Thursday, November 27, 2008

keach, contemplative

ryan keach deep in thought
laying back

Posted via Pixelpipe.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Why I Am An Atheist.

I was raised in a fairly secular home, going to church on Easter and Christmas, when I was about 8 me and my sister, liking Christmas and Easter a lot, and in fact, liking the church atmosphere, convinced my parents to take us to church weekly (in retrospect, not the best idea). After about a year and a half to two years of church, my parents separated, one of the many catalysts was my father falling in love with my stepmother to be, the choir director and organist. After my parents separated, I still continued going to church with my father, my mother changed churches and went every Sunday and when I was about 13 or so, felt the call to ministry.

My Father, on the other hand, has always been what he calls a "High Church Atheist", and with my stepmother being the choir director, we ended up going to church a lot. I am not sure if I ever believed in god, but I know that I certainly thought I believed, I never really prayed for things, but I had some sort of deist feelings about the world.

In High school, I, Being the dork that I am, found out about Buddhist philosophy and read about it a lot; it made, in my mind, some sort of sense. I didn't classify myself as Buddhist, I was still, at least in my own mind, an Episcopalian, but the philosophy really said something to me, in my second semester at college I took a course on the philosophy of religion, by far the least informative and worthwhile course of my college career (well at least tied with the bowling course that I forgot to attend (funny story for a different time perhaps)). The complete lack of substance of the philosophy of religion class who's main idea is that "God" or "Spirit" or whatever, that there is something that is above and separate from the phenomenological world, that there is some sort of numenon that you just couldn't question was unsettling, I became, for all intents and purposes an agnostic.

During this time, a New youth group director took over at my church, my church was a liberal moderate church that didn't really push the whole Christianity thing very far, we were there for community, wine and crackers and we knew it, or at least that was my feeling, the church was pro-gay, pro-life, accepting and open. The new youth group leader decided to set us up on a Christian work-camp thing. Now if you don't know what work camps are, they are where a bunch of evangelical youth gets together to praise the lord and fix the houses of poor people. The first two years I went were fairly tame, I mean the leaders of these things were clearly insane, but the people my age were cool (for the most part) and the work was fun and rewarding (the music however, was god-awful). The Third year, however, that year marked the moment I became, like Douglas Adams, a Radical Atheist.

The Third year I was pegged with two other people to lead a much larger group of kids from our parish to this work-camp, so this time I actually had to pay attention to the daily services/propaganda. What I saw was disgusting. The underlying message of these theatrical abortions was not to question authority and that anyone who disagrees with the literal interpretation of the bible is a sinner and is going to hell. After these services we are supposed to take our kids aside and reinforce the lesson, I however, along with making my kids laugh by making an ass out of myself (its a gift), condemned the message and subtext in the strongest possible terms (not to mention my rails against the quality of the music (Christian Rock is by far the worst thing in the world. and prompts my favored disproof of the Christian god, a loving god would never inspire these abortions that are put out as rock. QED) But this was just the beginning.

On the last day, after a week of roofing (possibly the worst job ever, I respect anyone who does it for a living), up on the roof I was drawn into a theological debate where I admitted that I was agnostic. Upon hearing this, two of the other people both evangelicals urged me to read the book "The Case for Christ", I agreed on the supposition that they read "Living Buddha, Living Christ" by Vietnamese Zen Monk, Thich Nhat Hanh. At this suggestion they were flabbergasted, claiming that there is only one true way and that way is through Christ. My response was, straight out of my religious philosophy class, that everything is partially true and partially false, religions are shades of grey and it matters most on what you do to be a good person. They would not concede this point, one of them saying: "Things are either right or they are wrong. When you flip a coin it comes up heads or it comes up tails, it is never both!" Now before I respond, I want you the reader to understand, I'm an asshole. I wasn't going to let that line stand, not with my very very small understanding of quantum physics behind me. I mean I have read popular science books about the subject! So with that said, I made what I consider to be one of my hallmark remarks of all time saying: "Well, that’s not technically true, according to quantum physics, when you flip a coin it comes up both heads and tails and you only observe one outcome" (I know not technically true for coins, but you get my gist) their response to this latest hurdle to their philosophy marks the exact minute I became a atheist.

I really cannot give this remark enough fanfare; it is in my mind the height of ignorance, wrongheadedness and villainy that I have ever encountered. And i assure you that it is a 100% direct quote, it has been engraved on my brain ever since word for word. I know you are thinking with all this buildup the actual remark will never live up to my claims but I assure you that it does. So, without further ado, here is their response "You see, Galen, that’s your problem, you read all these science and math books, and science leads to the Devil. You need to take all of your science and math books and burn them."

Now I pride myself on having a remark for any situation. And in my entire life I cannot recall ever being so completely speechless as I was at that moment. My brain just couldn’t comprehend the fact that anyone could ever say this. Who would even think such a thing, much less think that it might convince me of anything. The only thought I had was "So this is where blind faith leads." I felt like the gauntlet had been thrown, no longer could I even pretend faith, much less respect it unconditionally. The line in the sand has been drawn and the choice is clear, either put yourself behind faith and superstition and view the idea that science is from the devil is an acceptable thought in the modern era, or you must renounce all forms of superstition and faith. You must be willing at all times to change your ideas in the face of new evidence. That idea to me, perfectly encapsulates why religion is a problem.

Well, thank you all for reading this post. Feel free to leave any comments.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

An Atheist Reads The Bible: Isaiah 41:17-20

From the King James Bible (I know you people are out there trying to get me to use NRSV. I have a message for you FUCK NRSV! I want my bible readings to be endorsed by royalty. Plus I always thought the KJV has more aesthetic qualities.)

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.

I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.

I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together:

That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.

This is an interesting passage to start with, you know, I don't think I could have done better as a starting point if I had searched for one. It is Old Testament but it has a decidedly New Testament flair (although I guess that’s not surprising given that it is Isaiah)

The idea of god helping the poor is certainly better to my pallet than god ignoring the poor, however I wonder does this then shift the burden of helping the poor from society onto God? A bad precedent, I think, to set. If the influential members of society believe that they can ignore the poor and thirsty because god will provide for them, I'm sure some poor will be provided for but I think it would just lead to much worse poverty.

Also, I feel this passage fails in execution. I live in Oakland around immense poverty and desperation and I don't see fig trees and lakes and rivers sprouting up from the heavens, I do however see crime and misery. (Are rivers allegorical to crime and trees allegorical to misery? if so then god is one real jackass)

But my real problem with this passage is the promise of salvation and help. All of this stuff god will do. Why hasn't he done it already? Or, why is he not doing it now? It is a consoling passage but it seems on the face of it, just a bit light in substance.

An Atheist Reads the Bible (Mission Statement).

So over the past few months, when I haven't posted anything on here at all, I have become more and more of a Atheist, the expelled commentary happening just as I was reading the god delusion probably didn't help my once strong spiritual side. And I know how religious people like to claim that if Atheists just read the scripture they will be saved, now, that seems like a fine experiment to do as, because it is the foundation for a large amount of western culture I have been meaning to comprehensibly read the bible for years, hence my new plan. I will read the bible using the order of the liturgical calendar (as to get a sampling of all of the scripture each week) and give comments and thoughts on the passages.

The first episode will be posted shortly. But first a rundown of how the system will work (at least ideally)

Each week I will update 4 times, once for the old testament reading, once for the new testament reading, once for the psalm and once for the gospel. I will be using the Episcopal Lectionary because I grew up in the Episcopal faith (and to be honest, I still have a little part in my heart for the great writing of the BCP)

So.... lets do it to it