Monthly Archives: November 2009

Putting your money where your dogma is

Chris Matthews takes on a self-righteous Catholic bishop about the consistency of his pro-life position:

I love this debate — it’s the tack that I like to take the most when discussing reproductive issues. For me, it’s not about persuading someone to accept the reality of having legally accessible abortions — it’s more about showing what the strong moral beliefs behind the pro-life movement look like when they’re practically applied in REAL LIFE.

It may make for a great sound-bite to proclaim that all “life begins at conception,” but when you’ve got to legislate such morality in practical terms — suddenly it loses its luster and appeal.

[of course, the best article I’ve found that really highlights the problems involved with legislating the pro-life position is the 2006 NYTimes article on El Salvador, Pro-Life Nation.]

The season begins

O Christmas tree, originally uploaded by becky b..

(and yes, I’ve already started up the music and cinnamon candles and Charlie Brown Christmas viewings. Tree goes up this weekend!)

Thanks to SkylarKD for the crafty idea!

What he said:

Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 1986
William S. Burroughs

For John Dillinger
In hope he is still alive

Thanks for the wild turkey and the Passenger Pigeons, destined to be shit out through wholesome American guts
thanks for a Continent to despoil and poison
thanks for Indians to provide a modicum of challenge and danger
thanks for vast herds of bison to kill and skin, leaving the carcass to rot
thanks for bounties on wolves and coyotes
thanks for the AMERICAN DREAM to vulgarize and falsify until the bare lies shine through
thanks for the KKK, for nigger-killing lawmen feeling their notches, for decent church-going women with their mean, pinched, bitter, evil faces
thanks for Kill a Queer for Christ stickers
thanks for laboratory AIDS
thanks for Prohibition and the War Against Drugs
thanks for a country where nobody is allowed to mind his own business
thanks for a nation of finks — yes,
thanks for all the memories all right, lets see your arms you always were a headache and you always were a bore
thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams.

No pot or pan in my house is safe

Tonight I was 2 rows away from this:

I’ll never look at brooms the same way, either.

Can’t wait til Emma’s old enough for me to take her to this show!

Not so sparkly vampires

I maintain: The Twilight series is dangerous. Not because Bella is a brainless, empty, shell of a female character. I don’t have a problem with weak women in the movies. What bothers me is that this tripe is being sold not just as normal but as DESIRABLE. As something that women should aspire to. Young girls around the country are debating whether she should choose Edward or Jacob. Which abuse is better? He’s insanely jealous and stalks me or he can barely control his anger and may physically abuse me at any moment?

Ew Moon: Why Twilight Continues to Hurt America
from Masala Skeptic of Skepchick

[read the whole review, and you’ll get a taste of the disdain I have for these books/films]

I get (even more) email

I got a response to the response I sent to the lady’s response to my response to her letter to the Star Phoenix. Follow that?

I’m posting a few segments of what I wrote to my friend, because I think it does a fairly good job of clarifying where I’m at in terms of my own “theology” of hell and forgiveness and God-as-loving-father.

Enjoy at your own risk:

Onto some of what you said in your message. First of all, I’m curious where you are basing your information on hell, in terms of it being a “destination” rather than a deterrent. I was basing my thoughts on what Jesus said about hell in the New Testament. Words Jesus has been recorded saying about hell include “everlasting punishment,” “wailing and gnashing of teeth”, “Where the worm dies not”, and “the fire that never shall be quenched” — amongst others. It’s been claimed by many that Jesus spoke more about hell than any other subject in the Gospels.

Here’s a good website that goes through some of how hell is described in the NT, and also some of how the church has viewed hell through the years.

Now I understand that it’s contested in theology about whether or not hell is of the fire and brimstone variety, or if it’s a vaguely-defined “separation from God” type of place — but, as I’m sure you’d agree, it’s not a place anyone should aim to go to (at least if you believe in Christian theology).

I know the apologetic analogies of how God isn’t the one who’s sending people to hell, and I’ve even hear it said that the door leading out of hell is “locked from the inside” — as if it’s the CHOICE of the nonbeliever to suffer eternally in such a place. You say that God didn’t want us to be eternally separated from him, and that freewill plays a choice in where we end up — I disagree. Why does there need to be such extremes to this supposed choice? Eternal bliss versus eternal punishment? How can that be considered a choice? If I hold a gun to your head, and demand all of your money, you have a “choice” in that matter, right? Either you give me what I want, or you suffer the consequences. I see God acting the same way in this matter. Give God the appropriate amount of love and respect, or suffer for all eternity. This isn’t someone or something worth my affection.

I noticed that you didn’t address what I had said in my email, in terms of what “forgiveness” means — you said we just have to “accept” what Jesus has done, in order to be saved. Okay, fair enough, but if that’s the case, I think we should all stop pretending that this is forgiveness at work.

[part of my friend's message was to use an analogy to illustrate the dilemma God faces with his wayward children. She positioned me as one day having information about one of Emma's boyfriends who has AIDS, and that if Emma slept with this guy, Emma would for sure contract the disease and suffer "certain death." I have "unmistakable proof" to show Emma, but she still chooses "to go with this man and walk away from you forever, and you're left standing there knowing the destructive life your little girl has chosen, but their's nothing you can do about it." How would I feel?]

Finally, I appreciate your analogy of the parent with the child — but, I don’t think it works. First of all, you talk about “unmistakable” proof that could be used to dissuade Emma. What would be the equivalent unmistakable proof for Christianity? In your analogy, I’m a living and breathing human being, who has an actual (verifiable!) relationship with my daughter. She knows I’m here because I’m actually here — I’m not a voice in her head, I’m not revealed to her in literature from the Bronze Age. I’m here.

Also, if Emma did decide to be with who she loves, who happened to have AIDS — well, I’m not sure I’d be willing to say that it was the worst thing possible, because there are many good people out there living with the disease. Technology today makes it possible for people with AIDS to live long, fulfilled lives. But besides that point, I wouldn’t be casting her away from me, to “everlasting punishment” (Jesus’s supposed words!) as a consequence for her choice. I may not like her choice, I may even grieve over her bad decision-making, but I wouldn’t close the door on our relationship if she questioned me, or even defied me!

If God is real, and if hell is an actual place, then God will send me there because I honestly don’t believe in his existence. I don’t have issues with God, I don’t hate God, and I’m not angry at God — how can I be, if I don’t think such a thing exists? I’ve looked for God, and I would like to think I’m still open to being persuaded to evidence — but my standards go beyond any anecdotal, emotional, or personal appeals. I need something tangible if I’m going to admit such a being exists.

And even after I acknowledge such a presence, it’s a whole other step for me to then accept the God of Bible.

That’s a bit of where I’m coming from.

Take care.


I get email

So the lady who’s letter I responded to in the Star Phoenix tracked me down and sent me the following email:

Hi Rebekah, I noticed that you answered my letter in the Star Phoenix and I would like to comment on your answer. I don’t think the Star Phoenix would publish two of my letters in one month so I hope you don’t mind if I email my response to you. First of all, I find your passion for what you believe and your honesty refreshing even if I do not agree with your viewpoint. Many people go through life never giving any thought to what they believe or why they believe what they do. What really stood out to me in the letter you wrote were the two words “hell” and “fear.” As someone who has given my life to Jesus, fear and hell are the farthest things from my mind. Being friends with my Creator removes any fear I have the future because I can trust God with my life and future. It’s like resting in the arms of a loving Daddy who would never do anything to hurt me. Romans 8 says that NOTHING can separate me or you from God’s love and I rest in that promise. If God and heaven and hell do not exist, then I guess you could consider me a misguided fool—happily living my life and putting energy into things you would not consider important but I do love my life! If God and heaven and hell do exist, and I believe with all my heart that they do, then you have chosen to reject the God who loved you enough to die for you and you have chosen to live your life encouraging other people to reject God also. This would be a scary and yes, fearful place to be! You say a freethinker wouldn’t advocate eternal punishment for a questioning nonbeliever such as you. Isn’t this a double standard? If Jesus exists as the Bible says he does, then both heaven and hell also exist. Jesus says he is not willing for anyone to perish in hell which is why he died and rose again to give us a choice to either follow him or not follow him. If you make the choice to reject God when he is actively calling you—why are you surprised that you have chosen to reject eternity with God also? You have not asked for it, but I have been praying for you daily that you make wise choices. Thank you for listening,

Here’s how I responded:

What a surprise to get an email from you yesterday. I’m glad you saw my response to your letter — though I’m saddened that you have misread much of what I had said in it. You wrote that the two words of my letter that most stood out were the words “hell” and “fear,” and then for much of your email you position me as if I’m fearful of hell. That’s just not the case.

My original letter to the editor was meant to address your claim that Jesus was the greatest freethinker of all. My letter said that the Jesus of the New Testament is far more notable for his “fearthought” teaching than freethought. In fact, the only time I mentioned “fear” and “hell” were in the context of Jesus’s teachings, as he was the first to introduce the concept of eternal punishment for nonbelievers (like myself). I’m NOT afraid of hell, because I don’t think such a place exists. As far as I can tell, the only reality of hell is its function as a control mechanism to either keep believers in the faith or scare others into it.

I see you’re using the metaphor of a loving parent to describe God:

It’s like resting in the arms of a loving Daddy who would never do anything to hurt me.

I remember hearing that metaphor quite a bit when I was in the church — I grew up in the faith, and most of my family are still highly religious. I still remember all the lingo and the reasoning behind defending the faith. Yet the more closely you examine the rationale behind these platitudes, and fully extend these metaphors into practical terms — the more they lose their luster and persuasive appeal. Now that I’m gaining more and more parental experience, whenever I consider the metaphor of God as a loving parent, it falls even more flat.

I’m a parent of a rambunctious 2 and a half year old little girl. As her mama, I can’t imagine ever purposefully putting her in a place where she would have the potential to be seriously harmed. I can’t imagine her doing or saying anything that could make me love her less. I can’t imagine holding something against her, something that would force a separation (eternal or otherwise) between herself and I. I can’t imagine forcing her to make a choice of either loving me OR facing punishment if she didn’t love/adore me in a certain way.

But while I can’t imagine doing all these things as a parent, God has done and is doing them — well, at least according to your theology. Sure, God sacrificed himself to appease … well, himself … and I understand that he’s supposedly offering forgiveness because of this sacrifice — but the last time I understood the definition of forgiveness, there wasn’t a trade involved in the process. In order for me to be forgiven and accepted by this “loving Daddy”, I have to accept this gift and its consequences — whereas true forgiveness doesn’t have such strings or hoops attached in its exchange. Forgiveness is freely given, freely received.

You said in your email that I have “chosen to reject the God who loved you enough to die for you and you have chosen to live your life encouraging other people to reject God also.” Well, you’re half right — I have rejected God. I reject anything or anyone so oppressive and insecure that he has to dangle eternal punishment over my head in an attempt to have me love him. I have rejected faith because I don’t see how it’s necessary or relevant in my life. I’m just as moral, happy, and hopeful as I was when I was a believer — if anything, my eyes have adjusted to appreciate the world around me even more, particularly since I don’t have an “eternal life” waiting for me. I just have the here and now — and you know? It’s enough for me.

Where you’re wrong in that statement above is where you say I’m encouraging others to reject God. Not the case. I’m encouraging others to THINK for themselves, to challenge the cliches, stereotypes, and platitudes that are spoonfed to them from pulpits, and I challenge believers to not harm others as they practice their dogma. I won’t stand in anyone’s way if they choose to believe in invisible, supernatural friends — but I will raise one hell of a fuss once their dogma starts infringing on others’ human rights (for example, the same-sex marriage issue in the states).

So, here’s my long response to your response. I’m always open to dialogue, though I’m not so keen on any conversion talk. I am curious about how others think, and even moreso, I’m passionate about letting believers know more about us nonbelievers. I don’t want the label “atheist” to be a scary word or a put-down — so I’m willing to be in these kinds of conversations to break down misdirected stereotypes.

Take care.