Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Facebook Faith #56 - St. Paul Set The Bar of Love Well

A friend on Facebook posted this page earlier today.  In general, I like it.  I think it is useful, not only for reflecting on potential life long partners, but it can be applied to ourselves as well.  I think that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, does a first rate job of describing love.

The interesting thing is that this practice - inserting the name of a potential life partner into the text - was a maneuver that significantly destabilized my faith.  Like the author of the shared page, I tried inserting my God in place of the word Love in 1 Corinthians 13:
  • God is patient
  • God is kind
  • God does not envy
  • God does not boast
  • God is not proud
  • God is not rude
  • God is not self-seeking
  • God is not easily angered
  • God keeps no record of wrongs
  • God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth
  • God always protects
  • God always trusts
  • God always hopes
  • God always perseveres
  • God never fails
As I looked at that list, I realized that 1 Corinthians 13 did not describe the God of my evangelical heritage.  The God I found in the Bible was like this list sometimes, but certainly not all of the time. In fact, the more I investigated the Bible, the more I found that the god of those pages failed this test miserably.

For a while, I clung to a God that met the love standard.  So what if the god of my sacred text didn't measure up.  I could ignore the text, ignore the proclamations of other believers, ignore my own doubts.  I was like Hawkeye in MASH, desperately pounding on the chest of a dead man, clinging to the hope that my desperation could revive this patient.  I pounded on that chest for a few years.

In the end, I realized that 1 Corinthians 13 is a good list.  Paul had a moment of enlightenment and tapped into something exceptional.

Love is all of those things and is a worthy pursuit for its own sake.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Give Thanks!

People are amazing!  Out of the 7 billion people on the planet, most of the people, most of the time, are really being excellent to each other.

I saw this meme today, and it made me think of how thankful I am for engineers.  Last year, my family was involved in an auto accident near our home.  We walked away from that accident because of those excellent engineers at Ford Motor Company.

I am thankful for the first responders of the South Jordan police, fire, and paramedic teams.  They were at the accident site in no time, checking on everyone involved.

I am thankful for my buddy Geoff who works at Unique Collision Repair in South Jordan.  He was my first call at the accident site and he walked me through everything I needed to do to get the car taken care of in the short term.  He made the tow calls and later handled everything with my insurance company.  The day after the accident, he went over the damage with me and explained the marvels of modern engineering that kept my family safe inside the cab of our Freestyle.

I am thankful to everyone at Unique Collision Repair who took that wreck and put it back together as good as new!

I am thankful to my insurance company, Horace Mann, who took care of getting us a rental and were just great to work with.

A lot of wonderful people were involved that night with protecting and helping my family.

When you have been helped, when you have been rescued, when you have been medically treated, when you have been educated, when you have been mentored - those were people who did that. People who gave to you from their time and hard earned talents.

Give thanks!

... and aim it in the right direction.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Facebook Faith #55 - Christian Munchausen Syndrome

There has been a lot said in the media, particularly the conservative media, about Christian persecution. If you listen to Fox News, or the various Republican presidential candidates, you would get the impression that Christians are under attack in America.

However, when you dig past the rhetoric, you often find that how they use the word persecution tends to differ from the definition most of us use.

For example, I was reading a Facebook post regarding Al Mohler's (president of the Southern Baptists) comments that Christians should not attend the weddings of their gay family and friends. A Christian blogger posted in the comments section that Christians would be insulted by being asked to attend in the first place. The following is part of our discussion.

I know a lot of the push back to this would be that David has an extreme view and that he does not represent most of Christendom. Honestly, I don't know what the numbers are like. I know Christians of all stripes on this topic.

But here is what I do know: There are Christian mayors who think like David. There are Christian governors who think like David. There are many Christians in Congress who think like David.

Nearly all of the the Republican presidential candidates think like David.

The religious powers in the Dark Ages thought like David and much of the pain and suffering in the Middle East is being caused by religious people who think like David.

We all need to fear religion that considers the existence of the "other" an insult and a slap in the face.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Calling All Old Palm Pilots

****  NOTE - I am no longer taking old Palm Pilots.  Thank you to all who donated.  We have been making great use of them!  If you want to find out what item I am in need of now, click here: What to do with an old tablet? *****

During spring cleaning around the Hackman household yesterday, I came across an old Sony Clie of mine which runs the Palm OS. I charged it up, and it still works... but what do I do with this ancient thing?

As with many items around the house I am about to get rid of, I ask myself "Can I use this in my classroom?"  The answer? "Darn-Tootin I can!" It is the perfect classroom electronic. There are still a myriad of Palm apps that I can use in the classroom, and this thing CAN'T get on the internet. The only programs available to students are what I put on it. :)

The more I thought about it, I realized I could use Palm Pilots as part of my centers rotations. Students could use the Palm Pilots to practice math, spelling, and reading. They can use them to track data. This is starting to have a lot of possibilities.

Here is where you come in dear reader. If you are like me, there is a decent chance that you, a friend, a family member, a co-worker, etc... have an old Palm Pilot, Sony Clie, Handspring (anything running PalmOS) stuffed in a junk drawer at home gathering dust. Look around, ask around, then ship any found here to Utah. Rather than having that Palm Pilot spend even more years gathering dust, re-purpose it!

Would you, could you put them in box?
Send them, send them with their docks?
Happy, happy, will my students be!
Send them, send them 1-2-3!

In addition to Palm Pilots, I can make use of outdated e-readers, digital cameras, tablets... Most school districts won't take them because they don't want to support them... but I am my own IT guy. :)

UPDATE***  Also, if anyone archived their Palm apps, I would love a copy of your freeware.  Finding Palm apps has proven to be more difficult than I anticipated.... the web is littered with broken Palm app links.
Drop me an email at mrhackman@hotmail.com, and I will get you the info to send it to my school.  Thank You!

A little Palm trivia. I have owned about 7 different Palm devices (prior to that I had used 3 different Windows CE clamshells - anyone remember Philips Velo?) I attended monthly Palm user group meetings and my first smartphone was the Palm Centro. I was so proficient with a Palm that occasionally while writing on the chalkboard in my classroom, I would accidentally slip into Graffiti... and my students would laugh.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Religious Tantrums

So what to do about Kim Davis?  By now, dozens of excellent articles have been written about her hypocrisy and inconsistency when trying to apply biblical injunctions.  These things are easily discerned by everyone outside the knuckle dragging end of jingoistic Christianity.

However, what accommodations, if any, should society make for religious conviction?  For the most part - I say none.  I agree with the direction of the meme.  This man has a personal conviction concerning pork and HE navigates its burdens.

When Ultra-Orthodox Jews refuse to sit next to women on planes, and hold up flights with their tantrums, they are expecting everyone else to shoulder the burden of their conviction.  When Kim Davis refuses to issue marriage licences, she is insisting that others carry her load.

If the Ultra-Orthodox Jew is so convicted, let him buy a 2nd seat.  If Kim Davis cannot execute the full scale of her duties, she should move to employment where she can.

Instead, these religious folks throw a tantrum.  Rather than doing the heavy lifting themselves, they lay the weight of their issues on to the backs of others.

We control our disdain when toddlers act this way... after all, they are only toddlers.  Adults should get no such considerations.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Modesty Police Are Barking Up The Wrong Tree

I saw the following picture this morning.  It accompanied an article on the PRI regarding Saudi women registering to vote for the first time.

Although it was an interesting and worthwhile article, the picture caught me for a completely different reason.

In Utah, there is this misguided notion among "modesty" minded folks that, if we can just cover up women - make sure their dresses are long enough, cover the cleavage, spare the boys those sinful shoulders - we can somehow get our poor males to behave themselves.

I love the PRI picture, because it calls bullshit on that whole premise. Obviously, the dress choices of the ladies does not change a darn thing...

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Swearing As A Moral Issue

This morning the Deseret News, one of Salt Lake's two primary newspapers, ran an opinion piece about the Book of Mormon musical. Being what and where it is, this musical is getting a little more press attention than is typically the case.

The piece hit a nerve with me and prompted me to write about an idea that has been spinning in my head for a while. The title of the article was "Profanity laced productions demonstrate society's moral decline."

If you spend any time with believers, particular of the more conservative stripe, they will let you know that they don't like swearing. If you spend time with such people regularly, they will let you know about their distaste for swearing... regularly.

In fact, similar to the title on the article, they will often articulate something beyond mere distaste. A moral element will become attached. Swearing is not just distasteful, it is immoral.

This is a common religious drum to beat and yet, even while I was still a believer, something struck me as disingenuous about all of the purity proclamations regarding words. How could a word be so encrusted with... evil?

I remember the first time I realized that there might be something amiss about all of the preening that goes on in religious circles concerning swear words. I was 16 and spending a number of weeks backpacking in Israel. A Bedouin chief was giving a friend of mine and I a tour through the Negev desert on camel back. The chief spoke at least 7 languages that I knew of.

My camel and I were alongside the chief when nature called. I said to him, "Hey, can we stop? I gotta go." He looked at me quizzically. "I have to go to the bathroom," I amended. He cocked his head a little more to the side, trying to interpret my meaning.

"He has to take a shit!" my friend called from behind us.

The chieftain's eyes lit with understanding and he smiled. "Oh yes! Sheet! We stop!"

I reflected later that, contrary to what my religious community taught me, my friend had done nothing immoral, neither had the chief. "Shit" was just a word.... nothing more. Any negative values were our associations, but there was nothing inherently moral or immoral about the word.

So then, why does the issue of swearing garner such attention and bluster among religious folks? Why do they try to make it a MORAL issue?

My family and I recently made the trip back to Michigan to visit all of our relatives. Most of these folks are Christian but in the past few years I find myself in Christian circles less and less. One thing that really stood out to me was how much the issue of swearing came up. I was constantly being informed that they don't swear, they don't like entertainment that swears, and they don't like to socialize with people that swear. Spend anytime with a religious conservative, and they will let you know that they don't swear.


My theory is that one can get a lot of piety points on this issue with very little cost. In fact, no cost. If you are going to resist poverty, or not gossip, or love your enemy... there is going to be some work involved. It will cost you. To make a fuss about swearing costs nothing, and yet it lets the religious person get a sense that they have made a moral step up.

Moving out of faith has shown me that this maneuver is a farce. Religion encourages the believer to develop many contrived moral positions. As an atheist, I have come to realize that true moral foundations are built on harm and help. Does an action harm others? Does an action help others? Swearing affects neither of these questions. It is a question of mores' not of morals.

Yet, the writer of the Deseret News opinion piece has convinced himself that he is making a moral statement when he announces his aversion to swearing. He isn't. He is just taking his place alongside scores of religious figures, both present and historical, who have learned to speak fluent religion on a topic that changes nothing.

Or, as St. Paul observed, he has learned to bang the gong and clang the cymbal.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Facebook Faith # 54: Theological Ideas, Like Comic Books, Have Parallel Universes

I have seen this meme come up a number of times from my Christian friends on Facebook. I struggle with whether to engage this discussion, because I usually get the Facebook equivalent of the deer in the headlights - they don't know how to address my contention, because they are not even sure what I am asking.

In the case of this meme, it seems contradictory to proclaim that using fear as a strategy is unique to the Devil. How is God threatening someone with ETERNAL torture not a fear strategy?

Yet that is what many believers will claim. They will quickly shift gears into "God loves you so much, he provided a way to avoid Hell!" Not realizing, or refusing to realize, that their Savior is also the head torturer... and which role he plays depends on whether you are on his good side, or his bad side.

Believers tend to not worry about continuity. Like comic book writers, all contradictions can be explained by making use of parallel universes. In one universe, Robin dies. In a parallel universe, Robin lives on at Batman's side. Depending on what you want your story to say at a given moment, you pull from the theological universe of your choosing.

The last church I belonged to was BIG about referencing the LOVE of God on Sunday morning. They also believe that anyone who doesn't love their God back is going to Hell... but that part is somewhat minimized.

However, it is spelled out in their belief statements. One day on FB, I pointed that out to one of my former pastors, after he did a status update proclaiming the unconditional love of God. I began by quoting their church website:

The conversation went on politely for a few more paragraphs. In the end though, he seemed to maintain his beginning assumptions.... God loves you unconditionally AND God will send you to Hell for not loving him back.

Each idea in its own, parallel, universe.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Facebook Faith #53: You Have Your Truth, I Have Mine

I have seen this posted no less than a dozen times in the past week. I agree with it on most levels, but I also see a dark side to its use.

Growing up, my faith was the one true faith. Anyone not of our faith was to be regarded as a potential convert or the enemy. Folks were out to infect THE truth and we had to guard ourselves against them. This was an easy position for leaders to promote as information for an opposing view was not readily available and fairly easy to block.

Nowadays, information is readily available and in many ways unstoppable. With these new circumstances, faith groups seem to be making a pivot in practice.  They have changed the rhetoric, while still maintaining the goal of keeping out, or at least neutering, opposing views. Now believers say, "They have their truth, we have ours." By doing so, they no longer have to deny the existence of alternative world view voices. The view can be acknowledged, but does not need to be addressed.

This is a more passive position than previous practice... but it still lets believers and their leaders continue to mantra their position as TRUE, while avoiding having to compare those claims against anything other than their own statements.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Facebook Faith #52: Supreme Court High Five!

Turning on the computer - June 26, 2015
Yesterday was a big day, and I spent a lot of it writing and reading on Facebook and various news sources.

I was, of course, happy with yesterday's ruling and it was great to see all of the celebrating going on. I was also surprised to see normally conservative folks coming out of the woodwork to back the SCOTUS on this one.

The video of S.E. Cupp on CNN was particularly interesting to me.  Not only was I unaware that she was so passionate about gay rights, but it again demonstrated the rift in the GOP.  Going to The Blaze to read a write up about that interview,  I was taken aback at how viciously the commentors spoke of her.  She was not a fellow republican with a different opinion, she was a @#$%!  Reading those reactions, and then seeing Governors like Jindal declare that they will do everything they can to resist the SCOTUS on this.... I realized we will not see another Republican president until there is a split in the party.  Old school Republicans see these new Republicans, who are more inclusive, as the enemy.

Then there was the pastor from Texas who said he would set himself on fire if gays got the right to marry.  He quickly recanted once the court ruling became known.

No one really wanted this guy to set himself on fire. However, his hyperbolic reaction is indicative of typical Religious Right behavior. Everything is always extreme, oh no the sky is falling - the world is ending, kind of responses.

The reality is, despite yesterday's events, the sun rose and life went on. I have no hope the Religious Right will ever learn to behave differently. They have been over-reacting and the world has been coming to an end since I was a little kid. They will never change. The only thing you can do is leave... which I did.

This picture from Salt Lake shows the polar ways this ruling is viewed. The Deseret News, owned by the LDS church, wonders how we go on, in an America that allows gays the same rights as everyone else.  The Tribune sees yesterday as an important, historic day.

While most of the nation celebrates, the Religious Right are planning their next strategy. Some are calling for revolution, both violent and non-violent. Others are encouraging each other to just hold their nose and try to be polite so they can demonstrate how good they are as religious people.

So much drama over something that has almost zero impact on any of them.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Facebook Faith #51: Whom Do We Thank?

Recently, my FB friend James Mulholland posted this quote and asked what people thought of it.
“The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful, and has nobody to thank.” - Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Everyday on Facebook, I see believers quickly bypass the work of their fellow humans, so they can get on with the business of lauding their god. The doctor who healed them, the chef who prepared their meal, the farmer who grew their food, the stranger who helped get their car back on the road, etc. All of these people get a footnote, while the big thanks goes to an unseen, unheard ghost whose interactions do not differ from chance.

I was guilty of this misplacement of gratitude for many years. My appreciation for my fellow travelers on the road of life grew exponentially when I started giving credit to whom the credit was due.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Review: Supergirl

Supergirl was leaked months ahead of its debut. I tend to think this "leak" is actually a beta testing. If so, I hope they make use of it.

First, what I liked. I think Melissa Benoist is going to be an outstanding Supergirl.  I always love when an actor can communicate as much with a raised eyebrow or a curl of the lip as they can with a line. Benoist's face literally broadcasts her emotions. She is fun to watch and I enjoyed her character. She can carry this show.

It is clear that the producers are going for a lighter tone - more CW Flash than WB Man of Steel. It's working for The Flash, so I tend to think this is a wise move.

I loved their take on Jimmy Olsen. Rather than the innocent newbie, it was great to see him portrayed as a seasoned photo journalist. If this show goes long term,  I think they would do well to give him lots of story time.

Now... since there is time for re-shoots...

Ditch the opening scene. Change it, or skip it all together. The opening should be powerful, but this looked like something from an old Saturday morning kids show. Their planet is about to be shredded, parents and child are saying goodbye forever.... and the scene was delivered with all the emotion of ordering a #3 meal at the drive-thru.

There is a scene in the Simpsons where Lisa wants to be subversive and signs up for the community football team. She is deflated when she arrives at the first practice to find out there are already girls on it. At least a half dozen times in Supergirl they stop the story in order to announce, "the hero is a girl.... weren't expecting that, were ya!" Except we were... we are. We are totally cool with female superheroes and have been for awhile. Only certain strands of Hollywood seem to think there is something awkward about female hero leads. When you keep referencing it scene after scene, you sound like you are trying to talk us into this concept.  We are great with it... why can't you be?

Something needs to be reworked with the Superman references. His being on the planet, and yet never talking to her, never seeing her... it just felt rather unbelievable.  Not sure what would work, but I am sure this approach doesn't.

Get rid of Mr. Surly-in-charge-of-anti-alien-task-force. Bleech!

All in all, there is some great potential here. I enjoyed the pilot.

... hoping Supergirl soars!

(oh, and btw... it is clear that The Flash is now part of a multi-verse....  cross -o-ver!)

Sunday, May 10, 2015

"Ya Gotta Believe Something, Right?"

Last week, I was using public transit to get to work. Occasionally, one gets a chatty bus driver. During our conversation it came up that I am originally from Detroit, which brought the usual question:
"What brought you out here to Salt Lake?"
I try to avoid that question, but often there is no getting around it. People want to know. The problem is, it is a lot to tell in a short duration, but I have worked it out:
"I came out here to help start an evangelical church. However, we parted ways when I started to lose my faith, and I am now an atheist."
I get varied responses to this declaration, but his was the most common:
"Oh...... I'm sorry....."
The bus driver then began to fill me in on his spiritual journey. He was raised in a Mormon household, went on a mission, but he doesn't really practice anymore.
"I'm still a member. I guess I still believe. So... I suppose I am what they call a Jack-Mormon".
As you know, or probably have guessed, a Jack-Mormon is the term for Mormons who are not active in their faith. They are still part of the culture, perhaps attend church for baptisms and other ceremonies occasionally. But for all intent and purposes, they are fairly disconnected.

For the few minutes remaining in our trip, he stayed on religion. He told me about various family members who had turned away from faith but came back. How, at some point, he wants to start attending church more.

He was still talking when we came to my stop and the bus pulled to the curb. I thanked him for the lift and stepped off the bus. He called out one parting comment:
"I mean hey.... ya gotta believe something, right?"
I turned back and smiled:
"No..... you really don't."
And the bus pulled away.

The "ya gotta believe something" line is a refrain I often hear from nominal believers. For all practical purposes my bus driver doesn't believe. If he believed his faith he would be doing what his faith wants him to do: attend church, study his scriptures, tithe, seek converts, etc.  He does none of that, yet he still "believes".  Why is that?

My suspicion is that the cost is too high socially. It is a battle with family, friends, co-workers, (and himself), that he is simply not interested in engaging. "Ya gotta believe something" is simply the path of least resistance.

Ten years or so from now, I believe folks like the bus driver will easily accept a position of atheism. Right now the social stress is simply not worth it... but that is changing. For all of the growth unbelief has seen in the past decade, it's biggest blossoming is still ahead. As social acceptability of unbelief grows, a lot of people like my bus driver are going to recognize their lack of engagement for what it really is - a lack of belief.

Rather than feeling they HAVE to believe something, they will recognize... no, you really don't.

Friday, May 08, 2015

Watch Your Language Cap!

The Deseret News is a Utah newspaper owned by the LDS church.  As such, the newspaper has a highly edited feel.  It's not just bluntly conservative it's... churchy...

This week the entertainment columnist, Chris Hicks, took Captain America to task for swearing in The Avengers: Age of Ultron.  He writes:
The first scenes of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” drop the audience into the middle of a chaotic battle, and that is where most of the film’s witty quips are frontloaded — a highlight being a gag about goody two-shoes Captain America being offended when Iron Man curses.
Cap admonishes Iron Man over their communications system, saying, “Language!”
As a result, for the rest of the movie Cap is the butt of jokes about cuss words — until, at the end, he finally lets go with a profane phrase of his own.
Wow. Isn't that a great lesson for young people in the audience? If you are ridiculed for taking the moral high ground, by all means just let down your guard, violate your principles and join the crowd.
Mr. Hicks falls into a typical, self-serving, religious trap. Swear words, cuss words, whatever you want to call them are not moral markers. A person is no more moral for saying them than they are for not saying them. To indicate so is to cheapen morality.

Swear words fall into the realm of mores... social customs. In this or that society certain words or phrases may be considered impolite or rude... but those are only constructs which vary from time to time and location to location.

If I were to say, "Da*n! that is a f**king good pastry!" I may offend your sensibilities, but I have done you no HARM. It is wrong to equalize offense with harm. It is an injustice to people who have truly been wronged.

So why is it self serving? It allows the person who holds such a position to think themselves to be on a moral "high-ground", when in fact... they have DONE nothing. To claim a moral position due to a lack of cuss words in your vocabulary is cheap, and it is lazy.

Monday, May 04, 2015

Facebook Faith #50 Writing Is Sacred

I write quite a bit.  I enjoy the process of writing like I enjoy a good conversation.

I believe written conversations have an advantage of being able to take time to present an issue or idea, or to formulate a response.

When someone poses questions or presents an argument to me in written format, I like being able to go through their writing multiple times, maybe even quoting from it, to make sure I have honestly and adequately addressed their thoughts.  Sometimes I will rewrite things four or five times before hitting send.

So, when someone asks me to respond to something, and I take the time to do so... only to have them delete it.... that doesn't tend to sit well with me.

This came about due to an old friend who recently friended me on Facebook.  This person is a Christian... and... well ...  when you are an atheist, you can't help but categorize your believing friends under various headings.  There is the fundamentalist asshole you keep around purely for entertainment purposes.  There are the good souls you seem to relate to in EVERY way other than their theism, so you accept each other as-is.  There are the ones who have never been particularly active in their faith, yet find it a bit disturbing that you are an atheist.

I am sure I could come up with a number of others if I sat here and thought about it, but in this case, this is the Christian who believes you left the faith because you never had exposure to REAL Christianity.  Your atheism is actually somewhat understandable, maybe even justified... because, like Coke, you just need the real thing.  If you could only go to their church, or hear this or that pastor, or read a certain book.... you would see.

In that vein, this person posted an article by Shane Claiborne and tagged me in it, asking for my thoughts.  I had read the article back when it came out in 2009, but I read it again, and then a third time before writing.

Not long after my posting, my response was deleted.

I hate when people do that... particularly if that was the only copy available of what I wrote. Fortunately, I had written this response in Word. When I asked her why she deleted it, she said that she felt my response would be troubling to many of her believing friends. She deleted and blocked me soon after.

So, since I took time to write that response, I want it to exist somewhere... so here it is.  If you have gotten this far, you may want to read the Claiborne article (it's short).  I do appreciate theologically liberal, good folks like Shane Claiborne.  However, I still find they carry a bagful of false assumptions about those not in their faith, some of which I address below. So without further ado:

I have always appreciated Shane’s generous and compassionate heart.  I think he is a humanist, and I admire that, because he is willing to put the needs of people above the dictates of his religion’s dogma (to a degree).

However, he steps into the usual misdirections most religious folks fall, in that he cannot not see outside his own perspective.  For example, from the article:

To all my nonbelieving, sort-of-believing, and used-to-be-believing friends: I feel like I should begin with a confession. I am sorry that so often the biggest obstacle to God has been Christians. Christians who have had so much to say with our mouths and so little to show with our lives. I am sorry that so often we have forgotten the Christ of our Christianity.”

From the beginning he is clear that he sees the world with bi-polar lenses, those who see religion his way… and everybody else.  He defines everyone who does not accept his religion - by his religion.  If someone does not believe, it is because they have not heard the right message, or been to the right church.  Perhaps they have been wounded by someone in the faith.  Maybe their heart is hard or bitter toward God because of some pain in their life.  If they could just meet the Jesus he knows.

I assume Shane does not believe in Mormonism. He doesn’t believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God's restoration, and he doesn’t believe Mormons are God's one true church on the earth. He just doesn’t believe any of it to be true.  

However picture if a good chunk of his community and family were telling him that it isn't that he doesn’t believe it... rather, it is because he met some bad Mormons, or went to a bad ward, or just hadn’t experienced TRUE Mormonism. Shayne could try to explain that he really just didn’t believe – but they respond that his heart is hard and he should be open to what Joseph Smith might be saying to him.

He might appreciate the sincerity of these folks (the first couple dozen times) but he would still find the whole thing absurd.

I appreciate Shane’s sincerity, but I still find the whole thing absurd.

Also, it is very clear to me that, like all Christians, Shane is making up his own Jesus.  Shane says, “if you choose Jesus, may it not be simply because of a fear of hell or hope for mansions in heaven.”

He does this a few times – he has an idea of Jesus in his head that is really great… but then he runs into that scriptural Jesus who isn't always so great…  Jesus does woo with rewards and punishments… big rewards and punishments.  That doesn't work for Shane, so he deflects.

Another example, “I was recently asked by a non-Christian friend if I thought he was going to hell. I said, "I hope not. It will be hard to enjoy heaven without you."  Again… that bothers him.  It would bother ANY good person… but he doesn’t know what to do with it, so he makes it a joke.

I talk with Christians all the time who speak like this.  They sidestep Hell, try to make it not sound as bad as the Bible does, throw up their hands and say its not for me to judge, etc.  They are trying to avoid the very real fact that their God presented in scripture has set up a system where you love him or pay dearly.  At least that’s how he is in some parts… other parts not so much.  I don’t believe the bible is consistent.

So what do I think?  I think Shane is a decent human being, trying to be decent, in a religion that is often not decent.  He works hard at finding the diamonds in the rough… focusing on the generous and compassionate parts of his Bible, while choosing – consciously or subconsciously- to avoid the more horrible bits.  I just think that generates a lot of un-needed work and stress.  Let the religion go, continue to be decent, then you won’t have to worry about always having to come up with clever ways to make those bad bits sound good for the sake of fidelity to a religion.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Review: Hellbound? - A Documentary About Hell

I finally got around to watching Hellbound. Hellbound is a documentary, that looks at how the doctrine of Hell is viewed in Christianity.  In it, various clergy and theologians are interviewed for their take on God and Hell. As an ex-evangelical, I enjoyed it.

There is a good sampling of people and I think all of the views were honestly represented without much spin.  There were folks who were pro-Hell and others who leaned to a more universalistic end. Though it is obvious the director wants to point you to a universalistic end, he is fair to the other opinions.

Much of the theology is represented by various folks within evangelical circles. Greg Boyd and Mark Driscoll are interviewed, rather than Catholic priests and Lutherans.

As an atheist, what was clear to me was that each person's "god" was a reflection of their own personalities. It was no wonder that to the folks of Westboro Baptist, "God" pretty much hated everybody. On the other end, the universalists who wanted to love everyone, had a god who would save everyone.

Look in the mirror, and God looks just like you.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Facebook Faith #49: You Are A Sinner

Recently on Facebook, a Christian was trying to explain to me that, without Christ, I was going to end up in Hell.  She told me that I am a sinner and deserved such treatment from God.

I explained that since I do not believe in Hell or God, I had no such worries.  I also told her that I do not think of myself as a sinner.  She replied with a common witnessing maneuver:
"So have you ever stole anything?? Have you told a lie ?? If yes, what does that make you?? "

I told her that makes me a person who has made a mistake, and a mistake does not a person make. I may have a student who has told a lie, but I would be wrong to therefore cast them forever in my mind as liar. That would simply be damaging. In any case, why would we choose to frame someone according to their mistakes rather than their goodness? Someone fed the poor today, what does that make them? They encouraged someone who was down, what does that make them?

Fortunately, I don't even think Christians who use this argument actually feel that way about their fellow humans. They meet nice kind people, and they recognize them as nice kind people - they don't tend to think '"Hmmmm... at some time in their past, they must have lied... so this kind, niceness must really be a facade!" No, even Christians have the ability to recognize great people regardless of their foibles.

But here is one of the problems with much of Christianity. Their belief system wants to cast every human being in a bad light. In order for the world to NEED Jesus, it has to be full of sin and darkness.  So Christians bend toward seeing humanity and the Earth that way. Christians frame a mistake as a life sentence to place others in need of what they have.

It reminds me of a missionary named Daniel Everett. He worked with an Amazon tribe that had had nearly no outside contact. He found them to be a happy contended people. He realized his job was to convince this happy contented culture that they were actually bad and corrupt.... so he could then offer them Jesus to save them.

Having left the faith, I now see it as creating a lot of co-dependency. Faith needs to keep people weak and needy, and I hear it in the rhetoric of believers every day. Their memes on Facebook declare their unworthiness, powerlessness, and corruption - but thankfully they have God to empower and forgive them. They have been taught to define themselves according to their weaknesses and failures, and they pass those teachings on to others.

I used to think of myself as a sinner, I thought of how often I let God down. I thought wrong behavior was my defining characteristic. However, I discovered it was all contrived. Once out of the faith, I realized... I never "sin". It is massively infrequent that 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.

No more... my chains are broken and I have run free.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Facebook Faith #48: Politically Correct Bibles?

I used to be a conservative Christian.  Then I was a liberal Christian.  For a brief time, I held on to a vague theism.   Finally, a few years ago, I abandoned belief in any deities or supernatural entities altogether.
Yesterday, I read a post on my brother’s Facebook page.  He leans toward the liberal end of Christianity and had shared an article about what things Jesus might have said if he gave a speech at Liberty University.  The ideas presented tended to run 180 degrees from what Ted Cruz had offered during his time there this week.
One of my brother's fundamentalist friends commented that the article was na├»ve, and he went on to share his frustration with liberal Christians who choose to make the Bible politically correct.  He does not want a “warm, fuzzy” God or Bible!

Inserting tongue into cheek, I replied:

You tell em' ****! Don't let these liberals water down God's word! When God told people to stone a bride at her father's door, he wasn't kiddin around! What happened to the good ol days when God would send his soldiers in and have them wipe out every man, woman, and child - cept the young girls... hell, no... God let them keep the young girls... God's a good ol' boy, and he knows his soldiers have needs! I'm tellin ya! You haven't seen nuttin til you see God get ticked and the only way to calm him down is to put some innocents up on a pike! Woo-Hoo doggie! Damn! There is NOTHING like divine blood-lust! You keep preachin the hard WORD ****! Don't let these liberal believers mess with your ass-kicking Yaweh!

Though I was being a bit sardonic, the actions I listed are accurate according to the Bible.  God ordered massacres and executions, sanctioned rape, and required the blood of innocents to appease his anger.  
Christians work around the violence of God in the Bible in any number of ways.  Some ignore it, then fail to teach it to new converts, thus creating a myriad of believers who truly just don’t know.  Some take a non-literal view of the bible – it was written by a tribal people who ascribed their violence to their God.  Some, like my brother’s Facebook friend… seem a little too enthusiastic about all of that violence.

In my view, either the Bible is no more true than any other ancient myth, or the deity described there is a being worthy of nothing more than disdain, and only cultural inertia keeps people under his spell.

Yes, Jesus taught about love most of the time… but Thich Nhat Hanh talks about it all the time… and HIS book is so much better.  It seems to me that those desiring personal betterment have much better text choices available.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Facebook Faith #47 Bill Burr and Curling

"Non-theists already have a good idea that they are wrong and don't care.... "

I was in a Facebook discussion recently where a believing gentleman said the above quote. It kind of shocked me, because I had never heard a believer really articulate that to a non-believer.

As a believer, I had heard similar things said within our own circles. Whether spoken aloud or not, we all believed that those of outside faiths, or no faith, really - deep down - knew they were wrong. They just clung to their ideas out of arrogance or rebellion. In their pride, they would never admit that we were right. I think that was why the notion of Hell didn't bother us too much. They really were choosing Hell, and in the end we would finally be proven right!

Those thoughts fell apart for me as I began to get to know my Mormon neighbors after moving out to Salt Lake City. Listening to their stories and hearing their hearts, I could not deny that they believed their stories as sincerely as we did ours.

So... if I believe my stories to be true... and they believe their stories to be true... and we both have stories of transformation and redemption occurring in the lives of people... maybe... maybe transformation is not a holy thing... but a human thing...

and... here I am.

This was brought to mind this morning as I watched the comedian Bill Burr, talk about his exit from faith. In his case, he realized thinking the stories of other religions absurd, might apply to his stories as well. I particularly relate to his analogy of how he "let go" of religion.... spot on!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Facebook Faith # 46: Heresy Is A Beautiful Thing!

The following is a conversation I had on Facebook recently. A friend had brought up her concerns with Rob Bell's recent comments concerning the Bible and Homosexuality. I put in my two cents that I thought Bell was being a little misunderstood. That probably would have been the end of my commentary, but an old church mate jumped in with her two cents implying Bell was a heretic.

I find the topic of heresy fascinating. Most of the greatest souls our world has ever known were regarded as heretics by the religious powers of their time. They advanced science, philosophy, human rights, and even religion... all while being derided by the protectors of orthodoxy.

Given that, it amazes me that we cannot seem to learn the folly of using the charge of heresy to shut down ideas and close up our ears. No, like EF below, Orthodoxy is real and must be defended... it "is a matter of life and death."  It never occurs to her that it might just be a little too convenient that, out of the myriad of voices out there claiming Orthodoxy, hers just happens to be the right one! Well, not hers... it's "God's".  :)

Anyway, below is the tennis match between EF and me. My friend JL jumps in and adeptly shows an example of what I am confident are MANY cherry pickings of scripture on EF's part. As I discovered in my many years in church circles, NO ONE cherry picks scripture from the bible more than the person who says they don't cherry pick scripture.  :)

Here it is:

  • Andrew Hackman Not that I am a defender of Bell, but I think his point was not that HE felt those letters were irrelevant... but using those letters to others, and that is one's only reasoning, is not going to make much impact. Anymore than someone quoting the Book of Mormon to an Evangelical as a reason one should or should not do this or that. The average Evangelical would just roll their eyes and say, "Why do I care what the Book of Mormon says?" Likewise would be the reaction of a non-Christian with the Bible.
    2 hrs · Edited · Like · 2

  • AK Andrew Hackman...Point taken!
    3 hrs · Like · 2

  • RB Christianity can't conform to modern times. I think that's the problem that people don't see. 

  • RM Hebrews 13 reminds the church: 7Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. 8Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. 9Do not be carried away by varied and strange teachings; for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, through which those who were so occupied were not benefited.… If we truly believe in His word then He has not and will not change. Why would we NOT continue to speak this truth 2000 years later. Are the 10 Commandments irrelevant in society too? Can you only imagine if society followed the 10 Commandments? Simple acts of kindness and obedience. We are human. We are sinners. We need a savior. And I THANK God my Savior does NOT change. I take great comfort in that.
    2 hrs · Like · 3
  • BP Scripture has to be given context...all of the Epistles were written in a particular time and in a particular place and addressing a specific issue...can you imagine if someone just opened your email and picked something to read with no context? Now, the Bible is sacred...the Holy Spirit was involved in the Canon being decided upon, so we know it's not just a random collection of stories and letters...it was not chosen randomly from someone's inbox...but, the Holy Scripture still has context. To just quote back texts, or "letters from 2,000 years ago" to defend a point is a disservice to the scripture and the argument. Scripture is sacred, but it still must be read in context to get at its intended meaning for the original hearers, and for readers today.
    2 hrs · Like · 1
  • EF Studied heresy a bit in Oxford, and, well...
    2 hrs · Like · 1

  • BP  EF...who is the heretic? Me? Rob Bell? I'm not asking to start an argument...didn't understand what you were getting at with your comment.
    2 hrs · Like · 1

  • Andrew Hackman heretic= that other religious person who does not have the same religious thoughts as me.
    2 hrs · Edited · Like · 3

  • RB Agreed. I have always loved Rob Bell but using the word "irrelevant" for the church felt like a blow to the stomach. I love his teachings about journeying with God. His "think out outside the box" abilities have spoken to my soul. But today his words deeply saddened me. There are many things I would like to take out of the Bible for my benefit and homosexuality is one of them. I struggled with the Bible's stance on it. But that being said, for me it's all or nothing.
    1 hr · Like · 1
  • EF Andrew Hackman actually, that would be more like "judging" -- kind of like what you do to me  that being said, herasy is a serious thing, and it is a serious offense to God. Several religious formed outside of Orthodox Christianity from one belief that was un-Orthodox. Be it marriage, the resurrection of Christ, the authority of Scripture... and several of these teachers that strayed from doctrine lead millions astray. It's a real thing, and it's a serious thing. Much of the NT warns against it. It's not a word I throw around lightly, and certainly not something you use when you simply disagree.
    1 hr · Like

  • Andrew Hackman One person's heresy is another's orthodoxy. There are tens of thousands of different strands of Christianity alone (and more historically)... not even getting into the myriads of other religions.... Each, except for a few gracious strands, think all the others are off... not telling the story right, not representing the deity right, not interpreting right, not baptizing right... the list of errors in the "other" group can be quite prodigious. But thankfully, "we" have got our act together. 

    As an outsider, I find one Christian calling another Christian heretic is truly a case of pot calling kettle black. 
  • EF  hi Andrew. I agree, the word can be overused. And I can see why this to outsiders would be confusing. But Orthodox Christianity does exist, and so does heresy, and it's not defined by one person's opinions. Several denominations exist within this scope. It's why there can be unity among diversity. And while this unity will at times look fragmented, we are to guard against heresy. I am speaking to myself, as well! I think we are all prone to it, as we all want our desires to be met. Heresy is something contrary to doctrine, and while for many years I enjoyed Bell's videos, I find his theology (on a number of key issues) outside the scope of Biblical Christianity.
    44 mins · Like · 2
  • JL Well if we want to follow a strict biblical definition of marriage we better figure out which of these is correct. Or do we remove those we don't like for our own benefit? https://bobcargill.files.wordpress.com/.../biblical...
    33 mins · Like · 1
  • EF JL if you start looking at MAN and WOMEN... the way we define things, the way we live, our standards, what we think is right/ok/acceptable vs. the character and nature of God himself, you are likely to never, ever embrace the Gospel truth
  • Andrew Hackman And I know many Christians who view your slice of Christianity as being outside of the scope of Jesus Christianity. TomAto/ Tomato, PotAto/Potato. Your saying you are in the right slice is just words... with no more merit or credibility than anyone else's. Everyone lobs volleys as to the points they think are in error within the other's camp... each slice claiming the high ground. You arguing to me that you are in the right slice, while the others are in heresy..... well.... imagine if you were talking to a member of the FLDS church, and the LDS church... and each were trying to explain why the OTHER is wrong in their doctrine. From your perspective, their arguments are irrelevant.

    It reminds me of an encounter just before we moved out to Salt Lake. A Jehovah's Witness stopped me as I was getting some Starbucks. We talked for a bit and he closed by asking if we could talk again. I told him that I was moving to Salt Lake City the next week. He said, "Salt Lake City? Don't a lot of Mormons live out there? Aren't they a cult?" I had to repress a grin... His statement was filled with such irony!

    Of course, it would be another 8 years or so before I caught the full irony. 
  • EF Andrew Hackman you don't know my slice of Christianity, and that is precisely the point I am making. My slice doesn't matter. Being in line with Scripture does. I seek to confirm my beliefs around His... not the other way around. And just for kicks it might be fun for you to study the beginning of the Jehovah Witness movement. It began from one person having a false belief on the nature of God. It was heresy. That belief continues to lead millions astray to this day. Not Potato/PotAto... life and death.
  • Andrew Hackman Whichever slice, it is just one of many... claiming dominance... and declaring it's uniqueness.... just like all the others. 
  • MG  "The Message that points to Christ on the Cross seems like silliness to those hellbent on destruction, but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense." - the first letter from Paul to the church in Corinth written around 55 AD(CE), first chapter, 18th verse, from The Message translation
    21 mins · Like · 1
  • Andrew Hackman " but for those on the way of salvation it makes perfect sense. " An argument advanced by Mormons as well.  Not to belabor a point, but really... every slice is going to make that argument in some form or fashion.
  • JL  EF please don't preach to us. Paul was very clear that women should not preach especially to men. That is biblical. Or was that letter really just for that specific church due to context?

  • EF JL are we in church or is this Facebook? #eyeroll

  • JL 1 Timothy 2:12 says nothing about being in a church.

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