Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Children and Religion



The video above is an enlightening watch. As I viewed it, I had a number of flashbacks to my own childhood. I traveled in religious circles and attended a school where being "slain in the Spirit", as shown here, was very normal.

The expressions on the faces of the children are so telling - Is this what I am supposed to do? Am I supposed to fall? Is that what you want? Should I be scared?

You can see which children have not yet been brought into the culture and which ones know the game.

And it is a game. It has rules and rewards. You can play it well and you can play it poorly. Acceptance and popularity within the community are determined according to your participation. Whatever one's flavor of religion, you are often instructed from your youngest age how to navigate the culture of your religious community. There are behaviors and rituals which will give you words and looks of affirmation if you partake. There are also ideas and practices which solicit community dismay.

This can sound nefarious, but I don't think that is necessarily so. Impressionable children accept these things because the community encourages it... but likewise, the community received the same directives when they were children... and so on... and so on.

I do think parents can instruct their children without indoctrinating them.  Parents can present information impartially and teach their children to make reasonable judgements. However, it takes a lot of intentionality.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

See You At The Tee Box!

It took until my late 40s, but I finally am into sports. Playing that is, not watching.  Also, it is only one sport.

Disc Golf.

My love of disc golf, like most things in life, happened by chance. I went with some friends one evening to give disc golf a try.  They had played before, years ago, and wanted to give it another run. I did not imagine that I would particularly enjoy the game, but it was something to do.

One game led to another game, and another.  I became interested enough to buy my own discs. I watched some videos to improve my throw.

Before I knew it, I was hooked.

As I thought about it, I realized it grabbed me on a few levels:


1. It is a chatty sport - I enjoy conversation and this was a sport that let me do that.  I grew up playing baseball, and baseball was enjoyable, but not very talkative.  Most sports are all about the game itself.  Disc Golf is another way for me to further conversation.  I have played a few rounds solo, but this sport is best when played with friends.

2. It makes me walk - Most of my pleasures in life are pretty sedentary.  Disc Golf gets me moving. A course it typically 2-3 miles of walking, often at varying elevations.


3. It is FREE - Well, mostly free.  I have invested a few hundred dollars in discs and bags, but to go out and play a round only costs you the gas to take you there.

4. Disc collecting - I have a strand of my personality that likes collecting things.  Discs tap into that. Discs have three distinct purposes -  Driver, mid-range, and putter.  A disc will then vary according to a scale on how far it will throw, and where and when it will turn.  There is quality of plastic. They also differ in weight from 130-180 grams.  Then there is color and print.  I presently have around 40 discs... which is probably 25 more than I actually need.
Disc golf is often compared to traditional ball golf, but I actually find it more analogous to miniature golf.  In disc golf, you spend a lot of time going around, under, and over obstacles.  Big, open power drives exist, but probably on less than a third of the baskets.  Some disc golf courses exist entirely within the woods.

By the way, disc golf goes great with beer.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

It Doesn't Matter. It Just Doesn't Matter.

After Donald Trump hugged the American flag yesterday I created this meme.  My brother questioned why people were offended by his hugging the flag.  I replied that, in my case, there is no offense but plenty of recognition of pandering... on a dark comedy level.

There is this great scene in House of Cards where Kevin Spacey's character, a senator, has to say a few words at a funeral because it is politically expedient. The senator has no particular interest in Jesus or religion... but he took the measure of the crowd and when he spoke to them, he LOVED Jesus and the bible and God above....then he left the podium and turned it right back off again. But the crowd loved it.

Donald Trump loves the spotlight. However, in all of his years seeking the public eye, I don't think anyone would have used the word patriotic when describing him. Patriotism has never been a marker of his public persona. There is nothing in his business practices that shows he would put dedication to country over dedication to profit.

But when he stepped up to the podium, he took the measure of the crowd, realized what would get their juices flowing, and he went and hugged a flag.

Things that would disqualify most folks don't matter to his base.  After every pandering episode or outrageous pronouncement, I hear the chant of Bill Murray at Camp North Star- "It doesn't matter!  It just doesn't matter!" Degrading comments and behaviors toward women? It doesn't matter. Racism? It doesn't matter. Display of thin-skinned pouting? It just doesn't matter.

That is why it will be a long and painful election season. We have many more of these episodes to endure.  Last year if he had hugged a flag, I would have been sure that using Old Glory as part of a political stunt would have ruffled the feathers of a fair amount of his audience - but I know better now. I knew yesterday when I saw that picture that it would have no negative effect. It doesn't matter what Donald Trump does, it just doesn't matter.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Morality Over Obedience

One of the questions I often get as an Atheist is, if I don't have a deity that I worship, where do I get my morality? I contend that receiving a moral code from an authority is always going to be problematic.

People who receive their morality will always be living with contradictions - what they have been told and what they have experienced. In addition, if people have a deity and a holy text like the one I had, they are going to struggle with their authority being inconsistent.

I find that non-belief gives me a much clearer playing field and encourages me to engage my ethical code in ways that I did not when I was a believer.  When I was a theist, I was concerned with whether or not I was obedient.  Now I am concerned with how much help or harm I bring to my world.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Love God - Love Your Loved Ones Less

Yesterday, my brother shared an article on Facebook concerning Evangelical pastor Francis Chan's challenge for Christians to stop idolizing their family and put Christ's mission first. He asked for his readers' thoughts. After perusing the article, I wrote:
"A: Chan believes anyone who does not "have a relationship" with his god will be tortured for eternity by said god - so out the gate, I am convinced that his view of god is going to be harmful to humanity. Ergo any thought he has to add about how a believer should go about spiritual pursuits, in my view, is going to be highly suspect.
B. Chan is encouraging you to put the most important relationships of your life on the back burner so you can go out and... well, at this point it gets vague... be radical, and all out, and live over the edge! This too will probably end badly. Not for Chan, Chan will get awesome book deals and speaking engagements out of this. He will get lots of perks.
The followers of Chan? Not so much. They will probably mess up relationships, wax and wane between guilt and euphoria until something gives, and make a lot of financial and life decisions with no more consideration than a role of the dice.
My challenge to Christians... stop idolizing... period."
Then this morning, I read an article by Libby Anne over at Love, Joy, Feminism, where she shared about growing up with that evangelical mindset of near paranoia about making sure everything and everyone in your life was undervalued when compared to God.
"I also remember worrying that I loved my family more than I loved God. I was taught that this was wrong—that it made my family idols. I felt so conflicted over this, and purposed time and again to love God more than I loved my parents or siblings."
Reading both of those articles made me reflect on how real that topic was to me growing up. I regularly saw folks give up various past times and pleasures because they were concerned these things were becoming an "idol" in their life. I many times abandoned enjoyments, passed on opportunities, or sabotaged relationships because I thought these things would "hinder my walk with God". Jesus needed to be ultimate (whatever that meant) and nothing could even be a close second.

One of the musical heroes in my circles growing up was named Keith Green. I lived and worked at Green's ministry for 6 months when I was 18.  He wrote a song where he pointed out that everything in his life took 2nd place to Jesus. Keith speaks of his marriage in this way:
"As I told her when we wed, I'd surely rather be found dead, than to love her more than the one who saved my soul."
There was a time when I heard that song and that line and felt it was a powerful testimony of dedication to Jesus - now I see it as a dysfunctional mess.

Imagine a husband insisting to his wife that she love him more than the children. Contemplate what kind of mother would tell a daughter that, if the daughter loved her brother more, then the daughter was unworthy of her mother's love.

Does any reasonable person consider this jealous, competitive perspective in any way loving?

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

My Journey to Atheism - Part 2

Here is part 2 of my discussion with my brother about leaving the faith. We talk about why I couldn't stop at Agnosticism and what effect this all had on my family. If you haven't listened to Part 1 yet, you can find it here:  Part 1


Sunday, March 13, 2016

My Journey to Atheism - Part 1

I want to recommend to you my brother's podcast. Steve is a Christian believer whose faith journey has led him to ... more open pastures ... in the past half dozen years. Steve and I have both gone through a lot of changes over our decades as brothers, but no matter where we were politically, philosophically, or religiously, we have always managed to have excellent dialogue. One reason is because Steve, at his core, is a great conversationalist and that really comes through in the podcast. Be it discussions of faith, stories from his month long walk on the Camino de Santiago, or opinions about the latest Star Wars movie, his new podcast has proven to be a worthy listen on my list.

In his latest episode, Steve interviews me about my journey from a life of faith to atheism. We talk about Hell theology, life among the Mormons, and how Evangelicals respond to diversity.  We had a great conversation, in fact, it lasted over 2 hours. So Steve split it in half and this is part one. Enjoy!

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