A less blasphemous Sunday Blasphemy?

A less blasphemous Sunday Blasphemy?

Logo for Unitarian Universalism

I’m having some different thoughts about religion lately. I think some of this thinking been triggered by my interest in the local Unitarian Universalist church. First Unitarian Church has no full-time minister at the moment, so the services are being led by a transition team instead of having a sermon by the same person every week. One person who I remember from the last time I used to attend regularly talked about how she is a Christian but she doesn’t believe in things like original sin, the resurrection, or other things that I’d always been taught one has to believe to be a Christian. She believes in the teachings of Jesus. She still holds the Bible as sacred scripture but that doesn’t mean to her that it is all historically true story, or that it all holds a specific moral either. Perhaps a story being sacred doesn’t have to mean that it is true, or even that it is good?

My first major problem with the religion of my youth was that it required me to believe things that were in contradiction with proven scientific knowledge (especially evolution and human origins), unjust (especially the devaluation of women in the Bible), or just plain ridiculous (talking snakes and donkeys). I seriously struggled to make sense of the idea that Jesus dying on the cross 2000 years before I was born “paid” for my “sins.” I accepted it because trusted adults told me it was true and that I must believe it, but it never really made sense to me.

I still reject Christianity because even if you strip it down bare to the teachings of Jesus I still think Jesus is overrated. He said some good things, but he also said some ridiculous things and some very judgmental things. If he existed at all, he was just another person who tried to change his local world and that is it. If he existed at all.

I think I am starting to get a grasp on what liberal religion is and what it means though. It’s not what I’ve thought it was from my lingering fundamentalist-trained perspective on what religious belief means. If a religion connects one to a spiritual tradition but doesn’t require beliefs that are ridiculous or contrary to scientific knowledge, one that inspires positive and helpful action and helps one cope with the world… I can respect those beliefs.

Is this blasphemy? I know some people who would say it is: both conservative Christians and maybe some atheists too.

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Sunday Blasphemy: God is a Concept

Sunday Blasphemy: God is a Concept

I live in the United States. One of the major issues up for debate today is the idea of building a wall along our southern border. The person recently in power (who I did not vote for) thinks it will keep America safer if we close up our borders and don’t let foreigners in except under extreme scrutiny.

All this fuss over political borders … did you ever realize that national borders are not even real?  If you go to the place marked on a map for the border of a country or a state, you won’t find anything there really. Maybe a sign, or a fence. But the border itself  exists only in the minds of people. And those borders only have force if the people who believe in them are powerful enough to force everyone else to observe them. That still doesn’t make them real, not in any material sense. A border is still nothing more than a concept in the minds of humans.

God is like this too. God doesn’t exist in any real, scientific, objective sense. But when enough people believe in gods – especially a particular conception of God – that concept can have a fair bit of power. I think this is the real reason why we have a concept of ‘blasphemy.’ A concept is powerful in affecting the world, but only so long as a critical mass of minds believe in it. Just like a national border is only powerful so long as enough people believe in it and have the ability to enforce it.

Of course, a border wall is totally ineffective against things like airplanes, and boats, and maybe even ropes, but that is beside the point. The Berlin Wall came down – and so will any border wall eventually. Similarly if God were a real being – truly the all powerful, all knowing creator of the universe, why would he care if someone didn’t believe in him? Would you care if an ant disbelieved in your existence? He would rise above such an offense. But in reality it is only the people who believe in God care about God’s feelings.

Unlike borders, and gods, people are real. And people are basically the same everywhere you go, regardless of their origin country or religion. I think it is people we should be concerned with protecting much more so than borders and religious ideas.

EDIT: I just found this on the concept of borders. It’s Aeroméxico’s response to the idea of a border wall, and it is brilliant. https://www.truthexaminer.com/2017/01/mexican-airline-aeromexico-responds-to-trumps-border-wall-with-spine-tingling-commercial-watch-here/

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Sunday Blasphemy: White Supremecy

Sunday Blasphemy: White Supremecy

For this week’s Sunday Blasphemy, I’m going to step away from religion and go in an entirely different direction. This is something that has been on my mind for a while ever since I heard the news from Ferguson, MO in 2014. Then I started noticing all the other news stories about the shootings by cops of other unarmed black people.

Especially since the last presidential election I have gotten a burning desire to read more about the history of race and class in America and get some fucking context for what’s going on. I read “White Trash: A 400 Year Untold History of Class in America” and learned (among many other things) how after the Civil War policies were enacted to make sure that whiteness in and of itself was a badge of status. For a poor white person, it meant that even if you had nothing you were still considered better than a black person. I also found a book called “Life Behind a Veil: Blacks in Louisville, Kentucky, 1865-1930” while browsing the library stacks. In the first couple chapters (as far as I’ve read at this point) I’ve learned about things like how blacks migrating to Louisville in search for a better life were required to live in designated neighborhoods only, and actively denied the opportunities to live in middle and upper-class white neighborhoods because of legal housing discrimination. And it had nothing to do with ability to pay. Policies about racial were simply set up in a way to favor the idea that white were superior and that blacks would do well if they only did what white people told them.

These are all things that I never learned in history classes when I was in school, and things I never saw (or noticed) because they didn’t happen in my neighborhoods. I was always left to assume that the blacks in Louisville just chose to separate themselves into their own neighborhoods.

So, white supremacy is a real thing in America, and not just with skinheads who declare it without shame. It’s a lot for a white girl from Bullitt Co, Kentucky to wrap her head around. I’m still working out exactly how to deal with what I’m learning.

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Sunday Blasphemy: Questionable Life Lessons from my Christian Upbringing

Sunday Blasphemy: Questionable Life Lessons from my Christian Upbringing

I don’t know that these are applicable to Christians in general, but here are some questionable life lessons I learned as a kid that were reinforced by my family’s religious beliefs. I’m sure others from Evangelical Christian backgrounds in particular will recognize these. They are teachings of Christianity that I assumed would apply to other areas of life — before I learned about special pleading — because no one told me otherwise. I eventually figured out why they were questionable on my own through trial and error, observation, and reasoning.

 

Life Priorities

Nothing in life is more important than your relationship with Jesus Christ. Family, relationships, school, career, reputation — all of these should be given up if one feels that is what Jesus wants. To a secular person it’s pretty clear what the problem is here. Even to Christians, the difficulty in really confirming if an idea is really from Jesus or from their own mind is vexing.

 

Other People

The most important thing about a person is their relationship with Jesus Christ. (I remember this one verbatim.) This is certain to lead to religious bigotry at worst and an irritating lack of full acceptance of non-Christians at the least.

 

Forgiveness from God

Guilt over actual wrongdoing can be resolved by asking God for forgiveness in prayer. No talking to an actual person is required. It’s very convenient but the effectiveness is questionable.

 

Prayer

Praying counts as talking to a person — and downplays the need for real human contact. No worries if you don’t have a real person to confide in, because you always have God! :-/

 

Unworthiness

Normal human mistakes and imperfections prove that you are unworthy of “God’s glory.” By default, being human makes you defective.

 

Right and Wrong

Right and wrong depends on what God says, especially in the Bible — not on consequences for people. A quick study of the horrible things people have done throughout history in the name of God shows the problems with this.

 

God's Availability

The biggest and most powerful being in the universe will listen to you at any time with no notice — though this is never true for human leaders and authority figures. God is just a bit too … imaginary.

 

Emotional Commitment Decisions

Huge, life-changing commitments (like committing your life to God at an altar at the front of a church after a religious service) can be made in moments of emotion. This is a very bad idea for making life-changing commitments in general. Fortunately the religious commitments are not really binding — presuming one lives in a society with religious freedom.

 

Learning

Learning new things that challenge your beliefs can be a very bad thing. The prime examples are the big bang theory of the universe and the biological theory evolution and how they challenge beliefs about God creating the universe and making human being special.

 

Compulsory Forgiveness

You must forgive anyone who wrong you — even when the offense has not been resolved and your psychological wounds have not healed. Otherwise they say God will not forgive you — and that is a very serious problem for a Christian.

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Any other questionable life lessons from Christian upbring that I have not listed? What are you experiences?

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Sunday Blasphemy: What is real?

Sunday Blasphemy: What is real?

At the close of this Christmas season and the start of the New Year, I want to make this point about belief and about what is real. Most of my readers are probably familiar with the “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” letter that was posted in the New York Sun in 1897, since it has worked its way into Christmas tradition.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

source: http://www.nysun.com/editorials/yes-virginia/68502/

Well, there’s one way to confuse a child about the difference between fantasy and reality. Virginia didn’t ask about enjoyment or love or generosity or beauty or joy or poetry. We actually have evidence for all of those things. She asked about Santa Claus and whether or not he is real. If you have to redefine what it means for something to be real so you can believe in it, then you might as well admit to yourself that it is not really real.

And of course it is the same for God as it is for Santa Claus. Better to be honest with oneself about what is real or not. The threats are empty. Joy and love and beauty — and even imagination — will not disappear. I promise.

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Merry Christmas and Happy Yule!

Merry Christmas and Happy Yule!

Today’s Sunday Blasphemy has been preempted in the spirit of goodwill this Christmas Day. Whether today is about the solstice, family, food, presents, Jesus, or all of the above to you — have a Happy Holiday!

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