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What is Science and Why it is Important

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A guest post by Canadian Atheist.

Firstly, I’d like to thank Bruce Gerencser for giving me this opportunity to write a guest post on his blog, and to do so anonymously. The only reason I retain my anonymity is because there are family members who are not aware I am no longer religious and would probably be hurt by finding out on the internet if they stumbled across this post at some point in the future. Who am I? I am a Canadian scientist. I study human physiology. I was a Christian for roughly the first three decades of my life before finding my way to atheism. My path to atheism is not the topic of this post, as I have written about it elsewhere. If Bruce is willing, a link can be provided to my own blog writings. But I volunteered to write a guest post about what science is, why it is often misunderstood, and why it is so important. The value of science seems to be under deliberate attack in some Western nations (notably the United States and Canada), and scientific findings are often rejected or rebuked when they don’t fit with certain agendas. I’d like to write about why that is dangerous to society.

What is Science?

Science is a process that methodically gathers knowledge about the natural world. Science leads us to knowledge about the world around us, and how it works. We all make observations about the world around us all the time, but the scientific method is careful not to jump to conclusions based on those observations until they are testable repeatedly and independently. This means that, for scientific findings to be valid, anyone with the right training and resources must be able to repeat the experiments and consistently come out with the same results. Science, though it is conducted by biased and imperfect humans, must be conducted in an unbiased way. Scientists have to learn to put aside their biases and preconceived beliefs before they conduct their experiments. Bias can very easily cause someone to misinterpret the results. This is the fundamental difference between the scientific approach and the approach taken by most people in society. If you have a favorite political party or sports team, you are likely to cheer for them no matter how they perform. Even if your sports team never wins, you may still convince yourself they are the best team. The difference between the scientific method and what I would call the political or religious method is best explained by the following illustration:

In the scientific method, all the evidence on a particular topic is examined. Then the conclusions are drawn from the findings of the evidence regardless of whether you like the conclusions or not. Conversely, in the political or religious method, the conclusion is generally formed first and then evidence is gathered to support that conclusion or theory. When it seems like science has been wrong about something, usually it is because scientists have not properly taken their bias out of the methods and therefore have misinterpreted their findings. A very important part of science is also acknowledging when you don’t have enough data to form a conclusion. (More on that later in relation to scientists being wrong all the time).

Deliberate Discrediting of Science and Scientists

There are two classic examples in recent years of how good science has been rejected because it conflicts with an agenda: 1) evolution; and 2) climate change. Evolution is a process that explains how biological diversity arises by change in the inherited genotype (genetic make-up of the organism) and phenotype (the observable characteristics) through generations of offspring. The word “overwhelming” is often used to describe the amount of evidence supporting evolution. There is no doubt that evolution happens in biology, and that humans evolved from more primitive primate species (not monkeys!). Evolution is as established and verifiable as many other part of science, such as gravity, germ theory, etc. I don’t need to list through all the evidence in favor of evolution here, that information is available to anyone who honestly wants to know the truth. However, evolution goes directly against the concept that God created the species (including humans) as they are, and that humans are somehow special among the many species of animals. Therefore, those people who are unable to let go of their belief that God exists and that he created the species as they are, must reject evolution, try to discredit the science behind it, and even teach children known falsehoods in science classes, all because the truth of evolution challenges their pre-conceived conclusion that God created humans as we are. They are following the second method in the diagram above.

Another example is climate change. The global climate is a complex phenomenon. There have been large variations and cycles in the earth’s climate throughout its history. Cycling between ice ages and more warm periods seems to be a natural occurrence. However, in the past decades, the earth’s climate has been changing much more rapidly than ever before. This has been occurring in concert with an increase in carbon dioxide levels higher than they have been in roughly 100 million years. The rate of change is completely out of whack with the natural cycles that have happened in the past, and corresponds to the recent centuries of industrialization of our society and our massive increase in use of fossil fuels (which give off carbon dioxide). Again, there is no doubt in science about the facts of climate change. Though the process of climate change is not as established as evolution, there is no doubt that human activity is dramatically affecting the climate on our planet. But, to alter this process would take some very, very significant changes in all our lifestyles. (This is the part where climate change deniers roll their eyes and claim that environmentalists would have us all living in caves). One of the huge changes that would have to take place is a shift towards cleaner energy sources, and there are very, very wealthy and powerful people who make all their money by having you and I use up fossil fuels. They have an agenda, and they don’t care about the science. Therefore, the science of climate change has been very deliberately attacked by organized and well-funded groups with special interest.

Both of these (evolution and climate change) are great examples of the political and religious process of having an agenda or a conclusion, and then going out and looking for evidence to support your agenda, rather than forming your conclusions based on all the evidence. Sadly, many people have been led to believe exactly the opposite: that scientists have an agenda with evolution and climate change and that they are making it all up to support their agenda. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Don’t Scientists Have an Agenda Too?

The short answer is no. Scientists are human of course, so they all have biases and are capable of making mistakes. But, the scientific method is specifically designed to remove human bias, errors, and agendas. The whole point of the scientific method is to discover without bias. Yes, some scientists have an agenda. Yes, some scientists do take money from a funding agency that wants to prove they are right more than they want to discover the real truth about something (think pharmaceutical companies). But, the vast majority of scientists deliberately try to remove bias from their work, look for the honest answer regardless of what they want the answer to be, and when they do have their findings, they present them publicly for others to review and criticize to ensure they are valid findings. That is the way good science is conducted in research institutions, and the vast majority of the time it works to uncover a lot of knowledge about the world around us.

If you get into a disagreement or argument with a scientist about his or her particular area of expertise, then one of two things is likely to happen. Firstly, and much more likely, you are wrong and are not accepting the evidence that the scientist is using to back up their position. (A simple example would be having an argument with a physicist about whether the earth is round or flat. You are wrong. They are right. They are right because they have based their position on the evidence). Or, secondly, you are right and the scientist is wrong because they have either left the scientific method of examining only the evidence, or they have over-extended themselves beyond what the evidence tells them. (An example of this would be if a physicist tells you that we know we are in the only universe in existence. We don’t have enough evidence to support that claim, and if a scientist claimed that fact, then they have forgotten not to extend their conclusions beyond the evidence).

Why Do Scientists Seem So Arrogant?

In short, because they are right! Remember, when they are doing their job properly, scientists only form their conclusions based on evidence and facts and limit their conclusions when they don’t have enough evidence. Therefore, when they do draw a conclusion about something, it is very, very likely to be correct. You’ll notice that it is very hard to win an argument with someone when they do this. Try to take the position in an argument that the sky is not blue, or that gravity does not exist and see how you do. If you knew nothing about gravity, you might think a physicist seemed arrogant for being so adamant that they are right about gravity. But, they are only adamant because the evidence overwhelmingly supports their position. If you base your arguments on evidence and are careful not to overextend your position beyond the evidence, then you will always be right, simple as that. Of course, most scientists have extensive knowledge on one specific topic that is far greater than the average person. Therefore, when you argue with them on that one topic, they are always right and you are always wrong (assuming they base their argument in evidence). This can seem like arrogance.

Of course, in reality many scientists do overextend themselves beyond the evidence and make claims that are not supported. Then they are just being arrogant.

Aren’t Scientists Wrong All the Time?

Scientific findings are often corrected as we learn more about the natural world. Sometimes scientists discover something and then realize down the road that their discovery was not quite right after all. But, that is not a good reason to reject science whenever it conflicts with your particular preferences, and to explain it away by saying that scientists are often wrong anyway. The scientific method gradually produces knowledge and facts about nature, but one experiment might not immediately provide all the answers. For example, if you want to know whether drinking aspartame has negative effects on pregnant women, you don’t want to draw your conclusions after one experiment. After many experiments by many different scientists, we may discover the truth about that question. But each experiment by itself tends to give an incomplete picture. The important thing in understanding science is to distinguish between the findings that are preliminary and those that are overwhelmingly supported. If you read in the news about a study that found that eating seven carrots a day will reduce your risk of cancer by 36%, then you can likely assume that it is a preliminary finding. Much more research needs to be done to establish the actual benefits of a certain number of carrots per day. But, if you read a textbook on evolution, you would be wrong to roll your eyes and think that this is a preliminary finding. Over 150 years of scientific research in many different fields (geology, biology, genetics, microbiology, etc.) all lead to the same conclusions about evolution.

It is easy and tempting to look back over time and claim that scientists have been wrong about so much. You could look back in history and claim that scientists first thought the earth was flat and the sun went around the earth and so on. But, most scientific claims have a degree of uncertainty to them. (Statistics dictates that certainty is not possible in any one scientific experiment. Most scientific experiments are set up statistically so that the likelihood of misinterpreting the results are roughly 1 in 20. But that does not mean that the chances of science being wrong on well established findings are 1 in 20. For example, any single experiment on tobacco smoking leading to cancer will have a 1 in 20 chance of being wrong. But the chances that smoking does not cause cancer are much, much less than 1 in 20, almost infinitely smaller.) That is why scientists have to be careful to say that the evidence supports their findings, given what we know so far but that there may be a lot more to the whole story. Scientific findings have to be interpreted with a great deal of humility about what we still don’t know about nature. Anytime a scientist conducts one experiment and then claims to know the truth about that phenomenon, they are probably being hasty and arrogant. Only over time, with careful and unbiased repetition of results, can we state things to be true with a very high level of certainty.

Usually, when science has turned out to be “wrong”, it is in fact a case of a scientists having drawn a conclusion before there is enough evidence to support it, so that when enough evidence does come to light their conclusions don’t hold up. In ancient times, a true scientist would not have made assumptions about the earth being flat, but instead should have said: “We don’t have enough data yet to know what shape the earth is.” This is the approach modern scientists take on many unknown issues surrounding things like dark matter, and the exact origins of the universe. Since we don’t have enough data yet, we have to be careful not to draw too many conclusions. Sadly, this acknowledgement is often exploited by the religious with a statement that God must fill in the gaps in knowledge, or that since science can’t explain everything about the origin of the universe, God must have created it.

Can You Be A Scientist and A Christian at the Same Time?

It is possible, but very uncommon. In my time as a scientist, I’ve met a very few scientists who are religious. The vast majority of those have grown up in a culture and family of religion that they have just continued with in their life as an adult. When they go to work each day and conduct experiments in science, they almost always set aside their religion and just work as a scientist. To work as a scientist and keep your firmly entrenched Christian beliefs in the forefront of your mind would be in conflict because science requires that we set aside our personal biases. If your personal bias is that God created the world and is ultimately responsible for how everything works, then you’re unlikely to be very good at interpreting your scientific findings very objectively. In my experience, the vast majority of scientists are not religious. Most of them, if asked, would probably admit to agnosticism since there is no sure way of knowing whether a god exists or not. The best answer I’ve heard on this was from my high school chemistry teacher. When asked if he believes in God, he replied: “You define God for me, and then I’ll tell you whether I believe in your definition.”

Are Science and Religion in Opposition?

This is an age-old argument. Carl Sagan’s fictional book Contact has a great debate on this topic. Everyone seems to have a different point of view on whether science and religion can co-exist. My position (which I am not saying is the only correct one), is that the two are in conflict. The whole point of this post has been to show that the scientific method is one that forms a conclusion only after examining the evidence. The religious method is the opposite: you hold a belief (or have faith) and then look at the world and find things that support that belief in God. If you always stick to the scientific method, I am confident you’ll never find a reason to even bring religion into the conversation. In my mind, everything in the world is explained naturally with no need for the supernatural. It was science that ultimately helped relieve me of my religious beliefs. After a long time of studying science I finally realized that the level of scrutiny I demanded of myself for my religious beliefs were completely out of whack with the level of scrutiny for everything else in my life. I lived an evidence-based life, always being careful to critique what politicians and others claimed against what the evidence actually stated, but when it came to religion for some reason I just accepted what the Bible said about God without ever questioning it. Eventually I overcame that inconsistency in my life and left Christianity behind, so it is not surprising that my particular point of view is that science and religion are not just incompatible but are in direct opposition to one another.

I wrote at the beginning that: “for scientific findings to be valid, anyone with the right training and resources must be able to repeat the experiments and come out with the same results.” The beauty of science, therefore, is that it is freely available for anyone and everyone. No one can come along and claim to have knowledge that is not accessible to you. No one can claim that they know better than you, and you should just trust what they say without independently verifying that knowledge. You will notice that this is in direct opposition to the religious approach to knowledge by revelation. The Bible tells us that Jesus died on the cross and came to life again a few days later. But this is not independently verifiable. You cannot test this claim. You must rely on someone else’s description of that event in order to believe it. This is exactly the opposite of the scientific approach. While you may have to rely on scientist’s description on things that are very complicated for you to understand, nothing is stopping you from going and getting trained in that field of science and then conducting your own experiments to find out for yourself it they are correct. If you do that, no honest scientist will ever tell you: “Yes, but I have superior knowledge and findings in my experiment, so I’m still right.”

Why Do We Need Science Anyway?

The way science is conducted is changing rapidly in universities and research institutions. Governments are focusing funding towards things that they think are important and ignoring or actively discrediting the science that they think it either unimportant or that goes against their political agenda. This is not the way science is supposed to work. Science is a process of discovery, but you often don’t know what you are going to discover. Many of the greatest scientific discoveries in history were made more or less by accident when a scientist was actually looking for something else. When Alexander Fleming stumbled upon penicillin in 1928, he did so by accident. He wasn’t even studying antibiotics at all. Yet, that accidental discovery changed all of our lives for the better, probably more than any other medical discovery in the 20th Century. Imagine if governments had shut down Fleming because they didn’t feel his relatively obscure scientific research was contributing to society. The point is, you never know where the most important scientific discoveries are going to come from. So, trying to focus on curing cancer while stopping the study of sea-slugs would be a big mistake because ultimately the cure for cancer could lie in knowledge gained by studying sea slugs. When you limit the process of discovery, you limit the discoveries you will make.

The other very important reason that science is important in society relates back to the image above of the scientific process. If everyone took an evidence-based approach to life’s decisions, we’d have a much better world. There would be far fewer (if any) wars and governments would be forced to serve the best interests of the population not of the party. The scientific method teaches us to take a humble and open-minded approach to life. Don’t go into things assuming you know the answer before you begin. Stick to your conclusions if the evidence supports it, even if everyone else says you are wrong. But, do admit when you are wrong. These are the hallmarks of a good scientist, but most of us don’t act this way when engaging in politics, marriages, friendships, conversations, and so on.

Summary: Why Is Science Relevant to a Discussion About Religion & Atheism?

What does science have to do with religion? Isn’t religion outside the realm of science? Doesn’t religion require faith, which doesn’t involve science? Well, science is all about basing conclusions on evidence. If there is no evidence for something, then it probably isn’t reality. Therefore science is very relevant to the discussion on religion because there is no objective evidence for God. If there was a God and if there was evidence for God, scientists would be the first people lining up to tell the world all about it. Discovering that God exists would be the single greatest scientific discovery in history, which any scientist would be glad to get credit for, if only it were true. The reason scientists do not generally agree that God exists is not because of some agenda or some grand anti-religious conspiracy. No, the reason science does not support the existence of God is simply because there is no evidence to support that claim. All the claims of the existence of God (or gods) are based entirely on personal experience. All the personal experiences that are recorded in the Bible are examples of exactly the opposite process of discovery in science: they are not reproducible, they are not supported by evidence that anyone can observe, and they are not carefully controlled observations by people trained to be unbiased in their interpretations. This is where the conversation between believers and scientists can start to go in circles with believers claiming that God is outside the ability of science to detect and therefore does not require evidence, and with scientists claiming that nothing is outside the ability of science to detect and therefore God must not exist since there is no evidence for God.

I’ll conclude with a statement and a challenge. My statement is this: “Everything that exists is explainable by science, given enough time and resources.” I state this because my position is that there is only the natural world. There is no supernatural. Since science provides answers to the natural world, science has the answer for everything. My challenge is this: “Come up with a question, for which there is a definite answer, that science is not capable of providing an answer with a reasonable level of certainty..”

Sacrilegious Humor: Comedians on Religion

This is the tenth installment in the Sacrilegious Humor series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a comedy bit that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please email me the name of the bit or a link to it.

Today’s bit is Comedians on Religion.

Warning, many of the comedy bits in this series will contain profanity. You have been warned.

Video Link

Oh Jesus Christ…Where Art Thou? (He Wasn’t There…I Know That Now) Part Two

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Read Part One

By AmiMental

Mom and Dad remained Pentecostal for a few years after I left home but Pastor Jesusjumper retired and my parents moved on.

Again.

So I guess the pastor was the point at that particular church.

Eventually my parents ran out of new churches to try.

But the vagaries of small-town godliness causes the leadership of those churches to change and change and change, and my folks finally went back to the church they’d attended when they first moved to their small town, First Christian. There had been at least four different pastors in the interim.

They were fairly happy there, my mom played the piano and organ for their worship services, and my dad helped with keeping books and was on the board.

They’ve always enjoyed being pillars of the church, my parents, and as a result, pastors are more than happy to take advantage of them.

Pastor Manna used to drive a bread delivery truck in our small town.

I guess he thought being paid to deliver the God message would be an easier job than delivering bread.

If you attended his church and they approved of you, you were asked to join the congregation after three  services. If you didn’t want to add your name to the church roster, then it was suggested that you might want to go to church somewhere else, as ‘God requires commitment and we believe it.’

They were pretty selective about their members.

A wealthy guy retired to their small town and had them flummoxed.

He was a very nice man, my mom said, and always put a twenty in the offering plate, but people just weren’t comfortable with the way he dressed for church.

He wore Hawaiian shirts. Board shorts and deck shoes. Had a graying ponytail. Worst of all, he wore a single earring.

Pastor Manna and a couple minions had a conference with him. They explained that he wasn’t showing the proper respect by dressing so casually.

He moved on.

Wouldn’t you?

So once a person decided to join the church, the next requirement was to fill out a “promise card”.

This was a serious contract with God.

The card asked how much money a household earned and gave a helpful little equation to let a person know how much of that he or she was expected to give to God.

It started at giving 10%, but there were some questions on there designed to determine whether a family could afford to give more.

I wish I’d thought to keep the copy I saw on Mom’s kitchen counter.

My parents were quite happy to fill out the card, and it was a point of pride for my dad to give more than the minimum.

And important to him that other people knew it.

Religion is such a spectacle, isn’t it?

Pastor Manna was big on tithing. If you didn’t give what you were supposed to, he called you into his office for a shaming.

Er, conference.

My brother Dick and his wife, Snatchie were having a hard time financially. They were very close to losing their property and their home and appealed to my dad for help.

My dad, who may be a little nutty in some ways, is always willing to help his family.

He maxed out his credit card to get them some cash. He also took the funds that were earmarked for his quarterly promise to Pastor Manna.. oh wait, I mean God.. and added it to the pot.

Dick and Snatchie were bailed out.

Pastor Manna called my parents into his office.

He was not a happy pastor. He told them that they’d made a promise to God and that they had LIED to him instead!!

That God was NOT happy with their disobedience, and he wanted to know how soon to expect the money they’d promised.

My parents didn’t tell him to get stuffed. They didn’t call him any names. They simply got up and walked out.

And after discussing it, they decided not to walk back in.

Of course everyone in town was curious. Mom was kind of excited about the whole thing, telling me on the phone that they were not going to be ‘unchristian’, so they’d merely told everyone that they had a “disagreement in doctrine” with Pastor Manna and had decided that God was going to use them somewhere else.

A few months later, I discussed the incident with Snatchie. I expressed my disgust with the pastor’s money-grubbing attitude and my anger over his treatment of my parents.

She turned to me and snapped, “Well Pastor Manna has been placed in authority over the church. That was BIBLICAL. He did no wrong.”

Considering that the money had been used to help her and my brother, I thought her attitude might have been a little different. Nope. Another demonstration of why Christianity and logic are mutually exclusive.

My dad was ‘called’ to the ministry about 10 years ago and took over (temporarily) for a pastor who needed some medical leave. Dad got some sort of internet certificate and started preaching.

The regular pastor was able to attend occasional services between medical treatments and one Sunday he stood and invited the congregation to rejoice with him because he was ‘completely free from all sin’.

That’s pretty funny coming from a guy who was the world’s second biggest asshole when I went to school with his kids, but hey, I suppose with God, all things are possible?

Pastor Sinfree and my father had a few disagreements, and Dad called it quits.

Dad wasn’t getting a salary or any type of monetary reward for his hard work. Add the distinct lack of appreciation into the equation… that’s probably why he decided that Pastor Sinfree could have his church back.

For awhile after that, my parents did a home church.

They gave that up a little over a year ago due to health reasons, and now attend church sporadically for those same health reasons.

I never have told them that I no longer believe in God.

I can think of no good reason to do so other than keeping it a secret offends my need to be straightforward with people. I don’t like dishonesty in myself or in others.

I have balanced that against what it would do to my mother if she found out.

And it’s not worth the anguish it would cause. It just isn’t. She would live the rest of her life in an utter panic over my immortal soul and it would significantly affect her health, I think. She’s in her late 70s and has lived her entire life as a Christian.

I can’t hurt my mom like that.

I’m out to some people, but I think the majority of people I encounter just assume that everyone is a Christian. Since I don’t have horns or a forked tail, I don’t fry cats or hurt small children and I’m just a regular person they assume I am a Christian.

Mostly, it never comes up as a conversational topic.

When the young people I work with bring up religion and want to know what I believe or have me settle an argument about God, I tell them that they’re called personal beliefs because that’s exactly what they are. Personal. And that each person has their own set, and that religious discussion is something that’s best left up to individual families.

I’ve finally decided after all these years that whatever elusive thing my parents and all their friends were looking for does not exist.
And that’s why they never found it.

Sort of sad when you think about it.

Notes

I didn’t use anyone’s real name.

Butthump, Oregon isn’t a real town, although I’m pretty sure there’s a bit of butthumping going on there.

Oh Jesus Christ…Where Art Thou? (He Wasn’t There…I Know That Now) Part One

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By AmiMental

I grew up in a series of small redneck towns in the Pacific Northwest.

My family changed churches as often as some people in those little communities changed their underwear.

Actually, now that I ponder it and think about some of the people, we may have changed churches more often than some of them changed underwear.

I even have specific individuals in mind.

Let me tell you… if you’d been in some of those towns/churches, you might actually believe in Sasquatch.

I really don’t know what my folks were looking for, but they weren’t the only people searching.

My parents and their little circle of people pulled up stakes and moved to a new church about every six months to a year. Someone would have a philosophical disagreement with the pastor, or they’d learn that pastor so and so had gone out and helped a guy who didn’t even attend his church when his car broke down.

“A man who lives by the Word!!” they’d all cry.

And off they’d go en masse, to the new church.

Oh sure, there might be some stragglers, loyal to the old pastor, but eventually they’d all find each other again.

As a kid, I didn’t know what the inside of the (New! Exciting! Bible-based!) church might be like, but I mostly knew whose faces I’d see when I got there.

I seriously didn’t know then and don’t understand now what they were all looking for. I always thought that their beliefs should be the point, not where they exercised their religious side.

They didn’t find it at the First Christian Church.

We were new in town, so we weren’t aware of the migratory nature of the local religious population yet. We stayed at that church for about two years, I think.

My parents finally tuned in to the local Jesus dance and we started wandering around to other churches with the rest of the lemmings.

So whatever it was they were looking for wasn’t at the Baptist church, either. Pastor Boorish and his wife were ‘too judgmental’ for my parents.

And my dad didn’t like being at the same church as one of the people he worked with. “He’s a pompous pile of shit,” Dad pronounced. “I don’t like that son of a bitch.”

The Presbyterians didn’t have what my parents were searching for, although their music was really lovely as our high school choir and band director was in charge of it.

That’s why going to that church was my personal favorite.
Almost worth not being allowed to sleep in on Sunday.

Almost.

Of course after the music was over we had to listen to Pastor Stodgy for half an hour, but then we got to sing again at the end of the service.

Good times.

For a couple of months my family took some lessons about Mormonism at someone’s house, but that was a little too weird for my parents.

I went to catechism and the Catholic church with a friend a few times, but Mom denounced that as a cult and decided I probably shouldn’t go there anymore. “Besides that, our whole family needs to be together in church on Sunday.”

That was fine with me, I was done with it. I found the rituals astounding. So many gestures and silly things that were sinful. Trinkets to wear and carry. Confessing one’s sins. Weird.

And the kids I was incarcerated with in public school weren’t any nicer to me when I was receiving religious instruction with them than they were in school.

Church and all the embellishments that go with it were the center of our existence. We were up early every Sunday morning getting ready for church.

The idea of doing something besides church wasn’t even an option. If we wanted to go fishing or have a picnic or do some other thing, it was always planned for after church services.

And as a girl, I had to wear a dress for church. I didn’t wear dresses any other time, but my dressing up for church was a requirement in my family.

I asked once why I couldn’t wear something comfortable like my brothers instead of having to wear a dress and nylons and be cold.
“Why does God even care what I wear?” I asked.

The answer was, “You are disrespectful. Now hurry up, we’re going to be late.” from my harried mother.

Her curt response may have been due to the fact that she was still trying to brush one brother’s unruly hair and get shoes on my other brother while my dad sat out front in the car and honked the horn.

Anyone who visited our house could tell that we were holy.

We had tacky Jesus art and God stuff on the walls and a ton of really swell refrigerator magnets, too.

There was an open hymnal on the music stand on the organ in the living room, and a stack of religious sheet music next to it.

We had an ornate needlepoint wall hanging in the living room with the ‘as for me and my house’ verse from ‘Josua’.

Yes, it was spelled wrong, but Mom thought it was pretty.

No one had noticed the misspelling until I said something. My parents solved the problem by instructing me to stop pointing it out to visitors.

We had the family Bible on the coffee table.

We observed a sense of decorum in our family when we were out in public.

Of course our home life was pretty much like anyone else’s, no one was watching us then, so no need to keep up appearances. Dad swore all the time and ranted about the bastards ruining the country and the assholes he worked for. I can’t remember a time when my father wasn’t angry and bitter. He just didn’t show it to the rest of the world.

Indoctrinated from the beginning, I knew how to act like a Christian.
I knew the bible verses and I knew what Jesus liked and what he didn’t like.

I went to Sunday school and weekly Bible studies and vacation Bible school and even had a mother-approved Jesusy friend or two to hang out with.

I went to church camp every summer.

I prayed when I was told to pray.

I went to all the potlucks and the gatherings and signed up for an hour during the 24 hour prayer vigil our church did when I was 12.

Of course God existed, hadn’t my parents said so?

And didn’t all the people around me believe it?

But I never felt the presence of God.

Not once.

Never.

I really, really tried.

It was like standing out on the lawn looking through the windows at a big party going on inside the house. All those happy people, enjoying being part of a club.

I didn’t feel anything.

Through all the singing and the learning and the endless church services and the crowds of Christians all around me.

At night when I would get introspective as I was falling asleep I’d wonder if there was something wrong with me.

Despite all the indoctrination and the Bible studies and being forced to get up and put on nice clothes to go to church on Sunday every damn week from infancy until I was 17 and my dad said I could make up my own mind about going to church or not,  I never felt it.

I prayed.

I witnessed to other kids.

I wore a ‘Jesus Never Fails’ necklace. To school.

I read the Bible.

I just always felt like… an observer.

I did not feel like I was a part of all the pageantry and the experience. It was like watching a movie.

I still believed in God, but I was becoming more certain that he didn’t believe in me.

Church was, first and foremost, a social club for my parents.

They talked about who wore what, who might be involved in little scandals, how shocking Mrs. Gams was with her short skirts, how her husband needed to ‘get right with God because why is he allowing her to dress that way?’ and other tidbits.

And if one wasn’t at the twice weekly Bible studies or one of the two Sunday services with a ‘fellowship and potluck’ in between there was always the telephone.

Which was in constant and heavy use.

The members of the ‘prayer chain’ called each other all the time with prayer requests which were really just orders to God… sort of like Sears or Santa Claus… “Please pray for us to get a new car/house/job” and gossip, under the guise of fake compassion, “Grace Landerer really needs our prayers, her husband Phil moved in with Miss Slutty last weekend!”

Now mind you, Grace may have only told one person and certainly hadn’t requested their prayers or their curiosity, but by the time she left her house and went to the grocery store 15 minutes later, there may have been three people in town who didn’t know about the situation.

Those three were quickly filled in by everyone else. “Did you hear? Phil Landerer left his wife!!”

With each telling, more details were made up. The more lurid, the better.

My mom would get on the phone and preface her remarks with, “Well I heard that____.” and pass on anything new she’d heard, ending with, “I don’t know if it’s true, but I heard it from Bettyjean Saviorette.” As soon as she ended the call, she called someone else and repeated everything.

When I was almost 13, we found the Assembly of God Church.

I guess my parents thought the Pentecostals might really have it, we attended there for several years.

Pastor Jesusjumper was really a good guy. A local rancher-turned-pastor-but-still-ranching. An energetic, kind man who would do anything for anyone at a moment’s notice.

Even *I* liked him.

That’s saying something by the way, as I’ve always had a healthy dose of cynicism.

You may have noticed.

We ended up at Pastor Jesusjumper’s church because my grandfather died. He passed away around midnight six days before I turned 13.

After my dad got off the phone with the hospital, my mom called the leader of our current church, Pastor Detached. He offered his condolences and promised to stop by ‘sometime tomorrow’ to see what he could do. He bid my mother goodnight and hung up.

Mom called one of the ladies on the prayer chain to pass on the gossip that Grandpa Jim had died. Oh. I meant to say she called to ask for their prayers during our time of difficulty. She passed on the information that Pastor Detached had plans to visit our house the next day, too.

And one of the people on the prayer chain called Pastor Jesusjumper.

He and his wife who lived about a half hour outside of town immediately got up and dressed and drove directly to our house. They told my parents to go to the hospital and take care of paperwork and take care of my grandmother (she was in the hospital at the same time and had not been informed of her husband’s passing.) They said go, we will stay with the children. Go.

My brothers slept through the whole thing, but I was awake and very sad at losing my grandfather.

I loved him a lot.

And Mrs. Jesusjumper sat on the sofa with an arm around me while I cried.

They really were very kind people, and if I had to choose someone from all the churches we went to and all the Christians we met during those years, they would be the ones I’d point to as actually practicing what they preached.

I can’t think of a single bad thing to say about them. They were just decent people. I think they would have been kind and giving and moral without religion, too.

But if you’ve never been to a church where they speak in tongues, dance in the aisles, wave their hands in the air and holler, “Amen!” (or 30 or so people whisper under their breath all at once, “Jesusjesusjesusjesus” until it sounds like wind in the pine trees) I highly recommend adding it to your bucket list.

It’s one of those things you have to see to believe.

A little more about speaking in tongues for those who are unfamiliar with it. A random person, usually one of the same four or five people every week, stands up during the church service and recites a long string of gibberish. Loudly. Often repeating similar syllables and groups of sounds. It ordinarily lasts for 20 seconds to a minute. Then that person will sit down. Funny, that person never interrupts the announcements or the sermon or the offering. It only happens during prayer time.

Many people in the congregation become quite exalted and call out, “Thank you JAYSUS!!” or “Hallelujah!!” Most of them have at least one hand in the air, praising their lord. They sway back and forth. Many of them weep copiously and unashamedly.

A few moments later, another random person will stand up and ‘receive the interpretation.’ This involves a recitation that almost always contains the same words and thoughts, repeated in different ways.  Something like, “Lo! I am with you always! You are my people! I am here, among you! I love you and you love me! Here I am! Your Lord! I am with you always! I will be coming back soon!”

Sometimes they really get going in those services, and several people will stand up and babble. They must have some sort of prearranged signal, because no one ever interrupts anyone else. They all get to do their tongues and arm waving and still manage to take turns.

Like I said… add it to your bucket list.

I left home a little early, and that was the end of my regular church attendance.

I didn’t miss it.

I don’t think anyone with my upbringing could avoid feeling guilty, at least for a while, and I did.

It got a lot easier.

And every Sunday morning, when I was able to sleep in as long as I wanted to, I appreciated the absence of church a little more.

I was living in another state, but still in contact with my family at least weekly by phone.

I talked about what was going on in my life, and my family (mostly Mom) talked about church and other religious activities. Which makes sense, as that was and still is their life.

My mom was on the board of the local chapter of Women’s Aglow. When she wasn’t doing something for her church, she was doing something to help Aglow.

For a few weeks, my poor mom was in a bit of a quandary.

It seems that her good friend Stephanie Saintly, who’d been her friend for fifteen years, had applied to be on the board of Aglow.

And the other board members, my mom included, were not comfortable allowing it.

Why?

Why, because Stephanie had not received the baptism of the Holy Spirit!

She ::putting on sad face and doleful tone:: could not speak in tongues.

In case you didn’t get that, Stephanie Saintly, a good Christian woman who had been faithful to God her whole life, baptized in her local church, and a very nice person all around was going to Heaven when she died.

God had pre-approved her heavenly application because she’d done everything he asks of his followers.

She was good enough to enter the Kingdom of Heaven… but not good enough to serve on the board of a small chapter of a women’s organization in Butthump, Oregon.

When I laughed incredulously and made the comparison out loud, “Seriously, Mom? God will let her into heaven but you won’t let her be on the board? Do you not see anything wrong with that?!?” Mom asked me how our weather was.

It wasn’t the first time I decided that Christianity and logic were going to remain strangers forever.

In case you were wondering, Stephanie was not allowed to join the board of the Butthump chapter of Aglow. She chose to resign from the group because of it.

I started to realize that God had never answered a single prayer I prayed, no matter how sincere.

I had done everything right. I’d gone to church and prayed and tithed and witnessed and read my Bible and wanted to do what God asked of me all the time… and there was no one on the other end of the line when I called him.

I finally admitted to myself, “I do not believe in any God.”

There were no feelings of anger at this non-existent being. It was actually a relief to figure out that he was as real as Santa and the Tooth Fairy. No wonder I’d never felt anything. No wonder I’d always felt like the motions and trappings of religion were pointless.

They were pointless!

I didn’t tell my parents that I’d stopped believing…

Read Part Two

Pastor Art Kohl Equates Homosexuality with Bestiality, Incest, Rape, and Pedophilia

andy gipson tweet on homosexuality

2012 tweet by Andy Gipson, a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives. Gipson is a Southern Baptist.

Art Kohl is the pastor of Faith Bible Baptist Church in Eden, New York. Faith Bible is a church that believes in “soul winning, worldwide missions, old fashioned music & preaching, modest appearance, and loving God” and only preaches from the “King James Holy Bible.” Recently, independentbaptist.com posted an article by Kohl titled Just Because I’m Against Homosexuality Doesn’t Mean I Hate You; Here’s What The Bible Says!  (link no longer active) This is a reprint of an article written by Kohl in 2002.

In the article, Kohl trots out the usual Evangelical objections to homosexuality:

  • The Bible (God) says homosexuality is a sin and an abomination against God
  • Homosexuality is a chosen lifestyle not a sexual orientation/sexual identity
  • Homosexuals choose to be an abomination and by the saving grace of God they can choose not to be an abomination
  • Homosexuals don’t live as long as heterosexuals (a thoroughly debunked argument, BTW)

 Nothing new, right? Change the faces, the same codswallop comes out of the mouth.

What I want to focus on is Kohl’s subtle equating of incest, bestiality, rape, pedophilia, torture, and  beating his wife and children with a baseball bat with homosexuality. Since the state legislates against the former, why not the latter? Kohl writes:

“Stay out of our bedrooms, stay out of our private lives,” is a defensive posture we hear from pro-homosexuals. There are many different laws that affect each of our private lives. Laws against adultery, fornication, pedophilia, beastiality, incest, torture, rape, even seat belt laws. Most laws in some way legislate morality. Do not kill, do not steal, etc.

For the average Evangelical church member who lets their pastor think and speak for them, this argument might seem incontrovertible. However, let me show how easy it is to dismantle this argument.

When it comes to incest, rape, pedophilia, torture, and beating your wife and children with a baseball bat, are there two consenting parties? No. Even with bestiality, the animal cannot consent, so there is only one consenting party. However, homosexual sex, like heterosexual sex, is between two consenting parties. While we have laws that govern the age of consent, once that age is reached there is no prohibition against who a person has sex with. Consenting parties have every right to expect the government to stay out of their bedroom or any other private place they engage in sexual activity.

Kohl is using an apples and oranges argument. Many of the actions mentioned by Kohl are violent acts against others, especially women and children.  We rightly, though our laws, punish those who behave violently against others. To quote the opening line from Law and Order SVU, “sexually based offenses are considered especially heinous.” There is no victim when two men or two women have sex. We’re human and sex is what humans do, along with eating and drinking.  And we are not alone. According to Wikipedia, homosexual and bisexual behavior has been observed in 1,500 species.

None of this really matters to Kohl because the ONLY issue is what the Bible says about homosexuality. If homosexuals would only agree with the Bible when it says that homosexual behavior is “abusers of themselves with mankind”, all would be well. All homosexuals need to do is deny WHO they are and behave contrary to their nature. How hard can that be,  right? Well, based on the various sexual scandals over the years involving Evangelical preachers, it must be pretty hard.

In almost every IFB church there are repressed homosexuals who, out of fear of God and man, hide who they really are. It is a sad existence, one that is exacerbated by continually being pounded by the sin verses found in the Bible. As a former Evangelical preacher, I have a lot of guilt over how I used the Bible to hammer parishioners into what I perceived was God’s rigid mold for sexuality. At the time, I did not know that there were homosexuals sitting in the pew. I now know differently because I have talked to them and asked for their forgiveness. I still shudder when I think about my preaching against homosexuality. I can only imagine how hurtful my words were to those trapped in a religious system that forced them to play heterosexual.

There’s no hope for preachers like Art Kohl until they see how harmful their preaching is. Until they are willing to chuck the Bible into the dustbin of history, they will continue to demand everyone live by the antiquated morality found in the Bible. Well, at least some of the moral teachings found in the Bible. I was curious about Kohl’s preaching on divorce. The Bible has a good bit to say about divorce, yet many IFB preachers seems to ignore what the Bible says, either because they are divorced or they have divorced parishioners. It’s one thing to preach against homosexuality, knowing that no one in the church is going to cop to being a sodomite. But, when there are tithing church members who are divorced, well that’s a whole other matter. Listen to how kind and compassionate Kohl is to those who are divorced:

…Divorce is devastating to those involved. Whether it becomes ugly or is “amiable,” few entered marriage expecting this result. Sayings like, “It is better to have tried at love and failed, than to never have loved at all,” do not help. It comes into your mind everyday. It never goes away. Some feel like they are labeled, “Unclean, Divorcee!” They feel like outcasts to family, friends, neighbors, fellow employees and especially churches.

Your relationship may have ended but your life has not!…

…I ha’ve never been able to answer all the questions and complexities that come with some divorces: lawyers, alimony, child support, custody battles, garnished wages, in-law problems, financial pressures, hurting children who blame themselves, anger, emotional agony, visitation rights, and so on. But one thing I can tell every divorced person for sure: God in heaven is very personal and he loves you very much. You can have a real relationship with him that can never be broken. He has said in his word, the Bible, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

God knows the hurt of divorce.

He was divorced, too! God had married the nation of Israel but she departed from him (Jeremiah 3:14, 20). God had to give her a divorce. Jeremiah 3:8 says “…Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce;…”

This was a spiritual relationship, but God still knows how it feels to have someone so close to you leave. He knows your hurt and feels your pain.

Why don’t you get to know this God?…

Imagine how different things might be if Evangelicals like Kohl treated homosexuals in the same manner? In 2011 Kohl stated:

“It seems we hate and we get angry at certain sins and love and coddle and pet other sins and befriend them if we’re not careful. We ought not to hate the sinner but we ought to hate the sin.”

Most observers of the last thirty years of the culture war would agree that homosexuality has been elevated to the status of THE sin above all sins. Look at how Evangelical pastors, parachurch leaders, and Republican candidates for President responded to the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. Conspiratorial hysteria, the end of Western civilization. No “sin” has had a greater effect on Western civilization and the American family than divorce, yet these same pastors, leaders, and candidates for President are strangely silent. Why is this? (and they are silent on many behaviors their Bible calls a sin)

Here’s what I think. There are a lot of closeted Jesus-loving homosexuals in the Evangelical church, many of which stand behind the pulpit preaching against the very desires that secretly rage in the dark recesses of their life.  Many of them will spend a lifetime denying who they really are. Others will act on their desires thinking no one can see them, only to be exposed through some sort of scandal. And a few others will realize that the BIBLE is the problem, and they will seek happiness and fulfillment through embracing their sexuality. Among those who are exiting the Evangelical church for political and social reasons are those who can no play the heterosexual game. They leave because they want the freedom to be who they are and not who the church, pastor, and Bible says they are.

James Ach Says Steven Anderson Isn’t Really IFB

ifb

Recently, one point Calvinist Bob Gray, retired pastor of Longview Baptist Temple, posted an article by James Ach that let everyone know the infamous Steven Anderson was NOT part of  Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) club.  While most of Ach’s post was a harangue against Calvinism, I found his statement about Anderson to be the most interesting and laughable:

…Let us first say on behalf of all independent fundamental Baptists (IFB) of all stripes, that NONE of us recognize Steven Anderson as a bona fide fundamental Baptist. He has virtually nothing in common with any IFB denomination, and has been openly hostile of every IFB minister and ministry from Peter Ruckman, Bob Gray Sr., David Cloud, D.A. Waite, Jack Moorman, Phil Stringer, Jack Chick,  to Fellowship Tract League, William Grady, Sam Gipp, Lester Roloff et al , and that’s just about every known “leader” so-to-speak in modern fundamental “circles”. The above names have sharp disagreements with each other, but Anderson hates them ALL. Anderson is an anti-Semitic, hermeneutically challenged anomaly that in our opinion at DRC is on someone’s payroll to make Baptists look like complete idiots (above and beyond some of the dumb things we’ve done amongst ourselves). In fact, not only do we deny that Anderson is IFB but have a standing joke that Anderson is actually a closet Calvinist…

If you are like me, you found yourself rolling on the floor with uncontrollable laughter over Ach’s claims that Steven Anderson, pastor of Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Arizona, is ” on someone’s payroll to make Baptists look like complete idiots.” Ach, who is known to make conspiratorial claims, provides no proof for this claim.  Besides, most IFB preachers are quite capable of acting like idiots all on their own.

Ach would lead those uninitiated in IFB life to think that Steven Anderson is an outlier, and not at all representative of the typical IFB preacher. For those of us what spent many years in the IFB church movement, we know better. We’ve heard uncounted vitriolic sermons, attacks on everything from Roman Catholics and the NIV to Southern Baptists and the NKJV. No subject, no institution, or preacher was untouchable. We’ve heard screamed out threatening and hour-long long sermons on “liberal” IFB churches, pastors, and colleges. While Anderson and the late Fred Phelps are a bit more hyperbolic, they certainly are within the pale of what can be heard in many IFB churches.

In my case, I had a gold card that gave me special access to the IFB insider’s club. From Sword of the Lord conferences to IFB Bible conferences to pastor’s fellowships, I’ve heard so-called men of God vent their spleen over every sin imaginable. One such man preached from the text, neither give place to the devil. After he read the text, he spend the next hour giving a rundown and run over of everything he considered a sin. And all the preachers in attendance shouted AMEN!

Steven Anderson is IFB and there’s nothing James Ach or Bob Gray Sr can do about it. His beliefs, in the main, are standard IFB fare. Even his antisemitism and racism can be found in virtually every corner  of the IFB world.  As I stated in my post, Understanding Steven Anderson, Pastor Faithful Word Baptist Church, Tempe, Arizona, there is nothing out of the ordinary about Anderson. He’s a garden variety IFB preacher who, as a narcissist, is full of himself and thinks he speaks for God.

I encourage readers to take a gander at Ach’s Do Right Christians blog and see if there really is any difference as far as behavior is concerned between James Ach and Steven Anderson. For even more amusement, check out Ach’s Twitter account (account no longer active).  I think you’ll find that if the former is IFB then the latter is.

Mark Anthony Escalera Follows Dorothy Over the Rainbow Over Gay Pride Flag

gay pride flag

Fundamentalist Christian Mark Anthony Escalera Slays a Gay Pride Flag

Snark, sarcasm ahead!

Over at the fundamentalist Christian Defending Contending blog, Mark Anthony Escalera had this to say: (link no longer active)

…After the flood, God created a rainbow to be His seal in the heavens. It was a declaration to show the mercy and longsuffering of God. The rainbow was His picture to a depraved world that while He would never again destroy the world with a flood, He would be coming again. The next time He comes, there will be no rainbows. There will only be fire and total destruction of ALL that stand opposed to Him.

The true rainbow is made up of 7 different primary colors of a spectrum. It is a beautiful reminder of the wonder that God long holds up His wrath and judgment against the wickedness of this world. Seven in the Bible indicates perfection and completion.

However, Satan perverted that sign and it is now used around the world as a symbol of “gay pride.” It has only 6 colors. Six in the Bible is the number of man. This “rainbow” is not a true rainbow, but is a symbol of perversion, debauchery, sodomy, lust, pedophilia, and bestiality – just to name a few. The one below is a perversion, and for the record, the White House KNEW what was coming and this was done deliberately. Read Psalm 2 for the conclusion….

According to the ignorant Escalera, a TRUE rainbow has SEVEN colors, seven being a number that many fundamentalists think signifies perfection and completion. The gay pride flag only has SIX colors, six being a number that many fundamentalists think is the number of man; you know like 666. In Escalera’s addled mind, the difference between seven and six colors is proof that the gay pride flag is a “symbol of perversion, debauchery, sodomy, lust, pedophilia, and bestiality – just to name a few. ” For a minute, when he started listing all the sins gays practice, I thought he was talking about Evangelical pastors. Just saying…

Evidently Escalera doesn’t have access to Wikipedia:

A spectrum obtained using a glass prism and a point source is a continuum of wavelengths without bands. The number of colours that the human eye is able to distinguish in a spectrum is in the order of 100. Accordingly, the Munsell colour system (a 20th-century system for numerically describing colours, based on equal steps for human visual perception) distinguishes 100 hues. The apparent discreteness of main colours is an artefact of human perception and the exact number of main colours is a somewhat arbitrary choice.

Newton, who admitted his eyes were not very critical in distinguishing colours,[8] originally (1672) divided the spectrum into five main colours: red, yellow, green, blue and violet. Later he included orange and indigo, giving seven main colours by analogy to the number of notes in a musical scale. Newton chose to divide the visible spectrum into seven colours out of a belief derived from the beliefs of the ancient Greek sophists, who thought there was a connection between the colours, the musical notes, the known objects in the Solar System, and the days of the week.

According to Isaac Asimov, “It is customary to list indigo as a color lying between blue and violet, but it has never seemed to me that indigo is worth the dignity of being considered a separate color. To my eyes it seems merely deep blue.”

The colour pattern of a rainbow is different from a spectrum, and the colours are less saturated. There is spectral smearing in a rainbow owing to the fact that for any particular wavelength, there is a distribution of exit angles, rather than a single unvarying angle. In addition, a rainbow is a blurred version of the bow obtained from a point source, because the disk diameter of the sun (0.5°) cannot be neglected compared to the width of a rainbow (2°). The number of colour bands of a rainbow may therefore be different from the number of bands in a spectrum, especially if the droplets are particularly large or small. Therefore, the number of colours of a rainbow is variable. If, however, the word rainbow is used inaccurately to mean spectrum, it is the number of main colours in the spectrum.

The question of whether everyone sees seven colours in a rainbow is related to the idea of Linguistic relativity. Suggestions have been made that there is universality in the way that a rainbow is perceived. However, more recent research suggests that the number of distinct colours observed and what these are called depend on the language that one uses with people whose language has fewer colour words seeing fewer discrete colour bands.

And just like that, Escalera’s  Bullingerian (see notes) numerical nonsense goes up in smoke.

Think this is Escalera’s worst with Dorothy over the rainbow moment? Oh no. Here’s how he ends his post:

…If you are reading this and think that this is the final conclusion of the LGBT community, then you have been duped. The LGBT community will NOT stop until the next step of Satan’s agenda has been accomplished and accepted. Polygamy will soon be accepted. The age of consent will be dropped just as is happening in other parts of the world. Adherents of LGBT, PFLAG, and NAMBLA cannot have their own children and will only grow as they prey on more and more young people trying to entice them to a life of lust-filled debauchery that will never offer anything but disease and heartache for it is not what God ordained.

Soon, this blog may be taken down because it will be considered hate speech. I know that day is coming. Many companies openly rejoice in the ruling by SCOTUS. One day soon, true believers will be given a choice to conform to the world’s standards or lose their jobs…

Someone unschooled in hyperbolic, delusional Evangelical rhetoric might conclude that Escalera is exaggerating (literary lying) to make a point. But, he’s not. He really believes that ONE DAY SOON, (as in ONE DAY SOON Jesus is coming back’?) his blog will be considered hate speech and taken down by the U.S. government. ONE DAY SOON, (as in ONE DAY SOON Evangelicals are going to start caring about the poor and disenfranchised’?) Christians such as he are going to lose their jobs over their homophobic, bigoted stand for Jesus.

Here’s the truth. Yes, Escalera’s post is offensive, ignorant, hateful, bigoted, and homophobic. But, all of these behaviors are completely legal. Escalera seems to forget he lives in the United States. Hate speech is protected speech, so Escalera is free to hate away. The same goes for losing his job. No employer is going to fire employees over what they believe as long as they don’t promote their beliefs while at work. In some instances, employers have a personal conduct code and this might result in someone being fired over hate speech, but most of the time employees, on their own time, are free to swill Schlitz, wave around an AK47, listen to Toby Keith, drape themselves in the confederate flag, and remind anyone who will listen that God hates fags!

Note

E.W. Bullinger was a nineteenth century Fundamentalist dispensationalist who believed the numbers in the Bible have spiritual meanings.(You can read Bullinger’s book, Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural Design and Spiritual Significance, here.

020916

As Seen on Social Media: Jesus is My Lifeguard

Graphics, Memes, Quotes, and Comments I’ve spotted on Facebook or Twitter.  Today’s graphic comes from Facebook.

It’s summertime. The lake is calling and you pack up your family and head to your favorite lake. Mommy, mommy, mommy, can I go swimming? Mom replies, Sure, but watch out for pedophile preachers strolling on the beach.

Little Betty heads to the lake and jumps into the water. Her older teenage brother is nearby, keeping a watchful eye on her and making sure there are no pedophile preachers strolling on the beach. Pedophile preachers have no part to play in this story, but I thought I’d add them as a public service reminder.

Little Betty swims what seems like a mile away from the beach and then, out of nowhere, a hornet stings Betty on the shoulder. In a matter of minutes, Betty’s eyes and throat start to swell. She’s deathly allergic to hornet stings, and with a muffled voice she tries to scream for help. But, she’s too far way from shore for her brother or the lifeguard to hear her. And then she remembers a wonderful graphic she saw on Facebook:

jesus is my lifeguard

JESUS is my lifeguard

No need to call for the lifeguard because JESUS, the bestest, most awesome lifeguard e-v-e-r, constantly patrols the lakes protecting swimmers from harm.

Finally, poor little Betty’s throat swells shut, she chokes on her tongue and then she dies.

In heaven Betty asks St Peter, Hey, I thought Jesus was supposed to be my lifeguard and save me if I was drowning?

St. Peter replies, Silly girl, that’s a metaphor, a way Christians speak when trying to convince themselves that Jesus, the one and only, true and living, and most a-w-e-s-o-m-e God ever, cares if they are drowning.

Too bad Betty is dead. Had she lived, it would be because a real, flesh and blood lifeguard saw her distress and rescued her.

Waiting for Jesus to save you from drowning is a sure way to die.

Sacrilegious Humor: Introduction to Religion by Dave Allen

This is the ninth installment in the Sacrilegious Humor series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a comedy bit that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please email me the name of the bit or a link to it.

Today’s bit is Introduction to Religion by Dave Allen.

Warning, many of the comedy bits in this series will contain profanity. You have been warned.

Video Link

Local Christians Respond to Supreme Court Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage

biblical marriage

On Friday, the godless, anti-American,socialistic, communistic,  jihadist, liberal, satanic-inspired U.S. Supreme Court overturned Ohio’s constitutional ban of same-sex marriage. Ohio Governor John Kasich, also known as Mr. Wall Street, publicly admitted the marriage battle is over: (link no longer active)

“I’ve always felt that marriage is, you know, one of these traditions between a man and a woman, but the Court has spoken. And I’ve said all along that when the Court makes a decision, we abide by the law of the land. And they made their determination and—just move on. It doesn’t mean I’m not disappointed, I am, but the decision has been made.”

 

Williams County Commissioner Al Word, formerly the sheriff of Williams County, evidently slept through high school government class. Word told The Bryan Times (behind paywall):

“Why don’t they change the voting process so the minority always wins?  I believe everyone should be treated with respect, whoever they are, but this has gone completely over the edge. I’m in total disbelief and most people don’t realize the gravity of the whole thing. It changes who we are and how our issues get decided.”

Evidently, Word thinks the United States is a democracy where the majority rules. However, as anyone who has ever taken a government class should know, the United States is a republic with a representative form of government. Majority or minority has little to do with it, and in the case of the Supreme Court ruling, the issue is the court’s interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment, especially the equal protection clause.

I understand why Word is upset. In 2004, Ohioans voted to restrict marriage to “only a union between one man and one woman.” This constitutional amendment passed 62-38 percent statewide. In Williams County the margin was 73-27 percent. According to The Bryan Times, the voting margins were similar in nearby Defiance, Fulton, Henry, Putnam, Paulding, and Van Wert counties.

But, let’s look at the numbers (link no longer active) for God’s Kingdom-Northwest Ohio Division, also known as Williams County. In 2004, there were 26,722 registered voters in Williams County and 18,294 of them voted on the marriage amendment. (68% voter turnout) 13,275 voted for Issue One, and 5,019 vote against the amendment. Yes, 73% of those who voted cast a vote in favor of the marriage amendment. However, when measured against the number of registered voters, the number drops to 50%. As in the case of most Ohio ballot initiatives, they are voted up or down by a majority of a minority. (in 2004, Ohio had its largest voter turnout in years)

I think Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown is right when he said:

“The court has spoken. The public is behind the court and the court speaks for the public…I am convinced Ohio voters, if they had it to do over would agree. Marriage equality is the law of the land now, period, just like civil rights. It’s a victory for everyone, gay and straight. Those who disagree will be relegated to the dustbin of history.”

After the Court’s decision, The Bryan Times contacted “virtually every church in Bryan”  to get a response. Only two pastors responded: Pat Schwenk, pastor of New Hope Community Church and Kevin Kellum, pastor of Grace Community Church. Both pastors were deeply disturbed by the ruling.

Schwenk stated:

This is certainly not the firs time the U.S. Supreme Court has made a ruling contrary to the truth of God’s word. It’s not a decision we celebrate, nor is it one we despair over either. God is still in control. Regardless of the moral and spiritual drift happening in our country, our response should be to faithfully honor God first, while loving others–even when there is disagreement.

Kellum stated:

Troubling, for a number of reasons. The church’s worldview of marriage has always been that it’s a vow between a man and a woman. Now we’re in uncharted territory. We’ve talked about openly with the congregation. Our doors are open to any race, gender, and (sexual) orientation.  We still have hope and we still believe and obey the word of God and depend on him for guidance on our lives, and we continue to look to God for his definition (of marriage). I’m concerned that there is a whole generation of young people who have no foundation in the church’s teachings, and with this ruling, I expect that to continue, to present a challenge to the church.

Don’t be blinded and misled by the talk of loving others and open doors. These words are loaded with Evangelical presuppositions, and all that is meant by their perfidious words is:

Yes we love homosexuals, they need Jesus, so our doors are open so that they can repent and find Jesus as their Lord and Savior. And if they don’t, they are going to be eternally tortured by God in hell.

Neither pastor is willing to openly and without reservation embrace homosexuals and welcome them into the membership. Married same-sex couples will find that very few local churches are willing to treat them as they do married heterosexual couples. As long as the Bible is the authoritative standard, same-sex couples will never be treated justly, fairly, and equally in churches like New Hope and Grace Community Church.

Over in Defiance County, the Crescent-News asked readers what they thought of the Court’s ruling. Here’s what several local fundamentalists had to say on the newspaper’s Facebook page:

crescent news 1

crescent news 2

crescent news 3

I left more comments on the Crescent-News’s page than anyone else, yet when the newspaper printed many of the comments in today’s edition of the paper, none of my comments were printed. It’s hard not to conclude that they either “overlooked” my comments, they were too long, too intellectual, or they didn’t want to give the village atheist any more press.

The Bryan Times was able to find an openly gay local man willing to comment. Here’s what Denver Henderson of Bryan had to say:

“Yesterday, I could do anything everyone else does–buy a car, own a house, pay taxes, fall in love–but there was always one thing I couldn’t do. Tomorrow I can. It’s not a big national question of ‘Can we?’ anymore. Now it’s the personal question of ‘Do we want to?’  (That kind of freedom is)  what it feels like to be a part of ‘We the People.’  It’s a big deal. It’s history happening right now and you don’t get to see that very often.”

Notes

Over the years, I’ve tried to give the Crescent-News editorial staff the benefit of the doubt when it comes to things like not printing my comments, but I have reached a point where I am no longer willing to do so. If I am missing something here, then I’d love for Steve VanDemark, Dennis Van Scoder, Todd Helberg, Mark Froelich , or Bruce Hefflinger to point it out to me. From “lost” letters to the editor, a “lost” 35th wedding anniversary announcement, numerous resumes submitted for a photography position flushed down the toilet, and no response to emails, comments, and tweets, it’s hard not to conclude that the newspaper has no interest in engaging me at any level. Even when fundamentalists personally attack me in their letters to the editor, making inflammatory and untrue statements, the newspaper says nothing. Why is this?

Grace Community Church is a part of the Ohio Mennonite conference. While there has been some movement towards accepting same-sex marriage at the national level, I suspect most NW Ohio Mennonite pastors/churches consider homosexuality and same-sex marriage a sin.

New Hope Community Church is a garden variety Evangelical church. Here’s their doctrinal statement (proof texts removed):

The Infallibility of the Bible
We accept the miracles, creation, etc., as literal accounts.
To repudiate any portion of Scripture as unreliable is like changing an inch on a ruler.
If one inch is changed, the entire system of measurement is altered.

The Absolute Diety of Christ

The Virgin Birth of Christ

The Historical Creation of Man
Man did not accidentally evolve from lower forms of life.
God created man as a unique spiritual being.

The Sinful Nature of Man
Man is not basically good.
He is basically evil.

The Substitutionary Death of Christ
Others have died difficult, martyrs’ deaths.
Jesus is the only One who died for the sins of the world.

The Bodily Resurrection of Christ
Some say Christ arose in spirit or His teaching lives on.
But the Bibles teaches Jesus arose bodily from the grave.

A Literal Return of Christ to Earth as Promised

The Resurrection and Assignment of All People to Heaven or Hell
We are sometimes criticized for too rigid a stand.
But Jesus said, “Narrow is the way…”

Atheists Talk Interview, Sunday, June 28, 2015

bruce 2015

Here’s my interview with Atheists Talk, a program broadcast Sundays on AM950, the Progressive Voice of Minnesota. The program is a production of Minnesota Atheists. Thanks to Scott Lohman for having me on.

Link to podcast

If you have any questions about the podcast or are interested in having me on your program,  please email me.

Sacrilegious Humor: Biblical History by Robin Williams

This is the eighth installment in the Sacrilegious Humor series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a comedy bit that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please email me the name of the bit or a link to it.

Today’s bit is Biblical History by Robin Williams.

Warning, many of the comedy bits in this series will contain profanity. You have been warned.

Video Link