Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Let's Get Dangerous

A question by a fellow blogger was: If there is no God; how ought we to live?

The first thought that passed through my mind was the trite response: “If there is a God; how ought we to live?” Sorta depends on the God, doesn’t it?

Ever study the Aztec religion? They believed a god sacrificed himself to become the sun. Only the trick was that in order to sustain the sun, all the other gods had to provide their blood. To replenish the god blood, human blood was provided. Which meant sacrifice. Lots and lots of sacrifice.

The blood of humans was believed to be the source of the sun’s movement. Blood of warriors killed in battle was an offering. Sacrificed captives provided blood. Even women who died in childbirth were thought to provide appropriate reparations.

If the Aztec pantheon was the actual god, then the way in which we “ought” to live would be a great deal more bloody! Of course, no one reading this blog would ever think that such a god is feasible.

But imagine convincing an Aztec of this. “If we stopped sacrificing humans, how would the sun move?” Oh, you could argue about planetary movement, and stars and orbits, but they come back with the undefeatable, “What if you are wrong? Millions of us have been sacrificing humans for centuries. And the sun has been moving as long as we have done it. If we stop, and you are wrong—we all will die! Safer to keep doing what we have always done, isn’t it?”

Is that much different than the common notion of a God? That millions believe, and somehow it seems “safer” doing so?

In America, we have “In God we Trust” in our pocket, “Under God” in our schools, “You shall have no other Gods before me” at our capitals. “So help you God” in our courtrooms. “God bless America” on our bumpers. “Oh God; You Devil” in our DVD players.

We even hear “God Bless You!” when we sneeze. At countless corners we have churches, temples, synagogues, and mosques. Entire channels dedicated to God. Billboards, stickers, books, a genre of music, and days off from work, all thanks to God.

I am not huge on arguing for a proposition based on statistics, but I think I am on very safe ground to state that the vast majority of people within my community believe in a God.

And let’s face it—the God that most Americans believe is a pretty “safe” God. A sort of Grand Administrator who’s job it is to keep the Earth spinning appropriately around the sun, leave us alone as long as we are doing well, step in if we get a little too rowdy so as to bring us back in line, and occasionally reward us with a cure for cancer. Or a good parking spot.

By believing in this vague notion of an Executive Benefactor, we can continue to live out our lives as we desire to do with a sporadic thought of “Wonder if S/He could help out on this one?” Either by giving that person who just cut us off a flat tire, or rewarding us with a green light for NOT giving said person the finger.

Yes, there are some who are more engrossed in their belief of God. No passing fancy for them! Yet even they get sick and go to the doctor, work and worry about money, get hurt and look for human comfort. Are they much different? Pragmatically, is God really that much more than a glorified ATM?

But living without a God? That seems a little…well…dangerous! That means when we hurt someone, there is no “Grand Righter-of-Wrongs” who can swoop in and take care of the problem we created. Nope—we have to do it ourselves. How easy is that?

Or while careening down a hill of snow on a pair of fiberglass sticks, there are no angels guiding us away from the ever-present maples. Nope—we could become a red stain on bark all by ourselves.

In fact, stating one does not believe in a god generates more curious looks and questions, rather than shrugs. It makes one stick out. “Don’t you want to go to heaven?” “You hate god.” (The equivalent of hating puppy dogs and tiny kittens.) “How can you be moral?” “How do you explain all those millions of other people that believe in God?”

The word “atheist” produces a picture of a grumpy old man shooing kids out of his yard. No atheist could possibly be fun—they must all be miserable. (Ironically, the other image is that of a hedonistic orgy organizer who is into sex, drugs and rock-n-roll with complete abandonment. No atheist could ever be the middle ground of just a normal human with normal idiosyncrasies)

Either way, they are sure to not be on God’s good side.

Somehow the picture that there is no God seems “unsafe.” As if God will be especially put-out by those who say he does not exist. We know saying “God Dammit” invites possible admonishment. Bad Karma. But “God is nonexistent” invites disaster. The sun may stop!

Without a God, we must work out our own lives, determine our own morals, explain and attempt to persuade others why those morals should be imposed, listen and learn from others as to why their position may be more appropriate, and no longer rest in the hope that “someday, somehow” everything will be all right.

Without a God, we may need to take a deep breath, and actually do the right thing even though society around us is alarmed that the sun will stop moving.

How ought we to live? Dangerously.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Rolling Stone

In my wanderings, I came across an outstanding parable by Abacquer on the God of the Gaps argument. Here it is in its entirety:

Now let’s talk a little bit about evolution, because I assure you the proponents of Intelligent Design are not telling you anything remotely resembling the truth about evolution. And if you’ll permit me, I’ll use a parable to get across to you how idiotic it is to speak of filling in all the gaps in evolution.

Imagine there is a giant boulder sitting on top of a high hill. One rainy and windy day, the boulder’s purchase is so eroded that it finally tumbles down the hill scouring a huge groove in the surface of the hill. The way down is rocky and clogged with debris, so the boulder, as it tumbles, bounces this way and that, popping up in the air when it hits an outcrop or a fallen tree. At the bottom of the hill, the boulder bounces off the ground and falls into the lake beyond, where it sinks into the mud and is covered over by water.

Hundreds of years later some men come by and notice the great furrow cut in the surface of the hill. The furrow is incomplete because over time parts of it have weathered away, and a subsequent landslide has destroyed portions of it, and there were times when the boulder was airborne. The rock itself lay hidden beneath the muddy floor of the lake. The men try to explain what caused this furrow. One man, the theist, says that God created the furrow. The other men like this idea and they go back to their village and spread the good word, culminating in Fred Franklin writing a book that tells about God creating the furrow.

Several hundred years after that a theist and a scientist come to visit the furrow.

The scientist climbs the hill and studies the rock at the top. He tests rolling small rocks in various places on the hill’s surface. He studies the sides of the furrow and compares them to pictures of furrows created when other boulders rolled down other hills. After much study, he announces that something massive, probably a large boulder or a slab of stone, slid or rolled down the surface of the hill sometime in the past.

The theist points to the missing areas of the furrow and says “If a rock rolled down the hill, where is the evidence here? There are gaps in your evidence, and therefore you must be wrong, and God must have done it.”

The scientist explains that (a) even if his hypothesis is incorrect, that doesn’t mean that the “God hypothesis” is correct, and (b) it’s possible that over time that some of the furrow would be filled in by landslides or other sorts of erosion.

The theist refuses to abandon the God hypothesis (despite the fact that there is no proof.) So the scientist takes a pick and a shovel and digs up a spot in the center of the landslide. Sure enough eventually he uncovers evidence of the rolling boulder beneath several feet of gravel and dirt, a deely gouged stone and compacted dirt matching the profile of the furrow above and below the slide.

“See?” he says.

“See what?” the theist says. “You uncovered a stretch that is only six feet long. How do I know that if you dug upslope or downslope another six feet you would find any evidence there? You haven’t uncovered the whole furrow! Therefore, you’re wrong, and God did it.”

So the scientist removes the rest of the landslide. It takes many days, but it reveals the furrow like structure almost the entire length of the formerly covered area. In the meantime, while the scientist is doing real work, the theist preaches and glorifies the greatness of the god that cut the furrow. Once the landslide is removed the scientist identifies two thousand three hundred and seventy eight pieces of evidence that point to a large slab of stone rolling through that location following a path that connects up the furrow on both ends.

“See?” he says to the theist.

“See what?” the theist says. He points to a 3 foot gap between evidence #1,536 and #1,537. “You haven’t demonstrated that a boulder rolled through this three foot area.”

The scientist shakes his head while wiping dirt and sweat from his brow. “No, and I’m not going to. I’ve amassed more than enough evidence to demonstrate that a boulder rolled down the entire length of this hill. There is enough evidence on either side of this gap to safely assume that the boulder which caused impact #1,536 also caused scrape #1,537.”

“Your theory has holes in it. How can you accept that?”

“You’re not thinking, sir. The only way to be 100% certain that a boulder rolled down this hill would be to go back in time and watch it happen. That’s clearly impossible. Over time some of the evidence will be destroyed, and therefore gathering all of the evidence after the fact is similarly impossible. Nonetheless I’ve been able to find enough evidence to support that hypothesis.”

“Why should I take your word for it?”

“Oh you shouldn’t. It’s still just a hypothesis. Now I need to publish my findings, those findings will have to be reviewed by other scientists, and they will need to come here and conduct their own experiments to see if I’m right or wrong. They will likely perform other sorts of tests that I haven’t thought of, they may propose alternative hypotheses that will need to be tested, and I will need to stay out of their way and let them work. Only after my findings have been independently reproduced and thoroughly reviewed and confirmed will my hypothesis become a theory.”

“And then it is simply accepted as fact?”

“Oh no, theories can be and are challenged all the time. Over time through scientific advances we come up with new and better ways to test old theories. The best theories will endure the test of time.”
“So when will you know for sure?”

“I don’t understand?”

“When will you be able to say beyond all shadow of any doubt that a giant boulder rolled down this hill?”

“Never. Science doesn’t deal in 100% certainties, only in probabilities. Personally I’m 90% certain a boulder rolled down this hill, science will never be certain. Science may approach 100% certainty, but it can never say ‘for sure’… new information may be found in the future that casts an accepted theory into doubt. That’s why Science is so wonderful, it’s not doctrinal… it’s open to new information.”

“So you admit you can’t prove with 100% certainty that a rolling boulder did this.”

“Yes, of course I admit that.”

“Then I can’t see why you would expect me to believe that. I am 100% certain that God created that furrow.”

“Well what evidence can you provide to support your hypothesis?”
The theist pulls his holy book from his pack, opens it, and begins to read. “Yea and verily, it was upon the morning of the ninth day that The Lord touched the great hill with the tip of his divine finger and scratched a long furrow in it leading to the lake and said. ‘See how I your God have marked this hill. Look upon this mark and remember it is I who …’”

“I’m still waiting for evidence,” the scientist interrupts.

The theist holds up the book. “This is the word of God.”

“That is the word of Freddie Franklin. The fact that he wrote that story to explain the great furrow is interesting from an anthropological perspective, but it doesn’t amount to proof either way. Besides, I can provide evidence that this furrow is 750 years old. Freddie Franklin only lived 300 years ago, so he didn’t see it being formed. Therefore I repeat, where is your evidence?”

The theist flips to another page and begins reading again. “I stood upon the Earth and trembled as God cut the furrow in the soil …”

The scientist interrupts again. “That’s not evidence dammit. You can read that book from end to end and it doesn’t amount to one iota of evidence beyond ’someone said so’.”

“Well where is YOUR evidence?” the theist demands.

“Are you kidding? I just spent two weeks digging up this…”

“No, I know you’ve uncovered a few scattered bits of evidence to support your delusional rolling boulder idea, but where is your evidence that God DIDN’T create this furrow?”

“Why on Earth would I ever try and prove that?”


“Science finds conclusions which fit the evidence. You have a conclusion based on no evidence at all. That’s not science, it’s storytelling, and I can’t see why you would expect me to disprove it. I’m not the one making an outrageous claim here. You’re the one who is claiming an invisible supernatural being made this feature. That’s one hefty claim, and you need to prove that it is true.”

“You don’t seek proof of the almighty… that would be blasphemy.”

“I’m not asking you to prove the existence of your supernatural entity of choice, I am asking you to prove that this furrow was created by a supernatural entity. And DON’T start reading from that book again. That’s not evidence.”

“This is all the evidence I have, and it’s the only evidence I need.”

And off the theist goes to his village to profess how Science was unable to disprove that God made the great furrow. Leaving the exhausted and exasperated scientist to shake his head and get back to work discovering the truth.

So it is with evolution my friend. The amount of evidence which has been gathered which supports evolution is overwhelming. It is a truly phenomenal quantity of evidence. It is more than enough evidence to allow one to safely assume that A evolved to B even when there is a gap in the evidence between A and B.

And, as the scientist notes in the above story, gaps in the evidence for evolution do not equal proof of creationism. If someone managed to scientifically disprove evolution as we understand it today, that would not mean that creationism is proven. Creationism would be just as much poppycock then as it is now.

The reason why intelligent design didn’t hold up in court is largely because it is a series of (largely unfounded) challenges to evolution… challenging evolution is not proving creationism. Scientists by and in large understand this.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Merry Christmas!

There. I said it. No “Happy Holiday.” No “Wish you a Joyful Christmas.” No, “Enjoy HanChrisZaa.”

I grew up in a Baptist church. I’m so old, I remember celebrating Halloween in which we dressed up as ghosts, pirates and cowboys (pointedly no devils or witches, of course) and actually went to the church for a Halloween Party. Gasp!

Over time, as a Christian, I chuckled how we got caught up in the “evilness” of Halloween. How we should study its pagan origin, and learn that it started with Satan worshippers drinking the blood of Saints. How we were promoting Satan’s Kingdom by daring to put on a sheet and ask for a Hershey’s (c).

Halloween parties disappeared and “Harvest Parties” appeared. Dressing up faded with games and trampolines and gadgets coming into play. Gone were the scary movies, such as “Friday the 13th.” No, we watched “Left Behind” instead.

I thought, how funny it was as a Christian, that we were doing the same things, only with a “Christian” tint. Satan had so much power, that we had to concede the day to him, and hope our alternatives would draw in the few remaining hold-outs against this pernicious growing menace.

Now, I see the same thing happening with Christmas. Only in the reverse. Is the secular community becoming outraged at a greeter in a retail store daring to have the audacity to say “Merry Christmas.” Really? Are there people out there, crushing into Macy’s (c) in order to save $5 on some sweater who are aghast to hear “Merry Christmas”? Do they take their business to another store, in order that their ears will not be assaulted with a particular set of syllables?

Yes, I am fully aware that Christmas has a pagan origin. Yes, I understand that Christians have chosen that holiday to celebrate the birth of Christ. Ironically, the Birth of Jesus having far out-paced any celebration for the more important claim of Resurrection of Jesus. I understand the morphing and molding of the pagan with the holy. Christmas trees in churches. Gift-giving and stockings of more import than the Nativity scenes.

How many times have we heard the cry, “Put ‘Christ’ back in Christmas”? Because, Christians, too, understand the lessening acknowledgment of Jesus’ involvement, on the way to the movie theatre to watch “Santa Clause 4.”

Look at the Christmas specials we watch on T.V. in December. “Rudolph.” “Frosty.” “The Grinch.” “A Wonderful Life.” “A Christmas Carol.” About the closest Christian theme left is Linus’ speech in “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

We now live in a world that intermingles Wise Men and Elves with little thought for the incongruity. Much of me…nuts…ALL of me says, “Deal with it.” Enjoy it! Christmas has become a holiday that has a little Jesus, a little Santa, a little family, a little friends, a little gifts, a lot of food, and a time in which people that cannot crack a smile for 11 months of the year actually place dollars in Red Buckets.

For Christians—say “Merry Christmas.” For others, say “Happy ______” whatever floats your boat. Does it really make a significance as to which phrase pops out?

Now—I am probably going to get into real trouble with this one. I know I am a secular humanist. I understand the implications and value of separation of Church and State. I get that I should be outraged at a Nativity Scene outside a City Hall.

I’m not.

It doesn’t bother me in the least.

Perhaps some atheist will appear and take me to task—changing my mind as to the depth and breadth of the violation a manger and a plastic baby have when sitting in front of a governmental building.

There are people that find a Nativity Scene as much a part of Christmas as twinkling lights, and sleighs. When we complain about it appearing on the courthouse steps, do we really think this causes people to pause and say, “Yeah, I could see how offensive a Crèche would be”? Or is it far more likely that they become enflamed—defending what to them is an important part of this holiday.

Has there been a single person who has their life changed by a Nativity Set? Seriously?

Thanks to the current rulings in the U.S. Supreme Court, many Governments are being advised that they can have religious displays, as long as they are parts of a larger, broader, display that is not solely for religious purposes. In addition to the Menorahs, there are Nativity Scenes, Christmas Trees, Snowpeople, Grinches and Santa Clauses being included.

Somehow, I find that more appropriate, anyway. Since Christmas has become far more and far less than a religious holiday. More people take their kids to see Santa than to the Christmas Cantata anymore.

So this is one atheist that still shouts out “Merry Christmas!” Hey, we got Halloween, it is only fair for them to have a part of another holiday.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I am not a Free-Thinker


I find titles amusing. I know women that insist invitations are address to “Dr. & Mrs. So-and-so” because they are so proud to have married a Doctor. Technically, as a lawyer, I can add “Esquire” after my name. Doesn’t that sound ridiculously pretentious? Admit it—you would laugh if you saw someone do that!

And at times we join a group with a label. When people first started fighting abortions, they were “anti-abortionists.” But they did not like that “anti-.” It sounded so…I don’t know…negative. They became “Pro-Life.” Isn’t that better?

Now, the Pro-abortionists can’t exactly change their name to “anti-life,” can they? They have to be something “Pro” too! Thus entering “Pro-Choice.”

We are not “anti-war” but “pro-peace.” We are not “anti-government” but “Pro-reform.” Everybody against something is titled as being for something.

I am an atheist. Apparently that is an unpleasant word which contrives images of pitch forked ceremonies and evil plots to take over the world! (or at least introduce the insidious fiction of “evilution” while conspiring to eliminate creationism by the use of fossils and evidence, and research.)

We have had a President of the United States actually question whether a person with the title of “atheist” is qualified to be a citizen!

So atheists create other titles that are supposed to be more politically correct. Friendlier. Nicer. I love the term “Bright.” Not! Have we ever thought what that implies to the theist?

“Hi, I am a Bright, because I do not believe there is a god.
“Well, I believe there is a God. That must make me a Dim. Or a Dumb. Or a Not-so-Bright.

I seriously cannot imagine a single theist getting warm fuzzy feelings over being juxtaposed to a “Bright” as compared to an “atheist.”

We try “non-believer.” Or “skeptic.” And one term that comes out is “free-thinker.”


A word made up of two words, “free” and “think.” Both very popular words.

Everyone likes “Free:”

“Live Free or Die.”
“Be Free.
“Buy one, get one Free.”

What a nice, pleasant word. And “think” is just as grand;

“After further thought…”
“Think before you speak.”
“I didn’t think this through.”

Who wouldn’t want to be a “Free-thinker”?

Again, though, what of those persons who dare to question a free-thinker? Clearly they must either be restricted, or not thinking or (gasp!) both! Because once a person is a free-thinker, anyone who dares question their position has obviously not got their stuff together.

Oh, I get what “free-thinking” is all about. Once we were restricted to a certain way of considering the world, and now we think differently. But are we any “freer”? Are we not just as restricted as before?

On one level, I could possibly be convinced there is a god of some sort. Perhaps I can claim a sense of more free thinking in that regard. On another, I could not ever be convinced the God proposed by Fundamentalist Christianity exists. In that regard I have become more restricted.

Look, here is the reality. We ALL think. Yes, it can seem at times we see some really REALLY stupid things, but for the most part people have even thought the stupid things through. It just didn’t turn out the way they planned.

We all have thoughts that are free. We all have thoughts that are restricted. There are things we accept, and things we reject. Those items may change over time, but in this moment, on this day—we are neither truly free, nor truly restricted.

Am I a free-thinker? Yep—but so are you.

I know people don’t always like titles. I know some titles have negative connotations. But all a title creates is a way for us to communicate more efficiently. If I say I am an “atheist,”—as horrible a title people may think that is—no further explanation is necessary. The other person is not left wondering how they ended up being dim, or a restricted non-thinker.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

No Regrets

Zoe, at “A complicated Salvation” wrote this and initially I was going to leave a comment. But I feared it would get extensive.

(Side question: Does one leave a long comment, or is that rude? Is it better to write it out, clogging up one’s own blog, or should one remotely stay with the topic and just comment? I go back and forth. Today I fall on blog.)

Are there regrets for not leaving sooner?

The story goes of a famous lawyer who was arguing a case before the Supreme Court. A person observed, “You must be quite prepared. You tried the case and you argued the case before the appellate court. You surely know it better than your opponent.”

To which the lawyer replied, “Sir, after I tried the case, I completely forgot everything about it. Before I could argue the appeal, I had to re-learn the entire thing. Now, I will have to learn it all over again. It is as if I never heard of the case before.”

That is amazingly true. We completely forget our own cases.

There have been times, where I have to pick up a case again, after a few years, either for an appeal, or a new trial, or some other reason and become familiar with it all over. (I am in the process of doing so now; the experience is fresh in my mind.)

We forget. We forget the names of the people. We forget the dates. At times I will read my own questioning and think, “Where the devil was I headed with that?” Or I will see pages and pages of testimony and 100’s of documents all necessary to prove what I thought was an important point, and turned out to be trivial at best.

We asked for documents we didn’t need. We questioned people that did not provide any useful information. We asked questions that were a complete waste of time.

Yet, at that moment, I did not know it. Rabbit trails HAVE led to valuable information. Documents requested CAN become key. Or can eventually mold in my storage—unneeded, unused, and forgotten.

With amazing 20-20 hindsight, I can review a file and clearly see that I did not need to perform this action, or did not need to pursue that matter. If I could do it all over again, would I do the same actions? Of course not. Do I regret doing them? Equally not. I worked with the material and thoughts I had at the moment.

A common question lawyers are asked, after we lose, is, “If you had to do it all over again, would you have done anything differently?”

“Of COURSE I would have done something differently. I lost, you ignorant dolt. I could have worn a clown outfit and not do any worse!” (Most times we would have picked a differently jury!)

If I had to live my life over, would I have done anything differently? Obviously! We all would say that. Do we have regrets? Absolutely. Even when realizing that we worked with the information we had, a part of our humanity cannot help but feel that we should have known better. Should have done better. Should have listened, looked and learned more.

Perhaps, even now I am doing things that in 10 months will look back with 20-20 hindsight and think I should have done something differently. Even have regret.

Because we cannot help but impute our current knowledge on our past situation. “Shoulda seen it coming.” How often do we think that?

I was raised in an evangelical, conservative family. Even as I type that, a small part of me is thinking, “Yeah, but isn’t that an excuse? Didn’t you really know better?”

We do, as Zoe points out admirably, believe and say things that in retrospect are incredible. Unthinkable. Yet at the time it seemed so natural. We pitied our fellow humans who were going to be eternally tortured, without even a passing thought as to the grave injustice of such a thing. We defended a God that could kill babies and take virgin females because…well…because that was how we were raised.

Our parents said it. Our friends said it. And, because we were told that even God said it. Look, it is right here in our book of “God’s Quotations.” Women in leadership roles? Fine if you are a government deciding the fate of millions, or running a mutli-billion dollar corporation—but sorry! God’s book says no women. You ladies go and run the nursery. Every May or so we will read Proverbs 31 and place you on a pedestal. Just high enough so the pastor can look up your skirt. (Joke! Just kidding!)

We hated homosexuals, bombed clinics, voted on one issue, and avoided science as if it was the plague. We nodded when people preached that AIDS was sent to kill the sexually deviant, when told that blood of the heathen would go six feet deep for 100 miles, when informed that some people were just not chosen to go to heaven and that was too bad.

We truly thought that “X-Mas” was a form of persecution, equivalent to the rack. “Happy Holidays”? Might as well shove bamboo sticks under our nails.

We all have situations in which we look back and think, “What was I thinking?” Perhaps a bad girlfriend/boyfriend. Or a bad friendship. Or, for many deconverts, a life in a religion that is a barbaric boiling pot of prejudice and fear.

I certainly have regrets. I certainly wish I would have gotten out sooner. Would I have done anything differently? Sure—knowing what I know now. Would I have then? Obviously not—because I didn’t.

All I can do is go back and attempt to correct all the wrongs I performed, and hope for forgiveness. If nothing else, because of my ignorance.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I wish Haggard was a Hypocrite

Yes, the current stir in all of blogsphere is Ted Haggard—conservative pastor who, as it turns out, was having a homosexual affair on the side. The irony, and hence the outrage and labeling of “Hypocrite” is that he was extremely outspoken against gay marriage. Against homosexuality, yet practicing it himself.

We think of a hypocrite as someone who says one thing, but lives another. But is that what Ted Haggard was doing?

Walk with me on this. We all have moral codes. Whether a fundamentalist, a Mormon, an agnostic or an atheist. And we all recognize that we will, at some point, breach that moral code. At that moment—are we a hypocrite? We said one thing and lived another.

Or, is there a larger picture that we recognize such a breach will happen, and we take whatever steps we can to resolve the problem. That part of what we say is that we will eventually break our own moral code and yet even in doing so not be a hypocrite because we are living what we say. We are human.

Ted Haggard thought homosexuality was a sin. He preached against it. He campaigned against it. He proclaimed it through every medium available to him. And when he engaged in it, he thought it was a sin, then, too. He recognized he was breaking his own moral code. He purposely did it secretly; he then tried to cover it up. He treated it as if it was a breach of his own moral code.

To Ted Haggard, a homosexual affair was just one of many sins that he will commit in his life. Part of being human. In his mind, he is not so much of a hypocrite as a man who sinned, and knew he was sinning.

And, he will continue to rail against homosexuality. He will say that what he did was wrong—sadly not as much as the adultery as much as the homosexuality. He will continue to say that other homosexuals, just like him, are wrong and sinful, and should be denied rights.

See, a hypocrite would be Haggard coming forward and saying, “You know what? I am a homosexual. All this time I have been saying to not do it, yet I believe it is acceptable to be gay. I am gay. I should not have said what I did, because what I said was wrong.”

No, Ted Haggard thinks what he said was still right. He still thinks homosexuality is a sin. He just thinks he got caught doing something he has always said, and will continue to always say is wrong.

At some point he will crawl out of this disaster and write a book. And in that book, (which will be dedicated to his loving wife who is going through the hell of a heterosexual married to a homosexual) he will recount how wrong homosexuality is. And how he overcame this horrid sin. And thousands of heterosexual Christians will buy this book and say, “See? See? Even the homosexual Ted Haggard knew it was a sin, and he became straight.”

Admittedly, some of me wants to join the bandwagon and call out “Hypocrite.” But the more I reflect on it, the less I see him as such. And the more I wish he was.

Rather than a homosexual basher who had a homosexual affair, I wish his hypocrisy would be a homosexual that bashed other homosexuals. But I don’t think that is where he will land…

Friday, October 27, 2006

War is Hell

I am at a war. Inexplicably, I did not know it, and only recently made this discovery. No, I am not talking about the tragedy in Iraq, nor some other foreign war.

Nope, me. Personally. I was informed by a believer that solely due to the fact that I am an unbeliever, he is “at war” with me. Wow. I had no idea it was that serious!

Have you ever thought about what it means to make a formal declaration of war? It is a statement that means for a period of time we can suspend normalcy. Normally we attempt to talk rationally as human beings and work out our differences. In a time of war, diplomatic relations are severed.

Normally we only involve those directly related to the situation. In a time of war, “collateral damage” is expected. Normally we do not take a gun, a cannon, a rocket launcher, and do our level best to render another human being into the smallest possible bits of flesh. In war it is called “a battle.” Normally we do not hold people for ransom. In war, we exchange prisoners-of-war.

In the legal field, we discuss the propagandistic value of calling it a “War on Drugs.” If we can convince America that this is no simple crime, this is no ordinary felony, but that we are actually at WAR then the suspension of what is normally expected can be justified.

If you are printing millions of counterfeit bills in your house, it is not reason enough to seize the home. But if you grow one marijuana plant in your bedroom--the house, the barn, and the real estate can be taken by the government. Why the disparity? Because we are at war!

It is amazing the amount of dollars obtained by police departments through drug forfeitures. I am aware of one department that had so much, it did not know what all to buy with it so they bought grenade launchers. Yikes! (“Stop or I’ll shoot” took on a whole new meaning!)

In my state, if you are caught smoking pot, your driver’s license is suspended for 6 months. Not if you are caught smoking while driving—if you are caught anywhere at all. Driving need not be involved. What does one have to do with the other? Nothing whatsoever. But because we are at war, we can use any means necessary to stop the pernicious drug problem.

Our prisons are overflowing, our system is clogged, and our probation departments overwhelmed. When you are at war, you take as many of the enemy as you can. You don’t stop and think about the consequences, you don’t consider your position. No, you fight, fight, fight until you win.

We certainly see it with our current “War” on terrorism. Normally we would fight to protect our civil rights. To NOT have phone taps without valid warrants. But since we are at WAR, what we expect in normal life must be suspended. Normally we would cringe to hear America has secret camps, or has engaged in torture, or refuses to provide hearings for accused persons. But once we discover we are “At War” we understand that such things are a necessary evil.

Of course once we are no longer at war, we expect things to go back to normal. Right?

The problem of the Drug War, or the War on Terror, is that there is no end. There is no point in which an enemy capitulates, and the rifles are put down. There is not time at which we can return to normal.

It is with those thoughts that I am confronted with the fact that another person is “at war” with me, simply because of how I believe.

It was intriguing that this claim came about because we were discussing when it is appropriate to deceive another. And the person justified the use of deceit against a non-believer because we are “at war.” What was even more fascinating was how many simply shrugged and accepted that statement as an appropriate response! What we would normally never accept, if cloaked in terms of “war” we justify!

“What are you doing to that man! You should stop!”
”Why? We are at war.”
“Oh. Sorry. Didn’t know. You go right ahead, then.”

Have we gone so far insane that we are now using “war” as an excuse to suspend normal interaction and vindicate whatever action we desire?

Before one considers me an alarmist—consider the actions of the Russians on the German front, at the end of WWII. Because of the long, terrible ravages of war, when pushing the Germans back, the Russians would enter a village, rape the females, and kill the mayors. We look back on this with disgust, and think, “How horrible!” but why was it occurring in the first place? Why wasn’t anyone stepping up and saying to their fellow soldiers, “This is wrong.”? Simple. Because it was a time of war, and war is a terrible thing. Shocking things happen in war.

It is a time when normalcy is suspended.

We only need to read the tales of the Tanakh to see the Canaanites were labeled as “non-believers,” the people were informed they were “at war” and genocides happened. The same people that inform me they are “at war” with me, believe God literally tells people to kill others solely for what they believe.

What was more surprising was that after I was informed I was “at war,” no one stepped up and said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Going a little far there, don’t you think?” Instead they sat around, sagely nodding their heads and rubbing their chins, stating, “At war, eh? I see. I see.”

I am not interested in a war. I will debate, argue, discuss, interact, and even fight. But when I start to see a person justifying an action we would never accept as normal under the guise of “a war” and others nodding in agreement, a great part of me wonders—what is next? There is no enemy to surrender here. There will always be unbelievers. How far will a person go, rationalizing their actions under that three letter word?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Wanna Fight?

I have been off, in my wanderings, looking into different possibilities about God. Mostly talking about God creating Time. What a spiritual realm consists of. And how to resolve the Problem of suffering. It is rather long, and fairly boring. I wouldn’t bother reading it if you are at all sleepy:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

When we start a lawsuit, we have a period of “Discovery” which is exactly what it sounds like—I discover what witness, documents and testimony the other side will bring, and they equally discover the same about my position. There is no more “Trial by Surprise” anymore. (Although it really only reduces surprise, not eliminate it by any stretch.)

Before I debate, I like to “discover” what their position is. Not so much to avoid strawpeople, (my new PC term) but to actually communicate with a person as to what their particular belief is. Just saying you are a “Christian” is not very limiting. That means a whole variety of things from Catholic to Liberal to Charismatic to Mormon to Calvinist. And anything else, besides.

Admittedly, it is frustrating when the “Constant Fight” light is on, and the other person wants to pick apart every single possible item conceivable. “You are arguing against the Presuppositionalist position of the Missouri Synod of 1952, and I am of the Presuppositionalist position of the Indiana Conference of 1942. Second division.”

Give us a break, will ya? This may come as a surprise, but I have not memorized every position, every nuance, every offshoot branch of each and every God that has come out of the Tanakh!

And even then, it is better than the:

“Nope, that is not what I believe.”
“Nope, don’t believe that either.”
”Not my belief.”
“Nor is that.”

Do me a favor—tell me what you DO believe! Please. The constant guessing game begins to feel exactly like a New York Three Care Monte.

“Nope, wrong card.”
“Nope, wrong card.”
“Nope, wrong card.”

I am sure it is part of my presentation (and maybe even my reputation) but people get their hackles up when all I want to do is make sure I know what the heck they are talking about.

So much of the internet debate on theism has become “Who can win?” and less of “How do we believe differently?” And parties on every side of every issue are equally to blame.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Stuck on You

Ever feel stuck?

I have a confession to make that very few know about me. (Ahh, the anonymity of the ‘net.) I have a condition known as Brown’s Syndrome. Essentially, certain small muscles around my left eye swell, vastly reducing the range my eye can move. Of course my right eye continues to move just fine, resulting in double vision when I look in certain directions. (Up.)

It is intermittent. Which means it can come on in the middle of the night and either disappear by morning or be with me for a week. It can last five months, a day, or not affect me for a year.

It is a good reminder of what it means to be “stuck.”

(Humorous side note. You know you have a fun condition when the titles of your doctors get longer and longer. I went from an optimist to an ophthalmologist to a neuro-ophthalmologist. Nothing like having the head of the eye department of a local hospital network ask if you could come back tomorrow so he can have his students examine you as well, as they are never likely to see such a pronounced example of your situation. Greeaaattt!)

All of us are stuck at times. Stuck by our employment. Stuck by our location. Stuck by our church, our family, our marriage, our children, our medical conditions. Stuck by life.

In my practice two scenarios come vividly to mind.

There are times I deal with juveniles or teenagers that commit crimes. I am placed in the position of informing their parents that these young men will be serving prison time for many years. Or be in juvenile detention for years. I watch these parents’ lives crushed.

They would do anything to take the place of their sons. They worked hard to provide and love their sons, yet in a moment—in an instant of a bad decision--their lives are changed. They are stuck.

The second circumstance is domestic violence. I see these women, abused by their husbands, yet refusing to leave them out of a fear of financial or emotional deprivation. In the constant paradox of hate/love of a man who beats them, yet later hugs them. They too, are stuck.

Face it—it stinks to be stuck.

When I get Brown’s Syndrome, eventually there comes a moment, a time where, with a visible “Pop” my eye begins to move freely. Oh, what a relief! To see again without double vision. To look up, down, right and left and not worry about that annoying view; not worry, “Will it stay this way? Is this it?”

All of us that are stuck are looking for that “Pop.” That moment where we feel free. The breeze on our face, the sun in our eyes, and the bright anticipation of the future, rather than the dread of tomorrow.

The internet has changed all of our lives. We can now talk to someone in Singapore or Paris with just a few clicks on the keyboard. Looking for a domestic abuse group? Google will bring up hundreds. We can now talk to others who are completely dissimilar to us, or exactly like us. We can find people that have the same problems, the same stuckness we have. I imagine I can find others with Brown’s Syndrome if I looked.

It is here that—for a second—we can unstick ourselves.

We can assume silly monikers like “DagoodS” or “Flaming Hot Rod” or “Bunch o’ Fun” or whatever we want. We can argue, we can laugh, we can love, we can get into grudges, even! Isn’t it amazing to watch people that become personally involved with “Cranky Pete” and actually spend more time focused on exacting revenge on an unknown user from Arizona, rather than their own lives!

It is here that we can release those anxieties and communicate and find a respite from the everyday stickiness.

I have another confession to make—I have never met, in person, a deconvert. Oh, I have met atheists. Not ones that want to talk about God, of course, since it would be as silly (to them) as talking about Santa Claus not being real. John W. Loftus was recently in a debate, and had it been closer to my locale, I hoped to attend and meet him. Literally, just to meet another deconvert.

While I hope to meet one in real life some day (sounds like we should be in a zoo, doesn’t it? *chuckle*) at the moment it is enough to have a chance to interact on-line.

To all of us that feel “stuck” at the moment, I hope we appreciate the fact we have others that we can communicate with through this medium. I have many people going through my mind that I wish I could hop in my car and drive to their house to have a coffee with them. I can’t. So, for right now, the ‘net will have to do.

I know we all feel stuck in some way. I hope we realize, like my pesky Brown’s Syndrome, that it is intermittent. That someday, it will “pop” and we will no longer be stuck.

I didn't mean it.

Often we are confronted by people who are aghast at the notion of no after-life. No God. “How can you have any meaning to your life?” they wail.

To be honest, I do not recall the idea of “meaning” as even crossing my mind during my deconversion. (Lo, these two years hence.) At that time I was struggling with even the notion there was no Christian God, or if there was a God what it looked like, and if I picked the wrong one what the consequences would be.

Probably the closest I ever came to being concerned about losing my “meaning” in life, is my fear of getting the wrong “meaning.” What if I picked wrong and it turned out that the “meaning” in my life was to give some God glory by eternally roasting? Yikes!

But I never remember a moment of saying, “Gee, if I head down this path I will lose some ultimate meaning.”

As humans, we are so focused on our lives. I am at that stage where I am worried about daughter’s dating, future college expenses, house repairs, retirement, children activities, and whether I will retain enough hair to give it a chance to go gray before falling out.

My friends with their theistic belief, with their “ultimate meaning” have the same concerns and focus as I do. They are just as worried about their kids. About their jobs. About their marriages.

See, even with some “ultimate meaning” we have to live in the here and now. We have to replace the old tires on our vehicle, visit the doctor when we are sick, and treat our spouse to an occasional special dinner. We live.

It has been my experience that most people are not devoting much time, if any, to the concern of some ultimate meaning, or grand purpose in their life. Only in internet debates, or perhaps the rare occasion by being confronted with an individual that is unconvinced of any after-life, does the thought even seriously cross most people’s minds. At best, it is a “someday something will happen” passing reflection.

While there have been suggestions that atheists should kill themselves, I think (I hope) most theists understand that just because we are unconvinced anything happens post-mortem, does not mean we cannot enjoy life now, and therefore we are squeezing every bit of meaning out of it as possible.

However, I have noticed a change within me. I have gained a sense of urgency that I did not have before. Unwittingly, I had “settled.” I had relaxed into a position that someday, somehow, I will have time to resolve any outstanding issues. When all of eternity stretched before me—was it really that important I attempt to heal every relationship possible? Here on earth, there were only so many hours in a day, but someday, in heaven, we could spend hours and hours sorting out our difficulties, and spend the next billion years or so, laughing away.

Further, I had someone watching out over me. If I screwed it up, God could step in and fix the problem. Without my even knowing it. If I inadvertently stepped on someone’s toes, God could come up behind and give the person a pat on the back—making it all go away.

I lost both of those concepts. I no longer have the luxury of time. No longer can “someday” be the day in which I repair a friendship, heal a wound, or hug a friend. No longer do I have the Great Unraveler to restore the harms I clumsily inflict. Nope. That all falls on me. To do now.

Too many prayers have gone unanswered. Too many times Christians believe they have received a “no” from God, and are waiting on God’s timing. Too many people are relying on too much time, and some other personage to do what they should be doing.

Look, if you believe in some Ultimate Meaning, some Grand Purpose in Life, because of a God, or an after life—great! But at the moment, you are living here. Now. And there are plenty of issues, plenty of problems, plenty of joys and plenty of moments of meanings that can be relished, experienced and reveled in.

What would the world look like, if rather than resting on some Ultimate Eventuality, we all set that aside, and considered living?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Putting “Fun” back in Funeral

I attended the funeral of a former pastor this week. He was of the traditional Baptist school of pastors. Hell-fire and Damnation. Could (and would) preach at the drop of a hat. Golfed. Sang not great, but loud. A little menacing.

I had the chance to see many people I haven’t seen in more years than I care to really think about. What impressed me about the funeral was the upbeat tempo. Everyone was so happy (only a few tears) about how they would see him again in Heaven. How he was waiting for the rest of the family and friends to join him. How he was getting reacquainted with those who had gone on before.

I must admit feeling that in this regard, Christianity has naturalism beat. Hands down. It felt so pleasant—this exuberant permeation of hope. This claim that eventually we will all get together again.

My college was out of state, so I flew back and forth. In college I gained the closest friend I had ever had. Each year we would look forward to the next, when we could get back together. After each break the other person was the first one we sought out when we arrived.

I remember flying out, after my graduation, and standing there in the airport, she began to cry. “For the first time, I do not have a date when I know we will see each other again.” There was a loss of hope. The unknown.

The concept of an afterlife re-introduces this hope. That “someday” we will all get together. And once together we will be side-by-side forever and ever and ever. It makes a funeral more than bearable; it makes it only a momentary “good-bye” with an expectant “hello” around the corner.

As I watched the participants in this service, I completely understood why naturalism or atheism depicts a “loss of hope” and a “meaningless, drab life” to them. They are clinging on to this idea of someday seeing their loved one, and feel that without that idea, their entire worldview would come crashing down—that a world without an afterlife is a world without hope.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of a Utopia. It would be fantastic to live in a world where I could see with and be with all my friends and family. Where we could laugh, and play sports (perhaps even with young bodies, and not injury-prone, out-of-shape, overweight ones we are currently saddled with!) No more sickness. No more separation. No more economic struggles. No bad news on T.V. No worrying where one’s children are. A new Monty Python Movie every week.

As I sat there and thought about it—it really IS too good to be true. Shouldn’t all our skepticism antennas go up, thinking about how it is wonderful, and great, and neat, and every single trouble is removed—when there isn’t a lick of proof of this place?

Imagine I told you that if you provided me with just one dollar, I will return to you One Hundred Billion dollars in ten years. But there are a few catches. First you have to actually provide me with the dollar. Despite all my good intentions, and love, and desire to give you One Hundred Billion dollars, and despite the fact I have pocketfuls of dollars, you MUST give me that one dollar. Otherwise—you get nothing.

Further, you have to give me the right dollar. It has to be the right year, the right denomination, and the right country. Now, I know what that is, and I even know how you could access it, but that takes all the fun out of it, so I will give you some clues, but you are left to guess out the rest on your own. But if you deliver the correct type of dollar, at the correct time, to the correct address—man, oh, man you will have it made!

Sounds too good to be true, right? Yet that is exactly what the “bet” is with heaven.

I looked about me at people all worried about their current economic trouble, yet each assuredly happy they had paid the right dollar to the right address. Each knowing that the fact the mortgage payment was late, and the car engine was knocking wouldn’t make a difference. Because someday--someday they were going to get One Hundred Billion dollars. And because of their one dollar investment, this was only a time of trouble, soon to be forgotten

I must confess that I felt even a bit guilty, sitting at the funeral. Who am I to take all this away from Christians? Who am I to point out that the fact we have no proof of an afterlife? Who am I to take away this hope? Even if the hope is in something completely imaginary—is it harmful? Should I leave them to this Hope—as wrong as it is? Nuts, it is like appearing in a Kindergarten and dispelling the myth of Santa Claus. How cruel is that?

If it was just that, I could leave Christianity alone. But this hope comes at a terrible price. See, in order for the crowd I was in to be happy about reuniting with their loved ones and a God of Love, they also require a God of Justice. One that exacts a terrible retribution for not providing the correct dollar to the right address. For them, this is of no consequence. They will be in heaven. Their friends will be in heaven. God will somehow wipe their memory of all the people in Hell.

They will be enjoying the benefits of heaven, founded on my eternally burning body.

And is it a good thing to instill hope on a false premise? What if I told my kids that once they turned 21, they would be rich beyond their wildest dreams? Don’t worry about school. Don’t worry about jobs. Don’t worry about anything, ‘cause someday they will be rich. They may be the happiest kids in the world. Until the world comes crashing down with the realization of the opportunities lost, relying upon this false hope.

We may be inclined to excuse this belief, as it is based upon events after death. In that example, my children would be left with a harsh reality, and a long life of problems—but belief in an afterlife does not affect one’s life. If there is no afterlife—what’s the harm?

The harm is that it is not the truth. And that element of falsehood is multiplying in divisions, and acrimony, and ostracism, and exclusion, and threats and war. While people at this funeral were smiling, thinking of re-uniting with Pastor; Muslims were laughing, thinking of flying planes into buildings. Both were counting on an afterlife. Both were equally assured they had deposited the “right” dollars.

The harm is that we must live this life as if it is the only one we have. Not some “warm-up” or “test run” for an eventual Utopia. I do not have the luxury of hoping some day wars will end. I must be actively involved in eliminating them now.

I enjoy life immensely. I will be sad to let it go, but it does not give me less hope for my future, the future of my children, and the future of those about me. It is similar to attending a great party, or watching an engaging movie. As much as we enjoy the moment, we recognize that part of reality is we will reach a point of saying good-bye, or that the credits will roll. It does not lessen the enjoyment.

I hope that my funeral will be a group of people getting together, saying, “Wow, he enjoyed life.” Hopefully a few jokes, a celebration of some good times, and then a recognition that the credits rolled.

But today…deep down…I feel a little bit guilty arguing against that hope of a utopian afterlife. Today…it seems cruel. Like the moment one has to admit Santa Claus is not real. How does the person take it? Who am I to take away that hope?

Friday, September 29, 2006

Normally I am Abnormal

What is normal? Do we poll the populace, and the most answers wins? If more people have brown hair as compared to red or black or gray or blond or white or none, did “Brown” just become normal? Or is the fact there is variety what should be considered “normal”?

Can we reach a number, where the vast majority of a group contains a characteristic, and must constitute “normal”? If a person is born with 11 fingers, is the fact that 99% of humanity has 10 fingers make the 1% abnormal?

Please understand that “abnormal” is not necessarily bad. If the engine on my car belches black smoke, or if I sneeze blood, my mind recognizes, “Hey that is different” and the deviation from the norm is an indicator that attention is needed. We are constantly on the search for what we think is normal, looking for something out of the normal to draw our attention.

If our child is not speaking as well as other children his age, we focus our attention in that regard. If, however, our child is doing fine, we accept normality as a sign of fitness. As long as our world is progressing in a manner of what we perceive as “normal” we passively allow it to continue in the thought that “normal” means “correct.”

How do I determine what is normal? If everyone else says it, do we have the objectivity to realize that perhaps we could be wrong?

What if you woke up one day, and everyone referred to the color “red” as “gork”? You know what red is. You have always called it “red.” Yet those around you are “As Gork as a Beet.” Or “Stop on a gork light.” Or “Roses are gork.” This would be scary. Do you wonder whether there is an elaborate joke being played on you? Or have you suffered some mental trauma that has effected how you think?

On occasion, I have interacted with people suffering from mental delusions. As I see them fervently believe that the government is monitoring people through teeth fillings, and the dentists are in a giant governmental conspiracy, I wonder—how do you explain that they are abnormal? They are convinced that we are blind fools, and they have woken up in a world where “red” is called “gork” and it is actually “red.” If only the other people could see!

Or on a more tragic note, in the bar fire on Rhode Island where 100 people were killed, many people died that did not have to. Because they followed the crowd that all headed to the front door. What they saw was “normal” was the mass exodus heading in one direction only. I remember reading how many entrances were virtually unused. Because people were following what they thought was “normal” and going in a different direction than the crowd was considered abnormal. And therefore incorrect.

How much of the practice of theism is people thinking, saying, doing and feeling what they perceive as “normal”?

One of the last services I attended, the pastor was talking about temptations, and how we need to commit to avoiding them. He had props for four temptations. I don’t remember what they were, but probably something along the lines of sex, wealth, power and pleasure. At the end of the service, he did a rare “call.” There was no pressure, of course. (And if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell ya!)

He offered to go through the four temptations, and ask that if the person committed working with Christ to flee that temptation, they quietly stand up in their seat. No pressure. First he talked about sex. (Oh. We all have our eyes closed, but nobody does, of course.) Maybe 2% of the audience stands up. Then the pastor says wealth. Now maybe 25% of the audience stands up.

At this point I could script it. Power—40% of the people stand up. (Are there really that many that are tempted by power? Or was it the moment?) At the end, pleasure, the entire rest of the audience, ‘cept little ol’ me, stands up.

My daughter asked me later why I didn’t stand. I asked her, “Do you always do something just because everyone else does? Are you really going to commit, or do you think most people will have forgotten that commitment by the time they unlock their car in the parking lot?”

She admitted that most, including her, would never follow through. “So you just stood up because everyone else was?” She did what she thought was “normal.” To not stand up would be abnormal. Even though it was more likely the truth.

How many other occasions is something ascribed to God, just because the person considers that “normal”? Christians thank God for getting better, getting good parking spots, getting good weather, getting good jobs, getting a raise, getting a child and getting ahead. Is God really controlling the weather patterns over an entire hemisphere of a planet, just so the sun would come out promptly at 2 p.m. on Saturday in time for a football game?

Yet this is what is considered “normal.” In the discussion with theism, I am often told of people having “God Experiences.” Events, or emotions or thoughts that were overwhelming or unique and left the person with the firm conviction that God was involved.

Guess what? We all have those. Standing on beach, watching the sunset, with my children splashing in and out of the water, running back and forth to the campfire, I have a feeling of such peace, wonderment, and happiness, that I truly think that life could not possibly ever get better. That is normal. Before, I would have ascribed that to a “God Experience.” Again, within my circle, and within my beliefs, that would have been “normal.” Now, it would be odd to have the thought of God popping into my head.

In talking with theists, I keep to the forefront of my mind, that to them, the existence of God is “normal.” The idea that such a creature could not exist or that a person could not be convinced of its existence is so “abnormal” as to be unthinkable. I may as well be saying, “The way to safety is to swim to deeper water.” Every part of our being says swim to shallow water. It would be abnormal to swim to deeper water. It is the same with theism. When I say “There is no God” I may as well be saying, “Swim deeper to save yourself.” To a theist, it simply does not compute. It is not normal.

I get it. I really do. But can the theist return the favor? Can you actually believe that it is “normal” for me to not think about God? That I am not angry, I am not rejecting, I am not trumping, I am not “pre-disposed” or “pre-supposed” to there not being a God. That when things go well, or things go sour, in neither situation I am looking for a God?

And no, I do not find theism “abnormal.” Quite the contrary. I find it normal to have a variety of beliefs. It is very human to have differing opinions as to politics, reading material, movies and interests. It is very human to have differing learning skills, and differing teaching methods, and different ways to communicate. We have different levels of proof, different concepts that we find persuasive, and different means of obtaining that information.

When I started this off, I mentioned different hair colors. No one says that a certain hair color is “normal.” Variety is expected and embraced as “normal.” Can we do the same with theistic beliefs? Can we understand that each of us believes differently, and that difference is “normal”? Or must we all have the same God and the same hair color to be normal?

Thursday, September 21, 2006

I don't know

Remember those standardized tests, like the ACT or SAT, or the State tests we took? The No. 2 Pencil? Those four or five ovals that had to be “filled in completely.”? Regardless of the test instructions, or what level of knowledge you had—one thing was certain: If you were running out of time, start filling in boxes. We knew that a blank was a certain incorrect response, but 6 “C’s” in a row could get us one or two more points.

We were taught from a very early age that “Blank answers = wrong answers” so never have a blank answer. “I don’t know” was always unacceptable.

Yeah, we knew that the Capital of Montana was most certainly not “Kentucky” but that is the only thing we could think of. So, we find ourselves putting answers that we knew were almost certainly incorrect. But anything is better than a blank slate.

We grow into it. Imagine having a horrible pain, and after the Doctor sees you and does the diagnostic tests, to hear, “We don’t know.” That is not comforting. We want answers. We want to hear some specific disease with (hopefully) some specific cure.

Time and again, my clients insist on knowing what will happen. Being in a system comprised of people, I often must claim: “I don’t know.” “But what are the odds?” is the follow-up question. Anything, ANYTHING is better than a blank unknown.

We do not want to hear “I don’t know” from our mechanic, our plumber, our accountant, our baby-sitter or our counselor. People do not want an “I don’t know.” That is an unacceptable answer. We have questions, we demand solutions. I once went on a vacation with such a person. It was exhausting.

“What are we doing tomorrow?”
“Not sure. Haven’t thought about it.”
“Well, what time are we having breakfast/”
“Mmm…when we get up.”

“What time will that be?”
“I don’t know, I was planning on sleeping in to the point even my dreams are trying to wake me up.”
“So who is making breakfast?”

Arggg. I find the same propensity in theism. Although it employs the “God is mysterious” enough as it is, even the idea of God is some sort of fill-in-the-blank.

Sure, I do not know how abiogenesis occurred. When asked the question, I must frankly state, “I don’t know.” That does not make it any worse than the theist that trumpets, “A-ha! I have an answer—God did it!” Big deal. You didn’t leave it blank. Neither did the fellow who claimed Kentucky is the capital of Montana. Does not make it any more correct.

And when I start to inspect this God, used to so conveniently fill in this blank, I start to uncover more blanks. Some the theist insists on filling (when they don’t really know the answer) others even they must leave blank.

Recently we were discussing a Greek word. It was a word Paul completely made up—a first use. What does it mean? The best answer (since Koine Greek is a dead language, and we are uncertain as to the use of this word, what the writer intended and what the reader perceived) is “I don’t know.” It may be followed by, “It could possibly mean ___” but it should be prefaced with “I don’t know.”

But a Christian doesn’t want to say that. This is “God’s Inspired Word.” The only written communication from God to humans. “I don’t know” is not helpful in one’s relationship with God. Therefore, better to dogmatically hold a position, rather than utter the words, “I don’t know.”

Is it that bad we do not know the author of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John? Is “I don’t know” in this regard so dangerous, that we must hold on, with both hands, our teeth and one foot, to the traditional authorship claims? Yet when it comes to Hebrews, “I don’t know” becomes perfectly acceptable.

Or worse, when it comes to relating with each other, many people do not know when to shut up and say, “I don’t know.” Oh, they may start off with that, but it is too often followed with “Perhaps God….” And then the knife comes out. It looks like this in the Sunday School class:

“Why is God putting me through this hard time?
”I don’t know. Perhaps…” [here it comes] “…you have unresolved sin in your life?”
“…perhaps God is teaching you patience?”
“…perhaps the Devil is tempting you?”
“…perhaps you need to trust God more?”

Just once it would have been a relief to hear, “You know. I haven’t got a flipping clue as to why God would allow that. I know I sure wouldn’t if I was God.”

But no theist dares say that.

One of the greatest releases of deconverting was the ability to say, “I don’t know.” I don’t know who wrote what books in the Bible. I don’t know how time could start. (I have read on it—still don’t know.) I do not know why some people get cancer at age 28, and some children get better genes than others. I do not know why one of my children is good at soccer, another at drama, and another at being a unique personality.

I have become comfortable with turning in my paper, and numerous blanks left blank. I can say, “I do not know the answer. I am happy with what I do know; I do not need to have every blank filled in, just to claim I have the blanks filled in.”

I am happy to learn. I like to fill in what was previously a blank. But I find more and more, I am just as happy to say, “I know more what could be in that blank—but that does not mean I am ready to fill it in yet.”

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The more things change, the more they stay the same

I remember very well my first continuing education class. Looking back on my education, I had attended elementary school, high school, college and graduate school. I had received my final diploma. But in a profession, in order to keep up with the changing times, we take occasional classes.

Within the first minutes of this continuing education class, a gentleman who was easily 20 years my senior raised his hand to ask a question. “Isn’t it true,” he starts and then launches into a long drawn-out question that really wasn’t a question but more a demonstration of the depth of his knowledge in the area.

My first thought was, “I can’t believe it! I thought I had left you long ago. We had one of you in high school. One of you in college. One of you in Law school. And just when I thought I could finally escape this nonsense, there you are again!

As I looked around this class of maybe 40, and we spent the next eight hours together, I realized they were all there. Every one of them. Sure they had big impressive degrees now—doctorates—but nothing changed.

The take-furious-notes-on-everything-said, and in the process killing numerous trees person was there. Did they ever look at those notes again? I mean seriously, it might be shorter to tape the thing and hear it over and over and over…

The wacky-question guy. You know. The one that starts off with “What if…” and then provides a hypothetical that could not possibly happen unless the earth turned upside down, but there it is.

The sit-in-front-girl. Yeah, the one that immersed themselves in the course, talked to the teacher afterwards, and acted as if they were obtaining the cure for cancer.

The read-another-book-in-class person. The doodler. The tapping-pencil-drummer-wannabe. The sleeper. The duck-out-early guy. (*cough, cough……me*)

I honestly think if we spent another day together we would have separated into jocks, nerds, druggies and cool kids.

I have become involved in my children’s soccer programs. And as I work within these programs, I start to recognize the same personalities, and the same situations as my former Churches.

I missed the socialization and interaction of church. If you look back at my blog, it was one of the first things I blogged about. Being human, I have sought out other areas in which to socialize. And I see realize that there is no difference in the humans involved. I see the same me when being involved in church as being a soccer dad.

If you attend church, you know the person who actively takes charge and runs numerous programs. They are in charge of VBS. They often are in charge of the kid’s programs, or Adult Sunday school. Rarely are they the actual Chairman of the Board, or even the Chairperson of the committee. They leave those titles for others. They are there to get things done.

Our soccer association staged a tournament, inviting other soccer associations to come along. The person that got things done was not the Head of the association. At best at the manager level. But everyone that wanted to know what was going on, or what to do went to her. Even the head of the association.

There is the person that has to have things organized. Everything alphabetical. The “1997 taxes” in the “1997” folder. There is the person that never has a title, never has a specific responsibility, but faithfully is there from early in the morning to late at night, working constantly, whether folding papers, picking up garbage, directing traffic—whatever.

And, unfortunately, there are equally the others. The parents that are never involved, never do anything, but complain about how everything that is being done is being done incorrectly. HA! Admit it! As soon as I said that, a name popped into your mind. Maybe at church, maybe at school, at work or some other activity. Always there, aren’t they?

Or the persons that simply are never, ever are involved and are so inactive that complaining is too much. Oh, you know they exist, because their children magically appear at the start of the program, and disappear at the end. And you could swear you once saw the back of their head in the mini-van as they left the parking lot.

Or the person that develops a pet project, and we absolutely MUST drop everything else in our lives and become fully immersed in this project, as it is SO important. But if you have a request, they are far, far too busy.

The person always late, the person always early, the person that shows up every week for two straight months in a row, begging to be involved, and then disappears until next year. The person you can always count on to substitute teach, and therefore is always substitute teaching. The benefactor. The busy-body. The Butcher, the Baker, the Candle-stick maker.

As I looked about the various persons (call me “the person-who-labels-others”) there is no difference in a group of soccer parents and a church. None. Oh, the topic is different, to be sure, but substitute “Jesus” for “soccer” and I think the conversations and personalities are interchangeable.

“It seems Jesus/Soccer has fulfilled my life.”
“My Sunday/Saturday revolved around Jesus/Soccer.”
“Are you coming to the Game/Church?”
“Want to do something after soccer/Church?”
“Jesus/Soccer has focused my child’s attention.”

See how neat that works? While we don’t pray to soccer, we hope just as earnestly that our kid can score. We do cheer louder than church allows!

I have noticed, and talked before on how little changes in the morals between a believer and a non-believer. Equally, I see no change in personalities. Is there anything different, anything divine about a Church? Should there be?

Should we have the complaining and grumbling in churches? I would think that asking for workers would mean that each time churches would have to turn people away. In a church, with persons touched by divinity, we should hear, “I am sorry, but we don’t need any more people. Maybe next time you can help,” rather than what I so often heard: “Gulp. Uh…I hate ask you…I know you just did this last week and all…but no one else can…” (read “will”) “Is it possible for you to help out just this one more time? I promise that next week we will have someone…”

We have all sorts of arguments about theism. Philosophic, scientific, emotional, and rationale. While it may not be convincing to others, one of the strongest reasons I see no God, is that I see no divine touch.

If I placed you in a continuing legal education class, a parent-teacher association, or a church, and turned down the volume on the speaker—could you tell the difference? Could you say, “There is something different about the people in that last group.” Or, like me, do you pick out the same persons with different names and different faces. But the same persons.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

So Your Friend is Deconverting...

Recently I have observed various conversations regarding deconvert’s relationships with friends, and I thought a primer for the friends would be helpful.

O.K. Your friend has come to you with the announcement that he is atheist, or agnostic, or deist; in some way has become convinced the God you two shared is non-existent. Is not reality. What do you do?

Bail out.

Yes, I know it sounds harsh, abrupt and a violation of some code, but let’s face it—he changed the rules, not you. Hey, if he came to you and said he always wanted to be a woman and was having a sex-change operation next week, he wouldn’t expect the relationship to stay the same, true? Of if you informed him that you were moving to Antarctica to study ice flow for the next four years, he would not expect the relationship continue as is, right?

In life—things change. And relationships may change or even end with those changes. God is a large…no, HUGE part of your life. You pray, and study every day. You go to church. Your friends and family all center on your beliefs. If he does not want to be part of it, that is his choice. He cannot expect YOU to all of a sudden drop everything you know is true, simply because he is having “issues.”

Remember that time when you went out looking for dates, and that one girl said she would never date a football player, and you both laughed and laughed since the place was full of football players? You are sure she was a great person, and may be off married to a dancer or artist somewhere, but she was simply in the wrong crowd. You know he is a great guy, but just like that he is in the wrong crowd. “Birds of a feather…” and all that. Better for him to go find some atheist or agnostic buddies.

You just don’t have as much in common any more. What are you going to do Saturday night? Is he going to come to Small Group with you? Not hardly. Or Sunday lunch. Hard to discuss the sermon, or what is happening at church if he is not even there, right?

And how can you discuss anything spiritually with him? How God is impacting your life, or how prayer was answered? He thinks it is all baloney, now! You might even be offended, if he raises an eyebrow when you mention how God gave great weather for Sunday’s…er…Saturday’s church golf outing. What kind of relationship is that?

No, best for both of you to end it here. No need to send a letter, or note explaining your position. When you don’t return his calls, and stop inviting him over for your annual July 4th picnic, you can be sure he will get the message. Besides, you are certain by then he has all his agnostic buddies to hang around and enjoy life here. Because for a non-believer Earth is the best they will ever get, but for a believer, Earth is the worst they will ever get. Nuts, he doesn’t even understand THAT anymore.

Bail out. Be done with it. Not your fault, but what is done is done. He made his bed, he can lie in it.

What are you still reading for?

The primer is done.

I am quite serious, that this is the best way for these friendships to go.


You want more. Right? You want something more hopeful, more helpful, more life-giving rather than “end it.” Well, you can try and continue it, but that takes hard work. Maybe some of the hardest work in a friendship. Maybe more than you want to commit.

All right. I will give some insight, but I warn you—probably better to end the primer right here than read on.

Commit one meeting a week with your friend (Hey, I said it would not be easy.)

Deconverting is a mixed-up feeling. He does not know whether he feels like a widower on a cruise ship of honeymooners or a honeymooner on a cruise ship of widowers. Part of it is a feeling of presenting harsh reality to a group of happy-go-lucky believers, and partly a feeling of a whole new world of reality to a miserable group of dejected followers. He wants to share new information, yet not be overt offensive.

Mostly likely he did not deconvert through face-to-face discussion, but rather through on-line discussion, or reading, or internal reflection. Now he wants to actually talk to a real, live person about some of the thoughts and feelings of what he went through.

You see, most of his friends will opt to bail out. The community which he grew up in, the one he is most familiar with, chooses to have nothing to do with him. Worse, they have damned him to a state of apostasy, and would force him to keep his new ideas to himself.

He has no one to actually talk about what has happened.

Before, as his life progressed, he could share some things with one person, others with another, and have various friends interacting with him on various levels. That is now gone. To even have one friend once a week, actually desire to talk with him would be a real treat.

It would not be easy. There would be things you do not want to hear, and words that would not be pleasant. There are concepts and ideas that are foreign to you and you cannot wrap your hands about even contemplating them. Neither could he one year ago, and now he embraces them.

Humans are social creatures. Deconverts are no different. He will first look for interaction with what he is familiar—his current set of friends. You very likely will be the only one that reciprocates.

Forget judgmental talk

How much water can you fit in a one-gallon bucket? No matter how much you pour and pour, the most you can fit is one gallon. After that, all the pouring in the world makes no difference—no more water is going to fit.

After interacting with theists on-line, your friend the deconvert has certain buckets that are full. You saying it again will make no difference. The following buckets are full:

“You really know there is a God.”
“You hate answering to authority, so you hate God.”
“You want to be God.”
“The wisdom of the world is foolishness.”
“You were never saved in the first place.”

Frankly, deconverts have heard those phrases time and time (and time) again. He knows you think it. He knows that it these are truths that are so grounded in your being they make “2 + 2 = 4” possibly more inaccurate. But he doesn’t need to hear it again.

Interestingly, you can still get the point across, but in the form of a question, rather than an accusation. Instead of saying, “You really know there is a God” you could say, “When you were a Christian, you thought Romans 1 was divinely inspired. As you know, it indicates that all humans know there is a God. How did you deal with that?”

You may not like the answer. But it comes across so much nicer in question form, rather than indictment form.

He knows you cannot fathom the concept that another person can believe, to the very core of their being, there is no God. He knows that you must question his sincerity in saying that. But rather than blurt it out, keep it to yourself. If he calls himself a former Christian, there is not a single ounce of harm to agree.

Yes, you have a duty to speak truth. Yes, you will choke on the words that state he was a Christian. But do you really want to argue “truth” with someone that you are convinced is lying to themselves? What is the gain? Let it go.

Stow the assertions; ask questions instead.

You may have to study

If you are really interested in empathizing to some degree as to what he went through, you may have to pick up a book and read. It will not be a book you would normally choose.

Deconverts become deconverts through study. They have read numerous books, and articles, and forums, and blogs, and have analyzed as best they can, 1000’s of pages of documents. It is a compliment to acknowledge that study with at least reading one measly book.

Ask for a recommendation from your friend for one (1) book. Explain that you have no interest in deconverting, but, because they are your friend, you are interested in what they are interested in. Read the book, take notes, and point out to your friend everywhere it was wrong, or did not resonant with you.

For your friend, this will do two things. First, it will demonstrate your interest and the fact you actually read it. Second it will give him an opportunity to show you there is not always one side to every story.

Give it time

Surprisingly, you will find that he did not change as much as you expected. He still likes the same food. He still laughs at the same jokes, plays the same tricks, and tells the same stupid stories. He may even still go to church.

He will not announce he has become a homosexual swinger, due to the release of a theistic moral system. He will not ask you to join him in bank robberies, murder sprees and village pillaging, due to this new moral ideal.

You may also find that he becomes less and less interested in discussing theism, as the hours you have spent were just enough of a release valve, which he can vent elsewhere. Eventually he will remember that he wants you, too, as a friend, and you may not want to talk about evolution every single time you meet.

And while your relationship will be different, no doubt, on many levels it can be much deeper. You might even, someday, tell others that you have an atheist, agnostic or deist for a friend when it is not a prayer request!

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

At least I would buy less gifts...

I was raised in a pre-millennium, pre-tribulation Christian world.

As fundamentalists, we were not provided too many exciting topics. No drinking, no card-playing, no movies, no smoking, and certainly no controversial or spine-tingling subjects. There were two exceptions.

Once in a great while we were allowed to discuss demons and Satanists. We salivated over tales of rituals (all hinting of various stages of undress) and horror including drinking blood, cannibalism and kidnapping unknowing strangers. The other exception was discussion about end-times, and all the various sins that would be committed and the explicitly described gory judgments rendered upon those miscreants, whilst we watched from heaven, munching our popcorn.

For those that don’t know their eschatology (a word meaning, “Look at me! I use big words for ‘end-times’ that dramatically increases the listener’s respect for what I am talking about”) many Christians hold to a 1000-year period of peace, in which Jesus and various Christians run the government. Hence the word “millennium.”

As Christians seem to create more issues than resolutions among themselves, it comes as no surprise that the Millennium is no different. Some argue that Jesus will return prior to the Millennium, some argued that he would return after, and some argue that the Millennium is not an actual 1000-year period.

Those that hold to Jesus returning before (Pre-Millennium,) most often also believe that there will be seven years of very bad times immediately prior to Jesus coming, and term this “The Tribulation.” And since the Millennium has controversy, there is no reason that the Tribulation can’t have some controversy, either.

Those that hold to a Tribulation also believe there will be an event in which Jesus calls up, in some way, the then-living Christians in what is termed “The Rapture.” Some believe that The Rapture will happen right before The Tribulation, some hold it will happen in the middle of The Tribulation, and some at the end of The Tribulation.

If you followed me thus far, you may see that we believed in The Rapture, (“Pre-Tribulation”) followed by The Tribulation, then Jesus comes, (“Pre-Millennium”) then The Millennium. Since the words were too long to say (‘cept “eschatology”) we shortened them to “Pre-Trib” or “Pre-Mil.”

This allowed us to say fun sentences such as “That fellow is a Post-Mil, so they could never be a Mid-Trib, but she is a Pre-Trib, which makes her better than a Post-Trib and much better than an A-mil.” See?

(I always wondered why we didn’t shorten other words. I was a Calvinist Baptist, Nicene Creed, Inerrantist, Literalist. Or a Cal Bap Nick In Lit. I guess it does sound like a cell phone going through a tunnel, eh?)

All of which is to say I was raised in a home that thought one day all the living Christians would vanish in some way.

We did not have the particulars worked out in this regard. Although we did not need to take our clothes, the thought of any more nakedicity in the world, through God’s divine plan, was more than we could bear, so we envisioned that the clothes would go with us. Exchanged in some private changing room and discarded once we arrived, of course. (We secretly thought that Heaven was to be as modest as Earth, with an occasional guilty passing thought that it might be nudist, after which we began to confess our sins thinking about WHO might make it heaven or not.)

And, to our shame, we had little sympathy for the lives that would be impacted. In fact, we had more than a little guilty pleasure. In these rousing sessions about end-times there would always be a mention of what happens to a plane if both the pilot and co-pilot were Christians with a dismissive shrug and self-righteous justification that any passengers going down in a ball of flame shouldn’t have been non-Christians. They had their chance and biffed it.

Hey, if my car swerves off at 65 mph and slams into another car, killing a two-year-old child, she wouldn’t have BEEN in that car, if she was a Christian, right? She would have been floating up in the air with me.

Technically, we didn’t think that the Christians would actually float up in the air. That would be too-much of a give away that something was happening. We figured we would disappear and perhaps re-appear once far enough off the ground that no one could see us. Or maybe gather in space somewhere.


In the back of our mind, we were always aware that there must be some people who thought they were Christians, and were not taken up. As a child, on more than one occasion when my family was not immediately available, and I thought they should be, I was concerned that the Rapture happened without me!

And we never quite knew how those that knew of the Rapture would not be immediately convinced, and become Christians on the spot. (Too late for the Rapture, of course, but plenty of time for the return pick-up.) It was a matter of fun speculation in which numerous theories could be proposed, and who could say that it was not possible?

Take me for example. My family is all Christian. Pre-Trib, Pre-Mil. I can’t help wonder what they think I would do, if the Rapture happened like they think it would. Understand, when I say my family is ALL Christian, I mean ALL. My father and his wife are. My brothers and sister are. My step-brother and step-sisters are. All of their spouses are. All of their children, my nieces and nephews, are. All of the current boyfriends/girlfriends of the nieces and nephews are. My wife is. My children are.

At the next Christmas gathering when it is just me and more than 40 people are MIA, do ya think I [b]might[/b] just start scratching my head? I am a skeptic, remember? What tale could the government spin, what would I buy that would convince me that my entire family just disappeared? Alien invasion? I don’t believe in aliens. Skeptic, remember? Disease? I don’t trust my government’s claims NOW about disease, why would my entire family’s disappearance make any difference?

I would think, while I am looking at the ham, turkey, mashed potatoes, rolls and pie enough to feed a troop, the thought, “Gee, I wonder if the Rapture occurred?” could possibly cross my mind.

In reading across the internet, there are 1000’s, maybe 10’s of 1000’s of deconverts from Christianity, just like me. Who have heard of the rapture, just like me. Who would become believers on the spot, just like me. It would make Christianity the No. 1 religion overnight!

I would pity the fool who attempted to consolidate this religion or a government after that!

“I will lead the Christians into a unified one-world church.”
“Ahhhh! The Anti-Christ! The Anti-Christ! Kill! Kill! Kill! We don’t want to have THE TRIBULATION.”

“I want you to have this mark on your hand—“
“Or my forehead! Oh, oh! You are the Beast! Come everybody, see the Beast! See the mark! Avoid it at all costs. Kill! Kill! Kill! We don’t want to have THE TRIBULATION.”

The only way that I could see for the Tribulation to occur, what with the proliferation of the Bible, and the belief of the Rapture expounded in numerous media forums, is for God to deliberate deceive those that are left. Even LaHaye’s “Left Behind” series would have to disappear off the shelves. Too many secrets revealed.

Is that what my family proposes? That God must deceive me, so that in some way I believe they all disappeared and it makes perfectly logical sense?

Funny, at the moment they propose that Satan is deceiving me by logic and reason, and that is a bad thing. Apparently when God does it after the Rapture, it will be a good thing.

Frankly, I would prefer they both be more up-front and stop playing these games. Or perhaps neither exists, and this is one more item in a long laundry list that, upon inspection, makes no sense.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Fishy Smell

As I got to wander through our state this past week, I passed (and was passed) by many automobiles. Many of them had….”the fish.” You know what I am taking about—a chrome set of crossed parenthesis. No eyes. No mouth. No upper or lower or side fins. In fact, the tail is not even quite finished.

All proudly proclaiming the heightened state of spirituality which I presume the driver has obtained, and the intense state of evangelism dispensed at 80 mph. Never fear, I know I was just passed by a Christian in a Ford F-350, towing a boat, two Jet skis, four bikes and a fish.

People revolt from placing an “I Found It” or “God is my Co-Pilot” on their bright, shiny Black Cadillac. But chrome it up, make it subtle and they smack it on with glee.

In case some of you lunkheads are a bit thick, a few of the fish include the word “Jesus” inside. I am uncertain whether that is a lower spirituality (because it has to be spelled out) or a higher spirituality (because it is spelled out) or simply an option the no-“Jesus” fishes couldn’t afford.

And after seeing so many, I did notice that they are a bit drab. Oh, they are chrome, but the same thing over and over and over. No colors; no cute little sayings. (I started making them up—“O-Fish-all symbol of Jesus” and “Christian Carp-ful” and “My sole is heaven bound” or “Hooked on Jesus” and my favorite, “I’d go to halibut I got Jesus.”)

Seriously—what are we non-fishes supposed to do?

Is it THAT important we know you are some type of Christian, merely by the ornament on your automobile? Clearly by taking the necessary steps to go out of your way, use funds normally designated for your own personal treat (since I am certain you would NEVER take it from the funds you designate for the poor), picking the choicest spot on your vehicle and carefully placing it, you must hope for some reaction from others.

Is it so we know there are Christians out there?

“Honey, look at that. I thought the last Christians had disappeared, but there’s a car with a fish. Must be still around. Oh! And over there, a plate from Vermont…”

Or are we to see how well God has blessed you? I am sure many a family stretching their dollars to take a vacation in their ‘94 Geo Prism are suitably impressed by seeing an RV larger than their neighborhood passing them with a fish firmly affixed.

“Gee, honey. If only we were Christians, we could have camper that requires us to back-and-fill three times to take a turn. Sigh.”

Or are you sending secret signals to other fishes and, not unlike a traveling motorcycle group, plan to meet up at the next good restaurant? After having attended church for 38 years, I can assure you that any restaurant with a parking-lot of fishes is a good place to eat!

Christians may not know what the Synoptic Problem is, but they sure know how to find a tasty affordable buffet when necessary.

‘Course in this day and age, with the varying belief systems within fish world itself, it may be a bit tricky to catch up with the right fish.

“Hey, I see you have a fish on your car, too!”
”Yep. What parish do you belong to?”
“’Parish?’ Yipes! Bad Fish! Bad Fish!”

I presume mostly it comes from a sense of self-pride that one has from being a Christian that makes them want to show it in some way. There is nothing wrong with that, on some levels. I can understand where being a member of a select group causes one to desire that others recognize the difference.

But is putting a trinket on your automobile, when there are so many people in the world who are starving, that much of a symbol of Christianity? Or is it more a mark of shame? Honestly, if Jesus owned a car today, and He had $9.95 in his pocket, do you REALLY see Him using it toward a chrome fish?

Or do you see Jesus pointing out the exemplary widow who used her last two mites to buy a fish to stick on the back of her dress? Christians tell me they believe in heaven. Do they think once there they will heave a sigh of relief for having purchased a plastic fish, rather than using those few dollars toward the local soup kitchen?

As I passed fish after fish, I started to long for something different—a homemade sign that said, “Rather than buy a plastic fish for my car, I bought a real fish for a family.” That would be a fish that sent a much different message to us non-fishes.