Good Reason

It's okay to be wrong. It's not okay to stay wrong.

Category: bad god (page 1 of 2)

Response to a Facebook friend, re: exclusion of LDS kids in gay families

Here’s an old mission companion, on a thread about this:

Mormon Church to exclude children of same-sex couples from getting blessed and baptized until they are 18

Children living in a same-sex household may not be blessed as babies or baptized until they are 18, the Mormon Church declared in a new policy. Once they reach 18, children may disavow the practice of same-sex cohabitation or marriage and stop living within the household and request to join the church.

The policy changes, which also state that those in a same-sex marriage are to be considered apostates, set off confusion and turmoil among many Mormons after the policy was leaked online. The changes in the handbook for local church leaders for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were confirmed Thursday by church spokesman Eric Hawkins.

My former companion says:

>I received a witness of he Church as a young 19 year old as I pounded the streets of Perth with many of you.

Thank goodness when we knocked on doors, we didn’t have to say, “Hi! We’re missionaries from the Church of… er… your parents aren’t gay, are they? Good, we’ll continue.”

I’m wondering how missionaries today will keep from inadvertently teaching someone who isn’t eligible.

>I believe in God and I believe the LDS church is his church. If this is what God has decided then it’s not for me to argue.

I would say that this cruel and unfair policy is convincing evidence that either

  • LDS leaders are operating from a source other than a just and fair god — be it their own prejudices, or their own principles, or
  • the god that Mormons worship has an inordinate concern with the sexual behaviour of humans, but is unconcerned with justice. And, in my view, is not worth worshipping.

Or perhaps both.

>Maybe I’m too simple in my views but what I fought for as a 19 year old when I laboured with you all then has not changed now.

Our views should change as we get older. As Paul said, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child. But when I became a man, I put away childish things.” I think homophobia is a childish thing, and worse, it harms people. In my life, I’ve made gay, lesbian, bi, and trans friends, and some co-workers. I’ve learned that there was a commonality to our life experiences, and that any prejudice I might have felt toward them was my own problem. And I’ve sorted it out. I’ve learned that every member of a society has the right to equal treatment.

Sadly, the LDS Church hasn’t learned this — speaking of the church collectively and not individually, of course. It has formed harmful and cruel policies, and now it has doubled down on them. Well, as an exMo, it would be easy to say, “What do I care — I’m no longer in the church.” But the climate of homophobia fostered by the LDS Church is having a harmful effect on LGBT people, especially the ones in the church. It is setting children against parents — a potential convert will have to leave the supportive environment offered by gay parents, turn their backs on them and denounce their relationships. Wow. That’s cold.

Kids (even straight kids) in blended families won’t be able to participate in the church they’ve grown up in, because one set of parents is in a gay relationship. Suddenly ineligible. And this is contrary to AoF2; the kids will be responsible for the actions of their parents.

Does all of this seem right to you?

Fortunately, most people in “the world” are starting to operate from a position of kindness. They are showing more compassion and love than the LDS leadership is currently capable of.

You may be too far into the LDS community to see how regular people regard this. When I tell my neverMo friends about this, or who they see it in the news — yes, it is hitting the news — they’re horrified. And it confirms to them that the church is a homophobic organisation. It is — as we call other groups when they exist to promote bigotry — a hate group.

The leadership will eventually change on this issue, just like they did with race and the priesthood. They’ll walk it back with an anonymous essay on the website, if we still have websites then. Until then, they (and you) are on the wrong side of history. They’ve chosen exclusion and bigotry.

What will you choose? Understanding and compassion? Or obedience?

New Witnesses this time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And really, what terrible thing did the people in Noah’s time (allegedly) do? Make fun of some 500-year-old duffer? Worth the death penalty for sure.
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The Problem of Forgetfulness

The Problem of Evil is a problem for theists: If God is all-good and all-powerful, then why does he allow people to harm, torture, and kill others? (See Newtown.)

One common theist answer involves free will: God respects freedom of choice, and allows the wicked to fill the cup of their iniquity to overflowing, so that their punishment will be just.

Which is rubbish.
1) What about the free will of those kids in Newtown? Why isn’t their choice to stay alive respected? How come the shooter is the only one whose freedom of choice must be maintained?
2) I think freedom of choice is important, but if I saw someone about to gun down a seven-year-old, and I had all power, I’d stop them. I’d be terrible if I didn’t. God doesn’t. (This is the Tracie and Matt argument.)

And that last point brings me to a new twist on this theme, which I’m going to call ‘The Problem of Forgetfulness’.

Did you know that hundreds of children have died in hot cars because their parents spaced out and left them there? It’s awful. Maybe they fall asleep in the back, maybe the parent’s mind is occupied, they go about their day, and only remember hours later with a guilty start that they never went to daycare that morning. By that time, the child is dead.

Read this Washington Post article for all the heart-breaking details. This has vaulted to my number-one parental fear.

The answer to the problem, Fennell believes, lies in improved car safety features and in increased public awareness that this can happen, that the results of a momentary lapse of memory can be horrifying.

What is the worst case she knows of?

“I don’t really like to . . .” she says.

She looks away. She won’t hold eye contact for this.

“The child pulled all her hair out before she died.”

Imagine being that child, alone during those stifling hours. This is not a nice way to go.

Now let’s say you’re lucky and you run across such a car on your way through a parking lot. The car is searing, and the child is alone and crying. What would you do? You’d kick a hole in a window, wouldn’t you? Attract some attention? Get that kid out somehow. Or… would you just sit and watch for hour after hour?

God (in the believer’s imagination) could do any of those things. Because he has all power, he could also cause a fault in the car that makes the horn sound. I had a car like that once. The horn went off and wouldn’t shut up. It attracted a lot of attention. He could send some inspired soul around — that would make a great testimony story. But no, God sits and watches as the child suffocates in agony. And this scene is repeated a few times every year.

You can’t really invoke free will as an explanation. It wasn’t the parent’s choice to forget the child, not really. It was a stupid and fatal mistake. A god would know that, and give the child a break. But no. The deaths continue.

I’ve never heard a good response to the Problem of Forgetfulness. It’s much more likely that this god doesn’t exist, rather than imagining that he has a good reason for letting toddlers die in torment. But if you’re a believer, and you want to defend your god’s striking lack of initiative, please leave your explanation in comments. Just be aware that, due to the inevitably callous nature of these justifications, you run the risk of making yourself or your god sound like kind of a jerk.

A new one

Well, I thought I’d heard all the excuses for why an omnipotent and omnibenevolent god allows horrible things to happen to children. But here’s another: The victims must have done something to deserve it.

It happened in this clip from ‘The Atheist Experience’. The hosts, Matt and Tracie, are discussing god’s continuing non-intervention in child sexual abuse, with caller ‘Shane’.

Tracie starts off with a bracing observation, which has already been made into a meme:

And then?

Shane begins his response by saying, “First of all, you portray that little girl as someone who’s innocent, she’s just as evil as you.” Dillahunty then cuts off the call and spits, “Good-bye, you piece of s**t.”

Here’s the clip.

That’s right; according to this caller, if a child gets raped, we shouldn’t automatically assume that she didn’t deserve it.

But really, isn’t this just the standard answer for Old Testament genocide? The Israelites (allegedly) wiped out entire tribes, and when I’ve pointed this out, Christians have told me something like, well, we don’t know that the Canaanites didn’t deserve it. Richard Dawkins has refused to debate William Lane Craig for this very reason.

It’s a new rhetorical low for the religious: blaming innocent victims for the awful things that people do to them, instead of blaming an (allegedly) all-good and all-powerful god for his tendency to watch and do nothing. Once someone decides that’s acceptable, there’s nowhere else you can go. They’re morally gone.

Why does god allow evil? Sandy Hook edition

There’s no point in bringing up the gun massacre at Sandy Hook again, since any meaningful action on gun control was forgotten just in time for Christmas.

Mentions of “gun control” on Twitter. Click the graphic for source.

But it wouldn’t be a tragedy without theists trying to explain where their god was during the tragedy. Don’t know why they bother; the Christian god was responsible for plenty of tragedy on his own. But anyway, here’s John Hawkins from ClownHall.com to explain the mysterious ways of the Lord to us.

1) He gives us free will: God didn’t make robots who were designed to execute His will. Instead He gave us the freedom to make our own decisions.

Okay, so the shooter had free will. But what about the free will of those kids not to be killed? Doesn’t their free will count? Why is the shooter the only one whose free will is respected?

2) It’s a necessity for faith: If God wanted to remove all doubt about his existence, He could do so — but, He doesn’t because the cornerstone of Christianity is faith.

Translation: God could provide good evidence for his existence, but won’t. Instead, he expects us to believe in him based on bad evidence… and will judge the ones who sensibly refuse. Doesn’t sound quite just, does it?

And why is faith the one thing that this god wants? That’s simple. God requires everyone’s belief because without belief, gods die.

The next one isn’t very coherent, so I’ll just paste it all.

3) He has a different perspective: Our God gave “His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Imagine being in his place as Jesus was jeered, whipped and had to suffer and die in agony on the cross. What would run through your mind as your Son was crucified and uttered the words, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” when you had the power to free Him, heal His wounds and strike down His tormentors at will. Our God made that sacrifice for each and every one of us so that we could be saved.

So… human suffering doesn’t matter because Jesus had to suffer for a weekend, which made everything all right in the long run. Clear?

4) We often turn to God in times of tragedy: One of the sad truths of human nature is that when we’re happy, healthy, loved, secure and our pockets are full, most of us think we already have all the answers and don’t turn to God.

Translation: God just wants us to love him and turn to him. And if he doesn’t get the love, then things might start going wrong, see?

5) Ultimately it’s about Heaven, not earth

Right now, those murdered kids are having ice cream in heaven. (Unless they’re not.) It just puts the multiple bullet wounds and final fearful moments into perspective, doesn’t it?

This list is not so much an explanation of why God lets evil happen. It’s more like a list of unbelievably callous justifications for an omnipotent god’s seeming indifference to human suffering. It would be much kinder to this god to allow that he can’t act to prevent suffering because he doesn’t exist.

The problem of evil and the incompetence of supernaturalism

Two articles crossed my screen today, and they’re a great example of the divide between rational thought and superstition.

They’re both about the gun tragedy at Sandy Hook, and the first one is written by a Catholic priest.

Now, believers in the Christian god have a bit of explaining to do when horrible things happen. That’s because they claim there’s a god who’s good, loving, and all-powerful, but who somehow fails to prevent evil things from happening. So after a tragedy, a reasonable question is: where was he? Is he really all that good if he has the power to prevent grade-school massacres, yet chooses not to? Here’s the theologian’s answer:

The truest answer is: I don’t know. I have theological training to help me to offer some way to account for the unexplainable. But the questions linger.

Well, that’s a bit pathetic. He doesn’t know? All that theological training, and he can’t answer a question that belongs in his discipline?

Seriously, read it; it doesn’t give any more than a shrug. And it’s not just this writer. This is literally the best they’ve got. (Oh, there are other religion guys out there who do claim to know, but their answers are so morally callous as to be not worth repeating.)

I will never satisfactorily answer the question “Why?” because no matter what response I give, it will always fall short. What I do know is that an unconditionally loving presence soothes broken hearts, binds up wounds, and renews us in life. This is a gift that we can all give, particularly to the suffering. When this gift is given, God’s love is present and Christmas happens daily.

Great, so if you help others, it’s actually god’s love; not yours. (Hat tip to Stephanie for this thought.) And why would ‘soothing’ be a consolation? I’d exchange buckets of after-the-fact soothing in order to not have had that tragedy happen. Who wouldn’t? What’s wrong with this guy? But all we’re left with is: I don’t know.

It’s good to admit when you don’t know something, but if you have no way of finding out, and no way of telling whether your answers are good ones, you have a bit of a fucking methodological problem. And this is a sad sign of the inadequacy of supernatural thinking. See, I do science because science is good at scientific questions. People may say that science isn’t good at moral questions or spiritual questions, and we can argue that. (My answer is that it does just as well as anything else.) But by gum, science is good for doing science.

Spiritual reasoning, on the other hand, isn’t good at answering scientific questions, but it’s also terrible at answering spiritual questions. It’s incompetent within its own domain. It is a shitty way of reasoning. Pardon my language, but spirituality/religion/supernaturalism has one job, and it sucks at it, and this incompetence makes me angry, especially when we have people telling us that it has the answers to life’s great questions, and then when it comes down to it, all that its professionals can tell us is “We don’t know.”

On the other hand, here’s the same issue handled by someone who’s intellectually honest: the scientist, Laurence Krauss. He doesn’t have the same problem as the priest because he doesn’t have to tap-dance around demonstrably untrue theological claims. That means he can deal with things more directly, including the superfluity of gods in times of tragedy.

Why must it be a natural expectation that any such national tragedy will be accompanied by prayers, including from the president, to at least one version of the very God, who apparently in his infinite wisdom, decided to call 20 children between the age of 6 and 7 home by having them slaughtered by a deranged gunman in a school that one hopes should have been a place or nourishment, warmth and growth?

We are told the Lord works in mysterious ways but, for many people, to suggest there might be an intelligent deity who could rationally act in such a fashion and that that deity is worth praying to and thanking for “calling them home” seems beyond the pale.

We don’t need faith to empathize with the grieving in Newtown. We can feel real connections, whether we are parents, or neighbors of families, or simply caring men and women. And we can want to help simply because of our common humanity.

Note that he identifies ‘common humanity’ at its origin: with humans. The difference in approach is striking. So is the relative capability of the authors. It helps if you’re not burdened by outmoded dogma and superstition.

Profiles in Faith: Charlie Fuqua

In Profiles in Faith, we celebrate those who really believe their scriptures. And today we feature Charlie Fuqua, Republican candidate for the Arkansas House of Representatives, and Bible believer. He’s attracted some attention for his stand on executing rebellious children.

Fuqua, who is anti-abortion, points out that the course of action involved in sentencing a child to death is described in the Bible and would involve judicial approval.

By golly, he’s right!

Exodus 21:17 And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.

Leviticus 20:9 For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.

But parents wouldn’t be allowed to kill their children willy-nilly. That would be crazy! You’d have to go through the legal system and observe due process. It’s just that knowing your parents had the authority to kill you would instill a healthy respect.

Even though this procedure would rarely be used, if it were the law of land, it would give parents authority. Children would know that their parents had authority and it would be a tremendous incentive for children to give proper respect to their parents.

Tough but fair.

Lest we be too hard on Mr Fuqua, let’s remind ourselves that he is only following the example of his god, who drowned almost all of his own disobedient children in the most thorough act of genocide in recorded history.

It follows, doesn’t it? For Mr Fuqua, love is what you have for someone who can harm you. The love that a child has for a parent (who can only kill you for a limited period of time) is just a foretaste of that far more infinite love for one’s creator, who can torture you for eternity.

On faith and gratitude

I was quite moved by the story of Ted Williams, the homeless man with the golden voice.

It seems that he’s getting a second chance, and people are clamoring to have him do voice work. Now his biggest problem will be managing his success. I sure hope he makes it.

I have to say, it’s made me think about my attitudes about homeless people. Instead of averting my eyes from someone’s cardboard sign, might I not look closer and find a special talent? How many people passed right on by him?

Here’s a more recent interview.

Mr Williams is a religious man, mentioning his god a lot, giving his god credit for his good fortune. I don’t mean to take away from his story, but it seems to me that people, not gods, are responsible for his turnaround. The Columbia Dispatch reporter who discovered him, the Redditors who worked to find him and get him some things he needed, the employers who are seeking him out and lining up work. When he had his god without the people, he wasn’t doing too well.

It reminds me of the joke: Someone said to a farmer, “God certainly has been good to you with your beautiful farm.” And the farmer said, “God? You should have seen the state he had the place in before I came along!”

When someone has little control over their life, it’s a normal human tendency to be superstitious. And sometimes when I look at my life, I feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Even I feel like directing that gratitude toward the entire universe! But then I think how much better it is to direct it back to the people who make my life worthwhile.

It’s important to correctly identify the source of the good things that come to us. We humans can do a lot for each other, and we do, even when gods do nothing.

The Provo Tabernacle died for your sins

The Provo Tabernacle burned down. It’s a real shame. I went to church there a couple of times in my Utah days, and I remember it as a good old building. It would have made a nice library in 100 years.

One might wonder, of course, why the Mormon god would allow a church building to be destroyed by fire as he watches, pitiless and indifferent to human affairs. One might even wonder what message he intends to send. Perhaps an Old-Testament-style message of anger and vengeance! The fire and destruction symbolic of the wrath to come. A Mormon might get a sense of divine disapproval, and that would never do.

But wait! It’s a Christmas miracle!

As the four-alarm fire raged at the Provo Tabernacle, firefighters and those watching helplessly from the sidewalk observed something truly remarkable. Some are even calling it “a Christmas miracle.”

A painting of Jesus Christ burned in the fire, save for the image of the son of God [yes, that was the wording chosen by Fox News], which was left unscathed.

Yep, the church burning down isn’t the real takeaway here. It’s the painting. That’s the ticket.

This is the Argument from Incomplete Devastation, one of many ways to creatively interpret events in order to sustain a narrative that you already believe. Religious folk are quick to use this one because in the face of disaster, there are only two possible outcomes — either your faith is boosted, or your faith is boosted more. You have to admire their optimism, at least.

Here’s the scorched painting. Coming soon to a fireside near you.

Wait a minute! Forget about Jesus — that outline around it looks strangely familiar! Could it be the hunched figure of…

Nah.

God is good, as long as you keep expectations low

If anyone wants to convince me that a god exists, prayer studies could be one possible avenue. So I noticed this headline:

Prayer May Help Victims of Domestic Abuse

And how ‘may’ prayer ‘help’? By preventing abuse? No, nothing quite so concrete.

Prayer can help victims of domestic violence deal with their situation and emotions by using coping methods such as venting, a small new study suggests.

It included dozens of people in abusive relationships who were interviewed by Shane Sharp, a sociology graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. The racially diverse participants came from different regions of the United States, were mostly from Christian backgrounds and had varying levels of education.

I wonder if the abuse victims were mostly Christian because of availability. Not the greatest track record on gender equality or anything.

One finding was that prayer offers “a readily available listening ear” to people who were boiling with anger.

“If they vented their anger to their abuse partner, the result was likely to be more violence. But they could be angry at God while praying without fear of reprisal,” Sharp said in a university news release.

Prayer also offers domestic abuse victims an opportunity to see themselves as God views them.

“During prayer, victims came to see themselves as they believed God saw them. Since these perceptions were mostly positive, it helped raise their senses of self-worth that counteracted their abuser’s hurtful words,” Sharp said.

Is anyone else underwhelmed by this? Say you’re the all-powerful creator of the universe, and one of your beings (or believers) is suffering horrifying abuse in a relationship. You’re capable of doing anything to help. What will you choose? Maybe — stop the abuse? Turn the abuser’s heart? (The god of the Bible can change people’s feelings, you know.) How about a mysteriously vague heart attack for the abuser?

Or will you… give the abused spouse vague positive feelings? Until the next cycle of abuse. Thanks a lot.

I don’t suppose I’ll be getting many gloating messages from believers about this study. It’s interesting about prayer, just like other studies are interesting about placebos, but in order to believe that a god was behind the effects, you’d have to believe that God is watching case after case of abuse while doing nothing real. How many cases? Surprisingly many, according to this estimate from the Australian Department of Statistics.

approximately one in five women (19 per cent) have experienced sexual violence at some stage in their lives since the age of 15 and one in three women (33 per cent) have experienced physical violence at some stage in their lives since the age of 15.

If prayer helps abuse victims, then this is a strange definition of ‘help’.

When people talk about the power of prayer, let’s remember that the only benefit we observe is the kind of stuff that people could imagine up anyway, even if no god existed. If this god does exist, he could surely do better. But for some reason, he won’t. Skip the god. Better to talk to people who are there to help this kind of thing.

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