I don't understand why my brain is this way, but I'm constantly thinking about the future. I have these really heavy and often depressing existential discussions with myself about my personal future and the future of the world. Obviously my own personal interest makes sense, and why I care so much about my neighbors and the world is another premise (But really, why wouldn't you?). Maybe because I was raised Christian (Seventh Day Adventists to be more specific), but religion always enters the discussion (Obviously if you follow me on Facebook, right?). Religion is a topic that brings me great entertainment. It gives me something to always talk about. It's a lot of fun to talk about and ponder in a serious setting and really easy to joke about in a light setting. Religion is also a topic that brings me great frustration and often makes me depressed. It makes very little objective sense and some of the evil that if produces breaks my heart.
There is a sect of the Christian community that believes in predestination. This idea that their god has an infallible "Grand-Plan" or "Master-Plan". It is objectively impossible to believe in a grand-plan when the recipe also includes an omnipotent and all loving god because there is way too much suffering and pain in this world for that to pass any test of logic (or reason, I will add). However, I sometimes wonder what if Christians are right and there is a master-plan.
I attend a Presbyterian Bible study class. I explained to others a couple of times recently that I don't attend churches and expect people to throw away their beliefs just for my visit. The members of my Bible study group know fully that I am agnostic and know that I don't believe in the idea of a master-plan. It would be incredibly stupid of me and rude if I went to a Presbyterian church and expected people to not believe in a master-plan just because I was there.
Recently I started thinking that if predestination is true, I have been chosen by the Christian god to go the hell since the beginning. He knew from the get go that at the age of 21, I would start to question my faith and go on a spiritual journey, and that 2 years later with the help of the Bible (I consider the Bible the quickest way to become atheist), many discussions and sleepless nights, educators, and books, that I would become an atheist, then an anti-theist, and then that I would go through a state of apathy and then eventually settle on agnostic. If predestination is true, I was chosen by god to go the hell from the start.
Maybe I really was predestined to be this way. I remember around 4th grade in Bible study class, we were discussing what heaven might be like. My youth group leader at the time told me that heaven would be happy and beautiful. Even at that young age that was too general for me. Really, what does happy and beautiful even mean in that context? That didn't help me assemble my image of heaven in the slightest. I asked him to specify and he went on to tell me everything is the cleanest of white, that everyone would have mansions and plenty to eat, and that the streets were paved with gold. Sounds nice, doesn't it? Well, even in the 4th grade that sounded like a waste of resources. I asked him what is the purpose of paving the streets with gold? It doesn't really give us any advantage, it's arrogant and again, a complete waste of gold. At that time, I was 110% a god fearing Christian boy. I knew that if I didn't do what the Bible told me, that I would go to hell. I prayed when I woke up, I prayed before breakfast, I prayed before lunch, I prayed before dinner, I gave quick prayers before snacks, I prayed when I was bored, I prayed when I was lonely, I prayed when I was worried, and I prayed before bed. And these weren't your scripted and recited prayers. Each prayer was genuine and original. How could such a dedicated, god fearing Christian boy question what heaven looked like?
Fast forward to 7th grade. I was told in Bible study class that every man on this earth had one less rib than every woman on this earth because woman was created from the rib of man. I was a 7th grade boy carrying around with me an immense misunderstanding of the human body. They had raped my mind and ruined my view of the world. When I learned in my (secular and awful public school) health class that my understanding of the human body was incorrect I was embarrassed. Looking back as a grown man I am infuriated. Why would the church do that to a young boy? Why would they disadvantage and fuck a little boy so hard that his understanding of the world could be so off? So, I went back to church and I needed answers.
So, what if I was born an atheist/agnostic? What if I am predestined to be this way? I can see instances where I have always questioned the church even as a little boy. Why would an all loving god sentence me to a life in hell from the very beginning?
It is cold outside, right? Like dangerously cold to the point where if you stood out there long enough without proper equipment you might die. First you would suffer incredible pain and your body would do everything it could do to, first, alert your consciousness of the issue and then take the appropriate measures to buy you time. You see, in Minnesota, at the time of this writing, it is negative 2 degrees Fahrenheit. Yesterday we saw a low of negative 10 degrees and today we will not even eclipse 0 degrees as our high will be a whole negative 1 degrees Fahrenheit. Which is kind of insane considering negative numbers only exist in theory. I'm no meteorologist so I am not here to blog about atmospheric chemistry and physics. I am here to ask a few questions.
It was pounded into my head for 21 years that Yahweh created this pale blue dot we live on with us in mind. To me, that means he should be considered one of the worst engineers of all time, he is just plain stupid, or he actually created the planet without having us in mind (And he can be all three, a mixture, but he must be one). Why would he allow portions of this planet to become so immensely cold (and others so immensely hot) that warm blooded creatures could not survive in those areas? And why would he cover the surface of the planet with a substance that we cannot live on or in and is more suited for marine life? He also created us so that we would need to consume incredible amounts of sustenance which includes large amounts of water. Yet, although the planet is mostly covered in water, we cannot consume it because a lot of the water we are presented with would harm us. We could not survive living on a majority of this planet without great advances in science and technology, yet many of us claim that this rock in space that we so fortunately inhabit was created in a few days with us in mind. That would mean we are either unreasonable, immensely stupid, and/or gigantically arrogant (or again, a combination of).
We can't all fit in San Francisco where I hear it is beautiful all year round. For some reason, Yahweh has designated that area of this planet to the homosexuals; a group he despises yet has given the best real estate to. A part of me resents being fed mis-information for 21 years, but I do appreciate seeing that side of it. My hope is that we can stop claiming that the Christian god created this pale blue, spinning, orbiting rock with his children in mind. It is so clear that isn't the case.
Do you have to commit intellectual suicide to be religious? Although I would very much like to say you do have to hand over any license to be intelligent when you choose the path of blind faith, I just donít think itís fair to say that. My objective side tells me that truth is power, and because truth is power, Iíve chosen not to be a theist. To claim that religious people are committing intellectual suicide just on ďgut-feelingĒ would put me into the same pool as those who practice blind faith. Can you be a theist and also have a great progressive mind? I think it certainly is possible, but I do feel that having the burden of being a theist does create unnecessary barriers. This is a shame because what if these barriers hinder a great mind from changing the course of history. Imagine how many great ideas and inventions we might have missed out on.
We do need to be very careful when mixing blind faith and intellect. When we throw blind faith and evidence into the same pot, we are creating a mess. Mixing the two together gives faith credibility it doesnít deserve. Iíve heard some argue that being intolerant of religion is just as dogmatic as religious folk. I used to agree with this sentiment, but now I think there is a rebuttal to be made. I watched Sam Harris give a speech at TED that really opened up a new perspective for me. I thought being completely tolerant and open minded was a great thing, but Sam Harris suggested that being too open minded and too liberal is actually harmful. Instead of trying to sum up Harrisí great speech, Iíll just provide the link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hj9oB4zpHww. For me to even attempt summarizing his insights would be shameful. The part that stood out to me was when he talked about Saudi Arabia and continued to explain that when we know something is just plain wrong, it isnít intolerance to be firmly suggest a correction.
(I have learned that HugPages does not allow us to share parts of the Bible in large portions. I wanted to be as honest as possible to the passage and wanted to share without editing it down, but due to the limitations put on by HubPages I was forced to edit it down. Please do read the section in its entirety for the most honest understanding. For now, I've shared the most important portions as honestly as possible. I have added notes in parentheses to add context).
I pick up the Bible at random and will read a random portion from time to time. I donít dig into the Bible because Iím especially religious, but because religion has such impact on our world and is important to reference when looking at history. However, every time I dive into the Bible, I seem to leave with questions and with a level of disgust. The book of Deuteronomy did nothing to change this perception.
13 If a man takes a wife and, after sleeping with her, dislikes her...saying, ďI married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity."
(And if later the parents prove that the women is in fact a virgin)...18the elders shall take the man and punish him. 19 They shall fine him a hundred shekels[b] ...She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives.
(If the woman and her family cannot provide any proof she is a virgin...) 21 she shall be brought to the door of her fatherís house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death.
Why not let the wife choose the outcome? After being so viciously slandered, should she not be given the option to extend the dysfunctional marriage or choose to end it? Why punish her? And why does the man get off with a simple fine, whereas the woman gets stoned to death in front of her family? Seems a little lopsided, no?
One of my favorite ways of spending time is to spend it with youth. Perhaps itís because Iím still young at heart, perhaps itís because I enjoy interaction and conversation, but itís most likely a bunch of factors. A church youth group is a great platform for young people to come together and interact. My entire life I have been involved with my youth group and still to this day I am heavily involved. However, more and more lately the negative side effects of a religious based youth gathering are being made apparent to me.
I attend a Korean Seventh Day Adventist church in Minneapolis. Iíve been a member of that church my entire life. Our church is small, humble, and relatively moderate. Achieving a moderate status in the religious sphere is really nothing to be proud of considering how extreme religions are. This doctrinaire approach religions take today seem to be robbing the minds of our youth. There is a fear within the churches that if they donít hook the kids at a young age, some other group will. Many of the children I interact with at churches resemble homeschooled children. Children who are completely sealed off from the outside world and unaware of anything outside of their sphere. With the Internet at our fingertips, there is no excuse for children not to have a proper understanding of all things worldly.
Unfortunately, the harm doesnít end with churches narrowing the critical thought and perspective of children. There is immense danger on how children of very religious families and more conservative churches are educated about sex. These children often are afraid of sex and view it as dirty and sinful act. Not only is their perspective of sex slanted, but they are void of any actual education of sex and do not know how to approach it safely or express their sexuality properly. They are often uncomfortable at the mention of sex or any mild reference of anything remotely sexual. Even a kiss on the television can make a mature 17 year old Christian child squirm. I donít know if churches expect their youth to never come across sex or if they believe that their youth will magically download the sex encyclopedia into their brains, but it is becoming more and more apparent that their approach is dangerous.
Lastly, the more I talk to youth group members the more I find that they are taught to reject logic and science. A high school member of my youth group once expressed that he considers himself a logical person, but when it comes to religion he suspends his logic. Shouldnít something that acts as your foundation easily pass the tests of logic and rational thought? More and more I find youth members rejecting the facts of science as well. There is this strange dichotomy where members of a youth group will claim they enjoy science class and express passion for science, but then reject scientific facts when you talk about them in detail.
If it is our job as adults to ensure that the future of the world and of our species is in good hands through the education we give our children, Iím not so sure we are doing a good job. When we hinder critical thinking and open inquiry and we indoctrinate our future we are doing more harm than good.
Iíve been trying to read the Bible more lately and Iíve been failing miserably. I have however been able to check out the words of Peter a bit. I was not surprised to find that I didnít like what I was reading. I will share a couple of verses I take issue with below.
1 Peter Chapter 2 Verses 13-14 (NIV):
ď13 Submit yourselves for the Lordís sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority,14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.Ē
I want to preface the rest of this blog by saying that I am trying my best not to take anything out of context. I have read the chapters in their entirety so if you believe that something doesnít sound right, please read the other verses and correct me. Also, if I am missing some sort of historical context, please enlighten me.
Perhaps I donít like verses 13 and 14 because I am a skeptic. I donít think everything should be taken at face value. Perhaps my rebellious nature also has something to do with. I find it much more rewarding when I challenge a proposed idea, learn about it, and test it myself. In the end, if the proposed idea is still standing after my tests, I will gladly adopt it. Simply by looking at history, we know that authority figures have not always been right. Yet Peter tells us that we should submit to these leaders and that Yahweh has sent them to punish wrong. Did Yahweh send Hitler to murder all those people? If so, Yahweh is no leader I want to follow. Imagine minorities submitting to every establishment. Imagine how far behind our societies would be if we had no one challenging the norms. The Earth would still be flat and the sun would still revolve around us.
1Peter Chapter 2 Verse 18 (NIV):
ďSlaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh.Ē
What would America and the world be like if we told this to African-American slaves and they all accepted it? We certainly wouldnít have had a Rosa Parks, a Martin Luther King Jr., or a Barack Obama.
1 Peter Chapter 3 Verse 1 (NIV):
ďWives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.Ē
The level of misogyny in the Bible is something I immensely detest. The world back when Peter was around was primarily a manís world. Women having a voice in our world is sadly a very recent occurrence. Although we have come a long way, I would still argue we live in a world that is created by men. I feel like the world would be very different, and in my opinion better, if the world and history were shaped by women. Therefore, I very much disagree with Peter when he tells women to submit to their husbands.
Oh, but wait!
1 Peter Chapter 3 Verse 7 (NIV):
ďHusbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wivesÖĒ
Verse 7 might completely negate my criticism and justify verse 1. However, if we continue reading:
ďÖand treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.Ē
We learn that Peter does in fact look at the female counterpart as ďweakerĒ. He almost had something nice to say.
Again, at face value, the words of Peter sound nice. Be nice to your king, your president, your god, your leader. Respect your husband and respect your wife. However, when you dig deeper and really think about the words of Peter, you begin to see how dangerous blindly accepting his ideals are. We begin to understand that these ideas would derail the progression of living creatures.
I was at church this weekend reading a book about the culture of gardening and the book suggested that the earth has been around for 3 billion years and that we need to look to the earth for gardening tips. However, after reading that tip, it occurred to me that some people believe the earth doesnít have 3 billion years of gardening experience to draw upon. Christians believe that the earth is 6,000 years old and this to me shows a certain level of arrogance. Christians believe that this giant blue ball was created in their honor. There is no humility in believing that this beautiful planet was put together just so we could walk around on it and do harm to each other and other living creatures. No, I believe the earth was around before we were, and the conditions happened to be just right for us to make a home on it. The earth was around before we were and will most likely continue spinning when we are gone. There is no humility in believing that the earth was created for us, and that the earth ends when we do.