ALLEGIANCE VS. AGENCY

I had this idea kicking around in my brain for a while before the NFL controversy broke out.  It is the idea of personhood, and what that entails.

I grew up in a Fundamentalist home.  For decades I considered myself a born-again Christian, and I did all of the things a Christian is expected to do.  I read my Bible, had personal devotions, went to church regularly and participated in as many outreach programs as I was able to attend.

I was against the first Gulf War, which was started when Iraq invaded Kuwait.  There were enough members of the surrounding Arab nations (some of whom were quite wealthy) to assist their neighbor, Kuwait.  I was grateful that my brother was in Germany when the USA invaded Kuwait.  However, the Army deployed my brother to the war.  We knew he was on active duty in combat, but we did not know he was actually part of the troops which were sent behind enemy lines to fight.

Of course patriotism was on display.  The USA handily defeated Iraq and liberated Kuwait.  It was around that time that I noticed an increasing type of militant patriotism growing and spreading throughout conservative Christianity.  Keep in mind that I was a strong believer in the Gospel message.  However, it appeared to me that too many Christians were conflating Uncle Sam with Jesus Christ.  The flag, the anthem, and the pledge were elevated to forms of worship.  Supporting America became a necessary part of living out our Christian faith.  I had seen what war had done to our family and I was disgusted.

A pledge is a solemn promise.  What is allegiance?  I looked it up online and the definition included the duty of a citizen owed to a sovereign state or government.  It is expected.  Think about that.  Every time you say the Pledge of Allegiance, you are implicitly stating that you submit yourself as a person with obligations and duties to America simply by being born here.  Naturalized citizens are required to swear an oath of allegiance to America.

What is agency?  That was a bit more complicated.  The definitions I found were a bit confusing.  I consulted an online thesaurus and the synonyms include force. control and influence.

Let’s turn to personhood and personal agency.  We all agree that each individual is unique.  There are no two persons alike.  When we talk about persons, we talk about the entire package of humanity that is represented by an individual.  This includes not merely a biological human, but the sum total of life experiences, education, ideas, memories and so forth.  In this nation, at least, we have a Bill of Rights which recognizes the uniqueness of every citizen.  That Bill of Rights has been amended over time as our nation has recognized that with personhood comes personal agency.  Each person has the absolute right to determine his or her path through life. Each person controls his or her own destiny.

Right off the bat, speaking only of the sects of Christianity of which I was a part, we have a problem.  Personal agency is considered a sin.  It says each person is born corrupt and without goodness.  Just being alive makes us an affront to God.  We are required to repent, yield to God and only do what God wants.  We must submit our personhood to God.  Our hearts are deceived and wicked even in the womb (according to one of the Psalms).  Unless we ask God to forgive us and ask Jesus into our hearts to save us, we are doomed.

Now comes the really dangerous intersection.  Religion and politics.  Because our holy book demands total fidelity to God through Jesus, and that same book tells us that we are to obey every agent of the government, we become twice enslaved.  Personal agency is out the window.

I am so glad that certain athletes have exercised their guaranteed rights according to the First Amendment.  They kneel in honor of murdered black men.  They kneel in both sorrow and respect for a nation which has wounded their communities.  They love America but kneel in sorrow for her continued oppression of others.

Some people do not recite the Pledge of Allegiance.  They recognize that their fidelity is to themselves and those they care about.  They are the brave ones who are peacefully protesting oppression.  I support all types of peaceful protests.  I will add that I am disgusted by those who use violence in protesting; the violence infringes on the personhood of those around them.

This is a long post and I will end it here.  I need time to think more about this issue.  I consider myself lucky to have escaped the oppression inflicted on me by my sects of Christianity.  I no longer believe there even is a god.  I am grateful to protesters throughout my life who challenged my systems of belief.

 

 

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WEEKEND FROM HELL

There have been so many times I wanted to post on events and issues.  It seems that other stuff always pushed me away from one topic to the next, and I never took the time to write about it until poof! the next “thing” came along.

Friday morning, my 89-year-old mother fainted while getting undressed for a shower.  She and my late father moved in with my oldest sister in 2013 when they were 85.  My mom battled dementia for years and had started having falls at home.  My father could no longer manage to pick her up off of the floor.  My heroic and loving sister redid her townhouse so they would have a safe place to live.  Unfortunately, my father’s health began a precipitous decline, and he died in 2015.  Back to my mother.

My sister took my mom to the hospital for evaluation where it was discovered she had a bladder infection and was in renal failure.  By Monday she was dead.

During this traumatic time, the country caught on fire.  Friday night began a long nightmare weekend for Charlottesville Virginia.  I could not believe my eyes when I saw hundreds of KKK, neo-Nazis and white supremacists marching across the campus of the University of Virginia with torches.  They were chanting racist slurs.  They intimidated protesters.  I felt as if I was watching film from the 1920s.  The Klan?  Really?

Then Saturday proved everyone’s worst fears.  The folly of a judge denying the city the right to change the venue of the rally became evident.  There was not enough room for the police to keep the Klan/Nazi rally participants and the protesters apart.  Violence broke out.  Three people died, including a young woman who was run over by a Klan sympathizer.  Dozens of others were injured.

Is this 2017 America, I wondered.

Next came the incoherence of the President.  “Many sides” on Saturday, a robotic denouncing of the groups by name on Monday, then nearly a full throttled defense of the white nationalists on Tuesday.  The passion of the President was at fever pitch as he defended the statues dedicated to the generals who fought to secede and start their own country with slavery at its core.  The President conflated an act of treason with the Revolutionary War.  I truly was sick to my stomach.

My family is changed forever now that both parents are gone.  I believe our nation has been changed forever by a man who clearly is not fit for the Presidency.  This will be a moment in history which, as FDR stated so well, will live in infamy.

As I said, it was the weekend from hell.  There is more to the story of my family, which is making this much harder for me.  I hope that we do not find there is much more to the story of Charlottesville which will make things harder for our nation.

Let the fallout begin.

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What is Post-Theism?

I live my life as a post-theist, but I usually call myself an agnostic atheist because the people closest to me shift the burden of proof all the time.

Naturalist Philosophy

By R.N. Carmona

Many might be confused by the post-theist label. It does not mean that one is a theist unaffiliated with organized religion. This doesn’t mean one believes in a deity. Post-theism describes an attitude that one is beyond the god question. The atheist label no longer makes sense because the question of god is a settled fact; a god doesn’t exist and never did, so one doesn’t lack belief, but rather proceeds with the knowledge that there’s no god and conducts their life as such.

One no longer dwells on the question or considers the question. Yes, this is compatible with gnostic atheism because it requires knowledge rather than mere non-belief sans knowledge, i.e., agnostic atheism. However, the question of whether a god exists no longer interests the post-theist; it no longer occupies her time in that it’s something she gives no thought to. Religion and belief in…

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OBSERVATIONS

Like over nineteen million other people, I watched the Comey hearings with keen interest.  The purpose of the hearing was to hear Jim Comey, under oath, to verify the content of the memos and opening statement he released ahead of the actual hearing.  I was quite taken aback when Comey admitted that he had released the content of his memos in order to have a special prosecutor assigned.  My own interpretation of what Comey stated was this: Comey was so concerned that the counter-terrorism investigation would end, he thought his action was the only way he could preserve the integrity of that investigation.

Of course, the media focused more on whether or not there was obstruction of justice involved in Comey’s firing.  What I thought the main issue turned out to be, is that Russia is a real threat to our democracy.

As for President Trump himself, I kept hearing about his lack of government experience.  I am weary of hearing that excuse being used as a cover for President Trump.  After all, Donald Trump annouced his candidacy in that infamous news conference at Trump Tower in June of 2015.  He had more than a year to get prepared for the most important job in the world.  Instead of educating himself, Mr. Trump chose to revel in his lack of engagement with politics in general, and the requirements of the Presidency in particular.

Does this bother anyone else? If I were to run for any elected office, I would learn what requirements were necessary to fulfill my duties if I were to be elected.  Perhaps Mr. Trump did not believe that he could win both the primaries and the general election.  Surely, after becoming the GOP Presidential nominee, Mr. Trump ought to have taken the Presidency seriously and looked for people who could review the Constitutional requirements and restraints on the President.  Lessons on the separation of powers should have been a priority.

Instead, we have a man who treats the Presidency as a business with him being the CEO.  President Trump and his supporters still seem to revel in stating his inexperience.  We need only look at the diplomatic crisis in the Middle East as it pertains to Qatar to understand why having a neophyte in office is dangerous.

What has our nation accomplished in electing a person so unprepared for the office of the President of the United States?  What does it say about us when the opposing candidate was unprepared for running a campaign of substance against Donald Trump?

Both of our political parties have failed the citizens of the United States.  It is important to listen closely to what President Trump says, to examine carefully what he does, and hold him accountable.  That so many of his supporters do not use critical thinking skills with our President is disheartening to me.

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History, Probability, and Miracles

Just in time for Easter, I discovered this amazing blog post!

Κέλσος

One of the most common misconceptions about history is the idea that history *is* our past. This misconception is understandable, since when we are taught “history” in high school or even in college the courses provide an overview and summary of different periods in humankind’s past on Earth. The historiographical method, however, which enables us to discover what happened in the past, interpret what it means, and choose how to represent it in a narrative, is often discussed only briefly or not at all. Just as science *is not* the same thing as nature, but the method that we use to investigate nature, history *is not* the same thing as the past, but rather a method that we use in the present to investigate the past.

Herodotus of Halicarnassus, who is considered to be the “father of history,” had been told many stories about past events in the Greek and…

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2017

It’s nearly March already, and I haven’t even acknowledged the new year.  I stopped smoking on Thanksgiving of 2016.  I made a New Year’s resolution to remain a non-smoker.  It’s been harder than I anticipated.  The end of 2016 arrived and I was really doing fine.  And then, after January 1, something happened.

Our heating oil tank had an issue with the whistle and some pipe thing. I don’t understand these things, but we knew about the problem because our oil company refused to drop off oil until the problem was fixed.  That was last July.  Harry said it would be really hard to do.  He said it would take a long time.  He said it would be expensive.

The first time he asked a question about the process at Home Depot, he discovered the project wasn’t nearly as terrible as he had thought it would be.  But it was January.  His plant is closing in August.  Many people have already left for other employment.  In January, he started having to work mandatory overtime.  We had to use space heaters around the house, and I was none too happy to have to use so much electricity.

Last weekend Harry managed to finally get the pipes done.  Now he has to call the oil company and arrange a time when he will be here to make certain there are no inside leaks.  This could have been taken care of months ago.

Did I mention that Harry works third shift?  He is only off on Sunday.  I am seething.  The one thing about which I am grateful is the warmer than usual winter. I don’t think the space heaters would have been sufficient had it not been that way.

The entire heating oil tank issue made me anxious right from the start in 2017.  Now we have a delusional man in the White House who spouts lies and has no cognitive skills with which to evaluate any information which is set before him.  Do you think I’ve been anxious?  Yes, I have been.

I think this election hit me particularly hard because I was a conservative Christian for decades.  I remember what it is like to take for granted what my church leaders tell me, and not think too hard about how some of it is obviously not correct  At leat, not in a scientific way.  I used to deny evolution’s veracity.  I did not believe the facts of evolution taught to me at my junior college and I did not finish my associate’s degree because of my mental resistance.

Imagine how it feels to see the same lack of curiosity in our President.  After it had taken me so many years to escape Christianity’s clutches, it grieved me to see Donald Trump mesmerize his followers with fanciful thinking.  To me, Donald Trump was the ultimate Pied Piper, with a magic flute of untruths putting out a siren’s song of salvation.  Evangelicals shocked me when they embraced him.  Donald Trump’s entire life up to the point he ran for office in 2015, had been anything but what Evangelicals believed a godly life should look like.  Donald Trump learned a few of the phrases of the Christian Right, and they all fell in behind him.  They were so used to thinking magically, in an unproven and untestable deity, that they actually believed he is one of them.  It was astounding.

It seems that if one is credulous in one area of life, that person is prone to being credulous about other things as well. (That’s a topic for another time.)  I don’t know why I didn’t think it could get worse in the White House, but it did.

We are being led by a man who makes statements to the world based on watching Fox News or Infowars.  It’s disheartening.  Presenting him with facts–as most of us atheists have discovered when it comes to the very religious–only creates a backfire effect.  “Fake news! Fake news!” he cries whenever he is fact checked.

No, I really didn’t want to start blogging about 2017.  Sigh.

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A Solution to Gettier Problems

I enjoyed this. I wish I had the opportunity to study philosophy.

Naturalist Philosophy

By R.N. Carmona

If I’m right to assume that all Gettier Problems involve a change either in the true aspect of our beliefs or the justified aspect of our beliefs, then there’s a way to salvage this intuitive definition of knowledge. Knowledge is ceteris paribus justified true belief. That is to say that knowledge, assuming that all things remain equal, is justified true belief. Gettier problems are set up using luck and fallibility. Clearly, most of what we think counts as knowledge doesn’t involve luck. When I say that I know there’s milk in my fridge, there’s no luck to be had. If all things remain equal, there’s definitely milk in my fridge and I know it. This discounts milk drinking ghosts or dairy loving burglars. In that case, the only reason I don’t actually know what I thought I knew is because I don’t know an added and pertinent…

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ATHEISM: HOW

The civil rights movement for gay equality heated up quite a bit when the Supreme Court overturned DOMA. I was a Catholic at that point.  I was thrilled with the ruling.  I had a dear friend, a colleague, who was gay.  Through my friendship with this man, I met so many gays and lesbians and cross-dressers, and I fell in love with them all.  The gay culture was fun, exciting and creative.  Some of my best memories are from those fulfilling times I had with them all, back in the 70s.

But when the DOMA ruling came down, I was still a Catholic.  The Church was freaking out about this, and I could not understand why.  If a gay couple decided to tie the knot, why shouldn’t they get the benefits of that marriage?  I thought the ruling fell short.  I wanted the states that banned gay marriage to have the same reciprocity for legally wed gay couples which existed for straight marriages.  I could see my LGBT friends’ faces when that ruling came down.

I decided to look at the community of those in other Christian denominations, who called themselves gay Christians.  My first site on the internet was the Gay Christian Network.  I was stunned.  There were resources which led me to sites which delved into the so-called “clobber passages” in the Bible, which were used to justify anti-gay theologies.  There were other scholars with different interpretations of those passages,  and I learned more about the cultural context surrounding them.

By the time the Supreme Court ruled in the Obergefell case, I was for marriage equality.  I believed the Catholic Church was wrong.  My parish priest moaned and maligned the outcome, making sarcastic and unkind words about gay couples. I left the Catholic Church, walking away from eleven years of serving as a CCD instructor, RCIA leader, Extraordinary Minister of Communion and Lector.  I considered myself a Progressive Christian.

That decision led to other problems.  There is no Progressive church where I live.  I interacted with Progressives on websites, and I started reading books by Progressive Christian authors.  I had no idea how doing so would shake my entire worldview.  I had been raised as a Fundamentalist, but as an adult, I realized that Biblical inerrancy was a false doctrine.  It wasn’t logical.  I spent decades in many different denominations and ended up in the Catholic Church because I believed the Church was the deposit of “truth” with a capital T.  I had no idea if I was following God the right way or not.

I began to wonder if the Bible was even inspired at all by God when I began to explore how the canon came to exist.  I found out that scholars did not think Moses wrote the Pentateuch and the escape from Egypt was not a historical event. There is good historical scholarship which puts the very existence of Moses into doubt. The more I studied the origins of the Bible, the less confidence I had about the existence of God. These doubts were scary for me, because if God was not real, then Jesus was not a divine person.  I started to read the Bible more often, praying and pleading with God to show me what I was missing.

The end of last year, a dramatic family conflict ended with my deconversion.  It is too complicated to go into here, but the problem of divine hiddenness finally caught up with me. Suddenly I realized Christianity was fake.  I had never believed in any other god, and therefore I became an atheist.  I was 60 years old.  That change happened abruptly on January 1, 2016.

I was on my own.  I had no information about the prominent atheists who wrote and debated extensively. I did see Christopher Hitchens interviewed on a conservative news channel, but I never read his books. My atheism was the result of exploring Christianity. I found that ironic. I was on my own.  I was enormously relieved and excited to learn more about the atheist community.  For the first time, I explored science and cosmology and physics with enormous energy.  The longer I lived as an atheist, the more joy I felt.  It was exciting to learn more about the atheist community.  I devoured atheist books.  For the first time, I explored science and cosmology and physics with enormous energy.  The longer I lived as an atheist, the more I felt truly alive.  I felt liberated from anxiety and doubt.

This is a long post, and if you have gotten this far, thank you for reading.  Hereafter, my blog will be my views on issues or items from the vantage point of being an atheist.  I will likely reference other atheists, which will give you a clue about my reading and exploring habits. My explanation of where I was and where I am is as complete as I wish it to be at this time.

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The Art of Starting Over

This is extraordinarily beautiful! Reblogging….

Holly Baer

In the last six months, my entire life fell apart.

I broke up with my fiancé of seven years, cancelled a wedding, found out I didn’t get into a single grad school, and fully understood the consequences of my deteriorated personal relationships.

As the entire world I’d created disintegrated, I watched my coworker with envy. She was getting married to her fiancé. She got into graduate school at Vanderbilt (my favored graduate school). She received a Taylor Medal, one of the most prestigious awards you can win at the University of Mississippi. She still had God to lean on.

I watched her live the life I thought I had earned.

I felt guilty every time I felt the pangs of envy in my gut. Our lives could not look anymore different: she was the obedient daughter of a Methodist minister. We shared a major, but her studies led her to…

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FAMILY SCAFFOLDING FINALE

Bill Gothard entered our family after Scott was born.  (Google him if you have never heard of him).  Gothard’s teachings became a core part of what our fundamentalist pastor preached.  My parents became absolutely convinced that Gothard was a man who really knew how to apply Biblical principles to everyday life issues.  My father began to use Gothard’s teaching material after dinner, in our usual “family devotions”.  My parents became hard-core far-right conservatives.

They pulled Stephanie and Scott out of public schools and entered them into a private school with similar views.  The rest of us were out of high school by that time, and it was a good thing we didn’t have to leave public schooling, for sure.  One by one, as we watched our parents get sucked further into this new worldview, the older four of us began to withdraw from fundamentalism.  We went out into the world, discovered other ways of Christian thinking, and left our former belief systems.  My oldest sister Sandy left Christianity altogether and got involved in a community of “New Age” people, who found spirituality without Christianity.

Sue, Stacey and I stopped going to church.  We all had troubles in our lives, still believed in God, but didn’t prioritize church at all.  I won’t speak of them, but I will speak of myself.

I did the whole “sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll” stuff.  I had some really great times, and some really bad times.  One good thing was meeting my now-husband, Harry.  I got pregnant and we got married.  So many marriages that begin this way end in divorce, but we are about to celebrate our 35th anniversary.  When I gave birth to my daughter, I decided I needed to settle down.  I left those few wild years behind me and started going to church again.

I spent a good number of years in and out of all types of denominations.  I figured that if God is the author of truth, there had to be some church out there that had that truth.  I had so many questions that were still inside of me since my early childhood.  I became obsessed with finding God.  Who was he, what did he mean to convey in the Bible, how could I know with certainty that I was living in the truth of who he was?

The family scaffolding has shifted away from my early years, and now I will address my own life.  Future posts will center on my faith journey.

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