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Monthly Archives: September 2012

God’s Journal 2: Regrets, I’ve had a few

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this, I did it my way

-Me  (by way of creating Sinatra)

Dear God, it’s Me, God.

I’ve got to get something off my infinite chest.  I’ve made a few mistakes.  Not the least of which was claiming I’m perfect.  That really paints a guy in a corner.  Trust me. To err is human, but to not err?  So Boring.  So, I’m going to confess a few of my favorite mistakes to myself, say a few Hail Mommy’s and move on.

Full disclosure: St. Isidore of Perpetual Upgrades gave me this Ipad.  I hope it’s secure, it just feels so light compared to the tablets I’m used to writing on…

Mistake #1:  Women’s Rights.

Letting people describe me with the male pronoun was my first mistake.  What was I thinking?  That sends a message.  In terms of creation, it’s pretty insulting that I made Woman after I made Man.  I would have reversed the order, but Eve would have just kept telling me I was making him wrong!  Hey-O! Also, there really are other metaphors that I can use to describe my love for the church other than patriarchal society.  Anyway, I’m just not sure why I didn’t explain to the Israelites that women were just as intelligent and capable as men.  I mean, I had to make sure they ate animals that had cloven hooves and ruminated, sure.  But that doesn’t mean I had to leave off that they should treat women as peers.  Really though, and you’ll have to trust me when I say this, 4,000 years of inequality goes by really fast.

Mistake #2:  Genocide.

Why was I for this so much?  In my defense, though, those Midianites were complete dicks.  But even I was a little taken aback when Moses went all Dread Pirate Roberts “no survivors” on them (as I wrote about in Numbers 31).  He was just taking my lead though, so, in the end, I had to let it go.  You don’t pull a pitcher on a perfect game, and you don’t pull your prophet putting Jericho-ians on a pike.

Mistake #3:  Slavery

This one looks bad.  I get it.  This one’s on me.  But it’s hard to explain. It just sort of happened.  I mean, I’ve already essentially sequestered women to a slave state and made “foreign” people morally acceptable to murder. What am I going to do?  Get mad that they made them indentured servants?  As you can see, I didn’t have a lot of room to maneuver on this one.  It would have looked hypocritical.  That, sir, I will not do.  Plus, I like to think it had a lot to do with the economy of the time, lack of currency, etc.

Mistake #4:  One Nation

I know I’m omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent.  Everyone knows that.  But what people don’t know about me is that I’m a bit of a homebody.  I like to really settle down in one of the all places where I live.  I’m really just a Cush potato at heart.  I guess I could have appeared to some other peoples, burned some other bushes, but I like to just ride with the one nation who loves me the most.  America….you are on notice.  Prop 8?  More like Prop “ain’t” gonna be hanging out here much longer!

I’m going to have to thank myself for creating St. Isidore and making him the saint of technology.  This Ipad is fun.  What’s this Angry Birds “app”….oh! Thank me for inventing physics!  And the birds, and the catapults to shoot them, and……

-jon no h

The Cartoons that Saved the World

I can’t imagine whatever this says is funny. But it may help save us all.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/19/world/europe/france-mohammed-cartoon/index.html?hpt=hp_t1

Is this article that greets me this morning hopeful? Or discouraging? Or both? A french newspaper is running cartoons of Mohammed. As I said above, they’re standing up to the bully. And this is what we need… the entire class must stand up to him for him to finally back down.

On the other hand, CNN is asking in the headline: “Free Speech or Incitement?” And just the presence of that question, regardless of how it is answered, is discouraging. Really, you guys? Maybe Islam should just win in this? When their argument is to riot, threaten, and kill? The suggestion that perhaps this is incitement is a way of laying the blame at the feet of those wishing to express their opinions about this religion. It is no different than saying “She was asking for it, dressing like that!”

We have to decide that violence will NEVER be a winning argument on a global scale. Never.  I know violence is how we have historically solved our most difficult conflicts between nations, I know war is basically our global Judge Judy. That’s pretty discouraging. But if violence can stifle discussion, and guns start winning arguments, then they will start becoming the most common arguments. And all of my geological, astronomical, philosophical, and logical evidence can’t out-argue a pistol.

There’s a scene in the teen movie “Can’t Hardly Wait” where the bully Mike Dexter has been shown up in front of the entire school. Everyone suddenly starts laughing at this guy who was a king for the previous four years. He helplessly yells to a room of hundreds, “I’LL KICK EVERYONE’S ASS IN THIS ROOM!” Which only increases the laughter as he skulks away.

That’s Islam. If we ALL agree to laugh, and not respect the threat, that’s Islam. Maybe he punches one or two people as he skulks out, but he WILL skulk out, and the blood is on his hands, not ours. And we can’t stop that without sacrificing much, much more.

-John with an H

P.S.- And by the way, if any of you think Christianity is beyond going this same direction, you’re crazy. Check your history. This is a religion thing, not an Islamic thing. I promise you that. This has to do with the proposition that there are eternal, invisible things that supersede visible, knowable things, and that there are things more important than large scale suffering and death. Anytime you have that cocktail (a virtual pre-requisite for religion.) You have the potential for this sort of thing. One religion may be more prone to it than others, but it can happen, and will happen, wherever this concept is common. (i.e. religion.)

What Do We Stand For?

The Prophet Muhammed

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”  -James 1:2-4

At this moment U.S. embassies around the world are under protest or attack. For once, it is not because of economic oppression, or exploitation, although those realities may fan the flames. We are under protest globally, because someone here in the U.S. has expressed an opinion that Islam, a religion, would like to suppress. A film maker produced an anti-islamic film in the United States. I have not seen it, only read about it. I can’t speak intelligently to this film’s content, or to the motivations behind it. It does sound as if the film maker is not an atheist, but a religious zealot under a different flag.

Already though, the news stories I’ve read regarding him are overwhelmingly negative. They recount his 2009 conviction for bank fraud, which seems completely unrelated to a film he made that’s sparking protest. CNN’s article refers to the film as clunky (it has no merit! Don’t see it! Two thumbs down!), and describes how it was cast under false pretenses, as actors were told they were making a desert-action film. Then they add this:

“The American-made movie, it turns out, was hardly an innocent desert action flick.”

How is expressing an opinion on a religion less innocent than any other mainstream genre of film?

Daniel Akin, the pastor of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C. tweeted this today:

“Films ridiculing any religion are shameful & uncalled for. Responding in violence & murdering innocents is criminal, deplorable & worse!”

I’m glad he at least clarified that the latter is worse than the former. Thanks, Daniel. So, our blog is not a film, but I can assume that regardless of format, Daniel would describe this blog as both shameful and uncalled for. BUT not quite as bad as murdering innocents.

Daniel, this is my opinion. For my co-blogger and I, this is our best effort towards doing what we believe is right. This is our equivalent of your call to evangelize to others. It is not shameful. It completely conflicts with your views, but we don’t deny your right to worship, or pray, or to evangelize. We have an opinion that it’s wrong-headed. But I would never describe what you do as “shameful.” Shame on you though, for suggesting that while there are many different religions, to not respect religion is shameful. Gods do not corner the market on morality.

Atheists, agnostics… non-religious deists… We are finding out where we stand in some of this. While this film is not an atheist message, it is receiving the sort of push back that we can expect when we start to gain the kind of traction worldwide that will start moving cultural and religious needles.

I believe that time is coming soon. There’s too much knowledge, too much science to deny… Too much widespread information… Too many honest, good-intentioned, thinking people among the religious. We’re going to continue to grow. When we do, we can expect these warring religions to turn their attention towards us.

Let’s imagine that there is a Chik-Fil-A, and a KFC. They are in a neighborhood in America somewhere, and they are across the street from one another. Their ad campaigns generally center around how one brand of chicken tastes better than the other, or is better for you than the other, or is less bigoted than the other. But then, let’s say a combination salad bar/pilates studio moves in next door. Suddenly, people get on a health kick and start skipping chicken altogether. They get a fresh salad and they get a short workout in on their lunch hour. People start losing weight, feeling better about themselves, and Chik-Fil-A and KFC both start seeing tumbleweeds rolling past their doors. Would it be any wonder at all if the ad campaigns stopped comparing two brands of chicken and started denigrating the value and flavor of a fresh salad and a workout? That’s what the media’s depiction of this represents. That’s what Christianity’s response to this represents. You don’t have to eat my chicken says God… but you gotta eat chicken. The hell I do… Pass the croutons.

Christianity doesn’t want you to choose Islam, Islam doesn’t want you to choose Christianity. (And you can substitute whatever religions you want here.) But if you do, they can despise or lament your choice, but you don’t threaten them. You’re in the game, you’re just playing wrong. But, the atheist is breaking the game. He’s choosing not to play. That creates a new option that threatens everyone. Thus a film like the horrifically violent and arguably anti-semitic The Passion of the Christ is seen by some as problematic, or even troublesome, but by most as a respectable expression of a religious opinion. But a film that disrespects a religion directly is shameful. You can bet that a film that is an expression of atheist beliefs would be seen as shameful as well.

Consider this: I recently asked if I could leave work an hour early, and was asked why I wanted to do so. I told my manager that I was signed up to work at the Atheist/Free-thinkers booth at the State Fair. His response was to sarcastically joke: “Well at least it’s for a good cause…”

If I had said that I was working a booth of ANY religious group, even a radical booth… likely if I’d told him I was going to go to a protest and shout at women going into an abortion clinic… I likely wouldn’t have received that remark. But he said it without thinking about it. The thing is, I DO believe it’s a good cause. It’s implied that atheism is a bad thing. It’s understood. Discounting the religious views of others or even arguing logically against them is disrespectful and wrong. Even if it’s part of your belief system.

Yes, atheists, I’ll say it one more time. For you to express your belief that religion is wrong, or a bad idea, or that being apart from religion entirely is a good thing that others should try… is disrespectful and wrong. 

So while embassies burn, and people are killed, and a religion tries to bully the world into shutting up and living by their rules, I want to express my support for this bank-frauding, name-changing, allegedly Coptic Christian, and his badly made film. We have a right to say what we want to say without being pushed around. When someone is murdered in retaliation, it is to the shame of the murderer, NOT the opinion-expresser.

You can have your views, you can worship your gods, but you can’t force me to respect it. The best way to combat this bullying is to stand up to the bully. No one wants to do it first, because they’re afraid of getting hit, but if everyone does it, the bully can’t beat up everyone… and eventually the bully is proven to be a coward, and he just slinks away. If we all stand up, radical islam will slink away. Don’t be afraid of the violence. Even the famously non-violent Mohandas K. Gandhi said:

“I would risk violence a thousand times rather than risk the emasculation of a whole race.”

There is nothing wrong with someone displaying an image of the prophet of Islam. There is nothing wrong with me disrespecting him. Your response as a muslim if you disagree with me should be to patiently tell me why you feel that way, and to listen to why I think we disagree. And for us to understand each other. It’s a testament to the bullying that’s taking place here that I asked my co-blogger how he felt about me posting this image before I did it. It’s a testament to the limitations of violence that we both are willing to stand up to the bully. We encourage all of you on your blogs, on your TV shows, in your art, and mainly just in your day-to-day free speech, to do the same. Speak freely. Listen to each other. Put violence away, and listen to each other. And only shout to shout down violence. Then be calm again, and let’s work together and learn.

And for good measure…

Jesus Tap-Dancing Christ.

Godammit.

Voldemort, Voldemort, Voldemort.

Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice.

Respectfully, as always, to you the believer, but not as a participant in your beliefs,

-John with an H.

Waiting for God, Do’h!

Recently, my blogging co-pilot John wrote a great article on how some of his friends took the news of his newly found atheism.  They were heartbroken, and John does an excellent job describing this in the context of Hell and how this threat of eternal separation affects those we care about.  But it’s not just an eternity of separation in hell that saddened his friends when they heard the news.  There’s another component as well.  I want to share with you a little play to illustrate the point.

Albert and Cameron (ages 30 and 31), two friends since middle school, bump into each other.  Both are waiting at a bus stop.

Al:  Cameron, how are you!  So good to see you! At the risk of over narrating, I’d say it’s been many months since we’ve seen each other!

Cameron:  Indeed it has. How’ve you been doing?

Al:  Well, honestly…I’ve been doing FANTASTIC.  Life is good; I feel free.  It’s like I’m thinking clearly for the first time in my life.  All the stress and psychological torment that used to bother me has just melted away.  Does that make sense?

Cameron:  Uh, not really.  What’s going on?  What’s changed?

Al:  Meth. I’m hear to tell you straight up, Cameron.  I need you to know, because we are old friends. Meth is awesome.  I’m getting more done at work.  I’ve don’t have to sleep anymore.  It’s seriously worth it.  I know what you’re going to say, I’m giving up a lot to pursue this path, but I’m telling you.  Life-changing.

Cameron:  Wow, uh…I had no idea.  Aren’t you worried about what your wife is going to think?  Wow. I don’t know what to say….

Al:  Oh, Samantha?  She loves Meth too!  It’s kind of drawn us closer actually.

Cameron:  Well, I guess I’m happy for you?  Oh….I think I hear my phone ringing.  (Answers phone) Buy! Sell!  Trade for some stocks that will be worth more in the future than they are now!  (Whispers while covering phone) …Sorry this is my mom I have to take it….

END SCENE

It is not possible for a christian to be happy for an atheist in his or her decision.  Their friend has made a life choice which is so fundamentally incompatible with their worldview that it is impossible to support in any way.  Here is a quick and dirty list of the things that Christians have exclusive rights to that their friend has just been alienated from:

Eternal Salvation, True Peace, True Joy, True Love, True Wisdom.

Christians claim an exclusive link to the “true” forms of these characteristics.  So, it’s no wonder that when their friends are cut off from those, then of course, that must sadden them.  They know how this is going to end for their friend.  The high you might be feeling now is going to come crashing down…

But it does more than that.  If you tell your christian friend you’re an atheist, the best thing that can happen for the christian is that you bottom out like a drug addict.  If meth didn’t cause psychosis and force you to look like an extra in the Walking Dead, it’d be sold at Wal-Mart, and we’d have it at Thanksgiving dinner with a side of cranberries.  Atheism must have side effects, or else it’s might just be a fun thing to do. So christians will need to look for side effects and this does two things:  Supports their worldview that everyone needs Jesus; that their exclusive hold on happiness and joy is true.  Plus, it gets you humbled and back on the path to god.

What’s worse is that for many atheists, christians actually have the power to bottom them out.  They aren’t simply content to sit by and watch. They take active roles.  In America, christianity is the dominant worldview (in some parts more than others of course).  They are friends, parents, co-workers, and bosses.  They all have the power to inflict social, economic, and psychological pressure.  It’s like an episode of Intervention.  The ultimatum: either get on the metaphorical bus waiting outside to take you to god, or risk losing their respect, love, time, and support.  So what’s it gonna be? The bus or breaking bad?