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Posts Tagged ‘secular’

Beyond Belief relationship issues. (The mini-series continues)

Posted by Andy D. on June 18, 2008

This is a follow up from my earlier post and Mighty’s asking, “Are you out with your family and friends about not believing in the supernatural?”

I spent a week in northern Michigan with my grandparents, brother, and his fiancée. In the summertime it is unbelievably beautiful. See some of the pictures from my many hikes and wine tasting. My grandparents built a cottage (a summer house) in a small town off of Lake Michigan.

The main reason they choose that area is due to a very friendly and, I fully admit, fun Lutheran camp and resort. They vacationed there in the late 60’s and it does feel heavenly during the summer months. (It isn’t so nice in the winter.) This to them was the perfect vacation spot for all the extended family. After the cottage was built we crammed into every room and visited cousins, grandparents, aunts, and uncles each summer. We all had an incredible time from the beach, playing tennis, volleyball, softball and hiking. That beach is where I experienced my first kiss and make out session. There was a lot of sand everywhere after words….

As a kid, I went to all the youth group activities at the camp, and I believed and sang along. In my later teen years, I attended the adult lectures. I enjoyed listening to the very smart and charismatic pastors and theologians such as Paul Maier give lectures on defending the faith. I never received any skepticism training until recently so I didn’t know people were criticizing the faith. Of course, I didn’t buy it due to all the other religions and the nasty reaction religious people had to the present day messiahs. (Isn’t that normal and what would of happened in Jesus’ time?) Paul proudly lectured on how he was able to prove Jesus’ existence by secular methods. Think Josephus, etc. I had no idea what he was talking about. He even played back a debate he had with a secular scholar. It seemed to us he won, and his point at the end of the session was he could prove Jesus existed but he cannot prove Jesus was who they say he was…. In other words, the miracles and divinity were not provable via evidence. Looking back, I think that turned out to be my first look at Christian apologetics. I was mostly disinterested and had other things to do. I would have some questions now!

More recently, I was amazed when Penn and Teller had Paul on their Bull Shit show about the bible. They pointed out the faulty logic Paul used when explaining away the miracle of Moses parting the Red Sea. Paul said that it was probably the REED sea that the Hebrews walked across and it was a marsh so they could walk across it. Penn asks where is the miracle then? Paul knows his scholarship and is very bright, yet he begins like all of us do most of the time with what he thinks is true and then follows that up with reasoning. Critical and scientific thinking are not very natural.

Ok since this recent visit was in the early summer, the camp wasn’t really started yet. I spent my time hanging with my brother and visiting the grandparents. My grandfather is in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. It was tough to have to tell him every day that I was no longer at my old job. This was quite the shock to me because grandpa was always very active and sharp. (I am not sure how people still hold on to the soul concept when you can see a mind degenerate right in front of you). He could beat me at tennis just a few years ago. (I don’t play but still that is quite good.) My grandmother is very sweet and is very much with it. We had a great visit and I had plenty of time to reflect.

The grandparents are the only ones in my family who do not know I have embraced reason instead of myths. It would upset both of them greatly. I prayed with them at dinnertime. We all did including my brother. (As I said in the earlier post, engaging in the religious activity doesn’t affect our worldview.) It would be cruel to tell them or not pray. I am frustrated with the established power religion has on me even now and it wedges me from being able to share with my loved ones this great journey of discovery. Suddenly, I am a jerk if I am truthful. Our intention is not to harm or upset but to share. I guess many folks are like this. With the status of my grandfather’s mind he could not handle it or even grasp it.

He picked up a book I was reading by Paul Kurtz entitled “Science and Ethics,” and he said it looked like a deep book while flipping a few pages. He instinctively put down the book and did not dig deeper. Later, I answered the phone and it was a far right wing organization calling to warn Grandpa of the dangers of the ACLU. I thought, “You mean the folks who actually protect our civil rights and the constitution!” I gave the phone to my grandfather and he hung up on them. He didn’t understand what they were saying. Yes, somehow my grandfather supported some of these right wing organizations earlier. I don’t think he knows why. He has been republican for his entire life and his Christian background has made that decision for him. (An evolutionary meme shortcut instead of thinking critically?) Yes, I know there are many religious folks on the democratic side, like my parents, but there is something powerful about the values argument with overly religious folks that is silly and against freedom when you actually look at it. I love free markets and low taxes but this crazy religious zeal on that side makes my stomach turn…

My grandfather thinks being a Christian is the right thing to do and it is the most important thing someone should be. He is a good person, he works hard, invests, studies, stays physical, gives, loves, and he is leaving a wonderful legacy. Those ways of living are secular principles and deal with this world. They can apply to all faiths and those who have none. I learned those qualities from him. These are truly transcendent and universal. I want him and Grandma to live the rest of their lives in bliss and in love. I won’t break the spell for them, but we need to turn the tap of ignorance off at younger ages. Religion gets a free ride from criticism and that is changing. I would have loved to share my entire joy with them. Love is definitely enough but I would have enjoyed sharing more. To be continued….

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Do You Mind if I Ask a Personal Question? (A mini-series?)

Posted by Andy D. on June 10, 2008

I listened to John Loftus’ speech to us again on why he rejects Christianity from the position of a former evangelical minister and apologist.  It is a good listen.  (Check out his referrals on his latest book! That is a long list of famous people who mostly are going to hell.  We were lucky to have John join us.)

As most of you know, I have been on my own educational quest.  I wanted scientific answers to the big questions with no BS.  I have been following the technical blogs and reading everything I could on evolution and I read ex-ministers’ books on theology.

During the Q&A period of John’s speech the theists asked (and made comments) on the same old morality and Hitler objections.  The freethinkers asked good logical questions and battled back the comments and the reductio ad Hitlerum fallacy. The topics were technical and logical.  I loved it.

Suddenly, in the middle of the talk, Sarah asked John if she could ask him a personal question?  We all laughed in anticipation of the question.  She asked John what did his family and friends think of him being out as an Atheist? What a great and relevant question!  I was focused on the logic and arguments; Sarah wanted to know more about the relationships.  John answered by saying at least we are not getting stoned now for speaking up about non-belief and he wanted to change the world.  He didn’t blow Sarah off, but I think she wanted to know more about the personal problems he may have experienced as a by product from being open. The young earth creationist attorney switched the subject for us so we didn’t get that answer.  I am going to e-mail John this blog post and see if he will respond.  I did a quick search on his debunking blog to see if he wrote about this already but I didn’t find anything).

I wasn’t even consciously focusing on this part of my life.  However, I am neck deep in this.  Most of us are probably having trouble in this area so let’s talk about it.  (Blogging is good for you! It sure beats prayer because someone actually reads it and they may respond!  Although they may both provide a self-meditating effect).

My brother has recently graduated from The OSU medical school and he is now engaged to his amazing girlfriend who is also a new doctor.  She is a devout Catholic and accepts a theistic type of evolution as the former Catholic generation did.  He was honest about not being religious and the two of them are getting along great.  I talked with Jim and suggested to him if he loves her there is nothing in our worldview that keeps him from participating in that part of her life.  The trade off is Jim has to have a big Catholic wedding which is her dream.   I love Catholic music and ceremony.  They sure beat the boring Lutheran services.   Don’t hate me folks if I turn off my logic hat during the wedding.  I won’t walk up and say excuse me do you realize there is no evidence for any of these far out claims?  I love my brother and soon to be sister-in-law far more than dragging up reason in the ceremony.  I would be a major ass if I did that.  In fact, that would be unreasonable and dare I say illogical.   (Is there some attempt at a natural selection type of altruism here?  Maybe selfish gene evolutionary theory applies?)

Where do we draw the line on what we tolerate?  I know it would be wrong and silly to run around nursing homes and start saying excuse me, did you know this God thing isn’t really true.  Of course, we draw a hard line to keep creationism out of science class.  I want to know more about the middle demarcation between criticism of religion and intolerance and what that means to our relationships.

I want to pose Sarah’s question to all of you.  What about your family and friends?  Are you open?  What problems are you facing?   I only scratched the surface on this topic and I will write a series on personal issues that I am having with family and friends.  It is extremely complicated.   Let’s help one another.  I will talk to you all tomorrow at the meeting!

Andy

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