While driving to work, I came across a sign in front of a church advertising a fantastic new seminar. These signs are certainly not unusual but this one struck me as strange. The seminar was entitled “Learning to Love to Pray”. A web site describing the seminar says that it is geared for the following people:

  • -believers who want to learn to love to pray
  • -pastors who want to ignite prayer in the local church.
  • -intercessors who want to develop their prayer ministry abilities.

I don’t know about you but this whole concept of LEARNING to LOVE to pray seems out of place. After all, isn’t prayer supposed to be a hallmark of the Christian faith? What is prayer other than talking with the Almighty Creator of the Universe! Here you have God the Sovereign, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent ruler of the entire universe who wants to talk too little ole you. Not only does he want to talk to you, the Bible says He wants to give you stuff too:

“And Jesus answered and said to them, “Truly I say to you,
if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ it will happen. And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
Matt 21:21-22.

In that day you will not question Me about anything Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full. John 16:23-24

So, is this seminar saying that Christians need to learn to love to pray to an all powerful deity that wants to give them presents? The deity that is supposed to be a Christian’s best friend, Confidant and Savior and yet said Christian doesn’t LOVE to pray to this Santa Claus in the sky? This Christian presumably looks at it as a chore or work or fruitless or…? Doesn’t this give you a small clue that the Christian game doesn’t really work?

If prayer did work… If prayer was a 2-way communication… If the promises in Matt 21 and John 16 really worked… If the sick were really healed… If your invisible friend really did talk back and hold you and comfort you… If… If…If…

If prayer was as the Bible says, would there be any need for a Learning to Love to Pray seminar? I think not.

Recently in Beloit there was an uproar concerning a teacher, newly elected to the city counsel, who refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of their session. I do not believe it is a law that one has to say the pledge and, at most, it is said for more sentimental reasons such as national pride and patriotism. I do not know why this woman has chosen not to say the pledge and I personally do not think it any of my business. However, it became the business of quite a few citizens of Beloit who were outraged and disgusted with her choice to refrain. There was a front page article about it, picture and all. Letters to the editor were peppered with words such as “disgraceful”, “unpatriotic”, “shameful”, and so forth. Some went so far as to suggest she be removed from her elected chair in the council.

Since choosing atheism as my form of reference for life, I have often wondered what I could do to stand up to the religious bullies of our world. Here is a prime example of something worth fighting for. In relation to this subject I just read an article which encouraged me all the more in this cause (http://atheistethicist.blogspot.com/2008/05/pledge-project-acting-against-anti.html). I can see why taking a stance on the issue of having the words “under god” or “in god we trust” removed from our lives could bring about positive changes for our world. The only reason these words remain is because of the sentiments of the Judeo Christian peoples of this country and the willingness of people like you and I to say nothing on the issue. These words should have no place in our government. We are now a nation of many religions and a rising number of completely unreligious peoples. It isn’t hard to define whose “god” it is we are speaking of in the pledge and on our dollars. I suppose if they made the word “god” plural it would seem more inclusive, but I doubt the Christians of this country would tolerate that any more than they want the word eradicated altogether as we do.

Now is the time to start speaking up. There is a good chance this will go all the way to the Supreme Court. I believe that if it goes that far we have a good chance of obliterating, once and for all, these small but significant chinks in our rights of freedom from religion. Although it seems like a little thing – it could bring about very big results. Think about it.

I recently heard an interesting story from a Christian friend of mine. A friend of hers had experienced a terrible tragedy during this last year which, of course (Praisalluia!), shows their god’s power and goodness in all his glory. A daughter of this friend had been in a tragic four wheeler accident which resulted in several broken bones and a head injury. Glory to their god!

Because of the fervent prayers of the many at their church this girl made a comparatively quick recovery and was sent home from the hospital sooner than expected (she has not fully recovered in any sense of the word as she still requires assistance from family at home). As expected, however, their god gets praise because the doctors say it is a miracle that she is doing so well so quickly. Did I mention that she also has had seven brain hemorrhages as a result of her injury? Regardless their god is a good a loving fellow.

If the giving praise to their invisible one wasn’t enough to make one a little sick in the stomach, the story gets a little more twisted. This girl was contemplating visiting a boyfriend in another state and it seems as if her parents did not approve. Her mother relates that she feels a little guilty in that she had prayed to her god to intervene in this girl’s horrible and sinful plans to keep her from going. It seems that this accident was the answer to her prayers. Praisealluia isn’t their god good? Can this mom really love a god who would do this to her daughter? It is like “come on god, I wanted you to stop her, yes, but I didn’t want you to nearly kill her.” And what does it say about any parent who praises the author of such pain for their child? Not too surprisingly, as a result of this accident the girl relates that she feels closer to her god than ever before. I’m guessing that she probably feels the imagined “fear” of her god more than ever and thinks she better shape up or she’ll really get shipped out — what a taste of glory divine.

When my friend related this story to me I said, “I’m glad I no longer serve a sick masochistic god that would this to a young girl.” Her reply: “I’m glad I serve him — these types of things keep people in place”. I could have screamed but chose to just let it go and change the subject. How does one respond to a statement as caustic and horrible as that? Horrible god, horrible beliefs.

What kind of sad sick ideology is this that would give praise to a god for teaching his child obedience in such a horrible way? Further, I will never understand why Christians do not hold their god to the same moral law that they hold man to. If this girl’s earthly father would have caused an accident such as this to happen to his daughter, in order to teach her a lesson, a court of law would put him away for a very long time. But, per usual their god gets off scott free. The “heavenly” father has no laws to keep him within the lines of goodness and propriety.

And they call atheists evil.

11. June 2008 · Write a comment · Categories: Piper

This is a continuation of my comments on John Piper’s “20 Reasons I don’t Take Potshots at Fundamentalists”.

Questions 16 – 20:

16. They are not breathless about being accepted in the scholarly guild.

So, is it good to be ignorant? Is it good to have pride in rejecting scientific facts, historic research and biblical scholarship? Is it good to close yourself off from the real world to dwell in a fake biblically inerrant world? As Susan Jacoby has correctly said: “…fundamentalism has always been defined by its refusal to adapt to any secular knowledge that conflicts with its version of revealed religious truth; that refusal, in science and the humanities, has been the most enduring and powerful strand in American anti-intellectualism (The Age of American Unreason).” I don’t think this is something to be proud of or to admire.

17. They give some contemporary plausibility to New Testament claim that the church is the “pillar and bulwark of the truth.”

Whose truth? The Calvinist? The Arminian? The Pentacostal? The Pelagian? The Catholic? It seems that the clear biblical truth means something different to each and every one of the 30,000 or so Christian denominations. The Church is hardly a bulwark of Truth, rather is shows how little their “truth” is based in any type of reality or that almost any doctrine can be formulated from the “clear” words of Scripture.

18. They are good for the rest of evangelicals because of all this.

Only if you think that a relative who is in prison is good for the rest of the family. Fundamentalists are an embarrassment and if they have their way, American will be dragged back to the “Golden Age” when the bible ruled. What some evangelicals fail to see is that their freedom to worship is a direct result of the separation of church and state. Without this protection, their particular religion doctrine may be outlawed by the government.

19. My dad was one.

Unfortunately, I was one too.

20. Everybody to my left thinks I am one. And there are a lot of people to my left.

This just goes to show you the divisions that are in the “body” of Christ. Piper is loved by some and looked at as a heretic by others. I just love the clarity of scripture, where the same scriptures are used to praise and damn a man!

09. June 2008 · Write a comment · Categories: Piper

This is a continuation of my comments on John Piper’s “”20 Reasons I don’t Take Potshots at Fundamentalists”.

Questions 11 – 15:

11. They tend to raise law-abiding, chaste children, in spite of the fact that Barna says evangelical kids in general don’t have any better track record than non-Christians.

Actually, as Piper already points out, they do NOT have a better track record than non-Christians. It appears that the god-given child raising instructions of the Fundamentalists are not very effective. You would think children reared using the very instructions of an Almighty God might have a “slight” advantage over the reasoning of a mere mortal parent.

12. They resist trendiness.

As long as the trend is what they consider a worldly trend. They flock to Christian trends like growth groups, bible studies, divorce groups, mega churches, and entertainment based worship, etc. This isn’t exactly resisting “trendiness”.

13. They don’t think too much is gained by sounding hip.

Ahhh, but hip is relative is it not? They may not be hip as to what they consider the worldly “hipness” but they need to be “hip” in their own Christian social group. If they fail the “hipness” test for their own little group (how to dress, what to say, creationism, the magic prayer words, etc.) they may find themselves shunned.

14. They may not be hip, but they don’t go so far as to drive buggies or insist on typewriters.

But they do insist that the world is 6000 years old and God made the sun stand still and other highly implausible things, so they are essentially living in a pre-scientific world while taking advantage of the scientific advances that make their life so much easier than their ancestors. Susan Jacoby has said: “Nor did it really matter if vast numbers of Americans believed, at the time of the Second Great Awakening, that the earth was exactly four thousand years old. It matters very much today because creationism, which denies the most critical scientific insights not only of the twentieth but of the nineteenth century, has adversely affected public education in many areas of the nation and is one important reason why American high school students know less about science than their contemporaries in Europe and Asia.” (The Age of American Unreason). This backwardness is nothing to be excited about.

15. They still sing hymns.

How is a hymn so much better than a contemporary Christian song? There are theologically bad hymns just as there are theologically bad contemporary Christian songs. (Assuming you have the right theology!) There are mindless hymns just like there are mindless contemporary songs.

06. June 2008 · Write a comment · Categories: Piper

This is a continuation of my comments on John Piper’s “”20 Reasons I don’t Take Potshots at Fundamentalists”.

Questions 6 – 10:

6. They have backbone and are not prone to compromise principle.

This is an admirable trait, if and only if, your principle is based on truth and not an imaginary land of milk and honey that you will only see when you die. Otherwise, your principles reject science, logic and reality. Not exactly something to brag about.

7. They put obedience to Jesus above the approval of man (even though they fall short, like others).

They are stubbornly obedient to who they think Jesus is, while ignoring or condemning those other Fundamentalists who think differently. How can you really be obedient to Jesus when you can’t interpret what He or His apostles said? For instance, Christians can’t agree on baptism (mode, age, and what it means), the Lord’s Supper (what it means, frequency, etc.), what is necessary for salvation (faith, faith plus works, faith plus baptism), whether salvation can be lost, whether divorce is possible, whether God is sovereign in all things or just some things, etc. The Bible is so clear and Jesus spoke with such perspicuity that one estimate gives over 30,000 Christian denominations in the world! So tell me, how can you be obedient to Jesus?

8. They believe in hell and are loving enough to warn people about it.

And if I believe that you will spend eternity in agony if you don’t worship the Flying Spaghetti monster and I preach to you about it, am I being loving? Maybe in my mind I am, but warning and scaring a person about a delusion is hardly a loving thing to do. (Yes, I know they think it is real. No proof – Just that faith thing.)

9. They believe in heaven and sing about how good it will be to go there.

Is it good to believe in a mythical world that can be seen only when you are dead and to spend your life hiding from the real world in return for a mythical reward when you die? (I tell you what. For the mere gift of a life of serving me, I’ll sell you this piece of land that you will only be able to see when you die. Do I have a deal?)

10. Their “social action” is helping the person next door (like Jesus), which doesn’t usually get written up in the newspaper.

They will help the poor and downtrodden only if it doesn’t interfere with the money needed to run their mega-church and provide stadium seating, coffee bars and top notch musical presentations. And when they get to the poor heathen next door, the only requirement is that they listen to them drone on about how great Jesus is and how you will go to hell if you don’t believe like them. Encouraging?

05. June 2008 · Write a comment · Categories: Piper

Recently John Piper, a notable evangelical speaker and author, blogged about “20 Reasons I don’t Take Potshots at Fundamentalists” (http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/1251_20_reasons_i_dont_take_potshots_at_fun). It is a bit tongue-in-cheek (I hope), but even so I think it is captures many of the items that Fundamentalists pride themselves on. So, let’s look at each one – 5 each day over the course of the next 4 days:

1. They are humble and respectful and courteous and even funny (the ones I’ve met).

So what? I’ve met some proud and disrespectful and humorless Fundamentalists, especially when their beliefs are challenged. I’ve seen Pastors and congregations literally destroy families because of what they believe the Bible says. Some are cruel and some are nice. I’m sure there are some very humble, respectful and courteous criminals too – at least outwardly. But I do have to agree with Piper (tongue-in-cheek), they are funny. You certainly can’t take their beliefs seriously.

2. They believe in truth.

No they don’t. They believe in what they perceive to be truth – that the Bible is the inerrant word of God in all that it says. They ignore the truth of science, especially evolution. They ignore the truth of errors and contradictions in their Holy Scriptures. They ignore the fact of the earth is approximately 4.5 BILLION years old, not 6,000 to 10,000 years old. They live by faith which, by definition, is required because their beliefs cannot be proven. This is hardly truth which should demand that a belief be in agreement with fact or reality. A fact cannot be validated by faith. If so, anyone can have faith in anything and say it is true. Have faith in Thor and be saved! I think not.

3. They believe that truth really matters.

They believe that their “truth” matters not the Truth. Much of their doctrine is based on faith and not fact or reality. A more accurate statement would be “They believe that FAITH really matters” and that FAITH means “believe like me”.

4. They believe that the Bible is true, all of it.

And this is good? They believe their book of myths is true but religious books of other religions are simply stupid myths. Believing the entire Bible is true shows that they do NOT value truth. Do they seriously believe that the world is 6000 years old, man and dinosaurs lived together, a snake and donkey actually talked, the sun stopped still (showing a complete ignorance of science), the Red Sea was parted and that a man rose from the dead. Such stories in any other religious text would be looked at as fiction, yet in their text it is true. Yup, they sure do value truth!

5. They know that the Bible calls for some kind of separation from the world.

Priceless. Separate yourself from the reality of the world so you can live in an imaginary land. They lock people up that have such delusions unless they happen to be religious. Then you can believe that fairy tales are true and be perfectly sane. Try convincing a psychologist that you are sane when you tell her that you believe that Santa Claus is real, wants to bring presents to all who believe in him (but only on Dec 25th) and when you die you will go to the North Pole and be with him forever!

Tomorrow – Questions 6 – 10.