The Dangers of Fundamentalism

I was listening to Seth Andrews last night on the way home from the university and some of the comments from the ex-muslims he had on the show got me to thinking.  Some of the things they were saying about how muslims defend their religion sounded identical to the things christians say to defend theirs.  One of the main things that stuck with me is when one of the guests related the fear his parents had when, in his teens, he became more fundamentalist muslim than he was raised by his parents.

I started thinking about how the fundamentalist muslims are almost the same as fundamentalist christians.  Think about it: they both love their god to the exclusion of all else, they cannot make a proper defense for why they believe in their religion, and they are willing to defend their religion to the death.  ISIS is a prime example of this, as are the branch davidians who perished at Waco.  Fundamentalists get extremely protective and clan-like.  They are suspicious and fearful of outsiders.  They are are quick to believe almost anything their leadership tells them without evidence.  And when something happens that they see as intolerable, they go off like a firecracker.

I keep thinking about the Hatfields and the McCoys and their feud that happened in Virginia some years ago.  I know that they weren’t necessarily fundamentalist christians, but they were very clan-like and unquestioning of their leadership.  That’s the main reason that they ended up killing so many of each other.  That’s exactly the way the fundamentalist muslims are with their inter-group hatred and destruction of each other.  That’s exactly the way fundamentalist christians would be if we let them have free range to do whatever they wanted to do.

I read this article about the intelligence levels of conservatives and liberals a few days ago and it appears to bring a little understanding to this phenomenon.  I’m not sure if the smarter people are more likely to eschew fundamentalism and conservatism, or if fundamentalism and conservatism cause lower intelligence, but it seems to me that those who adopt a conservative or fundamentalist worldview seem to shut off their ability to question and think for themselves about empathy for others, the ramifications of their actions as a group, and the ability to weigh evidence of any kind in general.

I’m not sure what can be done about it.  As I was speaking to my class last night, I mentioned that as future teachers, they were the key to the future of our society.  They are the ones who will be teaching our next generations.  I tried to make them understand that it was in their hands to teach our kids to be able to think critically and creatively and weigh the evidence to be able to change the world.  After all, isn’t that what this is all about; making the world a better place than it is now?  If we don’t teach people, not just our kids, to be critical, creative thinkers who are able to go beyond what we can imagine, we are all doomed.  Thankfully there are those among us who are able to do this.  And to you who fit this description, I say Keep It Up.  Don’t give in to the lies and hate and backasswardness of the fundamentalist mindset.  Keep thinking for yourselves and questioning everything.

*steps off of soapbox

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My Favorite Bible Verse

I was thinking the other day about stuff and the verse 1 John 4:12 came to my mind.  I actually had to look it up to see where it was in the bible.  It goes like this:

No one has seen God at any time…

I wonder why not!  I would venture that it is for the same reason that no one has ever seen a unicorn or a leprechaun, or a mermaid, or Zeus, or any number of other fictitious fantasies of the human mind.

Some Thoughts While Waiting on The End of The World

So the final “blood moon” of the tetrad is happening tonight.  Some folks are saying this is going to be the end of the world.  John Hagee, whose book made this whole mystical mess part of popular culture, actually spoke a while back at the church I was attending when I was still a christian.  He gave the whole spiel about what the tetrad is and what it means for us as humans and christians.  He never said it was going to be the end of the world.  But he did say it was an important sign of the end times.

He said that during every tetrad in recent history something significant has taken place.  I don’t recall what all those events were, but most of them had to do with Israel.  Most of these events’ significance were hyped up and overblown by Hagee.  Now that this one is nearly over with, I can’t wait to see what they pull out of their asses to make it look like something significant happened during this tetrad.  Almost assuredly, they will bring up the legalization of same-sex marriage here in the US as a significant event leading to the return of jesus.  John Boehner’s resignation might be brought up as a significant event. The pope’s visit to the US will probably be one of their signs, as well as the nuclear deal with Iran.

All of these coincidences have absolutely no relation to the orbits of the Earth and Moon around the Sun.  The only way that they can be tied together is through mystical mumbo-jumbo, a lot of twisting, and BS.  I, for one, am going to try to watch the eclipse tonight (if the clouds get out of the way) and enjoy it for what it is: a beautiful phenomenon caused by the predictable patterns of the universe.

And when I wake up in the morning I’ll be grateful that it is the end of the world as we know it, just not in the way that all these crazy religionists are predicting.  It will be the end as we know it because every morning is different than the last.  This lovely world we live in has that great quality of always changing, which means it is never the same as it’s always been.  It’s always the end of the world as we know it.  I’m glad it’s that way.  After all, if nothing ever changed what a boring world it would be.

And then we wait for the spin they’ll put on the whole event to make it look like something significant happened.

Information Processing in Fundamentalist Christianity

So this happened on Facebook last night.  FBStrBX2
It was a link my aunt shared to this article about the Starbuck’s CEO’s announcement in 2012 of the company’s official position in support of same-sex marriage.  Except the article misconstrues what he said.  The article was posted by Jesus Name News, a oneness pentecostal blog (the same oneness pentecostal that Kim Davis is).  The article says that the Starbucks CEO said that people who support traditional marriage are not welcomed at Starbucks.  One of the comments she made after the post refers to me: she said I “Snopes” everything.  That’s not exactly true, but I have called her out a couple of times on the obvious falsities she has posted.

After she checked Snopes, she commented that the article was true.  So I checked Snopes and posted the link to the article that says it is not.  I feel a bit sad that I had to explain the difference in what the article said and what the CEO actually said.  Thankfully, she finally understood… I think.

So why is it that fundamentalists like this have a hard time understanding information?  Does fundamentalism cause an inability to understand the printed word, or is it that being unable to understand the printed word causes people to be taken in by fundamentalist doctrine?

I don’t really think either is causal, but they are definitely related.  For instance, the oneness pentecostals claim the only right way to perform a baptism is when the words “in jesus name” are said while the person is being dunked under the water.  They take that doctrine from Acts 2:38 and misunderstand the usage of the word name.  It refers to the power or authority behind the name and not the actual name being said, as shown in Acts 4:7.  There are many other instances of misunderstanding the printed word in their doctrine, views of the bible, and apparently modern information sources as well.

I don’t want to appear to be saying that all fundamentalists have an inherent problem understanding what they read, but it’s obviously a problem with many of them.  From my personal experience it is an issue.  I think this speaks to the great need in our education system for a renewed focus on teaching people in our society, especially our children, to understand and interpret information accurately, as well as to understand the sciences and social sciences.  We would all (fundamentalists included) be a great deal better off if as a nation we were more adept at understanding information.

Leaving the Fold, Exercise 5.1

I started reading Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion by Dr. Marlene Winell.  I had seen it referenced by several others, but recently I’ve been stressing about some of the feelings I’ve been having as a result of moving on from christianity.  Being one to look for answers, I came across this book again, so I decided to give it a go.

Throughout the book are exercises that the reader can complete in order to clarify his/her thinking on a number of issues that are discussed in the book.  Following is my response to Exercise 5.1.

Take some time to review your own reasons for deciding to leave your religion…

Reason 1: Early on it was cognitive dissonance.  When I left home to join the Army, I realized that many the things my church preached against were not all that bad.  I had my first drink of alcohol and the world didn’t fall apart around me.  I had relationships with women, some sexual, most not, and the world didn’t fall apart around me.  There are other things that continued to give me cognitive dissonance throughout my adult life.  Whenever the church said something and the facts didn’t match up with what they were saying, I kept the faith, but eventually these distinct items piled up so high that I left my original church in a rather heated way.  In the book, Winell related the story of a man who was asking questions of his pastor, and the pastor had no logical response.  The pastor finally told him to face the fact that his asking these sorts of questions were nothing more than sin, effectively cutting him off from further questioning.  This is very similar to how I left my original church.  I started asking questions about the specifics of the oneness pentecostal doctrine that set it apart from the rest of christianity.  I sent a letter to the pastor asking him to clarify or justify some of these specifics according to the bible.  After a series of email exchanges, he finally said the following at the close of his last email:

I will say again: you are making a huge carnal-minded human-will motivated mistake. No Child of God, truly submitted to the will of God, would have taken the steps away from Truth that you have taken. You’ve made decisions that, in time, your family will regret; they could even lose confidence in and respect for you.

Again, cognitive dissonance: My family seems to have more respect and confidence in me than ever before.

Reason 2: Facts and information.  After leaving that church I started trying to find the right version of christianity; you know, the one that is completely in line with the bible, as close to the original church as is modernly possible, and has a direct connection to the original church.  What I discovered was that there are way too many versions of christianity, and all of them differ in meaningful ways, and most of them reject the others because they aren’t teaching the truth.  As this search continued, I found books about the problems with the transmission and writing of the bible, the historicity of the biblical accounts, and the archaeological finds that disprove biblical accounts. These books lead to other books about the problems with christianity itself.  I realized that christianity doesn’t hold up when examined point by point.  After learning all this new information there was no way I could continue to call myself a christian or believe in any of its tenets.  I think it is important to point out that I wouldn’t have gone down this road if it weren’t for my incessant need to be “right”.  All I wanted to do was find the truth.  My main goal was to find the right church so I could be right in god’s eyes.  Now from the other side of this experience, I see the real irony in it all; I was trying to find god, and in the process I lost him.  It’s not that I really believe that I lost him.  The truth is, I don’t see any evidence for the existence of a supernatural being of any type, and especially not the one portrayed in the christian bible.

Reason 3: Christian love.  The more I think about it, the more I realize how truly unhappy I was with the relationships I had with fellow christians.  They were all very flat; they were surface-level relationships with no real substance.  After church, shaking hands with people I remember all the hugs and “I love you, brother”s, but when it came down to it, none of them were really interested in me as a person or my thoughts or feelings.  All they cared about was what I could do for the church.  After leaving both churches, only a small handful of people even checked in on me in a meaningful way.  And the causes they supported weren’t really doing anything good in the world: “Let’s send missionaries to Africa to starving, homeless people, not so we can feed and clothe them, but to convert them to our religion, because their eternal soul is more important than their physical suffering…” Total BS!

There are other things I could write about that caused me to leave, but I think these were the big three.  The cognitive dissonance lead me to try to learn as much as I could, which was the straw that broke the camel’s back.  And all of this was underpinned by a need for deeper, more meaningful relationships with other people, not the flat relationships I had in the church.  It’s a lot easier to see these things looking back.  At the time, I was mostly feeling a great mental and psychological stress and even went into a serious depression for a while.  To this day I still deal with the lingering effects of that depression.  Hopefully reading this book will help me work though these issues and get me on track to get on with life.

That is all.

Using Lies to Make Your Point

Over the past several years I’ve noticed that ultra-right wing nut jobs have to use lies, falsehoods, and untruths, no matter how close to the truth they happen to be, to make their case for whatever it is they are trying to peddle to the public at the time.  The first time I noticed this was back in February 2009.  I got a propaganda letter in the mail from the NRA trying to get me to join.

In the letter it said something to the effect that President Obama was going to implement a 500% tax on the price of ammunition as an attempt to take away our rights as Americans to own firearms.  When I first read the statement, something seemed a bit off to me.  After a bit of research, I realized that 1) the president can’t raise taxes, and 2) he wasn’t trying to get congress to.  This turned me off from the NRA even to this day.  They were spouting an outright lie in order to outrage people so that those people would get behind their message and support their platform.

Last week I got the newsletter from my union.  The headline article was about some conservative think tank publishing articles that misrepresented the financial state of the union’s holdings.  It essentially said that the union had mismanaged its members money and was on the way to financial ruin so that it wouldn’t be able to pay its obligations to its members.  The article in the newsletter then quoted specific researchable facts that dispelled these false accusations. It seems that the Republican party has been anti-union since prior to the second election of President Obama, and this is just a carry over from that; “bring down the unions, and we’ll have a Republican in the White House.”  Again, right-wingers using lies to bolster their position in order to gain power.

This morning as I was checking Facebook, I noticed that my sister had liked an article from the Conservative Tribune.  Here is a screenshot of that post.

Lightning striking Muslims

Lightning strikes Mecca killing “an entire crown” of Muslims. Or does it?

What is interesting is that when I clicked on the article, it isn’t about lightning striking and killing a crowd of Muslims at Mecca.  What really happened is that a crane fell over and killed about 65 people and injured another 150.  There’s even a cell phone video on the page showing a glimpse of the horror when this happened.

So first of all, the picture on the FB post depicts this event as one thing, but in actuality, it was something completely different: a crane falling over is not a lightning strike.  So there’s your deception in order to push their specific point of view.

Second, the comments below the post as well as the article itself clearly celebrate the deaths and injuries of these people.  When I read the FB post, I was a bit intrigued.  I wanted to see exactly how this “Act of God”, as they described it, took place.  When I read the actual article, I was outright disgusted at the Conservative Tribune and its readers for celebrating the deaths of humans.  People died!  How can you possibly justify thanking god for the death and injury of humans.  These people were doing nothing wrong.  They had nothing to do with the extreme Muslims who attacked America.  They were most likely run of the mill Muslims who were doing their Mecca visit when catastrophe struck.  Sure, it happened on September 11th, but that just makes it a coincidence.  And how sick do you have to be to celebrate the deaths of fellow humans.  I will go as far as to say that the writers at the Conservative Tribune are, in my opinion,  just as bad as those who perpetuated the attacks of the World Trade Center and Pentagon 14 years ago.

I know, this is not the point of this blog post, but it really sickened me to see extremists celebrating the deaths of people who they stereotype as the extremists on the other side of the “war”.

So back to my point…  This teaser FB post is clearly a false depiction of what is actually in the article and what actually happened, and it seems that the point of the post is to get people to feel a sense of rightness or Karma, or whatever, over the deaths of these people.

I’ve also realized that the right-wing christian message is full of these falsehoods in order to convince people that their message is the only right one.  Without going into detail I’ll just mention their view of creationism vs. evolution, their view of the historicity of the bible vs. real archaeological findings, and their view of the inerrancy of scripture vs. the actuality of the many mistakes and inconsistencies in their writings.  These are all obvious lies, untruths, and falsehoods to anyone on the outside.  To me and a whole host of others it is easy to see right through these arguments.  Is it the blinders of belief that keep those on the inside from seeing what is actually going on?

So here’s my conclusion.  I am convinced that if you have to use lies to make your case, your case is not one that should be made.  If your message is so pathetic that you have to rely on false statements for people to buy in to it, there is a problem with your message.

So do your homework, people!  Look at every side of a situation.  Look at the facts and not the hype.  Always be skeptical.  Use Occam’s Razor.  Don’t be fooled by the snake oil salesmen of our times.

Sordid Stories From A Former Life

With this whole Kim Davis (the county clerk in Kentucky who refuses to issue marriage licenses despite a supreme court order) situation being in full swing, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to enlighten the viewing public on her version of christianity.  I, myself, was raised in her particular version of christianity, oneness pentecostalism.  When I was old enough to leave home and do things for myself, I became a member at a church which belongs to the same denomination that Kim Davis currently belongs to.  I think I have an understanding of her and her church’s mindset, since I was raised in it and fully bought in to it until my mid thirties.

The following are true occurrences from the United Pentecostal Church (UPC) that I attended, and still have a few contacts with, mostly through my wife, who has occasional friends who still attend there.

The pastor of the church has two daughters, daughter 1 and Carla.  Daughter 1 is married to son in law 1, who is the brother of Patrick.  Patrick used to be married to Carla.  They were married when Carla was still in high school by the pastor’s mother, who was the former pastor of the church.  Her words, upon the announcement of this marriage were, “It’s better to marry than to burn.”

After giving birth to a son and enjoying a few years of wedded bliss, Patrick and Carla divorced and Patrick left the church for a little while to regain his composure, or whatever.  Eventually he returned and got involved once again in the church.  A while later, Patrick married Wendy, who is the daughter of Judy.  Judy is the second cousin or some close relation of the pastor’s mother, so there is a family connection there.  So Patrick and Wendy get married and Wendy gets pregnant.  Shortly after Wendy gets pregnant, she finds out that Patrick was having an affair with a coworker, who ends up pregnant as well.  They get divorced.  So now Patrick has three sons from three different mothers, and two of the sons are within a month or so of each other.

All while this is happening, the pastor’s personal assistant and the official church decorator, Donna, decides to divorce her husband, who is also a faithful member of the church.  I’m not sure of the details, but the rumors are that they hadn’t been happy for years and were waiting for both of their kids to grow up and leave home before they split.

I have no real evidence of this, but it’s my opinion that the pastor and Donna might have been/currently are having an affair.  One night (several years ago) at a youth function in the gym, I was showing a guy from another church around the facility.  He asked to see the sanctuary of the church, so I took him through the back door to the platform.  The pastor was sitting at the piano, playing softly, while Donna was sitting on the piano bench by his side with her stocking feet up on the bench and her arms curled around her legs.  The lights in the sanctuary were low.  As soon as I walked in, I felt like I had invaded a special moment.  I let the guy look around and quickly ushered him out.

Donna was still married to Mark at the time.  It wasn’t until after I left the church that they divorced.  I don’t know the current situation with Donna, except that she is still a very central figure to the happenings at the church.  However, I do know about her husband, Mark.

After the divorce, Mark married Kerri.  Kerri had previously been married to Brian, who has been the bass guitar player for the church since before I was going there.  Brian apparently had some alcoholic issues so he and Kerri divorced, then remarried, then divorced again.  And now Kerri is married to Mark.

Brian, meanwhile married Alisha, who is the brother of one of the former ministers in the church, Chris.  Chris, who had been married to his wife since they were young and in love, recently divorced his wife and went off and married some “tattooed, pierced floozie”, as one of my wife’s friends called her.

Back to Patrick and son in law 1-  Their dad, or step dad, or whatever he is, several years ago indecently exposed himself to some kids and was sent to prison for several years and is now a registered sex offender.  I recently went to a party held at Judy’s house in honor of Wendy’s son.  Patrick and son in law’s dad was there and everyone just treated him like he was part of the family; no worries about the kids or anything whatsoever.

The weirdest part of this whole situation is that ALL of them refuse to find another church.  They all insist on continuing to go faithfully every Sunday and Wednesday to sit near their former spouses, etc. and hear “the word of god” as preached by a pastor who claims that none of the other churches in town have “the truth”.  I recall once in a sermon he said something to the effect of: “If you want to hear preaching that makes you feel good about your sin, go to the church down the street.  But if you want the truth, and to make it to heaven, you have to stay in the boat.”  And by boat, he meant his church.

If this is not the definition of a cult, I don’t know what is!

That is my experience with the kind of church Kim Davis attends.  Now you know what she means when she says that she’s an “apostolic” christian.  I’m not saying this goes on in every UPC/ apostolic church, but if the one I attended is any indication, there’s a good chance that it does.  No wonder Kim Davis has been divorced three times, yet still, in defiance of the supreme court, refuses to issue marriage licenses to those who she disagrees with because her pastor taught her to disagree with them.

Such a strange situation all around.