Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Bible Burning Deliverance!

Since as long as I could remember I have been a lover of books and reading. Today I consider myself to be an avid reader and I treat all books regardless of their topic with respect. Anyone like myself who has ever authored a book could attest to the fact that such a task is by far an easy endeavor. As an author you must be able to express  yourself, your views, opinions, or just tell a story in such a way as to be understood by your target audience.

Because of the innumerable topics and themes that one can choose to write about, books can be used as a medium to educate us (academic works), entertain us (fiction), teach us about life in ancient civilizations (history). One genre of literature that I always find interesting is the genre of world mythology. The reason for this is that I believe that myths are the roots of religious beliefs by man in both ancient and modern society. Through mythology we see the indisputable fact in my opinion; that man created the gods. Myths are laden with what we acknowledge today as superstitions for the most part based on irrational fears and illogical beliefs with no basis in fact.

Many of the more popular myths were composed during a pre-scientific age where superstitions were in abundance. The world was a scary place and as is made evident in many of the worlds ancient myths; things like natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, typhoons, drought, famine, etc. were all attributed to the gods. When things went well the gods were pleased, but when things were not going so well the gods were angry. It was up to the community's shaman, priests, etc. to figure out why the gods were displeased and find a way to appease them. Some resorted to human or animal sacrifices combined with ceremonies and rituals which for the most part showed the gods that one was repentant and submitted oneself to their authority and will.

This brings me to the purpose of this post. Generally, I don't advocate the burning or destruction of any book. I love reading and I tend to take great care of all of the books I personally own. I don't lend them out to anyone, I hate when people dog ear the pages or put folds and creases in the book. I don't like to use highlighters on my books, if I find something worthy of saving or looking into further. I don't like under line phrases or paragraphs in a book. I'd rather just take notes or copy the quotes to a separate sheet of paper or even save it on my computer.

The one and only book I have ever physically destroyed was the Bible. But my motives at the time were not anger, disdain, or disgust with the book itself. My reason was more psychological than anything else. You see, I was a fundamentalist Christian evangelist who at the time was so absorbed in my beliefs that they consumed my every waking moment. I literally feared the Lord as the Bible commanded. It was similar to a love hate relationship towards the end where I not only feared the Lord but hell and death. It took me six years to finally overcome all of my fears associated with my former beliefs. Because of the frailty and unpredictability of life I was aware of what would happen to me if I was wrong. I would die and face God's judgement and full brunt of his wrath for all eternity.

Although I was no longer a believer I held on to my Bible and at times studied it from a more objective perspective minus all the reverence and fear associated with my literal belief in its content. My mother once told me a folktale about a man who had renounced his faith and decided to burn his Bible in defiance of God. The consequences for his actions according to this tale was that as he burned the "holy texts" he heard the words of that book spoken aloud in an echoing and thundering voice as if narrated by God himself! In the end it is said that this person lost his sanity and ended up in an asylum for the rest of his life.

Six years after my deconversion I had reached the stage where I no longer feared the Bible or its contents and have come to the realization that today's myths were once yesterday's religions. I believe that the three religions of the book as they are often called will eventually meet a similar fate. They too will one day take their place alongside yesterdays religions and be known and classified as the latest myths of the future.

Because of that tale my mother told me I chose to put it to the test. Burning the Bible for me was a matter of giving me psychological peace and well being. The Bible was the last fetter of the chains of superstitions that held me bound. I had broken the deeply embedded mental shackles of irrational fears. The last shackle that remained was my burning of that book which imprisoned me in a world of ancient myths and superstitions that smothered my perceptions of reality and clouded my natural ability to think for myself and reason. It was that book that crushed my spirit and through fear suppressed my logical mind from revealing its false and irrational teachings.

It was on a Sunday afternoon in 2000' when I finally took the Bible and placed it on the stove and let it burn to ashes. I admit that when I began to put the book on the fire there was a twinge of fear still lingering as my fingers released the bottom right hand corner of the book onto flames. But as I stood there watching it burn I felt a sense of freedom. As the ashes burned and fell apart so did the last of my fears. The oppression I felt because of my former indoctrination literally went up in smoke as that book was consumed in the fire. It was very liberating and therapeutic for me and finally helped me to feel free to live a life without irrational superstitions and fears. I don't recommend that everyone who deconverts from Christianity or any other religions of the book do the same because for each of us it's a different experience and we all handle these things differently. I just thought that sharing this with my readers would help you understand why I did it and how doing so affected me personally. The Bible was burned in effigy as the representation of all my mental oppressions and irrational fears.  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Miracle Mongers

3how shall we escape if we ignore so great a salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. Hebrews 2:3-4

When I was a believer I was a member of a very fundamentalist and charismatic movement known as the Pentecostal church. Back in those days (1990-1994) when I was an active evangelist and part of a local evangelistic ministry the church had some very different beliefs that at the time I think was what drew me to this particular sect of Christianity. As a child I was raised for about four years by a foster family who were devout Catholics. We went to mass every Sunday, but I found the Catholic church Sunday mass services to be quite boring. I hated going to church but was forced to do so by my foster parents. I was baptized in Catholicism and did my first communion there as well.

As I grew older religion was never an important part of my life. I wasn't a practicing believer nor did I go to church services, although if asked I would express openly that I did believe in God. My mother was never a practicing Christian either but she believed in God in her own way and she was also convinced that the Pentecostal church was the one true church. When I asked her why she believed that she would often reply that God moved in that church and performed miracles and that people felt the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The Pentecostal church is a very fundamentalist sect of Christianity who believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God and interpret its texts in a literal manner. These Christians base their faith entirely on emotions and on their literal interpretations of the scriptures. In fact, what they read in the Bible must conform with what they feel and experience in their faith.

17And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”  Mark 16:17-18

Most  biblical scholars agree that Mark 16 ended at verse 8 and some say 9 and that the rest of the verses we find in our modern Bibles were added on later by some unknown author or scribe. The main reason for this belief is that verses 9-20 do not appear in some of the earlier manuscripts of Mark. But most Pentecostals are either not aware of this and if they are they don't care, because for them it is all the word of God.

But it is verses like these that back up their claims. They are almost entirely driven by emotions and subjective personal religious experiences. If they are even in doubt about a religious experience the solution is to pray and seek confirmation of their experiences through the word of God. These people by the nature and commitment to their beliefs are impervious to reason. To them the very fact that they "feel" the presence of God or his Holy Spirit around and within their being is evidence of the existence of God. It never crosses their minds that their experiences could be entirely psychologically driven.

Pentecostals are also driven by what they interpret to be God's will. For instance, when it comes to faith healing if a prayer for healing is successful then God is praised. If it fails then either the person did not have enough faith or quite simply it was not God's will to heal that person at that time. Either way you look at it God wins. If you are a believer but your life is a mess and things just don't ever seem to go right for you, then God is testing your loyalty and your faith as he did with Job. If you endure and have faith without faltering then your blessings will surely come but you must remember that it's not when you want them or in your time but in God's time.

As a Pentecostal my worldview was pretty simple. There were three things that influenced everything: God's work, the devils works, and mans disobedience to God. I enthusiastically read books written by popular evangelists both old and new claiming to have raised the dead, healed the blind, etc. believing and praising God for doing these works without ever questioning the validity of these stories. Initially I was a miracle monger who looked for the hand of God in everything. In my life there was no such thing as coincidences. Everything happened for a reason and God was in control at all times.

Often I prayed for people and upon encountering them at a later time would be told how they were healed. Never once did it cross my mind that their ailments could have been psychosomatic. and even if I knew what that was I would've probably have ignored it and claimed it was a demonic deception to keep me from seeing the glory of God. I believed at the time that I had and used all of the so called gifts of the Spirit and no matter what anyone had to say about it my experiences told me differently.

For the miracle monger subjective experiences count as evidence and are even more powerful as such than any logical argument you can make against such experiences. If you try and point out that there are other religions out there whose adherents claim to have similar experiences they will reply by saying that those experiences are demonic and false. They are meant to deceive mankind from ever finding the "truth." It's ironic, but every single criticism that fundamentalist Christians or Christians in general have to say about other religions can easily be said about their faith and applied to their beliefs.

Former Christian apologist and now atheist John W. Loftus has made a great case for this very irony in his OTF (outsider test for faith) which basically asks believers to analyze their beliefs with the same criteria that they use to criticize other belief systems. He outlines the OTF here on his blog, and if you want to know more about it you can also purchase his book  'The Outsider Test For Faith'.

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

Monday, May 5, 2014

Respect my beliefs!

31Do to others as you would have them do to you.
37“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Luke 6:31;37

Respect: a feeling or understanding that someone or something is important, serious, etc., and should be treated in an appropriate way

Judge: to form an opinion about (something or someone) after careful thought

There are many good examples that we can use to illustrate the rampant hypocrisy involved in being a Christian believer, but none is as blatant as this one. I often come across theists who demand that I respect their beliefs. They try to remind me how they have a right to their beliefs and how I should acknowledge that and if I don't feel the same way that I should just not say anything at all about the matter. 

Although I am not a Christian and don't accept the Bible as the word of any god at all nor even the existence of gods I have chosen to cite verses 31 and 37 from the book of Luke chapter 6. I have done so because these two verses speak of something that is very important and that in my opinion most Christians choose to ignore in everyday life and practice. Verse 31 speaks of  respect and 37 speaks of judging others. Let me make myself clear from the outset that I respect everyone's right to believe whatever they please, but that does not mean that I have to respect the beliefs themselves.

The first verse I have cited sums it all up pretty nicely. Basically, if you want respect you must give respect! Respect like trust is a two way street, if you expect either of them from others towards yourself you should also give the same back. Don't expect people to respect you if all you give them in return is blatant disregard and disdain for not believing as you do. Christians like all other religious believers of the world claim to have "the truth" and it is by this so called truth that they judge others. They don't judge people by their merits since according to the scriptures:

All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." Romans 3:12

It's ironic how Christianity on the one hand talks about loving your neighbor and your enemies while at the same time it teaches you how to be prejudice against those that don't accept your beliefs. Christians whether they acknowledge it or not speak with an air of arrogance and condescension when it comes to discussing their faith with non-believers. 

Prejudice: an unfair feeling of dislike for a person or group because of race, sex, religion, etc.

Nonbelievers are judged by theists not as individuals or based on our own merits, but rather based on what believers think their god has to say about those who refuse to believe. Christians judge others on the very same things that they themselves are guilty of but consider themselves redeemed because they have chosen to believe in the myths outlined in the scriptures.

1The fool says in his heart,“There is no God.”They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;there is no one who does good. Psalm 14:1

The Bible teaches you to dislike people based not on what they do or how they behave towards one another but rather on what they believe! Orthodox and Fundamentalist Christians have done some horrible things towards one another in the name of their god throughout history. Even in the scriptures we read of some of the horrendous acts in the O.T. by the ancient Hebrews towards other nations and peoples who had other beliefs other than their own. Normally we would condemn such acts like the ones described in the O.T. such as killing men, women, and children in the name of God or even committing the sacrilege of destroying another peoples idols or temples of worship. But instead what do theists do even today? They minimize these horrible acts and judge them as righteous by blaming the victims for being sinners or not believing in their religion of choice! 

I have yet to meet a theist who condemns the acts of believers as they have been outlined and described in the Bible. The scriptures teach you self loathing and seek to remind you that from the moment you are born you come into the world with a debt of sin owed to its deity. You are taught to hate the "flesh" and seek the things of the spirit. Even God reminds us in the scriptures before the flood how horrible we are. 

5The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. Genesis 6:5

I personally don't care what any particular person chooses to believe as long as those beliefs are not forced upon me or affect my life in any way. But I don't believe that anyone's personal beliefs gives them the right to judge others and dislike others and their lifestyles based on those beliefs. People should be judged as individuals and on their own merits. I have met some good Christians, Muslims, and Jews who despite their beliefs have come across as good people who are friendly, understanding, and make good friends. In the end its not what you believe but how you treat others that will determine how you are treated and judged in return. 

Finally, if you want to believe that you can't be good without God, then you have every right to do so. But that does not give you the right to think that everyone else in the world is subject to your rules of judgement. Theists, if  you treated all people with respect instead of being condescending towards them based only on your beliefs you might actually get that same respect back. Our labor laws here in the U.S. should apply to everyday life and how we treat each other. Just as these laws prohibit discrimination against hiring someone based on their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin we should treat each other as individuals regardless of the above mentioned factors. None of those factors determine who you are as a person or as an individual. I'll respect your right to believe whatever you please when you respect my right to reject your beliefs and stop judging me based on those beliefs. 

Note: All biblical citations are taken from the New International Version of the scriptures (NIV)
All word definitions are taken from the online Merriam Webster Dictionary.