The Bible Set Me Free
Blame it on my parents. They always told me to “think for yourself”. I doubt they ever considered what would happen if I really did that.
Now, I suspect what they meant was, “Think what we tell you but do it in your own words.” Too late. When I was 13, I began to question everything and soon the total absurdity of religion became apparent.
Because I have been “encouraged” (forced) to read the bible several times, it was easy for me to see the contradictions in the book, what christians professed to believe, and how they really lived.
When I refused to go with them to their church, they said they would “Make me go.”
I asked them, “How are you going to make me? How will forcing me to attend church change my mind?” Already, their attitude was starting to harden me against everything else they would tell me.
Their next idea was to have their minister talk to me. I told them it was a waste of everyone’s time. They persisted and had him come to the house to “Talk some sense into me.” (as if they ever works for anyone) After about 15 minutes of him quoting the bible to me and me pointing out that he was either wrong in his quotes or showing him how it said something else in another place, he became very angry and told me I was going to hell. I suspect it was because I knew the bible better than he did and was, at age 13, able to prove how ridiculous his arguments were.
I told him, “If there is a Hell I’ll see you there. Save me a nice place, OK?” He said I was an impertinent, disrespectful child. By then, I was angry myself and for the first time, I told a christian that he was a hypocrite, a liar, and a fool. My parents insisted that I apologize. I refused and left the room to a lot of yelling and threats.
For the next four years, I heard about this at least once a week. So the night I graduated high school, I left my parent’s home and didn’t see them again for well over a year. By then, with the credits I had accumulated in high school and summer school, I had completed a couple of years of college. Fortunately, I was able to pay for this myself. I was entering the army and wanted to try to make peace with them, but had to listen to the same old recriminations and arguments again.
The next time I saw them was two years later when I was getting married. After several years of an on-again, off-again relationship they finally agreed to just not discuss it any more. I’d like to say that worked, but subtle hints slowly became outright condemnation. Then I took a job transfer from Ohio to Arizona, so family meetings were rare enough to become occasions for something other than contention.
I do have to say that I appreciate the other things they did for me, like encouraging my education and equipping me with the work ethic and attitudes I needed to survive and thrive at that early age. In those areas, they were excellent parents and I am grateful for those things.
What did I learn? Even your family can turn against you if you refuse to share in their illusions. There are times, if you are to become your own person, you must stand firm in what you know to be true.
Land of the Free?
America is not the land of the free and never was. This is not limited to the USA, of course, it’s true of most places at most times. It is only free if you profess to believe the “right” things, practice the “right” religion, support the “right” causes, and say the things that “everyone knows” are correct. Now, it must be “politically correct,” too.
Dissent has always been not only discouraged, but punished, socially, legally, and often physically. How many “hippies” of the 60’s were disowned, ostracized, and often physically abused for their views and lifestyle? Is it any different today? Isn’t “gay bashing” still practiced? How about right of choice? Is that also punished? Even to the point of murder?
Anyone that opposed the Iraq War 2 was accused of being unpatriotic, unchristian, and possibly treasonous. The fact that not one weapon of mass destruction has been found in Iraq and that it is becoming very apparent that the government, starting with the President and Secretary of State misstated or even lied about the intelligence excuses for the war has not lifted the mantle of hate aimed at these few voices of reason. Some “friends” have even told me that, if I can’t say what they want to hear and stop criticizing the government to stop communicating at all. I may have lost some acquaintances, but I have kept my integrity.
It doesn’t stop with false patriotism, it continues into every area of life; especially when you intrude upon religion. Madelyn Murray O’Hare may have won a few battles, but at the cost of eternal hatred and enmity from so-called “Christians.” The hate and threat-filled mail she received reveals the true level of “Christian love and tolerance” that exists in the USA.
Anyone that dares to express dissatisfaction with blue laws and protests anyone attempting to enact their personal religious beliefs into law is reviled and attacked, often physically. Think about the number of bombings of abortion clinics. Are these acts of Christian charity? Whether anyone likes it or not, the abortion issue is a religious one. Has any other argument been offered against it? If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one. If you have a logical, provable, argument against it, state it clearly and reasonably. Attempting to enforce your opinion with violence or making it a law with its implied threat of “legal” violence is morally wrong and contrary to the standards of a free country.
If America were truly free, anyone could express any opinion and live any way they chose without running the risk of social, financial, or physical danger. This situation does not exist today and never will because there are two universal truths that forbid it.
The first is: A person’s most precious possessions are his illusions. People will sacrifice their homes, money, possessions, even their children as long as they can maintain their illusions of religion and what’s “right” and wrong”. If you doubt this, think of parents watching their children go off to fight and die in a war because they refuse to surrender the illusion that “It’s a just war against a godless heathen.” They cannot accept that it is to ensure the profits of oil companies and presidential pals. They do this because very few are cognizant of a second truth. Beliefs, no matter how sincerely held, do not alter facts.
One of the things I’ve learned is that most of our beliefs and attitudes are really an accident of birth. If you had been born in another place, you might just as sincerely believe in Hinduism, Confucianism, Islam, or some other religion and be convinced that your country was always right and that America was the “Great Satan.” You would be just as wrong.
America free? Think about these. No-warrant wiretaps, indefinite detention of citizens without charges, no-knock entries. Search and seizure without warrants, rendition of prisoners, torture renamed as “intensive interrogation”, stop and frisk without probable cause, confiscation or destruction of cameras used to record illegal police actions, mounting cases of police brutality and even executions by police that are never investigated, much less punished, and finally, “managed news.” Does this sound like a free country?
Do I expect to suffer for these opinions? Most certainly I do. There is no doubt there will be hate mail and death threats (the religious reich is especially fond of those) but also financial, social, and personal loss. But I still have my integrity. That’s more than most.
Smith’s Universal Truths
A universal truth is something that’s true at all times for all people. Here are a few.
- Beware of any project that starts with the words, “Remove old finish.”
- True happiness is finding someone who will tolerate you. The first step in finding that person is admitting that you need some tolerating.
- If you wonder why something is the way it is; learn who’s making money from it being that way.
- If it ain’t chocolate, it ain’t dessert. Banana cream pie, for example, is just another part of the meal like the green beans or asparagus.
- Whenever someone tells you they are doing something “for your own good,” you can be certain that you won’t like it. Furthermore, they will expect you to pay for it. If they’re “protecting your morals,” you’ll have to pay double.
- Not all lawyers should be shot. Some should be hanged.
- Beliefs, no matter how sincerely held, do not alter facts.
- Nothing is so perfect that someone, somewhere, won’t hate it.
- Real knowledge is knowing where to find the answers.
- The world is run by the people that show up.
- Information is not knowledge anymore than loose ingredients are a cake.
- Two wrongs don’t make a right, but three rights make a left.
- Intellectualism must not be confused with wisdom.
- A problem with doing anything right the first time is that no one knows how difficult it was.
- Few things in life succeed as well as a power-off reset.
- The difference between adventure and disaster is preparation.
- The most popular human pastime is denial.
- Forgiveness is easier to obtain than permission.
- Any solution proposed by a politician will contain more problems than it solves.
- Don’t worry, you’re not the first.
- You can have it if you’re willing to pay for it.
- Man’s most precious possessions are his delusions. No power equals that of self-deception.
- An entity that cannot laugh at itself has planted the seeds of its own destruction.
- We earn our appellations by our conduct.
- Any statement containing the words, “if everyone” will be void of logical content.
- Excuses are easier than action.
- The most difficult human task is thinking before speaking or acting.
- To most people, personal convenience is more important than courtesy or respect for others.
- If something “goes without saying” you can be sure that someone will say it.
- Sometimes it’s harder to sell the truth than it is a lie.
- Local customs are not laws of nature. – Marcus Aurelius
- The human race will never be truly free as long as it willingly submits to the tyranny of religion.
A popular theist argument for religion is “Without religion (god) we would have no morality or ethics.” So without religion can there be morality? Morality based upon fear of punishment or seeking rewards isn’t really morality at all. Perhaps what they are saying is that they would be evil without fear of hell. Then they project that lack of moral courage upon everyone else. I say to them, “Don’t judge others by yourself. Your lack of ethical backbone is not universal.”
People can practice what I term enlightened self-interest. An individual’s self-interest is best served by doing no harm to others except in defense of themselves or those in their care. This thinking does not need threats of eternal punishment to follow, It only requires thinking about what will ultimately yield the best results for yourself. Treating others fairly and generously is always better for yourself, personally, financially, and socially.
Those that co-operate and adapt have always been more successful. As such, basic ethics has evolved to improve the survival of species. Indiscriminate killing, sex with close relatives, cannibalism, are a few examples of things that are contrary to survival of the group. The most cooperative and adaptable species have the best survival rate. Even animals conform to these “moral issues”. That religions have attempted to claim these things originated with them and would not exist without religion is not just hypocritical, it is ignoring obvious facts.
There are more complex issues that apply more directly to humans. For example, robbing a bank may yield temporary wealth, but at the expense of either a prison term or a life of fear, running from the law. Similarly, cheating others in business dealings may increase profits for a time. Eventually, your reputation will be so poor that your business may fail. This is a simple principle that, “It’s always cheaper to make a customer happy than it is to make him angry.” This same idea can pay dividends in ordinary human relations. For reasons I don’t understand, few businesses or people appreciate this idea. Maybe it’s because they operate on deist principles? Everything is forgiven if you repent before you die. Although that wouldn’t seem to help those you cheated, treated badly, or even murdered.
So should nothing be discouraged? Should everything be permitted? Capable, informed individuals could engage in any activity that interests them even if it puts them personally at risk.
An example would be an automobile race. It is certainly dangerous to drive at racing speeds and it is equally dangerous to stand near the race course to observe or record this event. Two people may choose to do these things if they understand and accept the risks involved.
One question that arises from this would be, what if one or both of these people have a spouse and children that depend upon them for financial and emotional support? Should they still do this knowing that if they are injured or killed it will cause some degree of harm to these dependents? If they choose to do so, does anyone else have the right to prevent them?
Those are ethical questions that can and should be debated, but each person must be free to choose his own answer. No other person, religion, or government should have the right to make these choices for us. If you are keeping in mind that humans are often in error and thus prepared for all possible consequences, no matter how remote the possibility, you can do what you think best.
Knives vs Rocks
Restricting knives is a good idea, but they ignore an even greater danger that has been going on far longer. I refer to that hideously vicious weapon, the rock. Here are just a few facts about them.
Rocks have killed a greater proportion of the human race than guns, bombs or knives. In fact, bombs have been used to cause rocks to be violently distributed in a killing wave of mass destruction.
From even pre-historic days, rocks have been used as killing machines. Even the Koran and the Bible contain accounts and advice to “stone people”, often to death. So the evil history of Rocks is well-documented.
Rocks can be obtained by anyone, even children, at no significant cost and are totally unregulated, much less registered or restricted. For far too many children, a rock is their first introduction to violent behavior. Who has not seen children practicing their accuracy with rocks by throwing them at targets or even into waterways?
Because children start so early with these dangerous rocks, it can be surmised that they are also a gateway device to even more destructive devices and behavior.
Modern man, not content with natural means of murder, has created artificial rocks and attempted to disguise their true nature by calling them “concrete” and “bricks” but numerous accounts with pictures and even video show people using these seemingly innocuous objects as they were truly intended, smashing and killing.
We and our children can never be safe and truly civilized until every rock is registered and rendered harmless by reducing them to sizes no larger than 10 grams. Even then, they may be a hazard to eyes, so everyone should be provided with protective goggles that are to be worn at all times.