Why do Christians have hobbies?

If Christians really believe they’re going to heaven when they die and that this life is nothing compared to eternal life in heaven, then why would they do anything other than focus 100% on doing what Jesus would want? Wouldn’t that be trying to save people so they could go to heaven too? Literally nothing else in life should matter. Nothing else should hold any importance.

I understand practical things to further this goal like having a job to support yourself and your family and take care of life’s true needs. One needs food and shelter, safety and security, etc. But why would they have any kind of hobbies that aren’t focused on God? Why would they watch sports or movies, listen to secular music, play video games, etc? Every moment not spent on furthering the the cause of leading people to Jesus is wasted.

I’m reminded of the end of the movie Schindler’s List, where Schindler is in tears because he could have saved more people.

This car. Goeth would have bought this car. Why did I keep the car? Ten people right there. Ten people. Ten more people. [removing Nazi pin from lapel] This pin. Two people. This is gold. Two more people. He would have given me two for it. At least one. He would have given me one. One more. One more person. A person, Stern. For this.

Literally nothing else should matter. If it turns out that Christianity is true, then I picture Christians lamenting every misused moment, in tears over the souls they may have saved, while they played Call of Duty for 10 hours a week for a year instead. If you’re not a gamer that may sound like a lot, but I assure you, it isn’t. An hour or two a day, maybe 3 or 4 on the weekend… it adds up fast. Multiplied out it adds up to 520 hours a year! That’s more than 21 days. Three weeks worth of time that could have been spent focusing on leading people to Jesus.

If I believed I would be given one billion dollars if I lived a certain way for one year, and focused 100% on some certain thing, you can bet I could do that. Of course there are certain caveats, like a reasonable assurance of safety, and that I wouldn’t be required to do anything immoral, etc. But the point is that with the expectation of reward I could, and would, act a certain way or not act a certain way.

Now what if, in addition to this, the thing on which I had to focus was something I wholeheartedly -100% believed in? What if I believed it was the absolute best thing I could possibly be doing? In my case it could be LGBT rights, or advocating for science, or (if I were qualified) doing research to cure cancer. I could have a huge positive impact on the world, and receive a huge reward at the end.

Am I being unfair in comparing living a certain way for one year vs a lifetime? Perhaps. But consider eternal reward in exchange for a mere 80 or 90… even 100 years of doing what you consider the best possible thing to do. If anything, I think my comparison is generous. One year for one billion dollars, vs one lifetime for eternity. Last I checked, eternity is more than one billion lifetimes. Eternal life is the priceless reward Christians believe they will get.

So what’s going on? I can’t really say. I’m not going to do what some Christians do, which is claim to know what others really do or don’t believe. It’s very annoying when Christians claim that atheists really do secretly believe, but we’re just denying God because we “want to sin”. I’m not going to be so presumptuous, but it sure is an interesting question.

So why do Christians have hobbies?

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I want to say I’m sorry

I was thinking today about my journey from conservative fundie Christian to where I am now.

As I’ve talked about before, I grew up Seventh Day Adventist, which is a very conservative sect of Protestant Christianity.  The joke is that SDAs are about 20 years behind Baptists.  SDAs are hardcore young earth creationists, anti-LGBT, and tend to isolate themselves from the world.  They have their own schools (Kindergarten through college) where parents are strongly encouraged to send their kids.  When I was growing up, almost all SDA churches were strongly against any kind of rock music, there were no drums in church, and usually no guitars either… just piano and organ for hymns.  Makeup and jewelry were “self adornment” and looked down on, or just plain not allowed in most schools.  There was no dancing, no bowling, and no movie theaters.  Once a year our school would have a field trip to the local skate rink, and they had to unplug all the arcade games, and play “more appropriate music”.

I’ve heard a lot of this has changed now.  Not the young earth creationism… oh no, no, no.  The church leadership has come out strongly on that recently stating that the literal six day creation week is fundamental to Seventh Day Adventism and there is absolutely no room for compromise.  But the more socially backwards traditions like jewelry, makeup, and drums in church are, the harder they are to maintain among younger generations.

My point in explaining this is to explain where I’ve come from.  I grew up in that and I believed it.  I later left SDAism behind after I realized I just didn’t think the distinguishing parts were that important, so I just became sort of general Christian, but still very conservative.  It just doesn’t make sense to me to take the Bible seriously and not be conservative, or at least lean that way.

But I digress.  When I was a conservative fundie Christian, I was on the wrong side of many issues, and the one that sticks out most in my mind right now is LGBT rights and equality.  I thought being gay was a sin.  I bought into all the anti-gay rhetoric.  I voted for California’s Proposition 8 which defined marriage as between one man and one woman.

I wasn’t outspoken or an activist, and I never “gay bashed” or anything.  I never directly harmed any LGBT people, but I was on the wrong side of history.  I supported and/or was part of organizations that did harm LGBT people.

So I want to say to my LGBT brothers and sisters, and all my now fellow advocates, that I’m sorry.  I’m sorry for contributing to oppression and discrimination.  I’m sorry for all you have had to endure because of people like who I used to be.

I’m happy to say that I’m firmly on the right side of history now.  I’m 100%, categorically, unreservedly, proudly an LGBT advocate and activist.

“Justice” Antonin Scalia is Loony Tunes

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you’re probably aware that the US Supreme Court issued its ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, a landmark case that just brought marriage equality to the entire United States.  Of course, not everyone is thrilled about that.  Conservative Christians are predictably freaking out, and “Justice” Antonin Scalia is among them.

Scalia is completely unhinged.  All you really need to know is that he thinks it’s a-okay to execute innocent people.  He also thinks the Earth is 6,000 years old.  Moving on though.

Scalia’s latest hissy fit dissent in today’s decision demonstrates yet again how wildly out of touch he really is.

“The substance of today’s decree is not of immense personal importance to me,” he offers. “It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me. Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court.”

Well congrats, but guess what?  It is of “immense personal importance” to LGBT people, who are directly affected by the ruling.  Their rights are at stake.  It would be nice if all the justices cared about that.

But far more troubling is Scalia’s talk about “who it is that rules me”.  Um… as a Supreme Court judge, isn’t the Constitution supposed to “rule”?  Hint: the answer is yes.  But Scalia just brushes that aside, and brazenly declares that he doesn’t use the Constitution as the basis for his decisions.

He goes on to freak out about the Supreme Court doing exactly what the Supreme Court is supposed to do: rule on the Constitutionality of cases brought before it.  I don’t quite understand why conservatives so often lose it when courts do exactly what they’re supposed to do.

Another quote from Justice Loony Toons:

“The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic,” he writes. “If, even as the price to be paid for a fifth vote, I ever joined an opinion for the Court that began: ‘The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity,’ I would hide my head in a bag.

Exactly which part is unreasonable? Let’s see:

The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach

That’s exactly what the Constitution is for.

a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons

Um, yeah, specific rights of human beings are outlined in the Constitution.

within a lawful realm

Again, that’s exactly what the Constitution does. It defines legal rights. What’s so outrageous here?

to define and express their identity

What more fundamental right could there be than to simply be who you are?

I see absolutely nothing pretentious or egotistic.  It was simply a statement of what the Constitution does.  But Scalia has shown he doesn’t care about the Constitution when it’s inconvenient for him.  He shows again and again that he really doesn’t get it (or doesn’t care) at a fundamental level.

The downfall of Josh Duggar

It’s hit the news recently that Josh Duggar allegedly committed sexual assault against five minors around 2005. It appears that at least some of the victims were his sisters and one was a babysitter. As one would expect, the story has been splashed all over social media. Josh is part of the Duggar clan featured on ’19 Kids and Counting’ and is now a former executive director at the Family Research Counsel.

Almost worse than Josh’s offenses, dad, Jim Bob Duggar knew what was going on and did almost nothing. He told church elders, who also did nothing for three months at which time they finally contacted the police. What did Jim Bob do then? Well naturally he tried to stop the police from interviewing Josh. These delays almost certainly allowed more victims to be assaulted.

Many non-Christians are gloating over the downfall of Josh, given the holier-than-thou attitudes constantly on display from the Duggars. I don’t think we should be gloating or celebrating over this. There is clearly some serious dysfunction going on, and it involves sexual assault against minors. That said, I do think the reaction that some people have had is understandable. I think it’s certainly okay to point out the mega-huge hypocrisy going on here.

The Family Research Council is classified as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The FRC has said plenty of incredibly hateful and mean-spirited things about LGBT people. Josh has now quit the FRC, and essentially admitted to the allegations.

Many on the religious right think LGBT people are dangerous predators. In August of 2014, Michelle Duggar, with the backing of the FRC, was behind a robocall spreading fear mongering over an anti-discrimination bill in Fayetteville Arkansas. Part of the robocall:

“The Fayetteville City Council is voting on an ordinance this Tuesday night that would allow men – yes, I said men – to use women’s and girls’ restrooms, locker rooms, showers, sleeping areas and other areas that are designated for females only. I don’t believe the citizens of Fayetteville would want males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female to have a legal right to enter private areas that are reserved for women and girls.”

This is an extreme distortion meant to spread fear over something that just plain isn’t going to happen. The Duggars are virulently anti-LGBT and have made no secret of it. They’ve made no secret that they think LGBT people are dangerous predators who are after your kids.

This is not supported by evidence. We do however seem to keep hearing plenty of disturbing reports of sexual abuse in churches though. This isn’t surprising given the extremely unhealthy and unrealistic attitudes many Christians have towards sex and sex education, leaving kids misinformed or just plain uninformed. It’s no surprise that kids won’t know how to act properly when they aren’t taught how to act properly. So where are the real predators?

While some may be gloating, many LGBT people and advocates are just angry. We’ve watched people like the Duggars degrade LGBT people for years, and now this comes to light. Yet again it turns out the dangerous predator is one of their own, and it took over a year for it to even be reported to the authorities. This sort of thing happens time and time again, not with LGBT people, but with Christians, and often those who are most vocal about how evil LGBT people are.

“Are you still searching?”

I’m occasionally challenged by religious folks as to whether I still question God’s existence, or if I’m still “seeking”. They ask if I’m at all “skeptical about evolution”, or other similar questions. These sort of questions betray their inability to understand that other people have good reasons for their beliefs (or non-beliefs), and how stuck they are in their own belief that they simply must be right. Then if you don’t get that, there’s something wrong with you. The irony is that it’s basically odds-on that they don’t question like they think you should.

See, here’s the thing; I’m always open to any new ideas or evidence no matter what the idea is or how crazy it may be. But being open-minded and a good skeptic doesn’t mean constantly questioning every idea there is. It means being open to new information.

Let me to toss out a few ideas here to help illustrate:

  1. I don’t believe any gods exist.
  2. I believe evolution is the process by which all life came to be as we know it today.
  3. I believe the Earth revolves around the Sun.

In my mind, from my accumulated knowledge and experiences, these three things are equally correct. I’m not going to sit around like a moron all day and ponder whether the Earth really revolves around the Sun. This is a settled question. What if there were new evidence presented that, in fact, the Sun revolves around the Earth? Well that would be some amazing evidence. I would consider that evidence, and, if it were convincing, I would change my mind. But I feel no need to seek out such evidence. There are things in life that I just don’t feel a need to constantly question.

It’s the same with evolution. Evolution has been proven time and time and time again, and has withstood all attempts to disprove it. It’s done. It’s settled. It’s what happened. We know it happened, just as we know that the Earth revolves around the Sun. If some new evidence came out that disproved evolution, then I would consider it, and, if it were convincing, I would change my mind. But all we ever get are the same old tired arguments against evolution that have been answered, disproven, or are just nonsensical.

The same with the existence of gods. Done deal. New evidence or arguments? Okay, bring it. But until/unless that happens, I don’t need to go out of my way to question if the Earth revolves around the Sun… er, I mean… if a god exists.

William Lane Craig’s blather about Ryan Bell

So I was thinking about what William Lane Craig (I know, I know) had to say about Ryan Bell and the his “year without God”. Spoiler alert: Ryan Bell now identifies as an atheist and we’re quite happy to have him. Shortly after Bell originally announced his experiment about a year ago, Craig had this drivel:

Oh, I think it is disastrous spiritually. But I wonder how he is going to live? A couple weeks ago we did a podcast on exploring the real consequences of an atheistic worldview and that, on atheism, things like civility, politeness, moral values, treating others honorable, marital fidelity are all illusions of human consciousness fogged onto us by the evolutionary process and social conditioning. I wonder what is Bell going to do? Is he going to also during this year quit working for peace and justice? Is he going to now no longer be concerned about the treatment of women – those issues that got him into trouble with his church? Just what does he think the consequences of atheism really are? Which ones is he going to try on? If he really comes to accept the view that atheism leads to the kind of moral nihilism that our other friend did, Bell is going to really have a disastrous year.

But let’s unpack this.

Oh, I think it is disastrous spiritually.

Oh of course! Honest and open inquiry is just no good at all. I’m confused though. We keep hearing about how obvious it is that a god exists, and that Christianity is obviously true. So why should this sort of thing be a problem? Why are the concepts of god and Christianity so frail as to fall apart given simple and honest questioning?

A couple weeks ago we did a podcast on exploring the real consequences of an atheistic worldview and that, on atheism, things like civility, politeness, moral values, treating others honorable, marital fidelity are all illusions of human consciousness fogged onto us by the evolutionary process and social conditioning.

I’m constantly amazed that apologists and their kind seem so intent on telling atheists what we should believe. Not only is it insulting, it’s just plain wrong, and it makes him look incredibly ignorant.

I wonder what is Bell going to do? Is he going to also during this year quit working for peace and justice? Is he going to now no longer be concerned about the treatment of women – those issues that got him into trouble with his church?

Now here’s where the mega-eye-roll starts, and this is sort of my main point. Among former believers who are now atheists, I know of no one who fits what Craig is saying. I know of no one who decided to care less about social justice after deconverting. Most former believers I’ve talked to care far more about those issues now (myself included). Realizing that we’re on our own, and have a responsibility for each other, and that there’s no sky daddy watching out for us, is a big realization.

Many atheists actually have a far better sense of social justice that includes, oh you know, LGBT rights and equality.

And is he actually serious about the treatment of women? That seems like a very poor choice for an example, given what the Bible has to say about treatment of women. I think we’ll stick with our non-biblical treatment of women as equal human beings, not property. I’d go into it but wow would this be a long article. But let’s see… here’s a short version and a long version.

Just what does he think the consequences of atheism really are? Which ones is he going to try on? If he really comes to accept the view that atheism leads to the kind of moral nihilism that our other friend did, Bell is going to really have a disastrous year.

And we come full circle, back to the appeal to consequence. This is such a ridiculous and fallacious argument. Even if it were true that atheism leads to moral nihilism and utter despair and kicking puppies, that doesn’t mean a god exists. Why Craig constantly insists on this argument is just baffling. It’s literally logic 101.

Now, a couple things. Yes, I realize that there are atheists who are terrible, horrible, no good, very bad people. I don’t personally know any, but yes, they exist. There are people who think that atheism means they can do whatever they want and that nothing matters. Again though, that doesn’t mean a god exists. Those people are wrong, and if they harm others, we can correctly take action against them.

I also realize my tone toward Craig may be a little aggressive in this article, but wilful ignorance just really bothers me. I know some other atheists will disagree with me here, but William Lane Craig is a very intelligent man. I know it’s popular to talk about what a blithering idiot he is, but it’s simply not true. He’s very intelligent and accomplished, but that makes it all the more frustrating that he uses such obviously wrong arguments, and that he continues to use them after being told why they are wrong, based on facts and/or logic.

All in all, I think Ryan Bell had a pretty good year. I saw no disaster.

“Erotic Liberty vs Religious Liberty”

“Erotic liberty vs religious liberty” is the new buzzphrase for bigots who want to attack LGBT people and deny equal rights to others, all based on religious beliefs.

The implication of “erotic liberty” is that those damn dirty gay people just want to get off at the expense of the “religious liberty” of devout Christians trying to stand up for Jesus. Christians who, bafflingly, seem intent on fighting tooth and nail to deny equal rights to a group of people over something that doesn’t even effect them. That’s called bigotry.

It’s hard to conceive of a more ignorant and bigoted phrase. It should hardly need to be said, but the fight for LGBT equality is not about eroticism. It’s about marriage. It’s about equal rights and equal treatment and protections under the law. It’s about all kinds of things, but eroticism isn’t really one of them. That’s what opponents of equal rights don’t understand. That’s what they refuse to understand.

But if they insist on the term “erotic liberty”, then the fact is that LGBT people want the same “erotic liberty” as everyone else. That’s where this new buzzphrase really fails. It doesn’t even say anything new. It’s still Christians trying to deny LGBT people the same rights that everyone else has. So we’re back to square one, and that square is equality. If they want to deny equal rights to a group of people, that’s still called bigotry.

The phrase appears to have originated with Albert Mohler, who is no stranger to saying ridiculous things. I’ve been told Mohler is one of the “brightest mind[s] in evangelical Christianity”, and that “leading secularists would have to recognize Dr. Mohler has one of the brightest minds in our country”. Oh boy, I don’t think so. From everything I have read from him in regards to LGBT people, contraception, atheists, and even yoga (among plenty of other issues) that he thinks are a problem for Christians, his arguments are painfully bad. I’m no expert. I don’t have a doctorate in anything. I’m a very amateur philosopher, and I found it comically simple to pick his arguments apart on just about any issue.

People like Mohler want to force LGBT people back into the closet. They want to turn back the clock to when LGBT people were treated like freaks and weirdos and second-class citizens. They want LGBT people to think of themselves as broken and sinful. Nevermind the depression. Nevermind the suicide. Nevermind the bullying when people think LGBT people are sick. Nevermind the cognitive dissonance of LGBT people trying to reconcile their natural orientation with what they’re told they should be. They don’t care about any of that. I know Christians don’t like this label, but too bad. Yet again, that’s called bigotry.

The upside to all of this is that the tide is against those who would use such rhetoric to push their bigoted views. Love is winning over hate. More and more people are coming to realize that everyone deserves equal rights. Marriage equality is advancing state by state. It’s not fast enough, but it’s happening.

But the really good news is that, despite all their stamping of their feet and hysterical shrieks of persecution, we don’t have to care what religious people think of all this. The separation of church and state, clearly defined in the US Constitution, says that we don’t make laws based on any religion. Unfortunately not everyone gets this, but that’s too bad for them. As with other civil rights movements, we shall overcome.