life. I let my guilt and shame become what defined me. I've hurt more people in more ways than I want to remember, but I just cannot seem to forget. The shame hovers over me like a black cloud that follows me every where I go.

But, I'm trying to live without shame. I try everyday to forgive myself for the things I have done. I try to live a day at a time, attempting to make good decisions based on sound reasons. I try to live looking forward and not behind. Its not easy.

I'm not ashamed of my religious past, there has been good that has come from it. I'm not ashamed of the road that has lead me to where I am today, there has been good that has come from that also. However, I do carry shame for things I have done in my life, maybe I should, but I'm working very hard to make sure my life is not defined my my shame.

Monday, August 26, 2013

What happened to me?

In response to something I posted on Facebook, this question was asked of me:


Did I believe?

I did believe the Bible was the infallible word of God and I believed in the God of the Bible at the time I had the experience of receiving the Holy Ghost. The experience I had was VERY real. I had a lot of experiences as a Christian and every one of those experiences were real to me. The difference is I no longer attribute those experiences to God.

I say all of that as a way of saying I think every one of those experiences that I had and you had and everyone else in the church had was very real. I just don't think it was supernatural. I think it was emotional. I don't think there is anything wrong with having emotional experiences, and I don't want to credit them where they shouldn't be credited.

I think some things that happen are learned behavior. One example of this for me is speaking in tongues. I can still speak in tongues and I can do it at the drop of a hat. I don't think there is anything supernatural about it, its just speaking syllables. In fact, I can remember a number of the people who spoke in tongues said the same phrase. "Ha la, la moe shy tie" is such an example.

I have also had a couple of experiences that I have no real explanation for. I've tried to figure them out, but I just can't. I still will not attribute those experiences to the supernatural, because I cannot know they are supernatural. The only honest answer for me is, I don't know.

Some experiences I can reproduce outside of the context of God and church. The most "spiritual" experiences I have ever had revolve around music, both listening and performing. This is something I've experienced both in and out of church.

As a musician, my initial lessons in how to draw emotion out of people was playing church services. The pastor we had at the time had a little hand signal he gave us when he wanted the church to start dancing and shouting. We adjusted the was the music was played and people were running and jumping and dancing. I think most of this happened at a level where we didn't even realize what was going on. I cannot even remember now how I first noticed it. Maybe it was because it started becoming more frequent.

I remember after I thought these "Holy Ghost" moments were being caused by the music I started testing it. I would change the way I was playing and sure enough, the Holy Ghost would come pouring down on the church. It also worked for setting a more "worshipful" mood.  I remember one night, when we got the hand signal to crank things, I went very neutral and the tone of the service went down. I got a look from the pastor over that one. I've since observed this happening in other church services across a number of denominations. I've attended workshops where this was taught. They use words like "leading people into worship" but its really just using music to get an emotional response.

What changed?

The path that brought me from where I was as young Apostolic Christian to where I am now has had many, many events and it hasn't been a single thing that has changed my views on things. The irony is it was a desire to really know God and understand the Bible that led me to no longer believing in either. It isn't the path I wanted to go down, its just the way it played out.

There were many steps along the way. Maybe some of the earliest things that caused me to doubt was the idea that only "our" way of believing is right and all of there Christians are going to hell. To me that idea contradicted with some scripture. There were also some rules that were set down by the church that were not in the Bible. I was under the impression the Bible was supposed to be our final authority, but it didn't seem to really be the case. It also seemed to me early on that the Bible wasn't as clear as it should be on critical issues.

One issue that really jumped out at me was the path to salvation. Which was right, Jesus' way (according to Matthew), Peters way (according to Acts) or Paul's was (according to Romans)? Also the words being said over you when you are baptized, do we say Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Name of Jesus Christ, a combination of both, or should we be saying Yashua so we are using the real name of Jesus? Also, where does it say in the Bible you have to speak in tongues to prove you have received the Holy Ghost? Sure there are examples of it happening, but there are also examples where it isn't mentioned. I had good friends who were Christians that believed as strongly as I did and served God just like I did, except they might wear shorts or they hadn't had the name Jesus Christ spoken over them when they were baptized. I could't look at them and believe they were going to hell, just because they had a couple of detail different than I did. In fact, one in particular is still a strong believer and hosts a Christian radio show and believes he is still doing the work of God. These doubts, along with a number of problems in the church, led to me no longer going to church for many year.

Some time later, I started getting around a few Christians, who where not Apostolics. I started questioning the legalism of the beliefs I grew up with and with great trepidation, started attending a non-denominational church. The church focused on the feel good aspects of Christianity and grew comfortable with it. I never really questioned the Bible and didn't really read through it. I slowly started playing music in church again, but in what I considered a less extreme environment. In the process I started seeing how ego driven worship music can be, so when I had the chance, I dropped playing music in church and started playing secular music. That was when I started discovered I could use the same tools I used playing in church in all types of music.

While all of this was going my personal life was slowing falling apart. I was clinically depressed, I was lacking in empathy and just a difficult person to be around. I had burned bridged with a lot of people and I ended up hurting a lot of people emotionally before everything came crashing down. I found myself with nothing and just a couple of people that could even tolerate me. I had to start my life over. During this reboot time, I still was hanging on to the idea of God and I believed that God was a critical part of me pulling my life back together. I had some very wonderful Christians who went out of their way to help me. I will always be grateful to those people. Without their help, I would have probably never made it through.

As time when on, I was starting to minister to other people. Not in the sense I was becoming a preacher, but just trying to help other people turn their lives around. I took it very seriously and I wanted to make sure I wasn't telling these people the wrong things. During this time of rebuilding my life I actually read the whole Bible for the first time. I was shocked and dismayed at the things God commanded in the OT and felt despair about things in the NT. The genocide in the OT and Jesus's attitude about hating your family, causing division and eternal damnation just didn't seem right to me. At first, I just cherry picked the words of Jesus, but I could avoid the things that bothered me in the Bible. I started finding serious contradictions in the stories in the Gospels. These issues drove me outside of the Bible to find answers about the Bible.

The biggest question I had to have answered was, how do we know the Bible is the infallible, inerrant, authoritative word of God? That lead me to looking at how different translations came about, which books were picked which were rejected. It also sent me wanting to understand better what was in the original manuscripts. What I discovered is we do not have the original manuscripts! I had always been lead to believe that the New Testament was translated from the original documents written by the apostles. Well come to find out, there are no originals and that many of the books were not written by the people that are said to have written them.

These discoveries left me with the conclusion that the Bible is not inerrant. The next problem for me was knowing which parts could be trusted and which cannot. I have since learned that a number of key theological points are textual variants. For example, the virgin birth is based a mis-translation of the book of Isaiah in the Septuagint that was used as source material for the writer of Matthew. If the words that are supposed to be the foundation of your belief system are not reliable, then you have to reexamine your beliefs. This is what I have done.

What now?

I now consider myself to be an atheist, just because I don't have enough evidence to believe. There was a time I wished I could believe, but I don't feel that way anymore. I'm very ok with I don't know. Knowing the origin of life isn't necessary to live life. Knowing what happens after life isn't necessary to live life to the fullest. In fact, my observation is a lot of Christians waste this life, expecting the next life to be better. I've just decided to make this life the most it can be.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"Are you thankful for the precious blood Jesus shed on Calvary?"

"Are you thankful for the precious blood Jesus shed on Calvary?"

I am not thankful for anyone to be beaten beyond recognition and then murdered. I've done some terrible things in my life, and the last thing I want is for someone else to be put to death for what I did. It's not something I'm comfortable with.

If my only two choices are to be eternally damned or to have someone killed so I'm not damned, to me, the only moral thing to do is to be damned. I don't want someone to lay down their life for me.

Monday, July 8, 2013

God cannot lie, but he can deceive

I've seen a trend lately with Christian theists falling back on this idea that their version of the Christian God is true because an all knowing, all powerful, immaterial, all sufficient, all good God has revealed himself through the Scriptures, through our consciences, through our senses, memory and reasoning and innately in such a way that we are certain of God. This God is the ultimate authority on, well, everything it would seem. And even if you think you don't think this good God almighty has revealed himself to you, he really has. Not only that, you cannot have a reasoned thought without acknowledging this God, even if you don't acknowledge him.

This clever proof of God is call presuppositional apologetics and if you don't agree with that view, then you are wrong. Subsequently, the Christian promoting this view cannot even talk to you, because you could be wrong about everything, because you don't agree with the basic premise the Christian is presenting.

They conveniently ignore a question they will ask you, is it possible you could be wrong about everything? The answer to that question is, in a logical sense, yes it is possible, in a practical sense, no it isn't. The moment you say you could be wrong in a logical sense, they take that then apply it to a practical sense, even if you've just pointed out there is a difference. When you try to ask them the same question, how do you know what you believe is reliable, how do you know we are not living in The Matrix, the answer is predictably, I can't be wrong because it has been revealed to me by God and God cannot lie. How do you know the revelation isn't part of the program in The Matrix? Because God cannot lie.

Of course, when you start to press them on the issue and ask about the Scripture being used as the source, you'll get varied answers. Sometimes, you get people who say, you have to use the King James Version, then others who say any version will do, then yet another group who say you have to refer to the original manuscript. I've encountered all three and the thing I've noticed is when you press them on the issue, they change the rules of the game mid-conversation.

Most people who think the KJV is the authoritative word of God, don't even know that the KJV they read, is not the original KJV, including the fact several books were dropped after the original version came out. They also don't realize most of the words were just copied from earlier versions. They also don't think about the fact that the ability to translate ancient manuscript has improved dramatically over the last 400 years so any modern version has a greater chance of translating with accuracy.

The "any version will do" crowd will immediately change their tune when you find a passage that doesn't fit their theology. They will then refer back to Hebrew and Greek manuscript and suddenly become experts at reading and understanding ancient Hebrew and Greek.

When pressed, the original manuscript crowd suddenly finds the originality of the manuscript really doesn’t matter, since those manuscripts don't actually exist. A fragment of a single page, the size of a credit card suddenly becomes good enough. Large passages, such as the end of Mark 16 that is added well after the fact just don't matter, because they claim it doesn't change the overall message. Things like the writer of Matthew using a bad Greek translation of Isaiah in talking about the "prophecy" of a virgin birth is an acceptable error.

So in order to attempt to have a conversation with these people, you have to agree upon their presupposition, which even then, doesn't really lead to a productive conversation. I recently had one of these dead end conversations and in the process I asked the question, how do you know God is not deceiving you? The answer I received was, God cannot lie.

One of the scriptures that is used to support the idea that God cannot lie is Numbers 23:19, "God is not a man that he should lie; neither the son of a man that he should repent." What is strange is how the second half of that verse gets ignored. There a number of verses that would clearly suggest that God was repentant for various things that he did. So how can only half of that statement be true without questioning if all of it is true. However, there are a number of verses that say God cannot lie, so I'm ok with presupposing that this God cannot lie.

But even giving that God cannot lie, there are places that state God can and does cause people to be deceived and to deceive. When you ask a presupper about this, they might take Jeremiah 20:7 and say the root word translated as deceived could be translated in other ways. And this is true and not without precedence. According to Strong's its meaning is usually figuratively (in a mental or moral sense) to be (causatively, make) simple or (in a sinister way) delude - allure, deceive, enlarge, entice, flatter, persuade. Then they argue that the meaning could be entice. The same can be said for Ezekiel 14:9. One major problem with this idea is that traditionally the church held the idea that God could deceive you. Another problems is this means you cannot trust all translations of the Bible to get things right, so "any version of the Bible" won't do and the KJV, certainly wouldn't do in this case.

If these two verses were the only ones that talked about God deceiving, the presuppers might be off the hook. Of course, they don't want to talk about the other scriptures talking about God's deceit, because they cannot be as easily manipulated. 1 Kings 12:22-23 says God allowed a deceiving spirit to cause the prophets to lie. So maybe God doesn't directly deceive in this scripture, but he is definitely deceiving by proxy here. 2 Chronicles 18:22 says that God put the deceiving spirit in the mouths of the prophets. So in this case God is directly causing deceit.

Now often times, theists will try to wiggle their way out of the Old Testament, when it doesn't fit their narrative, but unfortunately for them, this idea carries over into the New Testament. 2 Thessalonians 2:11 say "For this cause, God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie." The Greek word translated as delusion here is consistently translated as error or deception. The word translated as believe can also be translated as faith, which doesn't change the meaning, and the word for lie is always translated as a lie or falsehood.

So if you can say, based on the Bible, the character of God is that he doesn't lie, you must also say, using the same rules, that God will and does deceive people. I really want to know how these presuppers can know that an all knowing, all powerful, immaterial, all sufficient, all good God, who has revealed himself hasn’t actually deceived them? Perhaps he isn't all powerful and you are just deceived into believing that he is. Many would argue he sure isn't good, but yet, the presuppers will are argue that his actions are good even though, if the same actions were committed by humans, would be considered sick and disgusting. Can an immaterial God really take on human flesh and still be immaterial? God doesn't seem all sufficient when it comes to answering the prayers of believers in need. The observable characteristics of your presupposed God do not match your description of that same God. This seems very much like a delusion.

So I invite any presuppositionalist to answer the following questions for me.
1. How do you know your senses, memory and reasoning are valid and working properly and you have not been deceived by the God you are presupposing? As not everyone’s reasoning is valid, how do you know your reasoning is valid and you have not been deceived?
2. How do you know you exist and you aren't suffering from a delusion sent by your presupposed God?
3. How do you know what is “real” and not a delusional state, caused by your presupposed God?

I will also make the observation, thinking you cannot be deceived by your presupposed God, could be strong indicator that your presupposed God deceiving you. Wouldn’t it stand to reason that an all knowing, all powerful, immaterial, all sufficient, all good God who is causing deceit would leave behind no clues of the deception? Otherwise, it would not actually be a true deception. Based on this, I think the only reasonable conclusion is that you have been deceived.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Abram lies and parties to pagan gods.

Oh, its so nice to not be under any "spiritual" obligation to read the Bible. I've been very busy working and I just haven't made time to read the Bible. But the great thing is, it does not matter.

Genesis 12 - 14

We find right off, in Chapter 12, that Yahweh is stealing property from one group of people and giving it to another. To me, this is just another example of the Bible not being a good source for morality. I know, I know, the excuse for this is, "He is God, He can do what he wants." Sorry, that still doesn't make it moral. No one has the right to take someone's ability to survive away. But, we still see this going on today. We have government claiming it knows best, so its ok to take property and lives. We have churches using God as leverage to take money from people in the form of tithes and offerings. Generally, in both cases, that money goes to line the pockets of a selected few.

The story of Abram, Sarai and the Pharaoh is just amazing to me. Its something I hadn't noticed before a couple of months ago. Here's the story. God gives Abram this wonderful piece of land, then forgets to have it provide food, so Abram decides to go to Egypt to keep from starving. On the way, Abram says to Sari, "Hey baby, you are hot. These Egyptians will take one look at you, want you and will want to kill me, so they can have you. I have an idea, lets just say you are my sister."

They get to Egypt, and sure enough, the Pharaoh wanted her. As a result, Abram is treated very well and acquires livestock, servants and camels. Well, good ol' Yahweh gets a little upset about the Pharaoh and Sarai and strikes the Pharaoh and his household with diseases. When the Pharaoh somehow figures out what is going on, he says to Abram, "Dude, why did you lie to me. Take your wife and get out of here." So Abram takes everything he has, which I'm assuming the things he acquired in Egypt fraudulently, and leaves. I don't know about you, but to me, its a little screwed up that Yahweh acted that way toward Pharaoh, when Abram was the one that lied about it.

After the relocation, Abram and Lot have some problem existing together, so Abram says, "Uh, I like you and all, but you have to go." They check out the land Lot decides where he want to go. Now its worth noting there is a wonderful foot note saying, "This was before Yahweh destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah". Really? You are going to give away the punchline to a big climatic story before we even get to it. That's not very good story telling.

After they part ways, Lot gets captured and Abram comes to rescue him. After the smoke clears, Abram and Melchizedek have a party to celebrate El Elyon. What many don't know (and I didn't either), is El is the Canaanite supreme god, the father of mankind and all creates. His sons where Hadad, Yam and Mot. Some say, this is just another name for Yahweh (and perhaps supported by verse 19), but either way, it still shows the pagan polytheism that early Judaism was, at best, influenced by, but more likely derived from.

Chapter 15 starts the story of what could arguably be the greatest holy war in the history of humanity. More on that next time.

Hints of Polytheism:

El Elyon

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The future is bright, y'all.

So today, Ellie, my 3 year old daughter, comes up to me with her tablet and says, "Daddy, find me a game that will teach me the numbers in Spanish to 100."

I'm thrilled by the fact that kids are smarter today than I was as a kid, and that there is more information available for kids today than there was for adults just a couple generations ago. I of course, love that she loves to learn. But really, what I'm excited about is that she is already learning to teach herself. She's realizing that if she wants to know something, she has to go find the information and she's figuring out how to use the tools she has to do that.

Its not just her, I see it in other kids her age. I see it in young adults.

I met a bright young woman, a couple of years ago who has amazed and impressed me. The State of Oregon slashed the budget on music and she took it upon herself (with help from some friends of hers) to put together a concert to raise money for her school to offset the defect. In spite of the school not really supporting her in her efforts, she put together a great event and raised a decent amount of money. I could have never done that.

In the last few weeks, on Adam vs The Man, Adam has hi-lighted a few critical thinkers that are grasping ideas that escaped me until my twenties and thirties.

I know its really easy to get caught up in all of the things going wrong. But when I look at all of the good that is happening, I have to conclude, the future is bright, y'all.