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Question: Was My Deconversion Gradual or Instantaneous?

atheist dan piraro

Several weeks back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Suzanne asked:

What was the thing or moment where it all started to unravel horribly, the pulling the first thread away moment, when you said ‘screw all of this’ and walked away? Was it one thing or a gradual buildup of stuff?

This is a great question, one that is not easy to answer.

My story drives Evangelicals crazy, especially those who are hardcore, never change their beliefs, fundamentalists. What they see in my story is a lifetime of theological change, and this is a sure sign to them that I never had a surefooted theological foundation. After all, the Bible does say that the double minded man is unstable in all his ways.  In their mind, it’s no wonder I deconverted. Look at my ever-evolving theology.

However, I view my change of beliefs in a different light. For those of us raised in the Evangelical church, we grew up with a borrowed theology. Our theology was that of our parents, pastor, and church. When I enrolled at Midwestern Baptist College, I had a borrowed theology and when I left three years later I still had a borrowed theology. I believed what I had been taught.

Over the course of 25 years in the ministry, I diligently studied the Bible. I read over a thousand theological books and prided myself in working hard to give parishioners with exactly what the Bible taught. Over time, I encountered teachings and beliefs that were new to me, and after thoroughly studying the matter my beliefs either stayed the same or changed. Over  the years, my soteriology and eschatology changed, as did my view on inerrancy the law of God, faith vs works, and Bible translations. These new beliefs led to changes in practice. I like to think that my changing beliefs were simply an intellectual response to new information.

Over this same 25 year period my politics evolved and changed. I entered the ministry as a right-wing Republican culture warrior. I left the ministry as a progressive/liberal Democrat.  It is likely that my changing political beliefs affected how I read and interpreted the Bible.

I left the ministry in 2005 and left Christianity in 2008.  In the three years between these two events, I went back to the Bible and restudied what I believed about God, Jesus, creation, salvation, and the Bible. I read numerous books written by authors like Bart Ehrman, Robert Price, Robert Wright, Jerry Coyne, John Loftus, Rob Bell, Wendell Berry, Thomas Merton, Brian McLaren, John Shelby Spong, Henri Nouwen, Marcus Borg, Elaine Pagels, Hector Avalos, Soren Kierkegaard, John Dominic Crossan, N.T. Wright, Paul Tillich, and a number of other authors. I was doing everything I could to hang on to some sort of faith.

I went through what I call the stages of deconversion: Evangelical Christianity to Liberal/Progressive Christianity to Universalism to Agnosticism to Atheism. This path was painful, arduous, contradictory, and tiring. I spent many a day and night not only reading and studying, but having long discussions with Polly about what I had read. In November of 2008, I concluded, based on my beliefs, that I could no longer honestly call myself a Christian. Since I no longer believed the Bible was an inspired, inerrant, infallible text, nor did I believe that Jesus was God, rose again from the dead or worked miracles, there was no possible way for me to remain a Christian.  At that moment, I went from believer to unbeliever. I call this my born again atheist experience.

Evangelicals will read this post and point out what they see as a fatal flaw in my deconversion; I didn’t read any Evangelical theologians. I didn’t read any of the shallow apologetic works that are bandied about as surefire faith fixers. The reason I didn’t is because I had already read them. I can recite Christian theology, in all its forms, frontwards and backwards. Since there hasn’t been an original thought in Christianity since Moses got off the ark, I had no need of rereading Christian theological books. The few Christian authors I did read, were new authors that I hoped would tell me something I had not heard before.  I read their books in hopes of getting a new perspective on Christianity, hoping that they would knot a rope and throw it to me so I could hang on. In the end, the rope had no knot, and down the slippery slope I slid until I hit bottom.

So, my deconversion took a long time, but there was also a moment in time when I went from believer to nonbeliever.

If I had to point to one thing that most affected my deconversion,  it would be learning that the Bible was not an inspired, infallible, inerrant text. I suspect this is the case for many Evangelicals turned atheist. Bart Ehrman is a good example of this.  The belief that the Bible was a perfect text written by God and absolute truth from the hand of God himself, was the foundation of my system of belief. Remove this foundation and the whole house comes tumbling down.

One unanswered question remains; if I had started out as a progressive/liberal Christian would I have still deconverted? I don’t know. Maybe, maybe not. Since I have a pastor’s heart and I love help people, I might have found a home in progressive/liberal Christianity. This is one of those would of/could of/should of questions. That’s not the path I took, so here I am. Unless a deity of some sort reveals itself to us, I remain a convinced atheist.

Question: What is the Difference Between Superstition and Religion?

superstition

Several weeks back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Geoff asked:

What’s the difference between superstition and religion?

The short answer is nothing, Practically, an Evangelical would view the beliefs of non-Christians as superstition. The Evangelical looks at Catholics and their prayers to Mary and the saints and sees superstition. What the Evangelical can’t see is their own superstition. The Christian narrative is every bit as wacky as any of stories and beliefs that are labelled superstition. One man’s superstition is another man’s religion.

The dictionary definition of superstition is:

An irrational belief arising from ignorance or fear.

The question I have is whether ALL religious belief arises from ignorance or fear? Most of it does, to be sure, but if someone tells me that they have some sort of deistic belief then I am inclined to say that their belief does NOT arise out of ignorance or fear. I have stated many times that I think one can look at the universe and conclude that a deity of some sort created the universe. This deity, after creating the universe, said, there ya go boys and girls, do with it what you will. Some readers of this blog  hold to this view. While I can not embrace this view, I do understand it.

As far as Christianity is concerned, no matter what form one embraces, it arises from ignorance or fear. Some Evangelicals try to assert that their beliefs are rational, but I find their explanations laughable. Their explanations are little more than a class in probabilities. Let me explain.  Billions of people have lived and died. Every human dies. Even the Bible admits the  obvious: it is appointed unto men once to die.  There are no exceptions except for Jesus and Elijah, for which we have no proof that they are still alive. The Evangelical hangs on to the notion that it is “possible” for a person to resurrect from the dead or never die because the Bible says it is possible. (circular reasoning) Since all the evidence points to when you are dead you stay dead, I consider any other belief to be one born out of ignorance, faith, or hope.

Liberal Christians are hard to nail down, belief wise. I tend to refrain from labeling their beliefs superstition because I appreciate what they are trying to accomplish. Most liberal Christians I know are de facto universalists. Atheists like me end up in heaven anyway, so there no fear factor involved. Do I think liberal Christianity is rational? No, but I do know the world would be a lot better place if every religious believer had progressive, liberal beliefs.

I am sure hard-core atheists will not appreciate my conciliatory, accommodationist approach to deism, liberal Christianity, and universalism, but I recognize that most people are going to have some sort of religious belief, and if this is so, what would I prefer for them to believe? Fundamentalism, in all of its forms, remain the enemy.

Question: Please Explain the Eschatology of the IFB Church

clarence larkin judgments
Chart from Clarence Larkin’s book, Dispensational Truth. This is chart showing the various judgments and resurrections.

To see full size (3970×1811) please click here.

Several weeks back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Charles asked:

Bruce, you said “you said: “Christian orthodoxy teaches that when a person dies their body goes to the grave to await the resurrection of the just and unjust and the final judgment.” How then, could the rich man see and know Abraham and Lazarus and Abraham and Lazarus see the rich man?”

Can you explain where this “Dual Judgement” theology comes from, who originated it, and why not all fundies espouse it—like you did not espouse it in your quote above.

First, for those who may not know my entire story, I was not a fundamentalist towards the latter part of my time in the ministry. I left the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement in the late 1980’s. I then became an Evangelical Calvinist before becoming more liberal politically and theologically. When I left the ministry in 2005, I was aligned with the emergent church, red letter Christians, and Sojourners. My move left cost me almost all of my IFB friends and colleagues. When I became an agnostic/atheist/humanist, I lost all but two of my remaining Christian friends.

Second, when I wrote Christian orthodoxy teaches that when a person dies their body goes to the grave to await the resurrection of the just and unjust and the final judgment,” this was a reflection of my post IFB theology. I held to a post-tribulational, amillennial eschatology. One resurrection, one judgment.

Third, almost all IFB churches and pastors are dispensational, pre-tribulational, and premillennial. As such, they believe in multiple judgments. Lazarus and the rich man would have been judged before the death and resurrection of Jesus. Then there is a judgment after the rapture. This judgment is often called the Judgment (BEMA) Seat of Christ. At the end of the tribulation, there will be another judgment, and after the 1,000 year millennial reign of Christ on earth, there will be one more judgment, the final judgment of all who have not yet been judged.

Make sense? Of course not. But, it is in the B-i-b-l-e. Much of dispensational teaching is implied and inferred.

In recent years, I’ve noticed more eschatological diversity in the IFB church movement. I suspect this is due the fact that all the prophecy preaching over past 70 years has failed to materialize. After being theologically embarrassed and made out to be a fear-mongering false prophet, many IFB preachers have turned to simpler eschatological systems. I’ve even met IFB preachers who are Calvinistic and hold to a post-tribulational, amillennial eschatology. Their eschatology and soteriology have evolved, but their social fundamentalism has not. (please read Are Evangelicals Fundamentalists? to understand the terms social and theological fundamentalism)

Question: Will Christians Praying for Your Demise Have Their Prayers Answered?

imprecatory prayer

Several weeks back, I asked readers to submit questions they would like me to answer. If you would like to ask a question, please leave your question here.

Steve asked:

Yes sir, I have a question!

Do you think the many Christian prayers for your demise will succeed?

Many Christians believe that God should get all the praise for the good things that happen and Satan and sinners should get blamed for the bad things that happen. This fact poses a conundrum for those praying for my demise. If God kills me, this means it was a good thing, right?  But, if God is the giver of life, the fact that I am still alive is also a good thing.  Perhaps God wants me to live so the Holy Spirit can regenerate me, effectually call me, and impart to me his wonderful irresistible grace. Or perhaps I am not one of the elect, not in the Lamb’s Book of Life; then I am an unregenerate, apostate reprobate. If I were God, I would kill someone like me, seeing that I do so much damage to the faith of others.

Some day, I will die. The way I am feeling as I write this post, it could be today. Or tomorrow. Or twenty years from now. Regardless of the date of my demise, there will a Christian somewhere who will see it as proof that their imprecatory prayer worked,;that God whacked me because they asked him to.

Comments

comments

I want readers to know that I read every comment. I appreciate you taking the time to thoughtfully comment on my writing. For a variety of reasons, most of which are health related, I find it very hard to keep up on the comments. (and the same goes for Facebook and Twitter)  I just want you to know that my lack of response has nothing to do with your comment. I greatly value those who take the time to comment and I hope everyone will continue to do so.  If there is a specific question you want me to address, please make that clear in your comment or send me an email. I will do my best to respond to your question.

Each day, I have a limited window of physical ability, so I try to focus on my writing and keeping this blog operating smoothly. I find it impossible to write, maintain the blog, and respond to every comment. My writing is often cross posted on No Longer Quivering. Usually, there are a fair number of comments on the post. Again, even though I want to, I simply don’t have the time or physical wherewithal to respond to every comment.

What I want to convey here is that I don’t want anyone to think I am ignoring them or don’t appreciate their comment (s). Make sense?

Have a great weekend.

Bruce

What I Want to Know is What is IN the Nightstand?

nightstand

Warning, Snark ahead.

In a post titled FREEBIE Friday! What’s on Your Night Stand?, Erin Davis, a writer for the Lies Young Women Believe website, asked readers “what’s on your nightstand?”  Davis wrote:

What’s on your nightstand?

No, I don’t mean that pile of rubber bands and bobby pins. Not the layer of dust either. (I sort of collect dust bunnies. I don’t judge). I want to know what you’re reading.

Here’s what’s on my nightstand.

The Insanity of God by Nik Ripkin. This is one of the best books I’ve read in years. It’s the only book I ever remember getting to the last page and immediately flipping back to page one and starting over again. The stories of how God is moving in countries where there is persecution (like the kind that costs believers their lives) expanded my view of Him and encouraged me to pray like crazy for Christians around the world.

The ESV Journaling Bible. This was a gift from my handsome husband. It’s beautiful, with a rich leather cover, and it has wide margins with lines for taking notes. Perfect for a Word loving, doodler like me.

Fear and Faith by Trillia Newbell. I haven’t read this one yet, but I can’t wait to. Using stories of real women, it gives a roadmap for how to find security in the Lord when we are afraid. (Which is pretty often for me!)…

Ah yes, what’s on Davis’s nightstand is two religious books and a Bible. What I want to know is what is IN Davis’s nightstand? You see, in the Evangelical world, it  is all about what is on your nightstand rather than what is in your nightstand. It is all about perception, making sure that one appears to be the right kind of Christian who believes the right kind of things.

When someone walks into Davis’s bedroom, and perhaps her whole house, what one sees is the trappings of Evangelical Christianity. My wife sees this where she works. Evangelicals have their offices adorned with the latest, greatest Jesus Junk®. She can quickly tell what Christian book and author is popular by the number and name of the books found on desktops. Years back, The Purpose Driven Life and The Prayer of Jabez were on prominent display, but now offices display the latest, greatest book written by whoever Evangelicals are fawning over this week. In six or so months, signs will go up reminding passerby’s of the real meaning of Christmas or warning fellow believers about the War on Christmas.  These outward demonstrations are meant to say to fellow Evangelicals: hey, over here, I am a Jesus Lover just like you!  The books, wall hangings, stickers, and pictures are the Evangelical equivalent of a gang tattoo.  When someone sees an open Bible on a desktop they know that that person is part of the Jesus gang.

I wonder what we would find if we began opening drawers? What do people like Erin Davis and her fellow Evangelicals keep hidden from the watchful eye of their fellow believers? I wonder if the bedroom nightstand drawer might have handcuffs, dildos, or vibrators, along with strawberry tasting lube? Perhaps it is time for Pew or Lifeway to conduct a study on what is IN the Evangelical’s nightstand. We already know what is ON the nightstand.

I suppose inquiring minds want to know what is ON my nightstand:

And IN the nightstand?:

  • TENS unit
  • Dish remote control
  • Universal remote control
  • Bluetooth headphones and charger
  • Proctozone-HC 2.5%
  • Meijer Muscle Ultra-Cream (Bengay Ultra Strength)

Now, what’s in other drawers? I’ll never tell.

IFB Pastor Ron Baity Thinks Homosexuality is a Sign of the End Times

ron baity berean baptist church
Ron Baity, pastor of Berean Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Ron Baity is the pastor of Berean Baptist Church, an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Baity started the church in 1980. Baity thinks that the homosexual horde currently invading the United States is a sure sign that we are in the end times. And the gay man says, Pastor Baity, we always known it is the end times.

Video Link

Here’s a transcript of some of what Baity said in this sermon:

So the book of the Revelation is about End Times events and what happens when this world is destroyed by fire, when the stars and the universe and the sun and the moon, like untimely figs cast from a tree, are just completely done away with and annihilated.”

“Listen, folks, it’s on, You might as well get ready for it. It’s on. It’s just a matter of time when they’re going to say to the churches… It’s just a matter of time before our constitution in our churches will be overturned like our state constitution just been overturned this week. I mean, it’s coming.”

“They were doing something that was not normal, they were doing something that was not natural, and as a result of that, like God judged this world with a flood, he judged Sodom and Gomorrah with fire!” the pastor exclaimed. “The most blasphemous thing I’ve heard in 40 years of ministry, I heard on the news last night, where rogue judges have gone against the will of the ministry and made America a country where there’s totalitarianism, where there are judges who have set themselves up as dictators to overthrow the will of the people! And they placed their sanction upon marriage that is out of the habitation of God’s creation!”

“Now, I want you to understand, there’s something about that that just don’t ring clear. There’s something about that that goes against everything that God has taught us in his word. There’s something about that that merits the judgement of God, according to the book of Jude. There’s something about that that just doesn’t work.”

“If you think for one skinny minute, God is going to stand idly by and allow this to go forward without repercussions, you better back up and rethink this situation,” he warned. “I want you to understand, that is raw, pure blasphemy.”

“I hope this message gets through the Internet. There’s another day that’s going to get called in court, there’s another session of court. And it’s higher than the federal court, and it’s higher than the Supreme Court.”

“There was never a cow going around slobbering on another cow, sending a signal that I’m in love with this cow,” he said. “And when the bull got in the pasture, we didn’t have to give them a course in bullology or cowology. They had an inborn nature, they knew exactly and precisely what they needed to do to make sure that the Baity family had cows 20 years from now.”

“I would hate to think that two skunks in the backyard was smart than a judge that supposed to have studied the laws of the land. Listen, we’re not getting wiser, we’re getting dumber! We’re not getting smarter. My friend, we are meriting, we are bringing the judgement of God on this nation as sure as Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed, don’t be surprised at the plagues. Don’t be surprised at the judgement of God.”

“You think Ebola is bad now, just wait. If it’s not that, it’s going to be something else. My friends, I want you to understand, you can’t thumb your nose at God, and God turn his head away without God getting your attention.”

Pastor David Berzins Goes on a Preaching Rampage About Homosexuals

word of truth baptist church prescott
Pastor David Berzins, preaching at Word of Truth Baptist Church in Prescott, Arizona.

David Berzins, pastor of Word of Truth Baptist Church in Prescott, Arizona, is calling on all True Christians® to support the stoning of homosexuals. When a fellow King James Only Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) pastor refused to endorse Berzins and Steven Anderson’s call of death to Sodomites, Berzins went on a preaching rampage against his fellow pastor:

Video Link

I love how this guy enunciates ho-mo-sexual. Kind of like me saying after watching this video, this is one stuuu-pid, dum-b-ass preacher.

Here’s some of what Berzins said in the video clip:

“I like the guy. He’s a Christian, he’s saved, he does soul-winning, he believes in a King James Bible, it’s a Baptist church. Independent Fundamental Baptist church.”

“I think it’s very clear” in the Bible,that people with same-sex attractions should be stoned to death.

“Look, God came up with the laws of the Old Testament! They’re breathed by the Lord. And if you think that you know better on how to run a country than God has ordained, you’re against the teachings of the Bible.”

“Don’t break fellowship with someone who simply believes that Leviticus 20:13 should be in application in our government today.”

“Now, you’re gonna break fellowship over fellow Christians over this issue because you’re too scared! Because you’re scared about retaliation from these perverts! Don’t be scared! They’ve vile and wicked and you need to be standing up and standing together.”

It’s a good day, brethren, when Baptist Fundamentalists are turning on each other. It’s like a snake eating its tail.

Rick Warren Says Only God Can Kill Us

calvin and hobbes death

Southern Baptist Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, has come out…man I just had a hilarious thought…has come out of the closet…back to reality…has come out in opposition to California Senate Bill 128. If passed, the bill would give terminally ill Californians the right to terminate their own life. Warren, whose son committed suicide in 2013, thinks that none of us should have the right to determine when we die. According to the Purpose Driven pastor:

“I oppose this law as a theologian and as the father of a son who took his life after struggling with mental illness for 27 years.”

“The prospect of dying can be frightening,but we belong to God, and death and life are in God’s hands…We need to make a radical commitment to be there for those who are dying in our lives.”

According to the Death with Dignity National Center:

SB 128 would allow patients who are mentally competent and have fewer than six months to live, as determined by two physicians, to obtain prescriptions for medication to end their lives in a humane and peaceful manner, while protecting the vulnerable with strict guidelines and procedures.

Warren’s comments illustrate, once again, why there must be a strict separation of church and state. While Warren might find some vicarious purpose and meaning in suffering, many Americans do not. In Warren’s world, the Christian God is sovereign over all, including life and death. Warren tries to frame his objection as “wanting to be there for those who are dying,” but I suspect there are many Californians who have no need of Pastor Warren or any other pastor or priest “being there”  for them during the last days of their life.

While the government certainly has an interest in protecting those who are vulnerable, mentally ill, or unable to make a rational decision, I see no compelling reason for government to forbid the terminally ill to end their life through drugs provided by their physician. Warren is free to suffer until the bitter end. He is free to let cancer eat away at his organs or allow ALS to turn him into a vegetable. If that’s what his God demands of him, far be it from me to deny him the right. However, millions of Californians do not worship Warren’s God, nor do the have such a noble view of suffering, death, and pain.

right to die

Chronic illness and pain are my “dark passengers”, to quote Dexter, the serial killer. I fully expect that I will continue, health-wise, to decline. I see no cure on the horizon and I highly doubt God is going to send Benny Hinn to fake heal me. There could come a day when I no longer desire to live in what Christians call this “house of clay.”  I am sound of mind, OK, mostly sound of mind. Since God is not my co-pilot and I have no desire to be the poster child for suffering, shouldn’t I be allowed to determine, on my own terms, how and when I end my life?

Perhaps I will never reach the place where the reasons for living are no longer enough to keep me alive. There are days when the pain is unbearable and I ponder what death will be like. THE END. Lights out. I have the means of death at my disposal. I take medications that would surely do the trick, but maybe not. Perhaps they wouldn’t quite send me and Toto to the other side. Then Polly would be left with a brain-dead vegetable of a husband. Wouldn’t it better for a doctor to prescribe drugs that were sure to do the trick? If we can execute murderers surely we can help the terminally ill die when they want to call it a night. Wouldn’t this be the compassionate thing to do?

Many people are opposed to assisted suicide for religious or philosophical reasons. By all means, suffer to your heart’s content. But, you have no right to demand that others play by the rules of your religion or philosophy. I hope the California legislature will not allow Evangelicals and Catholics to pressure them into not giving the terminally ill a death with dignity option. The dying, if  possible, should have the right to determine when and where the show ends. (please Dying with Dignity.)

Anne Reed thinks Craving a Milky Way is the Same as a Gay Man Craving Sexual Intimacy

homosexuality an abomination

Snark Ahead. You’ve Been Warned!

Anne Reed is a staff writer for the American Family Association (AFA). AFA is a fundamentalist Christian ministry started in 1977 by Methodist minister Don Wildmon. Wildmon’s son Tim now runs the operation. In order to write accurate, timely articles, I must monitor the ruminations of the religious-right. I don’t like doing so, but it is a necessary part of my job. Every day, I must wade through hundreds of articles that I consider racist, bigoted, conspiratorial, or bat-shit crazy. Thus, I subscribe to AFA’s newsletter, The Stand.

Anne Reed  thinks the government should regulate homosexuality because Michelle Obama is concerned about childhood obesity and has used the power of  government to change how children eat at a school. In her mind, gay sex should be regulated just like school lunches. I can see your face now. Huh, there is no connection between these two things?  Remember Reed is a fundamentalist. Reason and logic are not her strong suit.

Here’s what she had to say:

…CDCP has also reported a wealth of reliable and disturbing facts about the effects of homosexual behaviors, particularly among males. Gay and bisexual men represent only about two percent of the U.S. population but accounted for three-fourths of all estimated new HIV infections annually from 2008 to 2010. Wow! That is an extreme and unmistakable health risk associated with homosexual behavior.

In 2010, the same year the Let’s Move campaign kicked off, African American men accounted for more than double the number of estimated new infections in other ethnic groups. And young African American gay and bisexual males ages 13 to 24 are especially affected by HIV.  But where’s the compassion for these young men? Where’s the determination to bring about necessary lifestyle changes?

And somehow President Obama expresses no concern for those who wish to change that extremely risky behavior. Rather, he wants to model decisions made in California, New Jersey, and DC banning licensed professionals from offering and providing conversion therapy for minors who seek to change their same-sex attractions and behavior.

While gluttony, laziness, and ignorance can certainly lead to a life of disease and early death, so can misguided sexual desires. This is clear. If the Obamas really understand and care about the importance of teaching a child correct behaviors at an early age when it comes to nutrition and exercise, why is the concept inapplicable when it concerns damaging sexual cravings and behaviors?

Have you ever watched a movie scene where one actor withheld a helping hand from another whose grip was slipping from the edge of a tower or building? It goes against everything we know to be right and good. We don’t just let somebody fall into a pit of destruction when it’s within our power to help.


First
, let me say that Anne Reed is being disingenuous. As a Christian fundamentalist and a political right-winger, Reed doesn’t want the government regulating anything. Well, execpt the “sins” listed in the Bible, then she wants the government to be a terror to evil and an executor of wrath on those who do evil.

Second, being gay is not a choice. Evidently, Reed thinks a person chooses to be gay just like she chooses a bag of potato chips at the local store.

Third, the students eating lunch are CHILDREN and parents, school boards, and government has a vested interest in making sure children eat a nutritious lunch. How a gay has sex is determined by attraction, preference, and desire. Surely Reed knows that heterosexuals have anal and oral sex too?  Those engaging in gay sex are consenting teenagers and adults. They are mature enough to make rational sexual choices. Children, with immature minds, would choose to have a lunch of candy bars, Captain Crunch, and ice cream. For a beverage Pepsi wins over milk every time. Since we know many children aren’t ready to make responsible eating choices, adults make the choice for them. Gays do not need help choosing who to have sex with.

Fourth, yes HIV does affect the gay population far more than it does the heterosexual population, But, it DOES affect the heterosexual population, so using Reed’s illogical logic, should heterosexual sex be regulated or forbidden? After all, it would keep heterosexuals from getting HIV.

According to the CDC, there are about 50,000 new HIV infections each year. One out of every 300 Americans is infected with HIV. Compare this to one out of ten Americans having diabetes. It seems to me that Reed should be writing about the diabetes epidemic that is ravaging the Christian church. Perhaps the government should step in and ban church potlucks and ban churches with bus ministries from giving out candy to riders. Think of the children, Anne!!

Fifth, the overwhelming majority of sexually transmitted diseases are contracted by white, Christian heterosexuals.  Again, using Reed’s illogical logic, shouldn’t Christianity and heterosexual sex be strictly regulated or forbidden? We know that Evangelical and conservative Christian churches often given the sexually active horrible advice about sex and birth control. Perhaps Baptist youth groups should be banned because of their promotion of “just say no.”  Doesn’t “just say no” encourage sexual irresponsibility, resulting in a loss of virginity, STD’s, and unplanned pregnancies?

It took me all of a few hundred words to strip Anne Reed naked and expose the bigotry and hate that lies behind her beliefs. It’s not about public policy or what is best for children. Reed’s God, in an inspired, inerrant, infallible work of fiction, has decreed that homosexuality and same-sex marriage is an abomination. This same God, in the same book, said that homosexuals should be executed. Of course, he also thought adulterers and fornicators should be executed too. Man, that sure would drastically reduce church attendance numbers, wouldn’t it? Imagine God killing every adulterous, fornicating Baptist. Why, I know some IFB churches that would have to close their doors. Their pulpits would certainly be empty if God got all righteous and killed adulterers and fornicators.

Let me end this post with three comments left on Reed’s article by loving, concerned Christians:

“Thanks Anne Reed for a brave attempt at juxtaposing M. Obama’s “Let’s Move” program with the proliferating spread of HIV among, of all things, gay and bisexual men. Hmm…this data from the CDC obviously cannot be examined critically by anyone in the Obama administration because that would be tantamount to exposing the skeletons in homosexuals’ closets. This administration makes the rules, changes the rules as necessary to reap the greatest amount of political gain, and then shushes anyone who challenges the rules.” (Bruce has one comment: So HIV infections started when the Kenyan-born Muslim atheist socialist Obama took office)

“There is also alarming stats that have recently been released on the “transgendered” community with articles such as this: “High HIV burden identified in transgender women,” Baral S. Lancet Infect Dis. 2013;13:214-222; Correlates of HIV Infection Among Transfemales, San Francisco, 2010: Results From a Respondent-Driven Sampling Study, American Journal of Public Health, August 2013. There are also mental health issues that can be associated with this lifestyle: Anxiety and Depression in Transgender Individuals: The Roles of Transition Status, Loss, Social Support, and Coping, Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology, June 2013.” (Bruce has one comment: Transgender individuals have anxiety and depression? Shock. I wonder why? Looking at you AFA)

“God says that He gives the Homosexual who in the heart and mind reject what is good for what is evil over time giving them over to a reprobate mind to not know the difference since they do not care ! And God gives them a just recompense in the flesh ! Perhaps a memo to their flesh to not mind what is bad nor differentiate that which is bad from what is good as they desired mentally they receive physically as well – Auto – Immune Dificiency Syndrome?” (Bruce has one comment: Sounds to me like HIV and homosexuality is God’s fault. After all, isn’t he the one giving them over to a reprobate mind?)

A Sovereign God Smashes a Young Family to Death

ellis family
The Ellis family

Here’s a story that perfectly illustrates being at the wrong place, at the wrong time:

A Washington couple who died when a large concrete slab fell from a highway overpass onto their pickup truck were youth ministers in their 20s and parents to a 6-month-old baby.

Josh and Vanessa Ellis and their baby, Hudson, died when a concrete barrier fell onto the cab of their truck as they drove underneath an overpass in Bonney Lake, Washington, James Ludlow, their pastor at EastPoint Foursquare Church, said.

“It’s a tragic event,” Ludlow said Tuesday. “In the blink of an eye, inhale and exhale, and they’re in the presence of God.”

Construction crews were installing a sidewalk on the state Route 410 overpass in Bonney Lake, when a chunk of concrete weighing thousands of pounds fell to the roadway below around 10:30 a.m.

“We were just heading down the street … and I could hear three snaps and down it went on top of the truck,” witness Dawn Nelson, who was riding in a car behind the pickup, told KING-TV of Seattle. “There was nothing anyone could do. It was just surreal.”

It was not immediately known what caused the “very heavy” concrete structure to fall. Bonney Lake police, the state Department of Transportation and representatives from contractor WHH Nisqually are investigating.

City spokesman Woody Edvalson said the material that fell was part of the original span, which was built in 1992 and has a sufficiency rating of 95.3 out of 100.

Bonney Lake is about 30 miles southeast of Seattle.

Flowers, a cross and a teddy bear have been placed near the overpass. Both the span and road underneath reopened. Debris from the concrete slab is still on the ground, however.

Ludlow described the Ellis family as “great people” who were loved by kids in the church’s congregation….

What a tragedy, a poignant reminder of how quickly one’s life can be snuffed out.

The Ellis family attended Eastpointe Foursquare Church in Buckely, Washington, where Josh and Vanessa were youth leaders.

I am always hesitant to use tragedies like this to make a point, but there is an aspect of this story that I think is important to discuss.

Shane Lance, the worship leader at Eastpointe,  had this to say about the accident:

“It’s just crazy as a friend. I just can’t wrap my head around it, and that does have to do with how random and how freakish the accident was.”

“It feels unbelievable because a split second on either side the cement slab would have fallen right in front of them and they would have been fine or behind them and they would have been fine. What I do know is that there’s no answer to the logic of it and there’s no answer to the question why.”

“We do know God is good; He’s just so good. He’s going to pull goodness out of this situation somehow, even though right now that just feels illogical. And there’s also comfort knowing that they’re with Jesus and they’re comforted and they’re covered by His grace and power now.”

The One News Now report goes to say “The worship pastor adds they know God is sovereign even when it doesn’t make sense.”

According to Lance and Eastpointe Foursquare Church, the Ellis family was smashed to death because the Christian God decreed it to be so. God is the giver and taker of life and he determined it was time for Ellis’s to die. Not content to quietly kill them in their sleep, he dropped a concrete barrier weighing thousands of pounds on top of them as they drove near an overpass.  What should we say about a God who behaves in such a horrific manner?

Lance, seeking for answers as to WHY God killed his friends, believes that the sovereign God he loves and worships only does good and he will surely use this tragedy for a greater purpose. What Godly purpose requires the sacrifice of a young father, mother, and their child? How is this any different from the Aztec Indians sacrificing humans to their God?

Lance’s comments betray the mental and emotional battle that rages in his mind. He wants to believe God is sovereign, God is love, God only does good, yet his dear friends are dead. In the aforementioned article, Lance stated  that the accident “just feels illogical.” When viewed in a religious context, he is right.  How can someone say God is love and God only does good, knowing that the death of the Ellis’s is anything but loving and good? I am sure that cognitive dissonance afflicts many of those trying to make sense of this tragedy.

As a humanist, I don’t think the accident was illogical. The Ellis family was at the wrong place, at the wrong time. Such things happen every day in every country of the world. 13 years ago, a Southern Baptist pastor, his wife, and three young children, were driving along an Indiana road when a tree toppled over smashing their car. The father, mother, and two children were killed. Baptist Press reported:

A small-town Southern Baptist pastor, his wife, and two small children were killed Jan. 1 when a dead tree fell on top of their car, crushing the passenger compartment.

Stanley Paul Jones, 46, pastor of Buck Creek Baptist Church in Cumberland, was killed along with his wife, Beth Ann Hobbs Jones, 39, and two of their children, Lauren, 6, and Tyler, 10.

Another daughter, Emily, 4, survived and was listed in fair condition at an Indianapolis-area hospital.

There appeared to have been no wind or other circumstances that caused the tree to fall just as Jones’ car was passing underneath on the two-lane road.

How do you explain the deaths that came a few hours into the new year?

Jones was westbound on Hancock County Road 100 South, approaching the intersection with County Road 200 West, about seven miles east of the church he served. There are woods in the area. A dead tree, said to have been 5 feet in diameter, fell just as Jones’ vehicle was passing underneath, according to Hancock County deputies.

“Being a Christian doesn’t mean you’re exempt from tragedy,” said William Smith of Cumberland Christian Church, who knew Jones and helped his church. “There’s no explanation for it, but we believe that an all-knowing God is in control of everything.”…

There’s that sovereign God again, the God who is all-knowing and controls everything. Again, like the Ellis family, the Jones family was at the wrong place, at the wrong time. But, in both cases, there are humans who are culpable for what happened. While the concrete barrier falling was an accident, someone was operating the machinery that resulted in the fall.  Same goes for the Jones family. The dead tree that killed them was on someone’s property. They likely knew it was dead and could topple over, yet they did nothing about it. The state of Indiana is also culpable. It is their responsibility to make sure that trees along the right-of-way are sound. If they are not, they should be removed lest they topple over and hit a passerby.

Rare is the circumstance where no culpability can be found. I have had several near brushes with death, and in every instance a human was to blame. We recognize that we live in a danger-filled world, where living to old age is as much about luck as it is genetics. For the Ellis and Jones families, their luck ran out and three children and four adults died.

Imagine these families tooling down the road without a care in the world. Maybe they were like Polly and I years ago. We’d spend hours in the car singing hymns and praise and worship songs. Sometimes, we sang along with a cassette tape or a CD. Just praising Jesus, worshiping the wonderful, loving God of the universe. And then,  BAM, the sovereign God of Christianity drops a cement barrier or a tree on top of the car. What kind of God behaves like this? Perhaps Christians need to tell God to please leave them alone; that they are fine without his love, care, and protection.

The Ellis family, according to Shane Lance, is in the presence of Jesus. Theoretically, isn’t this what many Christians live for? Whether by rapture or death, the Christian is free from the world controlled by the prince and power of the air, Satan.  Life is little more than  preparation for heaven. The Bible says, prepare to meet the Lord thy God. Since the present life is transitory and fleeting, the Christian focuses on laying up treasures in heaven. Testimonies are given, expressing the desire to absent from the body and present with the Lord. If heaven and being in the presence of Jesus is the end game, shouldn’t Christians rejoice upon hearing the stories mentioned in this post?  Why all the sadness, grief, and despair? Perhaps, even the Christian has their doubts about what lies beyond the grave. They know what the Bible says, what their pastor says, and what their “heart” tells them, but reality tells them something far different.

I am not certain whether the atheistic/humanistic way of looking at tragedies and death is better, but it is brutally honest. I fully understand the appeal of religion in times of tragedy. People want to desperately believe that their life matters, both now and beyond the grave. While there is no rational proof for such claims, faith allows the believer to set reason aside and cling to hope. The atheist and the humanist must embrace life as it is. Sometimes, life can be harsh and ugly, as in the case of the Ellis family. No thoughtful atheist would ever wish such a tragedy on anyone, but we know that things like this do happen and they may some day happen to us.

One Bump and Bang Too Many

potholes

A week and a half ago, Polly and I took a road trip south, ending up in Delphos, Ohio. In a post titled Luck, Fate, or Providence, I mentioned an event that took place while I was taking some photographs of an old canal:

…Polly and I took a road trip to Ottoville, Fort Jennings, and Delphos. Like most of our trips, I took my camera equipment with me. As we were wandering around Delphos, we stumbled upon a lock from the era of the Miami and Erie canal. Getting down to the lock was a bit treacherous for me. I wanted to get as close as possible, so I gingerly walked down the concrete abutment to the lock. I didn’t fall, slip, or trip. Lucky me, I thought.

After ten minutes or so, I was ready to return to the car. I had two paths I could take. I could retrace my steps or make a big step and little jump to ground level, Polly said she would give me a hand, so I chose the latter. Polly reached down, took my hand, and began to help me up. And then, our world went crazy. Polly couldn’t pull me up completely and I violently fell forward, knocking both of us to the ground. If my weight had been balanced slightly the other way, I would have no doubt went careening down the concrete abutment into the canal. The fall would have likely killed me.

The good news? My cameras escaped damage, though one of them does have a slight scrape. The hood on the lens kept it from being smashed. Polly ended up with bruised knees and I ended up with a twisted ankle and hip and a nasty, bloody contusion on my left leg. It is still oozing slightly today.

I know I was lucky. I should have retraced my steps. This was the safe and prudent choice. However, Polly was standing right there and she said she would help. Why not, right? She helps me out of the recliner and car all the time. What neither of us counted on was how difficult it is to pull up a 350# man. When Polly pulls me out of the car or the recliner I help her. This time? I was dead weight and I almost literally became so…

Yesterday, I had Polly take me to Urgent Care in Bryan. My left leg is swollen, an inch bigger circumference wise than my right leg. The contusion is weeping fluid and has become infected. I am white, the wound is red and yellow, and I am trying to keep it from turning black. (shout out to the Evangelical song, Jesus loves the Little Children, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight) I am taking an antibiotic. The doctor swabbed the wound and sent it to the lab. The lab will do a culture to determine what is causing the infection. If warranted, the doctor said he will change the antibiotic, but he thinks the one he prescribed should do the trick. This is the same leg, BTW,  that I had a foot problem with last fall.

Last Sunday, Polly drove us to Cincinnati, Ohio to attend the Cincinnati Reds-St. Louis Cardinals baseball game. We had a great time. There’s nothing like experiencing a live baseball game. When the stands are full, as they were on Sunday, the stadium comes to life. The cheers and the groans ripple loudly through the crowd, as Reds fans live and die with their team. In many ways, I find the live baseball experience to be a lot like a revival service. There’s that “feeling” in the air that resonates deeply with me.

That said, we have come to the conclusion that I can no longer take trips hours away from home. Driving to Cincinnati and back meant we were on the road for almost 8 hours. Whether we took the interstate or a state highway, the roads, thanks to a hard cold winter and a lack of infrastructure upkeep, pummeled my body. Mile after mile the roads bumped and banged my body, so much so that even double doses of pain medication couldn’t stop the pain.

As much as I want to cheer the Reds on in person, I know I can no longer do so. My body has issued its decree, cross this line and I will make you pay. As I have said many times before, a time would come that I was no longer willing to pay the price of admission, no longer willing to suffer the brutality of long trips. That time is now.  I hate that it has come to this, but it is what it is.

Now this doesn’t mean that I can take shorter trips to places like Toledo, Fort Wayne, Magee Marsh, or Marblehead. An hour or two from home, along back roads at a slow speed, I can still do. There’s a minor league baseball team in Fort Wayne and Toledo, so I can still enjoy the live game experience. There’s plenty for us to see and do within a few hours of our home. There’s plenty of sites and out-of-the-way places to photograph. Instead of lamenting what I can’t do, I choose to focus on what I can do. This is me adapting to my environment. Shout out, Charles Darwin.

2015 Ford Escape
My chauffeur driving our 2015 Ford Escape. What’s real interesting is the gravel pit in the background. I sure wanted to climb down there and take some photographs.

We recently bought a new car, a 2015 Ford Escape. We made this purchase because I was having difficulty getting in and out of our 2013 Ford Fusion. The Escape sits up higher and has greater head and leg room, allowing me to sit comfortably, even when I have to twist my body to lessen the pain. We are quite pleased with the car. Actually it is an SUV, but we call it car.  Health problems have robbed me of my ability to drive any distance but a short one. This is another thing I’ve had to adapt to. For decades, I did most of the driving and now I must rely on Polly to chauffeur me wherever I want to do. Again, it is what it is.

The nasty injury detailed at the start of this post has proved to be a wake up call for Polly and I. I no longer can afford to push the envelope, risking injury. Since I am diabetic, any type of wound is a concern. I pastored several people who lost their legs due to a cut or wound that morphed into an abscess drugs and doctors could not cure. Despite all our miracle-working drugs, there are viruses and bacteria that can and do kill us. I must take better care of myself, not putting myself in circumstances that could cause physical injury. When I walk with a cane, I tend to ignore my limitations. When using a wheelchair, it is obvious that I can no longer pretend to be Superman. While I refuse to give up, I must face reality and adjust my life accordingly.

The good news is that Polly will still be by my side. We’re in this together until death do us part. Her love and care make the pain and suffering bearable.