Friday, April 18, 2014

Facebook Faith #43 Look Kids, Big Ben!

The American Atheist association is in town this week for their annual convention.  I was able to attend a discussion/debate between David Silverman (Atheist) and some local Mormon professors.  One point the professors kept trying to underscore, and which they kept coming back to, was the uniqueness of their faith. I recognized their thought lines because I felt the same way about the uniqueness of my faith when I was an evangelical.

I run into this problem regularly of Facebook.  Either on my page or a friends, a believer comes in to instruct all of us about "the true religion".  The common element in conversations like this is that many believers enter with a bagful of assumptions that they hold, and because they spend so much time in their own circles, they assume everyone holds those same assumptions. They start from a place where their god, scriptures, and practices are a GIVEN.

The skeptic insists they back up and first legitimatize their claims. The apologetics that worked so seamlessly for the believer while in church, doesn't tend to translate so well outside. Believers often mistake the reaction of others as stubbornness or rudeness.  The reality the believer struggles to see is that their claims have no more validity than any other religion.... and believers hate it when you lump them in with every other religion (because everyone should KNOW that THEIR religion is different!)

So conversations often sound a bit like this:

Believer: My Faith is the one true faith.

Skeptic: Yeah, but the guy down the street says that about his faith.

Believer: But mine is REALLY the one true faith.

SkepticThat's what he says!

Believer: But my faith has miraculous signs.

SkepticThat's what he says!

Believer: My faith has revelation!

SkepticThat's what he says!

Believer: My faith has holy scriptures!

Me: That's what he says!

Believer: My God speaks to my heart!

SkepticThat's what he says!

Believer: You are just going to have to believe what I am telling you on faith!

SkepticThat's what he says!

and so it goes....

If you get this far into the conversation, a believer of this stripe will then return to the top of the list - rinse and repeat - just like Clark Griswald in the roundabout. There really is no choice for this believer. The only alternative is for the believer to admit the claims of his or her religion are more or less identical to every other religious claim out there.... and that simply will not do.

So into the roundabout we go!

Monday, April 07, 2014

For My Liberal Religious Friends

I feel for all of my more liberal and independent religious friends, I really do. They have all these subversive notions of love, acceptance, and equality that their conservative religions just want no part of. My friends want to change these religions, re-work their texts, and make their houses of worship a more livable place for everyone.

But they keep ending up disappointed. They can't seem to square this circle.

A few weeks ago believers watched as Christian Evangelicals shamed their faith by using starving children as pawns in their never ending war against homosexuals.

This week, Mormon women were given the cold shoulder by many in their faith, and they watched as once more the door was sealed against them.

Take heart my friends, if Jesus showed you anything, it is that loving outside the boundaries and breaking down the divisive walls of religion will.... well, it will get you crucified.

Personally, I would prefer you join me on the other side... really, the water is fine.

But if you want to keep at it.... I have your back. Keep preaching love, acceptance, and equality... and who knows ... maybe someday those walls will come down.

Friday, April 04, 2014

Why Am I Happy?

One of my friends wrote this status on her FB page:
below, please list one, two, three, four, or five words to explain how in the world you are surviving.
I usually enjoy the challenge of working a whole thought down to a single phrase, but this was stumping me. Then it occurred to me that the reason I couldn't come up with anything was that I am not just surviving. I am really, really happy.

Over the past few days, I have been reflecting on WHY I am happy and I found that all of my analogies kept spinning back to Fight Club.

In one scene of the movie, the Narrator and Tyler Durden pull a convenience store clerk into a back alley and threaten to kill him.  Tyler asks the clerk some questions about his life goals and finds the man had given up on his goal of becoming a veterinarian because it was too difficult. Tyler tells him that if he is not on the road to being a vet again within the next six weeks, he is going to come back and kill him. The Narrator can't understand Tyler's point until Tyler responds:
Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel's life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted.
Death has a startling ability to focus you in the present moment.

Leaving religion gave me a death sentence; something I had never had before. Rather than living forever, I only have another 40 years or so at best. Religion often encourages people to disdain this life and pine for the next. Suddenly, this was the only one I would get.

Most religious people tend to find the notion of no after-life depressing. I had thought that way. However, when I truly came to grips with the fact that I probably have less years in front of me than behind, something shifted. My days became more beautiful.

My breakfast tasted better.

I also realize I have been living by another piece of Tyler wisdom:
The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide.
Religion has a way of heaping a myriad of dogmas, pressures, and tasks into one's life under the guise that these things matter. I did not leave religion to get away from these things, honestly I did not realize how much these things held me back until I was out. Nevertheless, leaving brought a beauty and freedom I had not anticipated. An endless list of things that seemed so pivotal were now able to slide. I was like Dorthy, stepping from a world of Black and White to one saturated with vivid color.

Is my life perfect? No. There are areas that I hope to change. There are other areas I cannot change. And here is where I use my last bit of Tyler wisdom:
I say never be complete, I say stop being perfect, I say let’s evolve, let the chips fall where they may.
My religious notions of perfection always left me feeling like I did not measure up. No matter how hard I pushed or how fast I ran, it was never enough.  I never realized until I was out that it was just one big hamster wheel.  It never let you progress and never intended to.  It simply makes you exhausted.

Everything in my life does not have to be complete or perfect for me to enjoy myself - to do things that are important and to do things that are fun.

My life is a brief opportunity to enjoy relationships, experience beauty, breathe deeply, and leave this world a little nicer for those who will come after me.

I don't need eternity.

This is enough.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Facebook Faith #42 Stronger Than Superman

I read this conversation on Facebook this morning between a mother and her son:

Mother: Well you at least believe in God still don't you?

Son: I think that all gods were invented by people because of and to take advantage of people's insecurities and superstitions.

Mother: So you think you're smarter than the God who created you?

Son: Do you think you're stronger than superman?

Mother: Superman is a counterfeit created by Satan to distract us from the truth.

I have had numerous conversations online with various religious friends, family, and complete strangers whose logic progression follows a similar path.  Once you enter into that vortex, there is little hope of escape.

It is similar to escaping Earth's gravitational pull; you have to be traveling over 11km a second or you just end up spinning around the planet.

Over and over.

Just like these conversations.

I still get sucked into these conversations on occasion, spinning around the same illogical points, never reaching an escape velocity to break through.

When someone is tethered to an idea and they feel safe with that tether, or too scared to let go of that tether, no amount of explanation will keep them from spinning back to where they were.
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