There’s A HUGE Difference Between “Christians” And “Followers Of Jesus”

Question: How do you get from “Do unto others” to “Onward, Christian Soldier!”? The truth is you can’t. Even a humble atheist can “do unto others”. A Christian soldier? They do unto others before others can do unto them. That’s their idea of Jesus. In other words, they have no idea of Jesus or, whatever idea they do have of Jesus? That ain’t Jesus. I bet Jesus would be shocked (if he actually did pull off a second coming) by all the people claiming to follow him who, in fact, hate everything about him. Is there anything less Jesus-y than a horde of culture warrior Christians?

Jesus preached a simple, confident message that even an atheist can embrace, follow and find happiness in. How we got from there to, say, the Catholic church (or, even further afield, the Mormon church) is a story (and blog post) unto itself. But, that is what Christianity did — it turned a simple relationship between creator and created into a dogma-heavy obstacle course light on logic but heavy on complications. In Paul the Apostle’s defense, when you set out to found a new religion (as Paul did among the Gentiles), you have to do everything you can to cement your brand.

Paul was very definitely a Christian. As to was he a “follower of Jesus” — no, he wasn’t. Jesus, if anything, was an impediment to Paul because of his very Jewishness. Remember: the Christian movement in Jerusalem faltered because it wasn’t Christian, it was Jewish. Radical but radical Jewish. When the Romans finally sacked Jerusalem and banished all the Jews, the diaspora created was entirely Jewish. Paul meanwhile (about half the New Testament is Paul’s writing) spun his mythology further and further away from its Jewish roots and more toward something that he was inventing on the fly — a faith based entirely on “the death, resurrection, and lordship of Jesus.”

That, right there, is Paul’s brilliant innovation. It’s his true genius: he pitched a deity to the Gentiles that cared about them (polytheistic gods didn’t really care about humans the way Yahweh seemed to), who even produced a son tasked with dying for humanity’s benefit just so that they — like Jesus — could defeat death and live forever in a magical place called Heaven along with all their loved ones. That’s Christianity’s real sales pitch: believe in Jesus the way we tell you to (no questions asked) and we’ll “guarantee you” a happy eternal afterlife with your loved ones. Can the church really guarantee such a thing? Does that really matter? Of course not!

Death makes human beings irrational. We’ll cut any deal we can to try and get out of having to die. That is, some people will. To them, religion is a kind of ongoing negotiation with the universe. It’s a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card they’ll take with them to the grave where it will rot and fall apart just like they will. But, hey — why not cover that angle, right? The early Christian church slowly evolved a mythology based on a thousand years of Jewish messiah stories radically re-imagined for a Gentile audience (who didn’t care that it didn’t conformed to the original Jewish mythology since they had no knowledge of it).

Let’s be real: the Christian origin mythology is a hodgepodge of ideas that don’t add up (unless you accept all of its illogical premises). If Jesus’s whole purpose — the reason universe-creator Yahweh mates with a human virgin — is to fix the mess Eve made (according to the early church fathers, Eve daring to eat the apple and causing humanity’s fall from grace was humanity ‘s original sin). Plus — it’s by Jesus dying for humanity’s sins that God opens the door to eternal life. If Jesus never gets betrayed by Judas and never gets crucified and never dies for humanity ‘s sins then there is no resurrection.

If God created Jesus for this specific purpose then God (being all knowing) wouldn’t have zigged because Judas Iscariot zagged. God would not only have known and anticipated Judas, he’d have relied upon it — because that’s the trigger for everything else that follows. If Jesus, instead, lives to a ripe old age and dies in his bed surrounded by his loved ones then we’re not having this conversation. Judas isn’t a villain, damned for all time, he’s a story mechanism.

And, hey — blood libels are flat out stupid. It is stupid and offensive to use a poorly constructed story as a justification to hate Jews. But then Jews have never viewed the world as something to be converted into their way of thinking. Judaism is virtually non-dogmatic compared to Christianity. Yeah, sure — there are ten commandments. There are dietary laws out the wazoo and pretty much rules for everything. But Jews didn’t imagine a hell the way Christians did. There’s “Sheol” but that’s just a place where all dead people go. It was the equivalent of the Greeks’ “Hades”. And, while Jews imagined a few less than honorable divine creatures. There’s the “Dybbuk” — a malicious, possessing spirit usually associated with a dead person — but Dybbuk’s aren’t invented until the 16th century.

Jews simply don’t rely upon the heavy weight of eternal after-life punishment to motivate Jews to do anything — like follow the ten commandments. Being good is simply one’s obligation. In fact, every Jew is obligated by the core Jewish concept of “Tikkun Olam”. Every Jew is responsible for making the world a better place just for having been in it. How one accomplishes that? That’s up to you. But, once Paul and the early church organizers committed themselves to a whole after life mythology, they took it to its extremes. And the dogma piled higher and higher.

Followers of Jesus “do unto others” because that is what following Jesus actually entails. Paul and his church had no use for any sort of historical Jesus — so they quickly dispatched with that guy. Joshua ben Joseph vanished and Jesus rose in his place. Joshua ben Joseph was born lived his entire life and died a Jew (having spent his entire life preaching and teaching to Jews exclusively). If Paul could have sold the Jews in Jerusalem his version of Jesus, he wouldn’t have had to go outside Judaism. But he did — and one of the first things Paul’s new religion did was declare war on the old religion that rejected it.

It never mattered to the faithful if the mythology didn’t add up. The point of the exercise was defeating death! If the step-by-step includes hating Jews then the faithful will hate Jews because the prize is worth it.

Why does anyone take Jesus into their heart? It ain’t the same reason people succumb to a church’s song and dance. But then, all Jesus really promises his followers is a good way to live a life.

The church needs warm bodies to fill its empty space but also its coffers. It needs people willing to go along without questioning the church. It needs the “faithful”.

It needs “Christian soldiers”.

I Am Sick To Death Of People Who Literally Think They’re God

Personally, I blame monotheism.

We’ve got it in our heads that monotheism was a positive evolutionary step forward from polytheism. That is, “people who believe there’s only one sky deity are more advanced in their thinking than people who think there are more than one sky deity”. Can I tell ya? From an atheist’s POV? Less of the wrong idea isn’t really an improvement over more of the wrong idea — or vice versa. When looking around at the world and wondering where did this all come from and what is the point of it all, different people in different parts of the world answered those questions differently. In their defense, they were all working with a very limited knowledge base. If the men (they had to be men — would women write about women like this?) who wrote what became the Pentateuch had had telescopes and microscopes and the internet available to them as they sat down to scribble, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have scribbled out Genesis in the same way. For one thing, they’d have had a handle on geology and its very reliable data set.

They may still have written about the world being created in seven days, but, at least the metaphor would have been clear to everyone.

East of Eden — in the high, high mountains far beyond the Canaanite desert where El morphed into Yahweh (the biblical character we call “God”) — spiritual enlightenment meant finding an answer to suffering, not eternal life with all your loved ones in a magical sky-place. If this atheist suddenly felt compelled to “run for cover”? I’d run to Buddhism. It seems the shortest distance between two points by millions and millions of miles. Still, you can’t deny the radical forward progress monotheism presented over polytheism. From a polytheist’s POV, a monotheist is an atheist (because they deny all the polytheist’s gods). But then, polytheistic faiths didn’t work at all the way monotheism does. For one thing, polytheistic gods don’t really give a crap about humans or what humans do. They’re definitely not there to serve humans or larger human needs. They don’t even work as human wish fulfillers.

Right off the bat, Yahweh is different. Eden is literal perfection. Adam is Yahweh in the flesh. Eve, on the other hand…

Yahweh punishes man because he loves us so. But mostly because we disappoint him so. All he asks is that we behave ourselves — and worship him like he was the only god in existence. That is where the trouble begins.

Jesus didn’t invent Christianity, Paul did. If you brought Jesus back from the dead (for real) and asked him what he thought about “Christianity”, Jesus would have zero idea what you were talking about. He was born, lived his whole life and died a Jew (I’m going to assume someone like Jesus existed only because of Paul’s writing about Jesus). He preached Jewish teachings to other Jews who were equally familiar with all the same ritual and mythology. If Saul Of Tarsus doesn’t have his “Road To Damascus” moment (which he writes about forcefully — like he really experienced it inside his head), he never goes to Jerusalem to try and sell his version of Jesus to Jesus’s family and all Jesus’s followers. The reason everyone Jesus knew rejected Paul’s version of Jesus is because they all knew Jesus and had heard him actually teach. Paul’s version of Jesus was just that: Paul’s version of Jesus.

Atheist that I am, I consider myself a fan o’ Jesus. “Do unto others” is an amazing message for a religious faith to preach to the world. Every religion should be so humane in its purpose. But, to be fair, “Do unto others” isn’t radical, it’s a simpler expression of “Tikkun Olam” — a central tenet of not just Jewish faith but Jewish culture. “Tikkun Olam” obligates every Jew (every person, really) to make the world a better place just for having been it it. That’s it. That’s our mission, however we choose to fulfill it. Paul saw value in “Do unto others” but that wasn’t the hook he saw in Jesus. Resurrection — that was the hook on which Paul hung his version of Jesus and the brand-spanking-new religious faith Paul invented on the fly. Paul’s pitch to the Gentiles in a nutshell: “believe in this version of Jesus — in exactly the way I’m telling you to do it — and just like Jesus did, you, too, can defeat death.”

Oh, and by the way? This Jesus guy? He’s Yahweh’s son — that’s how we know his word’s good.

So long as you believe in Yahweh — and that Yahweh had a son with a virgin human being — and that son was imagined by Yahweh as a way for humankind to fix what Eve broke — then eternal paradise awaits! Just follow those rules to the letter. Jesus may have taught “Do unto others” but his churches (which is crazy since Jesus preached against corrupt temples and their corrupt temple priests) turned that into “Do what we say — or else”. And since the “we” is speaking for God (no longer Yahweh), who are little “you” to question? How exactly does a human go from being a fallible priest one moment to being an infallible pope the next? I mean, aside from inside his own head?

Polytheism didn’t concentrate the whole power of the universe into one pair of hands the way monotheism did. Also, it doesn’t put the voices of its gods inside human minds the way Abrahamic faiths put God’s voice inside every believer’s head. Christianity took the idea of a “personal relationship with God” and ran amok with it. It’s not hard to get why it worked. Imagine the “Voice Of God” inside your head. On the one hand, yeah — it could be terrifying. Like the worst acid trip ever. But, OTOH, if God liked you… if God saw that YOU understood him like few others…

That’s what priests are, in theory — people (usually men of course) who have a better relationship with God than you ever could. They feel God’s love better than you, see his intent where you see mysteries. When God really, REALLY needs to get his point across? He knows YOU are the guy to get it across for him. That, of course, is just you putting on a show inside your head — as we all do — and giving yourself the role of “God’s Favorite”. As you look at yourself in the mirror however, with the Voice O’ God in your ears, you convince yourself (what else can this be?) that you and God have an awful lot in common.

Show me a televangelist, I’ll show you someone who thinks they’re God…

Show me a Republican politician whose religiosity is tied to their brand, I’ll show you a fraudulent toad who thinks they’re God.

Yeah — I blame monotheism.

Personally, I Blame Monotheism For This Freakin’ Mess We’re In

The Monotheism School - Home | Facebook

A monotheist is someone who thinks his imaginary friend can beat the crap out of your imaginary friend. The problem is, the monotheist’s friend isn’t all that “imaginary”. This atheist absolutely accepts the sincerity of all his monotheistic friends (and he has many!) that they believe a creature far larger than themselves created everything. And I know that many of my monotheist friends imagine a God that really does represent love (or, at least, the possibility of love in a universal sense). Alas, as I look around at the world, I don’t see much evidence of theists following the teachings of a loving deity. Instead, I see and hear people who insist that they understand God and what he wants better than you — so you better get out of their way. I see people determined that they’re acting on God’s behalf. Are they? I have doubts…

It starts innocently enough on the believer’s part. They walk into a religious institution’s door filled with questions. It ain’t even remotely innocent on the religious institution’s part. Judaism doesn’t imagine the activist God that Christianity morphed Yahweh into. But, the Apostle Paul’s genius (and this atheist thinks he was a genius precisely because we’re still talking about his work product) was in refashioning Jewish mythology (going back a thousand years by the time Paul started refashioning it) into a whole different thing wherein God offered eternal life in exchange for devout belief. The institutional church also put it into everyone’s head (as part of its teaching) that every non-believer (everyone who doubted the absolute veracity of this mythology) threatened the entire belief structure — and therefore must be eliminated because they’re “heretics”.

Wait, what? How the hell did we get THERE from a loving “God”?

It takes zero dogma to “Do unto others”. To be a good, practicing Catholic? It’s nothing but dogma. That’s because the institutional church — regardless of denominational branding — has turned “Do unto others” into “Do what we say or else”.

This atheist — grateful to Hebrew School for making him the atheist he is today (well, it iced the cake on the atheism with which I dropped from the womb) — considers himself a “Fan O’ Jesus”. Jesus was born lived his whole life and died a Jew who preached only ever to other Jews about Jewish things and in a way that only other Jews understood. Paul (also a Jew) took his version of Jesus (and Paul never met Jesus or heard him teach) to the Gentiles where no one was going to check his work or point out how he was getting either the Jewish mythology or the Jesus mythology all wrong. Because the Gentiles knew nothing about Jewish mythology or Jesus that Paul didn’t tell them.

Thus Paul and the early church fathers began to construct a brand-spanking-new Christian mythology.

When Jews took to monotheism, they were relatively unique. Yahweh (which is really the Canaanite god “El” repurposed and still represented in place names like “Beth-EL” and “IsraEL”) represented a radical shift in how people thought about the divine. Polytheistic gods didn’t really bother themselves with humans or human concerns. Few polytheistic gods had any sort of “personal relationship” with humans in general. Why would they? What could humans do for them? What could they do for humans? Almost nothing.

Monotheism changes that dynamic. Right off the bat, Yahweh tells Abraham to move from Ur (modern day Southern Iraq, where he was from) to modern day Israel (Canaan then) with the promise that the Canaanite’s land was going to be theirs. Because Yahweh said so. Yahweh, unlike any god before, takes a very personal interest in Abraham but only so long as Abraham agrees to believe ONLY in Yahweh.

Think about it… When the Pentateuch’s authors finally wrote down the stories they’d been passing along orally for a thousand years, their monotheistic god didn’t say “Well, you can believe in other gods if you like but that’d be silly since they don’t exist!” Instead, Yahweh is petulant: “You better not believe in any other god!” That’s being competitive where, if Yahweh is the real deal, no competition ever existed; if no other gods made the world then they can’t exist (other than as characters in a story)! That makes Yahweh’s petulance even harder to comprehend. This mighty creature was powerful enough to create literally everything in existence — and out of nothing no less. He should be the epitome of confidence! Instead, like a whiney little bitch, he can’t bear it if his creations don’t toady to him! What kind of bullshit deity is this?

If Yahweh creating everything in existence is a fact of life from the outset, then where would any alternative way of thinking come from? It makes “free will” look like a design flaw since free will can invent bullshit out of nothing — just like Yahweh can. Or, it makes Yahweh look deranged, mercurial, bi-polar and off his meds. Only a human being could invent a deity as horribly neurotic as that.

Hey, this doesn’t mean “God” or god-like being doesn’t exist. Show me proof, I’m there! But, Yahweh (“god” is Yahweh’s job description, not his name) is a piss poor creation. Valdemort makes more sense FFS!

And while we’re on the subject, God — as imagined by way too many monotheists — and Valdemort — have way, way too much in common.

Put aside whether or not a “creator of everything” exists. What monotheism does is put “God” (a character it says is God and describes as God and quotes as God) inside its believers’ heads. “When you ‘pray to God’,” the institutional religion tells its followers, “Or talk to God or think about him and “another voice” answers you, trust that that voice IS “God”.

This is exactly the moment when trouble begins.

The believer now believes that this voice inside his head — the one speaking AS God — IS God. Except, it’s not God. It’s just a voice inside their head — it’s them talking to themselves. And if you can’t show the other side of the conversation in any way, shape or form? Then it’s a one-sided conversation. The other side is not going to reply because it can’t. So any “reply” you attribute to it is you replying and not it. The True Believer swaps themselves with the God character. Therefore, whatever thoughts occur to them are also occurring to God (especially since God, being omnipotent, sees and hears literally everything).

Now the True Believer is thinking like God and for God. Oh, come on already! Whether they know it or not, whether they accept it or not, they’ve made the leap. They may put it “God speaks through me” or “I understand God and what he wants” but the divine entity in their minds is none other than themselves cos-playing as Yahweh.

Think I’m nuts? Watch televangelist Kenneth Copeland explain how life works and tell me Kenny-Boy doesn’t think God’s divine light doesn’t shine from his anointed ass. “Anointed!” That’s code for “I made me God”.

Part of the institutional church’s genius (an extension of Paul’s) is their insistence that believers need the church in order to have a relationship with God. Unfortunately that contradicts one of Jesus’s core teachings — that no one needs a corrupt temple or its corrupt priests (even if they’re priests working for a corrupt church) in order to speak to “the father”. But, hey — that’s just Jesus talking and what does that effin’ hippie know, right?

Monotheism concentrates the power of the universe in one place and in one “brain” — “God’s”. That would be okay if everyone had a truly uniform idea of what “God” is. That’s a literal impossibility. Every human experiences Life in their own personal way as Life filters through their brain. Ask ten theists what God is and you will get ten different answers. That’s not because God can be “anything” (isn’t that a neat trick!), it’s because the idea of God can be anything.

Put that kind of “power” inside a flawed human mind and it’s a stone cold guarantee that only bad shit will ever happen. The history of human beings and their religious beliefs says so.

Why Being An Atheist And A Jew At The Same Time Isn’t A Contradiction

It took me a while to figure out why I’ve gotten strange looks most of my life when I claim to be both an atheist and a Jew.

Every one of those strange looks comes from non-Jews who have it in their heads that Judaism is equal to Christianity is equal to Islam or Buddhism or Hinduism or any other world faith. And, indeed, one can convert from whatever faith one practices to any of those other faiths — Judaism included. But the only thing one can convert into — where Judaism is concerned — is the religion. One can change one’s way of thinking to to see the world from a Jewish perspective. That doesn’t make one Jewish though in the cultural sense. And that’s what separates Jews from nearly every other ethnic group. We’re not just a religious affiliation, we’re a distinct cultural group whose religion is part of the group’s culture but far from its entirety.

A Baptist may have Baptist roots and the culture they live in can be Baptist out the wazoo. But those Baptists could convert to Methodism or Calvinism tomorrow and that’d be the end of them being Baptists. A Jew can quit Judaism and never walk into a synagogue again for the rest of her life. In the world’s eyes, she’ll never stop being a Jew however. Because what makes her a Jew — what makes any Jew a “Jew” — isn’t their version of God, it’s something deeper than that. God, after all, is just an idea of how we all got here.

In addition to this blog, I have a few others. There’s Mulligan Jesus (which I neglect and shouldn’t) and there’s The Faithesism Project Podcast which I do with my good friend Randy Lovejoy who’s also a Presbyterian Pastor. A few podcasts back, Randy and I had a guest named Dave Wertlieb. Randy and Dave are related by marriage which is how they know each other. Randy wanted Dave to be a guest because (in addition to being Jewish), Dave is an avowed agnostic. Whereas theists insists that “absolutely, there is a God!” and atheists insist “absolutely there is not!” agnostics insist that neither theists nor atheists know what they’re talking about. That is, they cannot literally “know” anything here and both the theist’s faith and the atheist’s un-faith are based on incomplete information. Randy and I both expected the podcast to focus on a discussion of agnosticism (their point of view really is the most honest), it ended up more a discussion between Dave and I about what it is to be “Jewish”. More specifically, about how Dave and I could both insist we’re Jewish while neither of us practices the Jewish religion.

Randy grew up in Texas but then traveled the world as a religious missionary. His attachment to Christianity — though it’s the faith he grew up in — isn’t cultural at all. Christianity is an ideal that appeals to Randy, a vision of the world he agrees with. Of all the Christians I know, Randy has more Jesus in him than most. But, Randy found himself befuddled by both Dave and myself. For starters, though I had never met Dave before the podcast, Dave and I hit it off instantly. That is, we had plenty to talk about including a huge pool of common experience: we’re both Jewish. Randy, at the conversation’s start, couldn’t understand how I could claim to be an atheist — and yet Jewish — while Dave could claim to be agnostic and yet Jewish. Randy was assuming that the bottom line for “being Jewish” was following the Jewish faith.

The reasons WHY Jews were treated as pariahs across two thousand years of European history is a whole set of blog posts unto themselves. Christianity grew on the back of multiple untruths — all of them Paul’s creation. Paul took various Jewish ideas and mythologies and repurposed them for the gentile communities he was grooming across Asia Minor. These communities had no knowledge of Jewish mythologies or prophesies. Whatever Paul created went unchallenged. After Justinian made Christianity the state religion and, as the Catholic Church began to assert its primacy, Jew hatred became a focus because “feelings over facts”.

For fifteen hundred years, Jews were excluded from European society, forced to live separate lives in separate communities. The word “ghetto” is Italian. The first place it ever referred to was the Jewish Ghetto in Venice — that fenced off part of town where the Jews were forced to live. Living apart from Christian Europe for fifteen hundred years, marrying and having babies only with other Jews — not a huge community begin with — caused a Jewish genetic disorder: Tay Sachs disease. Tay Sachs was born in the shtetls of Europe. And Tay Sachs can live inside a Jewish person regardless of how dedicated they are to the Torah.

I recommend the podcast Randy and I did with Dave. Okay — I’m biased. But it really is a worthwhile conversation both because of what was said about being a Jew and about being a person of “un-faith”.

When I say (and I say it at the start of each podcast) that I’m “grateful to Hebrew School for making me the atheist I am today”, I am absolutely not being sarcastic or even mean. I am genuinely grateful because Hebrew school taught me to question even fundamental ideas like where we all came from. To be honest, I’m pretty convinced I dropped from the womb an atheist. Except for a twenty-four period when I was eight and thought I was in big trouble for taking a Playboy magazine to school one day? I have never looked skyward expecting a shoulder to cry on.

History says any shoulder up there is too cold to cry on anyway.

God Goes On A Job Interview: A Sketch

SETTING: A long, featureless, fluorescent lit hallway that seems to go on forever. Approaching footsteps and heavy breathing. Whoever’s approaching must be late — and worried about it. God steps into frame, a slip of paper clutched in his powerful (to hear him talk about it) hand. He peers at the number scribbled on it. It matches the room number above the doorway. This MUST be the place.

God straightens his tie. Gives his mighty (him again) head a shake as he clears his throat in a long roll of thunder. The timbre seems right. Reminding himself that he’s the one who created all this in six days damn it, he reaches for the door knob and steps into the next room like the monotheistic deity he is.

God comes up short on the other side of the door though. He wasn’t sure what to expect here. A respected bible scholar trying to make sense of unfathomable times or a world leader struggling with a terrible choice. Or a pope maybe. He definitely wasn’t expecting the attractive but business-like young woman seated across the very plain desk, a clutch of papers in her hands. From the look of the papers — the extensive wear on them, the young woman has gone over them relentlessly.

Like she was looking for answers on them. “Sheila,” she says, extending her hand toward God like he wasn’t the deity who created literally everything.

“Erm,” says God, uncomfortable but trying not to show it, desperate to do anything but shake her hand. The Young Woman has seen his discomfort. She withdraws her hand, never taking her eyes from his face. Finally his eyes meet hers.

“Sheila,” she repeats. “I’m Sheila.” She points to the folding chair on his side of the desk. Sits in the much more comfortable rolling desk chair on her side. The one with lower lumbar support.

God looks again to the folding chair, not quite sure how to fit his enormous, glowing magnificence into it. But, he’ll try. He reminds himself again, he’s the deity here. “Nice to meet you, Sheila,” he says, smooth as the Red Sea before it parted, “I’m God”. He sits, knowing it’s just a matter of time before he wins over Sheila–

“I know what job you’re here for,” she’s halfway through saying as God snaps to, “But god’s just your job description. It’s not actually your name.”

God starts to answer. Stops. “Well, over time, I’ve gotten used to it. We all have–“

Sheila’s looking at her smart phone. She’s found a source. “Says here your name’s Yahweh.” Sheila focuses on the fine print. “Yeah,” she says confidently, “Yahweh’s your name, not ‘God’.” She points her phone’s screen (with the “receipts” on it) toward God. “God’s” just your job description,” she says. “Is that true?”

God starts to answer. Stops. “Well, I did create everything,” he says, a little less ironically than he’d hoped to. “And that,” he says, leaning forward, “Is why I think you’d be crazy to believe in anything else but me.”

Sheila stares back, hard to read. Finally — “You probably know that members of my family believe in you”.

God leans forward even further, seizing the opening. “Of course I do. They’re great people. That’s why I love them–” He knows immediately: too much.

“Do you think my family believing in you speaks well of you?”

God hesitates. He’s sure of it: that was a trick question. “Perhaps,” he says, hedging, “We could agree that being a deity is hard and sometimes you have to move in mysterious ways?”

“Uh huh,” says Sheila, unimpressed. “Did you tell my Tanta Louise that she got cancer because she fooled around so much when she was younger?”

God starts to answer. Stops. “Erm,” he says (looking as uncomfortable as he feels), “Was I supposed to get some sort of notes about this?”

“You’re God, aren’t you?” says Sheila, making God feel much more like he was on a witness stand instead of a job interviewee’s chair.

“Is that a question?” asks God.

“Then you’re all-knowing, right?”

God knows exactly where this is going. He rolls his eyes. “There’s ‘all-knowing‘ and there’s “ALL-KNOWING“, know what I mean?” He hopes like hell the extra boom in his voice took a little of the wind from Sheila’s sails.

“So you don’t know my Tanta Louise or, at least, you don’t remember her, is that right?”

God studies his hands. They don’t feel very mighty right this second. His cuticles are looking rough. “What was that again your…”

“Tanta. Tanta Louise. She was my favorite aunt. She taught me how to live. But, smart as she is in some ways, she makes no sense in others. Like believing you gave her the cancer that nearly killed her.”

God squirms despite himself (flashes of lightning shoot this way and that). “Can we… talk about… you?”

She stares back, a little incredulous.

God presses on. “Things were different back when your beloved auntie was trying to figure things out. It’s true. People weren’t as broad-minded as they are now.”

“By ‘broad-minded’, you mean they don’t believe in you?”

God looks down. Stepped in it. “Now that door’s open,” he starts to tell himself–

“Oh, for Christ’s sake,” says Sheila. God raises a hand to object. “Don’t,” says Sheila crisply. Down goes God’s hand. “Do you honestly think if no one mentions atheism that no one will think it?”

“It’s a little more complicated than that.” God looks down. Clears his throat — this time holding back on the rumble. “Know what special dispensation is, right?” He knows she does. She’s Catholic. “I’m taking it,” says God. “Different time and place.” He catches Sheila’s eyes. Holds them. “I, uh — I think I might remember this aunt of yours and, yeah — I might have said something along those lines — but there was context!”

Sheila and those damned eyes.

“She needed an explanation.”

Did you give her the cancer?”

“What? No!” Suddenly God’s all knowing: “The office building she worked in was on a super fund site. Honestly, it wasn’t my fault. I’m sorry I said anything–“

“You couldn’t tell her the truth?”

“Nobody knew it then — Google it!” God sits back a little. Feels the first hint of breathing room. “Google it”, he chuckles to himself, “Man, that was genius.”

Again with those damned eyes.

“Are you all knowing or aren’t you?”

God’s been in this minefield. Doesn’t make it any easier. “Depends”.

“When my Tanta Louise asked you why she got cancer, did you tell her it was because of the building she worked in? No. You told her a lie — even though you knew the truth.”

God sits back in his metal folding chair. He tries to. Finally, he fixes Sheila with a stare of his own. “You’re very good, know that?”

“I’ve thought about it, yeah,” says Sheila. “I’m thinking about it now. What should I believe? What seems most true to me?”

“And that is why — if you’re looking for Truth, you can’t not go the monotheism route — sticking a pin in your Tanta Whatever — not literally of course!” Her eyes say “continue”. “Go with me here,” he says, kicking into full salesman mode, “Take it from a deity — all those other deities? They’re not deities. The don’t think they’re better than you, for one thing!”

He turns up his palms. Slowly realizes his faux pas. “What I meant was polytheism’s small because all its gods are small. You don’t want to believe in a small god, do you?”

“Why should I believe in any god?”

“First cause,” says God, throwing down the words like it ended the argument.

“Bull-shit”, says Sheila. “Where’d YOU come from then? Who created you?”

“Nothing did, don’t you get it?” says God. “I’m the first cause. The alpha, the omega, the beginning, the end, the peanut butter and the jelly.”

“I’m allergic to peanuts”

“Figures,” God starts to say, catching himself immediately. “What I meant was I know you’re allergic to peanuts because I know everything.”

“What’s on the other side of a black hole?”

God hesitates. “What’s–“

“On the other side of a black hole. You know what a black hole is, right?”

Pride a little wounded: “Yes, I know what a black hole is, I invented them, right?”

“If you invented them then you know what’s on the other side of one, right?”

“Well…” God stammers, “Some of these inventions of mine — they’re works in progress, know what I mean?”

“They ‘evolve’, you mean?”

“Exactly,” says God, not catching himself in time, “They evolve.”

To God’s surprise, Sheila smiles. “I’ve come to a decision,” she says, standing. God, feeling like he’s being led here, stands as well. “I’m not hiring you,” says Sheila.

Not the first time this has happened (especially not recently). God lets it roll off his shoulders. “You don’t have to decide anything today,” he says — having answered this objection a few kajillion times before.

“I don’t have to decide anything ever,” says Sheila. She sits back. Studies God. Starts to laugh — not at God, not at anything in particular. Finally, the laugh peters out. “Even if, some day, I decide to look you up,” says Sheila, “It wouldn’t be you that I’d be looking up. It’d be someone better. Something better — a better God, know what I mean? But that’s only if I felt like I needed to believe in a God to begin with.”

“Can I tell you how sorry I am that I lied to your auntie?”

“If I was going to invent a god,” Sheila says, indicating the door behind God, “I’d hope like hell I could invent a better god than you.” Sheila extends a hand. “Good luck in the future.”

God looks at her hand. He knows that she knows he isn’t going to take it. And just like that, he knows: he made her point again.

“Thanks for coming in.”

If You Haven’t Sampled The Faitheism Project Podcast, This Is A Good One To Sample

Our sister site — The Faitheism Project Podcast — just dropped its latest podcast and (okay, I’m biased), I really recommend it.

In “The Faitheism Project Podcast”, a devout atheist (me) and a Presbyterian Pastor (my friend Randy Lovejoy) sit down to discuss spirituality — as opposed to religion. They are, in fact, two very different things. And, once you make that distinction, a conversation about religion becomes less contentious because, as Randy and I keep discovering, all of us, really, are on the same kind of spiritual journey; we just use different vocabulary to describe it. The Faitheism Project Podcast opens up the discussion by removing judgment. It’s not about winning an argument. It’s about discovering our commonality where we least expect to find it.

In this episode, Randy lets his hair down. He talks with remarkable candor about his actual spiritual process — the path that led him to where he is. It’s been challenging in ways both spiritual and physical. He’s been to some pretty remote places, put himself in harm’s way because he truly wanted to help those who most needed help by going TO them and directly helping. We’ve all got a horrible travel story or two in our past — especially one where either food or water and our gut went to war with each other.

Randy’s stories beat anything I’ve got hands down — for which I am grateful.

In this podcast, I also do a tribute to my old boss the action movie director Dick Donner. Dick was my boss back when I ran “Tales From The Crypt” for HBO. Dick — if you don’t know — produced and directed the “Lethal Weapon” movies, “Scrooged”, “The Goonies”, “Timeline”, a gazillion TV shows (back in the 60’s) and the horror classic “The Omen”.

Dick had a theory as to why “The Omen” succeeded as massively as it did. And his theory had something to do with the family Bible that sat in many American homes (unread of course).

There’s also a YouTube version (if you prefer to watch).

Please enjoy!

Every Church Has A Dirty, Little Secret: Jesus Taught You Don’t Need Them

Sometimes, atheist that I am, my heart goes out to Jesus. On the one hand, I see Jesus as a fellow Jew. The simple fact is Jesus was born, lived his whole life and died a Jew. He preached only to Jews. The ideas he taught were fundamentally Jewish. “Do unto others” is a graceful, eloquent, actionable expression of the Jewish concept “Tikkun Olam” which commands every Jew (every person actually) to make the world a better place simply for having lived in it. If not for Paul — and his complete repurposing of Jesus away from Jesus’s actual teachings and toward the teachings of an institutional church that Jesus could never have and would never have imagined — there would be no such thing as “Christianity”. According to the Jesus Seminar (a group of theologists and actual Bible scholars versus Bible college graduate,), Eighty-two percent of the words ascribed to Jesus in the gospels were not actually spoken by him. That’s 18% attributable to Jesus. For comparison’s sake, Paul himself wrote 28% of the canonical Bible.

Even by the numbers, Paul has a greater say in what we call “Christianity” than Jesus. Per Wikipedia, the Jesus Seminar “was formed by American group of about 50 critical biblical scholars and 100 laymen founded in 1985 by Robert Funk that originated under the auspices of the Westar Institute.[1][2]“. Westar Institute remains active today online. The Seminar’s goal (in addition to “Honest scholarship in religion for the public”) was to try and parse an historical, real Jesus from both the texts themselves and from the real scholarship that’s been done regarding Jesus, his time and his world. In other words, the Seminar wanted to strip out the church’s dogma while focusing on Jesus himself.

Being scholars equipped with actual analytical skills, the Seminar’s participants recognized that Christianity did not drop from the sky in one piece. The early church was the product first of Paul and the message HE took to the gentiles after the Jews in Jerusalem (including Jesus’s family) rejected it. Paul never met Jesus. Never personally heard Jesus teach. His vision of Jesus occurs AFTER Jesus physically dead. We have to believe Paul literally if we’re to believe Paul at all. What inspired Paul’s conversion on the Road to Damascus? Does it really matter? He experienced it. That’s what matters — and good for Paul that he did experience it.

But the fact that he “experienced” it doesn’t make it real. J. K. Rowling “experienced” Harry Potter. She made Harry and his world seem incredibly real to all of her readers but, as we all know, Harry and his world are NOT real. Same goes for Paul. Jesus (per the Jesus Seminar) “did not refer to himself as the Messiah, nor did he claim to be a divine being who descended to earth from heaven in order to die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. These are claims that some people in the early church made about Jesus, not claims he made about himself.” Further, “Jesus did not hold an apocalyptic view of the reign (or kingdom) of God—that by direct intervention God was about to bring history to an end and bring a new, perfect order of life into being. Rather, in Jesus’ teaching the reign of God is a vision of what life in this world could be (emphasis mine).

So, if we go strictly by Jesus (avoiding Paul’s spin), we get a completely different teaching. What the hell is Paul talking about? The Jesus Seminar answers that question, too: “At the heart of Jesus’ teaching and actions was a vision of a life under the reign of God (or, in the empire of God) in which God’s generosity and goodness is regarded as the model and measure of human life; everyone is accepted as a child of God and thus liberated both from the ethnocentric confines of traditional Judaism and from the secularizing servitude and meagerness of their lives under the rule of the empire of Rome.” Though preaching exclusively to Jews, Jesus sees Yahweh (that’s the “god” Jesus believed in) as a universal god. As Jesus put it (per the Jesus Seminar), “Render unto God that which is God’s and render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s”.

The God that Jesus imagines doesn’t seem to need that much help being generous and good. And whenever people do intercede between God and believer? Corruption ensues! The temple priests let money changers in the temple’s front door!

Nowhere does Jesus say — “But, after ‘doing unto others’, don’t forget to join my church!” There’s a reason. To Jesus, doing unto others is as universal as his idea of Yahweh. Anyone can do it — even a simple atheist (another thing Jesus probably couldn’t imagine). Jesus taught a simple, eloquent, very Jewish message. The church that Paul created in Jesus’s name teaches a far more complicated message that Jesus himself would find confounding if not entirely contradictory. Paul didn’t care so much what Jesus said as the fact that he died for having said it (regardless of what it was he said). Paul had latched onto Jewish mythology about a messiah that had percolated orally for a thousand years.

Let’s not rush past that. It’s MYTHOLOGY. Tribal mythology. There is zero basis in reality for any of it. That’s Paul’s starting point. When he tried to preach HIS version to the Jews, they rejected it because it wasn’t the mythology they knew. But, the gentiles had no such knowledge. To them, this monotheistic mythology was brand new. It was different — especially because it featured a god that (unlike most polytheistic gods) cared about humans having personally created humans. In fact, the god Paul was pitching offered something no other deity had ever offered a human before: a way to beat death.

That, ultimately, is Paul’s (and the early church’s) message: believe in Jesus the way we’re telling you to and, like Jesus, you too can defeat death. Can we talk “genius”? Can we talk “invitation to dogma”?

Can we talk corruption?

If Jesus never said he was any sort of messiah then any institution flocking such a thing is flocking bullshit. Any institution that says Jesus’s dying is more important than the fact that Jesus lived isn’t selling Jesus. They’re selling something they invented. To sell to you. Like a money changer in the temple forecourt.

Hell, even non-believers can tell you how Jesus felt about those guys.

What Does It Say About You When You Suck At Being A Christian?

In theory, following Jesus is remarkably easy. So easy, in fact, that even an atheist can do it just by “Doing it unto others”. And yet, looking around at the most “Christian-y” among us, people “doing unto others” is the last thing you’ll see — unless they’re doing it unto others before those others can do it unto them. But, in theory anyway, the most Christian people should be the people who most want to model their lives on Jesus’s. Hmmmmmm… the most visibly Christian people visible to us are televangelists like Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker and Kenneth Copland and Jerry Falwell, Jr. and Joel Osteen Copland famously explained why it’s just not possible for a “man of Jesus” to fly commercial. Each of these characters is a study in performance art, not spirituality. Kenny Copland and Joel Osteen couldn’t care less about your problems unless you start making monthly donations via your credit card. The only thing these scumbags have faith in is their bank account.

Jerry Falwell, Jr wants you to know it wasn’t Jesus who put THAT smile on THAT young woman’s face. No sirree. Jesus couldn’t do that on his best day. But Jerry just did (he wants us all to know).

The fact that it’s sooooooooo easy to pick on televangelists should tell us something. The fact that religious figures have been figures of satiric fun going back to Moliere’s Tartuffe (1664) should tell us something. In Tartuffe, a rich guy takes a religious fraud into his house believing it will raise his standing. Of course, the rich guy doesn’t realize Tartuffe is a fraud (though everyone else in his house does). Even when Tartuffe seduces his wife atop the very table he’s hiding under doesn’t convince him. That’s some serious bamboozlement — but that’s the whole point of televangelism. It’s theater. God Kabuki geared not toward anyone’s spiritual enlightenment but toward enriching the preacher as quickly as possible. As Kenny Copeland will happily tell you — it costs Jesus a bomb to fly private, but a messiah’s gotta fly how he’s gotta fly — and, hell — where’s my damned drink?

Why is it the most ardent Christians seem the least good at it — like they need to keep talking about Christianity or, they know, they’ll stop believing in it. Like they’ve “heard” the good news they’re selling except they can’t quite make themselves buy it.

To be fair, being a Christian is indeed hard: you have to swallow a lot of things no one should have to swallow. But, that’s only if you insist on practicing Christian dogma rather than Jesus’s simple life philosophy.

Fact: just as he did not invent Christianity (Paul did), neither did Jesus invent a single bit of the mythology that says 1) he rose from the dead or 2) is coming back any time soon. Again, Paul the Apostle did all that. Paul never met Jesus (like has family had). He never heard Jesus teach. So, when Paul tried to hijack Jesus, Jesus’s family and followers objected. That’s why Paul took HIS version of Jesus — and the Jewish mythology that suggested Jesus was any sort of “messiah” — out to the Gentiles. They didn’t know Jesus either. And they had even less background in the Jewish mythology than former Jew Paul did. So, when Paul twisted the Jewish mythology around to meet his needs, no one objected because no one knew any better.

Judaism, by its nature, is relatively dogma-free. One can toss the whole religion and still be welcome as a Jew (that’s because Judaism is more than just a religion; fifteen years of isolation in Europe did turn Jews into a unique tribe with its own genetic disorder caused by in-breeding). The most dogmatic part of Judaism is its dietary laws and no one is obligated to follow them. It’s a choice. Christianity, on the other hand, is steeped in dogma — and you absolutely must buy the dogma if you want the Christian bone. And not a whit of Christian dogma has the least bit to do with anything Jesus said, thought or taught.

But then, Jesus was born, lived his entire life and died a Jew. He preached only to Jews about topics only Jews understood in a language that was uniquely theirs. IF Jesus were to miraculously rise from the dead and walk the earth again, the first thing he’d bump on is the staggering amount of hatred his followers feel toward his tribe. He’d be blown away by the number of Jews MURDERED by Christians for a reason that Jesus himself would insist was bullshit: that any Jew “killed him”.

On pure story logic, it makes zero sense. If the whole point of Jesus’s existence is to die for the sins of humanity so as to right the wrong Eve committed in the Garden of Eden, then it would not serve humanity if Jesus doesn’t get crucified and, say, lives to be a very old man who dies happy. For the mythology to work, Jesus must die at the hands of the Romans. If you look at the bigger picture — the one God’s working — Jesus MUST die. To Paul’s credit, his invention endures like few things have ever endured.

I don’t think that’s because the Christian message resonates with so many people, I think it’s because Paul cleverly added a new dimension to Yahweh — and having a deity that cared about humans because he created them was a game changer. Whereas polytheistic gods did very little for individual humans, Yahweh the monotheist deity supposedly cared about each and every human. But Paul improved on that idea of a personable god by having Yahweh offer up something every human wanted more than life itself: a way to defeat death.

That, really, is Paul’s sales pitch to Christians: “Believe in this version of Jesus I’m pitching to ya and, just like Jesus did, you, too, can defeat death!” Who wouldn’t want to live forever and be surrounded by the people and things you love?

The problem for Christianity is, most people have figured out that Christianity cannot possibly deliver on its promise of defeating death. Without that benefit, what’s the point? I mean, Jesus is a perfectly nice guy but so’s my nephew. Can Jesus cut video like my nephew can because otherwise he’s useless to me and probably everyone else. If it isn’t about following Jesus (or beating death) then what’s the point of Christianity for most Christians? This, I suspect, lies at the heart of the problem. The object of being a Christian is to keep Christian dogma in your prayers. You damn well better adhere to it — or stop calling yourself a “Christian”.

For the record? Followers of Jesus do not have the same issues.

Maybe the real problem is that it’s so easy to be (or at least call yourself) “a Christian” that any angry, racist jerk can join the club. When Christians proselytize, they honestly don’t care what you’re guilty of. As far as they’re concerned, once you’ve “bathed in the blood of Christ”, all your sins are forgiven — including the really ugly, violent ones you’re going to do at your church’s behest.

I take back what I said up top. Guys like Jerry Falwell, Jr and Kenneth Copeland don’t suck at being Christians. In fact, they’re great at it. It’s following Jesus where they completely fall down.

As if following Jesus mattered to them.

Do Religious People Believe “IN” God Or That They ARE “God”? I Suspect It’s Mostly The Latter…

Monotheism is dangerous — far more dangerous than polytheism — and far, FAR more dangerous than atheism. Let’s be clear: there have been atheistic despots (Pol Pot comes to mind). But, atheistic as they may have been, it was never their atheism driving their heinous cruelty because atheism doesn’t work like theism does inside our minds. For starters, atheism is entirely undogmatic. There’s no institution to create rules for adherents to follow — the whole basis for dogma. Simply put, there’s no institution and certainly no institution telling atheists how to think in order to demonstrate how “religiously” atheistic they are. Dogma is like a suit of armor around the religionista, protecting their delicate sensibilities from the harsh cruelties of the real world. Religion only works if a follower is willing to suspend all critical thinking; they must accept without question the institution’s interpretation of the world and human purpose within it. And all that purpose is directed, the religious believe, by an actual being named Yahweh.

Or do they? If you asked the average religionista how they feel about Yahweh and they’d stare back vaguely. How do they feel about who now? That’s because most religious people haven’t actually read any of the texts they supposedly base their lives on. They certainly haven’t approached their spirituality with an ounce of curiosity. That’s a large clue as to what they’re thinking. Or not thinking as is the case. In their defense, a lot of people cling to their religion because it was introduced to them when they were kids. The fear buttons pushed then to set the God hook deeply stayed pushed. Even rational people can be intensely irrational given a certain subject matter particular to them.

And what of the deity — or, rather the idea of “the deity” — that set in their heads when the idea was introduced to them in childhood? Even kids (like mine) raised in an entirely non-religious household have to confront religion because American society has been so “religionized” by the religionistas among us. This morning, for instance, a unanimous (but narrowly focused) decision allows Catholic Family Services of Philadelphia to continue discriminating against LGBTQ couples in its adoption business. The God of the Religious Right knows what he likes but even more what he hates apparently.

How exactly, I wonder, do the religious arrive at their conclusion that God doesn’t want them adopting children needing love and a family to loving families just because those families aren’t “traditional”? I suspect they pulled such a thing from their asses. The Jewish Pentateuch took more than a thousand years to come together; it memorialized longstanding tribal mythologies and beliefs. But, even as they practiced their faith, Jews questioned their faith because acceptance of dogmatism just isn’t how Jews roll. In point of fact, Jews are more a culture than a religion. We may have begun life as a religion but fifteen hundred years of forced isolation in Europe forced Jews to invent a culture unto themselves. That’s one reason why Jewish culture endures even as more Jews become less religious. Irreligion is not a deal breaker. You don’t stop being Jewish just because you practice another faith. Ask the rest of the world. They’ll tell you: once a Jew, always a Jew.

The religious put on quite a show when they want to demonstrate their fealty to Yahweh. That’s because Yahweh — Creator of the Whole Universe and Everything In It” demands fealty, neurotic psychopath that he is. In Yahweh’s defense, he’s not a terribly original creation and the first Jews didn’t really make Yahweh their one and only god for a long, long time. He probably had reason to feel defensive. Whoever the original Abraham character was — the tribal chieftain who migrated his extended family from modern day Iraq (where he came from — so the book says) to modern-day Israel where he and his family co-existed with the Canaanites whose god El, these transplants from the East seem to have liked. They must have liked El because they embedded El’s name in so many places that endured even after the Canaanites were long gone: Beth-EL for instance or IsraEL.

What it all demonstrates is who invented whom. Yahweh didn’t invent anyone. The Hebrews — borrowing from the Canaanites — invented Yahweh a/k/a “God”.

Now, keep in mind, almost no one who claims to believe in God knows anything about this. If you told them, they’d shake their head in disapproval. They’d insist that they know God exists because they have a personal relationship with him (in fact, they’re quite sure this cosmic force is a “him”). I bet it’s not too far removed from the personal relationship they have with the person who stares back at them from the bathroom mirror. I bet, if we could be there in the room there with most of them, they wouldn’t give Yahweh or God or anyone not there in the room with them the time of day. Much more real to them — the face staring back from the mirror.

And much more real? The voice that speaks as they gaze at themselves. That, really, is the “voice of God”. For some people, that would be a profoundly discomfiting revelation. For the deeply religious, it’s the voice’s “familiarity” that appeals. The voice of God sounds good in their heads. It won’t matter to them how it plays in our heads.

In fact, it won’t matter to them if it doesn’t.

The 3 Words That Make Me An Atheist: “I Don’t Know”

“I have always been grateful to Hebrew School for making me the atheist I am today”. That’s how I sign on to “The Faitheism Project Podcast” that I do every week with my good friend the Reverend Randy Lovejoy. In fairness, I’m pretty sure I dropped from the womb an “unbeliever”. Hebrew School merely closed the deal. Back then, I hadn’t had time yet (or the intellectual capacity) to reason out exactly why theism didn’t add up for me. That’s not to say I didn’t feel awe as I gazed up at the cosmos. I felt tons of awe. And tons of curiosity. I just didn’t see Yahweh staring back with the answers.

My awe is no different from the awe a Christian feels as they contemplate the nature of God (their version in their head) or the the all knowing state of Bodhisattva a Buddhist might experience as they achieve nirvana. But that’s where our paths diverge — me and my faith-practicing friends. People of faith need to know what’s behind the awe (even if the explanation isn’t entirely satisfying or logical). Why does the universe exist in the first place? God knows. Whether he reveals that truth to them is a whole other question; that “knowledge” that God has the answer, that’s good enough for them. Not for me. I’m pretty clear about one essential fact: Yahweh did not invent humans, humans invented Yahweh. If you’re looking to Yawheh for real answers, you’re looking in the wrong place.

The scribes who first scratched out what eventually became “The Book Of Genesis” were memorializing more than a thousand years of accumulated mythology — all bent toward answering the question “Why are we here?” Unsatisfied by a polytheist answer, whoever the actual “Abraham” was (mostly likely, he was a tribal chieftain who migrated his tribe from modern day Iraq to Canaan, now modern day Israel), he also migrated his tribe away from the polytheistic gods of their past to a “new God” called Yahweh. But, even Yahweh wasn’t entirely original. The newly arrived monotheists must have liked a lot about the Canaanite god EL; they incorporated not just EL into Yahweh, but El into their identity. El’s presence remains in place names like “Beth EL” and “IsraEL”.

Even Yahweh says of himself that he used to be called El but, at long last, has gotten to show his true self.

Knowledge — “gnosis” — became extremely important in the monotheistic universe. Human beings weren’t allowed to have “ultimate knowledge”. That’s Eve’s original sin — wanting to know what Yahweh knew.

To know everything therefore, is to “be” Yahweh. To be a god.

Atheists aspire “to know”. Same goes for many agnostics. Their agnosticism hinges on the fact that they don’t and therefore won’t conclude definitively whether or not Yahweh (or any god) exists. The information I want is out there somewhere. Will I ever acquire it definitively? I don’t know. And that’s the bottom line. Until I do “know” what happened, I’ll have to accept that I don’t know. The question is — can I live with that? Can I live with not knowing definitively?

What preceded the Big Bang? I don’t know. I think string theory provides a more satisfying answer than “Yahweh preceded it”. At least string theory can rest on a foundation of math. Yahweh rests on a foundation of storytelling in the absence of hard data. If the first monotheist (be it Abraham who whoever) had had access to a telescope or a microscope — or the internet — would they have written Genesis the way they did? Would they have described an earth-centric universe all geared toward the creation of human beings? Of course not — they would have started mythologizing with what they already knew then used the mythologizing to explain what they, as yet, didn’t know. In the beginning, Yahweh might have been standing on the other side the singularity that started Life As We Know It — and Genesis might have opened by describing The Big Bang in remarkable, proto-second by proto-second detail.

The bottom line is how do any of us deal with uncertainty? Those with little tolerance turn to religion because they need to know. Religion says it WILL provide the answer. Science can only say “it might” provide an answer and the answer it provides today may not be good tomorrow because we’ve learned new information. That’s the best science can ever do. If you want certainty, science — ironically — is not for you.

When I say “science”, I mean a process of analytical, observation-based thinking as opposed to “revealed knowledge”. Back before Darwin, theology was considered “the Queen Of The Sciences” — for real. But, with Darwin came not just science but a “scientific method” of thinking that demanded all conclusions be based on actual data and not just “cos God said”. Forced to provide receipts, theology fled the building. Whereas the institutional church could have used the occasion to reinvest in Jesus and teach a spiritual “Do Unto Others” message (something they’d never really done before), instead (in America), the church doubled down on the ooga-booga. Rather than see the Bible as a bastion of good messages for good living, the institutional churches of America insisted that their sacred texts were the “divinely inspired word o’ God” and therefore even better than science. Unlike science, the church insisted (and still does) God does not need receipts.

What’s true inside a church stops being true outside it.

Not having a reason to be here imposed upon me by a bipolar deity doesn’t scare me. Hell, it liberates me! I can tolerate living in a DIY universe where the Big Questions are concerned. Hell, I half expect it to turn out that the the whole Universe is just a giant piece of IKEA furniture — and the nitwit putting it together misunderstood the instructions and flipped the main piece upside down; we’re moments away from him realizing he’s going to have to break the whole Universe down and start all over again. How “Noah”…

That’s just the Universe being ironic, right…?