God

Cemeteries and Churches

Today was another day of summer camp for the boys. One was at soccer camp and the other at skateboard camp. That, however, is not really what this post is about. 

Open Scripture Project - Making the Perfect God

Today, I want to introduce you to the "Open Scripture Project". OSP will be a community built religion with a git repository for changes. The purpose of OSP is to give us all the chance to make the perfect god.  We will do it by following a time honoured open source philosophy. Release early and release often!

29
Dec

Sandy Hook : God Did It

In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, a number of religious leaders came forward to suggest that our rejection of God in schools is responsible for this tragedy. These people claim that since secular society has been removing prayer from schools, God refused to step in and stop the Gunman, Lanza, from killing 20 children and 7 adults.

What's truly amazing about this reasoning is that it puts the blame squarely on God. Either God could have prevented this and he didn't, which makes his a deplorable and vindictive monster, or he couldn't, in which case he isn't much of a God or he simply doesn't exist. If I were a thinking religious person at these times, I'd want to go with the final option, God doesn't exist. Any other alternative, especially that he allowed this to happen because people weren't prostrating themselves behore him or singing his praises makes him the worst kind of megalomaniacal monster, a being of pure evil.

19
Jul

Is God Love?

Someone recently suggested that I might, in fact, believe in God. (A closet theist?) The supporting evidence for this suggestion is that I often write about religion and even quote scripture to support my arguments. Another person suggested that since I profess a belief in love, that I must, ipso facto, believe in God. Allow me a few moments to address both of these suggestions. 

I don't believe in vampires and I have been known to post about them from time to time; I am a huge fan of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and thought "Angel" was pretty cool, though not as cool as Buffy by a long shot. That said, while I am interested in vampires (Twilight and True Blood both suck, for the record), I am utterly and completely fascinated by religion. And so you'll find me posting on religious topics more often than about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Also, my postings about religion don't tend to flatter religion or gods of any sort; quite the opposite. So, no, I do not believe in any god nor will I ever. 

The truth is that, and this is a topic for a future post, I can not imagine a scenario where I could be convinced (without the use of mind-altering drugs and other coersive methods) that any being you present to me is the one true, omnipotent, omnipresent, creator of the universe as depicted by insert-your-favorite-religion-or-holy-book-here. I have written before that I can easily imagine someone creating the our universe, but that's not the same thing as a god.

When this argument was in full swing, another person said, "Marcel hates religion," and to that charge, I must concede, but with an explanation. I don't hate religion, per se, though I believe firmly that it has no place in the world of today. What I really hate is what people do to each other in God's name. I hate how women are marginalized by religion. I hate the class structure or religion. I hate the absolutist lawgivers, priests, and assorted shamen that hand down their rules from the high heavens, seeking to enslave hearts and shackle minds. I hate the idea that people submit to worshipping the most vile being ever created by humans, and yes, I do mean God.

I could go on, but it's only fair that I answer this accusation. And so I attack religion as good people should always attack evil. And before you answer that statement, make sure you read and understand my  post titled "Attacking Your Religion: An Open Letter" as it lays it out reasonably well.

On to "love". Of course I believe in love. Whether love is something deeply human that defines us spiritually, or whether it's the firing of neurons and chemical triggers put in place by evolution to insure the survival of our progeny and our gene line, I don't care. Love is real and so I 'believe' in it in the same way that I can believe in any demonstrable fact. 

If you want to claim that Marcel believes in God because he believes in love, then you are going to seriously redefine the word 'God' and strip it of any bibles or assorted holy books, any churches, any religious ritual, and anything having to do with anything that you currently ascribe to god, with the possible exception of love. If you're referring to the Biblical God (or the Quranic or the Talmudic versions), you are talking about one of the most vile, vicious, capricious, vengeful, cruel, and pathetically childish creatures ever created by human imagination. 

Anything good you can attach to this being (at least through scripture) is pure chance brought about by the fact that if you have enough pages of text, you're bound to find support of any ideas. Good and bad. 

God is not love. Not by a long shot.

And so, yes, I believe in love. God, on the other hand, is pure Bogeyman and Freddie and Michael and every other horror movie monster you can conjure up. Fear is what keeps people at his feet. Fear of dying. Fear of eternal punishment. Fear of being cast out from your community. And just plain fear.

02
Dec

Intelligent Design's Inferiority Complex

Bad ideas never die. Not without a fight. Like a disease causing bacteria or virus, they are occasionally defeated by Herculean measures, sometimes requiring that the host suffer extensive (but hopefully not fatal) damage or pain in an effort to rid the body of the invader. Sadly, as anyone who has battled serious illness, such as a cancer, the disease does occasionally return to battle anew. Even when the enemy has been defeated, you can never take for granted that it has been permanently eradicated.

So it is with Intelligent Design, or ID. In case you've been away in some place far more enlightened than this little blue-green planet of ours, Intelligent Design is an attempt by the superstitious and fearful to make the creation myth sound more scientific, thereby giving the old fable a sheen of reason.

You have to feel a special kind of pity, or sadness, for the proponents of intelligent design. Somewhere deep inside, they understand that their creation myths are, in today's world, nothing more than childish stories meant for a less enlightened age. So they try to wrap their fables and fairy tales in the scientific equivalent of the Emperor's new clothes. Nothing to see from a scientific perspective but Intelligent Design certainly sounds better than trying to pretend that the universe was created in six days and that a talking snake got the first man and woman thrown out of their all expenses paid five star resort. 

Burdened as they are with a huge weight of low self-esteem, courtesy of their religion, they look for a way to make their faith appear somewhat more modern and relevant in a world where science boldly explores and uncovers age-old mysteries, shedding light into the dark corners of ignorance. Religion, the offspring of ignorance, recoils like a vampyre exposed to sunlight. Intelligent Design seeks to protect this mystic child by suggesting that its existence is entirely compatible with science. 

Intelligent Design says, "science doesn't have all the answers" which is absolutely true. They point to the gaps in our knowledge of life, the universe, and everything, then ask, "how does your science explain these gaps?" They, of course, have an answer, but they don't call him God. That would be playing their hand too early. Instead they propose an "intelligence" that, here and there, tweaked and directed the universe, setting about the engine of creation that gave rise to us. If they can convince you that this intelligence is likely, they might suggest that you give him a name. Like God. Just as a placeholder, mind you.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest to you that the people advocating ID are probably less than honest, even with themselves. Some are, so they say, willing to talk about the Big Bang with the idea that God himself started the whole process, with the endgame being us, of course. What if he just started the universe knowing that someday, we would show up? That would be acceptable as well to a few in the ID crowd. But take note, it's always about them. About us.

Let's pretend for a moment that the universe was in fact created by some intelligence way back even before the Triassic was fashionable. Before the Earth and even our sun was a glimmer in the Milky Way's eye. This intelligence does its work and BANG, the universe is born. Fast forward 14 billion(ish) years and here we are. Do we then accept that this multi-billion year intelligence is somehow worthy of our worship?

Pretend again that this intelligence works for some other intelligence. Is this an acceptable stand-in for God? Do we worship him? Now pretend that this intelligence works for the equivalent of the Large Hadron Collider project and that, in the course of his work, creates a number of universes that blink into existence for a split second, tantalizingly close enough for this intelligence to measure. Then, through the strange nuances of the quantum, these universes retire to their own version of space time, beginning the cycle of creation, birth, death, and evolution, for billions of years until some other intelligence starts to wonder where they came from. Is this technician God? Do we worship him?

The short anwser is no. For a god to be worthy of worship, he has to care about you, and perhaps more importantly, you specifically. It's never about God. It's about the person who feels less than fulfilled if he or she can't imagine some universe and time-spanning being caring deeply about their lowly position in the vastness of space-time.

Belief in God or Intelligent Design, is a rather sad but socially acceptable and supported form of low self-esteem. It's a sanctioned inferiority complex.

Except that you shouldn't feel down. You and I are the products of billions of years of cosmic evolution. In a very real sense, it's even more miraculous to think that you and I are here to discuss these ideas without the need for some father figure in the sky who created us. We have our own mothers and fathers and they had theirs. Life, along with the power to question its origins, is glorious enough without making up stories about a non-existent creator.

And if there was some lab technician in some other universe many billions of years ago who was responsible for getting things going. I'm thankful for your crazy experiment.

But I won't worship you.

28
Nov

Satan In The Mirror

This is a story about the devil. You know. Satan. The guy with the pitchfork, horns, bad breath, and the red underwear. Oh, and it's about me, too. When I was just a small child, my parents, good Catholics that they were, did what all good parents of religious upbringing did. They did their best to instill the fear of God into me. After all, hard to worship the big guy if there's no fire and brimstone to tip your kids back in the other direction when they transgress. Right? My parents, like every other set of parents, were brought up with a collection of stories taught to them by their God-fearing parents. Remember kids. You can love God, but you must also fear him. Now, I don't remember exactly how old I was, but it was before my great revelation which happened when I was seven years old, so it had to be a couple of years before.

I had been bad that day. Sure, what kid isn't bad at some point? I hadn't killed anyone or help up a bank, but I might have taken a cookie, not come in immediately when called, or talked back to my Mom or Dad. Whatever the crime, it was a one of those petty crimes of childhood, the kind every 4 or 5 year old kid commits on a regular basis. Whatever the transgression, I remember my mother telling me that bad boys would be punished by God in this way; when looking into a mirror at night, in the dark, that boy (or girl) would see Satan staring back at them from the mirror.

Well, it worked. I was terrified. For months, anytime I did anything remotely bad, I would go to bed avoiding my reflection in the mirror, should Satan be standing there staring back at me. Getting up to go to the bathroom, I carefully averted my eyes from the mirror. Once I had finished my business, I jumped back into bed being careful to avoid the mirror in my bedroom. In the winter, when it was dark early, I was careful to avoid dark or dimly-lit rooms that might have a mirror.

Then, one night, after I had been bad . . . again, I decided to face the devil once and for all. I have no idea what made me so brave or cocky that night, but I was ready to face old Nick and take what was coming to me. I crept up to the mirror, slowly looked toward the shadowy reflection, and saw only myself. There was no Satan. No devil with a pitchfork waiting to skewer my bottom. Just me. Standing alone in the dark.

My mother, I realized, had lied to me. I wasn't sure why exactly, but I chalked it up to just one of the many veiled threats parents make. "I brought you into this world. I can take you out!" That sort of thing.

More importantly, from that night on, I was pretty sure there was no devil. Not a hundred percent sure mind you, but awfully close.

Finding out there was no God would take considerably longer.

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