30 January 2009


I was going to post some comments here of my own, but I found a wonderful post on another blog that says so much about women and religion. 

Women and Religion
Black Woman Thinks

"I recently had a conversation with a friend and at the root of the discussion was the question: Why are women so susceptible to supernatural dogma?

"The answer may lie in the fact that so many women feel disempowered in societies where religion and other forms of the supernatural are promoted.

"Women are usually at the bottom of the 'pecking order': white men, black men, white women, black women/'women of colour' (as a crude example), in that order. Professional religious promoters usually target women......

Click here for more on Women and Religion from Black Woman Thinks blog post of 7/03/08

28 January 2009


Grand Canyon, AZ
copyright 2005 by C. Woods

One of the things I like most about being a freethinker, is that I am open to many points of view. I read a lot of books and I search the web for information on religion and nonbelief. At various times I describe myself as a freethinker, a secular humanist, agnostic, or an atheist. To that list, I can now add pantheist.
I've known about pantheism for many years, but I never explored it in depth. I recently ran across the web site of the WORLD PANTHEISM MOVEMENT. (All GREEN TEXT below was pulled from this site.)
I liked what I found.

This group may be the solution for people who feel the need for something spiritual in their lives, but just cannot accept the idea of a supreme being. I am not particularly spiritual, but I do have a "Reverence, awe, wonder and a feeling of belonging to Nature and the wider Universe." I think I fit in well.
The organization has a BELIEF STATEMENT, but it is not like a religious creed nor is it a requirement for joining the group. The statement is a list of basic concepts that is open to interpretation and change.

On the group's web pages, the differences between atheism and pantheism are explained:
What's the difference between Atheism and Pantheism? As far as disbelief in supernatural beings, forces or realms, there is no difference. World Pantheism also shares the respect for evidence, science, and logic that's typical of atheism.
However, Pantheism goes further, and adds to atheism an embracing, positive and reverential feeling about our lives on planet Earth, our place in Nature and the wider Universe, and uses nature as our basis for dealing with stress, grief and bereavement. It's a form of spirituality that is totally compatible with science. Indeed, since science is our best way of exploring the Universe, respect for the scientific method and fascination with the discoveries of science are an integral part of World Pantheism...

Atheism answers only a single question: is there a creator God, or not? That's an important question, but if your answer is "no" it is only a starting point. You may have reached that viewpoint based on your respect for logic, evidence and science, and those too are vital values. Yet after you've reached that initial "no God" answer, all the other important questions in life, all the options for mental and emotional wholeness and social and environmental harmony, remain open...
Our completely naturalistic Pantheism does not believe in any supernatural beings, forces or realms and is fully compatible with atheism and skepticism. As Richard Dawkins writes:
Pantheists don't believe in a supernatural God at all, but use the word God as a nonsupernatural synonym for Nature, or for the Universe, or for the lawfulness that governs its workings.

In practice, while a significant minority of our members like and use the word God to express the depth of their feelings for Nature and the wider Universe, the majority do not use the word about their own beliefs...
There are other names for similar approaches, such as religious naturalism or naturalistic paganism. We have gone with Pantheism simply because it's the best known, and has a long pedigree

Sedona, AZ
copyright 2005 by C. Woods

Many quotations from members, explaining their pantheism can be found HERE. A few of the quotations follow:

"I became an agnostic because traditional Western religions required that I betray my mind. Other belief systems seemed either to require that I betray my body or my heart. For years I did nothing until it occurred to me one day that I might celebrate the earth, the universe and myself in ritual and study exactly as other religions did but without their dogma. Thus I am a pagan, but a pagan whose worship is celebratory rather than "magickal." Sandra Fiske

"I used to be a strict Southern Baptist. On my journey, I realized I primarily experienced God in the stability of the trees, the silent beauty of the stars, in another person. I depended less and less on the Bible, and opened myself up to the universe and grew less fearful and more happy." Jason Clark

"I have always felt a "kinship" with earth, from the tiniest speck of sand to the oceans. I have always found the universe awe inspiring. I cannot conceive of anything more powerful and am unable to believe in an intelligence greater than the universe itself." Ahnru Hurok

"I am of African-American/West Indian/ and Cherokee heritage. I remember feeling a sense of the Divine - in the forest, sitting at the edge of a creek, in the swamps of Mississippi, in the caves of Georgia - but never in church - not in Druid or Wicca ritual. I like the idea of a non-escapist religion. So, I'm basically here on a quest for a religion that deals with the real - that incorporates science into it's teachings, but leaves room for awe." Raven Leigh

"I believe that people only subscribe to the other faiths of the world to medicate their fear of death. When I die, I know that my energy will be incorporated into the biosphere. The faintest glimpses of stars on a dark night stir my soul." Wade Farge

Please visit the web site of the WORLD PANTHEISM MOVEMENT for more information.


Pollster George Barna's recent survey of American Christians reported some interesting information.

"Americans are increasingly comfortable picking and choosing what they deem to be helpful and accurate theological views and have become comfortable discarding the rest of the teachings in the Bible," said Barna.

"Growing numbers of people now serve as their own theologian-in-residence," he continued. "One consequence is that Americans are embracing an unpredictable and contradictory body of beliefs."

By a margin of 71 percent to 26 percent adults "noted that they are personally more likely to develop their own set of religious beliefs than to accept a comprehensive set of beliefs taught by a particular church," the report said.

None of this should be surprising to nonbelievers. Christians have decided that despite the Bible's admonitions against eating pork and allowing women to speak in church (to give two examples) they can do it anyway. The only "abomination" some of them care about is homosexuality.  Many ignore Bible passages that don't fit into their own comfort zone. We already know they have been picking and choosing what to believe to satisfy their own agendas ---and they have been doing it for many years. 

All of the GREEN TEXT was quoted from this WEB SITE where you can find more detailed information on Barna's survey. 

24 January 2009


        Joe*, an atheist friend, was remarkable in that he had memorized nearly the entire Bible. More than 25 years ago, he often appeared on a Pittsburgh radio program with Rey, another local atheist. The program’s host, a Christian, always prefaced his program by suggesting that people not call in to argue the Bible with Joe and Rey, because, he told them, that these two atheists knew the Bible better than most believers. Rey knew it well, but Joe could quote thousands of passages without referencing any notes.
        Callers didn’t listen to the host’s advice.
        Although some listeners asked thoughtful questions, many callers quoted chapter and verse from the Bible, but Joe could always politely respond with a Biblical passage that contradicted the caller’s quoted passage. In every instant, at least one "good Christian" would call to damn the atheists, tell them they were the cause of all evil in the world and condemn them to horrible and painful illnesses and everlasting flames. Joe was soft spoken and never got angry no matter what insults were thrown at him from religious callers.

I wonder why many old radios were designed to look like Gothic church arches.

        The host often asked the question. “What horrible thing happened in your lives that caused you to become atheists?” Some atheists can pinpoint such an event as a trigger to religious doubts, but most can not. Joe explained his change in thought by saying that he started out as a believer with no doubts, then he became a believer with doubts, then a nonbeliever with doubts, and finally a nonbeliever without doubts. It was a lengthy evolutionary process. 
        It is this way for many atheists who start out in religious homes. Some start to have doubts as young as 5, but most start doubting in their teens, although some in their 20’s. One woman reported it took her until she was 60 to finally decide she was an atheist.**
        Many people believe no one can be good or moral without God. But Joe and his wife were among the nicest, most honorable, and most caring people I ever met.
         Several years before I met Joe, he and his wife had been nearing retirement age. They had brought up several children of their own. Joe’s wife worked for a county agency that helped place abused children into foster homes. Over the years, she had been given the cases of many children who had been in homes with ruthlessly cruel parents. One child had been forced to eat out of a dog’s dish on the floor. One barely spoke for fear of being beaten. Some of these children were in homes with strict religious zealots who abused the children.
        I am not implying that this happens in many religious homes. I am saying that being religious is not a guarantee of being kind or moral or being a loving parent.
        Joe and his wife took in two girls who had been abused in Christian homes, first as foster parents. Later they adopted them. Atheists are routinely discriminated against by judges deciding child custody cases and adoption agencies are often reluctant to place children in atheist homes. But because Mrs. Joe worked for the county and she was known for being an affectionate and responsible parent, she and Joe were able to adopt the girls. 
        As you can imagine, it is not an easy task to work with children who have been abused. It takes a lot of love and patience to earn their trust. Joe and his wife nurtured the girls in a loving atheist home.
        Joe and his wife didn’t need to do this. They could have happily retired. Taking in the girls meant they had to continue working until the girls completed college when Joe and his wife would be years beyond their projected retirement ages, but they did it anyway.
        Joe the atheist ---one of the best people I ever knew.

* * * * *

*Unlike Joe the Plumber, Joe was my friend's real name. He was the proud father of several of his own children and his adopted daughters, a self-taught Biblical scholar, and an atheist. Sadly, he died several years ago. I miss his soft-spoken wisdom on the radio.

**These statistics are from a book summarized in another of my posts  HERE.

copyright 2009 by C.Woods

21 January 2009

Bad Faith Awards 2008

Check out the 2008 Bad Faith Awards from
New Humanist magazine HERE.

20 January 2009



        Frankly, I have been fed up with George W. Bush since he was governor of Texas. For someone who claims that Jesus is his favorite philosopher, Bush's hypocrisy overwhelms me. 
        I am looking forward to President Barack Obama. Although, he too is a Christian, when he speaks of religion, he specifically addresses those of various faiths and NONBELIEVERS. 
        He has so many qualities that Bush didn't have. For one thing, he can put together a complete and intelligent sentence. I hope that he can govern with compassion, something his predecessor didn't do.  And I am hoping the new president will take responsibility for his actions be they failures or successes.

BARACK OBAMA, 44th U.S. President (b.1961):

•“Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason...Now this is going to be difficult for some who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, as many evangelicals do. But in a pluralistic democracy, we have no choice. Politics depends on our ability to persuade each other of common aims based on a common reality. It involves the compromise, the art of what's possible. At some fundamental level, religion does not allow for compromise. It's the art of the impossible. If God has spoken, then followers are expected to live up to God's edicts, regardless of the consequences. To base one's life on such uncompromising commitments may be sublime, but to base our policy making on such commitments would be a dangerous thing.” (Speech, 6/28/2006)

•“Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. And it will leave you unfulfilled.” (Speech, 7/12/2006)

•“...Given the increasing diversity of America’s population, the dangers of sectarianism have never been greater. Whatever we once were, we are no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers.”

•“I am not opposed to all wars. I'm opposed to dumb wars.” (The New Yorker, 5/31/2004)

•“If condoms and potentially microbicides can prevent millions of deaths [from AIDS], they should be made more widely available. I know that there are those who, out of sincere religious conviction, oppose such measures. And with these folks, I must respectfully but unequivocally disagree. I do not accept the notion that those who make mistakes in their lives should be given an effective death sentence. Nor am I willing to stand by and allow those who are entirely innocent -- wives who, because of the culture they live in, often have no power to refuse sex with their husbands, or children who are born with the infection as a consequence of their parent's behavior -- suffer when condoms or other measures would have kept them from harm.” (Speech, 12/1/2006)

•“If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually you'll make progress.” (Bloomington Pantagraph, 2/25/2005)

•“I have seen people of differing views and opinions find common cause many times during my two decades in public life, and I have brought many together myself. I've walked arm-in-arm with community leaders on the South Side of Chicago and watched tensions fade as black, white and Latino fought together for good jobs and good schools. I've sat across the table from law enforcement and civil rights advocates to reform a criminal justice system that sent thirteen innocent people to death row. I've worked with friends in the other party to provide more children with health insurance and more working families with a tax break; to curb the spread of nuclear weapons and ensure that the American people know where their tax dollars are being spent; and to reduce the influence of lobbyists who have all too often set the agenda in Washington. In our country, I have found that this cooperation happens not because we agree on everything, but because behind all the false labels and false divisions and categories that define us; beyond all the petty bickering and point-scoring in Washington, Americans are a decent, generous, compassionate people, united by common challenges and common hopes. And every so often, there are moments which call on that fundamental goodness to make this country great again. So it was for that band of patriots who declared in a Philadelphia hall the formation of a more perfect union; and for all those who gave on the fields of Gettysburg and Antietam their last full measure of devotion to save that same union. So it was for the Greatest Generation that conquered fear itself, and liberated a continent from tyranny, and made this country home to untold opportunity and prosperity. So it was for the workers who stood out on the picket lines; the women who shattered glass ceilings; the children who braved a Selma bridge for freedom's cause. So it has been for every generation that faced down the greatest challenges and the most improbable odds to leave their children a world that's better, and kinder and more just. And so it must be for us.” (Speech, 6/3/2008)

•“Iraq is sort of a situation where you've got a guy who drove the bus into the ditch. You obviously have to get the bus out of the ditch, and that's not easy to do, although you probably should fire the driver.” (The Daily Show, 11/7/2005)

•“One of the things that's very important in this day and age is that we don't use religion as a political tool and certainly that we don't lie about religion as a way to score political points." (Interview by Sarah Pulliam and Ted Olsen, Christianity Today)

•“Somehow, somewhere along the way, faith stopped being used to bring us together and started being used to drive us apart. It got hijacked. Part of it is because the so-called leaders of the Christian right are all too eager to exploit what divides us....I don't know what Bible they're reading. But it didn't jibe with my version.”

•“This notion that's peddled by the religious right - that they are oppressed is not true. Sometimes it's a cynical ploy to move their agenda ahead. The classic example being that somehow secularists are trying to eliminate Christmas, which strikes me as some kind of manufactured controversy.” (Street Prophets interview, 7/11/2006)

•“We have a stake in one another ... what binds us together is greater than what drives us apart, and ... if enough people believe in the truth of that proposition and act on it, then we might not solve every problem, but we can get something meaningful done for the people with whom we share this Earth.” (Speech, 12/1/2006)

•“We live in a culture that discourages empathy. A culture that too often tells us our principle goal in life is to be rich, thin, young, famous, safe, and entertained.” (Speech, 7/12/2006)

•“We need not throw away 200 years of American jurisprudence while we fight terrorism. We need not choose between our most deeply held values, and keeping this nation safe. (Speech, 6/18/2008)

•“We think of faith as a source of comfort and understanding but find our expression of faith sowing division; we believe ourselves to be a tolerant people even as racial, religious, and cultural tensions roil the landscape. And instead of resolving these tensions or mediating these conflicts, our politics fans them, exploits them, and drives us further apart.” (The Audacity of Hope)

Excerpts from  President Obama's Inaugural Address, 1/20/09:

•“On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

“On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics....

“In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less.

“It has not been the path for the faint-hearted, for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame.

“Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things -- some celebrated, but more often men and women obscure in their labor -- who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom...

“They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction...

“But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -- that time has surely passed.

“Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America...

“Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions, who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short, for they have forgotten what this country has already done, what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose and necessity to courage...

“Recall that earlier generations... understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use. Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint...

“We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth....

“To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

“To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.

“And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to the suffering outside our borders, nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it...

“What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.

“This is the price and the promise of citizenship...” 

It may be noted that President Obama mentioned God five times and the Scriptures once during his Inaugural Address.

Of related interest: 

14 January 2009


In less than a week a new president will be inaugurated, so I thought this would be a good time to contemplate how presidents' religions have defined their policies.

I recently read an excellent book:
How Faith Shaped the Presidency from John F. Kennedy to George W. Bush
by Randall Balmer

        In God in the White House Randall Balmer relates the dramatic change from President Kennedy’s obligation to assure his detractors that, as a Catholic, he would uphold the wall of separation between church and state, to recent candidates who apparently need to embrace religion in order to be elected.
        Yet among recent presidents, declarations of religious belief during campaigns have had little to do with how a president has acted in office.
        Balmer is an ordained Episcopal priest and a professor of American religions at Barnard College. Yet he is not sympathetic to the entanglement of religion and politics in this country.

        "The radical disjunction between George W. Bush's claims of moral rectitude and his indifference to the moral ramifications of his policies is striking, even breathtaking," says Balmer. Bush "trumpets his morality", yet his administration deceived the nation, discredited those who exposed the deception, and authorized the use of torture.

        Balmer asks: What would have happened, for example, if there had been a series of thoughtful follow-up questions to George W. Bush's declaration... that Jesus was his favorite philosopher? "Mr. Bush, Jesus demands in the Sermon on the Mount that his followers 'turn the other cheek.' How will that teaching guide your conduct of American foreign policy, especially in the event of, say, an attack on the United States?" Or: "Jesus, your favorite philosopher, says that we should care for 'the least of these.' How does that inform your understanding of welfare or Social Security or civil rights or the graduated income tax?" "Can you provide a specific example of how your fidelity to the Christian faith affected your policies as governor of Texas?"

        Then, once in office, a few questions like this: "Mr. President, Jesus expressed concern for the well-being of the tiniest sparrow. Do you see any relationship between that sentiment and your administration's environmental policies? " Or: "Mr. President, Jesus, the man you invoked on the campaign trail as your favorite philosopher, invited his followers to love their enemies. How does that teaching square with the invasion of Iraq or with your administration's policies on torture?"

        This book is easy to read and informative. I lived through all the presidents he covers, but I learned things from this book that I hadn't known before and was reminded of those I did but had forgotten. It is well worth reading, especially for those concerned about keeping church and state separate in this country.

For an excerpt from GOD IN THE WHITE HOUSE and a podcast of an interview with Randall Balmer that aired on NPR's Fresh Air 8/20/08, click HERE

Update Feb 2009: For a video interview with the author and Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, click HERE.

Editorial reviews and reviews by readers can be found at the amazon.com link below:

10 January 2009

07 January 2009


According to Susan Jacoby in her 2004 book (pp 4-5): FREETHINKERS, a History of American Secularism the term freethought "...first appeared in the late 1600s and flowered into a genuine social and philosophical movement during the next two centuries..."

The author continues: "American freethought derived much of its power from an inclusiveness that encompassed many forms of rationalist belief... Freethought can... be understood as a phenomenon running the gamut from the truly antireligious... to those who adhered to a private, unconventional faith revering some form of God or Providence but at odds with orthodox religious authority. American freethinkers have included deists, who, like many of the founding fathers, believed in a 'watchmaker God' who set the universe in motion but subsequently took no active role in the affairs of men; agnostics; and unabashed atheists. What the many types of freethinkers shared, regardless of their views on the existence or nonexistence of a divinity, was a rationalist approach to fundamental questions of earthly existence ---a conviction that the affairs of human beings should be governed not by faith in the supernatural but by a reliance on reason and evidence adduced from the natural world. It was this conviction, rooted in Enlightenment philosophy, that carried the day when the former revolutionaries gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to write the Constitution."

05 January 2009


MARTIN, EVERETT DEAN, American writer, (1880-1941)*

    • “In the Twentieth Century, every person who achieves self-criticism or discrimination in matters of thought, intellectual honesty, and skepticism of popular slogans, is really a friend of liberty.” (Liberty, 1930)
    • “Christian liberty is a contradiction in terms. It means nothing more than the liberty to be a Christian ... And even this could scarcely be called liberty, for it has never been left to choice when the church has had power enough to coerce men into conformity.”
    • “Christianity... has brought about stagnation wherever it has been supreme.” (Liberty, 1930)
    • “Has not official Christianity been almost uniformly on the reactionary side in the struggle for freedom and progress? Has it not time and again instigated bloodshed and persecution? Has it not sought to give the authority of God to precisely the most oppressive governments in Europe, and divine blessing to armies marching out to kill and oppress? Why, there is not a single freedom modern man enjoys that he has not won in defiance of the churches!” (Liberty, 1930)
    • “Morality cannot exist one minute without freedom... Only a free man can possibly be moral. Unless a good deed is voluntary, it has no moral significance.” (Liberty, 1930)
    • "Our people have little of the philosophy of freedom. . . . The things which we take for granted are the things for which we no longer fight. But when a populace becomes indifferent to its freedom, it begins to lose it." (as quoted in Time, “On Keeping Free”, 06/09/1930)
    • “Since October, 1917, revolutionary movements, whether Communist, Fascist or Nazi, are arrayed against precisely those objectives which have inspired revolutions since 1642. Present-day revolution is therefore a crowd movement against liberal democracy. It openly avows itself as such and in this respect both the Communist and the Fascist are the same. (Farewell to Revolution, 1935)
    • "Tolerance is a better guarantee of freedom than brotherly love; for a man may love his brother so much that he feels himself thereby appointed his brother’s keeper." (Liberty, 1930)

Archived Time article about Everett Dean Martin, 06/09/1930

The article describes Martin in 1930:
Everett Dean Martin, 50, tall, loose-jointed, has poppy, kindly eyes, a mouth like Irvin Cobb's. He became associated with the People's Institute in 1916, was made Director in 1922. Other books: The Behavior of Crowds, Psychology, The Meaning of a Liberal Education, The Mystery of Religion.

In 1930, Martin’s book Liberty was selling new for $3. It is still available at amazon.com for about the same price (used) plus shipping. This is a great book. A friend of mine loaned it to me about 30 years ago. I had never heard of Martin before that. I am surprised he is not better known because what he wrote in 1930 is still relevant today.

01 January 2009

WHY I AM AN ATHEIST: The Bible - Part 2

In WHY I AM AN ATHEIST: The Bible - Part 1, I told how my ultra-religious family read the entire Bible, a chapter every day, and how some Biblical stories triggered doubts about it being the word of God. If the Bible were the word of God, I found it so appalling that I didn’t want to worship that God.

Robert Ingersoll: “If a man really believes that God once upheld slavery; that he commanded soldiers to kill women and babes; that he believed in polygamy; that he persecuted for opinion’s sake; that he will punish forever, and that he hates an unbeliever, the effect in my judgment will be bad. It always has been bad. This belief built the dungeons of the Inquisition. This belief made the Puritan murder the Quaker.”

In the Bible, I discovered that Solomon had 1000 sexual partners. I learned that God created evil, that God lives in darkness, that David paid for his first wife with the foreskins of 200 Philistines, that God destroyed Job simply because Satan dared him to do it, that handicapped people are not allowed in church.
I found the character of God rather alarming. People worship and praise God and say he is compassionate, benevolent and loving. Yet, as a nonbeliever, I am doomed to spend all eternity suffering in hell, no matter how good I am. I couldn’t accept such a mean-spirited being.

Mark Twain: “Most people are bothered by those passages of Scripture they do not understand, but the passages that bother me are those I do understand.”

Then of course, when my family read the New Testament, I learned that Jesus didn’t come to send peace on earth, but came with a sword to set men against their fathers and daughters against their mothers.... and of course this contradicted the Commandments.
My family read the Christmas and Easter stories in one Gospel. A few weeks later, we read accounts in other Gospels which were somewhat different. In a home where I was expected to believe the Bible, these accounts were different enough to seem more like the stories coming from different eyewitnesses on Perry Mason than God’s truth.
I just didn’t buy into the resurrection. I thought that Jesus hadn’t really died or else the stories of the resurrection were lies. Today, with life-saving techniques, we know people can be brought back to life, but not after 3 days and not 2000 years ago.
And the immaculate conception ----well, I could imagine if I turned up pregnant and unmarried some day, trying to pull that excuse on my parents. Soon I learned that Greek gods were always sleeping with mortals and that Christians probably stole their stories from the Greeks or earlier pagan civilizations. (See comment & my response regarding the immaculate conception.)

As a preteen and a teenager, I was smart and inquisitive. I asked questions of my parents, ministers, and Sunday School teachers.
• Why are there no dinosaurs in the Bible?
• Why would a loving God order women and children to be slaughtered? How was that following the Commandment ‘The shalt not kill’?
• How could Noah fit 2 of every species on his ark ---and wouldn’t he have to take more than 2 gazelles to feed the 2 lions? And why wouldn’t Noah have left a few creatures behind, like mosquitos or cobras? And why does a different part of the Bible say he took 7 of some animals?
• Why would God order us to circumcise babies? Wouldn’t that be terribly painful, let alone unnatural? Why would God create foreskin, then want us to cut it off?
• Why can’t God prevent an earthquake, hurricane, or airplane accident from hurting/killing people?
• Why do bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people?
• Why, despite hundreds of people praying for a sick parishioner at the church, did the person die anyway?
• If God can do anything, why can’t he stop suffering? And if he can’t why is he worthy of worship?
• Why do we have to wait to die to reach heaven? Doesn’t God have the power to make heaven on earth?
• Why would God order a man to sacrifice his own son or daughter?
• Why are some things that the Bible says are abominations (eating lobster , pork, or rabbit for example) no longer considered to be forbidden, but being gay is still thought, by many, to be an abomination? Lots of these rules are clearly set forth in Exodus, Deuteronomy and Leviticus, yet we ignore some and accept others. (According to the Bible, it’s OK eat locusts.)
• Why did God allow his only son to die to forgive our sins? If God can do anything, why not just forgive our sins and be done with it?
• What about Bible passages that contradict each other? How can those be the word of God?
• If only Christians could go to Heaven and everyone else went to Hell, that wasn’t exactly fair to someone who was indoctrinated into Islam from a young age, or someone who had never even heard of Christianity, was it?

Although some of these questions were from a naive youth, I would ask most of these same questions today. I still don’t have the answers.
I don’t remember even one answer any more enlightening than “God works in mysterious ways.” My father told me to pray and God would answer my questions, but He didn’t.

After several years of doubt, I couldn’t take the Bible seriously. Soon everything else about religion sounded absurd to me. By the time I graduated from high school I was an atheist, but I didn’t quite know it yet.

Now, I believe that the Bible is a book of fiction. I happen to love fiction and I think fiction can teach truths about life. However, I could learn most of what I need to know about life from many other books of fiction ---and without the guilt.
Most of the Bible was recorded years or even centuries after the supposed events, so I do not believe it is the word of God, but the words of men either trying to interpret what they thought was the word of God, or attempting to convince readers that they knew what God wanted.

Susan B. Anthony: “I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”

Writing the Bible, decades after the events (if they actually happened) would be like my attempting to write an account of the Kennedy presidency with no written records, no TV, no audio or video tape. I lived through those years, but little of what I remember is from actual memory. Most of it is from books or film that I have read or seen many times in the years since 1963. Taking everything I can remember, I might be able to write two or three pages. Of course, like men who wrote the Bible, I might misremember or, without written, audio, or video proof, I could make up the rest.
The men who wrote the Bible had no special powers. They were humans like you and me. God didn’t guide their hands when they wrote the Bible any more than he guided my hand in writing this blog post.
Why do people believe that 2000 years ago, magical things happened that don’t happen today? But then I remind myself that many people believe in astrology, ghosts, and miracles. They think they see images of the Virgin Mary in their toast and are sure their dead parents are watching over them. I call it wishful thinking.
People think God talks to them or to religious leaders. If God talked directly to anyone, then everyone in the world who prayed for guidance would receive the exact same message and there would not be multiple religions and denominations.

Despite my having read the Bible through my teen years, I haven’t read it much since, although I do use internet Bibles to find passages on occasion. Most of the atheists I know, know the Bible much better than I do, and I know it better than most Christians.
Many Christians are taught a few nice Bible stories in Sunday school and they might listen to Biblical verses at church services, but most know little about what the Bible really says.
In a recent survey by the Pew Forum, 45% of U.S. adults seldom or never read the Bible. Surprisingly only 39% believe it is the literal word of God. A full 18% believe it was written by men and is not the word of God at all. Only 1% said living life in accordance with the Bible was necessary to be admitted to heaven.
A Gallup survey found that less than half of Americans can name the first book of the Bible (Genesis), only a third know who delivered the Sermon on the Mount (Billy Graham is a popular answer) and a quarter do not know what is celebrated at Easter (the resurrection, the foundational event of Christianity.) Sixty percent cannot name half the ten commandments; 12% think Noah was married to Joan of Arc. George Gallup, a leading Evangelical as well as a premier pollster, describes America as “a nation of biblical illiterates”.

Mark Twain: [The Bible] “is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies.” (Letters From the Earth)
copyright 2009 by C. Woods

Look for future posts in my ongoing series of Why I am An Atheist.

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