Grandma and the Big Oak Tree

My grandmother was a very superstitious lady, black cats, ladders, salt over the shoulder, and all of that. I remember once, walking across the yard with her and my mother. We lived in a small town and had walked to the hair salon to get Grandma’s hair fixed. On the way back into the yard I parted ways and ran ahead. I had been warned previously by my mom and knew that Grandma had very superstitious ways, but I was an irreverent child to these superstitions at that time. I ran to the right of the big oak tree while Mom and Grandma were walking around the left. The two women stopped. Mom looked at me and told me to get back around with them. Grandma was very serious about this walking stuff. After much stalling, I started walking forward towards them. And I was chided more. I skulked back around the tree. I made it obvious that I thought they were stupid and rejoined my mom and my grandma who greeted me with a big approving smile. Lesson learned. Do not provoke Grandma.

Somewhere in the middle of the silliness, there was a nagging doubt. What if these things mattered. That little doubt has stuck with me most of my life. I was around 10 or so at that time. Church and all the spirit woo-woo added to the accumulation of cause and effect evidence. So until this day I still get that nagging feeling, maybe I shouldn’t have said that, or may I should have said or done something else. And, I wonder, is any of this true? What if I could toss all of this stuff in the trash? Life would seem so much freer.

It made me believe that everything that exists was caused by another thing. Cause and effect. Or also called the Rooster Syndrome:

The rooster crows and the sun rises: cause and effect, or red flag?

If I tripped and fell it’s because I wasn’t paying attention. So I could prevent the fall by paying closer attention and clearing my path. You can see this if you look at my life. I was always a very attentive person. And yet somehow I’ve had similar incidences as those that haven’t been as careful. I’ve been attentive and fallen. I’ve been attentive and broken my arm. It’s all just superstition in some form or another. Live and let it all happen as it will, because some things can’t be prevented.

To quote Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory:

Sheldon (on phone): Oh, hi mom. … The Arctic expedition was a remarkable success, I’m all but certain there’s a Nobel Prize in my future. Actually, I shouldn’t say that. I’m entirely certain. No, mother, I could not feel your church group praying for my safety. The fact that I’m home safe is not proof that it worked, that logic is Post Hoc Ergo Propter Hoc. No, I’m not sassing you in Eskimo talk. – “The Electric Can Opener Fluctuation”, The Big Bang Theory

Do your work as best you can and be kind.

 

 

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Expectations vs Reality

There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. “Maybe,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed. “Maybe,” replied the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.

Expectations are just that, expectations. They aren’t promises or guarantees. We assume we know how life will go. I have heard that women tend towards forecasting in relationships more so than men. We meet a man, and in our mind we’ve got our house picked out along with the names of the two adorable children we will have. When the relationship crashes, we wonder what went wrong. Maybe nothing went wrong. It could be that it wasn’t as perfect as we’d thought. It’s difficult to process the difference between our imaginary relationship or imaginary job versus the one that really exists. We need to be careful to pay attention to what really is happening around us, then we approach life face to face.  Where were you looking when the roof caved in? Did you notice the first drops of rain? Or the buckets on the floor to catch the dripping roof leak? Maybe you were were visualizing life in another town.

So what are we to do? I love to redecorate my house in my mind and our imagination has its purpose. How would we ever make any progress, whether scientific or mathematically? Visualization gives us our map of how it could be. We need to remember where we are right now.

Avoiding magical thinking

But while your intent is pure and your goal is to create magic, the most common mistake is to believe that the marketplace will agree with your good intent and support you. More specifically, that media intermediaries will clearly, loudly and accurately tell your story, that this story will be heard by an eager and interested public and that the public will take action (three strikes).

Or, more tempting, that ten people will tell ten people to the eighth power, leading to truly exponential growth (some day). Because right now, you’ve told ten people and they have told no one…

Only count on things that have happened before, a funnel you can buy and time you can afford to invest. Anything more than that is a nice bonus. – Seth’s blog

 

I’m Not Dead Yet

When I first walked away from Christianity, the one thing that scared me was dying. And the no-life-afterwards stance of Atheism. I felt like a child whose Halloween candy had been stolen. I’ve held on to the opinion that Atheists could be wrong. Denial in the first degree!

People like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and Christopher Hitchens, have stripped away my belief in a separate soul, so what would be left to carry on after my body dies? Energy particles? It’s taken some time and lots of truth seeking. Richard Dawkins attitude has really helped with my perspective. Yeah, I may not have eternity in white robes, but I can live a full life and celebrate every day right now.

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?” 

Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder

Denying truth doesn’t make it disappear. What happens after I die can’t be prearranged. The events are out of my control. Maybe I’ll be happily surprised with more candy or maybe I won’t. Either way it’s done. Richard Dawkins is right. We are the lucky ones.

I Rant Sometimes

I hate being negative. I hate being judgmental and I hate being on a rant, BUT, I’m going to rant anyway. You are free to skip over this one. No hard feelings. Or join me if you’d like.

I’m tired of the fighting and the political posturing. If the people in our government can’t do their jobs, maybe they need to step down. Can we sue the congress or the senate? And they’ll say anything almost. The most ridiculous things just to stir up the people.

And when do Guns, Flags, Bibles, and Republicans go together? In Oklahoma they do. Is it possible to think independently these days? I have family members who post pictures of Flags and Bibles. You’d think Jehovah was an American. Or is it Jesus-only now? Do they still include Jehovah as god. I’m not sure.

If Christians’ preach about love and believe in love so much, why are they not concerned about loving the orphaned children that came across the border? Yes, I realize some of the parents sent them here, but it’s not the child’s fault.

14 facts that help explain America’s child-migrant crisis

 Jesus told this story when speaking of the day of judgement,

The Sheep and the Goats Matthew 25

37“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 ‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? 40“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

 In the Old Testament

Proverbs 19:17

Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will reward them for what they have done.

Micah 6:8 

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

I angered a SUV driving lady with a fish symbol on her car. She was upset because I let another vehicle into traffic. How dare I take up her time by being nice. What happened to just being kind?

My rant’s over for now. You may return to your regularly scheduled program. Thank you for your mercy and kindness.

The Promise of a Great Nation

"Jehovah" at Exodus 6:3 (1611 King J...

You would think that if you had a visit from the one and only true god, the one who created the heavens and the earth, and he gave you instructions to build a kingdom, you would think it would be the most amazing kingdom EVER.  This god could tell you where to find gold and diamonds. How to store your food and how to farm your land. Your walls would be built of the best materials. You would know the most effective fighting methods with very little loss of life on your part. I’m referring to Abraham and later Moses and the promise of a great nation made by Jehovah.

There was blood spilling everywhere (not love)

Would he really need to cause a plague to destroy half of the people because one person sinned? One person married a foreigner or kept a piece of gold that they shouldn’t have. Couldn’t he just tell you? Instead of grandeur or wisdom, we see hundreds and thousands of years full of strife, discord, internal fighting and struggles to survive. Famine, war and plague. The methods were no different from the other warring factions surrounding them.

It’s among the same traditions that existed of the day (nothing new)

Some would ask, why are you criticizing god? I’m really not trying to criticize any god. Not Jehovah, Ahura Mazda, Thor, Odin or Ra. What I’m saying is, either this “god” isn’t who he says he is, or more likely, there wasn’t a god that was instructing them to create their society. This could be a story made up by someone, since it’s really not a new way of thinking. Wouldn’t a great god come with a novel idea? Fresh ideas. Ways of acting that were helpful and wise? Maybe even create a society that was different from their neighbors? Like Cyrus the Great did? I take the stand of First John 4:20,

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar.

If the word of god comes down from the god of love, it should show love. Which leaves me with the thought, maybe this promise of a great nation didn’t come from god, but a man and his ego.

If you’re into history of the ancient times, here’s a good podcast, Ancient World podcast.

 

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Secularism and the Founding Fathers

October 14: Washington reviews the army assemb...

Myth: The founding fathers of the Americas were Christian. They are also believed by many to have put the ten commandments in the courthouses and instituted the words “under God” and the pledge of allegiance.

Wikipedia: The Founding Fathers

Historian Richard B. Morris in 1973 identified the following seven figures as the key Founding Fathers: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay,Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and George Washington.[5]

  • John Adams
  • Benjamin Franklin – Deist
  • Alexander Hamilton
  • John Jay
  • Thomas Jefferson – Deist
  • James Madison
  • George Washington – Pantheist

Fact: Even if we insist they were religious, these men were not Fundamentalists. They believed in no religion dominating their daily life. They believed so strongly in separating religion and government that they wrote this need down. This was a priority for them for establishing their government. The church of England left a very bitter taste in their mouths.

The First Amendment begins, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . . ”

Myth: The constitution of the United States of America was based upon the moral principles of the Bible. 

Fact: The pursuit of happiness is no where in the Bible. It’s the opposite. Seeking God and obeying him is in the Bible. There is nothing in the constitution about the Bible, religion, or God’s authority. Why is that?

The 1796 Treaty with Tripoli states that the United States was not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” This was not an idle statement meant to satisfy muslims– they believed it and meant it. This treaty was written under the presidency of George Washington and signed under the presidency of John Adams. – Our Founding Fathers, Freethought

The Bible is based upon the final authority, the chain of command from God down to slaves. It establishes a form of government styled as a dictatorship, kingship, or theistic. The one thing the founding fathers had in common and strongly emphasized was their rebellion to the crown and church of England. Freedom from established religion’s choke hold on people and the government.

http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/

Being Secular is not the opposite of Christianity. Most secular proponents want a separation of church and state. Does that sound familiar?

secularism [ˈsɛkjʊləˌrɪzəm]n

  1. (Philosophy) Philosophy a doctrine that rejects religion, esp in ethics

  2.  the attitude that religion should have no place in civil affairs

  3. the state of being secular

A secularist does not burn crosses, whether upside down or right side up. They don’t hate crosses. They don’t care if you have crosses in your home. Just don’t make their children pledge to your god or your cross. As I’ve heard many of them say, I state now also, “What you do with religion or crosses in your own house is your business. Keep it there.”

 

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Those Evil Villains

good_and_evil-t2

It’s easy for me to get worked up about stupid people. Or those who don’t follow the rules. Or those who slap their children. You know who I’m talking about. Those people. They make us mad when they cut in front of us in traffic or have yelling matches with their kids in the front yard. Don’t they have any decency?

I was cleaning my car last Friday evening and saw a yelling match between a mother and her preteen son. Well, I heard a yelling match is more like it. All the same, it went on forever. Apparently, he tried to hurry his little sister out of the car. Sisters don’t like to be hurried, so she did what comes natural, she fought back. Chaos! Evil sisters.  It ends up, sister runs and tells Momma what her evil brother did. Evil brothers. This I know because Momma declared it so, quite loudly. “Boy, is it true what your sister just told me?” Mmmm…boy mumbles something. Evil Mommas? I won’t bore you with the entire episode but wouldn’t it have been easier to take a reasonable action and not talk the child to death? I would have appreciated it.

We have things we vilify. They can be political parties or races of people. Most usually we aren’t aware of who they are until they are in our face, like the lady above. The more strongly I feel about something the more I’m going to use it as my scapegoat about why I can’t be happy. In my situation, it would have been wrong to get in the middle of the squabble, but listening to the triad squabble was uncomfortable.

So this week I’m trying to look at these questions:

  • In what demonic structures do I take part? Religious, cultural, style?
  • Who is my scapegoat? Who do I blame? Government, co-workers, neighbors?
  • Am I trying to be a part of a community that vilifies? Organizations, belief systems, online groups?

If you haven’t listened to it yet, I highly recommend listening to Peter Rollins, The Virtual Reality of Demons.

See also There’s Always An Outside from the last post.

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The Final Cut of My Dangling Faith

Love is patient, love is kind, This is the Christianity I was taught overtly. The icing and the pretty decoration. The hidden “healthy” side was God is a just God.

First snip – trusting another’s version of the truth

I was walking up the stairs to get to my condo when I overheard my neighbors talking about God. “God only wants you to be healthy. He wants you to be happy and live your life.” I realized how far I’ve come from that statement. I said that many times myself in the last few years and believed it. But contrast that with other people who spout offensive words. God hates >>insert ugly word here<< and will cast them into hell. One person claims God told them to build a building that cost millions of dollars, while another person sells all his stuff, moves to India, and helps dying patients in a leper colony.

Second snip – infallibility of the Bible

For years this dichotomy bothered me. I taught voraciously that it was only about love and our personal relationship with God. Maybe I didn’t cling to the infallibility of the Bible, but I had my Jesus. I had a friend. Until…

Third snip – my friend in Jesus

With all the erosion that happened in my spiritual life, the last connection was my personal relationship with Jesus. This is what holds most people in Christianity. That feeling that no one wants to let go of. “But I know He’s real. He comforts me.” And yes it often feels that someone is holding you, even smiling lovingly on you. Here’s the counter, each person that tells you that they know what God expects, is only mirroring what they believe already. Those that are loving believe in a loving god. Those that are critical believe in God’s judgement. And He’s not here to correct them. The only proof we have is the Bible and our inner conviction.

My faith dangled 

Where’s my proof that I really am not hearing from God or being comforted by him? Derren Brown showed me how it is done. How To Convert an Atheist – short version.  In his simple demonstration with a non believing girl, he showed how quickly it can develop.

  • First, picture a loving father. He picks up his child and holds her tight and kisses her boo boos away.
  • Second, imagine the awe and wonder of life. The grand plan of the universe and it’s beauty.
  • Third, bring the feeling of being loved by that wonderful father together with the awe and wonder.

Poof! She felt it. I felt it. This is how it was for me almost exactly. Preacher after preacher. Song after song. Just as Derren Brown brought those concepts together in the atheist’s mind so did my influences. That was when I realized, there may not really be anyone there. Here’s a link to the full version, Full Version-Fear and Faith part 2.

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Society Changes

Society adapts over the years. Styles change like the seasons. Hemlines, sleeve lengths, fabric weights, these are all expressions we allow ourselves as humans.

Religion constrains. The Bible has strict guidelines, laws not generalizations . The rules don’t adapt. They are like a Polaroid snapshot that over time loses its relevance. 20 years ago that was a crisp photo of you in front of your first car. The memory is forever etched in your mind as well as on the photo. The car however is not as relevant. If you have it still today, it’s taken some work to keep it looking new. And if you compare it to the cars on the highway, no matter how good of shape it’s in, it’s not a current model.

Here are a few misquoted and misunderstood “truths”

  • Jesus taught us to love our neighbors. He was referring to the old testament’s teaching of taking care of your own family and tribe.  Under Jewish customs, you never charged usury or interest to your people, the Jews.
  • Jesus taught others to walk the extra mile as a way to get along in society. His homeland was overrun by multiple armies. To stay alive, it was better to swallow your pride and walk the extra mile. It wasn’t about love for a foreigner. And it wasn’t about loving your neighbor.
  • Religion meets the need of governing people to build society. It’s an infrastructure of the people. That was its original purpose, as well as to explain all the unexplained. Thunder is a god bowling.
  • I once believed that Christianity was God reaching out to man instead of man reaching God. We have the only divine word and the only instance of God reaching out to man.  All religions claim this.  In Judaism,  God spoke to Abram. And Mohammed. And Oral Roberts. And the crazy lady that drowned her children.
  • God doesn’t change. But I can read many times over that God changes his mind. If he keeps changing his mind, then who’s to know what to believe? Paul’s teachings don’t match those of most Christians today, but they are still considered the words of God. So who is wrong? Society, modern Christianity or the older teachings?
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Inconvenient Religion

“The reason you don’t believe in god is because he is inconvenient.” I have heard this many times as a rebuttal to why a person chooses not to believe in any gods, specifically their god.

Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. Romans 1:28 NIV

TruthConvenient. Not long ago the elite believed that only whites inherited eternal life. I’m not sure where that leaves the Italians and the Spanish, or even the Jewish who evangelized religion and the knowledge of eternal life. Of course, the white men believed this when facing the natives of the Americas and the aboriginals of Australia. Whites were superior, and all others had no souls. All others were beasts alive only to live out their lusts, like dogs.

Ironic. It’s ironic that today you can take your pooch and have it blessed at a local church. Fluffy can spend eternity with you. All dogs do go to heaven, right? That leaves cats outside the gates.

God wills it. Why were these things believed? Are there writings by God stating this? It was believed because it was convenient. The only way to conquer a nation is to wipe out those living there. To conquer, to subordinate, you have to put your foot on the other’s neck and show no mercy. If you see the natives as animals, it’s very convenient.

The question I want to ask other people is, “Do you believe what you believe because it’s convenient?” My lack of belief these last few years hasn’t been convenient for me. It’s been excruciatingly inconvenient. But the truth is rarely convenient.

Strange beliefs

  • Touching a dead body defiles you
  • Women and lesser men are soulless
  • Praying to an ordained man will make you clean
  • Water can be made holy
  • Holy water can save your child from hell

and this is the one that starts it all

  • People are born full of sin and must be saved

New beliefs

  • I was born loved and whole
  • Belief should be personal, not a militant stance
  • If I harm someone, I ask forgiveness of that person
  • Water is good to drink and to wash my body with
  • My body is holy, and it is mine to enjoy
  • Children should choose their lives
  • Sprinkling only gets babies wet
  • Some people are flawed and need help
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