Monday, February 24, 2014

On speaking in tongues (glossolalia)

Glossolalia: profuse and often emotionally charged speech that mimics coherent speech but is usually unintelligible to the listener and that is uttered in some states of religious ecstasy and in some schizophrenic state 

When I was a Christian believer of the Pentecostal church they told me from the beginning that the sign that I have been baptized by the Holy Spirit was that I would be able to speak in tongues. At the time I did not know that this was incorrect. The church had come to believe this based mostly on some verses found in the N.T. oftentimes when someone or a group of people converted to Christianity the text would end with the new converts speaking in tongues. They also like to compare the description of what allegedly occurred in the scriptures on the so called day of Pentecost to what is experienced in the churches today.

1When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. 2Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. 4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

As is common with most Pentecostals context means nothing. They take this narrative and its details as similar to what they experience today. The only problem with this is that in this instance they were speaking in tongues but in the languages of men, not gibberish as is heard in the churches today. This is clearly indicated in the following verses.

5Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. 6When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. 7Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans? 8Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? 9Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome 11(both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” 12Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”  Acts 2:5-12

The reason I bring this up is that when I was visiting a church that belonged to a pastor friend of mine I came across two teenaged sisters crying in the back row. I approached them to ask what was the matter and was told that they both felt as if God did not love them and they felt out of place in the church because they had not yet received the so called gift of speaking in tongues. From the moment that you convert to Pentecostalism you are told that you will be baptized in the Spirit and that tongues would be the sign. Many who come in become committed to receiving this gift and often pray fervently for it. Not knowing that speaking in tongues as outlined in the scriptures was not the same phenomenon.

27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues ? Do all interpret? 31Now eagerly desire the greater gifts. 1 Corinthians 12:28-31

This previous verse states that everyone in the church may serve a different function and thus have different gifts of the Spirit. It was this that first made me doubt my own "gift" and what I saw in church regularly during service. It was also interesting to me that Paul also differentiated between tongues as the language of the human spirit to God and tongues as diverse human languages.

13For this reason the one who speaks in a tongue should pray that they may interpret what they say. 14For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 1 Corinthians 14:13-14

22Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. 23So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 1 Corinthians 22-23

Pentecostals do not follow these rules and this led me to suspect the veracity of the experience. I prayed to God with a heavy heart often asking for knowledge and understanding regarding this matter. I asked for his confirmation that I was on the right track with my studies and research on the subject and it actually came in the form of a book I stumbled upon by chance. That book forever changed my life and was pivotal in my breaking free from the superstitions and practices that held me captive.  The book was 'Charismatic Chaos' by John F. MacArthur Jr.

I have come to the conclusion by experience and by my encounter with those young girls that speaking in tongues is both a psychological and social phenomenon. Unconsciously an adherent can pick it up simply by being exposed to it and desiring it. Once you are indoctrinated to believe it your mind is prepped. Then you hear what it sounds like and your unconscious mind records these sounds and subsequently you end up imitating these sounds in a state of ecstasy and high excitability. Like many so called paranormal phenomenon such as OBE's (out of body experiences), NDE's (near death experiences), etc. this too is in the mind. No God nor Holy Spirit required. Some people just like in hypnosis are more susceptible to it than others thus the reason why some never experience this phenomenon.

When I was an evangelist I was fully open to God and the supernatural experiences that accompanied believers. Contrary to what some atheists who have not experienced religious fanaticism to this level the followers are not all faking it. I know I wasn't, and I believed that everything I did was as a result of the gifts of the Spirit which I believed at the time abided in me. This knowledge was the beginning of my liberation from my beliefs and my fanaticism. The day I realized this and knew it in every fiber of my being I felt like the chains of superstition had fallen off and I had finally understood John 8:32. Except the truth was not the gospel nor the fictitious tales about Jesus the Christ. It was the realization that all those beliefs were founded entirely on foreign ancient superstitions and myths.

Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32

Note: All biblical citations are taken from the New International Version of the scriptures.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

From atheism to theism (a response)

I recently read a blog post on atheist revolution entitled 'How an Atheist Could Become a Christian.' Although I found this post to be interesting I thought I would reply to it by stating as a former fundamentalist Pentecostal believer why in my opinion it would be highly improbable that I would ever return to theism. The author of the post mentions that some atheists miss some aspects of their former lives as believers. This does seem to be the case and I have read about other more well known atheists discuss how they missed the music, the sense of community, etc. The author of the post also compared the switch from atheism to theism like trying to unlearn how to read. I think that my analogy will serve as a better description of the process which I intend to share shortly.

It literally took me six years to be completely free from my religious beliefs and indoctrination. The last thing to go was my fear of the Lord and my very real fear of death regarding what would happen to me if I died in my condition of unbelief. One of the things that turned me off the most as a believer is that when I sought help from the church elders or my fellow believers I was often told not to question matters so much and to trust God. I was warned against reading books that questioned the validity of the scriptures etc. When I first left the church some (very few) of the members and elders of the church visited me with the intent of getting me to repent and return to the ways of the Lord.

Once the church members and elders realized that they could not convince me to return they stopped visiting with me and started spreading rumors about me. About five years after leaving the church I ran into an old friend and he froze for a moment with his mouth open staring at me. He then ran at me and gave me a hug and said he could not believe that I was still around. I asked what he meant and he replied that they had said in the church that I had died from a drug overdose a while back! Another former friend I ran into once told me that he heard that I was seen on the street by someone from the church half bent over like a junkie! The funny thing is that I have never used drugs in my life!

My deconversion was very difficult for me and those six years were very trying times. I remember that I had addressed God in my very last prayer with a proposition. I basically told Jesus that if he would reveal himself to me as he did with Thomas in John 20:25 that I would be his faithful servant for the rest of my life.

So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord!" But he said to them, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." John 20:25

In the subsequent verses Jesus grants Thomas his request although he chastises him for not believing what he had heard from the other disciples about his resurrection and return from the dead.

26A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” John 20:26-27

After all these years (19 to be exact) I have yet to have this one wish fulfilled. I haven't given up hope in it but I think that the probability of it ever happening is highly improbable. Faith wasn't good enough for Thomas and it is not good enough for me either. As an atheist I demand empirical and objective evidence before I commit myself to a belief system. I have come to the conclusion that I could never be a theist again. There are several reasons for this. The first is that after much study I don't find the Bible to be a credible source of information, faith without evidence is irrational to me, and my studies into the mind helped explain all of what I once thought were supernatural experiences.

I compare my conversion to watching an amazing magic trick for the first time and my deconversion to having that same amazing trick and its secrets revealed to me. As a kid I was fascinated with magic and I even had a magic set that I once used in a school talent show. When I had my first daughter I bought books on sleight of hand and card tricks to use later to amaze my child. I learned and practiced may tricks and got quite good at the sleight of hand. But one thing I learned from my little foray in magic was that once you know the trick it loses its mystique.

Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, in fact, all religions are in my opinion nothing more than beliefs based entirely on ancient myths and superstitions that dominated the minds of men before science had dispelled many of those erroneous beliefs. I consider myself to be a modern day Thomas: there's not an argument in the world that any apologists could make to convince me about the truth of Christianity nor the reality of their god. The term "God did it" is not in my mind an answer to the many questions that science has yet to solve such as the exact process of the origins of the universe or the origins of life itself. In fact, this so called answer does nothing more than raise more questions than it answers them. 

The return to Christianity is in my mind only available to those who have never really left the faith. They might call themselves atheist but deep inside they still had questions about their faith and were more agnostic than they were atheist. I don't miss the music, the community, nor anything I experienced as a believer. Christian music and worship disgusts me to no end. In order to be a believer you have to first degrade yourself and accept that without Christ you are nothing. You must worship him and tell him how great he is all the time and live forever in gratitude for saving you from your disgusting sinful condition and ultimately eternal damnation. 

Christianity in my current view is not that different from slavery. There is the master (God), the subservient believer, the laws that you must live by (commandments), the idea that you must obey the Lord, the idea that he knows your thoughts and the very intents of your heart! Christianity is dominated by fear and subservience. Like a slave who has obtained a taste of freedom I could never go back!

Note: All biblical passages are taken from the New International Version of the scriptures.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Evolution vs. Creationism debates are a waste of time!

In light of the latest two debates pitting atheists proponents for evolution against Christian proponents of creationism, I have come to the conclusion that these events are a waste of time, resources, and efforts. The debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham could only be defined as a circus act because of the fact that you can't argue logically against a superstition whose only claim to legitimacy is faith. The second most recent debate between Hector Avalos and Juan Valdes was no different.

One thing I hate most about these debates is how theists try to transfer the burden of proof upon the atheist or evolution proponent. The fact of the matter is that theists refuse to accept the very real, empirical, and objective evidence in support of evolution. No matter what level of education or how many degrees they may hold in theology, apologetics, or philosophy they always resort to a god of the gaps argument. Some present it more eloquently than other but when one is familiar with this argument you can pretty much spot it a mile away no matter how much you try to disguise it.

God of the gaps argument
  • There is a gap in scientific knowledge.
  • Therefore, the things in this gap are best explained as acts of God. 
The problem with apologists and creationists is that they all begin their arguments with a presupposition that God exists.  The irony of this is that theists insists on proof of evolution by attacking the gaps in our current knowledge but they don't provide the same evidence for God. They begin all of their arguments with the assumption that the existence of God is a fact entirely based on faith. Atheists who don't have any knowledge of theism don't seem to realize that theists consider the knowledge of men to be flawed and the knowledge of God to be perfect and all knowing (omniscient).

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that arguing against creationism in a public forum is an exercise in futility. It will never convince a theist to change his beliefs because of the fact that when a theist exposes the gaps in scientific knowledge and the evolutionists replies that we don't know the exact process of such and such a thing in the eyes of the theists the creationists has won. God did it in the eyes of the theists answers all the mysteries and gaps in the sciences. One of the most learned individuals about this matter believe it or not was Adolf Hitler:

"It is always more difficult to fight against faith than against knowledge."  
 "I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few."

I think it's almost insulting that a scientist or someone with scientific training has to defend his views against people who are either not scientifically trained or are scientifically trained but are victims of confirmation bias and to compartmentalize their faith from their profession. To date it is a known fact that you cannot prove or disprove the existence of God.. But logically the burden of proof is on the claimant defending the position that God exists not the other way around.

It's embarrassing that professional scientists, philosophers,etc. are continually being sucked into these pointless exchanges with theists who in my opinion don't even deserve to be on the same podium with them. In fact arguing for creationism makes no sense at all because the theists has yet to prove both empirically and objectively that this god they worship exists. Even if they could prove someday that "God did it" they still have to prove which god did it. Was it the god of the deist, or one of the other thousand or so gods that man has created for himself?

In conclusion and to sum this post up I believe that these debates are a farce and a circus side show at best.  I don't think theists will gain anything from these exchanges and evolutionists have nothing to learn from the creationist point of view. The best way to counter creationism is to keep lecturing about it and writing about the subject exposing its many weaknesses and its improbability reasonably. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Christians are confused about science

Science: knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation

Pseudoscience:  a system of theories, assumptions, and methods erroneously regarded as scientific 

When I was in the military back in 1987 one of the things I took with me was that when it relates to military conflict you must know your enemy. Before entering into battle you must first try and gather all the information about your enemy as possible. What weapons does he have in his arsenal? How many men does he have in his infantry? Does he have a powerful and formidable air force and navy? All of these same principles apply in my opinion when debating theists. 

For as long as I could remember I was always big on going to the source for information about other religious groups or sects that were not the one I belonged to. I never read books by Pentecostal evangelists that were written for instance to denounce the Jehovah's Witness church as a false belief system. When I wanted to learn what the JW's believed and taught I went to the source. I got a copy of their translation of the scriptures. I read their witnessing materials, etc. 

This reminds me of a time when I was in Bible seminary and was very excited to go to class that week because it was the week that we were going to discuss the theory of evolution. At the time I had not read any secular material on the matter nor any scientific books or articles about evolution. That evening when I arrived at the class room eagerly awaiting the instructor to commence the class I remember feeling excited about finally learning something new. When the class began the instructor asked us to open our text books to  the chapter which dealt with evolution. Here we go, I thought to myself all giddy like a kid in a candy store.  

Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next! The instructor said: "If you want to believe that you evolved from an ape then go right on ahead. I know that this is not true because I am a child of God!" He then skipped the chapter and moved on to the next subject in the book. I felt deflated and angry in that moment and this is what motivated me to learn about evolution on my own. The church was not going to help me. I went to the source and began reading books on evolution from my local public library. I devoured it all and analyzed it as I studied it I tried to criticize it and even compare it to the biblical version of creation. 

It's no wonder most theists are confused about science they are being fed pseudoscience in its place and led to believe that that is science! If you wan to learn anything about anything the best way to do so is go to the source. You can't tell if an apologists is misrepresenting what science says about anything if you yourself are not informed about the actual position of science on the matter. For instance if I had a penny for everytime a theist said to me about evolution  "it's only a theory" I would be a millionaire.  

The reason for this confusion is quite simple. When apologists talk about evolution they fail to differentiate the different meanings of the word theory as it is used in a scientific context as opposed to its use in common parlance. Here is a brief description about the difference between the usage of the word theory both inside and outside of a scientific context.

Scientific theory
When used in non-scientific context, the word “theory” implies that something is unproven or speculative. As used in science, however, a theory is an explanation or model based on observation, experimentation, and reasoning, especially one that has been tested and confirmed as a general principle helping to explain and predict natural phenomena. 

When arguing with theists about these matters they tend to immediately expose their lack of scientific knowledge due to misinformation or relying on questionable sources for information on scientific matters. In closing I would like to leave my atheist and theist friends with a couple of reliable links and book recommendations where you can read about evolution and honestly review the evidence.

For good books on evolution and the evidence presented by the various fields of science for evolution I recommend the following. 

The Greatest Show on Earth by Richard Dawkins

Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne

Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin

Evolution For Dummies by Greg Krukonis and Tracy Barr

The Fact OF Evolution by Cameron M. Smith