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Jun 09 2013

An atheist goes to church: First Baptist

This is Minnesota, where all the Scandihoovians are Lutheran and all the Germans are Catholic, and there ain’t no one else. Well, at least that’s the stereotype. Since we went to the liberal Lutheran church last week, because that’s what I grew up in, my wife suggested that for parity’s sake we attend a church like the one she was brought up in. She was Baptist, once upon a time. Would there be any Baptist churches here?

Yes, there’s one. So we dropped in this morning, and Mary introduced me to Baptist culture.

First shock: Baptists sleep in. The service didn’t start until 11am. I know! They’re stealing an atheist advantage there! Mary said that was typical, though. There were also more Baptists in town than I expected, with about 60 in attendance.

The second mild surprise was that the whole service is practically non-stop hymn singing, and that they had a pianist, an organist, and a violinist up front to accompany us. I was used to liturgies & chants & recitatives breaking up the occasional hymn, but no, we opened up the hymnal as soon as the service started (promptly at 11, and again, it ended promptly at noon) and worked our way through a series of hymns with one interruption for the offering collection and one for the sermon. And we sang every verse of every hymn! Of course, every song had the same structure: two line verse, followed by two line chorus, then repeat and repeat and repeat.

The music did nothing for me, but then I wasn’t brought up in it. Mary got caught up in the rhythms, which I found interesting — early childhood experiences seem to program us to respond to particular patterns, and I could tell that I’m a Lutheran atheist and she’s a Baptist atheist. Irreconcilable differences, I guess we’ll have to divorce.

Wait, no, I think the atheism cleared those conflicts away. Whew!

Then, the sermon. Scratch that, the “message”. It started off well.

It was built around Psalm 147, and the pastor was telling us about the things God is not impressed by…and the first one was by show of force. Was this going to be a pacifist message? I might like this guy after all.

Alas, it was to be that only certain shows of force fail to delight the Lord. God is not impressed with North Korea’s parades of tanks and missiles, and they keep shooting missiles at us (Really? Where?) and they keep missing. And hey, Napolean invaded Russia with 600,000 men, and nearly all of them died to God’s winter, and the same for Hitler’s army. Ditto for Pharoah’s army, which chased Moses across the Red Sea, and then God made their chariot wheels fall off. They’ve found those chariot wheels at the bottom of the Red Sea, too. (No, they haven’t. This is more propaganda from wacky Ron Wyatt, who made that claim — I can tell what kind of literature the good Reverend is reading!)

God is also not impressed with snobbery — he’s all about the little people. Somehow this was illustrated by the example of our president traveling overseas to visit terrorists and communists, but being unable to find time for the funeral of the great Margaret Thatcher. I didn’t quite get the connection, but OK, he was rambling on at this point.

The third thing God does not find delightful is…secular thinking. Modern people are all bowing down to the god of medical science, and engineering science, and geological science, and did you know that George Washington almost died because the doctors kept bleeding him? But William Harvey, a Christian scientist, discovered that the heart was a pump, and showed them all to be wrong. I was feeling rather confused at this point, since a) the doctors who were bleeding Washington would have been Christian, too, and b) William Harvey discredited the practice of bloodletting in 1628, and can’t really be credited with saving George Washington in the 18th century.

Then my favorite part: Evolution is only a theory, not a proven fact, and did you know that intelligent people don’t believe that theory? He actually said it. I guess I won’t be joining his church, then.

Then the sermon got really incoherent, and not pacifistic at all.

This guy was really obsessed with Israel. He told us a story about how as a boy delivering newspapers he read about the Six Day War in 1967, and how Israel with God’s favor whipped all of its enemies until the United Nations forced them to stop, and now the UN is trying to force Israel to turn over most of Jerusalem to Arab Terrorists. Israel good, UN bad.

He also told us how the US had the North Koreans beat and chased them all the way to the Chinese border, and then the Chinese started massing troops, and General MacArthur asked to use nukes on them, and got turned down by Truman. I got the distinct impression that this servant of a god who is not impressed with shows of force thinks we should have nuked the Chinese.

America has become more concerned with its own house rather than God’s house, and is in moral decline, what with all this homosexuality. We must pray for America to humble herself so that God will heal her — if we don’t pray, we’ll find ourselves in the midst of a Nazi-Communist America! We have forsaken the Chosen People of Israel! God has made a covenant with one nation, Israel — not America, not Germany, not France, only Israel, and Israel is a monument to God and a witness to show that the End Times of the book of Revelation will come to pass!

You get the idea. It wasn’t quite my cup of tea. I would have been curious to learn if the majority of the congregation were as rabidly pro-Israel as their minister, but then it ended abruptly, the minister announced that we were dismissed, and we left.

I was impressed that it started precisely at 11am and stopped exactly at noon. So far these services have been remarkably well-timed. Otherwise…no, I’m not tempted by any of them.

By the way, this particular church is a member of the New Testament Association, which has a few rules.

Q. What is the NTA position on sexual practices?
A. Each local church sets its own standards, but we commonly hold to these practices. We believe in monogamy and sex only within the bond of marriage (between a man and a woman). We do not accept homosexuality, abortion, and other conduct that is contrary to the teaching of Scripture.

Q. What does the NTA believe regarding dietary practices?
A. We believe it is improper for believers to use alcoholic beverage in any form, tobacco in any form, or illicit drugs of any kind. A balanced diet (consisting of meat, vegetables, and fruits) should be maintained conducive to good health.

So, no gay vegans allowed in this congregation? I can’t even wash out the taste of the sermon with a beer afterwards?

There are other people who aren’t welcome.

Affiliated churches of this Association: 1) Shall be composed entirely of immersed believers. 2) Shall have declared by vote their agreement without mental reservation with the Statement of Faith and the Preamble of this Association. 3) Shall not be in affiliation with any other national association of churches. 4) Shall not be in affiliation and/or fellowship with any organization which condones the presence of religious liberals or liberalism.

Darn. I guess I shouldn’t go back then.

P.S. Padded pews again! What is it with these decadent modern folks and their pampered butts?

142 comments

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  1. 1
    fredbloggs

    Uh. Why on earth did you go to a church PZ?

  2. 2
    sadunlap

    In an episode of The Red Green Show the elder of the two teaches the audience how to modify a car before giving it to your teenage offspring. He takes out the back seat then replaces it with a church pew explaining “No one ever had fun while sitting on one of these.”

    And fredbloggs, please read one of the earlier posts in which PZ explains why he is attending the church services in his area. As John Cleese would say: “Do try to keep up.” ;-)

  3. 3
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    I can’t imagine that a Canadian church of any denomination would be so crudely political. This post almost (almost) makes me want to do a tour of my local churches to see if I’m right.

  4. 4
    raven

    Sounds very fundie xian.

    Primitive superstitions and right wing extremist politics with a few crosses stuck on for show. And a sockpuppet god.

  5. 5
    machintelligence

    Time was (maybe 50 years ago) that only the first four rows were padded, to discourage folks from sitting in the back of the church.

  6. 6
    jimsnider

    I’m glad it’s you putting up with this kind of lunacy for an hour a week instead of me. I can’t bear to watch five minutes of The 700 Club, even for the irony.

  7. 7
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Fredbloggs:

    Uh. Why on earth did you go to a church PZ?

    Check here for the explanation.

  8. 8
    Eristae

    God has made a covenant with one nation, Israel — not America, not Germany, not France, only Israel…

    I’m actually impressed. Most Christians in the USA nowadays seem to feel that God only has a covenant with the USA rather than only a covenant with Israel.

  9. 9
    Draken

    @machintelligence, time was that some pews in the front rows were padded because they were reserved for the bourgeoisie, whereas the plebs was kept on the bare wood, at a safe distance.

  10. 10
    yoav

    I’m sure the good pastor have mentioned how the day before you were there, in god’s very special country, 100,000 people (normalized to population size that’s the equivalent of nearly 4,000,000 in the US) participated in the Tel-Aviv gay pride parade.

  11. 11
    chrisv

    I hate repeating myself but…this after having spent trillions “educating” these jabokes? Hey! Who ‘ya gonna call when your appendix is about to bust and kill you the hard way?

  12. 12
    vaiyt

    And hey, Napolean invaded Russia with 600,000 men, and nearly all of them died to God’s winter, and the same for Hitler’s army.

    God must really like the Orthodox, then?

  13. 13
    lockout

    Lutherans place the Bible in pews for the followers to read. Catholics do not distribute the Bible, instead having the Priest read to the followers with an interpretation. Baptists have this bizarre belief thing about Israel being filled with God’s Chosen People based upon Judeo-centric texts written by Judeos. Thus we can classify the Christian denominations by intelligence. Lutherans are the most intelligent denomination, followed by Catholics, followed by Baptists, who are the dummest.

    The Bible is a powerful text, containing great insights into the world thousands of years earlier. However, Belief is most powerful, most True, when it celebrates the Nature of Creation, not man.

  14. 14
    raven

    Shall not be in affiliation and/or fellowship with any organization which condones the presence of religious liberals or liberalism.

    Very traditional.

    When xians get tired of hating everyone else, they hate each other. When they get really bored, they hate themselves.

    I’m sure this group thinks Ecumentalism and tolerance are evil and the National Council of Churches is owned by satan.

  15. 15
    sadunlap

    God must really like the Orthodox, then?

    Either that or Russians don’t feel the cold like we do.

  16. 16
    sigurd jorsalfar

    lockout, quitcher trollin, fool

  17. 17
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    God is also not impressed with snobbery — he’s all about the little people. Somehow this was illustrated by the example of our president traveling overseas to visit terrorists and communists, but being unable to find time for the funeral of the great Margaret Thatcher. I didn’t quite get the connection, but OK, he was rambling on at this point.

    Well, Margaret Thatcher has certainly dedicated herself to the little people. Fucking them up, that is.

  18. 18
    Nepenthe

    @lockout

    Baptists have this bizarre belief thing about Israel being filled with God’s Chosen People based upon Judeo-centric texts written by Judeos.

    Who the hell is Judeos?

  19. 19
    sadunlap

    @ Raven 14

    Shall not be in affiliation and/or fellowship with any organization which condones the presence of religious liberals or liberalism.

    Very traditional.

    When xians get tired of hating everyone else, they hate each other. When they get really bored, they hate themselves.

    Very traditional and very confused. Technically, when you place the “-ism” at the end, it turns into a the idea that government not intervene in the economy. That’s why they call the recent right-wing economic policy “neoliberalism.” Modern Liberalism, on the other hand, is more in line with current political liberal thought as it entails the government intervening in the economy as much as needed to protect people who otherwise would, usually, well, die: elderly, disabled, children of poor people, etc. Environmental protections and labor laws are also products of modern liberalism, although brought about by organized labor (not outlawing organized labor is another modern liberalism reform). I’m not sure how the word “liberal” came to represent lefty, pro-labor pro-other than rich people policies.

    Anyway, the church might communicate more precisely by substituting “modernity” in place of “liberalism” in that passage as that’s what scares the willies out of them anyway. That also explains the hatred of, well, everything. People tend to hate what they fear and fear what they do not understand.

  20. 20
    robro

    Church service is at 11am, yes, but Sunday School starts at 10 or even earlier so there’s a break after that. If you were in the choir you might be there at 8:00 for rehearsal (plus at least one other evening during the week). After the morning worship service there might be lunch at the church (Baptist love to eat). And don’t forget, you come back in the evening for Training Union (= evening Sunday School) and another hour long service. Then there’s Wednesday night social (another pot luck) and Prayer Meeting. Revivals would be every night for a week or more, once or twice a year. Other things might draw you there during the week, such as the pastor doing a Bible study program or a youth program on Friday night. All-in-all, the Baptist can be pretty busy with their religion…those that really do it, that is.

  21. 21
    Glen Davidson

    Evolution is only a theory, not a proven fact, and did you know that intelligent people don’t believe that theory?

    Intelligent people also believe Chopra’s nonsense, don’t you know?

    The important thing is if they intelligently believe or reject something. People don’t intelligently believe ID, and we have yet to see someone intelligently reject actual evolutionary theory, although people do intelligently reject strawman versions of it (again, though, unintelligently substituting the strawman for the real thing).

    We know that just about anyone can be stupid from time to time. Too many pastors make a career of it.

    Glen Davidson

  22. 22
    evodevo

    “Shall be composed entirely of immersed believers.” I always wondered how that Xtian Nation thingy would work out for theocrats, given that they are so hung up on doctrinal minutiae. Would a Baptist nominate a “sprinkler” Methodist as Secretary of State? or would Methodists and Episcopalians be relegated to second-class status? or would things descend into a battle of sects, like Islam, or the Catholics vs. the Cathars?

    Hopefully I will never have to find out !

  23. 23
    rturpin

    “We believe it is improper for believers to use alcoholic beverage in any form.”

    Yet they worship a god whose first miracle was to turn water into wine, for a wedding feast?!

    If you get around to the Catholics, PZ, you’ll be relieved to find that they consider wine a sacrament, beer a necessity, and hard liquor a blessing. And most of the priests have pantries that are well-blessed.

  24. 24
    footface

    The no-vegans policy I get (we’re all so preachy we might interfere with sermon), but they don’t even like those nice vegetarians? Or people who eat grains?!

  25. 25
    Inaji

    God has made a covenant with one nation, Israel — not America, not Germany, not France, only Israel, and Israel is a monument to God and a witness to show that the End Times of the book of Revelation will come to pass!

    I’d think if he truly believed this, he’d pack himself up and move there.

  26. 26
    sigurd jorsalfar

    @24 But I thought bananas were god’s perfect food. I’m confused.

    OT but Glen Greenwald has just revealed the identity of his source, at the source’s request. Wow!

  27. 27
    mikeyb

    The smartest thing the Catholic Church did for nearly a thousand years or so is not let ordinary people read the Bible. Worshiping pictures of Jesus and powerful images of heaven and hell is much easier to keep faith going. Once the printing press was invented, you got the thousand headed beast called protestantism.

    The most disturbing thing about the Bible is not that it isn’t true, that it is largely mythology. It is also not that the God presented is often “the most unpleasant character in all fiction” as Richard Dawkins puts it. No the most disturbing thing is that the Bible primarily consists of contradictory incomprehensible gibberish. This is why theology was invented, to make up a coherent story out of the incoherent Bible.

    Just read the Bible without theological spectacles and ask yourself – who or what exactly is this God fellow? What relevance are these long genealogies and laws about how to deal with goats and sheep have to do with anything. In other words what exactly are we supposed to do in any given sense. The Bible is more than wrong and barbaric, it is completely lacking in clarity on what it’s supposed to be about. Hence, theology.

  28. 28
    Inaji

    rturpin:

    If you get around to the Catholics, PZ, you’ll be relieved to find that they consider wine a sacrament, beer a necessity, and hard liquor a blessing. And most of the priests have pantries that are well-blessed.

    That’s a fact.

    lockout, you had best heed PZ’s prior warning – he wasn’t talking about that single thread, you know.

  29. 29
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    And most of the priests have pantries that are well-blessed.

    Heh. Catholic priests are the same around the world, it seems.

  30. 30
    microraptor

    Just read the Bible without theological spectacles and ask yourself – who or what exactly is this God fellow? What relevance are these long genealogies and laws about how to deal with goats and sheep have to do with anything. In other words what exactly are we supposed to do in any given sense. The Bible is more than wrong and barbaric, it is completely lacking in clarity on what it’s supposed to be about. Hence, theology.

    Those are all points I like to bring up when my more liberal religious friends try to claim that even if the Bible’s not literally true we should still respect it as an important source of morality.

    The other point I like to bring up, of course, is that none of what we consider good morals are things that are or ever were found exclusively in the Bible.

  31. 31
    A. R

    And most of the priests have pantries that are well-blessed.

    The most alcohol-tolerant person I’ve ever met is a Catholic bishop… The man can drink an entire 750mL bottle of 150-proof rum and now show a single sign of being buzzed, let alone drunk. Reaching that level takes some seriously dedicated drinking.

  32. 32
    Rob Grigjanis

    Ibis3 @3: No idea how things stand now, but Tommy Douglas, socialist, Father of Medicare (and grandfather of Kiefer Sutherland), and “The Greatest Canadian“, was a Baptist minister.

  33. 33
    hfj001

    I recommend not to wash the taste of the sermon away with beer for two reasons. One, washing out your mouth would require you to spit the beer out afterwards, and wouldn’t that be a waste? Two, you wouldn’t want to swallow the beer together with that minister’s words, I suppose? You should not contaminate a valuable liquid as beer in such a manner anyway. ;-)

  34. 34
    mythbri

    If you visit a Mormon church, PZ, I’ll be very interested to hear your thoughts.

  35. 35
    A. R

    I routinely flip off the Mormon church in my town when there are vehicles in the parking lot for funsies.

  36. 36
    Nemo

    I think vegans would be allowed (if perhaps frowned upon); I think the mention of meat is more to point out that it isn’t prohibited, the way alcohol is.

  37. 37
    Sastra

    Ah, the sermon. Clearly the religion has nothing to do with what the sermon is about. In order to understand the Baptist faith gnu atheists need to focus on the “practically non-stop hymning” and wax lyrical about the value of music and community and musical community.

    Or so they say.

    Analyzing their own words is just plain mean. It’s “cherry-picking” the bad parts.

  38. 38
    erik333

    Out of morbid fascination: What does “Scandihoovian” (from the OP) mean?

  39. 39
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    lockout:

    The Bible is a powerful text, containing great insights into the world thousands of years earlier.

    If by powerful you mean boring. And if by insight you mean, “a small, well-edited, selected texts of myths,” and not, “anything true or actually insightful.”

    However, Belief is most powerful, most True, when it celebrates the Nature of Creation, not man.

    I’m sure this is supposed to mean something. I understand all the words. They just don’t make any sense in this order.

  40. 40
    David Marjanović

    First shock: Baptists sleep in. The service didn’t start until 11am.

    HERESY!!!!!

    So, no gay vegans allowed in this congregation?

    Gay, no; vegan, possibly tolerated, because it only says “should”; but it’s really peculiar that they include that part in their dogma anyway.

    I’m not sure how the word “liberal” came to represent lefty, pro-labor pro-other than rich people policies.

    Hint: it only happened in the USA.

    In the USA, the two-party system is stronger than even in the UK. So, in the UK, the Labour Party arose from the chains of the proletariat and gained the world displaced the Liberals from their place in the two-party system. In the US, that plainly wasn’t possible, so the leftward shift happened inside the liberal party.

    “Liberal” has never been restricted to the economy, it has always included social affairs. Originally it represented the bourgeoisie against the nobility (the conservatives).

  41. 41
    carlie

    Church service is at 11am, yes, but Sunday School starts at 10 or even earlier so there’s a break after that. If you were in the choir you might be there at 8:00 for rehearsal (plus at least one other evening during the week). After the morning worship service there might be lunch at the church (Baptist love to eat). And don’t forget, you come back in the evening for Training Union (= evening Sunday School) and another hour long service. Then there’s Wednesday night social (another pot luck) and Prayer Meeting.

    I was about to say something similar. :D 11 is even a little bit of a late start if choir rehearsal is during the week. I’m surprised you got out at noon – a lot of pastors see it as a sign they’re not doing their job well if you get out any time before 12:30.

  42. 42
    vaiyt

    or would things descend into a battle of sects,

    Certainly. It always does. Theocracy is all well and good until that church over there is calling the shots and telling you how you should worship. Then everyone realizes the only way to have free religion in the theocractic state is to call the shots yourself.

  43. 43
    chrisdevries

    @ibis3 #3

    When I was a naive 19-year old I attended a non-denominational church called Church of the Rock in Winnipeg for a few months, and truly, I was shocked at how intertwined right-wing politics was with their religious perspective. The pastor was always bringing political issues into his sermons (most frequently, environmental issues; apparently since the Rapture’s coming, recycling’s a bit pointless). He even had the temerity to “suggest” who to vote for (and not vote for) in the upcoming federal election (I think it was the first one since “Unite the Right” screwed up Canadian politics – Stockwell Day was the douchenozzle du jour back then).

    And this is in the Dipper-heaven that is Manitoba. I cannot imagine how much worse it is in Alberta, or how much further their political message has evolved in the last decade (mirroring the total insanity that is the American Christian Right). I liked religious people much better when they had decided that because God was in control, political involvement was unnecessary. This whole “be the instrument of God” movement kind of scares me. People acting as instruments of their Lord and Savior tend to see themselves as totally exempt from the secular laws of their nation; add a touch of mental illness (or a touch MORE) and bad shit happens.

  44. 44
    cicely

    I was raised Baptist….
    -

    Sounds very fundie xian.

    Primitive superstitions and right wing extremist politics with a few crosses stuck on for show. And a sockpuppet god.

    There are a lot of denominations that are far more fundie than the Baptists.
    -

  45. 45
    Crissa

    Doesn’t siding to a political position make a church lose its churchy tax-free rights? Ugh.

  46. 46
    Crissa

    24 footface 9 June 2013 at 2:17 pm (UTC -5)
    The no-vegans policy I get (we’re all so preachy we might interfere with sermon), but they don’t even like those nice vegetarians? Or people who eat grains?!

    Of course not: That’s what Cain ate.

  47. 47
    raven

    There are a lot of denominations that are far more fundie than the Baptists.

    Hard to imagine what they are like.

    We need PZ to suffer for our sins to find out for us. Try the JW’s , Foursquare, or SDA.

    And what sort of Baptist anyway? There are 28 Baptist sects in the USA and they all disagree among themselves about something.

    At least my natal sect was one of those religously liberal sects that these New Testament Association people hate “4) Shall not be in affiliation and/or fellowship with any organization which condones the presence of religious liberals or liberalism.

    Likewise I’m sure. A fundie in my old social justice, science accepting church would be as noticeable as a two headed green Martian.

  48. 48
    Inaji

    Crissa:

    Doesn’t siding to a political position make a church lose its churchy tax-free rights?

    Only if it’s done to affect votes. The rest of the time, it’s okay, at least that’s how it is in the U.S.

    Of course not: That’s what Cain ate.

    Yep. God likes the smell of meat, meat and more meat. Heh, I practically live on rice. Tasty stuff.

  49. 49
    raven

    There are 28 Baptist sects in the USA and they all disagree among themselves about something.

    This is true of any church.

    My natal church has split into so many fragments, no one knows how many any more. And they differ a huge amount among themselves.

    Same with the Lutherans. In my area, there are 4, ECLA, Missouri, Free, and to my horror, a WELS. Now what is a Wisconsin ELS doing on the west coast?

  50. 50
    Nepenthe

    @erik333

    Isn’t it obvious? A Scandihoovian is a person from Scandihoovia.

  51. 51
    Lofty

    1) Shall be composed entirely of immersed believers.

    Must be some of Algis’s soggy apes.

  52. 52
    timgueguen

    It’s possible they aren’t fond of vegetarianism and veganism because they associate it with Eastern, new age, pagan religion.

    As far as the Religious Right in Canada goes check out Marcy Macdonald’s The Armageddon Factor: The Rise of Christian Nationalism in Canada. Yes, we have our share of right wing Christians up here as well, many with connections to the lot in the US.

  53. 53
    Lofty

    There are 28 Baptist sects in the USA and they all disagree among themselves about something.

    The small town I spent some years in had at least five different Lutheran churches once, as well as a brewery and a cricket bat factory at various times.

  54. 54
    Inaji

    Lofty:

    The small town I spent some years in had at least five different Lutheran churches once

    I live in a “town” with a population under 100 people. Four churches. However, most people can be found at most times in the Muddy Creek Saloon.

  55. 55
    robro

    carlie said

    a lot of pastors see it as a sign they’re not doing their job well if you get out any time before 12:30.

    Amen…as the preacher sings at the end of Lyle Lovett’s “Church”…

    To the Lord let praises be
    It’s time for dinner now let’s go eat
    We’ve got some beans and some good cornbread
    Now listen to what the preacher said
    He said to the Lord let praised be
    It’s time for dinner now let’s go eat

  56. 56
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    @chrisdevries Yeah, I was thinking more St. Bland Anglican United than Armageddon Factor. Colour me corrected.

  57. 57
    jaytheostrich

    #5, (and #9):
    “Time was (maybe 50 years ago) that only the first four rows were padded, to discourage folks from sitting in the back of the church.”

    No, it’s probably more a case of ‘you can’t weasel out on the collection if you’re within 10 feet of the pastor’. He’ll hear the clink or you’re in the hole!

  58. 58
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    As. I see timgueguen beat me to the reference.

  59. 59
    ChristineRose

    If anyone has trouble with your veganism, ask ‘em to read Daniel chapter one. In fact you can make a good case for vegetarianism from the Bible, and quite a few people do. (You can make a case for meat-eating as well.) Of course the Baptists will tell you that these strictures apply to certain circumstances but that all that stuff about sex applies to everyone, all the time. Ask them “why” and they will inevitably find something important to do but promise to get back to you.

  60. 60
    jasonfailes

    Ibis3 @3,

    In 2003 I was invited to church by a young woman I was courting. My first impulse was to reject the offer as I’ve been a lifelong nonbeliever, but my secular Italian Catholic friend convinced me that “no one really believes all that stuff” and that it was really a social thing. In other words, that she wanted me to meet her pastor, lifelong church friends, and extended family meant the courting was going well.

    So I went. Again, it was 2003, the lead up to the Iraq war, and as the pastor started on about not “letting this immoral thing happen right as we watch”, and encouraged us to “stop this tragedy before it begins”, I assumed he was talking about the war.

    It turns out he was talking about Marriage Equality. Yep, they were socially conservative, young earth creationist, evangelical biblical literalists proudly operating out of Fort Erie, Canada.

    Ironically, she aborted the courting process because I was honest about my disbelief but wound up marrying a man so deep in the closet he can see Narnia.

    Also ironically, her attempts to convert me resulted in me reading the entire Bible and becoming far more aware of the role religion plays in politics, transforming me from an apatheistic agnostic to a full-on political, confrontational, totally rude atheist.

  61. 61
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    I know I have used this particular story before, verbatim, but it seems appropriate. One of my few church experiences:

    One of my good friends (hell, he was my best friend) was a universal deist (again, in high school, I know we didn’t know term, but he viewed the universe as God) who was also a member of a severely fundamentalist Christian church. During our friendship, I managed to avoid his various attempts at getting me into his church. Actually, it was his mother who tried to get me in there.

    He and I went skiing up at Ski Liberty in Pennsylvania (crappy little ski area, but it was the closest one) on a Saturday. We got back late, so I just sacked out on his couch. The next morning, his mom made a big breakfast (home-cured country ham, eggs, home fries, scrapple, toasted home-made bread, home-canned cherry preserves, raw milk, home-made sausage, and fried hominy (and that was for five people)) and then announced that I would attend church with them.

    They belonged to a fundamentalist church. An independent Baptist church — they had dropped out of the SBC when the SBC apologized for supporting slavery. No, not kidding.

    I demurred, insisting that I needed to get home. She insisted. I tried to get out of it. She insisted. I said no. She said yes. I went. She found a shirt which fit (pink striped), a necktie (wide and striped (1970s tacky)), and insisted. I resisted. Futilely.

    The church was a cute little wooden building in a grove of sycamore trees. And attached to the cute little church was a large cinder block monstrosity complete with a corrugated aluminum roof. The effect created by this juxtaposition was architectural chaos (the Church in the Wildwood mated with industrial crappy).

    Inside the cute little wooden church were rows of burnt orange plastic chairs (the stackable ones you find at bowling alley lounges). The podium was cheap veneer with a giant silver plastic cross. Behind the podium, on the wall, hung another cross. This one done in gold-toned plastic.

    I sat with my friend and his family about 1/3 of the way back. I quickly noticed that I was a topic of conversation. Nothing obvious, but everyone who came into the church looked my way, quickly looked away, and began talking amongst themselves while stealing furtive glances my way. It was obvious.

    A few minutes before the service started, a cute little girl (age, about 5), in a miniature brides-maid outfit with way too much taffeta for a dress that size, came through and handed out Bibles to everyone there. I opened it and confronted, for the first time in my life, the tortured beauty of the King James Version Bible. Under the Bible was a stack of papers with the words for today’s songs. Well, I thought, at least there will be music so it won’t be that bad, right?

    Wrong. The music sucked (and keep in mind that, at the time, my girlfriend was a twice-born and had taken me to Petra and Stryper concerts). Big time sucked. The organist (and it was not and organ, but a Casio keyboard set to ‘organ’) was almost competent. The choir (seven women and one man, all in their 90s (or older)) managed to be 1/4 step out of tune (both directions) the entire time, while still missing the beat by just enough to be annoying.

    The sermon, however, was worth the trip. The sermon of the day was a discussion of sexual sin. He (the pastor) never actually said what, exactly, the sins were (other than being sexual in nature), but he breathlessly described the punishments. Eternity in a boiling lake of blood, eternal heat, eternal thirst (I suspect he had been exposed to Dante’s Inferno at some point). For eternity. For all of eternity.

    I watched (without being too obvious about it) the reactions of the flock. Some sat, slack-jawed, following his every move about the foot-high stage. Some were breathing hard. Some had a look of joy on their face. One older woman (she was about 40 (which is, of course, no longer old to me)) actually began panting and, as the sermon reached a climax, she suddenly thrust her clasped hands into her lap, held them there, and shuddered. In retrospect, I think she had an orgasm (which is why QF’s comment brought this dreck out of the recesses of my mind (again, thank you)).

    After a few more songs (still bad), a couple of prayers (including one asking for the death of Tip O’Neil (my first experience with imprecatory prayer)), a collection (I tossed in a dollar (which was a lot of money for an eighteen-year-old)) and a prayer for someone’s grandmother. Then, out to the Church Community Center for some food and drink.

    The drink was weak iced tea, with pieces of mint (dried and re-hydrated in the tea) floating in amongst the ice cubes. The food was saltines, cheeze whiz (no, I am not kidding), a Jell-o and marshmallow salad, a Jell-o and fruit salad, and a Jell-o and fruit salad with nuts. I had a couple of crackers. No Jell-o. No cheeze whiz. No iced tea. Just crackers.

    Which actually summed up my reaction to the entire church experience in my friend’s congregation. On the way home, his mom positively gushed over the music, the organist, the sermon. I kept a straight face. Crackers.

    That was the first time I ever went to his family church. It was not the last. I had one more run-in with all of them.

    Crackers sums it up nicely.

  62. 62
    Randomfactor

    My favorite cousin (whom I’ve never actually met) is a minister in the Church of Canada, just elected to her local region’s presidency. From my online communications with her, I strongly suspect she’s someone you could share a beer with quite happily.

    You’re just on the wrong side of the border in this, as in so many aspects of civilization.

  63. 63
    robro

    The first few rows had cushions because that’s were the deacons, the preacher’s wife and kids, and other high mucketymucks sat. I understand that some churches now have theater seating. That just seems like sacrilege.

    I’m working with a woman from Moscow. She was telling us the other day that in the Orthodox church there is no seating. You stand for the whole 2 hour service, except for some kneeling on the stone floors. Now that’s dedication to religion!

  64. 64
    Trebuchet

    When in college, several millenia ago, a couple of friends and I, all professed agnostics, decided to visit multiple churches in town to see what they were like. This included a Catholic service because one of our buddies was working toward being a priest. (He’s since come out.) Anyhow, the last one we visited was the Church of the Nazarene. The sermon title was “Crunch, Crunch, Crunch”. About the lions chewing on the bones of the sinner while leaving Daniel be. He got really emotional, and since we were obvious strangers the whole thing was focused on the three of us. A few days later he came by my dorm room, which was wallpapered with my roommate’s Playboy centerfolds. That was the last we heard of him.

    Anyhow, PZ’s story of the sermon reminded me of that — particularly how the pastor noticed us and focused on us. I wonder if that Baptist recognized PZ and focused the sermon on him. He certainly hit a remarkable number of hot buttons.

  65. 65
    PZ Myers

    The topic of the sermon wasn’t a clue, though — I got the impression that was standard fare. But I suspect he did have an idea who we were. Three times in the sermon he implored anyone in the church who had not let Jesus into their hearts to rise up; he begged that they tell someone nearby or come talk to him afterwards if they found Jesus today.

    I don’t think he was addressing the general congregation. We were the strangers there; these people knew the service so well that when he announced the wrong number for the first hymn, half a dozen people shouted out the correct one to him.

    I think he was hoping for a miraculous conversion. We disappointed him.

  66. 66
    consciousness razor

    But I suspect he did have an idea who we were.

    It’s probably the tentacles. Anybody could spot those a mile away.

    In the intro post, you said you were going to just observe and take notes (as opposed to being a disruptive jackass). I assume that means taking notes during the services, not after. Are you sitting in the back row?

  67. 67
    John Morales

    PZ,

    We disappointed him.

    You donated, didn’t ya? :)

    (Fair enough, too — the entertained gives a gratuity to the entertainer)

  68. 68
    Inaji

    Randomfactor:

    You’re just on the wrong side of the border in this, as in so many aspects of civilization.

    You seem to have missed the other comments by Canadians in this thread.

  69. 69
    Erp

    Altar calls (what happened in the sermon) are apparently standard fare in some churches even if everyone there is supposedly Christian. Also Baptists don’t do infant baptism so any children present may not yet have been baptized but have reached an age when they could be.

    I understand the Southern Baptist have some problems with their numbers because some people answer the call and get baptized multiple times.

  70. 70
    consciousness razor

    We were the strangers there; these people knew the service so well that when he announced the wrong number for the first hymn, half a dozen people shouted out the correct one to him.

    There’s often a sign listing the hymn numbers in order. They can be somewhat small or blend in with all the crap on the walls, and you may not have noticed it.

    I doubt anyone knows their liturgical calendar that well, assuming this flavor of Baptist even has one that they could know about. If they did (like the Catholics, who I’m more familiar with), it wouldn’t generally say much about which pieces of music are performed for any given day, just what (some of) the scriptural readings and prayers will be over the course of a year or several years. Some of it is predictable of course (especially holidays), but otherwise most people don’t bother to know that kind of stuff because it’s in the book/on the sign/told to you by the cantor or minister.

  71. 71
    hypatiasdaughter

    I am almost ready to call a POE on PZ. You mean to tell us they sang ALL the verses of ALL those hymns, passed the collection plate AND covered the history of the last 200 years of EuroAsian politics and medical science in EXACTLY one hour? Sure you aren’t pulling our legs?

    Actually, the sermon gave me a “Click” moment. I have wondered for years why so many of these right wing billionaires fund religious organizations, like the DI. Can they really be that personally devout? I mean, I can see them having sincere beliefs and supporting their own church, but why fund these really regressive anti-science religious organizations?
    It’s the politics, stupid. These churches are a pipeline to feed right wing politics to the masses. And I have no problem seeing why they want the right wing political message being spread.

  72. 72
    gmacs

    Each local church sets its own standards, but we commonly hold to these practices. We believe in monogamy and sex only within the bond of marriage (between a man and a woman). We do not accept homosexuality, abortion, and other conduct that is contrary to the teaching of Scripture.

    Not that it will make their argument any more valid, but I have yet to hear about a part of the Bible that condemns abortion. I know of plenty of contrary passages that encourage infanticide (Psalms 137:8-9, Exodus 12:29) and murdering pregnant women.

  73. 73
    Usernames are smart

    Not that it will make their argument any more valid, but I have yet to hear about a part of the Bible that condemns abortion.
    gmacs #72

    On the contrary, there’s a recipe for abortion provided for you to use on your property wives!

    From Numbers 5:12-:31

    :17 And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel; and of the dust that is in the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water:

    :22 And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot: And the woman shall say, Amen, amen.

    So, to make an abortion, you just need a Priest, “holy” water in a clay jug, floor dust-bunnies and a cheating wife.

  74. 74
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @^ Usernames are smart : Seems like they have a little problem with human anatomy if they think bowels belly and thighes are the body parts affected by abortefactants.

    So, run it by me again, the dust bunny-dirt-holy water mix goes into the woman’s bowels and that somehow makes her belly (stomach?) swell (doesn’t the growing baby do that?) and cause the thigh to rot (necrosis of the leg flesh and /or bone – wouldn’t that be affecting perambulation and making the woman struggle to walk) and the woman then saying “amen, amen” makes for an abortion – how?

  75. 75
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    PS. So the floor of the tabernacle (or/& earthen jar holy water) is composed or high in an abortion inducing drug or substance?

    Wonder why and what that material is – someone should get a sample and chemically analyse it to see what it indicates about the specific geology / history / geology. Wonder if that biblical abortion recipes is specific for the one tabernacle site eg. Jerusalem, Temple Mount?

  76. 76
    Azuma Hazuki

    Baptists are fruitbat skullfucking insane.

    Referecing the earlier post about the “sexual sin” sermon, this is a big clue as to how these people work: sexual energy is sublimated and “inverted” and turned into religious fervor. Fear and sex are handled by the same part of the brain IIRC, so it’s no surprise one of the old, shrivelled up crones had an orgasm: sex WILL out, even if in inverted form through sheer holy terror.

    I’d like to take these hellmongers and sew their eyes open, then force them to marathon the Saw series, Clockwork Orange style, over and over until they went half crazy with fear and disgust. Then light them on fire, so they go the rest of the way crazy with pain, and put them out when they’re well survivable but disfigured. Then let them spend the rest of their lives rocking back and forth in a sanitarium somewhere, eaten alive by nightmares at night and panic attacks during the day, in constant pain from their burn wounds, convinced they have gone to their own hell which they love so much.

    No, I am not a nice woman, but you must admit there’s some poetic justice in there. Double bonus points if this treatment warps their sense of time. I’ve had it with these people. The screams of torture victims and sobs of frightened children and bereaved mothers will echo in their ears for eternity. I want them to suffer.

  77. 77
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    D’oh. Make that first “geology” a “local biochemistry” instead. Or the last one, one of those anyhow.

  78. 78
    John Morales

    [OT]

    StevoR, you’re thinking about it from the wrong perspective: it’s a divine magic ritual; a symbolic a trial by ordeal.

  79. 79
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @ ^ John Morales : IOW, its scientifically inaccurate “magic” that doesn’t actually work?

  80. 80
    John Morales

    StevoR: the human mind is predisposed to magical thinking; as to whether it worked, that would depend on whether it achieved the purpose the ritual was intended to serve.

  81. 81
    DLC

    Clearly the purpose of church is to indoctrinate hapless hustings with extreme right wing political blather.

  82. 82
    terrellk70

    PZ, the “message” sounds a lot like our Southern Baptist crap down here in South Georgia. As a kid growing up down here, I heard this same bullshit at Sunday School and Church (morning service), Training Union and Church(evening service). Yea Sundays were the Indoctrination Day. Oh and Wednesday night service also.

  83. 83
    Nick Gotts

    Azuma Hazuki,

    Please take your torture fantasies elsewhere; they are as disgusting and vile as those of the fire-and-brimstone brigade.

  84. 84
    carlie

    Azuma Hazuki, you (and anyone lurking) need to know that the kind of rhetoric you’re using is not welcome here by the vast majority of the commenters. Leave or at least shut the hell up.

  85. 85
    carlie

    Three times in the sermon he implored anyone in the church who had not let Jesus into their hearts to rise up; he begged that they tell someone nearby or come talk to him afterwards if they found Jesus today.

    Possibly, but that’s also SOP. I don’t think it’s written down anywhere, but almost all Baptists I’ve seen always include a pretty drawn-out alter call in every sermon. It ends up serving a similar purpose as confession in giving people a chance to “repent and rededicate their lives” or just come forward if they have something pressing on their mind they want to pray with the pastor about or (more likely and more often) want to show off their piety and/or backsliddenness that they want to repent from.

  86. 86
    ChristineRose

    The water in the abortion trial by ordeal is “bitter” which is to say, drugged. No one knows what drugs the authors were referring to or if anyone actually did this to a woman.
    “Thigh” is standard ancient Hebrew for genitals, and it’s used elsewhere in the Bible. Apparently it covers the whole lower abdomen. “Her abdomen will distend and her uterus (or fetus) will rot.”
    There is some debate as to whether the poor woman is supposed to be pregnant. Some commentators think she’s just going to suffer some wretched hemorrhage and a prolapsed uterus. From the context though I think it is obvious that this is meant to be an abortion. Plenty of drugs would have caused abortions but nothing I know of could cause a prolapsed uterus without outright killing her.

  87. 87
    steve oberski

    @lockout

    have this bizarre belief thing

    This would be your area of competence ?

  88. 88
    Azuma Hazuki

    @83 Nick and 84 Carlie

    I don’t know how else to get justice for the victims of these people. I don’t know how else to even make a start on reparations for all the brain-melting evil and pain these people have caused over the centuries.

    What can we do? What can we possibly do to punish these maniacs for what they’ve done? How can we make them truly understand the vileness and evil of their own beliefs? This has been eating me inside for years now.

  89. 89
    Inaji

    Azuma Hazuki:

    you must admit there’s some poetic justice in there.

    Actually, no I don’t have to admit there’s any sort of justice in there. There isn’t, just nasty fantasies on your part, making you the same as those you revile. Here’s a little tip: keep that sort of shit in your head, don’t share it, as it revolts thinking, feeling, ethical people. Ta.

  90. 90
    Azuma Hazuki

    Caine:

    Got any better ideas? Any better idea of how to shove the raw, bleeding, festering, vomitous evil of these peoples’ beliefs in their faces? How would you wake up these hopeless fanatics?

    I had to suffer to see how evil my previous beliefs were. I had to be literally thrown around and shouted down and forced to do research into them. And I was never a fundie, or even a particularly strong Catholic, just very intellectually lazy and extremely ignorant of just what the “package deal” of beliefs I was agreeing to meant every time I mouthed the Nicene Creed.

  91. 91
    Nick Gotts

    What can we do? – Azuma Hazuki

    Avoid turning into similar monsters, for a start.

  92. 92
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Avoid turning into similar monsters, for a start.

    Seconded

  93. 93
    Azuma Hazuki

    @91/Nick

    Someone has to put a stop to this! Someone needs to break the course of violence, child abuse, fearmongering, and warfare caused by these ignorant, frothing, wild-eyed maniacs!

    So far, “letting the fire burn itself out” is either not working or is working too slowly (and in many places getting rolled back) to be a viable option. I didn’t want to become like Chris Hitchens, I always thought he was too extreme and made too many generalizations, but damn it all he’s right: religion poisons everything.

    I just wish we could pit all the fundie Christians and all the fundie Muslims against each other on some remote island somewhere, arm them all heavily, and let them all slaughter one another. They are animals, both sides, and they deserve deaths as violent as their beliefs. We have a spreading, malignant cancer in the noosphere.

    Maybe I am a monster Nick. Maybe I’ve just been too shattered too many times by too much fear. But I’ve had it with these people, and if every single one of them dropped dead tomorrow I would not shed a single tear. The world would be better off without them, and the moral scars they’ve left across human history would begin to heal. Ideally I want the ideas gone, not the people, but what do you do when someone has their entire ego-body grounded in said ideas?

  94. 94
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    Pointing out the irony is completely useless in this case, I guess.

  95. 95
    Tethys

    Baptists are fruitbat skullfucking insane.

    The bolded bit is abelism. Don’t do that.

    so it’s no surprise one of the old, shrivelled up crones had an orgasm: sex WILL out, even if in inverted form through sheer holy terror.

    Um, yeah. ageism doesn’t improve the comment. That you consider 40 something women “old-shriveled-up crones” is all kinds of fucked-up.

    I’d like to take these hellmongers and sew their eyes open, then force them to marathon the Saw series, Clockwork Orange style, over and over until they went half crazy with fear and disgust. Then light them on fire, so they go the rest of the way crazy with pain, and put them out when they’re well survivable but disfigured. Then let them spend the rest of their lives rocking back and forth in a sanitarium somewhere, eaten alive by nightmares at night and panic attacks during the day, in constant pain from their burn wounds, convinced they have gone to their own hell which they love so much.

    WTF?! I consider the religious in my family misguided and hypocritical, but saying they should be tortured is unacceptable violent rhetoric, and even more hypocritical than their silly belief in hell.

    No, I am not a nice woman, but you must admit there’s some poetic justice in there. Double bonus points if this treatment warps their sense of time. I’ve had it with these people. The screams of torture victims and sobs of frightened children and bereaved mothers will echo in their ears for eternity. I want them to suffer.

    You want my Mom, and Nana, and my sisters and their families to suffer horribly for believing silliness? Truly?

  96. 96
    David Marjanović

    No, I am not a nice woman

    Yeah. In fact, to my considerable surprise, you’ve suddenly turned out to be a complete and utter asshole. What The Hell, Hero!?!?!

    I don’t know how else to get justice for the victims of these people. I don’t know how else to even make a start on reparations [...]

    What can we do? What can we possibly do to punish

    That’s too late!

    Punishing them doesn’t bring their victims back! Revenge is pointless! An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

    We have a spreading, malignant cancer

    Stop fulfilling Godwin’s Law for a start.

    what do you do when someone has their entire ego-body grounded in said ideas?

    You let them die out with their ideas after you take care of public education. It seems to have worked over here…

  97. 97
    Inaji

    Tethys:

    That you consider 40 something women “old-shriveled-up crones” is all kinds of fucked-up.

    :Snorts: True dat. I remember a time when I couldn’t imagine being 40, it seemed impossibly far away. Now, I’d love to be that young (40) again.

  98. 98
    carlie

    What can we do? What can we possibly do to punish these maniacs for what they’ve done?

    For one, realize that the people now are not those people. The ones who did the worst of the physical tortures are long dead. Recognize that it’s not just one particular group. Look at any group of people, by religion or creed or philosophy or ethnicity, and realize that any and all of those groups have committed atrocities once in power because it is a feature of being human, not of being of one particular religion.

    How can we make them truly understand the vileness and evil of their own beliefs?

    When you hurt people, they only understand that they are being hurt, and the only thing they can do is try to defend themselves. In the process, they will often decide that you and your kind are worse than anything they ever did, because they are currently being hurt by you. People are mostly empathetic if you give them space to be. People are mostly understanding if you can explain it to them in language they understand, if you show them real people who have already been hurt, if you can get past their defensiveness. But if you start out hurting them, the only thing they will do is throw their arms up to protect themselves, and thereby cover their own eyes and ears to whatever else you might be saying.

    How would you wake up these hopeless fanatics?

    Educate them. You said that you had to “suffer”, but then that your suffering was being “shouted down and forced to do research”. That’s a far, far cry from what you first advocated. I was one of them once. I got educated out of it. It isn’t hopeless. You’re a datum showing that. I’m a datum showing that. There are many people here who comprise a lot of data points showing that. One of my top “things that make me angry that atheists say” is that religious people are a lost cause or that it is hopeless to do anything but wait for them all to die. People can change.

  99. 99
    Azuma Hazuki

    @95 and 95 (David M and tethys)

    You’re misunderstanding me. I’m talking about the heads of these institutions here, not the average rank and file believer. The average believer is ignorant, perhaps willfully so, and believes vile things, but this is largely not their fault; the worst I can accuse them of is pigheaded, willful stupidity. They are ordinary people trying to live their lives, and given how bad the US economy is there’s not much time for theological speculation.

    No, I mean the ones at the reins of power, the church heads, the ones who have the wherewithal to go to a decent theological academy and study Greek and Aramaic and read the early Church fathers in their native tongues. People who have the opportunity and even the duty, in a certain theological sense, to uncover and propagate the truth.

    There were six church centers originally, and four of them were Universalist The only one that was not was the Latin-speaking center at Carthage, and wouldn’t you godsdamned know it, that set ended up taking center position on the stage of history as the centers at Antioch, Alexandria, and so forth withered on the vine.

    Christianity has been hopelessly corrupt for 1700 years, ever since Constantine convened the Nicene Council in 325 AD. If Jesus could hear people calling him very God, he would likely be absolutely horrified.

    The ringleaders could avail themselves of this. But they do not.

    The canon Gospels don’t appear in the record until the late 2nd century; Justin Martyr, writing mid-second-century, never cites them.

    The ringleaders could avail themselves of this, too. But they do not.

    They do not. They keep spreading lies and evil. These are the people I want to see given harsh justice, not anyone’s “nana.” Don’t be stupid. Your “nana” is a victim of circumstance, thoughtless perhaps but also traumatized and indoctrinated. The person who did this to your “nana” though? I want him to see hellfire all around him when he closes his eyes, for the rest of his life. I want him to shit himself every time he goes into REM sleep.

    Yeah. In fact, to my considerable surprise, you’ve suddenly turned out to be a complete and utter asshole. What The Hell, Hero!?!?!

    Then help me. (And if you’re going to bandy Tropes about, think of me as a particularly damaged Dark Magical Girl, please). I am seeing this from the inside; I’m one of the flock who’s realized the shepherd not only isn’t good but wants my carcass with a side of mint jelly ere the week is out.

    Stop fulfilling Godwin’s Law for a start.

    Oh cut it out. The cancer is ideas, not people. Or are you going to tell me that Dominionism, creationism, Calvinism, presuppositionalism, creeping fascism, science denial, and me-first money worship are not harmful, slithering, encroaching memetic plagues?

    There is something to be said for “hate the sin, not the sinner.” I want to see toxic ideas eradicated, not people. The people cease being toxic when their mental environment is cleaned up. Heaven knows it took me ages, and I still have a lot to do cleaning up the radioactive remains left behind from my upbringing.

    You let them die out with their ideas after you take care of public education. It seems to have worked over here…

    Where is “here?” I am guessing “here” is not the US, a country that is nearly half YEC and has been taken so far to the authoritarian right that the current president, who has one of the worst civil rights records in the last 50+ years and is further right-wing than Ronald may-he-rot-in-the-hell-he-beieved-in Reagan, is routinely accused of being a socialist. The Democrats are further right than almost any European party save for the Fascist enclaves, and the Republicans are outright theocratic, some of them on the level of Islamic mullahs.

    Um, yeah. ageism doesn’t improve the comment. That you consider 40 something women “old-shriveled-up crones” is all kinds of fucked-up.

    Age is a lot more than your chronological span. This woman is either dead inside, or half-cracked from psychological trauma and experiencing natural defensive reactions and wire-crossing (remember, sex and terror in the same part of the brain), as evidence by the sheer terror making her have an orgasm. That, to me, is being so aged you’re dead; it’s aging and senescence and death of the mind, which after all is what’s driving the body.

    “Insane” isn’t ableist; these people are suffering from partial or complete induced breaks with reality, schizotypal syndromes inflicted on them from above. It is not organic, but it has been ground in to the point that it has noticeable and lasting effects on their cognitive processes and, I will guess, their brain chemistry (certainly their cortisol and serotonin levels as well as their systems for regulating the same).

    I’m going to go for a walk now and try to bleed some of this off. The nightmares haven’t completely stopped yet. One day at a time…

  100. 100
    mythbri

    @Azuma Hazuki

    I’m talking about the heads of these institutions here, not the average rank and file believer.

    You certainly did not make this clear in your initial comment at #76, and really your clarification is not much better.

    No, I mean the ones at the reins of power, the church heads, the ones who have the wherewithal to go to a decent theological academy and study Greek and Aramaic and read the early Church fathers in their native tongues. People who have the opportunity and even the duty, in a certain theological sense, to uncover and propagate the truth.

    Let me get this straight: you think that the people who willfully immerse themselves and build careers in particular religions should somehow magically know better merely by the fact that it’s likely they studied their religion?

    They do not. They keep spreading lies and evil. These are the people I want to see given harsh justice, not anyone’s “nana.” Don’t be stupid. Your “nana” is a victim of circumstance, thoughtless perhaps but also traumatized and indoctrinated. The person who did this to your “nana” though? I want him to see hellfire all around him when he closes his eyes, for the rest of his life. I want him to shit himself every time he goes into REM sleep.

    Again, you did not specify in your initial comments who you deemed worthy of torture and death. And based on your lack of care in wielding violent rhetoric, you are the last person who should be telling others not to “be stupid.”

    Age is a lot more than your chronological span. This woman is either dead inside, or half-cracked from psychological trauma and experiencing natural defensive reactions and wire-crossing (remember, sex and terror in the same part of the brain), as evidence by the sheer terror making her have an orgasm. That, to me, is being so aged you’re dead; it’s aging and senescence and death of the mind, which after all is what’s driving the body.

    “Insane” isn’t ableist; these people are suffering from partial or complete induced breaks with reality, schizotypal syndromes inflicted on them from above. It is not organic, but it has been ground in to the point that it has noticeable and lasting effects on their cognitive processes and, I will guess, their brain chemistry (certainly their cortisol and serotonin levels as well as their systems for regulating the same).

    So you get to tell people who are hurt by the language you use that what you say isn’t really offensive? I’ve heard that argument before.

  101. 101
    Azuma Hazuki

    Let me get this straight: you think that the people who willfully immerse themselves and build careers in particular religions should somehow magically know better merely by the fact that it’s likely they studied their religion?

    No, I think that anyone who dares to say they have the answers to Life, The Universe, And Everything in their religion had better know the entire history of it inside and out before they inflict it on other people. This is called “due diligence,” and in other fields a person can face fines, prison, and criminal sanctions if they do not do it.

    You certainly did not make this clear in your initial comment at #76

    Again, you did not specify in your initial comments who you deemed worthy of torture and death.

    This is true, and for this I owe you and others an apology. I thought it was clear, but it wasn’t, and the fault is mine.

    For future reference: I do not believe the average rank-and-file believer who was never truly given any choice in the matter and struggles daily to keep body and soul together deserves anything worse than what I went through. Actually, given the constant nightmares and continual loss of everything I ever held dear, over and over again, I don’t even wish that much on the average believer. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do” indeed.

    But I mean it about the leaders. I hear screams at night. The echoes of millions upon millions of mutilated, burned, broken, terrified victims through the ages have carved themselves into history. They cry for justice. They wail for us to put an end to this. “Don’t let anyone else end up like us!” is the message. They themselves are gone but their echoes will never, ever fade from our collective consciousness, not until the human race is long extinct.

    So you get to tell people who are hurt by the language you use that what you say isn’t really offensive? I’ve heard that argument before.

    Since when do we have a right not to be offended? We, of all people, spend our entire rational freethinking lives being not only offended but in many cases threatened with ostracism, marginalization, and death itself. We are offended in the Nth degree. People not only offend us but a good chunk of them would kill us if they could; just LOOK at that poor 15-year-old in Syria! That could happen here!

    And you worry about “using the word insane is ableist” at a time like this?! Especially when it actually does describe rather well, clinically, what is happening to the average believer? Did you just shut down when you saw “insane” and not read the further evidence of induced schizotypal behaviors present in large swathes of believers? Come on, you’re better than that! This stuff is insanity! Wake up and smell the burning bodies and hear the screams!

  102. 102
    Tethys

    I want to see toxic ideas eradicated, not people.

    Me too. But your first comment was explicitly and graphically advocating horror movies, torture, and suffering, and you need to walk that bit back.

    Futhermore, as a 40 something woman with PTSD who was also raised within the Anabaptist faith in Minnesota, I seem to be drenched in splash damage.

    I’m going to go for a walk now and try to bleed some of this off. The nightmares haven’t completely stopped yet. One day at a time…

    Good idea. I’m sure when you aren’t as triggered by past trauma, you will not feel the need for violent retribution. It seems especially uncharacteristic of you, judging from my past impressions of your beliefs.

  103. 103
    mythbri

    @Azuma Hazuki

    First off, I was not the one who called you out on your use of the word “insane” or your characterization of a 40-year-old woman as a “shriveled up old crone.” I recommend that you respond to the specific people who did, if you object to their concerns.

    Since when do we have a right not to be offended?

    Since never, but if you haven’t noticed there’s been a years-long conversation in the atheist/skeptic/freethinking community about language and dictating how other people should feel about hurtful words. I don’t see your argument as any different from those who claim their Freeze Peach gives them the right to call people bigoted slurs without being criticized for it.

    And you worry about “using the word insane is ableist” at a time like this?! Especially when it actually does describe rather well, clinically, what is happening to the average believer?

    Are you a psychiatrist? Do you have the credentials necessary to diagnose people as being mentally ill?

    Come on, you’re better than that!

    I’m better than wishing torture and death on people for doing something that humanity has done for thousands and thousands of years.

    Your “burn it to the ground!” approach might make you feel better about the ways religion has wronged you, but it’s not practical, reasonable or ethical. There is a real human cost to what you’re advocating here, and it’s not cancelled out by the fact that religion also causes a lot of harm. The ends do not justify the means, or what’s the point?

    They call us “sinners” and condemn us to hell, so we call them “animals” and wish to torture them and force them to come around to our way of thinking? That’s dehumanizing. That’s wrong.

    “I disagree with you, therefore you’re not actually human,” is WRONG.

    Fuck that.

  104. 104
    Azuma Hazuki

    When did I say they’re not human? That’s why I’m so upset over this: they are human, and they are dehumanizing every single other human on the planet outside their cuckoo nut cult. They have every single thing completely ass-backwards, and in a patch of deadly, bitter irony, if there is a God their complete refusal to deal in said God’s reality is bold-faced blasphemy in addition to being dehumanizing and evil.

    I don’t want them to experience that because I disagree with them; I want them to experience it so that they comprehend fully what it is they believe or say they believe, and will let them come to their own conclusions. If someone believes exactly like me, that’s bad; it means they’ve been converted, and still aren’t thinking for themselves. That said, there are a few basic human universals out there and I think they ought to abide by them. Simple little things. Someone rather important in their religion once said “treat others as you wish to be treated” for example.

    In software development there is a concept called “dogfooding,” meaning you use your own product. That’s what I’m advocating here. If the makers of the product find it lacking, this is strong incentive to change it. If that product happens to include the marginalization and either implied or outright pursued torture of people outside the in-group, well, their scars from the dogfooding phase will give them something to think about in the next design cycle.

  105. 105
    mythbri

    @Azuma Hazuki

    Right in your comment at #93 (emphasis mine):

    I just wish we could pit all the fundie Christians and all the fundie Muslims against each other on some remote island somewhere, arm them all heavily, and let them all slaughter one another. They are animals, both sides, and they deserve deaths as violent as their beliefs. We have a spreading, malignant cancer in the noosphere.

    So are we to take you at your word, or not? If not, why are you saying things you don’t really mean?

    Do you want to physically torture church members or church leaders, or not?

    Do you want to cause the violent deaths of church members or church leaders, or not?

    There are plenty of people whom I despise, from political leaders to religious leaders to nonreligious leaders to popular culture figures to criminals to warlords to….to….to….

    What the fuck is the use of me wishing torture and death on any or all of them? That will change nothing.

    You know how you kill ideas? With other ideas. Not with torture. Not with death.

  106. 106
    Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought

    They are animals, both sides, and they deserve deaths as violent as their beliefs.

    Khm. I realize that we are all animals, but it doesn’t seem that was referring to that as much as to dehumanizing them.

    I want them to experience it so that they comprehend fully what it is they believe or say they believe, and will let them come to their own conclusions.

    Here it sounded to me like “dying in agony” was what you were aiming for as their faith. You might want to be a bit more precise about things like that. Although, your torture fantasy seemed really precise. Disturbingly precise. The kind of precise that makes me want to puke and avoid you on the street.

  107. 107
    Nick Gotts

    Someone rather important in their religion once said “treat others as you wish to be treated” for example. – Azuma Hazuki

    So we conclude that you want to be tortured? Look, I appreciate that you’re a very troubled person, but that doesn’t justify inflicting your torture and murder fantasies on people here. We find them vile and disgusting, we don’t want to read them, we don’t want Pharyngula or atheism associated with them.

  108. 108
    Rob Grigjanis

    Nick @107:

    We find them vile and disgusting, we don’t want to read them, we don’t want Pharyngula or atheism associated with them.

    So Azuma should bottle up her rage, lest Pharyngula or atheism be associated with eliminationist language? Funny. This is one of the most supportive spaces I’ve seen, unless someone uses the wrong language. If someone posted about doing damage to themselves, I know there would be many here who would jump in and offer whatever help they could. Talk about wishing damage on others, and it’s all “shut up!”, rather than “let’s talk about it”, or “how can we help?”.

  109. 109
    mythbri

    Talk about wishing damage on others, and it’s all “shut up!”, rather than “let’s talk about it”, or “how can we help?”.

    Enabling eliminationalist language doesn’t help the person using it. As I said to Azuma before, what she suggests is neither practical, reasonable or ethical. It is not a real solution. In order to solve real problems, real solutions must be discussed. And it’s not wrong for other people to be discomfited by violent rhetoric.

    I’m not saying Azuma should not be angry. She absolutely should, just as anyone else who has been wronged should feel angry.

  110. 110
    consciousness razor

    Aside from your apologetics in an earlier thread, you’ve stressed points like this numerous times:

    No, I mean the ones at the reins of power, the church heads, the ones who have the wherewithal to go to a decent theological academy and study Greek and Aramaic and read the early Church fathers in their native tongues. People who have the opportunity and even the duty, in a certain theological sense, to uncover and propagate the truth.

    “The truth”? About what?

    Christianity has been hopelessly corrupt for 1700 years, ever since Constantine convened the Nicene Council in 325 AD. If Jesus could hear people calling him very God, he would likely be absolutely horrified.

    But not before Constantine? And who the fuck cares how horrified Jesus might be?

    Then help me. (And if you’re going to bandy Tropes about, think of me as a particularly damaged Dark Magical Girl, please). I am seeing this from the inside; I’m one of the flock who’s realized the shepherd not only isn’t good but wants my carcass with a side of mint jelly ere the week is out.

    If you’re a disgruntled heretic, not a non-believer, that makes the conversation a little more difficult, because there are some definite disagreements between us about what reality is like and what our goals ought to be.

    The ringleaders could avail themselves of this. But they do not.

    The canon Gospels don’t appear in the record until the late 2nd century; Justin Martyr, writing mid-second-century, never cites them.

    The ringleaders could avail themselves of this, too. But they do not.

    They do not. They keep spreading lies and evil.

    For fuck’s sake, they would be spreading lies and evil even if they advocated the Church Fathers’ True™ and “original” interpretations of the Bible, like you apparently want.

    These are the people I want to see given harsh justice, not anyone’s “nana.” Don’t be stupid.

    You know what’s stupid? Giving people “harsh justice,” the idea that punishment and retribution are a form of justice. Not just that it’s effective (it isn’t), but that the outcome, if it were effective, would be just (again, it isn’t). It’s no less stupid or unethical when you backpeddle it, that your torture fantasies were only ever meant to be about the “ringleaders” and not other believers.

  111. 111
    Inaji

    Rob Grigjanis:

    So Azuma should bottle up her rage, lest Pharyngula or atheism be associated with eliminationist language? Funny. This is one of the most supportive spaces I’ve seen, unless someone uses the wrong language. If someone posted about doing damage to themselves, I know there would be many here who would jump in and offer whatever help they could. Talk about wishing damage on others, and it’s all “shut up!”, rather than “let’s talk about it”, or “how can we help?”.

    Please, don’t be stupid. I know rage. It’s been the core component of ‘me’ for as long as I can remember. That had to do with the immense amount of abuse I underwent as a child. The rape and attempted murder when I was 16 didn’t help, either.

    All that notwithstanding, I do not advocate violence of any kind. I do not indulge in torture revenge fantasies, and even if I did, I wouldn’t share it. I do not, in any case, other people. Not even those who did great wrong to me. Why not? Because, every action that was performed was performed by a human being, a person. Nothing more, nothing less. Humans are capable of doing very evil things indeed. We are all capable of that.

    Azuma needs self control, in a bad fucking way. She doesn’t think, she simply blurts feelings out all over, then has no way to explain herself, because she has not thought. This lack of thinking leads to expressions which not only lead the reader to think she is not capable of empathy, she’s willing to spread caustic splash damage all over the place, hurting people who read what she has written, and possibly triggering people as well.

    While I understand much of what she feels, I am not going to condone what she has said or done. There are ways to deal with this level of damage, but she is going about it in the wrong way. You don’t deal with being damaged by hurting others. It might feel momentarily good, but it will bite you on the ass, hard, later on.

  112. 112
    Rob Grigjanis

    Caine @111:

    There are ways to deal with this level of damage, but she is going about it in the wrong way.

    Has anyone offered the right way? I may have missed it.

  113. 113
    consciousness razor

    So Azuma should bottle up her rage, lest Pharyngula or atheism be associated with eliminationist language? Funny. This is one of the most supportive spaces I’ve seen, unless someone uses the wrong language. If someone posted about doing damage to themselves, I know there would be many here who would jump in and offer whatever help they could. Talk about wishing damage on others, and it’s all “shut up!”, rather than “let’s talk about it”, or “how can we help?”.

    There are ways to deal with this level of damage, but she is going about it in the wrong way.

    Has anyone offered the right way? I may have missed it.

    We can’t offer therapy here. We can engage with the comments and try to express what we think is wrong with them.

    And the responses, if you’ll notice, haven’t simply amounted to “shut up!” and haven’t been merely about “language.” Written language is of course the only kind of interaction we can have on a blog, so you could always claim that anyone is not “supportive” of someone (or their views) when they use “the wrong language.” However, the problem isn’t with language per se, but with the views it’s expressing or actions like violence it’s advocating.

  114. 114
    notlob49

    So the minister was a Thatcher fan, my family lived in England during her reign (Derby) and suffered for it as she destroyed the hopes and aspirations of a generation . I went out and celebrated on hearing the witch had died. she was Ronnie Rayguns greatest fan good riddance I say.

  115. 115
    Tethys

    Has anyone offered the right way? I may have missed it.

    If Azuma asks for help dealing with the rage, I will happily share what helped me, as will others.
    (quite possibly the very same people who are currently taking offense at her hypocrisy)

    That she has cause for rage does not excuse or justify the nastiness at #76.

  116. 116
    Azuma Hazuki

    I’m sorry, everyone. Haven’t been able to get online for a bit, but have been reflecting on what’s going on inside me. There is a lot of cleanup to be done in here; I hadn’t realized quite how much damage was done, even after half a decade of constant, literally hellish nightmares (last night was the latest one!).

    It’s interesting, the way a few people are saying to take the moral high ground and be better than them. I want to get back to that state of mind. Something has gone wrong inside, to make me lose it, and it feels really bad.

    This seems to be a case of civilian PTSD. Certain things just completely blind me and send me into utter panic and rage, and it’s upsetting as some small part of me is still lucid and looks on and asks “why?”

    If you’re a disgruntled heretic, not a non-believer, that makes the conversation a little more difficult, because there are some definite disagreements between us about what reality is like and what our goals ought to be.

    I am absolutely not one of Yahweh’s believers; my feeling is that if such a being exists, anyone with a working moral compass would be trying to figure out how to contain and/or exterminate it, not worship it.

    All the speculation on the early fathers is somewhat rhetorical. Leaving aside the point that it’s all false, what burns me so much is that the religious leaders have no fucking idea what the founder and the early exponents of the religion believed! And yet they charge on full steam ahead as if they do, and they shape national opinion and public policy with their lies, which they are too ignorant to even know are lies! Look where it’s gotten us!

    I would be less upset with them if they would do the research and propagate the early beliefs, largely because they would make Christianity about 80% less–well, I apparently can’t say the word insane here–let’s say evilminded and irrational. Yes, it’s all wrong, but if they were teaching more Origen and less Augustine we would safely be able to “educate the public and let it die out” as has been suggested upthread. Universalists tend to be much more laid-back than people who believe anyone deserves an eternity of torture.

    Azuma needs self control, in a bad fucking way. She doesn’t think, she simply blurts feelings out all over, then has no way to explain herself, because she has not thought. This lack of thinking leads to expressions which not only lead the reader to think she is not capable of empathy, she’s willing to spread caustic splash damage all over the place, hurting people who read what she has written, and possibly triggering people as well.

    While I understand much of what she feels, I am not going to condone what she has said or done. There are ways to deal with this level of damage, but she is going about it in the wrong way. You don’t deal with being damaged by hurting others. It might feel momentarily good, but it will bite you on the ass, hard, later on.

    You may feel this way about me if you wish, but the point wasn’t to hurt others for its own sake; it was specifically to expose the hellfire-mongers to the logical results of their beliefs, and either make them stop propagating said beliefs through realization that they are evil, or neutralize them such that they are no longer a threat.

    Sometimes people need to suffer the pain they caused before they will understand it and stop doing it. These people need, at minimum, unflagging holy terror similar to what they cause in their flock when they make threats of eternal, flaming torture. They never stop to consider that it might be their asses in the fire. They should be made to consider it, in the most direct way possible. Think of it as giving someone who deals in and profits from distributing carcinogenic substances a raging case of leukemia so he’ll a) stop and b) possibly work to undo some of the damage he’s done.

    Maybe I’ve just got too much of an imagination, but between that and the nightmares and what I know from history and have seen and experienced in person…it’s been too much. And now these people, these idiot liars, prattle on about eternal, ceaseless, endless, burning torture. They have no issue with the idea of billions of people in unimaginable pain for all of eternity, screaming and crying and begging a supposedly loving God for mercy, and never getting it. Now imagine the nightmares that come from this, in full vivid technocolor. Over and over again. for five fucking years.

    To me, that is the epitome of evil. It is the ultimate de-humanizing and othering doctrine. Yes, it is worse than Hitler’s beliefs, because Hitler simply wanted his enemies dead and gone; these people want, wish for, and believe that their enemies will suffer hideously forever. These people, to my mind, are evil, bare, red-hot, smoking evil. The fact that it wasn’t held by most of the early church fathers is almost irrelevant here; this is madness, and it is eaten up daily by the million.

    I see these lunatics in control everywhere in the US, my country. Half of us are young-earth creationists. The environment and economy are degrading past the point of no return because of people who believe this way. We have Senate science committees headed by people who deny climate change because of Genesis and call evolution “lies from the pit of Hell.” They are destroying this country and this world, and will end civilization as surely as the man rodeo-riding the nuke at the end of Dr. Strangelove would level the city below him.

    You know how you kill ideas? With other ideas. Not with torture. Not with death.

    It’s all well and good to say ideas kill other ideas, but you’re giving these people too much credit for being rational. You must understand, they are starting from an entirely different set of axioms from you or I; you have to look up presuppositionalist apologetics to truly understand this, the extent and depth of the mental rot they are suffering from. They will not countenance the ideas that rescued me (and you?) because their axioms will not allow them to.

    Again, I don’t want the leader-liars here to die; I want them to suffer a tiny bit of what they so glibly advocate for anyone who isn’t right with their God, and reconsider. Maybe the ones who are complete sociopaths and lack empathy should die, but the entire point would be to scare and hurt them with their own doctrine and the immediate results therefrom, in hopes of shaking them so badly that they are jolted out of their smug self-satisfaction and re-examine it from scratch.

    And if you think torture and death don’t work to destroy ideas, several hundred thousand Docetists, Donatists, Cathars, Albigenses, and various other groups just within Christianity would like a word with you…that is, if you can understand them, seeing as many of them had their tongues ripped out or their heads crushed in mechanical presses.

    People, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to go from here. Keeping this all in will just rot me from the inside, but expressing it causes trouble. I have no money and no insurance so “therapy” is out of the question, and I’m watching the world crumble before my eyes. I have read enough history to see the impending collapse of an empire coming; it is happening. I’m at my wit’s end here. History may not repeat itself, but it sure as hell does rhyme.

  117. 117
    consciousness razor

    Again, I don’t want the leader-liars here to die; I want them to suffer

    So what? You want the wrong thing.

    a tiny bit of what they so glibly advocate for anyone who isn’t right with their God, and reconsider.

    You should reconsider your endorsement of suffering, which is ironically the exact same fucking thing that you think makes others “deserve” suffering.

    And if you think torture and death don’t work to destroy ideas, several hundred thousand Docetists, Donatists, Cathars, Albigenses, and various other groups just within Christianity would like a word with you…that is, if you can understand them, seeing as many of them had their tongues ripped out or their heads crushed in mechanical presses.

    So maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t a good thing and shouldn’t be the way to “destroy” ideas — ideas which aren’t, in any case, destroyed: we can still know about them, have them, reject them, or modify them to our hearts’ content.

    People, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to go from here. Keeping this all in will just rot me from the inside, but expressing it causes trouble. I have no money and no insurance so “therapy” is out of the question, and I’m watching the world crumble before my eyes. I have read enough history to see the impending collapse of an empire coming; it is happening. I’m at my wit’s end here. History may not repeat itself, but it sure as hell does rhyme.

    You could try thinking a little less about history and mythology and theology, including your own, and a little more about ethics. That’s what tells you what you ought to do. Not your urge to get revenge, not the Church Fathers, not your reading of history, not your paranoia about some non-existent empire you think will fall. Ethics.

  118. 118
    carlie

    It’s all well and good to say ideas kill other ideas, but you’re giving these people too much credit for being rational. You must understand, they are starting from an entirely different set of axioms from you or I; you have to look up presuppositionalist apologetics to truly understand this, the extent and depth of the mental rot they are suffering from. They will not countenance the ideas that rescued me (and you?) because their axioms will not allow them to.

    How are they so different than you or from me? As I mentioned earlier, I used to be one of them, and according to your comments you did too, right? What makes you back then so different from them now? Were you irrational, starting from an entirely different set of axioms, not willing to countenance the ideas that rescued you? Your last sentence is entirely contradictory; if those axioms do not allow for rescue from the ideas, you and I would not have been able to be rescued from them. And yet, here we are. So obviously they can be rescued, because we were. And so were many other people here. Are you familiar with the concept of “othering”? It’s purposely diminishing the humanity of others to justify treating them badly. Usually people “other” those who have some differences from them to begin with, but you’re “othering” people in a group you were once a part of. I would hope that your deeper understanding of how they’ve been brought up molded to those ideas would give you more compassion for how difficult it is for them to break free, not less.

  119. 119
    Azuma Hazuki

    @118/Carlie

    I have compassion for the rank and file believer. I have none for the leaders, the ones who have every right and ability, not to say duty, to know better and do not. Not knowing of the early church fathers, not knowing some Aramaic and koine Greek, not kowing just how pesudepigraphical much of the Bible is, is equivalent to an engineer not doing due diligence or testing or designing in a safety factor.

    And what broke me out of those axioms was being offended, actually physically hurt (I needed to be thrown around by someone VERY angry) and traumatized (the beginning of the nightmares; being forced to watch a lot of horror movies and having the connection to my then-God’s supposed way of dealing with unbelievers). My mind had to be broken. And I was never a fundamentalist, just intellectually lazy and thinking I had all the answers. I needed to have a massively negative experience where my emotions overruled my thinking.

  120. 120
    mythbri

    @Azuma Hazuki

    I have none for the leaders, the ones who have every right and ability, not to say duty, to know better and do not.

    Which churches are you talking about here, or are you talking about all of them?

    Mormon churches promote laymen to leadership positions. There’s no theology degree or required study to become a bishop or stake president or a member of the quorum of the seventy or even a general authority. Even a prophet. The church was started by a fucking charismatic farmboy, for crying out loud.

    Not knowing of the early church fathers, not knowing some Aramaic and koine Greek, not kowing just how pesudepigraphical much of the Bible is, is equivalent to an engineer not doing due diligence or testing or designing in a safety factor.

    What if that is incredibly irrelevant to the day-to-day running of a church or congregation? Why would you hold someone accountable for studying something they did not need to study, or don’t even believe is relevant to their faith or what they teach? Churches are not all the same, and neither are their approaches or the specific areas of knowledge that they value (if any).

    And what broke me out of those axioms was being offended

    Same here. I was made to feel very uncomfortable with my beliefs, because when challenged, I found nothing with which to support them.

    actually physically hurt (I needed to be thrown around by someone VERY angry) and traumatized

    I’m sorry that happened to you. I disagree that it was something that you needed, because it has obviously hurt you very much. It’s also clear to the experience is valuable to you, and I don’t want to minimize that. But I wish you hadn’t been hurt or traumatized.

    My mind had to be broken.

    Just because you think this is what you needed to become an atheist and/or recognize the harm that religion causes does not mean that it’s the way everyone, or even just church leaders, will learn to recognize it. And it doesn’t make it right for you to force that on anyone else. I am angry on your behalf if it was forced on you.

    To your previous comments, referencing the various religious movements that used torture and death to try to extinguish ideas:

    All of those movements were only successful in extinguishing lives.

  121. 121
    robster

    “God has made a covenant with one nation, Israel”. Hey, isn’t Israel primarily a jewish state? They don’t (I understand) subscribe to the baby jesus/holy spook nonsense so why would Israel be tainted with a blessing from the fairy? Sounds very suss to me..

  122. 122
    Azuma Hazuki

    @120/mythbri

    Oh, no, the trauma was really caused by myself, toward myself. And fittingly so. I had to face, full-on, what it was I truly believed. I understood it all at once, and on came 5 unrelenting years of panic attacks and literally hellish nightmares. And I deserved it all, because I believed those things. I was vile.

    The present me would put the past me through the Clockwork Orange treatment (which is essentially what past me did experience) in a heartbeat, with the good hope that past me would not need to be given over to the “it’s your hell, you go burn in it, and I’m going to light you up here and now as a tiny foretaste” part.

    Just because you think this is what you needed to become an atheist and/or recognize the harm that religion causes does not mean that it’s the way everyone, or even just church leaders, will learn to recognize it. And it doesn’t make it right for you to force that on anyone else. I am angry on your behalf if it was forced on you.

    I’m not. It was absolutely necessary. Bri, as you can probably tell I am a woman who does nothing by halves; I could have become a raging fundie nut. I could have become like motherloving Heddle. Or Piltdown Man, given my heritage is Catholic. I could have become a complete monster, beyond all hope of redemption this side of death.

    Ten thousand times would I rather suffer what I have suffered, and do suffer, than become like them. I am now in the “repair” phase, and I did not become an animal. I did not become a monster. Those two are sad, scary exemplars of what I could have become, and I pity them with a pity matched only by my disgust for them.

    What if that is incredibly irrelevant to the day-to-day running of a church or congregation? Why would you hold someone accountable for studying something they did not need to study, or don’t even believe is relevant to their faith or what they teach? Churches are not all the same, and neither are their approaches or the specific areas of knowledge that they value (if any).

    It is supremely relevant, because it changes the entire tone and tenor of the message they are preaching and how they interact with their flock. The pulpit is a massive force-multiplier, and anyone who uses it would, ideally, do tremendous research beforehand knowing what a massive moral responsibility lies on their heads when in it.

    As an example, a possibly apocryphal quote: “If I were a Universalist, what would stop me from knocking you senseless, stealing your horse and money, and leaving you here to die?” “If you were a Universalist, the thought would never have crossed your mind.”

    I find the eternal-torment preaching not only abhorrent, not only flatly contradicted by 5 of the original 6 church centers, but morally corrosive and mind-destroying. It is the ultimate “othering.” One must hate, infinitely hate, another to believe him or her worthy of such a fate, and this goes for these peoples’ concept of God as much as for the people themselves. Such a concept is blasphemous to any God that may exist; it is poisonous inside and out, it limits what a supposedly omniscient/omnipotent/omnibenevolent being may do, and it turns said God into a failed hero at best, and more realistically into the true villain of his story all along.

    Do you get my point now? Even if it’s all arrant nonsense, this is a more palatable and much closer-to-home nonsense, recognizable by the great luminaries closer to the center of the action, than the Latin distortions of it which underpin all modern churches save, perhaps, for the Nestorians and a few near-heretics in the Eastern Orthodox congregations.

  123. 123
    drbunsen, le savant fous

    If an Islamic cleric made a speech identical to the one PZ cites (apart from substituting the names of a few nation-states) the press round where I live would be up in arms for weeks.

  124. 124
    microraptor

    “God has made a covenant with one nation, Israel”. Hey, isn’t Israel primarily a jewish state? They don’t (I understand) subscribe to the baby jesus/holy spook nonsense so why would Israel be tainted with a blessing from the fairy? Sounds very suss to me..

    A lot of the Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christian churches have a serious hard-on for Israel. Not because they have any love of Jewish people, Evangelical/Fundamentalist churches also tend to be frighteningly anti-Semitic, but because of the importance of the state of Israel in the Book of Bad Acid Trip Revelation. Since Revelation talks about the state of Israel and they believe that the Book is coming true any minute now, they’re seriously obsessed with the importance of the country.

  125. 125
    mythbri

    @Azuma Hazuki

    Do you get my point now?

    Not even a little bit.

    and I did not become an animal. I did not become a monster.

    There’s that dehumanizing again.

    What makes you so much better than them? That you advocate torture, death or even just emotional torture in a good way?

  126. 126
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    Seconding Nick Gotts at #91

    Azuma your posts are… a bit disturbing.

  127. 127
    Azuma Hazuki

    @125/MythBri

    There’s that dehumanizing again.

    What makes you so much better than them? That you advocate torture, death or even just emotional torture in a good way?

    If you really can’t tell, I’m done with you. Please, please, please tell me this is an emotional or rhetorical talking point. You are not that dumb.

    Seconding Nick Gotts at #91

    Azuma your posts are… a bit disturbing.

    Not as disturbing as the nightmares! I really wish they’d stop.

  128. 128
    mythbri

    If you really can’t tell, I’m done with you. Please, please, please tell me this is an emotional or rhetorical talking point. You are not that dumb.

    Be done with me, then. Intent isn’t magic. An unethical proposal is still unethical if it’s aimed at people who are also unethical.

    Torture is unethical. Terrorists are unethical. Torturing terrorists is unethical.

  129. 129
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @Azuma Hazuki :

    Virtual (((hugs))) if you want them.

  130. 130
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @mythbri : Saving lives is not unethical.

  131. 131
    Chris Clarke

    If you really can’t tell, I’m done with you.

    Be done with me too, please. And please go work out your violent revenge fantasies somewhere else.

  132. 132
    mythbri

    @StevoR

    Fuck off. I’m not having this discussion with you.

  133. 133
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @128. mythbri :

    Intent isn’t magic.

    Yes but it isn’t insignificant either. There is a big difference between murder, manslaughter, self-defence and aquittal by reason of insanity.

    An unethical proposal is still unethical if it’s aimed at people who are also unethical.

    Ethics are subjective and sometimes to quote the Borg irrelevant.

    Torture is unethical. Terrorists are unethical. Torturing terrorists is unethical.

    Dependent upon one’s theory of ethics.

    Utililitarianism suggests that if torturing one terrorist saves a thousand or a hundred or even ten or two innocent live sthat torture is justified if I recall my idea of utilitarianism right.

    The lives of the many outweight the lives of the few or the one.

    It isn’t always as simple as balckand white, good and evil, right and wrong.

    Sometimes its wrong versus wronger, right versus righter and sometimes we don’t really know.

    Fuck knows I don’t.

    World is fucked, people are fucked.

    Fucked up people struggle to live in fucked up world as best they fucken can and it ain’t skittles and rainbows but nightmares and coping and living and struggling and fucken well doing what you can do hoping, not knowing, wishing not acting, taking steps that are within a range of .. stuff .. not ends of spectra but points in between.

    Humanity is human and to be human is to be full of potential in a whole lot of things fucked up to fucken saintly. Some of us, the vast fucking majority are not fucking saintly. I’m not. You’re a saint? Well good for you! How about you allow those of us who aren’t saints to not be? To be human and fucked up.

    Because y’know some of us can’t be any other way and we hurt and we suffer and we try and we think and we do it in ways unlike you. Maybe. What the fuck do I know?

  134. 134
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @132. mythbri : Not your blog.

  135. 135
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Nor a private conversation.

  136. 136
    mythbri

    Enjoy talking to yourself then.

  137. 137
    Chris Clarke

    @132. mythbri : Not your blog.

    Nor is it yours.

  138. 138
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Azuma, help doesn’t necessarily mean a medical course of seeing a psychiatrist. It can be talking to a wise person. Some people offer “letting go” therapy about getting over traumatic life experiences or being raised in a dysfunctional family for a modest fee. Small groups, 6 – 8 people for several weeks, can be less expensive still.

    Fear isn’t the only thing that eats you up inside: so does hatred. It can keep the offenders looming large in your life forever while you harangue them about what they did to you, re-imagine what you might have done if only you’d known, and construct revenge fantasies. They have taken enough of your life already. Can you resolve not to give them one more minute of your emotional homage? You can still despise the church leaders that have converted a mythical curse of original sin into power, money, and prestige and who interfere with peoples lives, health, and emotions. You can work for liberal, kindly, accepting causes and try to wake up the people who have been misled (not insane) all their lives. But let them go!

    They are leeches. Every ecology has its parasites. Just look at what springs up without churches; people selling crystal vibrations and other quack ideas. Yes, religion has done a lot of harm. Yes, we should resist its intrusion into public life and private nightmares. But don’t burn yourself out on them.

    Can you call Social Services and ask someone what resources there are for someone with nightmares and insomnia from years of emotional abuse? They might be able to find you something.

  139. 139
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    PZ, when I was 12 or 13 a friend invited me to her baptist church. I don’t remember much about the service. Afterwards there was a ‘tea and cookies’ reception. People kept coming over to welcome me and hope I’d come back. I was disconcerted: it was like being jumped on by puppies. I never went back.

  140. 140
    Azuma Hazuki

    Markita, the worst of it is when panicked and upset I forget the things I’ve learned. I’ve got too much else going on in life, what with struggling just to keep a roof over my head, to devote the amount of time I do to this crap. And I’m always paranoid I missed something. My short-term memory is shot to shit, I’m afraid to sleep most nights, and it feels like I’ve been booted half out of space-time and don’t really exist any longer. What is happening?

  141. 141
    Tethys

    Azuma

    I am so sorry that you are having to deal with all of that. IANAmental healthcare professional, but I do have PTSD, and several of those symptoms are very familiar to me.

    There is a huge connection between poor sleep, and short term memory. Poor sleep for several days in a row will make me feel anxious, worthless, like I am not actuallly a real person.

    One strategy that helps me is vigorous physical exercise to tire my body out so I sleep hard. I do not suffer from nightmares, and have no advice other than to ask in the lounge. I know many of the horde do suffer nightmares, and may be able to offer helpful tips.

    You might want to go read this post at Miri’s. It has some excellent information.

  142. 142
    Azuma Hazuki

    @141/tethys

    That…was amazing to read. It feels like she was reaching into my head and playing back things I didn’t know were in there. And the comments there say she did that to other people too. Wow.

    Well, Prozac or other SSRIs aren’t an option: once upon a time, when I had insurance, I tried one dose, and it gave me an irregular heartbeat and worse panic. No, my cure is CBT, and in the absence of any money or insurance, I’m going to be both patient and therapist. And it usually works well enough.

    I’ve found it effective to write notes, as when extremely tired or panicked, I forget certain things…such as that there is no Original Sin or that we did, in fact, evolve. The same laser-like focus that lets me meticulously shred any given apologetic argument also tends to make me lose sight of the “big picture,” in a way making me the same as an apologist but on the other side of the bullshit spectrum.

    Things will get better. I need sunlight and safety, and now I’ve found another job and figured out where the benefits office is, it looks like I’ll be able to make rent and expenses and last long enough to find a second job (I hate the idea of being a welfare leech).

    Sometimes, people need to take it one day at a time, and give themselves permission to be properly angry…and let it go. There are a lot of stupid godsdamn people on the planet, and stupid + power = the end of empires. We’re living in one here in the US that doesn’t know it’s dead, but it’s in the process of dying. Nothing we can do about it. While we live, we fight to survive.

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