Sunday, 6 December 2009

Purple Endures (and a Xmas Message)

Within hours of Corky's announcement that he'll close his ex-Christadelphian blog, Aggie has revealed that her Purple Hymnal blog, currently on ice, is gearing up for the Second Coming. No, not that second coming, but a retooled version on the Internet with a broader appeal. In an email she writes:

I want things to be different now. I want the blog to get as much attention and be as widespread as I can possibly get it. In my opinion, the time is no longer right for the ex-Church of God Internet to remain insular and navel-gazing and interested only in the civil war between non-believers (myself among them) and those who have chosen other religions.

As Aggie says, stay tuned.

Dennis has submitted the following piece for your seasonal consideration.


Digging Deeper: Processing the WCG Ministerial Experience

Whether uniquely so or not, I am the only, by name, career, former pastor I know that has written on AW. That always surprised me, but then again perhaps not. Ministers in and of WCG are symbols to many people of what went wrong or of the abuses they experienced growing up or participating in a local congregation. Don't misunderstand. I knew many insensitive, hard ass, "I'm in charge" and goofy ill-read ministers who were allowed to simply be moved around to inflict themselves on others year after year. I never understood how some, so abusive, with such terrible reputation for a lack of empathy, understanding and even common sense could just keep going and going and going.... But they did.

Most of those types have now migrated to being in charge of or at least a part of whatever slpinter, sliver, shit or splism that appealed to them. (Had to throw that in. I said that once in a Bible study and it was hilarious. I ended by saying, "well we do have some shits in the church.")

For me personally, what was that all about? Was it just a part of life's training for other things? Do I really think "God" uncalled me or recalled me to be a massage therapist? Can I do better or more before the end? (Of me, not civilization, which I expect will be around a long long time after I am gone.) Was it just really poor choices sincerely made when I was too young to see or know there was more to theology than men who said they understood it?

Sometimes I get snarky. That is the anger turned sideways. Sometimes I get reflective. That is what I perceive as what's left of my soul wanting to know as I always have wanted to know as a kid. Sometimes I "give up," whatever that means and want to be left alone. And then I realize I have few enough good friends and meaningful relationships as it is and I better be careful not to loose them as well.

I have been asked to "debate" one of my former teachers at AC who is well known to most, on the validity of the Bible, errancy issues, "who wrote what" and who really didn't, and perhaps the disharmony of the Gospels and "Just Who Do You Mean...Paul?" I don't know if I want to as I don't need anyone to believe me or have as burning a desire to convince as he might have. I certainly would be walking into a bee's nest. Maybe it would just be good for me to calmly explain what's in my soul and what I have learned after ten years of real study outside of the WCG mindset. I don't know.

It's been a disappointing and painful summer. Life doesn't seem to go as one would hope or expect, though I realize expecting life to go anyway is rather lame. Life does what it does. I'm alone in life and it is a challenge. A time to learn perhaps...

The WCG ministerial experience has both helped me and hurt me. It has helped me to dig deeper. It has hurt me in that I trust few and have a difficult time listening to any man tell me how it all is. I'll do my own homework thanks.

So now comes Christmas and while , to me, it's origins are so obvious, we will have to endure weeks of the accepted meaning, even though it really doesn't mean that. I always marvel at WCGracie's Christmas shtick. It ranks right up there with their mistaken focus on the Trinitarian nature of all things included. The God of the OT was a Pantheon long before he was a Trinity and perhaps a she long before he was a he. Long story, and one few examine as the Bible itself evolves its Canaanite God ("El") into YHVH and on into Jesus. I was doomed as a WCG pastor no matter how long it would have taken. I probably would have been doomed as a Presbyterian Pastor, which I almost became as well because "facts is facts." Actually Faith is actually what we have until the facts clarify themselves.

So the processing goes on. Some days are diamonds and some days are stones. I both marvel and am repulsed by the "Big Guns" of the splinters and their narcissism unleashed . I am also amazed at what kind of people are left to still put up with the one man shows that suck them both financially and soulfully dry. I guess it's their choice.

I wish you all a good season however it strikes you and whatever your evolving traditions have become. I'll leave you with what seems to encourage me.

"Right now, and in every moment, you are either closing or opening. You are either stressfully waiting for something — more money, security, affection — or you are living from your deep heart, opening as the entire moment, and giving what you most deeply desire to give, without waiting.

"If you are waiting for anything in order to live and love without holding back, then you suffer. Every moment is the most important moment of your life. No future time is better than now to let down your guard and love.

"Everything you do right now ripples outward and affects everyone. Your posture can shine your heart or transmit anxiety. Your breath can radiate love or muddy the room in depression. Your glance can awaken joy. Your words can inspire freedom. Your every act can open hearts and minds.

"Opening from heart to all, you live as a gift to all. In every moment, you are either opening or closing. Right now, you are choosing to open and give fully or you are waiting. How does your choice feel? . . .

"Your heart always knows the truth of openness. In every moment of your life, your heart tacitly compares the closed suffering that you are doing, to the bliss of your true openness. 'This moment can be deeper.' 'Our love can be more full.' 'My life can be more fulfilling.' Your heart knows the truth of openness and suffers the tense lie of your closure.

"Chronic dissatisfaction is how you sense that you are living this lie. No matter how much pleasure or pain comes your way, dissatisfaction means you are resisting the openness of the moment, the openness who you are, the truth. When you are not open to emotions, people, and situations, then you are denying your most basic nature, the openness who you are.

"Practice being openness by opening to feel. Just as you are, even though you may have habits of closure, you can always practice opening to feel. Open to feel whatever you are feeling now. Open to feel your breath moving in and out, feel the posture of your body, feel the space and motion in your room around you, feel the emotional tone of the people nearest to you. Open and feel, Open as feeling. Open to feel everything, and feel as openness itself."

Warm regards to all
Dennis Diehl

75 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent comments Dennis. I've also long wondered why the ministry / ex-ministry is so quiet on the delusions we all had in our wcg days.

As a parent I feel responsibility for the untruths I passed on to my children at an age when they could not rationalize or question.

The fact that the same was done to me doesn't take away my sense of responsibility / shame.

Thankfully, I believe they can take heart in my example post wcg / post christianity.

I also have much affinity for the wives of the ministry, talk about the feeling of being a passenger in an out of control car careening down a mountain road.

Anon 7:21

Bamboo_bends said...

Wise words.

Anonymous said...

The Second Coming? Really? You went there??

It's all good. :-D I've got plenty of drafts lined up, and plans, oh I have plans. :-D

Thanks to all here on AW who have offered me laughs, tears, support, and encouragement, over the last three years, through three blogs, two forums, and countless words typed, trying to analyze it all out.

It can't be analyzed or redeemed, but it is not irreparable. That's part of MY Solstice message, to one and all. :-)

Anonymous said...

Human beings need to have something to look forward to, to justify living this life every single day. To get us through living the COG life for so many years, even the thought of going through a tribulation but then achieving "eternal life" was something to look forward to, in a sick way. I can resolve myself to alot of things I had to experience in the 40 some odd years I was in it, but I do resent not being able to live in the today, the now. It has taken a long time for me to learn to stop waiting, and live in the here and now. Dennis is so right to just take a breath and take a look around and just BE. Thanks Dennis, I wish you had been one of my ministers.

Anonymous said...

Thank You, Dennis - I really enjoy your writings & your open heart -

Sorry to hear you have had some difficult times lately, however, the circle goes round - and you are now on the upswing -

From what you write - your personality and your interests - I would enjoy being a friend to you- if we lived closer .... Well, then
I'll be a long distance friend -

All the best to you - Vinny

larry said...

PH, your passion, energy, and ambition are admirable. But, they would be so much more beneficial if they were only focused in the right direction.

Anonymous said...

Keep reading Larry! I guarantee, you won't be disappointed, in your egregious assumptions.

:-D

Anonymous said...

Speaking of ambition, the PH is now on Twitter.

Corky said...

Some good words there Dennis, and I know how heartfelt they are. More's the appreciation, thanks.

The past eventually runs its course and we come out on the other side. Bitterness fades and regrets become distant memories and life goes on but good friends are forever...

I may not blog anymore but I may put up a website - maybe, I don't know. The past is kind of over for me and the WCG is a dead horse.

There are so many good websites that do so much more than my pitiful efforts that I think I will be just as content to leave comments here and there.

Larry, PH is focused in the right direction, you just don't realize it.

Russell Miller said...

Larry, all directions are the right direction, if they lead to the right place. This comment shows you have no understanding of the process of healing.

None whatsoever.

Zero.

Zilch.

None.

Baywolfe said...

I'd admit that I'm somewhat envious of Dennis' passion. All I seem to have left in ridicule and apathy.

I honestly can't get worked up one way or another about the COGs past, present or future. I'm not angry about my time in the WCOG, and I have no desire to dissuade anybody from joining one if that's what they have a mind to do.

What matter whether you're ignorant or just stupid? If you're ignorant, you'll wake up one day, somewhat poorer but much wiser. If you're stupid, you'll post Anonymous replies on blogs like this one and continue "in the faith".

I say good luck to all of them.

Anonymous said...

As WHATMEWORRY said:

"Thanks Dennis, I wish you had been one of my ministers." Me, too.

For me, the toughest part of the whole WCG experience, including some 25 years of Catholicism prior to the WCG, is that my instincts always hinted that something wasn't right, that the equation didn't quite add up. Religion was always such a negative. I'm not referring to morals or ethics, but the demands and unnecessary sacrifices, the fears and threats, and somehow the more involved you got with religion, the more unhappy you became.

And then one day, it all made sense. Christianity is nothing more than the re-packaging of ancient mythologies into an enormously successful man-made financial empire. Unfortunately, by the time I came to understand that those early childhood instincts were right on target, a half century of my life passed by.

That to me is the greatest regret.

Dennis said...

In hindsite, and we know how good that is, I gave way too much personal power away to others. I did it with church issues (and would have in any church) and I have done it in relationships.

The result has been to buy high and sell low which is why I am not a better people person than salesman.

Everything comes from the inside out. When we attach to things and people or even organizations we will invariably suffer. The suffering is in the grasphing and attachment that is over much or relies on others to fill needs. When anything depends on the good graces of others, when it is withdrawn or falls apart, we suffer.

Not an easy lesson to learn and being whole from the inside out is not easy either as it goes against our Western way of being sometimes.

I almost choke on the words with my Christian, Presbyterian and WCG background but I still say we are "born right the first time." The rest has been added as a means of control through fear, guilt and shame which is the basis for most of the Christian faith.

Since Adam and Eve never existed in space and time and it is mythology, and also NOT the origins of human beings, no one fell and no one passed the stains on to me and the implications of that are clear. So women, feel free to go ahead and speak up in church, ask your pastor questions without asking your husband and rest assured you did not come from men, but they came from you.

Born right the first time inadequacies and failings and all.

Dennis said...

In hindsite, and we know how good that is, I gave way too much personal power away to others. I did it with church issues (and would have in any church) and I have done it in relationships.

The result has been to buy high and sell low which is why I am not a better people person than salesman.

Everything comes from the inside out. When we attach to things and people or even organizations we will invariably suffer. The suffering is in the grasphing and attachment that is over much or relies on others to fill needs. When anything depends on the good graces of others, when it is withdrawn or falls apart, we suffer.

Not an easy lesson to learn and being whole from the inside out is not easy either as it goes against our Western way of being sometimes.

I almost choke on the words with my Christian, Presbyterian and WCG background but I still say we are "born right the first time." The rest has been added as a means of control through fear, guilt and shame which is the basis for most of the Christian faith.

Since Adam and Eve never existed in space and time and it is mythology, and also NOT the origins of human beings, no one fell and no one passed the stains on to me and the implications of that are clear. So women, feel free to go ahead and speak up in church, ask your pastor questions without asking your husband and rest assured you did not come from men, but they came from you.

Born right the first time inadequacies and failings and all.

Dennis said...

In hindsite, and we know how good that is, I gave way too much personal power away to others. I did it with church issues (and would have in any church) and I have done it in relationships.

The result has been to buy high and sell low which is why I am not a better people person than salesman.

Everything comes from the inside out. When we attach to things and people or even organizations we will invariably suffer. The suffering is in the grasphing and attachment that is over much or relies on others to fill needs. When anything depends on the good graces of others, when it is withdrawn or falls apart, we suffer.

Not an easy lesson to learn and being whole from the inside out is not easy either as it goes against our Western way of being sometimes.

I almost choke on the words with my Christian, Presbyterian and WCG background but I still say we are "born right the first time." The rest has been added as a means of control through fear, guilt and shame which is the basis for most of the Christian faith.

Since Adam and Eve never existed in space and time and it is mythology, and also NOT the origins of human beings, no one fell and no one passed the stains on to me and the implications of that are clear. So women, feel free to go ahead and speak up in church, ask your pastor questions without asking your husband and rest assured you did not come from men, but they came from you.

Born right the first time inadequacies and failings and all.

Anonymous said...

Dennis, If you have ever read Ikkyu's 'Wild Ways', you will see that this situation is a timeless one. The spirit
of those that handle such things vary, but the core
of the problem has always existed! Learn, love, and
laugh, tomorrow will probably come, so be ready!

Kathleen said...

Dennis, I've always wondered why you are the only ex-WCG minister to come clean. It's obvious that you're a rare breed from our select group, but I'm also astonished how few pastors/priests of any mainstream Christian denomination choose to come clean. It's been the greatest disillusionment of my life, since they all know, having gone through seminary, that it's a crock. They are perpetuating a pack of myths. It doesn't matter that they dress up these myths as something new, e.g., as mythos. At least in Armstrong's fundamentalist mindset, there was the assumption that Mr. Armstrong or his ministers was/could have been sincere. There's really no excuse for the mainstreamers.

I'm proud of you, Dennis. It takes courage and great integrity to walk the lonely road you're on. I haven't posted in a long time, but I wanted you to know this. Be kind to yourself.

Kathleen said...

Anon 7:21

I could have written the same post myself. Good words.

Anonymous said...

I find myself checking this site occasionally just to see what is going on in COG land, but resist the occasional urge to post a reply due to the futility of expecting my contributions to make any positive influence to those that have had negative experiences in WCG.
In reading some of the comments here I thought back to the time when all the changes were made in WCG and made the observation that people were accepting changes that were packaged in neat little gift sacks that were pretty on the outside, but if they ever looked inside they would find them empty.
I am not a great thinker, but one thing I firmly believe is that the bible properly understood was and is the most valuable contribution that a human being has to give meaning and hope to this human existence. The tragedy is that like everything else promoted as (even scientific data) truth it is used to control (and often abuse) the masses rather than support meaning and hope. In reading the little book of Ecclesiastes I find a wisdom that can be applied when dealing with today’s current trend to debunk the biblical records.
(Eccl 12:11-14 GWT) Words from wise people are like spurs. Their collected sayings are like nails that have been driven in firmly. They come from one shepherd. Be warned, my children, against anything more than these. People never stop writing books. Too much studying will wear out your body. After having heard it all, this is the conclusion: Fear God, and keep his commands, because this applies to everyone. God will certainly judge everything that is done. This includes every secret thing, whether it is good or bad.
I make no claims as to being able to offer solutions to all the problems created in WCG or religion, but speaking from personal experience I find a belief in the existence in an intelligent life with the power to create offers a greater purpose and a future hope for our personal existence. It also helps to put this life is the perspective as preparation for something more permanent.
Bert

Leonardo said...

Dennis, I too very much appreciated your recently expressed thoughts. I perceive you as being a very genuine, straightforward and sensitive kind of guy. If only more ministers could grow to your level of insight and maturity in life…but alas, I think the lure of an easy paycheck and the feeling of being in a profession of cosmic importance is just too strong of a pull for most of them to resist, especially as they age.

I like what you mistakenly said (was it perhaps a Freudian slip?!) in that Bible Study once. Had I been in the audience I’m sure it would have endeared you to me! It reminds me of the time some local guy was giving a passionate sermonette about David and Goliath, and the guy says, with great gusto, “And David said, ‘Who are you, you uncircumcised GENITAL…er, I mean GENTILE, to insult the armies of the living God?’ ”

It was all I could do to keep myself from venting a massive belly laugh!

The great Roman statesman, speaker and philosopher Marcus Tullius Cicero once talked about The Six Mistakes of Man – two of the foremost being:

“Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.”

“Neglecting development and refinement of the mind, and not acquiring the habit of reading and study.”

You have strongly learned these two vital lessons in the positive, and have grown out of the negative application of them in your post-WCG life – which is more than can be said for virtually every other minister or former minister I’ve known. You may know Dan Samson - he was a pastor for 18 years up in eastern Canada. He too had the integrity to confront the nonsense that the WCG taught, enough to walk away from the ministry at great cost to him and his family, and I respect him highly for it. He even wrote a book, part of which is about his journey through and out of the WCG, called “Evolution and God? The Implications of Darwin’s Theory for Fundamentalism, the Bible and the Meaning of Life.”

Anyway, as Corky stated so well, “Bitterness fades and regrets become distant memories and life goes on but good friends are forever...”

Amen to that.

As you’ve often pointed out, everyone processes their COG experience in different ways and within widely divergent time frames. And you know, like Nietzsche once said, “What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.”

So true.

I’ve also found these words of Ralph Waldo Emerson to be quite instructive as well:

“The measure of mental health is the disposition to find good everywhere.”

And these from author Sam Harris, which I have posted right near where I do most of my reading and study, and so I see them every single day:

“Nothing is more sacred than the facts.”

The folks who remain in, and provide moral and financial support to, the various “Big Gun one-man narcissist shows” – well, in the final analysis, it IS their choice, however mistaken. I think most of these people truly see no other way out because they’ve so consistently made one of Cicero’s observations above into a habitual lifestyle: “Neglecting development and refinement of the mind, and not acquiring the habit of reading and study.”

That’s why we need to continue encouraging folks to expand their range of true and useful knowledge – because, at the end of the day, this is the only thing that can deliver them from the stifling stranglehold of fundamentalist religion.

Just consider so many of the comments made by these folks here on AW. Most of them just spout uninformed and highly-emotional opinions based on faith – rather than accurate insights based upon facts.

And in spite of some of them claiming to have higher degrees, being professional scientists, etc., its plain for all to see that these folks are only deluding themselves, not their readers, because a man’s words are the true index of his mind, and the words we often see are so shallow and uninformed.

Anyway, thanks again for your insightful and heartfelt comments, Dennis.

Dennis said...

Leonardo said:

" I think the lure of an easy paycheck and the feeling of being in a profession of cosmic importance is just too strong of a pull for most of them to resist, especially as they age."

I have to say this issue takes it's toll on me mentally. I remember asking Ron Kelly years ago about ministerial retirement to which he assured us all "we will take care of you." Well he did all right.

This issue plagues me as I physically don't know what I am going to do in time. I know I can continue to do my best at career change etc, but the loss of all that time is irrecoverable.

This is partly why having been a WCG minister is the "gift that keeps on giving" as a member can walk away but I have to be reminded forever that while I may have inspired the giving of 70 million (right or wrong..it seemed right at the time) over three decades in 14 churches and in five states, there will be nothing and I don't mean that as any reason why I was in it. One does have to make ends meet.

Eastman Kodak takes better care of my folks than WCG ever could or would.

Nuther story I guess.

Dennis said...

PS I was only kidding when I told Joe Tkach (I thought I was anyway) that the church needed a better retirement system than driving into a tree at 65 years old. I didn't know that was good enough for him.

Anonymous said...

"You may know Dan Samson - he was a pastor for 18 years up in eastern Canada. He too had the integrity to confront the nonsense that the WCG taught, enough to walk away from the ministry at great cost to him and his family, and I respect him highly for it."

Caveat lector, Leo: Looks like Samson still has ties to the church.

Reading through the vanity press set up to publish the book, I have to wonder where Samson got the funding from? If he's listed as one of Weazell's "Friends", and appears to still adhere to "god of the gaps", at least according to the book excerpts, perhaps spending money on this book might not be the wisest way to part with one's money.

Just my two bucks' worth. His face looks vaguely familiar, I think our paths may have crossed, at one Feast or another.

I empathize strongly with the first chapter of the book, about "the one true church" being proven wrong. Such a pity Samson didn't go far enough beyond "the one true church" to find total freedom.

James said...

"Kathleen said...
Dennis, I've always wondered why you are the only ex-WCG minister to come clean. It's obvious that you're a rare breed from our select group..."

Not exactly true. Link below.

http://tinyurl.com/yfvefac

jack635 said...

"I guess it's their choice."

It is.

larry said...

Leonardo, the post you made recently about the guy in Pasadena who was feeling sorry for himself, was the best post you have ever made here.

As long as you avoid the subjects of atheism and evolution, your posts are insightful.

And, you still like to take potshots at me for for some reason. I don't know why. Everything I have said on here about myself is true, but I will not at this time elucidate further. We are probably more alike than you imagine.

I have a book recommendation for you...."Life After Death: the Evidence". Since you are an "evidence" kind of guy, you might like it.

Wess said...

Dennis,

You are my good friend, dare I say soul mate in so many ways. Your observations, rants and personal revelations have been a source of inspiration to me for all the time you have contributed to this site.

Often I say Hey, I feel the same way after many of your post I just wish I could express it that well.
There are occasions that I have to ask ,what the hell is he into now. :) Some topics go over my head for I too would qualify as an Indigo child by some of the not so flattering definitions.
Truly I am sad & sorry for the current issue or issues that trouble you, I wish I could be there for you as you have been there for me and doubtless many others here as well.
Thanks Wess

Leonardo said...

Bert wrote:
"I find myself checking this site occasionally just to see what is going on in COG land, but resist the occasional urge to post a reply due to the futility of expecting my contributions to make any positive influence to those that have had negative experiences in WCG."


Please re-think this stance, Bert. I've gained some understanding just from reading your post here. One never knows what little illuminating insights one can bring to the table. One doesn’t have to be “a great thinker” (whatever that means) in order for one’s words to be of service to another.

I agree with you that many perspectives in the Bible can indeed be useful, just like many of the insights contained in other great literature, such as ancient Greek plays, Shakespeare and other works that point us to “true north” principles. And as you mention, the problems start occurring when unbalanced fanatics and power freaks begin using such to control and manipulate others.

The book of Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books of the Bible (like it was for John F. Kennedy), along with Proverbs. But too many fundamentalists have used the verse (“Too much studying will wear out your body”) as an excuse to defend lazy ignorance. I did a term paper once at AC on the book of Ecclesiastes, getting into some of the original Hebrew, and unfortunately, many of the insights of it do not come across very well at all in translation, especially in some of the more loose paraphrases, such as you seemed to have used in quoting it.

Does this section of Ecclesiastes promote not studying, reading or expanding one’s storehouse of knowledge? If it does, then how does one explain verses like Proverbs 15:14?

“The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge…”

And Proverbs 18:15:

“The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.”

The ancient Rabbis, if they accidentally dropped a book on the floor, would pick it up and immediately kiss it to demonstrate their love of books, and of the knowledge they contain.

Leonardo said...

Bert also wrote:
“…speaking from personal experience I find a belief in the existence in an intelligent life with the power to create offers a greater purpose and a future hope for our personal existence. It also helps to put this life is the perspective as preparation for something more permanent.”


And that’s fine – in and of itself.

But if to do this one has to arrogantly sweep aside massive amounts of true knowledge and scientific discoveries, then it can only lead to eventual destruction and amounts to no more than wishful thinking.

I also personally think that the human life experience is more than just chance accident and ultimate metaphysical meaninglessness. But I’m not willing to blind myself to legitimate knowledge in order to hold to this perspective. Too many are.

A wide, open-minded view is required, such as few seem to have these days, no matter what metaphysical perspective they tend to gravitate toward.

For example, Charles Darwin once wrote in a letter to Harvard professor Asa Gray:

“…I cannot anyhow be contented to view this wonderful universe, and especially the nature of man, and to conclude that everything is the result of brute force. I am inclined to look at everything as resulting from designed laws, with the details, whether good or bad, left to the working out of what we may call chance…But the more I think, the more bewildered I become…”

And in his Autobiography he wrote:

“Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason and not the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking backwards and far into the future, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man, and I deserve to be called a Theist.”

My current view is that if such a “First Cause” truly does exist, then it/he/she/they will be far beyond the conceptions of deity that man has conjured up in his own imagination since time immemorial – so as to be a chasm such as that which exists between a paper airplane and the Space Shuttle, or a microscopic hairline fracture as compared to the Grand Canyon.

Leonardo said...

Purple Hymnal wrote:
“I empathize strongly with the first chapter of the book, about "the one true church" being proven wrong. Such a pity Samson didn't go far enough beyond "the one true church" to find total freedom.”


PH, you might want to check your facts out more thoroughly before you add your “two bucks worth” – which actually is more like two CENTS worth!

I know Dan really well, we were not only buds during our AC days, but have become lifelong friends, and so we’ve spent hours together (mainly via telephone) discussing various issues.

Samson does NOT have direct organizational ties with the WCG-Lite (i.e., GCI), nor any other COG. Feazell just cites Samson’s book because John Halford and Samson live fairly close to one another and every so often have some intellectual discussions with one another. I think Halford did a review of Samson’s book for “Christian Odyssey” magazine, or whatever it’s called now. GCI has accepted evolutionary theory, although probably few of its members realize it.

Dan’s book was originally going to be published by Columbia Press, having been strongly endorsed by a professor at Stanford University – but due to various business-related delays Dan went ahead and published the book himself. Personally, I warned him against it, but nonetheless that’s what he decided to do. And comments like yours are exactly WHY I was more inclined to patiently wait and have the book published by a well-known and reputable publisher.

I’m not trying to nit-pick here, but certain of your comments were really far from the actual realities.

Believe me, Samson is not a "God of the Gaps" arguer. I can't say I agree 100% with where he currently is, but I agree with much of what he has written in his book.

Leonardo said...

Larry wrote:
"As long as you avoid the subjects of atheism and evolution, your posts are insightful."


Well, first of all I do not take an atheists position, at least as commonly understood - any more than you would be considered one for not believing in Zeus or Ahura Mazda or any other god mankind has proposed, with the exception of your beloved Yahweh.

Secondly, evolution is here to stay, Larry - as the evidence for it is extremely compelling. The fact that you refuse to confront such overwhelming evidence is not my problem. Even professing Christian Francis Collins, in his book "The Language of God" admits this. I just finished reading his book, and many Christians would probably be stunned at his views.

Larry further wrote:
"And, you still like to take potshots at me for for some reason. I don't know why. Everything I have said on here about myself is true, but I will not at this time elucidate further. We are probably more alike than you imagine."


I take "potshots" at you because you make professional/academic claims just like Bob Thiel, and then refuse time and again to provide evidence for them.

Why the secrecy?

So how can you blame me? You do not reason or think with the depth of someone who has earned a PhD in science.

As far as that life after death book, have YOU actually read it? Are you aware of all the evidence that counters such Near Death Experience (NDE) claims? Several months ago I cited them in a response to Byker Bob, but "The Censor" would not post my response.

Anonymous said...

"This issue plagues me as I physically don't know what I am going to do in time. I know I can continue to do my best at career change etc, but the loss of all that time is irrecoverable."

You're not the only one Dennis. I've been fortunate enough to be employed in places where I could accumulate pensions, for most of my working life, but my life has been such that the accumulated funds have been spent towards playing "catch-up" that I otherwise would not have had to, thanks to my life in the church. (The money has gone on education and shelter, and other things that I should have had in place, long before I entered the workforce, instead of long after.)

As many here know, I was the product of a "spiritually broken" home, with one parent in and one parent out. The formerly-unconverted parent has no security for their retirement, and I haven't been in a position to be able to put any aside for them, either.

I am hopeful this is going to change in the next year or so, but due to health issues, that may already be too late.

Not to whine about my own situation, or try to one-up you, or anything Dennis; just know that you're likely part of the vast majority of ex-members of the church.

After all, who needs security for your old age, when you're going to be an Old Testament overlord anyway?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification, Leo. I just want to clarify that I was raising concerns and questions I had, in re: Samson, not stating cold hard facts. Apologies if I didn't frame the query clearly enough.

"GCI has accepted evolutionary theory, although probably few of its members realize it."

LOL that seems to be the state of affairs with the church these days, doesn't it? When you think about it critically, not too different from the way things were before the changes too, eh?

Anonymous said...

Leonardo said...
Does this section of Ecclesiastes promote not studying, reading or expanding one’s storehouse of knowledge? If it does, then how does one explain verses like Proverbs 15:14?
I may not have used the best translation. Is was not my intention to discourage study even though I find there is a point where a person either goes in circles or runs into a dead end street when dealing with certain issues.
The point is that Ecclesiastes is written from a very human perspective that recognizes a transitory emptiness in many human experiences and the writer’s conclusion factored in a higher intelligence.
In my comment I used “the bible properly understood”, which to me mean intelligently applied to a person’s life.
Dennis indicated recognition that he had given others too much control in his life. I think we all fail to understand that our life is a personal responsibility at least after we have reached maturity.

Years ago I studied time management and am still interested in what I have redefined as life management. I have advised my grandson and granddaughters (all adults) that if they do not learn to manage their life someone or something else will fill the void and control it.
Since I am a new contributor on this site and do not know what others may believe I will explain that I believe the bible gives valid information regarding human relationships and is primarily focused on producing relationships that lead to a harmonious unity in the human inhabitants of at least planet earth. The bible documents the good, bad, and ugly that presently exists and offers solutions that are debated and distorted. The god of the bible is depicted as a personal god (has personality) because humans are personal beings.

If we are honest the greatest of human minds have not produced anything that offers a guaranteed satisfaction to everyone or any hope beyond this human existence that compares to the biblical narrations (at lease I am not aware of any). From my perspective it appears that those who attempt to elevate science and other interests to a level that destroys the idea that we are all part of an eternal planned purpose of a personal Being will wind up facing death (as we all will) lamenting the futility of what has been experienced.

Of course this is just a perspective and maybe other have an inside scoop on life that I do not possess.
Bert

Leonardo said...

Bert, I truly appreciate your comments.

You know, talking about the book of Ecclesiastes - I remember the first time I ever met and had a conversation with Raymond McNair. He was chaperoning a weekend dorm outing up in Lake Arrowhead back in 1976. We had rented a condo, and one Sabbath morning I was sitting by a pool table in the recreational room reading the book of Ecclesiastes, and out comes McNair from a nearby bedroom, walking out clad in just his t-shirt, socks and boxer shorts, after looking around to make sure there weren’t any females around!

We ended up sitting there having a great discussion about the meaning of Ecclesiastes! I think that’s what endeared me to the guy right there and then!

Yes, I absolutely agree with you that the Bible has much of value to say about many different real-life situations we face in the course of living. Therein lays it’s secret of longevity.

But once I left the stifling confines of the COG’s, I began to study into other sacred literature, as well as other great literature from the ages, and found that they virtually ALL have much of value to teach us. By no means does the Bible have a unique corner on truth, which as a naive young man I was lead to believe in the COG.

I had the very great privilege once to study insight meditation under the tutelage of a Buddhist priest, and came to understand through this unique experience that Buddhism humbly offers tremendous insights into the human experience that we would be smart to study and heed. Dr. Hoeh clearly recognized this fact. But I have not shaved my head, donned an orange saffron robe, nor retreated to a mountainside Tibetan monastery to meditate my life away!

I’ve also studied deeply into Samurai and other Asian philosophies – and they too can provide modern man with useful perspectives and principles. I’ve even studied into Marxist thought, and yes, though it has an admittedly terrible track record, still, we can learn much from certain insights it teaches – it being very important to never “throw out the baby with the bathwater.”

“All men are my teachers in that each can teach me something I didn’t know before.”

I’ve come to see that it’s a great error someone makes in life by identifying too much with one particular ideology – be it religious or secular. And, of course, fundamentalist religion very much encourages this kind of foolishness. It may have taken me 30 years in COG religion to learn this vital lesson, but I finally did, and it’s made all the difference. And I don’t consider it time lost at all.

In my opinion, the most impressive gathering of human beings in any one place and time in all of history is powerfully illustrated by America’s Founding Fathers. These were truly remarkable, precise-thinking and foresighted men - in spite of their many human flaws.

And one of their great strengths was the classic liberal arts educations they virtually all had – which was very prevalent at the time in America – and which encouraged them to take a decidedly eclectic approach in forming the foundations of the new nation. They would deeply study and learn from the lessons of history (especially from the classical Greek and Roman periods), and pick and choose from among the very best of ideas which had produced the very best of real-world results, then adapted, customized and applied them as they could to the particular situations they faced.

This method was nothing short pure genius.

And I have not only found tremendous inspiration to emotionally fuel my journey onward, but great wisdom in this approach, which I’ve adopted as my own personal philosophy of life: learn from the masters, choose from among the very best of their ideas and principles, and then creatively apply them to the modern-day, unique circumstances of your own particular life.

Anonymous said...

Bert,

Please explain why God needs to be feared.

Anonymous said...

Gavin. Long entries in the blog are a weariness to the flesh. Didn't you once upon a time limit the length?

Anonymous said...

Charlie said...
“Please explain why God needs to be feared.”
For a simple answer I could use this translation, but the KJV and most translations use the word “fear” so I will add a personal perspective.
(Eccl 12:13 NCV) Now, everything has been heard, so I give my final advice: Honor God and obey his commands, because this is all people must do.

I am not an expert in Hebrew, but a dictionary on Hebrew words includes this; 3372. yare', yaw-ray'; a prim. root; to fear; mor. to revere; caus. to frighten:--affright, be (make) afraid, dread (-ful), (put in) fear (-ful, -fully, -ing). (be had in) reverence (-end), X see, terrible (act, -ness, thing).

I believe the author of Ecclesiastes is putting things in perspective by pointing out that of all the people and things that human beings look to with awe or superiority, such as idols, kings, or other monarchs that have a control over the quality of life we experience Israel’s God is the one who has the greatest control.
My human father (now deceased) was my greatest example of true love, but when I was a child I definitely feared what would happen if I disobeyed him. Even when I became an old man (which was before he died) I respected him and attempted to fulfill any requests he made whenever possible. That is the fear and reverence I have for God.
Bert

Leonardo said...

Anonymous 7:54 wrote:
"Gavin. Long entries in the blog are a weariness to the flesh. Didn't you once upon a time limit the length?"


Perhaps that's because some of us actually have things worth saying that can't be said within the framework of the bloggers equivalent of a modern media sound-bite.

Anon, your complaint clearly reveals two things about yourself, maybe three:

First, that you don't read very much, and hence find anything over a few sentences hard to endure.

Two, because of that you really don't have much to say either - and are aggravated by those who do.

And perhaps a third thing as well, although this is a guess on my part: you probably watch a lot of TV, because I’ve often found TV addicts to be particularly inarticulate themselves, and extremely impatient with those who aren't.

Rather than whining to Gavin about having to put forth the mental effort to focus your mind for more than 30 seconds at a time, why not just skip over the longer comments that you find so wearisome, and only read the “preach & run” blogs of those who are, like yourself, neither readers nor very articulate?

You won’t learn very much, but at least you can quickly glance over what little they have to say so you can get onto other more important things, like watching “Dancing with the Stars” or a televised sporting event.

Anonymous said...

"Gavin. Long entries in the blog are a weariness to the flesh. Didn't you once upon a time limit the length?"

I second this, even though I'm one of the people more apt to post long comments.....Leo, please tell me you're not this taxing when you're speaking to people offline!

Anonymous said...

"If we are honest the greatest of human minds have not produced anything that offers a guaranteed satisfaction to everyone or any hope beyond this human existence that compares to the biblical narrations"

Bert, I'm sure you believe this sincerely but it just shows that you're into Christianity way too deep. In truth, the biblical narratives are myths written by stone age, bronze age and iron age men. There is some wisdom there, of course, mixed in with lots of foolishness.

The Skeptic

Anonymous said...

"I’ve come to see that it’s a great error someone makes in life by identifying too much with one particular ideology"

Leonardo, that quote, and the reasoning leading up to it, was a real gem. Thank you very much for that insight.

The Skeptic

AW Reader said...

"Long entries in the blog are a weariness to the flesh."

Long entries from Leonardo are the only reason I return to the AW. It is such a refreshing, stimulating experience after 25 years in the intellectual vacuum of the average WCG meeting.

May his postings increase both in number and length.

Leonardo said...

Anonymous 11:26 inquired:
"Leo, please tell me you're not this taxing when you're speaking to people offline!"


I really don't know - nobody has ever told me I am over-talkative or taxing. Actually, I’m a pretty shy person, socially-speaking. I have had many folks through the years tell me I’m a very stimulating conversationalist – which I attribute to my AC experience and years of Spokesman’s Club training.

In fact, I was so incredibly TERRIFIED when I had to give my very first speech at AC that I was seriously thinking about just quietly packing my bags and leaving without telling anybody! Then I thought I would go and drink a six-pack of beer before giving my speech so that I didn’t CARE about or even notice how scared I was!! But finally, I sucked it up and learned THE most foundational lesson in public speaking: take the time to prepare thoroughly and do your research well so that you know what you are talking about, and 95% of your nervousness will evaporate away.

But please consider what I said to Anonymous 7:54 - perhaps you find it taxing because your current attention span is too short. Modern media (TV watching, advertising, sound-bite communications, etc.) has definitely been shown by study after study to seriously reduce human attentiveness and the vital ability to mentally digest conceptual information. Just talk with virtually anyone under 30 these days - they are lucky if they have the attention span of a cockroach.

But the good news is that this can be remedied - just read more. Numerous studies show that reading has a very positive and expansive effect upon attention spans, as well as the ability to comprehend complex data.

Better yet, read the phenomenal book "Brain Rules" by Dr. John Medina.

Or if a book is too much for you right now, then at the very least go the book's website at www.brainrules.net and watch some of the videos.

Medina has some incredible things to say about the human brain, and how to maximize our use of it in practical everyday life. Medina is a developmental molecular biologist, and everything he says in the book has been verified by peer-reviewed journals, much of it discovered just within the past decade.

Come on, Anon, leave the attention span of a rodent in the dust behind you, and take the challenge!

Anonymous said...

Bert,

Given the carnage and human suffering done by the God of the OT or at God's bidding, I would have to agree with you. That God should be feared.

Certainly not a very nice or loving God to put mankind in a can't win scenario.

Anonymous said...

Leo: Anon, your complaint clearly reveals two things about yourself, maybe three:

Wrong on all counts. Your comment does perhaps expose your own character

Anonymous said...

"But the good news is that this can be remedied - just read more."

That was rather condescending of you, wasn't it Leonardo? (I am the anon you are addressing.) I assure you, there is no issue whatsoever with my attention span, and I likely read more than you do.

The analogy of trying to drink from a firehose is apt; not that I am suggesting you are intentionally voluminous in your postings. The only point I, and the others here, are trying to make is that hitting people with a "wall of text" (in most cases, you post three long comments, one right after the other) overwhelms both your point, and the reader.

Of course, in typical fashion, you blame this on our "TV attention span" (I have not subscribed to a cable provider since 2003, not that I need to defend my attention span to you), conveniently blaming we, the readers, instead of examining the point that perhaps you are not communicating as efficiently nor effectively as possible.

In point of fact the real fault probably lies in the middle, with both sides, so please do not think I am assigning blame to either you or us, with this. I am merely trying to point out the fact that I now skip past your comments, because they tend to belabour a single point, often into oblivion. (Also note I am often in agreement with you.)

Now, before I become too wordy, I will sign off.

Anonymous said...

The Skeptic wrote:
“Bert, I'm sure you believe this sincerely but it just shows that you're into Christianity way too deep. In truth, the biblical narratives are myths written by stone age, bronze age and iron age men. There is some wisdom there, of course, mixed in with lots of foolishness.”

The original human source of truth and wisdom really makes very little difference. Its value is in its application and the influence it has had on the people involved. A close look at the book of Ecclesiastes will reveal that almost every question people may have about human behavior has been addressed in an open minded discussion. The author’s conclusion points to the truth that everyone will die and states that judgment of who is right and who is wrong belongs to the creator. So far even those who possess the greatest wisdom have failed to produce a harmonious unity throughout the human race and it is not likely that any will.
I will admit that my theological studies have produced plausible reasons for living a life style that incorporates the morals and principles promoted in the bible and those attributed to Jesus Christ even if there was not the hope of an eternal existence. The only advice I have to offer is “try to look at the bible from positive perspective” you may find it different than you think it is.
It seems there is some concern about long windedness so this will be my last contribution for a while.
Bert

Hank's Henchman said...

Please explain why God needs to be feared.

"This morning there was a knock at my door. When I answered the door I found a well-groomed, nicely dressed couple. The man spoke first.

John: "Hi! I'm John, and this is Mary."

Mary: "Hi! We're here to invite you to come kiss Hank's ass with us."

Me: "Pardon me?! What are you talking about? Who's Hank, and why would I want to kiss his ass?"

John: "If you kiss Hank's ass, he'll give you a million dollars; and if you don't, he'll kick the shit out of you."


http://home.sprynet.com/~owl1/hank.htm

:) That's why.....

Leonardo said...

Anonymous 9:51 wrote:
"Wrong on all counts. Your comment does perhaps expose your own character."


Anon, this discussion is over.

I don't have time to waste on people like you who say nothing of substance and seem mentally limited to only short, virtually meaningless ad hominem quips.

Leonardo said...

Anonymous 10:43 wrote:
"That was rather condescending of you, wasn't it Leonardo?"


My intent is not to be condescending, Anon, only to make the point that I've observed a direct correlation between verbal inarticulateness and excessive TV watching.

And this is not just my private opinion.

So many detailed studies have been done to date on this connection that now researchers, armed ONLY with the number of hours of TV a person watches in the course of a week, can very closely predict many other things about that person’s life, and especially with virtual pinpoint accuracy their income (the more TV folks watch, the lower their yearly income tends to be), the correlation between lack of mental activity and TV watching is that proven, strong and demonstrable.

Anonymous also said:
“I likely read more than you do.”


Oh really?

Just to keep a little prod on myself, as HWA always used to encourage us students to do, I pay myself a dollar an hour for each hour I spend in reading. Doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up over the course of a year, and I use the money the following year to fund further book buying, so it’s a win-win deal as far as I’m concerned, self-perpetuating a useful and mind-expanding habit. I read in 20-minute segments under a blue light so as to reduce eyestrain, setting a timer that chimes so I know when to take a break.

Also, in order to synthesize information into potentially new and useful insights I typically am reading 15-20 books simultaneously. I have the heart to read considerably more than I actually do, but in the interests of balance and other life responsibilities, I do what I feel I can without excess. (In addition I am listening to 3-5 separate CD audio courses while I commute back and forth to work, so as to make the best use of such “dead time.”)

Thus I keep accurate track of the time I spend in reading. Last year (2008) I spent a total 953 hours in this pursuit.

Now what was your time spent in reading again – or will you just be content to stick with an extremely ambiguous verbal boast on your part?

Anonymous said...

Bert advises "try to look at the bible from positive perspective”.

Bert, that's what all Christians do: they emphasize the positive, minimize the negative and interpret all scripture in a light most positive to their god. I find this approach a bit dishonest. Since leaving WCG, I try to be neither positive nor negative, but I take what the bible says at "face value", for better or for worse.

Bert, you refer to "the morals and principles promoted in the bible and those attributed to Jesus Christ" as if they're good. Do you mean morals and principals like "you must slay all the men and children, but you may keep the women for yourselves" (Old Testament), or "I come not to bring peace, but a sword", "let the dead bury their dead", or "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" (Jesus). I came up with these off the top of my head. It's not hard. There are hundreds more quotes that exhibit reprehensible morals and ethics, both from the Old and New Testaments. Think about it.

The Skeptic

Vaughn said...

Hank's Henchman said: "...John: "If you kiss Hank's ass, he'll give you a million dollars; and if you don't, he'll kick the shit out of you.""

Too funny! Next time, before I agree to kiss Hank's ass, I am asking for half of the money first!

Anonymous said...

Skeptic said
‘Bert, you refer to "the morals and principles promoted in the bible and those attributed to Jesus Christ" as if they're good. Do you mean morals and principals like "you must slay all the men and children, but you may keep the women for yourselves" (Old Testament), or "I come not to bring peace, but a sword", "let the dead bury their dead", or "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple" (Jesus). I came up with these off the top of my head. It's not hard. There are hundreds more quotes that exhibit reprehensible morals and ethics, both from the Old and New Testaments. Think about it.”
I have studied the verses alluded to and other verses people use to deny or discredit the god of the bible and I can show plausible explanations for verses of this type or at lease show how they connect to a bigger picture of creation and life, but this is not the forum for addressing these issue.
I intended to cease commenting here, but it appears many here have distorted view of the god revealed in the bible or lack an understanding in biblical theology. Since the comments made are an affront to the creator and sustainer of life I will contribute some things I believe should be considered.
If there is no god or no intelligent being involved in life and the universe that sustains it, the things presented to demean or discredit this nonexistent god are simply a record of human engineering to blame god for what people have or have not done. If there is a god who is the creator of life and the things that support it who and this god is revealed as being actively involve at different points in history a person is questioning the morality and authority of this god. If we believe that good human beings are capable of overcoming bad human beings (which is unlikely) the best we are looking at is and ongoing struggle to have a little better life before we die.
I personally have ceased making an attempt to question anyone’s faith even if I may not share this faith, because a faith in something that has hope is better than an unbelief that leaves us in a hopeless situation. The pity of it all is that once that faith has been destroyed it will take a miracle to restore it.
I believe the character of the God in the bible is revealed as perfect love. Sometimes the most merciful expression of love includes death, which at some point in time comes on us all. I am not god (and never will be) so I cannot judge god for what is allowed or determined, but the bible offers the hope of life after death so I will continue to put my trust in the God I believe is revealed in the Bible and live every day giving thanks to Him for the opportunity to enjoy a life with hope.
When I referred to book of Ecclesiastes was m point out that the author had come to recognize that the best life things that can be experienced in this human life in temporal and meaningless unless it is a part of a bigger picture. I do not ask anyone to believe what I believe, but I will point out that the bible has wisdom and intelligence when properly understood. Churches are made up of people and people interpret it in many different ways. What is important is how it is applied. If it is used to deny, desist, or destroy it is applied in the wrong manner. If it is used to encourage, edify, and enhance a person’s earthly journey faith, hope, and charity will eventually follow. At least this is my experience.
It is not my intention to convert those who may have different beliefs and I am not trying to add clutter to this site. It is difficult to see people make comments that reveal an understanding that missed a point I intended in what I contributed.
Bert

Anonymous said...

"I believe the character of the God in the bible is revealed as perfect love. Sometimes the most merciful expression of love includes death, which at some point in time comes on us all."

Drowning infants is perfect love? Slaughtering infants is perfect love?

Here's a tip: If you don't want to look like a retard, then don't try to defend the indefensible.

The Apostate Paul

Leonardo said...

The Apostate Paul wrote:
"Here's a tip: If you don't want to look like a retard, then don't try to defend the indefensible."


I'd have to agree with you here, Paul.

But then if religious folks took this advice seriously, that would pretty much put an end to the field of Christian apologetics.

Here's a little insight worth pondering - philosopher Daniel Dennett wrote it in his 2006 book "Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon"...

“The belief that belief in God [the deity of the Bible] is so important that it must not be subjected to the risks of disconfirmation or serious criticism has lead the devout to ‘save’ their beliefs by making them incomprehensible even to themselves.”

I think this goes a long way toward explaining why the religious, especially the more fundamentalist of believers, often find themselves making the nuttiest and most irrational of comments, frequently painting themselves into inescapable corners attempting to defend the most illogical and indefensible of concepts: their unreflective belief system requires it!

Recall the lengthy creation/evolution blog here on AW (about a month or so ago) where the True Believers made absolute fools of themselves trying to argue against scientifically verifiable discoveries which they perceived as threatening to their holy doctrines. Certain of them have still never returned to AW as serious bloggers since, they took such an intellectual trouncing. (I still sometimes wonder if Questeruk ever did manage to finish reading "Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters" by Donald Prothero as he promised he would?!)

It's like the late 2nd century Christian apologist Tertullian once declared: "It is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd...the fact is certain, because it is impossible."

But then again, the vast majority of religion's most ardent believers have never claimed their cherished supernatural view of reality and "the mysterious ways of God" are in any way comprehensible to reason.

In essence this explains quite cogently why most supernatural religionists are so anti-science and anti-reason in their thinking, perhaps not overtly, but the tacit implications are definitely hovering just below the surface: because deep down they are terrified that the tools of science and rationality will one day completely disprove their cherished ideologies as received from religious tradition, and then what will they be left with?

This again is yet another good reason why we need to be careful not to place all our bets on one ideology alone, especially one as naturally fractured, contradictory and irrational as supernatural religion.

Anonymous said...

The Apostate Paul said: “Here's a tip: If you don't want to look like a retard, then don't try to defend the indefensible.”
When I read some of the comments here regarding the mental attitudes and emotional experiences they have or are going through and compare them to the life I experience I do not mind appearing retarded.
I am simply stating my perception of life and it is not my intention to defend anything other than my right to personal beliefs about religious matters. What others believe has no affect on my personal life as yet, but who knows what will happen if the majority in this country decide to destroy the right to live by personal beliefs.
Bert

PurpleHymnal said...

"Drowning infants is perfect love? Slaughtering infants is perfect love?"

Don't forget Happy shall he be, that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.

Anonymous said...

Bert wrote:

"I have studied the verses alluded to and other verses people use to deny or discredit the god of the bible and I can show plausible explanations for verses of this type..."

Bert, I am not interested in "plausible" explanations, i.e., "maybe it really means this or that". That's just christians twisting the verses to try to make them mean something they don't say. I'm just interested in what the verse plainly says. Don't you think that is a more honest approach?

Bert also says "it appears many here have distorted view of the god revealed in the bible or lack an understanding in biblical theology. Since the comments made are an affront to the creator and sustainer of life..."

Wow, that statement is LOADED with assumptions. It assumes the bible reveals a god. I disagree. It seems clear to me the bible is a collection of writings by men attempting to claim the backing of a god. It also assumes the god described in the bible is the creator and sustainer of life. There is absolutely no evidence this is true. Certainly the imperfect book called "the bible" is not convincing evidence in the eyes of an impartial viewer.

"is simply a record of human engineering to blame god..." Not at all Bert. I'm not blaming god. I'm claiming the bible has no connection to god.

"If there is a god who is the creator of life and the things that support it" - there might be.

"who and this god is revealed as being actively involve at different points in history" - there is no evidence of this whatsoever.

"there is a person is questioning the morality and authority of this god" - I question only the morality and the authority written by ancient men in the bible.

"If we believe that good human beings are capable of overcoming bad human beings (which is unlikely). I disagree with you. While it is a slow, two-steps-forward-one-step-back process, I believe there has been progress toward good and away from evil over the course of history. Look, we don't have human sacrifices any more. Not even animal sacrifices. Also slavery, once widespread, is now very limited, and the use of torture is much less than, say, 1000 years ago.

Bert, you're locked into a narrow mindset. I don't blame you for that. But please, question your premises. You assume too much.

The Skeptic

Anonymous said...

If there is one thing I seem to be skilled at is drawing out people’s critical condemnation; of course that wasn’t my intention.
So far I have learned that this site is dominated by people who do not believe in the god of the bible or perhaps I should say what the people who preserved the bible believed about god.
What I have yet to see is what people believe about human life and what they expect when they die. I have indicated that my beliefs on these issues have been gleaned from the bible. Since I am probably a lot closer to experiencing that event than most, if not all of those posting here I have no apprehensions regarding the subject.
What do you believe is the purpose of life (if you believe there is a purpose) and what do you have to offer when the reality sets in that your remaining years are fewer in number. Tell what I can tell this person who is racked in pain and counting the days asking me if I think they will see their mother, who die years ago. Tell if you believe this life is all there is and after you have enjoyed the experience long enough you are ready to die.
In other words what do you have to offer that makes the trials and troubles of this life worth going through. Tell me what you use as a guide to measure the quality of life you experience. Just what kind of god do you believe in if you have such a belief?
I would enjoy hearing honest answered on these issues. In other what is your religious belief.
Bert

Leonardo said...

Bert, I don’t condemn you at all.

You’ve asked some good questions, which are deserving of some straight answers.

You wrote:
“What I have yet to see is what people believe about human life and what they expect when they die.”

I think that’s because you’re fairly new here. Actually this topic has been discussed much in past blogs – ad infinitum, actually.

I could write at great length about what I believe about human life. So what? And based upon anonymous complaints about how long-winded my comments tend to be, I think my written views would draw more condemnation than you think your comments do!

But who cares what I or anyone else thinks? What matters most is what is OBJECTIVELY TRUE – not what is comforting, or somehow gets folks through life, or whatever. These are important, but they are secondary issues, not primaries. I’m interested in discovering factual TRUTHS and objective REALITIES – not subjective dogmas based upon faith in the writings of ancient folks with Stone-age worldviews, much of which modern science has proven wrong over and over again.

You further asked:
“What do you believe is the purpose of life (if you believe there is a purpose) and what do you have to offer when the reality sets in that your remaining years are fewer in number.


I honestly don’t know with absolute certainty. But neither do you, nor does anybody else. At least I can admit this. Like Huxley once said, “I can honestly and openly admit I don’t know something, whereas men considerably more ignorant than I claim certainty.”

But if there is an ultimate purpose to human existence, then I cannot conceive of it being fulfilled without the admirable character traits of intellectual honesty, willingness to face facts (whether we want to believe them or not), rationality, a general kindness and spirit of affectionate good will toward our fellow travelers, etc. And obviously, many more could be named.

You wrote:
“Tell what I can tell this person who is racked in pain and counting the days asking me if I think they will see their mother, who die years ago. Tell if you believe this life is all there is and after you have enjoyed the experience long enough you are ready to die.”


I’d tell them what I have told them, in a way that is appropriately sensative to the particular situation and the specific person: that I honestly don’t know.

You may find this cruel, but I think it’s considerably crueler to pretend to a knowledge you don’t actually possess, and an outright evil to give people false hopes and expectations.

And I can tell you from my own experience that not all folks who “die in the faith” as believing Christians pass away in a state of psychological peace and ease. My observation is that many of them, as they near their end, realize that they have wasted their lives believing a bunch of bunk and outright falsehoods, and realize that it is now too late to do anything about it.

Leonardo said...

What supernatural religious beliefs do I currently have?

Well, having once had ardent faith in the COG line of beliefs for over 30 years, I currently have none.

Why? Because I lived my former religious beliefs with great zeal, passion and in complete wholeheartedness for three decades, and found them to be greatly wanting on the practical level. Their actual value is far overestimated, like paying millions of dollars for handfuls of dirt and gravel.

I now know that supernatural religious belief is steeped in misrepresentation and, for the most part, grounded in wishful thinking and a desire to evade reality.

Yes, of course, I presently have perceptions of reality and fact-based beliefs founded upon the best knowledge of which I am currently capable, but I don’t artificially compartmentalize them into “religious” or “secular” or whatever other way folks divide their mental life up. Just like I don’t separate the “natural” from the “spiritual” – ALL realities are REALITY. Period.

And I don’t pretend or fake to have knowledge I don’t actually possess – unlike what I did when I was a True Believer.

I could go on, but I’m afraid the non-readers among us would post yet more complaints against me!!

Bert, I appreciate your views and what you have to say. You’ve obviously lived a long life and experienced much – this comes through in your writing, even though I may not agree with everything you have to say.

But that’s fine.

The main thing is that we can “agree to disagree” respectfully and civilly. And by doing so, hopefully we can all profit from the exchange.

Anonymous said...

"I am simply stating my perception of life and it is not my intention to defend anything other than my right to personal beliefs about religious matters."

Then you must know that in a country where you are free to voice your personal beliefs you are not exempt from public ridicule. It's not your belief in imaginary beings that I am ridiculing, but that you actively defend genocide as a reasonable character trait of your deity.

"What others believe has no affect on my personal life as yet, but who knows what will happen if the majority in this country decide to destroy the right to live by personal beliefs."

While I wouldn't mind seeing religion banned, I would never advocate it in this country (in others it needs to be banned) because as an American I value individual liberty. If you want to believe in, and worship, a genocidal imaginary being, then by all means go ahead. But please do us all a favor and leave the persecution complex at the door. You have total freedom to indulge in your fruitcake beliefs.

The Apostate Paul

Anonymous said...

Bert,

Most of what Leonardo said reflects my perspective as well. But I would like to add a point or two.

First, let me apologize if my prior posts seemed like condemnation. I feel strongly about the issue. Having been duped once, and having learned better, I tend react strongly to religious assertions I know to be false.

You state correctly, "what the people who preserved the bible believed about god." Each of us should draw our own conclusion as to the extent to which these preserved writings accurately reflect god.

"What do you believe is the purpose of life (if you believe there is a purpose)". Why must there be a "purpose"? Perhaps life just is.

"and what do you have to offer when the reality sets in that your remaining years are fewer in number. Tell what I can tell this person who is racked in pain and counting the days asking me if I think they will see their mother, who die years ago." This is a logical fallacy. Yes, it may be comforting to claim death isn't really death, but that does not make the claim true or false.

"Tell if you believe this life is all there is". Yes, I do.

"and after you have enjoyed the experience long enough you are ready to die." I have lived over half of my life but I would not say I'm ready to die. Nevertheless, I'm not sure I'd really want to live forever either.

"In other words what do you have to offer that makes the trials and troubles of this life worth going through." I have nothing to offer. Is false hope better than nothing?

Bert, the questions you raise are questions from the heart and might well have been the motivation behind mankind's religions concocted this idea of "life after death". And they're probably why so many people willfully belive it. People want to, or need to, believe death is not the end. However, wanting to or needing to believe something does not make it true. I prefer reality, the real truth, however uncomfortable, over wishful thinking.

"Tell me what you use as a guide to measure the quality of life you experience. Just what kind of god do you believe in if you have such a belief?" I believe there may or may not be a god. However, it is clear to me that any god who may exist is taking zero active involvement in the events taking place on planet earth. It is also clear to me that all of the "gods" behind all of this world's religions were created by men. If there is a creator god, or any other kind of god, we don't know a thing about him.

This may not seem like a happy belief system to you, but I can assure you that people like me can and do live happy, fulfilled, moral lives. We don't need some god dishing out judgment, rewards and punishment to live good lives. And we don't need to live forever for our lives to be worthwhile. In fact, we tend to cherish each moment, and make the most of the time we have.

The Skeptic

Leonardo said...

And just one more thing, Bert - you wrote in a previous comment:
"...who knows what will happen if the majority in this country decide to destroy the right to live by personal beliefs."


History is full of this, but do consider that it has most often been supernatural RELIGIOUS ideology that promotes such censorship.

Personally, I don’t mind people living by personal beliefs in their private lives, but it’s part and parcel of supernatural religion to try to impose those beliefs on others by force - either legislative or physical. This is clearly demonstrable in the historical record.

The religious right in America clearly is an example of the former in modern times – and some openly proclaim their desire for the latter by desiring to turn the United States into a theocracy.

Islam is another example of this truism in action. Christianity used to be, historically-speaking.

Consider the fact that once many faith-based religions attain to political, legal and physical (military) power one of the first things they do is impose their belief system either by force of law or physical force (threats of torture or death). There are many examples from history that could be cited to demonstrate this.

Irrational secular ideologies like Communism or Nazism do the same thing. Freedom of thought goes out the window the moment these movements take over. Why? Because they are not fact-based systems, but feeling-based ones.

In all practicality, Nazism was a subjective faith-based religion (though not a supernatural one as traditionally understood).

For example, Hermann Goering, the head of the German air force (the Luftwaffe), once said that “If the Fuhrer wishes it then two times two is five.”

In fact, Goering wrote a book in 1934 called “Germany Reborn” – and in it he clearly spelled out the Nazi position unashamedly:

“Just as the Roman Catholic considers the Pope infallible in all matters concerning religion and morals, so do we National Socialists believe with the same inner conviction that for us the Fuhrer is in all political and other matters concerning the national and social interests of the people simply infallible. Wherein lies the secret of this enormous influence which he [Hitler] has on his followers? ... It is something mystical, inexpressible, almost incomprehensible which this unique man possesses, and he who cannot feel it instinctively will not be able to grasp it at all.”

So according to Goering, one of the highest ranking Nazis in Hitler's regime, to subjectively FEEL Hitler’s magical authority was to KNOW it. Or, stated in another way more typically found in religious contexts: “To those who feel it, no explanation is necessary; to those who don’t, no explanation is possible.”

This is the exact identical epistemology of supernatural religious belief – blind mystical faith and subjective feeling not based upon rational facts, evidence, reason and logic.

As for me, give me hard objective FACTS anytime over comforting yet imaginary FALSEHOODS.

Leonardo said...

Bert, some other thoughts regarding your earlier inquiries into my (our) beliefs.

Astronomer Alex Filippenko once wrote: “An open mind, willing to consider things from a different perspective, is definitely an asset. Some ideas initially seem implausible, but upon further exploration yield significant new insights, and occasionally even revolutions.”

He is talking about the virtue of being open-minded as opposed to the vice of being empty-minded.

But a quandary exists: on the one hand, the human mind has historically proven to be capable of astounding observations and innovative insights when given the freedom and mental tools to do so, yet on the other, it’s just so easy for them to stall, sputter and strain away like an old motor on the accumulated sludge of obsolete, worn out ideas that, while they may have served a useful purpose in the past, are quickly becoming out-paced and irrelevant in the present.

We live in a new world which demands a new and improved worldview to match it.

We human beings can ask “Who, or what, is the source of the cosmos?” or “Is there ultimate purpose in the universe – and does it include us as individuals?”

These are among the greatest of questions the human mind can generate – and of all the creatures that walk, fly, swim or slither on planet Earth, we, as far as we know, are the only ones who have the conceptual ability to make such inquiries about ourselves and the universe that surrounds us.

Is the universe a dark, hostile, nihilistic place of death, destruction and ultimate meaninglessness – or is our cosmos open to discovery, a sunlit universe of radiant purpose and meaning, demonstrated by the fact that it has given rise to creatures that are capable of even asking such questions?

Now in my mid-fifties, after an interesting journey of three decades through COG fundamentalist religion, after some extremely productive post-COG years, and, above all, after much deep reflection on what it may all mean, I must say that I tend to fall within the latter category. The cosmos seems to be abundantly filled with surprises - us just being here as living, sentient creatures among the greatest of these surprises. And I cannot help but thinking that there are more and greater surprises to come, such that we right now cannot conceive given our current level of knowledge. But - as has been proven by all past history – I do think it will be science, reason and a humble, teachable child-like openness to reality that gets us there, rather than blind and irrational faith in the imaginary world of supernatural religion, as temporarily comforting as it may be to some folks.

Traditionally, it’s been religion that has attempted to cheaply, easily and sometimes glibly answer “The Great Questions” by means of resort to a presumed supernatural realm of invisible and often-clashing gods, angels, demons, etc. But in my view, while it may have served a useful purpose in times of past ignorance, such as it once did for most of us who blog here, on the whole it has failed terribly, having produced on the balance far more misery than good for mankind. And yet folks insist on being locked into it, and can’t seem to let go of such obsolete methods of understanding themselves and the world around them. Trying to persuade them to move on is like trying to grab the security blanket away from an insecure little toddler – the result is always a lot of whining, crying and temper tantrums.

So it seems we still have a long way to go.

Hopefully this clarifies a bit more for you some of my present views and perspectives.

Anonymous said...

I want to thank those who posted a response to my questions. I hope I can present a few things without creating conflict.
My original decision to make my first comment was due things Dennis presented. He mentioned wondering if he “probably would have been doomed as a Presbyterian Pastor” which he almost became; then he went on to imply that his state of affairs was better today. My personal opinion was that he would have been a good Presbyterian Pastor and would probably have presented the Christian religion in a better light than people see it today.
My back ground includes a sect of the Brethren which apart of the Anabaptist and I have wonder what life would be like if I not connected with the Radio Church of God. The Brethren are simple people with simple trust in God. No paid ministry, no involvement in the worlds governments and are pacifists. No hierarchy that is better than the common people, no tithes, and everyone shares in helping those who need help. Most were farmers when I was child back in the 1930’s. The early years in WCG were somewhat like that in local communities that were not really connected with HQ. We were unaware of the problems that existed and tithing was not a real problem because we did not have much to tithe on and were fairly self-sufficient.
As years went by things changed, but there was always people to help and we enjoyed meaningful fellowship. The people problems that existed were no different than those experienced in the rest of the world. There were things that should have been different, but it would not be helpful to discuss them.
My experience with religion as a whole has been positive and I still profits from the disciple experience in WCG. I realize many here had different experiences, but that only illustrates different people have different experiences.
One thing we can agree on is that the world’s social structures have room for improvement and human relationships are not close to being defined as perfect. It should be obvious that we are nowhere near eliminating death and even the extended the life span science has achieved often lacks quality.
Science and technology have created a phenomenal number of “things” that influence social changes and can be used for good or evil. The control those with evil motives is an unresolved question. I have nothing against science, but do not see it as having all the solution for solving all the problems affecting human life. The real problems deal with relationships (human and otherwise) and death. I believe those problems have been the heart and core of what is defined as religion.
Now before everyone gets all bent out of shape let me say that everything presented certainly is valid and should be considered in the formation of our belief systems. But I personally find it difficult to put my faith in science and I find it more difficult to put my faith in human beings to create a harmonious unity throughout the whole world “unless” there is some miraculous internal transformation that begins in the mind causing every human being to think beyond their own little world.
I will not argue over the validity of the bible as being factual history or literary fiction, but I believe it addresses those subjects in a manner that gives security and comfort to many people when they face the inevitable time when death is a reality. Unless you can offer something better I suggest you be honest and mean it when you say “I don’t know”. Hypocrisy is a poor comfort to anyone.
I will continue to believe the bible in important to understanding life and has answer for those times when life the storms are raging and a glimpse of an intelligent being referred to a god when hard facts are unavailable. I hope this will not create more questions and thanks again to those who responded.
Bert

Anonymous said...

"But I personally find it difficult to put my faith in science..."

Science doesn't require faith. In fact, faith is in opposition to science. You don't have to "believe" in gravity or the atomic mass of chloride. It simply is.

"...and I find it more difficult to put my faith in human beings to create a harmonious unity throughout the whole world..."

As opposed to a supernatural entity for whom you have absolutely no proof, who only promises "unity" after allowing humanity to butcher itself for millenium, then enforces "unity" through wholsale butchery. Yeah, that's totally believable.

"... “unless” there is some miraculous internal transformation that begins in the mind causing every human being to think beyond their own little world."

That's not the way your psychopathic, genocidal god is going to bring about "peace." He's going to kill everyone who disagrees with him. Internal transformation is an insubstantial notion that gives you some sense of empowerment. Makes you feel like you are with the plan.

The Apostate Paul

Anonymous said...

"I will continue to believe the bible in important to understanding life.."

How?


"... and has answer for those times when life the storms are raging and a glimpse of an intelligent being referred to a god when hard facts are unavailable."

What answers?


The Apostate Paul

Leonardo said...

In response to Bert, the Apostate Paul wrote:
"Science doesn't require faith. In fact, faith is in opposition to science. You don't have to "believe" in gravity or the atomic mass of chloride. It simply is."


I'm afraid this is a crucially important distinction that shallow-thinking supernaturalists just cannot (or will not) comprehend and absorb into their mindset.

Just last week I purchased a fascinating DVD called “The God Delusion Debate” between Richard Dawkins and scientist/theologian John Lennox. It was billed as “Darwin’s Rottweiler is about to get a run for his money!” by the BBC.

During the course of this insightful debate Lennox kept accusing Dawkins of “having faith” in science just as he (Lennox) had faith in a supernatural Deity, and Dawkins explained, in vain it seemed, to try to get Lennox to understand that science does not require faith as religiously understood, and that science is based on empirically discoverable facts, evidence and logic, as has absolutely nothing to do with blind faith. It exasperated Dawkins that Lennox just could not understand nor concede this point.

While Lennox probably was able to give Dawkins more of a "run for his money" than past debate opponents Dawkins has tangled with, still, on the whole, I think Dawkins once again presented the weightier, more fact-based and thus more convincing arguments. But Lennox did make some excellent points that I’ll have to seriously reflect upon.

I also bought another DVD, which was a one-on-one follow-up discussion between Dawkins and Lennox called “Has Science Buried God?” - more of a relaxed conversational format than a structured debate. And although I haven’t seen it yet in full, I couldn’t resist watching brief sections of it, and it appears that both Dawkins and Lennox came together this second time with considerably more intellectual respect for one another than they did during their first formal public debate.

Both Dawkins and Lennox are civilized and extremely articulate intellectual heavyweights, and it’s instructive to watch them exchange perspectives with each other in a setting of mutual respect.

Anyway, Bert seems to be a very sincere and well-meaning gentleman who, as is typical, just is unfamiliar with many of the fact-less assumptions one must buy into in order to subscribe to the Christian faith. He makes sweeping statements that he seems to not have considered the implications of very deeply. But this is pretty standard of Christian believers. I know it was of me when I was a True Believer. I simply had no idea of the many powerful counter-arguments out there that refuted the Christian supernatural belief system. We were never taught them at AC, and I can see why, because they are so devastating to the unthinking, unquestioning faith required in order to take supernatural religious claims seriously.

Anonymous said...

To The Apostate Paul
I want to thank you for the two questions (How? and What answers?) regarding my previous comments.
I have reviewed the material presents by different contributors in this thread and went through the thread of comments on the article posted about Paul Kieffer (who I know personally).
In reviewing and comparing my biblical perceptions with the influence they’ve had on what I consider a productive and positive life I came to the realization that there was no way I can produce answers to those questions that would be understood by those who have a negative perception of the theology of the bible and the god it presents as being the creator.
No one can relate to answered prayers or a spiritual guidance experienced in all areas of life unless they have shared the same type of experiences. Even true life experiences cannot be attributed to a spiritual involvement without biblical support.
There is nothing “spooky” about my relationship with God and my prayers are simple understandable conversations that follow examples in the scriptures, but they are directed to a God that I believe exists.
I express my gratitude for all of the comments made on these issues, because it reveals that my personal perception of a relationship with God and His word is quite different from others who were a part of WCG.
This being the case I will make this my last comment in this thread.
Bert

Leonardo said...

Bert’s last comment here doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s very typical of True Believers.

He simply is unable to provide any empirical proof or rational logic whatsoever for his supernatural beliefs, cannot clearly articulate or argue for them in any intelligible way in a public forum, and thus is forced to retreat to the standard defense of "My religion is a private matter that can only be understood by fellow believers."

This is a complete retreat into subjectivism and an evasion of the Christian’s responsibility as clearly expressed in I Peter 3:15 which commands believers to “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…”

Note that this scripture says “everyone” - not just fellow believers. The New Living Translation (NLT) renders this verse as: “And if you are asked about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.”

At least Bert has the personal integrity to be completely up front and honest about this, and I respect him for that, if not his philosophical views.

Leonardo said...

I was just re-reading through Bert's comments above for the purpose of clarifying some things in my own mind, and in my view this particular one says it all with respect to the ultimate basis of Christian belief.

Bert wrote:
"...I came to the realization that there was no way I can produce answers to those questions that would be understood by those who have a negative perception of the theology of the bible and the god it presents as being the creator."


In this one sentence Bert handily sums up centuries of Christian apologetics, and it’s view toward unbelievers quite accurately.

It also highlights and underscores what I've said for years now: that unless you just unquestioningly ASSUME via blind faith the literal existence of the God of the Bible, and that the Bible itself is the "word" of that particular deity (fideism, in theological-speak), and use these presumptions as your starting point, then Christianity is left without any legitimate kind of proof or evidence to substantiate or support it whatsoever.

And again, I give credit to Bert for not harboring any illusions that it does. Its support is based purely upon personal, subjective and imaginary grounds.

Anonymous said...

Not to beat up on Bert, but one part cited by Leonardo struck me square:

Bert wrote:
"...I came to the realization that there was no way I can produce answers to those questions that would be understood by those who have a negative perception of ...

This is the exact claim of supporters of paranormal phenomena! It can only be proven to those with a positive view! Negative perception ruins it!

For example, the claim of "dowsing"(finding water by walking around with a forked stick) has been tested many times. Each time a proper test was set up, it was found that "dowsing finds water no more often than random chance. Do the dowsers admit it doesn't work? Of course not. They claim the negative thoughts of those conducting the tests have skewed the results.

The same has been true for claims of psychics, telepathy, ESP, you name it. The positive results they claim to get in private tests are not repeatable in double-blind tests by independent testers. Do they admit their mistake? Of course not. They claim the negative thoughts of those conducting the tests have skewed the results.

So, the point comes through crystal clear. Believers in religion are not unlike believers in psychics, UFOs, homeopathy, dowsing or any other irrational claim. They have no proof so they assert the usual laws of evidence and proof do not apply to them.

The Skeptic

Leonardo said...

Skeptic, physicist Dr. Victor Stenger quite powerfully addresses in some detail the very things you mentioned above in his outstanding book "Has Science Found God?"

(And by the way, Victor Stenger is the brother of William Stenger, who was a member of the WCG and who served as the Director of Admissions for AC Pasadena for a number of years - and whom I know for a fact was an ardent Three Stooges fan!)