This is why I blog about religion

Sometimes I wonder why I bother blogging about religion and atheism. Does it really matter if I read and talk about religions I don’t even believe in anyway? I used to believe in God, after all, so why I don’t just let bygones be bygones, leave religion alone, and post about something a little more entertaining, like funny animal videos on YouTube! It’d be a lot cheerier, and I’m sure I’d get a lot more traffic on my blog.

Then I see something like this letter to the editor, and I remember why I blog.

This letter to the editor is why I write my blog. I saw this posted on the site of fellow atheist blogger Jason Mosler. Sure, it’d be easy to laugh this letter off as just the rantings of some religious nut. But reading it a second time, it disturbed me on a number of levels.

This is a real person, Alice, writing to a real small-town newspaper in Alaska just a few years ago (January 2007). Alice honestly thinks that:

  • People who don’t believe in God should be “kicked [out] of the country“.
  • The United States is based on the principle that you “must believe” in God.
  • You can believe in God “any way you want“, but Alice only cites mainstream Christian denominations as examples of acceptable beliefs
  • Atheists practice “evil“, although it is not explained what this means
  • Atheists are responsible for the “ruin” of America and for crime being “rampant“, even “if they have never committed a crime“.

People like Alice are the reason I write this blog. Her religion has closed her mind so much that I’m sure she doesn’t even realize how hate-filled and out-of-touch with reality her letter is. For all we know, Alice is like many Christians: a kind-hearted, generous person in her day-to-day life who truly wants to do what’s right. But because her religion has taught her that people who don’t believe in her god are “evil”, all critical thought stops. She says and thinks the most horrible things because she knows she is right. Crime is up, atheists are in America, my faith says atheists are bad, so atheists are to blame and must be kicked out of society.

If Alice is like most people, she did not choose her religion growing up, but was brought up in a community that is largely if not exclusively Christian. She may never have met an open atheist in her life, but her faith has her so convinced that atheists are the cause of society’s ills that everything she sees (from currency to crime reports) serves to prove it to her. It would likely be difficult if not impossible to convince her otherwise.

We should feel sorry for Alice, for her head being filled with such hateful nonsense based on a book of fairy tales written thousands of years ago. But at the same time, I think we should also have a healthy dose of fear. We live in a society where it is still perfectly acceptable in many circles to openly hate and wish harm on people who don’t believe in God. And that is scary. There are unfortunately still people who think that Jews or Blacks, for example, should be kicked out of the country, but would a letter to the editor blaming Jews for America’s problems saying they should all be sent to Israel be published in a newspaper? Thankfully, there is very little chance of that happening. It’s no longer acceptable to openly say such things in society about most minority groups. But for some reason, it’s still okay to say just about anything you want about atheists, no matter how bigoted or unsupported it is. Many readers I’m sure said or thought “Amen” upon reading Alice’s letter.

Anti-atheist sentiment is what is “rampant” in our country these days. As long as there are people who believe that non-believers are evil and don’t deserve to be citizens, then my blog has a purpose. People need to know that religion is brainwashing good people into believing nonsense and spreading hate. There are people who strongly believe that atheists don’t deserve the same rights as everyone else, some of whom are actively trying to push their bigoted beliefs onto the country as a whole.

If even one believer sees this post and thinks about their belief, or one non-believer realizes how important it is to help change minds about atheists, then writing this blog is definitely worth it.

Fourth of July — Celebrate true freedom

When I was out and about recently, I saw this church marquee.

As with many church marquees, I assume it’s meant to be a clever reference to both God and a topical issue, in this case Independence Day / The 4th of July in the US and being Jesus freeing us from sin, or something similar I would guess.

But is being a Christian really about celebrating freedom? If you actually read the Bible, it talks a lot about slavery, going as far as to say that we should serve God as a slave!

Ephesians 6:6Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. (Scripture quotation taken from the New American Standard Bible, NASB . )

This is the New Testament we’re talking about here, not the endless rules about what you can and can’t due to slaves in the Old Testament. We are to be "slaves of Christ ", according to the Bible.

The King James Version would have you believe it’s "servant", but if you check nearly all more modern versions, you will see "slave" as the translation. It seems clear to me from this and other contexts that it means "slave." You’re not just supposed to serve God, you’re are a slave unto the Lord. You must serve him! "Down on your knees! ", as proclaims the song "O Holy Night."

Can one find "true freedom" in being a slave?? Slavery is freedom apparently, according to this church; sounds Orwellian to me.

To me, freedom means making up your own mind about what you believe or don’t believe, what religion if any you will choose, who you love or don’t love, who you marry or don’t marry (and whether or not you can get divorced if the need arises), without the threat of eternal punishment looming over you.

Some more liberal Christians would argue that God is love and grants us all these things because he loves us; and some may say that hell doesn’t even exist, or is only for truly evil people (even some non-believers and pets can come along). But that’s the thing: the United States doesn’t have freedom of religion (and from it ) because some god gave it to us.

We, just like many other nations around the world, created our own government. We are only truly free when we take our lives into our own hands and decide for ourselves what our destiny will be. For me, that means breaking away from the chains of religious dogma and being a freethinker.

On the 4th of July I will celebrate true freedom: the freedom to not be a slave to any god or government, the freedom to think and say what I believe. Now that’s something worth celebrating this 4th of July.

Genesis 6 — Sons of god, weird His floody word

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Genesis 6 — Sons of god, weird His floody word

The "perfect" Bible in Genesis 6 starts out with a bunch of nonsense that still hasn’t been completely deciphered by anyone. I’ll cite the NIV this time, so its language is an easier read for modern English speakers:

"When men began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of men were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. […] The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when
the sons of God went to the daughters of men and had children by them.
They were the heroes of old, men of renown."
(Genesis 6:1-2, 4)

So what’s going on here? The Bible does not tell us who the "sons of God" are (some say angels, though the Bible doesn’t support this), who the "daughters of men" are (human women?), or who these "Nephilim" are (the KJV calls them "giants"; are they tell humans or a different race?), or what their offspring were (half-angel-half-humans and half-giant-half-humans; were they demigods???)

Most translations also hide the fact that there is strong evidence for Hebrew polytheism in the Bible: the word "Elohim" is being used here for God. This is a word that is contrasted with the word "Yahweh" in Job. Many Christians are aware of the quote "Let us make man in our image "
(Genesis 1:26, KJV). Well, Elohim is used there and here in the original Hebrew. It’s a plural and is distinct from Yahweh in other parts of the Bible (e.g. Job 1).

In any case, no one knows for sure what on Earth (or heaven) Genesis is talking about in these verses. An informal discussion of these beings (also in relation to God and Satan talking in Job) can be found here in the SAB blog, Dwindling in Unbelief. My comment goes into more detail about what I’ve been able to figure out about these beings from among this biblical nonsense.

Maybe this is why God decided to order a flood, he/they just had too hard a time keeping all these crazy different beings straight and decided to start over?!?

But the reason given is that man was just too evil, and there was too much violence on the planet. God’s solution to this problem, like many others in the Bible, involves…violence. Fight fire with fire, I guess. Or in this case, water. God wants to start off with a clean slate, and decides to kill offf humanity. Nothing solves a problem like a good mass murder. He chooses though to save one family: Noah’s. Noah apparently was "perfect" (KJV) or "blameless" (NIV) and the best human God could find at the time — so good, that God "walked" with him. So we are all directly descended from the late, great Noah, according to the Bible.

God commands Noah to put his and his children’s families in a big wooden boat, and to bring two of every animal as well as all food. Reasonable people realize it would be impossible to put two of every animal and all their food into one boat for a number of reasons (space, weight, etc .). There are some people though who are too endoctrinated and honestly believe it must be true somehow, despite explanations.

I guess if you believe the rest of the Bible, this isn’t too hard to accept. With God, all things are possible, including a physics-defying boat and viciously killing nearly all humans, animals, and other life on Earth in a flood.

PS Scripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. All rights reserved.