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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~

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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…….

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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~

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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~

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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~

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I recently wrote a post entitled Your Kids are going to hell

Here is a perfect example of what I was referring to. This baptist is telling his flock about how to not only tell people thier kids are going to hell but also how to over come objections from the parents of the dead child! Amazing! Only God could make people this messed up.

Do Babies go to heaven?

I encourage you to go read this trash and then comment and tell him what you think about it. I am sure mine as well as your comments will all be promptly deleted but it still should be fun.

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“No man ever believes that the Bible means what it says: He is always convinced that it says what he means” – George Bernard Shaw

Kaleidoscope
As a child one of my favorite toys was a kaleidoscope. A simple but imaginative device it is a tube of mirrors containing loose colored beads, pebbles or other small colored objects. The viewer looks in one end and light enters the other end, reflecting off the mirrors. Typically there are two rectangular lengthwise mirrors. Setting of the mirrors at 45° creates eight duplicate images of the objects, six at 60°, and four at 90°. As the tube is rotated, the tumbling of the colored objects presents the viewer with varying colors and patterns. Any arbitrary pattern of objects shows up as a beautiful symmetric pattern because of the reflections in the mirrors(1).

The wonder of this childhood toy for me was if I got bored with or didn’t like the current configuration of pattern presented, I need only twist the lens to see something more to my liking. Peering through a kaleidoscope offers a variety of different views but it is only possible to see a variation of views provided by the limited components of the scope. So there I would sit with one eye closed to the world around me and the other eye firmly planted to the end of a tube that represented the world in a pleasing and satisfyingly changing way.

The lens of religion works in much the same way. The religious close their eye to the world around them and peer through their religion to find a pleasing and satisfying world view. If they are unhappy with what they find they need only tweak the lens until they find a desirable configuration. Like the kaleidoscope no two views are the same.

The Assertion
Christianity today is a shadow of it’s previous self. What believers tout today as “moral living” and “upright behavior” would, in previous eras, be considered heresy. Those who preach anything resembling historically accurate religious theology are considered fundamental and obnoxious. Among their ranks are religious zealots such as Pat Robertson, Fred Phelps and young earth creationists including Patrick Young (PH.D). Many, if not most, main stream Christians have included into their doctrines certain basic scientific proofs including older earth theories, evolution (within the same species), basic astrology facts and have acknowledged the power of medicine. They have taken special care however, to credit God for allowing all of these truths to exist and using them as examples of his greatness.

If any of today’s Christians were to time travel to mid 1300’s they would be tortured and killed for heresy, yet their claims of belief are unchanged. They still serve the same God; they govern good and evil from the same text and preach the same basic message. The moral code upon which their faith is based is unchanged and yet what is considered moral and true has changed dramatically.

If we were to ask Christians today about such things as slavery, genocide, child abuse or rape and inquire as to whether or not such actions were a sin they would certainly (at least in my experience) and universally say that they are. Furthermore, defense of the position of these actions being immoral would be produced from scripture. Upon contest of their stance utilizing alternate scripture, the defense is given in regards to the time the scripture was written. One must take care to remember that in many circumstance these same scriptures, in generations past, were used to support what today would be immoral actions.

Christianity, in all various forms, has been and remains the religion that takes the least amount of ownership for its actions and has also been the least consistent religion on the planet. Christianity shares with its chief rival, Islam, a conviction of being the only true path to God and also has a commonality of a particularly bloody past. The primary difference being that Islam, has, for all intents and purposes, embraced these attributes while Christian apologists have attempted to justify or disown the immoral actions of previous generations.

There are more than 34,000 variations of the Christian religion(2) including Catholicism. Each of these variations have turned thier kaleidoscope with which to see the present world and the history of mankind and each of these believe they have found the true key to salvation.

Many Christians have chosen to leave the label of “religion” behind them. These believers have decided that no religion is representative of what they see through the kaleidoscope and state that they have found the “real” Jesus. These types feel that the previous 2000 years of Christendom are all incorrect and they have received a personal revelation as to the truth about God. The narrow lens of religion is very accommodating and will allow a person see whatever they want to see as they look through it.

The Narrow Lens
The narrow lens of religion is a term I use to describe the view the religious person has of the world around them. It extends from how they read and interpret the Bible to their views on the after life. The lens filters world history and indeed, in many cases, eliminates all historical contexts for belief between the time the New Testament ends and the present, because the events do not fit the viewers current interpretation of God or his will.

The lens’ range inhibits the viewers thought processes. It conditions the mind to stop asking questions and accept that the unknown is God’s doing and no further investigation is needed. Indeed, historically speaking, the lens has made its viewers quite violent towards those who have stepped beyond its scope.

The lens narrows the viewer’s reality to the contents of a book and those concepts and realities forced upon them by society. The intriguing thing about the lens however is its ability to, once included, make what it sees seem like the way it has always been. Again, the lens negates history and insists that the current view is the one, true, and correct view and that said view has always been thus.

The lens’ historical filter enables the viewer to embrace concepts such as Pascal’s wager, the proofs of Thomas Aquinas and the “miracles” of the patron saints but filter out the unpleasantness of the inquisitions, slavery, women’s rights, witch trials and the murder and torture of freethinking men and women of philosophy and science. The lens is a versatile tool, employed largely unconsciously, throughout human history.

My Lens
As a former believer I remember well the inner struggle to quench the questions that almost universally began with “What if?”. When the questions were to strong my lens was there to remind me that “What if?” was irrelevant – close one eye and peer through the scope at the symmetrical patterns of faith I had learned so well. The lens of religion calmed my mind and allowed the world to make sense once more.

As I began my voyage away from belief, I tucked my lens away in its velvet case, placed it in a drawer somewhere in the recesses of my mind and I remember feeling quite naked and exposed. I also reeled, as I still do, at the exploration of the pebbles and beads of religion, science and philosophy that were not reflected in the mirrors of my own kaleidoscope. Everything that I found, discovered and learned since that day has solidified my decision to leave behind me the world of fairy tales.

~AP~

(1) Kaleidoscope (2)World Christian Encyclopedia: A comparative survey of churches and religions – AD 30 to 2200

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