Tag Archives: religion

A better name for christianity

Colbert on the 'Christian Nation'

Courtney posted this quote on facebook earlier today. I’ve seen it before, but it got me thinking: why aren’t some American Christians more Christ-like? Despite being an atheist, I think I have a fairly decent understanding of the moral teachings of Jesus. Last year I compiled a new version of the Jefferson Bible in updated English, which included a lot of reading of the first four books of the New Testament in the Christian Bible, also known as the Gospels.

Each of the first four books paint a slightly (or vastly, in the case of John) different picture of a man (or God, though in some accounts he makes far fewer references to divinity) named Jesus. I’m not religious and haven’t been for a long time, but if you aren’t familiar with the story you can read it for free online. Start at the beginning of Matthew and keep going to the end of John if that’s your thing. If you are familiar with the story, you should read my re-creation of Jefferson’s work (available for free at NewJeffersonBible.com), because it paints a very rare picture of Jesus as a person.

I’d be interested to see someone take only the words of Jesus and list them in order, Matthew through John. None of the exposition, none of the descriptions, just the words attributed to Jesus in the Christian Bible. I would imagine it’s quite different from modern American Christianity in a number of fundamental ways. So, based on this, I propose a new name for the current batch of American evangelicals loudly proclaiming their own righteousness: Paulists. There are a few Catholic orders that use the same name, but in this case that’s an added bonus because many evangelicals don’t see Catholics as “real” Christians and will hopefully work harder to avoid the distinction.

Who is Paul? Well look, I’m no historian. Wikipedia has an article about the guy. The tl;dr is that Paul was originally Saul. He hated the early Christians and persecuted them fervently. He supposedly had a vision while traveling to Damascus in which a bright light appeared and he heard the voice of Jesus, who said Saul was being a bit of a prick. Jesus then made him blind (because who doesn’t love a major trauma?) and apparently sent another guy to gather up the bumbling blind Saul. When the guy appeared, Saul regained his sight and realized he was wrong, Jesus was the bee’s knees, and he changed his name to Paul and started spreading this story around to everyone who’d listen. That’s a paraphrase of the story, you can read it yourself if you want all the specifics. Acts 9:1-19.

Full stop. I’m about to get a little contentious, but it’s not as if people haven’t provided alternative narratives to established religious doctrine before. Look at how religion is used. It’s used to control people and keep them in line. Saul was already a religious guy, then this new religion comes along. The founder died and isn’t around; they say he went up to Heaven. You can bring a lot of clout to the table as far as your family and connections (Paul was a Roman citizen and had many contacts in Judaism circles, having been born into a family of Pharisees). You get in on the ground floor and get to shape the direction of this burgeoning movement. You had a vision of Jesus, after all! Who will question the things you say?

For a religion called Christianity, an awful lot of it is based on Paul. There are twenty-seven books in the New Testament. The first four deal with Jesus. Thirteen of the books–more than half of the books not directly dealing with Jesus–were purportedly written by Paul. Jesus talked about the poor, Paul talked about a woman not having authority over a man. Jesus spent time with the people at the bottom of society’s ladder, Paul wrote what is the only mention of homosexuality in the New Testament. Jesus turned over the money-changing tables in the temple and fought against the religious leaders in his day, Paul became a top leader in the nascent religion formed in the name of someone who wasn’t around to contradict his teachings. It’s clear that Christianity is a misnomer. Paulism is a much more apt name. If Paulists in this country start acting more like the person they call Jesus Christ, then maybe some day they can earn the label “Christian” back.

“If this is a dark era, then let us enlighten it.”

I consider myself very lucky to live in a country where there are no legal restrictions against speech that criticizes religion or religious people. Some are not so lucky, like Fazil Say, a composer who’s now in a Turkish prison and being charged with breaking laws against inciting hate and insulting the values of muslims.

His crime? Statements and tweets that are critical of islam and muslims. Some of his tweets are extremely disparaging toward muslims and islamic doctrine:

I am not sure if you have also realised it, but if there’s a louse, a non-entity, a lowlife, a thief or a fool, it’s always an Islamist.

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Protest Sign

I didn’t have any posterboard, so I had to improvise. Dry erase board covered in saran wrap, since it was raining (yay Portland!).

I happened upon an anti-abortion protest last week. There’s a Planned Parenthood across the street from the post office near my house. I have a PO box there, because I’m getting old and that’s what old people do.

These protesters had been there before, but for some reason I felt moved that day to show my disagreement with their message. I left the post office, went home, called Planned Parenthood and made a $10 donation. Then, I made the sign that you see to the right, and went back to stand right next to the demonstrators.

As I was walking up, one of the people holding a sign, a younger girl who looked to be in her 20s, turned and smiled at me. That smile disappeared little by little as she read each line, until she looked up at me and simply said, “Oh.”

I said hello, then stood about 10 feet to her left, so that the arrow would be pointing at her and the others standing at each corner of the intersection. We talked briefly, when I told her that I had to give them credit for having the dedication to stand out in the rain. “We get our power from the holy spirit,” she replied.

“Well, I’m an atheist, so I guess I’m just here because I feel like it,” I offered, trying very hard not to come off as sarcastic. I wonder if she thinks I’m here because of Satan, I thought, doing my best not to ask her. Abortion is a contentious subject, and I wanted to remain civil. Continue reading

Hospital: Shot Pakistani schoolgirl can stand, communicate – CNN.com

Hospital: Shot Pakistani schoolgirl can stand, communicate – CNN.com

Religion almost killed her, but medical science is saving her life. The sad thing, at least to me, is that there will be many people who praise god for Malala’s recovery, instead of the surgeons, doctors, and nurses that have been dedicated to her care.

This kind of thing will continue to happen as long as we allow religion to be used as a shield, as an excuse for barbarous behavior. I am very glad to hear that it seems as though Malala will recover, but humanity still has a long way to go.

Day 15: halfway there!

Wow, the month is half over. Crazy! Here’s the breakdown for week 2:

10 posts over 7 days,  containing a total of 5,468 words. I have written something at least once per day, which was one of the goals of this experiment. A few of you have asked my why I’m doing this, or if it serves a purpose. It’s a great question, and one that I’ve thought about often over the last couple of weeks. I guess that, ultimately, blogging serves no purpose other than getting my thoughts out in a way that is more passively interactive than Facebook. I post a lot on Facebook, don’t get me wrong, but people reading this have had to take the extra step to click on the link to open a new site. It implies a certain level of engagement that makes me feel better about posting about controversial topics, since no one is being forced to read these posts. At the end of the month, I plan to diversify my creative endeavors and use more of the time I’ve been spending writing blog posts to pursue other creative pursuits, like music. Continue reading

The gospel according to Dan, part 3: The actual gospel

Scumbag Jesus

Guys, it’s OK, he works in mysterious ways.

I figured that Sunday would be an appropriate day to finish up the gospel according to Dan. Today, we’ll look at the gospel story, specifically the gospels canonized in the new testament of the christian bible. Feel free to catch up on part 1 and part 2, if you haven’t already read them. What follows is the gospel story, in plain language. I mean no offense by any of the terms, but like I said in part 1, I want to offer an outside perspective of the story to those who believe that the bible is meant to be taken 100% literally, in the hopes that it offers insight in to why skeptical people have a difficult time accepting that any of this could have actually happened. For a more detailed analysis, see below for a list of links.

So, we have four books that supposedly tell the same story. Two of them offer genealogy, because one of the prophecies that Jesus was meant to fulfill is that he is a descendant of King David. Strangely, these genealogies differ greatly. Many apologetic arguments perform mental gymnastics to attempt to explain this away, but there is nothing in Luke to suggest that the lineage is Mary’s.

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The gospel according to Dan, part 2


Sidenote: Goats.com is a great webcomic.

So, yesterday we went through a brief history of my involvement with christianity. Today, we’re going to go through a plain English retelling of the first two chapters of the first book of the bible. I’ll try and keep it simple and easy to understand, since others have already conducted more detailed inquiries into the scientific accuracy of Genesis. If you haven’t read the first two chapters of Genesis, ever or recently, here’s a link that will allow you to do so. If you believe that the bible is the inerrant word of god and should be taken literally, you should pay attention. If you take the Genesis account to be 100% true, it is impossible to reconcile this version of events with our current scientific understanding of the universe.

If there really were an all-powerful god who had hand-crafted the universe, the very first page of his very own book would have been a damn good place to grab your attention. Starting out with something universal, something unknowable to those who actually wrote the bible, supposedly through divine influence, would have been a great start. A few things that come to mind: Continue reading

The gospel according to Dan, part 1

Many people seem to have difficulty thinking about their beliefs from an outside perspective. It’s helpful to try though, if only to understand how other people view you. For instance, opinions of me probably range from those who think I am demon-possessed or horribly lost from a spiritual perspective, to others who may agree with me but find my manner of argument boorish or my approach too offensive. As an anti-theist, I’m used to being told that I’m being too forceful, too insistent in my scathing posts and comments about religion. I’d like to offer some insight regarding what motivates me, and why I view religion as so damaging. Continue reading

Open the eyes of my heart, lord

In the interest of continuing yesterday’s theme of posting embarrassing snippets from my past, the audio file below was recorded at a church youth group sometime around 1997-98. I’m playing guitar and singing along with a friend of mine as we lead the youth group in a worship song. The song, “Open The Eyes Of My Heart,” has been performed by christian rock heavyweights, including Michael W Smith and Sonicflood, and is a staple of the modern evangelical christian hymnal. If you have the time, I suggest listening to the song, paying special attention to the lyrics. I’ll share my thoughts on the song below.

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I am the road leading to no return

I was in a musical, Once On This Island, during my senior year of high school. I played Papa Ge, sly demon of death. It was fun, because all of the villagers acted as though they were terrified by my presence, and cowered in fear when I pointed my ‘death stick’ in their general direction. At the time, I had just recently come out of several years of being a devout evangelical christian but hadn’t publicized the fact that I was no longer a believer, so it was interesting to watch the reactions to my character because it reminded me of the fear that I saw many exhibit when faced with the prospect of eternal damnation and separation from god. Continue reading