Posts Tagged ‘Christians’

Spiritual Methadone

March 9, 2008

About a week ago, there was a story on the local news that followed up on a story from months earlier about a drug addicted beggar who knocked down an old man he had asked for money.  The old man was giving him $5, a generous enough sum, but when the guy saw the old man’s wallet he grabbed it and knocked him over, injuring him.  The incident, captured on security cameras, happened in a church.  Let’s ignore the presence of security cameras in an institution built on faith, for the moment.

Today, the mugger is in a religious retreat.  He can’t explain his actions of that day but now he is a changed man, he says.  He has found god.  Hallelujah.

Neither he nor the pastor at the home he is in made any mention of real world counselling, therapy, or treatment.  He doesn’t appear to be addressing any real issues.  What he is doing is reading the bible.

No doubt the pastor thinks he has done good work.  He has converted a man who was ‘lost’ and brought him into the fold.  A good get.  Another soul saved.  And, because his soul has been saved, he is cured.  In fact, the man is just hiding behind god.

I’ve written before about AA and other twelve step programs requiring addicts to trade in their old addictions for addiction to god.  This is no real solution, but it does increase the numbers of the Lord’s army.

It seems a rather perverse outcome for a man who would attack an old man in a church to find shelter in a Christian retreat.  He didn’t seem to think there was anything special about the church before.  Why should he think it can save him, now?  It can’t, and it won’t make him any better.  Only he can take responsibility for his actions and decide what to do or not.  Pretending that it was all part of god’s plan isn’t taking responsibility or control.  And substituting one addiction for another doesn’t address the real underlying problems.

Preying For God

March 5, 2008

If anyone doubts my claims that religions, particularly Christian missionaries, employ predatory recruitment and conversion practices, grab a sick bag and watch this news story.  In a case of perfect timing, I just watched the news and saw this story about what’s happening in post-tsunami Thailand.  It confirms what I wrote about yesterday and in the past.

http://www.cbc.ca/national/blog/video/internationalus/christianity_comes_to_thailand_1.html

The scum of the earth claim the moral high ground while they prey on the needy and desperate.

It still doesn’t answer the question of what is being done with the huge sums of money donated to charities after the tsunami to help the victims recover and rebuild.  If they had been used for their intended purpose, these predators might not have much of an audience.

Explosion

February 14, 2008

Early yesterday morning an arsonist made a mess of torching a taco restaurant and blew up several businesses, badly burning himself in the process.  Half a dozen stores were damaged on West Broadway, just past Cambie.  Two were destroyed.  An office above them was also damaged.  Across the street, the windows of the London Drugs that supplied just about every thing I use in my apartment were blown in.  Most of the block is now boarded up.

I heard about it on the early evening news, just before I headed out to a seminar at Biz Books, a book store for the entertainment industry.  I’d spent the morning teaching online then reading and responding to all the comments on this blog and the de-conversion blog I posted on.

The number of readers I get has soared this week.  I wasn’t quite ready for it.  I almost doubled my previous best day.  Then I almost tripled it.  Then I did triple it, and today was quadruple.  I’m a hit!  This week’s total is already more than last month,  my first month, and I thought I wasn’t doing too badly before.

There’s a downside to the new attention, however.  It takes up a lot of time and energy, and many of the commenters on the de-conversion site are rather logically challenged Christian zealots who ramble all over the place and change the subject in desperate attempts to prove the bible is THE TRUTH, and the only truth.  I wasted my time responding to people who seemed so naive I wondered if they were children.  Maybe they are, or maybe they’re seminary students practising on me.  Hey!  I get paid for that and these guys are using me for free!  They should pay me to read and reply to their poorly formed arguments.

What I really wanted, and needed, was to sleep.  I’d taught late the previous night, too, and did some other stuff afterwards I probably shouldn’t have.  The end result is that when the alarm blasted in my ear at 5:30, I’d had two and a half hours sleep.  I’d still had two and a half hours sleep when I was listening to the soft spoken producer in the cozy environs of the book store, resting my eyes occasionally.

They said on the news that the explosion was so powerful it could be felt two kilometres away.  I live about two kilometres away.  But, I didn’t feel or hear a thing.  I was deep in the midst of the only two and a half hours sleep I would get.

Am I Hearing the Voice of God Or Just Crazy?

February 8, 2008

You’re walking in the desert with your child.  The sun is beating down on your head.  It’s baking your brains.  You hear the voice of god telling you to kill your child.  You’re going crazy, right?

That may seem obvious, but if you place the story long ago and call the father and son Abraham and Isaac, many people believe it was nothing more than a test of faith and loyalty to god.  The fact that he didn’t kill his son proves it, apparently.  God intervened and stayed his hand.  Just testing ya – good job.  It couldn’t be, of course, that he recovered just enough lucidity to stop himself in the nick of time, perhaps because of his son’s terrified pleas, “Please don’t kill me daddy!”.

But that was a one time miracle, you may be thinking.  It could never happen again.  Really?  Well, it did happen again – recently.  But this time, god did not intervene.  A man in northern BC, Blair Donnelly, heard the voice of god telling him to kill his wife and children.  When his wife and one daughter were out, he came up behind the other daughter and stabbed her to death.

The worst part of the story is that the man told people at his church that he had been hearing the voice of god, and they were pleased for him.  Being people of faith, they believed he was actually hearing god’s voice.  Nobody suggested he seek counselling.  Nobody questioned his ‘good fortune’.  Faith can be a dangerous thing.

Maybe, rather than waiting for god to intervene, solve problems, or sort things out, we should realize it’s up to us.  Prayers before or after the fact do nothing.  They are a poor substitute for practical solutions or actions.

If you hear the voice of god, you’re not having a religious experience – you’re losing your mind.

Here is more info on the story from someone who knows him:

http://primordial-blog.blogspot.com/2008/01/sad-twisted-tale-of-blair-donnelly.html

The True Origins of a Specious Argument

January 29, 2008

The faithful often try to tell us that without god the world would collapse into chaos.  They claim that god provided us with laws or commandments to live by and that societies base their laws on them.  This strikes me as a rather arrogant assumption that overlooks some very basic history.

In fact, the relationship probably works the other way around.  Religion took its laws from those that already existed.  Let’s look at the ten commandments, for example.  It is claimed that they brought rules to a world without any.  The implication is that people ran around killing, stealing, and raping with impunity before them.  But codes of law had been written long before the alleged burning into stone.  Hammurabi’s Code was written 400-500 year’s earlier, and there were others before that.

Another thing about Hammurabi’s code that may seem familiar from the first testament is the eye for an eye justice it espoused.  Fire and brimstone Christians will recognize much of what they believe and stand for in it.  So, rather than codes of law being based on the ten commandments, it seems to be the other way around.

This is not the only time that the old was recycled into something new by a religion.  Many older ideas, stories and myths from various cultures have been integrated into them.

So, where did these laws come from?  What inspired them, if not some kind of divine intervention?  Where did the moral authority come from?  The answer is rather mundane, actually.  These laws were come up with as a practical solution for managing the problems of the growing city states in the ancient world.

As settlements grew into towns, and towns grew into cities, it became necessary to govern the behaviour of the growing populations.  A system was needed.  Property had to be recognized.  Order had to be established.  Rules were needed to make clear what was allowed and what wasn’t.

The fact that civilization emerged at all probably indicates that those who would kill their neighbours and take their property were always in the minority.  If they weren’t, they would have killed off the more passive minority and then fought each other.  So, it seems the majority of people have always been inclined towards co-operation and peaceful co-existence, at least at the local level.

Practical problem solving using rationality and common sense.  Isn’t that how most things get done?

Belief Does Not Make You Good

January 28, 2008

There is no correlation between morality, or ethics, and religion or belief in god.  The one doesn’t require, or guarantee, the other.

China is officially atheistic but they have strong traditions and morals.  Women are taught to be modest.  They might even be considered prudish compared to western women, including Christians.  They believe a man wants to marry a virgin, so – no sex before marriage.  I’m not saying this modesty makes them better, but a religious zealot would aspire to a society of such ‘virtue’.

Things are changing, now that the country that used to talk of western decadence has adopted the mantra, “It’s glorious to be rich”.  So, it seems that economics and the pursuit of material wealth have more to do with influencing ethics and morals than belief or non-belief in a god.  You could be a highly ethical atheist or a sleazy believer.

I was once in the presence of someone who I think may have actually killed someone, and he told me he believed in god.  I found myself in the London flat of someone who knew someone I knew.  Someone else was there, too, sitting across the coffee table from me.  The conversation revealed that he was twenty-six and he’d just got out of prison after serving eight years.  So, he was sentenced at eighteen.

Maybe the situation is different in Britain these days, but at the time the papers were screaming about wishy washy liberal judges who were soft on criminals and more concerned with their rights than the victims’.  They also complained about parole being automatic.  So, if he served eight years, he was probably sentenced to at least twelve to fifteen.

I wondered what an eighteen year old kid had to do to get a twelve to fifteen year sentence from a wishy washy judge who thinks he deserves another chance and that, given the position of disadvantage he started from, it was inevitable that he would make some bad decisions.  The only two things I could think of were murder or a particularly brutal rape.

But, he believes in god, so, according to his fellow believers, he’s a better, more ethical person than me.

Pork on Friday

January 25, 2008

I like to eat pork on Fridays.  Not just because I like pork – which I do – but because it’s a simple way to defy the ridiculous dogma of four major religions at once.

Christians are supposed to eat fish on Fridays.  Jews and Muslims, when not trying to kill each other, actually agree that pork shouldn’t be eaten at all, let alone on their holy day.  Hindus are supposed to be vegetarian, a position I can understand when individuals freely take it but I don’t like any religion telling me what I have to do or eat.

So, by the simple act of eating pork on Friday I can thumb my nose at those who impose themselves on us.  It’s my little protest, and no one gets hurt – except the pig, I suppose.

It surprises me that these rules persist, but they do.  A few years ago, when my brothers visited Vancouver, we went for Japanese food.  It was Friday.  One brother had recently gone vegetarian for religious reasons.  The other brother and his future wife had sushi, but he seemed a bit surprised and slightly offended when I ordered katsu don.  I guess he adhered to the old rules and expected that I would, too.

But the rules are more deeply ingrained in other places.  Years ago, in the cafeteria of an organization I worked for in London, I was looking over the lunch ‘options’.  There was nothing but fish.  Not being in the mood for seafood, I mentioned it to the middle aged woman behind the counter.  When I asked if there was anything else, she replied in an Irish accent, “No, it’s Friday”.  When I furled my brow, trying to find the logic, she added, “Fish Friday”, in a tone suggesting I’m supposed to know this.  After more facial contortion I replied, “Why, because they both begin with ‘F’?”.  I had successfully forgotten fishy rules, having liberated myself from my upbringing.  Now they were being imposed on me again.

It ended moments later with her saying that if I wanted something other than fish she wasn’t going to make or serve it.  She absolutely refused to consider the possibility that someone else might not share her belief.  She felt she had every right to impose her beliefs on everyone else.  It was all about her, not the diverse collection of customers.

My peaceful protest may seem silly, but so are the rules the little act of defiance is aimed at.  That’s the point.  And where does anyone get off actually being offended by what someone else chooses to eat?  If that’s not a sure sign that religions and the religious take themselves too seriously, what is?

Oil and God at the Movies

January 24, 2008

The makers of ‘There Will Be Blood’ know how to end a movie.  There’s no mistaking it, the preacher was a charlatan and, unlike other movies I’ve mentioned before, the ending makes it clear what to do about it.  It doesn’t allude to or broadly hint at, it says and follows through.

Although the story is about a flawed man, a loner whose driven pursuit of his life work of developing oil fields and independent wealth causes him to miss opportunities to make a real difference to a few rather than a modest difference to many, he can still claim the moral high ground over the preacher Eli, the self-proclaimed Third Prophet.

Eli’s goal is, quite simply, self-agrandizement and power over the people.  He wants oil money to build his church.  Oil and god – where have I heard that before?  In his church, he is quite the performer and clearly loves an audience.  The world of the theatre would benefit from his presence.  He demands to be introduced by name and allowed to bless the oil well when it is about to be started up, thus presenting himself to his community as the bringer of wealth.

Unfortunately for Eli, our flawed hero doesn’t like demands or being told what to do.  He’s fiercely independent, remember.  So, he pointedly doesn’t call Eli forward at the gathering of the people and blesses the well himself.  This sets off a see-saw series of humiliations based on who is in the position of power.

Although they detest each other, they do business or cooperate when it’s expedient.  Eli doesn’t seem to have a problem with doing deals with the devil.  In fact, it’s quite profitable.  Following a $5000 donation to the church, Eli leaves on a ‘mission’ to other oilfield communities.  We later find him better dressed and with a large, bejewelled cross around his neck.

A Brahms violin soundtrack creates a constant air of menace and uneasiness.  It sustains you through a long build up.  You’re expecting something big to happen, and when it finally does… it is somehow satisfying, despite the hero’s continued imperfection.  Well worth the wait.

Absolutely Relative

January 21, 2008

We assume parents are always right.  Society is geared towards the idea of parental infallibility.  “Don’t do anything your mother wouldn’t do/would be ashamed of”, we’re told.  “Honour thy mother and thy father”, one of the Christian commandments reads.  It reinforces the ideas of authority and continuity.  The family is a module, a building block of society.

But what if your parents are wrong?  What if they are racist, for instance?  You love someone of another race, but your racist parents tell you it’s wrong or that they’re ashamed of you.  You’re mother would never get involved with someone of another race.  Do you follow the rule of honouring your parents and their example, or your conscience and heart?

Let’s subject the assumption to extreme scrutiny.  Hitler had children.  What if they had seen what a monster he was, and killed him?  Would they have been heroes for doing the world a favour, or patricidal maniacs?  If they’d had the opportunity to grow up, should they have honoured their father and followed in his footsteps?  We’re supposed to follow our parents’ examples, but not every parent sets a good example.

Moral absolutes simply don’t work.  As soon as you make a universal statement, it has to stand up in every instance – including the most extreme ones.  But there are always exceptions.  There are always special situations, extenuating circumstances to take into account.  Every case is unique.  The ethical landscape changes relative to these unique circumstances.

Surprisingly, people who claim to be moral absolutists are often some of the most strident supporters of moral relativism, when it suits them, without realizing it.  The god fearing bible thumpers who swear by the ten commandments are often the same people who defend their right to own a gun and use it to kill someone in self-defense.  The relevant commandment does not contain a clause regarding extenuating circumstances.  It is just assumed by those who think it should apply, relative to the situation.

Conservative thinkers don’t like to… think about such things.  That might encourage change, after all.

Sunday Morning

January 20, 2008

I got up one Sunday morning when I was eight or nine and turned on the TV.  Growing up in Windsor, a border city, we picked up Detroit stations, even in the pre-cable days of the early 1970s.  So, that meant that I found religious programming rather than the cartoons I was probably hoping for.

What I saw left a lasting impression on me.  A row of beautiful, wholesome looking young women in pastel coloured chiffon dresses stood in a beautiful, natural setting as they sang, “Onward Christian soldiers, marching off to war…”  Besides wondering how they managed to flash their perfect smiles for every syllable, I was immediately appalled.

Even at that tender age, I was offended.  Despite my lack of sophistication, I could see the hypocrisy.  Kill for god?  Doesn’t one of the commandments read, “Thou shalt not kill”?  Now I’m supposed to believe god wants us to kill when it suits him?  And I could see it was a sales job, too.  I may have been pre-pubescent, but I knew a pretty girl when I saw one and, somehow, that sex sells.  Somebody wanted people to buy the ideas of war and god.

At that time, the US was embroiled in the Vietnam war, fighting against the communist North.  Being godless, they were presented as a threat to American ‘values’.  It wasn’t about money, markets, or business opportunities, of course.  It’s amazing how history keeps repeating itself.

If I, a child, could see through this ruse, why couldn’t the adults across the border?  Are people really so blinded by religion?  Apparently, they are.  Give them eyes, that they might see.

‘Onward Christian Soldiers’, a song I suspect has its origins in the Crusades, was the most offensive song I’d ever heard, and it remains so.