Archive for religion I can accept

A Believer Being Right for a Change

Neil at Australian LutheranThere is so much annoying nonsense coming from religious believers, it’s tempting to dismiss them all as unreasonable idiots.  But it’s important to give them some credit when credit is due.

Neil writes at a blog titled Lutheran Church of Australia: In My Opinion. He is trying to single handedly reform the leadership of his church when it comes to LGBTQ issues.  He’s good.  He’s worth reading.  He’s entirely too intelligent and reasonable to be a Christian, but he insists that’s what he is.

The leadership of the Christian Church in Australia including the leadership of my own church enjoy a position of real power and influence in this country. They have, for decades, in a coordinated and well-funded manner spoken against our LGBT brothers and sisters labelling them as sinful, disordered and diseased.

But things have changed. Others have voiced their support for LGBT rights and equality and have begun to publicly question the Church. Some have even gone so far as to call the church*s views bigoted and homophobic.

The churches response? Rather than entering into genuine dialogue with those who have been hurt by their teachings,  the Church have pulled up the drawbridge, manned the ramparts, dug deeply into their persecution complex storehouse and cried *Discrimination.*

You’d almost think PZ Myers was his ghost writer.  His latest post is one of his best.

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Religion on Thin Ice

This is a daring, even dangerous, sign for a church to put up.  The only logical result of thinking about doubt is atheism.

Thinking? Dangerous ground for religion to explore.

As secularism gains critical mass, we can expect the churches to become more tolerant of atheists and even doubt, questioning, and yes, thinking.

My domestic partner and main squeeze has started to attend a church on Sundays.  It’s a church in which even I feel comfortable, the First Unitarian Fellowship, a United Universalist church.  The sermons could only be described as secular, with few if any mentions of a sky faerie, and the intellectual environment is several cuts above any other church I’ve ever been in.  They welcome everybody, including atheists.  The stories they read for the children are things like “The Everything Seed” by Carole Martignacco which presents a seed from which came everything as an analogy for the big bang, like an atheist creation myth.  I think a good part of the draw for my partner is a chance to sing in a choir, but she also appreciates the welcoming atmosphere and,  as advertised, the fellowship.

PZ has a post about how we can’t expect churches to go away.  They will adapt and evolve.  We can see this happening already, especially when a church invites us to think.  Of course they want certain conclusions from the thinking they encourage, but that’s only to be expected.  Dream on, you guys.

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Credit Where Credit is Due

Some Christians make sense and speak with compassion.It’s an understatement to say that I have little use for Christianity.  I think it is misogynist and anti-sexual at its core, not to mention stupid and based on transparently idiotic dogma.  But I must recognize that there are Christians of good heart who see the more egregious failings of their organization, and speak out to try to correct them.

All of this to say that Neil has a new post up at Lutheran Church of Australia – In My Opinion, It’s a precise and civil (there you go Dan Finke) slapdown of LCA President Rev. Mike Semmler’s reference to “disgusting copulations” in his lead off to a recent speech.

This is what the LCA president thought fitting to begin his talk to the clergy under his leadership:

Homosexuality: (Romans 1:26-28) The Scriptures do not provide psychological reasons for this state. Same sex people are not created to copulate with each other. It should not surprise us as Christians that something has gone wrong with creation.

The practice did no favours for Greek civilisation around Paul’s time. But the Romans to whom he wrote, could take no consolation that they viewed the practice with disgust. Society always suffers and is undermined not just by homosexuality, but by ‘envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness’

Now trip on down to Australia and see what Neil had to say in response.  It’s well worth a read, and perhaps even worth a supportive comment.  This guy is fighting a lonely battle down under.

It’s easy to be critical of Christianity and churches in general.  When somebody in that deluded and confused crowd is making sense, we should say something nice to them.

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Credit Where Credit is Due

I was in church this evening.  Or should I say I was in “a” church.  I was not there for a dose of Christian theology but to watch a performance of Il Duo*, part of the Winnipeg Fringe Festival.  Just being in a church made me restless.  It’s not a place I belong.

This is one big organ.  I'd love to hear it.

It’s an old church, with suitably uncomfortable pews, beautiful stained glass windows, and a very impressive old pipe organ, the kind with real pipes.  And in the seat back in front of me I found a card.  Here’s what it said:

*************card from Augustine Church, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada**************

Welcome to Augustine United Church

Whatever the dogma and ideology, this is a fine statement.We are pleased you have chosen to worship here at Augustine.  Please let us know how we may serve you by taking a moment to fill out the back of this card and place it in the offering place.  We will do our best to respond.

The mission of Augustine United Church is to worship God, care for each other, seek justice and deepen our faith in an inclusive, Affirming Christian community.

As an affirming Congregation, Augustine is a community that welcomes, recognizes and accepts  lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in our midst as full and equal participants in all aspects of our life, work and worship. (emphasis mine)

*************end of card from Augustine Church, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada****************

There you have it.  I never thought I’d set foot in a church again, and I certainly have no respect or affection for Christian theology.  But I have to applaud a church that rises above prejudice and bigotry and changes to suit the times.

*Il Duo was a delight.  Beautiful voices, fast paced comedy with audience participation, great fun. I particularly liked their encore, a filk version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” that said it like it is.  They’ll have it up on their site soon.

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Convergence and Freethought Bloggers

You may have noticed a reduction in my output lately.  It’s all the fault of the Freethought Bloggers.  They scoop all the good material, and they get the hundreds of comments.  I’m left with just personal stuff, of varying quality.  Self indulgent pablum for the most part, like my last post on manliness.  This is all okay.  I’m happy to have the good people at Freethought Blogs take all the thunder, and the glory.  Unless I have something of value to contribute, I don’t see the point of making noise.

Which brings me to Convergence.  My partner and I are going.  And now I understand that PZ and the Skepchicks will also be there, including my partner’s new favourite, Natalie Reed.  These people are giants in the blogosphere, legends in their own time.  I’m so very happy I’ll be in the same city as them, let along the same convention venue.  Who knows, I might even get to meet them.  How cool is that?

And now that I’ve got your attention, once again let me direct you to the Lutheran Church of Australia website.  I’ve been having a chat in the comments under their latest posting, which is also an entertaining read.  These are very unusual Christians.  They actually seem to be open minded.  Who’da thunk it.

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Christian Push Back against Homophobia

No time to really say much but I’ve been following the conversation on a Lutheran Church of Australia blog that I’ve mentioned a couple of times before.  This site is really worth paying attention to.  Imagine, a Christian site that posts these two pictures, and says that the second one is the more honest.

This is what the loving Christians hand out inschools when they can.

This is what the loving Christians of Focus on Family hand out in schools, when they can get away with it.

And this is what their handout really means.

And this is what they mean.  Many thanks to Neil at In My Opinion, the Lutheran Church of Australia blog, for bringing this to my attention.  If there were more Christians like these in the world, I might not have such a low opinion of organized religion.

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The Four Agreements – book review.

Cover of "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz.  A touchy feely classic worth reading.I’ve never read anything that made more sense than “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz.  Although Don Miguel himself holds beliefs firmly based in Toltec mythology and shamanism, the ideas in that book are so down to earth and common sense that a pure materialist atheist such as myself can buy in with nary a moment of embarrassment.  If you haven’t read this book, I’d recommend it.  It could change your life.

The four agreements are:

1. Be impeccable in your word.

2. Don’t take anything personally

3. Don’t make assumptions.

4. Always do your best.

How can it get simpler than this.  Yet Ruiz has written a touchy feely classic elaborating on just these four sentences, and the book is worth reading.  My own paraphrasing of these rules goes like this: 

1.  Be impeccable in your word.  Words have power.  Hitler never personally murdered anybody, that I know of, but millions died because of his words.  Same for Stalin and Mao.  Recognize the power of your words and be careful with them.  Think about your reason for speaking before you speak, and make sure your words are coming from a place of love.  Make sure your words are intended to elevate the person to whom you are speaking, not to put you on a higher plane or hurt them.  As a person who “doesn’t suffer fools gladly”, I find this rule very difficult.  As are they all.

2.  Don’t take anything personally:  No matter what anybody else says or does, it isn’t about you.  Even if they say it’s about you, it’s not.  It’s about them.  You can alter your behavior, or not, as you see fit.  But don’t think that anybody else EVER says something to you that is about you.  It never is.  Even if they shoot you in the head, it’s not about you.  It’s about them.  This is also really hard to accept and believe, but it is very true.  Thinking that you do something because of somebody else is a delusion, a variation of that complaint you get from a child.  “See what you made me do.”  Nobody makes you do anything.  You don’t make anybody else do anything.  When they do something, it’s never about you, it’s about them. When you do something it’s always about you, never about them.  See what you made me do is only for children.  This all has a lot of implications – if somebody says they love you, that’s about how they feel, not about how lovable you are.  Same for if they say they hate you.  Why does this make a difference?  Because when we think we are causing other people to feel things, we allow others to control us instead of following our own path.

3.  Don’t make assumptions:  We can’t live without assumptions, of course.  We must assume that our friends are really our friends, our children are really our children (though that might not matter so much), and that we know what others think and feel.  But don’t assume too much.  Ask.  Verify your assumptions.  The door might have slammed because your partner is angry with you, or it might have slammed because your partner is angry with somebody else, or it might have slammed because the wind caught it.  Don’t assume.  Ask.  Communicate.  Making assumptions leads to a lack of communications, to taking others for granted, and to ignoring the feelings of others because we assume we know what they think and feel.

Don Miguel Ruiz.  Not all gurus have their heads up their butts.  Some, like Ruiz, make sense.4.  Always do your best:  What a great idea.  But what is your best.  That varies.  When you are tired or sick, your best is not what it was when you were not tired or healthy.  If you don’t take care of yourself, or don’t get enough sleep, your best will be less than optimal.  But most of us know when we are half hearted in our efforts, when we don’t really put ourselves into a task.  That’s what you want to try to avoid.  Always do your best, whatever your best might be at the time.

I hope this hasn’t been a total spoiler for Don Miguel Ruiz’s book.  It’s well worth getting and reading.  But if you are not going to get it and read it, just those four sentences should give you something to think about.  Don’t thank me.  Thank Don Miguel.

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Let’s all Welcome The Rabbit

I don’t usually direct people to other blogs, but this is too brilliant to ignore.  Also, I think I’m in love with Miranda Celeste.  A pure, holy love with absolutely no carnal components I can assure you.  I love her for her mind.  I think my partner  is okay with this.  Speaking of whom, here’s a quote from my brilliant partner: “This is the homeopathy of religion, diluting God down to nothing.”

Rabbit is the question

What does it mean to accept that The Rabbit is not the answer to anything, but remains the unanswerable question?

Rabbit: The homeopathy of religious experience, diluting God down to nothing at all.

Although I’ve never seen Him, and have absolutely no evidence that He exists, my intuition and my gut feelings tell me that a holy rabbit, in fact the holy Rabbit, lives just outside of my door. No, I’ve never seen or heard Him, but, to be honest, I actually prefer that He chooses, in His powerful but ineffable wisdom, not to reveal Himself to me. The Rabbit, you see, is above existence and He plays such an important role in my life precisely because He won’t show himself to me. My life would be meaningless without The Rabbit.

Many wise people understand this, including a Marxist scholar and an an ex-nun, both of whom have made valiant efforts to clearly explain these qualities of The Rabbit, He who cannot be expressed in words. They, like me, intuitively know that The Rabbit is the question, not the answer. But what does that mean?

As you can surely tell by now, it’s very important to me that I be completely clear and comprehensible in my writing. So, firstly, let’s set the terms of the discussion: what do we mean when we talk about “The Rabbit”? The beautiful and incredibly satisfying answer is this: no one knows. The Rabbit is the essence of what we call “a mystery.” As certain wise scholars of The Rabbit have said, The Rabbit is simply a term that describes that which we do not know.

I can just hear those strident New Arabbitists right now, the ones who dare to reduce the question of The Rabbit’s existence to science (can you imagine?), saying that this is nonsensical obfuscation and is just a pathetic attempt to rationalize my belief in The Rabbit. But, perhaps, after reading my piece, the New Arabbitists will open their minds and will begin to attempt to understand something so deep and so powerful that we cannot possibly even begin to understand it. First, let’s answer this question: what is a mystery?

Mysteries, you see, are much, much different than problems. Problems can be studied by scientists. But science is powerless to even begin to explain a mystery such as The Rabbit. There are not words in existence that can describe The Rabbit. A devout believer in and scholar of The Rabbit, one who lived in the Middle Ages, said it best: The Rabbit cannot even be said to exist. That’s how very mysterious He is!

It’s all very clear: those of us who understand The Rabbit know that He is not of this material world. In fact, The Rabbit is the only thing that is not of this world. The Rabbit created all of existence and thus could not possibly be a part of it: He caused existence but is not something that actually exists.

However, the fact that The Rabbit doesn’t actually exist only means that we should think and discuss and study Him all the more. But why? Well, it’s simple: anyone who feels that life has any meaning or purpose at all must ask the question that is The Rabbit. The Rabbit, you see, is the question! To ask of The Rabbit, then, is to ask the most important of questions, questions that cannot be answered without The Rabbit’s existence. No, The Rabbit does not exist and is never the answer; however, He is the question and His non-existence must be felt and experienced before we can even begin to think about life’s big questions. Those of us who believe in The Rabbit know that there is an answer: The Rabbit, who is a mystery that we know but can never, ever even begin to understand. So, The Rabbit is sometimes the answer if we realize that in being the answer, He is still always an unknowable question and always will be. See how very clear all of this is?

Having cleared that up, I can move on to answer the question of how we should discuss The Rabbit. Again, the answer is very simple and clear: we can talk about The Rabbit in the negative and describe what The Rabbit is not. Here are some things that The Rabbit is not: visible, definable, able to be expressed in words. So, even though we can say nothing about what The Rabbit actually is, by explaining what he isn’t, we’re, mysteriously enough, saying something about what The Rabbit is!

You see, true enlightenment will only come when all of humanity realizes that even though The Rabbit is sometimes the answer, if and only if, in being the answer, he remains completely unknowable, there really is no answer, or, in other words, the answer is the question: “what”? Life is full of mysteries and is revealed to us as a beautifully enigmatic and puzzling question, one that cannot and will not ever be solved. So, too, The Rabbit.

How profound and magnificent! Of course, there are skeptics who will say that all of this is purposely confusing and meaningless nonsense (I find this so amusing, I must say. How could that which is the only path to meaning and which I have described in such a clear, lucid manner, possibly be nonsense?) and will ask how we can possibly justify belief in the existence of a divine being for whom there’s not a shred of evidence. But those skeptics, those New Arabbitists, in addition to being close-minded and ignorant about the mysteries of the world, never bother to read the massive amount of scholarly literature about The Rabbit. Instead, they dare to claim that The Rabbit’s existence is a scientific question! They tell me that if I opened my door right now, I’d see no trace of The Rabbit. Well, of course I wouldn’t! But that only means that I should think about Him and study Him more! For some reason, these New Arabbitists stubbornly refuse to be open-minded enough to understand that.

I’ll end by saying something that may surprise you: our belief in The Rabbit is only made stronger when we doubt Him, and we can only doubt Him as long as He doesn’t reveal himself to us. Because The Rabbit is a question, we must always work to make ourselves more and more doubtful of The Rabbit so that we keep alive the unknowable mystery of The Rabbit.

Remember, you must open yourself up to the wonder of the unknowable mystery that is The Rabbit before you can even begin to find meaning or purpose in existence. The Rabbit is the only answer, even though He can never be anything but an unanswerable question.

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Happy Thanksgiving Canadians

Doctor David Stendle-Rast is one religious freak I endorse.  This is what religion should be all about.

As anybody who’s been reading my posts will know, I’m generally antagonistic to religion.  I make an exception for Brother David Steindl-Rast.  Although he is a Roman Catholic, his Gratefulness website isn’t talking about the sky faerie all that much.  What he is talking about is the gratitude we should all feel for simply being alive, and the value of gratitude to humanity.  This is something I feel ALL the time.  Gratitude.  So, Happy Thanksgiving Canadians.  Be grateful.  This is an amazing world, and we are privileged to be living in the most exciting and amazing time that humanity has ever seen.  So much to be grateful for.  I’d suggest you celebrate today by watching their  A Good Day video.  It even works for a hard bitten atheist like me.
     It’s hard to be angry when feeling gratitude.

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