Saturday, December 14, 2013
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
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
DO YOU BELIEVE IT WHEN YOU RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST, OR ARE YOU SAYING THAT IT WASN'T REAL? JUST CURIOUS? EVERYONE IS ENTITLED TO WHAT THEY BELIEVE IN AND I SURE DON'T CONDEMN THEM FOR THAT. I WAS JUST WONDERING WHAT LED YOU TO HOW YOU BELIEVE NOW? I JUST DIDN'T UNDERSTAND HOW AND WHY YOU CHANGED YOUR VIEW ON THINGS.
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.
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.
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
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
Sunday, January 27, 2013
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. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_(deity)
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:
Saturday, January 26, 2013
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.
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.