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“When I was a child , I spake as child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11 kjv

One of my most memorable experiences from childhood was my baptism in the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues.

The Holy Ghost was formally introduced to us when Jesus ascended into heaven saying to his disciples:

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. John 14:26 kjv

The disciples we understandably distraught over Jesus’ departure and weren’t particularly comforted by Jesus’ proclamation of the comforter, that is until the day of Pentecost.

1 And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. 2 And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. 3 And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance Acts 2:1-4 kjv

The role of the Holy Spirit was to provide a guiding voice in the life of believers. He is that ever doubting voice in the back of your head encouraging you to do thus or discouraging other actions. He is a constant presence providing direction in a cloudy world and the completion of the Holy Trinity. The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost.

Interesting that he is called a Ghost.

Indeed the Holy Ghost is so important, that of the members of the Trinity, he is the only one of whom has been said:

But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation. Mark 3:26

Reason tells me at this point in my life that this is because of the 3, the Holy Ghost is the most unbelievable and serves the least purpose. Therefore, the unforgivable sin is invoked to prevent undo questioning of him.

As a child and even into my teen years I often worried if I had committed the unforgivable sin. When I would ask the answer was always the same: “If you had committed it you would not care if you had or not”. Not an especially comforting answer for a developing child wrought with guilt but it sufficed on multiple occasions. I suppose my current state would suggest I have finally succeeded in committing said sin.

What I think the fundamentalist church does not fully understand, or maybe it does, is the impact that it’s teaching have on children. We will discuss at length the effect that they had on my life specifically but I do not believe my experience to be in way unique. Children look to the adults in their life for guidance and confirmation that they have made good decisions, they want to please the adults and of course in particular their parents.

Fundamental churches believe that the day of Pentecost is not reserved for some of Jesus’ followers in a loft but rather a manifestation of a gift from God for all and still actively ask God to bless them with the same gift given to his followers in the New Testament.

Going back to my spiritual baptism then at age 12. The service as I recall was not unlike any other service in which the power and the comfort of the Holy Spirit was taught. These types of services were always followed by an invitation by the speaker to come forward to the alter to be baptized in the Holy spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues. Those of us who had not been baptized felt immense pressure to do so but the fear of failure was monumental. The thought of going up to the alter in front of all those people and not being able to speak in tongues was petrifying, but each time there was such a call my parents would gently nudge and ask if I wanted to do so. On this occasion, for whatever reason, I was feeling particularly worthy and agreed.

I would like to describe the setting at some length here because I believe it is an important for you to fully understand the experience and a part of this experience is the environment in which it is set.

I attended a large church, the sanctuary, which is the large theater where the congregation sat, held around 500 people. A far cry from the mega churches but a large audience nonetheless. It had very tall vaulted ceilings, at its peak, in excess of 50 feet, this made sanctuary feel much bigger than it actually was. The pews sat in three rows. The center row was the widest with narrower rows on either side of it divided by aisles. Above that sat the balcony and it stretched about half the length of the lower level. The sanctuary its self, was ornate with fancy decorum in differing shades of purple. The pulpit was made of glass and stood at the end of a 35 foot deep platform in front of a very large wall with 25’ Cross which stood above the baptism tank that was used for water baptism. The front of this platform was the alter and it stretched the full length of the sanctuary in front of the pulpit.

The service always starts with worship. Worship is not the reserved practice you may have seen in a Catholic mass but an energized event full of loud singing, dancing in place, hand waving and crying. Occasionally this service would be interrupted by an especially holy event called “Tongues and Interpretation”.

In a lull in the worship service someone (as often as not my mother) would begin loudly speaking in tongues. As the speaker spoke their foreign language the building would fall silent and everyone would listen. Once the speaking of tongues was done the silence remained as all waited for another person to interpret what had just been said. I remember well the growing tension as time would tick by, every second seeming like an eternity, as we waited for the Lord to move upon someone with the correct words. Then it would come, it always did, and it always began the same way: “My people, my people I say unto you” I always thought it interesting that God spoke in King James English but I certainly was not going to judge the Lord himself. After the message had been interpreted the congregation would clap and rejoice in the words of the Lord and the worship service would continue.

Between the worship service and the preachers message there was the collection of money. This event was generally precipitated by the reading of the Word of God commanding his people to give their 10% and a prayer over the offering asking God to move his people to give. In the event of a special speaker, a second offering called a “Love Offering” would be taken at the end of the service.

The preacher speaks from the platform though I dare say rarely from behind the pulpit. In my fundamental upbringing it was much more common for the speaker to be pacing back and forth from one side of the platform to the other speaking loudly then softly and then loudly all the while wiping the sweat from his brow with the customary white kerchief. As seen through the eyes of a child the preacher is nearly superhuman. All the adults listen intently to his words, they nod their heads, they shout in agreement and write down all the things he has to say. He is clearly an important person and appointed by God and the child in the church tip toes around him for fear of making him displeased.

At the end of every service is an alter call. The nature of the alter call varied depending on the content of the sermon, but nearly always included a portion for those who did not know Jesus Christ as their personal lord and savior to come forward and accept him and eternal life. Upon coming forward the lost or in need would have hands laid upon them by the elders of the church (chief among them my father). The elders would pray for them in unison, generally slipping in and out of the tongues of angels in the process.

On this occasion the sermon was about the power and comfort of the Holy Spirit and I, a 12 year old boy, answered the call. I moved to the front of the church towards the alter and immediately wished I hadn’t. Doubt clouded my mind and 500 sets of eyes were peering down on me from all around. As I walked down the aisle I could hear the whispers of “hallelujah” and “praise Jesus” and sniffs of old ladies rejoicing to see a young person answering the call of the Holy Spirit. I was mortified! What if the Holy Spirit rejected me, what if I was unable to speak in tongues, what would they say?

As I approached the elders I looked to the left and the right and to my dismay realized I was the sole respondent to the call that evening.

At 12 I was tall drink of water. I stood maybe 5’7” and weighed all of 80lbs. Always the tallest in my class, I was also the thinnest. As I approached the group of 8 adult men they opened to form a half circle and asked me to kneel, as I did so the group collapsed around me as all 8 full grown adult men formed a circle around me with their hands on my back, shoulders and head. They began to pray.

7 of the 8 men (including my father) began, as was often the case, to pray in tongues speaking words that I could not understand but which, presumably, God did. The eighth man knelt in front of me and endeavored to coach me through the process of loosening my tongue and allowing the Holy Spirit to take over my body and control my tongue. The pressure was insurmountable, I simply did not know what to do, I knew relatively quickly that this was not going to work, perhaps I was not worthy, perhaps I did not believe strongly enough, whatever the case it was evident to me that the Holy Spirit was not going to enter me that day. But what to do? The embarrassment would be to much to bear and with my father so adamantly praying over me, how could I face him? I decided to try and fake it. To my surprise with each grunt or noise I made the more enthusiastically the men prayed and the more joyful their tone and expressions. As an imaginative child I had made up my own language long ago and as I slipped into this language it gained credibility as a gift from God.

When it was over I was pronounced baptized in the Holy Spirited as evidenced by speaking in tongues. My father and mother were elated, they took me out to dinner to celebrate and all the others in the church congratulated me on this big step in my relationship with our Lord Jesus Christ.

But as I saw it, there was no other acceptable outcome. To fail would have been devastating and my already lowered self confidence, thanks to the continual teachings of unworthiness, would have collapsed entirely as I watched my role models hang their heads in disappointment.

It was that night that my skepticism began to set in. “These were men of God” I thought, “that should not have worked, they should have seen right through my deception”. But it did work and from that point on I was looked at in a completely different light. I was encouraged to use my new prayer language all the time, to foster it and grow it. It never occurred to me before that night to question the gift of the Holy Spirit but after that I did. I listened to everyone’s prayer language and wondered if they too had just made it up and I wondered if they believed they were speaking in the tongues of angels or if they too were just trying to do what was expected of them.

~AP~

“You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the sign post up ahead, your next stop…The No God Zone!”

Joel Schumacher woke this morning to a different kind of world. In this world mankind had accepted his own mortality and with this acceptance came the liberty of caring for humanity instead of spirituality.

The world was a starkly different place. In Africa the Sunni’s and Shia’s lost their reason to kill each other. Muslims and Christians had no reason to Jihad, In Ireland the Protestants and Catholics found they had lost their differences, around the world it was the same Afghanistan, Bosnia, Cote Dlvoire, Cyprus, East Timor, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Kashmir, Kosovo, Kurdistan, Macedonia, throughout the Middle East, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand, Tibet, and Uganda all found that their reasons for fighting had left them. They were in fact – all wrong. The senseless slaughter of millions in the name of God(s) just seized. There was peace throughout the entire world. With humanity having a single commonality now, governments do not see each other as a threat, and begin to work with each other in a historic way.

Billions of people who once gave money to their church or religious cause now pour money into local, national and worldwide funds to help the poor, the sick and less fortunate. The amount of money was staggering at first, and many organizations were not equipped to deal with it, but they grew quickly and served their purpose in ways previously not possible. Money flowed into scientific research prompting discoveries of such significant magnitude it completely changed everyone’s lives, Aids, Cancer, Alzheimer’s, Down syndrome, even aging its self had the money required to properly research and develop medications and even cures, healthcare for everyone is a reality but not paid for with taxpayer dollars but rather through donations. Not all those church dollars go to donations though and as the additional money floods our economy, stocks go up and the world economy recovers quickly and prospers.

Children are raised to believe in themselves in this new world. They are not guilted into a specific behavior under the pretense of a higher power being unhappy and sending them to hell, but rather reasoned with. Explanations for why behavior is good or bad is required prompting an entire generation and future of children who learn from a young age to think critically, question the norm, and feel no guilt for questioning the world around them. These children leave their parents to create a new world and decisions based on sound reasoning and a solid understanding that morality is not based on the God book of your choice but rather on what is beneficial to humanity.

The Smithsonian opened a wing dedicated to the 6000 year history of Bible and the atrocities done in its name, it eventually encompasses virtually all significant loss of life in the history of mankind by sharing with future generations the various religious beliefs from the Sun, to Roman Gods, to the Mayan Gods, to the Raven and of course the contemporary Gods of the Christians and Muslims. The Bible remains the #1 best selling fictional novel of all time indefinitely.

As religious people of all walks search to replace the hole their lost faith has left they seek out ways to truly better the lives of those around them. They give money, contribute to their communities in a tangible way, and try to learn how to see the world without wearing the glasses of judgment and damnation. It is a difficult task but the farther they get from their previous life the more excited they get about the new world. Safety envelopes them as they feel the freedom to entertain questions they previously thought would send them to hell.

Joel Schumacher has entered an alternate reality known as “The No Gods Zone”

~AP~

A curious believer has sent me an email with some questions in it. She is sincere in her questions and I have taken a stab below at answering her honestly. Her questions are broad though and I do not want to speak for all Atheists so in the interest of fairness I will post her questions and my answers here so others may comment as well.

We will call our writer Kelly. Kelly writes the following:

I am a Christian but I feel very uncomfortable “evangelizing” to people. I cringe when fellow Christians tell me they’ve brought people to Christ. I believe that the omnipotent and omnipresent Lord sort of has control over that situation. For them to take credit for someone else’s conversion kind of makes me chuckle. However, I am equally disturbed by atheists who feel the need, as you say, to evangelize their unbelief. Also, I’m of the belief that if you start a conversation with me about religion then I get to participate. Unfortunately, I’ve had the bad experience of being told that I shouldn’t push my religion on them. Huh??…….

My experience with atheists and agnostics has been negative.

Truth be told, I can accept that you don’t believe in God. I just wanted to be accepted for believing in God. Why must I be considered stupid, naive or at worst an extremist? Isn’t this a form of prejudice/discrimination? Not every Christian is a screaming, judgmental evangelist who beats unbelievers with a Bible. Conversely, not every atheist is a screaming, belligerent college student with a superiority complex.

No doubt, religious and political beliefs are often passionate and deeply held convictions based upon each individual experience.

These are some questions I have:

Do atheists feel a need to disprove the validity of Christianity?

What do you care what Christians believe about your afterlife? You don’t believe it. Isn’t that all that matters?

If a majority of Americans claim that they are Christian or of some other religion then why shouldn’t we have a National Day of Prayer?

Has anyone been arrested or persecuted for not praying recently?

Why are atheist offended by “The National Day of Prayer”, “In God We Trust” National Monuments with the “Ten Commandments?”

**These are sincere attempts on my part to understand. I’m not being sarcastic. I look forward to your response.

Here is my response:

First of all allow me to say that I do not speak on behalf of all Atheists, I can speak for myself only, I will allow other Atheists to speak to their approach.

Do atheists feel a need to disprove the validity of Christianity?

Only insomuch as the validity of Christianity is used as the basis for judgment against Atheists. Not just Atheists might I add but all other non-Christian religions. I do not care what you believe or do not believe. I don’t care if you serve a Chihuahua in a tuxedo, a Unicorn, or an omnipotent being. Your beliefs are yours and yours alone and you have every right to have them. I write about Christianity because it the single greatest controlling factor in the nation in which I live.

What do you care what Christians believe about your afterlife? You don’t believe it. Isn’t that all that matters?

I don’t care what Christians believe about my afterlife provided they keep their opinion to themselves. I do care when their opinion causes my every day life to be disrupted. It matters.

If a majority of Americans claim that they are Christian or of some other religion then why shoudn’t we have a National Day of Prayer?

If a majority of Americans want a day of prayer they should have at it. They should work amongst themselves and organize the event. Just like Gay pride day, or fathers rights rallies, or the truckers organizing events in DC. I am 100% in favor of your right to pray. What I am not in favor of is a government sponsored event advocating any religious belief. This is not rocket science, The United states government is a representative of ALL people. What if the government had a national White skin day? It is true to say that the majority of Americans are white skinned, would that be OK?

Has anyone been arrested or persecuted for not praying recently?

Arrested? Not that I am aware of at least not in America, persecuted? ABSOLUTELY! Atheism has been demonized (sorry but I can’t come up with a better word). Open Atheists have many challenges with believers including challenges at work and other social and economic challenges. This is the reason that so many Atheist blogs and writers do so under assumed names. We are forced to protect our identities. Many of these blogs receive violent, threatening emails on a regular basis. The big name Athiests – Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris and the like receive regular threats against their lives, why? Becuase they don’t believe in God and have the courage to say so in public.

I appreciate that you threw in “Recently” because this illustrates that you are at least somewhat familiar with your religious history and the massacre of so many in the name of so little.

Why are atheist offended by “The National Day of Prayer”, “In God We Trust” National Monuments with the “Ten Commandments?”

Again these slogans and activities are not the role of the federal government of the United States. If these slogans were concerning the superiority of Men, or the superiority of a particular race their meaning becomes different to you this is how I view the meaning of these slogans and activities.

I hope that helps you understand a little bit better. Further reading on my blog on this subject can be found in the links below.

You ask me why I care
Do Unbelievers Evangelize?

Christians and Bible believers simply do not understand what it is they profess to believe.  This ridiculous “Moral” compass they profess to believe is a product of society and not the product of some twisted holy book.

 Case in point.  I was having a discussion with a co-worker the other day about the direction of our country and the world in general when she threw into the discussion that if America doesn’t change it’s ways it will end up like Sodom.  She then further expounded that only those who are holy will escape like Lot did.  Intrigued and honestly wanting to mess with her a bit I asked her what this story was about.

 Her response:

 In the early part of the Bible there were two cities that were very sinful and a man named Lot who was holy.  God told the holy man to get his family out of the cities because he was going to punish the sinners by destroying the cities.  So the man took his family and left the city but his wife turned around and looked and she was turned into a pillar of salt because she was sinful too.

 The real story:

 Now her response is pretty typical, I think, of what Bible believers think of this story, but she left out a couple of things that  I think are important. So let me recap the story in a bit more detail than my esteemed co-worker seemed to know – by the way I shared this with her as well.

 This tale of the Bible begins with Abraham talking with God about Gods plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah because “their sin is very great”.  God says he is going to go and look and see if it true.  But Abraham rebukes God and says that God should not destroy the righteous with the sinners. So  God makes a deal with Abraham that,  if when he goes to look, he finds 50 righteous people in the cities he will spare everyone there.  Abraham says well……how about 45? God says fine, so Abraham says well….how about 40? God says fine and so the bargaining continues all the way down to 10. 

 Abraham and God then part company and God goes to Sodom and Gomorrah to see if he can find any righteous souls.  (NOTE: Why would an omnipotent God have to go look?)

 Now God, of course, is not going to do this work himself so he sends a couple of angels to Sodom to check out the city and see if they can find any righteousness.  To their luck they find Lot at the gates to the city.  Lot welcomes them and gives them room and board at his place.  After some debate they agree and Lot makes them a big meal. After eating the people of the city surround Lots house, the bible says all the men of the city, the young and the old surrounded Lots house and asked for the two angels to be give to them so they can have sex with them.  At this point you would think that Lot would “say go to hell” but instead with no debate whatsoever Lot says (paraphrasing): Well, I have two daughters and they are both virgins….how about you take them instead. (Note: Truly Lot must have been a holy man)

 Luckily for Lot’s virgin daughters the Angels were a bit nobler than their dad and they made all the people looking for man love blind and thus allowed Lot, his wife and his daughters to escape to the nearby city of Zoar before God engulfed the cities in fire and brimstone.  But Lots wife turned around to witness the destruction and as a consequence for this she was turned into a pillar of salt.

 Now the typical story ends here but there is more.  Lot left Zoar and went up into the mountains with his daughters and lived in a cave because he was afraid to live in Zoar.  In the mountain Lot’s virgin daughters longed for the company of men so one night they got their father drunk and the oldest daughter had sex with him.  Then the next day they got him drunk again and the youngest daughter also had sex with him. Both daughters ended up pregnant as a result of this incestuous love.

 Conclusion:

 This story could have easily been written by Nora Roberts with the amount of sex and sexual suspense it contains, but it wasn’t, it was apparently penned by the hand of God.  Somehow this story is an example of Gods love for the righteous and judgment on the wicked.  As I reflect on this story I see no difference between the men in the street wanting to rape the Angels and Lot himself having sex with his daughters.  Somehow to God, Lot offering his two daughters to the mob was a righteous act, I doubt very much anyone else could see it that way. 

 The fact is, the Bible is filled with this kind of tripe, and each time it is offered up by the believer as an example of Godliness and love.  Each time it is offered up as a model by which to live our lives and proof that morality is a product of God.

 Get serious…….

It is traditional to attend services on Sunday and learn from the word of God. There is a great website called God Is Imaginary that contains large amounts of good information but it takes some time to read and listen to it all. For the next few weeks I will post up some of the videos that pertain to this site as a Sunday Sermon. I think you will find these to be a bit better prepared and thought out than the one you may have heard earlier today.

~AP~

It is traditional to attend services on Sunday and learn from the word of God. There is a great website called God Is Imaginary that contains large amounts of good information but it takes some time to read and listen to it all. For the next few weeks I will post up some of the videos that pertain to this site as a Sunday Sermon. I think you will find these to be a bit better prepared and thought out than the one you may have heard earlier today.

~AP~

Dear God

I got hooked on a band named XTC in 1989 when they realeased their album entitled Oranges and Lemons.  A few years later Purchased the album Skylarking and discovered Dear God.  The song rang true with my soul and in that time of decision making was a comfort to me.  If you haven’t heard it (which I find unlikely) I hope you enjoy it.  If you have I hope you enjoy it again.

Frankly I don’t think it can be said for me much better than they have said it here.

~AP~