April 25

What Brothership Means to Me

For those of you who have read my blog, you know that I recently went through a rough friend breakup. Someone who had been a friend for fifteen years and I parted ways, and it was rough.

I talked about it several times here, because it was particularly devastating, given my health issues.

Well, he offered and olive branch, and, after some thought, I accepted it without condition or argument. Why? Because friendship, especially one as old as ours, is much more important than being right. It doesn’t matter to me if he was right, or if I was right. What happened is in the past, and buried with the hatchet.

I have several men whom I consider to be my brothers in this life (thus far). As some of you know, I do not have any biological brothers. But, blood is not the only thing that makes brothers, it is intent, action, being there for one another. Each of my brothers has been there for me, and I for them. And I will be in the future. I suppose that is why it did not take me long to look past what happened, even though it hurt as much as it did.

It is said by common media that it is hard to find good friends, the older one gets, but I am finding that my friendships are more meaningful, as I have less tolerance for bullshit. I am lucky that I am finding more good friends, even now.

April 6

In the Wrong Gear

Setting aside theological concerns for the moment, this is a real and serious concern with the majority religion of the planet, namely, Christianity.

Whether it is a marketing issue, a difficulty in distribution, apathy, a dogma problem, or a little of all of these, some of Christianities core competencies are failing. Where there was once an organization that publicly helped those in need there now exists an organization that is more generally devoted to telling people how they are doing it wrong, trying to regain control, and support those that push hateful agendas.

22109_686827548105850_3688404719116650903_nTake, for example, the recent RFRA law in Indiana. Set the law aside for a moment and examine the immediate result of the law, the case of one Memories Pizza. The Blaze, a conservative website run by Glenn Beck, set up a Gofundme campaign for the restaurant, who had publicly stated they would not cater any gay weddings, then closed their doors under the social media backlash. In two days, they received nearly a million dollars of funding. Meanwhile, dozens of other campaigns for people, families, and businesses with legitimate needs went unfunded or underfunded. People in need. Families in pain. Instead, money went to support a pizza restaurant standing up for exclusion, because of their myopic view of the Bible.

Here’s some facts. Jesus never said anything directly against homosexuality. Some people stretch some of his words to cover it. Paul used coined terms that may or may not have had something to do with homosexuality, but were more likely dealing with temple prostitution. The Old Testament talks about it, about the same time it talks about pork, shellfish, and mixed fabrics being just as bad.

What did Jesus say? He said not to judge. He said not to lay heavy burdens on others (Matthew 23:4). He said not to lock others out of the Kingdom of God (Matthew 23:13). He said not to preach hateful attitudes (Matthew 23:15). He said some people are born different (Matthew 19:12). He said he loves weddings (Matthew 22:1-14).

Finally, I’m going to quote another website:

There is a detailed description of this interpretation here. The first time I read this interpretation of Luke 17:34-35, I thought reading gay and lesbian sex into it was pretty wacky: “In that night, two men will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other will be left. Two women will be grinding; one will be taken and one will be left.” But now I find it impossible to read the passage without seeing the possibility that Jesus is saying homosexuality is irrelevant to salvation. The fact that the passage begins with a reference to Sodom and Gomorrah may reinforce this reading—if Genesis 19 is really about homosexuality.

This interpretation does interesting things to our arguments about the Bible and LGBTQ issues. In our modern debate, anti-gay Christians claim that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is about homosexuality. The counter-argument is that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is really about xenophobia and violence toward strangers. The inhabitants of the towns threaten visitors with rape. So, the counter-argument goes, this is a story about violence and exploitation, not a story about consensual sex between people of the same gender.

But because Luke’s apocalypse references Sodom and Gomorrah and two men in one bed, then I think it’s reasonable to claim that if one is about homosexuality, then so is the other—and if one isn’t then neither is the other.

The other common New Testament debate is about what Paul meant by the word “arsenokoites” from 1 Corinthians, 6:9. It’s often translated as “male prostitutes” or “homosexuals” or even “Sodomites,” but it is really a compound Greek word formed by the word “man” and “bed.” Anti-gay Christians claim that the word is clearly Paul’s reference to homosexuality. The counter argument is that it could be about any kind of sexual abuse or exploitation. The anti-gay response is that no, really, man-bedders has got to be a reference to the Greek translation of Leviticus 18:22, “lying with a man.”

But Luke’s gay apocalypse also turns this argument on its head. If “man-bedders” is “clearly” Paul’s reference to homosexuality, then Jesus’ similar language about two men in a bed must also be about homosexuality. This is one of those interpretive situations where you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. Either Paul isn’t talking about gay sex and Jesus isn’t either, or they both are. Either the story of Sodom and Gomorrah isn’t about gay sex, and Luke’s gay apocalypse isn’t either, or they both are. Either way, Jesus trumps both Genesis and Paul.

So, what happened?

Nothing happened. Christianity, like most religions, has been used to control others for thousands of years. It is the the positive fringe that look for the good in the religion and try to do good. Even some people whom the world considers to be positive forces are actually negative; Mother Teresa believed that suffering was good for people, so let people suffer when the suffering could have been alleviated.

If Jesus did exist, many of his teachings were very different, and there are Christians today that follow those teachings. Presbyterians, for example, seem to be a bit more aware of the times than most. Even so, I think that the Jesus of the Bible had a lot more in common with the hippies of the 1960s than with the bulk of Christians today.

April 3

How to Save the World, part I

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s the thing.

We all live on this planet. All of us. Hindus. Muslims. Christians. Black People. White People. Asians. Nerds. Jocks. Tall people. Short. Americans. North Koreans. Iraqis. All the humans.

We share the planet with millions of species of animals, plants, single cell organisms, some interesting things between.

Setting aside the natural world for now, we have a big problem. It’s a problem with our base nature as humans. We hate being wrong. Which means we love being right. Enough that we fight, sometimes to the death, to be right.

The worst fights are the ones over religion. The big problem with that is that there is no way to really know who is right objectively. Not a problem for the average believer, but it does cause a lot of division. enmity, and warfare between different groups.

Except one.

There is one group that does not fight about whose holy book is correct. One that does not bicker over translation or meaning, over interpretation or theology. Unfortunately, this group is distrusted by the largest groups of theists. That’s right, it’s the atheists.

No dogma, no leaders or text that must be followed without question.

So, what does this mean?

Every major religion promises that, at some point, it can bring about peace. Whether it is personal peace or world peace… the problem is that, with rare exceptions, none have delivered this peace. The funny thing is that I think that the only viewpoint that could actually do it is the only one that does not promise it. But, not as it is right now.

Atheism suffers from the same problem as all the others: the overwhelming desire to be right. This leads to a lot of office chair atheist warriors flooding online communities, itching for a fight. I myself have been embroiled in these fights, to my shame. I wrote a three part series on how to disengage from them (here, here, and here) but even I have a hard time resisting it.

In order for atheism to save us from the ten thousand plus years of religious warfare, we, as atheists, are going to have to rise above the petty squabbles and strive to be better at being mature about it. Stand up for the rights of all, even the religious, even when we disagree with the message.

“But, why? Their beliefs are silly!” I hear you say indignantly.

So what? Actions are what is important. Beliefs are less so. As long as they do not force others to do things, what does it matter? Do you mind what pagans do out in the forest if they aren’t hurting anyone?

Learn to live and let live. It’s what we want them to do, and we need to lead by example.