Showing posts with label atheism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label atheism. Show all posts

The Ten Well-Founded "Presuppositions" of Atheism

Robert Conner wrote something recently that prompted me to write this.

The Ten Well-Founded "Presuppositions" of Atheism:

1. We require sufficient objective empirical evidence before we will accept any claims of divine revelation.

2. We accept the general principle that any specific miraculous claim must overcome the strong presumption that it didn't occur based on the overwhelming cumulative evidence that miracles have not occurred.

3. We accept the view that believers must shoulder the burden of proof as outsiders to show their faith is objectively true, given that learning a religion as an uncritical child from one's parents in a religious culture is a notoriously unreliable way to know which religion is true, if there is one.

4. We accept the results of scientific clinical studies that have shown petitionary prayers work no better than chance, and reject personal antecdotal unconfirmed stories told by believers.

5. We accept that the laws of nature in the ancient pre-scientific world were the same as they are now, so we have a very strong presumption against accepting miraculous claims in the ancient superstitious world prior to the rise of modern science and the modern world.

6. We accept that which is objectively probable, and reject that which is merely possible.

7. We reject any and all double standards and special pleadings from religionists when they argue for their faith over the faiths of others.

8. We accept the overwhelming consensus of scientists as the surest guarantee of what is true, over any and all claims by religious leaders, scholars and their holy books.

9. We proportion what we conclude based on the strength of the objective evidence.

10. We accept the approach of methodological naturalism in assessing miraculous claims, whereby we seek out natural explanations for any and all events in question, given that doing so is the best and only way to know the truth in the midst of so many religious frauds, fakes, liars and hucksters.

Why Sam Harris and Noam Chomsky are Both Right

Sam Harris recently appeared on Kyle Kulinski’s radio show to discuss his views on “progressivism, torture, religion, and foreign policy.” The impetus behind Harris’ appearance was to defend himself against the accusations of Glenn Greenwald and (the increasingly execrable) CJ Werleman, both of whom had previous public discussions with Kulinski.

5 Obviously False References in the Bible

As the ages march on, it is a delight to find fewer attending churches and more making time to sit around doing other, more enjoyable things come Sunday. But even while classes full of growing students are satiated in going to their professors for answers instead of their priests, the age-old debate on the existence of God / validity of [insert religion here] somehow still rages on. The question should by now be settled, but those states where the collective IQ hasn’t exceeded 57 still have people who are clinging tightly to mom and dad’s hard-shell faith to define us.

However, it is a breath of fresh air to know that the seeds of doubt are first planted, not by scholarship or by secular parenting, but by common sense questions and healthy brains at work. Below are 5 biblical mentions that are in that camp known as “It don’t take no gosh-darn edjamucations to see this ain’t right.” Some things in God’s holy book are wrong simply because they defy any real level of sense. We begin the countdown with...

Is Evolution a "Belief," or is it "Knowledge"?

I've heard many times, especially from scientists, that scientists don't "believe" evolution, they "know" it. I think this involves a bit of terminological confusion, and I think this confusion is bad for the overall discussion about evolution in the public arena. In this article, I'll briefly discuss why scientists do indeed believe in evolution and, in the process, say a few things about the nature of (religious) faith and its relation to knowledge.

I'm Building a Hotel. Will You Help Me?

I’ve decided to build a Hotel and I am here to solicit your much-needed financial support.

Let me begin by saying that it will be like no hotel you’ve ever seen in your life. It’s going to be a big Hotel – a massive, super big Hotel beyond belief – so big that humans will almost never be able to reach the outer walls and fences of the property. Yes, it’s going to be BIG!

As surely as it is going to be big, it’s going to be expanding in all directions all of the time. We’ll never quit building onto it. It will have many rooms, so many rooms that they will never be used or serve any constructive purpose, but I want to have them anyway. I like empty, unused space. There will be lots to look at…lots of lights and chandeliers and bright ornaments…and they’ll always be running, even when no one is around.

If you call the front desk and ask for a bucket of ice, a couple of extra blankets and a pillow, or perhaps a towel, I may have the items sent to your room…or I may not. I may send 10,000 blankets, so much so that the room can’t hold them, or I may just send one. There’s always a 50/50 chance that I will grant your requests.

Some of the rooms and wings of my glorious Hotel will be either hot or cold. Some guest rooms will have either air conditioners or heaters. Some will have both, but others will have neither. There are rooms in this Hotel that are kept so hot that no human could enter them without being disintegrated. And there are rooms kept so cold that guests entering them would freeze solid in under 30 seconds of exposure. Registering guests have no control over whether or not they will get put in a room with moderate or extreme temperatures. It is based on the accidents of registration that determines who gets what.

You’ll have to prepare yourself when staying at my Hotel as some of the doors and stairwells open to unfinished hallways and rooms. You might take a single step and plummet to your death, so be careful. And once you check in, there is no leaving. You can’t step outside of the Hotel, so make the best of it and try to enjoy the good that there is.

The kitchens in my Hotel are exquisite. There is no food I won’t offer, except in certain places of the Hotel where guests will be left at or near starvation, but for everyone else, there is plenty to eat. My cooks are not what you would expect. They offer such a huge selection of dishes that you have to be careful what you order. My kitchen has herbs and spices and ingredients that are toxic, as well as nourishing and tasty. The cooks might serve you poisonous mushrooms at the breakfast buffet. Only experience can inform you of what foods will nourish you and which will poison you. You can watch other guests get sick and die, and over time, you’ll learn what to consume and what never to consume.

My Hotel does have a maintenance crew, though you wouldn’t know it. When something breaks, the guests usually have to fix it. You can put in a work order to have a door or a safe or your TV remote replaced, but that rarely works. If you want something done, do it yourself! I’ve given you the permission to do as you will. Just so that we’re clear, remember that once it’s done, I want the credit for doing it!

There are no police or security at my Hotel, and so any domestic disputes that arise must be settled in-house by the guests as they set up systems of government to try and keep order themselves. But remember, once law and order has been established by whichever dominant party made it to the top, I want credit for it! I will speak and keep order through that party.

The complaint system is a little different around here—there isn’t one. I hate complainers. Everybody always has something they don’t like, so I don’t want to hear it. It just angers me. If you’re not satisfied with the way things are, that’s too bad. It’s my Hotel. I can run it the way I want.

Guests will be provided with an instruction manual on how to be better and more informed guests of my Hotel. Please try not to fight over how it is interpreted, but use it to show others how to be an effective establishment of good guests.

So…will you help me?

Dig deep now, my dear investors! ☺



Come on!

No one?

Well, I knew the atheists wouldn’t help me…but you Christians?

Why won’t you help me?

I will operate my Hotel just like your God operates this universe.

How is it you find fault with me, and not with your deity?

I don’t understand...shouldn’t we resemble our Creator in the ways we operate?

Why do I get faulted for doing the same things God does?

I even ask for money like your God does!

Why can’t you support his works by supporting my Hotel?

“Do as I say, not as I do,” huh? Is that how God is? Needless to say, I am very disappointed!


Science and Religion: A Truce

I, Science, have heard your plea for a truce, oh religion, My nemesis of ages past.

You are wounded, oh religion.
The still-warm blood runs down your side as you say it did your savior on the cross.
My Soldiers in white coats have maimed you.
They have crippled you, leaving you to limp away a casualty from the battlefield.

And now, on the loser’s end, with My chipped and crimson sword laid at your throat, you plead for mercy.
You beg Me to spare your life.
You ask for compassion and for understanding from Me, Science.
You want to be held up and accepted.

Know that I, Science, have no obligation to hear you.
Better it is that you should die, as all things old and decrepit.
But out of compassion and mercy, I grant you what you seek.

I let you alone.
I let you go your way.
I spare you.
But like a fool, you press your luck and demand more.

Instead of running away with your tale between your legs, with a morsel of thankfulness, and what little dignity you have left intact, you debase yourself.
You whine and complain.
You want your doctrines to be accepted in the universities and Institutions of Science and higher learning as viable theories, if not Scientific Truths.

You ask, “Why does science have to be so hostile to religion?”
“Why does the Scientific Community mock us so?”
“Why can't we as religious believers get the respect that we seek?”
“Why can't science and religion join hands?”

And I, Science, reply to you that We are hostile to you because you claim to be of Our Number, but are not.
Your representatives – the creationists and apologists of the ID movement – claim allegiance to Science when your claim is invalid and a manipulation for your own advantage.

You are imposters, all of you, liars and imposters with an agenda.
You serve yourselves and your own interests, and not those of Science.
You seek to exalt your savior and your faith.
You don't seek Truth.

So this I say to you – the religious intelligencia who actively seek an alliance with, Me, Science – take the liberties I give you. Bask in the sun of the life conveniences and the comforts I have granted to you, to worship, to sing, to pray, and to affirm or to deny any belief you want; teach and expound; reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine; imagine and create, appoint and oversee; stand outside and admire the stars and the host of heaven as you believe your god provided them for you to admire.

Let the raindrops bounce off of your tongue; admire to no end; teach on love, seek peace, and promote change as you see fit. Do all these things and My covenant of peace shall abide with you, and a very small number of My White-coated Representatives of Science shall at times join you as you worship.

But should you cross into My Territory, into the Territory that belongs to Science, should you bring your antiquated holy books into My Realms of microscopes and peer-reviewed journals, should you take select quotes from real Scientists to bolster your own beliefs and the claims of your false scientists, I will attack you and will kill you in open debate.
You can never stand up to Me, oh religion.
I am your Successor.
I am your Better.

Should the outstretched arms and bleeding hands of your savior embolden you to embrace Our Naturalistic Approach and begin to choke our Scientific Method, should the representatives of your splintered, pious movements begin to interfere and impersonate Our Scientists, to subvert our Work and to make it your own work, a great trespass is committed, and I will remember no more the covenant I made with you.

Nay, I, Science, shall strike you down, and your academics shall be cast out of the universities.
All My Scholars shall hiss at you, and you will be a mockery and an abhorrence to all of the Enlightened everywhere.
You shall grope in the darkness.
Only the simpleton and the ignoramus and the child shall hear you.
The dumb and the fool and the unlearned shall be they who give ear to your words.

And I, Science, shall surely slay you in the courts of the lands.
Cursed shall you be in the schools and cursed shall you be in the colleges.
Cursed shall you be in the laboratories and cursed shall you be in all of the institutions of higher learning.

I, Science, have spoken.


Back Down to Earth

There are times when I find myself fixating on our universe with all of its mysteries and as-of-yet unknowns. But every time I think about the universe, I think about nothing as much as its size, about its unfathomable massiveness.

Light travels at 186,282.397 miles per second or 669,000,000 miles per hour. As far as we can tell, that’s as fast as we’re ever going to go because that’s the physics-enforced intergalactic speed limit. Neither information, nor matter will be found moving faster than that. That is pretty fast. Although, as fast as it is, it would leave any space explorers traveling at that speed extremely unsatisfied with their journeys.

Light arrives on the earth from our sun in just under 8-and-a-half minutes. It takes light around 50 minutes to reach Jupiter from the sun. For light to get to Pluto, it requires 5 hours and 30 minutes of travel time. That’s longer than it takes me to drive from San Antonio to the Dallas/Ft. Worth Metroplex area without stopping in a car going 70 mph. And this is light we’re talking about!

Remember, this is as fast as we’ll likely ever go. Our fastest ship now won’t exceed 47,000 miles an hour—nowhere even remotely close to the speed of light. At our current rate of achievable speed, it would take us at least 2 years just to reach Mars in a shuttle. At its furthest point, Mars requires a 12.8-minute trip for light to arrive.

It takes light 1.3 seconds to go from the moon to the earth, which is the equivalent distance of making 20 trips from the U.S. eastern coastline to Australia’s Alice Springs. So while light may be fast, it is reduced to a snail’s crawl when we factor it into our vast universe.

Not counting any other mysteries, the shear size of the cosmos is enough to dumbfound us. Studying the universe makes us take our focus off of ourselves and onto bigger and grander things. Let’s try and imagine the universe further.

We’ve seen that the speed of light, the fastest speed we can ever rationally hope to obtain, appears sluggish when compared against the distances in our own solar system, but that’s just our solar system. We haven’t even gotten around to considering the next star over. We can’t even leave our star’s orbit without light speed in any workable timeframe.

With light speed, we’ll hit our closest neighboring star, Proxima Centauri, in 4.4 light years. Borrowing a stick of butter from a neighbor next door is only convenient when we’re NOT talking about neighboring star systems. But we are talking about solar systems, not galaxies.

Our galaxy, the Milky Way, is composed of at least 220,000,000,000 stars that are as far apart from each other (and some more so) than our sun is from Proxima Centuari. If you want to try and get a mental picture of our galaxy, imagine a huge punchbowl spilling over with sugar. Each granule of sugar is a sun and every one of those suns is a solar system, many with numerous planets orbiting them. It takes light 100,000 years to cross from one side of a galaxy to the other.

And how many galaxies are there of billions of stars? To date, we’ve discovered about 255,000,000,000 galaxies—like and unlike our Milky Way. And we’re discovering between 25 and 125 new galaxies everyday.

Some are spiral, some spherical, and some are blobs that are called irregular galaxies. Some look like crabs and others like sombreros. Many of the stars in the sky are sending us light that is tens of millions of years old. Many of the galaxies that are visible only in very powerful telescopes do not even exist anymore by the time we see their light.

Yes, the universe being so big, it makes us think about bigger things. It took us a long time as a race to learn that it’s ok to gaze at the heavens without fear of being tried as an Observer of Times and burned at the stake. People have been thinking small for so very long, and so it’s not surprising that it takes a few of us a longer time to come around to exploring and learning without superstitious shackles.

Still, those who are holding us back grieve me greatly. I know that as I type, so many who will read my words are of the opinion that when all of these giant stars die in about 208,000,000,000 years in the future, that there will be souls still frying in Gehenna because they once transgressed the law of a Great Spirit who set up one small planet around one small star at one insignificant corner of one insignificant galaxy.

To some, the heavens declare the glory of God and the heavenly bodies are celestial evangelists singing God’s praises and glory. In their minds, if the planets and the stars could talk, they’d say: “Obey God and Jesus who is God’s Son. They created us. We exist to tell of their greatness.” That conviction is so very juvenile and so comical on so many levels.

No faith and no conviction of dogma can come of watching the stars and taking in the universe. The universe is too big for any faith and even for God. Even if a god could create it, he wouldn’t know what to do with it. No tribal blood-god of vengeance like Yahweh who taught men to cut the foreskins off of penises and slaughter enemy tribes could be the one responsible for creating the Crab Nebula or NGC 1097 or Sirius B.

And yet, according to some, we are to believe that the pronouncements of damnation made by bloody priests and popes and notable revolutionary theologians throughout the ages are sound and will one day come true. I spit on those pronouncements and the mentality behind them. How is it, one must ask, that a cosmos-creating deity who has his mind on building nebulae can be offended by anything we could ever say or do?

Is it possible to think that after centuries of fighting and warring, and persecuting with the pointing of chipped and reddened swords, that a Hebrew deity who wrote about stoning adulterous wives and thighs swelling and rotting (Numbers 5) was the mastermind behind quantum mechanics? Did a God who commanded the burning of blasphemers providentially create the telescope and arrange the funding for institutions like MIT and NASA so that we could better come to understand phenomena like “dark matter” and black holes?

Just when my mind would soar to focus on higher and grander things, I am brought back down to earth by those who stand in the way of progress so that we can continue disputing the words of a Hebrew war-god and Daniel's "covenant with many for one week." We have to get tired of this eventually. But eventually will never come soon enough!


Death and Life on Easter

It’s Easter; I have memories of getting up early year after year as a child to go to Easter Sunrise Service. We gathered somewhere outdoors, simulating the women and disciples who went to Jesus’ tomb in the early morning on the day of his resurrection. We sang certain hymns that were only for Easter – “Christ the Lord is ris’n today, Ha-a-a-a-He -lelujah,” “He lives! He lives! Christ Jesus lives today. He walks with me and talks with me, along life’s narrow way!” I liked it – the brisk early morning, the feeling of life and hope, the joy of the music. Unlike a lot of other church experiences, it was a day of celebration. And what a profound message – death has been conquered! Just put your faith in Christ.

And now? It’s been many years and I’m no longer a Christian. I do not believe I will continue after I die. In my work as a psychologist, I work with people coming out of religion. There are many issues to deal with, and top or the list for many is this question of death and hellfire. The indoctrination is deep and insidious, a form of child abuse in my opinion. Even without hell, the idea of nonexistence (if that is the direction of change in belief), is sometimes a bitter pill to swallow. Fundamentalist Christianity downgrades a human lifetime compared to eternity and denigrates the whole world as fallen. How many times were we told to focus on where we will be in the hereafter? The result is fear, because no one is certain, and also neglect of the life that we have now.

For those of you who are anxious today and struggle with the idea of death, I can tell you that it is possible to stop fearing damnation. I certainly have and many other former believers have too. It is a phobia indoctrination that serves the religion. If you think you should believe “just in case,” think about what you would be missing. Essentially, your life. The greatest challenge for a human is to know about death, and live fully in the face of it. Other animals can more easily “be here now,” and we can learn from them. However, we have more awareness and it is our existential dilemma to make peace with death.

In a way, we do continue on. Our molecules get rearranged and become other things; nothing is lost, not one atom. All matter and energy in the universe is conserved, according to physics. I find it beautiful to walk in a forest and see a fallen tree where it is decomposing, nourishing the earth, and causing new life to spring up. And if you worry about your soul, ask yourself, “Where were “you” before you were born?” Is that so frightening?

No, we are better off paying attention to the present. This life is limited but so are a lot of things. The Christian attitude of denigrating life because it is short makes no sense. Is a wonderful meal any less wonderful because it ends? When you are listening to incredible music, are you upset because you know the piece will finish? Hopefully not, and we can extend that lesson to life itself. People who have a brush with death often learn to appreciate life in a special way. Our time on this earth is precious. Perhaps when we cherish our days, honor what is possible, love our fellow humans as best we can, and look at the world with awe and wonder, we can achieve a spirituality of a different kind. Of our own free will, we can commit acts of random kindness and dance for no reason at all. Death be damned.

For the recovering fundamentalist, reclaiming intuition and learning to trust one’s inner wisdom is an exciting process. We are not empty, weak, incapable, or bad. We are all interconnected and a part of our amazing universe. Even Einstein said thinking we are individuals is an illusion.
One day, when I was a little discouraged, I wrote to myself from the wise part of me (yes, we are all multiples), and then wondered about that voice. This is what emerged, and it applies to all of us, so I hope you find a bit of inspiration too. I asked where the encouragement was coming from:

“This is from the force that makes the new shoot grow between concrete slabs. This is from the symmetry of fractals. This is from the incomprehensible distance of space, this is from the sound waves that blend and beat and tell you to dance, this is from the little child that looks at you clearly with no fear and says hi, this is from the unadulterated force of the sea under you and all around you when you swim in the ocean, the sea that takes no prisoners when the tide comes in, the sea that spawned life, and the same sea that sends a wave spreading up the sand to your bare feet, with rhythmic purring caress, bringing you the gems that make you smile - the perfect tiny shell, the fragment of blue glass that you tuck in your pocket.

“This is from the cosmic red afterglow of the big bang. This is from all eleven dimensions, from all the things you don't understand and like that you don't understand. This is from the parallel universes that come with the eleven dimensions, penetrating the membrane. This is from the aquifer beneath all of you, the source feeding flashes of human greatness. This is from the massive network of fungus, hidden from view under seemingly separate plants. This is from the power behind the form, the elusive explanation, the delectable mystery. I only have one thing to say to you right now - and that is REMEMBER ME. You are not alone. You always have a reason to go on. and there is no choice; you will go on anyway. Ineffable and inexorable, both. The tide is coming in again today; the ocean has not been deciding.”

Happy Spring.

Marlene Winell
Recovery retreats May 1-3, June 5-7

Problems of Mountains

Word has it that young Timothy Collins of Woodward, Kentucky got chewed out by his father Harry after last Wednesday night's Bible Study. Both father and son are members of the Woodward Street Church where it's no secret that Harry Collins runs a tight ship as an active and devoted member of the church and father.

"I got on my son for talking like an atheist." said Harry. What Timothy did was make reference to it being a fortunate turn of events that a mountain had formed nearby. A big, bearded Harry, being a photographer, was capturing an image of a beautiful tree-covered mountainside. "And my son made it sound like the mountain was 'just there.' That's atheist talk, and it won't be permitted in my home."

Being slightly puzzled, a bright young Timothy clarified his father's position for us: "My dad got mad at me because I made it sound like mountains 'just are.' But nothing 'just is.' As Christians, we are forced to believe that everything that happens happens for a purpose. All things are made of God, from the design of curvitures running along the deepest sea floors to the arrangement of obscure dust particles on the dark side of the moon. My dad was right to get on me. The secular public schools teach a lot of wrong and evil things, and look how they have influenced my thinking."

"It's ok, son." Harry said, nodding with approval at his son's words, and then continuing: "The secular schools are full of atheists who profess themselves to be wise, but are fools. They think they are smarter than God. Think about how atheists perceive a mountain; to an atheist, a mountain is just a bunch of dirt that got pushed up when things got steaming hot under the earth's surface, causing a raising up of the ground. And that the mountain is 'tall' means nothing to an atheist because atheists think 'tall' is just a perceptual difference and that the mountain isn't really big or little. Everything is relative to an atheist. They have no objective standards. We Christians happen to know that God made all things purposely and according to his will, and in the case of mountains, he made them so that we could be impressed with their size and marvel at his creative power (Psalm 65:5). This was the same reason he created big, worthless planets and put them in orbit in space (Psalm 19:1-6). They don't do anything, but God wanted us to get smart and build telescopes and look up at the sky and say, 'Wow, those are big! God must be great!' And without mountains, how could Moses have gone up to Mt. Horeb to speak to God and get the ten commandments? So there is another reason why God made mountains."

Jumping in, young Timothy said: "And the Lord has revealed to me a third reason for why God made mountains. It was so that Jesus could mention it in Matthew 21:21 where Jesus said: 'Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done.'"

Amazed, Harry said: "That's my boy! I sure am proud of him. He's no atheist, that's for sure! But the lesson to take from this is how atheism is never very far from invading our thinking the moment we start to use our minds. That's how atheism starts - with us thinking of natural reasons for why things happen - and then it progresses to making people say things like this or that 'always was' or 'just is.' And when you have a natural explanation for something, tell me, why do you need a supernatural one? What need is there for God once you've explained the world naturally?"

"Atheists think that the matter composing the universe just is and has always been while we believers understand that you have to go back one more step and say that God -- an unknown phantom spook -- just is and has always been. That's the true position; God created everything and everything needs a creator except for God. He just exists all by himself some way. That's how Christians reason, and that's how God wants us to reason. Stay away from secular reasoning. It will only lead to atheism and then to Hell. It is an unfortunate fact that using the brains God gave us to reason with can send us to burn forever. So try not to reason, except perhaps when reason agrees with the Bible. Then it's ok."


Seven Steps to Recovery

Hello Everyone,

This is a summary outline I've come up with for recovering from authoritarian religions like fundamentalist Christianity. In my years of counseling experience, I've found that for a lot of people (not everyone), the leaving process takes time and has some important steps. This outline is not meant to be a formula or cover the issues in depth, but I hope it is useful for you to think about.

Kind regards,
Marlene Winell

1. Get Real.
Be honest with yourself about whether your religion is working for you. Let go of trying to force it to make sense. Have a look at life and the world AS IT IS, and stop trying to live in a parallel universe. This world might not be perfect but facing reality will help you get your life on track. If you feel guilty, realize that the religion teaches you to feel responsible when it isn’t working and tells you to go back and try harder, just like an abusive relationship.

2. Get a Grip.

Don’t panic. The fear you feel is part of the indoctrination. All those messages about what will happen to you if you leave the religion are a self-serving part of the religion. If you calm down, you’ll be just fine. Many people have been through this.

3. Get Informed.
Do everything you can to educate yourself. You are free to read and expose yourself to all the knowledge in the world – history, philosophy, other religions, mythology, anthropology, biology, psychology, sociology, and more. In particular, read about how the Bible was put together and church history. Read authors who have explained why they deconverted. Many websites have deconversion stories and helpful reading lists.

4. Get Help.
Find support in any way you can. Explore online forums to discuss issues with others leaving their religion. Join a supportive group in your area. If necessary, find a therapist who understands or go to a recovery retreat. Do the work to heal the wounds of religious abuse.

5. Get a Life.
Rebuild your life around new values and engage fully with your choices. Develop your identity as you learn to love and trust yourself. Take responsibility and create the life that works for you – in work, family, leisure, social – all the areas of commitment that make a life structure. If you still want a spiritual life, define it for yourself. Venture into the “world” for new experiences and new friends. This will take time but you can do it.

6. Get With the Program.
Welcome to the human race. Accept the idea that Earth is your home and humanity is your true family. If you aren't part of a special group that is leaving, consider what that means for you. You may want to participating in larger concerns to make the world a better place, such as caring for the environment or working for social justice. Let go of expecting God to take care of all the problems. You can begin with knowing your neighbors.

7. Get Your Groove On.
Reclaim enjoyment of sensation and pleasure as you relax with the idea of being an animal like all the others on Earth. Learn to be present here and now. Discover all the ways to appreciate nature. Enjoy and love other people instead of judging. Reclaim your creativity and express yourself any way you like, not just to “glorify God.” Love your body and take care of it. Embrace this life instead of worrying about the next. Sing and dance and laugh for no reason except Being Alive.

Marlene Winell, Ph.D., is a psychologist who works in religious recovery, and the author of Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists and Others Leaving Their Religion. Information about counseling services and weekend retreats can be found at

God Tolerates Slavery

Pastor Kenneth Rodriguez, Senior Pastor at Nations United Cathedral of Faith in Times Square, has been a leading voice in the charismatic community against the atrocious practice of human trafficking for the past 15 years. The 37-year-old pastor’s work has centered on places like Asia and Africa, places where human trafficking is a major issue. “Slavery, in principle, is unbiblical.” says Pastor. “To enslave another human being created in God's image is a sin like murder. It violates the Golden Rule and is an affront to decency.” Sounds like something right in line with what any other man of God today would give an “amen” to.

The surprise didn't come until a correspondence began between Pastor Kenneth and a nine-year-old girl from Beijing named Kaitlin. Kaitlin was abducted and forced to serve as a sex slave a year and a half ago. Cunningly gaining email access, she reached out for help from Pastor Kenneth. Pastor Kenneth's advice to her became the focus of a firestorm of criticism. He didn’t help her escape, and he didn’t encourage her to seek help. What he did is considered by most to be unthinkable and criminal. He told her to break off contact with him and to live as a slave like she was!

“I told little Kaitlin to live as a slave and to do what her captors want her to do and to be obedient in all things as the scriptures teach servants should do. Ephesians 6:5 is abundantly clear, ‘Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ.’ I Peter 2:18 says, ‘Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.’ It doesn't say for the slaves to run away or to rebel or to call the law to set them free. No, it tells slaves to submit to their masters, even to harsh masters. That's what little Kaitlin is having to do for the monsters who abducted her. I hate that she is being used as a sex slave by Hong Kong business men on their down time. She will without a doubt get diseases and suffer crushing emotional trauma from her experiences, but God’s word is God’s word. It has been like this for countless centuries.”

Being aware of the controversy his words brought on, Pastor Kenneth made clear, “I am not justifying slavery. God is going to judge those wicked slaveholders. But God's words on how to handle the situation are not hard to understand. God says if you are a slave, you are to abide in the calling wherein you are called (I Corinthians 7:21, 24). I am praying for little Kaitlin. She is worshipping the Lord in her heart in between having to service men. All we can do is support her and encourage her. It is the Bible that tolerates slavery, and sadly, there are times when we must as well. When Kaitlin is being mounted from her backside by a sinning, lust-driven client of her owners, she will reflect on Jesus Christ and to how his back bore the scars and the cross for her sake. And who knows…maybe Kaitlin will lead those lost slave-owners to Christ? I believe God has a plan for everything.”

When asked if it bothers him that his words have become the target of attack, Rodriguez said, “Maybe a little. I've long been a big opponent of slavery and an advocate for human rights, and so it hurts me that those who have followed my preaching for years would not know where I stand. But I am speaking where the Bible speaks. God takes every nation from where they are in their knowledge of his word. God allowed polygamy and he is still, in some places, allowing slavery. By having a multitude of slave laws in the Bible, God is telling us he wants those who are unfortunate enough to be slaves to be good at it for Christ’s sake and to serve well. There are even instructions in Exodus on how to sell one's daughter into slavery (Exodus 21:7-11).”

When asked if he had any final comments, Pastor stated, “Yes, I think all these pastors who keep accusing me of justifying slavery need to read the Bible again. Maybe they will learn something about God's character.”


Fine-tuning Foolishness: Hammering Out The Stupidity

The other day, I found myself needing to hang a wicker basket shelf in my bathroom. But the shelf was too heavy for tacks and glue, so I had to fetch a hammer and nails to do the job. After some milling around in the ever-useful “junk drawer,” I found the nails and a Stanley claw hammer dad had left at my place. I took some time to take a look at the flashy thing; it was relatively new, nearly all metal, with a duel-pronged claw on one end and the head at the other. It had a tremendously ergonomic rubber handle too, with curves and ridges along its surfaces, making it a perfect fit for the hand. I said to myself, “Now this is a well-made hammer!”

It was when the job was done that I found myself thinking of how the elements of the hammer work together so well. I thought to myself that if I didn’t know any better, I’d swear that the universe was “fine-tuned” just for the sake of producing this very useful hammer I was still holding in my hands.

Of course, I did and do know better. I understand that the handy instrument I held in my hands was indisputably designed and existed for a purpose, and before I gave it a name and was able to appreciate its worth, it existed in other, less useful forms. I realize that a “hammer” is just matter manipulated by humans into a tool to fulfill a small range of tasks.

I understand that the entire cosmos did not come to be for the sake of that practical-but-petty item known as the hammer. The universe doesn’t revolve around it. It doesn’t really matter in the cosmic scheme of things if it exists or not, and in no sense can it be said that the universe was “fine-tuned” to produce that instrument—even though the nice rubber handle whereby I held onto the hammer was designed to fit neatly into my hands, and even though the weighting was just right for swinging and tapping, and even though the shape and construction of the instrument made it ideal for the task for which we humans made it. The hammer has a place in my life, albeit a very small place.

But I also understand something else; I understand perfectly well what many Christians do not understand—that all teleological arguments (arguments based on the “intelligent design” of the universe, including the anthropic or “fine-tuning” arguments) are worthless and false. We exist like the hammer, and for most of the same reasons as the hammer; we fit nicely into our environment and we are a manipulation of matter, being made of the same stuff that the universe is composed of.

But we are also not like the hammer; we manipulate matter based on our intelligence and the hammer doesn’t, and the hammer was designed while we have no proof that we were. But we do know that we designed the hammer, and we don’t have any reason to believe that anyone designed us, and that is the central fallacy of all versions of the design argument—they just assume what they want to prove (that we and other life forms, as well as objects like houses and watches, were designed by an intelligence).

It is intellectual folly to assume that the universe was “fine-tuned” for the formation of life, just as it would be to assume that the universe was made so that a nicely crafted, shiny hammer can be built for the purpose of nailing a wicker shelf to a wall. The universe was “fine-tuned” for neither purpose. At least, if it was, there are no logical arguments or observations that lead us with any gusto to accepting that conclusion.

And we must ask the really big question here—why must a designer be posited to explain our sensory observations of the world? Does the fact that 9 or 7 cannot be divided evenly mean that there must be a Creator? Is e=mc² less true if God doesn’t exist? Can atoms not revolve around one another and have stability without a Master-designer? Would the atoms making up concrete and steal suddenly fly apart on an atomic level, or else lose their “hard” properties and become like Jello without a deity? Does the survival of fish in frozen ponds due to water freezing from the top downward mean that the universe was fine-tuned for life? Does the fact that gravity is strong enough to keep us on this planet, and yet not strong enough to liquefy us constitute proof that God made this world to house life like us? Does the fact that oxygen/nitrogen – as we have them on this planet for breathable air – instead of toxic gases, like methane and ammonia, mean that the earth must have been designed for habitation?

Robert G. Ingersoll, in his oh-so-eloquent 1872 work entitled “The Gods,” pointed out the grotesque absurdities of intelligent design thinking when he said…

“Even the advanced religionist, although disbelieving in any great amount of interference by the gods in this age of the world, still thinks that in the beginning, some god made the laws governing the universe. He believes that in consequence of these laws, a man can lift a greater weight with, than without, a lever, that this god so made matter and so established the order of things that two bodies cannot occupy the same space at the same time, so that a body once put in motion will keep moving until it is stopped, so that it is a greater distance around, than across, a circle, so that a perfect square has four equal sides, instead of five or seven. He insists that it took a direct interposition of providence to make the whole greater than a part, and that had it not been for this power superior to nature, twice one might have been more than twice two, and sticks and strings might have had only one end apiece…These religious people see nothing but design everywhere, and personal intelligent interference in everything. They insist that the universe has been created, and that the adaptation of means to ends is perfectly apparent.”

Then we must ask why God needed to even bother with awkward designs like the flawed and ridiculously concocted ones we see in nature; why, for instance, did God give us skin as protection from germs and foreign particles, and yet not make us to thrive on what we know as harmful radiation? Or, if God gave us ears to hear with, noses to smell with, eyes to see with, taste buds to taste with, and nerve cells to feel with, then why did he only give us those senses? Why not also the ability to see gamma radiation and rays of light not visible to the human eye? We see them with telescopes, we detect them with finer instruments, so why not with the eye? God was not limited in having to create cardboard creatures as flimsy as ourselves. He could have made us to exist and thrive in black holes or within the hearts of blue stars, and yet he went through the senseless trouble to create (or some would stupidly say, “evolve”) these bundles of bunions called human bodies. Words don’t describe the asininity of it.

And this is the real foolishness of the fine-tuning argument—its limited focus. Just look at how much of the universe is inhospitable to any type of life. If the universe was fine-tuned for life, why is there so little life in it? Why is most of our world trying to kill us, let alone all of space and time beyond this odorous outhouse called Earth? Not even a seedling can grow and thrive on Mars, and yet Mars is the closest to habitable planet in this solar system we have knowledge of outside of our own. This realization makes our own evolution rather unique and spits on the dumb notion that the universe has been tailor-made as an environment for the growth of carbon life forms (and even more arrogantly, for the growth of the human race, so that we may fight and quarrel and give credit to a fictitious being for its existence).

First, the universe was, and then it evolved us. Only later did theologians come along, with their suits and ties, and their hymnals and sermon notes, and their calfskin-covered New International Version Bibles, standing in their pulpits, proclaiming that the way things are is the way they had to be. When an apologist says, “the stability of atoms makes the material world possible,” that means to him that matter was fine-tuned by God Almighty on the atomic level to make all substances possible. But using this reasoning, any given order of nature that managed to bring about any type of sentient life at all would have to be considered designed, in which case teleology’s assumptions are unfalsifiable. In other words, we humans are no different than some really big, smart fish—we’re going to think that the proverbial river we are swimming in was “made” for us no matter what! And there’s no point in stopping there! We might as well say that the riverbed beneath it was intelligently designed to be just big enough for the river!

No, Mr. Theologian, the universe exists in some form or fashion with or without us. We, and our petty, self-aggrandizing perceptions of it come after it and as a result of it. We are not special and we are not wanted. Our perceptions of the cosmos are subjective and only valuable to us as tools to understand it, but those perceptions cannot be used to question reality. We can use our perceptions of metal beaten into a hammer to categorize the instrument made and give it a name, but we cannot argue that because metal can be shaped into a hammer that therefore a cosmic mind fine-tuned the universe to work together on an elemental level to make that product possible, and the same has to be true of humankind’s existence.

The flakey idea of a fine-tuned universe reminds me of an encounter with a mystic I had several years ago who insisted that apparent faces spotted in nature (such as in clouds or in natural formations like wood and sand) are evidence for the divine and man’s destined place in the grand scheme of things. Of course, we have to get booster seats for these mental midgets by correcting them: in truth, the “faces” seen in nature are only faces when homosapien brain-farts come along and call them “faces.” But until then, they are only one among many possible visible formations of matter, and nothing more.

We have no evidence – not even a smidgen of it – to believe that the universe has been finely tuned by a cosmic entity for any purpose whatsoever. But we do have minds, and as with the so-called faces showing up in nature, the minds by which we perceive and understand nature also sometimes project false images onto it. We find “evidences” for a fine-tuning God because we humans create and fine-tune things ourselves. So it should come as no surprise when uninformed people come along and assume that someone like us (but higher than us) does the same things. It’s a classic case of projection and a very humbling sign of our own cosmic level of ignorance, arrogance, and juvenility.


Atheist Bus Campaign in London

Buses around London are now driving about sporting ads like this:

More here, here, and here.

Christian Composer Makes Good

Staring at a metronome, wondering if and when his name would ever appear in lights, Christian composer Wolfgang Sivori almost gave up trying to make it in the Christian music industry. After composing countless songs and albums, and with over twenty years of experience in creating enchanting Christian melodies, Sivori was just about to give up.

He wasn’t happy with the way his career was going. This gifted composer/conductor/songwriter/singer/trombone player had seen what he felt was only mediocre sales and impact from his work. But on bended knee, he went to the Lord in prayer and asked for guidance. Upon standing again, he realized that he had at least one more song left in him.

“The Lord promised me that if I would just let go and speak his word in my last song, that it would be a hit and many people would be led to the truth of Jesus Christ. I had faith, and the prayer was answered.” Sivori said. That song is now a Christian classic, which also proved to be Mr. Sivori’s last work before succumbing to pneumonia complications in his Baton Rouge apartment and dying last Thursday evening. The song was called Water From a Jawbone, based on the life of Samson.

With permission from Saving Mythology Records, the lyrics of this short-but-powerful Christian hymn are reprinted below…

Between Zorah and Eshteal was a strong man, a strong man.
Between Zorah and Eshteal was a man given to lust and whores, lust and whores.

Oh, sun man Samson!
Oh, sun man Samson!

He killed many men and bragged about it, slew them without thinking about it.

Oh, sun man!
Oh, mighty sun man!

Just like Hercules, a product of mythologies.

Oh, sun man Samson!
Oh, sun man Samson!

He slew a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass, and then God gave him water to last.

Oh, oh, oh, water from a jawbone!
There was water from a jawbone!

When he was alone, there was water from a bone!
There was water from a jawbone, saving water from a jawbone!


The song was a huge success. Many Christians praised it. It went triple platinum within the first month of its release. But while the majority of the Christian world praised the work, there were some disgruntled voices that could be heard in their midst.

The first criticism was that Sivori was dishonoring God by associating the story of Samson with paganism. Sivori defended the song thusly: “God is an inclusive God. His grace works among the pagans as well as us. This is why there were a number of virgin-born savior-god-men, like Hercules and Perseus, well before Christ’s time. Church father Justin Martyr even admits this in his work Apologia I. The name ‘Samson’ actually means ‘sun man’, meaning his character was brought over from paganism. He was a sun god made into a man, but God wanted the story in the Bible to show how inclusive he can be. Besides, the Bible is a book that is 95 percent mythology. The very first book of the Bible has angels getting boners for earth girls (Genesis 6:1-4). With such silly heathen myths found all throughout our holy book, how can we but be diligent in using these occurrences to demonstrate to the pagans that Jesus Christ died for their sins?”

And what of the charge that his song denigrates God and puts him on the level of a violent thug? Mr. Sivori says: “There’s really not much I can say about that. All one has to do is pick up the Bible and open it to absolutely any page and they can see for themselves somewhere on that page just how vicious, vindictive, and openly violent God is. God was happy having Samson carry out his divine will by slaughtering a thousand men and then bragging about it (Judges 15:15-17). One has to be pretty stupid to miss the fact that the most righteous men in the Bible are unequivocally the bloodiest. Take David, for example; he was God’s favorite Old Testament saint, but even he had so much blood on his hands that Father God decided that he couldn’t build his house for him” (I Chronicles 22:8).

Mr. Sivori went on to say…

“The lesson is, instead of finding fault with God and trying to change him, as I had tried to do in my earlier songs, we need to accept his character and who he really is. Jesus Christ is the most merciful side of God there can be, but the savior with outstretched arms himself is more than willing to cast us into a lake of fire where there ‘shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth’ (Matthew 13:50). For years, I gave it my all, like so many Christians do, to make God look more presentable, to make him look nicer. But that was wrong of me. God is not nice. Nobody needs to hear about John 3:16 and lovey-dovey passages that falsely portray God as some gentleman with a beard and a timepiece. No, God is a mauling warrior, with sinews for bootlaces and skulls for beverage containers, and he must be portrayed as such (Exodus 15:3).

Having left us a rich musical treasure chest of angelic tunes, Mr. Sivori is now resting in the sweet bosom of Jesus. His music mentor was another great composer, that sweet singer of Israel, King David, who was arguably God’s first big-time music maker...

“Consume them in wrath, consume them, that they may not be: and let them know that God ruleth in Jacob unto the ends of the earth. Selah.” (Psalm 59:13)


Wow! I'm on YouTube Now!

Yes, after more than a few failed attempts and fretting from my net Neanderthalish-ness, I am on YouTube now. The quality of the video leaves a lot to be desired, I know, but I'm learning. Please bear with me. Alright, here we go...


More Angels Than Atheists, According to Baylor Study

Today's Washington Times reports on a study performed by researchers at Baylor who found that half of all Americans believe they are protected by guardian angels, and a "significant majority" are comfortable with the supernatural. Also, the study pegs the number of atheists in America at 4% of populace, a number they say is unchanged since 1944.

I don't doubt the answers reported on belief in angels; if anything, I'd say the numbers were higher, based on my own admittedly theist-heavy experience. The results are the responses gathered on 350 questions for 1,648 individuals. Here's a short synopsis of the findings on supernaturalism in the group:
The survey, which has a margin of error of four percentage points, also revealed that theological liberals are more apt to believe in the paranormal and the occult - haunted houses, UFOs, communicating with the dead and astrology - than do conservatives. Women (35 percent), blacks (41 percent), those younger than 30 (40 percent), Democrats (40 percent) and singles who are cohabitating (49 percent) were more likely to believe, the survey said.
What caught my eye here, however, was the editorial provided by Rodney Stark, the researcher, who is an.... well, I guess an "iconoclast" would be a charitable way to put it (see here, here and here, for why I say that).

From the news article (and remember, this is the Washington Times):
Baylor researchers also criticized a much-ballyhooed “new atheism” as a barely discernable trend, saying the number of Americans who are atheists has stayed at 4 percent since 1944.

Why? Atheism is a “godless revolution that never happened,” the survey said, adding that irreligion often is not effectively transmitted to children who, when they reach adulthood, often join conservative religious denominations.
Heh. There is an old adage in Christian circles: God has no grandchildren. That's a nod to the observation that while kids can be indoctrinated by their parents, they eventually grow up to think for themselves (to some extent), and real faith commitments must be made anew by each person. Faith isn't really an heritable trait, in other words, as much a cultural tradition.

But here, we have a corollary from Stark: Dawkins has no grandchildren, either. What's striking about this article is all the interesting things they don't say. Don't Christian families have trouble replicating faithful kids? What about the "jumping ship" phenomenon in the homeschool world, as identified by authors like Michael Pearl? And... Barna? I'd expect a Baylor theist and sociologist of religion to be quite familiar with the God has no grandchildren dynamic, but apparently attrition only goes one way, in his view.

Perhaps this can be resolved by understanding this in terms of Christian culture. Where kids grow up to be basically uncommitted, the dominance of Christian culture exerts a kind of social gravity that attracts them, appealing in its comfortable (if waning) cultural hegemony. They don't so much embrace the dogma as much as the find a comfortable place to float along in the main of the cultural stream. It also occurs to me that the rigors and demands of atheism are a kind of selection filter itself, which anticipates just such attrition.

Later in the article:
Moreover, atheism is hardly taking over the world. Europe does have more atheists than the U.S., the survey said, but no country has more than 7 percent except France, which is at 14 percent of the populace. Farther to the east, Japan is at 12 percent and China is at 14 percent.

Mr. Stark dismissed the popularity of several recent books on atheism, saying they are mostly the products of “angry” people who are largely ignored by theists.

“The religious people don't care about the irreligious people,” Mr. Stark said, “but the irreligious are prickly. I think they're just angry.”

This is a curious mix of commentary. Setting aside the op/ed prose from the article's author (Julia Duin), this is a strange analysis of the situation for an academic, and a sociologist, no less. Stark explains the popularity of recent books on atheism as the product of... anger. That's an odd hypothesis, given the number of angry books out there -- especially from theist authors -- that no one pays any attention to. It's stranger still as a response when we read that Stark doesn't buy it himself, announcing in the next sentence that religious people don't care about irreligious people. Just to make sure we understand that Stark is confused, and not just telling us that this apathy is not attached to atheist anger in selling books, he connects them, finishing the sentence with his observation that the "
irreligious are prickly", "angry".

So, the large religious majority in America can't be bothered by the irreligious, because (at least) they are angry. But yet a raft of "angry" atheist books have soared on the best seller charts, in a country in which (according to Stark) only 4% of the people identify themselves as atheists. That's not an explanation from Stark, but an unwitting? emphasis of the problematic nature of his findings and conclusions.

And that is the underlying problem, here. I've not read the study in question yet, but how naïve is it to ask your subjects if the are atheists, or if they have no belief in any God or gods, and accept the answers back at face value? Do we suppose that we might go around the room, even with "confidential questionnaires" and ask our subjects if they are homosexual and expect to get an accurate set of answers back? It's fine to report back that 4% of respondents are comfortable identifying themselves as atheists -- which doesn't strike me as an implausible number -- but it's not even a crude gauge to the underlying reality, and Stark has the clue pointing him to the problem right in the article, with the question about the popularity of books from the likes of Dawkins, Dennett and Harris.

For every self-identified atheist, in public or in a poll, stands an atheist who just isn't comfortable owning up to that in this culture. Ask your favorite, friendly self-identified atheist and they will tell you there's at least one they know (and often several) who remain "in the closet" for any of many social and emotional reasons. In my own case, the fact of my reasoning towards atheism produced several days of terror, with the urge to hide it, deny it, hedge against it, just out of fear for the social costs it may exact. In a society where atheists, for all the popularity of Dawkins' book, atheists are still commonly demonized in a similar fashion to the way homosexuals are, and for much the same reasons.

Behind the silent atheist(s) stands a small gang of agnostics, folks who do not identify themselves as atheists, but who nonetheless either have no belief in God but aren't certain enough to take on the "atheist" label, or are actually on the fence, unconvinced either way.

In this article on the same release, Stark blames the media for the popularity of the New Atheist books:
Despite the wave of best sellers by atheists blasting religion and predictions that religious belief is fading, Stark said the survey shows atheism has not gained momentum. Nonbelievers still represent only about 4 percent of Americans, Stark said, but they attract interest because they are a novelty and because "there's a lot of support and sympathy for them in the media."
Here, we have Stark conspicuously omitting agnostics. Above, he pegs "atheists" at 4% of the population. Here, he describes this 4% as "non-believers", with the implication being that the complementary 96% representing "believers".

There's a much more efficient answer than either of Stark's odd explanations. While the number of self-identified atheists may not be growing (and for the record, I'm calling "bull" on that finding, too, but am willing to accept it, arguendo, for the purposes of this post), the growth in "non-believers" has been dramatic in America in recent years. A look at Barna's work over those same years dovetails nicely with the New York Times Bestseller List, sporting so many atheistic and irreligious books selling in such large numbers. Non-belief, skepticism and scientific thinking are growth industries.

Given the traditional demonization of atheism in the culture, something not even given passing acknowledgment in the articles I linked to (caveat: this may be addressed in the analysis of the study which I've not yet read), this is what we would expect to see in evolution of an skeptical, rationalist culture. The doubt and skepticism precede the atheistic self-identification, and the dissolution or dissipation of the social animus takes time, a trailing indicator following early indicators like the surge in books sales on the topic, and the broad decline of participation and enthusiasm observed in churches across the land.


My Path Out of Christianity

A Personal Project
About a year ago now, I began a major personal project. As a devout Christian husband and father of six children, I was unhappy with the "drifting" I had been doing. We had not attended church regularly for over three years at that point, and while we were still actively involved in a weekly small group/Bible study, my disillusionment with Evangelical Protestantism was such that while I remained committed to my belief in God and my faith in Jesus as my redeemer and savior, Christian faith tends to atrophy and even die when it is not connected to a the support systems of church and faith-based community, in my experience.

The "major personal project", then, was the rebuilding and fortification of my faith and beliefs in such a way that I could, along with my family, "swim the Tiber", and become committed, permanent members of the Roman Catholic Church. I embarked on the effort with some enthusiasm; while I still had some major issues to confront in order to become a Catholic, fully committed in good conscience, these issues seemed surmountable, and at the conclusion of this effort, I expected to begin RCIA with my family, and begin the happy process of settling into our new "spiritual home", where we belonged all along, as Catholic friends regularly reminded me.

I took a "first principles" approach, as a means for really doing the thinking and reasoning that would lay the foundation for decades to come as a faithful, enthusiastic and effective Catholic. For the first time ever, I think, I purposely put everything I believed on the table for review, and went to some length in making careful notes and comments in an MS Word Document and an Excel spreadsheet to keep things organized. My faith in God wasn't in question, but I "cleared the decks" as a kind of "provisional atheist", that I might clearly identify the grounding and basis for "non-negotiables" of my belief. The last thing I wanted was to lead a family move to the Catholic church, only to become a dissident there again, as I had become for so many parts of the Protestant faith and culture I lived in presently. More than anything, I wanted clarity about these issues that would stick.

My efforts quickly became a case study for the caution that one should be careful what one wishes for. I wished for clarity and durability in my beliefs about God and religion, and I got it (durability being tentative just a year in, of course). In forcing myself to do a tabula rasa accounting of what I believed and why, I ended up with undeniable clarity on two propositions: my 30+ years of Christian faith were predicated note on verifiable interaction with God and reasoned justification for the truth of the Bible, but instead 1) an (nearly) overwhelming desire for Christianity to be true in some form and 2) cowardice in confronting the prospects of unbelief in my life.

I had pages and pages of outline items documenting the usual historical (claims) of evidence for Jesus' divinity and the resurrection. I had the standard cadre of philosophical arguments in there - the Ontological Argument, The Transcendental Argument, the Cosmological Argument, etc. I had a list of the "miracles" and events in my life I believed represented supernatural intervention and interaction. One by one, though, all of these fell apart under skeptical, honest review. For instance, I had become concerned several years ago at the frankly pathetic state of Intellectual Evangelicalism. In discussing this with friends, they pointed me at C.S. Lewis and William Lane Craig. I was intimately familiar with Lewis, of course, who was the closest thing I had to an intellectual hero of the faith (Chesterton was appealing too, but not nearly in the way Lewis was).

Immersing myself in the books, articles, and debates of Craig, though, just exacerbated the problem. If Craig was even representative of Intellectual Christianity, never mind being one of its best examples, the situation was much worse than I had previously thought. Reading Bahnsen, Frame, Poythress, Plantinga and rest of the Reformed philosophers made the picture bleaker still, a kind of demon-apologetic wearing a cross, and carrying a Bible.

Provisional Agnosticism
Over several months I worked through philosophical and historical arguments from a new, hypothetical perspective. Rather than presupposing God, and synthesizing what I read and heard accordingly, I was now to a point where I began Craig's Reasonable Faith and Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus without extreme prejudice.

At that point, I was still a believer, but on the horns of a very serious dilemma. My project was backfiring, my "first principles" strategy aimed at shoring up my beliefs and convictions was seriously destabilizing them. If I continued, I understood the potential outcome, and the ramifications were quite troubling. If I aborted the effort, no one else would be the wiser, and I could return to my comfortable faith. But I would still know, and would have to live with the knowledge that I bailed out because of my fear, and an unwillingness to be fully honest and self-critical.

It seems "right for the story" to relate my struggle over that dilemma, and how I struggled over time to be deeply honest and transparent with myself and others about the justification and reasonableness of my faith. I did choose to pursue critical examination, the path of honesty, but as it happened, no sooner had I realized the dilemma I was facing, then it was over. I awoke in the middle of the night, and prowled the house through the rest of the night, agonized, exhilarated, shocked and in despair over facing the facts. I did not have a good basis for my beliefs, and the nature of my faith as an expression of my desires and my fears laid open to see, undeniable. I was a Christian because I was raised to be one, and I remained one because it's what I wanted. Moreover, I remained one because it seemed the only choice available in terms of my social connections and relationships. I was an evangelical homeschooler, deeply embedded in my church, thoroughly immersed in my faith, identified by it. I was a "godly man", and a good man because of my faith in God, which I was never shy about or ashamed to admit.

That night, with the realization of how motivated and determined I was, subconsciously or otherwise to tell my own story to myself and the world in terms of am active, powerful relationship with a living God, the creator of the universe, I for the first time faced the reality of God as a creature of my own invention. I "inherited" it in a way, being raised in a fundamentalist Christian home, but I had made the illusion my own, and I now had no way to deny my own self-deception. God was God because that's the way I wanted the truth to be. I wanted to live forever. I wanted a neat clean way to resolve the problems of my immoral and unethical actions. I wanted an easy clear-cut basis for right and wrong. I wanted to think I was special, cosmically-special, just like all my Christian friends and family members. I wanted to think that all men will see judgment day, after death, as a way of relieving the despair of seeing evil triumph on earth, and as a way of abdicating my own personal responsibility to do my part to see justice served; God would fix everything in the end, so I could do what I managed or wanted to do, and sleep easy at night because God would make up any cosmic differences, and ultimately right all wrongs.

I read parts of the book of Job the next morning, which has always been one of my favorite books of the Bible, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Rather than just man being used as cosmic chits in a bit of gamesmanship between God and Satan, I saw man creating God is his own image. I had a daughter die during delivery several years ago (so really, I should probably always say I have seven kids, with one that's dead to be fair and respectful to her), and though I didn't realize it until much later, it was a kind of "Jobian" experience for me. The anguish and pain of losing a child in the delivery room -- her heartbeat and vital signs were terrific at a doctor's checkup at 9am that very morning -- was powerful in reinforcing my conviction this was NOT the end, and that I would see my daughter again some day, beyond this life. It was the only right way for the world to be, and what a happy, hopeful thing to be a Christian, where I did have that very expectation and assurance! If I hadn't ever believed in God until that day, I suppose I would have been quite motivated to invent God, and his heaven, and the afterlife on my own, very much in the mode of Job declaring "And in my flesh I shall see God", out of sheer emotional rejection of the idea that death is final, and some losses are never recovered, some injustices are never set right.

The insight into the plausibility, and the reasonability of my decades of faith being accounted for as imagination, exaggeration and credulity borne of desire caused the full collapse of my faith. I no longer believed, and had achieved a broad, if excruciating, view of why my faith was unfounded and why I had embraced and promoted it still for so long. I knew that I could not prove to myself of anyone else that God did not exist, but I now had a reasonable basis for understanding not just the poverty of evidential arguments for Christianity and the disingenuous dishonesty of the various philosophical arguments for God, but also an explanation for my experiences, and my interpretations of the Holy Spirit and his perceived mediate influence in my life. I had arrived at atheism in my application of honesty, introspection, and fair appraisal of the evidence and issues involved.

I was an atheist.

Costs of De-conversion

My wife is a believer, and has been since before we were married. My family is fundamentalist Baptist. My social circles are dominated by my faith community. I have plenty of non-Christian colleagues and friends through work, but even years after "dropping out" of regular church attendance, my social peers remain members of our last church, and similar churches. We homeshool our children, and so a large part of our lives revolves around the activities of our homeschool co-op. As you might imagine, our homeschool group is a hotbed of religious zeal and fundamentalist/evangelical fervor.

My conclusion, then, or perhaps it's more accurate to say my discovery, was a terrifying one. In a way that is difficult to articulate, the discovery was profoundly relieving, a fact that attests, I think, the latent, subliminal anxieties and stresses that accumulate for thinking Christians and the inevitable cognitive dissonances they must bear. Maybe it captures something of the moment to say that felt supremely honest and open, the liberating effect of renouncing the "sin" of my self-deceptions and indulgences of desire and caprice. But the overriding reality at that point was, in fact, fear. I no longer believed in God, or in anything supernatural as far as I knew, but I very much believed in the value and preciousness of my marriage, and my relationship with my wife. I've been fortunate in many respects in my life, but nowhere so fortunate as I have been in finding and developing the relationship I have with my wife. I've since met a couple men who've confessed to me that they are "closet atheists" who go to church dutifully every Sunday, leading AWANA on Wed. night, and showing up regularly for men's Bible study on Monday evenings. For them, they simply see their atheism as a threat to that which matters most to them, their marriages.

It's easy from outside of that situation to sniff and snort and decry the dishonesty of that kind of "double life", and for what it's worth, it is dishonest, and in a way, quite cowardly. But having been in that same position, those men will find no condemnation or judgment from me. When push comes to shove, I can understand keeping my atheism tightly concealed as a means of preserving stability and continuity for a marriage. One of the best things about my marriage has been an unusual level of honesty and frankness, and this was highly problematic. The most painful experience in all of this was the .... distance I felt from my wife in those few days where I had become an atheist, but not let her know. It didn't take long for the pain of that to outweigh the fear of turmoil and disruption -- I let it all out in a long, difficult night just a few days after the collapse.

It's been a painful, hard year. I'm sure many atheists have a story that relates their de-conversion as mostly "upside". For me, it is fundamentally, upside as well, but the cost of "coming out" is big, unpredictable, and long lasting. I'm happy to say that my marriage is intact, and as good as ever. My kids are aware, and although mostly unhappy about it and feeling a bit betrayed (which they should, given the unfounded things I've been indoctrinating them with sense birth), and of course dislocated. I've been "disfellowshipped" by some Christian friends, and have caused a major uproar in the homeschooling groups and forums where I have related my story. The Christian myth that morality and ethical "goodness" is predicated on the belief in God, and either impossible without, or at best accidental, runs very deep in the evangelical/fundamentalist community. So, many who learn of my de-conversion wonder, often aloud, what happens now that I'm free to cheat on my wife, steal, or do any number of things worse than that. It's been an eye-opening experience, and my de-conversion is a kind of Rorschach test for Christians, I think. When they confront my rejection of Christianity for atheism, one gets a sense of what they imagine themselves to be in their "native" state. They say they are wondering about my actions as an atheist, but I'm a year on into this as my usual self, a faithful husband, engaged father, hard worker, etc., and what they are often telling me is what they suppose they would be like if they had to develop and execute their own moral and ethical principles. I don't really agree with this, as I think the truth as truth is an important good in its own right, but many Christians I know make a good case for embracing Christianity, even if it is false; by their own accounts, the kind of person they would be without their invented gods and demons and heaven and hell is often downright scary.

Worst Case Scenario

In cases like mine, inevitably, there are questions raised and suspicions launched about the actuality or sincerity of my faith in the first place. For what it's worth, I claim to be an atheist who was a deeply committed, "sold out" believer for decades. Raised in an extremely devout Baptist home, I "accepted Jesus into my heart" as a gradeschooler like any good, rational kid does who has grown up with hellfire and brimstone on one side, and felt-cloth Jesus on the easel, welcoming the children into his arms, on the other. I was baptized at 12 years old, had a solid string of ecstatic, powerful "mountain-top" spiritual experiences at Christian youth camps and retreats as a teen. I hit a bit of brick wall in college, as I was set up by my parents to embrace young earth creationism, and allowed to continue in my folly right into enrolling in university. That shook my faith badly, as I'd been betrayed and lied to by many of the people I'd trusted most, but that crisis triggered a transformation for me toward a more mature, thoughtful, and personal faith in Jesus Christ. Through the child raising years, and founding several tech startups that failed badly, then one that did well and eventually got bought by a large Internet company in the dot com days, church was my life outside of work (and inside it, too, often enough!), and I continually identified God's hand in influencing and shaping the world around me and in me according to his will. In the last decade when we've been fortunate enough -- blessed by God, as I saw it at the time -- to have the means, my wife and I have gotten involved with our hands and our funds in church planting and church growth as part of our commitment to reifying the Kingdom of God on earth through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I was not a pastor like John, or Dan Barker. I never went to seminary, and my most impressive "official" credentials in the church were nothing higher than "guitarist in the worship band", but I was a "died-in-the-wool" believer. I never heard God "speak" in an audible way, but I saw many things I considered miracles, many events I interpreted as God's special message of reassurance, love and hope to me. I was an avid student of theology, a circumstance which had faith-building and faith-destroying ramifications for me over the years. In any case, I was not a "lukewarm Christian", one of those who slowly drifted out of the faith. My faith did not fade away, it came crashing down, quite unexpectedly, and frankly not of my own choosing (at least at the start). I was a cradle Evangelical fully immersed, well-read and fully on board. As a poster on a forum for (Christian) homeschoolers commented recent in a large "discussion" over my atheism: it's the "worst case scenario". Such is the dissonance for many who have known me, a good share of them have decided I've just been lying or faking it all these years, or I somehow just was never saved, never a Christian that "took".

A Moral Imperative
The irony for me, given all the indoctrination I've received along with so many other evangelicals and fundamentalists over there years about the necessity of God as an underwriter for moral values, is that while my faith collapsed out of reasoning and skepticism, my eventual rejection of Christianity on a lasting basis was predicated on realizing the moral poverty of Christianity. Some come to disbelief in God out of moral outrage toward God, and understandable but dubious path to knowledge. I came to realize my belief was sublimated desire and fear, and that I just did not have any foundation for believing in God's existence, even (especially) in light of my own subjective experiences, which I overlaid on the bare scaffolding of dubious history and incoherent philosophy/theology. I disbelieved first, but freed from my Christian presuppositions, Christianity took on a much more complex, problematic moral character; for whatever good elements remained, the God of Christianity on many fronts represented cruelty, viciousness, caprice, abuse, injustice, and moral incoherence. I did not believe there was any Christian God, or any gods at all, but if the Christian God somehow was real, and I was badly mistaken, I realized I would have to resist his authority and power on moral grounds, as a matter of good moral conscience.

With that, the matter was decided. I had no remaining basis for belief, and Christian belief had become morally problematic, even if I did have basis for it. In the past year, despite all the pain and stress that necessarily comes from someone in my position renounces his faith, I feel like I have a new lease on life, and life itself has value and moral meaning for me that it never did before. There's a lot of adjustment to do when you've come into your life thinking yourself just a "sojourner" here on Earth, making a brief stop on the way to eternal life with God. But as St. Paul said, "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child". At 40 years old, I had done well professionally, had a happy, healthy, growing family and a great marriage, but I was stilling clinging to childish thinking and emotions when it came to God, my faith, my moral foundation and the principles I was passing on to my children. Like many Christians, I find great comfort and pleasure in indulging in dreams of living past my death, and living forever. But this past year has been the year -- better late than never -- to put away childish things, and to embrace reality as it is, and live in such a way as to take full advantage of the precious moments I have in this life, and to build a life of virtue, making my little part of the world a better, more just, happier, and humane place for my kids, their grandkids, and all they will share their world with.


Low cost spots at recovery retreat!

Hi everybody,
A while ago I posted a notice about a weekend workshop we are offering soon. I'm pleased to say we have some space available for some "pay what you can" participants. The room and board would still be $125 but beyond that is negotiable. So get in touch soon!

Kind regards,
Marlen Winell

Here's the notice again:


It's not the end of the world! Join us at a recovery retreat.


August 15-17, 2008, with Dr. Marlene Winell

Do you feel alone in your struggle for healing? Come to a supportive and powerful weekend with others who can understand you -- an oasis from dogmatic teachings and judgmental groups. We'll rant and rave, tell our stories, discuss the issues, visualize, role-play, dance and draw – whatever it takes to think for ourselves and reclaim our lives. A joyful, empowered life is your birthright and you can start now.

WHEN: FRIDAY, Aug. 15, 7PM - SUNDAY, Aug. 17, 3PM.

WHERE: A beautiful house in Berkeley, California,
with hot tub and other amenities.

COST: $320 for the workshop, $125 for room and board. Financial need considered & options available.

TO REGISTER: Call 510-292-0509 or send an email to Register soon as group size is limited.

Dr. Marlene Winell is a psychologist & author of "Leaving the Fold: A Guide for Former Fundamentalists & Others Leaving their Religion." She has a practice in Berkeley & also counsels individuals by phone. For more info, mailing list, comments about retreats, & Youtube link, visit: Or call Dr. Winell for a complimentary discussion about your interest.

A Great Man has Died!

Just a few hours ago, I got some very, very bad news. I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach when I read it. My eyes saw it, but seemed slow to want to comprehend it. “How could it be?” I said to myself. “He had such high energy, such vibrancy, such a house-rocking stage presence!” No, I didn’t know him personally, but I sure knew of his work. I’m a huge fan!

Then, as I sat there and soaked the news in, I realized it had to be true. He was 71 and had a history of heart trouble. But he lived a rich, full life, and as with all things, there is an end to come. That’s really all there is to it. But…that’s not all there is to it! No sir! No maam! There’s so much to this man that no one article could possibly express it.

He was the paladin of profanity, the oratory athlete of atheism, the crowned prince of common sense, and a whispering wind of wisdom to all who gave ear. I’m talking about none other than comedian George Carlin who died at Saint John’s Medical Center in Santa Monica, California just yesterday. Only a week ago, he was on stage, doing what he did best. A week later, he’s complaining of chest pains and being admitted to the hospital, and finally, being deserted by that defective blood pump in his chest.

Hate him if you want to, tell him he’s going to hell if you so choose, but don’t say you weren’t moved to chuckle a time or two at his ostentatious observations. The man made a difference like few have or could have; he pushed until it gave; he stretched the limits and then some; he was court marshaled a number of times, fired, and was constantly being called out and faulted for being who he was. On one occasion, he was arrested for disturbing the peace after performing on stage. But he won four Grammys, was nominated for five Emmys, wrote three renowned books, produced twenty-three comedy albums, made fourteen HBO specials, put a few TV shows under his belt, and even appeared in prominent parts in a number of big movies. And let’s not forget that it was George Carlin who hosted the very first episode of Saturday Night Live!

Carlin taught us all a lot—comedians will do that! But what Carlin assured me of most of all is two things; first, that truly great men tend to be movers and shakers and will kick against the pricks of normalcy until it hurts; but second, Carlin taught me who the real BEST debaters are on the planet. As a former seminary student – young, wet-behind-the-ears, and always obsessed down to the bone with debate and intellectually outclassing my opponents – I wondered for so long what group could consistently outclass their adversaries and make them look like blithering, blockheaded fools on the podium.

Well, it certainly wasn’t the debate students or teachers in the colleges. And it certainly wasn’t the elitist theologians, and it’s not even the atheists. Nope, if you really want to get your ass handed to you in a debate, challenge a comedian! Go on! See what happens! Carlin defined an entire genre of teachers, educators who employ the use of those teaspoons of sugar called humor and irony to help the “medicine” of knowledge go down. It’s the honesty of comedians that really sets them apart from the rest of us, with our cold formalities and superficial codes of conduct that tend to hide the answers to so many of life’s hard truths.

It was the George Carlins of this world who taught a fearful, sex-abhorring, body-hating, Bible-loving public that certain body parts are not evil and should be able to be exposed just like all the other parts. It was the George Carlins of this world who let us know how dippy and stupid our society is to isolate a certain set of “seven words” to keep them from being said in public. From Carlin we learned that being offended by anything as small as profanity is totally senseless and dumb, and that only people with oatmeal for brains will be. It was comedians like Carlin who softened us up to accepting that religion is completely man-made and man-driven—from start to finish. The gods are fair game; it’s okay to doubt them, to joke about them, and to use their holy books as a means to even-out wobbly tables or for toilet paper!

It was from comedians like Carlin that we learned that the world will not end if we are made uncomfortable by what someone else says, that it’s okay to say out-loud those obtuse thoughts in our own heads that we are embarrassed to verbalize. It’s okay to express yourself just as surely as it is to reason freely about every facet of reality. If the gods were real, they’d bless George Carlin and those like him for their honesty, for being courageous, for making sport of sacred silliness, for being lighthearted about our dark natures, for casting aspersions at monotonous norms, and for frustrating the goddamn hell out of those on the far right. Such triumphant souls pave the way for the rest of us to open up and to laugh at life, to be ourselves and to be better communicators. If I can accomplish 1/8th of what George has done, I’ll call myself a witty man.

Rest in Peace, George.


Join The Raptor Jesus Cult!

Lighting up a cigarette from that half-empty pack of Newports in his front jacket pocket, he seemed not to notice us. He didn’t even look like a man of science. He looked like a 60’s hippie, with glasses, a ponytail, and plain, casual clothes. He just stood there, leaning against the brown brick wall outside of the laboratory. When we asked to speak to Paul Gorman, the renowned Christian paleontologist, he spoke up after what could have been perceived as a rude and condescending delay. “That’s me,” he finally said, putting out the cigarette. Things were a little tense at first, but he soon loosened up to our presence, and the interview went well.

That’s what we were there for. We’d finally found the always-busy and hard-to-get-a-hold-of Dr. Gorman to meet with our Fox News Associates for an exclusive interview on his latest and most controversial claim yet. The claim: Jesus Christ – savior, prophet, and God to so many – endured his earthly pilgrimage with a raptor’s head atop his human body!

So certain was Gorman of his findings that he began his own ministry—Raptor Jesus Ministries. His goals, as he explained them to us, are twofold; first, to educate the masses on this new biblical find; second, to provide a cooler and more hip way for the younger, cyber-immersed generation to come to know Christ.

But I was skeptical. The idea that Jesus Christ had a raptor’s head on his body seemed…well…harebrained! So it was time to get some hardcore facts since I certainly couldn’t see them for myself. Now if there’s one thing Christian apologists of all calibers are experts at, it’s coming up with evidence for preposterous claims when there is none. So, yes, I was skeptical. But when Gorman began to open his mouth with the explanations of his position, I soon became hypnotically entrenched…

“You’ll find that in Job chapters 40:15-41:34, God tells us about a large, reptilian creature that is exalted above any other beast. Nowhere in scripture do we see his equal. But the problem is, God never speaks to exalt animals. He only exalts humans. And though the Almighty went through a phase where he said he wanted to wear the cologne of animal’s blood, he quickly tired of it (Isaiah 1:11). At one point, God even denied that he ever asked for animal sacrifices in the first place (Jeremiah 7:21-22), but that’s another matter. The point for us to take home here is, there was no way God could have spoken like this in the scriptures to exalt some reptile. No, God is trying to tell us that there’s more being described here than just some dumb, brute beast.

In Job 40:19, this mighty creature is called, ‘The chief of the ways of God.’ The chief of the ways of God can only be Christ. And in chapter 41:33-34, we read: ‘Upon earth there is not his like, who is made without fear. He beholdeth all high things: he is a king over all the children of pride.’ This can only be referring to Jesus. But there are other ways we know this to be true. Isaiah predicted that the savior would have sharp teeth: ‘Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff.’ (Isaiah 41:15) This too can only be referring to Jesus.”

“Ok, you’ve got my attention,” I thought to myself. But I wasn’t yet convinced. It is difficult to believe that God would choose to take upon him the form of a man, and yet the facial form of a raptor, an extinct beast that lived over seventy-eight million years ago! Many churches still believe that fossils are a work of the devil. So how could it be that one of those inane fossils, so distantly removed from Christ, was actually the image of God’s Holy Son? Sitting spellbound at the wisdom of this scholar, I listened as he continued…

“The scripture says of the suffering messiah that he would be unattractive in appearance. (Isaiah 53:2) Even as a babe, Jesus was so hideously ugly that the Angel of God had to basically say, ‘Get that kid out of here because these folks are going to kill him when they see him!’ (Matthew 2:13) This was because his face was a raptor’s face. Throughout Jesus’ ministry, we see him rejected and scorned a number of times. This couldn’t have been because of the things he taught because the Bible says the common people heard his message and received it gladly. (Mark 12:37) This leads us to conclude that Jesus was rejected because he resembled the prophetic allusions that speak of him as the powerful, reptilian creature from Job’s time.

The mystifying presence of fish in the life of Jesus is very interesting too. Jesus kept referring to fish. He had an insatiable appetite for it. (Matthew 7:10; 17:27) Even after his crucifixion and ascension, when he was more than free to head back to the resplendent glories of heaven that he created for himself and only a few of us, he still couldn’t get his mind off of food. He chose to stay on earth and ask for meat from his disciples when he reappeared to them. (Luke 24:42; John 21:9-14) I think if Jesus were around today, he’d probably own stock in Long John Silvers or perhaps Red Lobster.

The assumed miracle of the loaves and fishes found in Matthew 14:16-21 gives us a faint clue as to how Jesus produced fish for the masses. I always wondered how he could have done that, and together with the rest of the evidence, I now believe that the raptor position makes the most sense of any. While Jesus could have done a miracle, he didn’t. He just had his disciples sit the multitudes down, and when they weren’t looking, he stuck his big raptor head under water and snatched out a few massive raptor mouthfuls of what was to be dinner! Jesus may have been a rapacious reptile, though he was certainly a very generous and benevolent one.

Paleontologists agree; the best and most proficient carnivorous land-beast at catching fish was the raptor. And as often as fish and feeding multitudes are found throughout scripture, it is a more than sound conclusion that Jesus was given a raptor’s head for precisely that purpose. He was a more effective fisherman and a more effective savior. No wonder it was said that Jesus cast out demons as the prince of the demons—any man with a raptor’s head looks plenty demonic! (Matthew 12:24) This was why people were terrified of Jesus and asked him to leave their cities. (Matthew 8:34; Mark 5:17) This was also why Jesus was unable to get married.”

For me, the pieces were starting to fall into place! I was electrified with the wisdom and scholarship Dr. Gorman showed. Before I could begin with my printed-out list of now useless questions, I realized I had created a monster of oratory! He finished what remained of his thoughts and perpetuated without missing a beat…

“And this was the main reason Jesus was rejected and crucified. Nobody expected a literally cold-blooded Jewish messiah.”

At this point, Dr. Gorman began to tear-up: “Oh sure, we love to cry at movies like ‘The Passion of the Christ,’ but do we really know what he went through? People tell me my findings are blasphemous, but this new knowledge of Raptor Jesus only brings more glory to Christ. It doesn’t take any away. It shows us that Jesus suffered more for our sins, not less!”

Bringing our three-and-a-half hour interview to a close, Dr. Gorman assured us that although it would take time and a lot of indoctrination, generations of new and impressionable minds are already laying hold onto a much cooler Jesus than the one their parents knew. There’s just something to say about a Jesus who attracts crowds like a freak-show and has pointed teeth, who has a mouth nearly the size of a punch bowl, and protruding, beady eyes. And he’s no weakling! He didn’t have to stumble, carrying that cross to Golgotha. He didn’t have to get his butt kicked by a hackneyed council of ordinary Jews and Romans who decided to have him lynched. He didn’t have to—he wanted to! He laid down his life for us. He went extinct for our sins!

As we departed (partly choked up ourselves and partly amazed at how we went through an entire box of Kleenex Ultra-Soft), Dr. Gorman, still spiritedly chatting away about the goals of his ministry, asked us: “Honestly, if you were one of these new-age kids who use words like “Pwn” and “noob,” and could text-speak faster than you could read a verse from the King James Bible, would you be more inclined to worship a resurrected Jew, or a resurrected raptor Jew?” With a smile, I told him: “Say no more, sir. Say no more!”

Who would have thought that some obscure therapod from the late Cretaceous Period would have such significance on a soteriological scale? Truly, the stones cry out, “Jesus!” And whether you agree with Dr. Gorman’s findings or not, you have to admit that adding the word “raptor” to any title or description makes the subject a whole heck of a lot cooler! I am now part of the Raptor Jesus Cult. Why not join?