Seriously thinking about prayer was the tipping point in my religious de-conversion.

I posted about it early and often when I started the Stupid Church People blog. I shared a quote from Karen Armstrong where she writes in “The History of God”:

I wrestled with myself in prayer, trying to force my mind to encounter God, but he remained a stern taskmaster who observed my every infringement of the Rule, or tantalizingly absent. The more I read about the raptures of the saints, the more of a failure I felt. I was unhappily aware that what little religious experience I had, had somehow been manufactured by myself as I worked upon my own feelings and imagination. Sometimes a sense of devotion was an aesthetic response to the beauty of the Gregorian chant and the liturgy. But nothing had actually happened to me from a source beyond myself.

I remember that unhappy feeling when I became truly awake to manufacturing the religious experiences in my life. Then it dawned on me how I had manufactured those experiences for others as a pastor for years.

Religion by and large is a manipulation of emotion, especially in a community or corporate setting. Prayer is used as a primary source of that manipulation.

The podcast we did early on prayer is important because I talk about these feelings openly. The “See You at the Pole” podcast also deals heavily with this subject.

Talking about prayer is a touchy subject because it is so personal to each person who regularly practices it. It’s touchy because pastors rely on it to carry on in front of their congregations as if they have a direct line to God. No one wants to be honest about prayer for fear people will realize the reality of it.

We are just talking to ourselves.

Listen the “Prayer” podcast – recorded October 4, 2005

Emergent Hoo-Haa


First released on June 21, 2005.

This podcast contains the first ever mention of Tony Jones. Those of you in the church world probably know Tony by now, but if you don’t know who he is I suggest you google him for a frame of reference. Anyway, at this time, Josh and I had very little knowledge of the Emergent Church movement. They were just getting onto our radar, and the leaders of the group were (and are) very active on social media. We quickly found ourselves in their cross-hairs as they were seeking to engage those in a “conversation” about what emergent was and wasn’t.

To us, Emergent was no different than any other church movement in history. It was a new flavor of the church, but in the end it was heading quickly in the same direction as all the rest. And what was that direction? Irrelevance.

I share several quotes from the book “Wineskins”, but none better than this: The Church “continues to brew new wine instead of scrapping the old wine skins”.

Josh and I were so fed up with the church, we didn’t want change or a revolution – but a cataclysm. Sell all the church buildings. No paid pastoral staff and all pastors get “real” jobs. Churches should rid themselves of the “seeker” mentality and stop trying to market to the lowest common denominator. Churches would focus on the poor and spurn building kingdoms to themselves.

Churches and pastors don’t have the balls to be truly biblical. In this way most pastors are no different than I am. They don’t really believe the Bible or they’d lead their churches in the path I describe above. But it’s still a game, a job, a show and a money-grab.

I know these may be hard words for most pastors of small churches to hear. Those that don’t make a lot of money and struggle to get by and do real good work in very difficult places. But even you guys can do better. Actually it’s the small churches that have the best chance to initiate change.

So this podcast was probably one of our finest, because we get to the heart of the matter of what was bugging us about the church. We start to “dialogue” with Tony Jones. It’s starting to get good people. And I’m getting fired up again… so stay tuned.

We Have What We Need

No matter what happened to us in the past, right now we can take responsibility for working compassionately with our habits, our thoughts and emotions. We can take the emphasis off who hurt us and put it on disentangling ourselves. If someone shoots an arrow into my chest, I can let the arrow fester while I scream at my attacker, or I can remove the arrow as quickly as possible. In this very lifetime, I have what it takes to change the movie of my life so that the same things don’t keep happening to me. ~ Pema Chodron (“Taking the Leap”)

I love this teaching. This is the realization that we are stronger than we often think and we do not have to look outside of ourselves for strength to get through whatever is in our life at the moment.

Muslims are just like Christians

CONSIDER: every devout Muslim has the same reasons for being a Muslim that you have for being a Christian. And yet you do not find their reasons compelling. The Koran repeatedly declares that it is the perfect word of the creator of the universe. Muslims believe this as fully as you believe the Bible’s account of itself. There is a vast literature describing the life of Muhammad that, from the point of view of Islam, proves that he was the most recent Prophet of God. Muhammad also assured his followers that Jesus was not divine (Koran 5:71; 19:30-38) and that anyone who believes otherwise will spend eternity in hell. Muslims are certain that Muhammad’s opinion on this subject, as on all others, is infallible.

“Why don’t you (Christians) lose any sleep over whether to convert to Islam? Can you prove that Allah is not the one, true God? Can you prove that the archangel Gabriel did not visit Muhammad in his cave? Of course not. But you need not prove any of these things to reject the beliefs of Muslims as absurd. The burden is upon them to prove that their beliefs about God and Muhammad are valid. They have not done this. They cannot do this. Muslims are simply not making claims about reality that can be corroborated. This is perfectly apparent to anyone who has not anesthetized himself with the dogma of Islam.

The truth is, you know exactly what it is like to be an atheist with respect to the beliefs of Muslims. Isn’t it obvious that Muslims are fooling themselves? Isn’t it obvious that anyone who thinks that the Koran is the perfect word of the creator of the universe has not read the book critically? Isn’t it obvious that the doctrine of Islam represents a near-perfect barrier to honest inquiry? Yes, these things are obvious. Understand that the way you view Islam is precisely the way devout Muslims view Christianity. And it is the way I view all religions.” – Sam Harris writing in ‘LETTER TO A CHRISTIAN NATION.

Early on in college I had a crush on a girl who was a Muslim. We studied together, hung out together and really got along well. She was not only beautiful but made me laugh and feel very good about myself. I liked her a lot.

But being a Christian, studying for the ministry and being a leader in my church, it was wrong to even consider a relationship with her. One day we were sharing a meal after class and it came to the subject of our religious differences. It was a topic we avoided for obvious reasons, but on this day we were putting our cards on the table. She asked me if I thought she was going to hell and I remember quite vividly telling her that based on what the Bible said, she was. The conversation went on, her trying to convince me to be open-minded on the subject and consider that maybe I was wrong. It never occurred to me to listen to her views on faith, because in my mind there was no debate.

After that night, I saw her around school but we never talked much again. That’s really sad when I think about it.

Church People Say Some Dumb Sh*t

In recent blog banter with some Christians on Tony Jones blog there were some things said that just make me shake my head.

I’m not righteous Steve, only Christ was righteous (and because He took my sin, so am I by extension). ~Darius

Seriously, this guy said he wasn’t righteous and in the same sentence claimed righteousness. This particular blogger was calling out the evil actions of another which I said was pretty typical of people who claimed to be righteous. This was his defense. Now that’s some dumb sh*t.

I’d prefer that he preach THE Gospel AND live it out. That would be ideal. Second best is to preach THE Gospel and not always live it out (which is applies to pretty much every Christian). Third best is to not believe THE Gospel. Worst is to preach a false Gospel. ~Darius

This is in response to banter surrounding Jim Wallis where Darius had said he didn’t care if he (Jim Wallis) lives out the gospel, if he’s preaching the wrong one it doesn’t matter. For the original post go here. Anyway, I just think it’s crazy for anyone to claim to know what’s what when it comes to religious beliefs. It’s belief not certainty. The best you are doing is making an educated guess based on your viewpoint and limited (very limited) understanding. We are all doing the same thing.

It’s amazing how much church people are subject to their own language. But I’m know it’s a cultural thing. I work in IT and I know that we have our own internal language. Same goes for the people within varying industries and other professions. My teenage son says things to his friends and I am certain they are speaking a foreign language sometimes. But the difference with a lot of church people is they supposedly have a message that they want to proclaim to the world in a relevant way. It’s their mandate to proclaim this message to others. Problem is, it only makes sense to them. Now that’s some dumb sh*t.

Romans… and the entire New Testament is pretty clear on this point. That’s not to say that there aren’t other facets to the atonement, such as Christus Victor, ransom theory, etc. But those all stem out of PSA (penal substitutionary atonement), at least as it regards how one can be saved. In another sense, CV is the main component of the atonement since the Bible seems to state that God’s primary purpose in creating humanity and dying for it was to make Satan look bad in the end and show just how glorious God really is. ~Darius

Huh? Damn, maybe it’s not dumb sh*t after all. This guy sounds pretty smart huh? I guess I’m too stupid to be saved.

“You can’t miss it…”

“…when I tell you it’s there.”

That’s a quote from this talk from TED featuring Michael Shermer. He is the publisher of Skeptic Magazine and here he discusses “Strange Beliefs”.

UFO’s, Mother Mary on a cheese sandwich, tributes to Satan in music lyrics… all of these can be traced back to seeing whatever you want to see. The mind can be tricked easily and it’s really a shame if we don’t recognize that.

The church often takes advantage of these principles when presenting their weekly messages and music presentations. Weekend retreats and camps can capitalize on the phenomenon. The revival pastors of my youth made a living on “telling us it was there”.

This video is an entertaining and light-hearted look at the subject of “belief” and the ways we are actually programmed to see what we want to see, even if it isn’t there.