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About Jon Lindgren

I am a former President of the Red River Freethinkers in Fargo, ND, a retired NDSU economics professor and was Mayor of Fargo for 16 years. There is more about me at

Spilling Blood for a God.

Sometime there should be a world wide contest the Most Bizarre Religious Ritual. The Christian ritual of pretending to drink human blood might be a contender, but probably only receive honorable mention.

The most bizarre on I’ve come across is the ceremonial slaughter of some 5,000 animals in Napal. It is done every five years. The Hindu sacrifice to a Hindu god is supposed to bring good luck to the faithful.  There are complaints about the ceremony. If Hindus in that part of the world read our papers they will learn to use the argument of religious freedom to justify it.

I have never heard of an atheists ceremony that sacrifices anyone, human or animal. We all know the Judeo/Christian Bible is full of human sacrifice as well as animal.

Gods apparently are open to new rules on sacrifice. As I understand it, the Aztecs and Incas originally used sacrifice from within the royal families. Eventually, they decided the sacrifice had to be human, but not their humans. They began to appease their gods with humans from groups they captured in warfare.

Human sacrifice is so common it must be regarded as universally popular. Somewhere deep within our psyches is the notion this is a good thing. Christians today use the story of Jesus sacrificing himself for some great cause.

Maybe it could be said sacrificing 5000 water buffalo like these Hindu do is better than sacrificing one human being like Christian eventually did. Better however, would be sacrificing neither.

While Anti Abortionists Blare, Women Go By Air.

I predicted here several times something would happen which never did. Until now.

I predicted that as abortion clinics closed, women would still find ways to get abortions. From what we know, there was about as many abortions performed when it was illegal and now when it is legal. Staff at abortion clinics say uniformly that when a woman has decided on an abortion, people shouting don’t change her mind.

I predicted that when facilities that provide abortion services became more and more scarce, a fund drive would begin to pay for transportation to clinics. Now, that has happened.

A young woman in Texas came up with what is, so far as I know, the first such fund. After she began accepting donations they came in rapidly and she can now fund the requests she receives.

While I’ve been involved to some degree in abortion rights for a long time, the grit and resources which come to the table when needed continue to surprise me. The two anti abortion initiated measures in North Dakota were met by a hailstorm of opposition. That, even though the awareness of support for abortion is not apparent on a day to day basis.

The bureaucracy of the Catholic Church remains the deep pocket for anti abortion politics. Money from the other side comes from deep-seated passions.

Women and the men who support abortion rights recognize religion put into law will do serious damage to the lives of women .

Give the Devil His Due.

This idiom is used when one gives credit to someone or something that otherwise is undesirable. We should use it here to give due to this strange thread of Christian thinking.

Thomas Aquinas was an expert on the Devil. He rejected the notion sodomy was something demons engaged in. This could not be, he said, because demons have an angelic origin which prevents them from engaging in any sexual act against nature.

In the 1500’s other experts chimed in. One said sex with demons is pleasurable to women because demons have large organs that stimulate something deep inside witches. Another expert disagreed, saying the demon’s sexual organ has scales that cause discomfort to women.

Saint Augustine in about 400 AD told us that demons were made of such thin air they can go into our bodies. There were many other experts telling us other things about the Devil we did not know.

All this provided justification for the witch hunts. They started in Europe and moved to the U. S. with early European settlers. The religious backdrop allowed the practice to keep going–even though much of it was about the money made by taking and selling the possessions of executed women.

Protestants are given credit for moving the Devil from the roving independent enemy to its presence in the mind.

The “modern” Pope believes a literal Devil exists. He even endorsed continuing the practice of exorcism.

The odd notion of a Devil needs to be given its due.

Economics and Religion, The Amish.

One of the fastest growing religious groups in the United States are the Amish. Their population doubles every twenty years. They still remain statistically tiny. But, they are a lesson in religion and economics.

While there are a variety of beliefs and practices, we know them mostly for their use of horses and buggies. In an area I have visited several times in northern Indiana, there are  marked lanes for buggies like we have in cities for bicycles.

I saw field work being done by horses. Surprisingly, I was at a gas station where a buggy pulled up next to me. In the back was a lawn mower with an engine–a young man filled it with gas.

The extent to which each church and even family uses engines and electricity varies. A growing percentage of Amish make their livings doing work other than agriculture.

One thing obvious to me is their religion depends on their economic organization. If they can keep their livelihoods separate from the outside, their family and religious lives can remain separate.

They accomplish this by paying perhaps $15,000 a year for a family’s labor instead of $40,000. This makes their enterprises profitable enough to sustain religious independence.

They are happy to live mostly without automobiles, grow much of their food and share housing costs.  I’ve read the system is very attractive to its people because no one need worry about his/her economic future.

While the Amish are an extreme example, economics is an important element to the success or failure of any religion.

Can Christians and Atheists Get Along?

During this Thanksgiving Holiday I am thankful I can operate this blog, writing things that the majority does not agree with. I’m thankful, too, that so many of the faithful take the time to share their views, hostile or friendly. There are many places in the world where a blog like this would result in my death.

There is an area of agreement between atheists and Christian believers I have not pointed out in a while. It is our shared view that we do not worship nor even believe in the existence thousands of past and present gods. Of say, two thousand gods, our level of disagreement is a fraction of one per cent. We only disagree on the existence of one god.

When believers and nonbelievers discuss evidence of the Christian god, we do not discuss the same thing. Believers consider the Bible to be evidence, nonbelievers do not. There is no way to bridge that gap.

While I agree with some of the Christians that we nonbelievers are not always as respectful as we should be to people of faith, I can point to disrespectful behavior of believers as well. I think most Christians would recognize it would be disrespectful to say something bad about the god another person worships. I hope people of other faiths would feel the same towards Christians.

It is just as disrespectful tell people who believe in no god they must start believing or spend eternity in hell.

What Iran and the U. S. Have in Common.

Except for knowing lots of the Iranian despora and reading about it, I can’t say I know much about it. The impression I get is that some of what is going on there is not that dissimilar from some of U. S. politics. It is about the clash between older religious values with newer secular ones.

The majority Shari Muslims cannot stop social change.

The government has spent huge sums building and modernizing Mosques hoping to attract more to attend. But, only two percent of Iranians attend Mosques.

To keep a lid on dissent, the government there has kept gasoline prices low and made monthly payments to pensioners. Now, due to low oil prices and the U. S. trade embargo all these benefits are draining the government of its funds.

Trying to keep government supported religious concepts in place when society has moved on happened in the U. S. recently with gay marriage. The ayatollahs in Iran are trying to keep women’s heads covered and many other Islamic required practices while the public is walking in another direction.

Preventing the ayatollahs from building a nuclear bomb is why John Kerry is talking to them. The internal pressure for a secular Iran is the more powerful compliment to U. S. negotiations.

My hope is that both our country and Iran can move into the future with less religion in their governments.

Are Either Heaven or Hell Justly Awarded?

I would guess heaven and hell are among the two most discussed concepts in Christianity.

It’s fun to speculate where the concept of life somewhere else came from. Perhaps back when humans were the ones hunted instead of the hunters, people might have concluded animals were so powerful they met somewhere in a spiritual realm and plotted against humans. Natïve Americans saw the divine within animals they killed to eat.

That there was thunder and lightening would have suggested somewhere in the sky was someone causing all this. And, self centered as we humans are, we would have thought whatever happened way up in the sky had something to do with us.

It’s not surprising then to conclude that when ancient movers and shakers were casting about for ideas on how the control those around them they came up with invisible places. Then they invented invisible adjudicators making decisions about these places. It was a no cost and high return proposition.

We are all interested in the concept of “justice”. I saw Pat Robertson say on TV recently, “I am going to heaven.” If this is true, one has to question the justice in him being awarded heaven for eternity. He falsely promises people prosperity. His first child was born 10 weeks after he got a marriage license.

It’s not just that he be in hell for these “sins”. Nor, should he be awarded heaven for eternity.

I’ll leave it to others to decide such justice about places that, so far as I know, don’t exist.

What Does God’s Voice Sound Like? What Will He Look Like When He Returns?

If you were to make a movie that included the voice of God, would you make the voice clear, muffled, high pitched, low pitched or with an echo chamber? They have all been used.

I read today a discussion of what the voice of God sounds like. The writer concludes his voice sounds like your own thoughts, like you are talking to yourself. He thinks we can discern when it is God.

This explains why Pat Robertson thought he heard God telling him Mitt Romney would win the election for President. Robertson was actually talking to himself.

Could this be why so many people say they heard God telling them this or that? Could it be all of them were mistaken and the voice they heard was their own?

Furthermore, could all the references in the Bible where people heard to voice of God, including Jesus, have been mistaken and were talking to themselves? We can’t know for certain unless someone else was there and heard the same thing. No independent person has heard God talk to someone else.

That God/Jesus/Spirit will return to earth some day has the same problem. There is no way to objectively decide what this being will look like. Without some agreement before hand there will never be agreement the divine returned. Some might say it has happened, others will say this thing is not the real one.

This causes me to doubt anyone has ever, or will ever, hear from a god.


Christian Conservatives Deliver Themselves into the Hands of Their Enemies.

Albert Mohler of the Southern Baptist Convention now agrees same sex attractions are not the choice of an individual.  This admission means there is now no place to hide.

Agreeing that there is no choice in one’s sexual orientation is like admitting there is no choice in being born without legs. No one would say using crutches is a sin. Having sex with one you are married to is not either.

At the same time, there is expansion of the “emergent Church”. While liberal denominations themselves have suffered losses, they are morphing into the growing movement of the emergents. The influence of the emergent church is not only in its congregations, but also in its liberal ideas creeping into existing denominations. This branch is patient and welcomes converts from the conservative side.

Younger members of all denominations are different. Among millennial evangelicals, those who became adults around the year 2000, about 43% support same sex marriage. One in three believe there are other paths to salvation besides Jesus Christ.

Emergent church thinkers envision conferences, projects and cooperation among older denominations that cross lines between them. There may be new churches sponsored by a consortium of liberal denominations.

Mohler’s retreat on homosexuality should not be a surprise. Even though he became President of the Southern Baptist Seminary in a coup to oust those who did not adhere to orthodoxy, the orthodoxy itself was on sinking sand.

Now, he and his ilk must stand on the side and watch their orthodoxy fade while that of their enemies’ gain.

God is Talking to Republican Presidential Candidates Again.

Lots of candidates for President have told us God told them to run. I can’t even remember all of them now. I recall Michelle Bachmann was one.

All the candidates who claimed they heard  instructions from God to run for President were defeated. That has to mean 1.) they were lying and did not hear from God, 2.) God is not all powerful, cannot accomplish even the smallest of tasks, so therefore could not have created the universe or 3.) God plays games with people setting them up so he can humiliate them by making sure they lose.

Now, candidate, Ben Carlson, has joined those who have heard from God he should run for President. I predict others will get the same message from God.

To cut these candidates some slack, however, it should be mentioned it is very difficult to know when one has “heard from God.”  There is no universally agreed upon standard for what a voice from God sounds or looks like.

Things like this have been in a state of confusion since the beginning of the faith. It has never been made clear which events actually happened and which were visions or dreams.

The confusion even confounds Pat Robertson who thought God had told him Rommey would win the last election. He later said he must not have heard that from God after all.

It would refreshing if a Republican candidate would say, “I believe in God. I pray to God. But, I never really hear anything back from him.”