Just Say No to Faith

Continuing my review of this talk by Dr. Peter Boghossian about faith, he uses one word during his talk that will cause many to scoff at his assertions. He calls people of faith “delusional”. This isn’t a popular notion, but following the logic he offers during his talk, I have to agree with him again.

The use of the word “delusional” when referring to people of faith may seem unkind, but it’s not. It’s nothing personal at all, although I am certain it feels that way. However, at this point in time, I am no longer concerned with the feelings of those who believe, even though I have many friends and family members who do. I am concerned with the facts of the matter and they are this: If you make untestable and unbelievable claims about God or the Bible or matters of faith, the burden of proof is on you to convince me otherwise.

Boghossian puts it more plainly. He says there are three distinct facts about those who follow faith traditions:

  1. There are multiple and various faith traditions.
  2. People of the various faith traditions sincerely believe them.
  3. People make competing claims about faith traditions.

This much we do know about these various faith traditions: They cannot ALL be true. It’s not simply that these competing claims are false says Boghossian, but that these claims are delusional.

Delusions are defined by Karl Jaspers using three criteria:

  • certainty (held with absolute conviction)
  • incorrigibility (not changeable by compelling counterargument or proof to the contrary)
  • impossibility or falsity of content (implausible, bizarre or patently untrue)

Certainly Jaspers criteria has come under much critique, specifically regarding religious belief in God which is excluded since it cannot be proven not to be true. Or can it?

Personally speaking, growing up as a Christian, I certainly believed that other faith traditions could be considered delusional. Mormonism is considered a cult by Christians. Seriously, how could anyone believe the story of Joseph Smith?

As pointed out by Boghossian, the Christian faith tradition scrutinizes the Mormon faith with reason and evidence, but doesn’t apply the same reason and evidence to their own faith.  Why did I grow up seeing other faiths and their practices delusional but not my own?

Boghossian offers a couple of reasons:

  1. Conviction: The strength of my belief in my faith, not the truth of my faith. This is summed up simply with the Christian catch phrase: The Bible says it… I believe it… that settles it!
  2. Inerrant: One way to affirm that your religion is perfect, is to only read and endorse that which reinforces it. The Southern Baptist faith I grew up in saw this as a non-negotiable for good reason. Church attendance and indoctrination were a must.

The ultimate trajectory (as Boghossian calls it) is that a person raised like I was will grow to think that my faith is true (because I believe it) and I will think that my faith is beneficial to me (in other words, I’m no good without it). It’s the ultimate co-dependency in which most believers are trapped.

If there’s anything I’ve learned since letting go of my faith, it’s this: Faith in Jesus doesn’t make me a better person. Lack of faith in Jesus doesn’t make me a bad person. There is zero correlation.

This speech by Boghossian encouraged me to be more bold in my unbelief. He encouraged me to speak to people of faith and to be honest, blunt, direct and truthful. For me this is very challenging and I’m not sure why. It doesn’t really effect me that other people believe in things I no longer do, but when their belief infringes on my own I should not just acquiesce to them to save their feelings. To not speak up is to not be honest about who I am and that is someone who has moved beyond faith.

Boghossian closes by offering advice to people of faith to jettison their beliefs and just say NO to faith. The number one step to leaving one’s faith he suggests is admitting there are things you just don’t know.

I couldn’t agree more.

Warren’s War of Religious Freedom

warren1-e1346793197690-225x300Rick Warren has a new war: A war of religious freedom.

He shared this in a column in the Orange County Register where it was announced that he was canceling the Presidential Civil Forum that he held during the past election due to the “uncivil discourse between the campaigns”. He used this opportunity to promote his event to address the restrictions of religious expression within America today.

Now let’s overlook the fact that a month prior to canceling the Presidential Civil Forum, both campaigns had already decided not to attend. Moreover, after Warren’s announcement for the reasons for canceling the forum, both campaigns explained their positionswhich calls into question the truthfulness of Warren’s statements. Let’s be honest, we’ve got pastors and politicians involved here, so I doubt either side is telling the truth. So let’s move along to the most interesting part of the story for me.

In an interview with the Register, regarding his forum on religious freedom, Warren makes the following assertions:

“[The larger issue] is the crumbling of our Constitution’s first guaranteed freedom: the freedom of religion. This issue is more significant and has far greater implications for America’s future. Freedom of religion is… mentioned in the Bill of Rights – before freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble and every other freedom.

And yet today, at the city, the state and the federal levels, government bureaucrats are daily trying to limit that freedom, impose restrictions and stifle expressions of faith on campuses, in hospitals and in businesses. There are widespread attempts to redefine the First Amendment to simply mean “You are free to believe anything at your place of worship, but you are not free to practice your conscience elsewhere.”

The Constitution doesn’t just guarantee your freedom to worship; it guarantees you freedom from government intervention in you daily living out what you believe.”

In typical Warren hyperbolic fashion, he states that freedom of religion is “crumbling”. He infers that the big bad government is trying to keep you from expressing your personal faith and beliefs. He also says that freedom of religion has far greater implications for America’s future and that since it is mentioned first, it is more important than the freedom of speech, a free press, the right to assemble and – get this – every other freedom! Being an opportunistic literalist, Warren assumes that because something is mentioned first it is most important as opposed to being equally important. I should only need to mention the Ten Commandments to illustrate the fallacy of his logic.

Warren also fails to acknowledge or respect that prior to stating that government should not prohibit the free exercise of religion, it guarantees that the government should make no law establishing a religion. It appears the Bill of Rights is asserting that government is to be neutral on the subject of religion, not promoting it or preventing individuals from exercising it.

Freedom of religion doesn’t guarantee that a public school teacher can lead her class in prayer any more than freedom of speech allows for libel and slander of another human being. Warren knows this and is being disingenuous in promoting the idea that people are legitimately being limited in the practicing of their beliefs outside of their place of worship. This is blatantly false and he offers no proof of such. Instead he gives this ludicrous analogy:

“If the government suddenly decreed that all Jewish delis must now offer pork, you’d find me opposing that with my rabbi friends. I don’t have a problem with pork, but I support your right to follow your faith”

In perfect political posturing, what Warren is referring to is the recent debate regarding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) which mandates institutions provide coverage for birth control or sterilization, even if they are a religious group. Warren is opposed to this and said he would rather face jail time than support such a mandate by the government. Warren’s war seems to be as much with Obama as anything else:

“President Obama’s policies clearly shows what he values, and I have told him that I adamantly disagree with those particular policies.”

Warren can’t be further from the truth when he says that government is daily trying to limit our freedoms. On the contrary, it is the establishment and endorsement of religion by our government that should be our concern. As an example, the motto “In God We Trust” being placed recently in the City Hall of Anaheim as it is in 16 other cities in Orange County, California. Or, the attempt to institute prayer to mark the beginning of city, state or national government gatherings. Or, as we’ve more recently seen, the plethora of city seals that contain religious symbols (mainly crosses). All of these are attempts by the government to implicitly or explicitly promote religion.

Warren seems to think that freedom means that there are no limits. Freedom of religion for Warren means the freedom to do whatever you want with your religion, especially it seems, when you are the majority. This is incorrect. Warren is correct when he says this: The First Amendment does simply mean that you are free to believe anything you want at your place of worship. What he needs to understand is this: You are free to practice your conscience elsewhere, but not anywhere or anytime you please.

Chick-Fil-hAters

chick-fil-a-kiss-278x300Chick-Fil-A’s President Dan Cathy has every right to express his personal opinion regarding gay marriage.

Chick-Fil-A spokesman Don Perry says this:  “The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of belief, creed and sexual orientation…”

The company may be willing to serve gays at their counters and take their money, but then use the proceeds from that money to fight gay marriage and support other anti-gay legislation – all funneled through charitable donations to groups like the Family Research Council.

I find that highly hypocritical and unethical.

A phrase comes to mind: “like whitewashed tombs… full of dead men’s bones”.

Dan Cathy has brought this attention to his own front door, and as a result, people like myself will vote with my pocketbook and no longer frequent their restaurant in support of my gay and lesbian friends.

Faith Based Thinking is Unreliable

Dr. Peter Boghossian says that “faith based thinking is unreliable” in his recent lecture and I agree with him.

The question he asks is: “Are some ways of solving problems better than other ways of solving problems?” The answer is obviously yes. To support this, he gives a simple example.

If you want to know the measurement of a door, there are many ways you could go about getting the answer. You could ask your dog. You could sacrifice a goat to the gods. Or, you could use a tape measure. Those, among a multitude of others, are all ways of solving the problem you have in front of you. Of those three choices, obviously one is better than the rest.

The believers that I know, grab the tape measure, ask their dog to bless the measurement they are about to take and then take their measurement. Afterwards, they would give their dog the glory for the correct measurement they have received.

I would argue that most Christians are smart enough to not use faith on it’s own in resolving their problems. They use faith as a crutch, or as a way of making them feel better, or relieved, or whatever they need to get them through the problems they face. I just wish they’d be more honest about it.

It’s Not All Relative

Recently, I watched a lecture by Dr. Peter Boghossian entitled “Jesus, the Easter Bunny, and Other Delusions: Just Say No!”. There was plenty of information to work through in his talk, most of which I agreed. Most of all, I was encouraged by his words. I hope to write about several points I enjoyed in the next few posts.

The first thing out of the gate that Boghossian mentioned was that “relativists will not be persuaded” by his lecture. Relativists believe that all points of view are equally valid. If you have every tried convincing a relativist of anything, it can be the ultimate experience of frustration.

I am finding more and more Christians, rather than abandoning their own faith, are becoming relativists. This was a phase that I went through after leaving the church, thinking that everyone has their own truth and God was big enough to figure it all out. I understood enough to know that I didn’t have all the answers nor could I proclaim exclusivity of my Christian beliefs, and I was more than willing to expand my “God” circle to include those from multiple faiths.

This made me appear “open-minded”. However, it’s actually the opposite. Relativism is just as “close minded” as absolutism. It’s a conversation stopper. If everyone’s faith is true, then what is there to discuss? Most people prefer not to be challenged or think through the ramifications of their beliefs. Relativism is a belief system that pleases everyone and no one at the same time.

The first step to being free from faith and living a life of reason is to stop trying to accommodate everyone. Not everyone’s point of view is valid. Everyone who has faith, regardless of where that faith is based, isn’t right..

There are things that are true and can be proven and things that cannot. The answer for those things that cannot be proven isn’t to accept everyone’s explanation (or even your own) as valid. It’s to admit you do not know.

I Feel He Is Risen

Every Christian holiday is the same, but this one seems more “in my face”. I blame it on Facebook since I am certain that most of my friends wouldn’t physically walk up to me and say, “Hello, He is risen” . They also wouldn’t have the impulse to show me 27 pictures of their stinky infant with mashed potatoes on his face, but that’s Facebook for you.

This morning I wake up at 7:00 and roll over, grab my phone to check the actual time and, as I am in a habit of doing check my email (for work reasons) and then Facebook (for personal reasons). There it is… over and over again.

“He is risen”.

“1 Cross + 3 Nails = 4 Given”

“Thank you for redeeming me. I love you Jesus.”

It’s Easter Sunday I am reminded not so subtly. My Christian friends want to share how much Easter means to them as they celebrate this day. But do they even know what they are proclaiming outside the talking points of their religious expressions? Do they understand the many theories of atonement throughout history? Do they care?

I care. And so today, I pulled out my systematic theology books and begin wading through the theories of atonement. I am only partially through this process and it is very apparent thus far that you have many choices. The most prevalent current thought that most of my Christian friends seem to believe is the one I was raised with and is expressed in the thought: “Thank you for redeeming me”.

There are thousands and thousands of articles and books written on “atonement theory” and the veracity of these claims and the corresponding evidence for and against them. They are still discussed ad nauseam at seminaries, in books, religious journals and on blogs. None of them mean anything to average people. Maybe they should but they don’t.

For the average Christian who writes, “He is risen” on their Facebook wall, none of what has been written theologically matters one way or another. They believe in the risen Christ because they just feel it to be true. They’ve experienced the love of Jesus in their life and nothing could change their mind. “He is alive” they say.

For me, the fact that there is an ever-changing climate surrounding the theological theories of atonement is a problem for the Christian church. The 2,000 year old resurrection story is written for those who lived in superstitious times with superstitious minds. The ideas of slavery, redemption, justice and the costs involved are much more evolved now than they were then. Theologians are constantly updating the narrative much to the ignorance of those who prefer their version of theology to fit on refrigerator magnets or pithy Facebook status updates.

To most Christians, what matters is that “He is Risen”. However, as the saying goes, the devil is in the details.

Check In

Hi everyone, it’s me and I’m still alive. I haven’t been writing much here on the blog. I cannot believe that July was my last post. Crazy! I prided myself for so long in keeping up with the writing here, but times change and well, from what I can tell social media has pretty much killed the blog. Not completely but in a way  it has definitely affected it. I post fairly regularly on the SCP Facebook page so if you give a rip and want to “like” or “follow” or “timeline” (or whatever it’s called now), you can do so.

But still, blogs are useful for writing and that’s what I’ve always enjoyed. Until lately that is. It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed writing, but I’m just interested in other things at the moment. I’m really enjoying my kids, my relationship, my art and dreaming big dreams for the future life that I will live when I can quit working and do nothing but travel.

I have a personal blog for those that don’t know and I share some things over there that are, well, about me. I’m a little confused as to what to write here and what to write there but I am sure I will figure it out.

Mainly I just wanted to check in for anyone that happens to be clicking on this site for the first time and wondering what the heck this is all about. From the stats from my web site host I am amazed I still get several hundred hits a day stopping by these pages. Guess I picked a good name for the site.

That’s it for now. I’m sure I will check in again soon.

Southern Baptists Vote in Favor of Hell

The Southern Baptist Convention officially voted on hell this past month.

The result: They are in favor of it.

WHEREAS, Rob Bell, in his 2011 book, Love Wins, has called into question the church’s historical teaching on the doctrine of eternal punishment of the unregenerate …

.. RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention … do hereby affirm our belief in the biblical teaching on eternal conscience punishment of the unregenerate in Hell …

RESOLVED, That out of our love for lost people and our deep desire that they will not suffer eternally in Hell, we implore Southern Baptists to proclaim faithfully the depth and gravity of sin against a holy God, the reality of Hell, and the salvation of sinners by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, to the glory of God alone.

You have to love the line, “affirm our belief in the… eternal conscience punishment of the unregenerate in Hell.” In other words, “You are going to burn, you are going to know you are burning and you are going to know why you are burning.”

In other news, the Southern Baptists voted on a few other issues. Here’s what we learned:

1) Heterosexuals should have exclusive rights to the word marriage.

RESOLVED, That we once again call on the United States Congress to pass and the states to ratify a constitutional amendment defining marriage as exclusively between one man and one woman …

… RESOLVED, that we encourage pastors to speak strongly, prophetically, and redemptively concerning the sinful nature of homosexual behavior, the urgent need to protect biblical marriage, and the certainty that the blood of Christ can atone for any sin.

2) All people are free to follow whatever religion or non-religion they so choose. However this does not mean that the Southern Baptists have to tolerate it.

WHEREAS, The rapidly changing religious diversity in the United States makes it important to reassert what Baptists have affirmed historically about complete religious liberty for all persons and a free church in a free state …

WHEREAS, This conviction is grounded in the teaching of our Lord Jesus …

… WHEREAS, Efforts to confront spiritual matters with carnal, coercive means are both morally wrong and counter-productive …

… RESOLVED, That we affirm that this freedom entails the civil liberty to convert to another religion or to no religion, to seek to persuade others of the claims of one’s religion, and to worship without harassment or impediment from the state …

3. Southern Baptists aren’t sure what to do with all the Mexicans.

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention … call on our churches to be the presence of Christ, in both proclamation and ministry, to all persons, regardless of country of origin or immigration status …

… RESOLVED, That we deplore any bigotry or harassment against any persons, regardless of their country of origin or legal status …

RESOLVED, That we ask our governing authorities to prioritize efforts to secure the borders and to hold businesses accountable for hiring practices as they relate to immigration status …

RESOLVED, That we ask our governing authorities to implement, with the borders secured, a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country …

I am so glad we have the Southern Baptists to help us navigate what we should think and do. Without them where would we be.

I Wish We’d All Been Ready

The most recent hype surrounding the Family Radio ministry’s prediction that Jesus would return on May 21, 2011 has really got me to thinking and reading. According to the Pew Research Center, most Christians (almost 80%) believe in the second coming of Jesus in some way, shape or form. However, from what I have read, most of the mainline Christian groups regard Harold Camping a nut-job.

the-rapture

As examples of this, I need only point to my friends on Facebook, many of which I would consider a fairly typical sampling of Christianity in America. During the build up to the non-rapture that was supposed to occur on May 21, I posted an interview with a follower of the group on my Facebook page. The first response I received said quite plainly, “that guy’s an idiot; just saying”. This is from a pastor friend of mine who firmly believes in the second coming of Jesus, but disagrees that anyone should be so bold as to attempt to place a date on the event.

Another friend wrote this on her Facebook page on May 21 (spelling is hers):

Happy end of the world….lol. Funny cause if you read the Bible it would tell you we wont know the day or time, to always be ready….lol. Love those who.make christians look like idiots.

I honestly laughed out loud when I read this quote. Yes, I too love those who make Christians look like idiots. Those that tend to make Christians look like idiots are, well, the Christians who don’t think they are idiots.

The Stupid Church People site was started with the intent of pointing out the stupid things that Christians say and do. It’s still about that. However, it’s not enough to point out just the idiosyncrasies of believers. I truly want to respect the beliefs of others and “live and let live”, but those that laugh at the nonsense of others and then espouse equal nonsense (although more accepted) truly make me scratch my head.

Here’s what I am saying regarding the whole “end of the world rapture thing”. It’s not going to happen. Never. It’s a myth. Jesus isn’t coming back like a “thief in the night” to save us from ourselves.

More interesting to me is the irrational logic implored by so many Christians when refuting the Family Radio Ministry and Harold Camping’s predictions of the Rapture occurring on May 21. As my friends on Facebook have shown over and over, the Christians that I know didn’t have a problem with the rapture part of the prediction, just the date. They believe the following:

But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.  – Matthew 24:36

That it is more acceptable to believe in the “unspecified, can happen at any moment rapture”, doesn’t make it any less “idiotic” or laughable. One could even argue that it could be dangerous. Many people were upset with Camping for spreading fear surrounding his prediction. One radio show I heard took several calls where people talked about their children having trouble sleeping in the days leading up to May 21. Others were outraged at the amount of money raised by this ministry to spread the word of this non-event.

I wonder why it is that this outrage isn’t turned against Christian churches and believers everywhere that ultimately believe and do the exact same thing. Several warn of the unknown time and date of Jesus’ return, urging us to always be ready. Unless things have changed, isn’t the ultimate goal of churches to raise money to spread the good news that Jesus will save us from being caught on the wrong side of the rapture event?

Churches may not talk about that side of their doctrine much anymore because doing so would make normal people just laugh at them. It’s better to keep the message about building better families, improving your self-image, cleaning up the environment, helping Africa and finding your purpose. That stuff sells books and most importantly brings in donations.

Don’t be fooled by these window dressings. Most likely your Christian neighbor believes that on some unknown day in the future, a trumpet will sound and the earth will shake. They believe that graves will burst open and the dead will rise. They believe that all saved believers, living and dead, will rise up to join Jesus in the sky and be ushered into heaven. They also believe that unbelievers, like me, will face terrible turmoil and strife for a period of time and ultimately spend eternity in hell. That is what most Bible-believing, God-fearing Christians believe.

Larry Norman sang a song years ago titled, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready” which was used in the film “A Thief in the Night”. That film was used to scare many young people in the 70′s to “turn or burn”. It certainly did a trick on me back in the day.

I wish we’d all be ready too… ready to use our minds and think rationally and use common sense. But that would be too easy and many of us weren’t taught that way. According to my pastor friend that thinks Harold Camping is “an idiot”, I’m just in denial about all of this. From where I sit, that’s better than living in a constant delusion.

Unlike my pastor friend, I wouldn’t call those that believe in the rapture “idiots”… I’d just call them believers. Some might say it’s one and the same.