Examining the Bible: Genesis, Part V

In Genesis 7, god finally gets down to the killing.  If you’re a Christian you view this as a story of love and compassion for a righteous family who trusted god with their lives and eternal souls.  If you’re like me you view this as a horrific failure on the part of an inept, morally bankrupt deity.  As usual, I have several problems with this story and I’ll discuss them all in detail.  Let’s begin!

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Examining the Bible: Genesis, Part I

For those who followed me on Xanga, I apologize.  I’m migrating my favorite posts over here.

The Christian story of the “fall of man” is a tale of magnificent power, poor decision-making skills, cunning linguists, and problems…lots and lots of problems.  I’ll give you the ones that immediately spring to mind.  This takes into account the literature from the Bible in Genesis 1:26-31Genesis 2, and Genesis 3:1-19.

Adam and Eve
"So, you come here often?"

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Washed in the Blood

There’s a very popular Christian hymn titled, “Are You Washed in the Blood?”  It’s catchy enough to be stuck in my head now that I’m writing about it.  Here, have a listen:

I used to love this hymn and now I really can’t stand it.  The thing I hate about this hymn is that it trivializes the brutal concept of vicarious redemption via the slaughter of an innocent.  When I was a Christian I thought it was a great song (and even better when my uncle would sing it because instead of “washed” he would say “warshed”) but when I was a Christian I also didn’t think too much about the concepts being presented.  To me, Jesus’ death was simply a gift from my creator because he loved me and wanted me to be with him forever, avoiding the punishment and suffering I deserved, just for having been born.  This made perfect sense at the time.  Here’s what I missed:

 

Jesus on the Cross
This is what god does to his children.
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Heaven is Real…First Glance

A while back (quite a while) I had come across a blog post here regarding the book “Heaven is Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back.”

It’s the story of Colton Burpo, the four-year-old child of the pastor of Crossroads Wesleyan Church in Imperial, Nebraska (looks like they’ve only recently installed their WordPress site and not updated it), who during emergency surgery is said to have gone to Heaven to sit in Jesus’ lap and have angels sing to him until he was resuscitated. The book tells of the claims and observations made by the child while he was dead/unconscious that seem to defy logic and support the idea that the Biblical god is for real. So far I’m only 11 pages into it but here are my observations so far:

Colton, like me, was brought up in the church by a pastor and presumably indoctrinated from birth with ideas of Heaven and Hell, Jesus and Satan, angels and demons, and all of the cute little songs that kids learn in Sunday School. Whatever he did or didn’t see during the time when he was dead/unconscious would have been influenced heavily by this because it’s a cornerstone of his upbringing and the foundation of his family’s faith. He doesn’t have to think about Jesus or angels, it’s just part of his immature belief system.

The author (the father, Todd) states in his introduction, “Now, as a pastor, I’m not a believer in superstition.” I completely acknowledge that in this context he’s talking about superstition relating to “chills” or “bad feelings” about a road trip, etc. – the kind of superstition that drives baseball players not to change their socks or whatever. However, Todd most definitely believes in superstition. He believes that the ritual of praying will affect the outcome of an event. He believes that going to church on a regular basis will affect the strength of his faith. He believes that reading the Bible on a regular basis will affect his relationship with god. These are all ritualistic, superstitious practices. If Todd began wearing the same pair of socks whenever he preached because he thought it made his sermon better, it really wouldn’t be a stretch above and beyond what he already believes. The only difference would be that it’s not prescribed by the Bible.

Colton says that while he was in Heaven sitting in Jesus’ lap the angels were singing songs to him like “Jesus Loves Me” and “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho.” That’s a nice thought, but doesn’t it seem a little silly and maybe too convenient that the angels would just happen to be singing the Sunday School songs Colton knows? I know this seems like a weak objection and I’ll readily admit that, but think about it: angels are ethereal creatures who live on a completely different plane of existence. They would presumably have the capability of singing songs to this child (not even the child, but the child’s soul) that would comfort him. Perhaps “Jesus Loves Me” qualifies as such, but “Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho?” Really? That just seems ridiculous to me…and by that, I mean it’s merely my personal opinion that nobody else has to adopt.

Obviously, I’m skeptical to the claims this book has made and will be making. It’s no secret I don’t believe in Heaven or god. However, I intend to continue reading this book with as open a mind as I can muster and give it due consideration. I’m really curious to see why there’s all the buzz over it, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it all stems from the fact that people who already believe in this find that it provides the sort of evidence that they not only accept but latch onto in order to bolster their beliefs. I doubt this story would do much to convince someone who didn’t already believe before they started reading the book but like I said, I’m only 11 pages into it.

I’ll keep you posted.

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My Family Might Hate Me

My mom has very advanced Multiple Sclerosis. It’s eating her from the inside out and she’s powerless to stop it. There’s no cure, no reversal, no relief. It’s just us watching her slowly and uncomfortably crawl toward the end of her life. Having lost the ability to move herself around (even if she had a wheelchair she couldn’t get from point A to point B without help), she relies 100% on my dad for her care. It’s inevitable that she’ll die relatively young (she’s just now 60 but her mom is still alive and coming up on 90). It is this truth that causes me grief, but not for the reasons you might think.

I have grief over my mom’s impending death because I don’t want to go to her funeral and my family will undoubtedly hate me for it. You see, I understand the concept of death and I don’t need closure, nor do I need someone patting me on the back telling me she’s in a better place, etc. When she dies she’ll be gone forever, I get it. I’ve come to terms with that fact and I can be at peace with it when it happens.

I’ve only been to one funeral in my life and that was because it was a high school friend who died while I was a sophomore. It was also while I was a Christian. I cried over my friend’s death and prayed to god for understanding into why she was taken so young. I felt so sad for her family and I felt her loss in the hallways at school. I wondered if she was in Heaven or if she was – god forbid – suffering in Hell. The possibility of her soul in torment ripped me to shreds. It was a bad time for me and god never found the time to get back to me and offer something in the way of comfort or understanding.

I didn’t go to any of my grandparents’ funerals. My family was upset when I refused to be a pallbearer at my grandfather’s (my mom’s dad) funeral. I simply didn’t want to carry a box containing a corpse – is that so bad? Regardless of whether or not the corpse was my grandfather it was still a corpse. No thank you. I have fond, happy memories of my grandparents that aren’t muddied by death. I think the experience of being at the funeral would have changed that for me.

As an atheist I find it much easier to cope with death. It’s a part of life and it happens to everyone irrespective of their beliefs. I’m not completely numb to the loss of a loved one, I just find more joy in my memories of them alive than grief in their loss. Instead of thinking they live on in some ethereal plane of existence I allow them to live on in my mind, just the way I want to remember them, and I find that this keeps them closer and dearer than believing that I’ll see them again.

I don’t want to remember my loved ones wearing makeup in a coffin. What good is that going to do me? What possible joy can I find from that? Why would I allow my love and memory of them to be stained by some grotesque* ritual?

Everyone keeps telling me that the funeral isn’t for the dead, but for the living. I don’t agree. I think every day is for the living. Every single day I can give support and comfort to the ones I love and help however I can if they need it. I don’t need to designate one special day to do this. What makes a funeral day so special? Why are condolences and hugs confined to a couple of hours on a specific day in a specific location? Why not have them available all the time?

Just because I don’t want to attend the funeral doesn’t mean I don’t want to be a part of the family. Just because I don’t want to attend the funeral doesn’t mean I don’t love my mom. To be honest, once it happens my mom isn’t going to care if I’m at her funeral or not. Neither will my dad, my brother, my sister, or anyone else when their time comes (assuming that I outlive anybody at all).

Some people take this attitude as a slight. They think it makes me cold and callous. While I don’t agree, they’re certainly entitled to their opinions. I’ve already explained that I’d rather have their life than their death in my memories and it’s very sound reasoning to me. I’m happy with it. I just know from past experience that this will garner me negative attention from my Christian family members and I’m not looking forward to it. If I can respect their beliefs and their desire to have a funeral for my mom, why can they not respect my beliefs and my desire not to go? I hope I’m wrong about it, but I fear I’m not.

That being said, I’m reasonably certain – barring major obstacles – that I’ll travel up to Iowa to be there for my family after the funeral (maybe even before, but not during). I’ll share stories of how funny and intelligent my mom was and how much I loved her. I’ll tell the story about how she (unintentionally, I’m sure) threw me down a flight of stairs for calling her an “old hag” and we’ll all laugh about it. And life will go on. Is anything wrong with that?

Do your views on death conflict with your family’s? Do you have any beliefs that your loved ones condemn?

* I find the funeral ritual to be grotesque but I realize not everyone does. Please realize this is my opinion only and that I do not condemn those who find it useful for the mourning process.

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Are They in Heaven?

I saw this in my news feed on one of my Facebook friends’ status:

══════════════ ೋღ☃ღೋ ══════════════╗
❤If you miss someone that’s in heaven, put this as your status!❤
╚══════════════ ೋღ☃ღೋ ══════════════╝

I wonder: how could you possibly know for sure whether or not your loved one is in Heaven? The problem, as I see it, is that nearly every religion has different views as to what it takes to get there. Some believe you get there by works, some by living a moral life, some through gaining knowledge/wisdom, some simply by professing belief, and some through multiple reincarnations until you “get it right.” Some of these are mutually exclusive and so they can’t all be correct. So how do you know if your loved one made the right choice in how to get there? It’s all terribly confusing!

I suppose what it really boils down to is this: if believing that your loved one (or dog/cat/hamster) is in Heaven with god makes you feel better about not having them around anymore, then they’re in Heaven. Really, it’s all about what you want to believe. I mean, it’s very rare to hear someone say, “I really miss my dad. He was a great guy. It’s just too bad he’s roasting in Hell right now.” Heaven just seems like a comfort device that has no real value to the dead but to the survivors instead.

Anyway, just thought I’d share a thought. It’s not important but it’s on my mind.

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