Friday, May 10, 2013

#77- Relationships and Religion

I will never forget watching a show or a movie that had a heartbreaking scene.  A young man was telling a woman, who was either his mother or girlfriend-I forgot, that she would never see him again.  He joined a religious group that demanded all of his time.  They were his new family and he just wanted to say good bye.

He walked away and the woman was shattered.  That scene stayed in the back of my mind.  In my private journey I had witnessed similar situations where a person's religion changed them so much that it caused a rift between their old friends and family.

"If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple."- Jesus (Luke 14:26)

The following are short examples of how religion affected some people I know:

In middle school a super Christian was so adamant about being pure that he destroyed his older brother's hip hop tapes.

My best friend's older brother joined the up-start church called "South Florida Church of Christ" in the late 1990s.  He stopped going to his old family Episcopalian church and slowly started to get involved in the activities of his new friends from the South Florida Church.  This led to bickering with his mom who told him that this new church was a "cult".

Another friend that I grew up with moved to north Georgia in the early 90s and became a super Christian. His parents were not religious but supported him in his new found interest in Jesus. I could tell that they found his zeal from Jesus uncomfortable and obnoxious but they kept it to themselves.

At my old church there was a young lady who was a prominent member of the choir who suddenly stopped coming to church.  When the church held a picnic at a local park I went along to play football.  The young lady showed up surprisingly.  There was an obvious discomfort around her.  I asked a mutual friend why people were treating her so strangely and I was told it is because they heard she joined a cult that "took her head".  I eventually agreed to visit this cultish group. That  encounter ended up furthering my path towards atheism.  I did not know that would be the result at the time.

34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn
“‘a man against his father,
a daughter against her mother,
a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law
36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.  37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
-Jesus (Matthew 10:34-37)

I have a half-sister in New York who is an avid Jehovah's Witness.  The JW's are known for their shunning techniques if you decide to leave them or disagree with them openly.  I made the mistake of bringing up religion when she and I first met and that caused her not to talk to me for over a year.

I had a friend who was of Nigerian descent who was in a relationship with a guy who was also Nigerian.  Her father approved of him which never happens.  But there was a problem:  he was Muslim and she was "rediscovering her Christianity".  They were the first couple that I knew of that religion ruined.

Before the experiences I assumed that God and religion was about love and overcoming obstacles.  But the reality is that religion is a divisive agent.  It also serves as a glue for communities as long as you are a member in good standing.  I know of no religious group that actively solicit challenge to their doctrine or way of life.

I've heard that some Jews active urge their people to marry within the Jewish community in order to keep the Jewish race alive and active.

"They have taken some of their daughters as wives for themselves and their sons, and have mingled the holy race with the peoples around them. And the leaders and officials have led the way in this unfaithfulness.”
Ezra (Ezra 9:2)

I was told that Muslim men are able to marry non-Muslim women but not vice versa.

"Do not marry unbelieving women (idolaters), until they believe: A slave woman who believes is better than an unbelieving woman, even though she allures you. Nor marry (your girls) to unbelievers until they believe: A man slave who believes is better than an unbeliever, even though he allures you. Unbelievers do (but) beckon you to the Fire. But Allah beckons by His Grace to the Garden (of bliss) and forgiveness, and makes His Signs clear to mankind: That they may celebrate His praise."
Muhammad (al-Baqarah, 221)

What happened to love?  Well, later I found out that there is plenty of verses in the popular holy books that support division among people of different creeds, races, and cultures.  This was never covered in church like I read it.  Allusions were made to dating Christian or trying to persuade the non-Christian to become Christian just to date.

Jesus said to hate everyone in your family to follow him.  Ezra forbade mixed marriages with Babylonians and made women and children walk out to the desert without their husbands or dads.  There was a couple that got killed in the time of Moses because the woman was a Canaanite.

Moses was a hypocrite and not only married a foreigner who saved his life from his god but married another.

These events each had their impact on me but the show/movie had me wondering what I would do if one of my loved ones decided to join a group that I was not comfortable with.  Being that I am very liberal I did not see me as holding them back from pursuing their interests.  I would tell them what I thought of the group and attempt to see what possible dangers their may be.  At the same time, I wonder if I should be more adamant about my children's critical thinking about any group.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

#76- Laissez-faire or Promote?

Christianity is the world's largest religion. In order to get that prize all the different denominations had to be counted. Islam is the second most populous religion. It is scheduled to become number 1 in about 100 years or so. Judaism, the religion that Christianity and Islam are derived from, accounts for just 0.22% of the world. It is estimated that about 2% of the world are atheists.

I've been wondering if promoting atheism is a good thing. Christianity became the top religion because of various reasons and most of them are disgusting. Islam is not saint either. Of course, both Christians and Muslims will give you mostly romantic versions of their history. Atheism seems to be the result of having information and the guts to follow the evidence.

While there are various groups and organizations, I don't think it can be said that there is an organized desire or vehicle that exists to evangelize the world to become atheist. I think we will lag behind the polls as long as religions such as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses continue with their overtly aggressive conversion and promotion programs.

My personal feelings about it are mixed. Religions don't seem to do as well in some sectors on the internet. People are a lot more vocal on YouTube and Facebook about their lack of religion from what I've seen.

I personally try to avoid any sort of commonalities with religion. But my situation is a bit unique because I am trying to offer what may be a new "product" to a specific demographic: Haitians.

This has been a very slow and time consuming project for me. I cannot get away from the fact that this blog a tool for advertising my story. It has been a therapeutic and a way for me to provide inspiration to someone somewhere.

Even though I think that it is import to have the voice of the secular community heard I am not willing to bother people for it. I want to be hopeful that the world will be a friendlier place for us secular/humanist types but how can that happen if we are quiet and afraid?

I know I have a steep mountain to climb with the Haitian community. I am walking a delicate balance between a "laissez-faire" approach and active promotion.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

#75- Debating Debating Theists

A friend told me that she does not debate theists.  She concluded that it was a total waste of her time.  I thought that it was a shame because she is really intelligent and can make convincing arguments.  When confronted by theists she basically tells them to disprove all the other gods before she can start talking about their god.

I was of a different opinion.  I had some experience with a formal debate club in which I learned some skills and techniques.  I always looked for the opportunity to display my knowledge of the religions that I am familiar with and see if I can learn a new point of view from the person that I am having the discussion with.

A few months ago I was invited to an online radio show called "Debate Talk 4 U".  The host heard of me through a mutual Facebook friend.  I was asked to represent the atheist side along with two other atheists.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to speak on this subject.  As you may be able to tell by my blog, religion is somewhat of a passion of mine.  I agreed and started to do some background research on the show.

When the time of the show arrived, things took a bit of an unexpected turn.  I communicated on various occasions with the host in order to understand the formalities of the show.  There were many topics that could be covered. I wanted to be prepared.  I started to read the New Testament as a refresher.  I was sincerely under the impression that I was going to be given the opportunity to explain why I had chosen to be an atheist after being a Christian.  This did not happen.

We ended up doing 3 shows.  By the time the third show finished, I was totally upset and dismayed.  I realized why my friend said she would not debate theists.  Talking to some people can be draining and depressing.

To be fair, I was told that I was not taken seriously because I had a sarcastic and mocking tone.  After listening to the shows later I understood why the person said that.  Even though I tried to keep my cool and wait my turn, my frustration seeped through my voice and words.  That did not help the "debate" one bit.

From my perspective, the conversation went all over the place.  The scientific theory of evolution was brought up.  The atheists were accused of having faith.  People accused each other of twisting the words of another.  It was not a fruiful venture.

Before this series of shows I was more than willing to sit down with almost anyone to speak about religion.  I walked away weary of doing future so-called "debates" based on my experience on Debate Talk 4 U.  It takes so much time to catch  the theist up to what I know.  Then I have to correct them without coming off like a jerk.

It is a truly tasking endeavor.  I have slowed down with these conversations.  Maybe my friend's tactic is the best one.  Either avoid discussing religion or ask the believer to disprove the other gods before even starting to discuss their own.

Friday, May 3, 2013

#74- Trial By Ordeal

trial by ordeal - a primitive method of determining a person's guilt or innocence by subjecting the accused person to dangerous or painful tests believed to be under divine control; escape was usually taken as a sign of innocence


This idea came to me after watching videos of people in modern times doing primitive things to determine the guilt of members of their ilk.  In one place a woman (it always seems to be a woman!) had to lick the bottom of a pot several times and display her tongue afterwards for signs of swelling.  This pot was on the fire just minutes before she licked it.  If my memory serves me right, this was a test for adultery.

Another video showed a dispute involving two farmers on a matter of theft.  The accused man (who was the best friend of the offended) had to prove his innocence by dipping his hand into a boiling pot of hot oil and retrieve a few items from the bottom of said pot.

If the accused refused to take the test, he was guilty.  If the accused failed to secure the items at the bottom of the pot, he was guilty.

This still goes on today.  One may excuse these people for their superstitious ways and the history of their culture but some may find this shocking and out of place.  Then I remembered that similar things were done in the Jewish Bible.  This is my examination of the trial by ordeal featured in the Torah.

I maintain that the Hebrews of the Jewish Bible were on par with their neighbors as far as crudeness and their understanding of their world. They were not given special insights by any useful agency and by no means moral doctors that I wish to model after; nor should anyone else for that matter. I have chosen a choice morsel of barbaric depravity to demonstrate the misogynistic sentiment that permeates the book of the ancient people of Israel.

The following is from Numbers chapter 5 verse 11-21.

11 Then the Lord said to Moses, 12 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man’s wife goes astray and is unfaithful to him 13 so that another man has sexual relations with her, and this is hidden from her husband and her impurity is undetected (since there is no witness against her and she has not been caught in the act), 14 and if feelings of jealousy come over her husband and he suspects his wife and she is impure—or if he is jealous and suspects her even though she is not impure— 15 then he is to take his wife to the priest. He must also take an offering of a tenth of an ephah[a] of barley flour on her behalf. He must not pour olive oil on it or put incense on it, because it is a grain offering for jealousy, a reminder-offering to draw attention to wrongdoing.

16 “‘The priest shall bring her and have her stand before the Lord. 17 Then he shall take some holy water in a clay jar and put some dust from the tabernacle floor into the water. 18 After the priest has had the woman stand before the Lord, he shall loosen her hair and place in her hands the reminder-offering, the grain offering for jealousy, while he himself holds the bitter water that brings a curse. 19 Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, “If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you. 20 But if you have gone astray while married to your husband and you have made yourself impure by having sexual relations with a man other than your husband”— 21 here the priest is to put the woman under this curse—“may the Lord cause you to become a curse[b] among your people when he makes your womb miscarry and your abdomen swell.

Did you get that?  This is all about the female's unfaithfulness.  There is no such test explicitly laid out for males in the Torah.  Also notice in verse 14 that a female can be taken in by her owner for "jealousy".  Do she have the right to resist?  Of course not!
Notice the explicit directions in part one.  All these ingredients are available today and this would provide a splendid test to show how effective is recommendation is.  What country on Earth today would allow this without it being a crime?

In verse 16 the female is to "stand before the Lord".  How does one stand in front of invisible creatures?  Perhaps a wise rabbi can detangle this messy quandary for me.  Obviously the woman is to stand in front of the priest as he is the charlatan that is orchestrating this ghastly buffoonery.

Verse 19 has the priest put the accused woman under an oath.  This is strictly forbidden by Jesus (who is rumored to be Yahweh) in Matthew 5:34.

Finally, in verse 21 we see the superstition of the Hebrews taking form in a "curse" if the woman should be found to be pregnant.  What if the child was for the husband (I prefere the term "owner" as the females are treated too much like cattle)?  Did you notice the sentence for the crime?  The woman is to miscarry.  That is right folks, the child must die?  Why because that is what Yahweh and the priest have determined in their infinite wisdom.

How is it that Bible lovers are "Pro-Life" again?  To add insult to injury, the woman's abdomen is to swell.  If the father of the child was to be found I am sure he would be put to death.

So, this is the recommendation of the Hebrew god Yahweh to Moses to Israel.  Christians now say that Yahweh is Jesus.  Therefore Jesus, who supports the Torah in all its gruesomeness, is the one giving these edicts according to Christians.

Forgive me if I do not subscribe and follow such things.