Monday, January 17, 2011

This sounds all-too-familiar...

Rachel Held Evans takes heat for being true to her convictions.

"It seems that Al Mohler is fine with Christians loving God with their minds so long as they reach the same conclusions that he has."

He's not the only one, of course. But Rachel's on the right side of history here. Al, and all the others like him are, thankfully, a dying breed. Of course, there'll always be literalists and fundamentalists who hold only to a very strict interpretation of the first two books of the bible, but their numbers are dwindling. The internet, with all its information (and misinformation) continues to grow exponentially, and with it, people like Rachel who prefer to think for themselves and not just accept everything their church tells them, have not only easy access to much more knowledge and research and facts than ever before, but also access to other like-minded people. That's huge. Besides just being a support in general, when you're wrestling with heavy questions about your faith and how to reconcile it with scientific fact, it helps tremendously to know that you're far from alone.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


How NOT to win the best Christian attitude award

by Rachel Held Evans

I don't know this woman, but I love her. I love her honesty. I had similar questions when I was still part of the faith. But you can't ask those questions, as a 'good' Christian. Others in the group will not approve. You could lose friends, or be considered 'suspect.' Your faith and motives will be called into question. For all of evangelicals' talk about loving 'truth' and 'honesty,' when you really start to get honest with them about some serious doubts or disagreements you may be having, it suddenly seems like they're not so in love with the idea of 'honesty' anymore. The truth, it seems, really does hurt. A lot. Anyway, Rachel still has her faith. She was/is somehow able to reconcile her faith and her doubts. I wasn't. But good for her, and more power to her. She's someone I feel like I could talk to, and have an honest dialogue with without feeling condemned or judged, or being told that my faith was never real in the first place. I've got a lot more respect for her than I do for all the 'good' Christians who give shit to people like her. Maybe they don't know what it's like to have doubts. Maybe they're too afraid to ask the hard questions, or answer them honestly. If that's the case, then that's their problem. I say- Go, Rachel! Don't let the small-minded people get you down. Keep on keepin' on.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Scientists- what do they know, anyway?

Every once in awhile, thankfully not that often anymore, I hear some fundy or other bitching about how you can't trust the scientists- those evil, atheistic, god-hating, evolution-pushing, liberal, evil... scientists. Because they believe in things like evolution and global warming and that the earth is billions (!) of years old. Hogwash, right? Flat-out bullshit, even. They have an agenda to push, just like everyone else, I'm told. Peer-review? Let's see, if I'm out to send the world to hell with my Doctrine of Darwin, then of course I'm going to have my articles reviewed by my peers- because they'll agree with me! We believe the same things! So that proves that peer-review is a complete joke!

That's the kind of crap I have to listen to sometimes (thankfully not often) when I'm around a group of fundies talking about how you can't trust the scientists. They'll also mention how everyone worships something;- the Christian worships God, the scientist worships Science. See? In some ways, we're not so different. Whenever I hear people talk like that I just want to grab them by the collar and shout in their face, 'Don't you get it?! Are you really so stupid?! What about...' and then list off a bunch of things that Science has given us, but God hasn't.

For example, what about:

Computers/Internet- Such a great tool for disseminating (mis)information to the masses. Christians everywhere sure like to take advantage of it to preach the gospel, yet did Jesus give us the knowledge or technology to create computers and digital information? Nope. Science did.

Forensics- (or Forensic Science, you might say...) How many previously unsolved murders have finally been solved (and are being solved) due to forensics? How many innocent people have been freed from jail due to the wonder that is DNA? No, it's not perfect, but it's pretty damn good, and getting better all the time. But did Jesus discover, or even tell us how to discover DNA? Nope. It was first isolated 1869 by Friedrich Miescher, a Swiss physician, but then in 1953 Watson and Crick really kicked things off with their discovery of DNA's double helix structure. To the best of my knowledge, their discovery was in no way a result of prayer, hidden bible codes, or from God or Jesus telling them, 'Look over here...'

Medical Science- Everything from oh I don't know, aspirin, to blood transfusion and organ transplants. Science. How diseases work; the fact that bacteria (some, but not others) can make us sick, and how we fight against that bacteria. Viruses, too. I'm pretty sure when Jesus told his followers to go out and heal the sick, he never mentioned antibiotics. Yet every Christian I know is quick to pop an aspirin or go to the doctor, even while they're praying for healing, when things go south health-wise. Funny how they trust in prayer, but seem to trust in medicine even more. Chemotherapy? Science gave it to us. Maybe God didn't want us to get better, and that's why he never told us about any of this stuff. He did curse us, after all. Maybe by taking medicine Christian are going against his will. Oh yeah, not just drugs and pills and stuff, what about birth control? Science! And not just birth control, but fertility treatments? Can't have a baby? Don't worry, science can help! It's not always guaranteed, but I do know that your odds are better than with prayer.

Air Travel- I know so many Christians who have some sort of weird fascination with going to Israel. I hear about churches that organize trips there for there members who can come up with the dough to pay for a plane ticket, I know a few personally who've gone, sometimes several times; I guess it gives them a boner to hang out where Jesus hung out or something. But since the majority of the world's Christians live in other countries (and many of them separated by an ocean) it's a little impractical to pop in for a Sunday afternoon visit. Science to the rescue! Airplanes are slightly complicated devices. You have to know a lot about a lot to build and fly one of those babies. Physics, aerodynamics, weather patterns... y'know what, maybe chariots weren't such a bad idea after all. Or even camels; at least they're ready-made. Throw a saddle on one and kick it in the behind, you'll be there in no time.

Bridges, skyscrapers, the printing press (would've been a tad bit inconvenient to leave Gideon bibles in all those hotel rooms without that, eh? Thanks, Jesu... uh, Gutenberg!) clothing... for a god that hates nakedness as much as Yahweh apparently does, you'd think he could've at least shown Adam and Eve how to make some decent clothing instead of letting them sew some fig leaves together. Nope, too busy kicking their asses out of the garden, I guess. And while it's true that the printing press and clothing are not exactly marvels of modern science, they are completely un-supernatural, i.e. man-made, using natural materials which we had to figure out on our own, with no help whatsoever from God. Figuring out how to make paper, for example, or actual clothing as opposed to leaves and animal skins- that takes knowledge. How do you get knowledge? You could try using the scientific method, which according to Wikipedia, '...refers to a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.' Or, you could ask someone who already has that knowledge (God) to show/tell you, but he seems quite unwilling to share any of it. So all the fundies out there can label me however they want, but until God actually starts speaking up and sharing some of his infinite wisdom and knowledge, I'm sticking with science.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Same Old Shit...

Now see, this really irritates the crap out of me. Ok, I found this blog,, via, via A quick read through and I see his third post down, entitled, 'The New Atheism & Christianity.' So I read that one with a little more interest. He starts off by saying,

'First off, it’s not really new. It’s a new way of saying the same old thing. It’s a new way of excusing pride & selfishness for rational thought.'

A new way of excusing pride & selfishness for rational thought.
Right. Because all of us who call ourselves atheists really know in our hearts that out of all of the gods that humanity has ever believed in, one of them, and only one, actually does exist. His name is Yahweh, but he is commonly referred to as 'God' not 'god' and although he happens to be genderless he prefers to be referred to as being male when one uses pronouns. Why won't we just admit it? We're not a-theists; we're really a bunch of closet theists, but because of our 'pride & selfishness' we don't want to bow down and acknowledge god's glory, or even existence, so we call ourselves atheists and talk about science and reason and logical, rational thought and we try to use all that as a shield against God's everlasting love because we really just want to revel in our sin like pigs in mud. It's true, it's all true!! We worship science! We bow down at the altar of our minds and pray to Rational Thought and/or Logic to show us the way, oh if only we'd just admit it! And it's because we're all made to worship someone/something, right? We've all 'gotta serve somebody,' so it's either going to be God or something else, and because of our stupid pride and selfishness some of us choose door number 2. Or 5, or the Red Pill, or anything, anything but God. Did I mention that this really irritates the crap out of me? Every nonbeliever out there has heard this same old spiel a million times. It really irritates me that fundamentalist believers cannot admit, ever, that some of us really just cannot believe in the god that they believe in. We just cannot do it and still be intellectually honest with ourselves. Pride and selfishness have nothing to do with it. Intellectual honesty has everything to do with it. In the same way that the believer cannot believe that God is really lying to them and will send them to hell on judgment day, and bring the atheists into heaven (because he prefers people who can think for themselves and decide to choose their own path over a bunch of groveling brown-nosers who only ever came to him in the first place because they were afraid not to) - in the same way that the believer cannot believe that their god would lie to them in that way, us non-believers cannot believe in a god at all. It's quite simple, really. There's not much more to it than that. We don't just pick and choose what we believe, like we're constantly accused of doing. Belief doesn't work that way. It's not a Chinese buffet.

Anyway, he goes on a bit more about the label 'atheist' and his issues with it, all of which I pretty much think he's wrong about, but I'm not going to bother talking about here because all I really want to say is that his particular post is part of the reason why I go back and forth about calling myself an atheist. Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't. I guess by definition I am, since I hold no belief in any god or gods (the same way Christians are atheistic about all other gods but their own). When I first stopped believing in God I tried out a bunch of different labels- Atheist, agnostic, humanist. I wanted to identify as something new, something other than what I used to be. 'I'm not a Christian anymore, so what am I?' I don't believe in God, so I'm an atheist. But 'atheist' is a hugely misunderstood label (although a lot of people are working hard these days to change that). So is agnostic, for that matter. So is just about anything, really. You call yourself something and then anyone who doesn't call themselves that same thing, or something that could be grouped in the same category, is now a 'them' to your 'us.' I didn't then, and still don't now, feel like explaining myself to someone who didn't identify the same way or who didn't understand why it was that I labeled myself as whatever. So even though by definition I am an atheist, and still sometimes will identify as such, way back then I finally settled on 'human being' as my label. Because who could argue with that? Who's going to misunderstand that or disagree with it? There is no 'us vs. them;' we're all in the same boat with that one. There's nothing to debate there. No, 'They're not real human beings,' or 'You only think you're human, but you're really not,' bullshit. Sure, there are vile, sick people who we think of as less-than-human because of some monstrous thing or other that they've done, but in the end we're all part of the same group, all capable of doing incredible good or incredible bad, and everything in between.

The author of the post does go on to say a couple things I kind of agree with-

'Many so-called Christians want to fight it out with the atheists about if there is a God, historical data, and silly philosophical questions. The best way to fight atheism isn’t knowledge... It’s in how we love. If we truly love, the fighting won’t matter.

It's so true- many Christians, 'so-called' or otherwise, all they seem to want to do is fight it out with the atheists (as well as anyone else who's not part of their 'us'). I'm tired of that shit, myself. Ok, then- Can't we all just get along? Well, no actually, I don't think we can all just get along. But that doesn't mean we have to argue and debate about it all the time, either. Seriously, I would rather sit alone in a windowless, empty room and watch paint dry on the walls than argue and debate with a believer about all things 'God.' It's partly why I never talk about that stuff with anyone; it seems that all most believers want to do is argue and debate about it, and it never, ever ends. And no matter how much we try, we can't convince them that it's really not our foolish pride that's keeping us from believing in their god. Arguments never change anyone's mind, anyway. Have you ever been in an argument where you and the other person both feel very strongly about your position and the other person says something and then you just stop, slack-jawed and say, 'Wow, you're right- I never thought of it that way before!' (or vice-versa)? Nope. Doesn't happen. And it's certainly never going to happen in matters of whose god is the 'real' one or whether or not there is even one real god. So while I'm not averse to having an adult conversation (most likely with an adult beverage or two in hand) with someone who is honestly curious about why it is I don't believe in the things that they believe in, and am not convinced by the things that they're convinced by, I'm definitely going to have to pass on the debate part of it. Because if you don't mind, I have some paint I have to watch dry.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

God is pro-life? Really?

Seriously, God hates abortion and the abortion providers are all heinous murderers and it's just one mind-numbing holocaust? A simple Google search will tell you that annually there are 40+ million induced abortions performed worldwide.

40+ million.

Every single year.

(And that's separate from all the non-induced abortions, the miscarriages and whatnot. I haven't even checked on those stats. I'm guessing it's not quite as high, but maybe it is, who knows? Either way, there's a lot of those too, but since God is in charge of those deaths, it's deemed ok. He's in control.)

And if you're an all-powerful creator of the universe who loves each and every soul, every single one, and are heinously grieved at all the bloodshed, what do you do to stop this holocaust? Simple- nothing. Not a goddamned thing. It's kind of easy to understand how some nutcases out there reach for the gun and take matters into their own hands- I mean, somebody's got to do something, right? God hates the baby-killers, but he's not going to strike them down with lightning or cause them to have a heart attack, but they must be stopped so send in the crazies with guns! I guess that's how he works though, right? Through his people? He doesn't speak directly- he speaks through his people. He sends prophets and leaders and preachers. He doesn't sit down at his desk in a cottage by the Dead Sea, pen in hand, and write the Bible himself, he tells other people what to say and they write it for him!

I guess what I'm trying to say is this: I'm told that abortion is pure evil and an abomination and that God hates it and it must be stopped. Yet, worldwide there are more than FORTY MILLION performed every single year (don't forget the miscarriages!) and he himself does nothing about it. So what sort of conclusions should I draw from this? Here's what I come up with:

A. God actually likes abortions and doesn't want them to be stopped.

B. He doesn't give a shit either way. Let the humans figure out what to do about it on their own.

C. He hates abortion and wants it stopped, but for whatever reason can't intervene. That's not to say that he's not omnipotent, but maybe he just designed things to work that way. A hands-off approach, or something.

D. He hates it and wants it stopped and can intervene, but chooses not to. You know, for his own secret reasons. He seems to do that a lot anyway, so why not? (Or maybe he is intervening, through his organizations like the National Right To Life Committee and Operation Rescue (but not the crazies with guns. Or maybe with them, depending on who you ask) but it appears that they're not doing a good enough job. Maybe got to crack the whip a little bit harder, things are getting urgent here.

E. There is no God.

Those are the options that I come up with. There could be more, depending on how you look at things, but whatever. I'm going with those. And, because I'm a God-hating-Evil-Atheist-who-just-wants-to-have-lots-of-sex-with-random-strangers-both-before-and-after-I-get-married-and-who-doesn't-want-to-answer-to-a-Greater-Authority-than-myself- (except the police, maybe) -etc.-etc.-etc...

I choose E.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A runaway train car full of people is barreling down the tracks...

Y'know that age-old ethics question/thought experiment- the one that they ask in Ethics or Philosophy 101 classes (or maybe they don't, I don't know; it's been awhile for me) - the one that goes something like this? There's two sets of railroad tracks, one with a runaway car full of people that ends in a steep cliff, and one that continues on safely and unobstructed- except for a single person tied up on them. You're there watching and there's a switch that you can flip- if you do flip it, the train will switch tracks and run over the guy who's tied up, but it'll save the many who are in the runaway car. If you don't flip it, you'll spare the guy who's tied up, but allow the many in the car to go over the cliff. What do you do?
Obviously it's not a realistic situation; it's just a thought experiment designed to get people thinking and asking/discussing ethical questions about tough situations. But have you ever noticed (and I admit that this was not my original observation- I first saw it in the comments section on some other blog- Friendly Atheist, I believe) that noone ever asks what you would do if there was no man tied up on the tracks? Or if the runaway car was barreling towards the man, but the the car was empty, so that flipping the switch to send it over the cliff would (presumably) hurt no one? No one ever asks those questions because you don't have to- the answer is obvious. Any sane person would flip the switch. And any sane person who didn't would rightly be labeled as a psycho, or something similarly heinous. A very, very evil person, in other words. Anyone except God, that is. I mean, he's everywhere, right? Always has the opportunity to 'flip that switch,' as it were. Sometimes he does. Sometimes not. It's all very random, though (fits very nicely with probability and coincidence, no?). When something crazy happens, like a window washer falls from nearly 50 stories up and survives, it's considered a miracle, God saved him hallelujah isn't he powerful and loving amen?! But then you've got got things like the Haiti earthquake. I know, I know, they're part of the wages of sin and the end times and all that, but couldn't he have at least sounded some sort of siren or something? Maybe told a Christian or prophet or missionary living in Haiti what was about to happen so they could warn everyone else and lives could be saved? Then he could get even more of the glory that he seems to crave so much- 'Hey everyone, I had no idea that we were about to get hit by a devastating earthquake, but God told me so I could tell you all, isn't-he-amazing-praise-God-hallelujah amen!!' But nope. Never happens. He never flips that switch. Except when somebody survives something that seems unlikely, then, oh wait, I guess he did flip that switch so let's all sing his praises.
Needless to say (but I'll say it anyway) I've heard all the bullshit excuses that people use to try and stick up for him- how he's God, so he makes the rules and who are we to question anything he does or doesn't do? But those are just that- bullshit excuses that people use to try and rationalize God's actions and explain what's really not explainable (because it's a logical contradiction). People don't allow for the possibility that maybe God is evil or a tyrant or shows favoritism or whatever- the only option is that he's Perfection personified, so whenever there's that switch that needs flipping, then whatever he does is Right- if he flips it and saves a life/lives, glory hallelujah; if he lets the guy/car full of people die, again, glory hallelujah. For the life of me I don't know how it is that the stupidity of that sort of thinking isn't blindingly obvious to any mature adult. And yet, I will be (and have been) criticized for stating such things- 'My heart has been seared as with a hot iron/I hate God/I just want to live my life for myself and not him/I've been deceived by the devil (or just my own damn brain, with it's logical thinking*) etc, etc, etc.

*Somebody actually said to me once, and I've also heard it said in a more generic setting (church sermons) that 'God doesn't have to bow or conform to Man's logic.' In other words, he doesn't have to make any sense to us whatsoever. I don't think they realize that by using that logic, he doesn't have to let Christians (even the True, Faithful ones) into heaven. He could let all the Atheists and Infidels and Muslims and Mormons in, and send all the 'true' worshippers to hell, and noone could argue with it. Doesn't matter that it would be illogical and make God out to be a liar; that's only if you use 'Man's logic.' Using 'God's logic' he can do that; he can be a liar and not a liar at the same time. No logical contradiction there! Why should there be? It's only with 'Man's logic' that that scenario wouldn't make any sense.

I hope you can see my point of view here and understand why it is that I no longer believe.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Hope vs. Prayer.

Been wanting to write about this for awhile. Hope vs. Prayer. What's the difference, really? I do think hope is better, because if whatever you're hoping for doesn't come to pass, then at least you can move on, or try to, without all the questioning. When you pray, you're praying to someone, someone who can, if he so chooses, grant you your request. Hope is just hope. If what you want to happen doesn't happen there is no 'Someone' to ask why not. You can ask yourself or your friends a rhetorical 'why,' but it's just that- rhetorical. You're not really expecting any answers. But when you pray for something- something really big and non-selfish say, and it never happens, you're constantly wondering and asking and guessing as to why not. Especially when others around you seem to be getting 'smaller' things they asked for. Just what is the point of praying, anyway? The bible clearly tells us to. Jesus clearly told us to. But why? Seems like God's just going to do what God wants, never mind what we want or how in line with his will what we're asking seems to be. If we ask for something that we are 100% sure is in line with his will and that we are 100% sure he would want, and it doesn't happen, then we're left thinking that, well, maybe we were just wrong about that thing; maybe we were being selfish all along in asking for it (you'd think god would be a little better at communicating things to us- 'no, you're being selfish here, or asking the wrong way, or whatever. Here's what you need to be asking for...' etc.). Or he didn't answer with a 'yes' because he's got other, super secret reasons, reasons that he'll one day reveal to us when we're with him in heaven, because right now we're just not ready to know them. Well, why can't he help us be ready to know them then, so we don't have to wait until then? Well, he's got his own super secret reasons for that too, and we'll just have to wait for that as well, right?
I remember reading a quote somewhere that God answers prayer in one of three ways- yes, no, and wait. I don't remember where I read it, but it was attributed to (though I'm sure many others have repeated it). Ok, so let's think about that- yes, no, and wait. I guess those are really the only three ways he could answer prayer; the answer is either going to be yes or no, and if it's yes, it's either going to come shortly after the prayer is offered or it's going to take a really long, unknown amount of time. And if it never happens, then the answer was no, right? Seems pretty simple, I guess. The tricky part is- how do you know- really know- who it is that's answering your prayers? I mean, if it's yes, no or wait, I could just as easily pray to the 100 year-old tree in my back yard, or to my dead ancestors, or the flying spaghetti monster, right? The answer is going to be the same- yes or no or wait. Now, while it may seem just blatantly obvious to you that of course it matters who you pray to, because my dead ancestors are just that- dead, and the tree is just a tree and the FSM doesn't really exist, it's not so obvious to those who don't believe. It goes back to what I said in a previous post- just who is this 'God' guy anyway? By definition we can't detect him with any of our physical senses, or any other way, for that matter, except 'through faith.' I know, I know: gravity- we can't smell, taste, touch, hear, or see it, right? No, we can't, but neither do we have to take it on faith, because we can detect it through science. We see it indirectly; we see it's effects on things- things fall to earth, earth rotates around the sun, etc. Gravity is a (very basic and very well understood) part of the known physical universe. By definition, God is not a part of our physical universe (even though he's said to inhabit it). He's 'outside' of time and space, as they say (whatever that's supposed to mean). And he's not at all well understood. I hardly need to provide any examples of that; it's practically part of Christian doctrine- 'my ways are above your ways,' he knows everything, we know (comparatively) nothing, etc. Believers everywhere freely admit that they know very little about God's ways. Of course, it's usually in the context of 'he's so infinite and amazing, it'll take us all eternity to understand him.' Sort of like an ant trying to understand algebra or something. But still, you'd think Almighty God could make himself a little more understandable to his puny, ignorant creation. With all the arguing and disagreements among different branches of Christianity (not to mention those who don't identify as Christians, but who still believe in God) why can't God just step in and act as referee? Straighten everyone out. But it's not just the different branches of Christianity who disagree with each other, with each group saying the other aren't 'true' Christians- Christians in the same group don't need to travel very far to find other like-minded Christians that they disagree with on something 'big.' I've heard some Christians say that they're for the death penalty because of their faith in God, while others have said that they're against it because of their faith in God. Seems like a pretty big issue to me, one that God might want to show up and straighten everyone out on, just so they're all on the same page about it. But anyway, I'm getting off track here. Back to prayer. I suppose there can be more than just 'yes, no, or wait' as an answer, because after all, what if it's not a yes-no question? What if it's more along the lines of 'Where should I go to college?' or something like that? I remember many years ago, when Janelle S. was looking at colleges, trying to decide where it was that God wanted her to go to. She narrowed her choices down to two- ENC, and some other one- I can't remember the name, but I think it was in Pennsylvania. So she prayed about it. She told me that since she'd applied at about the same time, she was praying that God would let her know by whichever one she heard back from first being the one she was supposed to go to. Sure, now it seems like maybe not the best way to figure out what school God wants you to go to, but really, how else was she supposed to decide? 'Yes, no, wait' doesn't apply here. And she can't really expect the school to send her a letter saying 'God told us he wants you to come here and not go to that 'other' school.' So it seems like a perfectly reasonable way for a believer to figure out what God wants for her. He does send 'signs' after all, doesn't he? The thing is, if you were a graduating high school senior involved in the Nazarene church pretty much anywhere in New England who was heading off to college in the Fall, it was pretty much a given that you were going to ENC. You just did. Everyone did, right? And everyone wanted to. And why not? This was long before Facebook and Myspace; hell, this was way before even email became mainstream, so going to ENC was how you stayed in close contact with all your friends, acquaintances and loved ones, everyone you'd gone to camp with and quizzed with for the last several years. And Janelle wanted to go to ENC. Probably expected she'd hear from them first, being that MA was much closer to Maine than PA. But she heard from the other school first. I remember the look on her face, too. It was sort of a surprised letdown. She really wanted to go to ENC and thought for sure God wanted her too as well, but now it appeared that he wanted her to go to the other school, much further away from friends and family, which would be difficult to deal with. Obviously, in the end she ended up going to ENC. I can't remember what the process was for her changing her mind, and her reasons for it, but somehow she managed to decide that no, it was really God's will that she go to ENC instead. Imagine if she'd gotten the letter from them first all along, as she probably expected she would. Obviously that would have been a clear sign from God that she was supposed to go there! Obviously! But she didn't get that letter, so she had to look for other 'confirmation' that that's where God really wanted her to go to college. I'm not passing judgment on her in any way- everyone does stuff like that in one way or another, believers and non-believers alike. We look for, and find, patterns and meaning and signs where there are none, and in the absence of a literal road map for life, straight from God's printing press, believers need to find confirmation somewhere.
So since God's preferred method of answering prayer is never a direct, spoken answer straight to our ears, but is often vague and made through 'indirect' means, what then (again) is the point of praying (besides the fact that we're told to)? If the 'yes, no, or wait' template could just as easily be applied to prayers made to anyone or anything (real or made up) in the universe, why even bother? Seriously. I recall hearing awhile back some preacher or other talking about how prayer isn't so much about asking for stuff, as it is about just communicating with God, and how it's supposed to be transformative- meaning that we should pray simply because it brings us closer to God. Well maybe it does, and maybe it doesn't, but if that's the main purpose of prayer, why does the bible tell us specifically to ask for things? Like I mentioned in one of the beginning posts, that verse in Matthew or wherever, where Jesus got really specific and said whatever you ask for in his name, you shall receive. Enter all the name-it-claim-it folks telling you all you need to do is just ask for money and healing and whatever, followed by the apologists who have to parse what Jesus really meant from what he actually said (even though he's said to 'say what he means and mean what he says').

Thank goodness for all the apologists to come along and explain the gospel for me because if I had to think for myself, I just might get it 'wrong.'


Years ago, shortly after I fully left my old faith, I had this bumper sticker that read, 'Nothing fails like prayer.' I wasn't trying to be confrontational or offensive with it, it just really struck a chord with me. It rang true. Still does, actually. Because when you're told to ask for things, and you do ask for them, and they never come to pass, that sounds like a failure to me. 'Maybe the answer was just no,' you say? Maybe. Or maybe the answer just fell squarely in line with the laws of probability. Come up with any scenario you like: 1000 Christians with a gravely ill child, whom modern medicine may or may not be able to save. They all pray fervently for their kids, and some make it, and some don't. Well, maybe God decided to 'take home' the ones who didn't make it; who are we to judge what he does, right? Well, if he were to actually communicate with us, the way he expects us all to do with him, and offer up some sort of reasoning as to why he chose the ones that he did to either live or 'come home,' then maybe I could say 'Fair enough,' and go along with that. But the communication never, ever happens, does it? It's always one-way. One way you could look at situations like that would be to say that 'Well, that's just how God works, and he's got his reasons, etc., etc.' And many people do look at it like that. I've heard some believers, when pressed with similar troubling scenarios (usually taken from the headlines of the evening news) and asked, 'Why would God allow this/ do this/etc., say something along the lines of 'I don't know, but I plan on asking him when I see him (face to face, in heaven). On the surface, I really appreciate the apparent honesty- a believer is actually genuinely troubled by the way God 'chooses to work' in a particular situation and has plans to take it up with him in heaven. But then I think, what in the world makes anyone think that God is going to explain everything in heaven? He's gone this long without a single word of explanation in any form, so why does everyone think he's just going to open up and explain everything after we're all dead? What could possibly give anyone that idea? Just think about how long humanity has been inhabiting this planet- anywhere from 6,000 years (if you're a young-earther) to (last I checked) around 200,000 years. And think about all the brutal, shocking things that have happened to innocent people throughout all that time; things that make even believers ask 'Why, God, why?' A thousand years may be just a day to God, but to us, it's a thousand years, one single day at a time, and if you happened to have been born a black person in Africa or a Jew in Europe during the wrong period in time, then you had many, many days of asking God why, with no answers forthcoming (unless they were from other people, trying to explain why God does things the way he does). But I'm supposed to believe that he's just going to open up and explain everything at the end of time, once all the believers are in heaven and the unbelievers are in hell? No. I do not buy it. Not for one. lousy. second.

Ok, getting away from the yes/no/wait aspect of it, there's the other part of it that I wanted to talk about. Years ago I used to live in the same building as this one guy; we were part of the same church/fellowship and would often run into each other in the hall. Now this guy, I'll call him Mark, he had some sort of physical handicap- a degenerative disease, I guess. I never asked him or anyone else what it was, and noone ever told me so I have no idea what it was called, or his history with it, but basically he was almost completely paralyzed (someone told me that at one point in his life he had been able to at least walk). He could move his head and hands a little, so that if you helped set him up just right he could use a keyboard, feed himself, and brush his teeth, things like that. But other than that, he was pretty much dependent on others for just about everything. Nicest guy in the world, too. Never heard him say a bad word about anyone, and he was almost always cheerful. Not bitter like a lot of us might be. He was, however, sexually frustrated. Noone ever came out and said that, of course, especially him, but it was the truth. Nearly every time I would pass him in the hall, or see him at church, or generally just cross paths with him (which was quite frequently) he'd almost always ask me to lay hands on his head and pray for him because he was dealing with impure thoughts about women or some such thing. Almost every single time. And it's not like he would single me out as the one to pray for him (because my prayers were stronger than other peoples') I'd often see lots of different guys laying hands on his head and praying for him. It got to the point where I actually started going out of my way to avoid running into him, as awful as that sounds to say. It's too bad really, because like I said- nicest guy in the world. And even though noone said it, everyone understood his plight- he didn't have the options that any other able-bodied person would have for dealing with his situation. That's gotta be tough to deal with. Sure, everyone else thought that if they 'gave in' to their 'sexual thoughts' that that would be bad, and they'd have to pray and ask forgiveness for it, and so they would, and everything would be fine- until the next time, when they were again overwhelmed by their raging hormones. Mark didn't even have that option. He didn't have any option to deal with it, other than just keep hitting up his friends for prayers. Many, many times per day. Every single day. Surely- surely - that would be a prayer request that God would honor, no? I mean, of all things to ask for, and since he's so against any actions, any thoughts about sex or anything sex-related, you'd think he'd answer Mark's prayers and 'help him to do better.' But he, apparently, never did. Some might argue that he couldn't actually 'make' Mark not think about sex anymore because that would somehow violate his 'free will.' Bullshit. Mark clearly did not want to think about sex anymore because he believed it was wrong and God didn't want him to since he wasn't married. He was asking for help to not think about sex anymore. But help never came, for some reason. Believers can try and dress it up any way they like, say that God has his own secret reasons, or say that he is helping (just imagine how much worse Mark would have been without God's help) or pull the old 'free will' trick, but the fact of the matter is that Mark prayed countless times per day (and others did the same for him) and yet there was no noticeable difference for him. He was still battling the same old battle. Nothing ever changed. That's pretty depressing, when you stop to think about it. I mean, it's gotta be hard enough just being in his situation, but then when you're constantly so torn up over some thoughts- not actions, not things he did or even said, just some lousy thoughts- and you pray and pray and pray and pray, and nothing ever changes, even in the slightest little bit- you really gotta wonder what the hell God is doing while Mark is suffering (and yes, I call that suffering). So now, you take a believer who's observing this situation as objectively as possible, someone who's trying their damnedest to know/do what's right, know the 'truth' about life and all that, and they look at Mark and his situation and see all the prayers go (apparently) unheeded- what exactly are they supposed to think about all this? Obviously many (most, even) find some way to rationalize it all away and say that God really is listening and really does care and all that, but some might look at it and start to doubt God's everlasting love and best intentions for us. Some might even conclude: 'If that isn't a case of failed prayer, I don't know what is.' And of course, those people will likely be ridiculed and vilified (in a godly way, of course) by the true believers, because as we all know, prayer doesn't fail. God doesn't fail. It's our limited human understanding and knowledge of God that fails (which I guess is why we're supposed to pray in the first place, right?)

No doubt some believer or apologist will read all this and conclude that I just hate God/want to sin/was burned by a 'fake' Christian/etc., etc., etc. (absolutely anything except that maybe what they believe/I used to believe just doesn't stand up to a little scrutiny and critical thinking). The far more simple truth of the matter should be pretty obvious to anyone with a little intellectual honesty: Hope vs. Prayer- what's the difference?