Sunday, November 20, 2022

Why? Why? Why?


Piper mentions that non-believers have better "tools" for morality at their disposal... but he doesn't get into it.  I'd be curious about what he thinks those tools are.

One of the things I noticed as I was exiting faith is that I used the word "Why" a lot.
Why do I do this?  Why do I think this?  Why, why, why?  

I was like a 5-year-old again.

It occurred to me that I really didn't have much of an ethical system... I just had a bunch of mores that were often particular to my subculture.  Upon inspection, most of them had nothing to do with ethics, and much of my life guilt was completely non-sensical.

In my subculture of Evangelicalism, "morality" was a big deal (not so much in the Trump era), and we talked a good game... but in truth, there was little moral instruction.

Take, for example, a sermon I heard by a popular Evangelical preacher.  He was assuring the congregation there was a Hell and everyone but "the saved" are going there.  He went on to say, "If there is no Hell, I'm going to the strip club tonight!"

This is a common thought line among the religious... if it weren't for the "judgment of god," I would behave completely differently.

That isn't morality... it is obedience.  It is social pressure.  It isn't a true belief in right and wrong - and it collapses fairly easily when challenged.

This is why every other week, another mega-church leader is caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  Jerry Falwell Jr. didn't have an ethical system he lived by, he had social pressures he adhered to.

I often tell my students that they are not being a friend if they allow someone to copy their work.  It is the equivalent of watching someone else exercise and expecting to get fit.  When the moment comes for them to demonstrate their ability with a math problem, they will be unprepared.

Religion often leaves people morally and ethically unprepared... because they have been content to copy someone else's answers to life's important questions.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Behaviors Are Not Age-Related


When we adults think of children, there is a simple truth which we ignore: childhood is not a preparation for life. Childhood IS life. A child isn’t getting ready to live; a child is living. The child is constantly confronted with the nagging question, ‘What are you going to be?’ Courageous would be the youngster who, looking the adult squarely in the face, would say, ‘I’m not going to be anything; I already am."

Professor T. Ripaldi

I teach 2nd grade.  People often talk about "childish behavior".  For example,  I have students who care very deeply about their position in line.  They get aggrieved if folks "butt" them in line yet shrug it off when they do it to someone else.  Sometimes it gets so intense, tears or fists come out.  Although this kind of behavior can be broad-brushed to all children, only about a third behave this way.  Most of my students couldn't care less.

On the other end of the spectrum.  You will often hear people assume all "old folks" think in similar ways.  The comedian Bill Burr does a whole routine about this.  He questions why the family was surprised when Grandma said racist things. 

"They're old!  he jokes.  "What didja think they thought?"  

People often use old age to shrug off racism or homophobia... as if it is just part of being old.  Yet, we all know plenty of old folks who don't hold these attitudes.

I think, as the professor says above, people already are.  Little Johnny may move on from caring about who stands where in line, but that core pettiness will probably just transfer to other things.  Later in life, he may care deeply that he has a better car or house than the person behind him.

Behaviors are not age-related.  One of my students can nurse a grudge for weeks... while another has let an offense go by recess.  They will most likely become adults who carry those same traits. 

The thing is, if we become an old person that is STILL racist or STILL petty or STILL holds grudges, etc... then life passed us by and we didn't do the real work that needed to be done.

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Man Finds Former Self Embarassing

I am in season 5 of True Blood... and I am starting to mourn that it will end in two more seasons. I wrote earlier a few weeks ago on Facebook about how much I have been enjoying it... and my perplexion as to why I didn't enjoy this when it first came out in 2008.

It occurred to me the other night.

It's so gay.

By 2008, my conservative faith of 30 years had swung pretty liberal... but I still had a lot of hang-ups. Decades of conditioning do not turn on a dime. If you had asked me at the time, I would have said that I loved and supported the gay community. I probably would have taken umbrage if anyone had suggested otherwise.

However, looking back, I can recognize that gay representation made me uncomfortable. I could view thousands of heterosexual kisses on screen... but two men kissing once would have made me feel that an "agenda" was being "pushed." Do what you want in your own bedroom, but keep it out of the public sphere... after all, will someone think of the children??

Your previous self can be so... embarrassing. Folks don't like to reflect on it (I don't). It took me til Season 5 to put 2 and 2 together as to my initial distaste for the show.

We cringe... so we don't want to remember. We clean up our histories, we gloss over our scriptures, and we don't tell our children about family issues.

I hope MLK was right about the moral arc of the universe. I hope we really are getting better.

Monday, August 08, 2022


I was reading a thread about folks being upset with Cracker Barrel for offering Impossible Meat on their menu.  One comment was essentially, "I just want a restaurant that is normal, with normal food on the menu!"

The thing is... his menu selection was not impacted.  They didn't REPLACE the sausage in his breakfast with Impossible Sausage, it is merely an option now for those who would like it.  He NEVER has to order it.

Yet, its availability to others sticks in his craw.  So much so, he is refusing to go to Cracker Barrel ever again.

To many of us, this is simply insane behavior... but for swaths of Americans, it is the norm.  A good chunk of their voting and candidate selection is based on this frustration. They grind their teeth and clench their fists when people choose items off of life's menu... as if they are being forced to partake as well.

Friday, July 22, 2022

For Me, Not For Thee

A Facebook group I am in is arguing over religious freedoms presently.  Someone had posted a Christian prayer.  Some folks said it was off-topic and perhaps should be posted in a religiously themed group.  Others argued for free speech and religious freedoms.

Here is the part I saw coming a mile off- Shortly after the prayer post, someone posted the Seven Tenets of the Satanic Temple. Predictably, many of the same folks defending the prayer had the dead opposite reaction to the 7 tenets. Comments such as "small-minded", "loser", "grow the phuck up", "shame on you", "disturbing", etc.

I don't know what the real-life percentages are... but in my experience, those who most often shout for religious liberties are usually only doing so for their sub-group.  They have little real interest in religious liberty as a fundamental right... rather, they use it selectively as a shield to protect their interests.

The most perfect example of the 180 people can do came from a person who said,

"To all that criticized the religious post… I mean seriously, couldn’t you just scroll by?"

However, on the Satanic Temple post, she commented,

"You should grow the phuck up, you’re behaving like a spoiled child. Shame on you"

Moving the goal posts is a real and regular thing.

Saturday, July 02, 2022

You Terrible Sinner

This is the kind of stuff one regularly gets in a Conservative Christian bible study or Sunday school.  These ideas are routinely preached.  On the last Sunday my family attended church, the pastor made such proclamations from the pulpit.

Who are you... really?  A TERRIBLE sinner.  And yet, God loves you anyway.  You should be so grateful.

Similar things are said by the drunk dude in a ragged t-shirt clutching a belt over a whimpering child.

I used to think of myself as a sinner. I thought of how often I let God down. I believed wrong behavior was my defining characteristic. 

Then I discovered it was all contrived. Once out of the faith, I realized it is massively infrequent when I cause pain or harm to another human being.... in fact, most of my day is spent giving good turns and encouragement to everyone around me.... yet I spent decades believing there was something inherently wrong with me.

I have covered this topic on my blog a few times in the past.  A Christian wrote me, expressing sorrow that this has been my experience in Church.  They told me Jesus loves me and is not the god I had been told about.

I went to their church website and listened to a random sermon.  The pastor went on and on about our sin and that it is only through Jesus that we can become acceptable to God.

Like a battered and bruised woman telling the cops that her husband really does love her, this Christian could not help but declare God innocent - all the while enduring abuse from the pulpit.

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Do You Believe In God?

Abraham Piper addresses why, "Do you believe in God?" isn't a great question.

A popular god here in the States is Jesus.  When people ask the above question here, they usually mean him.  However, someone might just as easily mean Vishnu or Thor... and this could affect the answer.

But even if they meant Jesus... does that really help?

I have often argued that the reason Jesus is so popular here in the states is because his name has been franchised.  Catholics, Mormons, Quakers, Evangelicals, liberals, conservatives, and moderates all claim Jesus.

Do you think there are some pretty different visions of Jesus across that spectrum?

My brothers and mom are all believers in Jesus... and just amongst the three of them, there are fairly substantial differences.  If you got their three versions of Jesus together in the same room, you would never mistake them for the same person.

As Mr. Wednesday said in American Gods-
"For every belief, every branch, every denomination... they see a different face when they close their eyes to pray."

Of course, I think Piper is being a little cagey.  The real question being asked is, "Do you believe in MY god?"

For me, that answer is the same regardless of who asks it... no.

BUT, beyond that are questions like what do you prioritize, what do you value, what fills your soul?
People are never going to agree on their gods... but there are a lot of places the Venn diagrams of our lives overlap.


@abrahampiper Not believing in *your* god doesn’t make anyone an atheist. 🤷‍♀️ #atheism #god #nonreligious #exchristian #exfundie #exvangelical #philosophy #illogical #logicalfallacy #loadedquestion ♬ original sound - Abraham Piper


Thursday, June 16, 2022

A Constitution Without Error

A couple years back, a friend of mine was pleased to hear that they read the Constitution on the floor of Congress. This friend waves and wears the flag a lot while trumpeting our need to be Constitutional.

I agreed that it was a good move... except that they literally skipped over the bad stuff like it wasn't there.

"Bad stuff?! What bad stuff?!!!" She was offended. I might have well as said The Bible had bad parts. 

I told her that they skipped the part in article one section two where the three-fifths clause is discussed. This condoned slavery and stated that some humans are inherently inferior (as opposed to all being created equal).

The conversation stopped there and I was defriended not long after. 🙂

Her way of viewing politics is similar to how many Evangelicals process their faith - strong loyalty to ideas on which they have sketchy knowledge.

There is nothing wrong with having sketchy knowledge. We all have areas where we lack depth of information. However, there is something in certain believers and "patriots" that cause them to form rather large and loud belief structures on foundations of sand.

Many Evangelicals will get angry/offended if anyone insinuates the Bible is not perfect - yet, they have never actually entirely read it (often only a mere fraction). They have never learned HOW the Bible came about. They just KNOW it is perfect.

In the end, these steadfast declarations are not made to demonstrate knowledge but to display loyalty. All the Bible and flag-waving is like cheering for one's team in a stadium. And similar to that crowd behavior, every call made for our team is good. Anything called against "us" is booed.

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Knowing vs Doing

I have been trying to figure out how they got the 1.2

That is the thing about math mistakes.  They usually aren't random.  There is a logic to them.

I deal with this in 2nd grade all the time.  We use interactive remotes which anonymously put student answers on the board.  We often see clumps of wrong answers.  This is because students are making the same kind of error.  The most common is "flipping".  A student who encounters 352 - 159 will often choose to subtract the 2 from the 9 rather than regroup (borrow) off the 10s.

What is interesting to me is how often students revert back to flipping.  Even once they understand why flipping is incorrect, it can sometimes take quite a while to fully break the habit.  It is not uncommon to find, on a test, that a student will correctly regroup half the problems... and then flip the rest.

Knowing something is true does not mean you will always execute that knowledge.  🙂

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

High Stakes Testing

A little thought about high stakes testing... especially for little kids -

I teach 2nd grade.  We are wrapping up state testing right now.  The work these students and I have done all year will come down to about 40 multiple-choice questions.

This is, of course, absurd.

Let me give one example.

I noted that one student of mine got a number of questions wrong on her math test today.

Distressingly for me, quite a few.  🙂

She will probably pull a "70ish" percent on this test.  The powers that be will wonder what was lacking in my instruction that caused her to score such.

Here is what they do not know about her.  She is actually one of my brightest students.  She is a leader.

But she processes out loud.

In class, she often gets to work in groups.  She talks through her thinking.  She often catches her mistakes when she is explaining her thinking to everyone else she is working with.  Her process becomes more clear to her as she bounces it off a classmate.

When testing, she gets none of that.  She sits quiet... clicking answers on a computer screen.  She is denied the engagement of her classmates.  Her initial inclinations, which would normally be processed in the group, are her only option.

In the real world, 15-20 years from now, she is going to shine like the sun!

But presently, our ranking system can only wonder at why she doesn't score higher on these tests.

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