Posts filed under ‘thechaplain’

Shopping For God

James Twitchell, a professor of English and advertising, spent more than two years researching and writing his account of the USA’s recent rise in religiosity. He notes that consumerism is deeply ingrained in American culture and that American religion has not escaped its effects. In fact, as Twitchell demonstrates, American religion played a role in shaping American consumerism. Thus, the phrase “shopping for God” is literal as well as metaphorical. Twitchell visited dozens of churches and interviewed scores of pastors and churchgoers to discover what churches are selling and what religious consumers are buying. The result is an engaging book that offers substantial insights into both American religion and consumerism.

Twitchell opens by citing the intersections and interactions between American religion and popular culture. It was once the norm that celebrities said little about their religious beliefs. Nowadays, celebrities flaunt their faith. Few, if any, Americans are not aware of Mel Gibson’s Catholicism, or Tom Cruise’s Scientology, or Richard Gere’s Buddhism, or George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton’s Methodism. And religion pervades movies and television. Most Americans have viewed, repeatedly, such “sword and sandal” epics as The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur. Throughout the 1990s, Touched By an Angel was one of the most popular shows on television. And TV news shows, such as Dateline, frequently do special features on religion. You can’t even escape from religion in your car, unless you keep the radio off, because most programming on the AM band is religious. And guess what subject ranks second only to pornography in Internet popularity? Religion is even ubiquitous in print media. In 2004, Americans spent $3.7 billion on Christian books and related merchandise …

Continue Reading July 31, 2008 at 11:02 pm 3 comments

In God We Trust?

As I was leaving a grocery store recently, I noticed a display that was stuffed and overflowing with Christian pamphlets. One of them was entitled, “In God We Trust: What Does It Still Mean?”

Many atheist bloggers and podcasters have explained why they find this motto offensive and have argued that it should be removed from American currency. In response, or perhaps as a pre-emptive move, many theists have claimed that the motto is merely a reference to something they call “ceremonial deism.” Atheists have generally countered this statement with something like, “If it’s merely ceremonial, then what’s the harm in removing it?” To my knowledge, theists have not had an effective response to that query.

For the sake of argument, and also because it’s probably true, I will concede that many people, Christians, Jews, Muslims, probably don’t really care one way or the other whether the phrase remains on American currency. But, as the pamphlet I am about to deconstruct demonstrates, there are some Christians (I have no way of determining how few or how many) who take the phrase seriously and who consider it to be much more than just a “ceremonial” statement.

The pamphlet opens with these statements:

Printed boldly on the back of the United States currency is the motto “In God We Trust.” We have seen it so often that it may have lost its meaning to us. But found in these words is the secret to national and personal greatness...

Continue Reading July 22, 2008 at 12:22 am 197 comments

Yet Another Review of The God Delusion

Since its initial release, millions of people have read The God Delusion. Some have echoed Michael Shermer in hailing it “not just as an important work of science, but as a great work of literature.” Others have sided with H. Allen Orr in deeming it a “badly flawed” book in which Dawkins “makes a far from convincing case” for his opposition to religion. My view lies somewhere between these two extremes.

The God Delusion is not Dawkins’ best book. In fact, it may be his worst (even so, Dawkins at his worst is immeasurably superior to most of us at our best). While his scientific discussions are, as always, insightful and illuminating, his philosophical and theological shortcomings are clear. Nevertheless, The God Delusion is a book that should be taken seriously by religious believers and non-believers alike.

Dawkins describes himself as a religious non-believer, a position that he also ascribes to Einstein, Sagan and Hawking – lofty company, indeed. Since theists are often quick to claim that Einstein was a theist too, Dawkins cites several passages from Einstein’s letters and other documents to refute their claim. Dawkins contends that Einstein was a deist, or perhaps a pantheist, but certainly not a theist…

Continue Reading July 11, 2008 at 11:05 am 6 comments

Prayer: Why I may do it Anyway (if asked)

On Good Friday, 1973, my parents caught me smoking. It wasn’t the first time I’d been caught, but it was the last. This wasn’t because I quit immediately, per their demands. It was, rather, because I quickly grew fairly skilled at hiding my vice from them. Oh, they continued to harbor suspicions, but they never again caught me in the act. Anyway, it so happened that, like most good evangelical Christians, our family was scheduled to attend the annual Good Friday service that very evening. So, off to church we went.

I sat through the service and dreaded the coming altar call because I knew exactly what was going to happen. Sure enough, the pianist had barely begun playing the prayer chorus when my mother ambled over to where I was sitting with some friends and insisted that I accompany her to the altar. There, of course, I was compelled to repent of my sin, renounce my filthy habit and ask Jesus to forgive me. I mouthed the requisite syllables as tears of rage flowed down my cheeks.

I was enraged at being compelled to say a prayer that I did not mean and thereby label myself as a hypocrite. You see, when I was fourteen I was in what I now regard as a state of rebellious disobedience of God. I believed in God but had absolutely no desire to follow, obey, love or worship him. Therefore, my prayer was utterly insincere and, as I understood the matter then, both he and I knew I hadn’t meant a word of it. I believed that uttering an insincere prayer while in a state of believer’s rebellion was the height of hypocrisy…

Continue Reading May 14, 2008 at 9:31 am 25 comments

The Christ-Centered Marriage

As I cruised the atheosphere this morning, I came across Possummomma’s 400th post (congratulations, Pmomma!). It includes a segment in which she discusses the effects of her acceptance of atheism on her marriage:

I know your husband is an agnostic-Catholic. How is that working in your home? Was he unhappy about your change in beliefs? If my girl friend came home and said she’d stopped believing in God, I don’t know if I would be happy with it.

Pdaddy took it well. We’d both voiced criticisms and doubts…I was just the first of the two of us to put time into researching those doubts. And, it didn’t change the basis for our relationship. I know some theist couples base their relationship on serving god or putting God first, but we were never like that. And, our children and friendship (between p-daddy and I) has always been the foundation of our marriage so atheism wasn’t a deal breaker.

That passage took me back nearly 30 years, to the time when the deacon and I were engaged and envisioning a lifetime together as faithful servants of God. In our conversations, we always affirmed that God/Jesus had to be our first love. He would be the hub of our marriage…

Continue Reading May 3, 2008 at 11:23 am 46 comments

Would You Please Reschedule Your Crisis?

choirFour months ago, just a few weeks before I came out to my husband about my atheism, I decided to quit the church choir. I did not mind the weekly rehearsals. In fact, I like the choir members and enjoyed getting together with them every week. I also didn’t mind playing the piano for them on Sunday mornings. I quit for two other reasons.

First, while I was willing to commit to attending weekly rehearsals and Sunday services, I was not willing to add any extra religious gigs to my agenda. For example, several church leaders spent several weeks in the fall playing with the idea of getting the church musicians involved in some sort of evangelistic outreach in the church’s neighborhood. Sorry guys, count me out of that one. I was not disappointed when it didn’t happen. Another one was an invitation to travel to a church in Maryland – on a Saturday night – to sing two songs at a “Concert of Prayer.” Right. You want me to drive an hour there, hang around in a prayer meeting (those really get the juices flowing) for one or two hours, then spend another hour driving home – because you need me to play the piano for about eight minutes. Needless to say, I didn’t make it to that one…

Continue Reading March 13, 2008 at 4:14 pm 52 comments

What’s So Bad About Religion?

baby jesus 1I’ve been debating with myself for several days about whether I should write this post. Since some others bloggers have dealt with this question quite effectively recently, I haven’t felt that I would have anything useful to add to the conversation. I changed my mind when I read Brian’s recent heart wrenching post. For the religious folks who wonder why nonbelievers care at all about religion and why we can’t we just respect believers’ beliefs and leave them alone, I offer the following thoughts.

The first problem that I have with religious beliefs is that, as Greta Christina pointed out recently, acting on the basis of false beliefs can lead to ill-conceived, even harmful, behavior and decisions. Take, for example, cases of snake handlers who die from snakebites, or Jehovah’s Witnesses who die for want of blood transfusions – both of which have occurred in the USA within the past several months. One may argue that such beliefs are misunderstandings of scriptural injunctions, but to so argue merely cedes my point. Yes, I agree, such beliefs are misunderstandings, but those misunderstandings are founded upon what believers have read in scriptures and they are founded upon traditions that have been passed down to successive generations for millennia. Quite simply, the misunderstood scriptures would not be taken so seriously, and the errant teachings that have been transmitted through the ages would not exist, were it not for the religious contexts that gave birth to them and continue to nourish them…

Continue Reading February 17, 2008 at 10:07 pm 68 comments

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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