Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorials and Foxholes

On this day, May 31st, we remember those who have fallen for our country. Sadly, it seems very few know this and see it as simply another Veteran's Day. I can't number how many mom and pop restaurants I passed by today that read "we thank our Veteran's for all they do!" They're apparently quite ignorant that it's more a day to remember what our veterans did. Two different holidays.

You may ask, what does this have to do with religion and the lack thereof? A lot. I had a lot to think of today, mainly surrounding a very difficult question: What is it that causes us to be so moved by those who gave their lives for a cause such as their country? I don't know about others, but something inside me moves me to tears when I stand by the grave of a 22 year old boy who died in war. It's a feeling of reverence and thankfulness.

But why?

Certainly this is nothing new. And certainly it is nothing exclusive to Western thinking nor Christianity. Even less foreign to Atheism. I did a simple google search of "Veterans and Atheism" and was surprised to find an organization for this very same idea.

There has also, as you'd find on that page, a long fight by this organization to deny the charge that "there are no Atheists in foxholes." For the longest time, even I bought this catch-phrase, believing that something in us still looks up at the skies when death comes knocking. This is far from true.

So then, what value is there in a man who does not believe in God and spirituality and the second-coming and all that jazz dying for his country? What value is there in an Atheist man who remembers such people dying for the country they now live in?

There is some value. For whatever reason, we evolved in such a way that caused us to be mindful of our history. For whatever reason, we remember and we record. We're sentimental, and we learn from lives we did not live but that came before us. This can easily become another philosophical debate on morality, seeing that the soldier is fighting for the ideals of his country and who's to say the other country isn't right? But I think it goes deeper than that still. This is a man, many men, thousands of men who willingly die for a cause.

Why? And why does this move us?

Unfortunately, I have no answers only emotions. I just hope it stirs the reader to think and feel as well.

For further reading, I found a article on the issue of Atheists in foxholes:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Thoughts on Religious Tolerance

These thoughts were inspired by and my most recent discussion with friends on concerning absolute morality. It's also slightly inspired by my experience with the JW ladies.

As an atheist, I don't see harm in religiosity. At least not to the point of those such as Sam Harris do. I do wish people would accept less stringent ways of life, and do wish people would have foundations for their beliefs that can hold water. But if you tell me you are happy, then I have no desire to change you.

As a Christian, I would have never allow such words, much less thoughts to be connected with myself. As a Christian, it was either Jesus or Hell. Your happiness, internal peace, passion, or inspiration drawn from your religiousness was actually just a lie from the Devil. Why the Devil would lie by providing such peace is beyond me now, but I suppose then I would say "because it lured you into Hell." In fact, I've been told by some close to me the same about my disbeliefs, that they are lies from Satan!

This sounds okay to those of us with.. I'll say.. more open minds? You'll forgive me my Christian watchers, I can't at the moment find a better phrase. I do not mean it in any condescending fashion. But I'm going to press it to a degree that can often times become unacceptable to even self-acclaimed open-minded Agnostics and Atheists, as it has recently among the above quoted forums.

JWs do not receive blood transfusions. This means that if their child, due to an accident, a disease, whatever, comes to a point where they either receive transfused blood or die, they will not permit their child to take the blood.

It seems many people are outraged at this. It is considered mistreating and harming a child. I am not convinced of this. Mainly because I understand the deep conviction of religiousity. For the JW, perhaps they truly believe if they accept the transfusion they have committed a sin and put themselves on the road to Hell. Can you, with clear a clear conscience, force a parent to send their child to Hell? It doesn't matter if you don't believe there is a Hell, these people do. For them, they live happier and more self-gratifying lives if they follow what their God tells them to do.

Do I think it's personally sick? Yes. I have my levels of morality that I follow. If God told me to sacrifice my son, I'd probably tell him to... well... I would spout unhappy things that shan't be repeated here. But can I force someone to follow my morality? Just what makes my morality, my beliefs, more important than theirs?

It's been spouted, and angers me to no end, that "secular laws must be subservient to religious laws." I've been wrapping my mind around it since I heard it, and I still can not see the logic in it. The secular world is just as corrupt, if not more than religious circles. There is nothing to logically state that somehow laws created by secular governors are any more sensical that those fashioned by religious hierarchies.

Philosophically, I think it makes zero sense. I do hope I am not alone.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

1.1 Bible Plan

For anyone curious as to what plan I'm following, it is a 2-month read through plan I formulated myself about 4 years ago. It has gone through many revisions and testings by readers, and could probably use another tweak. But I have found none like it. It's fun, and only takes about an hour out of your day.

Check it out:

I started day 1 today. It took me a little less than an hour, and that was with a LOT of cross referencing. Let's begin.

Genesis 1-3

Let me begin by saying that these 3 chapters are by far the most interesting and the most perplexing in the whole Bible. The language is odd, to say the least. Try to find a literal translation Bible for this passage, stay away from Bibles such as NLT for this purpose. Most verses repeat the same word about 3 or 4 times, "living creature with life," "seed-bearing plants with seeds," "flying things that fly" etc.

I recall as a Christian arguing for a complimentary first and second chapter and adamently argued against the "two creation story" belief. Now I can't imagine how I even began to do so.

Were animals created on day 6 (1:24-25), or some time after mankind was created ( 2:19)? Do all living creatures have nefesh hi'yah, the breath of life (1:30), or is only man called a living creature posessing this special breath (2:7)? Was woman created at the same time as man in God's image (1:27), or was woman created after animals in man's image (2:21-22)?

I spent way too much time on these passages pondering all these questions. My main question, how was this story shared? We have, for the most part, all come to the consensus that most of what is in Genesis was passed along orally. Should we invision this story being shared to children over the campfire? Certainly we should compare it to other ancient creation tales.

Moving passed my musings I turned to my good ole' "What does the Bible really teach" booklet that the JW ladies handed me last Sunday. Their focus was on Genesis 3 and attaching the serpent to Satan, which is a mind-blowing assumption that is described with such introductory phrases as "evidently" and "apparently" in their propoganda material although it is everything but that in the passage. Then they state that the serpent lied to Eve, although everything he told her in 3:4-5 is confirmed by God himself in 3:22. You can say they eventually died all you want, but 900+ years is a long time for that threat to actually bear fruit.

I promise, this will be the only time I spend so much space on a single passage! Genesis 1-3 never ceases to confound me, no matter how many times I read it.

Joshua 1-4

My only interesting observation here was how Joshua seems to act as a demi-god to the people. I was stunned reading1:18 "Any man who flouts your [Joshua]s] commands and does not obey every order you give him shall be put to death." Mind you this was not an edict by God, but by the people. Strange. Also contrary to the Christian idea of "me and my God and no one else", there is an apparent hierarchy: God speaks to Joshua and him alone, and Joshua tells everyone else what to do.

Psalm 1-3

The contrast between wicked and righteous interests me. Nowadays is seems the contrast is only between those who believe and those who don't. Belief outweighs deeds. Thank Luther for that one.

Isaiah 1-5

Herein were words we can all live by:
"Learn to do good,
devote yourselves to justice;
Aid the wronged,
Uphold the rights of the orphan;
Defend the cause of the widow."

Job 1

I love this chapter. Mainly because you have God here boasting to Satan about a blameless man, when Christians tout that Jesus was the only sinless man. He was blameless by the narrators voice, blameless by God's voice, and after Satan's disbelief is proved to have not sinned.

One thought-provoking question though: Why does God ask where Satan has been?

Matthew 1-2

I will break the formality of my blog here with a big: OMFG. Annoying. Matthew quotes from so many passages and had me thumbing through trying to figure out just what he is doing and if he is really quoting. After doing so, I have to wonder just what the hell Matthew is doing with the prophets? And just what prophet ever said that the Messiah would be called a Nazarene?

Interesting note, JPS translates the commonly quoted Isaiah 9:6 (in JPS it's verse 5, verse 1 of our Bibles becomes the last verse of the previous chapter): "For a child has been born to us, A son has been given us, And authority has settled on his shoulders. He has been named "The Mighty God is planning grace; The Eternal Father a peaceable ruler." Which makes tremendous more sense than our translations which read that this man will actually be called Mighty God.

Romans 1-2

Again noted the emphasis on good works: "but glory, honor, and peace for everyone who does good." 2:10

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

JW Witness

So this Sunday morning (my birthday mind you) 2 sweet Jehovah's Witness people came knocking on my door. Frankly, I was excited. The only time JWs have visited I've either been asleep, so someone else has gotten to the door before me.

I played curious and open. I told them straight I was an Atheist which received a strange surprised reaction. They proceeded to share verses with me, I told them I was a Bible student and knew the story. That actually I had been a Christian my whole life. When asked, told them quite honestly why I left and why I don't plan on coming back.

So I invited them in to share/sell their wares. We had a nice chat.

Why did I do this? I'm not sure. Maybe I sympathize with them. Maybe I see my old self witnessing to people with the honest love and concern for their souls. Maybe it's a catharsis process for me, to really seal the deal or to see if I really do buy what I tote (dad claims everyone deep down believes there is a God, in other words "They can't believe in a loving God Who doesn't believe in atheists " ~ Skillet). Or maybe it's because they are the only people I have met who has cared about my soul? Out of all my Christian family, extended church family, and "friends" these ladies are the first to witness to me. And sure, I know the story more than anyone, but is "it's just a phase you'll get over" really the right reaction for family and friends to have?

Whatever reasons you want to attribute to my openness and willingness to listen to them, they wanted to set up their weekly sharings and Bible Studies and I said sure? Why not? They claim they don't want to convert me, and of course that's not true. So our meetings will probably end when they are convinced I have no intention of changing, or whenever I start getting a little too frisky and argumentative.

So, after saying that, this should be interesting. I will share what I learn, share what I tried to help them to learn, and any internal struggles I face if I do face them.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Summer Blog Plan

School has ended, and I really don't have any closing thoughts on what was taught. Finals and papers, that's about it. You are more than welcome to read my paper defending Enoch placement in the canon of scripture though:

The Summer Blog Plan is as follows:
1. Learn Koine Greek via
2. Possibly read through Bible in 2 months
3. Q & A ? / Current Events

It will be fun.