Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter and Opposing Tales of Spirituality

It was an interesting week leading up to Easter. Surely the most important event on the Christian Calendar. For me it isn't a special spiritual time, which I think reflects my growing up in the Bible belt where wearing a new suit and going Easter egg hunting were the most important points. But I was exposed to two views of spirituality this week and I would like to challenge both. The first one I challenge on philosophical levels and the second is purely a personal taste with no philosophical implications, or at least I think.

 I am a great fan of Science Friday on NPR. I only get to listen to 30 minutes each week as I'm at work and get mostly 30 minutes to swallow lunch and a coffee in a hurry. So I sit in my car and tune in. Here is a link to the part I listed to this past Friday. As you will see, it was about the concept that real science, mostly talking about quantum mechanics, is far more interesting than science fiction . . . for which I will agree. But questioners in the audience got the scientist to take a detour and talk about science vs religious spirituality.

 Once again these scientist cheated and cheated in a huge way that is only rivaled by the most simple-minded evangelicals. They got to the point of absurdity and inject a huge, may I say HUGE level of personality where there can be only inanimate. So, the scientist on the panel make the statement that not only is quantum mechanics more interesting (and bizarre) than science fiction but also more spiritual than the Bible. They said that when they ponder the incredible events, say at the edge of a black hole, it is a very spiritual thing and is better than the Bible because the bizarre twisting of time and matter is real and the Bible is fake.

 But here is where they insert the linguistic gymnastics that gives some feelings of peace in the absurdity. They use the term "spiritual" when they mean "emotional." Emotional, in their sense at least, is a function of a highly evolved limbic system of the brain. So I can understand what they mean by having an emotional response to the strange world (not even mentioning the beautiful world as captured with Hubble) of special relativity and incredible forces.

 But true spirituality is about a personal creator, not pure chance of something out of nothing. In something, by chance, out of nothing . . . then the sum of all the parts is nothing.

 If I save the world from cancer it is nothing in that paradigm. If I torture and murder all the children of the world it is nothing. If I ponder the beauty of the universe 24-7 it is nothing and if I crawl into a hole and become completely self-absorbed it is nothing. Trying to add anything to nothing is a celestial scam. They need to come clean and live consistently with their claims of atheism. If God is not there, you cannot create meaning, but they use words like "spiritual" to give the illusion of substance . . . a personal substance . . . as substance of a personal beginning.

The second part of this post was long and I drifted into some emotional chatter so I came back and deleted it. But what I was trying to say, that my other event on Friday was going to a Good Friday service at my wife's evangelical church.  There spirituality was displayed by emotional singing. That doesn't work for me anymore, when it is described as the Holy Spirit. I think it is simply emotions and nothing is wrong with that. But then the singing was followed by a Easter message from my old pastor.

The last time I heard from him was when he was screaming at me in a state of rage two years ago after I, as pleasantly as I could, told him I was leaving his church.  He verbally eviscerated me in front of my family with such hostility that my son thought he was going to punch me in the face.  The whole circumstances around that event was one of the most painful in my life.  It was a feeling of total betrayal and I felt totally alone. My crime was simply serving his church well for many years and politely saying that I loved everyone there but believed I would fit in better someone else. 

So Friday I had to endure his spiritual message.  I think I felt the same way, and it has happened many times in history, where someone was raped or molested but then had to bear the sermons of the rapist every morning in church as he donned his big smile and his praise of Jesus. Words can't describe and when I tried to describe this when I first wrote it I went off on a very emotional path, so I will try to avoid that this time.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

This is What I Mean - The Desperate Atheist

I've said before that all paths away from the undeniable fact that we are here must face a cliff of absurdity somewhere. The atheist, the child of the spontaneous universe, must insert meaning where none can exist. This commentary on NPR is a classic example of this feeble attempt and is of the same magical thinking as the evangelical's constant miracles built of wishful and narcissistic thinking.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

In the Valleys and on the Banks

If you grew up in Christianity, you know that the concept of the valley always relates to the low or tough places in life from Psalms 23.  But there is another valley that I'm talking about, the valley of conformity.

Transecting every culture and subculture is this steep gorge, where on the bottom is a wide path of expectations of that culture.  To try and deviate from that broad and smooth path is difficult . . . it is walking on the steep banks and cliffs . . . or walls.  Gravity constantly pulls you downward to the crowds that march in holy union going left and right, north and south like army ants.

There are days I want to give up. Where I want to turn around and go in step with those around me.  The Bible speaks in the New Testament of not being conformed to "this world."  I never thought when I first read this, that "this world" could also include this evangelical world.

Why do I even attempt to stay in the valley?  As I think about it, it is for two reasons.  My wife is in the center of modern evangelism. I want to connect to her. To connect to her, I must enter and be a part, even a tangential part of that wide path.  But I have to walk in silence there . . . or I will be hated.

The second reason is that there are few paths on the hill sides. There are other valleys, those of the totally non-Christian views.  Those valleys are even wider and I do go there. But I don't fit there either because I have to walk on the walls there too as I am as much of a Christian as I have ever been. There is hardly a path for those who believe in the central thesis, Jesus on the cross, a loving God who created all that is, but reject much of the other pretense of the evangelical culture.

A third reason, is of course for some human contact.  All my old friends are in that evangelical world. To be with them is to have some sense I am human because I can experience a social setting. Yet, I have to bare that constant flow of notions such as Obama being the devil, Jesus wants us all to have assault weapons with 50 bullet magazines, that all Arabs are evil genetically and despised by God, who ironically made them and that gays are the epitome of evil.  I can only bare those conversations briefly or I will go mad.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Gay Marriage . . . A Sign that the Planet is Getting Better?

I must first give a disclaimer.  This will not a discussion about homosexuality or even if gay marriage is a good thing or bad thing.  I look at it this way, I’m not gay so it is none of my business if gay people favor or disfavor marriage.  For a great theological discussion on the topic, go back to imonk’s pages about it and will try and link it here.

But here is to my point. 

I remember sitting in my old evangelical church a few years ago when the pastor preached on the topic.  He was adamant about opposing gay marriage when it first came up in our state.  He was actually the vocal leader and local champion against the law and marched in pro-family rallies at the state capital.  But, eventually a law allowing gay marriage was passed this year.  I can remember our adult Sunday school discussing it and the leaders of the church, including the pastor’s right-hand man saying that gays legally marrying were proof that the world was going to hell in a hand basket.  In other words, that this world was getting ready to burn and Jesus was coming back soon and gays were proof of that.

I tried not to speak up in Sundays school in those days because every time I did, I would feel the wrath of everyone and I was told, in so many words, more than once that I couldn’t be a real Christian with my liberal viewpoints. Meanwhile my wife would be down in her class having a wonderful time talking about precious things, good fiction books, flowers and etc.

But that day I spoke up that rather than the world getting worse and falling apart, I was actually leaning in the direction of Amillennialism . . . believing that we are now in that glorious times when the Church will succeed more and more until this planet is fixed.

The Sunday school class all agreed that I was a heretic at best and a blooming lunatic at worse.  They pointed out how America is in ruins compared to the glorious 50s when things were almost perfect . . . and there were no gays (I assume).

I see a world that is improving as time goes on.  To start with the 50s . . . well that was the period when the Sunday school director at my childhood church was sexually molesting little boys.  This has nothing to do with the issues about gay marriage, but I’m trying to make the point that bad things were happening back then. What made it worse in this child molestation problem in our church was that the pastor and the mom’s all covered for the Sunday school director. They tried to keep their little boys away from him and introduced him to other little boys as decoys so he would fulfill his pleasure and leave their sons the hell alone (I know it sounds sick now). The dads called any talk of what was going, “women’s gossip.”

Take this case study alone. What happened in my church in the 50s and 60s I don’t think could not happen today.  The parents of the first boy sexually assaulted would go to the police . . . or appear on Dr. Phil and all hell would break loose . . . or so I would hope.

But we can take it back further.  Smiling daddies have been raping or molesting their little princesses since the beginning of time . . . but it stayed in the closet. But now?  Not so easy, at least I hope.  And moms?  Well, the bad moms used mental torture since Eve left the garden. That may still happen now but not as easy.

This doesn’t even touch on the developing world. It is much harder to be an evil dictator today than 100 years go . . . not to mention a 1,000 years ago. Then look at Church history. Could the Church get by with peeling the skin off people, who were alive, but who disagreed with the church as they did in the past?

So, this week I was listening to the news about Obama supporting the Supreme Court case to over-turn the ban on gay marriage as a civil rights violation.  And I listened once again to the voices of the people wanting the opportunity to marry the person they love, often who they have been committed to for decades.  It isn’t about the gay community wanting the license to have bisexual orgies left and right

I know I’m walking on the very edge of the topic, but again this isn’t a discussion about homosexuality, but about the pursuit of justice.  I believe the world is getting better and better (thanks to the distant influence of Christianity on the world) where justice is held high, and the pursuit of it is a noble cause.  The pandemic of social injustices is slowly diminishing, with strongholds still only in the dark places, deep Africa, in the world of the Islamic fundamentalists, in the world of dictatorships and in the worlds of some Christian fundamentalists.  The desire to overturn gay marriage bans is just a part of that pursuit of justice which is a good thing, even though I can understand my Christian friends who see homosexual love as theologically wrong, this desire for justice and fairness in all areas of life . . . could it just be part of the great redemption?