hen you grow up in Christianity, one thing is made very clear to you over and over: you are a horrible sinner and deserve to burn in Hell forever. This sentiment rears its head pretty early on, as soon as you’re able to understand and repeat the name “Jesus.” The adults begin to prime you for the doctrine of salvation through grace. In order to do this, you must first accept that you are undeserving of anything but the worst punishment imaginable. Just to clarify, this punishment can be presented in a number of ways. My family subscribed to the “lake of unquenchable fire, eternal torment and darkness with weeping and gnashing of teeth” doctrine. Other sects of Christianity view Hell as simply the complete lack of the presence of god. Still others view Hell as obliteration (which, Heaven aside, aligns quite nicely with the atheistic view that once you die you simply cease to exist).
o there I was: a kid spending every Sunday morning and evening, Wednesday night and every major (and some minor) holiday in church. At this point church was still fun because I was doing arts and crafts, seeing flannelgraph stories and singing those great children’s songs that virtually everybody knows. Oh, the songs! They’re catchy, they’re cute, and they’re memorable. Regardless of how I may feel now about religion I can still sing all of those songs on demand.
Song is arguably one of the most effective ways to drill ideas into a kid’s head. There’s a reason you teach a kid the alphabet in song before they can read. When you want to remember something it helps to put it to music. For instance (and I can still sing this one too), children are taught to memorize the books of the Bible with this little number:
he stories you hear in church as a child make the Bible seem so sensible and happy. You’ve got a man and a woman created perfectly just for each other, talking animals, big boats full of kangaroos and penguins, babies in baskets, guys rough-housing with god, trumpeters blowing down walls, Jesus the meek and gentle shepherd who loves you so very very much, and a wonderful gift that you can keep forever and ever. Isn’t it all so wonderful?
You know what they don’t tell you when you’re a kid? Incest, murder, unfair punishment, intentional ignorance, violations of free will, genocide, slaughtering of the innocents, more incest, more genocide, slavery, oppression of women, more slaughtering of the innocent, more slavery, more oppression of women! When does it end? It’s enough to make you vomit! And the people preaching this book are the same ones who get indignant when a television show portrays two men kissing.
hen I was born my parents followed Old Testament tradition and typical American culture and had me circumcised. I had no say in the matter and it irritates me a little bit now. Obviously there’s not much I can do except blog about it and try to explain why I’m upset. I’ll break it down for you so you can understand.
- The practice of circumcision is cosmetic and elective.
While there are many confusing studies out there (do a Google search) the one thing on which professionals agree is that there are no definitive, positive health benefits for removing the foreskin. A large portion of males are circumcised because the parents want the child “to look like daddy” or they think an uncircumcised penis is ugly, or their family has always held that circumcision was just the way it’s done. The American Medical Association has stated, “Virtually all current policy statements from specialty societies and medical organizations do not recommend routine neonatal circumcision, and support the provision of accurate and unbiased information to parents to inform their choice.” In addition to being elective, circumcision is a surgical procedure which means that complications can arise. The complications due to circumcision are most frequently seen in less developed countries where medical practices aren’t as regulated and hygienic as in the U.S. but are present nonetheless.
- The practice of circumcision is Biblically unnecessary.
Unless you’re Jewish, you’re not subject to Old Testament law. Jesus and Paul both preached that since his birth and death salvation is not exclusive to Jews adhering to the law — uncircumcised gentiles can be saved too. Since nearly all Christians these days are not ethnically Jewish there is no reason for Christians to remove the foreskin from their sons’ penises.
- Circumcision is mutilation.
There’s very little doubt that every Christian I know — including all of my family members — would agree that female circumcision (a.k.a. female genital cutting) is a detestable practice. I also have little doubt that these people don’t realize there are different degrees of female genital cutting ranging from a pin prick to the clitoris to severely invasive removal of the genitalia. Likewise, there are degrees of male circumcision where some or all of the foreskin is removed. In my case, circumcision left a very noticeable scar with which I’ve never been pleased.
How is it, I wonder, that people so opposed to the maltreatment of female infants can be so flippant about male infants — even going so far as to view the mutilation of the penis a badge of honor for their god? Cutting an infant’s genitals is cutting an infant’s genitals, regardless of their gender. Who doesn’t see this?
- Circumcision removes sensation.
The foreskin isn’t just a flap of skin or excess material. It contains bundles of nerves that add sensation to the penis. The nerves in the foreskin are fine touch nerves like those on the palm of your hand. If you compare the sensation in the palm of your hand to the sensation on the back of your hand you’ll see the difference.
- Circumcision violates human rights.
Performing a painful elective surgery on an infant without consent violates the infant’s rights and undermines their free will. Since Christians are so big on free will, you’d think this would be a point at which they’d stop and think a little harder before slicing up their babies. If circumcision is to be performed, it should be performed later in life when the patient can give informed consent.
There are two men standing in front of you. One is holding a basketball and the other with just open, outstretched arms. The man with the basketball shows you the ball, describes its color and its size and how its shape and hardness change if you add or remove air using a pump (which he also shows you). He dribbles the ball, takes a couple of shots, and then sits down.
The other guy stands up and tells you he also has a basketball but you can’t sense it in any way and no tests you perform will ever reveal the kind of ball that the other man is showing you. He insists, however, that he has one and that it is, in fact, a basketball. He “dribbles” the ball and makes a couple of “shots” which he insists swished – nothing but net! Then he sits down.
As a theist/creationist you are choosing to believe the guy with empty hands. Sure, he can’t prove he has a ball but he is really nice, seems really skilled with his basketball, and he said it will make you feel happy if you believe him. Further, he promises that if you continue to believe him you’ll have a basketball just like his someday – but he can’t tell you when.
Let’s think about this for a second. In what area of your life, outside of religion, would you willingly accept this kind of scenario? Under what other circumstances could a person convince you to go completely against your senses and your experience of reality like this? You’re probably finding it difficult to come up with something and I don’t blame you. It’s typical for a believer to compartmentalize and show an unusually high degree of skepticism toward everything except their beliefs. Maybe that’s something on which we should work, yes?
I don’t know about you, but I chose to play basketball with real basketballs and it’s been a more enjoyable game.
Credit for concept goes to “speedjunkie13” from Gixxer.com. Used with permission.
I’m trying to put together a one-on-one interview series with people of all different faiths and so far I’ve contacted two Christian pastors, a Mormon, a Buddhist, and the administrator at the Jewish temple in Springfield. I let them know that I’m not interested in debate but want the opportunity to ask some probing questions about their religion(s) and give them the chance to give as detailed answers as they want. In every case, I was told that they’d be happy to talk to me but would not be willing to be recorded either on video or audio. What gives?
I’m wanting to discuss their religion in a candid, open format with no argument or ridicule and none of them are willing to go on record? What good is a religion if you’re secretive about it? How do you expect other people to understand you and your beliefs if you’re not willing to open up to an audience? This would be a great opportunity to dispel some misinformation, explain some myths, and relate to people why you believe your religion is based on truth. I just don’t get it.
I’m wondering how I can get believers to open up and help me with my educational project. I’m really hoping to someday be able to gather a representative sample of the world’s religions and put together a nice series of videos that can bridge some gaps. I just don’t understand why there’s so much resistance.
Where should I be looking?
I’ve been involved in some discussion about circumcision and recently read a review of a TV show on “Praying the Gay Away.” Discussion on either of these topics can get pretty heated but there’s kind of a theme to it all. In either case there’s this strange kind of admission by theists that god made a mistake when he made you. That is, you either have more penis than he wanted you to have or you’re attracted to people to whom he’d rather you not be attracted. Doesn’t anybody find this odd?
In the Old Testament god laid out his provision for slicing up infants’ penises for some reason even though god supposedly creates each male in the womb and adds the foreskin to the little guy. If god finds the foreskin to be such a problematic piece of anatomy why didn’t he just omit it in the design? What’s with the genital mutilation? And why has our society come to accept that it’s anything other than an archaic, barbaric, religious practice and made up lame excuses as to the usefulness of circumcision in hygiene, AIDS prevention, and fertility? How come none of these people making these excuses would advocate elective cosmetic surgery of any other type on infants? That’s what circumcision is, after all.
The struggles of a homosexual in resolving his/her identity with his/her religion seem to be illustrative of the most painful mental torture one could undergo. You realize that your attraction to the same sex is not a conscious decision so you must have been made that way but you realize that your god hates it when you entertain your natural desires. In order not to displease your god you must deny your nature – which, presumably, he instilled in you when you were created. Yet there are religious homosexuals out there struggling on a daily basis to suppress their true selves in favor of pleasing an intolerant deity. Why??
When you say that god needs you to remove your foreskin or that he’s not OK with you being attracted to the same sex, you’re admitting that god makes mistakes! Not just one or two mistakes, but millions and billions of them! Is your god perfect or not? Is your god loving or not? Seems to me the best way to resolve this conflict is to admit that it’s your own personal bias causing these dilemmas and that your god is imaginary. Get on that, m’kay? Thanks.
Actually, consider this: instead of your god having made you wrong…maybe you made your god wrong.
My religion has a long-standing tradition, mandated by my all-knowing and loving god of giving all newborns nose jobs so that they’re shaped like a perfect little button. My god doesn’t like bulbous or pointy noses and in order for children to get into eternal paradise, they must follow in obedience to my god and have their nose “perfected.” The procedure is outlined in my holy text wherein it is commanded for each child’s nose to be broken with a smooth stone and set in the shape that pleases my god.
“I’m glad god loves me now that my nose is perfect!”
Don’t you dare tell me that this practice violates my child’s free will or harms them in any way! My god loves us and wants the best for us and the children don’t suffer any kind of lasting trauma from the procedure, even though no anesthetic of any kind can be used. In fact, this procedure has very real health benefits by opening up the nasal passages which eliminates much of the risk of sinus infection, mucosal blockage, and deviated septums. I know this because it says so on Wikipedia. You can look it up for yourself, I’m not going to do your research for you.
When I heard that certain groups were lobbying to make my religious practice illegal, I was outraged! Don’t we have freedom of religion here? Aren’t I free to practice my faith without being molested by the government everywhere I turn? As a parent I ought to be able to make the decision as to whether or not I bash my child in the face with a rock. It’s MY choice! Oh, and I want to make sure that my health insurance is going to cover the procedure, OK? Thanks.
If you think this is a stupid comparison, it’s probably because you have stupid beliefs. I’m not going to sugar-coat it.
Genesis 6:9-22 tells the story of Noah and the events leading up to the Great Flood. As usual, I have problems with this story and I’d love to tell you what they are. Let’s get started, shall we?
Problem 1: Corruption
Genesis 6:11 says the Earth was corrupt and full of violence. How corrupt are we talking? Like, invalid block in the hard drive’s boot sector corrupt? Or starting wars in oil-rich countries so you can award government contracts to your corporate buddies corrupt? And how violent are we talking? Like, Tom and Jerry violent? Or slaughtering entire populations of people based on their ethnicity or religious adherence violent? The Bible doesn’t specify, but we’re told that it’s really, really corrupt and really, really violent. In fact, we’re told that “all the people on Earth had corrupted their ways.” Everyone. Every single person was corrupt and had no redeeming qualities. That’s terrible!
But wait! Apparently that was an exaggeration kind of like when your parent comes into your room and yells, “It looks like a tornado came through here!” when there’s really only a pair of pants on the floor and your bed isn’t made.
That’s a messy room!
Anyway, we’ve learned in Genesis 6:9 that Noah is a righteous and blameless man so it’s obvious that not every single person on the planet is bad. God is talking to Noah and says he simply cannot abide the corruption and violence of the people on the Earth anymore and is going to destroy both the people and the Earth because of it. Did you get that? The people are so corrupt, god is going to destroy the Earth. It might just be me but this seems like an overreaction.
Problem 2: Inconsistency
How corrupt is “corrupt?” We don’t even know what these people were doing in the first place. The Bible simply says the Earth was corrupt and full of violence (kind of like today…or any other time in human history).
If god’s problem with the people on the planet was that they were corrupt and violent then why, at various times throughout Biblical history, did he not perform drastic cut-backs in the population when things got out of hand? The Bible clearly indicates throughout the Old Testament that the majority of people on the planet were vile god-haters and only the Israelites were worthy of his love…sometimes. So why wasn’t god consistently wiping out all of the wrong-doers? Did he learn a lesson from the flood? Did he amend his standards for “corruption?” Who knows. Moving on…
Problem 3: Slash-and-Burn
God tells Noah to build an ark to his specifications because he’s going to flood the entire Earth and kill every living thing under the heavens – this includes animals. Do you want to know why I think this is stupid? Because god is supposed to be all-powerful. All-powerful means he can literally do anything. Anything at all. For instance, he could cause only the corrupt and violent humans to fall dead and vanish, leaving only the people who are decent and loving. Let’s say mine is the “scalpel technique” and let’s compare it to god’s “atom bomb technique”:
God’s plan is literally to flood the entire planet with water and kill every single thing that lives (regardless of any redeeming qualities it may have) except for one family (of flawed humans) and a representative sample of animals (excluding dinosaurs) — no mention of plants — who will then repopulate and replenish the Earth at such time the flood waters recede and dry land is once again accessible.
A bit excessive? Definitely. And, as we’ll find out, also very ineffective.
Problem 4: God’s Human Error
God established a covenant with Noah and his family that he would save them from the flood. This includes Noah, his wife, and his three sons with their respective wives. Eight people will be saved. But remember, the only person we know of who is righteous and blameless is Noah. That means god is saving seven corrupt people. Why would god save seven corrupt people when the whole reason for this flood is to rid the world of corruption? I’m sure there’s a great apologetic answer, so I can’t wait to hear it.
Problem 5: Incest
Remember, only a single family is going to repopulate the Earth. This is the second time in the Bible that widespread incest is going to occur. The first, if you remember, was after the expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Why do adherents of the scripture gloss over this and deem it OK? It’s not cool to have sex with your brother or sister and there are very good reasons why. What is the deal with the Bible’s obsession with familial sexy time?
Problem 6: Fish
God lays out his plans for taking along two of every kind of bird, animal and creature that moves along the ground (does this exclude flying insects? Why the freak do we still have mosquitoes?!) but completely neglects to mention what will happen to the fish. As you may or may not know, there are two types of fish — fresh-water fish and salt-water fish. Fresh-water fish cannot survive in salt-water and vice versa. When the Earth is flooded, there will be a mixing of water to where the salt-water will be diluted and the fresh-water will be salinated. What, do you suppose, will happen to every single fish on the planet when this happens? Here’s a hint: THEY DIE!
What have we learned from this story? That fish were more resilient in Biblical times? Well, not really. We’ve learned that god doesn’t know how to deal with his problems using reason and compassion. Instead of finding a way to help the humans who were decent and only eliminate those who were genuinely bad, he opted to just snuff them all and kind of, sort of start over. The problem is that god didn’t take into account that the humans he was saving weren’t a whole lot better than the humans we was killing. If that’s not the mark of incompetence, I’m not sure what is.
Of course there are people who believe this is actual history and I don’t know how they force themselves to believe that, but I’m a little more at ease (although not in agreement) with those who say this is just a story to illustrate a moral lesson. What’s the lesson? Don’t be corrupt and violent, I guess. The reason I disagree with both of these groups of people is because I don’t feel this story has a good moral. I don’t feel like it’s a beautiful story of god’s love for mankind that he would spare a family in the midst of squalor and give them a second chance. It’s a story of how god fails at problem-solving, plain and simple. What the hell is his problem?
Kentucky State Senator Joe Bowen has resurrected a bill that was killed last November that “sets the foundation” for offering Bible classes in Kentucky schools. Admittedly, nothing prevents public schools from offering comparative religion courses now. This begs the question as to why the state government would feel the need to even introduce such legislation in the first place.
I can think of one answer: Bowen is a Christian who feels that the current school curriculum is too secular and that Kentucky children are being led astray from core Christian principles. This is another push by religious zealots to have their view spread to everyone by any means necessary.
Now, to be perfectly clear, this bill would not require that all Kentucky schools offer a Bible class as a requisite to obtaining a high school diploma. The classes would be electives and that, I think, is their only redeeming quality.
First question: why isn’t Bowen pushing for Qur’an classes? Why not Bhagavad Gita classes? Or Buddhavacana classes? The answer is obvious. Bowen doesn’t want to educate children about world religions. He wants them to learn about his religion.
Second question: since when does the State Senate dictate school curriculum? Isn’t that the job of the school board? Kentucky’s department of education organizational chart is here (PDF). It steams me that the state government (even though it’s not my state) is wasting time and resources fighting battles in which it shouldn’t be involved.
Third question: aren’t there Sunday School classes every Sunday in Kentucky churches? If a child wants to hear about the Bible in a classroom setting they already have ample opportunity! Keep your religion in your church and we’ll keep logic and rational thought in the schools.
Can we please stop our lawmakers from spreading this kind of arrogance and ignorance across the entire country? Please, people, let’s do something about this!
Using the first link (“resurrected a bill”) you can vote in the news channel’s poll. Not that it’ll mean anything, but go vote this down. As of the time of this posting there’s an overwhelming majority voting YES for these antics.
Bowen photo courtesy Facebook.