Tag Archives: God

If God Is Good: Question 1

12 Jun

Simple question:

If God is Good, then why do cancer wards exist in children’s hospitals?

 

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Once Upon A Time (I knows a guy)-Part 1

21 Jan

Once upon a time there was a guy, actually he was three guys.  But he wasn’t exactly a guy like you or me, no he (plural-but not) has been around for just about forever.  And one day he decided to do something about being the only guy-I mean three guys-or whatever….

Though he (plural) wasn’t lonely, and had no needs, and was in absolute complete harmony with himself and his alter egos-he decided to create a whole bunch of stuff and fling  it out all over the universe.

After that, he decided to bring life to a whole bunch of creatures. Then he made a creature that looked a lot like himself and told him to a be the man for this whole planet.

Everything was perfect, because everything he does is perfect, because-you know-he’s perfect.

One day, not long after all this perfect stuff came to life.  Something went wrong.

No one really knows exactly why it happened, but it happened.   You’re probably asking yourself  “What happened?”  Well I (singular) am gonna tell you what happened.

The Incredible Talking Snake

One day, a guy (you know-the guy in charge of the planet) and his honey were out picking fruit together at a nudist colony.   Suddenly, this guy’s honey notices a snake approaching her.

She turns to the snake and he begins to talk to her about a special fruit tree that the guy (plural) told her not to eat from.  The talking snake tells her that the guy told her not to eat the fruit, because then she would know about good & evil.  And if she knew about good & evil, then she would be like the guy(plural).  She hesitated, because the guy(plural) told her she would die if she ate from the fruit tree.  But the talking snake swore to God that it was a lie and that she wouldn’t die.

Deciding she had nothing to lose and that the fruit looked really tasty-she ate some.  And guess what, it was tasty and she didn’t die.  So she took some fruit to her guy (singular) and he ate some too.  He didn’t die either….but they did became aware of good & evil and for some reason they realized that they were naked and decided to start sewing some fig leaves to cover their love parts.

Guy (Plural) Gets Ticked

The guy (plural) who is perfect, and made everything perfect, was pretty unhappy when he was taking an evening walk through the nudist camp and realized that the guy (singular) and his honey had eaten from his forbidden fruit tree.  He got so pissed that he kicked the nudists out and then made sure that they, and their children, would be scourged with, death, misery, war, and disease for thousands of years.  Every mother dying giving birth and every starving infant would be a reminder that the guy(plural) was still pretty ticked at how their ancestors had not listened to him.   For thousands of years, the guy and his honey’s ancestors would beg the guy (plural) to save them from their misery-but he just couldn’t bring himself to forgive what had happened.

To be continued…..

 

When You Lose Your Faith

30 Sep
Death

Death (Photo credit: tanakawho)

This is a re-post of something I wrote for Reverie Slice last October.  Just thought I’d post the full text here as well.

 

I think when we lose faith, faith in God, faith in an institution, a book, a person…it hurts.  As Gerald Sittser has said, “All loss is loss”.  No matter whether it’s a relationship, your cat, or a loved one.  Losing something you loved hurts, including your faith in God.

For me, I’ve had to come to grips that in one sense, I will never totally be over the loss.  I will always have a certain amount of unease between myself and believing friends and family.  I will always feel the loss of community that was once church.  I’ll never have what I once had, in quite the same way.  It’s gone…forever.

Loss and hurt is something we tend to avoid at all costs.  When I was younger, I imagined myself living to be a hundred years old.  My thinking was, if I could eat right, take care of myself, and live a good godly life-then I could put the inevitable loss of life on the back burner.

My faith in God was another way to try to avoid the reality of loss.  I mean, if God was just collecting all my friends and family for a big party in the afterlife, then why did I have to feel so bad about their deaths?  Death wasn’t a time of sadness, but a mere interruption of our eternal existence that was to be reunited after my own death.  I believed this with all my heart and even felt that showing emotions such as sadness or tears were signs of weakness and lack of faith.  Needless to say, for someone who was very emotional, trying to keep any emotions hidden from sight was an enormous effort, and depressing at times.  I didn’t feel safe crying, let alone crying in front of another human being.

I was only 18 years old when I got my first taste of death.

Pop-Pop

My Pop-Pop was a kind old likable soul.  He wasn’t a central figure of my life, but he was someone I always loved and enjoyed being around.  We would be at his home for almost every holiday and it was a great time to be together with all of my cousins.

Sometimes Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop would visit us on our Jersey Shore vacations and he would let me pepper him with questions about the good old days.  It never occurred to me that someday Pop-Pop might get sick and die, it was if I couldn’t even believe that death would ever visit me and my loved ones.  But like all gambling houses, the house always wins in the long run.

Sickness and the Smell of Death

I was just finishing up my first year of college when I got the news that my Pop-Pop was sick.  He had suffered severe heat attacks but always recovered to the point of drinking and smoking again, this time would probably be no different…right?

My mom called me and asked if I wouldn’t mind staying the Mom-Mom to help her care for my Pop-Pop.  I told her I wouldn’t mind and jumped in my car to travel the 15 minute drive to my grandparents home.

As I walked in the front door, I smelled it for the first time.  That smell that can’t be washed off and disguised no longer how hard my Mom-mom tried.  It was the smell of death.

Pretending Not to Notice

As I settled in for the weekend, I did what I always did when confronted with uncomfortable reality, I pretended.  I told myself to ignore the smell and just act normal.  I spent most of my time reading Utopia by Thomas Moore and being ready to help my Pop-Pop get out of bed to go to the bathroom or to go to the couch to watch TV.

At nights, I tried to sleep, but I was restless between trying to ignore the death in the air and being ready to help my Pop-pop get up and go to the bathroom.

On one of these trips he nearly fell over and I grabbed him and steadied him.  He thanked me and sweetly told me how he would have fallen over if I hadn’t been there.  I shrugged off the compliment and acted as if I did this sort of thin all the time.  A couple of days later, my time of helping out was over and I went back to my life at college.

What I didn’t know was that I would never see Pop-Pop alive after those moments.

A Funeral Without Tears

Within a week from my time with Pop-Pop, he was dead.  I don’t even remember the official cause of death.  I didn’t cry, I didn’t do anything except ask for the essential info about the upcoming funeral.  I told no one about the loss and I continued life for 2 or 3 days as if nothing had occurred.

On the day of the funeral, I traveled to my parents home and made the journey to the Catholic church 2 blocks over from where he used to live.  It was a sunny, warm fall day and I sat through the mass, emotionless.  Imagining to myself that somehow withholding my tears was an act of mature faith.

At one point I approached his open coffin, looked him in the face and stoically accepted that death was finally here.  It was here to stay, but somehow faith would shield me from the grief.  I turned and walked away as we prepared to carry Pop-Pop out of the church and drive him to his place in the earth.

At the gravesite, I played an instrumental guitar piece I had written as a farewell to a man who loved music, but never truly mastered any instrument.  Most everyone was crying and hugging me.  But I was stiff and cold towards the show of emotion.

It would be over a week before I actually cried and admitted the sense of loss that ached in my chest.

The Wonder Years

If you’re gasping at how emotionally immature I was, you’d be right to be surprised.  The depth of my emotional immaturity was great.  But I’ve overcome many my fears about loss and I’ve learned to live in the wonder of life itself, while knowing that life can not last forever.

So while loss hurts, I no longer deny that it hurts.  I no longer feel obligated to keep my tears from flowing or my heart hidden and locked away for only God to see.

And loss of faith has been no different.  It has had it’s share of hurt.  But instead of denying it, I’ve learned to embrace the loss and let it teach me about what I really find true and worthy of my time.

And here’s what I’ve found….when you lose your faith, you regain a sane perspective about life and the one’s you love.  I’ve found that I no longer feel an urgency about God and his will.  Instead of striving to know God through church and quiet times,  I strive to listen and love my wife and children.  I look at them and know that I will not have them forever.  But until that day when there is no strength in my bones and breath seems like a burden, I’m going to love and enjoy them for the wild, crazy people they are.

My hope is that when I leave this world, they will sit and weep, laugh, and curse me for the person I was and the person I wasn’t.  I hope they will feel the freedom to let their emotions flow and say to each other the things that need to be said, lay me to rest, and say goodbye with deep affection.

In short, I’ve found that when you lose your faith, you get back your life.

A life that has no guarantees and can hurt like hell, but a life full of wonder, surprises, and adventures that can only be lived with eyes wide open, instead of a life spent holding back and waiting for death to truly begin to live.

And Then He Was Gone…

24 Sep
Depression

Depression (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I had another dream about him last night.  Even after all these years he still haunts me.  Not that I mind, it reminds me that I cared about him and care about those he left behind.

Keith-My Cousin

Keith was my cousin, but I didn’t meet him until his early teens when his Dad married my Aunt.   It was my first experience with a blended family.  Two sisters and three brothers now occupied my Aunt’s hallways when before there had only been the girls.  Those early years of visiting my Aunt’s (and new Uncle) home was filled with a ton of activity and excitement.  Of the three new cousins, Keith was outgoing, but not overly so like his younger brother.  But he could also be shy and sensitive, but not as introverted and awkward as his older brother.  He was like the perfect blend of my other two cousins; he was well liked and very talented.

The first time I ever envied him was after he was chosen to appear in a local TV ad for a very popular candy company.  In the ad, Keith was shown walking with a pretty blond-haired girl, walking and talking as the shared a tasty treat.  The ad aired during the broadcast of a local sporting event, and I was instantly jealous that my new cousin was on TV.  I grew even more envious when I learned he had been paid hundreds of dollars to appear in the commercial.  He was so lucky….I was so boring and broke.

As we grew older and went to college, I only ever saw Keith at the holidays when we would gather to feast on my Uncle’s cooking.  At these events, I’d catch up with Keith about college and other small talk.  But I sort of lost touch with him other than these few family get-togethers.  One year, he was trying to earn some extra cash by selling Ginsu knives.  I remember my family being gracious and even a few sales were made.  Keith was always so good natured and humble.  I thought he had the world at his feet.  But I was wrong….

Personal Demons

I really was unaware of Keith’s inner struggles.  I had just seen him at my cousin’s wedding.  He was handsome and looked sharp in his suit.  He was quiet, but spoke of his job and plans for a hiking trip with his brothers.  We laughed across the table at the wedding reception and had a generally good time in each other’s company.  I had no idea he was struggling.

Later that summer, my folks called to ask me to keep Keith in my prayers.  He had lost or quit his job (we never really found out) and moved back to my Aunt’s to live, at age 34.  My folks also said that Keith was struggling with depression and that my Aunt and Uncle were very worried for him.

I immediately began to pray for Keith.  I prayed that he would come to know Jesus and that the demons of depression would be bound from his life.  I prayed for him every day and even considered going over to visit him now that he was back in the area.  But I never got the chance.

Darkness

A few weeks later, my Aunt was home early from work and decided to check on Keith.  He had been staying in their basement converted apartment, while he tried to find new work and sort out his struggle with depression.

She called out for Keith at the top of the stairs…but no answer.  She decided to go down and check on him.  Opening the door to his room, she saw what no earthly mother should ever have to see.  She saw Keith hanging from the ceiling; lifeless, dead, gone.  The darkness of depression had won.  My prayers had failed.

Keith had taken his own life by hanging himself in my Aunt’s basement.

Why?

It’s been almost 20 years since my cousin’s death, and I still can’t tell you why he chose suicide over life.

Was it the loss of identity because of his job?  Was it because he was gay (something I didn’t know until after his death)?  Did he have AIDS?  Did he get fired for being gay?  Was he just a mentally depressed person by genetics? Why didn’t my prayers of protection and binding work?  Why would God allow this?  Why did God allow my Aunt to find him?  Why didn’t God do something?  Why, Why, Why!!!!????

The Dream

In the dream, we were all sitting around my Aunt’s kitchen table.  I think we were playing cards at the beach house, like we used to when we were all kids.  But this time we were all grown up.

We all seemed to be having a good time when Keith’s face appeared around the corner of the kitchen doorway.  It startled me a bit, because I remembered that Keith was dead.  But for a brief moment, he appeared around the corner and was being pushed towards the door in a wheelchair, by a man no one knew.  As he was wheeled through the kitchen, Keith turned his head slightly and acknowledged us with a slight nod.  A nod that was knowing, knowing that this might be our last goodbye.  We all nodded back in deathly silence, acknowledging his injury and his movement towards the door.

Maybe there was nothing that could have been said to stop him.  Maybe he felt like a cripple with no hope of ever rising to walk again.  Maybe the mystery man was death, a welcome friend at this point in Keith’s life….I just don’t know.

He then turned his head, the mystery man escorted him out of the house…and then he was gone.

And I awoke.

Some Good Questions From Chad

27 Mar
Question Mark Graffiti

Question Mark Graffiti (Photo credit: Bilal Kamoon)

A reader named Chad, recently left a comment on my About post.  I thought he asked some really excellent questions and thought it might make for an interesting post.

Here’s what Chad had to say:

ChristianAgnostic,

Had a chance to review your background and read some of your posts. Fascinating stuff. Never really met anyone who’s migrated from Christianity to agnosticism but seeing as how you had the misfortune of being involved with two cults (YoungLife and SGM) I find myself thinking, “Geez, no wonder this dude became agnostic.”

My question for you is: Isn’t there a part of you that’s even minimally concerned about the whole ‘hell’ thing? That’s not meant to be a rhetorical question or a preamble to some kind of evangelistic pitch or a “love bomb” or whatever. I’m genuinely curious.

You’ve been brutally honest about your assessment of Christianity so I’ll do the same. I’m a Christian and buy into the whole package. Young earth, Noah’s Ark, inerrancy of scripture. I’m totally on board. I’ve gotta say though, the whole concept of eternity, whether it be in heaven or hell, bums me out to no end. It haunts me every day.

When Christians talk about the weaknesses of the atheist and/or agnostic position, they always bring up the utter despair that atheists must feel about the finality of death. Even articles written by atheists acknowledge this despair. But between you and me, I’m thinking, “Why the sadness? This is one of atheism’s primary *benefits*! When you’re dead, your dead. What wonderful freedom. No need to think about the endlessness of heaven and the tortures of hell? Where do I sign up?” I can’t help but think that atheism, or at least agnosticism, would make me a more relaxed person overall. If it weren’t for the hell bit, I’m tempted to think I’d jump ship in a heartbeat. I totally see the appeal of the atheist perspective…

and yet…I have to think…

There must be some part of you that wonders if you made the right decision. You don’t think about hell at all? Seriously? It’s gotta be nagging at you at least a little bit, no?

So let’s jump in and I’ll do my best to answer.

First off, I want to be clear that I have no doubt that SGM is a cult.  When it comes to Young Life, I do not view them as a full-blown cult, but as an Evangelical Ministry that has engaged in some methods of outreach that are similar to tactics used by many cults.  I know this may seem like I’m splitting hairs, but I do not think that Young Life is on the same level as cults such as the Moonies or Jim Jones.   Also, my involvement with these groups are not what led me to agnosticism.  Even after I emerged from these groups, I still was an active Christian seeking to better understand my faith.  It was my study of the Bible, the history of the Bible, and early Church History that led me to conclude that the Bible is most certainly not the inerrant word of God.

As for hell (whether I am worried about it or not) the short answer is no.  I have no reason to believe in a hell because I don’t find any evidence that convinces me that there is an afterlife, let alone an eternal place of torture where an All Knowing, All Loving God sends creatures to be Eternally tortured for his glory and good pleasure.  Besides the fact that hell seems to be contradictory to a God that is loving and Just, I just don’t find any evidence for such a place.  If you think I am uninformed or being cavalier, I can assure you I am not.  Not that long ago I still believed in a literal hell, Young Earth, etc…because I still viewed the Bible as the Word of God.  Not sure if you read my posts on the subject of hell, but here they are if you want to know some of my background on the subject.

Hell,  Hell of A Start,   Hell Hath No Fury,   Hell If I Care,   Hell (for babies?)

As for the despair that some atheists agnostics speak of…I can say I just don’t relate to it.  Sure, if I dwell on the fact that someday I will die and no longer be, it’s a bummer.  But it’s because I currently enjoy a full and satisfying life, surrounded by people I love and projects I enjoy.   I think the bigger bummer, is constantly obsessing whether or not my faith will be good enough or correct enough to please a Heavenly Ruler who will once and for all, bring me to Eternal Bliss or to Eternal suffering.  Since realizing that this is most likely not the case, I do feel free to live my life without the extra burden of wondering whether or not I am doing God’s will.  I still attempt to treat all people with love and respect, but I no longer have the guilt induced teachings of Jesus and the church hanging over my head all of the time.

As for your own struggles,  I assume they stem from the teaching of the Bible.  My only advice would be to study the evidence supporting the idea that the Bible is the true Word of God.  If you find the evidence compelling, then you should be worried.  But if you find the evidence to be lacking, then you should regard the Bible’s teaching on Heaven and Hell in the same way you currently regard the Egyptian’s Book of the Dead teaching on the afterlife.  In other words, in the realm of myths and dead religions that hold no relevance to today.

Thanks again for your thoughtful comment and questions.

Best Regards-CA

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Pastors, Porn, and the Myth of the Moral High Ground

19 Mar
Billy Sunday (1861-1935)

Billy Sunday (1861-1935) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Since leaving the Christian faith, one of the questions that has yet to be answered for me is this…

“Why is God so bad at making people good?”

I say this without malice or tongue in cheek.  I say it as someone who was drilled with the idea that a relationship with Jesus and knowledge of God’s word led to a Godly and abundant life.  But I found this to not be true.  For all the talk of morality and the need to make a stand as Christians, especially on issues of sexual purity, the Christian church is full of failure and hypocrisy on issues it proclaims as central to Godly living.

According to Ben Witherington, in a post on pastors and porn, over 50% of all pastors admitted to using internet porn.  Many of these same men (and sometimes women) are proclaiming changed lives and moral living, and yet they can not practice what they preach.  They are just as human and just as interested in human sexuality as the guy next door.

Shaming Those Who Admit It

When I managed a Christian bookstore, I saw firsthand the awkward and heavy-handed way that many Churches dealt with those who admitted to viewing porn.  In one instance, a customer of mine was fired as a worship leader when he confessed that he regularly viewed porn.  He confessed to the elders of the church, and in return for his honesty,  was fired and shamed until he left the church in humiliation.  Not to mention, the shame and embarrassment that surrounded his wife and kids once the gossip, I mean prayer chain, kicked into full swing.

In a twist of irony, about a month after he was run out of the church, I discovered that my boss was using the computers at my Christian Bookstore to view internet porn.  It was ironic, because he was one of the elders of the church that fired this guy.  When I confronted him about the porn pop-ups on the computer, he pretended not to know what I was talking about.  When I showed him the viewing history and the porn images that would upload, he still did not confess.

I went home that night and wrote him a letter, telling him that I knew he had been using the computers for porn.  I also told him if that he didn’t come clean, I would go to the elders of his church and report my concerns.  Within seconds of reading my letter, he was fearfully confessing his porn usage and practically begging me to not tell the elders at his church.

I really had no desire to put him through the ringer, considering he already had told his wife and would only face condemnation from his church.  I accepted his apology and let the whole matter pass.

The Moral Low Ground

I won’t belabor my point, but when it comes to sexual purity, as defined by Christian morals, the church in America has absolutely no moral authority.  The amount of hypocrisy concerning sex, porn, etc…is almost laughable.  But it’s not funny, because the church, while holding the average Christian to extremely high moral standards, and condemning those who fail, often times allows its leaders to wallow in the moral low ground in their own lives.

In my own life,my best friend’s wife committed adultery with a worship leader at my old SGM church.  He was soon divorced, but the worship leader convinced his wife to  get marriage counseling outside of SGM so he could maintain his “Godly” image and continue leading worship.

There was another friend who led worship and eventually became pastor in the Vineyard.  He was a regular user of internet porn and seemed to just give up at trying to overcome it.  So much for the Spirit filled life.

I could list a dozen more, but you get the point.

The hypocrisy of so many church leaders telling people to do one thing while being unable to follow their own advice is staggering.  And until the church quits condemning those who do not follow their views on sexuality, this hypocrisy will contine to erode any shred of credibility it may of had in our culture.

The myth of the moral high ground has been shown for what is, a Christian ideal that is not followed by those who supposedly are leading others  to it.

Guest post: Would you believe in God if no one ever told you?

13 Mar

Very interesting guest post over at Leaving Fundamentalism. Carnun Marcus-Page writes about being the child of Atheist parents who taught him how to think, not what to think.
Check it out when you get the chance…..

Leaving Fundamentalism

Today’s guest post comes from Carnun Marcus-Page. I did a guest post at his blog earlier this week, and he has kindly returned the favour. I want to open the scope of this blog out to look at different avenues for people leaving fundamentalism. Carnun has never believed in any kind of God. Later, we’ll hear from someone who has left fundamentalism but still considers himself a follower of Jesus. 

My school-life experience and secular home upbringing – aspects of my life which are ongoing – could not be further from the fundamentalism Jonny left.

As Proverbs 22:6 will tell you: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.”

I was not ‘trained’.

From a young age I was taught to value evidence. Everything had a reason, be it why right was right and wrong wrong…

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