Essay: Is it just me?

I thought I had been open about my skepticism and conclusions regarding the unlikely existence of any gods. I openly declared my atheism not many years ago. It felt great and I was happy to be freely expressing my honest opinion, one I’d held for years prior to admitting, “Yes. I am an atheist.” My doubts became my story.

After I let people with access to my Facebook posts know I did not believe in god, I noticed that some things changed. I also discovered that while some folks decided not to continue initiating communication with me, they would respond. Okay, that’s fine. I expected believers to take a step back or just end any relationship we had. As far as I can tell, no one chose the latter. The limited reaction was less than expected.

Then, last week I announced my pending hospital incarceration following a significant medical procedure. I’m home now and fine. I also knew their thoughts, prayers, and healing energy would be offered. Also, fine. One person said she would pray and didn’t care what I thought of it. I clicked like for her comment and I said, thank you. Not a problem. I am an atheist, not an ass hole.

One man said he would be thinking about me, but that he was “not much of a church goer” (i.e., excuse me if I do not offer to pray for you), but he wished me good luck. As I typed my response, I noticed that I was reluctant to tell him that “this atheist” appreciated his kind words, concern, and would rather he not  pray for me. I realized my reluctance to tell him I am atheist. Why is that? It’s not a secret. I thought I wanted people to know.

I am not in any closet. Yet, I stopped to consider the consequences of telling the truth. Others would see it. Others would judge.

Last week “someone” posted here that I was a fool for not believing in god, that I would meet god face-to-face, but it would then be too late. We all know what he or she (“someone” is how WP listed the name) was implying by too late.

Some people are fond of informing me that I shall burn for an eternity in Hell because I choose not to believe what I seem unable to believe. I need to keep in mind that the antipathy of many believers toward atheists (and vice-versa) is seeded with fear. But either I am out, open, and honest, or I am not.

It’s not only me, is it?

Bill

Essay: On Praying

You can read about atheists being offended by prayer. Most of what I’ve seen was written by religious interpreters who seem to know what we think and what our motivations are. In my opinion, few skeptics find praying offensive. Anyone who comes from a religious background has probably prayed. I think it’s a waste of time. However, prayer can be troublesome.

Does It Even Make Sense?

I used to pray often. As a practicing Catholic, I was expected to pray to god’s three persons and dead people. I prayed to various saints who are dead souls in Heaven, and for those not there yet, but who are in Purgatory.

I’ve asked for things or prayed as a form of worship or self-punishment, called penance assigned by a priest after confession. I prayed for “the repose of the soul(s)” without knowing exactly what the hell that meant or why I was praying for it. I prayed without a logical thought as to exactly what I was praying for. Most often, I simply prayed to pray or because others were.

You may ask, so what? Is praying harmful? Did it do any good? Was it beneficial to me or to someone else? Was time spent in any form of prayer wasted and silly?

Ironically, I thought everything happened because a spiritual consciousness caused it. I assumed I was praying to a god responsible for everything that happened: a god who knew everything, was everywhere, and had everyone’s best interest in mind.

Yet, prayer was a crutch for me. Even today, I can hear my mind thinking, “Please don’t let this be happening…” Who or what is that plea addressed to? A god or the universe? Is prayer a habit?

“Everything happens for a reason.” That mild form of predestination doctrine is what many people say, most often regarding some undesirable event. Of course, no reason is ever given and one is seldom discovered except in some shoehorning effort to make it fit religiously.

Before I accepted my own atheism, although I prayed, I thought it was kind of dumb. However, since so many of us seemed to do it and thought it worked (all evidence to the contrary), I prayed hard and long. I gave blessings, I prayed over graves of loved ones, I prayed for sick people, for friends and enemies, and sometimes for things other people asked me to pray for, like for them or rain. Whatever I needed to do to persuade the eternal supreme entity to do differently, I gladly did. I carried a pocket notebook of things and people I wanted to pray about so I would not forget.

I no longer pray because I’m almost certain there are no gods, no saints, no spirits who care, or any receivers of my message. Additionally, if I did believe in any of that or thought it was likely, I would still not pray because it accomplishes nothing.

Do I care if other people pray?

Usually, I don’t. Sometimes I do. Prayers and praying can be annoying, especially when staged for living witnesses to see and thereby to be affected or persuaded. Prayer is especially annoying when my cooperation and/or participation is in some way socially expected.

On its own, prayer seems innocuous enough. However, even the bible (new testament) decries staged, showoff, holier than thou praying (Matthew 6:1-34). Must I wait to eat while someone prays? Why? May I talk while they talk to a god? May I take a drink of my beer? If I don’t want to hold someone’s hand while they pray, am I being rude? The act of praying does not make someone special or privileged. But it is fine if one assumes so. Just leave me out of it.

I consider people’s praying as I do when they do yoga or meditate. I consider most yoga and meditation beneficial to the person doing them. I am neither offended nor distracted by it. I simply don’t care. I don’t expect them to interrupt my evening, disturb my meal, or want to hold any of my body parts while they contemplate existence or do a downward facing dog. I’ve never heard of someone blocking an emergency exit while chanting a mantra or standing on one foot.

No one has ever said to me, “I’ll meditate for you.” And while no yoga pose has been entered for my recovery, I did appreciate when friends and family said they would be sending me healing energy and good vibes. Their sincere concern helped me feel better, and perhaps to recover. I’ve told friends that I would be thinking of them during their surgery and I hoped they would have a speedy recovery. “Get well soon.” Praying is not person to person. It invokes the will of spirits and that’s woo-woo.

When people say they will pray for me, I request, “Please don’t.” I’m not offended if they do. I just take a pass on prayers.

While I’m unconcerned with how people spend their time trying to change some god’s mind, I think it’s silly. Their intention may be good, but why can’t they accept that I reject all prayers?

What is the bigger picture?

Another problem is the package deal. Prayer is not an isolated independent action done by one person to the benefit of another. Except for children and people manipulated into it, no one is forced to pray. If nothing else changed and everyone just stopped praying, would some deity get pissed off?

Many believers think so (all evidence, etc.). It’s not so much that prayer is part of a belief in god and a person’s relationship with some god. Prayer is distinctly tied to a religion and often to a specific denomination.

On the other hand, when people have asked me to pray for them (or for rain in one case), I sometimes will. They seldom ask, but I do see or hear the occasional request. While I don’t believe in their (or any) god, that does not mean I don’t care enough about them to offer up a prayerful blurb or two. I consider saying or thinking “God help you” as praying. I am also willing to yoga up the cat pose or contemplate a nirvanic eternity, if someone were to ask me (no one has).

The problem I see with praying is the package or the bigger picture. When organized religion, personal religious beliefs, or cult-like attachments influence people, it is more than simply praying. If someone prays for me to believe in god, is it acceptable for me to pray or to wish that they stop believing in god?

Must I adapt my behavior to the praying behavior of others (holding hands, being quiet, closing my eyes)?  Does your right to practice your religion (freedom of religion) trump my right not to (freedom from religion)? If I decline an offer to pray for me, have I offended them simply because I think differently? If it is my opinion that people who pray are wasting their time, sometimes mine, and offering an opinion different than mine, is it acceptable for me to say so?

The prayer playing field is not level. It’s sloped in favor of those who pray even by some who don’t. What harm does it do? In most cases it threatens my freedom from religion. It is often staged “look at me” behavior and begs for someone to be easily offended.

Bill

A Gentleman Is

If you don’t want to know…

A quip often attributed to Oscar Wilde is, “A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone’s feelings unintentionally.” Similar observations and opinions of male gentlemanly behavior abound. But it’s unlikely that Wilde was the origin of the phrase. I doubt if anyone, lady, or gentleman, is immune from doing unintended emotional harm with poorly chosen words.

I am not talking about political correctness (PC). That’s where I must ask a person’s racial or sexual background and preferences, and how he or she personally wishes me to speak to avoid offense. I prefer euphemism to PC because it covers more language. A euphemism is a word or phrase substituted for another considered to be a more agreeable or inoffensive expression for one that may offend or suggest something unpleasant. Such as, he passed on instead of died, darn for damn, shite for shit, and more.

I have been (politically) corrected for using terms such as dark-skinned, women and children, oriental, he, big, mick, short, holy roller, and a long list of others.

Disliked verses Offended

There is a difference between being offended by something and not liking it. While I dislike what offends me. I’m not offended by everything I dislike. For example, I know that some people assume that I will spend eternity suffering in Hell simply because I extricated myself from my religion and embraced my atheistic conclusions regarding gods. That is what their religious teaching tells them to think and feel about someone like me.

I am not offended simply because someone thinks that, but I don’t like it. However, religion is known to do a lot of mental and physical damage, and families are torn apart by it. I am offended that religious people would force their beliefs on me or on other believers who do not share their concept of god, holiness, or history.

On the other hand, if one of them says that I deserve to burn in Hell, or that they hope I do, I could take mild offense. When I am stereotyped by people who know nothing of me, or have been told lies about me, I take some offense. When people do things that would harm me mentally or physically, I feel more offended (most often happens while driving).

What Did I say?

Things I’ve done or said that offended others include swearing. I’ve rocked some emotional boats when I’ve made suggestions to improve virtually anything, or when I’ve told people their music was too loud, but never when I requested it louder.

I have also upset some people by saying I see no reason to apologize for being wrong, provided that no harm was caused by my error to another person. I regret being wrong (I wish I was always right), but I will not ask for pardon unless I’ve harmed someone.

I agree that thoughtful sensitivity on my part is good regarding race, physical or mental condition, sex or sexual preference. I willingly tolerate virtually any harmless religion. When the Mormon lads called me to the door to preach at me, were they offended when I told them I was a Roman Catholic and that I could never believe what they did? They didn’t seem to be, I’m sure they heard worse.

Must We Agree?

Enter other beliefs in deities (gods) and associated religions, economic and social thoughts (communism, capitalism, gay rights), politics, school preferences, sporting events, and love triangles. Ok, maybe not the last one.

If I say I do not believe any god exists, many people who believe feel offended. While my opinion may imply that they are wasting their time, spreading lies, and misleading children; it’s unavoidable because of what the underlying gist of my belief says about theirs. It’s a built-in conflict. I’m not sure if offense is taken because I said it out loud, or because I think it.

If I refuse to partake in the religious observances of others, such as praying or sitting quietly while they do, not shopping or working on Sunday, standing while someone reads (Tora or Gospel), or otherwise exhibiting my own rejection of a belief in god, it will commonly be considered rude and likely offensive. I do not always refuse for that reason, but I think I should. My opinion is equally valid.

Please Don’t Kill Me.

If I draw a stick figure, no one cares. If I claim it’s a likeness of the founder of Islam, millions are offended. Some may even take their feelings to the level of murder.

Sometimes I say hurtful things when I did not intend to demean or cause others to feel offended. Most often, this is in the from of poorly thought out humor or comments. My filter sometimes bombs. I apologize for being thoughtless or ignorant. Fortunately, it seldom happens.

I don’t always apologize. Sometimes I’m not sorry. If I said or did nothing offensive, or if I did intentionally insult someone (it happens, again—driving), I’m rarely remorseful. I recall a Ricky Gervais meme that said, “Just because you’re offended doesn’t mean you’re right.”

Indeed, one may offend another merely by violating an individual’s sense of what is proper or fitting. If, by not accepting that any god exists, I offend someone, that’s on them. But I understand why they may not like what I said.

Did He Mean That?

When George H. W. Bush made the following official statement to a member of the press, it was intentionally offensive. “No, I don’t know that Atheists should be considered as citizens, nor should they be considered patriots.” He never recanted or apologized.

The next time someone talks to me about rude atheists, I may ask for an explanation of this.

What agnostics are not

According to the Merriam-Webster.com on-line Dictionary, the word agnostic shares part of its history with words such as prognosticate and prognosis, words which have something to do with knowledge or knowing.

The word atheist shares roots with words such as theology and theism, which have to do with god or gods, not knowledge thereof. There is a difference.

Being an agnostic is not, as many assume, halfway between being a believer or a nonbeliever. One has to do with knowledge, or the ability of humans to have knowing, while the other identifies a proclaimed conclusion regarding the existence of a god. Halfway could be either unconvinced atheists or unconvinced believers. I’ve probably fit both unconvinced categories at different times of my life.

According to me (I made this up), there are three types of agnostics. First are all the people who say they are agnostic. Second are all the people who do not believe in any gods but cannot prove that none exist (atheists). The third group are those who do believe in any number of gods (usually one), but likewise cannot prove the existence of even one god.

If you add groups one, two, and three; that equals everybody. Therefore, claiming to be agnostic is akin to staking a claim to be one of everyone (sarcastic eye roll). In the end, we’re all agnostic.

I don’t care if god talks to any of us, shoots lightning into our brains, or saves one of us from a hungry wolf (apologies to Duran Duran), we don’t know if such events are true and no one knows if god exists. We simply choose to claim such a belief, usually because that is what someone taught us.

We were not born with that belief. We may want there to be a god. Okay. It may make us feel good to think god exists. Also, fine. We may claim faith. Wonderful. But none of us knows. Not one person.

In my opinion, people who claim to be agnostic are essentially atheist because they do not hold to the belief or conclusion that a god exists. Knowing or not knowing is immaterial to belief. Either we believe in god, or we don’t.

We may have doubts. Maybe we want to believe but can’t. Maybe we have some other rationale for our position. All good. Someone may say they believe in god and be lying. That’s fine by me. But staking a claim to middle ground by hiding behind the claim of agnosticism seems disingenuous, in my (not so) humble opinion.

If we say we are agnostic, as we all should because we don’t know, that takes us back to why people believe: faith and preference, not knowledge.

That’s just how it works. It should be clear, but it’s not. I think it’s fair to ask someone why they do or do not believe in a god. If the answer sounds like I am agnostic, then I must assume they do not believe, unless they say otherwise.

Peace,

Bill

Fun video:

Skepticism Seems Weird

I like to think of myself as a simple skeptic in that while I am disposed to skepticism regarding gods, most religious principles, and anyone trying to sell me something (are those last two redundant?), I try to not make too much of it.

I’m prone to read the fine print. One could call me a disbeliever, doubter, questioner, or unbeliever. I say simple because I have no deep philosophical basis for my doubts. To me, skepticism is partly common sense, reasonable caution, and experientially learned discernment. I admit that it gets touchy with religion, but that’s not my fault. Doubting and questioning some things are normal to me.

Conversely, I want to trust people. I prefer to take what people say at face value (except politicians and preachers). I like the little phrase, without trust, there is no us. I assume most people are trusting and generally trustworthy. However, I still request evidence when someone makes claims for which my support, acceptance, or belief is solicited.

As far as supernatural stuff goes, if anything requires my belief beforehand for it to become true, or for it to work, I judge such things with an idiomatic jaundiced eye. The same goes for a lot of health and wealth stuff that I consider quackery, schemes, and scams.

I’m an advocate of traditional medicine. Yet, I don’t accept everything my doctors tell me. I often ask, based on what research do you make that claim? My doctors are not always right, and I think they know it.

So, if skepticism is so normal, why do I say it seems weird?

I have a friend who seems to be skeptical of everything, with one glaring exception. When I suggested he use a fact-checking website like Snopes to verify the accuracy of things, he asked how I knew I could trust them. That discussion lasted a while, but I never convinced him of anything. That was weird.

I continue to be astonished that so many of us insist there is an invisible man in the sky but seem incapable of accepting many things for which there is ample empirical evidence.

Maybe it’s just another conspiracy.

Bill


Whatever: I don’t care.

Eric Hoffer put it like this. “The opposite of the religious fanatic is not the fanatical atheist but the gentle cynic who cares not whether there is a god or not.”

Maybe that is the point of naming this blog Dispassionate Doubt. I don’t routinely beat up religion (okay, some, but not a lot) nor do I beat the drum of skepticism only for the religious folks. There is enough nonsense to go around. While I find religion pointless, belief is an individual decision. However, when the separation of church (religion) and state (government) is not maintained, it worries me.

I don’t like the word cynic in the misanthropic sense. I hope it seldom applies to me. I admit that I don’t think there is a god, but even more importantly, I don’t much give a shit.

What I resent most about religion is its power over my life (our lives) and the privileged status it enjoys in most places around the world. I dislike interference into my life by either government or religion. Conversely, I’m no anarchist. I understand reasons for governance and accept it. Human nature being what it is, we don’t always do well left on our own.

But I see religion as unnecessary and the more meddling of the two. When they mix, one becomes the other. I am a rule follower, but I will work to change rules when they are crap, as is often the case.

If my cavalier attitude regarding a deity is interpreted as anything, it usually is because people of religion want me to see it differently—as they do. Often, an ad hominem charge is leveled at me when I disagree. That is religion at work, and not merely someone’s opinion regarding the existence of some god.

I am an unapologetic antitheist in that I see religion as a problem, maybe the biggest problem. When we can see religion and god as two independent things, then we can look for answers. The problem for most religions is that without them, doubts about things supernatural become nonthreatening and logical thoughts.

With few exceptions, which I don’t view as religions per se, because the god concept is twisted out of its dogmatic nest (new age thinking), religion needs there to be a god much more than any god would ever need any religion.

There may indeed be gods. So what? In my opinion, all religion is still man-made-up bull shit.

Bill

 

Evidence for God: None Detected

Because I’ve been lurking around medical clinics and hospitals for the past few weeks, their protocol required I be tested twice for Coronavirus. Both times the results emailed to me said, None Detected. Then they cautioned me with, “A negative test does not exclude an active SARS-CoV-2 infection…. Documentation of infection may be possible by retesting or testing of other specimen sources.” In other words, there is no proof that I am not infected. They just have no evidence that I am. Only a positive finding is proof.

A couple years ago, virtually everyone (doctors, family, me, and at least one surgeon) identified a lump on my forearm as a cyst. There was no discomfort or symptoms to indicate otherwise. I had it removed for the sake of my vanity. The operating surgeon removed the tissue, showed it to me, and said, see, it is just a cyst.

Later, pathology determined the specimen was cancerous. Following months of treatment, I’m now periodically monitored by medical science for recurrence. So far so good. While some may say that I am cancer free, I don’t use that term. I, and other cancer patients, prefer use of the initialism, NED, which means no evidence of disease. Medical science, without evidence to the contrary, was unable to claim that I positively had cancer at the time of the test. I’ll take it. Unless they prove otherwise, it isn’t there.

When I confessed atheism to a friend, she asked me if I could prove there is no god. I told her that while I couldn’t, I didn’t have to prove it. The requirement, at least for me, is that if I am to accept or believe the existence of something (COVID, cancer, or a god), there must be sufficient convincing evidence of existence. I don’t know what that evidence or proof might be, especially regarding something like a god, a black hole in space, or an exploding star.

It gets complicated. Which god am I to have evidence for? Do you claim only one?

How do I know that such evidence supports that specific god and not some other?

If there is “something” out there because someone (not me) can just feel it to be so, or because all this exists, or because there are stars in the sky, what does any of that prove? We perceive and experience many things, like bizarre nightmares, emotional trauma, or mental euphoria. It rains, plants grow, life continues, and there is a Universe.

If someone asks me why I do not believe in any god, especially theirs, I simply say I know of no proof that such an entity exists at all, much less one that is of a supreme being or god status. I may ask why that person chooses to believe in a god. They are usually much more committed and convinced of existence than I am in doubt. However…

In every case I can think of, the discussion about belief ends with what is called faith. Faith is seldom defined in the same way by believers and skeptics. Simply put, some folks prefer to believe a god exits than to admit ultimate agnosticism. No one knows if there is a god. In that case, NED is for no evidence of deity.

When I sneeze or blow my nose, my wife asks if I am catching a cold. Or, it could be the flu. Or it could be allergies. Or it could be nothing, just dust particles in the air or pepper in my nose. I never know. Only by testing to prove a positive can any hypothesis be supported.

I strongly doubt the existence of what most people claim as god. I make no serious claim that some sort of intelligence or deity absolutely does not exist, although I have said as much to counter the claim that there is a god.

It is possible that I have COVID-19, cancer, a cold, or that I am insane, but I’m simply unaware because no positive evidence indicates otherwise (although the latter diagnosis has been offered).

For me, religion is another matter. Religion exists, immaterial of a god’s existence. Either there is a god or there’s not, regardless of anyone’s beliefs. I try to write about the existence of god and the efficacy of religion separately, even though they should be closely related.

Bill

Is god’s name God?

I know there are other names for the current one true Abrahamic god, and names for thousands of other gods who’ve fallen from popularity but were once worshiped by the masses.

We humans all seem to have a name (Bill) or a title (Dad or Opa) to differentiate us one from the other. We name pets, cars, places, illnesses.

Christians have three gods. The nameless father, the son is called Jesus Christ (but we all know that was not his real name), and the holy ghost/spirit was invented to make an unnecessary and meaningless third. But it’s all one.

Talk to the Hindus. They know how to name gods, for Christ’s sake. The planets have cool god names, except this one unless you want to stretch either Adam or Eve. But there’s Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Pluto (or maybe that was a dog’s name) and others. My daughter’s dog is named Thor.

Some Jewish folk write God as G-d as some form of respect. I would not feel respected if someone wrote B-ll. But I’m not considered a god even by the ones who call me Dad and Opa.

The commandment says we should not take god’s name in vain. Yet, the only time we do that is the JC name. Most of the god damn its and such expressions could be any god since no name is used. When Christians end a prayer with, in Jesus’ name, amen, why is that not a sin? Seems in vain to me.

There is the Jehovah name. If that is that god’s real name, who gave it to him? And if god is her, Jehovah seems so wrong. The Romans and Greeks had wonderful names for goddesses.

If God is god’s name, why the lower case in scripture? Even the devil has been given several proper monikers with which to be addressed. And that Rolling Stones’ song, Sympathy for The Devil ends with this name-game verse.

What’s my name
Tell me, baby, what’s my name
Tell me, sweetie, what’s my name

I’ve always called god by the name God. How un-creative of me! But Hey You, seems downright ungentlemanly.

Bill

Why I didn’t become Atheist

Why write this?

I read something yesterday on Rebekah’s blog that triggered me to think about how I express things about myself. I decided to write and post this.

Background

Like everyone else, I was born without an opinion regarding the existence of a deity, a spirit realm, death, life afterwards, or any belief in a god. You could say I was born a passionate human agnostic about everything, but neutral about religion. That was 74 years ago to the day (happy birthday to me).

Eight days later I was baptized by a priest in a Roman Catholic Church. This event guaranteed my acceptance into Heaven, if I should die. Otherwise, it was eternity in Limbo, where the unbaptized but sinless souls allegedly went forever.

Baptism added a godfather and godmother to my religious life, in the unlikely event that my parents could not raise me as Catholic. They did.

My status

I was a Roman Catholic Christian whether I liked it or not. That situation lasted for sixty-some years. When I embraced atheism, my status was automatically changed to excommunicated, which means that I am excluded from the rights of church membership. I may not receive any of the seven sacraments. I’ve had six.

While my Catholic membership card is technically cancelled, I may still do virtually everything that is not specifically sacramental. I’ve not been shunned. It’s not a cult.

To undo this, I would merely need to re-claim my membership by denying my atheism. Complete re-conversion would be through the Sacrament of Penance (confession with a priest) and subsequent participation in the Sacrament of Eucharist (going to Mass and taking Holy Communion). I’ve done this process a couple other times in my life due to long lapses in my religious participation, called falling-away, non-practicing, or practical atheism.

When I reconciled before, the process was spiritually uplifting, fun, rewarding, guilt-relieving, interesting, and mildly embarrassing. It was also easy. The saying goes, once Catholic, always Catholic. I’m no longer that, sayings notwithstanding.

No regrets

I hold no animosity toward the Catholic Church or any of its people. However, I am irreconcilably pissed off about the Church’s history. I would still punish many bishops and priests for their culpability during the ongoing sexual abuse scandals.

I know church history well. I fully understand why people are religious. I accept it. I think they are wrong, but they’re not bad people. I wish they could similarly accept my conclusions to the degree that I do theirs.

I’m mindful that in many parts of the world, I could be killed for my outspoken atheism. Those who would do that are supported (and defended) by scripture, either Biblical or Koranic. That’s how religion works.

What I say and what I don’t

I have never said, I became a Christian or I got (or was) saved. I never said there was a day or time when I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I have never referred to myself as a born-again Christian as my childhood friend, Jimmy, did.

When Jimmy died his family ensured he was buried as a Catholic. Dead people cannot receive sacraments nor can they resist the desires of the living.

I never felt superior to people of other religions or of none. If anything, living in the south (USA) I was guarded about my Catholicism.

I don’t say, I became atheist. I’ve embraced my atheism and the conclusion that god does not exist. I avoid prefacing things by saying as an atheist. I do not say something all atheists agree on. They do not. Except by coincidence, all atheists agree on nothing. I can only speak for myself.

I’m just sayin’

As with anyone who may have been born into a secular life, I was atheist first.

My baptism made me Catholic. I didn’t become anything. Roman Catholic is my legacy, heritage, and birthright.  I prefer to call it Irish-Catholic. They know why.

I have no issue with anyone saying, I became atheist or became anything. Unfortunately, atheism is one of those words that define people by what they are not more than by what they are. Since atheism means one does not believe in any god, it’s not like becoming Methodist, an artist, a romantic, or depressed.

Bill

The Bible: There is no such thing

The Catholic Mass liturgy includes three Old Testament (OT) readings, a selection from the prophets, and three readings from the New Testament (NT) to include Acts, the Catholic or Pauline Epistles, and the Gospels. During Christmas and Easter, a fourth is added for the evening service.

Growing up Catholic, I never had to read a bible. In the three-year liturgical cycle, I heard virtually the whole of Christian scripture read to me. In my eight years of parochial school, I took mandatory Religion and Catechism classes/courses as part the curriculum. I recall taking Bible History one year with a full-length history book to read.

I was taught the myth of Samson slaying the Philistines with the jawbone of an ass (hee-hee, back then) as historical fact. Since it is an OT story in the inerrant word of God, it must have been true.

There was no bible in my home. I doubt if many other Roman Catholics of my generation grew up reading a bible in the sense most adherents of sola scriptura (scripture alone) would understand it. We didn’t have to. A bible was read to us several times over by age 15.

How I became something of an amateur, or layman, bible study teacher (and expert?) forty years later would take too long to explain. But I was the first of such in a large Parish for about ten years. During that time, I acquired several different bibles, concordances, and various other materials that I used for learning and teaching.

The relationship people have with bibles fascinates me to this day. They claim to believe that it is the word of their god. They say it is the most important book ever written. Many have not read one single word of any bible, even if they own one.

Bibles are available for free in book form, electronically, or online. There is no excuse. Read one. Yes, an atheist just suggested that you read a bible.

One guy even used a bible recently as a prop for a political photo op (to evangelical silence, if not bizarre enthusiasm). I bet he never read it, could not say what version he was holding, how many books were in it, or if the religion of the church he stood in front of would approve of the translation.

We say it. We write about it. We talk about it all the time. However, there is no it. There is only them. There are hundreds of versions of the same book(s). I’ve seen the number 450, but I doubt there are so many official versions. It’s not the bible. It’s a bible—one of them.

One reason for this is the many different translations. Another reason is the various canons, or books and scripture, that are (or are not) included as authorized. Some of what may be included is referred to as apocrypha (not really the word of god).

There are no original bible writings that we can point to as the first or even the second copy. While some old scriptures do exist, they are far from first editions.

The Bible? Which one? It’s bibles. It’s them, not it. Confused by holy scripture, version 123.666 and 50 others.

Bill


Most popular? There are more?

 

 

No, but that’s not why.