Monday, July 11, 2016

Guns. Drawn.

I’ve previously stuck to themes related to leaving Christianity on this blog, but occasionally I have thoughts about other things I want to write about and share. Not to mention, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything. So, as they say on Monty Python: "And now for something completely different."

Earlier this morning I was reminded of another senseless act of gun violence that took place just outside of New York City over in New Jersey. A couple of grown men (I won’t say what color their skin was because that wouldn’t be politically correct) decided to settle their differences by blasting away at one another. One of them was left dead in the aftermath. Apparently he had openly disrespected the other one to some of his friends. Naturally, when the authorities started investigating the shooting, everyone who was present said they saw nothing. Eventually a grand jury indicted the killer for murder, but he fled the arrest warrant.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Messages in the Sky

The initial inclination for me typically is to roll my eyes at the kind of stuff where Christians see messages in the sky specifically for them. Don't misunderstand. I'm not trying to ridicule anyone here, especially someone who is dealing with loss. But I often wonder if by embracing reality, I'm missing out on living in a perceived world in which people I loved who are now dead can communicate with me by making abstract patterns with tiny water droplets resting on condensation nuclei (read: cloud shapes).

Even when I was a Christian, this sort of folksy approach to religion completely eluded me. That's probably because I thought through this stuff when I was about six, not long after my grandfather died. Adults around me were talking about how my grandfather was looking down on me from heaven, but I had already concluded that wouldn't jibe with the religious paradigm from which I was working. Besides, six-year-old me much preferred the idea that grandpa was far, far away in some other dimension where he couldn't see me, particularly when I waited longer to seek out a bathroom than my disproportionately-undersized bladder could handle and accidentally pissed my pants. Fourteen-year-old me preferred the idea that my dead grandpa couldn't see me for different reasons.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Christianity: It's Toasted!

In the first episode of Mad Men, the guys at Sterling Cooper ad agency are meeting with Lucky Strike and looking for a viable pitch for their ad campaign. The cigarette company is faced with the problem that they can no longer tout the safety of their product and they have no way to distinguish themselves from their competitors. Things are going south and Sterling Cooper is about to lose its biggest client until Don Draper steps in: 

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Post-Apostasy Correspondence Saga: My Exchanges with Church Leaders

Warning: this post is long. Specifically it's about 26,000 words long or about 44 printed pages. I thought about breaking it up into a few different posts, but that wouldn't really fit my purpose. I'm mainly just looking for a place to dump this on my blog, so here it is. I apologize that after almost a year without posting I'm marking my return with something like this, but I had a recent, unexpected, and encouraging phone call from someone from my past that brought all these events to mind and prompted me to do it.

A few times on this blog I've alluded to the response my wife and I received from the PCA church we were active members of at the time of our deconversion. Outside of work and home, it was pretty much our world. I've also mentioned that not a single person from that church remained friends with us in any meaningful sense. At least one former good friend stated he would never set foot in my house or even meet with me in person until we repented. Others unfriended us on Facebook. A couple of my wife's friends seemed to be willing to at least correspond, but they said they needed some time first. That was three years ago.

I saved nearly all of the correspondence we received during that period. I've been hesitant to share much of it on this blog, but I recently had a conversation with someone who was privy to some of the things that were communicated to the congregation of the church by the session of elders in the aftermath of our departure. Based on that person's recollections, it would seem the elders told the congregation not to interact with us lest we poison them. In light of that unsurprising revelation, I've decided to publish the exchanges I had with the elders, the details of which they no doubt withheld from the congregants. I've redacted names and places. Mainly I'm excluding them so people performing Internet searches on those specific names won't end up getting linked here.

In retrospect, now three years removed from these exchanges, I think it was a mistake to allow the elders and the senior pastor in particular to control the narrative fully in the way we did. If I had to do it all over again, I might be tempted to avoid phone conversations, stick strictly to email interactions, and then cc everyone in the church directory on the entire exchange so they could see for themselves how it all went down. Something like that had briefly crossed my mind, but I never seriously considered it. At the time I didn't want to risk burning bridges, nor did I want to fit into the narrative of being out to deliberately hurt people. In the end, the elders were going to burn plenty of bridges for us so it didn't really matter.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Inerrant, Infallible Word of George Lucas

I recently saw a Facebook thread in which Star Wars fans were explaining the odd design of the Millennium Falcon. The question was raised regarding why the cockpit is on the side of the craft rather than in the middle, a design flaw that makes visually navigating something like a ridiculously jam-packed asteroid field even more difficult than the 3,720 to 1 success ratio certain protocol droids might estimate. The consensus was that it was primarily designed to be a cargo vessel and was later modified as a smuggling vessel. That makes some sense until one looks at the similarly flawed design of the B-Wing, which was supposed to be a heavy attack craft in the Star Wars universe. Other explanations had to be offered for that apparent flaw. All the while interlocutors were pointing out the obvious: it looks freakin' cool and was part of the imagination of the filmmakers, so who cares? It's just a movie.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Think of the Children

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Matthew 16:6 (KJV)
I've briefly mentioned my children before and the role they played in my apostasy and how my wife and I took very seriously what we understood to be our duty as parents to raise our children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. We were intent on diligently teaching his commands to them, speaking of them when we sat in our house or walked by the way. Not only did we feel compelled by scriptural mandates and encouraged by our church's culture, we also had other, stronger motives to completely inundate them with Christian dogma.

For my wife's part, she had never felt her faith was authentically experienced. Any time she heard a sermon about what preachers would call "coattails Christianity" – an expression meant to convey the idea that one's relationship with God is vicarious and that one is attempting to ride the coattails of another, usually parents, into heaven – she would worry that she was one of those people. While she never doubted the existence of God and wholeheartedly believed the gospel message, she constantly doubted her salvation because the whole thing never felt real in the way others seemed to think it should. Things like prayer had to be forced and and did not come naturally. She felt she could never understand the Bible on her own when she read it, much less explain it to someone else.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Mistakes of Moses Expanded Universe: Genesis 32

In this installment Jacob meets some heavenly messengers on a camping trip to earth. He comes up with a plan to handle his approaching brother only to later abandon it. Finally, he has a nocturnal romp with a divine being resulting in a limp, a name change, and a whole lot of interpretive difficulty. Did you think the story in the last installment was a little difficult for conservative Bible expositors to wrestle with? Well, LET'S GET READY TO RUM....hold on a sec....I don't want to have to send a fat check to Michael Buffer. Let's just get started.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

My Sandcastle Faith

Source: Wikipedia
Neil Carter has a post over at the Recovering from Religion blog wherein he shares a snapshot of his personal journey from an old journal entry.* I think I kept a journal for about a minute when I was fourteen or fifteen and gave it up about the time I got my first job. I haven't looked at it in forever, but I'm sure it's filled with mostly angsty adolescent nonsense about girls I liked who didn't seem to like me back. Neil's journal entry reflects the thoughts of a contemplative twenty-nine-year-old father of three reflecting on the very nature of reality. Probably a bit more weighty by comparison.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Afterlife Demographics

In addition to Neil Carter, I count several of the blog moderators over at Godless in Dixie among my friends. Yeah, I'm name-dropping. People know me. Deal with it. Anyway, one of those mods is an ex-Christian who goes by the handle Thought2Much. His name, of course, is a reference to the reason why he deconverted. Now, before you get in a huff, thinking Christian, don't assume that this in any way implies that I'm saying Christians don't or can't think. You are unlikely to ever hear me say that I think all Christians are stupid or incapable of deep thought and reflection. After all, my last stop on the faith train was hardly a brand of anti-intellectual Christianity.

What I am referring to is thinking too much about certain doctrines or propositions found within Christianity that, when brought to conclusion, lend themselves to some silly things that often make one sit up, give pause, and question the validity of the entire scheme. There are plenty of these we could look at, but this time around I'd like to focus on what happens when we combine some standard Christian assumptions about the afterlife and view the end result.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Mistakes of Moses Expanded Universe: Genesis 30:25 - 31:55

This time around we find some rather odd labor negotiations, we see Jacob up to his old tricks again using sympathetic magic to make himself rich (or maybe not), we have some fun at the expense of two thousand years worth of Bible commentators, and finally we witness a treaty that stood meaningless for a millennium.