Lucifer Isn’t Such a Bad Guy

Image found here.

Image found here.

Mostly because he doesn’t exist. That being said, there are plenty of people out there who believe in the existence of a being called “Lucifer.” Not only that, there are people who believe Lucifer is synonymous with Satan, arch-nemesis of God – the proverbial Dr. Claw to Inspector Gadget. A bit of a disclaimer: I was one of those people who grew up thinking that Lucifer was the Devil. Like a good Christian, I didn’t question what was taught to me.

As it turns out, the idea that Lucifer is Satan is from a mis-reading of the Bible.

Lucifer might be referring to someone else.
This article points out that Lucifer as a proper name comes from a translation from the Latin Vulgate Bible into the King James Version. Saint Jerome, writing in Latin because it was the only proper language of learning at the time, frequently used Latin terms to illustrate texts he translated from Hebrew and Greek. The word “Lucifer” first pops up in his manuscripts. When the Crown decided it wanted a Bible in English, they took Saint Jerome at his word – literally.

Interestingly enough, nobody caught the Latin word amidst a sea of Hebrew. Or, more precisely, no one caught that the proper name of Lucifer stood out like a sore thumb. It gets proper name treatment instead of investigation, and there we have how Lucifer is synonymous with Satan. From there, we get nifty origin stories and allusions to end-time shenanigans.

Just a cursory examination of Hebrew texts might have avoided the problem in England. Apparently in the Hebrew, the idea expressed by the word “Lucifer” actually referred to the planet Venus. This was a Hebrew metaphor for a fallen Babylonian king. As it turns out, of all the things in the Bible which could have been verified with historical evidence, Lucifer actually might be one of them. The only problem is that one must abandon conflating Lucifer with Satan.

Why this matters to deconverts like me.
It’s not every day I get to do research into what I used to believe and come away with being able to poke fun at it. Lucifer, Satan, the Devil, Mephistopheles – all are but a few of the terms used to keep people afraid of something. As my older brother put it, Hell is something that is used to keep people in line. The ruler of Hell is no different.

If this concept is so important, and Hell is so really real, then how can Christendom get its arch-villain so wrong? One very real way of looking at it is to admit that there is an error in the Bible, a very human error, with very human consequences. Another way of looking at it is that Satan never was real in the first place. There are no monsters under the bed, and so I can sleep more soundly. I find it always welcome to come across information which makes threats of damnation look sillier.

Taking the threat of damnation, evil beings with the intent to cause harm, and other ideas like it is important. Remember: it’s one half of the toxic Christian message. Sin, damnation, and an evil being waiting to get you are ideas which are used to manipulate people into believing they are inherently flawed. Take that message away, and there is no need to run in fear to Christianity.

I think the world can do with a little less fear-mongering. How about you?

“Do Not Link” and Why I Use It

Roughseas recently wrote this post with regards to being accused for “baiting” someone by using proper academic (and journalistic) integrity by citing to sources. Generally I do the same thing; it’s my own personal means of making sure that others do not have to take my word for what I’m quoting. There are times where I do fail to cite specific quotes, but when people ask for examples, I try my best to provide them.

While Roughseas was dealing with the fallout of properly attributing words to people, Ark wrote about a post he found broadly attributing claims to Atheists with no source. That other post can be found here. I asked the author of that post if he could provide an example of Atheists blaming God, to which he professed that he did not keep records of all the instances he found. He did assure me they were out there.

I was talking to Ark about it, and he notified me of a comment in this post where that author makes this claim, “I have had hundreds of atheists tell me they hate God as He is portrayed in the Bible over the years.” In case you noticed, I used Do Not Link to cite to that last post.

Why the difference?
In the year that I’ve been blogging, I’ve witnessed claims like the one above where Atheists are attributed with statements they did not make, or at the least there are no examples provided. Because of how these quotes are used (to portray Atheists as misguided, cowards, volatile, and militant to name a few adjectives), I have been faced with a moral dilemma.

My educational background both in undergrad and in law school trained me to cite sources. In other words, if I am going to dispute something someone says, I need to refer people to that source. This is fundamentally fair, because people can then double-check my analysis and make an informed opinion. People are free to disagree with me.

However, I have encountered bloggers who make all kinds of statements. I’m an Atheist blogger, and I care about what people say which projects an image about Atheists to people who might not know better. So when I encountered a blogger making statements like this about why Atheists really disbelieve the Bible, I had to say something (also note in the comments about how he arbitrarily removes posts). (Here is a link to the marker indicating the original author removed the post; I referred to it in my post here). What I told that blogger was that his view was wrong, and he informed me that he was under no compunction to change what he said.

This presented me with a dilemma.
You can go to the site and peruse the posts that author has made to note that there is a lot of patently untrue statements about Atheists in there. Moreover, this author has shared views about the propriety of physically fighting Atheists in response to mockery of their views. Above all else, he has represented that he was an Atheist himself.

In other words, he doesn’t have much excuse to say what he has been saying. Every time I linked to him, I was giving his site traffic. And he had told me directly that he just didn’t care about my point of view of what he was doing. So here I was, with a duty to cite his work when he would say something awful about Atheists, and yet I really didn’t want to promote his site. He knew better because I had told him, and he declined to do anything about it.

Because he’s the only blogger this has happened with, my only other recourse was to use “Do Not Link.” He still gets quoted and recognized as the author of his work, and I don’t have to pretend to support what he’s saying. A couple times I thought about not using “Do Not Link” anymore (in posts here and here).

That posts and comments arbitrarily disappear is also a point of concern for me, and also as Ark found out. I couldn’t ignore it anymore, and so I don’t believe I really had another choice in the matter. Based on the post of his I linked to originally, I don’t think he favors the practice.

However, it’s fine that this author has his own narrative he wishes to support by hook or by crook. He’s always been welcome to comment here or email me, although he has never taken me up on the offer directly after our exchange on the now deleted post. To my knowledge, he hasn’t said anything directly negative about me, just about some of my personal views. That’s more than fine.

The bigger picture here.
Like the other post that Ark referenced in his post, I think that there needs to be more challenging of Christians who are willing to say broadly that “Atheists say” whatever. For people who are willing to engage and offer quotes or at least admit they have no quotes handy, I think that integrity should be commended. Likewise, for those who rely on misinformation about a group of people to get traffic, the victims of that misinformation shouldn’t be required to help you out.

So my rule about this is simple. If I go to your site and can offer up why you’re wrong, and you persist, I’ll quote you without adding to your site importance. I am okay if this is done in return. I don’t want people to feel uncomfortable linking to things I say that they passionately disagree with. It’s a matter of conscience, and this is important to us godless heathens.

If you don’t believe me, ask an Atheist.

Religion and the Military

My last post has prompted a lot of good discussion about whether or not an Air Force major general crossed the line in comments he made at a prayer breakfast. Certainly I do not agree with a lot of what he said. However, looking at the regulations he was under, I also recognize that he didn’t cross the line when he made those statements, in uniform, at a government-organized prayer breakfast (which I don’t know if any Federal funds were used to sponsor it).

A question that I’ve been asked is: why don’t I think he crossed the line?

What I’m trying to put out there is: why isn’t there a line preventing him from doing what he did?

There’s a reason why I play up the prayer breakfast.
We have this Christian prayer breakfast hosted by a U.S. Congressman. Yes it is billed as interfaith, but its chair is the wife of a very prominent fundy Christian author Dr. James Dobson. Dr. Dobson is very politically affiliated (he was a member of the Christian Coalition), and his wife had offices to run the National Day of Prayer Task Force out of Dr. Dobson’s “Focus on the Family” offices.

What alarmed me the most was that General Olson talked about how a fellow colleague in the Air Force recommended going to this prayer breakfast. This general thanked known persons who have been trying to mix faith and politics into the mother of all Molotov cocktails for his presence at this breakfast. The other representative from the military (which, by the way, makes me wonder WHY there needs to be military representation) was a chaplain. Chaplains are not supposed to be advocates for faith, but that is changing.

All of this mixed together indicates that there is at least some cause for concern that the military is unduly influenced by faith groups. I couldn’t find the literature I thought I had, but thankfully Victoria Neuronotes linked this memo by the Center for Inquiry. In that memo, there are allegations that the military is becoming more religiously charged, at least with regards to officers.

At this point, I do have to mention that of the people I personally know who have served, none of them have expressed feeling singled out because of faith or lack thereof. However, these people are enlisted personnel, and their perspective is decidedly different from that of officers. So, what I have to say is that this could be a problem just with military leadership. Of course, that’s still a huge problem because they’re the ones giving orders…

This also might explain why General Olson didn’t run afoul of Air Force standards.
The rules were changed in November 2014. The Military Religious Freedom Foundation protested the change, but this was to no avail (here is a copy of the letter MRFF sent, courtesy again of Victoria Neuronotes). Despite that the U.S. Supreme Court has held that constitutional rights can be reasonably curtailed in military organizations, see Parker v. Levy, 417 U.S. 733 (1974), the Air Force had created a regulation that simply prohibited personnel from speaking for the Air Force.

That’s a big deal, because all General Olson had to do was say his views were personal. And he did that. So in an epic game of “I’m not touching you,” he was able to get away with damn near whatever he wanted to say about him and his deity.

How could something like this happen? Well, it’s not like officers will talk about it, as one report found. Really, this whole fiasco seemed like a stunt designed to get groups like MRFF to challenge it. The people at that breakfast know that it’s a giant pain to implement new policy without resorting to policy change in Congress and the Executive branch. That case I referred to above? It’s also a long opinion which illustrates how hands-off the Supreme Court is willing to be for the military.

How willing is Congress to change military statutes and interfere with the Executive’s control of the military? Not willing at all. Even less, considering that this “Prayer Breakfast” was also reported by one source to be hosted by a congressman (source here). You don’t get much more intertwined with church and state unless they actually found Rep. Aderholt in bed with a crucifix.

Is the President willing to change this? Considering the history of the National Day of Prayer and the fact that every year Presidents are required to issue proclamations for it, not likely it seems. Messing with the military, especially when we have active personnel in war zones, is not a favorite pastime of the Oval Office.

Where does this leave the discussion?
Outside of watchdog groups being able to protect individual rights in courts, it leaves meaningful change in a dark place. Granted it has happened before – consider the President’s repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” That change took about 2 decades and a massive amount of lobbying from the people to get that done.

As I write this, I realize how terrible a thing it is to tell others that change on this front is not forthcoming, or at least it is obscured. We shouldn’t have officers getting out in public near politically charged environments. We are a nation of laws, and we have a proud tradition of keeping our military out of domestic entanglements. It should alarm anyone that the military is being courted by any group. And yes, it’s more alarming that they’re courting the people who command that military.

General Olson shouldn’t have gotten away with what he said, but the problem I’m trying to address is that there wasn’t an adequate rule. I think there’s a long road ahead of making the military leadership content-neutral. People need to demand this from civilian leadership. While people may have faith, I don’t want people who are in charge of our national security to put more stock in the hereafter than the here and now.

What Happens At Prayer Breakfasts

A few days ago this story made its rounds around the Internet. I actually heard about it from family members first. It’s a story about how the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (“MRFF”) issued a letter to the Air Force demanding a general be court-martialed for remarks made at a prayer breakfast hosted by Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL). The Air Force responded by saying he didn’t violate any Air Force prohibitions by claiming that his deity helped him fly expensive machines, manage lots of money, and even sell weapons to the Iraqis (no word on whether that was pre- or post-invasion).

I think this story illustrates why secular people might want to think about what response is appropriate.
The general was speaking about his deity…at a prayer breakfast. If his showing up isn’t an Air Force endorsement of religion, then whatever he says about his religion isn’t going to be. Furthermore, that there were cameras there doesn’t change the fact that his words and actions can be reported at any time. Someone with a smartphone could have recorded the whole thing. That words and pictures can make their way onto the Internet isn’t news.

Issuing a demand letter doesn’t really advocate anyone’s rights. That general didn’t say that he loves Jesus so much that he’d be willing to run every non-Christian out of the Air Force. There is no evidence that he’s even been a jerk to non-Christians under his command. In short, while what he said might not be agreeable, he’s certainly not going out of his way to tell people about it. Instead, he’s at a freaking prayer breakfast. Ostensibly it was opened with a prayer. That stuff happens all the time at prayer breakfasts.

Now, what I’m not saying is that the general’s speech was wise or well-informed. Thanking one’s “loving” deity for being able to sell the instruments of death to a foreign people isn’t exactly good press for one’s faith. In fact, his whole speech is a good reason not to pick up Christianity. It illustrates the idiosyncratic nature of how one can believe a demigod preaches mercy and being an ascetic while bragging about how that demigod’s dad will help you manage death machines and egregious amounts of wealth.

Mockery is a perfectly acceptable means of dealing with this sort of thing. Pointing out the irony is also more effective than threatening to sue or demanding legal satisfaction. Making statements which oppose the thoughts of that speech is just fine. These are but 3 possibilities that people have which turn out to be better than sending demand letters.

Why is it ineffective?
Here is one article claiming that the entire affair is a “win for religious freedom.” That’s right, this isn’t a general making silly statements at a breakfast where they think happy thoughts and talk to their food before eating it. Instead, it’s a win for truth, justice, and the American Way.

If you’ll also notice, it’s another chance to negatively impugn Atheists (this time, we’re ANGRY). See how unreasonable they get when they demand that Air Force generals abide by the rules! How dare they tell a general that by specifically talking to people about how awesome God helps him sell dangerous things to foreigners, he’s inadvertently promoting one religion! Take that, Atheists! We can make all the silly statements we want; you can’t stop us!

Considering how Christianity was built on being counterculture, use of legitimate power is something they excel at speaking out against. In churches and homes, this isn’t about Atheists asking for more careful talk coming from commanders. Instead it will be repackaged and re-branded as a campaign of Biblical proportions. Moses had his Exodus, Jesus had his Sermon on the Mount, and Christians today have their prayer breakfasts.

In the end, the letter just helped give Christians one more “example” of how they’re getting persecuted without getting anything in return. This means that the effort did more against Atheists in the public sphere.

What I’m trying to say is that the right tool is needed for the job.
I don’t agree with what that general said. It would have been nicer, though, to be able to talk about how silly he was being rather than how this isn’t a case of championing religious rights. “God Sells Bombs” would have had a nicer ring in the title box, I think.

Still, in some ways I think this is a good problem to have. Instead of worrying about possible violence against Atheists, I get to talk about how Atheists can do more to control one’s image. This is progress of a sorts, although admittedly it’s not enough to make me drop being an anonymous blogger. However, I’ll take what I can get.

I’ll just be wondering if God helps sell munitions, will he have to start paying taxes on them?


…or something.

In recent news, the people of Ireland voted to legalize same-sex marriage. Apparently there was a massive “get out the vote” effort, and plenty of young Irish people voted in favor of the measure – enough to make the vote 60% in favor of marriage equality. News of this victory has been met with differing responses, with familiar rhetoric coming from people opposed to such measures. There’s also some new rhetoric, as Ireland marks the first occasion where a majority of people actually voted in favor of marriage equality.

This post has a good collection of those views. I think it’s important for people to know how to respond to those views, especially as the discussion about marriage rights goes from a minority seeking equal rights to becoming an established social norm. Below each headline, I will have quotes from the post I linked.

Marriage has always been between one man and one woman.

“Marriage is essentially the union of opposites. How many times do we need to repeat that the nut is not the bolt, but are perfectly matched when joined.”

Consider this chart (click it for the larger, readable version):

Image found here.

Image found here.

To say that marriage is just the union of opposites would be to grossly misrepresent the entire concept. Marriage isn’t just some religious ceremony anymore. In recent history (like the last 500 years or so), marriage has been used in other areas (like exerting political influence). Therefore, marriage isn’t just a monolithic religious institution that is only defined by one religious context.

Other cultures do marriage differently. Even the pagan Romans and Greeks had marriage, and they defined it as they may. Modern tribal cultures have marriage, and the implications of such rights and responsibilities are different. What I’m driving at here is that trying to sit here and claim a monolithic, uniform institution of marriage is so disingenuous it is becoming tantamount to deliberate and willful ignorance at best. One only needs to look at how marriage is enshrined in a majority of the world (because there are 5 billion other non-Christians who busy themselves about marriage) to see that there is no guiding religion necessary to make it one man and one woman.

It’s not hateful to be against giving the same rights to every citizen.

“So the [750,000] Irish who voted against the confederacy of a man and a man, or a woman and a woman, cannot possibly be ‘generous, compassionate, and bold?’”

If denying people equal access to the rights and privilege of other legally recognized couples is generous, I’d hate to see what would be considered as being miserly. In the same vein, I’m failing to see how it is compassionate to insist that someone’s rights can’t exist because an old book declares it to just be that way. That same justification has been used to promote many a social institution and injustice prior to this (slavery, coverture, and indentured servitude for starters).

This is by and large the biggest non-starter for any discussion about marriage equality. By conflating religious belief with the state of the law, people are unreasonably opposing something that doesn’t even affect them. There is literally zero harm to anyone who has access to having a relationship recognized as a marriage. Saying that it is loving doesn’t make it loving, just as claiming compassion doesn’t make it compassionate.

Eventually my deity will have its revenge on all of y’all.

“This is typical speech that hands out candy to someone who is starving, something that will never satisfy, will always leave a hunger, and is purely driven by an emotional appeal to the prurient, guaranteed to have disastrous results to individuals, as well as the island itself, (ahem, in time.)”

Think of the pure hubris involved in guaranteeing that equal access to rights will cause “disastrous results” to people and nations. How generic of a threat is that? Yet, to those that believe in the existence of a divine being, this threat is quite real for them. Keeping them in fear is one of the greatest intellectual supports for opposing marriage equality.

Such reasoning is exactly what fuels the Westboro Baptists in their hateful campaigns. This kind of reasoning has been used to justify burning people at the stake for heresy. The irrational fear of a loving deity is supposed to be all the reason anyone needs to tell gay people they can’t pass on property to a loved one upon death.

Such threats are the epitome of impotence. It screams, “If I can’t have my way, I will blame random things on you for the rest of time. I will teach my children and their children to irrationally hate others as I do.” Gone are the days of people automatically reacting to this with apprehension. I think that’s a great sign that our society has evolved at least slightly.

Above all else, the above arguments against marriage equality are the epitome of nonsense. Equal access to rights is not an institution to be feared; if it were, it would be just as wrong for heterosexual couples to have them. This point is always ignored when ranting about gay people and their marriage rights. With each passing minute they have their rights along with heterosexual couples, these nonsensical views will be pushed behind us in time where they belong.

Thoughts On My Deconversion: The Friendly Nietzsche

Image found here.

Image found here.

One of the reasons why I originally started this blog was to sort out the mess of my mind when it came to leaving the faith that I once held dear.

I’ve talked about the two great emotional experiences that fractured and then shattered the intellectual barriers which protected that faith from being discarded entirely. That happened in late 2013. However, sometimes I think back on things and remember other times that subtly put cracks in the same barriers. While they didn’t exactly rescue me from blind faith, I will say that they did keep me from taking the plunge into the deep end of Christendom. In that regard, I want to write about them because I don’t want to forget what ultimately contributed to keeping me alive (and Christ-free).

One thing I remember is about Nietzsche.
After a long bout of studying for finals, I went and picked up a copy of “The Will to Power” for some light reading. Yes. Light reading.

At any rate, I remember reading it slowly because the book isn’t exactly a book. Rather, it’s a collection of unpublished notes for a book that Nietzsche never wrote. As a coherent whole, it’s lacking in his usual beautiful prose like what one would find in his other books. However, as a window into his philosophy, it’s more revealing (I think). Reading him in snippets of thoughts gave me a clearer picture of what he was aiming at.

One of the heaviest thoughts he expressed was that Christianity would be a decent philosophy – if one could take the claims of divinity out of it. What he meant by that was some of the expressions attributed to Jesus in the Bible, and not the Bible as a whole. To my religious outlook, this was heresy. There was no way to separate the divine claims from the rest of it. Thinking that one could be good without a deity commanding it was impossible…

Until I read that book.

It’s such a blinding glimpse of the obvious now. Back then, it was new. I felt like I had walked on the Moon and taken pictures of the Earth from a new vantage. People could be good without YHWH demanding they obey. If an Atheist could get behind it, then why not me?

The old demands of divinity came crawling back.
Every time I tried thinking about how to express the philosophy of Jesus in a way that was secular, I kept confronting ideas that interfered with the process. God issued other commands, my warped thinking reminded me. Could I discard them? Nope. Atheists and Agnostics had an advantage over me; they could pick their own philosophy.

The question lingered up until I finally got rid of my faith. Could I discard the commands of a deity? When I asked that question again in early 2014, I finally answered yes. I haven’t looked back since. Gone was the need to reconcile antiquated and barbaric practices and ideas with modern sensibilities. There was no lingering guilt over how the Bible really was a manual to make people feel morally superior to others for no good reason.

For these reasons, I must recognize how reading a German philosopher’s notes helped me keep my wits relatively preserved until I needed them.

A Duggar-Related Circus

Image credit: Danny Johnston/AP Image courtesy of People Magazine.

Image credit: Danny Johnston/AP
Image courtesy of People Magazine.

Content warning: This post deals with the Josh Duggar scandal. It discusses child molestation.

By now, you’ve probably heard the news regarding Josh Duggar admitting to molesting several minor girls when he was 14. I’m linking to the TMZ article because I want to show how sensationalized this story is. For whatever reason, if a celebrity is involved in potential felonious conduct, stories like this get different treatment. As usual, some important questions also go unasked.

The scandal itself.
That Josh Duggar molested young girls is not the main point I’ve seen in a lot of articles. Sometimes it’s incidental to another message. People demanded that Josh’s family lose their TLC show (which happened yesterday). Some people refuse to accept Josh’s apology (as if it really matters because the abuse didn’t happen to them). Others didn’t even care about the molestation itself, instead demanding to know if TLC engaged in a coverup. And last but not least, Mike Huckabee has decided to righteously defend and forgive Josh Duggar for molesting his victims.

Just a couple days from this story breaking, and already the narrative is getting shifted to punish people in addition to Josh Duggar. Some people were demanding to know who the victims were – because nothing screams compassion like re-victimizing them again. With Mike Huckabee, he’s leading the charge on the religious right’s group forgiveness circle-jerk because the Duggars have name brand recognition. Right now, the victims are merely pawns in this unholy circus.

There are bigger issues at stake than someone’s fame.
Here is a good article on some of the implications I think ought to be talked about. Here is an article written by Alex over at “Refractory Ramblings From the Dark Side” which broke the story to me and contains a very good outlook on the whole affair. I recommend reading both.

What those two articles point out is that situations like that happen more often than people think. We as a society need to be asking how we need to be handling stuff like that to protect children from being victimized in the first place. At a fundamental level, this is what this story screams to me. Because just wantonly punishing people after the fact ignores that sometimes the victims are going to be collateral damage. Who wants to be the people to explain to the victims in the Duggar family that their lives are being turned upside down because someone told about the awful thing their brother did to them? Now they get to feel extra responsible for something they’re not responsible for in the first place.

Instead of acting without thinking, maybe we should encourage an atmosphere which helps mitigate the damage caused by underage perpetrators and underage victims. We should be demanding more information that respects the victims’ privacy rather than just wanting to use this to further an agenda of selling ad space and causing outrage. People should be examining what happened and if there is anything we need to improve so this stuff doesn’t happen again. Here are just a few issues as I see it from a criminal justice perspective:

1. How do we respect victims throughout this process?
One of the messages getting spread around to children who are already being victimized is that by telling, it will punish people around you and turn your world upside down. People will want to find out who you are and make you do things without any say in the matter. You are a means to an end, and not the human being that was robbed of dignity. Then again, maybe you did get your dignity back, and people treating you like you’re powerless is an unfair indictment.

All of that happens when we don’t put the victims’ rights first. Maybe journalists ought to have ethical standards which require standard disclosures to protect victims. Or maybe victims should be able to get damages for the harms inflicted upon them by the negative publicity. Cost of therapy, medicine, and other things that need to happen to protect oneself from such publicity are real precautions that must be taken. So while TMZ and other outlets may want to profit off of such media frenzies, then it is more than fair that they should also be burdened with the costs of initiating them.

2. Are criminal charges appropriate for young offenders?
What contributed to Josh Duggar’s behavior? Will criminal punishments actually curb the behavior? Could this be avoided without resorting to permanent records for minors?

I say all this because if there is any chance to rehabilitate young people, that is preferable over just throwing them in a hole and forgetting about them. Furthermore, the threat of criminal punishment isn’t exactly on the minds of many teenagers. Sometimes, it’s all anyone can do to get through the day without the world emotionally ending. Finally, the threat of criminal punishment is used to encourage victim silence (“If you talk, then bad things will happen to those you love.”). This is not about excusing behavior; it is about making sure no one else is victimized.

3. What can we do to encourage parents to come forward with information like this?
Jim Bob Duggar did what he could to hide what happened. He was faced with one child committing terrible acts against some of his other children, and he acted predictably. What if people were encouraged to come forward so their family members can get real closure? We need to figure out how to make disclosure and treatment the best option for people.

Where to go from here.
I do not know the Duggar family. They’re getting attention because of their celebrity. Instead of just using the opportunity to express Twitter rage or some fleeting thought of righteous indignation, I think that everyone would benefit from actually thinking about what happened.

Mutuality of Terms

I got a comment from Arkenaten earlier today that got me thinking about word usage with regards to discussing religion. He wrote this post expounding upon his thoughts, and I think the reasoning behind them is quite valid. To paraphrase, Ark mentioned how he insists on using “Yahweh” instead of “God” and “the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth” instead of “Jesus” or “Christ.” It creates at least an acknowledgment that people who do believe in such beings as requiring them to provide proof of those beings’ existence and nature.

In reply to Ark’s comment, I expressed that while I recognized where he was coming from, it’s hard for me to acknowledge that one can get a uniform term from Christianity. They have a lot of denominations, billions of followers, each with a differing viewpoint on what this deity might be. Even if we said that the deity is particular to a denomination, we’d still have tens of thousands of them floating around. Some Christians can’t even spell Yahweh, let alone recognize the root of their faith.

One final stir of the pot involves the notion that in quite a few cases of discussing this with Christians, one is quite likely to get into a swearing contest. I find that last bit slightly aggravating because often this is done to demand respect by writing “God” rather than “god” or “Jeezus H. Christ.” In other words, it’s okay to demand Atheists capitalize the “G,” and then it’s fine to demand that they secretly believe in it.

What I want is a better word where I can recognize belief without having to put up with a temper-tantrum every time I use it.
Earlier today, I watched as a presumably adult Christian threatened everlasting fiery torture in response to someone pointing out a flaw in his or her view (the threat is down in the comments; on a side note, click the link to find an awesome graphic depicting all the valid Biblical forms of marriage). Anyways, I get that Christians really feel they are really right about all this. Remember, I used to drink the Christ-Aid too. The notion that they are automatically right by virtue of having a belief, though, needs to be challenged.

I think that reminding Christendom that not everyone thinks their deity is a Deity (and real, etc.) probably ought to be at the top of that list. By extension, a lot of other problems can be solved if Christians can at least recognize that we Atheists, Agnostics, Apostates, and general Skeptics do not need their dogma in order to function on a daily basis. What better way to symbolize this than by offering a uniform term and requiring in our own spaces?

It should also be a requirement that can be applied to all theistic faiths.
A gift that Atheists can give to the rest of the world is equal treatment of religion. This can be a word that can signify that yes, I do recognize Theists believe this. It can also be a word that signifies that no, I don’t share that belief. Such a term can accord space to each other’s existence without laying any claim to personal animosity or vindictiveness. More importantly, I can remind people when they get uppity that it’s their problem and not mine.

On the plus side, this can communicate to certain Theists (I’m looking at you, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) that by treating all Invisible Sky Wizards the same, we have the same feeling about all such wizards. Maybe then we poor, morally impoverished secular people can be taken at our word that we really don’t believe any of it. Then again, maybe not.

So what word should be preferred?
That’s the $64,000 question (extra points for knowing what game show I’m referencing). If God won’t do, or god won’t do, what about referring to these beings by their proper names? Personally, I’m partial to just referring to them as deities. If I have to differentiate, I can just slap the name of the faith next to it. That way, I can tell a difference between a Christian deity or a Muslim deity or a Hindu deity.

Does this sound like it might be workable? Should I be insisting on proper names instead? If you had to pick, which one would you choose?

While you consider your response, here’s a song about some other problems with the capital “G”:

Why It Matters To Me

Image found here.

Image found here.

Often of late I ask myself why I even bother with this Sisyphean self-torment that is writing about Christianity, deconversion, and offering criticism to thoughts and ideas promoted by those in the extreme parts of Christian (and sometimes other) faith. I’ve been told that I’m a cynic, and it’s that cynicism that tells me I will never get my boulder to the top of the hill. There are too many Christians believing too much of what they hear for no other reason than it sounds good.

However, there’s another part of me that is very interested in survival. Every word I spend against the Byzantine beliefs of my former faith is an affirmation that I will not go back. I need this because, while I am someone who at times is in pieces, I finally found some part of me that has been repaired by my own methods. Christianity is something that tried to break me to its will, to pound me into a cross-shaped grave and buried under a mountain of Biblical untruths and pastoral lies.

As I move further away from the radioactive wasteland of Christendom, I also realize that there are others out there too. I pass people who are unable to walk or journey, shaking with a fear and aversion that I am too familiar with. There is pain in this journey, and I cannot ignore it in others. If even one person has found relief or respite from the burning flames of what Christianity threatens humanity with, I can consider what I write to be the most glorious success possible. I had people who have offered their hands in help to me; as a human being, I can do no less than offer my hand to others.

Third, I am reminded constantly of how falsehoods and lies circulate among the faithful. It’s the real communion wine for the soul. I’ve seen it twist too many people into ethical contortions; I’ve seen it abandon people when they need peace and understanding the most. As a system for offering hope and peace to people, it had failed me as it fails others. For every word challenged by secular voices, there are many others which are spoken elsewhere.

A lot of people don’t want to confront others about religion. Religion and faith beliefs are a personal thing which is to be pursued on one’s own time and in one’s private thoughts. I was one of those people. To a larger extent, I still believe that it ought to be personal.

But it’s not just personal. With the mixing of religion and politics in the U.S., policy is being determined by the Christian right. There are laws being passed as a result of suborning religious zeal to political exercise. There are social norms being exerted on others than for no other reason than it offends some old set of books handed down for generations. There are informal exchanges where Atheists are maligned for the very personal attacks that Christians perform. Real people hurt because of things said in the name of faith, and then there is hell to pay when that faith is rightfully called out to answer for it.

These are just a few reasons why I blog about this stuff. I know firsthand what it’s like to have to be quiet around those who are in the moral majority. It’s scary being around people who are fine with imagining their enemies burning for eternity just for not having the same beliefs as they do. Sometimes people just need to yell out into the blogosphere at the stupidity they’re subjected to. And sometimes people just need a place to go to finally be heard.