Saturday, March 20, 2004                                                                                       View Comments

MIDEAST SLAUGHTER AND RELIGION

William Edelen
November 30, 2003

Behind every gun in the mideast bloodbath is a religious scripture. Jew and Muslims are slaughtering each other over religion. They are butchering each other over their claim that this is "sacred" ground for their religious tradition. Both are claiming that "God" gave it to them. It is religion that feeds and fuels the violence and the slaughtering of other human beings, and all being done in "Gods" name.

If I hear one more empty airhead use the stupid cliche that "without religion there would be no morality", I think I'll throw up. The fact is this: religion is the direct cause of immorality and amorality. Without religion this earth would be a far, far more peaceful place with far more harmony between cultures and people. Every war going on today on this earth has religion as the fuel keeping it alive.

Protestants and Catholics are slaughtering each other in Ireland. The Catholic Croats and Orthodox Christian Serbs slaughtered each other while both slaughtered the Bosnian Muslims. Hindus slaughter Muslims and Sikhs slaughter Hindus in India. In Pakistan Sunni Muslims and Shite Muslims slaughter each other Crusaders for God hack to death thousands in Algeria and cut off their heads. Christianity spread across Europe in the Crusades and Inquisitions and butchered or burned Muslims, Jews and Protestants. Christian missionaries swarmed down on the New World and brutalized all native peoples bringing with them violent Christianity topped off with all the other diseases of white men.

I don't know how many times I have heard some featherhead jabber about those "horrible atheists, Stalin and Hitler and the killing they did. " Hitler was no atheist, but what a joke. Hitler and Stalin were pikers, second stringers in killing, compared to those who have "killed for God".

If you start adding up the religious killing "for God" over the past 3000 years, starting with the slaughtering of nomadic people as recorded in the Old Testament by Moses and others, then you count your way through the slaughtering of Meso Americans, Aztecs, Incas and Mayas by Christian zealots; then count your way through the astronomical figures given by historians of those slaughtered in the Crusades and Inquisitions (over eight million "witches" alone) then pick up the count today in 2003 of all the killing going on around the world in the "name of God". Well, as you can plainly see, Hitler and Stalin were pikers compared to "killers for God".

"Without religion there would be no morality" many blabber about. What brainless drivel.

Behind every gun today in the bloodbath of the Mideast is a religious scripture...and the Jews say "this is our sacred ground" and the Muslims say "this is our sacred ground"...and both tell the other "God gave it to us, not you...and we are going to kill you to prove it...kill you in the name of our "God:".

As long as they both have 'religion'...there will never be peace.

This was reposted from WillamMedelen.Com.
Be sure to check out all his essays posted there!

Sunday, March 14, 2004                                                                                       View Comments

Wednesday, March 10, 2004                                                                                       View Comments

About a Boy

My story is rather unusual. I have never been a Christian, but I feel moved to write by an intense relationship I have with a young man who is a Christian. The year and a half I was in love with him, I experienced great pain as I tried to reconcile his beliefs with my own agnosticism.

I was raised in a secular home by a scientist father and an agnostic mother. My background is Indian, so there was a dusting of Hindu religious culture in my life as I grew up, but since Eastern religion is not doctrinal than the monotheistic religions, I grew up respecting my own intelligence and intuition far more than any doctrine. When I arrived at college I was comfortably agnostic, scientifically minded, materialist, rationalist…completely bemused and puzzled by religion.

Two things happened. In my junior year I began to room with three women who happened to be Protestant Christians. One was a no-holds-barred, passionate, untiring evangelizer whom I often suspected of not being in her right mind; she seemed to live in a fantasy world, spoke glibly of demons and angels and God-visitations, enough for me to cease to take her seriously. The other two were much more grounded and I felt they valued me as a human being, not as a potential convert. They sustain my faith that non-Christians and Christians can have intimate, rewarding friendships. Through them I gained much more respect for religion; I admired how they questioned scriptural teachings (one is an ardent feminist), confronted real-world problems head-on, and tried to integrate with the secular world. Even though they were religiously conservative, and one frankly admitted that she hoped I would someday become a Christian, I loved them very much, and genuinely wanted to understand this strange aspect of their lives.

The other thing that happened: I met a boy. I had never dated. I was gawky, awkward, sexually diffident, prone to admiring men from afar, on the lookout for verbally virtuosic, soulful, quirky young prospects. I found him in a class. We talked; he had a wonderfully dark sense of humor, a penchant for etymologies, an enormous vocabulary, a love of history. There was a precious sense of otherworldliness about him – a taste for ancient and medieval literature over the modern, a self-described “old-fashioned” sensibility about relationships, a lack of the hypersexuality that seemed to dog my other male friends. There was not a trace of pettiness about him. As far as I was concerned, he was a completely new breed of man - and my ideal. I knew a thing about him: that he was devoutly Protestant, theologically conservative, son of a theologically conservative evangelical minister from the Midwest. But I didn’t grasp the significance of this, because he never uttered a word about God or religion to me unless questioned. He never testified to me, never proselytized, never tried to infect me. He seemed to carry his faith deep down inside him; he seemed absolutely contented with me as I was. He passed excellently in the secular world; his main area of study was the Near East and Islam. This led me to believe that he accepted plurality, that he was utterly tolerant of other beliefs, that he didn’t care about our difference. I even fantasized that we could meet in the middle.

I spent the fall getting to know him. Let me clarify that we never clarified our relationship. I visited him a lot in his room, where we talked until all hours; I was at a spiritually questioning stage and interrogated him a lot about his religion. He answered thoughtfully, acknowledging gaps in the biblical narrative, acknowledging the need to confront the teachings of the secular world. I did sense a rigidity in him, as when we debated the merits of absolutism versus relativism, and he came down firmly on the side of the former, referring to relativism as a “sinister void.” He said he could not conceive of a world without God. Very well, I thought; a harmless eccentricity in one so young, and otherwise so formidably intelligent and incisive. We traded emails all fall, arguing about postmodernism and absolute truth, yet switching on a dime to the comical and the absurd. He seemed like the perfect companion. Yet again, I thought: this could work.

He went away to study abroad, and we wrote more often, at more length, in more depth, about everything under the sun, and I felt as though I was flying. We traded caricatures of our professors; we discussed our courses, our classmates, their idiosyncrasies; we copied down long passages of poetry for one another. One of the passages he sent me was from Job, and it was lovely. I was falling for him, very hard. We bantered affectionately and had about fifty different nicknames for one another. I wrote long philosophical tracts to him just about every night, and he responded. He wrote tenderly, teasingly. I marveled at his imagination, shook my head over his brilliant prose, felt as though I had found the confidante of my life, and I barraged him with questions; as Milan Kundera says, love is a constant interrogation. He opened up to me about his Christianity, and every word he wrote sounded so tender and beautiful that I felt the draw. I remember the day I decided he couldn’t be writing so lengthily and passionately without intent. Maybe, in retrospect, he did have an intent – different from what I perceived at the time. When I realized what I thought was his intent, I floated with the happiness of requited love. Everything he said seemed imbued with a world-shaking meaning, and I began the long process of trying to “acclimate” myself to his Christianity, so to speak – after all, if we were effectively going to be dating when he returned, I should learn to accept him. Much of what I found in Christianity repelled me – the rejection of science, the guilt, the obsession with Christ’s suffering, the treatment of women. I knew he must believe this to some extent, because he believed in the Bible. But in my love I told myself – “he must not really believe it. He seems so sensible.”

Meanwhile something frightening was happening to me – I was beginning to lose faith in my own Rock – my perceptions, intuitions, intelligence. After all, the whole Christian spiel is about forsaking your intelligence to believe in something unprovable – humbling yourself, rooting out your pride. I wanted so badly to agree with this young man, the Absolutist, who believed so staunchly in doctrine. I felt scattered and unsystematic in comparison – morally deficient. I would not call myself a passive relativist, rather cognizant of the enormous complexity of human life and the unacceptability of one-size-fits-all solutions. But now I began to fear things I had never feared before – the specter of hell, the possibility that dreams were not mere ripplings of the subconscious but spiritual messages (as my fantasist roommate believed); the likelihood that fate and coincidences were actual Godly interventions; the certainty that I, who had always made my own rules, was in violation of the Ultimate Rule. For the first time I became aware of the possibility of a world beyond the senses, which crumbled my trust in my own senses and intelligence. Maybe God did create the world, fossils and all, in six days. Maybe Christ did rise. Maybe there IS a natural order unperceivable by the senses. Maybe women ARE meant to serve and submit and remain in silence. There’s no way to disprove it. The real heart of my anguish was the realization that religion, with its elevation of faith over intellect, afterlife over this life, cast a thick pall over the world around me. If I must disregard even the evidence of my senses in favor of some gossamer “spiritual” knowledge, whom or what could I trust? If my writerly, socially progressive interest in human beings and their ways and welfare was mere self-congratulation and anthropocentrism, what was worth striving for? Should humans simply accept their lot and subside quietly into their “God-given” niches? Religion teemed with constant, subtle whisperings for me to yield up my judgment, my individuality, my faith in my own intelligence, and submit to something Absolute: otherwise my soul would remain in a wizened state, or, worse, risk Damned Relativism. As a lowly human, everything I did was wrong. God sat on my head like a giant helmet, accompanying me everywhere, leering and judging every action, crushing every thought, every longing, every breath of life.

At this time I was reading C.S. Lewis, who possessed one of the world’s greatest intellects and imaginations, and was also one of its greatest guiltmongerers; I read, riveted, as he listed to me my shortcomings and entreated me to accept Christ. His appeal to the imagination was particularly strong, as I have always prided myself on the scope of my creativity and whimsy – he seemed to insinuate that a life lived in the senses, earthly life, the fruits of intelligence, were all worthless beside the promise of eternal life. Why settle for this measly world when I could embrace the next? Then there was Holy Week. I ate myself up with envy, watching my roommates leave for services, thinking of them at Easter sunrise with something to believe in. I asked my boy to write to me about the meaning of the resurrection to him; he responded with a passionate letter that almost made me weep with its conviction. Everything seemed to point the way. I was studying ancient Christianity in a history class. I wavered in my hitherto liberal views. I read Kierkegaard, and lay in bed at nights feeling love so tender and intense I wanted simultaneously to remain awake to savor it and to sleep to escape it. All this, I thought, was the work of God – not Jesus, I never had much use for him, but God himself intervening, bringing love into my life.

I must be fair. When I look back on it, the boy was not at fault. He just didn’t see me the way I saw him. After almost six months of heart-pouring back and forth and practically sidling my way into Christianity, I told him how I felt. He was utterly dumbfounded. He said he would have confided those things to anyone. He said he never dreamed how I felt. More to the point, he said: I cannot date someone whom I cannot marry. I can never marry someone who is not a Christian. I apologize to you for misleading you, but I never thought of you in that way and I never will.

He quoted II Corinthians.

I will not dwell on what happened afterwards. It was three months before I passed a day without weeping, and six months before I regained a semblance of calm. He didn’t know about my grief; I feigned that everything was all right, and agreed to his plea that we remain good friends. He is back at school. When I saw him again, it was another several months before I could reconcile myself to the disappointment of his real self – intelligent, yes, but not lightsome in religion, not a floating ecstatic like Lewis, but a rather phlegmatic and reserved young man much different from his written persona. Religiously conservative, politically conservative. Attended a pro-life rally two months ago. Doesn’t like dancing. Believes in traditional male and female roles (though he’s never hinted I should assume a particular role). What seemed quaint, courtly, otherworldly in him so long ago seems almost reactionary now. One month ago, he began seeing a fellow student, a young Christian woman. I folded over my hurt and almost could not recover from it. This was our exchange when I told him how I felt:

Me:

“that's really wonderful. be good and kind to her. at some point i want to hear a catalogue of all her wonderful qualities.

as you'll also understand, even though everything has been very well between us for months, i feel as though a part of my life is now behind me for good. not your fault at all. but i feel a little sad. i'm even a little jealous of the poor girl. i suppose it's because she's won from you what i can never have. plaintive heart asks: what does she offer that i couldn't? is she kinder? funnier? gentler, less abrasive than i am? a better writer? a more beautiful, more spiritual, more imaginative woman? a better woman?

mature head responds: doesn't matter, not a bit.

i'm sad, but i'm relieved that i can get on with my life. i'm happy that someone is going to turn your knees into marmalade.”

He responded:

“thanks for being so mature and understanding. we can gabble and cackle about it some time, if you wish.

now, you know better than to talk as if these matters worked like a contest of some sort. she hasn't won anything nor you lost. i didn't assign category ratings to her various attributes and compile a fetchingness index. nor did i take such an index and compare it to your
qualities or those of any other, even of an Ideal Mate. i need not tell you that Love does not work thus (not that i make any claims to love this girl, or that she loves me. i don't know her even a fifth as well as i know you, or a number of other fine women for that matter, many of
whom i greatly admire). i don't know her to be your better in even one of the categories of comparison that you listed.

as your second head whispered the ear of your first, none of that matters. there's a Spark.

what does matter is that i know her to be a strong and committed christian. my faith is the lodestar of my life, and i demand that a woman to whom i give that life be able to see the star that guides me. you once said (i don't know how seriously) that i shouldn't have bothered baiting you with a bunch of excuses about Christianity, that i should have just come out and said that i wasn't interested in you (or something along those lines). well, i hope you know in your heart that that's simply not true, and that i was not dissembling in what i wrote to you. the point is that faith is of paramount importance.”

What’s to say? I love him so much. I know I do, because he’s the only person who can anger me; who can fill me with indignation; whom I long to hear from. We are friends. I forgive him for his belief because there’s nothing else to do; he chooses eternal life over the possibility of being with me, and I don’t know altogether that he’s wrong. Due to certain other personal incompatibilities it’s much better that the relationship never worked out, but I still reel sometimes at the shock of it – being cut out, forever, from the hope of someone’s affection just because of my conviction. It has made me reexamine my own prejudices in great depth. Meanwhile, I have returned largely to my old agnosticism, and I have lost my taste for Christianity mainly through observing its political side: I marvel at the cynical manipulation of the language of faith. I marvel at how Christian principles of universality and equality before God are transmuted into right-wing diatribes against minorities and ethnic solidarity. I mourn the conservative Christian stance that people essentially deserve their bad luck – if only Satan weren’t working in their souls, if only they’d pray harder, they’d get themselves off welfare. (Not to mention that working women, of whom I will soon be one, are defying the ordained order of things, as we naturally overflow with hubris and ambition and other detestable qualities). Mostly, I am revolted by the use of September 11 as a religious rallying cry. But my friend, even if only distantly, even if through the common link of belief in Jesus and no more – he is a part of those people; and he is a part of me. He is handsome and intelligent and funny and trusting; he trusts me to accept him as he is. He trusts that I am no longer hurting over what happened. Even as I hurt at the thought of him I remain connected to him. There can be no one else.

Certain aspects of my pseudo-Christian experience will remain with me forever; the possibility of other worlds, the possibility of love. But I reject forever its policies of exclusion; its clannishness; the violence of its language; its anti-intellectualism. Human, we all are. We are good enough at holding ourselves apart from one another; why throw up these additional barriers?

He and I, we both lost.

Sunday, March 07, 2004                                                                                       View Comments

Paradox + Logical Inconsistencies = Christianity

ON MAN'S FREEWILL
1.) God has an unchangeable plan for everything past, present & future.
2.) Everything that occurs past, present and future will be part of God's unchanging plan.
3.) Thoughts and actions occur and are part of God's unchanging plan.
4.) Thoughts and actions cannot be anything other than what God has planned.
5.) Free-will doesn't exist.




FREEWILL ARGUMENT FOR THE NONEXISTENCE OF GOD
1.) The Christian God is a personal being and is omniscient.
2.) Personal beings have free will.(according to most Christians)
3.) To have freewill, a personal being must be able to make a choice.
4.) A being who knows everything can have no "state of uncertainty". It knows its choices in advance.
5.) God has no potential to avoid its choices, and therefore has no free will.
6.) Since a being that lacks free will is not a personal being, a personal being who knows everything cannot exist.
7.) Therefore, the Christian God does not exist. - a syllogistic view of Dan Barker's F.A.N.G




INFALLIBLE KNOWLEDGE / FREEWILL ARGUMENT
1.) God knows infallibly what will occur in the Universe before it occurs.
2.) God can’t change the future because he knows everything absolutely.
3.) God has no Free-will.




ON PRAYER
1.) Prayer is sometimes used to ask God to change a situation in one's life or anothers.
2.) God has a divine plan that cannot be changed.
3.) Prayer cannot be used to change any situation.
(Prayer may make you feel better emotionally, but it doesn`t change God`s mind.)