Religiousity- Part 2… Little Isis’s Mom

Initially, when I decided to interview a believer so that I would get both sides of the story, I was going to interview John Smart. Partly out of laziness, and partly out of consideration, I decided to interview my mom instead. She is a salt of the Earth, Pentecostal, Flag waving Holy Roller. After concluding the interview, I feel that some of my brain cells have evaporated. Nonetheless, a peak into the mind of a true holy roller reveals no surprises.

Scientifically and logically, there is no evidence of God, and no historical evidence of many events of the Bible- including possibly the existence of Jesus Christ. So what makes you a believer?

Faith.

But is faith alone enough? And why?

Yes, because God is our creator.

But what evidence do you have that God is our creator, particularly the Judeo-Christian God of the Bible?

The sunrise, the thunderstorms, the human body. Miracles.

But how does all that tie unto a male, authoritarian God, especially since the story of Genesis would make the Earth about 5,ooo years old, when that is obviously not so?

Um, God’s time is not the same as our time.

How do you know that?

Cuz it says so in the Bible.

So you believe the Bible to be the 100% truth.

Yes.

What about passages where it says to murder disobedient children? That women can’t go to church on their periods? Or, what about the passage that says you cannot suffer me, your most precious and favored child, to live because I’m a witch?

*Sigh. For the period and being unclean, that was the law of the old testament. The New Testament doesn’t use all the laws and regulations the old testament did.

What about not suffering me to live?

Well, you’re my daughter and you will live.

Lucky me. So what you’re saying is you can pick and choose what passages in the Bible you follow and what ones you don’t have to?

Well in the case of there being a scripture that says to kill witches… I’ll talk to my Pastor about it.

Oh, to be such a blessed daughter as me. But getting back to my original question… if you believe the Bible to be completely true, why do you get to ignore some passages and beat non-believers over the head with others?

Well… Christ…. came to free us from the power of the law.

But Christ never said anything about homosexuality and abortion, and you and your friends treat those as big issues.

Abortion is murder.

Thats debatable mom, but what did Jesus say about abortion? And homosexuality?

I think the homosexuality is in the old testament.

But you say its wrong to be homosexual, even though Christ apparently freed us from the law.

Well, its in the old testament… I have to look up the verses.

I can see that I’m getting nowhere with this. You do realize you’re contradicting yourself?

Uh huh.

And thats fine with you?

Um… out of scripture, one person might get one thing and one person might get another, led by the Holy Spirit.

Describe the Holy Spirit to me. How do you know it exists?

Uh, the Holy Spririt is the third part of the trinity. The father, the son, the Holy Spirit, they are one.

Yes, we know. But how do you know it exists?

Because its written in the Bible.

But going back to my original question. There is no way to prove the Bible’s accuracy, since its been translated and retranslated, over forty books are missing and many events contradict themselves. How can you use the Bible as an absolute truth when there are these issues?

Well, the Bible is the word made flesh. Jesus Christ is the word.

*Sigh. Okay, lets change topics. You believe in the rapture, right mommy?

Mmmm hmmm.

What about the guy who said it would happen on the 21st? When do you think it will happen?

There will be wars and rumors of wars… there’s no way of knowing. Only God knows.

What about athiests? Do you dislike them?

No.

Do you believe its possible to be moral without being a Christian?

Yes.

Do you think that some faithful believers who act like hypocrites ruin it for the rest of you?

No.

Why not?

Because thats just one man’s opinion.

*Blink Blink. Yeah, so anyway. My final thoughts: obviously, blind faith is contradictory and will lead to your eventual madness. I hear tell that many Christians find their faith strengthened after doubt. But does Tamerlane make a point? Are moderate Christians hypocrites?

My mother, a “true” believer who looks to the Bible as the 100% truth, freely admitted her beliefs are illogical and contradictory, and literally did not bat an eyelash. She clings to her lack of logic and rationality, and in this way makes her somewhat immune to the criticism that Tamerlane accuses our fellow bloggers of.

But for a moderate believer, what to do? The jury is out on that one, and its really none of my business. I regard the Bible as more of a literary text and am bothered by its misogyny, racism, homophobia, and genocide, as I’m sure many Christians are. Since I’m not a Christian, I’m not in it, to be frank.

But I will leave with this thought. A few days ago, someone very important to me went into the hospital and this is someone in my life who has battled chronic illness and has all ready been through Hell. I could feel this person giving up hope… and so I sat cross legged- I do not fall to my knees, because the Gods I believe in do not demand my servitude and groveling- and I prayed for my loved one. This person is fine now, and so the point I am trying to make, I suppose, is that love is irrational, as irrational as belief in the most bizzare Gods.

Actually, I’m not really sure what point I’m making. You see, all of this is very irrational.

But getting back to my point before I made that final point, faith is not rational. And so, decisions involving rational things like government policy and finances, as that poor slob on John Smart’s show who got rid of all of his assets in preparation for the rapture now undoubtedly knows, should not be made on faith or even perhaps in some cases even love- just ask Anakin Skywalker, who swore himself to the dark side and dissolved the Republic in an effort to save Padme Amidala, his beloved wife.

Darth Vader- Shoulda Been More Rational

Or ask you’re average 21 year old girl from the projects with a seven year old son. Sure, she was probably in love with her baby daddy during those ten minutes in the back seat of his cigarette stained Ford Focus, but that isn’t making him pay her child support.

But to make my final point which is my real final point and finalizes the final point I made earlier- my suggestion to Moderate Christians who struggle with doubt is this: Follow your heart, and then keep it to yourself.

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16 Responses

  1. Did you pray to help your friend, or to help yourself? You felt powerless in that situation, so you called out to a someone more powerful. It’s said that soldiers severely wounded on the battlefield all call out for their mothers.

    Prayer has been clinically proven to have no affect on the sick. So why do something that doesn’t work? Mutter Courage’s daughter, Kattrin, is told to pray when all seems lost, but she acts instead to save the day.

    Some meditative prayer surely can provide ‘attitude adjustment’ but begging & pleading is counter-productive. Better to practice what buddhists call ‘maitri’, or acts of loving-kindness, which can make both practitioner and recipient more at peace.

    Your mother’s beliefs & worldview are the ‘logical’ extension of irrational faith. And you can surely confirm that her irrational outlook is not confined to religion. For, once permitted for one line of inquiry, it seeps into all thought.

    The only rational approach is to reject the entire bible, as well as any other stories of deities, unsupported as they are by any evidence. If you wish to approach the bible as literature, and derive form it morals & meanings, go for it. There are morals and meanings to be found in The Lord of the Rings and in Shakespeare, but we don’t need to pretend those are real.

    This interview series would not be complete without hearing from one of those “sane” christians, who apply the same essential rules of interpretation as your mom, but who should defend their alternate conclusions.

    An interview of a wiccan or other non-christian believer would also be nice.

  2. Lil’ Isis, this exchange interested me. And you might be interested in this: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/22/opinion/22kristof.html

    No mention of witches, but plenty about the real “sin of Sodom” and related transgressions. I wonder how most “believers” would score on Kristof’s quiz?

    Agree as usual with Tamerlane: the practice of “metta” and friendliness and kindness matters so much more than poring over holy writ of any sort.

  3. Tamerlane, you make a fine point. I also think that my friend, hearing that people were praying for them, helped also in their case. Prayer may simply just send a kind of positive energy in that person’s way that makes them feel better, but of course acts of love and kindness would be much more effective.
    As for the Bible, I take more moral value from some video games, and most certainly Lord of the Rings and Shakespeare. The Bible is used as a literary device in a lot of literature… even Harry Potter has some Biblical Symbolism in it, if you look closely enough, especially in the last book.
    I have some people in mind for my next interviews. I agree that an interview of a moderate christian, buddhist, wiccan ect should follow.

  4. […] Isis dove in head first, here and here. Read […]

  5. @LI – Water for Elephants is loosely based on a biblical story. Like any compilation of myths, the bible encapsulates common themes that resonate among the people. One cannot fully appreciate the history of our culture, or our greatest literature, without familiarity with the bible.

    “Prayer may simply just send a kind of positive energy in that person’s way that makes them feel better”

    The double-blind studies on prayer for the sick actually showed that, when a patient knew they were being prayed for, their condition worsened relative to the baseline!

    I think you should detect, measure, quantify, and describe in concrete terms this ‘positive energy’ you speak of, ideally capturing some of it in a vial or other containment vessel, before expending so much time & — (LOL!) — energy on its transmission. When I was around 12, I spent a lot of time trying to develop my powers of telekinesis. All I achieved was making myself so cross-eyed that the objects appeared to be sliding across the table.

  6. @Tamerlane HAHA! By “positive energy” I don’t mean some force… my friend simply stated that it helped to know that people cared and that they were receiving well wishes. In all honesty it was the empathy, rather than the prayer itself, that helped.
    When some holy roller tells me they’re “praying” for me after finding out what a Heathen I am I usually say, “well, thank you. I don’t mind prayers- so long as they aren’t prayers of malice.” There is a “free spirited” store that is in my area that a lot of local Pagans frequent, and the shopkeeper is a very sweet Canadian Wiccan. She told me once that the Church down the street was praying for her store to burn down and for something bad to happen to her. But business is still booming and she’s in good health. I guess the Lord did not hear their prayer ;p

  7. I am a moderate Christian who attends church regularly. I was raised a Christian. My father studied for the priesthood but left the seminary before ordination to marry my mother. Growing up, I attended Mass. I also attended a silent Friends Meeting with my Quaker grandfather. I loved the soaring beauty of the Mass and the solemn peacefulness of the Friends Meeting for Worship equally.

    Most of my religious experiences as a child were positive but some were not. My father abandoned us when I was a toddler, divorced my mother, and remarried. He later referred to his marriage to my mother and the birth of my brother and me as “mistakes” he had made in his “youth”. He was in his thirties when I was born. My very devout grandmother tried on numerous occasions to kill me with an ax when I was growing up because she believed I was “possessed by demons”. So all was not rosy in my childhood Christian home.

    In my late teenage and early adult years, I experimented with various religious and spiritual practices, including Christian Science, kundalini meditation and yoga ( with a Swami at an Ashram ), Taiji ( while studying Tai Chi with a Master ), and Judaism, which I studied in an academic setting and privately with a rabbi as preparation for my conversion ( which I never did ). I also spent many years with no religious / spiritual beliefs or practices.

    Then, in my middle age, I began caring for my mother, who is chronically ill. A few years after that, I was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, which causes numerous daily neurological problems. Reeling from all of this, I decided to go back to my childhood faith because it gives me comfort and a community of support. I also find solace in prayer. Some would say my faith is a crutch. To that, I would answer – we all have our crutches. They come in many forms and guises.

    I do not believe in everything my church does, says, or teaches. What I do believe is that God is love. I do not try to convert others to my beliefs. I try to tolerate beliefs that differ from mine as long as they do not harm me or others ( btw, I don’t recall having made fun of the group who thought the Rapture was coming in May, even though I disagreed with them ). I respect people who are agnostics ( I was one myself for many years ) or atheists. I don’t argue with them or try to convince them to believe. I leave them alone. I also wish to be respected and left alone in my beliefs. I always thought that was part of what it meant to be an American.

  8. @ Beata — I respect your *right* to hold your personal beliefs and practices. I do not and cannot respect those beliefs themselves — I tolerate them. The same would go for opposing political beliefs.

    Despite protestations to the contrary, rare is the believer like you, who actually tolerates other beliefs without feeling the need to proselytize, if even passively.

  9. I respect you Beata, and you are a Christian who actually acts like a Christian… that’s hard to come by, these days.

  10. Thank you, Little Isis. I’ve always had great respect for you, as well.

  11. Isis, Tamerlane, et al: These have been some good posts with some really thoughtful comments. Thanks.

    I just want to add a nugget to the prayer conversation. Bishop Spong, an Episcopalian, wrote a book a while back called Honest Prayer which, among other things, asks what might be “right” prayer.

    He wonders if you have a sick friend and pray for them to get well, are you essentially saying to God: Please do my will. You made a mistake and now you need to you correct it.

    There’s way more to the book than this, but this was one thought that stood out over the years.

  12. “When I was back there in seminary school, there was a man who put forth the proposition, that you can petition the lord with prayer….”

    Sophie, an intriguing observation by Spong. It highlights the dichotomy between prayer as petition vs. prayer as meditation. Prayer, along with rituals & sacrifices, was originally invented to appease the gods, to sway their actions or elicit interventions. LI notes the church that keeps petitioning God to burn down the pagan bookstore, as if it’d slipped His mind.

    Then there’s prayer as Q & A session with God, the ‘Lord, tell me what to do.’ Suspicious that God always gives either no answer, or the answer the person already had in mind.

    LI & I decided to embark on this project (she’ll be interviewing many more people) to break the taboo of discussing religion and of asking hard questions about affirmations of belief. Participation in the discussion is optional, but no holds will be barred. The purpose of prayer is a very good question to ask. Please share any more insights from Spong that you recall.

  13. For anyone who is interested in the the use of prayer in healing and medicine, Larry Dossey, M.D. has done research and written extensively about it:

    http://www.dosseydossey.com/larry/default.html

  14. Dossey is a raving lunatic.

  15. Link, Tamer? LOL

  16. As for the lunacy of Dossey, your own link shows that. Compare his rambling anecdotes and mystical mumbo-jumbo to any real scientific writings.

    For evidence of the efficacy of prayer, Dossey cites the same clinical studies I mentioned above, which actually disprove the value of prayer in healing:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/31/health/31pray.html

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16569567

    “Intercessory prayer itself had no effect on complication-free recovery from CABG, but certainty of receiving intercessory prayer was associated with a higher incidence of complications.”

    Dossey’s also relies heavily on a 2001 Columbia fertility/prayer trial which not only was severely flawed, but has now been exposed as a fraud:

    http://www.csicop.org/si/show/columbia_university_miracle_study_flawed_and_fraud

    http://chem.tufts.edu/tufts-ssa/ESkeptic21.htm#6

    Many of the legitimate clinical studies are conducted by believers eager for scientific evidence to support their claims. When their studies instead disprove them, they quickly make excuses or simply note that faith doesn’t need proof.

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