Speak Compassion

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Can you be a Christian Atheist?

by @ 12:08 pm. Filed under Atheism, Joe's Rants

I keep hearing this term tossed around by Christians referring to other Christians as not “True Christians.” I have been pondering exactly what does it mean to be a true Christian or even a Christian at all.  I also suppose we could be talking about Islam and Hinduism as well.  What constitutes one being “X” religion.

On one hand, you would assume that each person calling themselves a Christian, Muslim, or whatever they are would mean they are a believer.  The question becomes a believer in what?  The message,  the person, the deity?  One might also assume that calling someone a Christian means they are a follower of Christ.  The next question would be a follower of the message, the book, or the deity?  Simply put, does one have to believe in the divinity of a god to be considered a Christian, a Muslim, or a Hindu? If you believe in the message of Christ, does that make you a Christian?

Beyond all that, what are they so called “true” Christians and what does that make all the other people who call themselves Christians?  What is the criteria for being a “true” Christian?  Who decides the true Christians from the other ones?

The bible as a book of guidance on how to live your life has some great messages.  It also has some messages I believe to be harmful and hurtful to us as a human race. I think the god of the bible is petty and vengeful. You’d think that such a powerful being would have mastered anger, vengeance, and other petty human traits.   I still think like many books, there are some great lessons about who we are and who we could be as people.  I believe the same is true of most religious texts.  Lots of amazing lessons to help us be better at being human, being compassionate, being good to each other. Each has some amazing version of the “golden rule” about how to be.   If I follow those messages, do I get to call myself a Christian, a Muslim, a Hindu?  And who gets to decide if I am a “true” Christian, Muslim, or Hindu?

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Responding to Matt Barber’s WND Article

by @ 2:16 pm. Filed under Atheism, Joe's Rants, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

Last night, religious pundit, Matt Barber published a piece for the e-commentary site, World News Daily. The site is more of a opinion site than a news site. I wouldn’t have even paid this article a second glance except Matt tweeted 31 tweets in a row linking to the article, which actually made me laugh out loud.  I wonder if Matt was afraid we’d mis it if he didn’t post it repeatedly.  Oddly, his tactic worked because I actually read his article.

Matt’s article was in opposition to atheists, nonbelievers, and Planned Parenthood.  He wrote the article in response to a previous article by a woman named, Valerie Tarico, where she writes her opinions about the signs she sees leading her to believe that “fundamentalism is going down”.  Matt’s article makes some interesting claims that have nudged at my intellectual neurons just enough to make me feel like writing, something I haven’t been up on doing for the last several years.

First, before I jump to thoughts on the article, I want to put out there that one of the reasons I stopped writing about gay rights, religion, and nonviolence was the challenges that come from living compassionately and nonviolently while still respectfully being able to challenge ideas.  I sometimes find this blog itself has been a journey of that.  If you go back to my original posts from 2006 and compare them to the stuff I wrote in the past few years, the is a huge differences to be seen in my response to things I believe are harmful and things and people with which I disagree.  It has been part of my reason for not writing, I need to keep growing in my own understanding of nonviolence, respect, and compassion first.  Now, onto Matt’s article.

I think what has struck me most about this article is the strong tone of black and white thinking that seems to permeate our current culture.  We have been living in this “all this-all that” mindset for just far longer than I like.  I amazed how many people ask if I am for or against guns or even gun control as if those are simple yes or no answers.  The same is true of socialism, communism, marxism, abortion, god, nationalism.  You are either for these things or against them rather than a spectrum of ideas.  We Americans seem to feel more at ease if we take complex and colorful concepts and simplify them into black and white issues.  My experience of the world is that life just isn’t that simple and neither are these issues.

Matt’s article is heavy in the language of sides.  You are either a north American progressive or a god fearing conservative.  You are on god’s side or satan’s side.  You are either for god or against god and by that, he is only referring to his god and none others.  Again, I don’t think the world is this simplistic.

Matt writes:

For those of us so very blessed to have raised our personal white flag in mankind’s inherently fruitless struggle against the Creator, there can be no joy in watching God-deniers continue to labor under the grandest of all deceptions. Regardless of how nasty they may be as individuals, there can be only sadness, genuine pity and prayer.

First off, I want to say I totally get what Matt is saying. I can empathize with this pain because I share the exact same sentiments just from the other view.  It is painful for me to watch religious folks to labor under what I would call the greatest of deceptions.  Over the years, I have found no joy or pleasure in watching people engage in things in which I don’t believe. This includes god, psuedo-science, homeopathic medicines, chiropractors, and acupuncture.  Where Matt and I differ is that I am working in my life to find compassion for those who believe different stuff than me.  I really want to have empathy and understanding as opposed to pity.

I also am not really sure what a “god-denier” actually is.  How do you deny what you do not believe exists.  I personally don’t believe in a god.  There is no more denial in that than there is the fact I also don’t believe in ghosts?  Does that make me a ghost-denier? I don’t believe in homeopathic medicine.  Does that make me a homeopathic medicine denier? Makes me wonder why Matt would make such a choice for a label?  Does he not really understand how belief works?  Does he simply think everyone who doesn’t believe really does believe and they are faking it with denial?  Not sure I could make any logical sense of that and then again, is there any logical sense to be made of it?

Belief is an interesting concept Matt seems to only grasp in terms of choice.  Reality is we don’t actually choose what we believe.  We take in the evidence (and I use that term lightly) and come to our own conclusions.  Even if we wanted to believe in something, we cannot make ourselves believe.  I certainly can’t wake up tomorrow and say, “Yup, I am deciding I believe in unicorns” and then actually do it. Doesn’t work out that way.  I could say I believe in god and the fact is, I don’t.  It would be  lie if I said I did. I also know I can’t make myself believe in god anymore than I could make myself believe in ghosts, psychics, or the Loch Ness Monster.

The flip side of this, and a fact that has built much compassion in me for those who do believe, Matt won’t be waking up tomorrow and making a choice not to believe.  He has read and heard the evidence and it has led him to believe there is a god and that it is the god of the Christian bible.  He couldn’t stop believing that by choice anymore than I could start believing it by choice.

I find his comment about nonbelievers being “nasty” as just his anger that people like me don’t see what he sees the way he sees it.  Guess what, Matt?  I don’t see what you see and it doesn’t make me nasty, sad, unhappy, or anything of the sort.  I will say that I miss my belief in god and Jesus.  I was raised a Catholic.  I went to mass most weeks.  I was an alter-boy in 6th and 7th grades.  I also went to Catholic Schools for all of my schooling.  I studied scripture in high school and for a short time in my early teens, I sincerely wanted to join the priesthood.  I had very strong beliefs then that god existed and that he and I were actually talking to each other when I prayed.  Something I did often.

Over time, those beliefs changed and faded.  There was no one reason for this but many.  I do have to admit, the kicker for me was the realization that religion was more geographical then factual.  Most people are the religion they are because they were born into it by location.  If I had been born in the East, I might be a Hindu or a Muslim.  Since I was born in the USA, I happen to be Christian.

I do miss my “beliefs” in god.  I sometimes think it would be lovely to wake up tomorrow and believe there is a god.  On the other hand, I am also happy I that won’t happen.  There was a lot of comfort to be found in it.  There was also a great sense of community going to church each Sunday and being involved with church activities.  That is why, while not a Catholic church, I do still attend a church.  The pastor of the church knows I am an atheist.  She also knows I joined this church because of the social justice work they are doing around hunger, Haiti, and the homeless.  I get a little freaked out by the whole communion thing because I see it differently than I when I was a kid.  It now seems a bit odd that people are eating flesh and blood regardless of whom they think it belongs.  Either way, I still enjoy going, especially for the sermon  which generally meets with my values.

Matt also writes a few paragraphs about there being no freedom unless you are a believer.  Of course, I would ask Matt, what is your definition of freedom?  I don’t think I felt anymore freedom when I was a believer than I feel now except now that I don’t believe, I no longer struggle with odd and outdated rules about morality that makes little sense to me.  In fact, I might say I feel an increased sense of freedom in my life because I am no longer held down by dogma.

Matt writes:

When God-deniers like Ms. Tarico dig in their heels, a pitiable paradox occurs. While they think they’ve achieved intellectual enlightenment and freedom, they have, instead, been played for the fool. They have become slaves to the flesh, and playthings to the enemy.

I have never met anyone who thinks they have more intellectual enlightenment and freedom through the strategy of “god-denial” whatever that means.  I don’t think I ever met anyone who thinks intellectual enlightenment is an achievement that is achievable.  I would go as far as to say, what does that even mean.  Next, I just laughed at the slaves to the flesh comment.  I can assure you Matt think about and writes about sexuality way more than any nonbeliever I know.

Ultimately, I see Matt’s entire article as a way of drumming up fear and hate for people who don’t believe in Matt’s god.  My question would be, what purpose does that serve?  Does Matt think he will insult them into believing?  What is Matt’s end game? To turn other believers against those who don’t believe?  Is it to rally the troops of believer into having some reaction?  What is Matt’s intention behind his article?

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Heading to Church

by @ 11:25 pm. Filed under Atheism, Empathy, Nonviolence

So, I have been attending a church.  It is a local Episcopal Church in town.  The building has been around for over 100 years.  When you walk inside, the church was designed to look like the inside of a ship turned upside down which makes such sense when you live on the shoreline.  It has two Tiffany stained glass windows I wish they would sell off to the highest bidder and use the money to feed the poor and help the town and I guess I can live with their choice not to do that.  I get they want to hold on to the history.

Don’t get me wrong, nothing has changed.  I still don’t believe in a god, let alone the Christian god.   I struggle a little with some of the readings from the bible, and I definitely struggle with the communion thing each week as I think it is creepy to talk about eating the body of a dead guy.    I stay for two reasons.  One my beautiful and partner and husband wanted to join a church and I could have sent him to do this by himself and that also wouldn’t be me.   I am there because I want us to do this together.  I also think there is something here in this church for me to learn.

Over the years I have gone from a very devout Christian to a die hard nonbeliever.  It has also left me with some intolerance of religion.  That hasn’t changed for me.  I get very frustrated with the lack of critical thinking I see in religion.   It seems people of faith have made a conclusion and then looked for facts and data to back up this conclusion. This is very different from my belief that we have to look at the evidence and come to a conclusion not come to a conclusion and then look for facts to back it up.

I am looking to this local church to teach me tolerance and patience.  Not everyone is where I am and they are happy where they are.  Maybe this whole god thing meets needs for them it clearly doesn’t meet for me.  Can I learn the lesson of understanding for this?  Can I learn to be okay with others believing in stuff I not only believe is crap, I believe this can be harmful?  I don’t know the answers to those questions but they fit with this journey of nonviolence I am trying to take.  So, I have been going to church each Sunday and exploring it.  I love the people and the coffee hour after service.  I am a little freaked out by the rituals.  While some part of me finds them nostalgic, the other parts of me find them creepy.

It will be interesting to see where this takes me and what I will learn.  Mostly, I am hoping to learn a new view and look on believers.  I want to be able to find a place of compassion for those who believe even though I don’t.  While the intellect in me wants to debate with them right and left, the spiritual person in me wants to stay open.  While the atheist in me wants to roll my eyes, the Gandhian follower in me wants to learn a new respect for believers I currently don’t have.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

VIDEO: Instruction Manual For Life

by @ 8:11 pm. Filed under Atheism, Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication

I found this on the atheist media blog.  What I want to point out is about 6 minutes and 30 seconds into the film, the young boy finds “compassion” for his parents.  Through that new lens, he can see their feelings and needs and no longer saw them as bullies.  He could then see them as humans.   This is very much the consciousness behind Nonviolent Communication.  Seeing people for what they are feeling and needing rather than the labels we often put on each other.

The video also makes a strong statement about evangelical Christians or others who use a book as anything more than guidance in life.

enjoy the video:

h/t: Atheist Media Blog

Sunday, November 30, 2008

New Website tries to Unite Religions through Compassion

by @ 9:53 am. Filed under Atheism, Nonviolence

A new website titled the Charter for Compassion states that compassion is at the center of all religions and could be used to unite people.   The site’s homepage says:

“By recognizing that the Golden Rule is fundamental to all world religions, the Charter for Compassion can inspire people to think differently about religion. This Charter is being created in a collaborative project by people from all over the world. It will be completed in 2009. Use this site to offer language you’d like to see included. Or inspire others by sharing your own story of compassion.”

I love this idea, but I also have some doubts that it will unite anyone when it comes to religions.   Those that need a new outlook on those with differing religions are not likely candidates to buy into this idea.  Fundamentalist  Muslims and Fundamentalist Evangelical Christians hold conversion to their faith in much higher regard than they do compassion or peace.  I suspect those are not the type of people to embrace the idea of uniting people in the world.   Many see the differences in the religions of the world as a challenge that must be won like it is a mission from god, a “holy war” not a moral and just effort for humanity.   Many such believers are willing to fight to be right rather than be compassionate for the sake of peace.

I do still feel inspired by anything that brings us remotely closer to a world without violence and war.   I support and applaud the efforts that ask us to stop and live in new ways.   I just can’t help feeling disaapointed that those who need this are not the ones who will embrace it.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Islamist: Death Too Good for Gays, Public Torture is Better!

by @ 11:06 am. Filed under Atheism, Hate Crimes, hate speech

Watch Video Clip

From Transcript

Dr. Sa’d Al-‘Inzi: When a person commits an abominable act, like homosexuality, for example, or lesbianism, in the case of women’s parlors this constitutes “spreading corruption in the land,” and should be punished by death. […]

Moderator: Other than life imprisonment and the death sentence, what can be done?

Dr. Sa’d Al-‘Inzi: According to Islamic law, a homosexual should be thrown from a tall building.

Moderator: What would you do with them?

Dr. Sa’d Al-‘Inzi: To be honest, death is too good for them. They should be gathered in a public place, where they would be flogged and tortured, so the truth about these people is made clear and they serve as a lesson to others, because they are an epidemic plaguing society. Read more

I wonder if he really thinks god is love too!   Turture, thrown from buildings, public flogging and god loves you.   I am baffled at the morality of those who claim to be moral.

H/T: Atheist Media Blog

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Fight Over Prop 8 Soon to Reach $100 Million

by @ 7:18 pm. Filed under Atheism, Ex-gays, hate speech, Joe's Rants

It shouldn’t need to be said that I am against Prop 8 and Prop 102, but I will say it for the sake of reinforcing it.  I am completely against Prop 8 in California and I am against Prop 102 in Arizona as these do not meet my needs for equality and fairness.   I am a married gay man who hopes to stay married in the eyes of my government.

With that out of the way, I can’t help but feel some anguish and disappointment over the numbers, the facts or lack of them and the misuse of science.   I realize both sides of this argument feel they are right and in my eyes one of them is right.   What disgusts me is the ignorance of most of those on the “Yes on 8” side of this argument when it comes to the science, the history and the real impact of the arguments.   One of the pieces of this that is embarrassing to us as a Country,  is that the average citizen in America doesn’t know the history of marriage.   They have blindly taken the word of their pastors or right wing leaders.   They have not pulled out the history books on Ancient Rome, long before the bible was even written or its fictional characters where even born, and learned marriage was a civil arrangement of property. Most marriages had little to do with love, but keeping property in the wealthy families.

The average citizen in this Country also doesn’t know all of the science concerning homosexuality.   Why would they?  Most red state Americans are against teaching science in the classroom unless it fits with their view of world through the lens of their bibles.   Sadly, most of the time, the science disagrees with religion and that has become dangerous for us as a Country.  The average American still believes (because of anti-gay hate speech) that homosexuality is some chosen lifestyle, gays all live the same lifestyle, and that we can become “ex-gay.” This writer wonders how we will ever stop global warming, HIV/AIDS or Avian Flu when we don’t even teach kids facts through science, we teach them social opinions.  We should be showing them the science as it is current and available in the age of information.

Prop 8 supporters will tell you the rhetoric that they are voting to “support traditional marriage”, but we all know that is bullshit.  The facts cannot be ignored this time.   They are not voting “for” anything, they are voting against gay people using fear and lies as their guide.   All the while, raising millions of dollars that could so easily have saved thousands of people from poverty, starvation, foreclosure and disease.   I am convinced that if you ask any average American who is losing their home, living in poverty whether or not they would like to protect marriage from the homo’s or find a way to keep their home, marriage would drop low on the list of priorities.

This for me, is about priorities and nonviolence.  Martin Luther King, Jr. said it well when he said we need to “gather all the information and then educate all involved” of the facts.   When we really look at the science of sexuality, the history of marriage and the facts the “yes on 8” campaign is using to raise money we see that facts are the furtherest thing from the argument.   In fact, the entire argument is void of facts all together.   Ask any reputable biologist what they think about their facts about sexual orientation, then ask any professor of ancient history of marriage then put the two together and watch all of the arguments fall apart for the entire anti-marriage campaign.

What bothers me most is the money we are being forced to spend to save gay marriage while the evidence and facts are ignored in favor of theocracy.   $100 million would save so many lives, buy lots of homes, feed lots of homeless.   Instead, we are using $100 million dollars to have a worthless discussion over nonexistent facts all the while ignoring the real facts and real history.   How frustrating it must be to be starving, losing your home or dying because you can’t afford medical care, to learn that Christians spent millions oppressing people in spite of the facts when they could have been treating the neighbors to life saving assistance.  Truly our priorities are severely out of sync with reality.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bible Contradictions and Other Religious Stuff

by @ 11:03 pm. Filed under Atheism, Ex-gays, hate speech

The Rev. Dl. Foster writes today in his mission to lead people “to” Christ:

“Saints should understand that it is our job to oppose evil and wickedness in the church and in the world. We are to speak out and use the tools God has given us to restrain the works of the devil until our removal. We are not here to make friends, fit in or promote false unity and inclusion. Our sole allegiance is to our King and his Kingdom.”

but Christ says:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Go figure!  It is these contradictions that started my questioning of the bible.  Once one loses faith in the book, there is nothing left to validate a belief in Christianity.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Evolution: The True Story of Man

by @ 3:06 pm. Filed under Atheism, Evolution

One piece of literal readings of the bible that get me is the idea that the earth was created, including man, in just 6 days.   The idea that in the year 2008, anyone still believes this to be true shocks me every time I hear it.  ABC news is running this great series about the fossil records of man.  I would urge you to take a look as just the record shows that this 6 day, 10,000 year old earth story is outlandish.

The story walks you through much of the evidence for the evolution of man.  I think one of the reasons that religious folks don’t want to accept this evidence is that it means they need to reject a part of the bible.  In their eyes, if one piece of the bible is wrong, it is all wrong.


Photo: Frank Franklin II / AP file

Friday, October 3, 2008

Candidate Calls for Execution of Gays

by @ 3:33 pm. Filed under Atheism, Hate Crimes, hate speech

Some guy, with what are being called “extreme Christian” views, has claimed that gays and lesbians should be executed because the bible is clear on that.    The remarks were made during a school debate of Federal candidates (it is unclear what office he running for).   David Popescu replied to a student asking his opinions on gay marriage by saying gays should be executed.

During a telephone interview later in the day, Popescu reasserted his view.

“A young man asked me what I think of homosexual marriages and I said I think homosexuals should be executed,” he said. “My whole reason for running is the Bible and the Bible couldn’t be more clear on that point.”

Why does it seem to me that hating gays is just fine as long as you claim God told you to do it……

UPDATE: After some thinking and reconsideration, I have decided to take my words back about this one.    I am not really sure if I think this is motivated by hate as much as it is fear of god.   I think this man truly wants to live by what he believes the bible says about the laws.    Funny enough, I would rather chuck it up to hate because I think that is fixable with understanding, empathy and information.   Fear of god, I am not sure I can do much to change that one.

H/T: PZ Myers

Bill Maher and Larry Charles on The Hour

by @ 8:01 am. Filed under Atheism

I get asked often why I am so against religion.  This ten minute video really sums up my thoughts on those who believe in talking snakes and space men with H-bombs!

Link to video

H/T: Atheist Media Blog

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

When Atheists Attack: Sam Harris on Sarah Palin

by @ 9:09 pm. Filed under Atheism, Joe's Rants

This article is just amazing and it scares me.   Sam Harris points out problems with the soccer-mom for president thinking that I had not even thought to consider.  I urge you to read this article.

Quote from Sam Harris on Sarah palin:

We have all now witnessed apparently sentient human beings, once provoked by a reporter’s microphone, saying things like, “I’m voting for Sarah because she’s a mom. She knows what it’s like to be a mom.” Such sentiments suggest an uncanny (and, one fears, especially American) detachment from the real problems of today. The next administration must immediately confront issues like nuclear proliferation, ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (and covert wars elsewhere), global climate change, a convulsing economy, Russian belligerence, the rise of China, emerging epidemics, Islamism on a hundred fronts, a defunct United Nations, the deterioration of American schools, failures of energy, infrastructure and Internet security … the list is long, and Sarah Palin does not seem competent even to rank these items in order of importance, much less address any one of them.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Now is the TIME for Science and Reason!

by @ 2:10 pm. Filed under Atheism, Evolution

Video link


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Bible Quotes: Mark 4:35-41

by @ 1:36 pm. Filed under Atheism

For whatever reason when I hit my stumble button I end up at bible sites all the time.  Most likely because I have chosen religion as an interest.   Today, I stumbled upon this passage from the gospel of Mark.  I remember reading it when I was in school, so it was rather nostalgic for me since I don’t often hear these stories.  Anyway, here is the passage:


Jesus Calms a Storm

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

One of the things I happen to notice here is that Jesus fell asleep and the boat fell into danger.   Only when he awoke did he calm the storm and pull them out of danger.   Now, I have to admit, it is stories like this that led me away from a belief in Christianity.   Could God/Jesus not pay attention to his followers safety while he was sleeping?  That doesn’t sound very “all powerful” to me.   He also woke up surprised and annoyed that his followers were afraid?  Had he no compassion for their feelings?   Add on to all of this that his followers were in awe of what he had done, but ignored the fact that an all knowing god would have known that they would have been put into danger and left afraid.  He allowed it for awhile as he slept?  What kind of god does that?  He also knew, being “all knowing” that they would be afraid, so why did he wake up surprised they were afraid when being all knowing he should have known every detail of that before it happen?  Lastly, why didn’t he calm the storm before he went to sleep or better yet, if he created everything, did he not create the storm in the first place that left these men in danger and afraid?  Nice god, don’t ya think?

The bible is a load of hogwash.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Richard Dawkins: The God Delusion Lecture at UC Berkeley

by @ 9:39 pm. Filed under Atheism

This lecture is a summarized and shortened version of  many of the main points made in the bestseller, The God Delusion.

Just brillant stuff!

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