God Isn’t Real but the Devil Is: Childhood’s End and Five Years of Hell

Warning: The Following is a true story with names changed for privacy and safety.  This is a trigger warning so please be careful if you have a history of abuse as this story could cause a recurrence.

Hi, my name is Josephine and I am 12 years old; I’m in the sixth grade, and my life is pretty good. I live with my grandparents and my younger brother. My sister Nicole, her husband and their two children live down the road. I like to visit and spend time with my sister, so I usually walk to her house and we clean or watch television or something like that.

 

Today was different though.

 

Today, I walked there and my sister was not there. He was, though. He said that Nicole would be back soon. He sat down beside me on the couch. Then He started tickling me. At first it was kind of fun, but then He started touching places that my grandma said no one was supposed to touch. I thought maybe it was just an accident. Nicole came home soon after that.

 

I went back to Nicole’s house about a week later. My nephew was the only one who was there. I sat down in the living room and he went back to his bedroom. Not long after I got there, He came home. I got up to walk to my nephew’s room, but while I was walking down the hall, He grabbed me from behind. His hands cupped around my still developing breasts. I tried to squirm away, but His arms are stronger than I am. He leans over and whispers in my ear “You know you can’t tell anyone that we play like this.” I didn’t like this game. This game made me feel dirty, like I needed to shower. Maybe I am just overreacting. Maybe He will stop this soon, He is like my brother. He and my sister got married when I was only four years old. Maybe He really is just playing.
Continue reading “God Isn’t Real but the Devil Is: Childhood’s End and Five Years of Hell”

Four Double Standards in the Duggar Scandal

By now you have likely heard the tragic news of the Josh Duggar scandal. Here’s a quick recap: The eldest son of the Duggar family, the stars of TLC’s television series “19 Kids and Counting,” has admitted to sexually abusing several younger sisters and other children as a teenager. As news of the scandal broke from media outlets, some Christians have been quick to come to Josh’s defense. I am disturbed by this, not because Josh is undeserving of compassion and help, but because those who are so quick to offer him grace and forgiveness are the same ones so quick to condemn the LGBTQ community. Here are four double standards that need to be addressed in the midst of this scandal:

 

1. Until his resignation this week, Josh served as Executive Director of Family Research Council Action, a group lobbying against the rights of LGBTQ persons and women. The Duggar family has also been actively involved in campaigns working to prohibit transgender persons from using the correct restrooms, with the claim that sexual predators would endanger the safety of young children in public restrooms. DOUBLE STANDARD #1: Comparing the LGBTQ community with sexual predators, when in fact they have been hiding the secret that Josh Duggar had sexually harmed young girls.
Continue reading “Four Double Standards in the Duggar Scandal”

Congress Shall Make No Law…

A little over a year ago I ran into the following news item from the land that gave us David Hume and the Scottish Enlightenment: http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/scottish-news/parents-outrage-extremist-religious-sect-2254926. I posted it on my Facebook page, thereby precipitating a winding, entertaining, and sometimes heated discussion with a Christian fundamentalist Facebook friend from England. His position is not uncommon, and certainly more prevalent in my country than in his, and for all I know there may be visitors to this blog who, like my friend, would find themselves in sympathy with the headmaster who allowed the proselytizing to take place. So I’d like to enlarge the scope of the conversation to include anyone here who’d care to chime in, with an especially warm invitation extended to any Christian fundamentalists who might happen to be lurking. (Whether you’ll bother to read a TLDR that raises troubling questions is itself a troubling question, of course; besides, in addition to hurling poison darts at your cherished beliefs, I tend to write in compound sentences and sprinkle my prose liberally with semicolons and parenthetical asides. I’m afraid people sometimes find me tedious.)

 

Church versus StateWhat’s at stake here is a principle that has come to define most of the Western world ever since the Enlightenment, and the consequent composition of the U.S. Constitution: a precious principle that has come under sustained attack during the past few decades by forces on the religious right, both in the U.S. and in a number of European countries. That principle is secularism. Fundamentalist Christians, I’m addressing you in the following paragraphs; atheists and others, I’d be honored to enjoy your company as well if you’re inclined to join me for the ride.

 

In the interest of helping you understand the position I take on this issue, I’ll ask you to consider the following (if you read the article I linked to above, you’ll understand that I’ve constructed an exact parallel with the soul-saving literature that was distributed at the school in question): suppose your child came home one afternoon carrying a book with a title like, “Why the Book of Mormon is True and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Is the Surest Way to Heaven,” which had been distributed that day to the students at his school. Or perhaps, “Why Islam Is True, the Qur’an Is the Word of God and All Unbelievers Are Destined for Hell.” Would you, committed to your Christian faith as you are, take offense at the proselytizing efforts that Mormons or Muslims had launched in your child’s school? Would you consider it acceptable that they were permitted to do that, or would you find it outrageous and impermissible, a breach of public trust? Would you acquiesce (however grudgingly) in such activities, or would you agitate to have them prohibited? If the latter is the case, then surely you understand why that prohibition should extend also to proselytizing by those who embrace the faith that you happen to espouse.
Continue reading “Congress Shall Make No Law…”

Religious Indoctrination Is Child Abuse [VIDEO]

“We all know that any emotional bias — irrespective of truth or falsity — can be implanted by suggestion in the emotions of the young, hence the inherited traditions of an orthodox community are absolutely without evidential value…. If religion were true, its followers would not try to bludgeon their young into an artificial conformity; but would merely insist on their unbending quest for truth, irrespective of artificial backgrounds or practical consequences. With such an honest and inflexible openness to evidence, they could not fail to receive any real truth which might be manifesting itself around them. The fact that religionists do not follow this honourable course, but cheat at their game by invoking juvenile quasi-hypnosis, is enough to destroy their pretensions in my eyes even if their absurdity were not manifest in every other direction.”

― H.P. Lovecraft, Against Religion: The Atheist Writings of H.P. Lovecraft 

 

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Skiing the Slippery Slopes of Belief: The Chair Lift of Science

About a decade ago, in the course of one of the most entertaining conversations it’s ever been my privilege to enjoy, my brother asked me “What exactly do you believe?” This question came as a rejoinder to my telling him that I don’t believe in God. I understood the very moment he asked it, that it was framed the wrong way. He was posing it as an alternative: “If you don’t believe in God, then just what do you believe in?” I also understood that I had my explanatory work cut out for me, as my brother and I do not always mean the same thing by the same words.

 

Just because one doesn’t believe in God, doesn’t mean that one must believe in something that substitutes for God. I have heard both Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins referred to as “your God.” I’ve also heard the charge that I have taken it upon myself to be my own God. I often see certain Christians arguing that way, but it’s a fallacy. I’m pretty sure it springs from some such notion as our having a “God-shaped hole” in our lives that can only be filled by God (a misunderstood, misappropriated idea that comes from Sartre). Ergo, if we do not fill that “God-shaped hole” with God, we must fill it with something else. The fallacy lies in the first premise: there is no such hole; Sartre’s figure of speech was just that and nothing more. It really is not a question of either/or.

 

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My brother’s question caught me somewhat off-guard: I’d never been asked it before, and didn’t see it coming (although I suppose I should have anticipated it). I remember mulling it over for a bit before responding as follows:

 

I believe whatever has been demonstrated to my satisfaction, either by my own observation or by the data and explanations supplied by those who have spent their lives in research. Belief in that sense requires no effort whatsoever: if something is apparent to me, I irresistibly believe it and there is no “leap of faith” involved. When it comes to the discoveries of the sciences, I have to rely on the testimony of those who are equipped to do the research and draw the conclusions, since I am no scientist. But I do not merely accept as proven what anyone says from a position of authority, without having the evidence laid out before me in a way that I can understand. If I have questions, I ask them. If I consider an explanation weak, or if I don’t understand it, I continue asking until someone explains it to my satisfaction. Only then do I accept the postulates of the sciences as “facts.” (As Stephen Jay Gould once said, “In science, ‘fact’ can only mean confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent. I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classes.”)

 

(Incidentally, I do not consider myself to have come to understand something in the sciences until I am able to explain it to the complete satisfaction of another non-scientist, such as my brother.)

 

Well, it turns out that that’s not all my brother meant by his question. This became clear to me when he shared his list of things he believes in: God, America, family, hard work, honesty, loyalty, etc. (the list traditionally includes motherhood and apple pie). I realized that he was using the infinitive “to believe” in a rather loose and changeable way: where God was concerned, it was ontology that was in view (I think); but the existence of America is not a matter of that kind of belief: he had something else in mind – and this applies also to family, hard work, and so forth. In other words, he was asking me what principles I’m committed to – a question that makes perfect sense when you consider the fact that during his entire lifetime as a Missionary Baptist, my brother has repeatedly heard the claim that atheists are reprobate, unprincipled libertines whose only value is self-gratification, no matter whom it harms. A lot of Christians appear to think this (although I don’t think my brother believes this, at least as regards yours truly).

 

Again, I had to mull over this metamorphosed question before responding: not because I’m unsure of my commitments (or needed some time to hatch a few on the spot), but because I felt the need to prioritize them and to get it right. And here’s the considered answer I finally gave him:

 

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I’m committed to many ideals, all of them reasonable in light of what I understand to be true about the world and about what it means to be human. Above all, I’m committed to justice and fairness. There is some tension between those two ideals, which is why I think that justice should be meted out only reluctantly when it involves severe punishment, and probably should be tempered with mercy. And a commitment to justice and fairness does not imply a rigid set of categorical imperatives (God-given, so to say) that define exactly what is just and fair before the fact: each case has to be dealt with individually, on its own merits. In a Manichean, black-and-white world, there would always be a clear distinction between the aggressor and the victim, and justice and fairness would be two names for the same thing. But in our more complex world, such distinctions are not so easily made. Those who draw them too casually always end up looking ridiculous, and they are rarely judged fair.

 

Consider, as an illustrative example, the four-year-old preacher to whom I made reference in a recent post, “It’s Child Abuse.” That child is being victimized by his circumstances. Foremost among those circumstances is his own father, the Pentecostal preacher whom the little boy is emulating. If we consider only proximate causes and effects, it’s pretty clear (to me, at least) that the little boy is being abused: his intellectual development is being stunted by his father. It would seem the just thing to do, to spring that little boy from such circumstances and place him in the protective custody of foster parents who would provide him with a library, an education, and normal playmates. But it probably wouldn’t be the fair thing to do, for a number of reasons – not least of which is that the little boy’s father, even though he is now in a position that I can only see as exploitive, no doubt came by his own attitudes honestly, having himself in turn been a victim of his upbringing. That’s why justice must always be tempered with mercy; otherwise, no fairness is possible.

 

It should not escape our notice that “fair” is a synonym for “beautiful,” as “grace” is for “beauty.” A fair world is a beautiful and gracious world, and I am prepared to argue that the converse is true as well – which is one reason that I never miss an opportunity to spread the gospel of Joseph Haydn, Johannes Brahms and Gustav Mahler.

Childhood’s End

Where are the soldiers of god for the children in need today. We hear the campaign slogans, protest chants, and Chick tract reiterations for the sanctity of life, the equality of the fetus, and the validity of all life from the moment of conception to birth… But it gets painfully quiet thereafter. The children of the state wander from desolation to squalor within the great absence of morality, permeating the impoverished family unit; mother, father and 1.5 children…

 

Events within the scope of my life and from many first person readings, now rampant within the blogosphere, I have accumulated a sense of disdain and utter chagrin towards the complexity of the broken home, with its satirical legal profitability. Having been spared the pressure of social insecurity by a family, real and complex in it’s own way, that never reached any sort of critical mass to fracture beyond repair; I have thus to relate from behind a fourth wall.
Continue reading “Childhood’s End”

A Critique on Religious Belief and the Common Ways Believers Defend Them-Part 2

In part one of this treatise I opened with a general critique on religious belief and focused on addressing claims of truth posited by believers. I feel it’s unfortunate the discussion needs to continue beyond seeking the truth. If there is no good reason to believe any of it, the conversation should be over, but we still find two more commonly used modes of defense readily employed by believers.

 

I want to provide some context before proceeding to the utility argument. There are rather obvious facts that need to be put on the table before we start talking about god being a source of goodness or morality.

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Before reaching the age of 5, some 21,000 children die every day around the world. That’s 1 child every 4 seconds, 14 children per minute, 875 children per hour, just under 7.6 million children every year. By the time you finish reading this essay, it’s very likely some number of children will have passed away in horror and suffering.

  Continue reading “A Critique on Religious Belief and the Common Ways Believers Defend Them-Part 2”

Being Gay is Not a Choice. Being a Hateful Person Is and Religion is No Longer a Valid Excuse

Humanity needs to grow up and realize the world is the way it is, no matter how hard we believe, pray, or want it to be something else. Being gay is not a choice and straight people are not going to stop having gay babies any time soon. If you honestly think being gay is a choice then you are ignorant or homophobic or both, it’s that plain and simple. Do people honestly think that people would choose to be gay when they have to put up with the kind of hate and physical abuse that the LGBT community, as a whole, faces every day? Do not underestimate the dangers and difficulties that people in the LGBT community face. There are some people in the LGBT community that do not have to deal with any of this abuse, but that is a tiny percent. Why do so many people still believe that being gay is a choice and what can we do to end this ignorance and hate? The way we handle this diseased way of viewing our fellow Earthlings is in our hands. Are we going to drop the ball again, like we have been doing our entire existence, or can we evolve? Will we learn how to embrace our brothers and sisters of Earth, no matter their sexual orientation, and work to solve a problem that our species has failed thus far?

 

Let’s get one thing clear: regardless of our race, ethnicity, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or anything else that can be viewed as a difference between us, we are still one species. We are human beings (homo sapiens is the technical term ironically); we are brothers and sisters that share the same planet we all call home. There appears to be no other place, at least not in the near future, that we can relocate to so we need to learn how to work together and coexist if we want to build a better future for the generations to come. Therefore, we need to grow up and act like the mature species so many us of claim to be. We are simply not there yet, and we will never make that leap until we discard the current irrational fears and beliefs still clung to by a species divided.

  Continue reading “Being Gay is Not a Choice. Being a Hateful Person Is and Religion is No Longer a Valid Excuse”

On the Loss of Faith – Atheist Analysis Presents “The Personal Journey Series”

I’m occasionally asked to explain why I lost my faith. I always try to answer that question as honestly and fully as possible. I usually think it advisable to begin by describing what that faith was, that I lost.

My faith was always of the “Lord, I believe: help thou my unbelief” variety. It was a cry of despair to a God who – according to the Bible – would not hesitate to cast into a fiery hell those who displeased him. That God, in my young imagination and understanding, resembled my father: a hard, cold, humorless man who was perpetually angry with the world and with his family – a man who became a father far too young (he was 18) and never forgave the family of his own making for cheating him out of what remained of his adolescence. The mental image I had of God when I was a child was very much parallel to that father, who beat me and my mother regularly (nowadays he would probably be arrested and locked up: then and there, it was just considered part of the milieu).

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Continue reading “On the Loss of Faith – Atheist Analysis Presents “The Personal Journey Series””

On Being an Atheistic Christian: Fighting the Internal Paradox

I began entertaining doubts – flirting with atheism – when I was 18 years old, a freshman near the end of my second semester at Arkansas State University. It was then that I finally (reluctantly, tentatively) admitted to myself that everything I had been taught at First Landmark Missionary Baptist Church – and reinforced at home – might well be a pack of fantasies and fabrications. It was anything but a heady, exhilarating breakthrough into freedom: it felt like the keenest of losses and it damn near drove me crazy.

The result was that I did not make a clean break with the church. Instead, I entered upon a time of tremendous psychological pendulum swings and upheavals that very nearly cost me my life. I frantically embraced this or that ideology or religion (interspersed with bouts not only of atheism but of the deepest nihilism), careening wildly from pole to pole, wanting desperately to find the truth and to be sure about it – the unimaginably gruesome penalties for being wrong having been hammered into my head from the time I could first understand the spoken word. That time of upheaval lasted more than two decades, with a gradual but discernable leveling off towards the end of it. (Those two decades, even more than my lost childhood, are the greatest plunder the church ever stole from me. For those decades, I will never forgive the institution.)
Continue reading “On Being an Atheistic Christian: Fighting the Internal Paradox”