Why so Angry? Here is the Reason- It’s Probably Not What You Think.

Why so Angry? Here is the Reason- It’s Probably Not What You Think.

Why do these feelings of anger arise within my bosom when certain issues are discussed or brought to my attention? I used to think that I was simply argumentative by nature (not actually the case, I actually hate confrontation). So why I do I post publicly about hot topic issues, even when sometimes the responses I receive are hurtful and make my non-confrontational inner person want to run and hide? Why do I get angry and upset over certain issues when they come up? I can sum it up in a single word:

Empathy.

It is empathy that drives me to post about equality issues, because not saying anything means I am allowing the oppressors to continue unchallenged.

It is empathy that drives me to challenge religion, because I have seen and personally experienced the harm and pain it can and does cause on a regular basis.

It is empathy that causes me to encourage others to start thinking critically, because not thinking through our beliefs is detrimental to ourselves and to society, and knowledge empowers us to make better decisions.

It it empathy that causes righteous anger to rise up within me as I read about yet another male politician enacting laws to limit and oppress women in a nation that’s supposed to be so advanced.

It it empathy that puts knots in my stomach as I see young children being indoctrinated with ideas and beliefs that are not only based on fiction, but can also cause harm and unhealthy views of life.

It is empathy that drives me to address our sexuality, because I was raised (by my Christian circles in general) to believe that girls who had sex outside of marriage were broken and used, and when I hit puberty and masturbated I hated myself for it. The needless guilt and shame I felt about my natural sexual urges is something I don’t want other young people to experience.

It is empathy that drives me to support a woman’s right to make her own choices regarding abortion and birth control, and makes me fight to counteract the negative stigma that hurts so many women.

It is empathy that makes the idea of hell repulsive to me, because the idea of burning people alive forever for ANY crime is horrendous and immoral, and using fear tactics to promote a religion is abusive and hurtful.

 

When I was a Christian, I wanted to be a missionary because I had been taught that this was the most empathetic thing I could do- save lost souls from the torments of hell. Now I try to save people from the torments of the real world.

This is where my empathy now takes me.

Christian Apologetics: Primarily for the Saved

[Someone] pointed out that apologetics rarely persuades non-Christians to become Christians. I agreed, adding that apologetics is primarily for the “saved,” not the “lost.” It serves to assure the faithful that their beliefs are intellectually respectable, despite the apostle Paul’s insistence to the contrary.

Thoughts? I have to say, I agree with this completely. Unless some part of you already believes that the Christian god is or may be real, Christian apologetics arguments are very rarely effective.

I studied apologetics in Bible college, and I was very passionate about it when I was an evangelical fundamentalist Christian. I was unable to see how flawed these arguments were, and how ineffective they were when presented to someone who doesn’t already believe that the Christian God may or does exist. Now, on the other side, I can understand how they appear to non-believers.

Christians: What single apologetics argument do you think is the most accurate/most effective at converting non-believers and why?

Non-Believers: What is the fundamentalist mainstream apologetics argument that you like/dislike/ hear about the most? Do you find it offensive, ridiculous, simply not effective, and why?

Leave a comment!

Keep it respectful, folks. We can and should question and criticize ideas, but NEVER criticise, ridicule, or attack the person holding the ideas. Attacking someone’s character or motives instead of factually answering the argument itself is a logical fallacy and is also very rude. Please also keep in mind that someone challenging your beliefs is not attacking you personally, but rather they are challenging an idea and belief system that you happen to believe in. That goes for everyone. 

(Quote from: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/godlessindixie/2014/11/20/the-motive-of-the-questioner/)

Youth Group Observation

Youth Group Observation

Recently I was sitting in a little diner located in a tiny town in Washington State. Our power had gone out, so I was taking advantage of the free WiFi and a massive plate of chili cheese fries. As I worked online via my laptop, a group of teenagers came in. They were excitedly chatting, and the adult woman with them was asking what kind of pizza they wanted (gluten free apparently). Before long they were sitting at one of the double booths for what turned out to be their midweek Bible study. Although I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, it was impossible to not overhear their conversations, since they did opt to have this meeting in a very public place and sit right across from me.

I regularly went to several youth groups growing up, and at the time I loved them. I was also a youth pastor myself back in the day. But now I’m seeing this situation from a very different perspective. Here are the thoughts that came to mind as I discretely observed the event.

1. The whole point of the meeting was indoctrination. Sure, it also involved social interaction and some good life advice about how to study for tests in school, but the main focus was to corral these teens’ minds into “correct belief”. The youth leader emphatically told them what truth was and discouraged doubt. She did so in a very amiable, down to earth way, and was doing her best to be “relatable” to the teens so they would more easily absorb her message. Instead of teaching them HOW to think about these very important issues, she (and most religious leaders) was putting all of her energy and knowledge into pushing HER idea of truth and reality onto these young, impressionable minds. Instead of showing them how to find out the truth for themselves, she told them that she already knew what truth was, and there was no way it could be wrong.

2. Kids and teens need fun and social interaction. That’s why they love youth groups. Many youth also crave the attention, affection, and approval of an adult authority figure, such as a youth leader. Youth groups specifically target these needs and blatantly exploit them to more easily indoctrinate children and teens with a specific religious ideology. I now view youth groups and Sunday School with skepticism and suspicion, because I was heavily involved with them growing up and I know exactly what the motivations of the leaders are.

3. Would this woman, or any other youth leader, have spent the same amount of time and energy with these kids if religious indoctrination wasn’t their primary goal? Would they have cared to take the time to get to know these kids and help them through life issues if their religion didn’t tell them to proselytize to boost the ranks of the Faithful and save others from hell? I wonder, where are the adults who will give their time and devotion to teens without any expectation of reward (i.e. conversion)? The message in that group, although inviting and laid back, was clear: You need to be a Christian. If you’re not a Christian, we will lovingly peer pressure you into becoming one. If you are a Christian, then you need to make your faith even stronger, squelch any doubts, and get your friends to become Christians too.

I met one of these teen girls afterwards. She noticed me working on my laptop and asked me if I was writing a novel. We had a lovely conversation about following your dreams, even when it’s hard work, because it’s possible to have the kind of life you dream about. She was a science minded individual who found my freelancing career and upcoming school plans very inspiring. Although we didn’t really talk about faith or God, she did ask what I’d gone to college for and I said it was a Bible college but I wasn’t religious anymore. I hope that seeing a successful person living her dream without religion will cause her to think about her own faith. Let’s be clear- I don’t really care if she believes in God. I had no intention of forcing my own beliefs on her. I DO care about her being indoctrinated by adults she trusts to tell her the truth about life, instead of being taught how to make her OWN opinions about faith and the supernatural. My hope for her is that she thinks for herself, whether that means she stays a Christian or finds another explanation of life that makes more sense to her.

I’m not saying youth groups are all inherently evil, or that this youth leader was a terrible person. Having been a youth leader myself, I know that she likely cares very much for these teens and has the best of intentions. However, many people do damaging or wrong things with the best of intentions… the intentions themselves are not nearly enough. Sometimes our intentions are misguided.

If what you teach is truth and that truth can be discovered without the aid of a human teacher, if God is able to reveal himself to anyone, then teaching children and teens to think for themselves should not be something you’re afraid of.

Is the USA Hostile Towards Mothers?

pregnant-woman-540166-mThis article is very good, it shows statistics explaining why the US is a very bad place to be a mother because of our current laws. Please read it before reading my comments below.

http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/06/us-hostile-toward-mothers/?utm_content=buffer3cd37&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

It boggles my mind when I hear some of the common arguments against birth control and abortion, mainly because the US is such a bad place to be a mother if you are not among the wealthy middle class or higher (see the article). If you fall anywhere near or below the poverty line, it’s very hard to retain your job, financial stability, and even get health coverage.

These are some of the most common anti-reproductive choice arguments that are reflected repeatedly in public sentiment and sometimes even in US law:

“Birth control is like abortion and/or unhealthy, so you shouldn’t use it.” Both are largely untrue, and yet these arguments are still being used every single day to pressure women into not being able to effectively plan their families. There are many different birth control methods; it’s important to research them and choose the best and healthiest option for you specifically (for example, I use a low-hormone method). Telling women it’s all bad is deceitful and harmful.

“If you’re having sex, you should be ready to have a baby.” This is incredibly judgmental and unrealistic. Sex is not just for procreation, it’s also for intimacy and pleasure; hence infertile and elderly couples still enjoy it. Having sex is NOT a contract for a woman to have a baby. Some women don’t want kids or just can’t afford them; should they be forced to live like nuns? I have sex because I love my husband, not because we want kids.

“A baby is a blessing.” To some people having a baby IS a great blessing- to others, becoming pregnant is a very stressful, scary experience, especially if they lose their job and their home because of finances. Having a child is a HUGE responsibility- one that should never be forced on anyone. Even if they intend to give the baby up for adoption, they still have to go through the incredibly difficult pregnancy and birth ordeal. And given the appalling rising stats of mother mortality rates in the USA, women should choose carefully.

“Abortion is murder so it should be illegal.” That’s personal opinion- every women needs to make her own decision in this matter. This is a huge can of worms that I’ve discussed many times before, so I won’t be debating the morality of abortion in this blog’s comments.

“Abortion should never be used as birth control.” Abortions are much less pleasant than using birth control. If you talk to women that get abortions, you’ll find that “using it as a form of birth control” isn’t usually how most of them would describe it. This makes it sound like most women are purposefully not using other contraception methods and then use abortion regularly in place of contraception.

We live in a culture where women are not taught proper sex education in many states (some states had to be legally required to even discuss the basics of contraception and they still insist on teaching it improperly), they constantly hear that birth control is dangerous (hormonal) or immoral (all methods) from very vocal anti-birth control groups, and even getting birth control is hard for many low-income women or undocumented women. So it’s no wonder why the US has such a high rate of teen and unwanted pregnancies- women and teen girls hear conflicting information and misinformation every day, and they are not always aware of safe sexual practices. But even if they were aware- birth control and condoms do occasionally fail (especially if they don’t use them 100% correctly due to shoddy sex education), get forgotten that one time, they may have been raped or felt pressured into having sex to fit in, their situation changed for the worse after getting pregnant, etc. And you know what? Sometimes smart women just get pregnant and they don’t want to have a baby. And that’s ok. Again, having sex is not a contract to become pregnant.

Oh, you had a baby you can’t afford? Why didn’t you use birth control or keep your legs closed if you couldn’t afford to have kids right now? The “logic” behind this is baffling and frustrating. Low-income women who have kids are demonized regularly by the media and by individuals. They are considered leeches on the system if they draw welfare/food stamps or their kids need school lunches, called bad parents if they can’t provide for their children, and are called bad parents if they weren’t ready to have kids and it now shows in their lack of parenting skills. They can’t win!

I have talked to a LOT of people about this issue, and I’ve significantly toned down the way that many of these points are often made… words like “slut”, “whore”, “leecher”, “bitch who couldn’t keep her legs closed”, and other demeaning descriptions are unfortunately all too common when referring to women who make reproductive choices that these judgmental people don’t agree with.

 

 

Prayer and Religious Rituals: Do They Actually Have a Physical Effect?

Whenever religious people are asked for evidence that their beliefs are true, it is common that they will cite answered prayer as one of their top reasons for believing. Answered prayer and miracles, to many people, are indisputable signs that their god is real. However, most of these supposed answered prayers and miracles are not remotely supernatural.
Do prayers and/or religious rituals have a physical effect? At one time I would have emphatically answered yes. Read my thoughts if you like and then come to your own conclusions.

The ancient Mayans believed that their gods controlled the weather. They had an elaborate system that they believed caused rain to fall: They paid taxes to the elite rulers, who then paid the priests to perform sacrifices and rituals. Their logic went like this:
“We always pay the priests to perform the rituals, and it always rains eventually. Therefore, the gods control the weather, and our rituals cause them to make it rain.”
But their reasoning was incorrect. We now know that the rain would have come whether they did their rituals or not; rain is not caused by sacrifices, but by dusting mixing with moisture, etc. They incorrectly correlated two complete unconnected events: Their rituals and the weather.
And what if it didn’t rain after their rituals? Well, they assumed that the gods were angry, and they did even more rituals. Since it always rained eventually, their incorrect beliefs were solidified yet again.
But they are not the only people who incorrectly correlated their religious actions with the weather and other natural events. Many ancient cultures have also believed that their rituals and prayers helped to alter natural occurrences. However, like the Mayans, we now understand that there isn’t actually any correlation between the rituals they performed and the weather: the weather would have happened the same way whether they prayed or not.
If you believe that something is impossible without a god’s intervention, then when that something happens, you will see it as proof that the god/s exist and your beliefs are right- even if they aren’t actually connected. Here are some other examples.
Human frailty. Many religious people convince themselves that they are incapable of doing even menial tasks on their own. Thus, when they are able to find their keys, pass a test, stay awake on a long drive, etc., they assume that god must have given them the ability or strength. However, this requires you to completely dismiss your natural abilities in order to believe it. Since many non-believers can do the same things without prayer, this is another illogical correlation of events.
Just because you did something you didn’t know you could do does not mean a prayer was answered; it is more likely that you are simply unaware of or are in denial of your actual abilities. Most humans can do much more than they believe themselves capable of; that’s why we are amazed by humans who have tapped into their potential, such as top athletes, people with extraordinary disciplines, or scientists who can understand very difficult concepts. Also, when faced with stressful situations, adrenaline often takes over and helps us do incredible things. That’s why someone surviving a car crash may be able to lift a car off their child- the temporary adrenaline gave them extra strength to do the seemingly impossible.
Natural disasters. Science can tell us exactly why most natural disasters occur, and often can predict them. There is absolutely no mystery behind tsunamis, floods, hurricanes, and most other natural disasters or severe weather that once terrified our ancestors because they didn’t understand the cause. However, many people STILL believe that gods are responsible for these events, and that their prayers can alter these events.
Disease and illness. If you believe that god heals, then when you get better you will naturally assume that god healed you. However, many minor illnesses heal themselves, such as the common cold; saying god healed your cold is illogical and unimpressive because colds generally heal themselves anyways. If you get medical assistance or take medicine, it is probably the medical assistance that brought about your healing.
But what about supposed miracles? Medical science is not exact, so there are some possible answers for supposedly miraculous or supernatural healings:
1. People don’t accept the doctor’s answer. I hear this all the time- people cry “miracle” and the doctor says “no, this is an unlikely result, but not impossible medically.” But many people will ignore a doctor’s response in favor of believing that they experienced a divine intervention. In other words, people want it to be true, so they look for things that could support their beliefs and dismiss the possibility that they could be wrong.

2. The original diagnosis was incorrect. I watched a show recently where a boy fell from a small cliff and people prayed over him. They believed he had broken some bones, but they didn’t know for sure until the X-ray. The X-ray showed no broken bones- so they praised god for a miraculous healing. But was his arm broken at all? It may have hurt, but how do they know it was actually broken to begin with? Doctors can misdiagnose problems too- it happens all the time. So being told you are free of an incurable disease or severe problem may be the result of an original misdiagnosis, not a miraculous healing.
3. The human body doesn’t always conform to expected medical results. Medical science isn’t exact- a treatment that generally only offers small or limited results may have a major result on a specific person, causing a doctor to be surprised. Your body may react well to a treatment that rarely works on other people. This happens because we still don’t fully understand medical science yet, and because people’s bodies are all different from each other. It does not necessarily mean that there was anything supernatural about it; you just might be one of the few people that respond differently to that treatment.

4. The human body is capable of many things we don’t fully understand yet. The power of our minds and bodies are not yet fully known- it is very possibly that we are, to some degree, capable of healing ourselves by sheer willpower. It is well documented that believing something hard enough is sometimes enough to cause our bodies to respond. The brain is like a computer, and sometimes changing the “programming” (our thinking) can fix the problem on its own. So prayer may indirectly help, but not because there’s a god; believing that you are healed may be enough by itself in some cases. Doctors often encourage meditating, prayer, positive thinking, etc. because they all have similar beneficial results- a healthier mind. The healthier your mind is, the better your body can heal itself. For example, some paralysis is caused by the mind- heal your mind, regain your movement. If you are depressed and discouraged, it’s harder for your body to heal itself.

5. If healings really work, then why do we never see an amputee’s limb grow back in front of us? This is because human limbs simply don’t grow back. Unlike most other physical ailments that could potentially be healed by natural means, an amputated limb cannot be fixed without outside assistance. Have you seen someone’s arm grow back? Have you personally seen someone’s leg regrow in front of you? If not, why? Conveniently, the medical issues that are miraculously “healed” are usually the ones that our bodies are potentially capable of healing on their own.

 

I will admit that sometimes things do happen that there seems to be no logical explanation for. However, I don’t think it’s necessary or reasonable to say that “God must have done it” just because we don’t have an answer yet. If history has shown us one thing, it’s this: Everything that we understand now was once a mystery to us; the more we understand the world, the less supernatural explanations are necessary. I would rather be honest and admit that I don’t have an explanation yet than resort to mystical reasoning. I don’t need an answer for everything- sometimes it’s ok to say “I don’t know.”

Uganda-bill-signing-3“Ugandan pupils from different schools take part in an event organized by born-again Christians to celebrate the signing of a new anti-gay bill that sets harsh penalties for homosexual sex, at the Omega Healing Center outside of Kampala, in Uganda Monday, Feb. 24, 2014.”

http://www.lgbtqnation.com/2014/02/kerry-u-s-launching-new-effort-to-combat-anti-gay-laws-worldwide/#.Uw53peme-oo.facebook

I know that not all Christians are like this. However, I think this needs to be seen. This isn’t an isolated incident- these things are happening in many places around the world by Christians, and some Christians even in the US have made it clear that they would like to make things as difficult for gay people as possible.

Many Christians would say that these people are “deceived” or “not true Christians”. But how do you know? Who determines what is a “true” Christian? I’m sure these people think they are the ones who fully understand God’s will- so who is correct?

Here’s what bothers me after reading that article (and many others like it in the past):

1. Many Christians I know speak out very strongly against Muslims, as though they are all the same- violent terrorists. And yet, I look around the world and I see Christians doing horrible things too, sometimes not much different than radical Muslims. Of course that doesn’t mean they speak for all Christians- but neither do radical Muslims.

2. Many Christians I know say that the Bible is the ultimate moral standard, and that without it we would be lawless, murders, and our society would digress. Seeing the harm that many Christians have done to societies, both past and present, I find this extremely offensive and hypothetical. I’m sure it’s not purposefully said to be offensive- but I’m sure you can see the reason behind my frustration. I see articles like this, showing Christian children brainwashed to be so hateful, and I see other examples every day- and then I am told that I have no morals because I’m an atheist.

3. Many missionaries think that “the Bible is all you need”. I have heard people say many times that “If we could only get Bibles there… God would do the rest!” They send Bibles by the thousands to people whose culture is currently violent and oppressive, sometimes to people who barely know how to read, much less deal with complicated theology in a book that can be interpreted thousands of different ways. They hand them out for free like candy on a street corner, where anyone can take them. But when you send a book to a culture that thrives on violence, and that book has lots of violence in it and at first glance appears to condone such violence, what do you think will happen? Do you really think they will take the time to pick out the verses about kindness instead of focusing on the violent parts that they like? Do you think they’ll get the part about the New Testament overriding the Old Testament before taking Levitical law literally, or that they will take your interpretation over the Westboro version? If you must push Christianity on another culture, make sure you teach kindness and love above all else- don’t just throw the Bible at them and leave, hoping they will “get it right”- especially if they are prone to violence or inequality! It’s a disaster waiting to happen.

Is Religious Freedom an Excuse to Discriminate?

Is discrimination really “religious freedom”? Bills have been introduced in at least 14 states that would allow people to discriminate against gay people under the guise of “religious freedom”. Is this a valid excuse?

What is Religious Freedom?

First we need to determine what religious freedom really is- and what it is not. Religious freedom means that you have the freedom to believe what you want, and to practice that belief within the constrains of the law. It means that no one can put you in jail or discriminate against you based on your religious beliefs. You have the right to meet with other members of your faith, you have the right to speak about it openly, and no one can punish you for your personal beliefs and thoughts. This is a right that many countries still do not have.

Religious freedom does NOT mean you can infringe on the rights of others. When your religious beliefs start directly affecting others in a negative way, then there’s a problem with that part of your beliefs.

For example: If I believe in a god that requires me to make human sacrifices, obviously certain parts of my religion could not be legally practiced- and rightly so. Why? Because now my religion is affecting the rights of someone else. I could follow the other, more legal, aspects of that religion, but I would have to draw the line when it came to the “hurting other people” stuff.

Another example: If me and a group of people believed that Jews were evil and were “Christ killers”, I could say that my beliefs prevented me from serving them in my business. Would this be acceptable? No! Why? Because now my beliefs are causing direct harm to someone else. What if I was a radical Muslim and I said my beliefs required me to take over America and force everyone to submit to Allah’s laws? Would you allow me to “practice my religion” that freely, if I had enough people say they believed the same way? Of course not- because we all know that there is a line between religious freedom and religion being used to oppress others.

Let’s go back in time a few years. Not that long ago, racism was allowed legally via Jim Crow racism laws. People had many reasons for why they didn’t want to serve people of color- but in the end, we as a people realized that those reasons just were not good enough. Some of these people cited their religion, just as people are doing today. Racial segregation was partly allowed because of religious beliefs. Let that sink in. Religion and bigotry was also used to discriminate against women- women were not allowed to vote and do many things that were considered “men only”. So why is suddenly acceptable to use these tactics if the person is gay?

This so-called “religious freedom protection” is also extremely hypocritical. Why do your beliefs prevent you from serving homosexuals but not fornicators or liars? Why can you serve divorcees, gluttons, and atheists, but not a person that you suspect might be gay? If your beliefs prevent you from serving sinners, you’d better get away from the public in general, because the Bible clearly tells us that we’re all sinners. Choosing one sin over another is hypocritical and not remotely Biblical.

But this isn’t about “sin”- this is about intolerance and discrimination. You can believe something is sinful without asking your country to make segregation laws legal so you don’t have to associate with people you don’t like. If you own a public business, that means you have to serve the public- not just the people you like.

I am glad to see the uproar that Christians are making over these laws. I know that most Christians do not support this atrocious segregation, and that makes me happy. It is frightening, however, to see the organization and power that these few hurtful Christians have, and the influence they have gathered. Please raise your voice and show these people that we will not allow their bigotry to be made legal in the name of religious freedom!