Tag Archives: jesus

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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Frank Turner Isn’t a Subtle Atheist

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Frank Turner
Image credit: Wikipedia Commons

It’s not a secret that many musicians have given up on religion. From the outwardly atheist band, Bad Religion, to Bjork, plenty of prominent artists have confessed their lack of belief. Others, such as Macklemore and Green Day, include lyrics in their songs that condemn the actions or beliefs of the religious.

Yesterday, Denver alternative-rock radio station 93.3 hosted its annual “Kegs & Eggs” St. Patrick’s Day celebration, which features an early-morning rock concert and – you guessed it – beer and eggs. Among the artists performing at this year’s event was Frank Turner, whose song “If Ever I Stray” has earned him rapidly increasing popularity in the past few months.

I wasn’t able to attend the live event, but 93.3 aired the concert live on its station. Turner performed a song that I had never heard, “Glory Hallelujah.”

Brothers and sisters, have you heard the news?
The storm has lifted and there’s nothing to lose,
So swap your confirmation for your dancing shoes,
Because there never was no God.
Step out of the darkness and onto the streets,
Forget about the fast, let’s have a carnival feast,
Raise up your lowered head to hear the liberation beat,
Because there never was no God.

There is no God,
So clap your hands together,
There is no God,
No heaven and no hell.
There is no God,
We’re all in this together,
There is no God,
So ring that victory bell.

No cowering in the dark before these overbearing priests,
Not waiting until we die until we restitute the meek,
No blaming all our failings on imaginary beasts,
Because there never was no God.
No fighting over land your distant fathers told you of,
Not spilling blood for those who have never spread a drop of blood,
No finger pointing justified by fairies up above,
Because there never was no God.

There is no God,
So clap your hands together,
There is no God,
No heaven and no hell.
There is no God,
We’re all in this together,
There is no God,
So ring that victory bell.

And I know you’re scared of dieing man and I am too,
But just pretending it’s not happening isn’t gonna see us through,
So just accept that there’s an end game and we haven’t got much time,
And then in the here and now we can try and do things right.
Forget about the crazy things that people have believed,
And think of wondrous things that normal people have achieved,
‘Cos I’ve known beauty in the stillness of cathedrals in the day,
I sang Glory Hallelujah! Won’t you wash my sins away?
But now I’m singing my refrain and this is what I say,
I say there never was no God.

There is no God,
So clap your hands together,
There is no God,
No heaven and no hell.
There is no God,
We’re all in this together,
There is no God,
So ring that victory bell.

It’s nice to see atheism nonchalantly becoming part of pop culture. Turner’s song is an uplifting anthem for nonbelievers. Here’s hoping it resonates with those who felt they were alone in their atheism.

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A very confused argument against homosexuality

On my last post, in which I chastised Rob Schwarzwalder for his dimwitted argument against homosexuals in the Boy Scouts, I received a comment that contained only a link. I clicked the link, and I was taken to a very short blog post. The person who posted the comment left no context to indicate the meaning of the link, so I will have to assume that it was meant as a rebuttal to my argument. I would like to take this opportunity, then, to break down the argument I found in this little blog post, here on my own blog.

It starts:

To the advocates of homosexual marriage: what is the purpose of sex? “The expression of love between two people in a committed relationship.” Wonderful.

Whoa there. You don’t get to answer the question that you posed to someone of an opposing viewpoint. If you’d like to debate, you have to address the points they make; not the points you imagine they would make given your question. That’s called attacking a straw man, and it doesn’t bode well for you.

As for your assumption, I take issue with all three points. First, sex does not have to be an expression of love. In many cases it is simply an expression of attraction. In others it is an expression of love. And in the case of rape, it is an expression of power. Second, sex is not limited to people in committed relationships. One night stands are just as legitimate a form of sex as is marital sex. And finally, sex is not confined to only two people – to which the adventurous among us can attest.

It sounds to me as though you have simply defined where you find meaning in sex. It’s a perfectly acceptable stance for you to take, but do not assume that your definition is representative of the entire human population.

This means you find prostitution immoral. It contravenes the purpose of sex.

Do I? Maybe I do, maybe I don’t. You don’t know, because you’re making up an argument that is totally unsubstantiated by the words of your opponent. In my case, I do find prostitution immoral in most situations, but not because it violates your narrow definition of sex. When I philosophize to determine whether or not I find something to be immoral, I take into consideration a number of factors – foremost whether the act causes any type of harm to a person or a group of people. In the case of prostitution, many woman and men are harmed because of the act. In some cases, they are forced into it. In others, they are abused by their pimps. One could also consider the implications prostitution has on women as a group – does it lend to the continuing objectification of women? Does it create a system in which some women feel the only way to provide for themselves is by selling their bodies? These are the questions I ask, rather than does it contradict my view for how sex should take place.

Now, do I find prostitution immoral in all cases? I doubt it. If a consenting adult pays another consenting adult money to teach the first adult something about sex, is it prostitution? In countries such as the Netherlands, where prostitution is a unionized profession, do the women choose the job voluntarily? These are complex questions to which your binary test cannot be applied. It is foolhardy for you to think such dilemmas are so simple.

Does this, therefore, make you unscientific, hate-filled and whorophobic? You’d likely reply, “No.”

What we have here is a false comparison. Opposing homosexuality because of religious reasons is by definition unscientific. My approach to the question of prostitution must be carried out scientifically, and I am not relying on my subjective morals to come to a conclusion. Furthermore, though I’m opposed to men (by and large) taking advantage of prostitutes, I’m not attacking the rights of the prostitutes in order to solve the problem. See the difference?

You would contest such a description because you understand the following: (1) moral judgment requires man be free, no matter what the Calvinists and philosophers say; (2) any behavior could be said to be partially induced by genetics, especially having a mistress; and (3) the moral vision that supplied you with the purpose of sex is not a matter or product of scientific inquiry.

Such convoluted reasoning (again coming from the viewpoint of your absurd strawman) is difficult to follow, but I’ll give it my best shot. (1) If I understand correctly, you’re proposing that in order to determine something to be moral or immoral, humans must have the ability to make decisions, which can then be judged to be good or bad. I would probably agree, but free will is a tricky subject that you have again condensed far too much. (2) If you’re going to propose that behavior could be the result, even if partially, of genetics, why emphasize having a mistress? That seems an odd non sequitur. (3) No, the moral vision that you supplied for the purpose of sex is not the product of scientific inquiry. I think that determining the purpose of sex is definitely a matter of scientific inquiry. And, as I have mentioned, I think that determining whether or not something is moral must be done scientifically as well.

If the Fool were to say that the purpose of sex was fun and babies, you might grow worried over where such a philosophy would lead.

Are you referring to yourself in the third person as “the Fool”? Anyway, if you were to say that the purpose of sex was fun and babies, I’d say you likely would have a healthier understanding of sex than you do currently, but that’s really a subjective personal issue. I would have no quarrel with that definition of the purpose of sex (such a silly concept in the first place).

You might not be mollified by my assurances that the moral envelope would not be pushed further. You might claim that my formulation of sex’s purpose was self-serving. And the Fool might reply: that’s what a whorophobe would say.

You’re lucky I took a look at the tags you added to this post; otherwise I might not have noticed that you were trying to make an argument for the slippery slope of accepting homosexuality. Either way, the point you are so poorly trying to make has already been shredded. What, in your mind, is the envelope that might be pushed should advocates of gay marriage have their way? And would you please address the implied negativity of sex being self-serving? A freshman course in logic would serve you well in this arena.

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Lent and the Unthinking Child

Today I would like to talk more narratively and less analytically. I’d like to share a piece of my story and demonstrate how it shaped who I am today. As the observance of Lent begins tomorrow, Feb. 13, I would like to go back to a time when I was earnestly seeking a religion to adopt – a time when external pressures, rather than internal navigation, shaped my beliefs.

For most of my younger years, religion provided a sense of community and belonging rather than any sort of spiritual fulfillment. My parents raised me in the Church of Christ Science (a nomenclature possessive of such hilarity that it is only exceeded by its treachery), where I soon discovered that I resided in the boondocks of mainstream Christianity. Indeed, my school-yard friends were occasionally fond of teasing me for not being a “real Christian.”

I maintained the faith barely into my double-digit years, when I finally succumbed to the prospect of joining the ranks of my normal Christian friends: those who didn’t say things like, “There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter.” When they encountered illness and injury, they didn’t attempt to “know the truth”; they went to the doctor immediately. (I was fortunate to have moderate Christian Science parents and received necessary medical attention. I am grateful that they have since completely shucked the absurdity of the Christian Science doctrine.) Ironically, I was seeking a group of people who I considered “more faithful” – I too began viewing Christian Science as a phony faith.

Willing to let me explore outside of the religion, my parents allowed and even facilitated for me to attend different services. I sampled Catholic, non-demoninational, Baptist, Mormon, and Lutheran services (marvel at the diversity!), and found a home with the Lutherans. The primary reason for my choice? The music, of course. Weary with the monotonous hymnals of Christian Science, I devoured the contemporary music of the Lutheran church. The drums, the bass, the guitar! That stuffy old organ finally gave way to something that resembled the music to which I listened on my own time.

Of course, I figured my parents would deem such reasoning illegitimate, so I created additional justifications. I connected with the message of the sermon. The creed of the church aligned with my beliefs. Hell, this church was God’s choice for me!

I did genuinely enjoy the youth atmosphere in the church. My introduction to the church came by way of a friend who already attended, and with him I enrolled in the church’s confirmation program. I immediately attached myself to the vibrant pastor (a man whom I still respect), and was eager to ingrain myself in the faith – to finally become a real Christian! I participated in all the extracurricular activities and for awhile truly enjoyed becoming a stronger Lutheran.

When the season of Lent arrived, I assumed that Lutherans sacrificed something as did the Catholics. After all, they were all part of the “in” faiths, those that I deemed normal. Surely their practices were pretty similar as well. So, when pizza was the meal for a youth night, I was nothing but proud to announce to the youth pastor that I had given up pizza for lent.

How quickly my “beliefs” changed when I discovered that Lent did not involve such sacrifice in the Lutheran religion. If Lutherans did not demand that I forfeit an earthly pleasure for the season, then of course God didn’t make any such demands either. I grabbed a slice of pizza.

Richard Dawkins describes one of the objectives of his book The God Delusion near the beginning: he hopes that we stop describing children as having faith but rather being the offspring of faithful parents. His point is pertinent: many children, dare I say most, who subscribe to a religion do so only because they have been indoctrinated into said faith. Even the young, curious religious explorer like me isn’t capable of evaluating such choices. That is not to say that all young believers are insincere – simply that understanding the implications and foundations of faith requires critical thinking beyond the capacity of nearly all children.

The act of engaging in Lent is likely the least of the worries we should have for the children indoctrinated into the Christian faith. The unthinking child is to be protected, nurtured and taught to think critically – it is simply too often that religious leaders instead elect to exploit the fresh minds of their youngest followers.

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