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The Purgatorial Trenches of Wilfred Owen Print E-mail
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TS Jan 2017(The Truth Seeker January 15, 2017)

In The Future of an Illusion, Sigmund Freud describes how humankind made up from the intolerable “helplessness” of our childhood fears and the hellish randomness of nature, fate, and human society the balm of religion—in our jurisdiction, Christianity. His is among the most cogent explanations for a system of divine judgment and afterlife protection that insists people conform to the creator’s (human-authored) mandate. Freud says “the gist” of the Christian presumption is this:

     Life in the world serves a higher purpose; no doubt it is not easy to guess what that purpose is, but it certainly signifies a perfecting of man’s nature. It is probably the spiritual part of man, the soul, which in the course of time has so slowly and unwillingly detached itself from the body, that is the object of this elevation and exaltation. Everything that happens in this world is an expression of the intentions of an intelligence superior to us . . . which in the end . . . orders everything for the best.

That humans have felt pulled between here and beyond in our being has always been true. We contrast our carnal embodiment with an eternal dimension, body and soul. We live, we die, and we cease to be is not how we have defined ourselves. That which is unlived or treasured in us, we hope not to give up—for ourselves, for those we love and mourn, or for those whose deaths, say, an enemy combatant we killed, feel unfinished. All these lead us to assume some reverse incarnation of self in death. (Soul, mind, self, spirit—it’s all rather confusing.) Since it clearly cannot be the body, whose remains are composted by worms and time, it must be the soul, a nonmaterial substance, that lives on, even, some say, progresses and purifies through eternity. Religions regard the soul’s immortality, its existence separated post-death, as their faith’s highest virtue and capitalize on it, to say the least.

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Who Are You Calling An Atheist? Print E-mail
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36711e907274b8e28cf98d12304b9fa5(Church & State UK October 16, 2016)

Are there any good reasons these days to declare yourself an atheist? Won’t the label’s tribal militancy, its prickly company, its easy derision, dishonor your family, alienate your friends, and upend your career? And if you are one—and you don’t fess up—might not that lack of honesty trouble you? After all, it is the truth, isn’t it? What’s more, if you don’t make the call (choose, instead, the less excitable “humanist” or “secularist”), someone else will mark you, a stamp that may stick, inerasable, like a Sharpie on your forehead. Whosoever’s badge you go with, how high on your chest will you wear it?

Take the astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, host of Cosmos and director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York. When Bill Moyers asked him whether he supported “the effort” by well-meaning people “to reconcile faith and reason,” Tyson said flatly, “they’re irreconcilable.” All attempts to describe science with faith “have failed. Anyone who tried to explain the nature of the universe, based on Bible passages, got the wrong answer.” To the charge that dark matter is God, he perked up: “If that’s where you’re going to put your God in this world, then God is an ever-receding pocket of ignorance. Get ready to have that [mystery] undone.”

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Christploitation @ the Movies Print E-mail
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waltcover 2(The Truth Seeker October 1, 2016)

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Why, oh why, oh why do Christians keep killing Jesus? Why, for nearly two millennia, has the nonviolent Lamb of God and politically framed Son of Man been put to death, imaginatively speaking, in gospel, painting, frieze, sculpture, choral mass—and, of late, in HD movies—not to mention sermons that detail his torturous demise to millions of frightened children and unatoned adults? Indeed, the pageantry of his death has been shown in countless artistic scenes and real-life reenactments: from such flat statements as John 19:23—“Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments”—to Matthias Grunewald’s 1516 “Isenheim Altarpiece,” picturing Christ’s agonal, emaciated, plague-scarred and thorn-nettled body, to the Good Friday crucifixion rite in the Philippines where penitents self-flagellate and are nailed to crosses and hoisted aloft, willingly, the bloodletting posted on YouTube.

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The Taxman Cometh Not Print E-mail
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george-carlin-says-tax-the-churches-politics-taxes-politics-1370663994(The Truth Seeker May, 2016)

Scripturally Based Hostility

One day in 1991, the head of the Church of Scientology, David Miscavige, along with his top lieutenant, Marty Rathbun, were having lunch in Washington DC, not far from the headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service. Five years earlier, when Miscavige had seized hold of the church’s leadership following the death of their potentate, L. Ron Hubbard, he inherited the organization and its colossal debt to the IRS—at the time, estimates were as high as $1 billion; Scientology’s reserves were just 12% of that—as well as a war of denunciation both sides waged on the other that was years in the making.

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Denying and Welcoming the End: The Evangelical Duplicity Print E-mail
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SeptCOVER-web(The Truth Seeker September 2015)

Snowballs from Hell /

All things Christian, all things American, reside with the Oklahoman. A few years ago, a local reporter from Moore, Oklahoma, who was hooked in, via his affiliate, to CNN, was doing live interviews in the aftermath of a May tornado. He was broadcasting at the end of a mile-wide, seventeen-mile-long swath of destruction, which included the remains of two grade schools that were rebuilt on the same spot after previous deadly twisters. Beside him was a wary-eyed, ball-capped farmer or trucker, randomly culled, no doubt, who would express the horror of an EF5 tornado that had just splintered his community on winds of 210 mph.

“How awesome it is,” the breathless man said, “to witness what God’s wrath can bring!” The reporter did not ask if that wrath was aimed at the seven children who died that morning in one of two schools whose concrete-block walls lacked reinforced steel. No. This was not a social or a political visit. It was Armageddon in the Heartland. Or a reminder to the forgetful that the end times were upon us. In his immediate exclamation, I got the philosophy of climate-change belief and disbelief: humankind didn’t create this murderous storm, God did. And He meant it.

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Hobby Lobby, Steve Green, & the New Bible Empire Print E-mail
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FI AM cover copy(Free Inquiry April/May 2015)

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Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby and son of its founder and CEO, David Green, loves to tell the story of the company’s brush with financial ruin and salvation via divine intervention. David founded the craft-supply store in 1972, at first a modest Oklahoma City picture-frame business. By 1985, Hobby Lobby had expanded to several more area stores and become the go-to supplier of gewgaws for home decorators and holiday artists.

It seems that the company erred in its enthusiasm, growing too big too fast. Soon it was slouching toward bankruptcy. As journalist Brian Solomon recounted in Forbes, David Green had “overleveraged the business and diluted the inventory with off-brand, expensive products like luggage, ceiling fans and gourmet foods.” David, an evangelical Christian, blamed himself for the sin of entrepreneurial pride.

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Having None of It: Parenting Without Religion Print E-mail
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Descent of the Modernists E. J. Pace Christian Cartoons 1922(Written February 2015)

The book the mother is showing me is Tomie dePaola’s Book of Bible Stories. It’s an illustrated first Bible, ages 4 to 8, which, according to the back cover, the author “lovingly brings to life.” She starts paging and stops, her nearly three-year-old son beside her, pounding Play-Doh. “OK, God creates the world, but then”—flipping pages and quoting text—“‘Adam and Eve disobey God,’ and ‘Cain kills Abel,’ and ‘God unleashes a flood’ and kills everyone but Noah and the family. Huh?” She pauses, huffs, and glances at her apartment’s mess—toy-strewn like Christmas morning. “I’m not going to read this to Justin. He’ll be terrorized.”

Thus begins, in this thirty-two-year-old Mom, as it does in millions of other secular parents, the once unorthodox, rhetorical questions. Why should my child know about a God who sanctions such continual violence? Why expose anyone to a religion I don’t believe in? Such queries are being asked and answered by millions of millennials—Pew Research, as of May 2015, shows 35 percent are Nones—who refuse to indoctrinate their children into any faith.

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