Finally, a God for Me?

Religious scholars have long noted that when people worship a god, they say the god is much like themselves.  Those of us who are skeptical suspect that all gods are made up in people’s minds.  Therefore, it is stands to reason that anyone’s favorite god will be a lot like himself/herself.  We see this in the many images of Jesus who is white in this country, black in others and brown skinned where that is the norm.

The 11/29/10 New Yorker has an article about the god, Maitreya. He is the uniting god which will bring together all the disparate gods we humans worship.

 About 30 years ago, a prophet predicted that Maitreya would leave his secret location high in the Hemalayas to walk among us.  The prophet has heard the voice of Maitreya and says Maitreya is now living here in disguise, awaiting the “Day of Declaration”.  

The prophet described what Maitreya looks like and what he does to maintain his disguise.  Devoted followers have sifted through the prophet’s clues, trying to find Maitreya in human form.  And, now they are certain they have found Him. 

He is Raj Patel who lives in California.  The reason he seems like my kind of god is that he is, like me, an economist. If I were to conjure up a god in my mind, it would be an economist for certain.

The problem is that Professor Patel, who gets tons of email pleading that he reveal himself as the true Maitreya, insists he is not.  He is an atheist.

Alas, my search for a god that reflects me seems to be in vain.

Why Do People Do Good Deeds?

This is a topic hotly debated between believers and nonbelievers.  Christian author, Chad Meister, argued recently that to do the right thing morally, there needs to be an authority on moral behavior that people agree upon.  Without this authority, there can be no morally correct behavior because we will not know what it is.

Meister made the point to take a shot at atheist author, Richard Dawkins.  Dawkins argues that behavior which we call morally good, selfless good deeds, may have been wired into our brains by evolution.  That is, people who were generous and kind to others may have survived and those who were selfish fell to the ravages of time. 

Looking at these two sides through my own skeptical eyes, I see a reoccurring theme in the Christian argument.  That is the role of “authority”.  Meister says just that.  We cannot know what is good nor what is bad unless we are told which is which by “authorities”.  These authorities are pastors, the Bible, God and perhaps even Meister himself. 

The problem Christian leaders have with Dawkins’ evolutionary argument is this.  If it is true that people tend to behave in ways that Christians would call “moral” without being Christian, who needs this religion thing with all its authorities?

Even though the Christian religion is only one of thousands of religions that exist today, or, have existed in times past, clergy and politicans need to say it is the only source of “moral behavior”.   If they were to agree that good behavior might come from some other source, they are out of a job.

Atheists, Get Out of Our Christian Country

I’ve had it said to me in person and in print many times, “The United States is a Christian country.  If you don’t like that, move to some other country.”

It is interesting to speculate what the United States would be like if all the nonbelievers and serious skeptics were forced to leave the country.  It would be about ten per cent of the population.  According to our current data, the demographic group would be somewhat narrow, but significant to the country.

First, it would impact the population of University Professors and scientists working for both nonprofit and for profits companies.  Well over one half of these would be gone.  A large portion of artists, including show business people, would have to go. 

Interesting things would happen to our statistics.  Per captial income would fall.  The divorce rate would rise. The percentage of the population in prison would go up.  The average level of  education would fall.  Since atheists are part of the highest educational and income demographic, it would affect all these and other statistics.

The world’s most generous donor and most successful businessman ever would have to leave the United States, Bill Gates. Some of our  military personel would be deported.

The countries which have already done this, outlawed atheists, are worthy of note because they are seen by those of us living in the U. S. as very undesirable places.  Here are some countries which have less than one percent of the population as know atheists:  Pakistan, Iran, Somalia, Tanzania, Yemen and Romania.

I think our country is better off with, than without, atheists. And, hey, we need people of  faith, too.

Grow the Church: Drop the Anti Gay Marriage

The site, Christian, has articles most days on the falling number of young people identifying themselves as “Christian”.  Lot’s of ideas are tossed out there.  Mostly, the articles just say that the Church should shout it’s message louder.  Then young people would get it.

I think the major problem for the Christian faith is opposition to gay marriage. Now, I realize that only a portion of Christian churches oppose marriage of gays and some major denominations slowly are accepting it.  That being the case, one could argue that these liberal denominations should be growing rapidly among the young.  They are not.

The reason they are not, I believe, is that the news media focus’ on the Pope and the conservative parts of Protestantism. In this era of fast moving news, lots of news and short attention spans, many young people have no interest in splitting hairs among the branches of the Christain faith. 

Their attention span is only long enough to absorb this message:   Christians are against gay marriage.  Christians are against gays.

This anti gay message seals the deal.  They are gone before the liberal branch of Christianity has a chance to get its foot in the door.

We all know that conservative Christians have tried to parse their position on gay marriage by saying they are not against gays, just gays being married to each other.  It will not work. 

If “separate but equal” did not work in the segregation era, neither will “I have nothing against gays, it’s just that God says they can’t marry,” work today.

Airport Screening and the Clock of Life

The airport screening controversy brought to mind another version of our society’s inconsistant views on what I call the “Clock of Life”.  I use this term because the computer which screens language for these posts does not tolerate use of the terms we usually use.  It should not be difficult to figure out what I am referring to here.

Surely, a large numbers of complaints about airport screening are coming from people who have zero tolerance to deaths of what are called “people” before they are born.  Yet, no one can deny that many aready born people will die without a lot of airport screening.  That’s the point of the screening, to save lives.  Some of those who would inevitably die would be children who would be taken on airplanes by their parents–children who would have no choice in the matter.

It is also what bothers me about automobile accidents.  About 40,000 people a year are killed in automobile accidents.  Certainly, the majority could be prevented.  All we would have to do is make the penalty of driving under the influence so onerous it would be mostly eliminated, wear helmets in cars and slow automobile speeds by about 1/3.  It would virutally no effect on the economy.

So, why do we make such a fuss over “lives” lost before birth and not over needless lives lost after birth? A  cynical explanation is the only one I can come up with. 

By focusing on “lives” before birth, religious groups both exert power over women and raise lots of money. Focusing on saving lives after birth does neither.

Why do People Lose Their Faith?

The folks who link up with Freethinkers hold a variety of views about faith.  Almost to a person, they are skeptics.  Many say they just see no evidence of a super natural being, after life, or, any of the other things that people of faith may find self evident.

Some Freethinkers don’t ever remember having experienced faith.  When they eventually heard of it, it held no appeal what so ever.

But, the majority of us we believers at one point in our lives.  Why is it we fell off the wagon and while the vast majority still soldier on in their respective beliefs?

An answer I have heard often goes something like, “You know, after a while it just no longer made sense to me.”  I think it would be accurate to paraphrase this as the faith simply evaporating in some people.  Sometimes this came after unpleasant experiences, but most often it did not.  Instead, the person’s experience in church and around people of faith is recalled fondly.

I exchanged emails recently with a man in the Minneapolis area who ask me if I had had a hurtful experience as a child that resulted in my becoming a Freethinker.  Several other Freethinkers have had such questions ask of them.  Most of us have not had such bad experiences.   

For some reason, it seems to me that people of faith feel they can understand better a person who has made a dramatic change in faith, say from Christian to Jew or visa versa, than when a person loses all faith.  For me, it is harder to understand a change in faiths than the abandonment of all faith.

How we reason on these issues is quite a wonderful mystery.

Experts on Sin

A couple of experts on sin have weighed in recently.  One is a pastor from New Jersey. The other is the Pope.

The New Jersey pastor ordered all of his church employees to cancel their FaceBook accounts.  The pastor’s career as an expert on sin were dashed when it was revealed that he had had an affair with a person other than his wife–happened to be a gentleman.

The Pope had something to say, again, about birth control. This time it was about condom use.  I assume there is a large staff of Vatican employees doing research and advising the Pope about the sinfulness of birth control.  If I were a Catholic, I’d think use of my money for this would be as productive as burning it in a bonfire.

A few years ago, I recall watching Pat Robertson say that not all rock and roll music was sin.  The sinful music was that with a heavy bass beat. If there is ever a Hall of Fame for Sin Experts, Pat will be in there.

While I don’t call it sin, I’ll offer my own “expert opinion” on behavior we should all avoid.  It’s behavior that harms ourselves and the lives and property of others.  Here, the others include generations to come.

Thank You, God, for Not Making Me Woman nor Slave

This is an ancient prayer recited by Jewish men.  Some, who teach about the Torah, explain that the Torah is very respectful of women and there are other ways of interpreting this phrase.

Another way to say it, so the instruction says, is, “Thank you, God, for making me part of mankind and free.”  That would be more in keeping with the overall message of equality, these apologists say.  I’ve never read an apologist’s explanation as to why wives are placed in the category with property like slaves and farm animals in the Ten Commandments.  They are not lifted high to the level  of being honored like parents.

I’ve heard sermons in church about how respectful the Jesus stories are of women.  Apparently, this is necessary to offset the stoning of women elsewhere in the Bible.

As I’ve grown older, it has become more and more of a mystery to me as to why people say they look to the Bible for moral guidence.  While there is some stuff in there that seems to confirm what we, today, think of as high minded moral behavior, there is also stuff that is just immoral.  That requires another set of people to scurry about apologizing and parsing the terrible things to assure us that certain Bible passages mean something different than what they actually say.

It seems to me that our behavior today would be just as good, and as bad, if we had never heard of the Bible.

All Divorce is Caused by Gay Marriage

Who could believe such  an a thing?  But, some do.  Now, the same nutcases have another thing to blame on gay marriage.  People are getting married less.

Today’s news carried a story that the public is less interested in  marriage than it was just a few years ago.  What is called “marriage”, of course, has changed over time and between cultures.  Today, some in the religious community try to portray it as something that must take place in a church.  And, most importantly, say those in this slice of American politics, it must be between two heterosexual people.

Across the country, pastors are breathing a sigh of relief.  This bit of news has given them  a sermon title for this coming Sunday. It is the sermon that has kept pastors employed since the beginning of time, “Our Nation’s Moral Decay”. 

In fainess, it is not just pastors who think they are experts on morals and how marriage fits into that topic.  Probably each of us thinks we know a lot about it.

So, what should we as a society do about the decline in the popularity of marriage?  Nothing.  I think we each should focus on our own relationships with other people, be they spouses, friends or coworkers.  

That way, we will not have time to worry about whether other couples are gay or unmarried.

HishonordaMayor wants Ten Commandments

The Mayor of Cape Coral, Florida, has a few fans for his idea to put up a Ten Commandments monument on City property.  The problem is that he does not have enough fans, and, those that he has are quite far off the mark:

The Mayor, John Sullivan, gave credit to citizen, Dick Kalfus, for coming up with the idea.  The trouble started when citizen Kalfus said he saw the 10C displayed in the Supreme Court.  Kalfus was not accurate here. They are not actually displayed there.  There is a “likeness”, but the text is missing. 

Citizen Kalfus said displaying the Ten Commandments would lay out a “moral blueprint”.   Yes, it would be good to tell people not to steal and honor their parents should anyone not have heard of this before.  But, do we want wives put into the category of property like oxen and asses as they are in the “covet” commandment? I’d question that as a moral blueprint.

Someone else in Cape Coral said the 10C would provide a “path for the City to follow to economic recovery”.   The only thing I can think of that has to do with economic recovery is the thou shalt worship only one god. It would save money to worship only one god instead of several.

In any event, a majority of the Cape Coral City Council declined to endorse the Mayor’s proposal.  If any resident of Cape Coral wants to read the Ten Commandments, he can see them at Wikipedia.