Monday, September 19, 2011

I went to church!

I attended a church service with my best friend this past weekend. This church emphasizes how it should be a “fun” place to grow and be challenged. It’s been about a year since I attended church, aside from going to Vacation Bible School to watch my children in a program. We went to the contemporary service, as opposed to the earlier traditional service. This was a more progressive, high-energy service that usually repels many of the older folks. The music wasn’t bad but standing there gets rather tiresome after twenty minutes or so. I don’t understand why Christians think worshipping god for all eternity is something to look forward to. In the words of Christopher Hitchins, “I don’t want to live in a Celestial North Korea for all eternity.” At one point, the praise and worship leader shouted that god didn’t want us to suffer, but to live abundantly. He would be the supplier of all our needs. I couldn’t help but think of the way the disciples and Jesus Christ himself were brutally murdered for their faith, as legend has suggested. The message being that if you follow Jesus far enough, you will end up being a martyr for your faith too. I’m not sure how this ties into “living abundantly."

We watched a brief video/infomercial about how the church is accepting of everybody regardless of their past or current circumstances. Different actors in the video gave various apparent objections to going to church such as: All the church wants is your money (Well, this is at least part of the reason); I don’t believe all of the same things you do (They listed various outside denominations as examples, but the atheist was sadly left out); only wimps go to church; if you knew what I did, you wouldn’t want me in your church (this one was particularly creepy, think pedophile); they’ll never accept me for who I am. Of course, the overwhelming theme throughout the video was that the church accepts everybody. This is a nice change but merely a reflection of an evolving church that’s becoming more and more indistinguishable from the world in which we really live.

After the video, we were treated to more music and I couldn’t help but notice the dancing woman in the corner. She was holding two long poles with soft fabric hanging off the ends. I just referred to her as flag girl. I asked my friend if it would be possible for me to become a flag girl as well. He laughed and said facetiously that she used to do an act where she was suspended from two cables and floated across the room.

Eventually, the music slowed a bit and a member from the congregation began speaking in tongues. One of the worship leaders “interpreted” it and gave some generic word about how we must praise god with greater power and enthusiasm. I wondered what would happen if I fallaciously began speaking in tongues as well. Would I get an interpretation? I’m betting that I would but I refrained.

Finally, and I do mean finally, the pastor began his message on the prodigal son. This was probably the only part of the service that had much real world application. We all understand that our actions have consequences, and it’s great to have a second chance, especially from the ones we love. The son, as many of us know, went to a distant land inhabited by gentiles. He squandered all of his inheritance--that he demanded from his father-- early and foolishly, hence the usage of the word prodigal. After wrestling with pigs and eating pig slop, he comes back to his father with his tail between his legs. His father is more than accepting, lowering his noble standards to running in a field toward him with his skirt hiked up, exposing his ankles. The pastor discussed many of the violations regarding social mores and customs of the Middle Eastern societies. This was refreshing and painted a more vivid picture of the story.

Each of the main characters in the story lowered their standards. The son lowered his standards out of greed and eventual desperation. The father lowered his standards out of unconditional love for the son. It’s a wonderful story but devoid of any supernatural necessities. Of course, this is supposed to be a parable which compares an earthly father/son relationship with the relationship god has with each of his followers. We live a life of sin but are welcomed back with open arms. So, serial killers and rapists can always be assured another chance if they sincerely repent before capital punishment is carried out.

There is just one itty bitty problem however. We don’t have any evidence that the father is real or that we have anybody to “run home” to. There’s not much of a point in putting faith in something that is devoid of evidence. In the parable, the son had all the evidence that he needed to believe in the father, but most of us aren’t granted a shred of physical evidence.

Anyway, I may continue going with my friend a couple times a month just for the fun of it. We had a church lunch afterword that was really good. Many of the members are very friendly, and others would be easily diagnosed with a psychological disorder. I certainly can fit in to the Christian culture as well as anybody.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

It's hard to imagine

It’s hard to imagine how much wasted money goes to religion, including things like: books, videos, tithes, churches, sound systems, gas to get to these stupid events, etc. This isn’t including the investment of time that people put into this smorgasbord of folly. I can’t help but wonder how much further along we would be technologically, medically, and scientifically if just a third of this money/time was allocated toward more worthwhile endeavors, not to mention if the whole amount was allocated more wisely. We could be heavily researching life extension technologies so that people could enjoy the only life they have for a much longer time. We could invest more heavily in cancer treatment research or AIDS research. The Christian religion is a multi-billion dollar industry; these numbers don’t even include other religious faiths that suck up resources better used elsewhere. Humanity has spent so much wasted time and money on something that’s completely fictitious—it’s the ultimate facepalm!

I know many Christians who just take this life for granted. They are absolutely certain that a future one lies ahead. They take their health for granted, and they take their environment for granted. After all, Jesus will return and usher in a new age, with a new world. Instead of doing something constructive, they decide to pray for things, like rain. They often put a religious spin on every minute detail of their lives that consequently influences their day to day decisions.

The Bible is considered their “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.” This is a template for disaster and misuse of resources. There’s nothing in the Bible of any benefit than can’t be found elsewhere, from the golden rule and onward. Yet, this book has sold over 6 billion copies. There are enough copies for every single living person on the planet. The book has been published in over 450 languages and is generally found in every country, aside from the ones most vehemently against religious freedoms.

We should consider the number of people who decide to go into ministry that could be doing something far more profound with their time. We should consider the number of dollars going to people like Benny Hinn that could be going into research. Instead of churches, we could have learning and research centers based on the sciences. How much more advanced would we be? It’s hard to imagine.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Is it really that unreasonable?

Is it really that unreasonable and incomprehensible to believe that some people actually want evidence for claims before they will trust in them? This isn’t some revolutionary, radical idea that only the scummiest people on the planet, like atheists, should dare endorse. My problem is that many Christians frown upon atheists for the heinous offense of desiring some compelling evidence before wrapping their entire worldview around some epistemological stance. I personally would require extraordinary evidence before I swallowed what any religion proselytized. I know this is just a really shocking concept. Does this make me a criminal worthy of a thousand deaths? Yes, it does according to Christian dogma. I will go to my grave as a nonbeliever until I find evidence. I will change my mind in a heartbeat once that sound evidence is presented. This is what many believers fail to realize. They don't understand that most atheists would have no problem putting their trust in a religion if that religion had enough evidence to support it.

As John Loftus often quips, god knows exactly what I would require in order to believe. The Bible, in and of itself, isn’t convincing enough to believe in people walking on water or resurrecting from the dead. If it was, I would probably still be a Christian today (Although, god and I really need to talk about the stupid, nefarious shit he did to people in the Old Testament). And, as Jesus stated (John 14:12), we should be seeing even greater things today than before. Youtube or the local news could easily cover someone performing amazing feats that surpass--or at least equaled for fuck's sake--Christ’s purported miracles. Why were the disciples and Paul some of the few to get such an intimate glimpse of the supernatural? Where have these supernatural abilities gone to? If Jesus is in every believer, we can safely assume that he should be working mightily through his present-day disciples to continue the missionary work of converting the lost.

It certainly doesn’t help that every so-called faith healer has turned out to be nothing more than a counterfeit. This only further undermines my ability to believe. You have other Christians who believe that all the supernatural stuff just discontinued upon the closing of the canon of scripture. They put their trust in seemingly mundane “godly” interventions, like when god helps a surgeon perform well during a serious surgery. This seems to weaken the Christian message that was built almost exclusively on the miraculous. Indeed, nobody should have believed in this Christ back then if no miracles were presented and nobody would trust in Jesus today without such miracle stories.

My point is that there are plenty of opportunities for god to produce some sort of supernatural, miracle today that could be promulgated and demonstrated exclusively by Christians. This would eliminate the notion that some foreign god was responsible. The Bible frowns upon people requesting miracles (John 4:48). How much more important are such signs in the age of science? I suppose that the Bible threw this scripture in there because they knew that no such miracles occurred, and they needed to introduce their so-called trump card, faith.

Science makes faith an obsolete concept. In an age of scientific enlightenment, Christians and nonbelievers should demand more than stories to believe. We owe it to ourselves and the sciences to require that much. In nearly any other endeavor, most people would have no problem with you wanting evidence before devoting yourself to some cause. I would say that religion requires faith because it lacks any evidence. Faith, in the ANE, was held in the same high regard as science before we understood that real answers to seemingly impossible questions were attainable. Shouldn’t god understand that we are no longer living in such a primitive, pre-scientific state? It certainly doesn’t help that science has demolished the ability to believe in the majority of old testament stories--through biology, geology, and archaeology to name a few.