Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Stigmatized Minority

Let’s just face the facts; it’s really a tough road to walk down if you’re an atheist living in the Bible belt. Telling people that you’re an atheist in the south is equivalent to telling your fellow KKK members that you have a newfound desire to turn black. An intriguing 2008 survey by the Atheist Nexus website, which highly correlates with research done in the same area, suggests that there are significant repercussions for those who proclaim their atheism in ominous states like Oklahoma, Arkansas or Tennessee. Survey respondents stated that there would likely be major work, community and family related repercussions for claiming that they were atheistic in these states. Coincedentally, the fear of repercussions in the northeast was far less dramatic.

Many people will experience ostracism and disapproval from the people who once loved them. The psychological effects could be detrimental. I don’t really care myself because I think that my argument against religion is iron clad. I’m convinced that god is not worthy of worship for the simple reason that he demands the death of children. This is where the wheels of doubt really started turning for me. Admittedly, it’s not some obscure observation I found hidden in some primitive text that only a fortunate few have access to. It’s found in the text of the O.T. in multiple passages. This is kind of embarrassing in retrospect because I used to simply reach for my nearest apologetic resource to douse the flames of doubt running around ubiquitously in my head. The resource would generally assure me that there was nothing wrong with killing babies if god said so. Stories such as Abraham and Isaac were examples of heroic levels of faith displayed when someone loves god more than his own family. How does that work exactly? This god that you can’t see, hear or talk to is more worthy of love than your own child. On a side note, some Biblical scholars argue that the story of Abraham and Isaac was grossly tampered with at one point or another. In the original, Abraham goes through with the sacrifice and no ram was offered as a substitute. A precocious scribe, who possibly saw that this would go against humankinds sense of decency, edited parts out as often happened in many areas of the Bible for political or religious reasons.

Other absurdities related to this god abound, he would cut married people off—in Hebrew also means destroy—for having sex while the woman was menstruating. Pardon me, but who in the hell is he to tell me when and when not to have sex? Oh I get it; they were living in a period that didn’t understand cleanliness from filth. They had all sorts of bizarre rituals for things ranging from skin conditions to mildew that had little to do with actually healing someone from an ailment. Pasteur’s Germ Theory was beyond Yahweh’s and the Israelites understanding. But I digress.

There’s really nothing my family can say once I lay down the gambit. They have to concede that it is immoral to kill an infant, who poses no threat, just because god said so. Otherwise, they are very immoral and dangerous people themselves. Nobody would be willing to admit this with a straight face unless they were diluted beyond the point of no return. All practically speaking, the person who would refuse to kill the innocent for god takes the higher moral ground. Therefore, I’m unashamed to say that I don’t believe in god or, at the very least, not a moral Christian god.

In a recent discussion with my mom, it was very clear that she sides with the notorious and presumptuous belief that atheists are not only amoral but immoral. She asked me if I was “going to start killing Christians now”. Also, I made the mistake of asking for a knife for my birthday and she immediately assumed that I was going to use it to cut myself a la Marilyn Manson style. I’ve apparently taken the side of science and satan instead of the word of God. How could I do that? God’s word should obviously come before mans. She went on to discuss a documentary she recently viewed on TV of a man who went through with euthanasia. More or less, she made an emotional appeal trumpeting the idea that life surely loses its meaning when we don't have anything to look forward to in the end. You can believe that there is something on the other side all you want but I'm more concerned with what's true.

Thankfully, I may be a minority but atheist numbers are growing rapidly. For instance, people considered nonbelievers (humanists, agnostics, and secularists) gained nearly as many members as the Catholics and Protestants combined between 1990 and 2008. The 2009 American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) estimated that there were nearly 20 million more nonreligious people in the U.S. in 2008 than in 1990. Combined, the Catholics and Protestants increased by about 22 million in the same period. No doubt, the new atheist movement and the invention of the internet have made great strides for getting the formidable message across.

What is this message? In a very broad brush stroke, it simply means that believing in something solely through faith is not a defensive stance. There are basically four types of truth: Rhetorica (opinions, persuasion), Mystica (faith based beliefs), Logica (reasoning and logic) and Empirica (scientifically researched natural phenomenon). Of the four, I would say that Mystica is the most indefensible because it relies solely on faith while trying to haphazardly grab from other forms of truth like Logica and Empirica. For example, we’ve seen Creationists try to discard evolution while proselytizing Intelligent Design. They make scientifically sounding claims but are really just throwing out baseless rhetoric and religious ideology in the political arena.

Guess what, I don’t believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny either. How is the theistic claim of believing in Jesus and god any better? And, how do they have the audacity to patronize people who don’t buy into superstitions like this at "faith value"? They are worried about the wrong things if they think that the world will go to pot if people aren’t worshipping Jesus. Countries with a predominance of atheism are less likely to have the homicide rate of places like the United States. I’m a loving and law abiding citizen. I haven’t turned into a hideous monster with a tenacious desire to kill everyone in front of me. There are plenty of reasons not to turn into a monster. I love my family and don’t want to lose them. I don’t really like the idea of sitting in jail for the rest of my life. I’m not a violent person to begin with and this has no relationship to my religious, or lack of religious, convictions.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Self-Centered Way of Life

The genesis of this self-centered philosophy of life may be found in the Hebrew understanding of the world around them. The stars and planets that compose the universe were thought to revolve around the earth and the earth itself was the center of the universe. According to the O.T., the earth did not revolve around the sun either. As a Christian, I often wondered why people could have the audacity to pray for their seemingly trivial sufferings in comparison to some of our neighbors that share the planet earth with us. For instance, god supposedly cares about all of our problems, including the really little ones, but doesn’t seem to care about the starving, disease ridden children in Africa. In Matthew 6, we are told not to worry about what to eat or drink because the Lord already knows what we need, and will surely give us all of these things when we seek him first. Apparently, there are exceptions to this rule if you are a child born into harsh circumstances. From India to Africa, children are dying by the millions because they lack the very things that Christians are supposedly never to worry about if they follow god’s mandates. I see no reason why children can’t be afforded this same luxury. It shouldn’t matter if they weren’t born into the right religions. This is obviously no fault of the child.

I couldn’t understand why god would treat his innocent creatures like this. Furthermore, I didn’t feel like praying for a sore toe was a very heroic or pious act in light of the inhospitable circumstances some of our neighbors find themselves in. Subsequently, my prayer life was pretty difficult because it goes without saying that we Americans have it very good compared to many third world countries. We don’t have to worry about finding food, shelter or clothing. We have such necessities in an overwhelming abundance. We are also a very wasteful country that could easily feed many of these countries with what we don’t end up consuming.

Nevertheless, many Christians have their own geocentric philosophy of life going on that seems to ignore the very obvious contradictions around them. This bothered me even before I was confronted with the larger holes of Christianity including its contradictions to science and precarious system of morality. Quite simply, I didn’t see the point in praying for my petty problems when there were people all over the place facing much harsher conditions. I find it rather small-minded that Christians can pray over the food that they are about to eat, as if the prayer will help eliminate any potentially harmful outcomes from eating the food, when there are children starving to death at that very moment.

I’ve always been a worrier and the idea of having a god take care of all my concerns was very appealing. But, I started to lack confidence in this notion once I looked at the world without my rose colored glasses on. Nature is indifferent to our species, just like any other species which exists or has existed in the past. Instead of praying about circumstances turning out right, it would be more beneficial to do what is necessary so that our circumstances turn out to our benefit. Common sense tells us that if god doesn’t give one iota about the starving children of Africa, he most definitely has no concern for your desire to land that lucrative job you just interviewed for. In my humble opinion, looking at it any other way reeks of a self-centered philosophy which originates from the Israelite’s and their believing that they served the one true god, and god chose them “just because” so they have special privileges.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Well I Like Sushi and Bananas

My friend's quote in a recent discussion on Facebook:
“Well I like sushi and bananas. Not together just in general. Sushi has a creator, man. And banana have a creator, God. I believe in both and even though I don't understand how each is made, doesn't mean they are real and don't exist.
Wouldn't you rather believe in God and be wrong someday when you die, or would you rather not believe in Satan and be wrong someday when you die and where will facebook be on that day to debate or state that you made the wrong/bad decision.”

Okay, let me be fair here and state that my friend has a full time job and a large family to attend to, and this post was delivered while he was working during dead line. But, honestly this is the best most Christians that I know can come up with. The banana illustration is pretty funny since it immediately reminds me of Ray Comfort’s peculiar suggestion that the modern banana is evidence for a creator.

My friend starts with an argument from ignorance. He doesn’t know how they are made so he therefore assumes that it must be the work of a creator. It’s basically saying that since he can’t figure out how it happened, we must make the erroneous conclusion that god did it. Then, he throws Pascal’s Wager out there by stating that it’s better to believe than to end up going to hell. Well, why should I believe in one god over any other god? Depending on the culture you grow up in, you may believe in a god very different than the god of the Bible. So, what happens if I end up picking the Biblical God when Allah or Krishna, the Hindu God, is the correct god? Perhaps, Thor or Odin of Norse mythology is the correct god. Once we slice up the possibilities, we understand that the chance for the Christian god being correct is very small indeed. Hell, what if god only awards heaven to those who are skeptical and logical in their thinking and casts all those who were gullible to hell? Bottom line, the god we choose to believe in is generally the same god that was most often worshipped in our culture as John Loftus often beautifully illustrates. One other point, why would I want to believe in someone out of fear but no other concrete reason. So heres the argument, you better believe or god's going to punish you in hell for all eternity (Compulsory love). This is akin to sticking a gun to someone's head and saying, "you better love me dammit or I will kill you!" People don't rationally work that way. You can't force somebody to love you without giving them any reason to love you. I'm not going to love something that doesn't have any proof of it's existence in the first place. If god was really concerned about us believing and following him, he would reveal himself to all of humanity in such a way that they could not doubt. Otherwise, he is allowing people to go to hell by the millions simply because they lack the evidence to believe.

The Bible is the last thing one can use as evidence. Why would I want to worship a god that promotes slavery, genocide, infanticide, rape, female inferiority and a litany of other most unpleasant ideologies? What’s the point in believing in the god of the Bible who has been debunked scientifically (Genesis Myth), morally (Bizarre contradictions between O.T. and New) and logically due to the multitude of contradictions that permeate the O.T. and N.T. alike? The central theme of Christianity is most despicable. God killed his own child to remedy the wrong doings of all humanity. His penal substitution took their guilt and applied it to a guiltless god-man. This is not moral or justified in any manner. I would never allow my child to suffer one little iota for the wrong doings of someone else. Is this the best god can do? The creator of the universe resorts to human sacrifice as a remedy. I mean I realize god likes a good human sacrifice as the O.T. can attest but this is just getting a little ridiculous. Does this make sense to anyone who looks at it logically? * I guess not because even Paul himself remarked that the preaching of the cross was “foolishness” which is derived from the Greek word μωρία that translates to “moronic” in English. 1 Corinthians 1:18-29. Also, the theologian Tertullian is often quoted as saying “I believe because it is absurd”. He says this in regards to the death and resurrection of Christ. In De Carne Christi, he states, “The Son of God was crucified: I am not ashamed--because it is shameful. The Son of God died: it is immediately credible--because it is silly. He was buried, and rose again: it is certain--because it is impossible”.

I’m not about to live the rest of my life in fear over this absurdity, paranoia and irrationality. I suppose that I could convert to every available religion out there that all state that they have the one true god just in case. Or I could appeal to Ockham’s Razor which suggests that the most parsimonious explanation is the best. Atheism is simply a lack of belief in a god or gods. It hasn’t changed its status since the beginning of human history. Whereas, Christianity has segregated and branched off in fifty different directions as over 30,000 different denominations bicker and complain about which brand of Christianity is correct. As for me, I’m going to stick with what is most likely and where the evidence leads me.

My friend's response to the argument I laid out above:
"I just wish you would put this much effort into your job search, and then you could make real money instead of 10/hour, which isn't logical for a guy who has a masters degree, but I'm the ignorant guy with just a associates degree pulling down 35k+ a year?

And for the record, it won't matter how much mumbo jumbo/ "educational" BS liberal junk and arguing you do on facebook, GOD is GOD whether we call him some other name or not and wether we belief He is out there or's called faith.

I know that 35K isn't alot of money at all, but considering I ONLY have a assoc. degree to back it up it's not bad. But on the other hand having a master's and being just a test or two away from making 60K+ starting why BS on facebook and prove me wrong that way is all I'm saying.

If your so smart and think you got this God thing figured out, then go get a decent salary out there and I will jump on your happy train to hell then."

Well, I guess he told me.

*Thanks to Ken Pulliam of Why I Deconverted from Evangelical Christiany fame.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Ravi Zacharias' Gandhi

I was glancing through The Case for Faith with Lee Strobel where he interviews respected apologist and speaker Ravi Zacharias. Strobel is notorious for finding interviewees who already support his preconceived agendas; He likes to tell his fans that he is in eager search for the truth regardless of where he finds it, but continues to interview people who are clearly biased to the fundamentalist agenda. They were discussing the topic of Christianity’s claim to being the only one true way to god. There are plenty of fallacies throughout but I thought that it was pretty telling that Ravi, when asked by Strobel, couldn't say if Mahatma Gandhi would go to heaven or not. He just stated, "that is something that will be determined by God.” But, we all know that Gandhi was keenly aware of Jesus' claims and theres zero evidence suggesting that he ever accepted them. Likewise, there is a multitude of evidence suggesting that he denied Jesus as any kind of deity. Gandhi on Christianity , edited by Robert Ellsberg, demonstrates that Gandhi didn't believe in the emaculate conception or that Christ rose from the dead. Gandhi did not recognize Christ as the savior of the world or the son of god. Gandhi was a Hindu that happened to like some of the teachings of Jesus. He was known to quote sections from the Sermon on the Mount from time to time. But, even Satan quoted scripture. (see Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness) This doesn’t mean that Gandhi took scripture literally. So, you would think that Zacharias could very assuredly say that Gandhi is now writhing in agony within the flames of hell.

Most Christians will tell you that a person who has never heard of Christ can still make it to heaven by acknowledging his presence and placing their trust in this “heart knowledge”. God’s authorship is supposedly visible throughout creation and written on the consciousness of man. Romans 1:20 states, “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse”. Now that the Biblical text is available, man really should be without excuse since the "infallible" word of god is accessible to most of the modern world with the exception of some third world, Muslim and Communistic Countries. It sounds like Ravi didn’t want to offend anyone by condemning a man who preached a message of peace and harmony throughout the world. This is the problem with the message of salvation that even such astute Christian scholars like Ravi Zacharias can’t grasp. The Bible teaches that, “no one can go to the father except through Jesus Christ”. John 14:6. So, how can Ravi remain on the fence line? Certainly, Gandhi did many moral works but these works were not done in the name of Christ. So, we can’t toy with the contradictory passages of saved by grace versus saved by works as an avenue which would allow Gandhi invitation to heaven.

This leaves us with the ugly truth about Christianity. Good people, including Gandhi or your dearest relative, will suffer for all eternity because they rejected the gospel message or chose to ignore the evidence written subjectively within their hearts and throughout creation. Gandhi has been dead for sixty two years now and is suffering every second of the day in an unquenchable fire. No doubt, he is surrounded by some of the most tyrannical monsters to ever grace the annuals of history such as Joseph Stalin and Pol Pot. We can’t even have the blessed assurance that he isn’t suffering the same fate as the aforementioned diabolical characters. There is no biblical support for “degrees” of hell, so we can only assume that everyone will suffer the same fate. Dante’s Inferno suggests that there may be levels in hell, and so does some ambiguous passages of scripture that are probably only referring to the Day of Judgment. Scripture like Luke 12:47-48: “That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready or does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows. From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”

You would think that god would be more lucid on issues that have eternal consequences. I, for one, would really like to know if god thinks that it’s morally permissible to treat Gandhi in the same fashion as Genghis Khan. Zacharias doesn’t want to commit to what his own Bible says on these issues. I thought that Christians were supposed to care more about the will of god than the will of man. As a Christian, he should worry about what God thinks and about spreading the truths of Christianity. This is becoming an increasingly popular way of Christian’s having their cake and eating it too. They want people to believe that god may still have second thoughts depending on how good the person was while on earth. They don’t want to make it sound like god is the moral monster that he really is and all of those people who committed idolatry will suffer the same fate as O.T. Israel—with the exception of it being an eternal judgment. Christians would like to think that your garden variety pagan or Gandhi-type personality would make it to heaven because it seems so ridiculous that good people would have to spend eternity being punished for finite "crimes"… because it is.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The First Talk

My wife, the daughter of a Baptist Preacher, finally pinned me down and forced out some answers. She asked me what my initial reason was for leaving the faith. After a great deal of hesitancy, I pointed out the abhorrent issue of slavery to start with. She stated that Jesus never advocated slavery and demanded that I produce some scriptural references. After a brief look at, I pointed towards some scriptures which she basically blew off as being “out of context”. I showed her scriptures like Luke 12:47-48 where the author quotes Jesus talking about servants refusing to do their duty even though they were previously aware of their obligations. I pointed to scriptural text outside of the four gospels like Ephesians 6:5 where the author states that people should obey their earthly masters in the same manner as their heavenly master. Even if Jesus’ teachings were a bit cloudy on slavery, it’s important to note that he never spoke against slavery. A “god-man” in his position should have known better. Subsequently, the entire practice of slavery may have never had the fuel it needed to start to begin with. Jesus is, at the very least, guilty of remaining silent. But I think that scriptures such as 1 Timothy 6:1-2 make the New Testament’s position abundantly clear: “Christians who are slaves should give their masters full respect so that the name of God and his teaching will not be shamed. If your master is a Christian, that is no excuse for being disrespectful. You should work all the harder because you are helping another believer by your efforts. Teach these truths, Timothy, and encourage everyone to obey them”.

She also refused to make the irrefutable connection between Yahweh of the O.T. and Jesus of the N.T.. She stated that Jesus did away with the law after dying on the cross. If so, why do we have scriptures like Matthew 5:18-19 with Jesus supposedly speaking, “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven”. There are a multitude of scriptures declaring that Christians are still under the O.T. law. Conversely, there are a multitude of scriptures rejecting the notion that Christians are under the O.T. law. (See for more scriptural references) This comes back to the contradictions of the Bible, and having to guess what the Bible is really trying to relay to Christians. Another scripture verse such as Romans 3:31 suggested that Christians continue to uphold the law through faith. “Do we, then, abolish the law by this faith? Of course not! Instead, we uphold the law”. If nothing else, the Bible convolutes things greatly and forces us to look at “authorities” to tell us what is really intended. As John Loftus might say, “we have a failure to communicate”. If god can’t communicate clearly, who in the hell can? Communication is the key ingredient to any relationship. In fact, it’s a failure to communicate clearly that leads many married couples to divorce.

Besides, we don’t really have to spend time on the convoluted passages of the N.T. to make our point if Jesus and god are essentially the same "being" expressed in different forms. We can simply refer to the concrete passages of the Old Testament. My wife had a difficult time coming to this conclusion. Christians want to dismiss the O.T. because they’ve been taught that Jesus came to lay out a better plan. But Jesus doesn’t get off the hook. He was here from the beginning and is considered to be just as much of god as god himself. Passages like John 8:5-8 and Luke 10:18 give a clear indication that Jesus has been around a lot longer than his earthly sojourn suggests. Other Scriptures, like John 10:30, state that Jesus and God are one. 1 Tim. 3:16 talks about god being manifested in the flesh and makes no distinction between Jesus and god. Therefore, scriptures of the O.T., such as slaves being beaten to an inch of their life are the responsibility of both parties. Exodus 21:20-21. Surely, a Christian would never say that Jesus ever disagreed with god or his “perfect” will for humanity. This would be akin to saying that Jesus disagreed with Jesus. There are many Christians who seem to disapprove of God’s O.T. actions in a roundabout way. They may admit that they disapprove of his treatment toward the O.T. surrounding nations, but still can see why he did it. I can see why Hitler killed six million people, but that doesn’t mean that it was a morally justifiable action either. They can hopefully also see how dealing with surrounding nations in the O.T. could have been done in a more humane manner.

My wife didn’t believe that such a scripture even existed when I referred her to the passages on beating slaves. She also made sure to read all the surrounding text in an attempt to make the argument that I took the scripture out of context. In the end, the point could not be repudiated and she had nothing further to say. Later, she asked me if I had any other objections. I spoke briefly about the O.T. killing of children, babies and pregnant women. I also pointed out that god permitted human sacrifice as an appropriate practice to bring god’s people back into alignment. I pointed out the bizarre idea of Thought Crimes and how one was guilty of murder and adultery just for thinking “inappropriate” thoughts. I assured her that these objections were only the tip of the iceberg. She really didn’t have anything to say to counter my disgust with genocide. But, what can someone say other than god’s ways are mysterious or some other answers that really fail to answer anything? Most people know that genocide is wrong but our own creator doesn’t. Most people are keenly aware that killing innocent children and unarmed women are atrocities. We know that slavery is an injustice but god sure didn’t. Jesus could have denounced it in a single sentence if he wanted to.

Don’t get me wrong, my wife is far from stupid but she is still subject to the Christian ideology in which she lives as I once was. Jesus is all about goodness, mercy and restoration in their opinion. He isn’t responsible for the past or the future. Hell is all on us and the O.T. demonstrates a society that had it coming to them.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Christianity and Paranormal Experiences

After reading a few more books, I’ve got to say that I feel even more passionately about my position than ever before. I recently read The Christian Delusion edited by John Loftus, Losing Faith in Faith by Dan Barker, and Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris. I read Harris’ book twice since it was only about a forty minute read anyway. I’m looking forward to reading Harris’ End of Faith once it arrives. I fell in love with his clarity of thought while reading Letter to a Christian Nation. I do wonder how I ever came to believe in God and Jesus after reading such thoroughly impressive argumentation against Christianity. I would definitely have to say that my mom was the main, or one of the main, culprits in this situation. She can really make you believe in this god. She does so by telling many compelling stories referring to personal spiritual experiences, demonic possession and a myriad of healings.

As a youngster, she used to tell me about this time when she was literally dragged from her bed, went down the stairs and was placed on top of the cold tile floor at the bottom. She recounted vivid details of seeing our cat on the way down. He looked demonic and distorted in nature. Fire was everywhere, just like we would all envision hell. An eerie voice surrounding her stated repeatedly, “If you don’t, if you don’t”. She could see the very entrance to hell at the bottom of the stairs as she came closer and closer to its looming grasp. Once this vision faded, she noticed that her wrists were sore from where this aberration dragged her by the arm. She told me this with utter sincerity, and she has a way of telling stories like this that can bring the most ardent skeptic to doubt their skepticism. On more than one occasion, she has told me that she saw a demonic creature that was “blacker than black” scurrying around her house in the wee hours of the morning.

I would spend part of the night, as a small child, in horror as I tried to close my eyes and get some sleep. At one time, we lived in a private community which was supposedly built on top of an Indian burial ground. On one occasion, as I was trying to sleep, I saw what looked like a monkey with a human body standing beside my bed. It had a Cheshire Cat like grin on it's face but was not cartoonish at all. I rather emphatically pulled the covers over my head and waited for this “ghost” to find someone else to spook. Eventually, I racked up the courage to look again and did not see it anymore. We had a pastor friend during this time that stayed in a vacant condominium several doors down from us for just one evening. This same pastor later stole some of our belongings when he was “helping” us during a move but that’s another story. Anyway, I remember my mom telling me that this pastor became extremely frightened that night after seeing a “person” walking up and down the hallway outside of his bedroom. In fact, he spent the rest of the night sleeping out in his van! Coincidentally, this was the same condominium that another person, who we admiringly referred to as “Vodka John”, kept complaining of seeing some sort of figure or “phantom” roaming around late at night. We all thought that Ole' Vodka John had a little too much to drink, until the story was reconfirmed by our pastor friend. You can only imagine how these kinds of stories can make a person think— let alone a small child.

My mother was taken under the wing, so to speak, by her best friend in high school. Her friend was and still is very charismatic. My mom told me stories about her friend that would make the hair on the back of my neck stand straight up. My mom told me about this demonic statue that her friend was given as a gift on a missionary trip one time to a country which escapes my memory at the moment. Her friend stated that strange noises and poltergeist like activities occurred on a nightly basis. There were doors opening and closing without human assistance. She could hear footsteps outside her bedroom door as well. After prayer, my mom’s friend decided that she needed to discard this demonic statue before things got worse. Her husband put it in the trash can and thought nothing more of it. The next day, they heard a knock at their door and discovered the statue sitting on the porch facing their direction. It was time to get serious. They decided to destroy it by burning it in the back yard. They later stated that they discovered the ear rings that this statue was once wearing lying, neatly placed, on their front porch! My mom would tell me stories regarding various exorcisms that her friend was involved in. She told me about the crazy shit that went on with her friends children who owned the Dungeons and Dragons game. My mom told me that her friend used to see the ghost of an old lady who once occupied the house that they lived in. Apparently, this lady was a sweet ghost but just a bit lost. She would wander up and down their hallway. Ghosts sure do like to walk! And of course, she told me about all the wonderful financial wealth and wisdom her friend acquired through tithing and seeking the lord.

I really can’t make sense out of most of these stories. I know that the human mind is extremely susceptible to irrational thinking and even hallucinations. I do believe that my childhood allegiance to religion was at least partially grounded in hearing and, subsequently, believing in god as a result of stories like these. My mom still speaks about the time god used me to heal her of a nasty, reappearing rash and an injured shoulder. No doubt, I would often lean on experiences like that whenever my faith would begin to waver. My mom had a way of reassuring me and reenergizing me when I started to drift too far off. My mom occassionally has dreams that seem clairvoyant in nature. For instance, she dreamt that one of her friends, who was about to go on a mission trip, got his wife pregnant. In the same dream, she also observed that her friend had recently given his wife a new red coat as a gift. When she talked on the phone to her friend, he denied that his wife was indeed pregnant, but he did say that he bought his wife a red coat. Lo and behold, a week or so later, he called my mom back and said that his wife was pregnant. This was somewhat of a disappointment because he was planning on them going out on the mission field. I could probably recall more stories if I sat her long enough. There are many of them. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t trade my mom for all the money in the world, but I’m definitely skeptical of the majority of these stories and think that Cognitive Science could better explain some of them. People being deceitful and wanting to believe regardless of the evidence may explain some of it. Other aforementioned experiences may have natural explanations that have yet to be discovered.

Admittedly, movies like The Exorcist and The Exorcism of Emily Rose still scare the crap out of me. They certainly seemed more realistic growing up since my mom had all of these crazy situations supposedly happen to her. Unfortunately, most of her stories can't be proven by any scientific method that I'm aware of. I find it baffling that others don't find stories of demonic possession to be very frightening. Maybe, some of us are more easily frightened by what we can't explain than others.

One time, during a particularly depressed period of my life, my mom told me that she could see Jesus standing next to me with his hand held out. She stated that all I needed to do was grab it and he would take care of me. I really wanted to believe that at the time. I was in desperate need of some “supernatural” intervention. So, why doesn’t god do this for everybody if he does it for her? Are charismatic’s really the only branch of Christianity that can lay claim to these bizarre experiences? On the other side of the equation, I have a Baptist father-in-law who pastors a church. He never makes most of the claims that my mom does. He did state that he thought that he heard the audible voice of god on two different occasions, but he certainly doesn’t live his life expecting such supernatural occurrences on a regular basis. It’s actually pretty humorous when my mom and in-laws get together. I remember one time when there was a fire near the highway a couple miles from our house. It was heading our way and our families were helping us evacuate for the evening. My mom was going around the house praying that the house would remain un-singed. My in-laws just smiled back at her like she was out of her mind.

Anyway, what do you guy(s) think? Can you blame me for buying into this stuff? Does it make you wonder about the paranormal? Admittedly, it does me at times. But, I must suspend judgment until there is further justification to believe that it speaks to a deity. Until then, we can look at possibilities that make the fewest assumptions and simplest case by wielding Ockham’s Razor.