Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


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Sadness, Anger, and Sympathy

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A friend of mine posted this a bit ago. She frequently posts these types of messages and prayers. They fill me all at once with sadness, anger, and immense amount of sympathy.

Let me give you a bit of back story.

She and her husband are in their early fifties. They were young, vibrant, active, and adventurous.

Her husband had always been a tall, strong, imposing figure. Yet he was really just a giant teddy bear of a man, always at the ready with a hug and joke.

In the blink of an eye that changed for them.

He was riding solo on his Harley Davidson when someone turned across traffic in front of him. Unable to stop he slid underneath the vehicle. After days of touch and go, not knowing if he would live or die, he pulled through.

She was awash with relief and sang the praises of her God.

Then the devastating news came that the brain damage would be permanent and also the paralysis.

That has been some four years ago now. The longer it goes the more desperate she becomes. She loves her husband and takes very good care of him but it is now more of a mother/child relationship. She has amply displayed her commitment. Yet she longs for that husband/wife relationship that she once had. She would never verbalize this but she can’t even move on. It isn’t even as she would want to if she could, but she can’t have her husband back either. Neverland.

And while all of that fills me with a great sadness it also fills me with sadness that in order for her to come to terms with her situation she must do these mental gymnastics.

She prays to the God she believes caused her situation to thank him for it. Thanking him for causing her circumstances in order to bring about her dependence on this invisible entity that cannot give her an embrace, cannot kiss her lips, cannot hold her hand – this invisible entity that cannot carry on regular conversation but is only voices in her head.

Yes, it is indeed sad.

It makes me so angry to watch as she struggles day after day with his pain management. She has long given up praying for healing. She believes her God’s answer is, “no,” that her husband must suffer and she along with him for some greater purpose. And that purpose is a desperate need for dependence on the very being that caused the pain in the first place. She will sing his praises and glorify him for breaking her down.

On Earth we call that abuse.

It’s like watching a parent beat their child until everything in them is broken and watching that child beg the parent to do it all over again. Stockholm syndrome doesn’t even begin to describe it.

The anger that wells up inside of me is visceral.

And at the same time I’m filled with so much sympathy and so much understanding of why she needs this to be so. It might all be too much to bear if it doesn’t serve some purpose. She needs to believe that all of this has some meaning or else she might just throw in the towel. It would likely break her mind to believe otherwise.

This is why religion persists, why it will likely always persist. And who could be so cruel as to even attempt to take the one thing that is holding it all together for her away?


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Broken and Spilled Out

shattered-glass-1-daniele-smith

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.


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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. 

scholars

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.


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Correlation is not Causation

Emotions and Internet Psychoanalysis

There are a few bloggers out there with whom I feel a kinship.  It’s because we’ve experienced some of the same things, shared some common traits, and in some ways invested into one another’s lives – even from a distance.  I do think I get them and, in turn, they get me.

What makes a person think that within just a few comments, or having read through a few blog posts, that they have me all figured out?  They know what I need.  They know why I believe as I do.  They know why I left faith behind.

It’s because I was hurt by the church.  My particular flavor of Christianity was abusive – but not the others.  I should try on a different size if that one didn’t fit.

I loved my church family.  I loved the people I went to church with.  I still love them.  We just don’t have much in common anymore because I no longer believe as they believe.

I protest that being injured by believers is the reason I lost my faith.  It was only after leaving my faith that I realized how detrimental belief in the Christian God and the Bible were to my well-being.  Hindsight is always 20/20. But, no, I don’t see myself as a victim of other well-meaning believers who are slogging through this life as best they can.  Just like I am.

Well, if it wasn’t that then it must be because I was displeased with God.  I found his neglect unpalatable.  Surely, that’s what it was.  Again, I protest this notion.  I thought I was talking to God everyday and, moreover, I was quiet so that God could speak to me.  I truly believed I was hearing what God said.  No, never audibly, lest you think I’m completely bonkers.  But through my training and study I learned to “hear” God in the everyday, mundane, things of life.  Circumstances, prayer, scripture, and other people were God’s form of communication.  It was only after I lost my faith that I realized just how hidden God is.  Hindsight is 20/20 after all.

I was recently told these things with regards to my apostasy:

“There are far better ideas of Christ than you have ever known and that you are now unwilling to consider. It’s too bad you got hurt and now have a claque that supports you in your rejection of Christianity. Still, who knows, except your imaginary friend, how it will end. I continue to have hope for you.” ~Waltsamp

“What I think I have found is a person who has expended a great amount of time and effort, and whole lots of words, to create for themselves an impregnable worldview.”

“My supposition that you left Christianity because of some painful experience is apparently wrong. From some of what you have written perhaps it was dissatisfaction with God neglecting you or displeasing you or not measuring up to your standard (although this last one is pretty silly). Perhaps it was that you found Christianity had defects. People have been finding reason not to believe in Christ for 2,000 years so it’s unlikely you found a new one.”


Understand me when I say, yes, I was hurt by my religion.  Yes, I was neglected by God.  But, no, I did not leave my faith over these things. I know very well that my feelings – good or bad – nor my pain have any bearing on truth.  A portion of my pain was the catalyst for giving credence to my doubts.  There is a correlation there, no doubt.  However, my doubts gave way to questions for which there are no good answers.  What kind of faith is it – what kind of God is it – that cannot stand up to scrutiny?

When I began to ask the hard questions, for which I have not found adequate answers, I was unable to close the lid on Pandora’s Box.  I couldn’t put the genie back in the bottle.  I couldn’t unlearn the things I had learned.

I’m quite well aware that there are people who can do that; people who can reconcile the answers to the realities of life with the magic of belief.  I have been unable to accomplish this feat, despite my attempts to do so.

No, I have not found any new reason not to believe in Christ.  The reasons are, as stated, 2,000 years old. That doesn’t mean they aren’t good reasons. What I will say in response is that people have been finding reasons to believe in Christ for 2,000 years so it’s unlikely a new one has been found.

I could say by my interaction with those who believe that I know why they believe.  I could write it all down to their need for an emotional crutch.  Or perhaps it’s their death anxiety.  Or maybe need a scapegoat for their behavior.  Perhaps it’s because they can’t cope with reality.  Maybe they’ve found that the world has defects.

The fact of the matter is, none of that speaks to the truth of Christianity or a god of any kind.  Ultimately the reasons I no longer believe have nothing to do with any perceived injury, slight, or defect of Christians, themselves.  After much consideration, many sleepless nights, hand-wringing, and even illness over it, ultimately, I find the whole of Yahweh and Christ to be implausible.

Do I have an impregnable worldview?  I would say that the fact that I’ve reconsidered everything I believed to be true and changed my mind on at least one occasion should dispel such a notion.

If one wants to challenge my beliefs I’m prepared for that.  I do not have all the answers nor do I pretend to.  I am, however, extremely unlikely to be swayed by emotional appeals and scare tactics.  Bring me evidence, bring me logic, bring me reason and we’ll have something to discuss.  Leave the emotional extortion and psychoanalysis out of it.  My emotions are not taking me over. Correlation is not causation.

 

**You’re welcome, Ark.  I know how much you love the Bee Gees.


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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?

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Edited to add:

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


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Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

Photo Credit: Ruth

Photo Credit: Ruth

 
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.
 

Prayer.  It’s supposed to change things.

“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops.” James 5:16-18

When I was a Christian I prayed every day.  Several times throughout the day.  Before I got out of bed I started praying. I talked to my imaginary friend about, well,  everything.  I could tell him anything.  Why not?  He saw it all anyway.  It was an internal dialogue that was continually going.

Whatever thoughts I had, some scripture would come to mind for me to apply to that thought.  I was ‘taking all my thoughts captive to Christ’ (2 Corinthians 10:5).

I prayed for change within myself, to become more like Christ, to be less of me and more of him.  I believed that “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).  In fact, I believed that the only way he could increase was for me to decrease.  I wanted there to be nothing left of me.  Slowly, over time, this did begin to happen.  I put myself away and made more of Jesus.  Or at least what I thought was Jesus:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” Galatians 5:22-23

But I also prayed for some very real, very tangible things.  Salvation of loved ones, healing for the sick, my step-children, my then-husband, ministry opportunities.  Oh, sure, I prayed the selfish prayers too.  Though I never really expected the selfish ones to come to fruition.  I knew when I was praying selfishly.

The only prayers that were ever answered in the affirmative were the prayers to change me and the selfish prayers.  Never, in 20 plus years, were any of the prayers for salvation, healing, the suffering in the world or other non-selfish prayers answered in the affirmative.

I consoled myself on the healing prayers with platitudes about it not being God’s will.  I told myself and others that the person who died from their ailment received perfect healing rather than divine healing.

The lack of affirmative answers on prayers of salvation were always the most perplexing to me.  If it is God’s will that all should be saved and that none should perish, then why would that prayer not be answered?  At least some of the time?  It wasn’t for a lack of my attempting to evangelize them.  I didn’t just pray about it.  So then I would console myself in the knowledge that I had planted a seed and it was God’s job to water it.

I consoled myself that the suffering in the world was part of God’s plan to get his people involved in his work.  That God wasn’t in the business of snapping his fingers to alleviate suffering.  He expected us to do it.  Then why aren’t we?

No, the only prayers that were ever answered in the affirmative for me were the ones that I had control over.  Not all of my selfish prayers were answered.  Only the ones I could make happen.  And as for transforming my inner self.  Well, I did that too.  Using scripture and prayer I was able to change myself until there wasn’t much left of me.

So when I began to doubt, to question, and to learn that maybe everything I had once believed wasn’t true, it was somewhat of a relief to learn that the reason my prayers weren’t answered wasn’t because God didn’t care.  It wasn’t because God was ignoring me.  It wasn’t because I had some secret sin in my life that I had wracked my brain to find which was prohibiting God from hearing me.

It was because imaginary friends just aren’t very powerful in the lives of others.


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Take A Deep Breath

DSCF1292

There’s some kind of critter playing peek-a-boo with me.

I’ve taken a brief hiatus from religious writing. It’s been a struggle to find the time – and more specifically the motivation – to adequately research my projects, but I’ll get back to those and publish the rest of the series I was working on when that happens.  Sometimes it’s just good to take a break to breathe in some fresh air and recharge my batteries, and do some thinking.

What is strong atheism? From the StongAtheism website I found the following definition:

Strong Atheism is the proposition that we should not suspend judgment about the non-existence of a god or gods. More extensively, it is a positive position against theistic values, semantics and anti-materialism, a rational inquiry in the nature of religious thought, a new way of thinking about religious and spiritual issues.

This doesn’t seem to be completely where I am.  I’m…ambivalent.  Ambivalent about being hostile toward theistic values and anti-materialism because ultimately that means being hostile toward people.  Perhaps it’s because I spent so much time there. Maybe that’s not even what’s meant by having a positive position against theistic values.  It seems to be the tactic that’s taken against theists, though.  I’m not even absolutely certain that I’m a materialist, though I don’t think I have to be to make a rational inquiry into religious thought and to develop or have a new way of thinking about spiritual issues.

I do feel I have rational reasons for believing that the God of the Bible, nor any god that has been proposed to date, exists.  If there is a “creator” I don’t think it’s those gods.  At the same time other people who I would call rational come to vastly different conclusions about that.  Does that mean that they are wrong?  Or that perhaps I am?

According to many sects of Christianity, if I am wrong, I’ll have a high price to pay.  Which is one of the reasons I don’t believe that god exists.  BibleGod is invisible.  BibleGod has left little to no empirical evidence of his existence – just possible footprints(because there’s stuff we don’t have empirical evidence of) – which may or may not be his(or some other god’s or gods’).   BibleGod says that if I don’t believe in what I can’t see I will spend eternity in hell.  That doesn’t square with a just deity. With the stakes so high it would seem that justice would call for his existence to be less ambiguous, less fuzzy.  I digress…

I’ve watched, and participated in, the back and forth exchanges between atheists and Christians.  It’s been…difficult.  It’s been heartbreaking, infuriating, and frustrating.  It’s left me with a really bad taste in my mouth for what any one of us calls debate.  I thought debate was clearly presenting facts, viewpoints, and opinions drawn from those facts and viewpoints in the affirmative and the negative by opposing parties in a clear and concise manner for the consideration of an audience.  I think with the advent of opinion news shows it has become increasingly more adversarial with insults and taunting rampant.  That is disappointing.

It’s disappointing and, for me, particularly disturbing that adults cannot seem to speak to each other with respect and treat each other with dignity simply because of a belief or lack thereof.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  And if someone has researched enough that they feel firm in their position, how is that derogatory of those who hold the opposing view?  It isn’t.  Why can’t we seem to discuss these issues without vitriol, name-calling, questioning the integrity of those who hold an opposing viewpoint, or insulting their mental acuity?  And I’m not just talking about the Christians here.  Atheists:  if our evidence and reason are strong we shouldn’t need insults and derogatory rhetoric, should we?

Ridiculing people for believing things that you don’t is not persuasive.  It isn’t conducive to productive dialogue and, frankly, I’m a bit ashamed that I allowed myself to be drawn into it.