Browsing Archives for February 2010

Okay – no one is going to believe the story I am about to tell because it just way too coincidental and also because uh… well… I have a sort of a history… of uh… making things up… or maybe not making them up… but ever so slightly exaggerating… certain uh…  facts… to make my stories slightly more interesting.  But even with a past that is riddled with hyperbole, the following story is ABSOLUTELY ONE HUNDRED PERCENT TRUE!

IT IS!!!

No REALLY!!!!

IT IS!!!!!

You are just gonna have to believe me – sort of like believing in Jesus because no one has ever seen him either right?  As a child and even as a young adult I used to be terrified of Jesus showing up in my bedroom at night, but that is another story for another day.  

 

This is today’s story…

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A missionary came to my door on Saturday.  A baptist missionary.  A baptist evangelical missionary who was roughly 65 years old and who was accompanied by an nine year old child. I thought the child was his grandson, but it wasn’t.  It was the son of the pastor of the older man’s church.  I wish I had taken some photos, but I was a little too caught up in this surrealistic situation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But I did take a photo of the ‘tract’ that they gave to me.  Sorry about the smudges.  I had to dig it out of the trash to take the photo.   

The church that the man and little boy were from is not in our town, but in a town about fifteen miles away.  This was also not the first time the man and the boy had dropped by our house.  They showed up last Saturday when I was in New York.  The Country Doctor texted me that two Baptists had just tried to convert him, but I had left my phone in the car and did not know about their visit until I got home on Monday.  

I am going to attempt to recall the details of the fifteen minute conversation that I had with these missionaries.  I won’t be able to remember every detail, but I will try to be accurate and fair.  I also must admit that I was nervous and then agitated and then outright upset by this man and his world views as our conversation progressed.  I was not calm, cool and collected and did not represent the world of atheism with great amounts of benevolent dignity.  I also don’t think I had any impact whatsoever on the older man.   But on the boy – I think I may have really made him think.  I don’t think the little boy will ever forget the crazed atheist he encountered in the big white farmhouse in the country.  Some of the things I said will rattle around in his head for years to come.  So for the chance to speak to a child about the possibility of disbelief (even as poorly as I did) I am grateful.  And please don’t forget – these people showed up at MY door.  I did not go looking for them.  They asked questions of ME!  I did not attack their faith out of nowhere.  I would never do that.  But if someone is going to question me on my own front porch, the game changes suddenly and dramatically.

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When I answered the door I already knew who they were from the country doctor’s description of the past weekend’s visit.  The man asked to speak to my husband.  I said, “He isn’t here.” and I was ready to shut the door and let them go on their way, but then the man said…

Man – Can I ask you a question?

Me – Sure.

Man – If you died tonight, do you know for certain that you would spend eternity in heaven?

Me – Um….. well…. I don’t believe in god.

Man – (Huge eyes)

Little Boy – (EVEN HUGER EYES)

Man – Why don’t you believe in god?

Me – Because there isn’t one.

Man – Well… what… huh… sputter, sputter, sputter….

Me – Do you think that I am going to hell because I don’t believe in god?

Little Boy  - (HUGE EYES NODDING)

Man – Uh… no… uh… god doesn’t send anyone to hell.

Me – (to boy) Do you think I am going to hell?

Little Boy – (Huge eyes) yes….

Man – (interrupting child) God doesn’t send people to hell.  People make decisions that send themselves to hell.

Me – So you think that I am sending myself to hell?

Man – Yes.

Me – Why would I send myself to hell?  That doesn’t make any sense.

Man – You must be confused.  Let me read you some scriptures from my bible.

Me – I know what the bible says.  I was a devout practicing christian for 41 years.  I served as an elder in my church.  I taught Sunday school. I directed the Christmas play and the children’s choir.  I have read the entire bible cover to cover twice.  I know what it says and I also know that it is full of crap.

Man – Well… uh… sputter, sputter, sputter….  you went to church for 40 years?

Me – forty ONE years.

Man – What made you stop believing in god?

Me – Well… I kept reading.  I love to read.  I read lots of other books.  I read history.  I used my brain.  I struggled with all the contradictions in the bible and the fact that the resurrection of Jesus is not mentioned in any significant historical documents of the time.  I mean – why wouldn’t it show up?  It is an amazing event.

Man – Well… all I need for proof of god is what the bible says.

Me – How do you deal with the ten commandments then.  They say ‘Do Not Murder’ and then just a few chapters later,  the god in the bible is sending the Israelites out to commit murder on neighboring tribes.  They even kill the children, the infants and the pregnant women.

Man – Well… those people were evil.  They worshiped the wrong god.

Me – They were evil just because they believed in a different god?  What about the kids?  The babies?  Were they evil too?

Man – Uh… well… 

Me – How do you deal with the fact that slavery is condoned and even encouraged in the bible?

Man – Listen, I don’t know what has hurt you, but I think that when people say they don’t believe in god, they are really just angry at god.

Me – There isn’t a god.  (Looking at boy) it is all made up you know.  Use your brain.  It doesn’t make any sense.

Man – I think the relationship between god and people is like a marriage.

Me – Oh… you mean I am supposed to submit to god like women are supposed to submit to their husbands?

Man – Uh… well… um… no…

Me – I am supposed to submit because women are supposed to submit? 

Man – uh… um… well… no I mean like a marriage that is uh….

Me – How do you explain the inquisition?

Man – What?

Me – The inquisition.  The entire western world was operating under a christian theocracy. Probably something like the way you would prefer that the world operated now right?  You would want christians to make all the rules right?  So, the christian church had complete power and they burned a million men, women and children at the stake for acts of heresy.  Most of those people were illiterate and had no idea what the bible said or what christianity really meant – some of those people were jews or muslims and some of them simply believed that the world was round instead of flat like the bible says!  (Looking at boy) They thought the world was round and so they were burned by the church!  

Man – Well…. I don’t see how that has anything to do with god and the bible.

Me – You don’t?

Man – no…. 

Me – Where was your god?

Man – huh?

Me – Where was your god?  The same god who stayed the knife of Abraham.  The same god who smote Ananias and Sapphira for merely taking money out of the offering plate.  Where was your all powerful, all knowing god?  Why didn’t he stop all this sick burning of people in his own name?

Man – well…. uh….

Me – And why did god ask Abraham to murder Isaac to prove his faith?

Man – (brightens) Oh well that is such a beautiful story!  Because god didn’t kill Isaac did he?  No!  Because Abraham knew he wouldn’t have to kill Isaac.

Me – How do you know that?

Man – It’s in the story.

Me – No it’s not.  We have no idea what Abraham knew or didn’t know or what he thought or didn’t think.  You are just assuming that he knew he wouldn’t have to kill Isaac.  For all we know, he may have thought that he WOULD have to kill Isaac.

Man – Oh no… you see that story is such a beautiful test of faith.  Abraham obeyed god.

Me – Yes – and god is a sociopath.  You don’t ask someone to murder a child to prove their faith.  

Man – But Abraham didn’t kill Isaac.  He took him up the mountain in complete obedience and then god provided a sacrifice for him.  

Me – You don’t ask someone to kill a child to prove their faith.  That is sick.  By the way, what do you think about Haiti?

Man – Well… I think that the Haitians signed a political agreement that….

Me – (interrupting) So you agree with Pat Robertson that the Haitians actually did something that angered god and caused him to crush them with an earthquake?

Man – Yes… I think that the Haitians were involved in political strategies that….

Me – That is so sick!  You believe in a sick god.

Man – God punishes people who sin.

Me – There are plenty of sinners walking around in the US .  We have people who have stolen entire retirement accounts because of tremendous greed and murderers and pedophiles.  Why isn’t god punishing them?  

Man – sputter, sputter, sputter…

Me – The reason there was an earthquake in Haiti is BECAUSE THER ARE FAULT LINES UNDER THEIR COUNTRY!

Man – (Shaking head sadly.)  All I know is that our public schools and the mother’s womb are THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACES IN THE WORLD TODAY!

Me – WHAT!?!?

Man – THE MOTHER’S WOMB AND OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS ARE THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACES IN THE WORLD TODAY!!!

ME - WHAT!!!!  THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACE IN THE WORLD TODAY IS PROBABLY AFGHANISTAN!!!

Man – No. (Shakes head sadly again). With abortion and all the shootings in the public schools that started to happen when they took prayer out of the schools, it is actually America’s public schools that are now the most dangerous place in the world.

Me – That is moronic!  My kids all go to public school and it is perfectly safe!  A mother’s womb?  What actual percentage of babies end up aborted compared to people killed in wars?  Are you serious?

Man – (Still shaking head in disbelief) Oh… look.  I have to go – there is my van pulling up.  It was very interesting to talk to you.

Me – (Looking at boy and pointing finger at my head) Use your brain.  There is no god.  Use your brain.

The boy just looked at me.  His eyes were super wide.  He didn’t say anything – but I could tell that some of the things I had said had sprouted ideas in his head that he would never be able to forget.  The man and the boy got in the van that had come by to pick them up.  I am sure they had plenty to talk about the rest of the day.  It’s not often that a christian evangelist encounters a REAL LIVE ATHEIST!  

I hope I get to talk to them again and I hope I handle myself a little bit better.  Stay a little more calm.  I may even have to mark some specific passages in my old, worn bible to show the old codger if he ever shows up on my doorstep again.  We’ll start with the virgin war prizes that get to be sex slaves for god’s chosen people and move up to circumcision and then over to Jesus dissing his mom and then to the Apostle Paul telling his congregation how to treat their slaves.  That should fill up another fifteen minutes of absurdity.  If I really want to have fun with them – we’ll open up the book of Revelations!

P.S. – After he left, and I calmed down a bit I had to find out what was really the most dangerous place on earth.
I found lists that were topped with Somalia, Pakistan, Antarctica, Afghanistan, Brazil, Russia, Chernobyl HAITI!  None of these sources sited either the mother’s womb or America’s public schools. I guess the Baptists either know something that no one else knows… or they are terribly misinformed.  (Enter appropriate expletive here.)

Sorry for typos today.  I am back to work at the garden center after two months off.  

A few months ago when I finally admitted to myself that I no longer believed in god, I knew I was going to need some support.  So I did what every brand new non-believer does in the era of cyberspace. I googled ‘atheism’.

The first few times I typed the word ‘atheism’ into my google search bar, I felt certain that a thunder clap from heaven would descend upon my quivering hide and immediately smelt me into a blackened crisp.  Just the word alone –  atheism – is such a thorny term.  You can literally feel the pointed horns, see the flicking barbed tail, and smell the charred flesh.  I have noticed that a lot of people prefer the terms ‘free thinker’ or ‘skeptic’, ‘secular humanist’ or even ‘infidel’ to the disagreeable snarl of the word ‘atheist’. I don’t like the word ‘atheist’ either. Not because it is a bad word, it’s just the images that the word tends to summon. It seems to describe someone who rejects goodness and light, someone who has a stone in place of a heart, someone who spits on bibles and urinates in churchyards laughing maniacally all the while.  I too had this idea in my head and panicked at the thought of one of my kids coming up behind me while I was watching Mr. Deity or a video of Richard Dawkins interviewing Ted Haggard I mean JESUS!  What if my entire family finds out that I not only don’t believe in god anymore, but that I am actually looking for OTHER PEOPLE that don’t believe in god EITHER!  

But I was desperate.  So I kept up my secret searches when the house was empty or everyone was asleep.  And Lo!  In the midst of my searching a new heaven and a new earth did descend.  And a world of atheism opened up before my very eyes.  AND GUESS WHAT!!!  It turns out that I am not the only person who has ever lost their faith and then looked on the internet to find other people that were in the same boat.  

AND GUESS WHAT ELSE!!!!  

None of these sites were coated in pure evil!  

I know!  

It’s so totally weird!

There were no melting humans or smoldering cauldrons.  No gnarled fingers, poisonous apples and toothless rag pickers muttering curses under their breath.  I must admit that I was mildly disappointed in the benign appearance of the various atheism sites.  I mean if you are going to be an atheist on the internet shouldn’t you at least take a photo of yourself with a large ’666′ on your forehead and stick it up on the header?  But these people weren’t scary at all!  And once I started to read, listen, watch and participate in their sites, I discovered that they are actually quite sane! 

MAYBE THE MOST SANE PEOPLE EVER!

But there is MORE!

Because there are a lot of intelligent, thoughtful, compassionate atheism sites out there.  

A LOT!  

No.  

You don’t understand.  

There are more intelligent, thoughtful and influential atheism sites on the internet than you can imagine!  And best selling books, world renowned comedians, clever skits, powerful debates and riveting videos.

It is almost like a quiet revolution is taking place.  

ON THE INTERNET!

Where once atheism was such a reprehensible idea that no one felt free to utter their disbelief aloud, the internet has allowed atheists to find each other.  To talk to each other.  It offers safe zones and communities where fellow unbelievers can discuss issues freely amongst themselves without worrying about a social stigma.  There are also believers on those sites.  Their dissent is tolerated and their debate is welcomed, but for once they do not have the crushing power of the majority.  The success of these sites, books, videos and other resources honestly makes me wonder if the belief in any kind of a god will come to a complete end in my own lifetime.  

I know!  

It’s a crazy thing to say!  And probably completely wrong, but once you have participated in these groups, seen the sanity of the way they think, understand that humanity is so much better at taking care of themselves than any imaginary deity – you begin to see such incredible potential.  

Potential for war to just dry up altogether because if people aren’t fighting over god, they really aren’t fighting that much. 

Potential for people to take full responsibility for the here and now because there is no golden eternity with wings and a halo waiting for them on the other side.  

Potential for the focus of life to change entirely from  grab, grab, grab, and go.  To care, care, care and prepare.  

I wanted to make a list of the resources and sites that were critical for me especially during my first few weeks of disbelief. Thanks to everyone who writes, creates, and keeps these sites going.  They helped me greatly when I really needed it and they continue to help and provide support for me in this brand new way of looking at life.  

 

Atheist Blogs 

Unreasonable Faith  – Written by Daniel Florien, a former evangelical christian who attended bible college and worked in christian ministry.  Daniel was just never able to completely shut his brain off and he kept thinking, reading, thinking, reading and in the end, god had to go. There is also a forum that accompanies his blog on such topics as evolution, creation science, close minded relatives, and what three movies would you take with you on a deserted island (assuming a DVD player is available). I also found a great interview where Daniel addresses all that guilty sex before marriage that christians can’t seem to stop having even though it is so, so, SO bad.

The Red Headed Skeptic – A former Baptist Minister’s wife lost her belief and then her marriage and writes about her journey. This is a very compelling and often sad story, but Laura is determined to keep moving forward with her new life.

The Friendly Atheist – Written by a Chicago math teacher Hemant Mehta, the same guy who sold his soul on Ebay.  People often write to Hemant and the contributors on his blog seeking advice on how to handle various issues that occur when one does not believe in god.  Everything from how to escape from a country with unbearable religious tyranny to how to deal with angry relatives that can’t cope with an atheist’s disbelief. His blog also covers a variety of other issues.  

Why Doesn’t God Heal Amputees? – If you are a person of faith or diminishing faith and have never asked yourself this question, the time has come. I don’t know how many hours of my life I have sat in church services while the prayers of the people were lifted up one by one almost all of them asking god to heal various illnesses throughout the congregation. Miraculously, many of those people were healed – cancers, heart attacks, more cancers, even more cancers, EVEN MORE CANCERS, but never once did a person ask god to re-grow an amputated limb. Why is that? I mean if god can make a tumor disappear, why can’t he re-grow a leg?  God Is Imaginary  is another site that appears to be written by the same author who chooses to remain anonymous. This site is a great collection of essays and videos that look at christianity and the bible from a perspective of hard core reality.

Julia Sweeney’s Blog – Okay, I just found this one and Holy Crap! I am going to go leave a comment on Julia Sweeney’s blog right now!…  Okay, I’m back….  Julia Sweeney is the actress that was ‘Pat’ on Saturday Night Live.  Surely you remember Pat! How can you forget Pat?!  She also wrote the wonderful movie “And Then God Said Ha!”  which is a must see.  I have also linked to her show ‘Giving Up God’ in the video section of this post.  If you want a gentle approach to understanding how a true believer can become a true unbeliever this is the show you need to hear. Beautifully, humorously, carefully, and tenderly done.  I think even my mom would like it.  

 

Thought provoking videos/films

 Mr. Deity – Oh Lordy – You have to watch all of these. You will never look at your faith the same again. A reader of my blog directed me to these videos many months before I officially gave up my faith and it became even harder to keep up the last bits of my farcical belief after I watched them.

God Is Imaginary  - This video forces people to examine what they really believe if they think the bible is ‘god’s word’.

Ricky Gervais on the bible. - Hilarious! You can’t watch this video and not be forced to look at the insanity of what christianity requires people to believe. Unless you are insane yourself.  Or completely devoid of a sense of humor.  

Julia Sweeney’s Letting Go of God - As I mentioned above, this is the show to listen to if you can’t comprehend someone giving up god after a lifetime of belief. Funny, thought provoking and bittersweet, only Julia could make us laugh and cry over her loss of faith.

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse - Four of the world’s most well known and extremely brilliant atheists from various fields of study (biology, journalism,neuroscience and philosophy)  sit around and talk about religion, politics, morality and atheism. An absolutely fascinating film.  

 

Some Truly Riveting Debates.

I spent entire days watching famous religious apologists like William Lane Craig go head to head with brilliant scientists and journalists like Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins.  It’s amazing to see how defensive the theists are and how relaxed the atheists are.  After all, it is the believers that have the burden of trying to prove that an interested, caring god exists.  By the way, has anyone ever asked why they are called ‘christian apologists’?  Is that because they have so darn much to apologize for?  

Christopher Hitchens (atheist or anti-theist, best selling author and political commentator) vs. the Reverend Al Sharpton(former presidential candidate, civil rights activist and devout christian).

Richard Dawkins (one of the world’s foremost evolutionary biologists and avid atheist)  vs John Lennox ( Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford and Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science and devout christian)

Christopher Hitchens (journalist, best selling author, anti-theist) vs William Lane Craig (professional and excruciatingly uptight, christian apologist)

There are hundreds of Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins videos that are wonderful to watch.  They are both great speakers with tremendous wit and sparkling intellect.  You can literally feel your mind expanding just by listening to them. ‘Tis a good cure for anyone who may have spent too much time over at Pioneer Woman (har har).

Please feel free to add more great resources in the comments.  

Or not.  

Peace Out,

Rechelle

The Country Doctor was up at the ER a few nights ago consulting with a local goatherd known for his fiery opinions and his unruly beard.  The goatherd brought up the problem of the American missionary group in Haiti who took orphans who were not even orphans and attempted to cross over into the Dominican Republic with them.  

The wise goatherd likened the situation to a boat full of Haitian missionaries descending on New Orleans right after the hurricane, talking to desperate parents who were staying in the chaotic Superdome, and promising to take the children to a safe place until their parents could take care of them.  The Haitian missionaries would then load up the kids and haul them off to Haiti.  

Yeah.

Just try and imagine what the American reaction have been to that particular scenario.

Even if the Haitians had been christian missionaries with the best interest of the children at heart.

Even if they said god had been leading them to take those kids away on a boat to Haiti.

Even if they promised that they only wanted to help the kids.

What do you think would have happened to those kindly Haitian missionaries attempting to take kids from devastated New Orleans?

It wouldn’t be pretty would it?

Tis good to talk to a local goatherd once in a while.  

They often have a slightly unusual perspective.

Must be all that goat milk.