Saturday, May 21, 2011

Same Shit, Different Judgement Day

Ah, it's another judgement day.

Many Christians seem to think the rapture will involve them being called to heaven, leaving behind their clothes.

What the fuck?

So, is everyone naked in heaven? Or perhaps the styles or fabrics are different there, and you are issued a new set of clothes upon rapture. Does heaven have standardized uniforms?

But really, all these other humans who have died and gone to heaven before the rapture have left their earthly bodies here. Why would rapture be different? Won't it be odd being one of a few (or perhaps up to a half due to population growth and technological evangelism) walking around in an earthly body in heaven? Awkward.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Pre-Life? And Interpreting the Bible

Some random late-evening thoughts:

Religious people are so focused on the afterlife. What about the pre-life? As I understand it, there is no reincarnation in Judaism, Christianity or Islam. God breathes your soul into your mortal body at conception or birth, and then you live a mortal life and then live forever after with God and his buddies in heaven or suffer eternally in hell.

So, if there is no reincarnation (which oddly seems to be a popular theme in movies...hmmm), then you and your soul don't exist before your date of birth or conception. Past lives are also popular in movies, but I digress...or do I? I was going to state that people don't have a problem with not existing before their conception, but apparently some do.

Well, the point I was trying to make with logic is that if you have no problem believing you didn't exist before birth/conception, then why would you have trouble believing you don't exist after death? However clearly there is some popular fantasy that people's souls have lived mortal lives before and may yet again.

Clearly people are neither logical nor literal about their bibles.

And speaking of bibles, why is there so much effort at interpreting the bible and disagreements over it's interpretation? This god guy clearly had some issues with clear communication! You'd think the creator of all would be able to get his point across unambiguously.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Act Now and We'll Throw In Jesus For Free!

I think the most compelling evidence against religion for me is that it has to be sold from one person to another. There is no independent verification process. Another person has to tell you which goods are god, which evil is not, and what is just part of god's mysterious plan for a better, bigger purpose than us. But you do have this handy book to guide you, although someone else has to tell you which parts are currently iron law and which are parables and can be largely ignored.

I was going to go on, but sometimes less is more.

A Week of Religious People Again

After existing happily secularly for quite a while I had a rash of religious folks around me this past week. A group I was working with got to talking about going to church in their youth. One was apparently beaten if he was late for church or showed up smelly because he was working and rushed to church without a shower. Another was Pentecostal and went to church daily and participated in every Pentecostal revival that came through town. I gather they aren't as devoted as their parents, but they did get to talking about the power of prayer and their strong belief that it "works". I had the good sense not to join these conversations.

I fail to see any supernatural cause and effect between prayer and events, although I've previously compared prayer to affirmations and meditation as a mind discipline. But one man in my workgroup this week was positively convinced prayer of others saved him from a bad lifestyle that would have ended in his early death and expressed incredulity at the thought that anyone wouldn't believe in the power of prayer. Again, I stayed out of the conversation as a work environment it not the proper place for spiritual debate.

On my flight back home I once again had a cute girl next to me. I had spotted her in the gate waiting area and was mildly infatuated with her backside, and she was cute from the front, too. To my surprise she had the seat next to me on the plane, and she was wearing no ring, and she appeared to be an appropriate age for me. But I was completely turned off when she pulled out her bible and was taking notes about her reading. There's a conversation I didn't even want to start that day, so I started dozing while the plane was still boarding.

There were also two or three ladies on the plane that were either Amish or nuns...I couldn't decide which. They had rather plain dresses with white hats with the fabric hanging down the back. I had recently been in an Amish store (complete with computer-printed labels, cell phones, and they took AMEX unlike some of the other local businesses, but nevermind) and the hats were a little different, so I started thinking maybe they were nuns' habits. One of them was seated in the row behind me and sang semi-quietly the entire flight.

Test of Faith

For various reasons I have not been following news well lately, and I completely missed what's been happening in Tunisia. But I've come in a little late on what's happening in Egypt.

The first articles and TV reports I saw about it were discussions of the Muslim Brotherhood who reportedly want a less secular and more Islamic-style government. I found myself worrying about such a transition and how it could make the world less safe for Israel and the U.S..

It quickly occurred to me that I was mentally taking the side apparently against the will of the people of Egypt, against democracy and for a reportedly oppressive government that doesn't allow free speech, controls the media and shuts down the internet and other communication services. That doesn't sound like me!

So I'm a bit ashamed of myself that I allowed—however briefly—my fear of religious oppression to overcome my belief in freedom and a representative government. Just because I've never seen compelling evidence for the existence of god(s) doesn't mean I want those who do believe in god(s) to suffer; however I wish they'd be more rational I don't realistically expect the world to suddenly shed its religions.

Then my cynicism kicked in, and I realize that the stories in Western media strongly implying a new Egyptian government that would concern many/most Americans are probably being made for the purpose of making the U.S. fear an Egyptian revolution. Whether the current government of Egypt is seeding those stories to discourage support of a regime change, or the U.S. government protecting a somewhat ally or just the Western media looking for talking points to catch our attention, I think we shouldn't allow these stories to frighten us.

After all, how does freedom and a representative government happen? Do dictators and otherwise powerful governments dole out power and freedom? No, the people revolt, and a peaceful revolution is a great way of doing it. Discount the fear of extremist Islam taking over the Middle East, and imagine freedom and democracy spreading through it like wildfire. Damn, how could that not be a good thing? Okay, I can actually think of one or two ways, but I can imagine mostly good ways for that to turn out. Power to the people! Let the people speak openly!

I fear religious influence on governments, but I believe that open communication is overall a positive thing for people everywhere. Writing in general was a technological leap; suddenly there is a species that can spread and retain experience and knowledge. The Gutenberg press really accelerated this, and then later postal services, radio, TV and the Internet allowed faster and wider dissemination of information so that now we are virtually a global community able to instantly react to happenings anywhere and communicate with people anywhere. If anything is more powerful in making people tolerate each other than communication, I don't know what it is. And toleration—live and let live—is one of my core beliefs.