Thursday, December 08, 2005

Quote of the Day

“. . . In all parts of our globe, fanatics have cut each other's throats, publicly burnt each other, committed without a scruple and even as a duty, the greatest crimes, and shed torrents of blood.

. . .Savage and furious nations, perpetually at war, adore, under divers names, some God, conformable to their ideas, that is to say, cruel, carnivorous, selfish, blood-thirsty. We find, in all the religions, 'a God of armies,' a 'jealous God,' an 'avenging God,' a 'destroying God,' a 'God,' who is pleased with carnage, and whom his worshippers consider it a duty to serve. Lambs, bulls, children, men, and women, are sacrificed to him. Zealous servants of this barbarous God think themselves obliged even to offer up themselves as a sacrifice to him. Madmen may everywhere be seen, who, after meditating upon their terrible God, imagine that to please him they must inflict on themselves, the most exquisite torments. The gloomy ideas formed of the deity, far from consoling them, have every where disquieted their minds, and prejudiced follies destructive to happiness.

How could the human mind progress, while tormented with frightful phantoms, and guided by men, interested in perpetuating its ignorance and fears? Man has been forced to vegetate in his primitive stupidity: he has been taught stories about invisible powers upon whom his happiness was supposed to depend. Occupied solely by his fears, and by unintelligible reveries, he has always been at the mercy of priests, who have reserved to themselves the right of thinking for him, and of directing his actions.”

-- Baron d'Holbach, Common Sense, 1772


Rowan said...

And from the same work:

How has it been possible to persuade reasonable beings, that the thing, most impossible to comprehend, was most essential to them? It is because they have been greatly terrified; because, when they fear, they cease to reason; because, they have been taught to mistrust their own understanding; because, when the brain is troubled, they believe every thing, and examine nothing.

Ignorance and fear are the two hinges of all religion. The uncertainty in which man finds himself in relation to his God, is precisely the motive that attaches him to his religion. Man is fearful in the dark -- in moral, as well as physical darkness. His fear becomes habitual, and habit makes it natural; he would think that he wanted something, if he had nothing to fear.

He, who from infancy has habituated himself to tremble when he hears pronounced certain words, requires those words and needs to tremble. He is therefore more disposed to listen to one, who entertains him in his fears, than to one, who dissuades him from them. The superstitious man wishes to fear; his imagination demands it; one might say, that he fears nothing so much, as to have nothing to fear.

Men are
imaginary invalids, whose weakness empirics are interested to encourage, in order to have sale for their drugs. They listen rather to the physician, who prescribes a variety of remedies, than to him, who recommends good regimen, and leaves nature to herself.

If religion were more clear, it would have less charms for the ignorant, who are pleased only with obscurity, terrors, fables, prodigies, and things incredible. Romances, silly stories, and the tales of ghosts and wizards, are more pleasing to vulgar minds than true histories.

In point of religion, men are only great children. The more a religion is absurd and filled with wonders, the greater ascendancy it acquires over them. The devout man thinks himself obliged to place no bounds to his credulity; the more things are inconceivable, they appear to him divine; the more they are incredible, the greater merit, he imagines, there is in believing them.

Dave said...

Great quote Rowan! Amazing that this was written over 200 years ago. Other than the literary style, as timely today as it was then.

The last paragraph reminds me so much of an exchange on the infamous defunct family debate site. I had been busy, in my usual offensive way, of pointing out the cruelty of the biblical god, wondering aloud how Christians could worship such a being. One of my family members said the following in response, and this is an exact quote:

“…to point fingers at each other and say "you're wrong" or "how can you believe that" only leaves one believing stronger in their resolve.”

The implications of this statement left me speechless, and meshes perfectly with what Baron d'Holbach penned in 1772. The crazier the religion, the stronger it is believed in! Absolutely amazing, yet confirmed by my own family. From my viewpoint now, nothing could be crazier than worshiping a god that kills his own creations.

Rowan said...

I concur. I'd rather chance hell. If, that is, I believed in it. I don't antagonize the religious. As Chris often tells our children when I'm in a mood, "Don't poke the bear." But, that doesn't mean that I'm not often silently questioning the goings on around me, as I stand there with a smile plastered accross my face.
But for me it's a little different. Not only have you all not known me my whole life, thereby building up a "Rowan Mythology",but additionally, I have this pitiable life of the martyr to deal with. (Gag!) The faithful see my "hardship" and immediately wish to ease it. They offer prayer. It is what they know to do. And, honestly, I think it is beneficial, just in totally different ways than they intend. Mostly I say thank you and smile. Occasionally, someone wishes to pray with me. That is when I generally try to bow out. I often see the little red flags going up in people's eyes right about that time. I either get the "talk" or a look of, "Hmmm...maybe you got what you deserved." Either one bugs me. So, I've taken to staying at home and shutting the rest of the world out most of the time.

Dave said...

Rowan, you have brought up a point that inspired me to be vocal about my beliefs. Most Christians, including those in my family, have this assumption that it is a Christian world. They think that this is a Christian family, a Christian state, a Christian nation. We are not. But Christians are very rarely challenged. Unchallenged behavior is repeated.

Example: "Prayer circles" at family gatherings were never challenged. I can’t remember how many times I wracked my brains as my turn at an open prayer approached so I would have something to say that was clever and spiritual, hopefully causing everyone to whisper “yes” or “amen” as their heads nodded in Christian approval. Little did they know that I really believed that intercessory prayer was absurd and the only approval I was seeking was my family’s. These prayer chains hardly ever happen any more. Is it partly due to the fact that my views of prayer are now known?

Example: The family website was once little more than a Christian House of Worship. In obtuse protest I once renamed it ChristianWorld with daily quotes of typical Christian intolerance, but the other administrator quickly replaced the banner. My lone protest of the “Dentist of Gold” posting a while back caused a nightmarish collapse of web sanity. Once order was restored, with your help I may add, nearly everyone, with a few glaring exceptions, now refrain from being overtly Christian. Is that because they are now more aware of the religious diversity of this family?

Example: Take my blog. Please. Kidding aside, I love this blog. I can say anything I want, as I am now, and I don’t worry if I offend. It’s my space, so I can blabber with oblivion. I do not ask anyone to come here, so they can’t object to what I present. But I know that some Christians do come here. I know my “Questions for Christians” are read by same… and yet are never addressed. Oh, I get some “I’ll think about that” and “I don’t have time to post…” type responses, but I can count the Christians that reply earnestly with one finger.

Why is that? I like to think that maybe I am planting some seeds of doubt. After all, that is what happened to me. Seeds of doubt planted during research for debate sprouted as I was presenting Christianity to my children. It has fully bloomed because I was given the unique opportunity moving to Texas to be removed from “path straightening influences”. Interestingly enough, removal from familiar environment, friends, family, and opposing viewpoint is a tactic used by religious organizations (such as YWAM!) to convert recruits, and for me it worked just as well… except in reverse.

Anyway, what inspired this note was your last sentence, and it bothers me. The thought of you staying home to avoid intolerance is simply not right.

Uncle Fatso said...

I would like to add a couple thoughts to this topic. Maybe thow out a different spin on this. I love discussing theologic ideas, disecting and analysing what I/you/they believe, challenging thoughts that may or may not be truth. You posted several "Questions for Christians," but I did not respond--it seemed to me that you asked questions, but they seemed retorical in their asking. I didn't see so much of a "let's discuss this idea" or "where does this belief come from." More I saw questions asked as "how could you believe something like this?" It seemed that it wasn't so much a forum for discussion, more that you were almost critisizing or venting about something. I have said this before: if somebody believes something so strongly that belief should be held up to scrutiny, should be challengable...I like challenging myself with things you say, but if it is an honest question/answer discussion, it should be discussed with consideration and civility. I classified those questions in the "dumping ground for my religious and political frustration" category. I know that I might not answer questions adequitly enough to satisfy, I am sure we won't concede anything either way...I think we realized that somewhere in buppworld...but I love diabloging it with you!

You mentioned religious organizations (such as YWAM) using certain tactics to conform ideas. I'll agree with that. It's a sad thing to me how American Christianity looks. It bothers me that people don't know what they believe. It bothers me that you can't get answers to deep questions about faith from many Christians today. It bothers me that Christians do and say things that don't make sense or the people doing/saying understand. I do not agree entirely with YWAM in certain areas of biblical teaching, or social interaction. There are things I don't like with how they put into practice things from the bible. But it is not fair to say that they have intentional (malicious) tactics in play to warp and conform people's worldview--compair it to a young person going off to college: they leave home for the first time, are surrounded by similar people and much of what they believe about life, right and wrong, politics, religion are completely stood on their head! (Watch the Polly Shore movie, Son-in-Law) It's fashionable now for kids to wear Che Guevara shirst--they have no idea what he really did, or who he was, they just know that he's cool and the people at school agree.

I know this is your playground, I can't change the rules, or play by my rules...and I'm fine with that. I love seeing what is percolating somewhere in Texas. I just want you to know that you have a lot of good points about Christians that I don't think are true reflections of who or what they should be representing. These (in my opinion) should be weighed and considered seperately from the actual points of theological discontent you look at.

I'm tired and my fingers and eyes aren't working right, so Good night.

Uncle Fatso said...

...boy, I wish blogspot had a way to edit comments posted. I just re-read what I wrote before I shut down, and I wish I could rephrase a coupla sentences. One in particular:
You mentioned religious organizations (such as YWAM) using certain tactics to conform ideas. I'll agree with that. I meant to say that I agree with that to certain degrees. Because it's natural for people living together for any length of time to meld ideas and actions to the status quo. I was stating that as a point leading to the next sentence, how it's sad to me the way Christians do and say things they don't understand sometimes--sometimes a result of this status quo reaction.

There's probably other things to fine tune in this post, but oh well. I just wanted to get a few thoughts out.

Uncle Fatso said...

Dangit. One more thought.

It's not fair to categorize or generalize about YWAM or any organization (faith-based or otherwise). I have several bones to pick with certain things at YWAM Kona, there are things I don't like or agree with. On the other hand, I loved working with YWAM Ensenada. The biggest goal and desire of the people that I worked with there was simply to help the people who need help most. That is true and noble. And while there were things in the execution of that that might have been harder to swallow I love talking to my friends there because I always here how they want to serve the Mexicans better, make what they do true-er...take away more of the human/religious mumbo jumbo from what they do.

OK, I'm out. (probably not, but I'm done for the night!)

Dave said...


I hope you know how much I appreciate you taking the time to post on my blog!

I would like to first clarify something before I forget. I mentioned YWAM using “tactics”, but this was not meant as a slam against them. EVERY organization uses tactics. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be effective. I know there is a lot of criticism about YWAM out there, but generally I think they are a well-intentioned organization. The tactic thing is a whole ‘nother subject that I would be happy to ramble on about, and likely will later.

Anyway, back to this blog. You make some excellent points about this being a dumping ground and that my questions are mainly rhetorical. I should not expect any responses from Christians or otherwise. Not only that, but the vast majority of what I have to say has been hashed over before. This blog is completely selfish… it is therapy for me. I am much calmer about my religious transformation than ever, and I become calmer about it every day. Rowan is remarkable in her ability to be tolerant of Christianity, and in that sense she is my role model. As far as I know, however, she has never been a Christian, so has not had to deal with the issues that I face of feeling betrayed by the religion I once called my own. This is a common problem with ex-Christians, and is the issue I am trying to help work out via this blog.

I’ll take minor exception that this is my playground with my rules. This is my blog, yes, but it is open to the public and I do nothing to control who responds to it, nor can I edit anything anyone posts. I can delete responses, but then blogspot leaves behind a statement that I deleted a reply. And unlike the family website, responses here can be made totally anonymously. I have received several anonymous posts here, and I have absolutely no idea whom they are from.

I must agree with you that I am not open to being convinced of becoming a Christian again. The strongest message I have ever received from my relationship with God is that God is not described by the Bible. And once that is revealed to me, Christianity no longer makes sense. Never will.

What fascinates me now is what makes people believe what they do, and why. Now that I am removed from it, I have trouble understanding why I once believed in it, and perhaps that is what fascinates and frustrates me at the same time. So maybe by trying to get a handle on why Christians believe what they do, maybe I can help myself understand why I once did. Did that make any sense?

Even though much of it is rehashing, I do think I have brought up a few subjects on this blog that were not discussed on the family site. Two come to mind right now:

- How can Christians worship a “perfect creator” that kills his own creations?
- What, in secular terms, is a “close relationship with Jesus”, actually like?

Well, now that I wrote those down, I guess they are re-hash too, but I have never received a response that addresses either one to any satisfaction. But probably never will. You want to give them a shot?

What this reminds me of is that the goal of a debate is not to change one of the debater’s mind. If they have gotten to the point of debating, there is no changing either debater’s mind. But, and this a big but, there are people listening to the debate who’s mind may not be made up. Most formal debates take polls on the way in and the way out, and although usually minor, there are changes overall. So, even on the tiny scale of this blog, lives may be at stake!

From my point of view, perhaps someone will go away from this and question their religion, perhaps freeing themselves of religious fear and forming a new relationship with whatever they discover God is. Maybe they will decide that this life on earth is probably all they have, so rather than position themselves to be saved, they will do their best to be the best person, father, husband, and caretaker of the earth they can be. Nothing motivates me more than to know my life will indeed continue on through my daughters.

From your point of view, perhaps someone will go away from this believing that they will live forever. Even though they are not worthy, as man are evil sinners, through the mercy of God through accepting Jesus Christ as their savior, they will be saved from eternal torture in hell, and spend forever in a blissful relationship with God as a perfect sinless being.

And since I can get the last word in here, I’ll leave you with one thing that puzzles me. Much of my family, including yourself, profess to believe that the only way to be with God is through Jesus Christ, and if I do not accept Him, I will spend eternity suffering in hell. These people also profess to love me. Yet they make no effort whatsoever to convince me to re-accept Jesus, and in fact want me to do nothing more than to simply shut up. While they go off and save others. Now explain that to me.

If someone you loved was in trouble, wouldn’t you do everything you could to save them? Of course you would. What this tells me then is that either: 1) They do not love me, or 2) they do not really believe, deep down inside, in their heart of hearts, that God has done, or will do, the hideous things the Bible describes, including throwing people like me in hell to suffer forever.

I prefer #2. Am I wrong?

Love, Dave

Rowan said...

Dave said:
This blog is completely selfish… it is therapy for me. I am much calmer about my religious transformation than ever, and I become calmer about it every day. Rowan is remarkable in her ability to be tolerant of Christianity, and in that sense she is my role model. As far as I know, however, she has never been a Christian, so has not had to deal with the issues that I face of feeling betrayed by the religion I once called my own.

Er, thanks. I'm honored. But here are a few basic facts about me...

-My parents began going to the Lutheran church when I was 12.

-Both of my Godparents are pastors.

-When I went to college, it was to study theology - with full intention of becoming an inner city youth pastor.

-In doing so I was exposed to other religions and belief systems.

-This led me to question my certainty.

-I began to study the Judeo-Christian mythos further.

-This revealed to me the absolute absurdity of Christianity.

-I spent years venting due to my feelings of betrayal.

-You met me a decade later.

-I’d mellowed considerably.

Dave said...

Hi Rowan!

Well, shucks, now things make more sense, and I have even more respect for you! That certainly explains why you have been so sympathetic and helpful to me. It’s comforting to know someone personally that has gone through a similar experience. It’s probably something you’d rather leave in your past, but I hope it’s okay if I lean on you now and then.

I am curious how your friends and family took your transition. Most of my friends do not know what I have gone through, and I am afraid if they did they would not be friends any more. I have considered pointing out this blog to them, but I think it would be better if it was a more positive blog, and perhaps contained a bit more personal history. What do you think?

Love, Dave

Rowan said...

You know, we all blog for such a myriad of reasons. I don't always even know why I do. It's like a release valve sometimes. At other moments it is really nothing more than a glorified brag book.

Perhaps you might want to share with the people you trust most to not stomp away angrily. You can always soften thing up around the edges, if you want to. But I wouldn't change it just to please others. I've seen people do that, and it seems to become increasingly difficult to tell where to draw the line. Just my $0.02.

And no, I don't mind you "leaning on me". Heck, I don't even think of it that way. For me it is rather refreshing. Sort of like a really slow conversation - with footnotes.

As for my family's reaction to me. They've continually encouraged me to be myself. They always told me to do what I believed. And as long as I was honest with myself and them, that they would support me.

My parents were on the church council and choir for a number of years. But I think it had a lot to do with the social aspects, and with my dad's love of singing. Whenever I visited them, we'd go to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. I was really uncomfortable with this, but went for them. I'd stand up and sit down with everyone. I'd sing the Christmas hymns because I loved the feeling of them. I drew the line at recitation of creeds and vocal prayers. The only thing that I could really get behind was the passing of the peace. Unfortunately, this lasted but a mere moment. My parents were OK with my feelings, and glad that I could support they did me.

One Christmas though, about 8 or so years ago, I was sitting on the bed in the guest room at my parents'. I asked if she had a hat I could wear to Mass that year, because I'd forgotten to bring one. (Dreadlocks are not understood in rural North Carolina.) She looked at me and said, "We aren't going to go this year." Shocked I asked why. Her answer was, and I'll never forget it, "We haven't been to church for about six months. We got tired of pretending like we believed all that bullshit." I nearly fell off of the bed!

So, yah, I guess you could say that I have the support of my family. We still celebrate Christmas. We just celebrate it as a time for communing with our family. For getting to catch up and remember the important things in life. If you were to press me about my view of the mythology behind it...I could go on and on about universal archetypes and how they speak to our souls.

But, I'd probably bore the dickens out of you...and I've already taken up a lot of your space. So I'll leave all that for another time.

Peace be with you, Dave. And happy new year.

Dave said...

Thank you Rowan! Peace be with you as well, and here's to a better year.

Love, Dave.

PS It wouldn't bore me in the least!