Divorce is wrong*

Recently I had the opportunity to spend some time with a couple I love very much and it was great to get to see them and chat and all that. These two also have chosen to be fundamentalist Christians. As with many (most?) fundamentalists, this association is very important to them and defines their identity. During our conversation, the subject of marriage and divorce came up. Excuses were made for divorce that are just nagging at me. It’s another case where folks like these use the Bible however they see fit. On one hand, homosexuality is condemned unequivocally as wrong on its face. But Jesus never said one word about homosexuality. Jesus had as much to say about The Gay as he did about The Who. The same evangelicals march in lockstep and wring their hands over the evils of abortion. They spend their lives petitioning the government to force women to carry unwanted pregnancies and forego their own right to life and pursuit of happiness, while the other side of their mouths decry government intrusion and overreach. And the list goes on.
But something Jesus did specifically express disdain for is divorce. Jesus (or words later authors ascribed to the character) specifically said not to get divorced. Jesus didn’t say “don’t be gay”, but he did say “don’t get divorced”. He didn’t say “well, unless it’s inconvenient to stay married”. Related and in case it’s not totally clear, “don’t commit adultery” is one of the Ten Commandments. They want to engrave one of the versions of these Commandments on massive granite blocks and embed them in front of public buildings so everyone will turn from their wickedness, but they don’t care as much about actually living it themselves unless it’s convenient. A clerk who has been married many times won’t give out a marriage license to a gay couple, and the modern-day Pharisees flock to her defense. 8ca43fbf9cf6d09e8ccd89f966c8e861This is yet another reason why the Founding Fathers specified religion can’t form the basis of our laws, freeing us from the worries of Sharia Law, be it from Muslims or Christians. People don’t obey even the most basic precepts of their religion, yet they often want everyone else to obey. Christians make up more of a majority in the U.S. than most other “Christian” countries, yet half of all marriages end in divorce, which is literally forbidden by God and their savior. If religious people spent less time moralizing to others (and brainwashing their children and rejecting science) and instead just lived what they ostensibly believe and held themselves to their alleged standards, atheists like me would spend less time bothering them for their hypocrisy. But as history has and always will continue to exhibit, that’s just not going to happen.

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Blame Robert Ingersoll

I had the opportunity have breakfast with my father today because it’s his birthday, and I hope to have many more breakfasts with him. Like many Ohioans, I planned to move away from here one day, but recently gave up and stayed largely because my parents remain here. The chance to have a regular breakfast with my father is worth more to me than getting out of this [insert adjective here] state. But hopefully every breakfast doesn’t inspire a blog post or I’ll never get anything else done.

There are many downsides to publicly revealing one’s lack of adoption of the local deity(s) err atheism. Most religious adherents seem to think atheism is a way out of responsibility (so you can do whatever you want!), even though it’s quite the opposite. Or the faithful believe it’s helpful in life or business to be a non-Christian, when it almost always is not. Atheists remain the most feared and least trusted group in America. I imagine there are similarities to coming out of the closet, but at least nowadays there seems to be growing societal pressure to accept homosexuality, and sexuality is also a taboo topic in most professional situations. Religion though is often tolerated in the workplace and sometimes is even front-and-center. *cough* Hobby Lobby *cough*

One of the more regrettable downsides to coming out atheist is when people you love dearly feel the need to try to determine what they did “wrong”. There’s (apparently) discussion that ensues too among like-minded family members about factors or triggers or incidents. What caused it? What singular event pushed this otherwise decent human being away from believing in my particular god?

For instance my grandmother PBUH has this theory that mostly involves my divorce some years ago (since remarried, happily). Grandma is pretty sure this scarring event made me turn away from God/Allah, because obviously since this young woman scorned me, I must scorn the regional deity as alas he has forsaken me. This is of course silly (and pretty certain Grandma would wrongly argue God and Allah are two different entities too, but that’s another topic). I’ve never met the atheist who quit believing in their god because of some event. It’s a process to undo the indoctrination unwittingly received as a child and begin to welcome honest inquiry, delve into science and scientific methods, and develop critical thinking skills. Some people never do these all things, and some people do them and still happily cling to their faith beliefs. But coming to atheism is a process, not a revelation. Atheism isn’t something emotional you feel in communion, you don’t “come to it” like you do Jesus or experience something mystical…it’s quite the opposite. It’s a conclusion and a conscious decision following an arduous intellectual journey. It’s why atheists know more about religion than religious people. Most have done their homework. That’s not to say atheism is the only logical conclusion for smart people – many otherwise intelligent people are also people of faith. It just means there’s much more to becoming an atheist than this one time that one thing happened so I hate God. Ultimately I just don’t believe in God/Allah, Krishna, Thor, or any other god that has ever been or will ever be because I see no evidence for gods. The God Theory is wholly unsupported by the evidence. That’s all.

My father was and remains a great role model, a fine and intelligent man who I have and will always respect. He encouraged me to read, learn, study, and think for myself, and I thank him for that. He raised a son that doesn’t require an ever-watchful, angry and jealous (yet surprisingly silent) deity to be a decent human being. It is therefore saddening when the people you care most about have to feel a need to search for reasons for their “failing” – or worse even find reasons to blame themselves – for something that ultimately seems inconsequential to the nonbeliever.

Let’s hope our next breakfast doesn’t generate a blog post! But no matter, I will still look forward to it, because my dad is the best and I cherish any time I get to spend with him.

Your God Has No Power

I write this from a Christian perspective because I am a Westerner, but the sentiment can equally be applied to Jesus, prophet Mohammed PBUH, Hindu gods, Satan, and should you have one, most certainly your god too. To Buddha’s credit, at least he said himself that he had no power.

No matter what you believe, most of the world does not believe the same. That’s because it’s easy for people who believe in gods to accuse others’ gods of having no power, because they don’t. No one believes in Thor, or Zeus, or Tarhunt, or the thousands of other gods that have littered our evolution. We reject them because they have no discernible power. They can’t do anything. But neither can the current crop of gods. This lack of evidence got many humans down to just one god, basically a “Gaia” all-in-one universalist god. This capital-G god then immediately fractures into thousands of sects, because that one god also has no discernible power. All-knowing, all-seeing god that can’t even clear up basic points of order. Jews, who begat the main monotheistic god that undergirds their beliefs as well as those of Christians and Muslims can’t be convinced Jesus was the Prophet (nor Mohammed PBUH). The Mormons can add another prophet and storyline and tower-babel-space-stationnarrative bits for the same reason the Muslims could a long time ago, because there’s no evidence for any of it. One freaking burning bush that talks pops up in real life and there would be no atheists. But there are no talking burning bushes. No one expects there to be. Because that’s silly.

The faithful say “Jesus is all-powerful! Oh Lord, my life is in your hands! Through prayer anything is possible!” and on and on ad nauseam. The thing is, faith and prayer don’t do anything to make anything possible beyond motivating and focusing the (very human) mind. Your all-powerful deities and prophets can’t do anything that gods should be able to do:

  • can’t perform any miracles
  • doesn’t answer prayers
  • doesn’t grant powers to anyone
  • can’t do anything on demand, even the simplest thing
  • can’t stop death or resurrect anyone
  • can’t heal amputees – not even one
  • can’t heal anything without doctors and hospitals and science
  • can’t sanitize water err make it holy
  • can’t get money without begging for it or requiring it or swindling people out of it
  • can’t do anything even remotely detectable

This lack of efficacy is because it is all made up. You keep saying your god and savior has power because you have to convince yourself, due to the lack of evidence. The only place your god or anyone serving your god has any power is in your old storybooks. Rev. Pat Robertson was asked why we don’t see miracles, and his replies are telling: because we are educated, and because we have cameras – miracles happen where uneducated people don’t have any way to record it. Still, the internet is everywhere (even in poor uneducated places), but not one miracle is posted on YouTube.

Jesus said he was coming right back, never did, generation after generation. Yet 40% of Americans (and more faithful around the world) are sure he’s coming back in their lifetime. Yet another tell as to why religious conservatives are such a sought after voting bloc – because they will believe anything, and order their life around it, but require no positive evidence of it at all and will even believe even in the face of contradicting evidence. They will do the same about economic policy, climate policy, taxation policy, because that’s how they are. They believe in unsubstantiated old goat herder religion but don’t believe all the carbon dioxide we are putting in the atmosphere has ill effects. And it goes on and on.

I most certainly don’t worry the fate of my soul, publishing this – I worry much more about crazy religious fundamentalists than anyone’s god, because gods have no power.