Category Archives: Christianity
That pious little gerbil Ken Ham has gotten my goat again.
In a desperate effort to inflate ticket numbers for his 100 million-dollar boondoggle of a boat that’s got Kentucky officials wondering what they are subsidizing and why, he’s decided to attack the public school system for not allowing trips to the Ark Encounter.
Naturally, he’s blaming atheists for this, even though we’ve had separation of church and state since the conception of this country. It’s been litigated and has stood solidly for over 50 years as a simple matter; the church needs to stay out of the public schools because they are government entities because the Constitution directs us in that way. Not everyone believes the same way and that is that.
If you can give Christians one thing in this world, it’s their determination.
Before I get on with the business of picking on Ken Ham, a local aside.
You’re all familiar with that saying from Proverbs in the bibble that suggests if you don’t hit your kids, you hate them, right? It’s more popularly known as the “spare the rod, spoil the child” proverb. Whether Solomon was implicitly saying that you need to beat your kids or not is immaterial; it has been interpreted as a green light from God to do so, and that is what matters.
Well, in a part of Columbia County, Georgia that we here like to pretend doesn’t exist called Hephzibah, a certain charter school has decided that parents have two choices for their recalcitrant children; get suspended for a significant amount of time, or take a paddling.
Yes. That’s still a thing that can happen in America in 2018. And I have no problem laying this at the feet of Christianity. I’m pretty sure Dr. Spock for one did not approve of it. Most of today’s psychologists don’t. Now, I am not saying that all child whupping is Christian in nature. I’m an atheist with two boys, and when I lost control of a situation I was a hitter. I will have to live with the possibility I have traumatized them for the rest of my life. Thankfully, they say they don’t remember. But I will never really know what I may have done. However, I never thought it was God’s command that I strike them. That’s institutionalized child abuse. And that’s what I think is happening in that little charter. We’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve to stop this, but perhaps the international scrutiny they are receiving will shame them into abandoning the punishment. I won’t hold my breath.
This is my way of getting to the point that Christians in America can’t help themselves from inserting their beliefs and practices into institutions that serve everyone. It’s not fair, it’s rude, often morally objectionable and it makes you all look like jerks.
So now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, back to Ken Ham, who somehow thinks he and his fellow believers are being “bullied” because an atheist drew a bright line in the sand that school trips to the Ark and other religiously themed attractions are a no-no. There were also mentions of the rules regarding the newfangled flagpole prayers and the opt-out from the pledge. Now generally, atheists do not draw first blood-we don’t get all bent out of shape until someone bends us. So I’m going to assume that Mr. Pike had good reason to be concerned. He appears to have chosen the counties to warn carefully. Here’s a copy of his letter to the schools, you can judge for yourself if this meets the definition of “bullying”. It’s clear the letter is based on legitimate LEGAL concerns-these possible violations were “brought to his attention”, and that certain Kentucky schools needed to be mindful of separation issues.
Again, the first impulse for Christians is to push, and then push some more, then more until someone tells them to stop. The Law (our properly secular law) is the only thing stopping them from forcing your child’s participation in all Christian activities-and screw who you are or if you believe otherwise. They will take it as far as they can until you metaphorically bop them in the nose and say enough.
Kinda makes you wonder who the “bullies” are, if there are any here at all.
But anyway, Ken’s one stubborn son of a bitch-no one can seem to get him to understand that atheism (and it’s purported doctrine, evolution) is not a religion. Perhaps it is mere disingenuousness, for if he cannot call atheism a religion, he cannot insist that allowing children to learn about other religions like Christianity is only fair. I’d like to say Ken is just a cheap bullshit peddler con artist like all the rest, but he spends a tremendous amount of nervous energy defending biblical literalism and challenging scientists to debates. It’s all quite absurd and self-serving, kind of like religion itself. What to do with a believer who thinks that we are afraid of their message because it’s so powerful? Many atheists will tell you that the #1 cause for their atheism is Christianity.
I guess the answer is to laugh for now, but with “religious freedom” popping up more frequently in legislation, the courts, the markets and in public service where everyone expects that the law be executed, nonbelievers might do well to go on offense soon, as uncomfortable as that may be. Because the new barbarians are at the gates.
It’s so easy to be misunderstood online.
For example, I’ve been married for 16 years (I hope I did that math right) and my wife and I still mistake each other’s tone in private messengers sometimes because of the way we typed something. Not being able to hear something or looking at a facial gesture can make humor fall flat or even make compliments sound like barbs. There’s a million ways to be taken wrong when we talk by computer.
Now that we are in the accursed age of social media, there are new opportunities to be completely misunderstood, especially when you use it to promote your worldview or try to use your presence as a platform for information. It’s the kind of shit that can break families up if you aren’t careful sharing your convictions. It has definitely ended its share of friendships.
I had a horrendous collision in 2010 on Facebook with an acquaintance from high school. We did not talk in high school but we had a mutual friend and I found her somewhat witty. So I asked for friendship status, and she accepted. I was posting about politics back then as I do now. A few days into our friendship, I called Allen West, a black conservative, an “Oreo”.
For those of us who are new to him, Allen West is an asshole who deserves all the opprobrium we can muster. He’s wrong all day long, often offensively so. But my new friend, a white woman, called me a racist for using the term “Oreo” and unfriended me publicly. I was so confused, raw and hurt. What was worse is that I was having emergent mental health issues and I made a big scene trying to get back at her from calling me that. I felt like she didn’t know me or who the hell I was writing about and therefore she should have shut her politically correct trap. Anyone who knows me knows I am not racist, I reasoned. And anybody who had been following me over the course of my social media career could have understood that. So in the white light of my mind she had a lot of fucking nerve. But, looking back, maybe it’s true that the jibe doesn’t belong to me and I don’t say it anymore just in case. My bedrock grownup principle is that of Hippocrates: to first do no harm.
That being said, I still can’t seem to avoid being provocative on the book of faces in 2018. Most people are used to me going on and on ad infinitum about bad shit happening in the world and suffer me politely or agree with me. Those who don’t do not last long on my page. But in addition to being a red diaper baby politically, I am a proud atheist. And sometimes I like to post Christians Gone Wild. That’s when a Christian person says or does manifestly un-Christlike things. And there’s no shortage of offenders. These people sicken me with their hate and piety. I usually try to deal with them by way of mockery but sometimes the shit makes me mad. Anyway someone I barely know again came from out of nowhere and insinuated that I was being a judgy asshole in the course of pointing out that judgy Christian assholes were saying terrible things about the memory of Anthony Bourdain, who led a life of love, indulgence, and acclamation but could not escape the scourge of depression.
This is not the first time I have upset a Christian on my feed. I almost stopped talking to my younger brother over the subject of religion at a couple of junctures. My family is very, very Christian. And I have gotten into it with him several times over what I am doing when I highlight Christian malfeasance and hypocrisy. I was attacking God, I was told, or making Christians or Christianity look bad. But I maintained at the time it was my feed and I would do what the fuck I felt like with it so I told him to shove it. It got out of hand. I kind of had a snit and unfriended him and we fought privately. Thankfully, we’ve reconciled and understand each other better because what we do on Facebook is an insufficient reason to lose family over. Through him, I learned to let up on my more controversial commentary. You all should see what I don’t post.
But anyway, back to today. I was accused of general hypocrisy and intolerance and then my antagonist disappeared. I didn’t understand where she was coming from at all. Karl Popper has a paradox about intolerance-namely, that you don’t need to tolerate it. I live by that shit. Since our little public row we have also quietly reconciled, and I think we are going to have a much better relationship than the tenuous one we had before we misunderstood each other online.
But it’s time I explained what I’m up to when I criticize Christianity publicly. Some of the reasons I do it are, I’ll admit freely, a little close to home. I grew up Catholic but the family went Assemblies Of God when I was 12, a novel movement in the 1980s. The difference between the solemnity of mass and the booming, surreal party that was a service in the Assemblies could not have been starker. We loved it, the rock, the dance, the tongues, the hands upraised, the mass hysteria of it all. The bathtub behind the pulpit below the giant wooden cross was a source of unceasing curiosity for me, and I was soon dunked in it to be born again. I was ON FIRE for God, if you can imagine that. In time, I would eventually read The Bible all the way through, something I’d have never done in the dreary days of CCD. I was ministering to my family and leading nightly devotions. This new Christianity was something my family could bond over, which was good because we didn’t get along very well outside of that.
Without going into too much boring detail, I slowly discovered that Christians were not special. It had marginal success in changing people fundamentally. Moreover, no matter how hard I tried, I could not hear the voice of God. Tried to speak in tongues and could not let go and babble. Tried to listen and only heard myself. I was reading Nietzsche and other accounts of the human experience and my identity was soon shattered. There were many ways to think about the world all of a sudden and there was something compelling about that.
I was Done, unable to go back to faith, like a bell that can’t be unrung. And really, that is one of the things that actually makes me happy inside. I feel good because I learned I am a good person (good enough, that is) without needing to be told. I love this life. There will never be a shortage of things to learn about in this age of technological miracles. Death may be difficult to navigate knowing you will never be the organized bag of biological goo that you are now ever again but I don’t care if you think you’ll wake up on the other side, it’s probably a terrifying process for anyone. After a safe, long life mostly full of abundance in a First World country with sons (and grandkids, maybe!) and a loving partner/friend it would be greedy of me to ask for more. We may go to our end not understanding this life completely, but that’s OK. Certainty is an illusion. The joke is on our big-brained species. We’ll only ever know a sliver of what’s actually going on at any given time. The best you can do is try to leave this mess a little better than when you found it.
Sometimes I get a little too prideful about my lack of faith and I want to let my little snarky light shine. But it’s not all beer and skittles. Nonbelief is not without its own set of problems, because Christians by and large distrust atheists and eight out of ten of you in America are Christian. We are generally not welcome in your midst, often thought of as demon-possessed and of evil intent. We are a minority, and all the requisite problems of being one come with the territory of being an atheist. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am SO glad I live here and now because I could be stretched on a rack in harsher times or get my head chopped off in other parts of the world today for disbelief. Still, we and minority faiths are repeatedly disrespected in the public sphere regularly by Christians, because so often you go out of your way to push salvation upon those who do not feel they need saving-and while I understand that you’ve been charged to do this by your bible, it would be better for all to let people be people and that way we learn to live with each other instead of against each other-first do no harm. I won’t survive to see an atheist president. Neither will my kids, probably. You keep telling them at public school to respect a creator and mix justice with religion by putting slogans on public buildings and vehicles. You invoke gods for wisdom in civic settings. You cite “religious freedom” to discriminate. And you get away with it because you are very clever about how you impress your dominant beliefs upon those who think differently than you.
Of course, not all of you are like this, and I thank God I know you. And you need to know that I am not calling you out when I take bad Christians to task. I’m not even attacking Christianity in just about every case. There’s nothing wrong with it in particular that makes it any worse or any better than any other belief system. What did Thomas Jefferson say? “It does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” I don’t understand why you would get mad at me for pointing out people that make your faith look really bad. I would think, rather, that you should be doubly angry at them instead. Because they won’t go away if you stay silent-they will claim the One True Faith out from under the more tolerant of you. Here’s what I truly do not get-if indeed the word of God is the ultimate word of God, then why are so many crazy, shitty people taking away strange and different things from reading it? I would think that The Word of God would be pretty clear about how to be a Christian, with Him being a god and all. But it’s not, because people still find the basis for hate in his holy name and we all ought to know by now that Christ for the most part wasn’t down with that. The aforementioned Nietzsche was wildly misunderstood and often wrong because like the title of one of his books, he was “human, all too human”. But in my head there should be no erroneous interpretation of God’s will, because a perfect being wouldn’t roll the dice hoping a bunch of half bright monkeys would all catch his drift. Bullet points would probably be far better than verses, Lord, in case a sequel is in the works.
To conclude, I am not your problem. I think it’s the height of offense and vile evilness to say that someone’s loved one is going to hell because he was suidcidal or that he’d be alive if he wasn’t an atheist. Or how about this guy that’s saying homosexuals need to be put to death in the 21st century? That’s everybody’s fucking problem, not just mine or yours and frankly I am trying to sound the call. I don’t have to tolerate any of it, and neither should you. Ignoring will not solve the problem.
For the record, I think Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher are sometimes really shit atheists. I’ve given you a nice headstart so you can post about bad examples of atheists if you want. I promise I will not take it personal.