Monday, December 30, 2013

Witness to a cousin?

A reader asks Billy Graham why a cousin has 'fallen away from God.' As usual, Graham makes absurd assumptions that expose his ignorance...
Don't turn from Ceiling Cat! Those that turn from
Him just want to hate cats or simply haven't
sought Him.

Be a witness to cousin who's fallen away from God 
DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: I really thought my cousin had decided to change his life and start following Jesus, and he did for a while. But now he’s back in his old ways of living, and doesn’t have any interest in God or church. What happened? — E.C.

DEAR E.C.: God alone knows why your cousin decided to go back to his old ways. He isn’t unique, however; many of Jesus’ followers abandoned him because they weren’t willing to give up their old ways of living. The Bible says, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him” (John 6:66).

I can only guess why this might have happened to your cousin. Perhaps his decision to follow Jesus wasn’t really sincere, or perhaps no one encouraged him or helped him grow spiritually.

Jesus once told a parable about a farmer who scattered seed in his field. (You can read it in Luke 8.) Some of the seed fell on the hard path, some fell among rocks, some fell among thorns — and they produced nothing that lasted. But other seeds fell on fertile soil, and produced a bountiful crop. This, Jesus said, is like God’s word when it is preached, for not everyone welcomes it.

Whatever the reason, I hope you won’t stop praying for your cousin. God still loves him, and Christ gave his life for him, and that will never change. God is still able to break through the hardness of his heart, convicting him of his sin and convincing him of the truth of the Gospel.

In addition, ask God to help you be a witness to him by the life you live. Do others see Christ in you — his love, his peace, his patience, his purity? People may ignore our words, but they can’t ignore our lives.

Read more here:
 The first question I have is, what does EC mean when he says his cousin is back to his old ways? What are these old ways? Does he simply not display any interest in God or religion, or does he have some bad habits they are worried about? If it's the latter, God isn't some magic answer since the majority of US inmates are Christians. If it's the former, why is it a problem at all?

Praise be upon Ceiling Cat, who will die nine times for our
sins, and save us from Basement Cat.
Graham's initial response is that many turn from Christ because thy aren't willing to change their ways. An odd opinion since many Christians seem to twist and mold God and Christ to match their ways and opinions. But as an atheist, I can't say that I've ever met anyone that turned from belief because they didn't want to change their ways, or as many believers say, 'liked sin too much.' But I have seen plenty of people who don't change their ways, and carry on as believers anyway.

Not wanting to change one's ways is not the path to disbelief that Graham wants to make it sound like. He wants to make it sound like we're selfish and full of ourselves. But that's not the case. The main reason that former believers turn from the faith, is that we aren't convinced that the claims made are true. I used to be a Christian, and after an honest look at my beliefs, I realized that there was no compelling reason to believe any of it was the truth. 

RT mentions that his cousin had decided to start following Jesus, but eventually overturned that decision. Graham assumes that RT's cousin's decision to follow Christ wasn't sincere. In Billy's little world, that's the only reason one could decide to follow Jesus, and then decide not to. But reality is a lot more interesting and complex that Graham's game of pretend.

It could very well be that this cousin's decision was sincere. But when he actually read the Bible and learned more about this supposed 'religion of love', he learned that all is not as is seems and also learned that there is no good reason to follow the Bible, let alone any other holy book. I did similar. I sought God, learned of the Bible's dirty laundry, realized there's no logical reason to assume the Bible is true, and found myself no longer a believer. but even then, I never 'changed my ways'... I just stopped believing.

Furthermore, Billy offers a parable in order to suggest that people turn from the 'word of God' because they don't welcome it. But that's not the case, I and many who have left the church didn't do so for the reasons Graham suggests. I not only welcomed 'God's word', but sought it wholeheartedly. But all the want I could muster was enough to keep me believing once I saw my beliefs for what they really were... no more than wishful thinking.

Finally, why the assumption that those that don't believe have a 'hardened heart'? I don't believe, but am full of love and compassion. More so than believers I know. But why concern ourselves with facts and honesty, right Bill? Just build a straw-man and try and knock that down instead...

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, December 27, 2013

How to share the gospel?

Over at Charisma News, Greg Stier wrote an article entitled How to Share the Gospel With an Atheist. Some of what he says is refreshingly non-combative. Yet, he goes on to undo all his good, with ridiculous statements and claims. I'll try and ignore the stereotypical angry guy stock photo he used, and instead focus on the content. Let's look at his 'five points for sharing the gospel with an
1. Don’t be shocked, and do ask tons of questions. Some atheists like to shock Christians with the fact that they don’t believe in God. This brand of atheist pulls the pin on the “There is no God”grenade and drops it in the middle of the conversation, expecting Christians to run for cover.

Don’t be phased. As a matter of fact, start asking questions about their atheism. Find out what they mean by atheism (some are agnostics but call themselves atheists). Ask questions about their background. Were they raised in church? Do they have any Christian friends? Where were they educated about atheism?
Shock atheists? I suppose atheists of that sort could exist. But when I drop the bomb that I'm an atheist, it's not to try and scare anyone. Rather, it's to stay true to myself and be honest.

I actually welcome the advice to ask questions of atheists. Maybe that way, some of the false stigmas will fall by the wayside. However, it sounds like Greg needs to follow his own advice. If I were to answer his questions, I was raised in the Catholic church. Most of my friends are Christian. And I can tell you that my answers to these questions are pretty typical (though the branch of Christianity may differ).

But his question about how one was educated about atheism is an odd one. I guess he didn't ask many people this question, because atheism isn't like Christianity. We don't go to an atheist church, with an atheist preacher, that tells us stories of atheism. That's because atheism isn't a religion. Atheism is simply the lack of a belief in gods. There really isn't anything to learn. Sure, you can learn arrguments against religions, but that's a different topic that atheism in and of itself.
2. Listen deeply for the real “why.” Often atheists have a reason (other than “reason") for
becoming atheists. Listen for it. Sometimes it’s anger over losing a loved one. Other times it’s that they were hurt by the church in some way. But often there’s a “why” behind the lie they are embracing.
Personally, I don't know of anyone who is an atheist because of something bad happening to them, or having a negative experience with their church. In fact, I wouldn't even consider those good reasons for being an atheist. In my case, and those that i know, I am an atheist due to a lack of evidence to believe in the Christian god, or any other gods for that matter.

Greg claims that there's a reason other than 'reason' why we don't believe. Well maybe there's a reason other than 'reason' why he doesn't believe in Santa. Maybe the real reason he doesn't believe in Santa because he never got the drum set he wanted as a child.
3. Connect relationally. Atheists are real people with real feelings. They laugh, cry, talk and connect like anyone else. I think that too many times, Christians treat atheists as objects and not people.
He's spot on here. We are people just like everyone else. So don't treat us as sub-human like many of your brethren do. Set a better example, so that we may have more meaningful dialog.
4. Assume that, down deep inside, they do believe in God. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who genuinely rejects the existence of God. Sure, I’ve met many who have claimed God’s existence to be a lie, but I’m convinced that, down deep inside, they really do believe there’s a God.Why do I believe that? Because Scripture makes it clear in
Romans 1:18-21 that there are no real atheists.
What hubris... Sorry to disappoint, but I don't  secretly believe is the Christian god just because of something the Bible says. The Bible is the very thing in question. Would he agree that there are ice giants? After all, the Norse beliefs say that there are. So it musty be true! Other faith make claims as well, so I guess a claim in an old book means that it's true?

What if I were to say that I don't think there are any real Christians. That deep down they know that none of it is true. Then as proof I offer the fact that Christians are all still afraid of death. If they really believed, they'd know they are going to Heaven and not be afraid. So tell me, how does it feel to have the tables turned.
They may try to suppress their belief in God, but sooner or later in the discussion, atheists say something like, “Well, if God is so good, then why does He allow ... ?” This is the point in the conversation where they have “forgotten” their atheism and revealed some of their challenges with not the reality of God but the nature of God.
 Sigh... Some people just don't understand hypothetical discussion. When an atheist talks about if the Bible is moral, you talk about it as if it were true. To compare it to reality to see what it would mean if the stories were true. Think about it like when you are discussing and work of fiction. What if I were to say that Sherlock Holmes is amazingly smart, yet rather full of himself? By saying that, am I somehow admitting that I secretly believe in the great detective. Or what if I said the The Doctor is amazingly clever, and an example to all? What if I state sympathy for Lyra and Will? What if I comment on the character displayed by James Bond? Do any of these statements mean I secretly believe they are real? Of course not! The same is true with mentioning God in such a manner.
If this is your idea of a love story, you have problems.
5. Frame the gospel as a love story (that just happens to be true).
A love story? Seriously? How many love stories do you know of that start out by telling you that you are horrible and deserve eternal torture, includes a few genocides, and then ends with a brutal human sacrifice. Sorry, but the gospel is not a love story.

Greg Stier said a few positive things in his article, but it's pretty clear that he still has a lot to learn, and a lot more questions to ask.

-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, December 25, 2013

What if this is your last Christmas?

Kirk Cameron... I last wrote about him when he manufactured his fake facebook controversy (which he has never apologized for). Now he's back with a question; What If This Is Your Last Christmas?

Well, what if this was my last Christmas?...
Suppose you knew that this Christmas would be your last one on earth. Would it make a difference in how you celebrated, in the gifts that you give, and in the meaning of the day? 

The answer, of course, would be yes. But how would it play out in your life?
  Would it change which gifts I gave? Not at all. I always try and get gifts that fit the recipient as best I can. Something that I think they'll love. But being my final Christmas wouldn't drive me to spend more extravagantly. I feel that doing so would be irresponsible. It would mean less money left for my wife to make due with during that very difficult time, as well as leaving a greater burden on those that would end up paying for my few final expenses.

I don't think that it would change how I celebrate Christmas. It being Christmas probably wouldn't really enter into it for me. Christmas is another day, though it is dressed up with festive charms. Knowing my days are soon to end would somewhat impact life in general though. I wouldn't say it would make me value life more, since I value it so greatly already. I would soak up and savor every moment though. Think of it like your favorite meal. You love every bite, and you can never get enough. But when you notice the plate is almost empty, you savor those last bites just a little bit extra. I'd use those last days to enjoy every moment I can with my wife, friends, and family.

Well, let’s start with the likelihood of whether or not this will actually be your last Christmas. You can look at things from a statistical perspective and conclude that this will probably not be your last one. But the matter of the length of life is not determined by statistical probabilities. The time of life is set by the will and plan of God. (Psalm 139:16) The truth is that we live at God’s pleasure and purpose. This means that it is wise to consider if this will be your last Christmas.
  Correct... statistically, this isn't likely to be my last Christmas, or Wednesday, or December. "We live at God's pleasure and purpose"? "This means that it is wise to consider if this will be your last
Christmas."? He does realize that this sounds like a threat, right? It sounds like he's saying, "You exist at God's whim, and he can totally kill you whenever he wants. So you better get in line!" To me, that makes this 'God' sound controlling, vain, and immature. Doesn't sound like a very good role model to me.

I do find it odd that Kirk is saying to live each Christmas like it's your last. Mainly because atheists tend to say to live your life to the fullest. Like each day might be your last... not just Christmas. I believe that I will live only this one life, and that I should waste as little of it as possible. You never know when this ride will come to a sudden end, so make the most of it! Maybe why that's why I don't take the love of my wife for granted. After four years of marriage, I still tell my wife that I love her every single day. More than say it, I also mean it wholeheartedly. Our love feels like it could last forever. But there's no telling what could happen tomorrow. So I embrace our love and cherish it for the beautiful thing it is.

Meanwhile I see believers with their pointless prohibitions and rules that can serve to shortchange life. Believers saying that this life isn't the important one, and that compromising this life to be more sure of the one next one that they are swearing exists. I believe I've even heard Kirk talking in this manner before. So I must say that it's surprising to hear his contradicting this speech in regard to Christmas. Then again, his favorite holy book is regularly self-contradictory, so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised.
Christmas is the time when we celebrate the birth of Christ. We are in good company when we do. The Holy Spirit directed the Psalmist to pen Psalm 98 in anticipation of Christ’s birth. The praise of the Hosts of Heaven erupted making the announcement of the Christ child. So how much of your Christmas celebration is focused on the birth of your Savior? If this were your last Christmas how much of the celebration would you want to share with other things and other themes? The reality of knowing Christ secured eternity for you would dominate your Christmas with joy and gratitude.
"Christmas is the time when we celebrate the birth of Christ"? Um, maybe that's the reason that Christianity claims that we celebrate. The truth is that almost all of Christmas is plagiarized from earlier Pagan traditions and beliefs. And all those stem back to one thing... The Winter Solstice. Jesus is not the reason for the season, the tilt of the Earth is. So none of my Christmas celebration is centered around the birth of a figure, who if he actually existed was actually born in the Spring to
early Autumn.

If this was my last Christmas, it wouldn't cause me to focus on the supposed Christ. It wouldn't cause me to focus more on Christmas either. In fact, it would probably make me focus on it less. Christmas would possibly seem rather trivial at that point. Instead I'd focus first and foremost on my wife. Why? Because of love. And when you get right down to it, is there really anything more important than that?

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Xmas

Recently I have seen a few online complaining about the supposed 'War of Christmas' in one regard in particular. And that is the use of the word Xmas. They contend that 'Xmas' literally takes the 'Christ' out of 'Christmas'. As in just about all cases of Christians making claims that the holiday is under attack, they are wrong. And laughably so.

You see... Xmas is a Christian term as well, and still includes Christ. You have to know some history to understand why. The 'X' in Xmas isn't really an X, but the Greek Chi, which when translated to English has the meaning of Christ. In this way, Xmas is but a shorthand spelling of Christmas that still does include their precious Christ.

Some claim that it's a new and disrespectful term. We already covered the fact that it isn't disrespectful at all. Just like when Xian is sometimes used as an abbreviation of Christian. And it certainty isn't new... In fact, there is a history in the Church or using 'X' as an abbreviation of 'Christ' deep into the history of the church. Ever wonder why the Labarum or Chi-Rho (common symbol for Christ) looks like a monogram of an X and a P. Well, that X is the 'Chi' we've been talking about here, and the 'P' is the Greek letter 'Rho'.

Additionally, the use of 'X' for 'Christ has been used in Christian art and old manuscripts as well. There are examples of this abbreviation being used as far back as 1021.

So, Merry Xmas to my Christian friends, and try to learn the history of your own religion before you feign outrage over a non-issue. It is not an attach on your religion, but is often an opportunity to highlight how little some believers know their own religion.

-Brain Hulk

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I'm dreaming of a judgmental Christmas

Billy Graham often shows how judgmental he is in his column. But this time, we have the treat of one of his readers being just as presumptuous...
Show Christ's love for all this Christmas

DEAR BILLY GRAHAM: A family in our apartment complex comes from a country that isn’t Christian. Do you think they’d be offended if we asked them for Christmas dinner? We don’t know them very well, but I can tell they’re kind of lonely. — Mrs.  E.N.
DEAR E.N.: I seriously doubt if they would be offended; in fact, they might be honored to be invited into an American home. The Bible says, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Romans 12:13).
At the same time, ask God to help you to be sensitive to them and their customs. For example, if their religion forbids the eating of certain foods, you’ll want to avoid offending them. When you do invite them, explain that Christmas is a special holiday in our society, and you would be honored to have them share Christmas dinner with you and your family. If you’re inviting others, let them know this so they won’t feel awkward or surprised. Do your best, in other words, to make them feel comfortable.
If they do come, ask God to give you an opportunity to explain why Christmas is important to you. Remember: They may not even know what Christmas celebrates: the coming of Jesus Christ into the world. At Christmas we remember that God came down from heaven in the person of Jesus. As the Bible says, “The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).
Whether they accept your invitation or not, take this as an opportunity to begin building a bridge of friendship with them. Make it the first step in your relationship by reaching out and letting them know you care. God has put them (and thousands like them) in our midst; will we befriend them and share Christ’s love with them?

Read more here:
 They come from a country that isn't Christian you say? Like India for instance? Japan? Afghanistan? Or maybe even the United States? Yes, Christianity is the most popular religion in the US, but the US is not a Christian country. That's because we are lucky enough to poses the right of freedom of religion in this country. In order for the US to be a Christian nation, Christianity would have to be the official religion of that country. Those countries that are officially Christian nations are as follows:

Argentina (Roman Catholic Church)
Bolivia (Roman Catholic Church)
Costa Rica (Roman Catholic Church)
Denmark (Danish National Church)
El Salvador (Roman Catholic Church)
England (Church of England)
Greece (Church of Greece)
Armenia (Armenian Apostolic Church)
Georgia (Georgian Orthodox Church)
Iceland (Church of Iceland)
Liechtenstien (Roman Catholic Church)
Malta (Roman Catholic Church)
Monaco (Roman Catholic Church)
Norway (Church of Norway)
Vatican City (Roman Catholic Church)

If EN's new neighbors are not form one of those nations, then it is true that they are not from a 'Christian nation'. But since EN is a Christian living in the United States, it should be obvious that coming from any country other than though does not mean that they aren't Christian. EN being a American Christian is proof of that.

It makes me wonder if EN simply assumed that their neighbor isn't Christian simply because they  look different, or because of the country of their origin. But even if they come from a country with a low Christian population, they could still very well be Christian. EN said herself that she doesn't know them very well, so does she even know for sure that they aren't Christian?

Billy Graham is right about one thing... I very much doubt that they'd be offended if she asked them over to Christmas dinner. I'm an atheist, and if a friend were to ask me over for Christmas dinner I wouldn't be offended. Christmas is a time to get together and share a good time. So why would I be offended if they wanted me to share in that merriment?

Then Graham starts to get on with his usual game... First he says to explain Christmas to them, and that it is an important holiday here. To me, it sounds like he's suggesting talking to them like they're children. That is not a good idea if they're trying to get these people to like them. There are not many places in this world that are unaware of Christmas. It's a pretty global holiday. So why is it that some Christians act like it's some greatly held secret that they are one of the few that are in on it?

Finally, if EN explains that Christmas is they celebration of the birth of Christ, they would be spreading misinformation on multiple levels...

1) Jesus' existence is not a confirmed certainty.
2) If there was a Jesus, he was born in the Spring or early Autumn, not December 25.
3) The Christmas celebration is really a Pagan holiday built up with Pagan traditions that were all stolen and renamed by Christianity.

So yes, EN should invite her new neighbors over. But she shouldn't be too surprised to find they aren't as different as she may think they are. But most importantly, don't try and push your religion on someone as a conversation starter. Because in reality, it's more often a rude conversation ender.

-Brain Hulk

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Saturday, December 21, 2013

A redneck Christmas email?

We've all heard the 'you might be a redneck, if' jokes before. But this email decided to take a holiday spin on it, and claim redneck superiority. Let's take a look...
I MUST BE A REDNECK ... This is not the type of Redneck jokes we normally hear.

We have enjoyed the redneck jokes for years. It's time to take a reflective look at the core beliefs of a culture that values home, family, country and God. If I had to stand before a dozen terrorists who threaten my life, I'd choose a half dozen or so rednecks to back me up. tire irons, squirrel guns and grit -- that's what rednecks are made of . If you feel the same, pass this on to your redneck friends. Y'all know who ya are...................
 I am most definitely not a redneck. Though I do know and are friends with people who would proudly describe themselves as such. Home, family and country sound fine to me, but I have to step off the trolly at 'God'. As for who I'd like to back me up against terrorists, I'm not going to discriminate. I'll take any backup I can get!
You might be a redneck if: It never occurred to you to be offended by the phrase, 'One nation, under God..'
Um... the 'under God' part is not challenged because of offense. I couldn't care less if someone wishes to utter that phrase. While I don't believe, it doesn't offend me any. However, 'under God' being part of the Pledge is unconstitutional. I'd be equally against the pledge saying 'under Allah', or under no god'. It's about legality, not offense.
That awkward moment when every conservative's
favorite president doesn't agree with their agenda.
You might be a redneck if: You've never protested about seeing the 10 Commandments posted in public places.
 This depends  on what you mean by 'public'. If a church or private residence wishes to post the Commandments, I haven't a slightest issue with it. But if they are posted on government property, it becomes a problem. If there is a Ten Commandments monument at a courthouse, public school, or state capitol it is a violation of church/state separation, unless they also post monuments of other faiths as well. The government can't play favorites on religion. That's the law, like it or not.
You might be a redneck if: You still say ' Christmas' instead of 'Winter Festival.'
Whats wrong with other greetings? Personally, I wish people a good holiday in different ways. If I know they are celebrating Christmas, I'll wish them a Happy Christmas. If I know they're Jewish, I'll wish then a Happy Hanukkah. If I don't know, I'll say Happy Holidays. I'll also simply accept whatever greeting someone greets me with. No self-righteous correction needed. After all, I am celebrating a holiday that is Christian in name only, and is really just a conglomeration of Pagan traditions to honor the Winter Solstice. The problem is when some Christians demand that Merry Christmas should be the only greeting allowed to be uttered.
You might be a redneck if: You bow your head when someone prays.
Definitely not a 'redneck' then. When I'm at a dinner and someone wants to say grace, I'm usually one of the only ones looking around to see what other secret non-believers may be present.
You might be a redneck if: You stand and place your hand over your heart when they play the National Anthem
This one, I do. But that's not an exclusively redneck trait. So does that really make me somewhat 'redneck'?
You might be a redneck if:You treat our armed forces
veterans with great respect, and always have.
Same as the last answer...
You might be a redneck if:You've never burned an American flag, nor intend to.
Fold... reduce to ashes... bury. Such is the official code for
disposing of a tattered and worn US flag.

 I have, and will probably have to again. You see, US flag code dictates that once an American flag is
worn, the proper way to dispose of it is to fold it properly, then burn it. So is following the rules of the flag somehow unpatriotic? If the author who wrote this email never burned a flag, they either don't fly the flag much, or have been disposing of them improperly.
You might be a redneck if: You know what you believe and you aren't afraid to say so, no matter who is listening.
 Don't most people do this? I know I tend to.
You might be a redneck if: You respect your elders and raised your kids to do the same.
Some of you are so old you don't have elders to respect.
No kids here, but I do respect my elders. But I don't see how this is an indication for if you are a 'redneck' or not.
You might be a redneck if: You'd give your last dollar to a friend.
My very last dollar? How good of a friend are you talking about here?
You might be a redneck if: You believe in God & Jesus and believe that others have the right to believe differently as long as their God does not tell them to kill anyone who does not believe the same as they do!!!!!
Wait... a redneck has to believe in God and Jesus, but believe they don't think they should have the right to believe in the Christian god? After-all, the god of the Bible routinely commanded the slaughter those that weren't his chosen people. Not to mention the Crusades and Inquisition... This is a shot at Islam, of course. Yet there are those that are Muslim and practice it peacefully. Personally, I do not believe in God or Jesus. And while I don't agree with many religions, I live in the United States. And in this country, we all have the right to believe and worship any religion we wish.
Freedom of religion is good for us all.
If you got this email from me, it is because I believe that you, like me, have just enough Red Neck in you to have the same beliefs as those talked about in this email.

God Bless the USA !
 Actually, I got this email because of a long line of forwards. Personally, I'm not sure why anyone decided to send this along to me.
Keep the fire burning, redneck friend. It is totally acceptable and might save our Country!!!!


God is still on the throne, and prayer changes things!
Maybe some trust in God, but I'm not one of them. I'll keep my fire burning though, and my 'redneck' friends can keep theirs burning. It takes all types, and that's what makes this country great. What's so wrong with that?

-Brain Hulk

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Friday, December 20, 2013

An awe-ful example

First it was Oprah, and now it's Time magazine. The famous magazine has recently published a story with a dozy of a title...
Why There Are No Atheists at the Grand Canyon
All it takes is a little awe to make you feel religious
Seriously? Time just lets Jeffrey Kluger publish this crap? Where does this notion that awe requires
religion come from? It makes absolutely no sense to me, because I find much more awe and wonder in the world now that I am no longer religious.

When I was a believer, the beauty of nature was just there. There wasn't mystery to it. Things were majestic, but they were just there... left for granted. Why? Because as a Christian I was taught that everything was simply created by God. Everything was there because God willed it. Everything was as it was because God created it that was. And since God is all-powerful, he can just create whatever he wants, however he wants, whenever he wants. The only real magic is, well...magic.

But now that I'm an atheist, I see much more wonder in the world. Understanding the process of evolution, makes a tree, cat, bird, or a mantis all the more amazing. These species are the product of a long and complicated road. A road that could have led somewhere else. Something as simple as the leaf on a tree is amazing to me now. A structure that converts sunlight into energy. So elegant, so amazing. Beauty I didn't see when my explanation was simply 'God made it'.

When I look at the night sky, I now see it for so much more than I did as a believer. The stars looked nice then, but the Bible taught that the Earth was the only world of importance. Now I see the immense vastness of the cosmos. The other worlds, the other galaxies, the great expanses of wonder on mystery. The sight of the night sky truly is an awe inspiring sight.

Also with the Grand Canyon. I feel like it is even more amazing as a non-believer, than as a believer. In my youth, I was taught that God just made the canyon (and all other things) that way. A pretty unspectacular explanation. But the true origins of the canyon are so much more amazing. Erosion and time combined to take a simple river to one of the most beautiful geological formations you will ever see. How can someone not find awe in the thought of something so simple, becoming something so grand?
When the entire Judeo-Christian world is lit up — literally — with celebrations of faith, family and love, you’ve got to be awfully short of wonder not to experience at least a glimmer of spirituality.
Knowing how something works makes it no less
 I'm an atheist. We put up a tree, decorate it, and put up lights (solar powered lights, no less) and see
plenty of beauty in it all. Spirituality? That's sort of a meaningless word, as it can mean so many different things to so many people. But if they are referring to a religious 'feeling of a higher power' type of spirituality, then no I don't... not even close.
But as generations of campers, sailors, hikers and explorers could attest, there’s nothing quite like nature — with its ability to elicit feelings of jaw-dropping awe — to make you contemplate the idea of a higher power. 
 Maybe that's the way the religious see it. But as I said before, my atheism has actually led me to a greater appreciation of nature.
The study, conducted by professor of psychology Piercarlo Valdesolo of Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, Calif., and psychologist Jesse Graham of the University of Southern California, was actually five studies, all of which were designed to elicit feelings of awe in subjects and see how that affected their sense of spirituality. In all of the trials, subjects were primed with one of several types of video clip: a 1959 TV interview conducted by newsman Mike Wallace; light scenes of animals behaving in funny or improbable ways; or sweeping scenes of nature — mountains, canyons, outer space — from a BBC documentary. Some of the subjects were also shown more surreal, computer-generated scenes: lions flying out of buildings, a waterfall flowing through a city street.
 I can tell you that I like funny cat videos as much as the next guy. I own Cosmos on DVD, as do i own BBC's Planet Earth. The latter contains amazing visuals. The footage is beautiful and jaw dropping. It will leave anyone amazed by the beauty and complexity of nature. But as amazing as it was, it never caused me to momentarily revert to a belief in or reconsider the existence of a higher power. What it did do is remind me of the power and amazing beauty of evolution.
Thus, the subjects who had felt more wonder or awe when they’d watched the grand or surreal videos would score higher on belief in a universe that proceeds according to a master plan than subjects who saw lighter or more prosaic clips. They would also score lower in their tolerance for uncertainty — and that was key.
'Belief in a universe that proceeds according to a master plan'... How does that conclusion lead to the absurd statement that atheists don't feel awe? Also, how does a 'master plan' equate to religious spirituality? I've heard people liken evolution to a plan. An unguided plan, but some have described it as such. I'm not sure I agree with the comparison, but it's one that's been made. What if I attribute the beauty of outer-space or a natural formation to the laws of nature? No nod to a God at all. But would they consider the laws of nature a 'plan'?

How about simply jumping to the easiest (lazy) explanation for these things (like a child does) and claim that it's the product of a God, and instead look into thing a bit closer so that we may know them as they really are. Because often times truth really can be stranger, as well as more amazing than fiction.

-Brain Hulk

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hannity's War on Politeness

Don't think that Bill O is the only Fox talking head that's getting in on this fake War on Christmas. Sean Hannity had Dave Silverman, the president of American Atheists on his show. I'm not sure why he bothered having him on though, since he only seemed interested at yelling at him and talking over
I don't have a logical argument, so just let me yell like a crazy
person and claim victory.

In the past, I haven't been a fan of Silverman's debate skills when he goes in to talk on Fox. But I must admit that he's getting better at it. In fact, he handled himself well, despite Hannity's overbearing, ever-present attitude.

The first part Hannity had a problem with was a billboard American Atheists purchased in Times Square. The billboard basically send the message that Christmas is just as good, or better without the religious part of it. Hannity, of course, claimed that there is no Christmas without Christ. But the truth is, that isn't true. Saturnilia, Yule, Winter Solstice, Etc... When the Christians created Christmas, the stole almost every part of it from earlier traditions. This includes every fun part about Christmas.

Hannity then claimed that they are purposely picking on Christians. He asked why American Atheists doesn't have a banner that says to take the Muhammad out of Ramadan. The thing is that they have put signs up targeted at Islam, but there are two main reasons Hannity's proposed sign doesn't exist. 1) Unlike Christmas, Ramadan is an exclusively religious holiday. Take religion out of Ramadan, and it ceases to exist. 2) The reason you don't see that many signs concerning Islam, is that Islam is not the religion trying to claim exclusivity and privilege within the government and on public land.

Sean also took issue with an Air Force base having to move it's nativity scene to the front of the chapel. Hannity somehow thought that it was due to atheist offense. And trying to keep people from being to allowed to display their light up baby Jesus. That isn't even close to the case. It isn't a case of offense, it's a case of following the law. If 0 people complained about the display, or 100 complained, it was still equally illegal prior to it being moved.

It's not offense, it's the Constitution. Everyone has to follow the law, like it or not. An atheist has no problem with a church or private residence displaying a nativity scene out front. I celebrate people's right to do as such... or display a symbol of their chosen religion. However, the government can't display a nativity, and only a nativity and still remain true to the Establishment Clause. The choice is no religious symbols, or allow all religious symbols. The government can't play favorites. Simple as that.

Yet Hannity acts like someone pissed in his corn flakes because someone is finally having the audacity to challenge the illegal Christian privilege that they have long enjoyed. Sorry Sean, but the party is over. And if we're lucky, Christianity will soon be playing by the same rules as everyone else.

-Brain Hulk

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

2013: War of Christmas

War on Christmas... I'm sorry, but I laugh a little every time I hear that term. The notion that there's a war on Christmas is as absurd as it is untrue. But that doesn't stop Fox 'News' and, most often, Bill
Wait... Is this news, or SNL?
O'Reilly from speaking of this nonsense. Let's look at a few of the silly claims and statements made...
As you know, there are some Americans who are offended by any reference to Jesus Christ and that's what the USA celebrates on December 25th, the birth of the baby Jesus.
Actually, Christian Americans are the ones who celebrate the birth of Jesus on September 25th. And some people celebrate the birth of the other deities said to have been born that same day. Some extend their recognition of the Winter Solstice a few days. And some just celebrate a non-Christian Christmas and use it as a great time to get friends and family together.

Not celebrating a Christian Christmas does not mean that you are offended by references to Jesus. It just means that you aren't Christian. And remember, the Secular version of Christmas is what is honored as a US holiday. There's this little thing called the Constitution. Perhaps you've heard of it? And that's the key point. I am an atheist, but I am not offended in the slightest by references to Jesus. I don't believe, but you can sing about Jesus all you want. I'm not upset at all... that is until someone tries to merge religion and the rule of law... something that actually breaks the law.

Oh but it's called Christmas! So? We still call Thursday, Thursday. Does that mean we all pay service to Thor once a week?
The ACLU began attacking the Christmas holiday. They demanded, demanded the word "Christmas" be removed from advertising and public displays and many people caved in to that. So now we have the happy holiday syndrome.
 I would say that's dishonest, but it's actually closer to a lie. No one demanded that Christmas be
removed from advertising. Every business and citizen has the right to say or write 'Christmas' if they want. The only thing that was and is fought, is Christmas used in government displays... Well, to a point. Picture a courthouse with a nativity scene displayed. If that is all that they have displayed, or allow displayed, that's a violation on the Establishment Clause. They can not allow only a Christian display on government property. To stay within the law they must either remove the exclusive display, or allow an inclusive one that allows equal displayed to other 'religious groups'.

The nativity is okay, so long as they allow a menorah and solstice placard beside it as well. That way, the government is not playing favorites (which would be against the law). And for the record, it would be equally illegal if for some reason a city hall were to allow only an atheist display and reject all others.
What is interesting this year is that Hanukkah will be over on Thursday. So there are no more holidays between then and Christmas Day it's just Christmas if you want to invoke happy. Bad news for the secular progressives.
 Wow, for someone that like to pride himself on his history, Bill is being pretty daft here. Perhaps deliberately so. 'Happy Holidays' is not a new term at all, and far older than his supposed war on Christmas. It actually dates back to around the 1890's. 'Happy Holidays' was traditionally used as a short-hand for 'Merry Christmas and Happy New Year's'... Christmas and New Year's. Two holidays. Plural. In fact, that's what I meant when I as a young Christian would say 'Happy Holidays'. Or was a somehow a Christian waging a war on Christmas in my elementary years?

Then businesses started using 'Happy Holidays' in the 1970's. No, not because they were pressured or forced to. They did this because it was good for business. The term could also be inclusive of far more than just Christmas and New Years. Instead of advertising to Christians and only Christians, they decided to market to everyone. And you know what? It was good for business! What does Bill O'Reilly hate capitalism?

The original 'nefarious' meaning of Happy Holidays
Finally, some say Happy Holidays simply because they don't know what the person they are greeting celebrates. If they know you're Christian, they'll say Merry Christmas. But If they don't know, why not use the handy stand-by of Happy Holidays? It's not a slight to Christianity. Christmas is one of the holidays of 'Happy Holidays' after-all. So if you're a Christian and some one greets you with the somehow controversial 'Happy Holidays', just remember that they are actually saying 'Have a great __________ (insert whatever you're celebrating)!' So they are still wishing you a Happy Christmas. They are not slighting Christmas. It's not like they said 'Happy anything but Christmas'. That one
actually would be rude.
And then there is Macy's, a company that I generally like because it supports Wounded Warriors. But this year they're touting Santa Claus who will help you, quote, "With your holiday wish list." So here is my question to Macy's. What holiday is Santa celebrating?
 I hate to break this one to you Bill, but there is no Santa Claus. He's not celebrating anything. And if he was real he wouldn't be celebrating Christmas. As synonymous as Santa is with Christmas now, he's actually not a Christian original. Like many things 'Christmas', he isn't from Christian, but from Pagan origins. In fact the earliest inspiration for jolly old St. Nick comes from the Norse all-father, Odin.
The most aggressive is the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which routinely threatens to sue small towns and school districts if they dare utter the word "Christmas" or allow choirs to sing carols in public schools.
 Sigh... Not if the say 'Christmas'. Just if they give Christianity and only Christianity a platform. And carols are just fine. Plenty are pretty secular as they are. And you can include the religious ones as well. You just have to throw in some other songs as well. Sing a Jewish, Kwanza and Solstice song and there's no breach of the law.
The irony is that nobody is bothering the atheists. They are free to celebrate whatever they want to celebrate. They are free not to believe and they are free to snicker at anybody who does believe. That's not good enough for these people. They want to banish any mention of Jesus in the public square. They are the oppressors.
What? You can't see me, but I'm wearing my dumbfounded face right now. We are the oppressors?
 President George H. W. Bush said that he didn't consider atheist's to be patriots. Believers often tell me and others to leave the country or threaten me with Hell. Yet I'm not trying to revoke their right to believe and practice what they want. How is respecting the religious liberty of Christians and other creeds oppressive? Really, please tell me.

We're not trying to force our religion ( well, lack thereof) into law like many Christians. We're not trying to tell others what they can and can't do with their own bodies, like many a Christian. Yet O'Reilly calls us oppressors? Come again?

Yes, we are free to snicker at believers. And you know what? Believers are free to snicker at us. Yes, we are also free to celebrate whatever we want this holiday season. You know who else is? Every single believer! No one is trying to take Christmas away from Christians. Our Secular government actually guarantees the right for all to celebrate their respective religious holidays. But if some had their way, and set up a Christian theocracy, there would be oppression because Christmas and only Christmas would be allowed. A Christian version of the dreaded sharia law.

And no one is trying to banish all mentions of Jesus. The only thing being fought is the illegal propping of one religion above all others by a government institution. In the USA it's usually Christianity breaking that rule. But if it were Islam, Wicca or even atheism, the fight would be the same. The government needs to stay neutral in the theological sphere.  Plain and simple.
The Christmas spirit people are just upholding a nice tradition. So why are we allowing anti-Christmas madness
Um... not saying 'Merry Christmas' isn't anti-Christmas. Hell, I'm an atheist that celebrates a secular
Christmas, Pagan roots and all. I don't care that the present name of the holiday is named for a religion I am not a member. It's still a nice time of year for fun, sharing, getting together and being merry. And that's all true no matter what you call it. What's not to like?

-Brain Hulk

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The War on... Saturnilia?

The Freedom From Religion Foundation bought a billboard in Pitman, New Jersey. It features the message "Keep Saturn in Saturnilia." What's Saturnilia? Oh, just the Roman festival to honor the deity, Saturn. Just like many Pagan celebrations this time of the year, it took place right around the Winter Solstice. And it should be no surprise that Saturnilia is one of the older festivals that the Christians plagiarized from when they created Christmas.

So the "Keep Saturn in Saturnilia" is both a reference to the familiar "Keep Christ in Christmas", as well as the fact that Christmas is built on a foundation of much older traditions. Additionally it's telling atheist's that don't already know that there's no reason to be ashamed with continuing to celebrate this festive time of year, even though they aren't Christian anymore. After all, Christmas isn't really truly Christian to begin with.

As atheist billboards go, this one is about as benign as you can get. But one Christian family somehow took offense to it. So much so that they attempted to vandalize the billboard by covering it with a picture of Jesus. Vandalism... How very Christian of them.

Personally, I'm surprised that they were even aware of what the billboard was saying. When I mention Saturnalia to a believer, probably only 2% don't respond with a blank and confused stare. So I give them credit for that. But if you don't like a billboard, don't vandalize it. If you feel that strongly about it, buy the ad space of the billboard right next to it.

Probably the best part is that this whole vandalism attempt was caught on tape! I sure hope that the offenders can be identified, and that they will be dully charged.

-Brain Hulk

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas and stress

In this snowy Sunday's paper, Billy Graham talks about Christmas and the stress that comes along with it...
You can make Christmas a less stressful, more spiritual time
Q: I'm already depressed about Christmas. Last year, we resolved not to spend as much money or get so busy, but I can already tell that it's not going to happen. How we can make Christmas what it ought to be, instead of this rat race? -- Mrs. E.W.J.
It's true, that the Christmas expenses can sure add up fast. The short answer to these problems is setting a budget and making up a plan. But let's see what Billy has to say.
A: I suspect countless readers feel exactly like you do; the holiday season has become so busy and so commercialized that we hardly have time to stop and think about its true meaning.
Tell me about it! Almost no one I know gives thanks to the protoplanet that smashed into the still forming Earth and caused it to tilt on it's axis as it does. Without that tilt, we wouldn't have the seasons were do, nor the Winter Solstice in late December. Axial tilt truly is the reason for the season.

But it shouldn't be this way, nor does it need to be. You can still take steps to make this Christmas a less stressful and more spiritual time. Let me suggest three words that might help you. First, simplify. Make a list of all the things you have to do between now and Christmas, then cut out everything you possibly can. Not everything is important or necessary; do what you can to simplify your life.
Very true, it's important to cut out unnecessary expenses and the like. Skip the trip to church and save some gas. Save some cash and don't put money in the tithe (you can use that tip year-round). Turn off Fox news so you don't have to be stressed out by their fake war on Christmas. Buy cheaper, thoughtful gifts, instead of buying more and more expensive electronics each year. Maybe even agree
to keep gifts only down to immediate family to save everyone time and money. This really should be a time of gathering together more than a commercial mess anyway.
Then plan. Many of us frantically jump from one thing to another around Christmas, simply because we haven't planned ahead. But even a little planning can add hours to your day. And don't feel you have to carry the whole load; get your family to help with projects.
A little planning goes a long way. And it's always good to share duties with others so that no one gets too stressed out, and things get done faster. And if you ever need an example of poor planning, just look at the Bible. If that book were planned properly, it wouldn't contradict itself so regularly, and include some of the silly stories and events it does.
Most of all, focus; that is, deliberately take time every day to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. Read together from the Bible's account of Jesus' birth, and thank God for sending His Son into the world for our salvation. Especially help your children discover the wonder of God's love for us. The Bible says, "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" (1 John 3:1).
 What? I thought he said to focus on the true meaning of Christmas, not the plagiarized meaning that Christians tacked onto it when they renamed the holiday they stole.  Jesus is not the reason for the season. In fact, Christmas is simply the most recent name of this holiday. Under the Romans it was Pagan traditions.
called Saturnalia. Prior to that, various Pagan beliefs were already celebrating this time of year in various ways. Just about everything about Christmas is stolen from earlier

These celebrations all stem from one thing... The Winter Solstice. The shortest day of the year. The day that marks the 'rebirth' of the sun and the longer days that go along with it. I'd sooner celebrate the first sign of the coming Spring before the birth of an imaginary, vengeful, vain, unjust god any day.

-Brain Hulk

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