Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


Haters Gonna Hate

1482967_813463125356313_5515814137530970124_nAtheists don’t hate God any more than we hate fairies, leprechauns, or unicorns.  There are some of us who hate what religion does to people.  We no more believe that God does exist than any of those other things.

I’ve just never heard anyone denigrate, denounce, devalue, or discriminate in the name of fairies, leprechauns, or unicorns.  The minute they do I’ll start blasting those imaginary friends, too.


When somebody comes along and tells me I’d better love Tinkerbell, Larry the Leprechaun, or Stabby over there, else I’m going to a bad, bad place for all of eternity, I’ll tell them they’re crazy and if they gain a following I’ll label it a cult(oh my).

When people start having slaves, demanding submission, or waging wars, and abusing others in the name of their fairy, leprechaun, or unicorn, I’ll hate on those.

Until then, religion will do.


God Does His Child a Solid

From my Facebook files:

I truly have favor with God!!! I need a new refrigerator for the house that I am moving to next month……Home Depot now has the $1700 refrigerator I wanted on sale for $998!!! It appears Samsung is trying to penetrate the market!!! If you guys need or know of anyone in need, spread the word!!! The sale ends July 15th. Thank you Jesus!!!!!

Marilyn Mitchell McCluskey's photo.
Marilyn Mitchell McCluskey's photo.
Marilyn Mitchell McCluskey's photo.
Marilyn Mitchell McCluskey's photo.
Dear facebook friend,
I’m so glad God saw to it that The Home Depot had a sale on for the exact refrigerator you wanted for your dream home in the mountains. It is a miracle. Surely you have garnered more favor than those faithful believers who don’t have enough money for their rent, or medications, or food. And it is likely that God’s provision for you will become the good fortune of another as they turn the box into a home.
God is good.  All the time.


Broken and Spilled Out


Often when reading blog posts I’m triggered.  Not into a downward spiral of despair.  More of a remembrance.  A remembrance of who I used to be.  A remembrance that causes me to take note of who I am today in relation to that person.

As I read this post at VictoriaNeuronotes and the subsequent comments I was brought to just such a remembrance. I remembered when I thought so little of myself that wanted nothing more than to be broken and spilled out because of what my supposed savior had done for me.  I was, in my mind, such a wicked person; so evil and vile that only a perfect blood sacrifice could atone for my shame, my depravity, my iniquity.  Unworthy of such a sacrifice I would be willing to sell my soul to the one who had made such a sacrifice.

I was reminded of this song by Steve Green which used to be a sort of personal anthem:

Broken and Spilled Out

One day a plain village woman
Driven by love for her Lord
Recklessly poured out a valuable essence
Disregarding the scorn

And once it was broken and spilled out
A fragrance filled all the room
Like a prisoner released from his shackles
Like a spirit set free from the tomb

Broken and spilled out
Just for love of You, Jesus
My most precious treasure
Lavished on thee

Broken and spilled out
And poured at Your feet
In sweet abandon, let me be spilled out
And used up for Thee

Lord, You were God’s precious treasure
His loved and His own perfect Son
Sent here to show me the love of the Father
Just for love it was done

And though You were perfect and holy
You gave up Yourself willingly
You spared no expense for my pardon
You were used up and wasted for me

Broken and spilled out
Just for love of me, Jesus
God’s most precious treasure
Lavished on me

Broken and spilled out
And poured at my feet, in sweet abandon
Lord, You were spilled out
And used up for me

I so identified with the very first verse of Amazing Grace:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

I even took to heart that John Newton had originally written, “…that saved a worm like me.”

A worm.  I was nothing more without Jesus than a wriggling worm in the dung heap of life. As a result of being told over and over that I was born as an affront to God, his enemy, I needed Jesus to mediate on my behalf. Made in God’s image, of course.  But I marred that image from the start by my own unrighteousness.  Anything good, and noble, and beautiful were the remnants of God’s perfect image.  The blackness, the ugliness, the humanness, that was all me. And that part of me deserved eternal damnation in a lake of fire. I needed a savior. And like anyone who has ever been saved from a sure fate of hell I was enamored with the savior.

This, folks, is the prescription company defining the disease and selling the cure.

I wanted to be broken and spilled out and used up in sweet abandon for any cause to which my savior called me.   And I was.  I was broken.  Every bit of my essence spilled out.  Shattered into a million little pieces.

You see, just as Victoria states in her excellent post, this all comes at a price.  Any notion of self-worth is hijacked and jack-knifed. Why would any loving parent want their child to be so broken?  How can this be called love?  In any other setting, if you removed the super-natural being from all of this, we would see it as twisted and abusive.  How can we just excuse this and say that because this is God there is some sort of caveat that makes this all different?somethingnew

So I’ve taken my million little pieces of broken and spilled out mess and I’m putting them back together.  I’m making something new.  I am reborn.


All Bible Scholars Agree . . . Or Do They?

Reblogging the work of others is something I seldom do.  However this is such an excellent article that I thought it was worth repeating.  I’m not sure how many of you read the very excellent blog Vridar. I’m providing a link here so you can go check it out.  I’d encourage you to do so and leave a comment there for Neil.  Neil Godfrey has written a response to the, “All Bible scholars agree” or “Scholarly consensus is” line so often trotted out by apologists with regards to Jesus existence and archaeological evidence.  I’ll let Neil speak for himself:

All Bible Scholars Agree . . . (so what?)

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey


No scholar employed by a major university doubts Jesus existed. 


One sometimes reads a claim like this by a theologian or bible scholar although generally they will more modestly say only that no scholar employed by a theology or biblical studies department holds this view.

How should we evaluate such a claim?

The intention behind the claim is to persuade us to accept the authority of biblical scholarship in the same way we might accept the authoritative claims of scientists, engineers or doctors.

But the difference should be obvious to all. The sciences are about universal physical facts; biblical studies are a culturally limited and ideological area of interest.

What if we were to read an Islamic scholar saying no scholar of the Koran or Islam at a reputable university believes Jesus was crucified or doubts Mohammad rose to heaven on a flying horse?

Look, also, at the Who’s Who table to see who in relatively recent years have confessed to doubts about the most fundamental claim of biblical scholarship. Highly respected linguists, philosophers and scientists as well as a broad range of literature scholars, psychologists, engineers are on the list.

These are people who do know how to evaluate claims and are not going to be fobbed off with authoritative declarations about what “bible scholars believe”. These are not people who are somehow perverse eccentrics who are just as likely to be found wondering if Young Earth Creationists are right after all.

People know biblical scholarship does not hold the same universal authoritative status as the medical sciences. It is not hard to find scholars in the sciences even mocking the whole discipline of theology for its ill-informed pretensions to accommodation with evolution.

All authority should be held accountable and welcome challenges if it is to validly justify itself.

Everyone knows the study of the bible is far more of an ideological interest than are the sciences. There is no doubt that most scholars who have taken up biblical studies do so out of a personal religious interest. Most are Christians, liberal or conservative.

The token atheists in their ranks for most part acknowledge that they were once believers and that is why they took up their studies. Others who claim to be atheists or agnostics are very often quiet publicly about their past interests so we can only wonder. Past interest is clearly very important in the eyes of a good number of these scholars as we can see from the way some of them are quick to accuse peers like Robert Price (and even Bart Ehrman) of embracing their critical views as a reaction against past fundamentalism. On the other hand no atheists are faulted for the possibility that they continues to believe elements of their old fundamentalist faith in order to cling to some relics of their past and not admit they were totally wrong about everything.

I only know of one prominent bible scholar who had no religious background at all and took up his studies for purely intellectual interests. I’m sure there must be others but surely they are very few. And one thing he and other scholars agree on, both atheists and believers, is the nature of the ideological domination of biblical studies.

But don’t get me wrong.

I enjoy reading a wide range of scholarly works related to the origins of the Bible and Christianity. (Lest you think I’m obsessed I should point out that I enjoy reading on many other topics: in the last couple of months I have also read works on cosmologyevolution, and Chinese history among others.) The main reason I wanted to start this blog years ago was to share some of the interesting things I was reading about biblical studies that I thought many others would likewise find interesting and informative.

The more one reads the more one’s critical skills are honed. One book never has the final word on any topic. One becomes increasingly aware of the biases and assumptions of the different authors. That doesn’t mean we throw their work in the bin but it does mean we can better evaluate their arguments and learn in the process.

But sometimes one finds a bible scholar making a declaration of authority for his/her entire academic guild that strikes me as blind hubris.


***Neil Godfrey does not  personally endorse other views on this blog.


Atheist Outrage: Checking your Christian Privilege

I see things.  Things I’d rather look away from.  But it’s like a train wreck.  I know I should but I can’t.  A facebook “friend” posted this and it showed up in my news feed.

Atheists Outraged After NASCAR Legend Says This About God and Salvation

I clicked on the article to read about this atheist outrage.  The article never even addresses it.  Nowhere in the article is any atheist quoted, nor even mentioned, as having been outraged.  This is the kind of propaganda unbelievers are up against in the U.S.

Let’s set the scene, why don’t we? It was at the National Prayer Breakfast where NASCAR legend, Darrell Waltrip, was the keynote speaker.  What was that again?  The National Prayer Breakfast.  The United States hosts, at taxpayer expense, a National Prayer Breakfast which is, to my understanding, intended to unite the leaders of the various world religions.

According to Wikipedia The National Prayer Breakfast is hosted by members of the United States Congress and is organized on their behalf by The Fellowship Foundation, a Christ-centered organization.  Every keynote speaker since 1973 except for last year when Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the US Agency for International Development, who practices Hinduism has been a Christian.

Here is the excerpt of Waltrip’s address which was supposedly the source of all the outrage:

Christians everywhere are giving Waltrip atta-boys and pats on the back for having the courage to share his beliefs at an event where sharing beliefs and faith is expected.  I do not take issue with his speech.  That’s what he was invited there to do.  What I take exception to is the gross mischaracterization of atheists.  The outrage, which is the subject of the title of the article, is not even addressed!  What outrage?

What I find so very ironic about the whole thing is the Christian outrage that has poured out over President Barack Obama’s comments:

You don’t have to look very far to see Christians condemning his remarks.  Here’s an article in The Washington Post:

Critics pounce after Obama talks Crusades, slavery at prayer breakfast

and another here from The Week:

The folly of Obama’s National Prayer Breakfast comments

How dare the President speak the truth?  How dare he compare the Crusades and the Inquisition to ISIS’ terrorism?  How dare he point out that horrific acts, like slavery and discrimination, had their roots in religion – specifically Christianity?  Christians are outraged that the President could make such comparisons because Christians have evolved.  They’ve improved and progressed whereas ISIS is going backward.

Have fundamentalist Christians really improved so much?  All one has to do is a Google search for exorcism, Christian child discipline, or Christians rejecting medical attention in favor of prayer, to see that it most assuredly is still possible for Christians to be radicalized.  Granted the rejection of medical attention is not considered terrorism, but what about in cases where a child is the one who is ill and the parents make the decision to pray away critical illness?  What about the brand of child discipline endorsed, no advocated, by Mike and Debi Pearl and practiced by a large portion of society?  What about recent exorcisms which have resulted in the death of the recipient of such treatment?  Not to mention the psychological harm done in the name of Christ!

Christian privilege dictates that nothing negative be said about the Christian faith.  Christian privilege says, “it’s them, not us.”  “We’re nothing like those savages.”  Christian privilege is outraged that the President could point out the failures of their religion.

If we do not learn from history we are most assuredly doomed to repeat it.  Crucify the President.


A Little Housekeeping

sweepingI’ve taken down my Pics ‘n Places page and replaced it with a Resources page.  At present it is relatively sparse but I plan on adding quite a bit in the near future.  It will have tabs for Epistemology, Cosmology, and some more “ologies” as I get around to them.   These are resources I am finding beneficial and I thought I’d pass them along.  Perhaps others can glean something from them as well.


Fear or Freedom

fear“I’ll have to call you back later.”

That’s what Tessa said last Sunday.  She never called me back, though she’s texted me a couple of times since then.

My voice shook as I responded to her question.  She’d been ranting for probably forty-five minutes.  Her foster child had come home with some “magic” cards.  So that’s how the conversation started out.  Those magic cards, it turns out, are game pieces as best I can tell for a game called Magic:  The Gathering.  Perhaps it’s similar to Dungeons and Dragons.  I’m not really sure.

But Tessa had taken the cards from her foster daughter and informed her she couldn’t participate in that.  She’s fourteen and I’m not entirely sure it’s appropriate for that age, myself.  At any rate she continued on that this child’s father, with whom she’d been having weekend visitation, had introduced her to what my friend is calling “Black Magic”.  I don’t think the two things are related at all but I could be wrong.

Then she told her fourteen-year-old foster child that she might be the only Christian that her father knows; that it was her obligation to abstain from playing that game and “witness” to her father; that if he died without knowing Jesus his blood would be on her hands.

She didn’t take a breath.  I hadn’t interrupted nor interjected.  Continuing on she relayed a story about our former pastor.  She’d approached him in the church parking lot because she was upset about the school mandated reading list for her 6th grade child.  So that would put her child around twelve years old.  The concern was over the Harry Potter books.  He told her that he’d read them, his children had read them, and that they all loved the films.  “What would be your issue with them,” he inquired.

“Well, I’m pretty sure that your Bible reads the same as my Bible and I’m also pretty sure it says that dabbling in witchcraft and sorcery is a sin.”  That was her response.  Why did she ask his opinion?  I’m not sure.  Clearly she didn’t need it, she’d already made up her mind about it.  This is the same friend who threw out Disney’s Fantasia and forbade her children to watch it because Mickey was a sorcerer’s apprentice.  It featured a magician.

“Can you believe that? The pastor endorsing Harry Potter?” Then she took a breath.  Oh, crap.  This isn’t a rhetorical question.  She’s expecting an answer.

“Well, you’re probably not going to like what I have to say about that but here goes:  I think that Harry Potter is complete fiction.  J.K. Rowling hasn’t purported it to be anything other than complete fiction and since there’s no such thing as magic and I don’t believe witchcraft to have any actual power I don’t see a problem with it.  I think you have to be the one to teach your kids the difference between fiction and reality. I know there are people who engage in witchcraft but I don’t think it has any actual power.  I don’t believe that spells work.  I know that those who engage in it do, but that doesn’t make it true.”

She cut me off, telling me that her sister had once said she wasn’t ready to give her life to God because she knew she was rebellious.  “Get your Bible out and read it.  Rebellion is a form of witchcraft, I told her.  She got over that real quick and got right with God.  There are demons and the devil is roaming around to see who he can destroy. I firmly believe that anybody who isn’t covered in the blood of Christ is leaving themselves WIDE OPEN to possession.  My friend, Deliverance*, got invited by a new friend she’d made to a dinner party to meet some other new people.  The minute she walked in she sensed it.  They were witches and they just wanted to attack her.  If she hadn’t known what it was she might have been susceptible, but since she knew what to look for she was keenly aware.  And all this stuff that’s happening in the Middle East with ISIS.  They’re cutting little kids’ heads off and putting them up on a stick and making a mockery of Christianity.  They’re taking the girls and raping them and selling them off as sex-slaves.  It’s nothing less than demon possession.  I love you and I want you to get your Bible out and read what it says about witchcraft and demon possession because I don’t want you to be caught off guard.”

Now it was my turn to cut her off.  My voice shook, “Tessa, I know you love me and I love you, and you know that I know what the Bible says about this. I just don’t believe in demon possession.  I don’t think we’re doing the mentally ill a service when we write them off as demon-possessed.  They’re sick, for sure, but they aren’t possessed.  They need proper medical treatment, not exorcism.  Exorcism doesn’t work.  Why do you think the Catholic Church doesn’t perform them as a general rule anymore?  And all this stuff in the Middle East?  Religious extremism is definitely at the core of it, but it’s more about power.  They aren’t representing any God.  They want power and control and the are using religion to get it.  Christians are no better. They’ve had their share of dark history.”  And this is where she cut me short.

My voice shook, not in anger, but in fear.  This is the first time I’ve been this vocal about my disbelief in certain things.  I just couldn’t listen to this any longer and not say something.  I only wish I had gotten the chance to say more.

I find it unconscionable that she laid such a guilt-trip on a fourteen year old child, making her feel responsible for his eternity – as if there is such a thing.  That’s too much responsibility for a child who clearly already has more problems than a math book.  She’s in foster care, she has two sisters, and none of them have the same daddy.  She’s been told nobody wants her.  Not her mother, not her father, not her grandparents.

Things only have the power over us that we give them.  Will we choose fear because we’re uneducated or will we choose the freedom that knowledge provides?

Edited to add:

*Deliverance is a mutual friend who has been a missionary to Israel. She was trained and engages in deliverance.