Public Opinions Are Open to Public Opinion

I don’t want this to come off as a bitch fest or anything, but I’m a little confused by the attitude I’ve seen from a Xangan who voiced her emotional opinion on the Casey Anthony trial and then got extremely angry with a couple of people (me included) when they began to address specific points she had made — even going so far as to tell someone that addressing her points was off-topic to her blog post.

It seems to me that if you’re going to post something on a public forum you should expect that it will not only be subjected to public scrutiny but that you may very well be confronted about assumptions and emotionally-charged statements you make. If I held a view that I knew would be controversial and I didn’t want to be questioned about it, I’d keep it to myself. It’s the only way to ensure that you can hold your opinion without having to defend it.

So this person started out by taking respectful comments from me and replying to them respectfully. When she made another point I’d address that point and wait for a response. Eventually she accused me of being an unintelligent troll (she also said people who don’t agree with her are idiots) and told me to get the hell off of her blog. So I did, and I never intend to go back. I was in it for the discussion, not the attitude.

Thinking of it now, I have no idea why she was on my friends list but she was. I’ve removed her in order to get away from that negativity. Do any of you have experiences like this where a person airs their views and then abuses everyone who disagrees?

The Tithe That Binds

There’s a very strange movement in some Christian circles called “The Prosperity Gospel” that posits some kind of supernatural investment scheme where the more money you give to god (read: churches and/or pastors) the more material wealth god will give to you.  While most Christian denominations denounce this theology as false or even blasphemous most of them also have their own, more subtle versions of the prosperity gospel whether they know it or not.

 

Becoming a Millionaire God's Way
God wants you to be rich!

The churches in which I grew up always passed the offering plate/basket around during services expecting members to give at least 10% of whatever they had.  This is standard practice for Protestant churches under a doctrine of tithing.  Some churches go as far as asking (“asking” is a funny word since the whole thing is done with an air of, “if you don’t, god will know”) the congregation to make pledges as to how much they’ll give for the year.  This helps the church make a budget but it also very clearly shows the churches are just businesses.

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Who Do You Believe?

Sitting in Sunday School and church, you’re constantly confronted with the idea that man’s knowledge is not only flawed (a point with which I wouldn’t necessarily argue) but foolish.  For example, 1 Corinthians 3:19 states:

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”

Whenever this comes up in a lesson or a sermon you always hear a resounding, “AMEN!” from the congregation.  While I was a believer I never really thought about the implications and I doubt that many believers really do.  In the light of debates over evolution, the Big Bang, and the ever-narrowing god-shaped gap in our knowledge it’s nice to be able to point to a verse and say, “See?  The things you think you know are utter nonsense in the face of god’s wisdom!”  The Bible is a never-ending source of derisive rebuttal to anything even remotely logical.  That’s why I loved it so much as a kid.  No matter with whom I was talking, I could always feel confident that my god considered them fools and I was right.

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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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God’s My Plumber

Honestly, what the hell? I can understand the “God created me” mentality. I can tolerate the “God loves me” attitude. But what in the bloody shit is this?

God's Plumbing
“God’s 24/7 Plumbing Service. Your wait time is approximately 3 days.”

There’s no way I could not comment on something like this! It makes me want to punch a kitten (although because I dislike cats, this isn’t a huge stretch). Have we really gotten this far removed from reality that we attribute unclogged toilets to GOD’S FAVOR? Please quit it, people. Please!

Good Enough For Me

Most Christians I’ve ever known view the Bible as an authoritative compendium of knowledge handed down to humans directly from god himself.  For this reason, anything contained in the book(s) is deemed “good enough” for them.  One of my very first exposures to this mindset was the following:

In Genesis 1:1 the Bible says, “In the beginning God.”  That’s good enough for me!  God created the heavens and the Earth; god created man; god is, was, and forever will be.  That’s good enough for me!

 

God Said It. I Believe It.
God said it. Checkmate!

This illustrates — to me — the Christian’s willingness to swallow the words in the Bible whole without really doing any substantial chewing.  Instead of pondering god’s motivation for creating everything, his methods of doing so, or his inability to create everything perfectly the average Christian just revels in the bliss of being created and leaves it at that.  The Christian calls this “faith.”  I was guilty of the same thing when I was a Christian.  I never asked, “why?”  I just accepted what I was told without even putting much thought into it.  I did this because I was taught that questioning god was wrong. God does what god does and you’re not worthy of an explanation.  After all, you’re just a flawed human with a flawed brain.

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Taking the Plunge

Once you’ve accepted Jesus into your heart, your next step is showing your obedience and symbolizing your rebirth through baptism.  The Christian denominations in which I grew up believed that baptism was only valid as a personal decision.  Some denominations practice infant baptism or sprinkling, but in the context of what I was taught that practice seems to have no significance whatsoever (except to upset the baby).

 

Crying Baby
"Mommy, don't let the penguin drown me!"

 

The basis for baptism is vague and consists (like most Christian doctrine) of cherry-picked verses scattered throughout the New Testament and inferences from dialog contained therein.  This site contains a lengthy discussion on why believers must be baptized and why immersion is necessary.  A quick glance tells you right away that the ritual is heavy on symbolism and light on substance.  Here’s the gist:

You are “crucified” (standing upright in water), you are “buried” (immersed into the water), and you are “resurrected into life” (raised out of the water).

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You Don’t “Have” to Go to Church

As soon as I was old enough to figure out how much fun weekends were and how much shorter they seemed when you have to spend more than half of Sunday sitting in church I began to ask my parents if we really had to go to church. The conversations usually went something like this:

Jon: Do we have to go to church today?
Parent: No, you don’t have to go to church today. You get to go to church today.
Jon: But I don’t want to go to church.
Parent: You ought to be happy we have such a nice church to go to. Besides, you’re not staying home alone. Now get a move on!

This was exasperating every single time. I’m sure it was frustrating for my parents as well. They wanted to raise their children in the church with good, Christian values and their children seemed to want to be little unwashed heathens. What irritated me the most about this exchange was the unreasonable nature of the argument. I, as an autonomous human being, didn’t have the desire to spend most of my day cooped up in a building listening to people talk when I could be running around the woods with a toy gun, saving the world. My parents, as dictatorial heads of the family, didn’t acknowledge my autonomy. How unfair.

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Small Soldiers

Now that I was saved (theological debate surrounding the sincerity of the act notwithstanding) from Hell, it was important to those charged with my education to ensure that I became the best possible Christian.  In order for this to happen, I had to become familiar with the doctrine of Christianity — namely, that god created me and loves me and that Satan is trying with all of his might to destroy god’s creation and claim the souls of believers for himself.  This means war!

 

Sparta
War? This is Sparta!
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Telepathy’s Not Good Enough

Speaking of prayers, there was one thing about Christianity that always either embarrassed, frustrated, or confused me: public/group prayer.  It always seemed that a spectacle was made of talking to god whether in a church service, at home, or at an event.  Nobody appeared to be capable of just communicating with god in a personal way — quietly, in their heads — and instead we were always being led in group prayers.

When I was a little kid the prayers were like advertising jingles.  I memorized a phrase one to four sentences long with catchy rhymes so I could remember what to say.  For instance:

Now I lay me down to sleep.
I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.

Bedtime Prayer

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