Cursed are the Meek, for They Dream of Being Enslaved

I’m going to keep this entry short ‘n’ sweet and get you thinking about something. (If you end up coming to the same conclusions I have under your own steam, the insight will be more truly yours than if I simply serve it up fully-cooked.) I want to spill just a little metaphorical ink over the most important verse in the Bible. I’m not talking about John 3:16. I have in mind a different saying attributed to Jesus, one that can be found in that compendium of aphorisms and apothegms known as “The Sermon on the Mount:”

 

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5, NRSV)

 

If I pull up my Microsoft Word thesaurus and search “meek,” here’s the list of synonyms I’m offered: humble, timid, submissive, gentle, docile, modest, compliant, mild, quiet, lowly, weak, cowed, fearful, and tame. That thesaurus suggests “assertive” and “overbearing” as antonyms. (Nominal synonyms for “assertive” and “overbearing” tend to be gender-specific: “leader” for the males, “bitch” for all the rest. Funny how that works, ain’t it? But that’s another essay.)

 

Meek. It’s a telling word, is it not? What message do you suppose “Jesus” was trying to send here? Let’s not forget there’s a good possibility that such a character never actually existed and the only reason we have these sayings of “Jesus” is that a powerful institution collected/concocted them to be promulgated to someone’s advantage. Whose advantage might that be? Isn’t it obvious?

 

There’s a reason that Nietzsche called Christianity a religion of slaves. There it is, in black and white (or red, if you’ve got one of those), straight from the mouth of Jesus of Nazareth, sitting right there like a shiny new dime on one of the gilt-edged pages of the Best Book Ever Written. And as Nietzsche understood full well, Christianity’s not the only religion designed to enslave its devotees. There have been hundreds, and plenty are still on offer.
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A Couple of Hellbound Apostates Visit the Wichita Mountains

If you were expecting or even – God forbid – hoping for another rant, I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news: I think I need to give it a rest for a while. I’ll say only this before taking my leave of that somewhat continuous, reiterative and baleful project: because of the way fundamentalist religious dogma with all its patriarchal connotations warped the members of my family for generations, I’m genuinely sorry I was born into that family, and somewhat resentful as well. That’s a pretty heavy thing to say, ain’t it? I have always tried to treat my son in such a way that he won’t feel about his father the way I feel about mine. Some of you who read this know full well what I mean because that’s the way you feel – and chances are, religious dogma played a role in it. Those of you who can’t imagine what it must be like to feel that way, also don’t know how lucky you are to have dodged such a bullet by a fortuitous accident of birth.

 

Now, on to brighter things. On Friday, I met my friend Nicole King (whose beautiful, thought-provoking and touching essays you’ve probably encountered on this blog) for a long-overdue visit to the Wichita Mountains in southwest Oklahoma. The Wichitas are a fascinating igneous province whose history is quite unlike that of any other mountain range known to me. It’s a series of granite outcrops that trend roughly east-west for some sixty miles from near Lawton to a bit beyond the appropriately-named town of Granite. They aren’t large as mountains go: the maximum topographical relief is probably no more than 1700 feet or so. On approaching them, one is immediately struck by the fact that there are no foothills: the massifs simply rise directly out of the surrounding plains. This is, to say the least, unusual, and there is of course a good reason for it, which I’ll get to eventually. (One will not discover that reason by reading the Holy Bible.)

 

After lunch at the celebrated restaurant in Meers – a charming establishment that occupies a ramshackle collage of old mining structures and serves up wonderful food and delicious locally-brewed beer in 22-ounce bottles – we headed up into the mountains to enjoy that great proliferation of wildflowers that has followed in the wake of unprecedented flooding in this geologically-fascinating region. The three hours we spent kicking around up there afforded a golden opportunity to revisit some of the unusual features of one of my favorite places on Earth.

 

The granite of the Wichitas has been dated to early in the Cambrian Period, about 524 MYA give or take 1.2 million either direction. That’s a very good date, established and corroborated by a number of radiometric “clocks” – various minerals (especially zircons) contained within the granite that incorporated radioactive isotopes into their structure at the time the magma chamber that produced that granite was slowly cooling under miles of overburden.
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Science, Evidence, and Faith

As I connect with other Atheists, I have noticed that many base their non-belief on science or a lack of evidence that God exists.

 

Does one need to state that there is no scientific evidence to justify not believing in God? To quote many climate deniers, “I’m no scientist.” I also believe that science is not necessarily a requisite of Atheism.
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GOD and Modern Warfare

© Religion Erased

I was walking past a youngster the other day, his eyes fixed to the television. Sometimes I wonder what we let our youngest generations watch. What I saw unfolding was graphic, to say the least.

 

It was a man, soaked from head to toe in blood, beaten whilst people watched and laughed. Slowly, he was tortured to death in front of those that both loved and loathed him.

I said, ‘Kid, please stop watching the crucifixion of Jesus. Go play Grand Theft Auto or something.’

 

We use a very warped, biased logic when determining what is appropriate viewing for a child. We go to church to hear stories of murder and be threatened with an eternal lifetime of pain, no questions asked. The first image we see is this one, placed strategically for immediate acknowledgement and maximum effect.
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The Truth Shall Set You Free. But First It, Shall Piss You Off.

Bad Faith is the condition we’re in whenever we “lie to ourselves.” It involves a schizoid partitioning of our consciousness. In the process, we become both subject and object: the liar and the lied-to. What makes this state a dangerous one is that while we’re in it, it’s possible to dismiss evidence that (for instance) our behavior is self-destructive: not because we have better evidence to the contrary, but because such evidence is “inconvenient.” Those who grow up in religious households are taught to lie to themselves from a very young age.

 

I couched the preceding paragraph in the first-person plural because it applies to all of us individually and also collectively, as societies. For the individual crack addict, the evidence for his self-destruction is inconvenient and he therefore finds ways to ignore it. Should it rise unbidden into his conscious awareness and begin to nag him and make him uncomfortable, he will beat it down by every means available – including another visit to the crack pipe. If a whole society is addicted to cheap oil, the evidence for that society’s self-destruction is no less inconvenient, and denial becomes a growth industry. Industry shills masquerading as “scientists” assure us that we have nothing to worry about. Politics becomes an exercise in ad hominem and the messenger sometimes takes a volley in the career.

 

Can there be any doubt that we’re in collective denial about things like Peak Oil, aquifer depletion, topsoil loss, habitat destruction, ocean acidification, biodiversity loss, overpopulation and anthropogenic climate change? The truth – whose consequences will shortly involve societal upheaval and starvation on a scale we’ve never before witnessed – is almost too horrendous to contemplate, so most of us can be counted on to look the other way while catastrophe closes in. (After all, there’s plenty of corporate-funded “science” to assure us that anthropogenic global warming is a hoax and that Peak Oil won’t happen for another two centuries. Maybe California will get a wet El Nino and Sao Paulo… well…. And anyway, why not just go on believing whatever makes us feel a little better since there’s not a damn thing we can do about either of those inconvenient truths?)
Continue reading “The Truth Shall Set You Free. But First It, Shall Piss You Off.”

On the Scientific Revolution and the Journey it Demands of Us

Should any fundamentalist Christians happen to read this post, I hope you’ll find it both illuminating and entertaining.

 

For about five centuries after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Church had an absolute lock on information so far as the Western world is concerned. (Emperor Theodosius had unwittingly seen to that by making Christianity the state religion a little over a century earlier. To this day, in secular America, there are Christians who think Theodosius had the right idea and pray for the rise of Mike Huckadosius to set things right.) That’s why we call that era the Dark Ages: it was an age of dogma and the uncritical acceptance thereof, an age of serfdom and tractable compliance therein. The prerogatives of barons and bishops went unchallenged. People’s beliefs weren’t founded on their Bible reading; they were illiterate, and they didn’t own Bibles. They just believed whatever the clergy told them to believe. And they believed in outlandish stuff, like faeries and witches and demon possession and the evil eye, in zombies and unicorns and sea monsters. Almost everyone was ignorant as shit.

 

Then after about 1000 C.E., when a calendric millennium turned without the skies being rent asunder by a rider on a white horse, and it thus became apparent that Christ’s promised return may in fact lie a long time in the future, people slowly but surely began turning outward. The earliest gains were almost exclusively mercenary, but with trade comes exposure to more of the world and a gradual relaxation of strictures, and people’s minds began to churn. But it would still be another half-millennium until the sciences were born, beginning with that first great generation of discoverers from Bacon to Newton, and including the likes of such pioneering luminaries as Galileo, Kepler, and Boyle. Despite a gradual, almost imperceptible, loosening of their shackles, most people remained ignorant as shit, and even the so-called scholars were more deeply versed in the black arts than in observable phenomena.
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Conservative Christians Dream of Theocracy

In our current age of the 21st century, it is commonplace to hear the slogan “America is a Christian nation” chanted by conservative Christians. That particular rightist misconception, albeit a discerning and ridiculous one, is not surprising since the majority on that side of the political spectrum are also prone to rejecting evolution and global warming (they seem to be consistently and fundamentally incorrect about the foundations of reality itself, in most cases).

 

American Prohibition Flag design ca 1915Recently, members of the Republican Party in Idaho drafted a resolution which would have their state specifically declared a Christian state.” Various supporters of the resolution went on to detail how the resolution reflected Thomas Jefferson’s and James Madison’s Christian principles that originally helped establish our nation.

 

But if this is a Christian nation to begin with, why are rightists always trying to slowly but surely make it one by drafting such resolutions in the first place? And why do 57% of Republicans want to make Christianity the national religion if this is already a Christian nation?
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Faces in the Crowd: A Darwinian Family Affair

Imagine a small crowd of people – a hundred or so – in a public place. A few minutes earlier they were all in transit to various other destinations, but a momentary spectacle has drawn them together. They do not, for the most part, know each other and in most cases they’ll never see each other again once they go their separate ways. They include representatives of every age group from infancy to dotage; there are people of various ethnic backgrounds, political and religious persuasions, socioeconomic status and states of mental and physical health. There is little consensus among them with respect to tastes or aspiration. Some are happier than others.

 

The people in this crowd have come to be together purely by accident, and it is the kind of accident that will never again draw this same crowd: the crowd has no identity, no “meaning.” Many people would be tempted to say of the people who make up that meaningless crowd, “They have nothing in common.”

 

But that sweeping statement, “They have nothing in common,” is not entirely true is it? They are all human, so they have that in common. Since they are all human, they are all the offspring of two biological parents, even if one of them merely traded his semen for cash at a sperm bank, or if in vitro fertilization was involved. And this makes it possible to list a great many other commonalities: they all have 23 pairs of chromosomes; they’re all bipeds; they’re all mammals; they’re all vertebrates; they’re all mortal; they’re all subject to the laws of physics and chemistry that make life possible, sets its limits, and so forth.

 

chromosomes
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To Live and Love, A Woman Bares Her Scars in Defiance

I met this woman a couple days ago in a debate group.  She was defending the pro-choice position and she happened to agree with some of my arguments and statements.  So I thought I would request to be her friend on facebook.  Today, she posted what is below, I read it and was genuinely moved.  I think this story, as raw as it is, paints a great picture of a life that even through hardship has come out strong.  She has a desire to fight, a desire to love, and she has endured loss as well as tragedy.  This story is about her life and what she has overcome.  She was responding to a 30 year old who happened to call her old and told her that she was unbelievable.  This woman told her that she was old enough to be her grandmother and that there was no way she could get her facts straight because of this.

 

When I read the post I was in awe that someone would use age as a reason to dismiss what another individual had to say.  So I asked her if she would share her voice with us.

 

karen3

Below is the short story of Karen Zimmerman, a warrior for justice, a mother, a lover, and someone I am glad to have found.  Her story has touched me and I hope that it touches you as well.  This is unedited and raw; please understand the poetry of her words.  Thank you Karen for letting me share this with my audience.

 

-Forward Written By: Christopher Tanner

 
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What the *&%^!@ is a Christian Atheist

The label ‘Christian Atheist’ is not popular among either of the parties the term forces together. Many people reject the very existence of Christian atheism due to an (understandable) inability to look past the stand-alone definitions of both of these words and find cogency in using them together. But there is logic and also usefulness to be found.

The first and most simple definition for the term sees it used simply as an identifier of someone’s religious background. It’s a convenient label to counter an argument theists use against atheists often: “You’re always taking down Christianity, but I never see you talking about Islam or Judaism or blah blah blah…” The typical atheistic response to this accusation is to remind the believer that their background in is Christianity and (like everyone else on planet earth) their opinions and arguments are shaped by personal experiences. Identifying oneself as a Christian atheist simply makes this reply shorter…

….Buuut, that’s not the definition that sets both sides of the fence on fire. The heat enters the picture only when the second definition is claimed. This definition sees a person identify themselves not only as an atheist with a Christian history, but also as a non-believer who still positively values and identifies with this history.
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