Abhorrent Faith by John Baltisberger

Just as the nightmarish and unfathomable events of Abhorrent Siren are reaching their feverish conclusion in San Antonio, the events of Abhorrent Faith begin. An inclusive, interfaith potluck hosted by a local Rabbi is interrupted by a hideously transformed–and transforming–monstrosity and the rabidly bigoted evangelical preacher seemingly controlling it. As the world outside the synagogue devolves into chaos and madness, a different sort of madness is on display in the defiled sanctuary.
Baltisberger packs this follow-up to his previous novella with just as much perversity and horror but a different brand of social commentary. The scathing indictment of the opioid epidemic is still present, but that takes the backseat as he focuses his ire on bigotry, nationalism, and the anti-semitism embedded in altogether too much of society–and human history as a whole. Calling out the inherent hypocrisy, scriptural ignorance, and mental gymnastics embedded within right-wing Christianity, one can’t help but feel a thrill each time Ari stands up to Adrian King. At the same time, one can’t help but feel the almost tearful frustration and anger at Ari–or anyone–having to contend with the level of ignorance and hate given unworthy life in the story’s antagonist. It doesn’t take long for the reader to recognize that the monsters aren’t all outside, and I’m not talking about the infected, mutating members of Ari’s interfaith circle.
Altogether too much of this narrative is non-fiction, in the sense that these abhorrent acolytes of intolerance and acrimony are everywhere one looks, and the anti-semitic sentiments are alive and thriving wherever people like that are platformed and given attention. Baltisberger is angry over this, and that anger seethes beneath the surface of his spectacular storytelling in this follow-up to Abhorrent Siren.
The discerning eye might recognize a certain similarity between the cover art and a certain evangelical nut known for unhinged rants and barely suppressed bigotry. This is not an accident.

This title is available through multiple avenues, but you can pick it up for yourself by going to http://www.godless.com or by downloading the Godless app to your mobile device. The link is below:

The Second Cumming Book 1: All Outta Virgins by Matthew A. Clarke

Look at the person to your right.
Now, look at the person to your left.
Both of them are terrorists.
Also, you’re a terrorist.
In Matthew A. Clarke’s The Second Cumming Book 1: All Outta Virgins, that’s the world we’re living in. Everyone has become part of one faction of terrorists or another. That includes the ragtag members of ANT (Anti Terrorists) we come to know during this first installment in the Second Cumming series. Believe it or not, that is the least crazy element of the story.
What we have here is a non-stop barrage of bizarro, both in imagery and in substance. One of the protagonists is a sentient, humanoid pile of shit, after all.
The best part is that all of this is only the beginning.
All of this is nothing more than the setup. The story takes off when Jesus shows up–oozing cum from every hole in his body–with a mad proposition and a whole lot of violence in mind.
Clarke has masterfully crafted a violent, pornographic satire, blending The Passion of the Christ with Battle Royale.

You can pick up your own copy of Clarke’s first installment in this new series at http://www.godless.com or through the Godless app. The best part is that it’s free. He’s giving you a taste, just to get you hooked…much as a drug dealer might. The link is below:

What Is Evil?

My mother asked me to do her a favor on behalf of one of her students by answering some questions regarding the topic of “Evil.”
The assignment was to define and explore an abstract concept, and evil was the subject that the student was assigned or chose for himself. I was more than happy to offer my assistance, but I found that the discussion merited more detail than was possible within the confines of the brief questionnaire.
This seems like a suitable place for me to discuss the subject.
The questionnaire begins with a quote from Joseph Conrad, “The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.” That is a sentiment with which I wholly agree. I would add one caveat; that the belief in a supernatural origin of either good or evil most certainly does provide adequate impetus to perpetrate even greater wickedness than we, as humans, might otherwise muster. We regularly and repeatedly utilize those supernatural forces as justification for the actions we intend to take or rationalization for those we already have. Rest assured, there is no supernatural origin for those evils that we commit, even when on behalf of a supernatural being, it’s all us.
I am next asked what thing or things I consider evil and I find that far more difficult to answer. There are numerous things that I think of as being evil, but that is little more than my own opinion and I recognize that I suffer from numerous cultural and personal biases. I think that that hate crimes and bigotry are evil, I think that willfully taking advantage of others and needlessly hurting others is evil as well. By all rights, I consider most of the same things to be evil that others would, such as rape, child abuse, and murder; but there are numerous things that I most assuredly do not find evil, homosexuality, drug and alcohol use (with some degree of moderation), and belief in science and a scientific understanding of the universe around us.
Aristotle said, “Evil draws men together.” That is absolutely accurate. External evils are frequently required to bring disparate groups of people together (at least until that evil is neutralized), a remnant of in-group/out-group aspects of our primitive, tribal origins rooted in kin selection. Fear and conflict can make for some strange bedfellows.
The questionnaire includes one of my favorite sentiments expressed by Nietzsche, “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.” I am asked if it is true that one can become the very evil that they fight to rid the world of, and I think that it happens all the time. Regimes are toppled in order to install new regimes of equal or greater toxicity. Revolutions are fought against kingdoms and empires only to build new ones that are no better than what came before. There is a passage in Revelations which asks a question that is quite similar to what the syphilitic said, “Who is like unto the beast? Who is able to make war with him?” It was recognized then that an equal or greater beast could be needed in order to combat the one that was being worshipped by the imaginary lost souls of John’s revelation.
I am asked if there are any people that I consider evil and there are. The question is unfair though, because there are always going to be people that I or anyone else would consider evil, but that doesn’t make them evil in an objective sense. It is easy to look back on men like Hitler and Stalin and write them off as being evil, but they probably weren’t born that way and they most certainly didn’t consider themselves to be evil nor did a number of the people who willingly and joyously followed them in their endeavours. There are people today that I think are evil, all around the world; and there are those like Fred Phelps and Pat Robertson as well as countless other ignorant and hate mongering folks right here in America…no need to look far afield.
Mae West apparently once stated, “Between two evils, I always pick the one I’ve never tried before.” As entertaining as that answer might be, I can’t go along with it. In circumstances like that I always go with the evil I feel I best understand, the lesser of two evils isn’t always the least destructive but is often the one that I feel would be easiest to subdue. I prefer the least damaging of two evils, but that isn’t always a known quantity, so I am forced to opt for the one I comprehend with greater clarity. It’s hardly optimum, but life rarely coincides with our level of comfort.
I do not consider some imaginary devil to be the root or source of evil, nor do I feel that money or commerce are the root of modern evils. To discover the root of evil one needs look no further than their own preconceptions and instances of willful ignorance. Substituting our own subjective version of reality for what is real, insisting that others believe what we believe (or live in such a way that it would be impossible to discern any disparity in those respective beliefs), and pigheadedly refusing to modify our beliefs and biases when there is ample cause to do so…those are the evils that propagate in our world today and always have.
In life we are all forced to make unsteady compromises with evil; to speak or act in ways that are damaging to our integrity and to work with people or organizations that are guilty of numerous things that we consider to be evil. There is no avoiding those compromises, no matter how steadfast and pure we might try to be.
I am asked if I laugh at the inconveniences or misfortunes of others in response to a quote from Will Rogers, “Everything is funny as long as it is happening to someone else.” Of course I do, we all do. Our culture, especially here in America, is dedicated to guilty pleasures. We make celebrities of people we know, deep down, are inferior to us for the sake of feeling superior to someone. We watch the mighty stumble and fall and we smile because we see that our icons are as prone to mistakes and failure as we are. I try to avoid those aspects of our society, but I am a product of my culture as well. I don’t derive much real pleasure from the pain of others though, unless I am the one inflicting that pain upon them…a sort of righteous indignation fueled vindictiveness seethes below the surface within me just like everyone else.
I am asked if I consider myself evil, and of course I don’t. No one actually considers themselves to be evil, even when they are acting in a way that would be categorically defined as evil by the whole population. This isn’t The Lord of the Rings and there are no definitively good or evil people out there. What I do at times might be considered evil by another, but might (to me) be done with the greater good in mind…at least for myself and/or those I love and care for. We lie to avoid hurting the feelings of others or to avoid uncomfortable conflicts, we become physically aggressive to defend others, and we do so many other things on a regular basis that we ourselves consider to be evil when we see them done by others. We are, all of us, evil…if we define being evil by doing evil things. But I don’t believe that evil actions make a good person evil…they simply make them human, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Not So Much a Religious Discussion as a Monologue This Time.

I ask my friend how he can look at extremists and see them as being representative of all of Islam when he can overlook the rapid, violently insane voices within Christianity as being far from indicative of what Christianity is and what it stands for.

He responds by spitting out the generic, “Because Christianity is rooted in love and Islam is rooted in death.”

These discussions have been going on for far too long, and with no resolution, I think. Finally, it’s time to stop pussyfooting around the real issue. “Christianity, throughout history,” I begin, “is responsible for more death than Islam could hope to become responsible for even with another dozen 9/11 type attacks. There is no more or less promotion of violence or love in either of the religious texts that you refer to.”

Not that I expect that to get through to him, similar arguments have just slid right off of him like his religious convictions and ignorance regarding his own faith are Teflon coated.

Weary with expecting better of him, I express what I suspect is really the substrate behind all of his rabid anti-Islam, anti-Hebrew, and anti-science rhetoric, “The fact of the matter is that you’re simply a narrow minded, uninformed bigot who simply accepts what some equally uninformed bigot claims about a religion that isn’t your own.”

I continue, “Rooted in love or not, your own faith is responsible for thousands of deaths during the Spanish Inquisition, hundreds more in Christian on Christian violence in Ireland, thousands more during the various Crusades, hundreds more during the witch trials, and tens to hundreds of thousands more during the imperial expansion into central/south America, Africa, Asia, and the rest of the world…all for the glory of your God…to spread his holy word at the tip of sword and sting of bullets.

“Islam has never even come close to those numbers…and never will.”

Turning my eye to the current American military action in the Middle East, I go on, “And there are still people being killed, by Christians, in the middle east for no better reason than that the people there don’t want to bow down and pray to the God that you do.” Admittedly, that isn’t the root cause for our involvement there, but there is no question that it is a motivating factor for a good number of the violent acts that we have witnessed.

Before he replies with some ignorant statement about how we are simply defending ourselves from Islamic aggression, I follow my previous comment with, “You’d fight with no less single minded determination than they are against us if roles were reversed.”

Once more, I opt to go after the source behind all of the things that he plasters online and argues against, “You’re a hypocrite and a bigot…you can distort it and twist it around all that you like…but anyone with open eyes and a trace of sense would be as aware of that fact as I am…and you aren’t blind or stupid enough to be ignorant to that reality yourself. Somewhere inside, beneath the layers of self-delusion and brainwashing, you know better.”

Choosing to address the way that everything is distorted to fulfill his own worldview I continue by saying, “Christians commit murder on a daily basis here in America…against other Christians, against Muslims, against Jews, against every different sort…the only reason it doesn’t tabulate the way you twist things around is because we don’t call it, “Christian violence.” It’s only because we brand any violence performed by a practitioner of Islam as “Islamic violence” that you even have news articles to share and targets for your finger pointing.

“Hell, that’s just common sense…to anyone. If we go through news articles and check the religious backgrounds of the murderers and rapists in American prisons, you’d have far, far greater incident rates of Christian violence than Islamic violence to read about.”

Momentum built up, I go on, “And hate speech like yours just spurs it on. You condemn Muslims for waving signs that Christians wave around on a regular basis…while protesting the funerals of military personnel…men who sacrificed themselves for this nation in a way that none of those jackasses with picket signs would ever dare to do.”

Thinking back on how this man used to be a friend of mine, I find myself both frustrated and disappointed, “Your religion of “love” produces and promotes no less hate than Islam. So give it a fucking rest already…you’re not that stupid. No matter how brainwashed and deluded you might be, you simply can’t actually be that stupid.”

I decide to wrap it up, receiving no response or inarticulate defense from him; I feel that maybe I have said enough. I don’t suspect that it will get through to him, but I hope that maybe some of it might. It is with that in mind that I conclude, “I consider what you believe to be insipid, primitive tripe…but I give you more benefit of the doubt than you give to people who believe something quite similar to what you believe.”

 

Here We Go Again! Another Semi-Religious Discussion Transpires

It happens again, my “friend” from the earlier religious discussions lets loose with something that I found impossible not to address. In this case, he posted the statement, “If a single living cell was found on a distant planet, scientists would exclaim that we have found life elsewhere in the universe. So why is a single living cell found in the womb of a pregnant woman not considered life?” I’m loath to even refer to that as a specious contention.

Upon seeing this, I reply by saying, “That’s a pretty god awful loose correlation to draw. No one disputes that bacteria are life, but we kill them wholesale when we’re feeling ill. I love your capacity for oversimplification of things in such a way. Now, if we found a cell on another planet and exclaimed that it was “human life” you would have a leg to stand on with this sort of nonsense.”

He accuses me of sticking up for the murder of a child in the womb and tells me that I am weak, further he states that I am “a loose correlation of what strength should mean.” He proclaims himself a voice for the voiceless and protection for those who cannot protect themselves.  He follows that by saying, “If you were to stand for human life then you would not be full of nonsense you would be full of truth. A baby is not bacteria but bacteria is life makes no sense.”

I respond with, “No…It isn’t murder, first of all. Let’s say that, yes, you’re correct and a single cell produced from intercourse is a human life…and imbued with a soul. If that were true, then identical twins share one soul…because that process doesn’t begin until well after germination (and you claim life begins). Conversely, we have chimera…which is far more common than you probably suspect…when two cells are germinated but one absorbs the other during the process. In those cases, is the surviving organism a cannibal? Are they guilty of murder, since they did (by every standard that you uphold) take a human life? Or, since some of the genetic material of the other twin remains, do we have one person with two separate souls? After all, where in the human form is the soul located? Which piece of the body contains the tether to the soul? Because maybe my kidney has one soul, and the rest of me another? I’m not being flippant either, I really want you to share with me the great wisdom that you have regarding what a soul is, and when exactly it supposedly becomes a part of me or you or anyone else.”

A mutual friend of ours gets involved in the conversation by telling our friend that ‘life’ is a loaded term, that sperm and egg are individually both considered alive yet we don’t grant them personhood and we kill or allow them to die all the time.

To which our friend replies by saying, “a sperm and egg together make life!”

I say, “Actually, my friend, the sperm and egg are alive in and of themselves…prior to conception.”

This mutual friend responds likewise, by saying, “Yes but separately they are still alive and yet not a person, neither is a zygote or embryo a person.”

Our friend responds by admitting that life exists without fertilization, following that with, “but yet bacteria is a baby, genius. Wish I would have thought of that myself!”

Frustrated, I reply, “You did! You’re the one who posted that nonsense about finding a cell on another planet and equating it to human life.

“You are exhibiting the very definition of circular logic. You don’t even pay attention to what you profess as truth…”

He ignores what I said and tells me to explain the human eye to the “enth degree” and then claims that I can’t, because no one can. (Misspelling is his)

To which, I say, “Yes we can…there is no irreducible complexity argument. There are varying stages of eye from single cells on an organism that are photosensitive all the way to eyes that are more complex than our own.”

He replies by stating that this means nothing and demands that I explain the human eye.

I decide that I will do my best to explain it in such a way as to get through to him, “Everyone can explain the eye…you start with an organism that happens to have a cell that is slightly more photosensitive than the surrounding cells…it is capable of evading a predatory organism or an obstacle…and is able to breed more successfully (and more frequently) than an organism without said cell…the cells breed true and the next generation has said “eye” as well. Down the road we have a descendant with a cluster of said cells…and they are better able to survive than their kin…they breed that trait on…and so on…that is how evolution works, my friend…it’s actually quite simple.

“The trait that improves survival is the trait that is most frequently bred into the next generation…and so on…mutations occur over time…most of them harmful, some of them beneficial…

“That still happens today. It’s not really so difficult.”

I finalize with, “Hell, my focus in school was physics and chemistry…but I know enough about biology to comprehend all of that.”

He follows that by claiming that I am, “circular speaking nonsense, “ and that he finds me hilarious.

I don’t know how to respond to that but to say,  “There is no circular logic there. You do understand what circular logic is, right?

“That wasn’t nonsense at all…there are presently organisms with essentially every stage of eye development from the most rudimentary to our own and beyond.”

Our mutual friend states, “Saying no one can explain the eye is just silly. How many PhDs in biology or genetics do you know? How many scientific papers have you read on the topic?”

He goes on to say, “Take a 5 minute break from scouring the Internet for anti-Obama propaganda and pictures of dead babies and learn something.” And he takes that time to share a brief video from Richard Dawkins: http://youtu.be/mb9_x1wgm7E

I thank him for sharing that, stating that I had actually forgotten that Dawkins had gone into that.

I continue by saying, “I just don’t understand why our friend seems to think that understanding and accepting science is any sort of negative thing. If anything, I would suspect that God would want humans to explore and admire the wonder of the natural world and the universe…and the best way to do that is to strive to understand it better and better.”

The mutual friend provides a possible explanation by saying, “Look at the stars…Goddidit. Look at the ocean….Goddidit. Look at the extreme variety of life….Goddidit. There is no creativity in religion. Only blind acceptance, which is why the Republican Party has no problem lying constantly to their own constituents. They know they have already been brainwashed and well-trained by their religious handlers to accept whatever is put in front of them without question.”

I follow that with, “Hell, I used to be primarily conservative…but this pandering and bowing to the religious right is precisely what made me distance myself from the Republican Party. I don’t have a problem with people practicing whatever damn religion they choose…but when they decide that it’s their place to force other people to live as if they believed the same things…that’s where I take exception. Abortion being legal would never impose abortion onto those who wanted to carry a child…homosexual marriage being legal would never force a man to marry a man or a woman to marry a woman. It’s funny that there are religious people who would call me arrogant for being an atheist…but I’m not the one parading around under the mistaken assumption that the whole universe exists just for me and that my choice of lifestyle should be imposed upon everyone else. I don’t think that they understand what “arrogant” means.”

Our friend responds by questioning how we two douches think he doesn’t like science. He goes on to say that he loves science. He continues by saying, “What I don’t love is people who think it answers everything science is merely a way to try to understand things that are far beyond us. So you posted some dude explaining the human eye. He still didn’t explain the human eye to the enth degree it is humanly impossible to do. It is for understanding things that is it. Arrogance is thinking you can fully explain something with science and math for that matter. You can’t even explain it fully with math you just cant not yet anyway. Take 5min and LEARN something!!!”

I decide that the conversation has probably gone about as far as it can go and I finalize by saying, “No, my friend, maybe he didn’t explain it to the nth degree to your liking…but if he had, you wouldn’t have followed a good portion of it anyhow, not when you instantly begin by claiming (incorrectly, I might add) that no one can. It is explained, and thousands of times over, in numerous college level biology textbooks, classrooms, and elsewhere. The workings of the human eye are well understood by numerous medical practitioners, biologists, neurologists, and others…and most of those people also understand how it developed by stages. There’s nothing magical about the human eye. You tossed out the old irreducible complexity argument without bothering to check your facts and learn that it had been more than dismissed a good, long time ago. You call it arrogant to believe that science can fully explain something, when science does a better job of explaining anything than your Bible ever has. For one second, think about the Bible (a book supposedly crafted by God, a being of infinite wisdom). In the Bible there is no information even alluded to that is beyond the superstition of a bunch of primitive agrarian people. There’s even an inaccurate calculation of pi to be found within the Bible with respect to the Temple of Solomon, even though Greek mathematicians of 250BC (and earlier) had already calculated Pi with greater accuracy. Babylonians and Egyptians had just as good of calculations of pi as early as 2,000BC as you find within the Bible. If it was actually the book of God, you would think that maybe God could do better math than the primitives who were making the same calculations a thousand years before. There is no information, no wisdom, no science mentioned in the Bible that was even advanced for the people of the Hebrew culture of the time. Science does explain things, more things every day…whereas the source of your wisdom explains pretty much nothing unless you look at it as a cultural relic that tells us a bit about one particular primitive group at the time. You can’t claim to love science but then dismiss all of it that doesn’t fit into your argument. Science and scientists do understand the human eye, how it came about, how it works, and can (and do) explain it on a regular basis (in classrooms every semester).”

Another Religious Discourse Brought About By A Friend’s Blind Hatred of Islam

The same friend that led to the previous religious discussion happened to post something depicting Islam as a vicious, intolerant cult and I couldn’t help myself. Names have been omitted in order to avoid coming across as too much of an asshole.

I responded with, “Yeah, because there aren’t numerous people around the world or even in this Midwest region who haven’t been just as brutally mistreated by Christians, my friend. You let your bias cloud your judgment far too readily with your anti-Islamic nonsense. There are no more people who have been hurt by Islamic violence throughout history than those who have been by Christians behaving the same way or worse.”

It was in response to this that a friend of my friend chirps in by suggesting that I am either misinformed or choosing to spew lies and further, that, “Virtually all conflicts in the world are caused by Moslems killing those who do not agree with them. Fighting back is demonized by the ignorant.” The choice of spelling was not mine, but that of the individual who made the statement. She followed that by quoting an article from FrontPage Magazine by a Buddhist author who expressed fear that Islam would sweep away the cherished practices and people of the Buddhist traditions if it were to gain ascendancy and that Islam is the only belief system that propagates itself by the sword.

I responded to her claim that I was misinformed by saying, “The crusades, the inquisition, and countless other examples of Christian violence exist…and in recent years doctors, homosexuals, and other individuals have been beaten and even killed by Christians in direct relation to what they believe. The only misinformation comes from bigots like you hypocrites.”

She replied by informing me that those episodes from history that I mentioned were reactionary, in defense against Islamic barbarism; and that the more recent incidents that I alluded to were the work of extremists (which can be found in every culture) who don’t represent the majority except (in her opinion) within Islam, where they are fulfilling the wishes of the majority. She further suggested that I need to get educated before I spew my hate and that I really “need to read something.”

To which, I said, “I will give you the benefit of the doubt and operate under the assumption that you are merely Ill/uninformed rather than being a willfully ignorant hate monger. Either way, you clearly know less than you think you do.”

She mockingly thanked me for giving her the “benefit of the doubt” and indicated that she realized that my stance was derived from a government edited public school system, which had deceived me.

I found the condescension irritating and replied by saying, “You literally know nothing about me or the topic at hand. For your information I attended Catholic school for part of my education and spent three years at South Dakota School of Mines & Technology as a double major in physics and chemistry before having to put my education on hiatus because I got custody of my (then) kindergarten age daughter who was in school for half days and her education took priority when it came to the schedule conflicts between our respective schools. I am not one of these uneducated individuals that you can hope to sway without actually knowing what you’re talking about.

“In addition to my own education (and being exceptionally well-read) my best friend’s PhD work is in Middle Eastern Language and Culture, he (another white man of European descent, like myself) is fluent in numerous dialects of Arabic (to the extent that he is paid for translations to and from those languages), Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, and others. I do know what I’m talking about when I disagree with the uninformed statements that individuals like you and my friend are so eager to plaster online.”

She replied by saying that she was proud of me. I can’t quite tell if it was sincere or derisive. I’m opting to err on the side of caution and presume it was intended to be derisive though.

I continued, “Earlier in this dialogue you made a comment about how Islam propagates via the sword, and I feel the need to remind you of what Jesus said in Matthew, ‘Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.’ And Christian history is filled to the brim with examples of that being quite true, no less than the examples that you can provide of/for Islam. You claim that it’s only extremists within Christianity who spread hate and promote violence and the same is true of Islam or of Judaism. There are extremists within each of those cultures and they are no more representative of the whole. Islam is not the enemy. If our nation were to be invaded by a primarily Islamic force, Christians would be reacting with no less violence and hate than you are seeing from extremists over there when invaded by a primarily Christian force. After 9-11 there was a great deal of violence perpetrated against Muslims and individuals who simply appeared to possibly be Muslim (including both Hindi and Sikh practitioners) here in America, violence perpetrated largely by Christians; imagine how much worse it would be if a primarily Islamic army had invaded our nation and began exercising control. I don’t assume that those individuals are representative of Christianity as a whole…you should think a bit more about extending the same courtesy to Islam.”

Her response was to insist that there was not one reported case of violence against Moslems following 9-11, that I “drank the Cool Aid.” She further queried that if what I was saying were true, then why is Europe being lost to Islam? Her assumption was that I obviously only have an education in the areas that I was allowed to see and that I should check the other side for a while.

She also suggested that I check out Eric Allen Bell, an individual who previously worked with Michael Moore. He had been turned around while filming about the bigotry associated with the mosque in Tennessee.

I felt the need to correct her by saying, “Yes, there were numerous accounts of violence perpetrated against American Muslims and others who simply looked like they might be Muslim. Someone has indeed been drinking the Kool-Aid, and it hasn’t been me. Europe isn’t being lost to Islam. I know a lot of people in Europe, and there is no such nonsense transpiring there. However, if we wanted to pretend that was the case, Europe was already lost to the Christians not altogether that long ago as they went through and subjugated, killed, and converted everyone in the path. The same thing happened here in America even more recently. The same thing happened numerous times during the various Crusades. And there damn well is anger in Islam against Europe (as well there should be) since most of Europe was standing behind America and the UN as invaders throughout the Islamic world. In addition to that, it was Europeans who decided to arbitrarily determine that the Palestinians didn’t need the area that was then delineated as Israel…as if they had any right to reorganize political and social boundaries like that. I know a great deal about history, and about world events.”

In addition I felt it necessary to say, “Michael Moore is a hack who cherry picks and conveniently edits interviews to say what he wants…and Bell learned a lot from his time working with him.”

Her response was to imply that I was somehow missing a whole other side to the story and that I should educate myself and not simply, “read the approved text.” She followed that by insinuating that I might, myself, be a Moslem.

I was flabbergasted, to say the least, “Approved text? What sort of mental gymnastics are you performing? I read everything, everything that I can ever get my hands on…and I have large hands. I’m not a practitioner of Islam, I don’t subscribe to Christianity or Judaism, I’m not Mormon, I’m not a Buddhist (though I do actually admire some elements of the Buddhist philosophy, I recognize that it isn’t actually a religious practice in any real sense), and I’m not a Sikh or Hindu either. But I have read the major (and a lot of the minor) religious texts for each of those religions and more.

“The difference between you and I is that I don’t subscribe to some mindless Conservative agenda, I don’t read only those articles and texts that are recommended by the individuals working to further that agenda and I can change the channel and watch something other than Fox News.

“And before you start condemning me for being some sort of liberal brainwashing victim, I might want to let you know that I voted for G.W. Bush both terms (because I felt that neither Gore nor Kerry had a fucking clue how to run a country and Bush at least had his father to help guide him along, sadly that didn’t seem to happen, but it was what I was hoping for since G.W. himself was borderline retarded).”

I admit, I am ashamed to have admitted that part, seeing as how god-awful G.W. Bush was as both president and a human being…but mistakes were made, and I do still have to stand by my decision in voting for that insufferable jackass.

I continued, “I am the dirty little secret that the Republican Party wants to pretend doesn’t exist…I’m a primarily conservative atheist. 🙂 I’m an independent voter, but most of my political views tend towards the conservative rather than liberal bent. Hell, I didn’t start having issues with the Republican Party until they started pandering to the outspoken religious right, those people creep me the fuck out. If McCain had actually run when he was up against Obama the same way that he was running during the primaries that he lost to G.W. Bush, he might very well have gotten my vote…but he seemed to have tossed common sense and critical thinking out the window in order to cater to the vocal minority that is the religious right, and I was sorely disappointed. McCain used to be a sensible, intelligent, and well-spoken individual…but then he somehow lost his way, and the nail in his coffin was picking Palin as a running mate.

“So no… I’m not expressing the thoughts that I express because of some political agenda of my own…and it certainly isn’t because I’m a proponent of Islam. I think all of these religious traditions are ridiculous and that the world would be a better place if people would just grow up and stop obsessing about imaginary friends and the conflicts that they promote.”

There was no further dialogue. Perhaps I shared a bit too much about myself in those last few bits of conversation, but I felt the need to avoid the individual trying to claim that I was somehow perpetuating some myth put in place by liberals.

I thought that my few readers might enjoy having this conversation shared with them; I hope that I was correct in that assumption.

If you happen to have any opinions on the matter, feel free to comment, I enjoy conversation and would love to know what you readers happen to think.

An Interesting Religious Discourse

This afternoon, before leaving for work, I became invested in a conversation that an old friend of mine was having. The conversation began when he posted something on Facebook that claimed that the Islamic culture condones rape, murder, terrorism, necrophilia, pedophilia, and bestiality; while simultaneously arguing that no such thing could be claimed with respect to the Christian faith which he adheres to. I couldn’t resist becoming involved.

“Actually”, I replied, “Rape is condoned in the bible…in multiple places throughout the Old Testament. Murder is repeatedly condoned and even pushed upon the chosen people as the right course of action; in fact, Abraham was asked to murder his own son only to have God step in and tell him that he was only testing him. Bestiality wasn’t and neither was necrophilia, you’re right there, but neither of those things are actually condoned in the Koran either…and pedophilia was condoned in all cultures at that time, up until recently (because what we consider pedophilia was nothing more than the usual time when children were of age to marry and bear children).”

At this point, someone else involved in the conversation stated that what I was saying would make no difference as the ‘friend’ in question does not believe in the Old Testament and considers it to be the word of the Jews.

To which I was forced to respond, “Well, Jesus himself stated quite clearly that he didn’t come to change a word of the law that came before him, that he wasn’t changing anything about what God had bestowed through the Old Testament.”

The response to my statements was to suggest that he was glad that I knew my Bible and that it was also a curse for me, he was sure.

Not knowing what he meant, I had to ask, “A curse? I’m afraid that I don’t follow your reasoning behind that.”

His response was that I would forever struggle, while suggesting that he would like to know of any ‘rape’ that could be found in the Bible.

“Struggle?” I asked, “I don’t experience any struggle from knowing the Bible or any other holy books. I guess that I just don’t know what you mean. As far as incidents of condoned rape…you can look to Judges 21, Deuteronomy 20, 21, and 22, Numbers 31, and easily another dozen or so places. Some of the same chapters have some very straightforward references to murder and infanticide as well. I’m curious as to how the repeated pushes for the murder of infants corresponds with the anti-abortion sentiments expressed by modern Christians.”

Another participant in the conversation then mentioned a Biblical reference from Numbers 31 which included multiple rapes, some genocide, as well as a great deal of murder and destruction.

“2nd Samuel has some really pleasant imagery regarding what was just stated,” was my follow up to that.

My ‘friend’ stated that none of this was condoned.

I was forced to return with, “God told them expressly to commit the rape. How is that not condoned?”

I opted to share the following verse:

Deuteronomy 21: 10-14:

10When thou goest forth to war against thine enemies, and the LORD thy God hath delivered them into thine hands, and thou hast taken them captive,
11And seest among the captives a beautiful woman, and hast a desire unto her, that thou wouldest have her to thy wife;
12Then thou shalt bring her home to thine house, and she shall shave her head, and pare her nails;
13And she shall put the raiment of her captivity from off her, and shall remain in thine house, and bewail her father and her mother a full month: and after that thou shalt go in unto her, and be her husband, and she shall be thy wife.
14And it shall be, if thou have no delight in her, then thou shalt let her go whither she will; but thou shalt not sell her at all for money, thou shalt not make merchandise of her, because thou hast humbled her.

“That, my friend, is rape. Forcibly taking a woman from her home after slaughtering her family (including possibly her husband), keeping her as property and having your way with her…that is rape. Try it today and you will spend a long time in prison (for murder, kidnapping, and rape).”

He replied by saying that those actions were not condoned by God or by Jesus.

I felt compelled to remind him, “That was God issuing those commands…according to the Old Testament. That is more than condoning it, that is forcing it.

“I hate to say this, my friend…but you really don’t seem altogether too familiar with anything pertaining to the Bible…seems a bit absurd to call yourself a Christian while knowing almost nothing about what your holy book happens to say about pretty much anything.”

He replied by insisting that those actions were from the Old Testament which was meant for Jews who were the only ones saved at that time and who got mad when God game the same grace to gentiles and changed the rules, that the old rules were no longer true. He continued by suggesting that those who know the Bible and do not live by the word and humble themselves before God are twice as bad off as those who do not.

I had no choice but to respond with, “There is no Christian faith that doesn’t accept the Old Testament. And Matthew 5 makes it very clear that Jesus did not change a word from the law of the Old Testament or of the prophets. And there is no place that says that those who know the Bible and do not live by the word are worse off than those who do. I do a better job of living a moral and respectable life than most of the Christians that I know…maybe because I actually do know what their Bible says and they simply accept the word of a man who interprets it and spits out twisted variations to suit their desires.”

His response was to say that he accepts Old Testament teachings as well as all Christians, that what he didn’t accept is my using the laws of the Old as those of the New because I know that this is not the truth.

“You really should take the time to actually read the book that you base your faith upon, I replied. “I was raised in a Catholic household, attended catechism classes every weekend throughout my childhood, and even attended Catholic school for two years. I have read the Bible from beginning to end, and snippets of different versions of it to compare them…as well as English translations of numerous other religious texts from other cultures. It is precisely because I am so familiar with these books and that I have studied various sciences and happen to use a good amount of common sense and critical reasoning that I don’t believe what you believe.

“The words of the Old Testament are no less valid than those of the New…nowhere in any version of the Bible does it claim that the New Testament supersedes the Old, replaces it in any way, or invalidates anything written within it.

“In addition to reading the Bible, my friend, I would recommend that you read Misquoting Jesus by Bart D. Ehrman…he’s a religious scholar from Chapel Hill. You might benefit from reading that as well. And, on the subject of reading, I’ll use this as a chance for shameless self promotion and recommend that you read Unspoken, by yours truly…there is no correlation between my novel and anything referenced in this conversation, but I’m trying to weasel in a plug for my book anyhow.”

His immediate reply was to state that Jews don’t believe in or study the New Testament and yet they still do not practice the same way that they used to. Further, he stated that Jesus never paid attention to the laws of the Old Testament, which was why the Jews were mad, and eventually had him killed.

“The Romans actually had him killed,” I returned, “the Jews were subordinates to the Roman rule of Jerusalem. There were some of a scholarly class of Jew that weren’t pleased with Jesus, but they didn’t have him killed. They had neither the political pull to force the Romans to do such a thing nor the sway within even the Jewish community.

“They don’t follow the New Testament because they don’t believe that Jesus was the promised messiah…and early Christianity was hugely conflicted on what they believed as well. It was only because of a Roman, Constantine (hundreds of years after the death of Christ), that the modern form of Christianity exists today…if you were to look back at the various forms of Christianity that existed prior to that, you would consider most of them absurd.”

My ‘friend’ accused me of cherry picking the Bible for the bits that best fit my argument and then proceeded to do precisely that with the Koran, pulling up references to Aisha and using them to promote his earlier argument about Islam condoning pedophilia.

I replied with, “Numbers chapter 31 has multiple references to young girls being taken by the chosen people at God’s behest. But I’m not saying that the Bible promotes pedophilia, nor the Koran. These young girls are no younger than the girls who were getting married during the settling of this country…it wasn’t pedophilia or considered to be at all wrong or unnatural until recently (and only in some cultures, even today).

“To try and state that either the Bible or Koran promotes pedophilia is to misinterpret what was said through a lens of our culture today. Today, it’s not acceptable for a man to take a 12 or 13-year-old girl as a wife, but that was totally fine less than 200 years ago, here in America. You’re wasting your time trying to argue that the Koran promoted pedophilia, my friend…it’s apples and oranges at best…and your own religious heritage promoted the same behavior.”

His retort was that I could condone anything when I believe in nothing.

“I don’t condone it,” I stated, “not in the least…but had any of us been living during the times of Jesus, Muhammad, or Abraham that is precisely what we would have been doing. It was the cultural norm for essentially every culture of the time…and it is still the norm for numerous cultures around the world.”

At this point he returned to commenting on Aisha, stating that she was 6.

I replied with what I had always believed to be true, “Actually, she was either 9 or 10 when she married Muhammad…which was a common age for marriage in the culture…and it wasn’t consummated until after that.”

His reply, which may be correct, was that she was 6 when she married Muhammad but that he didn’t penetrate her until she was 9 and that this sort of thing was still in practice in Islamic culture.

I was getting frustrated by this point when I responded by saying, “Hell, throughout European and American history we have countless examples of girls being promised to men well before the age of maturity…which is the same thing.”

His response was to insist that by arguing for it, I did in fact condone it.

“No, I argue that you’re distorting the facts in order to claim that there is a cultural precedent for pedophilia within the Islamic people…when the same precedent could be argued for your own faith and culture. There are still religious sects within Christianity (not mainstream, by any means) where young girls are promised to older men before they reach physical maturity as well. To argue that there are still Bedouin sects that do the same and apply it to all of that culture is no better than someone looking at those splinter branches of modern Christianity and accusing you of being complicit because you are also a Christian.”

I continued, “I don’t condone a number of things that are practiced in countless different cultures. I don’t condone a lot of what is done by our own culture here, but I’m not blind to it happening. Being aware and non hypocritical about it doesn’t equal condoning it. I’m in no position to judge the actions of a culture that I am removed from by a millennium or more…I can’t even properly comprehend the lifestyle of the people that lived in those days.”

He opted to change the subject then, by stating that he was glad that our morals come from Christianity, and that it was for this reason that I find those things to be wrong.

With no small amount of irritation, I said, “No! Most of the things that Christianity took as a moral code were well established centuries before there was anything even remotely like Christianity. In fact, a lot of the morality derives from pre-Judaic cultures of Babylon and Assyria…hell, Babylon was where a lot of the Old Testament stories and myths were derived from; during the time that the Jews were enslaved there, they adopted a lot of the myths of the Babylonian captors and then rewrote them to correspond with their own beliefs after being released.

“Our morals come from simply knowing what we don’t want to have done to us and applying that same judgment to people external to ourselves (an inverse of the golden rule). Kin selection and in-group, tribal components still apply, which is why it is easier for any culture to commit acts against another culture that they would never allow internally. We practice immoral acts against other cultures on a regular basis, and Christianity is guilty of that same thing just as much as any other religious or nation-state culture. Outsiders are still considered to be “something less” in a number of respects, and that sort of mentality is a remnant of our primitive origins.”

I took a brief respite from the conversation, and during this time my ‘friend’ said something about how God doesn’t want us to go to Hell and that the reason there is a Hell in the first place is because of our own sin and the disobedience of the Devil.

I found myself compelled to return to the conversation long enough to say, “Actually, regarding that whole Devil and disobedience thing; it couldn’t have happened, part of what separated man from angel is free will, angels didn’t have it. That was what it meant to be made in God’s image, to have will and to be able to shape the world according to that will, not that we looked like God…but that we were given volitional consciousness, something angels didn’t have. There could have been no rebellion without will to do so, and though this Lucifer was supposedly cast into the pit, he is right there in Heaven with God in the book of Job, testing the faith of God’s most loyal servant on Earth.”

That was the end of the conversation for me. I had no interest in continuing any further. For those of you who are unaware, I am an atheist and not the least bit apologetic about it. I wasn’t participating in the conversation to be antagonistic or mean spirited, but because the subject interests me.

What scares me is that my ‘friend’ is far from the only person who believes the things that he does believe, and he votes. I have plenty of religiously inclined friends and acquaintances, but it’s this sort of uninformed and ignorant belief structure that my ‘friend’ exhibits that terrifies me.