Monthly Archives: September 2013

Je-h-to-the-izzo-v-to-the-izzay-h’s Witnesses

One of the best things about living in a big city is the sheer diversity of its inhabitants. In the two weeks since I moved to Washington, D.C., I’ve seen every type of person from every walk of life. Of course, that means I also have the pleasure of running into the religious crackpots pushing their propaganda on every corner.

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I love free books!

Being a person who has intentionally subjected himself to numerous church services as an atheist, I’m really quite likely to oblige when one of these fanatics offers me a pamphlet on my way to the metro. And that is how I came to possess a publication from the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania – the publishing and distributing organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The book I received is called, “What Does the Bible Really Teach?” – and while Jehovah’s Witnesses presumably successfully hand these books out to tens of people every year, I might be the only one to read the entire 223-page document from cover to cover. Because I love you all so much, I decided I’d write a post highlighting the best parts of the book so that you don’t have to read it yourself. Join me below for a good laugh, and maybe you’ll even learn a bit about what Jehovah’s Witnesses actually believe.

The book starts in a manner almost encouraging to a secularist. In its opening discussion about asking questions regarding gods and the supernatural, it says:

It is good to ask such questions,  and it is important that you do not give up until you find satisfying, reliable answers.

I like that – we should endorse inquiry and scrutiny of answers. So far, so good. And then:

Despite what other people may have told you, there are answers, and you can find them – in the Bible.

And it’s pretty much all downhill from there.

So God is never the source of the wickedness you see in the world around you…Granted, he does allow bad things to happen. But there is a big difference between allowing something to happen and causing it.

You’re right. But if you see somebody attempting murder, and you do nothing to stop it, you’re not exactly an upstanding citizen. That’s one reason I don’t revere the Biblical character of God: when he’s not causing misery, he’s standing by and watching it happen.

Would love move you to end the suffering and the injustice you see in the world? If you had the power to do that, would you do it? Of course you would! You can be just as sure that God will end suffering and injustice.

If I could, I’d end suffering and injustice immediately – and in fact I and many other people are working to expedite the end of unhappiness. The Christian’s loving god is twiddling his thumbs.

Imagine-you can become a friend of the Creator of the universe!

“Imagine” is precisely the correct wording.

The Bible is scientifically accurate. It even contains information that was far ahead of its time. For example, the book of Leviticus contained laws for ancient Israel on quarantine and hygiene when surrounding nations knew nothing about such matters…Of course, the Bible is not a science textbook. But when it touches on scientific matters, it is accurate.

First of all, shouldn’t a book inspired by the all-knowing creator of the universe be better than just ahead of its time? Shouldn’t it be really freaking accurate – and not just in vague terms such as the shape of the earth?

Moreover, have you read some of the shit in Leviticus? Leviticus 24:16 calls for the stoning of blasphemers. Leviticus 20:9 requires death for children who curse their parents. Leviticus 27:3-7 values women (in monetary terms) at 50-60 percent the value of a man.

Yeah…this is information “far ahead of its time.”

The Bible’s principles apply to all people, and its counsel is always beneficial.

Try telling that to people who have endured slavery because their oppressors knew the Bible justifies it.

[God] decided that time was needed to answer Satan’s challenge in a satisfying way and to prove that the Devil is a liar. So God determined that he would permit humans to rule themselves for some time under Satan’s influence.

What’s a few anguishing deaths to prove a point?

At one time, some of Jesus’ own relatives did not put faith in him, even saying that he was “out of his mind.”

These are the people who deserve to be remembered 2000 years later.

As you grow in knowledge of Jehovah, your love for him will deepen. In turn, that love will make you want to please him.

Emphasis mine – but the gay sexual imagery in this book is pretty heavy for a group so opposed to homosexuality.

What makes Jesus an outstanding King? For one thing, he will never die.

We actually put limits on terms leaders can serve for good reason. I’d hate to have a leader serve indefinitely. This is a terrible quality.

…we see that there will be war between God’s Kingdom and the kingdoms of this world. God’s Kingdom will be victorious…Then humans will enjoy the best rulership they have ever known.

It’s not much of a war if God has already predetermined the winner, is it?

Also, was Christopher Hitchens ever more right than when he said that wanting this inescapable rulership is the “wish to be a slave“?

If you obey Jehovah, you too can become his friend!

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Jesus and John sure were white for a couple of folks living in the desert of the Middle East.

A friend who requires obedience as a prerequisite for camaraderie is no friend at all.

But God is the one who says how he should be worshiped, and the Bible teaches that he does not want us to use images.

Similarly, God dictates that if we want to masturbate, we are only to use pornographic literature – never videos.

When you first learned what the Bible really teaches, did you find that your heart began to burn with joy, zeal, and love for God?

Well, I definitely had heart burn.

I did learn some about Jehovah’s Witnesses after reading this book. For instance, I knew that they refuse to celebrate holidays or birthdays, but I didn’t know that they are also encouraged to refuse gifts from friendly givers around these times. Of course, they offer a very satisfactory consolation to the poor children of these parents:

One of the best gifts you can give your children is your time and loving attention.

I was also surprised when I learned that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in a soul or spirit that exists outside of the body. They don’t believe that when we die our spirits travel to another realm.

The life we enjoy is like the flame of a candle. When the flame is put out, it does not go anywhere. It is simply gone.

Of course, they do believe that God will resurrect all the dead bodies worthy of eternal life and destroy the ones who aren’t. So there’s that.

Additionally, I learned that Jehovah’s Witnesses abstain from taking sides in politics. Though they are staunchly opposed to abortion, they choose to maintain political neutrality in worldly governmental procedures.

I used to think of Jehovah’s Witnesses as a weird sect of Christianity. It turns out that they believe most of the same things that other branches of Christianity believe, just without any of the feel-good doctrines that make a religion mildly tolerable. No meeting your relatives in the afterlife; no celebrations of birthdays or holidays – who wants to believe in nonsense completely barren of any redeeming qualities?

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Pump the Brakes on Praising the Pope

Image credit: Wikipedia commons

“We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible,” he said. “The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

These are the words that have sent shockwaves across the Internet for their profundity and progressiveness. Seemingly every news outlet in the United States has covered the “ground-breaking” words of Pope Francis, but are we really paying attention to what he said?

At first glance, it’s not surprising that the Pope’s statement would impress much of the world. After all, his predecessor was proudly evil. At this point, the fact that Pope Francis hasn’t outwardly defended pedophiles makes him look a saint. But if we extract Francis’s words from the context of the Catholic church and view them against what should be expected of any decent human being, Pope Francis still falls short of being admirable.

Had the Pope said that the Catholic church should embrace gay priests (male and female) and marriage equality, that would be notable. Had he acknowledged that comprehensive sex education and access to contraceptives were important sexual health and started fighting for these programs, that would have been notable. Had he condemned the lies the church has spread regarding abortion and started campaigning for bodily autonomy, that would have been notable.

All the Pope said was that the church shouldn’t focus solely on those issues.

Talk about a game-changer.

The Pope also confirmed that he remains on the wrong side of those issues – at the end of the aforementioned quote and then again in a statement he issued on Saturday.

Pope Francis offered an olive branch of sorts to the doctrine-minded, conservative wing of the Catholic Church on Friday as he denounced abortions as a symptom of today’s “throw-away culture” and encouraged Catholic doctors to refuse to perform them.

Sorry everyone – Pope Francis isn’t the liberal revolutionary the media is making him out to be. Just another peddler of hateful Catholic doctrine.

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Distinguishing Between Fiction and Reality

Today I stumbled upon an article published in The Telegram of Worcester, Mass. It is titled “When atheists turn to God,” and it is completely bizarre. I encourage you to read it.

Anyway, I couldn’t let such a strange piece go unchallenged, and the comments section didn’t seem the forum for a rebuttal, so I decided to write a letter to the editor in order to voice my thoughts. The full text of my letter is below:

Dear Mr. Sinacola,

At the outset of Dr. Gary Welton’s recent As I See It article, “When atheists turn to God,” it appears that Dr. Welton is preparing to present a rebuttal to the American Humanist Association’s latest lawsuit to have “under God” removed from the Pledge of Allegiance. He had the opportunity to guide readers to reasons he believes this lawsuit misguided, which could have generated genuinely interesting conversation about the implications of the phrase and the impact of the lawsuit.

Instead he elected to deliver a strange lesson in literature.

After briefly introducing us to the AHA case, Dr. Welton sets forth a barrage of quotes related to the initial subject in varying degrees. Why Dr. Welton chose to use fiction as the backbone for his article concerning real issues is beyond me. It’s one thing to utilize an excerpt from literature to bolster one’s argument; it’s another thing entirely to build a whole article out of quotes. In total, Dr. Welton’s article consists of 12 paragraphs of literary quotes and only six paragraphs of original material.

However, what is more concerning than Dr. Welton’s uninventive writing style is his conformity to the notion that, when faced with strife, atheists also turn to a higher power. If Dr. Welton had taken the time to talk to nonbelievers to discover how they cope with trying situations – rather than regurgitate quotes – he might have found that atheists have established a number of ways to deal with tragedy and hard times in a purely secular way. Greta Christina, a prominent atheist blogger, has written extensively on the topic.

Atheists have a hard enough time in this deeply religious country without people like Dr. Welton spreading lies about our behavior. I’d like to invite Dr. Welton to join me in a conversation about what life as an atheist is really like. I’ve found that one of the best ways to increase understanding of atheists is for believers to actually meet them, and I’m not sure that Dr. Welton ever has.

Though atheist characters in popular fiction might display a tendency to drift back to the supernatural, nonbelievers in real life have a much different story to tell.

Timothy Pate 

Washington, D.C.

I genuinely hope to hear back from The Telegram, and I hope that this letter will lead to conversations with Dr. Welton. I will post any developments on this site.

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