“Top 10 Reasons To [Not] Be A Christian”

Faith-killing questions from the trenches, and answers

Top 10 Reasons to Not Be a Christian

Q & A Session Audio

  1. “There is no scientific evidence whatsoever of any miracles ever actually occurring.”
  2. “The Jesus story just is an accumulation of myths of legendary people, all rolled into one über nice guy.”
  3. “Science and faith are incompatible ways of thinking. Separate realms that should be kept separate.”
  4. more »

Lie #1: ‘If you live a moral life, deny yourself pleasure, follow the prescribed rituals and give us enough money, you’ll have a decent shot at being accepted by God.’

Remember that scene near the end of the Wizard of Oz, when Toto is pulling back the curtain?  The sound system is bellowing, ‘Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.  THE GREAT AND POWERFUL OZ HAS SPOKEN!’ And There’s a little man behind the controls, talking into a microphone.
more »

Lie #2: ‘God is huge and unapproachable, and He wants you to labor, struggle and live in guilt.’

2000 years ago, they wouldn’t even dare say the word ‘God.’ God was distant, remote, terrible.

But Jesus had his own words for God, and he used them freely. They were controversial, even scandalous. more »

Lie #3: ‘You are not smart enough or good enough to think for yourself. We will do your thinking for you.’

Do you know what the most important invention in the history of the world was?

It wasn’t the computer. And it sure wasn’t the light bulb or the telephone. (Or even the electronic voting machine.)

It was the printing press. more »

Lie #4: ‘Women are spiritually inferior and must bow to the authority of men.’

In the religious bureaucracy of the ancient world, women were basically property. If she burned his toast, he could divorce her and send her away destitute. If she saw a crime in progress and reported it to the police, her testimony in court would be thrown out–simply because she was female. Women weren’t considered smart enough to recount what really happened.

Isn’t that special? more »

Lie #5: ‘There is no single truth. Everyone needs to explore and find a truth that works for them.’

This one’s a real hot potato. And it’s not something you hear so much from ancient religious institutions… rather, it’s simply the ‘politically correct’ way to talk about spirituality these days.

It tends to be expressed something like this: ‘You’ve got your truth, and I’ve got my truth. You find a faith that works for you, and I’ll find a faith that works for me.’

Well here’s my question:

How many conflicting versions of the truth can actually be true? more »

Lie #6: ‘The Bible is out of date, inaccurate and over-rated. People in the 21st century are way too smart for that.’

At first blush this doesn’t seem like an ‘Organized Religion’ thing. The reason I include it here is that many large religious organizations do teach it today.

Let me ask you something: Don’t you think it’s a lot easier for a leader to sneak in his own agenda when there’s no outside authority to compare it to? more »

Lie #7: ‘If God was really powerful and good, he wouldn’t allow so much evil and suffering to go on.’

This is raised by just about everyone: Priests and ministers, college students and housewives, butchers, bakers and candlestick makers.

It’s one of the hardest questions anybody ever asks. more »

Mel Gibson’s Controversial Passion Movie

Most of the buzz about Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ” has subsided.

I heard a lot and read a lot about this movie before going to see it. You’d think I knew what I was in for, but I really didn’t. more »

Tribute on September Eleven

On September 11, 1993, I received word that my 14 year old cousin, Chris Marshall, lost his life in an accident.

Every year on the anniversary of that day his mom and dad, my uncle Tim and his wife Dottie have relived those sad events. When the World Trade Center was decimated on September 11 2001, the sorrow became greater still.

Today I want to share a message Tim wrote to his son, on the 5th anniversary of what most of us now know as “9/11.”

Perry Marshall more »

How Long Is Hell?

Does God sentence people to never-ending, teeth-gnashing torment in everlasting fire?

Not people in general. Not people in some video game or fiction book. I’m talking about your son, your daughter, your mother, your father, your college roommate, the best man in your wedding, your aunt, your cousin. The one who’s picture hangs on your wall. Or… YOU.

Let me repeat that question: Does God sentence your son, your daughter, your mother, your father, your best friend, or you yourself to never-ending, teeth-gnashing immortality, screaming in profuse agony and torment, in everlasting fire?

Has that question ever kept you up at night?

Many Christians secretly agonize over this question.

Growing up, I was taught “eternal conscious torment” and “the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever” – the inevitable desitny for all people who did not believe as I did – from earliest memory.

I’m not sure my imagination can produce a thought more horrifying. I got a severe sunburn once. My shoulders were in fire for three days. I couldn’t help but think what if this lasted forever… and what if the pain was a whole lot worse than this?

Once I was on the phone for a paid business consultation with a client who knew I was a Christian. Suddenly the conversation took a sharp turn and he asked me what I thought about hell. He started crying over the phone because he had long been obsessing about the prospect of actual eternal damnation.

Most conservative Christians say they believe this.

Based on their behavior (as in how much priority they demonstrate by carrying out the great commission) I don’t think they believe it for 12 seconds. Actions speak louder than words. I don’t listen to what people say… I watch what they do.

Well anyway… does Christianity actually teach this in the first place?

When I study the Greek words and context, I find the “Eternal Conscious Torment” doctrine unpersuasive, as I shall explain.

Eternal damnation makes the Christian message BAD news not good news. It insists that the majority of the human race is going to languish in unthinkable quantities of suffering… for unimaginable length of time… by a God who is infinitely cruel and infinitely merciless. Infinitely offended, never appeased, a God who is entirely aware of every moment of your agony and is indifferent to it.

The Old Testament says little about hell. When I look up every single one of the verses referring to hell in the New Testament, the majority describe it as death and destruction.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

A small minority of those verses imply something more severe than that. For example Matthew 25:46: And these will depart into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life. The word “eternal” here is from the Greek word aion,” from which we get the term “eon.” It means “pertaining to an eon or age, an indeterminate period of time.”

Our strongest sentiments about the severity of hell come from the book of Revelation. Now please consider that Revelation is last on the list of books one should take most literally in the New Testament, for obvious reasons. Let’s consider Revelation 14:11:

And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.

That phrase “rise forever and ever” comes from Isaiah 34 which says:

For the Lord has planned a day of revenge,
a time when he will repay Edom for her hostility toward Zion.

Edom’s streams will be turned into pitch
and her soil into brimstone;
her land will become burning pitch.

Night and day it will burn
its smoke will ascend continually.
Generation after generation it will be a wasteland,
and no one will ever pass through it again.

So looking deeper into the original context, the imagery in Revelation actually came from the Old Testament description of a city destroyed that will never be rebuilt.

Ezekiel 28:18-19 says that even Lucifer himself ceases to exist:

By the multitude of your iniquities, through the sinfulness of your trade,
you desecrated your sanctuaries.
So I drew fire out from within you;
it consumed you,
and I turned you to ashes on the earth
before the eyes of all who saw you.
All who know you among the peoples are shocked at you;
you have become terrified and will be no more.

Consider Genesis 3:22…

Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not be allowed to stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.

If we take this verse as the starting point of the topic, it plainly says that people being punished by God are NOT immortal. I don’t know how to take the above verse seriously and come to any other conclusion. This is literally the first thing the scriptures have to say about judgment.

(Unless you wish to insert “Let us give him the tree of life after he has left the earth, so he can become immortal then and we can torture the man with fire forever and ever and ever… and we will be as indifferent to his pleas for mercy as a stone wall.” This is ostensibly what conservative Christian denominations claims to believe. But I don’t think it makes sense.)

Are we to take God seriously when he said in Isaiah 28:21:

Mercy is God’s right hand that he is most used to; inflicting punishment is called his strange work.

Deuteronomy 7:9-10:

Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him.

When I was in high school, my youth pastor said: “If a bird flew over a mountain once a year and dropped a grain of sand on the top of that mountain, then after the mountain had completely eroded, the suffering of the damned in hell would have barely begun.”

That same pastor had two miscarriages earlier in his life. He shared that he also believed his two unborn children were suffering in hell today, since they had original sin and had never had a chance to trust Jesus.

My youth pastor’s beliefs about God were utterly sick. Remember: whenever you believe something like that, you bear the crushing weight of it every day of your life. It colors your perception of everything.

It’s no wonder many people feel such elation when they escape such beliefs and become agnostics or atheists. At least they don’t have to stagger under the gravity of such cruelty anymore. An old friend of mine Mark Vuletic, a long-time atheist activist, abandoned the Catholic faith for precisely this reason when he was 16 years old.

But I do not believe God to be so cruel, nor do the scriptures make a case that he is. This is why I find the “Eternal Conscious Torment” (ECT) arguments unconvincing.

The conclusion I have reached – based on an uncomplicated reading of Genesis 3:22 is that immortality is only granted to people who have eternal life. God does not continue to turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to the shrieks, the cries, the pleas for mercy, for a time that lasts so long that 100 million billion years is not even the beginning.

If Christians really believed in eternal damnation, they would sterilize themselves. So as to eradicate any possible risk of any of their precious children suffering an infinite amount of pain in a never-ending existence. The act of conceiving a child would be the most extreme version of Russian Roulette you can fathom.

If my youth pastor really believed this, he wouldn’t have had more children after the first miscarriage. Either he would have gotten a vasectomy… or he would need to admit that he didn’t really love his daughters.

As I said before, I think scarcely anyone actually believes this, based on what real Christians physically do. They only say they believe it and refuse to hire pastors who won’t sign the eternal hellfire doctrinal statement. Verbal assent to this belief is reinforced with peer pressure and threats to take away your health insurance.

You should pick up a fascinating set of books called “Faith of the Early Fathers” by Jurgens. It’s a catalogue of writings of the church fathers from 80AD to 1000AD. It is extremely illuminating.

If you read Volumes 1 2 & 3 you can see what I call “hell inflation.” You can look it up by topic and start to see, as hundreds of years go by, the descriptions of hell grow more lurid and terrifying. You see across time how they elaborate and embellish the descriptions. By the middle ages you find depictions of people being tossed from fire to ice and back.

This is why I believe the common English New Testament depiction of judgment has been significantly distorted by Bible translators.

For example, in Acts 17 and John 15 Paul and Jesus talk about people who are ignorant not being guilty for their ignorance:

Acts 17:29-30 And since this is true, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone. God overlooked people’s ignorance about these things in earlier times, but now he commands everyone everywhere to repent of their sins and turn to him.

John 15:22 They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin.

(More about people who have not learned about God here.)

In 200AD, a church father named Origen espoused an idea called “apokatostasis” which was the idea that God’s judgment is not retribution but correction.

Augustine came along 200 years later and articulated a very strong doctrine of original sin and a view of humans as being unable to free themselves from sin and addiction. Augustine’s views were embraced and have been ever since.

Origen was declared a heretic, but I think Origen is right. Eternal damnation is man’s most debauched and violent fantasies, a million times worse than Auschwitz, projected onto God.

Do I believe in hell? Yes I do. To put a finer point on it, I believe everyone answers for the life we’ve lived. Not only that, I believe that the notion of men and women accountable to a perfect divine judge lies at the very foundations of civilization itself.

We have good empirical reasons to believe in an afterlife, as well as a judgment. There is a considerable body of literature concerning Near Death Experiences (NDEs), for example a review published by the Missouri State Medical Association, “The Science of Near Death Experiences” (2018) reporting that 15%-18% of people revived from cardiac arrest after being clinically dead report NDEs, citing a book of the same title by an MD and several scientific studies.

I personally know (at least) two people who have had NDEs who described them to me in vivid detail. Both described to me the tunnel of light and feeling of utter transcendence. Most people do not wear these stories on their sleeves. But if you ask around, you will find people in your own circles who have had such experiences.

The book and movie “Heaven is For Real” relate an extremely detailed account of Todd Burpo, a four year boy in western Nebraska who had an NDE and later correctly identified relatives in family photographs who had died before he was even born, because he had met them in heaven.

What is much less well known is the fact that not all NDEs are positive happy tunnels of light. Some are terrifying. The book “To Hell and Back” recounts the professional work of cardiologist Maurice Rawlings, who had repeated experiences of restarting the hearts of patients. They would come back in a severe panic, begging him to “get me out of here.” To say this book is disconcerting is an understatement.

Rawlings made careful distinctions between those who later forgot about the negative NDE and those who made permanent changes in their life because of it.

It is quite difficult to dismiss the many stern warnings in the New Testament. God is not to be trifled with. It seems like most people go to one extreme or the other but scripture paints a balanced picture. God is merciful, yet: It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of an angry God. Hebrews 10:31. A single minute in hell may well seem like an eternity.

Every minute in hell is a minute too long. So I believe the judgments of those people who refuse God’s forgiveness are fair and just and right. Not infinitely cruel. Infinite revenge is not justice.

This is why it’s difficult to make a strong case for eternal suffering in hell, once you study all of the verses in context.

If Eternal Conscious Torment is true, God is not love… God is hate.

Who is Adam?

Dave, a long-time reader, asked me a great series of hot-potato questions on CosmicFingerprints.com:Peter_Paul_Rubens_004

Q: Were there a historical first two humans (“Adam and Eve”) that gave us our entire species or were more contributors to our species? Does DNA show that there were other human species that existed and the one we have today is simply the simply didn’t die out?

A: So far as I know, genetics shows the human race came through a minimum population bottleneck of 5,000 to 10,000 people. A lot of people take this to mean Adam and Eve were simply mythical creatures, which creates more than a few theological problems.

However Richard J. Fischer in his book Historical Genesis from Adam to Abraham makes a strong case that: Adam wasn’t the first human. Adam was the first Semitic person.

The Genesis text gives clues that this is true. Cain kills Abel. He complains, “If anyone finds me they will kill me” and off he goes to build a city.

A city? For who?

And who is “anyone”? From the text it would appear there are only three people alive, Cain was the oldest, Abel was younger, and they had no other kids.

Sounds like other people are around.

Adam wasn’t the first man. He was the first prophet.

Q: Do humans have a unique dimension apart of from the animals (e.g. having supernatural spirit, not just a natural soul)

A: Yes. However I don’t have a way that I can plug a voltmeter into people and prove this. Anecdotal evidence is all around.

Q: Did the first human sin produce an event called “the Fall”?

A: Yes.

Q: Was the Fall an event or a process?

A: I think it’s both. I’m not sure I can elaborate much.

Q: Did the Fall produce a spiritual death or physical death, both, or neither?

A: Spiritual death. Not physical death. God told Eve “In the day you eat of the fruit you will surely die.” She didn’t die physically that day. And we also need to look carefully at Romans 5:

Which clarification of Romans 1 makes more sense – the first one or the second?

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and physical death through sin, and in this way physical death came to all people, because all sinned—

13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, physical death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.

15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many physically died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, physical death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in physical life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and physical life for all people.

…..

12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and spiritual death through sin, and in this way spiritual death came to all people, because all sinned—

13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, spiritual death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.

15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many spiritually died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, spiritual death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in eternal life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and eternal life for all people.

I don’t think Romans 5 makes sense if death is “physical death.” Sin brought spiritual death.

Q: If the Fall produced either spiritual or physical death, did either of these occur before the Fall?

A: Physical death has been going on for billions of years.

Q: Did the Fall result in corruption that affected the rest of the cosmos?

A: I suspect so. I can’t say exactly how. I suspect man became more at war with nature than he was before.

Q: Is this the only universe?

A: I doubt it. People who know cosmology far better than I say we have good mathematical reasons to believe the ignition of our universe likely triggered others.

However I strongly object to people who invoke multiverses simply to avoid the incredibly pervasive evidence for fine-tuning in our universe.

Some people say there’s a trillion other universes with random characteristics and we live in “the lucky one.” There may be good reasons to believe in a multiverse, but that one’s lame.

Saints and Murderers

If you ripped out every book of the Bible that was written by a murderer, you wouldn’t have much Bible left. The first five books, written by Moses, gone. Everything by David – all those Psalms – gone. Most of the New Testament, written by Paul, gone. Not to mention all those liars, cheaters, deceivers, adulterers, prostitutes, and thieves who ended up becoming great heroes of the faith. Demonstrating to us that God is not about rules, religion, and good behavior, but about love, relationship, and the restoration of all things.

by Michele Kus

Genocide in the Old Testament

Justin Brierley’s show Unbelievable is a great podcast. I recently listened to his programFour Horsemen of Apocalypse

“Did God command ‘genocide’ in the Old Testament? with John Allister vs Justin Schieber.

Did God command ‘genocide’ in the Old Testament? John Allister vs Justin Schieber

After listening I wrote this note to Justin:

Justin,

I finally caught up with your show “Did God command ‘genocide’ in the Old Testament?” with John Allister and Justin Schieber.

Their discussion centered around “micro” issues without ever raising vital macro-level questions.

There are three high-level questions that never got asked:

1) “Does God have a right to judge and punish human beings?”

2) “Is God justified in decreeing the ‘collateral damage’ that is explicitly stated in the Ten Commandments?”

-Specifically Exodus 20:5-6: “I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

And:

3) Does God have a right to create a world where innocent children die of anything? Like mumps and measles and whooping cough and AIDS?

The conversation didn’t address any of these questions. It must before anyone can do justice to this topic.

Since #2 and #3 are givens, we’re left with #1, does God have a right to morally judge human beings?

There’s a scene in the movie Rudy where a guy says to Rudy, “I’ve learned two things: There is a God, and I am not him.”

Regardless of any individual’s specific religious beliefs, we ostensibly live in a world where children DO suffer from the sins of their parents (ask any therapist) and innocent children die every day. The bigger question is, will God judge in the end and settle all moral debts?

How about God killing the firstborn of Egypt? They suffered from Pharaoh’s sin, not their own.

Another issue that the show never brought up was that God treats Israel even worse than He treats the Amalekites! Read Lamentations 2 for example:

17 The Lord has done what he planned;

he has fulfilled his word,

which he decreed long ago.

He has overthrown you without pity,

he has let the enemy gloat over you,

he has exalted the horn of your foes.

In scripture, Israel is on the receiving end more often than its enemies are. Look at all the times they get carried into captivity, from the time of Daniel to the fall of Jerusalem in 70AD.

I believe the real reason many atheists are atheists is, they can’t stomach the idea that God lets cruel planet earth go on the way it does. This revulsion at the unfairness of the world is largely a phenomenon of the modern era. Most people who are incredulous that God would make a ‘darwinian’ world are those who’ve managed to mostly get the good end of the deal.

Whether he realizes it or not, the modern skeptic looks at these questions through a New Testament lens. Jesus brought an incalculable paradigm shift to the modern world, a new expectation of kindness and compassion. Don’t forget that back then, kings marched into war every spring and burned villages and plundered everything. That was considered completely ‘normal.’

This “loving compassionate God” whom Justin Schieber cannot reconcile with the killing of the Amalekites comes directly from Jesus. This idea doesn’t come from the Old Covenant, or any of the ancient world.

The atheist wants Jesus minus the Mosaic law. But you can’t have one without the other.

Belief that God has the right to judge human beings is an axiom of Judeo-Christian thought. We consider this self evident. The reason we believe this, is that we believe ultimate justice does exist and will be meted out; and that in the end, all those who are innocent will be vindicated.

I wished you would have asked Justin Schieber whether he was for or against legalized abortion. To a person, almost every skeptic who proclaims their compassion for Amalekite children shares no such concern for the unwanted, unborn child – now or any time.

In the end, a Skeptic is simply a person who wants the keys of life and death to remain in human hands instead of God’s.

Perry Marshall

(Image Credit: Viktor M. Vansetsov / Wikipedia Commons / Public Domain)

The Shroud of Turin: New Evidence

FASCINATING. I’ve got several books about the Shroud of Turin, which was allegedly the burial cloth of Jesus. I had shroudofturinfound them only partly persuasive. But this 28 minute feature by Premiere Radio adds new dimensions to the investigation.

Pay attention to the coin minted in 29AD & burial flowers that only grow in Jerusalem. Well worth a listen.
Shroud of Turin – Unbelievable Radio by Justin Brierley

Link to Original Post

Sleeping In The Thin Place

erin_dun_chaoin2

When love is lost
or lovers lorn
When space separates
two hearts

When time and distance drive a wedge
and the warmest nights are cold
I slip into the grass
in the starry dark
the northern lights and the black

I lay in the hollow and settle in deep
reaching for a strand of divinity
Coumeenole strand reaches out to me
Not the beach, but the liquid gold
not the sand, but honey manna from heaven

It is delicious and I long long long to eat of it
and be well
And be healed of all my infirmities
my lovesick soul.

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LONELINESS and ISOLATION

LONELINESS and ISOLATION
is not a state of being
that is impenetrable,
but is a space where you are invited in,
to break the stronghold of believing
that you are alone.

Jesus was alone in the garden of Gethsemane
in the most dreadful hour, but angels came
to strengthen him
and his father heard him
even though it wasn’t the answer he wanted, God heard every syllable
caught every tear
and drop of blood

and when he hung on the cross and wanted to give up
God said to him
“Look at Mary and John
your mother and your brother
you would never let THEM go to hell.
Save them, and you get the whole world as a bonus.”

There is no joy
like redemption
Like salvation of what was lost
propitiation
to rescue something from the brink.

The cost is high
and disciples deserted him
but they returned
in power
to save the world from turmoil
and permanently shift the nations to a more
peaceful way
away from the barbarism, cruelty and violence
to where every pagan even knows
the way of peace.

Passages from “The Naked Now”

the naked now

The Naked Now is Richard Rohr’s exploration of the mystical side of Christianity. Below are some brilliant quotes. Thanks to my friend John Fancher for compiling these:

  • Yes, the mind is brilliant, but the more we observe it, the more we realize it is also obsessive and repetitive
  • Yes, the mind can serve the world, but in fact it largely serves itself.
  • We still think of ourselves as mere humans trying desperately to become spiritual, when the Christian revelation was precisely that you are already spiritual and your difficult but necessary task is to learn how to become human.
  • (on insisting on one interpretation of scripture): This, even after Jesus so often … taught that the Ultimate Reality…is always LIKE something – clearly a simile or metaphor, inviting further experience and journey, not an idea with definitions that could be checked true or false on a student exam.
  • We forget that every time God forgives or shows mercy, God is breaking God’s own rules…Once you’ve known Grace, your tit-for-tat universe is forever undone: God is everywhere and always and scandalously found even in the failure of sin.
  • The Gospels never recorded Jesus having a single pre-requisite for any of his healings…except desire itself.
  • God’s love is so ingenious and victorious that I find God is willing to turn the whole world around to get me facing in the right direction.
  • If certitude, predictability and perfect order were so important, Jesus would have come in a time of digital recorders and cameras and he would have at least written his ideas down somewhere – and more clearly! He would have described his task as the establishing of archives instead of a sprawling banquet of rich food and wine…
  • If you fight dualistic thinkers directly, you are forced to become dualistic yourself. This is why, classically, Jesus sidesteps the two alternatives by telling a story, keeping silent, or sometimes presenting a third alternative that utterly reframes the false dilemma.
  • On the kingdom being NOW: How different this is from our later notion of salvation, which pushed the entire issue into the future and largely became a reward and punishment system.
  • We judgmentally look for the sin, error, or mistake in ourselves or others, not to consider its message for us, but to catch it, hate it, eliminate it, and often to project it elsewhere.
  • Scripture calls this subtle seeing (Wisdom) “she”, which in patriarchal culture is a way of saying “alternative”. Alan Watts says that the loss of paradoxical thinking is the great blindness of our civilization, which is what many of us believe happened when we repressed the feminine side of our lives as the inferior side. It was a loss of all subtlety, discrimination, and capacity for complementarity.
  • Jesus, as the icon of Christ Consciousness, is the very template of total paradox: human yet devine, physical yet spiritual, possessing a male body yet a female soul, killed yet alive…failure yet redeemer, marginalized yet central, singular yet everyone.
  • Unfortunately, faith became a matter of believing impossible or strange things (which was supposed to please God somehow), instead of an entrance way into a very different way of knowing altogether.

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A Tale of Two Dads

I heard that one of my colleagues had recently lost his father. I asked him about it, and he shared this story.

_____________

My “step” father who raised me since age of 9 and who served REALLY as my Father/Dad… died on Saturday 10 days ago.

I spent more than 2 months in a California hotel, visiting him this past summer, when he was still happy and walking and living life… tending his vegetable garden, and not taking any chemo.

His cancer was two separate types of terminal lung cancer, one in each lung… so he chose to not do chemo.

My blood father, whom I hadn’t spoken to, by choice – for more than 32 years, died two days later.

I had no idea that he was dying or had cancer also, until about 4 days before.

Strangely, I had been praying for each of them, on alternate days, all day long for about 4 weeks before they died.

So, I was able to reduce my resentment toward my blood father for all the mental cruelty he had put me thru for the 1st half of my life, until age 28, when I mentally “divorced” him.

The praying for him, gave me a sense of compassion and peace, and love for that part of myself represented by him.

I had no idea he needed prayers.

It’s almost as if I “manifested” him coming back into my life, when my uncle made his daughter (my cousin) write to my wife to tell me to call him. My whole family knew I never wanted to speak to him again.

It turns out, he never woke up during those final 4 days, after I called my uncle, but I was able to tell my uncle I forgave his brother, my blood father.

When my step-Dad died Saturday, it was very sad.

When my blood Dad died on Monday, I felt nothing, unless it was relief… but I was glad to have released him and to feel absolutely no resentment.

It’s just weird they would die almost on the same day.

All my life since age 9, I never called my “step”-Dad my Step-Dad. I called him Dad. He Really WAS My Dad, and I loved him dearly.

My real (blood) father, on the other hand, severely crippled my self image for the first 28 years of my life by telling me I was no good, and making it clear that I could NEVER please him, no matter what.

If I had actually gotten the opportunity to tell him I forgave him, he would have said: “What! Forgive me for WHAT?!!”

He was a sad case. An alcoholic all his life.

I’m glad I was able to break the mold on that one, and to transcend him.

I’ve had many father-figures in my life, from Socrates & Jesus, to Shakespeare & Ben Franklin. From Napoleon Hill to my “Step” Dad. From my career role models, to my entrepreneur role models.

I feel really happy that I did that, so when the time came, I actually felt for a day or two…

That I would be able to talk with him, if he ever woke up and could get on the phone.

However, by the time my “step” Dad died, I decided not to give him one last chance to crush me or lash out at me, and instead, I asked my Uncle to tell him I loved him, and that I said Goodbye.

In the end, I was so proud of myself for not giving him that opportunity, but also for not feeling any resentment toward him, only compassion and kindness.

This was only possible due to the 4 weeks of praying. During that 4 weeks, I healed that part of myself, that was “him” inside me.

On the other hand…  My “step”-dad, who always always there for me, to the extent he could be working in manufacturing as the sole provider, raised me as the oldest of 7 kids, 5 of which WERE his blood.

What I neglected to say about him at the end, was that I was so gratified to have just pulled up the stakes, and to have spent more than 2 months with him this past summer, when he was happy and healthy, and times were good.

We went to baseball games, county fair, out to lunch & dinner, had family BBQs.

In the end he went very fast, and the way he wanted, surrounded by love, with some of us near, and some of us far, but he KNEW he was loved.

I feel very blessed to have prayed for both of them, at odd moments all thru the days – on alternate days, thru those final 4 weeks.

It’s just strange that both were dying of the same disease, and I didn’t even know it until the very end.

One last thing.

I continue to pray for both of them all day long, whenever I can think of it – from midnight to midnight… in rotation with 2 others.

It goes this way… Pray for –>

1) Blood Father
2) Mother (who died of cancer in 1994)
3) Step Dad
4) My Wife

I switch at midnight, and rotate through again.

These are the four biggest influence on who I am, who I’ve been, and who I’m becoming.

_____________

Share your dad story below….

Amway Pink Koolaid = Christian Pink Koolaid?

For years I was a revved up, starry-eyed, enthusiastic Amway distributor. Drivin’ all over the place, doing meetings, building my “organization” and gunning for Diamond.

Eventually (it took about 5-6 long torturous years; I can be both stupid and stubborn) the rose-colored sunglasses started to shatter. Due in part to scrutiny that the Internet provided, which had formerly been impossible.

I decided to use the web as an anvil to see if the Multi-Level Marketing machine could stand up to scrutiny. To make a long story short, I put up a website asking qualified people to explain some things that appeared to be fairly unethical and no good explanations were forthcoming.

Was there a good reason for the tool systems being the way they were, etc, other than the powerful exploiting the gullible?

In a word, no. I saw very quickly that it crumbled under the weight of hard analysis. (To put it mildly.)

A few years later I found myself putting together this here Coffeehouse Theology website with an eerily similar thing in mind. Point/counterpoint, thesis/antithesis. Let’s get all this out on the table and start hammering on it.

I’d been raised Christian, my dad was a minister, and I thought there was a very real possibility that Christianity might crumble the same way Amway did. (Amway imploded in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s – huge fallout. It would take a major recession with millions of desperate people seeking opportunities, before that trend began to reverse.)

Not only that, atheist websites like Infidels were attracting hundreds of thousands of followers. The arguments were very strong.

I was open to the possibility that the whole Christianity thing might be a sham. And if so, I might as well find out sooner rather than later. Maybe churches would someday be filled with only those people left who couldn’t be bothered to get on the Internet.

By the way I had a deep dark fear of feeling the same way about having been a Christian as I’d felt about being a “naive enthusiastic Ambot.” ie they saw me coming a mile away. I was a gullible idiot. What a horrible fear.

Meanwhile I decided to try my best to defend Christianity based on what I did know. I decided to take all comers. Sort of like I am doing here on this blog, but back then it was via email. All the email autoresponder replies came back to me.

So the convos were private, which helped. It made them deeper and less snarky than what you typically find on blogs. I decided that I was willing to “fight to the death” – someone was going to win. Maybe it was going to be me, maybe it was going to be the atheist that I was talking to.

Sooner or later we would find out. If Christianity was a sham I would give it up.

What happened to me was, I became more and more sure of fewer and fewer things.

There are a lot of things that I would never be interested in trying to defend. There are other things that I think really do stand up to logical, historical, philosophical and scientific scrutiny.

One of those things is Christian God –> resurrected Jesus spiritual belief system. The Judeo-Christian account of the origins of the universe; the case for the resurrection of Jesus; for the remarkable reliability (not utter perfection!) of the gospel texts; for various prophesies coming true, for Christian ideas of equality giving birth to our modern notions of human rights. For developing the philosophical roots for modern science; healings from disease; the case for all these things is much stronger than most people would ever suspect.

In fact I’ll go so far as to say that Judaism and Christianity together laid the foundations for modern colleges and universities and a great deal of the Western intellectual tradition.

By the way I just ran across a fascinating article. David Stove was a brilliant, incisive atheist philosopher from Australia. Wrote “Darwinian Fairytales” and “Rationality of Induction.” I bought both of those books several years ago. I wasn’t aware he had a son.

His son RJ Stove writes this riveting account of converting from atheism to Catholicism.

I think RJ’s story is a shining example of what happens when you put atheism on the anvil and start pounding on it, the same way I pounded on Christianity. I found out it shatters like brittle iron. I doubt many people know the real story of David Stove, I sure didn’t. David Stove’s books are outstanding by the way, and very witty.

I don’t expect you to accept any of this just because I say so. But I think if you page through the various articles, the Q&A in the blog comments, the presentations and MP3′s both here and on my sister website – you will find a reasonable, logical articulation of Christianity as a rational belief system.

Anne Rice Quits Church

In another post, bestselling author Anne Rice told you her story – how, through historical research, she became convinced the facts support a real Jesus who rose from the dead. She explains how and why she left atheism to embrace hope.

Then, in 2010, she left the church. She said:

“For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian … It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else. more »

The Burning

The Burning

by Joshua Russell

From the black void a voice arose: I will go to hell and back for you, dear child.

Then God created the heavens and the earth, full well knowing the heartache it would cause him to have such beautiful little children (he could gobble them up!) and watch them cower before his gaze, think horrible thoughts, despise him, despise themselves, despise the very sky he painted for them.

And what’s worse, they would feel such incredible more »

7 Things Yo’ Momma Never Told You – Transcript Part 3

7 Things Yo’ Momma Never

Told You About Church History

(Written Transcript Part 3)

There’s kind of a Catholic view of scripture, which is we have this Bible, but you don’t just pick it up and interpret it in a vacuum. Just like there are genealogies of scriptural documents that radiate outward from the center, there is also a tradition of interpretation that also radiates outward from the center.

Just like you can go back here as early as you can go and find out, “All right, the Septuagint says this, but this other version or other scroll says more »

7 Things Yo’ Momma Never Told You – Transcript Part 2

 

7 Things Yo’ Momma Never

Told You About Church History

(Written Transcript Part 2)

The Destruction of Jerusalem

It’s mentioned 78 times in the gospels. Here are some instances of that. more »

7 Things Yo’ Momma Never Told You – Transcript Part 1

 

7 Things Yo’ Momma Never

Told You About Church History

(Written Transcript Part 1)

I’m really glad that you’re here, and it’s been brewing for a very long time. There’s a little story behind this whole talk that I want to tell you about; how this whole project was born.

About seven years ago, I put up a website called CoffeeHouseTheology.com. There were a number of motivations for me doing this, but one of them was I needed a punching bag. more »

7 Things Yo’ Momma Never Told You About Church History

 

Power Point Presentation in PDF

Written Transcript

In this talk Perry Marshall selects 7 huge “anchor points” – 7 monumental ideas and events that changed civilization. You’ll see with new clarity how the world has been transformed in a positive way: more »

Blue Sun


Off we slid while
gloves off kid
manners false escaping
more »

Documented Miracles: Lie #8: “Miracles ceased with the apostles.”

7 Great Lies of Organized Religion – Lie #8

Where I grew up, they said: “Miracles don’t happen anymore. They ceased with the disciples.” I believed what they told me.

Dozens of personal experiences and medically documented cases have caused me to do a 180 on this. Miracles are REAL. The idea that miracles are fake is literally the 8th lie of Organized Religion. (Fake miracles masquerading as real ones are the other side of that coin, by the way… and there are many fake miracles.)

Miracles are far more common than many would have you believe. Today, I share several of my own personal experiences. And several thoroughly documented events. more »

The Dance of Equality, Technology and Spirituality

10 years ago someone said to me, “These days you may not even know your next door neighbor, but you exchange emails with your buddy in South Africa twice a week.”  I looked out the window at the house next to mine – barely knew the neighbors – and yes I was sitting there sending emails to someone in some far-off country. more »