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Tag: Evangelicalism

The Christian God Has an Optics Problem

richard dawkins quote on the nature of god

Stacy Long, a writer for the American Family Association, admits that when taking the Bible at face value, the Christian God comes off looking more like a murderous psychopath than the loving, doting father Evangelicals say he is. Long writes:

Often we read the Bible and have a hard time making the connection between God’s role in the Old and New Testaments. How do we reconcile Jesus’ teachings of God’s love and longsuffering, of kindness to our fellow man, of redemption and sacrifice for all people with the Old Testament instruction to pillage and conquer the Canaanites with instant death for one who so much as laid a careful hand on the Ark of the Covenant with stoning an entire family because one man went astray.

The Christian God’s optics problem is one of the reasons often given for people leaving Christianity. If the Bible is taken at face value (literally), especially the Old Testament, God is a vindictive, petty, petulant, narcissistic son-of-a-bitch deity who doesn’t deserve one second of obeisance and worship. From the Father God perspective, the Christian God is a father who neglects his children, refuses to meet their basic needs, and physically abuses them when they fail to meet his exacting, perfectionist standard of living.

Even in the New Testament God has an optics problem. What kind of father allows his son to be brutally tortured for the crimes of others? While the Christian God certainly is viewed in a better light in  much of the New Testament, he returns to his Old Testament self in the book of Revelation, a 22-chapter story of God’s slaughter of the human race and the destruction of earth. Perhaps God suffers from multiple personality disorder or is schizophrenic. Perhaps from Matthew to Jude God is well-medicated and refrains from returning to his murderous ways. In Revelation, tired of the calming effects of anti-psychotic medications, God goes off his meds and makes up for lost time by slaughtering billions of people.

While Long recognizes that God has an optics problem, she attempts to rehabilitate God’s psychopathic resume by suggesting that God operates according to a different moral and ethical standards than sinful humans. Long writes:

And so, God’s ways are not our ways. But even when His ways seem strange to us – unlike what we know of Him – His ways are still the same, and He is still good.

….

So, maybe it is not so much that God’s actions are inscrutable, as our understanding of them is precarious. Not that we lack some secret key to biblical exposition, but simply because we are not God. He’s looking at the picture from a whole different angle, and what He sees may be very different from what we see. What He knows and understands may be completely unknown to us. In short, what we may misunderstand and call bad, He may call good.

Over the years, as I have attempted to challenge Evangelical beliefs by pointing out God’s immoral behavior, Christians have reminded me that it is impossible for us to judge God using human reasoning. According to Evangelicals, God’s ways are not our ways. Where do they get such a notion? Right out of the Bible:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8,9)

According to Evangelicals, God’s behavior can never be questioned because his ways are beyond human reason and understanding. In other words, God can do whatever the hell the wants because he is God. The Apostle Paul, when questioned about God choosing to save some people but not others, wrote:

For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? (Romans 9:17-21)

Simply put, Paul is saying, Shut up!  How dare you question God! God is God and he can do whatever he wants to do.

Long concludes her defense of the Christian God’s immoral behavior with the Biblical story of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus:

Take the birth of Jesus for instance. Looking at the story from a human viewpoint, it is a completely tragic affair. A girl gets pregnant out of wedlock, her fiancée is compelled to marry her against his own inclination, they are forced into an arduous journey through unfriendly terrain, they are destitute and homeless when it comes to the time for childbirth, and the whole thing ends with a lot of innocent infants being massacred and Jesus’ parents having to flee for their lives to a foreign land not knowing if they will see their home and families again. For a sad tale of a couple who really get their lives messed up, that beats Romeo and Juliet hollow. Oh, and then that baby who came into the world through so much trouble and pain ends up being horrifically executed as a criminal and denied by His closest friends. And yet, from our retrospective understanding of God’s purpose, we celebrate His birth as the sweetest, most joyous event of all time.

Long, as every Evangelical, reads the Bible selectively. When Evangelicals read the story of the conception and birth of Jesus, all they see is the wonderful babe in the manger — God incarnate who came to earth to save sinners. While rose-colored-glasses wearing Evangelicals know that there are morally perplexing and contradictory aspects of the incarnation story, they shut their minds off from reason, believing instead that their God would never do anything that was not for their good.

So then, God raping a virgin teenage girl and making her the surrogate for Jesus is okay because these heinous behaviors led to the birth of Jesus, the savior of the world. Is this not why many Evangelicals believe that there should be no abortion exceptions?  According to Evangelicals, if a woman is violently raped and impregnated by a psychopath, she still should be forced to carry the fetus to term. Why? Well, look at how things worked out for Mary. She carried her fetus to term and that fetus became a miracle-working prophet, a God-man hybrid, who was violently tortured and executed so his blood could be used to wash away our sins. Amazing and wonderful, right?

God, who is all-knowing and all-powerful, could have chosen to impregnate Mary another way (by having Joseph impregnate her and then supernaturally turning the fetus into Jesus, the son of God).  In fact, he could have provided a different method of salvation. But, he didn’t. Evangelicals often focus on the heathen ruler who massacred all the male babies in Bethlehem and the surrounding area under the age of two. What an awful, murderous man, Evangelicals say.  Wait a minute, couldn’t God have stopped Herod’s slaughter?  Shouldn’t God, who is the creator of the universe and the divine human puppet master, be held accountable for what happens on his watch?

Evangelicals argue that God cannot do wrong, and that he is morally pure.  When confronted with Bible stories that suggest otherwise, Christians rush in to defend their God from charges of immorality. I get it–the Christian narrative must be protected at all costs. If God is shown to be culpable for his behavior, why that would mean that he is not a deity worthy of human fealty, fidelity, devotion, and worship. And this is exactly what Evangelicals-turned-atheists such as I believe. Even if the Evangelical God exists, and he doesn’t, he would not be a deity worthy of our devotion and worship. We refuse to bow in worship to a God who has spent the last 6,020 years murderously working its way through human history. We refuse to bow in worship to a God who considers sickness, disease, starvation and war “good.” We refuse to bow in worship to a God who had stood on the sidelines of human history doing nothing as blood flows in the world’s streets.

I know all the excuses Evangelicals give for their God’s behavior. I used them myself in sermon after sermon, and they were little more than defenses of the indefensible. God has the power necessary to radically change life on earth, yet he does nothing. Outside of helping Granny Louise find her car keys and helping Tim Tebow keep his virginity, God is largely AWOL.  When will Christians realize that their God is not who they claim he is? Anyone with a modicum of reason and basic observation skills can conclude that the God being peddled by Evangelicals is a work of fiction.

Evangelicals are forced to ignore or reinterpret vast portions of the Bible in order to main the Christian narrative: that God is a kind, loving, long-suffering deity who desires to save people from their sins, that he is a God personally involved in the affairs of the human race, right down to giving each of us the breath to breathe. I ask, dear Christians, where is this God of yours? Outside of your minds, where can I find this God? Better yet, based on what I read in the Bible, why should I devotedly worship the Christian God? What is there about your God that deems him worthy of my love and devotion? From my seat in the atheist pew, if I knew of someone who behaved in a fashion similar to the Christian God, I would advocate for his immediate incarceration and execution. Such a loathsome creature does not deserve life. In every way, the Christian God is worse than the most vile of humans. Why would I ever want to worship such a God?

Simple, Bruce, if you don’t, God will torture you in hell for eternity after you die.

Thank you for making my point.

Monica Cole Equates Fighting Liberals with Americans Fighting the Nazis

one million moms

Monica Cole is the outrage director for One Millions Moms (OMM), a ministry of the American Family Association (AFA). Several times a week, Cole sends out emails that are meant to stir the passions of God’s mighty army of soccer moms. In today’s email, Cole equates the work of OMM with that of American soldiers fighting the Axis powers, Germany and Japan, in WWII. Cole writes:

I sometimes fear that I fail to express to you the vital and crucial role you play in the battle to promote biblical values in our nation, as well as to preserve, protect, and defend religious liberty.

Your efforts today and in 2016 are absolutely crucial in this struggle. In fact, they are more important now than ever before.

….

I sometimes think of what it must have been like to celebrate Christmas during World War II. Today I want to remind you how those on the Homefront helped our soldiers overseas defeat the Axis powers.

They did so through the many personal sacrifices, often including their own sons and daughters. In addition, they purchased war bonds, used ration coupons for everyday items like gasoline and sugar, and wrote encouraging letters to soldiers. They took part in rubber and scrap metal drives and saved cooking fat. Women took difficult manufacturing jobs traditionally held by men. They couldn’t go overseas and fight the enemy on the front-lines, so they did their part on the Homefront.

This is the role you and your fellow 1MM supporters play. You have a family to care for, a church to support, and a job to keep. I appreciate that, and I fully understand those responsibilities.

However, your sacrifice on the Homefront – through your partnership with 1MM and AFA – is essential to the outcome of our struggle. Just as our parents and grandparents scrimped and saved and sacrificed to support the troops overseas, so is your sacrifice crucial in making possible everything we do here at 1MM and AFA.

And never was your support more necessary than it is today.

Like those who came before us, we have the challenge and privilege to “remain in action throughout the war” we’re fighting …

Just as our parents and grandparents fought and died in order to pass on to us the freedoms they enjoyed, so we are fighting for our children and grandchildren. This is our mission. We’re giving of ourselves so that they can live in a nation where they are free to live by and promote Christian principles and values in every area of culture – government, public policy, the courts, education, family, business, community, and more.

And when you consider all that’s at stake in the 2016 elections, our efforts are particularly critical in 2016 because …

… Religious liberty – our first freedom – hangs by a thread.

So, please, let’s do what the “Greatest Generation” did and – putting all of our trust and faith in God – do whatever it takes to win victory over the enemies of freedom. Meanwhile we continue the fight …

Cole believes that American religious liberty “hangs by a thread.” Evangelicals, mistaking a loss of preference for the loss of freedom, have convinced themselves that they are under attack. The women of OMM think that secularists, liberals and atheists, all of whom are the servants of Satan, are concertedly working to destroy Christianity and criminalize the worship of Jesus.  Why, if Cole’s email is to be believed, Christians are being attacked just like America in the 1940s when German submarines prowled the Atlantic and Japanese planes dropped bombs on Pearl Harbor.

Reminding readers of the sacrifices the Greatest Generation made on behalf of the American war effort, Cole pleads with supporters to scrimp and sacrifice so OMM can continue to battle the evil forces of darkness. In other words, OMM needs money and they want their supporters to cut back on lattes and Redbox rentals so that the money saved can then be sent to the OMM war effort.

At the end of her fundraising appeal, Cole uses a bit of Biblical imagery in the hope that doing so will move OMM supporters to cough up more money. Cole writes:

In addition to your active participation in our projects, the two ways in which you can help 1MM and AFA most right now are through your prayers and your financial gifts. Think of Aaron and Hur holding up Moses’ arms as he prayed for victory over the Amalekites. Your prayers and your donations hold up 1MM and AFA so we can fight the enemies of Christianity and freedom.

In Exodus 17, Amalek and Israel are fighting one another. Moses tells Joshua that he plans to stand on a hill overseeing the battlefield with the rod of God in his hand, hoping to spur Israel on to victory. Like Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, when Moses raises the rod, Israel prevails in battle. When Moses’ arms weaken and he can no longer hold the rod high, Amalek prevails. Concerned that the battle might be lost, Aaron and Hur have Moses sit on a rock and they, one man on each side, hold Moses’ arms high. And sure enough, thanks to the work of Aaron and Hur, Israel defeats Amalek.

Cole uses this story to portray the American culture war. Amalek, in the guise of secularists, liberals, and atheists, is waging war against Evangelical Christianity, and OMM  is Moses, with rod held high, standing on a hill. As the battle continues, the arms of OMM become weak. If OMM doesn’t find someone to hold up their arms, the battle will be lost. Well, not really someone, but something. Something as in cash, checks and credit card donations.

Previous posts on the American Family Association and One Million Moms

Follow the Money: The American Family Association and their Support of the Gay Agenda

One Millions Moms Says a Boy is a Boy Even if She is a Girl

One Millions Moms Upset Over FOX Making the Devil Likable and Human

One Million Moms Outraged Over Women Not Wearing Underwear

One Million Moms Offended Over Old Woman Flashing Her Husband in Taco Bell Commercial

The Homophobic Hysteria of Tim Wildmon and the American Family Association

Same-Sex Marriage: Will God Answer the Prayers of the American Family Association?

The American Family Association Runs Ad That Says Only God Can Define Marriage

Tim Wildmon Says Satan Hates the United States

How Evangelical Pastors and Church Members Can Overcome Their Porn-Watching Habits

watching porn is a sin

According to an upcoming study by the Barna Group titled The Porn Phenomenon, Christian pastors have a porn problem. While the full study will not be released until April 2016, Barna president David Kinnaman announced some of their findings:

Most pastors (57%) and youth pastors (64%) admit they have struggled with porn, either currently or in the past.

  • Overall, 21% of youth pastors and 14% of pastors admit they currently struggle with using porn.
  • About 12% of youth pastors and 5% of pastors say they are addicted to porn
  • 87% of pastors who use porn feel a great sense of shame about it.
  • 55% of pastors who use porn say they live in constant fear of being discovered.
  • The vast majority of faith leaders who struggle with porn say this has significantly affected their ministry in a negative manner. It is not clear why, but youth pastors are twice as likely as pastors to report this kind of unfavorable impact.

I suspect that the stated number of pastors who are “struggling” with porn, “addicted” to porn, or currently using porn is underreported. It is not surprising to learn that youth leaders have a big problem with pornography. Youth pastors tend to be younger, often with the same raging hormones as the teenagers to whom they minister. I have long believed that Christian youth groups led by youthful pastors are havens for sexual abuse and misconduct.  While churches have all sorts of policies in place that are meant to keep sexual misconduct from happening, rarely does a week go by without a youth pastor being arrested for some sort of sex crime. While these stories get all the press, the bigger story is the sexual misconduct that is covered up by church leaders and parents. Offending youth pastors are quietly fired or shipped off to Fundamentalist treatment centers such as Reformer Unanimous, the ministry that treated child molester Josh Duggar.

Evangelicals have all sorts of ministries and mechanisms they use to combat the “porn problem.” XXXchurch.com is a site dedicated to helping Evangelicals battle porn addiction. They offer things such as X3 groups, which are online meetings for Evangelicals who are struggling with porn. Evangelicals wanting “freedom from porn addiction, freedom from pain, freedom from guilt and shame and freedom from the very things that keep them trapped” will find help in one of XXXchurch’s 60 X3 groups. Joining one of these groups requires the payment of a $19-$39 a month membership fee.

XXXchurch also offers video workshops on subjects such as:

  • Porn — Giving you a clear path to Sexual Freedom. This course will finally give you the steps to porn addiction recovery and healing.
  • Sex — Helping you have Better Sex. This course will allow you to experience a deeper connection with your spouse and find greater intimacy.
  • Accountability — Helping you discover a life of Character. This course will give you the tools to finally live a life of accountability and openness.
  • Pre-Marriage — Everything you should know before Marriage. This course talks about great sex and other things your parents wouldn’t. A must for engaged couples.
  • Parenting — Guiding you through parenthood and Tech. This course gives parents a solid foundation to build trust and openness with their children.
  • Spouses — Helping women understand the visual nature of men. This course will give you the keys to understanding how the male brain works, thinks and responds.

Each of these workshops cost $97.

If Evangelicals are overwhelmed by porn and unable to break free, XXXchurch even offers one-on-one coaches who will help sinful Christians overcome their porn addiction. This personal attention doesn’t come cheap:

  • The Standard plan costs $300 a month. For this fee, Evangelicals receive a 1-hour-a-week coaching session and daily chat access with their coach.
  • The three-month Plus plan costs $700. For this fee, Evangelicals receive a 1-hour-a-week coaching session, daily chat access with their coach, Free X3watch Premium annual subscription, FREE X3pure recovery video workshop, and FREE X3groups
  • The Ultimate plan costs $1,500 and includes 7 months of Plus plan services.

According to the XXXchurch website, having a coach will help the porn addict:

  • Identify what triggers you sexually and how to resolve those triggers in a healthy manner
  • Minimize high risk scenarios that often lead to acting out
  • Seal up the leaks in your game that cause stress, and other emotional triggers
  • Find, form and foster healthier relationships
  • Discover the secret sauce of real accountability

XXXchurch is a nonprofit, but something tells me that Craig Gross, the man behind the “ministry,” has handsomely profited from helping Evangelicals with their porn addiction.

A new player in the porn addiction game is Seth Taylor. Taylor offers a program he calls My Pilgrimage (based on the book, Feels Like Redemption). For $399, Evangelical porn addicts receive:

…a four-module approach to finding freedom from pornography and masturbation. It starts with upending everything you thought you knew and ends with complete and total freedom. This book, guidebook, video curriculum, and small group will change everything.

Like Gross, Taylor has found a way to turn sex, guilt, and shame into a moneymaking business.

For Evangelical porn addicts who can’t afford the services of XXXchurch or My  Pilgrimage, “ministries” such as Covenant Eyes offer what is advertised as “internet accountability and filtering.”  For $13.99 a month Evangelical families can use Covenant Eyes’ services to filter internet traffic and block access to pornography and other objectionable material. Each family member is given a username that allows Covenant Eyes to track their internet usage. On a daily basis a report is sent to parents detailing who viewed what. Adults who are addicted to porn can have their wives or pastors be their accountability partners. Each day their porn gatekeepers receive a report showing the addicts’ internet activity.

The next time you to go to a Sunday service at I Love Jesus Church, located at the corner of Self-Righteousness and Moral Superiority, just remember that it is likely that the pastor and some of the church members were surfing porn sites the night before. When the pastor stands behind the pulpit and preaches against masturbation, pornography, fornication, adultery, and homosexuality, don’t forget that he is likely a hypocrite, a man who says one thing but does another.

Forget all these “ministries” that prey on Evangelical fear, guilt, and shame. While I am sure there is such a thing as porn addiction, most so-called porn addicts are weak men (and women) who are unwilling to stop looking at pornography. Instead of manning up and being personally accountable for their behavior, Evangelical men are taught that they are morally crippled and helpless. Evangelicals are led to believe that without Jesus and the church, they would quickly slide down the path of moral decadence. Yet, even WITH Jesus and the church, Evangelicals generally sexually behave in a similar manner as their heathen counterparts in the world. Perhaps Jesus and salvation is not the sin antidote Evangelicals claim it is. In fact, isn’t the very existence of ministries such as XXXchurch and Covenant Eyes proof that the supposed moral superiority of Evangelicals is largely a fiction? If Evangelical pastors can’t practice what they preach, what hope is there for parishioners? (Please see Is Clergy Sexual Infidelity Rare?)

Perhaps it is time for Evangelicals to seriously question their beliefs concerning sin and human sexuality. Instead of shaming people over their use of porn, perhaps churches would be better served if parishioners were taught how to embrace their sexuality. Porn is not the problem. While I have my own ideas about porn, having viewed it a time or two myself, I know that most people can look at pornographic magazines or watch videos on YouPorn without turning into sexual miscreants. While I am sure that secular counselors work with sex/porn addicts, this obsession with pornography and sex addiction is largely an Evangelical phenomena. Perhaps Evangelicals need to take a hard look at WHY they have such a big porn and sexual misconduct problem. Perhaps Evangelical THEOLOGY, with its focus on sin, shame, guilt, fear, and Puritanical sexuality, is the problem.

For readers interested in what science has to say about porn and sex addiction, I will end this post with an excerpt from an article titled Your Porn Addiction Isn’t Real, written by The Daily Beast contributor Samantha Allen:

The last time neuroscientists Nicole Prause (Liberos LLC at UCLA) and Vaughn Steele (Mind Research Network) published on porn addiction, they received six legal threats, several calls for a retraction, and anonymous emails telling them to kill themselves.

Their controversial claim: “porn addiction” isn’t actually an addiction, at least in the sense that it does not neurologically behave like other well-documented addictions.

For therapists that treat porn consumption on an addiction model and for religious groups like Focus on the Family that are invested in maintaining a concept of “porn addiction,” the research undermines the clinical language they used in their approach to the controversial medium. But conclusive evidence for “sex addiction” and “porn addiction” continues to prove elusive.

Today, Prause, Steele, and their team of researchers are back with a new study, published in the journal Biological Psychology, that only reaffirms their previous findings: “porn addiction” and “sex addiction,” as we understand them, may not be real.

In what is now the largest neuroscience investigation of porn addiction ever conducted, Prause and a team of UCLA-based researchers asked 122 men and women to answer questions about their relationship to “visual sexual stimuli” to determine if they experienced problems as a result of their porn usage.

Whether the subjects were “problem users” or not, they were all shown several categories of images—pleasant ones like skydiving photos, neutral ones like portraits, unpleasant ones like mutilated bodies, and, of course, sexual images—while hooked up to an electroencephalogram (EEG), a device that measures electrical activity in the brain.

From this body of data, researchers examined each subject’s late positive potential (LPP), a common measure for the intensity of the brain’s emotional response at a given moment. The results were clear: Subjects who reported experiencing problems as a result of their pornography use did not display characteristically addictive brain activity when viewing sexual images.

As Greg Hajcak, a Stony Brook University researcher on the study, points out, a cocaine addict will experience “increased LLP to cocaine-related pictures”—one of the clearest indicators of psychological addiction.

But even subjects in the study who experienced “major problems” related to their porn usage didn’t display this same LLP pattern when viewing sexual images. In fact, as the researchers note, they “showed decreased brain reactions when shown the sexual images, rather than heightened activity”—the opposite of what one would expect to find in an addict’s brain.

Some self-described “porn addicts” may experience legitimate problems as a result of their habits, the researchers are quick to clarify, but neurologically speaking, they do not appear to have the same relationship to porn as a substance addict has to their drug of choice. In other words, porn and sex addictions are probably not addictions and treating them as such could prove counter-productive.

“This study appears to add to a list of studies that have not been able to identify pathology consistent with substance addiction models,” the authors conclude.

So far, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) has agreed that there is insufficient evidence to support diagnoses for sex and porn addiction. In 2010, the APA rejected the inclusion of “sex addiction” in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). A new condition called “hypersexual disorder” was proposed for the DSM-5 but, in 2012, the APA rejected it as well for lack of evidence.

Note

XXXchurch offers an online sex addict test for those who wonder if they are addicted to sex and/or porn.

The Mormons have a porn addiction problem, as do Catholics.

Jesus is Coming Soon: The Antichrist and the Mark of the Beast

jack chick tract the beast
From Jack Chick tract, The Beast

Growing up in the Evangelical church, I was exposed to eschatological preaching which purported to divine the future. Based on a literalistic interpretation of the book of Revelation, Evangelical preachers tell of a day when Jesus will come to rapture (remove) Christians from the earth. After the rapture, God will, for seven years, pour out his wrath on the earth.  This period of divine slaughter and judgment is called the Great Tribulation.

During the Tribulation, the Antichrist, a powerful figure who wages war against God, will rise up and exert dominion over the earth. While Evangelicals have multiple interpretations of who and what the Antichrist is, all agree that he is one of the central figures of the Tribulation drama. According to the book of Revelation, the Antichrist will ultimately be defeated by Jesus and cast into the Lake of Fire.

Most Evangelicals believe the Antichrist is a real person. This belief has led to speculation about this or that person being the Antichrist. Some Evangelicals believe the Antichrist is alive today and could be someone such as Barack Obama or Pope Francis. What is interesting about these predictions about who the Antichrist might be is that the potential Antichrist always has political views opposed by Evangelicals. This is why some Evangelicals find it quite easy to label President Obama as the Antichrist, even more so of late since it has been reported that Obama might head the United Nations after he leaves office. (Many Evangelicals believe the United Nations will be used by the Antichrist to take over the world.)

According to many Evangelicals, during the Tribulation the Antichrist will take control of the world’s economy. No one will be able to buy or sell anything without having the mark of the Beast. The Biblical basis for this belief is found in Revelation 13:16-18:

 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred threescore and six.

Prior to the modern technological era, many Evangelicals believed that the mark of the Beast was a tattoo of the number 666 on the hands or foreheads of the followers of the Antichrist. In recent decades, Evangelicals have suggested that the mark of the Beast could be some sort of bar code, a mark that can only be read by using a certain type of light, or an embedded chip. I remember one preacher who was certain that supermarket scanners were paving the way for the Antichrist and the mark of the Beast.

While the character of  the mark has changed over the years, the importance of it has not. Anyone receiving the mark of the Beast will be doomed forever. Revelation 14:9-11 states:

And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.

According to these verses, anyone who takes the mark of the Beast will face the fury of the wrath of God. Suffering and painful death await all who take the mark.

The 1970s and 1980s were the heyday for literalistic interpretations of the book of Revelation. Evangelical pastors regularly preached sermons on the end-times, featuring subjects such as the rapture, the Great Tribulation, the second coming of Christ, the millennial reign of Christ, and the great white throne judgment. Filled with illustrations from newspapers, these sermons inflamed the passions of Evangelical church goers. As the headlines changed, so did the sermons, but the focal point remained the same: Jesus is coming soon.

end of the world

After the 88 Reasons Why the Rapture will be in 1988 debacle, Evangelical passion for future events cooled. I am of the opinion that the rise of the religious right, a political movement with plans to take over America for Jesus, turned Evangelical attention from the future to the present. Instead of seeking after the kingdom of heaven, Evangelicals began to focus on building God’s kingdom on earth. Gone, for the most part, are prophecy conferences and literalistic sermons from Revelation and Daniel. Instead, pastors focus on felt-needs and personal fulfillment. There are certainly Evangelicals pastors who continue to preach newspaper headline sermons, but such preachers are on the fringes of Evangelicalism (most often found in charismatic, Pentecostal, and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist churches).

As I came of age in the 1970s, I heard frequent end-time sermons. Preachers warned that we were the last generation, those who would see the second coming of Jesus Christ. Men such as Jack Van Impe predicted Russia would invade and take over the United States, thereby ushering in the Great Tribulation. Many preachers believed that the rapture and the second coming of Christ would take place sometime between 1984 and 1988. The thinking went something like this: Israel became a nation in 1948, a generation is 40 years long, thus, at the very latest, Jesus would return to earth in 1988.

In the late 1970s, I was a pastoral assistant to Jay Stuckey, pastor of Montpelier Baptist Church, a General Association of Regular Baptist Churches (GARBC) congregation. Stuckey, as many preachers of his era, was obsessed with prophecy, the Illuminati, and numerous other conspiracies. Calls to evangelize were driven by Stuckey’s belief in the imminent return of Jesus; imminent meaning, at any moment. Forty years later, Stuckey and I are no longer in the ministry, Montpelier Baptist, a church that one time had over 500 in attendance, is closed, and those who were once obsessed with the soon-return of Jesus have turned to more earthly matters such as marriage, children, jobs, houses, and economic prosperity. While these people still tacitly believe that Jesus will someday return to earth, their lives are no longer dominated by eschatological thoughts. In other words, they grew up.

Were you once part of a church that was obsessed with the end-times? Please share your experiences in the comment section.

Note

I am well aware of the fact that Evangelicals are not in agreement about how the books of Daniel and Revelation should be interpreted. That said, it is not hard to find Evangelical blogs, websites, and news services promoting the eschatological beliefs mentioned in this post.

You can read the complete text of 88 Reasons the Rapture Will Be in 1988 here.

Why Every High School Should Teach a Mandatory Comparative Religion Class

one true religion

Several days ago, Polly and I traveled to Jackson, Michigan to have dinner with Sergio and Russ, two people I had met through this blog and Facebook. Russ talked about how he had been exposed to a variety of Christian sects and how this cornucopia of beliefs caused him to be skeptical of religion. Teenage Russ quickly figured out that no two sects had the same beliefs. Each sect had different beliefs, yet all of them supposedly worshiped the same God. Russ rightly wondered, if they are all worshiping the same God, why is this God giving each sect different beliefs? Questions such as this ultimately resulted in Russ rejecting religion and embracing atheism.

Polly and I grew up in Fundamentalist Christian homes. Neither of us can remember a time when we weren’t part of an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. After high school, both of us attended an IFB college, Midwestern Baptist College. We met, married, and several years later began pastoring IFB churches. We were in our thirties before we attended a church outside of the IFB church movement. Indoctrinated in the one, true IFB faith, we were certain that our sect and its beliefs were the faith once delivered to the saints. While we grudgingly admitted that there were Christians in other sects, we believed that our sect was the only one that had the right beliefs. Not only did we have the right beliefs, we also had a pure lineage that reached all the way back to Jesus and John the Baptist. While we would eventually abandon the IFB church movement for the friendlier confines of generic Evangelicalism, it would be another 20 years before we left Christianity.

By being exposed to a plethora of beliefs, Russ was able, at an early age, to conclude that Christianity was false. Polly and I, on the other hand, having been exposed only to a narrow set of beliefs, spent five decades of our life in the Evangelical church before we could extricate ourselves from its hold on our lives. Sergio had a similar background, having been raised in an Evangelical home. He spoke of the anger that came when he realized he had wasted much of his adult life believing a lie. And not just believing, but diligently trying to live according to the precepts of Evangelical Christianity. Polly and I had similar anger and regret. It is hard not to be bitter when thinking about wasting the most productive, healthy years of your life worshiping a mythical God.

Which path should children be encouraged to follow — that of Russ or that of Bruce, Polly, and Sergio? I think most agnostics and atheists would agree that blind devotion to religious dogma harms children and robs of them the critical things skills necessary to help them understand life. Instead of being immersed in Christianity, children are better served if they are exposed to a wide spectrum of religious beliefs, including non-Christian religions.

I have long advocated that public high school students be required to take a comparative religion class. Such a class would expose students to the various world religions and their teachings. Once exposed, like Russ, they will be in the position to compare religions. Since most public school students come from Christian homes, this means they would be exposed to religions different from their own. This exposure would provide an effective inoculation from Fundamentalism and religious bigotry.

Evangelicals continue to demand that the various trappings of the Christian religion be reintroduced in the public schools. Often, Evangelicals will argue that morality requires religion, and it is our duty to give students a moral and ethical foundation. Fine, I say. Every school  then should require high school students to take a comparative religion class. Middle school and elementary students should regularly be exposed to a variety of religious beliefs, taught from a historical perspective. What better way to turn out well-rounded students than to expose them to a variety of beliefs, including atheism, agnosticism, humanism, paganism, and Satanism? Doing this prepares students for choosing their own non-religious/religious path. By the time students graduate they will have a sufficient understanding of religion and will be in  the position to choose accordingly.

Surely Evangelicals want their children to have all the facts about religion, including Christianity. Surely, they don’t want their children making ill-informed decisions about God and salvation. Well, actually Evangelicals don’t want their children to be exposed other religions. Instead, Evangelicals diligently indoctrinate their children into what they believe is the one true faith. Children born into Evangelical homes are bombarded with calls to put their faith and trust in Jesus. Sunday school teachers and children’s church workers use manipulative and high pressure techniques to induce children into asking Jesus into their heart. If children make it through the primary years unsaved, they are handed off to youth directors who “encourage” them to put their faith and trust in Jesus. The goal is to make sure children are saved and on the narrow path before they become young adults. Church leaders know if unsaved children reach adulthood they are often “lost” forever.

The next time you hear Evangelicals clamoring for Christianity to be reintroduced into the public schools, ask them if they would support teaching students about other religions. Keep pressing them until they admit that what they really want is a religious monoculture. In their minds there is no King but Jesus and no religious truth but the Bible. If left to their own devices, many Evangelicals would burn freedom of religion at the stake and turn the United States into a theocracy.  Exposing Evangelical children to other religions is crucial in our attempts to beat back theocratic thinking. Once exposed, religious extremism loses its power.

Tim Gilleand Asks: How Can All Those Scientists be Wrong? 

bible vs evolution

Recently, Tim Gilleand wrote a blog post titled How Can All Those Scientists be Wrong? In his post, Gilleand argues that creationists and scientists both have the same data and that the difference is how that information is interpreted. Gilleand writes:

I believe that the scientific method requires that all evidence must be interpreted before a conclusion is drawn.  My issue is not with the evidence itself, it is with the interpretation stage.  I believe that scientists interpret the evidence through a worldview filter.  Their worldview filter includes their personal beliefs about how the world does or does not operate.  For example, if I believe there is no supernatural influence in the world and everything continues on the way and the rate at which it always has, then I am going to interpret something like radiometric decay or geology much differently than someone who believes God has intervened in this world at various points in our early history.

Let’s look at a couple examples…

If God really created Adam on the literal sixth day of creation – how old do you think he might look on day 7?  Was he a full grown man?  30… maybe 40?  But the truth is he is only one day old.  He was created fully mature and able to sustain himself.  Now apply that concept to the rest of creation.  If God really created the world in six days fully mature and self-sustaining – how might that affect the apparent age of the earth?  And how might that affect our research if we left out that concept?  Might we come to a much different conclusion?  I think so.  The point is evidence like radiometric dating the age of the earth doesn’t rule out a special creation because things still might appear older than they truly are and yet that would still be in line Biblicaly (sic).

But isn’t that a deceptive God??  I hear this all the time.  No, it’s not.  Perhaps God never intended us to study the age of the earth while ignoring his revelation about how He did it!  Not God’s deception, human ignorance.

As for geology, we have to look at what might have happened had Noah’s flood actually covered and destroyed the whole world as the Bible seems to imply.  Take the layers at the Grand Canyon.  Two schools of thought: either a little bit of water (the Colorado River) over a long period of time (millions of years) OR a lot of water (the flood) over a little period of time.  The same evidence, different conclusions based on different interpretations that are dependent on our worldview assumptions.

Is the difference between creationists and scientists really a matter of worldview? Is it, as Gilleand says, a matter of how one interprets the world? Creationists would love for this to be true, but doing science requires no particular worldview. Some scientists are devout Christians, yet they come to the same conclusions as their non-Christian colleagues. It is the creationist alone who allows his worldview to radically alter his view of scientific data.

The argument Gilleand is trying to make is that creationists and scientists alike have a starting point from which they begin their investigations While this is, to some degree true, let me demonstrate the difference between the starting points of creationists and scientists. Scientists begin with what we know, the collective body of knowledge we call science. This body of knowledge changes often, as scientists continue to make new discoveries and test currently held scientific ideas. Any student of the modern scientific era knows that science has radically adapted and changed as new information is brought forth. Things that were once considered settled facts are later, thanks to the diligent work of scientists, shown to be wrong. This is why the scientific method is vitally important to our understanding of the universe and the future of all life. It is a self-correcting way of understanding the world.

Creationists, on the other hand, do not start with the collective body of knowledge we call science. Their starting point begins not with science at all, but with a literalist, Fundamentalist interpretation of the Christian Bible. Gilleand admits this when he says:

As a Christian, I believe God does and has intervened in our world.  I also believe the Bible is a historical, reliable account of the creation of the world.

….

We believe we have additional information in the revealed word of God – therefore we see our starting assumptions as more reliable than fallible human intellect because it comes straight from God who was there, observed it, and doesn’t lie.

For creationists like Gilleand, their interpretation of the world begins not with what they can see and know, but with what unknown authors wrote in an ancient religious text thousands of years ago. Creationists are less than honest when they say that the issue is how the scientific data is interpreted. No matter WHAT science says, creationists will always retreat to faith and their literalistic interpretation of the Bible. Non-creationists know that the universe is billions of years old. How do we know this? Science. While scientists continue to study the universe, creationists have no need to do so. Their minds are made up: God created the universe in six literal 24 hours says, 6,020 years ago. None of what science tells us about the universe ultimately matters to the creationist. Why? To put it simply, the BIBLE SAYS.

For these reasons, I have long suggested that it is generally a waste of time to argue matters of science with creationists. The issue is not one of science, but theology. This is why when creationists comment on this blog, I ignore their anti-science rantings and instead attack their beliefs about the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Bible. Once inerrancy and literalism fall, the argument for creationism is over. This is why, a few years back, when Gilleand stopped by this blog to wage war with the Evangelical preacher-turned-atheist, I attacked his view of the Bible. Gilleand ultimately retreated to the house of faith, safe from the assault of the evil, Christ-denying atheist.

If creationists want their understanding of the world to be accepted as the prevailing scientific view, then they need to start publishing studies in non-Evangelical peer-reviewed scientific journals. Why don’t creationists do this? Surely, if it is self-evident that creationism is true and just a matter of properly interpreting the scientific data, science journals should be filled with studies and papers by creationist scientists. Yet, year after year no studies or papers are forthcoming. The creationist answer for this is that there is a conspiracy by non-creationist scientists to keep creationists from publishing. Their evidence for this? None. If the evidence for creationism is overwhelming, then the science community will grudgingly admit they were wrong and embrace the creationist interpretation of the data. Of course, the creationist, at this point, responds, right, these scientists are unsaved. They don’t believe in the existence of the Christian God, nor do they believe that the Bible is a supernatural, authoritative text. So then, it really is all about theology, not science?

…a new apologetics ministry based in Northern Indiana.  Our mission stems from the verse found in Colossians 4:6 (NIV) – “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” We have formed this ministry to combat modern secularist tendencies to pull people (often times including Christians) away from the accurate original Biblical message. We will discuss hot topics ranging from creation vs. evolution, homosexuality, abortion, modern politics, the supposed separation of church and state, often-cited inaccuracies in the Scriptures, end times, and much more.  We aim to make our posts informative, researched from both sides of the aisle, and considerate of opposing views (grace) but firm in our stance (salt).

You see, even for Gilleand, it is not about the science. It is all about apologetics, the defending of the Fundamentalist Christian view of the world. In Gilleand’s eyes, everything begins and ends with the Christian God and the Bible. Gilleand’s literalistic interpretation of the Bible becomes a box in which everything must fit. (please see The Danger of Being in a Box and Why it Makes Sense When You Are in It and  What I Found When I Left the Box) While Gilleand has convinced himself that he has “researched from both sides of the aisle” and considered “opposing views”, his “firm stance” never changes. This is Fundamentalism at its finest: No matter what, I believe. While Gilleand thinks of himself as being open-minded, the fact is he is only willing to consider data that neatly fits within his box. Any data outside of this box is rejected, labeled as being contrary to the Christian God and the Bible.

There is no hope of reaching people who thinks like this. Try as you might to reach them, their minds are walled off from anything that contradicts or challenges their worldview. For them, the lines are clearly drawn, and no amount of argument will change their minds. Until Fundamentalists are willing to venture past the lines they have drawn, there is no possible way for someone like me to move them away from their ill-informed, ignorant view of the world.

Songs of Sacrilege: Holy by PVRIS

This is the seventy-ninth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song 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 send me an email.

Today’s Song of Holy by PVRIS.

Video Link

Lyrics

Yeah, you’ve got it all,
But you’ve got it all wrong.
No, you don’t know
You’re a poor unfortunate soul.
Oh I know,
You make it seem that you feel whole,
So they don’t know
You’re a poor unfortunate soul.

Yeah you put on a faith facade,
Think you’re holy when you’re not.
I hate to break it to you baby,
But you’re simply lost.
You can right all the wrongs just to feel you belong,
But simply calling out sins don’t bring you closer to God.
You’re just a ghost at most,
A set of empty bones,
Searching for anything and everything to make you feel whole,
When it gets cold, oh oh oh.

You don’t know.
No you don’t know.
Oh you’re all alone,
You poor unfortunate soul.
You can’t control where your body lets you go.
Oh you’re all alone,
You poor unfortunate soul.

And you say that I’ve got it all wrong.
‘Cause you just know I’m a poor unfortunate soul.

But there’s no way that there’s weight in the words that you preach,
When you’re claiming your faith and you contradict your speech.
So I sit here and listen to your tongue and cheek,
I know that when you sit and pray you’re only praying for keeps.
Cause you’re a ghost at most,
A set of empty bones,
Searching for anything and everything to make you feel whole,
When it gets cold, oh oh oh.

You don’t know.
No you don’t know.
Oh you’re all alone,
You poor unfortunate soul.
You can’t control where your body lets you go.
Oh you’re all alone,
You poor unfortunate soul.

You’re shallow and empty and filled with regret.
I think that chest must be heavy from that cross on your neck
You only wear ’cause you’re wary of what comes next after your death.
Don’t think I didn’t notice.

Don’t think I didn’t notice.

Don’t think I didn’t know you’re just a po-oh-oh-oh
Poor unfortunate so-o-o-oul
Poor unfortunate so-o-o-oul
Poor unfortunate so-o-o-oul
Poor unfortunate

And you’ve got it all (poor unfortunate so-o-o-oul)
You’ve got it all wrong (poor unfortunate so-o-o-oul)
No you’ll never know, never know, never know (poor unfortunate so-o-o-oul)
You’re a poor unfortunate soul.

Don’t think I didn’t notice.

Jim Veitch, Pastor of Bible Truth Baptist Church, Rails Against the Boy Scouts and Homosexuality

What follows is a video clip from a sermon by Jim Veitch, pastor of Bible Truth Baptist Church in Griffin, Georgia. According to the church’s website, Bible Truth is a church that believes:

…in what the Bible teaches.  If the Bible says it’s sin, then we believe it’s sin.  If the Bible commands it, we believe it to be the commandment of God.  We strive to live out the commandments of the Bible in our lives as the Holy Spirit gives us power.

Evidently, Pastor Veitch’s King James Bible doesn’t have those verses that call gluttony a sin.

Video Link

Pastor Veitch is a typical southern Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher. His camp meeting style of preaching is quite common in the south. If you would like to listen to more of Veitch’s preaching, please check out his page on sermonaudio.com. You can check out Bible Truth Baptist Church’s Facebook page here.

Back in my camp meeting days, I heard numerous sermons similar Veitch’s. Fundamentalist Baptist crowds eat up this kind of preaching.

Robert Ingersoll’s Vow

ingersoll-vow

Printed Text of Ingersoll’s Vow:

When I became convinced that the Universe is natural–that all the ghosts and gods are myths, there entered into my brain, into my soul, into every drop of my blood, the sense, the feeling, the joy of freedom. The walls of my prison crumbled and fell, the dungeon was flooded with light, and all the bolts, and bars, and manacles became dust. I was no longer a servant, a serf, or a slave. There was for me no master in all the wide world–not even in infinite space. I was free–free to think, to express my thoughts–free to live to my own ideal–free to live for myself and those I loved–free to use all my faculties, all my senses–free to spread imagination’s wings–free to investigate, to guess and dream and hope–free to judge and determine for myself–free to reject all ignorant and cruel creeds, all the “inspired” books that savages have produced, and all the barbarous legends of the past–free from popes and priests–free from all the “called” and “set apart”–free from sanctified mistakes and holy lies–free from the fear of eternal pain–free from the winged monsters of the night–free from devils, ghosts, and gods. For the first time I was free. There were no prohibited places in all the realms of thought–no air, no space, where fancy could not spread her painted wings–no chains for my limbs–no lashes for my back–no fires for my flesh–no master’s frown or threat–no following another’s steps–no need to bow, or cringe, or crawl, or utter lying words. I was free. I stood erect and fearlessly, joyously, faced all worlds.

And then my heart was filled with gratitude, with thankfulness, and went out in love to all the heroes, the thinkers who gave their lives for the liberty of hand and brain–for the freedom of labor and thought–to those who fell in the fierce fields of war, to those who died in dungeons bound with chains–to those who proudly mounted scaffold’s stairs–to those whose bones were crushed, whose flesh was scarred and torn–to those by fire consumed–to all the wise, the good, the brave of every land, whose thoughts and deeds have given freedom to the sons of men. And then I vowed to grasp the torch that they had held, and hold it high, that light might conquer darkness still.

Who is Robert Ingersoll?

Robert Green “Bob” Ingersoll (August 11, 1833 – July 21, 1899) was an American lawyer, a Civil War veteran, political leader, and orator of United States during the Golden Age of Free Thought, noted for his broad range of culture and his defense of agnosticism. He was nicknamed “The Great Agnostic”.

Many of Ingersoll’s speeches advocated freethought and humanism, and often poked fun at religious belief. For this the press often attacked him, but neither his views nor the negative press could stop his rising popularity. At the height of Ingersoll’s fame, audiences would pay $1 or more to hear him speak, a giant sum for his day.

In a lecture entitled “The Great Infidels”, he attacked the Christian doctrine of Hell: “All the meanness, all the revenge, all the selfishness, all the cruelty, all the hatred, all the infamy of which the heart of man is capable, grew blossomed, and bore fruit in this one word—Hell.” (Wikipedia)

Interested in reading Robert Ingersoll’s writings?

Ingersoll’s writings are available for FREE in the Kindle Format on Amazon.

Dear Christian: YOU are the Problem, Not Your God

odin
Compare this picture to the descriptions of the Christian God in the book of Revelation. Similar?

Atheists do not hate God. While Evangelical Christians will certainly suggest otherwise, I do not know of one atheist who hates God. Think about it for a moment. Do atheists believe in the existence of the Christian God, or any other God, for that matter?  Of course not, so it makes no sense to say that atheists hate a non-existent, mythical being. Surely even the densest of Christians can understand this. If I asked Evangelicals, Do you believe in the existence of Odin, the Norse God? how do you think they would respond? I have no doubt Evangelicals would laugh and say, Odin is a mythical being. It would be silly of us to hate a being that doesn’t exist. Bingo. Just like the atheist and the Christian God.

Evangelicals often refuse to accept at face value what others say/believe about their God. When atheists deny the existence of the Christian God, Evangelicals say that atheists are suppressing their knowledge of this God. Supposedly, atheists KNOW that the Christian God exists, but they, having a hard heart and a seared conscience, deny his existence. Couldn’t the same be said of Christians who deny the existence of Odin?  Christians KNOW that the Norse God exists, but they refuse to accept this, clinging to a God who is no God at all.

The fact is, atheists do not hate God. Anyone who suggests otherwise is either deliberately ignorant of what atheists believe or are so blinded by their own beliefs that they cannot fathom any other belief but their own. Wait a minute, Bruce, Evangelicals say. If atheists do not hate God, then why do they spend so much time talking about God? Good question.

While atheists know that the Christian God is a myth, they also understand that much harm has been done in his name. It is not the Christian God that is the problem. God, divorced from his followers, is little more than an ancient explanation for human existence. Who cares, right? Myths, in and of themselves, have no power. The Harry Potter books tell a wonderful story of mystery and magic, but no one in his or her right mind thinks the stories are true. Imagine if a group of people believed that what was written in the Harry Potter books is some sort of divine message from God. Does the fact that this group of people believe the stories are true mean that they are? Of course not. So it is with Christianity. That people believe is no proof that something is true. Millions of people believe in the Mormon God, yet Evangelicals, for the most part, believe Mormonism is a false religion. I fail to see how Mormonism’s God is any different from Christianity’s God. Taken at face value, both myths are absurd.

The real issue for atheists is what Christians DO in the name of their God. It is Christians that are the problem, not their God. If Christianity was little more than a Kiwanis Club, I suspect that most atheist writers such as myself would put down their digital pens and turn their attention to other pursuits. However, because many Christians will not rest until the entire world worships their God and bows to their interpretation of an antiquated religious text, atheists, humanists, agnostics, and secularists are forced to do battle with Evangelical zealots. Believe me, I’d rather be writing about sports or photography, but as long as Evangelicals continue to clamor for a Christian nation governed by Christian laws, I intend to raise my objection to their theocratic ambitions.

Five years ago, I wrote a post titled, If Christianity Doesn’t Matter, Why Do You Bother With It? I think what I wrote then still applies today:

Bruce, if Christianity doesn’t matter, why do you bother with it?

Good question.

On one hand, Christianity doesn’t matter. The Bible doesn’t matter. Jesus, the Holy Spirit, God, the Church, none of it matters.

If Christians want to worship their God, I have no objection.  I subscribe to the “live and let live” school of thought. Each to his own. May Jesus be with you. May the force be with you. May nothing be with you. I don’t care.

However…

I do care about the influence Christianity has on our culture and government. I do care about the damage done to society in the name of the Christian God. I do care when people are hurt, maimed, and killed in the name of the Christian God.

When Christians want to turn the United States into a theocracy…It matters.

When Christians want their religion to have preference over any and all others…It matters.

When Christians demand atheists and agnostics be treated as the spawn of Satan…It matters.

When Christians attempt to teach religious dogma as scientific fact in our public schools…It matters.

When Christians attempt to force their religious moral code on everyone…It matters.

When Christians attempt to stand in the way of my pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness…It matters.

When Christians abuse and molest children in the name of their God…It matters.

When Christians wage wars thousands of miles away in the name of their God…It matters.

When Christians mentally and emotionally abuse people…It matters.

When Christian expect preferential treatment because of who they worship…It matters.

As long as Christians continue to force themselves on others, and as long as they attack and demean anyone who is not a Christian…It matters.

As long as pastors and churches get preferential tax code treatment…It matters.

That said…

As to who you worship and where? It doesn’t matter.

As to what sacred text you use? It doesn’t matter.

I want all Christians to have the absolute freedom to worship their God.

And…

I want that same freedom to NOT worship any God or another God…

And as long as that courtesy is not extended to me and to every human being on the earth…

It matters.

Why I Hate Religion, a Guest Post by Michael Alioto

guest-post

Guest Post by Michael Alioto

Debunking religion has been a theme in many of my Facebook posts. My opinion is best summed up by the expression “religion poisons everything” (Christopher Hitchens). I’m not just talking Christianity…but ALL RELIGIONS that are based on unprovable, improbable, mythological, invisible, supernatural, omniscient beings and their cryptically written laws on how to behave and how to worship. Everyone who has settled on one of the monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Muslim) or on one of their off shoots (Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science) are all “atheists” to every other god except their own. The difference between them and people like me is I go one god further. They are atheistic against Ba’al, Zeus, Thor, Horace, and every other god that has come before. Why? It isn’t for lack of proof (even though there isn’t any). It is blind faith in a book, the Christian Bible. There is little proof that the things in that book happened. Science looks for clues for the worldwide flood, the Exodus, creation and other stories in the Bible, but they are nowhere to be found. The “evidence” that has been presented to the scientific community has been disproven or debunked. All the Ron Wyatt discoveries, the Ray Comfort theories, the “Ark has been found” stories, and Ken Ham “scientific proof” for 6 day creation a 6000 year old universe have been thoroughly debunked. The evidence does not support these accounts.

I don’t understand how a majority of people in the United States and others around the world still believe that Creation, Adam and Eve, the fall of man from a mythical garden (complete with talking snake), Noah and the Ark, Moses and the Exodus, the 10 Commandments, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Daniel, Sampson, Jonah and the whale, etc. are all stories that should be taken literally, from a book with a very sketchy history on how and why it was put together, and written by ignorant authors whose authenticity is in serious question. As a result of people taking the Bible literally, we have had wars, witch-hunts, mass killings, and terrible discrimination of all kinds. Not only that, but we have brain-dead adults with little knowledge about science, home-schooling another generation of young people in a “creation-based” curriculum laughably called “creation science.” We have kids in Sunday School classes being told that science is wrong and the Bible is the only source for knowledge and fact. This retards our growth as a nation and as a species. It has infected our politics to the degree that if you don’t claim to believe in God, in particular the Christian God, you are branded as evil and unelectable. Even someone like Donald Trump, who you know isn’t a “practicing” Christian, says he believes in God and will protect Christianity. Saying these things will gain him votes from Christians. It’ doesn’t matter that he’s a nutcase. He says he “believes” and that’s good enough for them.

But besides all this, there is a deeply personal reason why I hate religion (in particular Christianity). One that I recently became aware of and I would like to share it with you.

As a lot of you know, I was raised in a very religious home. I was  part of three separate Christian denominations in my lifetime, as was the rest of my immediate family (with the exception of my brother who is 15 years younger than I am).  From birth to the age of seven, I was raised Catholic. From ages seven to ten, our family was involved in a non-denominational “Evangelical Free” church with no alliances to any “parent” hierarchy of church governing, administrations or main offices. From ages ten to eighteen, my family went to an Assemblies of God (A/G) church. The rest of my immediate family still attends this church.

At the end of 2014, the A/G had 12,849 churches in the United States with over three million members. Worldwide there are 372,923 churches with close to 62 million members. They even have them broken down by age of child membership. In 2014, out of the three million members in the US, the child membership of the American A/G churches were:

  • 0-5: 323,321
  • 6-12: 406,248
  • 13-17: 275,871

This means that 1,005,440 of the 3 million members (one third) in the U.S. are children. Three million is almost 1% of the population in the US. This is just one denomination out of the 32,000 denominations of Christianity. I mention these statistics to let you know the scope of this one denomination and one interpretation of the Bible. Imagine 32,000 denominations.

My deconversion from Christianity started in Bible college (when I was 17) and ended when I was 21. At 21 years  of age, I didn’t know what I believed, but I did know that based on its own doctrine, its own writings, and the lack of substance in its claims, the biblical God and Christianity WAS NOT what it claims to be.

Between the ages of 21 and 38, I put “seeking the truth” in the back of my mind. During this time, I was busy dating my future wife, getting married, having a daughter, getting divorced, changing career directions, getting reintroduced into the dating scene. At age 38, I met a woman named Melody, who totally changed everything in my life. She was a “spiritual” girl, but not a Christian. She was Wiccan. She died of cancer when I was 42.

About 6 months after Melody died, my sister and I were having a conversation in her dining room. We were talking about religion, Jesus, and the afterlife. My sister started crying, and said to me, “Michael, if you die, I am afraid I will never see you again.” I hugged her and started crying as well. I told her that she was right, that she would never “see me” again, but the reason wasn’t because of what she feared.

She obviously was referring to me going to Hell after I die because I don’t believe in Jesus, God, or the Bible. You see, I know this conversation. I know this line of thought and reasoning. I remember being indoctrinated into this belief at a young age with all the devil, and sinning, and the “Hell to fear and Heaven to gain” mentality that was drilled into my head with the expectation that I would accept it at face value. We were in church every time the doors were open. Sundays were damn near an all-day event. Two services and Sunday School on Sunday morning, Sunday evening service, Tuesday night Awana Club, Wednesday night prayer meeting, Thursday Youth group, Choir practice, not to mention youth retreats, religious camping trips, and other youth group related activities. So I knew exactly where my sister’s fear and anguish was coming from.

At first I felt bad. Those of you who know me know that my family means the world to me. I blamed myself and felt bad for causing my sister harm. I know that it also pains my mother to see me rejecting her religious beliefs. I mean, how bad is that: knowing my sister, mother, and the rest of my siblings, nieces and nephews are all thinking that I will be tortured and tormented for all of eternity? I also know that nothing short of me rejecting my rational thoughts and going back to my blind faith, religious beliefs and roots will help the situation. There is no faking this in my family. Going to church will not rectify the situation. Only a total 180 degree turnaround from my present way of thinking will suffice.

After I thought about this for a bit, my feelings of guilt and anguish from that day turned to anger. I am angry at religion! I am angry at the stupidity of our species which has been led down this path many times before in the history of our existence. We got rid of all those gods that we believed in prior to the most current gods (yes…plural). We still believe in those myths: (virgin birth, blood sacrifice, resurrection from the dead, ascension into heaven) that were attributed to the prior gods, We have just changed the names of the deities. I can’t believe people who, for the most part are rational and smart, suddenly are brain-dead when it comes to this particular area of their lives.

I’m also angry that these teachings are infecting children and teenagers. I am thankful to see that non-religious people: Nones/Atheists/Non-believers,  are increasing in number. At the end of 2014, nearly 22% of the United States population identified themselves as not affiliated with any religion and 15% say they are agnostic or atheist. The 7% who are non-affiliated with any religion, but don’t self-identify as an atheist, basically think there might be some sort of universal force, or want to believe there is something else. They do not think the “bible” is true. In fact, they don’t know the nature of god and are just speculating.

One thing I was very adamant about was that I did not want my family to proselytize my daughter. What I mean to say is that, when we go to my family’s house for holidays and such, they don’t have to stop saying grace at meals or discussing the religious event that they happen to be celebrating (Christmas, Easter, etc.). I just  don’t want them witnessing to her. I don’t want them to try to tell her what they think God thinks, or that she is a sinner worthy of being tossed into Hell unless she believes in God. When my daughter was younger, my mother tried that a couple of times. But I was in the room when that started and I stopped it. Now that she is 18 and knows better; she can defend and explain her stand on religion all by herself. She knows there is no possible way that Creationism or the Noah story is true. She received straight A’s in science and history. She understands evolution, the formation of the earth, moon, and solar system. I have taught her to look at everything logically and rationally. We frequently talk about science and religion, and how ridiculous it is that people believe something that has no proof at all, and take it as fact. She does not understand how I could have believed in that. By the time I was 18, I was just starting to deprogram myself from this part of my upbringing. She will never know that pain, or know the guilt trip that religion brings, or the rejection of well-established, scientific facts and good sense that blind faith requires. She will never have an identity crisis or a crisis of faith when it comes to this topic. She has been spared all that. It pleases me that I have broken that cycle with my daughter, and hopefully, if she has children, she will pass that on to them.

So that is why I hate religion. This is also why I wage war on religion. Until Christianity comes up with a provable story, I will not believe. I will not stop warring until I die. My daughter also might continue it, but since she didn’t experience the stuff I did, and it is not a fight she feels as passionately about as I do. If there was some credible evidence, the scientific community would be flabbergasted. But there isn’t any. Christians will say that the scientific community hides these claims so that they never see the light of day. That is not so, and those who say this show their ignorance concerning the scientific method, their own laziness in researching these issues, and their fear that everything they believe about God and religion is wrong.

Local Christian Continues Attack On Bruce Gerencser, the Ney Atheist

angry man
How Dare the Ney Atheist Attack Our God

My letters to the editor of the Defiance Crescent-News often result in local Christians venting their spleen in my direction. I have no doubt that my recent letter about creationism will agitate the faithful, resulting in a new spate of letters denouncing evolution and atheism. Sometimes, letter writers make things personal. For example, here is a comment left by a local resident on the Crescent-News website:

crescent-news comment

Text:

Only problem that you have Gerencser is that you have yet to prove evolution is fact or disprove that there is a deity. So you really dont know any more then anyone else.. And isnt it so strange that you claim to be a minister from a diploma mill in Washington state and yet this is how you respond? Hows that working out for you since Ohio does not recognize this diploma mill? Hope you have not tried to marry anyone as the JAG of Ohio would not look too pleased if you did. Anonymous3371

I have a good idea who this asshole is, but since I don’t know for sure, I will refrain from attaching their name to this comment.  If you would like to read other Christian responses to my letters to the editor, please check out the new Local Response Page. This page is currently 12,000 words long. I will continue to add to it anytime there is a letter to the editor that mentions me by name. You can find all of my letters to the editor here.

Now, about the scurrilous allegations in the aforementioned comment.

On July 7, 2013, a local Fundamentalist Christian by the name of Daniel Gray wrote:

Bruce Gerencser should use facts in his letters. His latest rant is so full of errors as to make his point completely obtuse. Here are a few examples…

…The fact that Gerencser can marry anyone is laughable. He received his claimed ministerial credentials by professing a faith in a deity and swearing to follow that religions teachings. So unless he does so, then his authority to marry anyone under the same is null and void. Anyone he marries could actually find that they are not and never have been married. And last, the only way to change our Constitution is by a constitutional amendment…

…History and facts yet again destroy the views of Gerencser. He should be used to that by now.

Here’s my response to Gray:

This letter is my brief response to Daniel Gray’s recent letter to the editor.

Gray continues to paint me as a liar, a deceiver, immoral, and an all-round bad person. Gray does not know me personally, so I am not sure how he comes to the conclusions he does about me. I have never made one of my letters personal, yet Daniel Gray and a few other letter writers think it is okay to attack my character and suggest that I am not a good person.

As a public figure, I know I must endure such attacks, but I wish my critics would focus on the issues rather than the person. If they would like to have a public discussion on these issues, I am quite willing to participate in any public forum they put together.

On July 21, 2013, I wrote another letter to the Defiance Crescent-News stating:

For the third time Gray suggests that I am not legally able to marry people and that anyone married by me is in danger of having their marriage invalidated. Gray seems to not understand the legal requirements for being licensed to marry people in Ohio. I meet all the statutory requirements and I am duly licensed to marry people in Ohio. Anyone can verify this by doing a ministerial license search on the Ohio Secretary of state’s website.

On August 25 , 2013, fellow shit stirrer Willy Pack, came to my defense:

…Our secular government guarantees all of its citizens freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Fundamentalists, however, have made many clumsy attempts aimed at silencing Mr. Gerencser through intimidation and denigration.

Can anyone doubt that if they had the power of past ages, they would summon him before the court of the Inquisition? They all seem to be vying for the position of head inquisitor. What would be his crime other than not sharing their beliefs and daring to say so publicly? Are they really that intolerant of others’ beliefs or just afraid their beliefs cannot stand up to a little scrutiny?

With all of the different religions, denominations and sects on this planet, one thing is for certain: We are all going to hell according to somebody’s religion.

Once again, let me provide proof of my ordination and my legal right to perform weddings in the state of Ohio:

baptist ordination1983

Bruce Gerencser Ordination, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Buckeye Lake, Ohio April 2, 1983

Bruce Gerencser, Ohio License to Marry, May 2,1983

Bruce Gerencser, Ohio License to Marry, May 2,1983

universal life ordination

Bruce Gerencser, Universal Life Ordination, March 15, 2011

ohio license to marry 2

Bruce Gerencser, Ohio License to Marry, March 22, 2011

And here’s the final proof, straight from the Ohio Secretary of State’s Minister Licensing database:

ministerial license as of january 2015

Bruce Gerencser, Ohio Secretary of State Minister Licensing Database

I originally publicly posted these credentials in a January 23, 2015 post titled, Bruce Gerencser, The Ney, Ohio Atheist. Since this post, I have added ANOTHER ordination:

dudeism
Bruce Gerencser, Church of the Latter-Day Dude Ordination, November 28, 2015

The charge that I have a degree from a Washington state diploma mill is absurd. I attended Midwestern Baptist College from 1976-1979. I was an average student who worked a full-time job, attended church three times a week, ran a bus route, and preached at a drug rehab center while attending college. Need proof?

midwestern Baptist college transcript
Midwestern Baptist College Transcript for Bruce Gerencser 1976-1979

What’s next? Proof that I am circumcised? Proof that I am married, have six children, and eleven grandchildren?  Sadly, some local Christians have no shame. They are quite willing to smear me in public if it means it will make me look bad or cause others to question my credibility.

To Daniel Gray, Anonymous3371, and anyone else who seems to be obsessed with lying about me? I will let Mikey Wilson speak for me:

boy giving middle finger