Monday, February 3, 2014

That Time I Learned About Past Lives

This trip to church wasn't a bit different than my previous trips.

I saw that a local "psychic" that I've written about before was giving a free class about past lives.  Also different was the fact that I had company in the form of some fellow skeptics.

It was held at a place called Unity Church.  To give you a clue about what kind of church they are, their marquee outside had the Coexist thing and a referred to themselves as a "Spiritual Community"

They also had this.

It's not relative to the rest of this story.  I just thought it was worth sharing anyway.

By the time the room filled up, there were 100 or more people there.  Although, at least 4 weren't going to get scammed since I had 3 skeptics with me.

A man, who I think was the pastor of the church, told the crowd that they could give their affirmations.  To do this, you write down what you want, as if you already have it, and put it into the bowl with the others.  If I had remembered to write mine before leaving, it would have said, "Thank you Congress for outlawing the fraudulent practice of psychics."

They then all held hands for a meditation.  He talked about "light energy", other kinds of energy that aren't real, power of the universe (without ever mentioning He-Man).  He told them to "become one with each other".  It felt a lot life the Christian prayers I've sat through but with different dogma.  Although, one difference I did notice was that Christian prayers don't usually make me feel like an orgy might be next.

After the prayer, er "meditation", it was time for Andy to start.

It was not at all surprising that he opened with something that included the phrase "whatever spiritual road led you here tonight".  He mentioned that he's also a life coach, so he has two professions that are based on nonsense.  What an over-achiever.

He then said was is clearly the basis of his entire shtick.  "What I'm going to share with you tonight is my truth."  Not THE truth.  HIS truth.  As in, he wants his audience to believe truth is relative.

I have no idea why he brought up déjà vu, but he thinks there are 3 possible causes.

1. Our lives are pre-planned & déjà vu is because sometimes we knew what the next step was.
2. You have an old soul.  How do you know if you have an old soul?  If you think you do, then you probably do.  When he asked the crowd if they thought they had an old soul, most of the room raised their hands[1].
3. Brain fart. You forget what just happened right after it happened and then immediately remember it.

He ascribes it to the first 2.  Not the one that makes the most realistic sense and is similar to what science says.

Apparently, his wife was a man more times than she's been a woman.  And he was a woman more times.  His basis for this is that she does more stereotypically manly things than he does.  Not because gender roles are fabricated and are way more complicated than "ladies like to clean while the men watch football".

Another thing I learned was that we know everything from all of our lives while in Heaven in between them.  How does he know that?  He didn't say.  Why would it even be useful if we don't remember it when we come back?  He didn't say.

But he did ask if anyone had any questions.

I had a few that I wanted to ask even though I didn't actually ask anything.

  • How many times has he told someone this was their first life?
  • Is Heaven limited to souls from Earth?  Or can we live lives on other planets?
  • What determines if a baby is a new soul or preowned?
My question about other planets was asked by someone there.  He answered "I don't know" but he was open to the possibility.

In response to a question about death, Andy commented, "I see a lot of death in my work".  He certainly does.  That's the problem.
When asked about demon possession, he said he doesn't believe in it.  I wondered why not.  Something tells me it's not the lack of evidence.

Speaking of evidence, Andy promised to interject randomly what he called "moments of proof".  The proof was to be anecdotes about readings he'd done.  I wonder how many of the attendees, who hadn't come with me, knew that stories are not proof.  Do they get that the anecdotes are more claims that add to the need for actual proof.  How many noticed that promised to provide proof and never delivered?

When asked about seeing family across lives, he mentioned the concept of soul groups.  What it comes down to is someone you get along with is in your soul group.  Oh, okay.  That totally legit.

When asked about kids, he said that they are very intuitive.  No mention of all the kids are must lose their super powers when they hit puberty[2].  No mention of that fact that kids tend to have wild imaginations.

He mentioned that some people are on their last lifetime.  We reincarnate, but we can die?  No mention of what determines when our last one is.

When asked about why we forget dreams, he used the phrase "scientific spin" to dismiss what science says about it.  Spin?  It has evidence.  You do not.

In addition to not believing in demon possession, he doesn't thin we ever reincarnate as animals.  But he was open to being wrong as if he knew that he was just making this shit up.

A woman in the back told a story about her mother who was dying and was going "between worlds".  Andy never mentioned the word "dementia".  Instead, he said that you knew it was true because she had said it with confidence.  I can see how he want his audience to believe that confidence when saying something is evidence of its accuracy.

When my friend asked about the math of where the souls come from for our rapid population growth, he claimed that they are a lot of extras.  No mention of a specific number.  No mention of why life wasn't better for all the people in the past who surely had way more guardian angels than people alive today.  No real explanation of why he's never found someone on their first lifetime.

Lastly, I want to address the question someone asked about mean people or bullies.  He mentioned social media.  He probably thinks I'm a bully for this post, the future posts I'm planning and tweets I've sent him.
But that's just fine with me.  I've dealt with worse.  I'd rather be called a bully by a fraud than take money from good people by preying on their grief and selling a service I cannot actually provide.

When I got home, I decided to have a bowl of cereal & finished the box.

It was the end of this Life, but I believe I'll get another one in due time.

1.  The world population in 1800 was barely a billion.  200 year later, it's 7 times that.  I wonder where all the extra souls came from.
2.  Backward from how it works for the X-Men.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Going To Church During Skepticon And The Thoughts That Provokes

What's a trip to Skepticon without also going to church?  I had wanted to go to a Mennonite church, but they were all too far out of town (imagine that) to make it fit into my time restraints.  The one I found instead immediately looked like it would make up for it.  Their website had 5 tabs.

I couldn't pass up going to the place that loved disc golf that much.

Pulling up to the church, I could immediately tell blending into the crowd & going unnoticed was not going to be an option.  There were barely a dozen cars in the lot, the building wasn't large, the people walking in were wearing t-shirts while I was in a button down collared shirt, and I was from out of town.

The place looked even smaller on the inside.

Taken from the back row
I was amused by what they called the place they had the coffee.

It was a friendly atmosphere, much like I'm used to at gatherings of Omaha Atheists.  Although, just like at every other church, I got random dirty looks when I didn't contribute when the collection plate went around.  At least I learned a new euphemism for it.  Before it got passed around, the preacher said to their god that they were going to "worship you with our finances".

It certainly was not as creepy as Gospel Satellite Church was.  Here, I sensed genuine sincerity.  And the average age was definitely much lower.  This place actually had teenagers, who appeared happy to be there.  Possibly because they had friends there.

The pastor, who had what I think was a Boston accent, didn't start with the kind planned opening I'm used to at these things.  He went up to the front and began joking with the congregation on a personal level.  He was lightly teasing some of them.  He joked about the 2 boys in the band who were running late and gave them a hard time (in a fun way) when they showed up.

He did eventually get to the standard stuff.  He made the announcement for a spaghetti feed they were having.  When mentioned why they were doing it, he said it was because people are hungry and the money raised could help feed them.  He also mentioned that they were collecting school supplies for a local elementary school.

In announcing both, he never mentioned Jesus.  As far as I could tell at the time, they weren't proselytizing in the process of either project.

After announcements, it was time for the concert portion.  This was my first time encountering this in anything other than a mega church.  It made me feel like I was in a miniature version of a mega church.  They even had the people putting their arms in the air like it makes the Jesus music work better.  By why shouldn't they copy the format of the places drawing people in by the thousands?  It certainly worked for this small church, where one member in the front row was so into it, she was practically crawling onto the stage.

Also similar to the mega church concerts, the songs were mostly unremarkable.  Although, one line did get my attention.  "There is power in the name of Jesus."  This is a true statement.  There is power in the name of Jesus.  Well, in the story.  They think the name has power.  It's that belief that gives it that power.

And, contrary to what some silly atheists may say, these people definitely believe their religion is true.  The story of Jesus has a hold over them that isn't easy to break.  If they dug deeper into investigating the truth of the Jesus myth, their faith would be at risk of falling away.  But we can't always expect them to want to dig deeper when they so many reasons not to.

At church, they have a strong community, but it's entirely dependent on them continuing to believe.  Loss of faith means loss of that community.  Sometimes worse.

For many Christians, fear of hell is a big motivator.  Of course, there is good reason to not have this fear, but fear doesn't operate on reason.

Loss of faith would also mean losing their story to easily answer life's I don't knows (as long as you don't dig deeper).  They lose the option to say "God did it".  They're left admitting they don't know where the universe came from.  They're left not really knowing what happens when we die.

And there's the stress relief that comes from fantasy.  The teenage girl singer talked about the struggles of life and how she thinks it's Jesus getting her through it.  Of course, the fantasy does indeed help relieve the stress of those struggles.  The fact that it only helps with how she feels about her troubles, and not the actual troubles, is easily overlooked.

Jesus may not be real, but the consequences of losing faith are.  Faith in Jesus is an incredibly held tight belief.  But it's also a fragile one.  It's an interesting combination.  Although, it explains the trauma that, for many, comes with lose of faith.  Maybe I should start carrying cards for Recovering From Religion to this stuff, for the inevitable time I encounter someone who needs to know they exist.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Persecution, Now With Choreography

I went to Westside Church today because at least one of their members is an asshole[1].  Their parking lot is huge.

Although, it was still about half the size of King of Kings' lot[2].

I got inside and found that they have a bookstore.  I looked at the children's books, for  "God Made Dad & Mom", but I couldn't find it.  That's probably because it's still too new, but I actually didn't see any obviously bigoted books there.  I did see something that would contradict the idea that only parenting by both a mother and a father is valid.

They even had a secular book[3].

Maybe Jesus wants his followers to read murder mysteries written by regulars on The O'Reilly Factor.

The last service started at 11:11am.  Every other time I've seen Christians use a non-standard number, there's been a stated reason, usually a particular Bible verse.  So far, I've been unable to figure out their reason.

My program lists the pastor as "Dr Curt Dodd".  Well, isn't that fancy.  They've got themselves a guy with some learnin'.  On stage was something I've seen at every other mega church I've been to so far.

All of these mega churches seem to have concert type services.  Christians appear to be drawn to shitty music.  Which, I guess explains the success of Justin Bieber[4] and boy bands[5].

Starting at 11:11 is apparently so important to them, they've got a countdown to it.

It got to zero and nothing happened.  There was pre-recorded music, but music had been playing the whole time.

When someone finally spoke, it was to prompt people to do the "Greet you neighbor" thing where everyone stands up and shakes the hands of strangers.

When the live music started, there was nothing particularly special about it.  They had a piano instead of an organ, and the kids playing guitar & drums had talent, but the music itself was nothing special.  Just the normal shitty music these places always have.

Also not new was seeing people with their hands up in air.  Next to a few of the people doing this was people doing a variety of things, like checking their phone, drinking coffee, and completely spacing out.

A woman near me was having a genuine emotional experience.  She was dancing in manner that was full of emotion, and she struggling not to burst.  An emotional attachment to bullshit is a dangerous thing to have.  When people whose faith is based on emotion loss that faith, it's sure to be a traumatizing event.  If only we could convince church leaders to refer these people to the help they really need, Recovering From Religion [6]and their Hotline Project[7].  But that would cost them money, so they're more likely to scare them into staying.

Speaking of scaring people, the talking portion of the service because with an allusion to the fucking rapture by mentioning Jesus coming back.  Then he introduced communion by telling them to not view it as a ritual.  That makes total sense.  Why see this thing that is obviously a ritual as a ritual?  That would be fucking stupid.

He told them to instead be mindful of Jesus's sacrifice for them.  In other words, "Here, have a stale cracker with some grape juice and guilt."

I'm not sure why he a made a point to state, "This is for believers."  It's not like he knew I was there.  Does he think there are non-believers in crowd[8]?  What does he think happens if a non-believer eats the cracker?  I hadn't planned to go up for it, but he made me consider it.  I didn't go up out of shear laziness (and an aching knee).

Then the part with the theme for the morning, "Remember My Chains".

Photo Credit:  @westsideomaha[9]

This pastor is literally wearing chains.  I guess this is why they call him Doctor.

He talked about how the Christian church has evolved into a sad state.  Aww, what a pity.  If only it were more true.

Next was a lot of talk about Christian persecution.  And with all the talk of this perseuction, not a single mention of the fact that it's other religious people (Muslims) doing more of the persecuting.  He did show a map of where it's happening, and the Google machine is where I found it.

Photo Source:  World Magazine[10]
I'm sure I could spend an entire post debunking this map and the claims in the article as over-exaggerated, but that's for another time.

And what's some Christian talk of persecution without also talk of suffering.  Persecution and suffering[11], Christians 2 favorite topics.

The handout in the programs utilized the same tactic I complained about just a few days ago[12].

It's a clever way to get the people being preached to participate in the preaching, thus making it more effective without them realizing it.  It's something I found to effective teaching technique when I had teachers in school who used this method.

The video he showed, from, featured news reports about Christians being persecuted.  Although, the reports were all from CBN[13], founded by Pat Robertson[14].  Persecution is indeed real a thing.  It's being carried out primarily in Islamist nations. These Christians see it as motivation to fight for Jesus.  I see it as evidence of why religion is evil.

He went on to give more examples of persecution, including a video about Adoniram Judson[15] and some guy attempting to continue his missionary efforts.

Funny that most of these places are dominated by things other than Christianity.  I wonder if there is persecution when Christianity dominates.  I'm kidding[16], of course[17].

Somehow, the talk about their kind being persecuted across the world turned into a choreographed dance.  I wish I was kidding there.

The group prayer seemed much less creepy than it would have been if not for the Prayer Bus people from Thursday dance number about worldwide persecution.

I'll close out the sharing something else from the programs.

And they're not even the biggest church in town.  If Omaha Atheists[18] had even 10% of that budget, they'd be quite a different organization.  And they wouldn't be scaring the shit out of people with threats of Hell, making them feel guilty about an event that never happened, or doing creepy dances around a guy wearing chains.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Creepy Prayer Is Better With A Friend

Yesterday, I learned that there's a National Day of Prayer Bus Tour, and it was in Omaha that day[1].  I was not able to do the stuff during the day, but I did make it to the bit at 6:30.  As a bonus, it was my first one of these where I had someone with me.  And it wasn't just anyone, it was, friend, fellow blogger, and photographer whose stuff has been shared by the Richard Dawkins Foundation[2]Biblename[3].  It was fun pretending I had my own personal photographer with me.  Side note, you should all read it his blog because his writing is as enjoyable as his photography and I hope the hits will encourage him to write more.

But back to the point at hand.  We got there and found this parked outside.

The preacher guy was standing in the door of the bus, as he was polite enough to halt while I took the picture.  I thought I'd get that in, as that's the last nice thing I plan on saying about him.

We walked in and found what appeared to be set up for a small contemporary worship service.

We learned later that this wasn't even associated with the National Day of Prayer bus tour.  It's something called SOZO 402[4].  One of them had a t-shirt that this photo doesn't do justice.  It's the A&W symbol, but the "W" is instead "Ω".  See what they did there?  Alpha & Omega.  Christians are so clever.  I may visit them later for another post, but for now, that's all on them.

I think the plan was to do this thing outside, but it was raining.  Obviously, they forgot to pray for favorable weather.  So they set up inside the Hope Center's basketball court/skating rink.

Photo Credit:  Biblename Foto[5]
Yup, they put the outdoor canopy up inside.  With his caption for that picture, Biblename put it better than I could.
Why they actually put the outdoor canopy up in the middle of the indoor facility is not actually that baffling. It just makes the fact that it’s pure propaganda that much more blatant.
We got in the bleachers with the Christians and watched this guy spout standard Christian dogma.

I'm pretty sure he's posing for this picture.
He was using a tactic I've encountered before.  He was prompting the crowd to finish his sentences.  I've only ever seen this with Christian subject matter, and it's incredibly annoying to listen to.  I might find it so annoying because I can see through what's happening there.  It's easier to convince people of something if you're able to make them think it was their idea.

One of those things was "Faith is the evidence of ...".  I missed what the exact phrasing because he had one guy answer it, and that guy said it quietly.  But it really doesn't matter because faith is the evidence of fucking nothing.

He then went through more of the standard.  If I'd made a drinking game out of how many times he used a form of the word "righteous", I wouldn't have been able to drive home.  The 12-year-old part of me was amused when he said "come in Jesus".  Other than that, it was hard to focus.  The more I go to these things, the more I tune out the details of standard crap.

He regained my attention when he started talking about politicians and suggested they get to know their mayor, state senator, governor, etc.  It would be good advise if he meant actually getting to know them for anything other than simply knowing more about who you're praying for.  Unfortunately, they'll probably also be lobbying these government officials for religious shit.  Knowing your local government, is something we should be doing[6].  Especially if these assholes are doing it.

And what if you have a leader who's not a believer?  As expected, my answer to that isn't what this guy's was.  He wanted to discuss strategy on how to deal with these godless politicians.  I don't think there's anything to "deal with".  He thinks we should pray for him.  And, yes, he did make this hypothetical atheist politician male.  We should also pray for this guy's family.  And we should pray for him using his name, because apparently his god won't know who we mean.

He went on a bit about all we have in common.  Several of us have lost parents[7].  We've all been to school.  Most of us have listened to music.  Somehow, that was how he segued into saying that he has never had anyone turn down offer of prayer.  Had he offered to pray for me, his streak would have ended.  Some nice lady did get a rejection from me though.

After that, it was a few more minutes of the standard preaching.  God wants us to pray.  Blah, blah, blah.

Then, he asked what troubles adolescents have.  The kids in the group gave answers I'd expect from any group of kids.  Addiction, lack of identity, disrespectful, disobedience.  The first 3 are quite serious, and I hope the kids going through those things get more help than prayer.  Sadly, many will only get prayer and never receive real help.

When the prayer began, that's when the creepiness began.  He told them to extend their hands.

These 3 people are the pastors he pulled out of crowd.  They, and the 1 they brought over from the SOZO 402 crowd on the other end of the gym, were the focus of much of what followed.

He went down the line, praying for each one individually.  I'm not sure what the purpose of the 3 in the back was, but they were part of what they called the Prayer Team.  I think the touching is key to what they're about.  You'll see what I mean in a moment.

Then this happened.

I don't think I need to go into how creepy that was when I have this picture.  The way such an incredible focus was put on the pastors, people who they're supposed to be following, would be an effective brainwashing tactic if these faith pushers wanted to be even more dangerous than they already are.

After the creepy ass prayer dogpile was done, it was time to split into smaller groups for more prayer.

These 2 had a long moment so tender, it had a spectator.

Photo Credit:  Biblename Foto[8]
I have no idea what these people were praying about, but it was clearly more effective than the other prayers because there 7 of them, they were all touching the entire time, and they went for quite a while.

By "more effective", I mean, "What's seven times zero?"

Although, the preacher guy had a secret weapon.

Photo Credit:  Biblename Foto[9]
Photo Credit:  Biblename Foto[10]
He sent the prayer straight into their fuckin' heads!!

That's probably a hundred times more effective than this holding hands bullshit.  What's a hundred times zero?

I can't close out this story without talking about the tongues guy.

Photo Credit:  Biblename Foto[11]
This guy was one of the 4 pastors under the creepy ass prayer dogpile.  He was muttering to himself the entire time.  He started about as soon as preacher guy first touched him and didn't stop until well after the creepy ass prayer dogpile.  I never thought a guy speaking in tongues to himself wouldn't be the creepiest thing in the room.

This experience was made (more) fun by having a companion. For his take on it, see his post about the event[12].  If you like his photography (his are the pictures above that aren't shitty cellphone pics), see his Facebook page[13] for more.


Sunday, June 30, 2013

5 Stupid Things To Pray For

I usually choose the church I go to based on their sign making me mad.  This week was no different.

Walking in, some nice child held the door for me.  I presume he was the son of the greeter who shook my hand as soon as I got through the door.  It wasn't creepy at all...

Some guy in a suit and a name tag did the same to me around the corner.  That's when I figured out I was at a church small enough that my mere presence was enough to stand out.  Glad I figured that out before noticing the weird looks I was getting.

The pastor began by talking about the "Friendship Pad", booklets place around the place for people to give their contact information.  It's an innocuous thing to do, but something about it felt off.  Maybe it was the name.  Maybe it was the fact that I was already feeling creeped out more so than usual.  Maybe it was the fact that he asked for contact information immediately after asking for money (for some trip their youth group is taking).

Not finished yet, he went onto what felt like was going tk be another request for money.  He talked about our local police and how they could use our support.  But no, the baskets he mentioned weren't to put money in for the police.  They have prayer cards.  "What better way to protect the protectors than to pray for them?"  Money.  Money is more effective than prayer[1].

Then it was time to bring up the kids.  They always have to bring up the kids.  It made the previous creepiness feel so innocuous.  The preacher man was holding a pair of shoes.  He was making some point about the shoes not being what makes us run fast.  It's practice.  And the kids are practicing to be "children of God".  Just being Christian isn't enough.  They have to practice.  To train.  In other words, they have to keep reminding themselves to believe the specific indoctrination of their church.  Otherwise, they might realize it's all bullshit[2].

Back to the music again.  The band is 3 teenage girls (who need work on their harmonizing) and a grown man with a guitar.  I'm sure nothing shady[3] is going on there.

Then to another staple of church.  The offering.  As I was sitting alone in the back row, the usher had already seen that I wasn't that invested in the service, instead writing the earlier parts of this post on my phone.  Then they went to the front to take people's money.  For the church not our local police.

It was mildly amusing to wonder what he was going to do when he got back to me.  He ended up halfheartedly trying to pass me the plate before giving up.

The sermon began with a statement that "We don't know when Jesus will return, but we know it will be in a time like this.  A time of confusion."  Subtle, but he's essentially saying the same thing as they said outright at Gospel Satellite Church[4].

He told them to pray for the Lord's return.  I wonder how many in this crowd realize they were just instructed to pray for Armageddon.  Never have I been more glad that prayer doesn't work[5].

In addition to praying for the goddamn Rapture, he told them to pray for a list of 5 things.

1.  "Pray for everyone."  He specifically mentioned their friends with the sniffles.  He actually said "the sniffles".  Apparently the sniffles are worth the time of the creator of everything.  Don't they think he created the sniffles too?  But whatever, I was just curious how he was going to finish the list after putting everyone on it on the first step.

2.  "Pray for those in authority."  I'm sure the guy in authority telling them to pray for those in authority did so for completely altruistic reasons.

3.  "Pray for your President."  I wonder if the guy whose truck I saw in the parking lot, with the NObama sticker, will pray for the President.

4.  "Pray for your country."  By then, two immigrants from Africa  had come in and sat next to me.  I wonder which country he thinks they should pray for.

Rambling about prayer, the Civil War, and Abraham Lincoln, he mentioned that Lincoln started the National Day of Prayer.  Then he gave it credit for ending the Civil War.  Not Generals Grant & Sherman.  Not the thousands of soldiers who died.  The National Day of Prayer ended the Civil War.

5.  "Pray for the conversion of the lost".  I guess I was happy to get a mention, but he apparently doesn't realize that it doesn't work that way.  Prayer won't make me a believer.

"Lord, we know only through you can things change," is how he segued into the prayer requests from the congregation.

Among  the pray requests was one for Fred Wilson, a survivor of the Vonn Maur shooting, who lost everything in a fire[7].  Not a single mention by this crowd of actually helping him.  Just prayer.  The article about him mentions that his own church[8] might help him "when he's ready", but I was unable to find any tangible efforts so far.

Also in the prayer requests was a request to "sing 'God Bless America' because we're a Christian nation", which they did immediately after finishing reading the prayer requests.

They then finished out by singing "10,000 Reasons", referring to reasons to believe and love their god.  Funny, I just need one.  He's not real.

Although, I can easily find more.  Like the fact that believing makes you think you're helping the survivor of a shooting and a fire by merely praying for him.  I can appreciate that prayer often makes people feel better when they're doing it.  But that doesn't even come close to making up for how much I hate that it makes people think they're helping when they're not.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Homeopathy Minus Water Plus Jesus

When I go to these things, I make a point to do my best to blend in.  Given the topic, and some recent news[1], I decided to go another way with it.

I got a few interesting looks on the way in.  Although, since it was an event by a small church, I probably would have gotten looks in any shirt.

Niles was introduced as someone who specializes in "healing spiritually".  Among what he's claimed to have done with it is to help people overcome mental abuses.  I wonder if he's ever addressed the mental abuse inflicted by religion.  Or by scam artists.

He told a story about going to Army Ranger School.  He talked about the fact that it was physically demanding as if he hadn't expected it to be.  He then segued into a standard story about going to church during his training.  Standard story about God's love.  Blah, blah, blah.  Kingdom of Heaven.  Blah, blah, blah.  "You usually have to die go there."  In other words, we cannot verify its existence.

Then the woo started.  "The Kingdom of Heaven is within you."  I instantly felt like I was being told about one the many derivatives of Vitalism[2].  "Christian Science, at its core is about understanding the Law of Harmony".  He might as well have been talking about Chakras[3].

And to give himself credibility to those who want to pretend they're critical thinkers, he gave lip service to the Scientific Method[4], talking about things being provable and repeatable.  What followed a serious of anecdotal examples, that were neither provable nor repeatable.

When a friend got there late, her 11 year daughter whispered to me, in a "What did we miss?" kind of way, "So, how funny is this?" Skeptical kids make me happy.

Soon after, I missed his story about an accident & a concussion.  It's often difficult for me to not instinctively tune out bullshit.  But I did catch him saying "Accidents are unknown to God."  I don't think he understands the implications there.  Either his god has limits, or it intentionally caused that accident, as well as gives babies AIDS or parents who withhold medical treatment from their own children who then die of curable ailments.

When his cuts healed more quickly than expected, he thought it was a miracle.  The guy who had the genetics to be able to qualify for Ranger School healed some minor cuts quicker than he expected.  WOW!  This entirely common scenario is a goddamn miracle!  Or maybe its confirmation bias[5].

We're now half way through this thing and this guy has said nothing.  It's just a standard sermon, with a homeopathic twist, presented as something else.  Maybe he was trying to make the Jesus more powerful by diluting it in stories about the Army.

Almost as if he knew this was the time in the talk where he expected people to begin to question his honesty, he began talking about how "There's no truth in a lie."  Lies only seem true to a believer of the lie.  No shit.  He talked about "facing the lie head on."  In the middle of telling a giant lie.  Also giant is his brass.

More rambling led him to talking about Spiritual Sense.  "Spiritual Sense is our ability to understand God."  Oh, okay.  I don't have that.  I've got critical thinking skills instead.  Then he called Spiritual Sense "the ability to discern good."  See what he did there?  It was a clever segue to equate his god with good.  Is this the same god who lets kids get raped in its name[6]?

Back to the Army stories.  They taught him how to react to an ambush.  Oddly enough, they taught him to fight.  Not to pray.

After the Army, he was a Christian Science practitioner at a summer camp.  I wondered if that camp had a real doctor or nurse.  There was no mention of it having one.  I wonder what they did when a kid fell & broke an arm or leg.

I soon got my answer as he went into a story about a guy who they thought was dying.  They left him alone with the "dying" guy.  No mention of a doctor at all.  They thought someone was near death and made no effort to call a doctor?  I hope the reason they didn't get medical help was because they knew the guy, who had been working outside in Summer, had heat exhaustion and just needed to rest a bit.  But unfortunately, I doubt it.

And that was the whole thing.  Just stories about things that were all explainable, but were still attributed to magic.  No substance whatsoever.  If only I could expect any of the religious attendees to understand that the guy was so transparently full of shit.  No wonder there's so many scammers out there when people make it so easy for these con artists.

The face of a scam
Before this meeting began, I had a headache come on.  My friend offered me some ibuprofen.  Because it fucking works.  Then there's prayer.  Prayer gets kids killed[7].


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Moderate Christians & Cognitive Dissonance

This banner, from in front of the First Central Congregational Church[1], was quite popular on Reddit[2] last week.  So that's where I attended this week.

The guy in the special robes, often known as a preacher, started the service by saying theirs is a congregation where everyone is welcome.
The back of a card in the pews
He went on to say that every member is a minister, so people with questions can ask anyone.  They're very eager to make newcomers feel welcome and it felt much more genuine than my previous trips to similarly sized churches[3].

I was a little thrown off when the kids came up without any instruction from the front, but that was how they did every transition.  People just knew when it was their turn.

He asked the kids what they did for Easter and then segued into asking for some tips about helping the environment.  Focus on nature & care for the environment is their theme for the Easter season.  This is when I learned that there's an Easter season, which begins on Easter and ends on a holiday I hadn't known about, Pentecost[4].

They're serious enough about the environmentalism, it's even in their prayers.

Part of this Easter Season campaign is encouragement to donate to their "Mission For One Earth" & "One Great Hour of Sharing", their charitable efforts they say have brought fresh water, food, and medicine to impoverished people and helped respond to disasters like the Japan Earthquake and drought & famine in East Africa.

It also includes sending letters to elected officials and media outlets to affect change and bring attention to the issue.  It's borderline illegal for a church to encourage lobbying for specific policy changes (depending on the details of how they're doing it).  I guess if the haters are going to do it to fight marriage equality and women's rights, at least these people are doing it for a positive goal.

The communion was interesting because of how it was presented with all the violent bits left out.  He referenced that Jesus was betrayed but said nothing about what happened next.  He referred to Jesus "blessing" the wine & bread, calling them "his life" instead of blood & flesh.  As an added bonus, they had a gluten free option for the communion bread.

It's too bad that none of that made the ritual of communion any less creepy to me.

After the service, they held a short meeting.  The purpose was to discuss details of their plan to build a columbarium[5], a place for the ashes of the deceased to be stored.  Even as an atheist, and more importantly, as a cheapskate, the nearly $30,000 they want to raise before beginning to build it seems reasonable.  People of all kinds suffer grief.

I would prefer they did all this stuff without the appeals to a non-existent god, but I guess I'll take what I can get.  But it is still quite a source of conflict for me.

These people are preaching love for the environment and for their fellow man, but they are still putting a book filled with violence & hate in their pews.