Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


117 Comments

Can You Handle the Truth?

I’ve been inspired to write this from a couple of places, really.  The Big Blog of Knowledge had this post on Radical Honesty. How much value do you place on the truth?  Is honesty important to you?  Do you lie to keep yourself from hearing your wife nag about how much time you spend golfing?  Do you lie to your husband about how much money you spent on that purse?  Do you lie to your children?

If you went to the doctor for tests and the results weren’t favorable would you want to know?  If you went to an attorney and asked for advice would you tell him all the details to get the best options?  Or would you withhold information in the hopes anything seedy wouldn’t come out and you’d get them to do a great job for you without all the details?  Would you want your attorney to give you an honest assessment of your situation or blow smoke up your skirt?

I’m a firm believer in the concept that if you ask me a question you’d better be prepared for the answer.  I don’t mean brutally; I mean do you really want the truth?  Before getting into debates with unbelievers Christians(or apologists from any other faith, for that matter) should be prepared for the stark reality that many of us have considered real evidence to come to our conclusions.  We didn’t get mad at God.  We didn’t decide we wanted to live a life of sin and debauchery.  We honestly assessed the evidence and found it wanting.  Not only did we find evidence for a God wanting, we found evidence to the contrary.

Over at Thoughts from a Sandwich there’s a wealth of knowledge.  DagoodS really knows his stuff.  Every so often a Christian happens along his path hoping to reconvert him.  With the false belief(because some apologist lied to this apologist somewhere along the way) that the reasons people are atheist or have deconverted have nothing whatsoever to do with evidence these well-meaning, sometimes naive, Christians show up and try to set the record straight.  Most of the time they walk away still convinced that de-converts exist in spite of evidence for Christianity rather than accepting the reality that what they believe is…well…just not true.

Recently he had an interesting and ongoing exchange with a fellow blogger who is an Orthodox Lutheran Christian.  This fellow sought out Bruce Gerenscer to ask questions and , in his own words, truthfully try to understand atheism.  He’d believed that he could possibly say something that might turn these one-time Christians into once-again Christians.

I’m really not trying to single him out, but as a consequence of the exchange he had, and the materials they had him research this man nearly lost his faith.  Nearly.  And to be honest I have to admire his honesty in his conclusions.  He has retained his faith, but it’s not the same faith he had before.  Now he is concerned that this same information will cause more people to lose their faith.  This was his exhortation to DagoodS after their lengthy exchange:

“I’m a doctor. When I first started out as a doctor I believed it was my duty to always tell my patient the truth. I have learned after 20 years of practice that the truth is not what every patient wants to hear. Some patients want to know that they only have three months left to live. Some don’t want to know. These people just want to live every day as if nothing is wrong. They don’t want the “truth” hanging over their head.

So now instead of always telling my patients the truth, I ask them instead, “How much do you want to know?”

I would humbly suggest that you do the same with Christians who come to you for advice on the “evidence” that proves Christianity as false. Some of us don’t want to know “the truth”. We are happy with what we perceive to be truth, even if it may be false by the “evidence”.

He readily admits he doesn’t want to know the truth.  He wants to keep the fairy tale alive.  It would be too detrimental to his family life, his personal life, and his psyche to let go of his faith.  And so, because he wants to believe he does.  I don’t think I’ve ever met another Christian who has been this honest with others nor themselves.  It’s noteworthy that the commenters on this post don’t think he will be able to hold onto his faith in this manner.  After all, we couldn’t do it.  You can’t unsee what’s been seen.  You can’t unknow what you know.  It is for those reasons that we weren’t able to hold onto our faith, either.  How can you have facts laid out before, acknowledge those facts as facts, and ignore them?  How do you unring that bell?

So when it comes to honesty, how much do you really want to know?  Can you handle the truth?


17 Comments

Put that Gavel Down!

Judge-Gavel

“I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.” 1Corinthians 5:9-13

Dear Christians:

I’m not sure if you even read here but just in case you do there are a few things I’d like to say about judging others. First, you are well within your rights to judge each other. Have at it. Paul even tells you to engage in it; not only to judge but to be the jury and executioner. If there are any among you who do the things you find sinful, don’t associate with them. Shun them. Put them out to pasture. Don’t even break bread with them. It’s okay. That’s what you’re supposed to do. Give them a time out, place them on restriction, and put their noses in the corner.

That seems to be your favorite pass-time, anyway. I thought cannibalism had been pretty well outlawed within your ranks, but you all seem rather comfortable with the practice of eating each other for breakfast. Knock yourselves out. There are some 30,000 plus denominations of Christianity, not including Catholicism which has around 245 religious orders or rites. I’m not sure what the difference is except that all of those 245 religious rites still answer to the same Pope so I guess that means it’s just one. Even though they all practice their worship a little bit differently, which isn’t the same, so not one? ‘I see’, said the blind man.

Regardless, it’s helping people to see that it’s all a little bit…well…hokey. So all those people you shun will either go on feeling guilty and horrible and terrible about themselves or they’ll decide they don’t need your approval and move on. With your church discipline it places the disciplinee on the outside; like they’re not even believers. Most of you would say they aren’t True Believers™, anyway. This brings me to my next point:

If they aren’t True Believers™ you shouldn’t be judging them, anyway. Put ’em out of your fellowship and leave them be. What’s that? You don’t believe me? “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.” 1 Corinthians 5: 12-13. There you go. Right there from your good book. Instruction manual on how to treat unbelievers.

Do you know what else that means? Your church rules and your Christian law book only apply to you and your fellowship of believers. So stop trying to apply them to everybody else. Gay marriage? Abortion? Not your concern unless it’s happening in your congregation. I think it would still suck air to be so rude to your professing brothers and sisters in Christ to treat them so callously, but there’s your recourse. That’s it. Put them out of fellowship and leave them be. But that’s all you’ve got.

You see, this country is not a church. Our forefathers went to great lengths to spell out in great detail that the government would not and could not sponsor a state religion. Therefore, if you are a Christian and you want to live out your life till the cold, clammy hand of death comes to take you to become dust again being one, that’s your prerogative. And if you want to spend your days on this earth with your nose turned up, looking down on unbelievers because they aren’t livin’ right, that’s your prerogative, too. But what you don’t get to do is tell anyone else how they get to live.

Sure, you can go in the voting booth and pull the lever whichever way tickles your fancy and you can spend your very last dime campaigning for whatever cause is near and dear to your heart. That’s the way it works. But what you don’t get to do is be the judge, jury, and executioner of those who don’t subscribe to your beliefs. It’s not your place and it’s certainly not your right. Put your gavel down and go on about your business.

Kindest Regards,

Ruth


17 Comments

Hello, my name is…

See me perched up here?  This is MY ottoman.

See me perched up here? This is MY ottoman.

…Scamper. This really nice lady rescued me from a busy intersection on a four-lane highway. I was so tiny, not even four weeks old then. She posted a picture of me on facebook to find a home for me and somehow Ruth saw me and thought I was adorable. I am. Ruth contacted the nice lady but by that time nice lady’s husband had insisted on me going to the pound.  That’s not usually a good thing.  But Ruth shared my picture with The Brit and he went that day to get me.  I was so afraid of everything that I didn’t come out from under the bed for two days.  Finally I decided The Brit and Ruth were kinda nice and they weren’t going to eat me so I came out.  Then I became even more adorable and pretty lovable.  So there’s that.

This is me, in my spot behind the sofa, trying to nap.  You may take your leave now, Ruth.

This is me, in my spot behind the sofa, trying to nap. You may take your leave now, Ruth.

The Brit and Ruth are my waitstaff. I have found that after nearly a year they make an excellent head butler and head housemaid. As my staff they insure that everything runs smoothly; that I get to come inside when I want; that I get to go outside when I meow at the door; and that there is always plenty of food for me.  I’m a little picky.  I like the tins of food with bits of cheese and lots of gravy.  So they fetch that for me as a special treat.  I get a lot of treats.  Hey, I’m special!  I’m the king of this here castle; the master of my domain.  I rules the roost.  All the neighborhood cats come to my house to play. I am one cool cat.  I also enjoy morning cuddles with Ruth and The Brit and afternoon naps behind the sofa.  I’m really not too sure at all about our other house guests.  Especially that big one.  She is just a guest, isn’t she?!?

See, I'm showing you my stump!

See, I’m showing you my stump!

Hey there!  I’m Stumpy.  I’m not sure who my people are, but I’ve employed The Brit and Ruth to take care of me, too.  I showed up here not too long after they moved in.  Scamper definitely is a cool cat.  He’s the reason I started coming here;  I keep coming for the food.  They noticed my stump right away.  They watched me for a while thinking I belong to somebody.  I belong to no one.  They all belong to me.  I digress.

I'm workin' it.

I’m workin’ it.

Finally they got tired, I guess, of watching me hobble along on this stump.  It stayed kinda raw.  The Brit tricked me into letting him pick me up and he hauled me down the road to a hospital.   They gave me a shot because I was infested with fleas and a shot for rabies. Instead of bandaging up this leg they said it was better to leave it because it will heal on it’s own.  Whatever.  I just wanted to get outta there because the Dr. said something about cutting the rest of it off.  We don’t want to go that route.  I’m getting along just fine like I am, thank you.

 

I'm being cute right now.

I’m being cute right now.

Oh, hello!  My name is Dottie. I’m a two-year-old Pointer-mix.  My foster parents found me in the median in front of their house.  They said I was malnourished and nearly dead, possibly even blind in one eye.  I’m supposed to hunt, but I don’t like guns.  I don’t like fireworks on the television, either.

I’m not.  Blind, that is.  I just needed some food.  Ruth saw me on facebook, too.  She came to see me at an adoption event.  There were lots of other dogs there, too.  But she thought I was the one.  She didn’t adopt me that day, though.  The Brit needed to meet me first.  They came to see me at my people’s house.  I really liked them.  My people, that is.

Someone has been mean to me so I’m pretty skittish and it takes me a while to warm up to people.  Especially to men.  The Brit is really tall and he kind of scares me.  It took me a few days, but now Ruth is my person.  I’m her shadow when she’s at home.  The Brit is okay.  He gives me lots of treats and pets me when I let him. I like him better when he’s sitting down.  I’m coming around.  He’s not so bad…it’s just that I’m scared. All the other animals and kids flock to him, so he’s probably alright. He’s being really patient. I just got here ten days ago and I’ve come a long way, really.  At first I would only back away and bark and growl but now I don’t do that so much.  Just a little when he’s sitting on the sofa with my Ruth.  I don’t really like that, but I guess I’ll have to get used to it.  It doesn’t do me any good to get angry about it.  They still sit next to each other. :/   Deep down I’m just a big baby.  At 25kgs I think I’m only 5kgs.  I really want to be a lap dog.

The teacups behind me were fun to play with!

The teacups behind me were fun to play with!

I can do a few things, too.  Like ‘sit’, and ‘down’, and ‘come’.  When I’m not too excited. We’ll work on that. I’m a really good running partner, too.  Not so much the walking.  I’m a puller.  I like to drag Ruth through the neighborhood.  The Brit can walk me, too, as long as Ruth leashes me up.  I walk better for him.  I don’t pull so much with him.  Other dogs are my friends.  I’m really social with them.  Beth and Dirk brought their Yorkies to meet me and I think I did pretty well. I just wanted to play. I don’t know what everybody was getting worked up about.  They’re not that much smaller than me!  I also like to counter-surf but Ruth puts pepper on there to keep me from doing it.  Pepper tastes bad.  And just the other day she busted me digging around the fence.  Bummer.  She started kenneling me until she can fix it so I can’t dig.  Party pooper!

All in all I think this place is going to be okay.  Especially if I can get that Scamper to play.  I wasn’t too sure at first.  I really didn’t want to leave my people.  I had only been there a month-and-a-half, but they saved me.  And that’s gotta be worth something, right?

We own this joint.  The humans just get to live here.


23 Comments

Happy Passover!

“On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD.” Exodus 12:12

 

passoverHave you ever stopped to think that while you’re celebrating Passover you’re really celebrating the death of thousands[millions?] of people and animals at the hand of your God?  Happy Passover!


54 Comments

Barbarianism, Alive and Ready to War

violenceI won’t link to his website here.  Just a quick Google search of the name and you’ll find it if you want to see it. I just went there to see if this quote was accurately attributed. It is.

Now, I’m not a militant-feminist.  I simply want equality, having no desire to push anyone else down – male, female, black, white – makes no difference to me.  Poking around over there gave me a case of the hives and made me afraid.  It made me afraid that there really are white men[any men] in America – or anywhere, for that matter – with this mentality.  The only reason I even know about it is because someone I’m friends with on Facebook posted the meme.  Surely this was some kind of joke, I thought.

This call to tribalism and male dominance is appalling.  I would think that even you men out there would agree with that.  Why would anyone want to back up?  I wouldn’t have thought that anyone in the 21st century would be advocating this.  If violence is the gold standard, sell all your gold.

Why do [some] white men feel as if anyone seeking equality is a threat?  Those of us not white and muscle-bound have to do that through the ballot box and legislation.  We don’t go around punching people in the face(or refraining from it only because we’d be thrown in jail) to get our way.  This doesn’t seem much like masculinity to me.  It seems more like five-year-olds in a sand-box.  Or a two-year-old throwing a trantrum to get his way; childish and archaic.

Is this what survival of the fittest is about?  If a man can dominate, if he can hold you down, if he’s the leader of the pack he’s king.  That someone of the male persuasion would think this way or, more crucially, behave this way says to me he’s no man at all.

Human ethics dictate that we protect those weaker than ourselves; not seek to destroy them.  This is barbarianism, plain and simple.  Some how I think men with this mentality would take that as a compliment, though.


29 Comments

Arm-Wrestling with the Devil

devil-v_-jesus“One Day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them.  The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”  Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it.”  Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?  There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil”

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied.  “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has?  You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.  But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely cure you to your face.”

The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” Job 1:6-12

Since man has been able to reason he has questioned why bad things happen to good people and the converse.  The best anyone has been able to come up with is that the gods are toying with us.  Even the author of Job, whoever that is, came to this conclusion.  He imagined that his God handed him over to Satan for no other reason than to prove his greatness.  Why would anyone that great need to prove himself in the first place?

His good friends admonished him that he had clearly sinned but, Yahweh himself said, Job was upright and blameless.  He’d done nothing wrong.  The only thing good old Job was guilty of was loving and revering Yahweh.  The thanks he got for his trouble was everything – including his seven sons and three daughters – taken from him.  And when this failed to make him curse Yahweh Satan made a second appeal which Yahweh, without hesitation, obliged:

On another day the angels came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

 “Skin for skin!” Satan replied. “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” Job 2:1-6

What strikes me in both of these exchanges between Lucy and Yahweh is that in both instances Yahweh pushes Job at Satan.  He taunts Satan with Job’s devotion and offers him up on a silver platter for Satan to do as he wishes, short of killing Job.  Oh, yes, just make him wish he were dead.

Job is allowed to ask his questions of Yahweh, but Yahweh doesn’t answer him. He offers up riddles and platitudes that are so familiar in the Christian vernacular.  It’s a mystery.  Yahweh’s ways are higher than our ways; his thoughts are higher than our thoughts.  Is that all Job’s life and his anguish were worth?

Are Yahweh’s ways higher than ours; his thoughts higher than ours?  This reeks of the alpha-male power trip of a maniac.  Is this the same Yahweh who doesn’t tempt us?  Tempting Job?  That’s what this was all about, was it not?  To see how much Job could endure and still remain faithful and praise Yahweh?

Job says:

“I know that you can do all things; that no plan of yours can be thwarted.

You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?’

Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”

Indeed, Yahweh’s arm-wrestling match with Satan was a mystery to wonderful for Job to know.

The account does say that Yahweh restored Job and blessed him with even more than he originally had for his blind allegiance.  Can one child be replaced by another?  How about ten children?  Any parent who has lost a child certainly knows that, even though they love their other children, the one or ones they lost cannot be replaced.  That loss would be there until Job died.

In my life-application Bible it says the lesson to be learned is this:  “Don’t draw inward from the pain.  Proclaim your faith in God, know that he cares, and wait patiently for his aid.”

I ask you: would a caring parent throw their faithful, loyal child to the wolves?  And should that child be grateful for that parent swooping in to save him or her from the suffering that the parent, himself, ordained?  Geez, thanks, dad.  Go eff yourself.


30 Comments

[TW:hell, abuse] Still a Prisoner; in a hell of our own making

forgiveself

There are many of us who sincerely believed all we were taught.  We believed in heaven and hell.  We believed that anyone else who didn’t believe was headed to a place of eternal torment with weeping and gnashing of teeth where those we cared about and those we didn’t even know would burn forever and ever.  Some of us even wondered how that would be worked out.  Zoe wondered:

Jesus was love and then He wasn’t.  He was the judge.  The penalty, the sentence?  Hell.  What’s it like to love and then just toss even those most wicked of people into the eternal, the everlasting fire.  Does their skin sizzle, does it burn off and then mysteriously reappear only to burn off again?  The screams of those frying?  Do they scream?  Are their voice boxes charred to bits in the fire?  And the not very wicked?  Do they get maybe a cigarette burn and not the whole furnace?  If so, how many cigarette burns?

Personally, I always thought it would be the sensation of burning, maybe not actual flames, but still with the aroma of burnt flesh.  Smoldering smoke rising all about while untold numbers languished in the agony of their burning.  Anyone who’s ever had a third-degree burn would know.  That feeling – only consuming your entire being; whatever that might be.  That burning sensation that no amount of cold water or ice packs can ever really extinguish.  Painful.

hell

We believed this so much and were traumatized by it ourselves from early ages, not necessarily by our parents, but even just the general knowledge that seeped in from church, from television, from society.  Even if our parents didn’t dwell on it and teach us this heinous doctrine directly we got the message that hell was horrendous and no one wanted to be there – even if they didn’t know it themselves.

Because of this belief – which we internalized – we did the only loving thing we knew how to do.  We preached the gospel.  It mattered not if we liked the doctrine of hell.  It mattered not if it was reasonable or rational to believe it.  We started with the presupposition that God was and that this God was the Christian God of the Bible.  If that be true it didn’t matter if we agreed with his form of justice or if we approved.  Who was the clay to tell the potter what to do with his vessels?  He could break them into a million pieces if he wished; just ask Job.

This literal belief in hell drove us to subject ourselves to abuses beyond what we’d imagined.  Moreover; abuse begets abuse.  We abused others with the love we lavished on them.  We believed this doctrine so much that the trauma it caused was a necessary evil in our minds.  If it’s true that non-belief results in an eternity of torment, which is worse?  A little trauma in this life?  Or an eternity of trauma in the next?

Over the ages people have attempted to reconcile a loving God with the God who created this “justice” system.  This doctrine has been twisted and turned in every angle to wrestle with it’s implications.  What about children?  What is the age of accountability?  What about people who have never heard the gospel?  What about those who were raise in other cultures and religions who, even upon hearing the gospel, reject it because it’s, well, unbelievable for them?

Rob Bell argues that “at the centre of the Christian tradition since the first church have been a number who insist that history is not tragic, hell is not forever, and love, in the end, wins.”[1] Universal salvation.  No hell, and if there is it’s educational, and not eternal.  Different ‘sects’ of Christianity have attempted, at different times, to get the hell out of their Bibles, only to the clanging cymbals of those who can’t imagine an eternity where there isn’t one.

Then there are those of us – like Zoe, myself, and countless others – who have rethought our position on the whole pursuit.  We said ‘to hell with hell and all the rest’.  Not before many sleepless nights, many nightmares, much anguish, wringing hands, much study and consideration did we come to our conclusions.

What I would plead with you all to know is; we are sorry.  We acted in good faith on what we knew to be true at the time.  And we are sorry.  We traumatized others with our version of truth and what we were just so damn sure was reality.  We literally tried to scare the hell out of our children and others.  We have wept over our actions.  And we are sorry.

There comes a time, though, when we’ve said we’re sorry enough.  When we must stop beating ourselves up over our past failures.  If we continue to wallow in the agony of what we did in the past what good have we accomplished?  We may be free of those inane beliefs, but we are still prisoners in our own minds.

We may have done some things we regret, but we are surely not the sum of those things.  It’s time to forgive ourselves.  It’s time to live free.

============================================================================================================

[1]Excerpt from Love Wins, Rob Bell

*Edited to add citation.