I like to invent things (even if only on paper) and I do so in spurts of enthusiam for different things. For the last year or so, my enthusiam has been about religion and government.
General, cultural Christianity as well as my personal upbringing, instilled in me the paradoxical idea that government is (omnipresent) God in abstentia, along with some other conflicting ideas like freedom being a gift from God, but only for good people not for undesirables like homosexuals or the inner-city poor. These ideas were among the many that burned off like fog in the sun when I de-converted.
But it left me with a ticklish problem. If the purpose of government wasn’t the “or else” in the statement “Obey God’s rules, or else!” what was it? I studied different ideologies and rejected them one by one. Some ideologies contained more truth than others, but ultimately I found a lot of them were based on false premises, and unconfirmable or unconfirmed data.
Since I’ve been fascinated by revolutionary movements since I was child (When I was 9, I planned out an eloborate and violent coup of my school giving it up not out of moral qualms but because I realized ultimately, any resistance I offered adults would not result in children being granted our constititional rights, but serve as pretext to steal the few we had.) I had decent working knowledge of revolutionary movements, further enhanced by some pretty hard reveiw of revoltionary movements I undertook to offer advice to my so called “revolutionary church”.
This knowledge served me well, as world history is the story of the revolutionary movements that worked. Even within the scope of revolutions that effectively won, most revolutionary movements struggle enormously with the task of switching from David to Goliath.
War represents a reversal of normal values. Normally killing people and taking their stuff is socially condemned, in war, it is applauded. Civil war is worse because it is more specific. Normally killing your neighbor is socially condemned, in civil war, it is applauded. The same key that increases a revolutionary movements’ chance to succeed increases the revolutionary movements’ chance to successfully transition for revolutionary movement to rule. That key is how the members respond to the entrenched ideology of the existing government.
People gather together around ideologies, from NASCAR tailgating parties, to the ritual cannibalism of the Eucharist. If a revolutionary movement gathers under hating the existing system, it is gathering around hate and no change of system will change the organized , systemic, rage. Most likely the hate will destroy unit discipline within the revolutionary cabal and it will collapse into organized crime and terrorism. (Al-qaeda and the Tamil Tigers). Should the the hate-based group stay organized under a strong and ruthless leader (such as Lenin) as well as defeat the existing government, it will transition to power by entrenching the existing system at the point of a gun. This is why so many revolutionary movements become everything they abhor.
Contrariwise, if a revolutionary movement gathers around the postive change that it wants to make, it can often become a competeing voice in the existing system, growing in legitimacy and power. Should it succesfully overthrow the incumbent government, it has a post-revolution plan. Since the people revolting were gathered around something besides destruction they tend to have better idea of what to do with power once they have it. For an object lesson on this, juxtipose the American to the French revolution.
The government classes I had studied as outstanding young Christian gentleman were centered on what was wrong with the existant American system. They offered no plan, no system, no roadmap for post-change improvement. It was believed, I think, that no roadmap was nessisary. When things were “made right” God would magically make everything work. Question: Why did terrorists attack? Answer: Because we we’re too soft on queers and babykillers. When we stopped allowing shows like “Will and Grace” to be broadcast and made abortion illegal, or at worst difficult to get, then the terrorism situation would improve in the total absence of systemic change.
So I addressed my desire to understand government, and the flaws I percieved in various ideolgeous by trying to invent a new government. I won’t make any argument against the componants of the existant system until I can offer a better peice. Not a peice I feel better about, mind you, but one that does the componants’ function better.
And finally, it must be remembered we speak of a system here. By definition, systems are interconnected. If 3 foot rail gauge is better than Standard for a rail system, you can’t make one line narrow gauge and expect improvement. Systems must be integrated fully to function at all. Thus, I can’t offer a single better peice to governmental theory. In the absence of total systemic improvement, individual peicemeal improvements are actively destructive.
I’m trying to invent a whole new government from the ground up, with consistancy and reason throughout. It’s the largest, and most encompassing inventing I’ve tried.
Happiness is a funny thing.
It’s so transient. Today was my last day on 60+ hour weeks. My box of bike goods arrived, and my new duty time is 0630. So I will be riding my bike to work again. I will be seeing my family again. I am getting rid of my little Panda. (I liked the Panda, it was a fine little car, but I’ve learned all I can from it. I’d like to have small car that I can hot rod a bit, and if I fix up the Panda I’ll have the world’s fastests P.O.S.) I’m getting a used Volvo V90. I’m putting it on finance to work up my credit score, though I could afford to buy it in cash.
Everything is working out my way for the first time in awhile, and today I am happy. I thought for a moment that I sort of missed being able to thank God. But then the one sidedness of that relationship came back to me.
I think I would still be religious if it was OK to get angry at God. I had a great day today, and I wouldn’t mind thanking God for it if when at some point in the future, when I have lousy, lousy day I could be pissy at God. I mean if a good day is His fault, then a bad day is too right? He’s either Lord of all or He’s not.
But no, bad days were always somehow my fault. Even if I didn’t cause the ‘badness’, I was sinning by not blessing God in a bad situation. I was sinning by doubting, sinning by having such a poor attitude, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Today I am happy. Sometime, sooner than later, I won’t be. Crap happens. While I am happy I will celebrate with my loved ones. When I am sad, I will be sad with my loved ones. No fault, no failure, no blame. Life is so much simpler and more peaceful as a spiritual atheist than as a Christian.
I wish the me I am
could be as good as friends
with the you that you are
As the me you thought I was
Was with the you I thought you were.
First of all, the modern Church could not exist without the New Covenant as it is properly called). I am fascinated by the Bible as a human artifact. First off, the Bible is open source. Think about it. There was no top down command structure that caused the Bible to be developed on certain lines. The “design” was open source. All kinds of people wrote their stories, their advice, their point of view. The word Gospel means good news, but it doesn’t just mean that in the sense we mean it today. It was a common way for a traveler to begin a positive story. The Gospel according to Mark could be changed into the expression “The Big story, according to Joe”. Tons of people wrote original work, many more people copied the original work and made minor changes. A lot of the original work was not that great and many of the changes were pointless. The really good stuff was kept and the not so great stuff discarded. Eventually a certain writing style, presentation, and language developed. Sound familiar? was the original wiki! (You might consider the Koran the original Linux. The source document was written by one vision, but the most of the Koran is actually inspired commentary on the source. The inspired commentary was written by experts of the source document in collective, co-operative, and Darwinian manner.)(Or
Then there is the early Church. The church began with a handful of true believers, profoundly affected by what they had seen. Each formed his own following, a small group that respected and obeyed him. In modern middle eastern cell ideology this called the cell ring: the core cells in the center of the org chart that basically independent but lead with a connection to each other. The churches under them met in houses, this would be the secondary cells. Rituals began to develop that encouraged a sense of intimacy and family between people who had not previously been related. (The siblinghood of all man under God and through Christ encouraged this.) Then, increasing notoriety and public knowledge resulted in increasing religious cleansing. The movement went underground. The leaders began to die, and the split into two separate cultures depending on local tradition and local acceptance. One was leaderless resistance movement, where the cell don’t communicate much, but work independently towards the same basic goals. The other movement became more of a top down cell group structure of a Western rather then middle-eastern tradition. Sound familiar? It’s the same with every small group of political or philosophical resistance fighters world over. It is how terrorists organize their cells, how the special forces organize theirs, how the NVA fought in Vietnam, how the Communist fought in China, and so on. It is the premiere method of organization for asymmetrical warfare.
Then, when the church became accepted, the western style bureaucratic cell structure prevailed, gradually absorbing the leaderless cells, and setting up a chain of command. There was the individual, the decons, the elders, and a bishop. Due to the social welfare provided by the church, a geo-political government formed, with a chain of command and hierarchy. Everyone paid the church (tithes were not voluntary, making them de facto taxes), but not everyone one in leadership. The church was divided between clergy and laity. The low level clergy had some say in political issues, and were appointed from the top down. Because this was a source of wealth and power, becoming part of the clergy was the route to wealth and power. Sound familiar? It’s the communist party in Russia. Just as junior level party members had some power, and high level ones all the power. The discongruous enormous personal wealth, power, and luxury of senior level party officials was identical to that of senior level Church officials.
Then the Church grew into a machine that took and took. The message of all the world under one cross was taken to the farthest corners of the world, and the old states of the Roman empire became the Satellite states of the Church. The Church provided military aid and advice to accomplish it’s goals. Improper expressions of the Gospel (ie, ones that didn’t pay tithe to Rome or refused to serve the Church’s armies) were viciously eradicated. Sound familiar? Soviet history anyone?
During this time the Church maintained itself as the world’s first multinational brand, with immediately recognizable franchises in every city of any importance in Europe, and small branch centers is smaller towns and villages. (Read the history of McDonalds)
Then, the Reformation. The massive bureaucracy was unable to respond to the new paradigm of freer, more democratic leadership selling a religious experience for the individual rather than the city or village. (IBM vs, Cars vs. Trains, landlines vs. cell phones)
Everything you need to know about business, about management, about wealth, about power, about technology, about organization, about counter culture, about revolution, about change, is all there in the.
Power is freedom from evidence. The more power a person has over others, the less evidence they need to back up their claims. Atheists like to imagine a world where everyone is rational and doesn’t surrender their power to some weirdo with an old book, but its not going to happen. People surrender their power because they can’t handle it. With practice anyone could learn to play a guitar or reason. But genetics decide if you are going to be jonny play-Hotel-California or Eric Clapton, and genetics decide if you are going to be a well-read pew warmer or someone truly amazing (and hot) like Rebecca Watson.
People need religion because whether to drink Coors or Miller is about all the empowerment they can handle. What atheism really needs to go mainstream is shrines and their ilk. A pretty little place with firelight where one can have a spiritual moment. Atheism needs to create a religion with all the extra bunk.
Is it in the spirit of atheism? Not at all. But people need some ceremony, some candles, some ego masturbation. Give it to them along with correctly presented truth, and they still get the truth. These people are going to believe things based on authority no mater what we do, so let’s make their dogma consistent with reality.
I mean the Bible, and therefore people who follow it, are right on with things like “Be ye kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving each other…” it’s just the places where it says things “Let’s beat our kids with sticks, stone to death disrespectful children, sexually active unmarried people, and homosexuals” that they run into trouble.
Heck, the whole book of Ecclesiastes is basically a bronze age apology for existentialism. (And makes points completely in conflict with the rest of Scripture.) In the end the real problem is that people aren’t capable of critical thinking. So, let’s make up religion that teaches critical thinking. Technically, the people running their mouths about critical thinking would be doing so because they were told to, but parallel it to people loving other’s because they have to. [As part of God’s non sequitur message of “Love me, or I’ll kill you”] . The fact that Christians attempt to love each other for reasons other than love doesn’t mean that people aren’t getting loved. Sometimes, rarely, the parts of the Bible about taking care of the poor are even followed. Good is done even though ultimately, blind faith in authority has equal potential for bad.
Basically: the fruits of critical thinking make people happy even if they get them by NOT critically thinking. So, we’ll start a church that teaches critical thinking as a command, giving the sheep a chance to be benefited by it without them actually developing the skills, because seriously, with people like Focus on the Family blowing 150 million a year on misinformation, who has the time to convert people one at a time?
Instead of missionaries, we can have ad executives. Instead of pastors we can have licensed therapists. It’ll be great. Who’s with me?
Doctrine to be announced.
It is almost, but not quite, raining as I write this. The thunder is getting louder, and the lightening is striking closer. The glaring tropical sky, more silver than blue is hidden at last. The ubiquitous sand that coats the roads and sidewalks is swirling in tiny cyclones, and the birds are flying low, trying to get a last snack before hiding from the coming deluge. And as if on cue! As I wrote the word ‘deluge’ it begins. Rain drums the roof and the wall of my small shop. Huge fat raindrops are falling into the instantly formed puddles, the rings they would otherwise create torn to tatters by the falling of the next drop and the next. Visibility is fading fast now. Water is not nearly so transparent as air, and it is displacing the air around around me at a furious rate. I love this weather. I love the rain, the crashing thunder, the lightening bolts, and above all, the way the darkness transforms the landscape.
I am, after many years of failure by myself and the church alike, reborn. Things I liked as child, but repressed, return to me like the familiar echo of my own voice. All these bits of me, frozen for years, are now melting. Like the rain of spring that melts the last of the winter snow, these rivulets pour through the funk of 20 some years of life in the church. I am falling in love, with life, at last.
Emotions felt, but hidden, I am now free to admit and enjoy. As I mentioned above, I love rain. I love the darkness and the cold that it brings. I love what rain does to suburbia, how it washes away her fake tan, strips the makeup away and reveals her true age and profession. This wasn’t a feeling I could admit before.
I love music. It seems that I never truly listened to music till now. I listened with my ears, but not with my heart, not with my soul. Debussy and Wagner I know well. They have stood at the door knocking, desperately pleading me to let them make me feel, something, anything, just feel, but the door was never open. Song crafters and songwriters, who sing the dark thoughts I once thought, but I shoveled under pastels, now speak to my soul.
I used to make up beautiful stories, tragic romances, and star crossed lovers. Walking alone at night, my black trench coat sweeping my feet, I wrote and rewrote stories in my mind, wandering but never lost. I used to drive to the lake, sit on the beach and play my guitar, waiting for the water sprites to dance.
I used to do these things, but I put them I away. I stopped listening to music that threatened my establishment established mindset. I gave away my black trench coat. I quite playing guitar. I stopped working on my art. I stopped all of these things. This was not what successful Christians did. It was not how they dressed, not how they talked, not how they lived, and above all, not how they believed.
What Christians believe is touchy subject. If you make any statement which at all enpinges on the church, Christians have a ready response prepared: “Oh, but that is not what the Bible teaches” or “Oh, but no one is saying that.” or “No born again Christian would say that.” And that is true, these beliefs are not written down, they are not in scripture, and they are not spoken. But that truth, hides another, far darker truth. Namely, that like all groups, Christians, have powerful social norms. Those who function in these norms are rewarded and those who do not are punished. It is not a conscious thing. Few, if any Christians, think, “Oh, that young man over there in all black is a bad person.”
When you belong to the church, there is an enormous pressure to be like everyone else. I hear the Christians complaining about that statement. “Oh, no, no, no!” they cry, ” I have never felt that pressure.” Theres a reason for that: you already fit. There is no reason to saw your arms and legs off to fit the suit, the suit fits you fine. But for those of us who did not fit, there was tyranny of gentle disapproval, raised eyebrows, condescension, and undeserved pity that all pointed towards the Christian social norm. Constantly, we were pushed and prodded. Skipped over when we wanted to be chosen and chosen when we wanted to be skipped. You would value what other Christians valued and this would be shown in the music you liked, the art you liked, the clothes you liked, the information you liked, and the professions you liked.
I was pregnant with an idea once, the idea of who I was meant to be. But pregnancy reveals two parents. Looking upon the child of my self, the church would have looked long and hard at the long, black coats, the love of literature and art, and the melancholy and said, “This is not my child! I am not the father!” I couldn’t bare the rejection, so I aborted my own soul. If ever I am judged, surely, that is my greatest sin.
And here I am. Given a chance to be myself again. Having turned my back on Christianity, I am free to love the music, the manner of dress, and above all, the manner of thinking that I wish. For the first time in my life, I can see a future for myself that I don’t dispise. The desire to hurt myself, physically, emotionally, financially, and in all other ways, is gone. Without the picket fence keeping me in, I love my life. I stand proud, my head up, and of course, wearing black.
I am often accused of being controversial for the fun of it. Sometimes, I am. However, often as not, I am just writing from the heart and my heart is, I guess, full of controversy. If you are so offended by controversy that you cannot read something controversial to the end, please don’t read this, because I don’t want to deal with the questions and responses of people who only read half. Also, if you don’t want to know about what I was thinking and doing in regards to sex when I was a teen, again, stop reading, because I am going to be totally honest.
I began looking at online pornography around the age of 12 or so. Pornography is a available with many themes, and one that intrigued me was orgy themed pornography. Orgy is a French loan word, which came to France via the Latin orgia, meaning secret rites or secret revels. (For the not so literate, a revel is big party.) The idea here is a big party where secret rites are practiced. I’m not clear on the etymology (story of the meaning of a word) but orgy came in English to almost exclusively mean “a bunch of people having sex with each other all at once”.
I wasn’t only attracted to the representation of orgy in pornography, I was attracted to the very idea of it, the concept of it. This concerned me. As a young teen growing up in a very stereotypically Christian environment I had (obviously) the attendent sexual obsession, but also the attendent homophobia. Half the people at an orgy were male. Though the men at an orgy were having sex with women, to be in a room where other men were having sex, even with women, seemed gay. Homosexuality held absolutely no appeal whatsoever, but orgies seemed appealing. I struggled to answer why.
Around the same time, I took an interest in cults. I read everything I could get my hands on about cults, particularly ones that included sexual deviancy. I think I did this because I considered the my desire for pornography, masturbation, sex, and particularly orgy to be a sin in and off it self. (A position, I might add, that the church agrees with.) To look at porn and to masturbate were, in my mind, bad enough. That I desired to do these things and to have sex with my female friends, and particularly desired to be having sex in a room full of other people having sex, was appalling to me. I felt incredibly ashamed. So, I guess it was natural that I looked for a group of people where everyone was like me, where my desires were not a deviancy to be ashamed off, but a communal value, perhaps, even a virtue.
When I discovered the record of the Oneida Community, it seemed that I had discovered paradise. The Oneida Community was group of “Bible Communists” who lived in upstate New York. They believed a lot fascinating things, but the ones of note here are their sexual practices. Unlike many cults which have achieved infamy for their sexual oddity, the Oneida’s were not primary a “sex cult”, they were a real religious group which positively effected the world around them. It just so happened they had some unique sexual practices.
The foundation of these practices, was called Complex Marriage. Complex marriage was a theory. In theory, every one in the commune was married to everyone else in the commune. Everyone shared in parenting. Sex was seen as both physical and spiritual. They saw nothing sinful in sex as long it was practiced in their unique way. They were not unaware of the procreative aspects of sex, and this figured into their social norms. They considered the ability to prevent ejaculation as spiritual discipline. For this reason, young men were paired with post-menopausal women until they had mastered this control. Men and women who were capable of prolonged and mutually enjoyable sexual encounters were considered spiritually mature. Immature believers were paired with them until they learned the lessons, at which point they would also begin to rotate through the commune to spread “love”. Each member had about 3 pairings a week. All children were planned, wanted, and raised by all.
To me this sounded like the most wonderful state of human affairs on earth. Of course, it didn’t last. The values got corrupted and church leaders got the most nubile and young with whom they were not “spiritually disciplined” and had many babies, not all of which were wanted by the whole community. Aside becoming selfish lovers, they also became selfish about those lovers. Demanding that the laity share, the clergy refused to share their treasured few.
When I was 18, and looking to move out, I looked at several “swingers’ clubs”. For the naive among you, a swingers club is often much more than a place where people interested in anonymous sex can meet (that’s what singles bars are for). Swinger’s clubs have rules. Often everyone gets together once a week. In some clubs you can’t refuse anyone who asks, in others, there are certain formalities of asking. Some clubs require that sex take place in front of all other guests. Some require that it does not. The point is, all of them have certain rules and methods of operation to prevent a sex cult from forming. By “cult” I mean they struggle to make sure that everyone relates as equals, and no one had undo force on any other person, to ensure total consent.
None of them were attractive, and coming to undertand why helped me put two and two together. The reason that orgy themed pornagraphy had interested me in spite of myself, the reason that the Oneida Community had seemed to call to me so much, the reason that the swingers clubs had so little appeal, was all the same: What I wanted was the intimacy. The reason that orgy as a lifestyle intrigued me was the idea of being so loved. To love a community of people, so much, and have that love be returned, to love the women so much that I could make love to any of them, and to love the men so much that I would share the women I loved with them was what I wanted… In short, I wanted to be loved. Not just by an individual, but loved by a whole group.
I wanted it, but I was a conservative Christian. To me to turn my back on the values of Christianity was a death sentenence. Once I even took one step on that road, the full consequences would be taken. I didn’t really want to get into some freaky sex, I wanted to be loved. I wanted, however, a love the church could not give me. The church cannot love you for who you are, since you are at worst a sinner and at best a “saint who sins”. If who you are isn’t spiritual, then loving that part of you is sin. They can love the part of you that prays, but not the part that works on trucks. However if you pray and evanglize, then they can love the part of you that prays as well as the part of you that works for a living. They must love you because Jesus does. I didn’t want to be loved out of duty or obligation, I wanted to be loved because I was unique and special. My love of science is as much a part of who I am as my love of my wife and daughter. I wanted to belong to a community that loved ALL of me, not just the spiritual parts.
As many of you know, when I was 18 I very seriously considered going to Philadelphia and starting a sex cult. I never thought that this would be right or healthy. In fact, even as I considered it, I thought that it would be corrosive to my very soul. Ethylene glycol was an early antifreeze. It is so like sugar that it even tastes sweet. It brakes down into the blood just like sugar, cell by cell. Then it goes to fuel the muscles just like sugar. Then it metabolizes into poison, this poison is filtered out by the kidneys. They stop working, and you die. Sex is so like real intimacy that its easy to confuse the two. Then at some critical point in your life where you need intimacy to make it, all you have is sex, and a part of you dies. I knew thats what would happen to me. But I was so desperately lonely and hungry to be loved by a community of people, that I almost accepted the second best to nothing at all. I didn’t care about the personal cost, I just wanted to be wanted, not because Jesus said so, but purely because of what I have to offer.
I didn’t go start a sex cult, I tried, instead, another avenue. I thought maybe I should go into “ministry”. I went to bible college, I tried campus groups, eventually, I even joined a wild eyed charismatic church who talked big about the coming revolution and change at any cost. Let me make clear here. My point is NOT is not about sex. My point is that I was so desperate to be loved by a group of people that I would have used sex. I would have done anything, I would have even given my life. And so desperate was this desire, that knowing full well I counldn’t get it with sex, I was almost willing to to use sex just to feel like I had it when I did not.
None of it worked. No mater what I did, I couldn’t be loved for what I have to offer, I had to be loved for who I knew, Jesus. I couldn’t be loved for what I could do right now, I had to be loved for what I could do in some distant future. And finally, and most painfully of all, I could not be loved for what I loved (science, skeptisicm, and rationality). The community that I wanted so much was not available in the chuch.
Of late, I have been spending a lot of time in the company of athiests, agnostics, and skeptics. For the first time in my life, I am loved by a group not because I am pimping Christ, not out of duty, and not because I have potential. I am loved for what I am, and greatest of all, the things that are most important to me: critcal thought, freedom, and truth, are something that people admire about me instead of tolerate. That which I am, is loved and respected instead of channeled into things which “support the cause”.
The desire that I have had since adolesnce to be loved by a group for who I am is finally fufilled. The Oneida Ideal suddenly has no appeal for me as I get what I need from people who respect me. I don’t to compromise who I am to be loved, I can simply be myself and people seek me out. That which the church denied to me for 25 years I have found in the rebels of the church. I have that “one thing” and I won’t ever go back.
A cynic, a compassionate atheist, a pragmatic Christian, and a fundamentalist Christian, all received an invitation to God’s banquet. The cynic got there first, wanting the satisfaction of proving its non-existence before anyone else did. He was disappointed to find a beautiful table set for four and full of all sorts of beautifully presented and delicious looking foods.
The pragmatic Christian, worried about propriety, figured that being too early might be a form of disobedience, but also worried that being late might have dire consequences, arrived merely respectfully early.
The compassionate atheist, fascinated and curious, arrived exactly on time.
The fundamentalist, breathless, arrived ten minutes late. He had spent the ten minutes interpreting the various possible meanings of the statement “You are cordially invited by God to a banquet” before departing.
“Well,” said the Christian, “Isn’t everything so beautiful!”
“Its lovely,” agreed the atheist
“But what does it mean?” asked the fundamentalist.
“I see nothing!” spat the cynic.
The atheist grabbed a helping of mashed potatoes with a silver spoon, and looked around to see if anyone wanted more.
The Christian looked longingly at the mashed potatoes. They looked delicious, but should he eat them?
“I see no mashed potatoes!” spat the cynic.
The fundamentalist gasped, “What are you doing?”
“I was invited to a lovely banquet which began at seven o’clock,” began the atheist. “The time is now seven oh two. I am serving the mashed potatoes.”
“But who are you to serve the mashed potatoes of God?” asked the fundamentalist.
The pragmatic smiled. He had prayed about it and know knew they were to eat the potatoes. “We’re the guests of God, of course we can eat them,” he drawled, holding up his crystal plate. The atheist dutifully spooned some on, still looking around for more takers.
“I find no pattern of mashed potatoes in Scripture,” the fundamentalist said suspiciously.
“I see no mashed potatoes,” the cynic insisted.
“What do you mean you see no mashed potatoes, they’re right in front of you,” said the atheist surprised.
“Ha!” cackled the cynic, “I thought you’d never ask. God is an illusion, this is the banquet of God. There is no God, therefore, there are no mashed potatoes.” He leaned back triumphantly in his overstuffed and comfortable dinning chair.
The pragmatic Christian and fundamentalist, scandalized together, cried out “That’s blasphemy!”
Atheist, simply shook his head, and took another bit of roast duck. “Whatever, Cynic.”
“I knew your free thinking would destroy in the end, Atheist. You share these simpletons’ disillusion,” Cynic sighed happily.
“Cynic, I have always been more concerned with truth than with not believing in God. I observe that I am in a magnificently appointed room full of delicious food. To deny the existence of the veritably of the real merely to fit an existing theory is the antithesis of science,” Atheist paused, ” As such it is your department, and not mine.”
“Are you saying that you believe this is not some sort of illusion? You fool! I’ll blacklist you! I’ll end you. You’ll never publish again!”
Athiest smiled warmly. “I’ve no doubt you could Cynic, you’ve alway held more public support than I in social affairs. Still, all the more reason to enjoy this now, while its in front of me.” Atheist held some green beans out to Pragmatic and Fundamentalist Christian.
“Thank you, kindly” said Pragmatic.
“I’ll take nothing from your fated hands!” cried the fundamentalist. “Your kind are a cancer on this earth! You have stolen the Holy food of God and you don’t even believe in him!”
Cynic’s bitter eyes picked up at the mention of cancer. “Yes! A cancer, thats what man is! A festering carbuncle on the buttocks of the earth!”
“Oh, I agree, Cynic, I agree,” gushed the fundamentalist. “Man is filth. A disgusting aberration not worthy of this table of God.”
“I see no table,” growled Cynic.
“Nor do I, Cynic. My mind could never comprehend the beauty of God. He would never present my filthy sinning carcass with such splender. This must all be an illusion created by my own mental filth,” said Fundamentalist piously.
“We are all filthy vandals,” Cynic conceded.
Pragmatic Christian had been listening with growing concern to this speech. “Uh, Fundamentalist, we are brothers, so I hate to correct you in front of our enemies, but what you are saying is wrong. Man sins, yes, but he was created in the image of God. He is full of incomprehensible value and worth as a result.”
Fundamentalist laughed, a single explosive sound. “Ha! You and I brothers? I share no parentage with you and your secular humanist plop. The intrinsic, incomprehensible value of man? The Bible says all men have fallen short of the glory of God. Fallen short, Pragmatic. Who can comprehend the ways of God? Clearly, this room is trap of Satan, a trap of pride and vain glory. Man and all his work are worthless!”
“Worthless!” agreed Cynic.
“Come Cynic, let us leave this illusion of joy and return the true reality of suffering and pain.”
Cynic rose stiffly, offering his arm for Fundamentalist.
Tears welled in Pragmatic Christian’s eyes, “But brother, you haven’t even touched the food given to us by our Father!”
“For twenty minutes I have sat here, and God has not feed me one bite!” said Fundamentalist primly. “Unlike some people, thought I may starve, I will not presume upon God.”
“But,” began Pragmatic, “You cannot sit at a table God has layed in front of you and told you to go to and talk of starving.”
Fundamentalist smiled condescendingly. “Oh, Pragmatic, who are we to presume to take matters into our own hands? God will build what he wishes. When we try to do God’s work for him, can’t you see we are usurping Him?”
Pragmatic sputtered, “But its right in front of you and He put it there for you to take!” to Fundamentalist’s back as he walked toward the door arm in arm with Cynic.
An awkward silence descended on the banquet hall.
“So,” said Pragmatic Christian.
“So,” agreed Compassionate Atheist.
“I’ve never really talked to an atheist before,” said Christian.
“I don’t often talk to pragmatic Christians either,” said Athiest.
Pragmatic cleared his throat, “I’m a little afraid of you, to be honest.”
“Yup, me too,” said Atheist around a bite of pheasant.
Pragmatic Christian was delighted. “I am afraid you will corrupt my mind with your evil atheist ways, are you afraid that I will convert you to Christianity?”
Compassionate Atheist smiled gently before answering. “Well, no. I’m afraid of other things.”
“Like what,” asked Christian wide eyed.
“Oh,” began Atheist, “say, an Inquisition.”
“Oh, is that all,” laughed Christian. “We don’t do that anymore.”
Atheist nodded. “Why is that Christian? If God is the same today, tomorrow, and forever, why is it that you don’t do that anymore?”
“Well, because God never asked for that! That was evil men who merely used the power of the Church for evil!” said Christian confidently.
“Ah,” intoned Atheist, “and what will keep that from happening again?”
“Well, that would never happen today! My Christian leaders are working hard to seize political power so they make sure bad things like abortion and homosexual sex don’t happen. I am sure they could prevent an Inqisition too when they run this country,” he said helpfully.
Atheist choked a bit on his merlot. “Uh, um..mmmm. Uh, Christian, why did the Inquisition happen again?”
Christian leaned back into the velvet chair, ready to tell a story, “Well you see the Church left its position of spiritual power and, pursuing a ends-justifies-the-means school of thinking, seized political power. This power was used for good at first, but gradually, the level of power the Church had began to attract evil men who eventually…” he trailed off, his face a mask of betrayal and shock.
“You seduced me, Atheist, you used your evil demonic power to make me think evil of the Church!” Christian yelped. “At least I am not responsible for the Nazi’s!”
“I never knew the Nazis” said Atheist quietly.
“You lie, Atheist, you lie like your father the devil!” shouted Christian.
Atheist sighed. This had happened before. He mentally counted to ten and then back down. “Christian, Hitler claimed he would bring back traditional family values. He was supported by Christians, and often used Biblical points of view to justify his position.”
Christian, realizing he was standing, sat back down. “Well, I’ve heard that before, but Hitler did so many un-Christian things, that I sort of forgot it. I’ve never understood how people who loved Jesus could support something so horrible.”
“Well, it has a lot to do with those two characters who just left, ” said athiest with a wry face. “A skeptic, which most Atheists are, would have investigated Hitler’s claims. It takes Cynic and Fundamentalist to manage a genocide.”
“Yeah, I thought you and Cynic were best buddies, but he seems to really hate you,” said Pragmatic Christian, side stepping the second half of the comment.
“Its all about skeptisim, Christian. I believe in asking why, and trusting what I see over what somebody tells me. Cynicism are often mistaken for being skeptics like me, but we have less in common than you and Fundamentalist.”
“Really?” said Christian, “I thought all you godless heathens were alike. Uh.. no offense.”
“Not at all. Cynicism is about being mentally lazy, assuming that conventional wisdom is true. Skepticism checks everything to make sure it is as true as it can be. It looks at all the options and chooses the most likely one. Skepticism never says that God isn’t real, only that he doesn’t seem very likely within the limited parameters that we can test,” said Athiest.
Christian looked puzzled. “But how does that make Fundamentalist and Cynic alike. Cynic hates God, hates anything religious, anything spiritual, honestly, even hates anything beautiful. Fundamentalist is convinced in the beauty and power of God. How come they get along so well?”
Athiest smiled. “Cynic believes that he can figure out anything by consulting what people all ready think. He only uses the powers of his mind to look at established wisdom. Fundamentalist believes that he can figure out anything by consulting what people think about his Holy text. He only used the powers of his mind to look at established wisdom. The only difference between Cynic and Fundamentalist is where they draw their inspiration.”
“I often thought something like that,” admitted Christian. “Fundamentalist is so concerned with what what has been said about the Scriptures, he often gets distracted from the message, arguing about dispensations and translations. Neither one really thinks about what makes things true or investigates things.”
Now it was Atheists turn to look surprised. “I didn’t know that you were that interested in asking why or investigating things, Christian. I guess I sort of assumed that you were like Fundamentalist.”
Christian grinned. “Well, you can’t interpret scripture without asking why. The Bible is a very large book and a skilled charlatan can make it say anything. We always have to check what scripture says against other scripture to make sure it all fits. When someone says they have some new doctrine you can’t say ‘Ok’, no sir! Paul compliments a group called the Bereans for being, as you call it ‘skeptical’. In my church we call that ‘Being Berean’ and its a good thing.”
Atheist and Christian shared the last piece of pie. Christian privately thought he had won a great victory for the cause of Christ with Atheist. Atheist, in turn, found it delightfully ironic that the best Christians were the most skeptical ones. When the last morsel of pie was done, Christian turned to Atheist.
“Compassionate Atheist, what do you think of this banquet we have had. Do you still not believe in God?”
“I don’t know, Christian.” He said. “I see a beautiful meal, but I never saw anyone make it.”
“But someone had to make this all!”
“Well,” Atheist said “I admit the mousse was divine, but I can’t say that God made this because with the test methods I have, the most reasonable explanation would not be God.”
Christian looked pained.”But if not God, who made all this beauty?”
“I don’t know Christian. But I can agree with you that it is beautiful,” said Atheist.
“How? What is the source of beauty if not God?” cried Pragmatic Christian.
“I don’t know Christian, but I will enjoy finding out. The joy of my life to understand mysteries,” said Atheist solemnly.
Christian looked shocked. “But that is the joy of my life, to discover the mysteries of God. Surely, Atheist, it cannot be your joy to discover the mysteries of his Creation?”
Atheist chuckled, “Why not Pragmatic Christian? Did you assume since I have never met your God that I saw all the world as a empty gray? I love life. I love to explore. I found your statements about the intrinsic value of man deeply moving. We agree on so much.”
Christian spoke quietly “I guess I did assume that about you. Do you really see the world as thing of great of beauty to be explored?”
“I do,” said Atheist.
Then you are doing the work of God. To bad you will burn in hell, dear friend, thought Pragmatic Christian.
“Well, I wish you luck, Atheist. I hope we meet again,” he said aloud.
And I hope your “being Berean” delivers you from this madness before Fundamentalist seduces you or kills you, or Cynicism comes calling on the heals of disillusionment. You’re much too valuable to lose, dear friend, thought Atheist.
“I’m sure we will, we have so much more to talk about.” said Athiest aloud.
Least anyone accuse atheists of not being religious, I give you, direct from Pope Leo the Tenth…
“Oh, what profit that Galilean fable has brought us.”
He was also a practicing homosexual. Who says catholics are are closed minded!
He was patron of the arts too! He rebuilt a historic church (St. Peters.) He did it by selling get out of purgatory for free tickets, but hey a guys got to make living.