17 May 2010

CAN CHRISTIANS AND ATHEISTS LEARN TO GET ALONG?

CHRISTIANS AND ATHEISTS
(SOMETIMES) BEHAVING BADLY

I recently ran across an article from November 2007 called "10 Things Christians and Atheists Can (And Must) Agree On" by David Wong at cracked.com.
Wong seems to be able to see both sides of this issue. Brought up in a Pentecostal church, he says,""I soured on the whole religion thing in my teens, as you can probably imagine, and then came back to it later kind of on my own terms." He says his friends are about equally divided between Christians and non-believers.
He points out how these two factions infuriate each other, Christians by claiming atheists really do believe but are just rebellious and warning atheists of their futures in everlasting hell, and atheists by pointing out how irrational or stupid believers are.
Wong thinks, with a little respect for each other, we can agree on much and need to do so.
While I disagree on some minor points, I do agree in general with most of what Wong says. There are over 400 comments, some from those pointing out flaws in Wong's reasoning, while others who didn't seem to get the message still condemning each other for their beliefs of lack thereof.
I have always tried to respect the beliefs of others. Most of my friends are Christians and I don't go around telling them they are idiots for believing what seems totally irrational to me. They probably wouldn't be my friends if I did. But I have to admit that often I ask myself, "How can this intelligent person believe what makes no sense at all?" I have to remind myself that I was indoctrinated into Christianity and believed it blindly until I was about twelve. Why did I see the inconsistencies and violence in the Bible while they missed it?
Part of the answer is that I was forced to read the Bible cover to cover, several times, whereas most of my friends know few details from the Bible beyond the nice parables in the New Testament. Yet my parents and sibling read the same things I was reading. They remained devoted Christians.
The fact that I even have this blog indicates my frustration at being surrounded by Christians who judge me based on my unbelief, even though they don't know me. I am frustrated by those who think morality comes only from religion, specifically their particular brand of religion. I am frustrated by those who try to bash me over the head with religion. And I am frustrated by religious people who try to interject religion into secular political issues.
I can also see that religious people are threatened by the wave of atheist literature that has been on the best-seller list over the last decade, not only because atheists are brazenly open about their denial of gods, but also that the books are so popular. Since we know most people "preach to the choir" so to speak, most of the books are probably purchased by people who are already non-believers or by those who have serious doubts about religion. If the books are selling so well, there must be millions and millions of atheists out there. Religious people fear a moral decay if others don't have the same basic beliefs as they do.
They need not fear. Most of the people I know, be they Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, atheist, agnostic, or other, have the same or similar core values. Some of the issues on which we disagree (abortion, homosexuality) seem to have been manipulated by politicians or religious leaders to attract attention or to gain or keep power. That doesn't mean there are not people who have strong beliefs on both sides of those issues, but I think our differences have been blown out of proportion by master manipulators who relish widening the gaps between us.
Whether or not you take the time to read Wong's entire article, and I strongly encourage you to do so, I would be interested in your comments --from both believers and non-believers.

(Remember my comment policy: I welcome opposing opinions as long as they are not abusive or preachy. Comments from "Anonymous" have been blocked due to numerous spam-ads received in the past.)

16 May 2010

ALAN ALDA on RELIGION

ALAN ALDA
b. 1936
actor and nonbeliever

Excerpt from "Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself"

"I sat next to a young woman on a plane once who bombarded me for five hours with how she had decided to be born again and so should I. I told her I was glad for her but I hadn't used up being born the first time. Nothing stopped her. She was married to an acquaintance of mine, and I couldn't turn her off. I left the plane with an ache in my head the size of a grapefruit. I'm certain she led a life that was meaningful to her and had just had five meaningful hours of it. But it didn't mean she was living the good life. And for five hours neither was I. Fight for what you believe in, they say. Serve a higher purpose than yourself. This will give you fulfillment. It can also turn you into the lady on the plane. Or even a terrorist. Terrorists may feel more purpose in their lives than other people do, but that doesn't mean terrorists are any better off, and neither are the rest of us.
"If I was going looking for meaning, I didn't want meaning that would betray other people, and I didn't want it to betray me. I wanted it to last.... I didn't want to wake up someday and find that what had once given meaning to my life was as stale and tasteless as yesterday's gob of gum.
"For a while in my teens, I was sure I had it. It was about getting to heaven. If heaven existed and lasted forever, then a mere lifetime spent scrupulously following orders was a small investment for an infinite payoff. One day, though, I realized I was no longer a believer, and realizing that, I couldn’t go back. Not that I lost the urge to pray. Occasionally, even after I stopped believing, I might send off a quick memo to the Master of the Universe, usually on a matter needing urgent attention, like Oh, God, don’t let us crash. These were automatic expulsions of words, brief SOS messages from the base of my brain. They were similar to the short prayers that were admired by the church in my Catholic boyhood, which they called 'ejaculations.' I always liked the idea that you could shorten your time in purgatory with each ejaculation; what boy wouldn’t find that a comforting idea? But my effort to keep the plane in the air by talking to God didn’t mean I suddenly was overcome with belief, only that I was scared. Whether I’d wake up in heaven someday or not, whatever meaning I found would have to occur first on this end of eternity."

OTHER ALAN ALDA QUOTATIONS (from other sources):

"I still don't like the word agnostic. It's too fancy. I'm simply not a believer. But, as simple as this notion is, it confuses some people. Someone wrote a Wikipedia entry about me, identifying me as an atheist because I'd said in a book I wrote that I wasn't a believer. I guess in a world uncomfortable with uncertainty, an unbeliever must be an atheist, and possibly an infidel. This gets us back to that most pressing of human questions: why do people worry so much about other people's holding beliefs other than their own?" (2008 interview for the Edge Foundation website)

"Begin challenging your own assumptions. Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in awhile, or the light won't come in."

"I used to be a Catholic. I left because I object to conversion by concussion. If you don`t agree with what they teach, you get clobbered over the head until you do. All that does is change the shape of the head." (from an interview in "Ms." magazine)

"Jean Paul Sartre says in 'No Exit' that hell is other people. Well, our task in life is to make it heaven. Or at least earth."

“Here's my Golden Rule for a tarnished age: Be fair with others, but keep after them until they're fair with you.”

"When people are laughing, they're generally not killing one another."



13 May 2010

DOES GOD EXIST? "Snowbrush" answers the question


I've been following the SNOWBRUSH blog for quite a while. Snowbrush is the screen name of a man who grew up in Bible-belt Mississippi and now lives in Oregon. He has been blogging since 2003.

There are several posts on his blog explaining his religious and non-religious background, including his post of 5/12/10, "Does God exist? Why I think the answer is no" which is a well-thought-out explanation of his reasons for being a non-believer.

Check it out and while you are there, check out some of Snowbrush's other posts, too. Snowbrush is an interesting character and has many tales to tell.

WITHOUT AN OUNCE OF INTEGRITY

If I had enough time, I could publish at least a dozen posts each day filled with nothing but religious people behaving badly. My previous 2 posts were about Christian hypocrisy and now one more example has come to light.


Integrity Bank was founded on "Christian principles" in 2000 in the Atlanta area. The bank's founder Steven Skow, a Lutheran, said "We weren't selling religion. We just managed the bank on godly principles, like the golden rule."
If that is true, then those religious principles must have included conspiracy, fraud, bribery and insider trading.

A federal indictment was unsealed last week against two former bank vice presidents, Douglas Ballard and Joseph Todd Foster, along with developer Guy Mitchell.
When government regulators shut down Integrity Bank in 2008, it was assumed that it was just another lender that had overvalued the real estate market.
"But this bank was robbed from the inside," said U.S. attorney Sally Quillian Yates.
From 2004 to 2006 loans of $80 million had been made to Mitchell who made few, if any, payments on them. Meanwhile, he was living a luxurious life, even purchasing a private island with his borrowed funds. In return for lenience, Ballard was paid more than $230,000 in bribes. Ballard and Foster are also accused of insider trading, for when they realized the bank was going to fail, they dumped Integrity stock, making millions for themselves before its collapse, leaving the bank's shareholders and the FDIC holding the bag.
Skow, who left the bank in 2007 and is not implicated in the indictment, said he lost $22 million in stock.
Skow said the bank gave 10% of annual profits to churches and faith-based charities, donating $1.7 million in 2007. The bank gave free Bibles to customers. Employees prayed together at meeting.

I wonder if they were praying for their own personal gain instead of for god's help in running an ethical business. And maybe they they were just kidding when they named the bank "Integrity."

For more information:

09 May 2010

CONTEMPTIBLE PATHETIC HYPOCRITES

"Being gay cannot be cured.
Being a contemptible pathetic
hypocrite can be cured."
---Rachel Maddow 5/7/10





For more information on this issue, see my previous post:

08 May 2010

HYPOCRISY WITH 2 CAPITAL R'S


HYPOCRISY WITH 2 CAPITAL R'S:
REKERS & RENTBOY

hypocrisy
: the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform

Anti-gay activist
George Rekers
outed by
Miami New Times



My husband will attest to the fact that I get emotional over stories about almost anyone's misfortune. I cry at sad movies. I blubber over news reports. I've had to pull my car off the road while listening to heart-wrenching stories on the radio because I couldn't see through my tears.
Yet, I admit that when I witness the public exposure of a hypocrite, even though it may be a personal tragedy for the sanctimonious fraud, I can't help but experience a certain perverse glee.
I have no problem with gay sex between consenting adults. What annoys me is when someone does everything in his power to condemn homosexuality and then engages in the very behavior he condemns.

George Alan Rekers is a Baptist minister and one of America’s leading anti-gay activists and a board member for the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH), a prominent “ex-gay” organization that claims it can "cure" gay people. Yet Rekers hired a companion from rentboy.com to accompany him on a ten-day trip to Madrid and London.
While Rekers claims he had no idea that his companion was a prostitute when he hired him to carry his luggage, Miami New Times reports that Rekers admitted he met his escort (who the newspaper calls Lucien) at rentboy.com, a website that is transparently gay. Later he claimed that he took the boy to Europe to introduce him to Jesus.

"Rentboy.com... is the only website on which... [Lucien] advertises his services. Neither Google nor any other search engine picks up individual Rentboy.com profiles... You cannot just happen upon one.
"To arrive at Lucien’s site, Rekers must have accepted Rentboy.com’s terms of use, thereby acknowledging he was not offended by graphic sexual material. He then would have been transported to a front page covered with images of naked, tumescent men busily sodomizing each other.
"Then Rekers must have performed a search. Did he want a “rentboy,” a “sugar daddy” or a “masseur”? In what country? And what city? If Rekers searched for a rent boy in Miami, he would have found approximately 80 likely candidates. He must have scrolled down the first page, past the shirtless bears and desperate ex-models, and on to page 2. There, at last, was Lucien."
Rekers stated, "It is absolutely true that I hired... [Lucien] and he worked for me as a travel companion and not as a prostitute."
Rekers advised Lucien to avoid the press. However, the young man made statements to the Miami New Times that contradicted Rekers' statements that he hired him to help with his luggage and that he was trying to save the soul of a lost sinner.
[Lucien] "...has told Miami New Times the Baptist minister [Rekers] is a homosexual who paid him to provide body rubs once a day in the nude, during their ten-day vacation in Europe.
"Rekers allegedly named his favorite maneuver the 'long stroke' -- a complicated caress 'across his penis, thigh... and his anus over the butt cheeks,' as the escort puts it. 'Rekers liked to be rubbed down there,' he says."
As was pointed out on another atheist blog, "Hypocrisy among Christian religious extremists is as commonplace as weird facial expressions from Sarah Palin." We must remember that Rekers' probable gay sex isn't the issue. The issue is that Rekers has time and again vilified homosexuality ---and is a hypocrite as well. According to Rachel Maddow, Rekers recently was listed as a member of a group which sent a letter to all 14,800 school superintendents in the country to explain that homosexual feelings among their students can be treated with therapy. (Incidentally, the letter was produced by the American College of Pediatricians, a right-wing anti-gay group that is trying to hoodwink people into believing it is the real physicians group, the American Academy of Pediatrics.)
Along with James Dobson, Rekers co-founded the Family Research Council. He is considered a leading scholar for the Christian Right and has influenced government by advising Congress, the White House, and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Rekers was paid $60,000 to be an "expert" witness against gay adoption in Florida and he testified against gay foster parents in Arkansas for another large fee. Yet, Rekers frequently takes in foster children and adopted a 16-year-old boy four years ago.
Oops! Did he perhaps testify against himself?
NARTH has been predictably silent on this situation but promises a statement soon.

Sources (which include more information):

(Indented statements in green are quoted from the Miami New Times website.)
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