Sunday, April 30, 2006

Sunday is A Fun Day To Talk About God

My Sunday Sermonette will try to answer Rabbi Marc Gellman's Trying to Understand Angry Atheists in Newsweek.

I like the Rabbi and I enjoy his column with Father Tim Hartman in Newsday every Saturday and television show when they appear as The God Squad.

Unfortunately after studying so much about the Christian/Catholic Church after earning my MDiv in 1992, I lost interest in religion all together-- possibly because it has such a violent history led by the supposed followers of Jesus who more or less like any other religious leaders sought to oppress the flock by using laws to squelch the human spirit and using fear to control the masses. Where was Jesus in all this mayhem that ensued? Why did they persecute the Jews so much when after all we wouldn't have Christianity if it were not for the Jews? I also believed with all my heart (but no psychology training) that most the saints and supposed "great Christians" were schizophrenic. The Catholic Church canonized people who should have been locked up in loony bins.

Rabbi Gellman wonders

"...there is something I am missing about atheists: what I simply do not understand is why they are often so angry."

"So we disagree about God."
Everyone disagrees about God. That's been the story since the beginning of recorded history. Great wars have been always fought in the name of God. That is why there are thousands of religions in the world. That is why the early Church split and that is why Martin Luther couldn't take much of the nonsense that ensued after hundreds and hundreds of years of christian bastardization of Jesus' message. That is why there were the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, passion plays, slave ships, the holocaust. How many versions of Christianity, Judaism and Muslim are there now? It appears that the "believers" have been the angriest in history and caused the most turmoil in history. Angry atheists aren't ruining the fabric of society.
"I'm sometimes at odds with Yankee fans, people who like rap music and people who don't like animals, but I try to be civil. I don't know many religious folk who wake up thinking of new ways to aggravate atheists, but many people who do not believe in God seem to find the religion of their neighbors terribly offensive or oppressive, particularly if the folks next door are evangelical Christians. I just don't get it."

Don't talk to Yankee and Red Sox fans during the season. They are not always civil and the rivalry leads to much heated anger. If people can't be civil regarding athletics, one certainly can't expect them to be civil about their core beliefs.

Perhaps Rabbi Gellman doesn't read the news as much as many of us do. In fact, many religious leaders in this country and the world are doing their darndest along with the fascists in governments, to take away our freedoms, to oppress women, homosexuals and minorities, to completely discount science, urging the flock to check their critical thinking at the door, to speak hatefully in a public arena and declare war, all in the name of God. That particularly angers a lot of atheists and true believers as well. In fact, Rabbie Gellman ought to consider all the hatred being spewed by God's supposed followers. Turn on the tv to one of the cable news shows and see how much hate and intolerance is regurgitated in the name of God.

They use fear to energize their followers into a hateful frenzy. You don't even have to be an atheist to see what a radical new movement has been gaining ground over the past 25 years or so. They are threatened by Darwin, women, critical thinking, science and tolerance. I was a Christian when I realized that true Christianity had been hijacked by fanatics. That's why I decided to study theology. I needed to know what real Christianity was, where it came from and how it compares and contrasts with other beliefs. Fortunately, I learned more about spirituality than anything written and taken literally in ancient holy books. I learned great mysteries that are not at odds with most thoughtful atheists. I also figured out that the Bible is a dangerous book in the hands of those who are mentally unstable. I excommunicated myself from Catholicism after I graduated.

"Perhaps their atheism was the result of the tragic death of a loved one, or an angry degrading sermon, or an insensitive eulogy, or an unfeeling castigation of lifestyle choices or perhaps something even worse. I would ask for forgiveness from the angry atheists who write to me if I thought it would help."

Perhaps it's true that the angry atheists had a terrible trauma that led them away from God and most likely it's because they had the wrong impression of God's existence in the first place. And whose fault is that? They expected God to do something and He didn't. How many religous people do we know who don't really love God, but fear His wrath? If you were God, would you want people to love you out of fear or love you out of respect? A sane person wouldn't want to be loved out of fear. (I'm assuming here that God can be personified as many people think.)

"Religion must remain an audacious, daring and, yes, uncomfortable assault on our desires to do what we want when we want to do it. All religions must teach a way to discipline our animal urges, to overcome racism and materialism, selfishness and arrogance and the sinful oppression of the most vulnerable and the most innocent among us."

A good civics class can teach people how to cooperate in society too. Does fear of jail or hell really need to be a part of living in a good society? Fear is merely a tool used by oppressors. When I taught religion to youngsters (yes, can you believe it?) I often strayed away from the religion book in order to teach the kids compassion... such as "How would you feel if someone did this or that to you?" and then I would go on to tell them that God wants us to think before we act and society wants us to do the same because it makes for a better world. I taught my students that we must learn to forgive those who hurt us and not repay them in kind because there would be nothing but anger and hatred in the world... it would make for a pretty lousy life.

Why oh why does believing in God need to encourage people to take off their thinking caps?

My belief system is that we are to look out for each other and love each other as we want to be loved. (It also happens to be what Jesus taught in a nutshell and is also the crux of the Old Testament.) I don't need to be religious or even believe in God to understand that universal cooperation, tolerance, love and compassion are the keys to a relatively happy existance on earth. We still have Mother Nature or Acts of God to endure and we really need each other in those times and that is when God or goodness really manifests God's or goodness' self to everyone including non believers.

Anyone can figure it all out with some critical thinking- if we all tried to be patient and tolerant, to try to come to compromises with each other, we wouldn't even need laws. Jesus thought so too. We wouldn't have maniacs like George Bush or Osama bin Laden waging wars to satisfy their mean streaks. At least we wouldn't allow them to.

I think that too many laws tempt people to break them, if nothing else. I am a prime example of that. Religions made stuff up that made people act worse towards each other than if they had just shut up and stuck with the Jesus theme. Their laws made us neurotic.

"Some religious leaders obviously betray the teachings of the faith they claim to represent, but their sacred scriptures remain a critique of them and also of every thing we do to betray the better angels of our nature. But our world is better and kinder and more hopeful because of the daily sacrifice and witness of millions of pious people over thousands of years."

Some religious leaders? Only some? I disagree. The ones who betray the teachings of their faith are the ones who are getting all the media attention and forcing politicians to legislate oppressive policies that alienate our most vulnerable, in order to get campaign funds and votes. That pisses off anyone with a sense of humanity. Everything good that happens in the world may be as a result of how God created us or maybe it's just a mutation in evolution. There is no reason to argue that point if everyone is trying to get along whether they believe in God or not. The anger that abounds from the Christian left, the Jewish left and the atheist left stems from their outrage at the crimes against humanity that are committed daily in the name of God.


I hope that helps, Rabbi Gellman.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Menu Blogging: Jesus Christ is Risen Today, Pass the Jelly Beans

We eat candy for breakfast on Easter Sunday. I started this tradition when my son was old enough to chew, because I could finally live out some of my childhood fantasies when I became the matriarch... so report me to the Pope, see if I care. I was merely trying to play down the Christian Blood Cult theme.

I also thought it might be interesting to have 'woast wabbit' for dinner with a side of Peeps, but no one was really interested in eating cute little bunnies, so we just pretended we were eating 'woast wabbit' with jelly bean sauce.

Check out this live journal with an hilarious photo recipe for disaster Chocolate Cake which replaces chicken eggs with Cadbury Cream Eggs. Mmmm.

What do you do with Easter Candy?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

And the Lord sayeth, "Ask her about her sex life"

And Pat Robertson obligeth.

It just wouldn't be Passover/Easter season without an hilarious story told by Pat Robertson reacting to something the Lord directly asked him to do.

Pat Robertson and Rita Braver on CBS News Sunday Morning April 9th.

PR: ... Well-- well anyhow, they thought she was demon possessed. And these women are in the conference, and they said, "Go cast demons out of her." And I ignored it and ate dinner and went on to the meeting.

And then the next night, they had moved this poor woman out of the hotel. She was crying out for mercy and saying, "Oh God, help me," because she had such bad asthma. So-- I had to go see her. But fortunately I had my wife with her, so we went to another hotel-- in the heart of Jerusalem and knocked on the door.

And here, this haunting woman, she looked like-- she really looked like she was terrified-- very attractive-- striking brunette, 45 years old, you know thin, 5'8" kinda thing. And-- she had this look in her eyes. And-- so I went in, and my wife was with me. And they took the two chairs and I sat on the bed.

And I said, "Tell me about your problem." And she said, "I've got this asthma." And I said, "Have you been to the (LAUGHTER) doctor?" And-- and she said, "Yes. The doctor said my asthma was caused by praying with nuns." And I said, (LAUGHTER) "A doctor?"

RB: That sounds--

PR: "A doctor?"

RB: --that sounds like-- (LAUGHTER) you should've advised her, "Maybe go see another doctor."

PR: There was-- (LAUGHTER) well see-- the-- "A doctor told you this?" (UNINTEL) said, "Yes, that's what my doctor told me." And I says, "There is no way that praying with nuns is gonna cause you-- asthma." And then I prayed. And I said, "Lord, what's wrong with her?" I just prayed silently. And the Lord said, "Ask about her sex life." And--

RB: The-- the Lord said that to you?

PR: Yes, He said that to me. And I said, "There's no way I'm going to ask a strange woman about her sex life." So I said-- (COUGHS) "Excuse me for-- being personal, but would you tell me about your marriage."

She said, "Oh, I have a wonderful marriage." I said, "You do?" She (UNINTEL PHRASE), "A wonderful husband, wonderful marriage. It's just absolutely marvelous." I said, "You do?" She said, "Yes." So I prayed again. (LAUGHTER) I said, "Lord, what's the matter?" And she-- He said, "Ask her about her sex life."

RB: I-- it's hard to imagine the Lord--

PR: The-- the--

RB: --saying this to you--

PR: --the Lord say-- well He did. And I-- and I said-- "You know, please forgive me if I'm being personal, but tell me about your sex life." And she said, "I don't have any." And I said, "Well, I thought you had a wonderful marriage." And she said-- "I do, but I don't have any sex life."

And I said, "How long has that been going on?" And she said, "Two years." And I said-- "And that's when your asthma started, isn't it?" And she said, "Yes." And I said, "Well it's obvious that you're blaming yourself-- for this condition. What's the problem?" And she said, "My husband's impotent."

And I said, "You think it's your fault." And she said, "Yes. It's-- I think it's my fault." And I said, "Well it isn't your fault. And it may be that he's working too hard. He may be having a physical impairment. But-- there's something in his life, that this isn't your fault." And she said, "It's not?"

I said, "Absolutely not." And I said, "Okay, now let's pray for your asthma. And she said, "Okay." And we prayed. And God healed her asthma just like that. And--
RB: You-- you know that--

PR: There's--

RB: --that's a tough one for people to swallow.

PR: I was there. My wife was the witness. And thank goodness she was there. I never woulda done this otherwise. But that woman went on her ma-- her way rejoicing. And it took maybe max, 10 minutes.

Oh my Lord, was that just the most adorable story? Hallelujah, Praise Jesus, Amen...
The Lord is such a card... asking the second holiest person to ever walk the earth to probe into a woman's sex life only to find that she doesn't even have one (laughter)... and that was what gave her asthma (laughter) and she believed it was her fault that her husband was impotent (laughter) and I wonder how she got that silly notion? Probably the devil told her that (laughter). Sometimes the Devil is such a trickster... Wee doggies... whew... oh Lordie, I just popped another rosary bead from laughing so hard.
/snark attack

Monday, April 10, 2006

The Gospel Truth

This is an important commentary from Elaine Pagels regarding the Gospel of Judas and the National Geographic special which aired last night.

Snippet from The Gospel Truth

Yet those early Christians who loved and revered such texts did not think of themselves as heretics, but as Christians who had received not only what Jesus preached publicly, but also what he taught his disciples when they were talking privately. Many regarded these secret gospels not as radical alternatives to the New Testament Gospels, but as advanced-level teaching for those who had already received Jesus' basic message. Even the Gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus explained things to certain disciples in private, entrusting to them alone "the mystery of the Kingdom of God."

If so, Jesus would have been doing what many other rabbis did then, and most teachers do today. Many of the gospels not included in the New Testament claim to offer secret teaching: Thus the Gospel of Thomas opens, "These are the secret words which the living Jesus spoke, and Didymus Judas Thomas wrote them down." The Gospel of Mary Magdalene reveals what Jesus showed Mary in a vision, and the Gospel of Judas claims to offer a spiritual mystery entrusted to Judas alone.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

From the HFS Files On Modern American Christianity

Since the hell when did being a Christian give you a right to be an bigoted asshole in a secular country? This shit would never fly in NY. It would be laughed out of court.

Christians Sue for Right Not to Tolerate Policies
Many codes intended to protect gays from harassment are illegal, conservatives argue.

ATLANTA — Ruth Malhotra went to court last month for the right to be intolerant.

Malhotra says her Christian faith compels her to speak out against homosexuality. But the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she's a senior, bans speech that puts down others because of their sexual orientation.

Malhotra sees that as an unacceptable infringement on her right to religious expression. So she's demanding that Georgia Tech revoke its tolerance policy.

Man, what happened to civilized society? How dare this dame use christian faith as an excuse to be hateful?

With her lawsuit, the 22-year-old student joins a growing campaign to force public schools, state colleges and private workplaces to eliminate policies protecting gays and lesbians from harassment. The religious right aims to overturn a broad range of common tolerance programs: diversity training that promotes acceptance of gays and lesbians, speech codes that ban harsh words against homosexuality, anti-discrimination policies that require college clubs to open their membership to all.

The Rev. Rick Scarborough, a leading evangelical, frames the movement as the civil rights struggle of the 21st century. "Christians," he said, "are going to have to take a stand for the right to be Christian."
Oh now this is just wrong on all levels. Now you can't practice your christianity unless you can harrass those who think differently than you do? Sure that will win hearts and minds... of Nazi's.

This broad ought to get a job in a soup kitchen and learn a thing or two.