Category Archives: Doubt

Was anyone watching these rights…?

The Interfaith Alliance is keeping tabs on the race for Pastor in Chief of the United States of America and sums up the top ten creeptastic moments that remind us that, and I quote,

no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States

Good thing we have the constitution protecting us from these boobs, right? …Right?

With the recent hubbub about Obama’s pastor’s political thoughts (I know everyone here thinks exactly like their respective pastors, priests, and wardens) I think it’s important to remember that someone’s religion should not impact their political achievements. This goes for Obama, for Romney, and for Wynne As someone who would love to be politically active at a local level (I missed my opportunity to run for City Council last year), it’d be nice if religious really wasn’t a qualification.

Uncomfortable

Yesterday was a red-letter day for flirt-with-the-geek-chick: I turned down two guys (one asked me to a D&D tournament, which was rather endearing, actually). But what really weirded me out was “You should check out our church!” This was, obviously, not a come-on…at least not a relationship come-on. I later told a co-worker, the only one I know to be an atheist, how uncomfortable invitations like that make me feel. I further allowed how I don’t like a parting “God bless you”, which I often get. Maybe iPods and iPhones really do inspire diestic devotion, but most often I’m delivering Last Rites for them, so I’m not entirely certain that these blessings are related to what I do (versus how the customer thinks).

“I try to accept it in the spirit in which it is given,” I told him, “but the assumption still annoys me.”

“I’m pretty upfront about it. I just tell them, ‘Oh, no thank you, I’m an atheist.’” He responded, after a commiserating body gesture, “But it’s hard sometimes, because that’s not really something that it’s acceptable to be.”

We were still on the floor, so that was the extent of our conversation, but it resonated with me for a few reasons. First, because I sometimes wish I could be that upfront, although I don’t feel that an invitation to a church would be rebuffed by such a response. Just as my other co-worker, he of the giant crosses (which he has stopped wearing, thankfully) wears his beliefs on his…well, technically on his chest but metaphorically on his sleeve, I wish that I could wear my beliefs more loudly. Perhaps it’s just proof that, underneath all our belief systems, we’re all human, and that we shouldn’t get caught up in this stuff since it’s not important. Unless it’s oppressing others, of course.

The second reason that it stuck with me is this: I left out some pieces of the story above. When I told him that invitations to churches made me feel uncomfortable, I leaned over the bar in his direction, and lowered my voice conspiratorially. When he responded, he spoke at a normal volume, getting slightly louder for emphasis when he said, “I’m an atheist”. He then lowered his voice when he allowed that this was hard. The reason this is important is that when he said, “I’m an atheist,” I actually started & looked behind me, as though there might be, I don’t know the pope?, standing there, hearing & judging. “Shhh!” I thought “Someone might hear you!” His allowance for how hard it is to admit this might have been because he noticed it, or maybe the quieter volume of that comment was. I kinda hope he didn’t notice it at all, but it underlines for me the fact that, at least in some situations, I’m still embarrassed to be an atheist.

Music Monday: Bodhisattva Vow, by the Beastie Boys

You’d never think that the Beastie Boys, of all groups, could produce thoughtful, meditative/religious tunes.  This one is god-free, but does pitch some supernatural Buddhist ideas:

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I love to blast this and focus exclusively on the deep bass chanting.

The following song is all about doubt and searching.  The imagery is pretty generic, so you can just open up another tab or window in your browser or simply close your eyes and listen.

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Music Monday: Do You Realize, by the Flaming Lips

Sisters and brothers and everyone in between, welcome to the Church of John!  [insert organ riff] One of the great blessing of being a skeptic is that you can find your scripture anywhere. Emily Dickinson, Bad Religion, William Gibson and Joss Whedon are my prophets. When I was lost in the darkness of religious faith, little snatches of poetry, song lyrics and pithy prose lit little lights of skepticism and gave me hope.

So, my fellow doubters, questioners and unbelievers, I’ve made it my mission to spread the spicy sauce of doubt!  Hallelujah!

To aid in this might task, I’ve added a new feature: Music Mondays! Each week, I’ll point you to a song or music video that offers solace or wisdom to the true seeker. This week’s hymn is “Do You Realize” by the Flaming Lips. Let the choir sing!

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Can I have an A-Men! And an A-Woman!  Peace be with you!

Leaving the Garden: Lessie’s Journey

Note: This is the latest installment of “Leaving the Garden,” a weekly series in which we ask someone to reflect on their journey from religious conviction to uncertainty, from dogmatism to doubt. Religion is filled with stories of faith; here we collect narratives of unbelief. Some are lifelong atheists who have flirted with religion; others are still deeply embedded in their faith, but are learning to challenge authority and embrace uncertainty. Today’s post comes from Lessie, a brilliant and thoughtful woman who cares about many of the same things that concern me and whose virtual path I have been fortunate to cross.

Bio: I live in south eastern Idaho, I’m on the downhill side of my twenties, I’ve been married for almost six years, have two boys, am recovering Mormon, feminist, humanist, wannabe philosophy professor, generally interested in unmarketable skills like dead languages, philosophy, literature, etc. I have a bachelor’s degree in English/Creative Writing (another mostly unmarketable skill), but am currently working out issues so that my agenda don’t poison my stories (hence blogging).

While I certainly wasn’t aware of this at the time, I’ve been a philosopher from a very early age . . . and a doubter (in repressed form) since high school. I remember asking the metaphysical question of “what if life is a dream” at the ripe old age of four and later wondering how God could be omni-everything and still not meddle with my ability to choose. I had questions like these all through high school, but questioning on such a level was unfit for a good Mormon girl (and indeed, I rarely acknowledged these questions—the implications of the answers scared me). Religion had been a world view that I had accepted without question, so it was beyond frightening to explore other ways of looking at the universe. With these repressed thoughts at the back of my mind, I went to an LDS university for my undergraduate work.

The May after my sophomore year, I got married in the temple to an apparently worthy young man. Relatively quickly, I realized that neither of us really reached the standards of worthiness that were expected of righteous young couples. I sucked at domestication, and he sucked at priesthood leadership in the home. I was embarrassed by my own short comings and angered by his. After the birth of our first son, the details of which can be found here, our marriage began a slide into pain, anger, disillusionment, and apathy. We decided to go ahead and try counseling before calling it quits.

The counseling (while working wonders on our relationship) taught me to question key ideas about authority, priesthood, and leadership in the church. I was also taking philosophy classes that taught me to carefully examine the basis for my beliefs. I was so excited by those different schools of thought. It was so liberating to finally be able to ask all those questions in the back of my mind (and also somewhat irritating to see the resistance that these questions garnered from the more devout).

A year later, there was a museum exhibit in a near by town about the history of literacy and the Bible. I was overcome by the excitement of seeing things like fragments from the Dead Sea scrolls, twelfth century Hebrew manuscripts, early Christian writings in Greek, and early editions of the Bible in English, Spanish, and German. I was simultaneously inspired by the dedication of the men who had kept the Bible safe and dismayed by the bloodshed inflicted by differing factions of Christianity. The pain others suffered as a result of extremism and dogmatism began to bother me on a much deeper level.

Eventually, I stopped going to church. I felt that the church espoused harmful ideas of exclusivity. Ironically, the integrity that the church had taught me was what made me decide to leave. I could no longer be honest with myself by going. I found that I had fallen out of love with religion and in love with humanity. Right now, I consider myself agnostic. However, if salvation means separating myself from others rather than engaging with them, then I decline to participate.

Leaving the Garden: Elise’s Journey

Note: This is the latest installment of “Leaving the Garden,” a weekly series in which we ask someone to reflect on their journey from religious conviction to uncertainty, from dogmatism to doubt. Religion is filled with stories of faith; here we will collect narratives of unbelief. Some are lifelong atheists who have flirted with religion; others are still deeply embedded in their faith, but are learning to challenge authority and embrace uncertainty.

Elise is an accountant and is fascinated with trying to balance debits and credits. Her profession rolls into her personal spiritual life as she continually works to balance her foundationally Mormon upbringing, current leanings toward mystical Christianity, and overall doubt that it is possible to know the unknown.

[Editor's note: Elise and her husband have been my treasured companions on our joint journey into doubt and uncertainty. Their youth belies their wisdom and experience, and I've learned much from them. You can read more of Elise's journey at her personal blog and at the group blog at Sunstone.]

I found myself so absorbed by my discomfort with the words “Leaving the Garden” that I was unable to actually write anything under that label for several weeks. My uneasiness with the label was caused by my equating it with “Leaving the Faith.” Personally, my journey into doubt has been one of faith, and I could not come to terms with how to express the way in which by “Leaving the Garden,” I experienced and embraced faith for the first time.

The reference of “Leaving the Garden” to the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, who choose knowledge and left their garden, has inspired me to scrounge around the closet for my leather-bound copy of the King James version. According to the source, the consequences of their choice to value knowledge over eternal life included:

  1. having their eyes opened;
  2. realizing they were naked and feeling fear because of it;
  3. feeling undeserving of the divine (they hid);
  4. having sorrow through child-bearing, family, and the responsibilities of providing;
  5. being aware of their insignificance (made of and eventually returning to dust); and
  6. being locked out of the Garden, which held eternal life.

Turning to my own story, I reminisce on my rather simple and happy childhood. I was told a lot about faith at home and in Sunday School. My observations, however, were not of people who expressed faith but of people who expressed knowledge. I knew faith was important, but I felt surrounded by a world that didn’t need faith, because they knew. They knew how the world came to be, they knew how they came to be and why they were here, and they knew where they were going. Why would they need faith?

When I was a late teenager, I was quite desperately looking for that sense of knowing. I wanted it straight from the source – God – and so I spent a lot of time and energy doing all the things I had been taught to do in order to induce God into talking to me. This only produced frustration as answers didn’t come like I thought they would. I happened to be on my knees, on a cold wood floor in a quiet house in the middle of night, the moment that I realized something profound: rather than seeking for one radical affirmation about what everyone else seemed to already know, I should just open my eyes to the world around me and start learning from what was there and picking up parcels of knowledge as they came my way.

Since that time, I have perhaps shared Adam and Eve’s experience in leaving their garden because I have felt:

  1. enlightened (in Miriam Webster’s words, freed from ignorance and misinformation and living my life based on full comprehension of the problems involved);
  2. vulnerable and sometimes afraid;
  3. undeserving of the wonders and beauties around me;
  4. sorrowful at the lack of equality in the world and the fleeting disposition of time;
  5. aware of my insignificance, and
  6. a healthy skepticism of whether or not this life is all I have that has led me to value time and people in a way I doubt I could if I knew it was all unlimited.

And so I’ve started looking around me and picking up parcels of knowledge, with a graet sense of gratitude, whenever I find them. I doubt a lot of the rules and rituals and “right” ways of life I was brought up with. I still place faith in a divine being and hope that eternity, although I cannot quite grasp the complexity of the concept, is real. But I can’t say I want to know.

According to the last few verses of Genesis 3, when Adam and Eve leave the garden, the knowledge of a divine being and eternity was locked and guarded. They weren’t supposed to know, and I have to ask myself why. From my worldview, knowledge has a tendency to come with a bit of superiority, superficiality, over-simplification of and frivolousness toward this life. Of course there are exceptions. But, my lack of knowledge has come with a bit of humility, a decrease in unnecessary critical judgments of others, more care for the immediate needs of others, and increased value of the time I have to spend today. It will be a nice, happy ending to life if we get to return to the garden and live forever. But if not, I have faith that the relationships I’m experiencing this year, actions I’m choosing this month, habits I’m developing this week, and moments I’m finding small joys in today will leave me full of enough wonder and awe and love to last a lifetime. And that’s really all I can ask and want to know.

Age Old Celebrations

I went to a few parties this weekend, certainly more than in a normal weekend, and therefore had cause to muse about the fact that this weekend was Imbolc, a Pagan holiday marking one of the eight sections of the year (more known ones include the Solstices, May Day, and Hallowe’en). It’s one of the holidays that doesn’t get much recognition (you know, for example, about Hallowe’en). It’s also the Christian feast of Candlemas, the celebration of the presentation of Jesus at the temple. It’s also the feast of Brigid, whether goddess or saint. It’s also Super Bowl Sunday.

I’m going to take as a given that Jesus was not born on December 25. For our purposes, let’s take for granted that pre-Christian Jews were not impervious to cold and that there were actually lambs hanging out. Whatever time of year that may have been, it was not winter. Christianity is well-known for appropriating (or synthesizing, however you want to look at it) pagan holidays as their own. Imbolc is one that’s not so popular any more. But as I sat at the Super Bowl party I went to, enjoying commercials, finger food, and a veritable lake of beer, it occurred to me that it may be more a part of the human condition to synthesize such rituals.

Punxsutawney Phil is America’s non-theist celebration of Imbolc, the beginning of the end of Winter. He is our ritual divination: will winter end early or stay with us past March 20th? Even his roots are pagan, possibly just because it was a ritual already ingrained into the cultural consciousness.

As to what ritual need the Super Bowl fills, I’m not sure: a circus-like aggressive spectacle? a sex-based homo-erotic ritual? a reason to drink & beat up your wife? I do believe, however, that it satisfies some primal urge to congregate with friends, share food, stories, emotions, and beer. The Super Bowl is an excuse. To some, a very good excuse. To most of the participants of the party I attended, a thinly veiled excuse (no one watched much of the game, though it was playing, and most agreed that they did not really enjoy American football). The day before, I went to a completely different party: a much more intellectual party that yet still involved friends, food, stories, emotions, and beer.

So here’s to Imbolc, however you celebrated! And all the other annual celebrations besides.

Carnival of the Godless #84: The Word of ‘Pod

Atheists visiting here for the first time–Welcome! You may also enjoy this post:

Ten Common Misconceptions about Atheists .

In the beginning1 was Cephalopod.

And ‘Pod said, let there be light.

And the Bartender said, Havest thou instead the stout2.

And ‘Pod tasted the brew, that it was good.

After the first beer, ‘Pod spawned the first freethinkers. And behold, they brought forth rational discussions amongst themselves in great abundance:


*Bad Idea explains why atheism is incidental to his rationalism and skepticism in What’s Best for Atheism Isn’t What’s Best.

*Greta Christina confronts the inevitable human tendency (even among skeptics) to justify the irrational in two posts: Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts and Defensiveness, Rationalization, Mulishness… What Does That Have To Do With Religion? Mistakes Were Made, Part 2

In God is Dead, Kevin explains that Nietzsche was criticizing atheists for still clinging to the godly.

And this was the beginning and end of the first beer.

And ‘Pod listened to their many words and knew that they were good. And behold, ‘Pod was well pleased with itself and ordered another beer.

And ‘Pod said, Behold, I am well pleased with myself, but this bar is a friendly place. I shall send forth the freethinkers to be tested.

And it came to pass that ‘Pod sent forth the freethinkers to live in a world filled with strange superstitions and belief in even stranger gods.

And behold, many of the freethinkers did well for themselves:


C.L. Hanson announces the next installment of her novel Exmormon. She promises a gratuitous love scene. With Mormons! At BYU!


The Liberal Debutante shares how atheism has improved her life in Positive Contact.


In Evolving, A Mind, Moody attacks the religious indoctrination of children, arguing, among other things that it is “horrifically despicable to inflict upon a child the notion of damnation.”

Isla talks about the satisfaction that comes from reality and authenticity in I believe in me.

And this was the beginning and the end of the second beer.

And ‘Pod was bored because it had sent away all of its freethinking friends, and there is nothing good on TV, for the Writers and Producers continued to forsake each other. And ‘Pod said, Let there be a book full of contradictions, anachronisms and archaisms and let it be called it the Bible, for verily, I am crazy like that.

And it came to pass that many worshiped the book and carried it to every corner of the earth, which really had no corners, being a squat spheroid, but this did not deter the many followers of the Bible.

Behold, the skeptics met the onslaught of the believers with the scientific method, intelligent questions and historical analysis:

*In A week of scriptures, Heathen Dan celebrates “National Bible Week” by performing excellent and approachable critical analysis of various biblical stories through a series of seven posts. (Also, his image is a massive composite of album covers )

The Spanish Inquisitor also takes on the Bible in …For The Bible Tells Me So.

And this was the beginning and the end of the third beer.

And ‘Pod said, Behold, that was fun. Verily, I shall mess with the heads of people some more. Let there be fundamentalist believers in political power throughout the world. Let them commit all manner of atrocities, yea, even burning embassies, passing Christian bills in secular governments, and voting for Mitt Romney.

Behold, once again, the freethinkers defended their political liberties through the application of wisdom and careful argument:

*ronbrown eloquently argues for the defense of freedom of speech even in the face of possible violence in “Freedom of expression doesn’t mean the right to offend”; Dutch government bracing self for violent Muslim protest to anti-Muslim film

In Dinesh D’Souza Spreads Dishonest Propaganda…Again, Kelly undermines support for HR888 by exploring, in detail, Christianity’s historical defense in the U.S. for abominable institutions like slavery.

vJack distinguishes between Christian fundamentalism, extremism, and terrorism in What Is Christian Extremism?

Ron dissects a couple of political analysis articles and pessimistically prognosticates The Two Factors That Will Give Us a Republican President.

Hallq wonders why corrupt faith healers and prosperity gospel advocates aren’t be prosecuted in: Religious believers–too stupid to be protected by law?

And this was the beginning and the end of the fourth beer.

And ‘Pod ordered yet another. And the Bartender said, Have you not had enough? For behold, are ye not shit-faced?

And ‘Pod slurred, Nay, let there be another beer. And ‘Pod sent forth a multitude of plagues of unreason, harmful superstition and bigotry.

And it came to pass that as ‘Pod waved its tentacles with glee, that the atheists stood up in force and one among them said:

Let us be strong in logic, and in the power of the scientific method.

Put on the whole armor of reason, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the dogmatic.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the irrational ideas of the televangelists, creationists, and Jesus Camp graduates and against those who desire to hasten the end of the world, and against religious intolerance in high places.

Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of intelligence;

And your feet shod with the scientific method;

Above all, taking the shield of logic, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the superstitious.

And thus prepared, rushed into battle with the forces of theism once again:


The Chaplain argues eloquently that religion’s negative influence outweighs the good in What’s So Bad About Religion?


Daniel takes on the French mathematician and philosopher in Pascal’s wager. Recommended reading for anyone’s who’s considering the famous gamble.


In The Monty Hall Riddle and Atheism, Tatarize gives us another take on the God wager, this time using the game show metaphor.

A.C. Chase muses on the Orwellian nature of the math implied by the doctrine of the Trinity in The Holy Trinity: Revealed Mathematics.

Mike White ponders the nature of free will, and its relationship to religion in How much Freedom do we Have?

Evanescent warns us of the dangers of the apocalyptic world view in The Eschatology Ideology.

And this was the beginning and end of the fifth beer.

And ‘Pod was laughing drunkenly. And behold, when it looked upon the Bartender, it saw not one, but three blurry, continually moving Bartenders. Nevertheless, ‘Pod said, Let there be another beer. And the Bartender reluctantly provided, but only after he taketh ‘Pod’s keys.

And ‘Pod slurred, Lissssten, if you thought that was hilariousss, behold thisss great challenge: Let there be men and women acrossss the land who claim to heal sicknessss through faith thereby taking advantage of the dessssperately ill.

And then it came to pass that ‘Pod let out a mighty belch.

Once again, the freethinkers responded:

*The Whited Sepulchre links to this powerful (and very disturbing) mashup video: Benny Hinn: “Let The Bodies Hit The Floor”

Evolved critiques miraculous healing in Faith Healing, does it actually work?

And this was the beginning and the end of the fifth beer.

And the Bartender said, That is pretty fucked up.

And the freethinkers said, Yea, that is pretty fucked up.

And the atheists and skeptics and the freethinkers created the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and sent his Noodliness to attack ‘Pod. Behold, there was a mighty drunken brawl and titanic fragments of pasta and tentacle were scattered across the surface of the earth. No one knoweth who won, for the Bartender spake not concerning the matter.

But it did come to pass that many feasted on delicious calamari and spaghetti for many days.

Additional Submissions:


From No More Mr. Nice Guy:
I wish they knew how to quit religion

From the Gaytheist Agenda:
Court ends Bible distribution in school.

From Christian:
Parable of the Eternal Prisoner

Forty-Seven Signs of the Apocalypse (#41)

Bad Faith Believers: Preist Richard Neuhaus Fantasizes about you Prostrate and Begging

Still Don’t Think that Theism is a Mental Disorder?

Rape Victims Require Additional Punishment

Where Does God Live? In a Palace?!

14 year old Jehova’s Witness turns down treatment and dies

Atheism versus Agnosticism

Notes:
1. There is considerable debate among scholars over the meaning of “beginning.” Most of the discussion revolves around the question, “The beginning of what, exactly?” Some scholars argue that “Beginning” refers to the name of the bar. back

2. This reference to a stout has lead some scholars to refer to this text as the “Book of Guinness,” but mostly in informal debates in pubs, and not in the scholarly literature .back

Varieties of God

When I was a kid, I thought about God about as often as I thought about my prostate. In my early adolescent, agnostic days, God was a “cover all bases” option when I was puking my guts out and certain that I was going to die. He was sort of a distant on-call doctor.

At sixteen, in the midst of the dark dreary emotional wasteland of dysfunctional family relationships, I saw The LightTM and began wearing Mormon-colored glasses. Then I rode the utterly unthrilling roller coaster of faith and doubt for the next couple of years (no way to get my money back), but when I connected with God, he was like an affectionate uncle–kind of a jolly Santa figure who showed up unexpectedly on the doorstep, left a present, a hug and some sincere compliments.

Like all good Mormon boys, I left for my mission at nineteen. Our missionary code took its inspiration from a mashup of 1950s American Puritan ethics and the Rule of St. Benedict.  I had a straight-arrow reputation and still had a hard time keeping all the rules.  This gave me plenty to feel guilty about, and I mentally flagellated myself for every imagined violation.  God made the rules and kept the whip and hairshirt handy.  And he was always around.

Fortunately, there’s nothing like missionary service to destroy a young Mormon convert’s budding idealism.  Seeds of cynicism firmly planted, I returned to college and the real world.  God was like a workalcoholic dad who traveled a lot.  First there were a occasional conferences and overnight trips.  In time, he had apartments and mistresses in every continent, and was gone for weeks at a time.  When he was around, he was drunk and angry or too involved to pay any attention.

This emotional deadbeat dad wasn’t working for me, so I started hanging out with Science God.  Science God was cool because he didn’t believe in that fundy shit that workaholic dad subscribed to.  And it was OK that he wasn’t around so much, because he was out there doing important stuff, like sparking off Big Bangs throughout the multiverse, and seeding planets with organic material.

Science God went away after a while.  He existed only in the gaps, and the gaps were getting fewer and fewer because I kept shoveling them with more science.  I went through some God as metaphor phases, but God made one last but short-lived comeback before expiring forever.

This vision of God was inspired by the World War II era philosopher-activist-mystic Simone Weil.  My version began with her suffering god and took him further.  This was a god, who in creating the world, relinquished all control over and most contact with it, and sat in pained silence while men raped women, women strangled their starving children, and children gleefully shot and killed other children.  He did this not because he didn’t care, but because although he cared, he could do nothing.  This was the fading, impotent God, the God in hell, the God who was nailed to the cross millenia ago and who was still writhing upon it.

Then this God, too, gasped his last breath, in silence.  He had no need to ask why he was forsaken, because there was no one to forsake him.  I didn’t mourn his passing.

Shamelessly Stealing Quotes

I was reading Pharyngula the other day & ran across a fantastic quote illustrating the differences among atheists, theists, and radicals. In light of recent conversation on this theme, I felt it contributed a very clear argument. However, it also stands alone in the sea of things-we-post-about here at MoF. Here is PZ Myers:

There is a kind of sliding scale of belief: most of us value our lives to some degree, and consider how we spend our three score and ten to be important; then there are people who attach some degree of importance on an afterlife they’ve imagined, and consider this hypothetical eternity to be a matter of concern. Atheists have the scale pegged way over to the left and see this little slice of time we have as all we have, and therefore the only thing we have to make work. Most religious people have the dial turned up a little to the right — they are clearly operationally secular, spending most of their time on work and family, and socking away a little Sunday prayer time for an anticipated and wholly delusional Heaven. We can all live with that.

But then there are these wackos like Fred Phelps who have the dial turned so far to the right that they place a higher priority in their fantasies about what they’ll be doing after they’re dead over what they’re doing with their life right now. That’s where religion becomes a great evil, where it destroys lives and compels people to commit acts that are materially insane, but make great logical sense to people infected with the idea that there is an eternity of consequence for trivial transgressions against a shared belief.

Yes! Exactly! I have virtually nothing to add except that I’ve been thinking similar thoughts regularly & can’t seem to articulate just what it is about fanatics’ belief in heaven that I find so disturbing. Actually, it’s more often their belief in hell that weirds me out. That’s where most of these really bizarre actions come from.