Thursday, March 29, 2007

“A pleasant tale with a touch of pathos”

When I was a Christian, how often I sat in church listening to the sermons and scripture readings week after week, month after month, year after year. I was always incredibly bored and that hour seemed like a day as the pastor droned on and on reciting some silly analogies like how “life is like an Oreo cookie, hard-shelled on the outside and the creamy sweet reward at the center” or hearing the same old message that “life sucks, and you suck, but God is good.” “God loves us even though we are very bad, and there is a place called Hell we can avoid being condemned to after our deaths by simply saying the magic words…”I believe”. Most of you who were Christians before “seeing the light” have listened to similar lectures.

We have often discussed how Christians cherry-pick from the Bible according to what suits their own thinking, and to support their version of the oxymoron “Biblical truth”. Looking back to the 1600s, we can read in most history books how Christians would use “evidences and justifications” from the “Good Book” such as “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22:18) for their cruel and barbaric acts against other human beings. Today’s fundamentalist Christians and many moderate Christians use passages from their mythology books to support their bigotry against homosexuals. Leviticus 20:13 "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. Thank human goodness we now have laws that (ironically in a “Christian” nation) prevent Bible literalists from carrying out most of the horrendous acts that are prescribed by the evil commands of an ancient text.

In all the years I sat in church services in a number of different churches of varying denominations, I heard numerous variations of Hell, where one would go after we died if we did not say the magic words prior to our death to get us a ticket to heaven. However, looking back, I realize I never heard from the pulpit “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother…all the men of the city shall stone him with stones, that he die…. (Deut. 21:18, 21), or Leviticus 20:18 “And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people..” or Leviticus 20:10 “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” (Just to name a few of hundreds of passages that are regularily ignored by clergy and congregations alike, thank human reason and goodness!)

We have had discussions with Christians where we bring up the point about the atrocities of the Bible and are blown off, or some make excuses like “that was then and this is now” and “those parts don’t apply to today’s world.” I remember during Bible studies when people brought up certain violent and cruel passages and they received responses like those mentioned above, or they were conveniently ignored and they would sidestep the subject and move on to other more pleasant topics.

Mark Twain, in his “Letters from the Earth” wrote a little story which illustrates just what I am talking about.

Man’s inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!

I will tell you a pleasant tale which has in it a touch of pathos. A man got religion, and asked the priest what he must do to be worthy of his new estate. The priest said, “Imitate our Father in Heaven, learn to be like him.” The man studied his Bible diligently and thoroughly and understandingly, and then with prayers for heavenly guidance instituted his imitations. He tricked his wife into falling downstairs, and she broke her back and became a paralytic for life; he betrayed his brother into the hands of a sharper, who robbed him of his all and landed him in the almshouse; he inoculated one son with hookworms, another with the sleeping sickness, another with gonorrhea; he furnished one daughter with scarlet fever and ushered her into her teens deaf, dumb, and blind for life; and after helping a rascal seduce the remaining one, he closed his doors against her and she died in a brothel cursing him. Then he reported to the priest, who said that that was no way to imitate his Father in Heaven. The convert asked wherein he had failed, but the priest changed the subject and inquired what kind of weather he was having, up his way.

Mark Twain’s “Letters from the Earth” were withheld from publication until 1962. The biting criticism of religion was considered so inflammatory by his daughter that she prevented its publication for more than 50 years.

23 comments:

Damian Zerek said...

Christians do all they can to censor works against them yet they demand freedom of speech for their own kind!

It makes me sick.In my religion class (I am in a catholic highschool sadly) I attempted to show countless passages in the bible about the clueless and evil actions of God but what I had to say was usually dismissed in the saying that this is a biblical truth or something along those lines...

I applaud Mark Twain!

Andrea said...

A xtian friend of mine just wrote a blogpost about the death of her kid's goldfish, and heaven, and how wonderful and caring God is. I'm sorry to say it turned my stomach, I couldn't really read it.
Biblegod apparently thinks nothing of thousands of babies and children starving to death every day, in what alternate universe can this be called good?? "His eye is on the sparrow," my ass.

Stardust said...

andrea- "his eye was on the sparrow" when one bounced off my car as I was driving along the road a few months ago!

Humans think up such sugary sweet imaginations about their religions...however they want to imagine it...sweet songs, sweet poems...it all reinforces the delusion of a "good god" watching over everything and everybody.

OT - How's the little guy doing?

Andrea said...

He's sleeping on my chest as I type:) And he even let me sleep last night!

Back on topic, I have to add Twain to a very long list of things I want to read. I'm working on Paine's "Age Of Reason" right now.

Michelle Pendergrass said...

I guess you'll probably find it surprising that I have a lot of the same issues as you do, Stardust.

I don't get most of the Fundies. I know that many Christians I know personally hear things preached and take it as belief. When they're "tested" they can't say firmly why they believe that way or what it means.

I didn't understand what the Bible held until I read from front to back in a year using the New Living Translation. Mind you, I still don't understand it all, but I came to a different understanding.

I'm learning Hebrew now so that I can understand more of the Old Testament and hopefully I'll learn Greek as well.

What I'm mostly learning is that I can't put God in a box the way most Christians do. He does unexpected things all the time.

Damian Zerek said...

Andrea your back! Congratulations with the new baby.

Cheers!

Stardust said...

First of all I want to say to anyone reading this thread that Michelle is a very nice person who happens to believe that a god exists and not here to "flame bait" anyone.

Michelle, I am glad that you are a christian who actually is trying to read and understand your holy book. I have read it twice through, attending bible study as a christian, taught sunday school from toddlers to junior highers. I studied Bible as Literature in a Social Context in college, and studied world religions and world mythologies. Putting it all together, I could see that humans try to make up what they do not understand or for things that there are no answers for...yet. It's easier to say "god did it" to explain things we do not yet know.

Life is full of unexpected things as you say a god is responsible for...like planning for a baby like I did, carry it to term...and have it die in delivery?
There are good things and bad things that happen in life, and there is always an explanation.

I had pastors try to "interpret" that biblically for me, for example saying that God didn't think we were ready for a baby yet...well, it would have been a hell of a lot easier on a 20-year old young couple to NOT let us have a child in the first place if we weren't ready! ;) My mother had me when she wasn't ready...she was 17. A child herself. So, that logic was lost on me. I now know it was because we were at a primitive hospital in the middle of a stupid backward state with stupid Air Force doctors who didn't know their ass from a hole in the ground. I had high risk pregnancies when I returned to "civilization" in Chicagoland and delivered three healthy children. Quality of medical care makes all the difference and god or no god, not everyone has access to good doctors.


I can appreciate the good things that happen in life and give myself credit when credit is due, other's credit when it is deserving, learn from the difficulties that I encounter and get through it with my own human strength.I accept things I cannot change and move on.

While some want to say that there is a god pulling our strings and making things happen, I find that impossible to believe anymore (I did at one time until I really started to consider the absurdity of that belief). To think that there is a god sitting at some great controls like the wizard of oz, peering into the minds of billions and billions of individuals past, present and future on a teeny weenie planet in the middle of a unfathomable vastness of the universe...AND controlling all elements of that universe is extremely absurd to many of us. To think that even if a god did exist and could see everything and allow children to be abused, neglected, starving to death as vultures wait on the sidelines to devour their tiny bodies, to sit there and watch people do the most horrible things to each other and not intervene...then I would say that is not a good god at all...or that god...like the wizard of oz really had no powers what-so-ever. Everyone believed the wizard was doing things for them...when the people were doing it all themselves all along.

Andrea said...

Hey Damian, thanks. Can't believe I have two kids! 8)

Hi again Michelle (I just responded to you on my blog). Stardust, I could tell she's a decent person, so no problem there. Like you, I also came to disbelief from studying all of religion as a whole, although not as in-depth as you could in college. Even a cursory study of psychology will show how much fear we humans struggle with. And all the ideas we come up with to combat that fear. Belief in a loving god in the sky is an empty comfort though, and it's no longer for me.
Also, Stardust, I didn't know about your losses until I had read through some old stuff on GifS, and I want to say I am so very sorry. You seem to have come through so strong and I'm really in awe of that. I sincerely hope that nothing I ever said about my baby was ever in any way painful for you.

Stardust said...

andrea - I am very happy for you and your little family. I am glad all went well and always glad to hear when things go well for people and I wish you all the best. :-)

I am very lucky to have gone on to have three healthy, wonderful children who are now all grown and we were very fortunate that despite some health problems and our daughter starting out so premature, they are all healthy, happy adults and they all call me almost every day. :-)

I find that I am much more able to cope with adversity now since getting rid of the god beliefs. I no longer wonder what I did to deserve the bad stuff like when I was a xian. I now look at things like "shit happens"...it happens to a lot of people and we deal with it best we can. It does help to have human support...a close family and a loving husband. That's who gets you through in life...other humans.
It is humans who are there to help...there is no supernatural entity inside everyone's brain and business soothing and listening....it is individual mortal humans who are here for us.

Andrea said...

That's so cool that your kids keep in touch like that. I hope my boys are the same way when they grow up.

I also appreciate life much more now than I used to!

Michelle Pendergrass said...

Thanks Stardust, Andrea. I know what its like to buck the religious system. I think I just said at Andrea's that I was Catholic, then atheist, then born again, then nothing, now I do have faith. But I guess its not in a way that I've found is common.

And really, they'd take my Southern Baptist card right out of my hot little hand for being a "free thinker" LOL

I don't agree with most organized religion and I say most because I don't know everything--so there's so much I could be wrong about.

I don't have any pat answers about God or why things are the way they are. And I'm certainly not here to convince anyone to believe like I do. I've been in and out of faith and this last time some things happened that seemed to be a paradigm shift for me.

I know bad stuff happens. And I don't have answers. My uncle committed suicide last year and I could very well be looking at God asking why. I'm not, I understand there's life and there's death, I just happen to believe that there's more to it than that.

And hey, we can certainly still have conversation when we believe different. (I think I actually have more in common with you guys than I do with most Christians)

I enjoy good conversation and I understand both sides here, just as you guys do.

Stardust, I'm sorry for your loss, I can't imagine anything more painful. (((hugs)))

Stardust said...

Thanks for coming by Michelle...you are always welcome.

We each have to find our own way in life. I think we can be friends and still hold differing beliefs about things. It's nice when people can discuss things in a rational manner and be friends while agreeing that it is ok to disagree about some things.

I think you and I have more in common that we are different! :-)

Michelle Pendergrass said...

I don't mean to serial post--but I saw something on my blog reader that just kind of fit here with this little discussion.

(I haven't read all the comments yet or read the links, but the main article is here.)

Stardust said...

Andrea - One thing I have always done is listen to my kids and they knew they could come to us and tell us ANYTHING without fear of being punished or us going crazy on them. But that didn't mean we condoned things we didn't approve of, or let things slide when they were clearly in the wrong. And we always stood up for them when they were right.

They received many a long lecture whenever they snitched on themselves about something they did and knew they shouldn't have. But we kept that line of communication and trust open. One thing we wanted to instill in them is honesty and no need to be sneaking around...and to let them know we are always here for them. They still call to talk when they need to think things through and get an opinion about things...and even though they are adults we may not approve of how they are doing something or what they are doing, but we never belittle, never get angry with them...but let them talk, listen...and then give them our opinions and advice...and something to think about when coming to their own conclusions. They usually choose what we would do most of the time. :-)

Stardust said...

Michelle, thanks for the link. It's interesting how people explain this character of god, making adjustments and alterations, changing interpretations according to the discussion and situtations in order to make it so they can try to prove that a god exists. I believe it is simply human invention, and reinvention.

I do not feel a "god" presence at all. I seriously doubt I ever did. I wanted to, but it just wasn't there...and I am no longer looking. I am content with where I am. :-) Life and this beautiful world and my family and friends are enough for me.

Michelle Pendergrass said...

I thought it was interesting because I'd never heard it talked about that way, "Is God Lovable"

I'm still sloshing through the comments.

Stardust said...

Michelle, It is interesting that they were discussing the same thing on a Christian blog. Interesting that the same questions come up about the character of the god of Abraham from both believers and non believers.

Andrea said...

caMichelle, I also forgot to mention that I too tried to learn Hebrew; I bought a special Hebrew Bible as translated by a Messianic Jew, and I tried going to a Messianic congregation, etc. I desperately wanted to deepen my faith, to understand the whole confusing mess better.
In the end, it failed to hold up for me. The house of cards still fell once I started studying the history of religion and mythology. But I'd be interested to hear how your journey is going for you.

Stardust, if you don't mind, I'm curious about why your pregnancies were high-risk. My mom also had the misfortune of trying to deal with inept AF doctors.

Stardust said...

Andrea, I don't mind telling you about why my pregnancies were high risk. With the first baby the placenta was coming loose and though I had symptoms a week before delivery, no doctor paid attention to it and sent be home...and in delivery the nurses ignored the fetal monitor when I suggested the baby's heartbeat kept slowing down (she wasn't getting oxygen)...

I had a miscarriage the following year at the 4th month. I collapsed, my heart stopped and when I woke up I was in intensive care. I remember that everything went black...and I woke up as if I had taken a nap....but it was several hours before I came to.

Therefore, all pregnancies thereafter were considered high-risk and when I went into labor with our oldest son, his heartbeat started the same thing as our first baby. Since I was back in civilization with an excellent team of doctors and attentive nurses, they did an emergency c-section and he was fine, though very tiny...5 lbs.

Then I had problems during the pregnancy with our second son...he had a twin that stopped growing at the third month. Fortunately they were fraternal twins since doctors could leave the one that stopped growing in there, and the surviving son went to full term...(but I was in and out of the hospital which was very stressful on us). He was born a healthy 8 lbs! (However developed digestive trouble and lost so much weight we almost lost him a month later!!!)

Then our daughter was conceived and everything seemed to be going well till around the 7th month. I went into labor early...they tried drugs to stop labor but was no use and they were worried about the strain on her...so she was born via c-section and was only 4.5 pounds, dropped down to 3.5 lbs and had a hole in her heart and breathing problems. She was a little toughy though and came home in just a few weeks.

While in delivery after having her, they tied my tubes. No matter what happened with our daughter, I didn't want my husband to have to raise kids alone and better for me to stop and be happy with the family I had. Ironically...she was the healtiest kid of the three of them.

Stardust said...

Andrea, what kind of problems did your Mom have with the AF doctors? I have lots of stories from friends who were in the service same time my husband was. One friend of ours had an asthmatic child and he and his wife would be up walking the floors with him at night and one night it was so bad he took him into the immediate care clinic on base and told the doctor there that he and his wife were up night after night with the child and the doctor told him to go home and walk some more!!! He told the doctor that they were exhausted, and the doctor said..."well, if you loved your kid you wouldnt complain about it, don't you love your kid?" Our friend handed the child to the wife, and grabbed the doctor by the lapels and was about to pound lumps on him till someone stopped him.

They also once gave my husband too high of a dose of "mandatory" swine flu vaccine and he was burning up that night with a 106 fever! I called the base doctor and they said that was common...I found out later from real doctors that he could have died from that!

Andrea said...

I'm not sure of any specifics, just that they treat patients like cattle. Apparently a gentle bedside manner is not their strong suit.

So sad to hear all that trauma you went through! Why would the military allow such a crappy excuse for healthcare?

Stardust said...

Andrea, because they don't care about dependents, and they really don't care about entlisted guys. Just look at the state of Walter Reed and the crappy care that veterans get upon their return from war.

IMO, they don't care if dependents die because then they won't have to provide medical coverage for them. Losing people is all a part of the military, they are used to it.

Tommy said...

I'm glad the baby is letting you sleep Andrea.

Our second child, my daughter Kelly, was a terrible sleeper. Until she was about 2 and a half (she's 4 now) she would wake up in the middle of the night crying. It drove my wife and I batshit crazy! Andrew, my son, on the otherhand, would sleep deeply. You could set off a bomb outside his window and I don't think he would stir.