atheism, books, religion

A New Mission: Reading Christory

Christian history is fascinating

I finished my goal of re-reading the Bible since the last time I used this blog regularly. In the interim, I have found a new focus: reading about biblical history and the cultural impacts of Christianity.

a bookshelf with Bibles and other Christianity-related texts
A snapshot of part of the religion section of one of my bookshelves. Most of these are ones I have yet to read. I’m having some difficulty getting all my religion books, read and unread, properly organized. There may need to be more bookshelves.

I’ve read dozens of books dealing with Christianity’s roots and influences on Western or American culture since I was last “here.” This reading has really changed the way I think about Christianity, Christians, and atheism, among many other things.

As a subject of study, Christianity is all the more fascinating for learning about its history. There are few more wide-reaching, long-running stories of political intrigue and cultural control than is Christianity’s past. And it is so interwoven with American history and culture that I LOVE reading and talking about it with anyone who will listen.

But make no mistake—reading biblical history and cultural examinations of Christianity has not made it any more believable. Quite the opposite.

Not only does studying Christianity’s roots make its claims all the more absurd, it makes it hard to believe that anyone else believes them either. But then reality up and smacks me in the face with the fact that, oh yeah, people actually DO believe this stuff is literal fact.


[insert awkward chuckle here]

The fremdschämen is so very strong sometimes.

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O Hai!

I have re-discovered my old blog. Yay for that.

As more and more people are leaving Facebook, and I have long had a desire for long-form writing that is poorly served by Facebook, I’ll likely make use of this space more. Maybe. We’ll see…

atheism, morality, religion

Mission Debriefing: Genesis

Ah, Genesis… where it all began. Literally. So much good (or not) stuff here. If nothing else, it is fertile ground for vivid, interesting mental images. Some of those mental images are of massive amounts of death, but yay for creation stories! Creation stories are always interesting, regardless how nonsensical they might be.

The Good

Creation: This is a big one in terms of praiseworthy things. Creating all existence is awesome! Good on ya God! There’s some wrinkles to be ironed out in terms of how and why, but creating everything is definitely a great accomplishment and everything in history depended on it. We can quibble about impressive-good being different than moral-good, but for simplicity sake, I’m counting it.

Other things I marked as “good” was promising never to kill everyone (with a flood) again (9:13-16), and two different instances of blessing Abraham (12:2-3; 17:1-8). The blessings of Abraham were entirely arbitrary on God’s part as far as I can tell, but I think they still count. I’m still not sure if promising not to murder the population in a certain way counts as properly good—one would expect not murdering everything would be the default setting for anyone, let alone a supposedly loving, all-powerful entity—but the pickings were kinda slim.

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atheism, religion

Mission Debriefing: Prelude

I have been horribly slacking in my blogging activities of late. There’s work and getting sick and krav and all so many things to take up my time. Plus a lot of my at-home writing time has been taken up with writing about Wookiees. Because… well, Wookiees are awesome. But, if nothing else, the Christmas season—along with the almost obligatory hordes of internet whiners complaining about the “War on Christmas”—has reminded me that I’ve been shirking my “religious” mission.

As mentioned in my first “mission” post, I am slowly working on re-reading the bible. I am not simply reading it, however. I am taking many notes as I go. Mostly I’m focusing on what god does, and if it is good or bad. Also the devil, but hasn’t shown up yet. I’m keeping a running score.

I’ve been reading very slowly since anything that isn’t an article these days has a hard time keeping my attention. That said, I’m somewhere in Leviticus and have been reading a book of apocrypha in tandem. While I admit the apocryphal books are far more interesting and far less full of genocide than the books of the bible, they are not my focus. Gotta get back to that good old “good book.”

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antitheism, atheism, LGBT, reason, religion

Left Behind and the Fire that Keeps Burning

Torreano David Stanley is a 20-year-old from the Bronx who identifies as gender fluid—female most days. Photo by Michael Rubenstein for NBC News. Photo and article found at
Torreano David Stanley is a 20-year-old from the Bronx who identifies as gender fluid—female most days. Photo by Michael Rubenstein for NBC News. Photo and article found in the link provided in the text.

This morning I read the article Left Behind: LGBT Homeless Youth Struggle to Survive on the Street and it inspired a surprisingly intense emotion for me. Yes, there was depression over the situation and sympathy/empathy for those individuals whose stories were told. That’s not too surprising.

But what did surprise me was an intense anger. A very sudden, very extreme flame up of anger. And specifically anger at religion. No, not just religion; anger at American christianity.

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culture, women

An OB/GYN writes to George Will about college rape

This is a very visceral description of one woman’s experience of rape that is hard to read, but an excellent response to the recent op-ed piece on the “privilege” of being a rape victim.

Dr. Jen Gunter

Dear Mr. Will,

I read your recent column on the “supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. sexual assault” and am somewhat taken aback by your claim that forcing colleges to take a tougher stand on sexual assault somehow translates into a modern version of The Crucible that replaces witchcraft with rape hysteria.

I was specifically moved to write to you because the rape scenario that you describe somewhat incredulously is not unfamiliar to me. Not because I’ve heard it in many different iterations (I have sadly done many rape kits), but because it was not unlike me own rape. The lead up was slightly different, but I too was raped by someone I knew and did not emerge with any obvious physical evidence that a crime had been committed. I tried to push him away, I said “No!” and “Get off” multiple times,” but he was much stronger and suddenly…

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The Adam-and-Eve war continues at Bryan College

This post from over at Why Evolution is True brought up some points I have long wondered about with christianity; If people claim to believe that Adam and Eve and the garden are all just metaphorical, how does the rest of the boat that is the religion stay afloat?

Why Evolution Is True

To those who claim that there’s no incompatibility between science and religion, read this:

Bryan College is a small, conservative Christian school in Dayton, Tennessee, deliberately placed in the town that hosted the 1925 Scopes Trial, and where the school’s namesake, William Jennings Bryan (who was one of those testifying against Scopes for teaching human evolution), died shortly after the trial.

As I’ve posted before (here and here), the College is in a ferment over a topic close to my heart: the historicity of Adam and Eve.  It turns out that the college’s recent insistence that faculty and staff swear to an oath affirming that historicity is tearing the college apart. Even conservative Christians, it seems, have trouble believing that Adam and Eve were the literal ancestors of humanity.  That historicity has become increasingly problematic since the appearance of new papers in population genetics, showing that over the last few…

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Feminism, TV

Big Bang Feminist Bust

A zinger from Big Bang Theory. Image found on
A zinger from Big Bang Theory. Image found on

A coworker and I have had a back and forth of “you seriously need to watch [enter show here]!” She has wanted me to watch Big Bang Theory because I’m the office nerd who often takes things exceedingly literally. And I’ve wanted her to watch the YouTube channel Feminist Frequency because she has brought up a lot of really cool feminist observations that really make me think about things.

So we made a TV pact to watch the respective shows today. I watched the first (read: earliest) episode I could find on where some episodes of the show is streamed in full. That first episode was Workplace Proximity (Season 7, Ep. 5).

While I have seen the show a couple times in the past so I’m vaguely familiar with the characters enough to be entertained by their nerdly antics and copious references… this one episode was perhaps a horrible one to “start” on, particularly given the feminist/nerd context of the TV pact.

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morality, reason, religion

Pondering… Morality

The Thinker, bronze sculpture by Auguste Rodin. Photo by “Karora,” taken 13 August 2007, released to the public domain. Retrieved from wikimedia commons.

It’s been an odd week so far. Crazy, yet sympathetic, tin-foil hat person on Monday, disturbing dream on Tuesday that kept distracting me, and today… well, today was contemplative. Contemplative is, for me, decidedly in the “good day” category, but that doesn’t make the day a simple one.

Anyway, got to the end of the day and got into a fun conversation with someone. Started off as politics, then migrated to the topic of groups which feel entitled to act against other groups (in this case, we were talking about radical environmental groups who sue the government to enforce their ideals of what use public lands should be put to), and that eventually got us on the topic of religious law versus social or formal law.

Though we never really talked about it in so many words, a good deal of our conversation centered on the concept of objective versus subjective morality. Oddly enough, he from a religious perspective argued the subjective side, while I from the atheistic perspective argued the objective morality side. Stereotypically, that set-up is reversed with the believer arguing for the existence of an objective (god-given) morality and the atheist arguing for a subjective (culturally-based/situationally-based) morality.

It was a very stimulating conversation, however, like so many of the sort, amounted to little more than running on the mental treadmill; energizing and works some muscles, but doesn’t get you anywhere.

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File this one under “movie is better than the book”

So those possible movie reviews I mentioned? Yeah…

Movie poster of Noah from
Movie poster of Noah from

I saw Noah. I originally wasn’t planning to since my “smug, pseudo-intellectual” reaction was to ignore it as just another in a long line of epic wastes of money trying to chase Mel Gibson’s bloodfest, The Passion. It wasn’t. Yay!

The origins of the base story aside, this one started out very much like the other grand visual epics based on ancient legend. We get introduced to some text on the screen exposition wherein the set-up of the world is presented nicely and neatly. Garden of Eden. Tempting. Downfall. Humans cast out. Cain kills Able… and there is where the familiar old saw ends.

Cain—juxtaposed to his younger brother Seth—flees his family and begins creating cities and industry, while the decedents of Seth are some form of hunter/gatherer nomads who live in hippyish commune with nature. Ask no questions about how they did so (what with no sisters being mentioned for incestuous begetting) because you will get none, but instead move on to the outset of the actual story with Noah and family.

Noah and Co. are seemingly the last remaining decedents  of Seth. Noah proceeds to get confusing visions of scary shit (mostly death) and goes looking for his wizard/hermit/wiseman grandfather to help him sort out what it all means. Along the way they encounter Hermione and titans. OK, in the movie they are called “Watchers,” but for all intents and purposes, they are titans. Giant ancient creatures who were there before time (sort of) and have a mixed relationship with the humans.

The call to create the ark comes, some cool (and rather sensible) retcons of the “physics” of the classic Noah story are employed with the animals, and then all hell breaks loose. The hordes of Cain’s decedents aren’t keen on getting drowned, so their leader leads them on an attack on Noah’s construction site. Following that first-act action, what follows is a slow—by standard action/fantasy movie standards—second and third act that hinge entirely on emotional turmoil in the characters over the morality of what occurred (i.e. mass genocide) and some anti-hero-spawned character drama with Noah and his family. I think it could have been better (and, seriously, what can’t?) but it worked and I liked it.

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