Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Defense of Deism

Basically, Deism is the belief that there is a sentient force, God, which, at least, created the Universe. After creation, Deists are allowed to follow their own interpretations of the Universe, to attempt to understand God’s will and plan, and if there even is a “plan,” using reason as their guide, as opposed to superstition, fear and ancient religious texts. Also, Deists believe that other religions, “revealed” religions, are man made and do not represent the will of God so much as the ideas of people.

Given the varying sects within all religions, the basic divisions, it’s clear that there is no absolute, “God ordained” religion. Why do so many people argue about “the word of God,” argue and kill over it, while each sect believes God somehow loves them, or backs them more than any other? This is obviously indicative of a basic flaw in our human concept of religion. We believe we need to justify our beliefs with some artifact or text which somehow received the official seal of God. Once made, this claim requires ultimate blind adherence, even when obvious facts contradict it. This leads to unavoidable schism, within religions, between religions and between the believers and truth itself. Because if the words you follow are “God ordained” how can they contain mistakes. So if one word is questioned, then the entire precept that “God’s” word must be followed collapses. So the deception must be maintained to avoid religious extinction.

Deists, with an adherence to rational thought, and rejection of “revealed” religions, do not face this need for deception, as their beliefs in a higher power do not necessarily contradict reality. Science and the quest for knowledge is more out of respect and wonder at God’s creation, less a need to alter facts to justify one’s “official seal from God.” Deists are allowed to realize different ideas and stories about God down through the ages were just that, stories, ideas, lessons, etc. In the same way stories can be told about the Sun, stories can be told about God. Stories of the Sun might be incorrect, but this doesn’t negate the existence of the Sun. It is a way we can connect and relate to the Sun. The same goes for God, and stories about God. These stories represent human ideas, and a beauty and creativity reflecting the human desire to understand their creator.

These same stories when used to bludgeon the human mind into belief lead to an effect opposite their intent. Those not inclined to succumb to force or coercion in the forming of their beliefs automatically balk at the misrepresentation of man’s imperfect knowledge of God’s creation, preferring to believe nothing rather than believing in obvious untruth. Thus, minds that might be allowed to embrace their relationship with God and seek out the more mystical aspects of creation are, instead, turned away from God. Atheists and Agnostics, when confronted with blind belief will tend toward the healthy reaction of rejection. Likewise, believers within the religious community, when confronted with the obvious truths presented by science, will conversely be required to reject these truths to maintain their “faith.”

The decentralized nature of Deism allows for security of principle through dispersal of will. Across the Globe people have embraced the idea that the Universe either had or might possibly have had a creator. The open nature of the concept allows for the strength of differing ideas and the flourishing of the potential of our God given brainpower. We may seek out the truth and God at the same time using all the faculties of our wits combined. Incapable of removing his own ego, thoughts, social and cultural ideas and fallibility, Man should not set himself up as the voice of God. We should remain open to the truth and the possibilities before us, that God does exist and can withstand the challenges of reality. We can know that God, as the creator of all things will eventually be revealed through the course of reason and quest for truth, as opposed to the backward thinking, close minded clenchings of literalists.

-By Bill Sims

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Merry Christmas and Quit Your Bitching

Yes, that’s right merry Christmas. From the liberal news organization, The Birmingham Free Press. It is our official stance that you have a merry Christmas. We do not mind saying merry Christmas and in fact will say merry Christmas as many times as we want. We feel that there are a group of Americans who claim to be followers of The Prince of Peace and yet find any excuse to be hateful and argumentative.

It is our opinion that the holiday season, oh my God, I mean your God, I mean which God? I mean, I said holiday instead of Christmas…Christmas season …I can’t think for all the yelling and judgment in my head, the constant bitter condemnation. I really don’t want to hear all the arguing during Yule tide, I mean the holiday season, I mean if there is one time of year that we could all set aside our differences and be at peace with one another this would be it.

I hear constantly how people should not judge Sarah Palin or her followers based on the few people that yell racial epithets at rallies, or carry monkeys around with Obama written on them. And the good natured liberals oblige, judging not. The good natured liberals know that it makes no sense to judge an entire group by the merits, or lack of merits of the few outspoken and loudest photograph magnets. So even if any Liberals condemn anyone for saying merry Christmas, which I haven’t heard, it does not represent an entire group of people. Listen to the bile coming out of the Right blogosphere, the words of hatred and distortion are manifest. While I can find few examples of individuals against saying merry Christmas, there are scores upon scores of individuals claiming there is a war on Christmas. This has been completely fabricated. If some stores have a policy where they are trying to be respectful and not say merry Christmas...well, there's your "market deciding" I guess. They are not being warlike and confrontational. Whereas, to Right Wingers everything is war. War on this...war on that. Judge a tree by its fruits.

Why then, is there an issue about saying "holiday season?" Does wishing someone happiness even though they are of a different religion equal being anti-Christmas? I never in my life worried about saying merry Christmas to anyone until the conservative propaganda machine began claiming there was a problem. I think it is absolutely ridiculous and rude to purposefully wish a practicing Jew merry Christmas to prove a point about anything, unless you know them well enough and you're making a joke. Because it is a joke, the whole issue is a joke. And I miss Christmas times past when people tried to act on their better nature and do good for others. When the arguing stopped for a brief part of the year and we drank eggnog and didn’t hyper analyze every single word. This is not due to a few retailers and their policies. This is due to a multitude of Right Wing pundits and bloggers intent on causing problems, raising ire and raising the blood pressure of those easily led into war.

We at The Birmingham Free Press are peace loving. Our policy is Freedom with a capital "F," Love with a capital "L." We're about Happiness and Light and Goodness... with capitals.

So Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Find your Strength in Cheer and in Joy! And for "God's" sake, have Fun people!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Illusion- Disillusionment-- Faith? What your preacher's wife may not have told you

I remember the first time the church fell off the pedestal for me.... I was 21 and newly married. As if being 21 and newly married wasn't difficult enough, I had married a youth minister and suddenly become responsible for twenty to thirty kids. I was starry eyed and determined to be the most perfect "help meet" for my husband as I loved and guided a group of teenage girls into avoiding the same mistakes I had made as a teenager.

My husband, raised inside the proverbial glass box as a preacher's kid, was much more realistic than I. But, of course, I had spent my life peering in the glass box from the outside. Growing up, my preacher and his wife had somehow found following God, completely, well, at least tolerable. To me, life inside the glass box didn't at all seem enjoyable. After all, who has ever enjoyed swimming in blue jeans? Not to mention the list of words that couldn't be said was entirely too long… Did you know that saying "gosh" is actually a precursor to saying "God" and taking the Lord's name in vain? And is no doubt a slippery slope to having the mouth of a sailor?

Still, at the time, as stale and un-admirable as their lives were, their devotion to the life they thought they should live was at least worthy of respect. So, the times when I would run into the preacher and his wife out in town, I would eagerly pull at my skimpy, three-inches-above-my-knee-shorts in an attempt to gain every inch of church-girl-modesty possible (out of respect for them of course). Who would ever have imagined then that I would one day be the proud owner of my own glass box?

I had tried everything I could think of to break things off with my then-fiancé. Mainly because I couldn't imagine a life having to wear pantyhose even though I would be wearing skirts that reached my ankles. But as love often does, it had its way, and I found myself becoming a minister's wife, determined to bring the church into the 20th century with a nice pair of capri pants and a stylish and nicely pressed, capped sleeve shirt. It wasn't long before I realized that pantyhose were the least of my problems.

After only two weeks of marriage, two weeks into my new role, we were invited to the preacher's house for dinner. I was well versed in the expectations of a preacher's wife in throwing dinner parties. But using the word party in conjunction with preacher's wife, in this case, is irony in its purest form. Regardless, the invitation was no surprise at all.

I was flabbergasted to find our meeting wasn't a full evening of singing Kum-ba-ya, head bowed, no clapping of course. There was plenty of time set aside for reverent formalities. I knew I had dishonored my husband, unfortunately, when everyone quieted and stared at me as I stole a croûton from my salad before we said the prayer. But the moment was brief, moving quickly to the prayer, thus preserving my soul, as much as possible, after my great sin. Then I proceeded to learn a truth my heart was not yet ready to learn. Although eating before the prayer was a cause for confession on Sunday morning, nonchalantly discussing "church politics" with the assumption that God dislikes the same people in our church as we did, was clearly acceptable.

I remember my husband's surprise as I cried the whole way home that night; one, my pride was hurt because I was clearly, unaware of “minister's wife etiquette.” two, and more so, because of the secret behind the illusion that I believed had been revealed. I was newly walking in reality within my own glass box, with full knowledge that there was nowhere on earth to go to catch a glimpse of Heaven, or so I believed that night. I remember, even more clearly, my surprise at my husband's surprise, and the realization from his reaction that what I had just experienced was well within the norm of the happenings of the church. I clearly had bitten off way more than I could chew.

I would like to say this was only an isolated incident in our time of ministry, and that other than that, it has been all rainbows and butterflies. But this particular incident is actually mild compared to some we've experienced. There were many times I would have walked away totally, could I have gotten away with it. This is not to say that in our time in ministry, we haven't met wonderful followers of Jesus. Or, that the people in that house that night weren't those followers. And, there have been wonderful glorious moments when we have gathered as a church to lovingly care for someone in need that I have, no doubt, felt as if I was catching a glimpse of Heaven. The truth is, the church is made up of humans. Humans, even those who proclaim to follow Jesus, are fallible. And in our fallen state, we often misrepresent Jesus. And so this disillusionment that I've experienced with the church often leads me to a crossroad. A crossroad where I once again choose to either walk away because of a broken people, or to press along toward, as my husband says, "making God's dream for the world a reality" as He uses us and molds us and one day makes us whole. As I'm faced with the choice, again and again, I know that there is only one way that provides any hope at all. So today, I choose to leave my fingerprint smudges on my glass box and ask that God helps me to see others with the grace that He sees me..