Ronin of the Spirit

Because reality is beautiful.

The De-convert’s 4 big ifs.

It’s 5:57 AM here.  This is when I will be getting off work in another 24 hours, and I am up now.  I have no idea how much I have slept in the last 24, as I slept in 1 and 2 hour cat naps so that I could spend the day with my family.  12 hour night shifts are pretty good at killing any time you might have to hang with them, and I cooked my normal schedule the last 2 days to make it happen.

When will I sleep again?  Is it time for breakfast, lunch, supper, or a midnight snack? I don’t know.  But I am up now, drinking some water and writting this.  Many of my friends and all of my family are still Christians.  I talked to one of my closest friends last night/yesterday/today.  We talked about me being an atheist.

Sometimes, I am a good atheist.  I believe that there is nothing supernatural at.  Sometimes I am pragmatic atheist.  I don’t think it matters if there is any supernatural, and what I don’t believe in is “meant to be”.  Remember having someone break up with you and say “It wasn’t meant to be.”  That’s what I am talking about: this cowards’ way of relating to the world where one can’t admit that it (whatever it is) is not working, and instead, invokes an unknown deity who has a plan, somehow.  And sometimes, I think, you know, they’re right.  It’s all true, and I don’t see it because I am damned, not because I am atheist.

Key 50’s soap opera music, and clutch pearls to chest. But, doctor, I don’t feel danmed. I really don’t.  I keep waiting for the pull on my heartstrings, the moment of understanding when I see the super natural, but it keeps not happening.   I keep not seeing it.  Even when I am my most Christiany, I don’t see God, I just think I don’t God because he has a sick sense of humor instead of because he’s not there.  I just can’t work up any feelings of “Oh no, my doom is impending.”

I’ve never been able to.  I don’t think it really matters what we say we believe, I think it matters how we act.  I never really believed in a personal relationship with God.  God says to do a lot of things and says not to do a lot of things which I never gave a damn about doing and not doing.  I mean, I could always work up guilt for failing to meet the standard, but I could never find any real motivation to do it.

I always liked tithing because I liked to imagine my money was helping people, so I did tithe.  But rarely told people about Jesus and positively hated evangelism.  I liked movies about people getting laid and getting even.  A personal relationship should touch ever part of your life, but  my belief in Jesus didn’t change the relationships I wanted to have (I still want to sleep with Catherine Zeta Jones.) the feelings I had (I still hate assholes) or the things I want (lots of money.)  Yet, if I was Christlike, I wouldn’t want to sleep with a woman who wasn’t my wife, I would want to turn the other cheek, and I would want Jesus more than money.  It’s not enough to do right, because works can’t get you into heaven.  You have to also want to do right.

I ran my mouth a lot about having a personal relationship, but personal relationships change their members, and I was never changed.  I didn’t care then.  I don’t care now.  The only that is different is that I am honest about it.  I wish other people could admit that, but so many believers I talk to can’t.   They think they believe because their belief gives them warm fuzzies, but it does nothing to change their behavior.

If God is real, and if he wants a personal relationship, and if their is a religion that gives a framework for that, and if Christianity is that religion…four very big “ifs”, then I am exactly as damned today as I was 10 years ago when it bothered me that I wasn’t feeling or doing what Christianity told me too. My actions haven’t changed.  My beliefs haven’t changed.  Just my feelings about them.

The only thing that’s changed is that I’ve accepted my failure to expereince massive personal changed.  I meet very people who are actaully changed, but I do meet a lot who are better at lying to themselves than I am and was.

January 28, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | 15 Comments

A last letter to my fundamentalist parents.

Dear Mom and Dad,

This is, I think, the last blog about this. I don’t blog everything, just things that I need extra eyes on to see if I am communicating clearly, and properly understanding the responses. I never intended this blog to become the huge issue it did. The great advantage to blogging, and why I started in the first place, is that I have a written record of my thoughts. I didn’t have a direction when I wrote the first blog about you guys, and it certainly wasn’t supposed to be a personal attack, though now reading a week later, I can see that it very clearly seems to be a personal attack.

My point (though I didn’t know it at the time) was not to say “OH you bad people! You HURT me.” My point was only that I was that I hurt. I don’t want you to apologize for hurting me, because I never thought it was intentional. Really, all I wanted was for you to agree with me that you had done something wrong. You don’t have to feel bad for doing something wrong, what good would that do? I mean, some of this stuff was almost two decades ago. But when you didn’t write back and say something to the effect of “You’re right. We messed those things up.” Then, I did want to say “You bad people!” because I was pissed at you for not doing what I wanted. Reasonable response to frustration, but not really helpful. Buried in these things I did really want to say were some pointless little stabs that I really didn’t mean to say, I was just mad. I’m sorry about that.

It doesn’t really answer the question of why it was so important to me to have you know that you hurt me. I had to think about that for awhile. See, I want to be your friend. I’ll always be your son, and I’m proud to be. But unlike being your child, which will never change and is just the way things are, friendship is a choice. I came to the conclusion that we are not friends, which hurt a lot. That was first blog. (My beloved…). For us to be friends, we have to start off afresh, and so I wanted to prove that we were never friends, which was the second blog (A letter to my fundamentalist parents). It was the process of writing those and reading your response that brings me to this blog.

You guys did your best as parents. I plan on making some improvements as I raise mine, but you did the best you could and that’s all a person can ever ask. I’m able to make these improvements because you did a significantly better job raising me than your parents did raising you, so as I said, you did good. I’m an adult now and I want to be your friend. To do that you’ve got to know me, or at least want to. I complain that you never knew me and put the responsibility entirely on you. Some of it is your fault, but some of it is honestly mine. I began hiding the parts of my personality that you would find less palatable around the time I was 9. Now, I can rail against you for not creating an environment where I felt comfortable being myself, but it was 20 years ago. Me carping will not change anything. I don’t need you to apologize, I only need you to agree that you did create an environment where I was uncomfortable being myself.

I need that, because if you don’t think you did anything wrong, I can’t be your friend. If someone hurts you and says “That didn’t hurt, you just think it did” you can’t trust them. Dad, I feel like your response to my last blog said “Yup, we understand that we hurt you, and we understand that wasn’t OK.” That’s all I need from your side. Mom, I love you, and I will continue to tell you so, but I have a hard time trusting you, for a totally different reason. I know that hurts, but here’s why. (edit: Mom, I wish I hadn’t brought this up in the first place.  I bring it up now only because by since I already said it I am sort of committed now.   I love you and I’m sorry about this.) You told me that your dad repeatedly “spanked” you till you passed blood had bloodied welts.  And you told me that’s OK because you deserved it. And you told me that if front of other people. I’ll always be your son, but it’s hard to really be your friend. Friends, good ones at least, love each other, and when I tell you I love you, I know that to you, part of loving you can include beating the hell out of you. You being OK with that makes loving you feel a little cheaper to me. There will always be little hole in our relationship, not because you told me you were abused, but because you told me you deserved it. Until you can tell me that what happened to you wasn’t OK, it’s hard for me think that your definition of a relationship being OK is going to be good for you and me being friends.

That’s your side, and it just leaves mine. I’ve doubted Christianity since I was about 9. Not because of you and dad, but because the way my brain works. My brain doesn’t run on faith, it never has. My brain is wired for evidence, either by an evolutionary process or by a God with a deeply ironic sense of humor. I never believed I was saved for more than a few hours after my conversion, which I did many times. I never had any experience which I though God was the most likely explanation of. Deep down, I knew that, but I wouldn’t let it up.

I didn’t realize I was lying to myself of course, I thought I was being a good Christian and pushing away my doubts. But I was lying to myself, and in the process, I lied to the people closest to me. Despite the Bible’s teachings, Christian does not just mean one who has faith in Christ. “Christian” today means a slew of likes and dislikes, and political leanings, and generally, really bad music. I was never good at the faith part, but I was awful at the other part. If you want to be my friend, you are going to have to accept all of me, not just the parts that turned out like you hoped. A child is respectfully silent when you are wrong. A friend isn’t. A child hides the things that you disapprove of. A friend doesn’t. I like to have a glass of wine, or a beer once in awhile, I enjoy a cigar occasionally, and from time to time I enjoy looking at pornagraphy. When I feel it is the best method of communication, I curse like a sailor. These are things which I know my liking makes you uncomfortable, but I am a package deal . This is what I am, and I will make no apology for being me, and it is your choice to be friends with me or not.

If not, I will still call, I will love you. You’re my family. But personally, I’d like more. I don’t ever expect you to agree with me about atheism. Nor would I wish it. I got here by a process. I don’t want you believe in atheism because I like it, nor would I wish that process upon anyone, though I am glad I went through it. I don’t ever expect you to respect my destination. I hope someday we’ll be good enough friends that you respect my journey.

You Son, Israel

January 24, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Small Car, Uncategorized | , , , , | 4 Comments

Letter to my fundementalist parents.

Continue reading

January 21, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

My Beloved, the Whore

This is going to be a deeply personal post, sort of a public “Dear diary”, so if that’s not your thing, please don’t read it.  All others, I post this publicly to receive a public review of my thoughts and keep a record of the process.  Feel free to comment.

I have recently told my parents  I am an atheist.  Now, I know that this is very painful for them, but I’m finding the post closet experience particularly frustrating (and ultimately painful) for several reasons.

They don’t really know what an atheist is, so they alternately (a.) don’t think I am really an atheist or (b.) ascribe to me the beliefs that they think an atheist has.   They (c.) don’t really understand why I became an atheist, and as such (d.) think it is because they were bad parents.

(a.) They see that I am still spiritual, ethical, and looking for truth and they assume that it is a vestige of Christianity.   Number one, wouldn’t that mean any moral person was some sort of a partial Christan?  “Christian” is not, last time I checked, a substitute for “moral”.  Ideally, yes, all Christians would be bastions of morality.  Some are, many aren’t.  Further, ideally, all Muslims, Buddhists, and Pagans would be intensely ethical people.  Some are, many aren’t. Number two, it says “All those years that you were moral?  Yeah, that doesn’t count, because that wasn’t the authentic you, the authentic you is incapable of morality without Christ.”  And as a logical extension of that belief, then all the emotions I had were inauthentic as well.  Morality isn’t free.  Sometimes we want to do immoral things, and there is a cost to being moral instead.  Moral means desires differed, sometimes forever, and to have the work I put into being moral just written off kinda sucks.   To be told either the “Christian me” or the “atheist me” is less than the authentic me is very insulting.

(b.)To a Christian, atheist means one who wishes to reject God.   So they ascribe to me the beliefs of one who, in their heart, believes in God, but desires not to.  It’s not that I wish to reject the God hypothesis; it’s that evidence compels me to reject God.  Working from the assumption that I wish to reject God they think I believe things that I don’t.   They make assumptions about why I became an atheist and what atheist means.  Which goes right to (c.)  I publicly profess atheism because it is the cry of my heart and mind.  I can no more just wake up a Christian that I could just wake up gay.  This is what I am.  To public state otherwise is to live a lie.  I expected a lot more “Good job, son.”  It takes a huge amount of courage to challenge everything you were ever told and disagree with 96% of the population.  I thought the attitude would be a lot more, “Well, we disagree with you of course, but we understand why you believe what you believe, and we’re proud of you for having the cojones to admit it.”   I am proud of having this courage, and I feel like someone who really knows me and loves me would feel the same way.

It leads me to believe that my parents aren’t responding to who I am, but rather to who they think I am.  Which is terrifying because it leads me to ask the question, “Did they ever…?”  Did my parents ever really understand who I am?  I think, sadly, but reasonably, no.  It wasn’t even their fault exactly.  Even I didn’t believe the evidence of who I was. I was suicidal in high school.  My usual day consisted of waking up, putting a loaded gun to my head and trying to find the courage to kill myself.   Accepting my total failure of inner strength, I could then find a reason to eat breakfast and shower: maybe I would get laid that day, and then I would either go crazy with lust and die in a whore house in a few years (suicide on the installment plan) or I would be so disappointed for pointlessly giving my virginity away that I could pull the trigger and, of course, I would have gotten laid.   This is not the thoughtscape of a Christian.

Several thoughts prevented me.  Putting a hollow point in your brain is an ungodly mess.  It didn’t seem fair to have my parents come home to find my head inside out, running on the wall.  I didn’t want to make them suffer, I just wanted to not hurt inside anymore.  It didn’t seem right to kill myself in some odd way that hid the body either, because I heard from people whose kids were never found, that the not knowing is horrible.  I was a little concerned about hell, because no “real Christian” would want to kill themselves for years on end, but I predominately worried about two things.  One, that I would give myself a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and make myself a quadriplegic.  Two, that there was no sex in heaven.  I was worried about TBI for two reasons: one, I’d never get another chance to kill myself because no one would kill me just because I asked, and two, I wouldn’t be able to feel my penis anymore, again preventing sex forever.  For probably 3 years or so, I couldn’t make myself get out of bed without holding a 9mm and saying something like, ” I can get up today, because no matter how much this day hurts, I am in control.  I can always end it”…and they never noticed.

Which leads me neatly to (d.) They think I am an atheist because they were bad parents…

Ok, in several ways my folks were not bad parents.  I was never sexually abused.  I was never physically abused (though I did see some in our home).  I was never verbally abused.  They made sure I knew the Bible.  That’s a fantastic start. The world needs more parents who don’t rape, hit, or ridicule their kids.  I no longer believe the Bible is inspired, but they did, and I understand and respect their motivation, if not their application.   The thing is….um….that was sort of… it.   When I was 8 years old, I told my mom that I was planning on killing my sister because she was sadistic bitch.  My mom told I loved my sister and I didn’t mean that and made no effort to put away any of the loaded guns littering the house. I mean, I’m not a perfect dad, but I’m pretty sure if my daughter said she was going to kill someone, I might, oh, I don’t know, put away the guns (if I had any).

Number of times my dad played catch with me? Asked me what I was doing in piano? Asked me who my hero was? What I wanted to be when I grew up? Asked me what I learning in school?  Yeah…never.  Number of times my Mom taught me to cook?  She didn’t. I taught myself (much to her surprise).   She never asked me why I wanted to play piano (because I wanted to play jazz).    Neither parent ever asked me what I planned on after high-school, where I wanted to go to school, what I wanted to do with my life.   They made sure I was fed, clean, and educated.  They made sure that certain tests (my ACT) were done, and paid for my health care.   They were the best foster parents the state could have appointed.  Except, they weren’t foster parents.  They are my blood parents who brought me into this world at least partially on purpose.  And as far as what makes me, well me, they never gave a damn.  Some of this is explainable by the fact that my dad was pretty invested into drugs and my mom into codependency in my early life.  Fair enough.  But why, my senior year did they not say “Hey, where do you want to go to college?”  They never asked.  They never asked where I wanted to go, what my major might be, never asked a whole lot of things.  Nothing that would really mark me as me, my dreams, my hopes, was ever talked about.   They had no interest in knowing me at all.

For years, I’ve struggled with these memories of my first girlfriend.  Which, honestly, makes me feel like a doofus.  28 year old men do not pine away for the 18 year old they dated 10 years ago, at least healthy ones don’t.   She and I were both very lonely, very sexual people, but because we were Christians, we never slept together.  A lot of the obsession went away when I called her a few years ago.  We talked about the breakup and the relationship and how we had both hurt each other.  We parted not-quite-as-hurt anymore and accepting that we had other lives now that couldn’t reasonablely include each other.  But, I still think wistfully about making love to her more than I am comfortable with, and I’ve never understood why.

Then this week I got it.  I did a lot of the things I did to impress my parents.  I read Brave New World as a nine year old so I could impress my parents with how smart I was.  In fact, reading was about the only thing I ever got positive feedback for, and read like crazy.  I read to find something smart to say, so I could get some parental approval.   I aced algebra because my mom said her kids weren’t good at math.  I graduated with a 4.0.  I went to bible college instead of a engineering school because I wanted my parents to be proud of decisions, and nothing else I wanted to do would have pleased them as much. So what happened when I brought the woman I wanted to marry home from Bible college, the woman that I loved sacrificially as Christ loved the church (I wanted to marry her to redeem her reputation)?  They called my beloved a slut, said she dressed like prostitute (she wore silk pajama pants and a camisole to bed), and refused to leave us alone together so we wouldn’t have sex.   When I went to stay with her in her hotel (She was fairly offended and left) they commanded me to come back home.  I could have disobeyed, but I did not, because my father was appointed over me by god.  To disobey him was to disobey God himself, and he told me so when he commanded me to come back home.  They called my beloved a whore and told me it would be best if I broke off my engagement.   So I did.  10 years later, it still hurts because I showed them the one thing in the world it was most important to me for them to be proud of and they said….nah, she’s a whore.  It’s the rejection by the people I loved most in the world that made the wound so deep.

So, am I an atheist because my parents were bad parents?  Absolutely not.  Had my parents been really great supportive people instead of emotionally distant and judgemental people I probably would have realized I was an atheist by the time I started high school. I can’t and do not blame them for any of the really stupid decisions I made after I was 18.  But up to 18, they were my life, and I do blame them for a lot of the guilt I felt and the stupid things believed.  They asked me recently to forgive them for “any harm we caused”.  Which, I can’t really do.   A bit because an open ended request for forgiveness is worthless: “I’m sorry that vague things I don’t care to understand and refuse to accept responsibility for hurt you for some odd reason.”   Ahhhhh, no.

But mostly, because a request for forgiveness is saying to someone “Teach me to treat you better”.  I really should carefully and lovingly delineate to them how they messed up and how this doesn’t relate to atheism, the opposite really, but I don’t believe them yet.  They didn’t care about my core identity for 28 years.  Now they respond to me the way they think an atheist feels instead of the way they think a Christian feels, but they still seem to have no real interest in understanding what makes up my core, my true self.   They ask me no questions about why I believe, or even the specifics of what I believe. Instead of talking to me about what I believe, they would rather to talk to to others about what they think I might believe.   They knew I was blogging, and that my blogs were asking hard questions, yet were completely surprised by my confessions of non-faith.  Why?  Because my blogs made them uncomfortable they stopped reading them.

There is a chance that they will read this, and  feel they must ask me questions about myself.  Then they will most likely be offended when I don’t want to answer.  A date you have to tell to compliment you isn’t much of a date, is it?  The time to care about what made me me was a good quarter a century ago.   I’m very selective about my friends, and they don’t make the cut.  I will continue to be kind and friendly, and call at appropriate holidays, but I no longer care about their approval one way or the other, and I could care less about really trying to have relationship with them.  Perhaps most tragically of all, since they never knew what a constitutes a real relationship to me they will probably never notice the difference. Continue reading

January 20, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Slice of life, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

How to Prevent Atheism

My parents right now are really hurting over me becoming an atheist.  I feel bad.  I don’t like hurting them.  I considered not telling them at all so it wouldn’t hurt them.  But I knew it would come up sooner or later, and that they would have to be told.  I, personally, would rather be told that someone disagrees with my core beliefs at the beginning, rather than have it hidden from me  for years.  I think that the distrust and lies of omission hurt more than the disagreement.  For them, we’ll see.

But having grown up a Bible thumping fundamentalist and now being an atheist, I would like to prevent other parents suffering the way my parents are right now.  And I think I know how.  I offer the following in total seriousness, my guide to people in the Church on preventing atheism in her members.

I know that if some pastor reads this, he could very offended.  This is not a joke me.  I am not saying it to be offensive.  I am truly offering this as advice to pastors and evangelists.  If you don’t want people to de-convert like I did, listen to me.  Some of these things are going to be hard for you to read, because they are very irreverent. Remember the person you are attempting to save has no idea what you hold reverent.

(1.) I can’t stress this enough.  You must truly believe that some people are called to be God’s and some aren’t.  No, seriously, you have to accept that.  (Romans 11:7, Acts 13:48,)

(2.) As such, you must accept that fact that witnessing consists of laying the facts on the table.  If the person is called by God, they believe them, if they’re not, they don’t.  (Romans 11, Acts 4:4, Ephesians 1:13)

(3.) Accept the fact that the “facts” are ridiculous.  Talking donkeys (Numbers 2:28), the sun stopping in the sky (Joshua 10:13), floating cities (Revelations 21).   Don’t pretend that they make sense on their own, because they don’t.  They make sense only to the Chosen.    Don’t pretend it’s all about Jesus. It’s not.  Jesus only matters if the Bible is true.  If it’s true when it says “Jesus Saves”; it’s true when it says sheep copulating  in front of spotted sticks makes spotted sheep. (Genesis 30:38-39)  Pretending this sort of thing is rational will make someone doubt their sanity.  Admit frankly that these things are irrational, on purpose, because God has chosen the foolish things to confound the wise.  (First Corinthians 1:27, First Corinthians 2:14)

(4.) Don’t lie when you witness.  Make it clear that you are going to have to believe the whole Bible to be a Christian.  (2nd Timothy 3:16) When it says that a woman who files a false rape report must be beaten to death (According to Deuteronomy 22:25, the penalty for rape is death. According to Deuteronomy 18:18-19 a false witness must face the punishment that would have been given to the accused.)  or that priests can’t have bruised testicles (Leviticus 21:20) you must accept that and believe that it is really important or it wouldn’t be in there.  The ideal witnessing method would include every odd claim and bizarre thing in the Bible.  Let new believers know what they are getting into so that when someone presents them with this data, they aren’t surprised. Surprised believers feel betrayed by the church.

(5.) Don’t explain God in terms of personal relationship.  A reasonable person would expect a personal relationship with supernatural being to involve supernatural actions.  But that’s not how God works. Many believers will go their whole life and never see a single “New Testament” style miracle, like a regeneration of a limb, or reanimation of the dead.    “Personal relationship” misleads people into thinking that God shows up regularly on human terms.  He doesn’t, and people who expect it will become disillusioned.   It takes several years of normalization in the church before the phrase “personal relationship” means “vague feelings in response to readings of scripture or singing of hyms”

(6.) Don’t explain God in terms of love.  Love to normal people does not include the statement “…or I’ll roast you alive forever.”    Explain God purely in terms of salvation from deserved misery.   People who think they are sinners will get it.  People who don’t consider themselves deserving of eternal damnation when they are presented with the idea are NOT savable, because they don’t accept the truth of God.   It takes years of time in the Church before people accept the idea that the Divine death threat “Love me, or I’ll kill you.” is a moral highpoint, not low point.  You can’t protect new converts from this truth, so tell it up front and don’t evangelize in terms of “love”.

(7.) Accept that fact that God says “Love me, or I’ll burn you alive forever.”  (Romans 6:23, Mathew 5:22, Mark 9:43, and many, many more.) Yes, that is a gross oversimplification.  It’s still what he says.  If you disagree, you’re not savable; it’s that simple.  Either you don’t believe that God commands you to love him, or you don’t believe that he cast those who don’t in to hell.  Both are basic doctrine.

(8.) Accept the fact that God can do whatever he wants.  Do not pretend that God is held to any standard, even the standard he reveals in scripture for himself. (Job and Eccleisaties) He can do whatever he wants, whenever he wants.  He has ordered the slaughter of woman and children (Deuteronomy 3:6).  It was holy, and if you disagree that all the actions of God are Holy, then you don’t accept him as fully God.  In which case, you aren’t savable.

(9.) Do not reason with the converting, it makes lousy converts.  If a person can be argued into belief, they can argued out of it.  Further, it creates a false expectation that the faith can be reasoned through.  It can’t.  By definition, the supernatural does not follow the rules of the natural.  As such, tools of analysis like reason or science won’t work on it.

(10.) Science is the universe in the absence of God.  Science is the study of nature.  God is supernatural.  Accept the fact that science is merely the absence of the miraculous or demonic.   Studies, science, and reason cannot be trusted.  They are rough approximations of the universe that are accurate only because God does not manifest miracles all the time, and the Devil, unlike God, is not everywhere at once.

(11.) Going from that, only studies which confirm the church’s point of view are true, all others are false.  This is called data mining.  Make it clear to the converting, that data mining, like homicide is bad only when people besides God do it.  In this way, Christians can trained to see data mining as bad and spot it (as they have on the global warming debate), but are not left with the idea that it would wrong for the church to do it.  If they thought data mining was intrinsically bad, they will be disillusioned when they find how much the church does it.

(12.) Don’t teach apologetics. Ever.  Most De-cons were trained apologists.  Apologetics teaches people that God can be found with reason.  Any god that could be found through human facility is not much of God.  It encourages people to think that the Bible is true because of evidence instead of authorship.  Elevating evidence over God is idolatry.  Further still, where there is evidence, there is no faith.   The conversion of people with an interest in apologetics or converted by apologetics cannot be trusted.  They believe that God is reasonable.  God isn’t.   They aren’t savable if they don’t repent of  this false belief about God.

(13.) Don’t teach them to witness to people of other faiths.  It seems like a good idea: teach believers about other religions so they can witness to people of those faiths.  But it’s a terrible idea. (Exodus 23:13, Deuteronomy 13:1 through 8. ) First, it works from the idea that there are specific arguments that can talk people out of specific faiths into believing the true faith.  But as said before, those reasoned in, can be reasoned out.  Reason is an idol.  Second,  since there is only one way to God, all other ways are tricks of Satan, and meditating on them is meditating on the Satanic.   The usual approach to this is to data mine the information about these religions, but this is not a perfect strategy.  Should the believer meet a person of a different faith and find that Church data mined the information on that religion they will feel hurt and betrayed.

January 13, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Christianity, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

An update.

Well the last post was published 8 days ago.  I try to publish more often than that, but I probably won’t be for a bit.  I’m really kicking my butt studying.  I have a promotion test in April.  I am taking 6 hours of classes every 8 weeks. I have work related training for 2 weeks, and I am trying to be a better dad.  I don’t think that when my daughter leaves home I will think to myself, “Man, I wish I had spent less time with her so I could blog.”  Also, I’m busier at work, so I have less time there, and less energy at home.

But in general, I’ll try to hit up the blog whenever I have the chance.  I have a cool learning experience that I am going to post, and I several requests for an atheist world view series.  I’m still blogging, but you will probably not see me much more than 4 times a month, maybe less sometimes.  Good night all.

January 12, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Religion, Slice of life, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

My Deconversion

My De-conversion.

An atheist is person who does not find compelling reason to accept the God hypothesis.  De-converts are special, I think, because most of us became atheists not because we disbelieved in God, but because we believed so much.  One cannot be disappointed by a fictional character.  The God hypothesis broke our hearts because we believed it, not because we doubted it.   I searched out God.  I looked for him desperately, searched the Scriptures, searched the great works of Christian literature, searched everything, everywhere for God.   Because I believed God to be real, his enormous contradictions of character and schizophrenic mood swings terrified me.  I began to increasingly doubt that God was real.  There didn’t seem to be objective evidence for him.  With all the blessings of God which relate to material things, (healing for instance) there should be objective measures of Christian health which would prove this blessing, and thus serve as objective proof of God.  Yet there was none.  If fact, the more I thought about it, the more Christians were just like everyone else, showing no blessing that made them special.

I decided that to heal my flagging faith I would read the Bible again, cover to cover.  I wanted to do it in a short time, so that I could remember my thoughts  from the beginning when I got to end.  I read  it in 3 months.  But instead of healing my faith, it shredded it.  When the Bible is read as a continuous narrative, not dissected bit by bit into numerous sermons, the full humanity and the total lack of the divine cries out in every page.   The Bible, when read like a book, instead of read with the assumption that it is the book of God, it is indeed just another book.   Desperate to believe in God, I decided that perhaps the Bible had been corrupted. I began to search out the history of the Bible itself.  Again, nothing relating to the canonicity of the Bible gave me any compelling reason to believe in God.  I told myself this was because of God’s deep seated love of freewill.  He allowed errors in because he loved freewill so much he would let his perfect message get lost.  I began to search out the history of the early church, hoping that maybe God had revealed himself to those people, given them something special, only the message had been twisted.  Tragically, a search of the early Church did not yield the results I’d hopped.

Reading the Bible cover to cover had revealed gaps in doctrine I was unaware off.  Studying the history of its translation revealed ghastly, purposeful mistranslations.  Studying the canonicity had revealed a far deeper commitment to contemporary orthodoxy than to truth.   So, for the first time, I no longer implicitly trusted Christian authors.  They were, as Acts said, “men of like passions”, and had no more guarantee to be right than I.  Everything I read about early church history, I source checked.  I went through the bibliographies of the books, and read the oldest books that came up the most often.  Or, I did as long as I could stand it.  Church history, not properly sanitized to fit post Victorian Christian norms, was appalling.

Oh, I knew about the Crusades and the Inquisition. What shocked me was the total fluidity of doctrine.   Church doctrine was not a solid thing, but a sickly, taffy like mass.  The early Church was the measuring stick of Christianity, the Holy standard which all churches tried to adhere too, and their doctrine was not, by any normal sense of the word, Christian.  I didn’t know this because I had never read Church history from any perspective other than supporting an argument for doing church a certain way.  Pre-Constantine Christianity is a lot like pre-Ford automobile manufacture.  Before the Model T, cars could have 3 wheels or 4, levers or steering wheels, engines could be anywhere.  Ford created the standard, what we think of as “car”.   Before Constantine, Christian doctrine could be whatever you wanted.  The Gospel could be whatever good news you liked.   You didn’t like a trinity? No problem.  Open marriage? We’ve got that.  Nudism? Go for it. Communism? Why not?  Jesus was purely spirit? Got that too.  Heresy did not exist. It was not until the Church had political power to harm heretics that suddenly it had the will.  Heresy suddenly became very important, because it made it acceptable to kill people and take their stuff.   The road to orthodoxy is apparently paved with tombstones.

I studied more, hoping desperately to find God.  The church had lied.  Over and over again.  She had claimed things as truth which were wrong. Unbiblical organizations, unbiblical norms, based in unbiblical doctrine, based on imaginary standards of canon.  I got mad at God.  He didn’t seem to do anything about the atrocities committed in his name, and didn’t even seem to have much a hand  in witting the Bible.  God just didn’t seem to give a damn.  I  wanted to be wrong. I wanted to believe.  I wanted every hurt I had ever been given in Christ’s name to have been a mistake.  So I told my Christian friends what was going on in my heart.  How hurt I’d been by God and by the Church for lying to me about him. It seemed as if I was an abused wife, finally finding the courage to talk with the police, expecting help, but horribly wrong.  They would look sympathetically at each bruise and gently explain, as if to a child, that it really was my fault and didn’t I know, if I would just do what he told me, this wouldn’t happen anymore?  It was terribly painful.

And then I got it.  I didn’t matter what evidence I had.   To Christians, the sickness of the things that surround God could never be God’s fault.  Christianity was not at fault, I was. It was all my fault.  God is not accountable to anyone, that’s Christian Doctrine 101.   No evidence, no source, no study, nothing would change their minds because nothing bad is God’s fault.  “Blameless” is not beautiful; “blameless” is as ugly as death.  When I was a Pizza Hut shift manager, if a cashier’s drawer was off by a dollar, I was accountable.  It was on my watch, I had the power to do something about it, I did nothing, and I was responsible.  Yet, the immortal, all knowing, all powerful master of the universe was “the blameless one” who stood watching every atrocity, or worse, stood by wanting to stop it, but waiting for more prayer.  That was Holiness and if I didn’t like, well I could just burn in Hell.

I used to tell the people I was evangelizing to,  trying to convince them of the personal nature of a relationship with God, “There is no difference between a God who will not act and cannot act because he isn’t real.”  I swallowed the bitterest pill of my own advice I had ever given: I reluctantly accepted the fact that I was an atheist.   Surprisingly, the world did not end.  I was pleasantly surprised to find I was still capable of basic acts of morality.  I didn’t cheat on my wife.  If fact, I loved her more.  Without the pressure to be “Christ to the Church” to her, I enjoyed spending time with her more.  Without wondering if I was enjoying sex from fleshly desire instead of Holy love, martial relations were delightful.  Between wanting to spend more time talking to her and wanting to spend more time with her in bed, our relationship blossomed.

Not believing in Hell changed how I treat people.  Never realizing I was afraid to truly love non-believers because it would hurt so much to know they were burning in hell, I’d never had a non-Christian friend in my adult life.   Now, I had non-christian friends.  Because I didn’t spend half an hour in prayer for them before they came over, I invited them over more often. Since I no longer looked in the mirror and saw a filthy disgusting sinner, I had a lot more confidence.   I made new friends quicker.   Because I didn’t think I had to “life style evangelize” them, I was free to be myself when they were around, something I had never felt with most Christians.

I no longer constantly questioned whether or not I was “pursing God’s will” in my education, which made me stress less about college, and in turn,  get better grades.  In fact, the lack of worrying about God’s will allowed me to effectively plan my life for the first time.  I’d never been able to make long term plans out of the terror I would do so out of God’s will and derail my life.  Believing that perhaps I didn’t know everything I needed to know about parenting from a few sentences in a very old book, I read books on parenting, and became a better father.

After my marriage and my daughter, atheism is the single greatest thing that has ever happened to me.  I have done more to achieve my dreams and experienced more joy and peace in the year or so that I’ve been an atheist than the prior twenty-seven.   I love more deeply. I make better decisions. I have better friends.  My only regret is that I waited so long.  I feel like a grown man who finally realizes that there is no Santa.  I’m a little embarrassed that my disbelief in an imaginary character was this healing, because it only reveals how emotionally, morally, and intellectually bankrupt I was before, a fault I cannot place on Christianity, but rather my adherence to it.

January 4, 2009 Posted by | atheism, Religion, Self discovery, skepticism, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Suspension Primer II

So people seem to believe that the chronology of mass produced suspension designs relates directly to suspension quality.  The usual theory goes, beam axle, swing axle, McPherson, wishbone.   First let’s look at the proviso “mass produced”.  Define mass produced.  Is it 100 units?  100,000 units?  Beam axles were the first mass produced in the sense that they were produced en mass since around 1000 BC.   But you can’t just say they were the first mass produced in cars just because the Model T had them.  The Model T began production in 1908.  By that time, Decauville’s indpendent front suspension patents had already expired, and they had been making a car with independent front suspension for a decade, beginning in 1898.

Further, equal length wishbones are usually seen as a post McPherson strut development.  Actually, they were proposed in a 1934 technical paper by Maurice Olley.  The McPherson strut was not invented until ’49, but mid 1920’s technical papers by FIAT would show that they invented the concept then. So here to set you straight is the Israel Walker “real story” of suspension history.

Remember, there are four parts to suspension: axle, linkage, springs, and shocks, and you need all four. A brilliant axle with poor linkages, crappy springs, and lousy shocks will be crappy suspension.  Let’s look at Model T as a baseline.

First off, there is nothing wrong with a Model T’s suspension.  The roads the T was made to run on were crap.  So the T had to have tall wheels.  The tires available were skiny so it had to have narrow wheels.  If you have tall skinny wheels clawing over rough terrain you need a huge amount of articulation.  The motors available are heavy and weak, so the car (and suspension) has to be light.  A modern engineer, given those requirements would give you the exact same suspension Henry did.

Beam axles get a bad rap.  This site has a pretty standard Pros/Cons list for beam axles.  They’re simple, and strong, with good camber control, but have high unsprung weight, gyro stability issues (the fact they have two rotating masses on a stick causes weird vibrations) bump steer (up and down make the wheels turn left and right), take up to much space, and poor road holding.

This is where critical thinking comes in.  Simple compared to what? Strong in reference to what? High unsprung weight compared to what? Gyro stabilizing issues compared to what? Large compared to what? And some research about bump steer and road holding.

The problem here is that they there is more difference between Model T’s beam axle suspension and a modern high end beam suspension than there is between a kitten and tiger.  Strong in reference to what?  Weight.  They carry more load with less component weight than any other system.  This is why semis have them. And if they are the strongest referenced to weight, that means that they are one of the lightest systems, not the heaviest.  Yes, they do have gyrostability issues if they have weak or poorly designed linkages.  ALL suspensions have stability problems if they have weak or poorly designed linkages.  The bump steer is fixable.  Road holding is fantastic, if properly designs.  As is the case with all suspension designs, road holding is poor if the overall execution is poor.  Finally, the “too big” one is a plain lie.  Most minivans use beam axle suspension in the rear precisely because of how little space it takes up, allowing more cargo space in the back of the vehicle.

I think what they meant, was it takes up the wrong kind of space.  Beam axles must run in a line from wheel to wheel, meaning that you can’t put, say ,an engine, in the space between them.  The original reason that GM went to independent front suspension in the 30’s was to mount the engine between the wheels instead of behind them.  It was a stylistic and not an engineering decision.  This was reflected in the fact that early GM IFS ate the heck out of tires.

We must compare apples to apples.  It’s not fair to say that the beam axle suspension of a 1908 model T designed to conquer roads that would have appalled the Romans and do so for as cheaply as humanly possible, compares unfavorably 21st century dual wishbone designed for glass smooth roads and with cost no object.  We never learn anything from comparisons of maximized systems to un-maximized systems.  If we want to set high performance as the baseline, than lets look to racing.

The first Indianapolis 500 was raced in 1909.  The last time a car with beam axle front suspension would win? 1962, at 150 mph.  Sprint cars, racing 1200lb vehicles with 800HP engines on dirt tracks still use them, again at around 150 mph.   Further, they are the preferred axle of choice for many extreme motor sports, like rock climbing.  The Humvee has has been troubled by it’s lack of beam axle suspension.  It’s wide articulation, fully independent suspension is far more weight sensitive than beam suspension.  As such, the Humvee becomes dangerous to drive when overloaded by say, improvised amour.

Beam axle is far more simple.  As such, it costs less to maximize, and more importantly, has less fail points.  In the crushing loads incountered in racing, rock climbing, and warfare, the beam axle wins.   Tune in next time, for a bit less detail about the swing axle, the wishbone, the McPherson strut and double wishbone, and more.

January 1, 2009 Posted by | Engines, skepticism, Small Car, Transportation, Uncategorized | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Suspension Primer

So, I don’t write many car posts.  I am a freak about cars, so I know a lot about cars.  I don’t just know about the cars themselves, but the companies, the people that designed them, the engineering, etc.  I take cars very seriously, and having the position of knowledge that I’ve worked for over the years, I say things that people without my background don’t understand, and they think that I and not they, am the moron.   (There’s two approaches to this. One, I can explain everything from start to finish.  By the time I’ve given them the background to actually know what I am talking about, my point is lost.  Alternately, I can make my point, have them tell me how stupid I am, and then spend an extra hour on the lecture defending every single point, since they already know the final point and don’t want to agree with it.)  I am going to spin this into a critical thinking post in the next installment, so I am doing it anyway.

OK, some basic physics.  Cars are heavy.  In physics terms, this means cars have a large mass.  Mass resists being moved, and once moved, resists being stopped.  Roads are not flat.  They go up and down, so anything going accross them goes up and down.   When a car goes up, the wheels aren’t sticking to the road.  When it goes down it the wheels are diving into the road really hard.  Also this isn’t good for the car.  A car is made of many pieces, if they are all made flexible, they bend and rub each other till they break.  Make the car rigid, and the constant force without flex to absorb it will also break it.  So we we make suspension.

Springs in the form of wood have been used on chariots since Egypt.  By the 19th century, they were steel.  Cars inherited these steel springs.  The problem was that cars went faster than horses, so something had to link the axle to the car besides the springs, to keep the springs from just bending out of the way.  This is called linkage.  As cars got faster still, on new problem was found.  The car would bounce on the springs so fast that it would vibrate the car to pieces, so the shock absorber was invented.  The shock absorber lets the spring bounce but slows it down, like the difference between swinging your arm in water instead of air.

So, their are 4 parts to suspension.  Axle (what the wheel spins with or around), springs (which connect the axle to the car), linkages (which keep the spring from flexing right out of from between the car and axle) and shocks (which keep the spring from bouncing excessively.) Whether we are talking about a Model T,  or a Formula 1 racer, that’s it: 4 basic parts consisting of axle, springs, linkages, and shocks.

The truly astute will notice that we have not solved the first problem, just make it smaller.  Remember that moving the car horizontally causes vertical motion.  Mass resists moving, and once moving resists stopping.  Now, it is the much lower mass of the suspension doing the vertical movement while the car pretty much floats over.   This car is mounted on springs, thus is “sprung mass”.  The wheel and axle are not, thus “unsprung mass”  (Some parts are both, the part of the spring which is fixed against the car is sprung and the part attached to the bouncing axle is unsprung.  So we figure 1/2 the mass of the spring is unsprung mass.)

But cars don’t just go straight.  They turn.  Remember that an object in motion wants to stay in motion and that the car is heavier than the suspension?  When you make a hard right, the lighter suspension pretty happily changes direction.  The rest of the car wants to follow the old path of motion, now to the left.  It tries do slide to the left, and pushes against the suspension, so it “rolls” left, squishing the left springs and stretching out right springs.  If the body rolls enough it will pick up the right-side wheels off the road.  Sometimes this is no big deal.  Sometimes you die in horrible agony.  Depends on the road, and the car.  Anyway…

So, to recap so far: The suspension has one job, to keep the tires on the road.  It must keep the tires on the road when the road tells the wheel to pull away, or when the cars body roll pulls the wheel away. It does this with 4 parts: axles, springs, linkages, and shocks.

Totally unrelated to the problem of keeping the rubber in the road is the task of passenger comfort.   And totally unrelated to that is the production engineering.  Bearing that in mind, here is the normal time line of front suspension development. (For reasons I’m not going to explain, new technology goes into the front end first, then is translated into the rear suspension.)

Ok, so first is the beam axle.  Its a big pole with wheel on each side.  Then comes the swing axle which is the same thing with a pivot in the middle.  Then comes the McPherson Strut, then the equal length wish bone, then unequal length wishbone.

The problem is?  That’s crap.  Despite the fact that absolutely everyone says that the time line, it’s not.  And it doesn’t go from bad handling to good handling in good order, which is it’s usually presented: a timeline with improving ability with each development.

January 1, 2009 Posted by | Engines, Microcar, skepticism, Small Car, Transportation, Uncategorized | , , , , , | Leave a comment