And yet… (response)

EMil Wentzel:

Please read the original “And yet” post by Pascal. The love and respect these two friends share in there dialogue, reminds us that differences aren’t meant to be overcome, but an opportunity to share the wonder on life and celebrate our variety.

Originally posted on russell & pascal:

Hi Pascal,

And yet… was a great post, my friend. You perfectly captured something I’ve considered many times.

I see some differences between your contemporary friend and myself, but I love the way you respond to each of us.

I think, at its heart, the “and yet” really represents our doubts about any belief position we hold (on any subject), but it is especially potent concerning religious faith. I felt the “and yet,” on some level, when I was a theist about my theism (e.g. perhaps I’m praying to the wrong God or there really is no God). I think we each should feel some level of doubt concerning our beliefs about eternity. We’re limited people living for a very short time making decisions about an eternity for which we can have no absolute knowledge, and the beliefs we come to could potentially impact our outcome. However, after having…

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Secular Chaplain Subscribers around the World

EMil Wentzel:

Become part of the conversation towards Humanity…

Originally posted on Secular Chaplain:

heathergarden05-192.jpg

Sunflower Sun (Highland)

People “Follow” or Subscribe to blogs for many reasons.

Those who visit, comment and subscribe to Secular Chaplain are a Very Diverse Group around the World!

It’s good to think about why so many in the human family, from so many backgrounds and locations, are finding topics of interest here.

Take a Look at this Selection of Our Current Circle of Community:


What Countries are Represented on Secular Chaplain? 

In Africa (South Africa and Liberia)

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Who Subscribes to Secular Chaplain?

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God will not feed the hungry…

No amount of prayer has ever stopped or solved anything. There is evidence of that. No deity is, was or will solve real human problems…Because they are not concerned whether you are clothed, fed, sheltered, protected or able to follow your life’s ambition. Their only concern is with your “soul”, the one thing that matters least in the real world.

God does not defend the meek.

I grew up in a Christian home – my father was priest (not full time, he had a job) and dedicated to God’s work more than anything, my mother played the organ and sang in the choir. We went to church every Sunday and Wednesday, and cleaned the church on Saturdays. I was taught to pray to give thanks, pray for what you need, for protection and for peace and love and the Holy Spirit. I believed, trusted in everything they said and followed and found joy in doing everything “God” required of me. Absorbed by Sunday school stories and one of my favourite songs to sing as a child – “What a friend we have in Jesus…”. It just made me feel less lonely and as if nothing could go wrong. I even dreamed of becoming a faithful minister – Just like Dad.

I entered school as an awkward and quiet boy, who was small for his age. A classic introvert; emotionally sensitive, intelligent, curious and more interested in books and learning than kicking a ball on a field or making noise. Making friends was difficult, so I roamed the play ground, quite happy in my solitude, but still seeking company on the days I wanted to play marbles or just share the book I was reading. I became the target for bullies (classic indeed)- I have always deplored violence – but you can only run so far and so fast before you get caught up and suffer their attacks. It was never really one on one, bullies run in packs and while one chases, the other is about to corner you. I prayed for a friend, just someone who would stand with me. I needed that! One person who would help fend off these other boys so bent on showing their superiority through my submission.

All the while, the song kept playing in my head…

…Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Ev’rything to God in prayer!..

So, I prayed for a friend. Prayed to let these boys have some compassion, peace and just to leave me alone. I would have settled for indifference.

My pray was never answered.

I spent my time alone mostly. I befriended girls who are much more accommodating to a crying boy. This just makes you more prone to bullying. It was like this most of my childhood, up until my mid-teens… And still I prayed. I hoped that God would answer my prayer.

“Just a little peace. Just a friend. Just a little love…”.

Still the song went on…

…Are we weak and heavy laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge;
Take it to the Lord in prayer:
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He’ll take and shield thee;
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Jesus didn’t bear the beating from the Elder’s twins and their cousin with me. They thought it alright to punch me in the gut, and repeatedly kick me while curled up in the aisle of the church.

I still remember vividly looking down that aisle to the church symbol fixed on the wall above the altar. The blue, orange, pink and pure white hues of light painting patterns around that symbol… The haunting glow of light filtered through stained glass makes you see things.. Like a path way leading some place far, or a hand reaching for you.

Over the sound of low curses and encouragement to keep kicking from the three figures over me, the feeling of my body curling tighter into a ball… and the tip of a girls high heel shoe making it through the gap of my thin arms… I prayed.

“Just make it stop. Please God, make it stop.”

Jesus didn’t come. He didn’t stop them. He didn’t even instil a sense of guilt or remorse. Some deacons came to separate them away from me. Then my father dragged me by the arm out of the church while I wailed in pain, and put me in the car with a reprimand – “Why are you fighting in church?”.

I stopped crying. Beaten. Hurting.

“But I was the one on the floor.” I wanted to say it, but I could only stop crying out of utter despair.

Jesus is an illusive friend – Yeah, he didn’t even come when I was getting the shit kicked out of me in his dad’s house.

“What a friend we have in Jesus?”. I hate that song.  I hate that it reminds me of the cruelty people inflict on each other. I hate that I was convinced it would keep me safe. I hate that my father only thought of God’s house, while I nursed my bruised ribs.

Prayer did not make me friends. It did not protect me from the bullies; even those in the house of the Lord.

God does not shelter the cold, the weary, the homeless.

I often went with my father when he was preaching in the informal settlement areas. The abject poverty of the people there was something I became starkly aware of at a young age, the differences of where I lived and where they lived haunted me. In one of those areas, their church was an old stable, converted to a community centre, it wasn’t in great shape, and when it rained the roof leaked… But the people came in summer and in winter regardless. Dedicated to God’s word. They had little in terms of fancy clothing and many shared a single shack with their entire family, sometimes two families. (Think of a room made of zinc roofing sheets, 3 meters by 3 meters of floor space, all built on caked sand – that is still an entire home today for many – and then consider that a family is usually three kids and a mommy).

One year, a freak winter storm ripped the roof off the centre and a wall collapsed, and that was the end of the centre… We had church outdoors till a couple prefab school rooms were placed in the settlement. That same storm destroyed many shacks and ruined any possessions these dedicated, loyal servants of God had. These families would be sleeping, basically outdoors in the weather. And being in the heart of a High Veld winter is like standing inside a bone-dry, ice cream truck fridge with a desk fan blowing on low… And that’s if it doesn’t rain.

We prayed during services. Thanked God that we could come together to hear his word. I understood some of the local languages at that age, and over heard the prayers for shelter, warmth and protection from the cold. The mothers were less concerned for themselves and more for their children… I was young, I didn’t know what we could do – I prayed for them, even the people that didn’t come to our church. I asked my father what we could do, he said “If we try to help one, we’d have to help them all.” It seemed heartless at the time, but I understand now, you don’t always have the resources to help everyone. You can’t choose when everyone is in need.

I prayed some more.

The people of that settlement rebuilt their homes. They salvaged what they could from the mud and – I don’t know if anyone died, but we had a funeral there a while later – they continued with their lives, coming to services when my father came.

Prayer did not save their homes. Prayer did not keep them warm in the cold, dark of winter.

God does not feed the hungry.

At the primary school I attended were kids from wealthy families, middle income families and poor families. I was used to just being a kid with other kids, I didn’t see rich or poor. But, when you spend an entire day with other kids, you start seeing how they live. While the rich kids got rands and rands of spending, I’d have my 20c and be totally thrilled with that. The poor kids, however, had nothing for spending, nothing for lunch. They reminded me of the congregation in the informal settlement. They were always grateful when just after thanksgiving we brought the extra vegetables from the altar decorations to share.

I couldn’t imagine going an entire day without food… But…I couldn’t help them all.

I prayed that they get something to eat, that their parents could afford bread.

We prayed at school assembly that the hungry, the cold and the poor receive the blessings of God. When I didn’t want my lunch, or I had some extra spending for the tuck shop, I’d give a random, familiar kid my lunch. Or get my dad to pack me a couple extra slices. I did that, even when the school got a feeding scheme, but the scheme only went on so long, before it was stopped.

I only had so much, and could only share with one or two a day. I prayed for them at home before I went to bed.

They were still hungry when I got to school the next day. They were still hungry when I was in high school. They are still hungry now.

Prayer does not fill stomachs. Prayer does not grow more food. Prayer will not cure hunger.

 We are subject to this world.

I don’t share this to get some pity or receive praise… I’m writing this because I see a world that has become so convinced that god will come down upon the earth and sweep away the sorrows and the afflictions, while smiting your enemies… If god/gods/deities/and my illusive, imaginary ‘friend’ do exist, they are not motivated to give some of their awesome power to raise us out of the harshness of this reality.

The natural forces that apply themselves to both threaten and provide for us, we are part of that natural force, and as physical beings we can impact this world – We can build or destroy.

Only We can solve our problems.
Only We can feed the hungry.
Only We can share a blanket…
And We can be a true friend.

Friends who face the bullies together. Friends who help rebuild the homes that are lost. Friends who will share the feast on our tables, no matter how small our table is.

“What a friend I have in you!”

*Note: I will block any comments which do not contribute to us building a positive understanding.

Rescuing Religion’s refugees

(Original Post on http://recoveringfromreligionsa.tumblr.com/)

*This is a follow on from the previous short post

I have been reflecting on my past, and many of the stories I’ve heard from other atheists, on the fear they feel in revealing their disbelief. We’ve been whispering about creating a support structure within our new little group, but I wonder what that support should or might look like.

I feel as if I am being torn apart because of frustration and the feeling of helplessness – I am utterly useless to any of those who are still living in hiding with what should be their time of freedom and enlightenment. The whole state of things as it is now, is that many are living in debilitating fear, a real fear with real world consequences to being ‘found out’. They may have through indoctrination seeked solace in religion, but found only repression and became slaves tied to those groups for their very living. Or they may just have been born into a family that does not tolerate difference, and are not at a stage where they can survive without them. This turns the people we love and who we should be turning to for support during a time of confusing change, into real enemies that could, and would inflict violence on us.

Bydgoszcz_1939_Polish_priests_and_civilians_at_the_Old_Market

I am reminded of the experiences of homosexuals in their struggle. They once lived in the shadows, but feared being persecuted for their lifestyle… Have we really gone so far backwards that the very idea that people, our family and friends could reject us and destroy us for exercising our right to believe what we want?

As I write this, my hands are shaking from anger, sadness and desperation to just help. And yet I know that right now I have no tools to offer real assistance, I can only say “I’m here if you need to talk/chat”. That support feels empty in a world that seems bent on the use of fear and oppression and dependency of faith to an absent imaginary god, creating an environment that encourages violence (in what ever form) on those who are ‘different’.

I will not give into hate. I can not allow hate to become the only way to fight this demon, it will only serve to feed fear. I believe that by opening our hearts, our minds, and sharing our love and our humanity can we truly demolish this deplorable situation.

What solutions should exist for the refugees of religious persecution?

Religious persecution HAPPENS!

The reality of many societies is that religious persecution HAPPENS! It can be as subtle as family turning their back on you, being ostracised and alienated, to verbal, written and physical attacks – including murder.

As long as we tolerate the practice and the acts of coerced conformity, we as a species will not reach a stage of universal tolerance, global peace and the freedom to be authentic. It will leave the ideal of true moral and ethical living as a fantasy.

We are all responsible for maintaining and propagating this behaviour – whether it is towards those who choose a religion or non-belief.

Death by Fear.

EMil Wentzel:

Please offer you support and encouragement to these wonderful people, who find themselves in the repressive grip of a religious group. Show them that they have already started to conquer their fear, and overcome adversity.

Originally posted on teal tomato:

People may experience different psychosomatic symptoms during emotional crises, but the reality that the emotional affects the physical is no less true.  Right now, I feel like every part of my body is trembling.  I’ve completely lost my appetite.  Food is an object rather than something I desire.  I find sleep elusive.  My heart beats so strongly I feel its rhythm in my ears.  My circulation doesn’t seem right because I am both too hot and too cold.  My extremities are tingly.  I am one thought away from tears at all times.  My digestion is abnormal.  And forget the butterflies; I have spiders in my stomach.

Why?  I am confronting my over-two-and-a-half-decade-long deepest fear – and not just confronting it, but swimming in it, soaking in it, drowning in it.  And instead of finding freedom, I find sickness because everything I feared would happen did – and is. Even…

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Atheist dating, in a superstitious world

This past Sunday was one of the best days I’ve had, I celebrated the fellowship of new friends, shared deep thoughts on food, life and the future of a wonderful atheist community I am privileged to be part of. Over an above that, I had a first date that same evening with an interesting woman I had met on a dating site. This was my first date since my last break up almost 10 months ago (depending who you ask).

I was as excited as a little kid buying his first toy.

I was late for the date by ten minutes, but late… I had called earlier and she sounded alright about it. As I walked into the mall and arrived just outside the restaurant, I called her to tell her I had arrived. I had seen her picture on the dating site, I thought she was pretty, but as she came up to me she was beautiful and elegant. I made a very conscious reminder not to stare or ogle. She smiled at me and I felt less anxious about my late arrival. We started chatting immediately, as if we had known each other far longer than a week.

A waiter saw us coming, he smiled and rushed over to welcome us in. We took a table at the back. Her energy and vibrance was instant, we were off talking about our day and how rushed it was. She mentioned she went to church, and when I asked, she responded by saying she was Roman Catholic. I wasn’t phased, I can respect someone’s belief, and she knew I was an Atheist – She must have considered it before coming out on a date with me.

The conversation moved quickly into telling stories about our past. Her passion for art and culture expressed with hand gestures as she spoke with her whole body. I could see the soldiers trudging passed her on her morning run up the mountains around Seoul, and hear the city sounds drift up against its steep cliff like edge – imagining the shamans of old had used that place for that acoustic reason. I could feel the texture of the rust blackened walls of an old factory converted into an art studio, and smell the mix of metallic dust,  paint and wood and stone being used in new artworks. I felt her ecstasy watching a young, South Korea woman sing and dance to a hard rock rhythm, rebelling against the stodgy South Korean culture. And wanted to dance with her in the little bar-dance club, hidden between two little shops on a back street, with just an open door and a single sign above it showing that it existed.

I was taken by her expressive nature.

I relished every moment. Felt connected as we both leaned into the table and whispered the rest of a tale, and then laughed out loud. We had crossed over the intellectual attraction phase synonymous with online dating and entered the physical, the real world stuff. The date was going well!

We spoke on for a bit about travelling more and where else we’d like to go. She said she was considering taking a job in the UK, so she could tour Europe and explore the art scene there. It sounded like that would happen soon – I was a little disappointed. My previous relationship turned ‘long distance’, and that was an utter crash-and-burn experience I didn’t want to repeat.

This is the first challenge, but it’s quite a normal dating challenge, and I think anyone could sympathise/empathise; Atheist or not.

I mentioned a trip to Holland, where I had the opportunity to work in buildings along the canals. I told her about the time I had visited a ship monitoring station built on the bank of a canal. The building extended four levels below the bank’s surface and as I walked down the stairs to the first sub-level where we were working, there was a glow coming from further down the stairwell which seemed too bright. Water had filled the other three sub-level floors up to half a flight of stairs below the first.

“It’s one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen!” I said.

She cringed, “I couldn’t look at that! I don’t want to see spirits!”

I know my facial muscles pulled into a ‘What the heck!?!’ expression.

In the moment it took her to uncringe, I was taken back to being 7 and sitting in an empty church pew on my own at a service for the dead. Seeing the spirit of a girl my age. I felt pity for her; still being trapped in a place for those unsaved, uncleansed souls. I felt a vague sense of relief that this was the right time for her to appear, because the “priest” was about to – through me – give her salvation. And then… the sleepless nights I had as a teenager around the same time each year, looking out from my bed as I saw a stairway leading up from the passage outside my room, watching as droves of ghosts moved up towards their salvation… To the utter, debilitating fear and anxiety at 19 as I felt the dark, evil souls trying to possess me – because I did not heed my parents’ warning about researching the occult and being clairvoyant.

I have grown out of that!

I now know that I have an over active imagination, that I am intuitive to people’s emotions because I have a keen talent for observation… I have tamed my imagination by focusing on creating fictional narratives and writing them out for others to read and enjoy, and by doing work in design, where imagination drives logical processes. I’ve honed my observation and skilled myself in conversation, so that I can achieve more in business and connect at a more personal level with others. By embracing my rational mind, I have overcome the indoctrination of my childhood – I’m better for it.

I hid my expression before she might see it, deciding not to say anything. The logic is simple : -

  1. I’m with this beautiful, intriguing woman having more fun than I’ve had in months.
  2. I really want to hear more of her stories.
  3. I can recover from being too hesitant and aloof.
  4. An assault on her superstitions of demons and spirits would end this date and all potential others. DEAD!!

This is the second challenge, and one I believe is more specific to non-believers, sceptics and atheists. Here was someone who I just started liking (A LOT) and had accepted as being intelligent and rational, and I felt that moving forward could only happen after a real discussion around these beliefs.

The date went on…

We laughed.

We shared.

I was still interested… But now I was hesitant to commit any further. I walked her to her car, opened her door and we spoke a few extra minutes as she stood at the back door. Even though I was certain her lingering there was an invite to end this evening on a super high with a delicate, affectionate and deliberate kiss – I fought the wonderful hormones coursing through me, I couldn’t offer that kind of promise.

I hugged her… she seemed surprised, but not thrilled.

She climbed in, we spoke a couple more minutes…and then she was off.

I’m getting older, I don’t have the time or inclination to string someone along just for company. I know what I want and will put in the effort to find and keep that. I can respect, even accept someone I’m interested in’s belief in a religion… but I fear that any discussions on someone’s rooted superstitions which could bring so strong an emotional response, not only them but to me, would turn any promising love interest, into a casualty of my own determination to never return to that dark life. I refuse to expose my own children to such a twisted reality, that they become afraid of their own imaginations, or are made to believe it is normal to be afraid of the mythical, unseen, always present dangers of the unreal supernatural.

What are your experiences?

Not Light, but Fire

EMil Wentzel:

A moving piece that resonates with the humanity in me.

Originally posted on Secular Chaplain:

mind on fire

Sometimes those of us who no longer believe, who are the Heretics of Our Age, who ask the hard questions of faith and pointedly challenge the Bible-believers and God-Experts. . .sometimes we can get a bit edgy, even sarcastic and a little angry and mean.  I do it too and I’m not always proud of that.

Yet, however, but. . .there are reasons sometimes to Tell it Like it Is and Speak the Truth in the face of furious, fearful and fact-challenged faithful who think they Own “the Truth” and Truth is Their God (remember “I am the Truth”?).

This is why I particularly appreciate these lines from former slave (and former believer in American Religion) Frederick Douglass.  He knew, he bore the scars of, the literal whip of the piously powerful and their scriptures of slavery.  And, he knew both the great joy and great responsibility of…

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Without an Afterlife, How Do You Deal with Grief?

Originally posted on godless in dixie:

xmasWhen my children were smaller we lived too far away from their grandparents to just pop over on Christmas morning to exchange presents, so we would typically cram ourselves together with all the cousins and aunts and uncles into the grandparents’ place for the whole week of Christmas.  That way, when the kids woke up at the crack of dawn (and not before, do you understand?), all the presents and stockings and puffy-eyed grown-ups with cameras would be right there, waiting for them.  It was equal parts stressful and fun, as Christmas traditions usually are.  But there was one major downside to this tradition for my family:  One set of cousins always got much bigger presents.

Talk about a letdown!  My poor children would wake up and rush into the living room to see what they got, but before their eyes could even find their own presents, they’d see…

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An Atheist’s Perspective: Is Materialism Really the Reason?

Originally posted on Rdxdave's Weblog:

The Vatican is shortly to convene a meeting to address the problems that they, as an organization are having. Namely, that there appears to be a sharp divide between their teachings and the practices of their members, e.g. they have a ban on artificial contraception yet most Catholics seem to ignore it–in the U.S. for example 82% of Catholics either regularly use contraception or have no issue with them (Gallup Poll 2012). How can this be? How can a group of people comprising the single largest religious denomination be at once faithful but also cherry pick what it is that they are faithful toward? 

The Vatican released a survey among its followers and their response led them to the conclusion that the results are in a agreement that the “underlying reasons for the difficulty in accepting church teachings, namely, the pervasive and invasive new technologies; the influence of the mass…

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