My Brother Doesn’t Age Anymore

Tomorrow would’ve been my brother’s 26th birthday. We’d be going to my parents house to have cupcakes and ice cream and sing the happy birthday song like a bunch of obnoxious 4 year olds. I’d be able to see the candles in the reflection of his glasses. I’d see that dopey grin of my brother’s that was just so….him. These are events that won’t ever happen again and I’m left with a memory that’s only sure to fail with time. Just thinking about the reality of it brings great weight that I’m eager to rid myself of.

It’s the most simple thing. When someone passes away they’re gone. The finality of it seems to always hit with the same sting. Of course Phil’s gone. I know that. My mind continually pushes against that idea and never fails to bring some form of pain I’d long ago hoped would leave me.

If I’m lucky enough to live to be a very old man my brother will still be 24 years old. Frozen in time as the young man I always knew.

I just wish that my heart could outgrow such terrors as to give me a moments peace.

I love you, Phil.

Happy 26th Birthday.

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Is The Potential Good Worth The Potential Evil?

I ran across another story about the death of a child due to overly strict and harsh parenting methods derived from this book. A book that’s linked to the deaths of 2 other children. The ideology of that book is pulled from the bible and Proverbs 22:6 in particular, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

I’ve been a part of one biblical child rearing class and I didn’t enjoy it at all. Our text advocated spanking frequently and I had some moral reservations that I won’t be delving in to. Even as a believer I had a hard time raising children biblically when the bible has so much bad advice in it. My favorite child rearing verse is Deuteronomy 21:18-21, which says:

18 If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who does not obey his father and mother and will not listen to them when they discipline him, 19 his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him to the elders at the gate of his town. 20 They shall say to the elders, “This son of ours is stubborn and rebellious. He will not obey us. He is a glutton and a drunkard.” 21 Then all the men of his town are to stone him to death. You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid.”

I’ve heard the excuses before that that child was more around the age of 20 as opposed to an actual small child, or that he was such a nuisance that the town was better off, but given all that, as a parenting tool, can we not agree that it’s still barbaric? That the reason we haven’t continued to stone our family to death is because it’s simply bad parenting?

I also find weekly stories about more child deaths due to faith healing. Parents that chose to trust god instead of medicine alone or medicine mixed with god and prayer. A quick google search will give you thousands of stories of preventable deaths due to faith healing.

Undoubtedly, there’s many great things that can come from religion, but I guess my main thought is that while there is much good there is also much bad. So, I have to ask, is the potential good worth the potential evil?

The sad thing is that these people are using the same bible you do to justify their actions. You may call them fundamentalists, but few groups of believers know the bible better than them. How can you fault them for having a more literal interpretation than you? I don’t know if you can. They’re simply doing what their holy book tells them to.

Religion fails to give a leg up in morality or the ability to help our fellow man. What can a religious person do that a non-religious person can’t? Nothing.

I’ll concede that many goods can come from religion, but that the bads are too high a cost. As long as young girls like Hana are being beaten, neglected and mistreated to death I can’t embrace religion as a force for good.

The Difficulty of Going to Church and Missing Friends

I miss my friends. I think that’s been one of the hardest parts of leaving religion. Gratefully, my friends haven’t pulled away from me. It’s actually been quite the opposite, but not for the reasons you might expect.

One of my favorite parts of going to church was seeing all my friends weekly. I’d get to chat and laugh and catch up before and after service. Depending on who you were sitting with in the sanctuary also allowed for more potential fun to take place.

I kept going to church for a while after becoming an atheist, but I was still mostly closeted at that time. I kept going to keep up a front for my family and friends so that they wouldn’t worry or have something to talk about.

It became harder and harder to sit in service and listen to the pastor speak about things that I not only don’t believe in, but that I downright have a problem with. You see, the christian religion, or at least the way it’s always been known and represented to me, is one built on a lot of guilt. Some would paint it as grace or god showing his love, but I’d call it guilt. My biggest gripe was and still continues to be how empty and worthless people view themselves without god.

If you’ve ever gone to church then chances are you’ve heard these statements before. I can’t imagine how many times I’ve heard that humans are broken without god. We’re so terrible and corrupt and morally bankrupt without god. God gives our lives a purpose. We’re so terrible that god literally killed himself. We’re born broken. It sounds innocent enough if you’re in belief, but holy crap….what a massive downer.

It devalues every person on this planet with no evidence. We’re born sick and ordered to be made well by an all loving god that will send you to hell for not loving it. Yikes.

It’s very hard to sit in service and hear that. It’s also hard to even have a good time as I unintentionally sit there and deconstruct everything I’m hearing. Critiquing everything in my head. Looking for holes in the logic or an argument to support the assertions being spoken. I can’t shut it off.

Here’s a good exercise you can do next time you’re in service. Whenever the pastor says God, Jesus or Holy Spirit, replace that word with Zeus, Thor or Apollo. You’ll then have an idea of what it’s like sitting in service for me. It sounds crazy.

Also, since I’ve outed myself because I don’t want to live a double life, I don’t want to go to church and be a distraction to others that believe. I wouldn’t want to hinder someone’s worship.

I’ve been told by a good handful of people that I should still come. That they miss me. It’s a wonderfully nice thing for people to say, but it just seems so much more complex now.

A lot has happened to me over the last 2 years. My brother was killed, I lost my faith and I was blessed with a beautiful new baby girl. It’s been a massive emotional and intellectual roller-coaster in life and my relationships with my friends has suffered the most. If any of you are reading this now, I’m sorry that I’ve been as absent as I have been. It’s not been intentional or out of spite.

Sifting through the complexities that have come with all these recent changes hasn’t been easy. About 7 months after my brother died I was at the absolute lowest point of my life. I was missing my brother and I found myself very alone in my unbelief. Surrounded by people that didn’t and couldn’t understand my point of view while condemning my conclusions outright. It’s a low and lonely spot to find yourself in.

Thankfully, things have come a very long way since then and I feel better now than I ever have in my life. I just miss seeing my friends regularly.

Ah, what the hell. Maybe I’ll swing by church every once in a while just to shake shit up!

Prayer

Even as a believer I was somewhat vexed about prayer. It’s an interesting idea I’ll admit – bringing your worries, praise, wounds, wants, needs and humbleness before the Almighty. Inviting Him into all corners of your life and laying yourself bare for spiritual cleansing and the hopeful guidance of His desire for your life.

What I’d always struggled with is that if god has a plan laid out for everyone, as it seems widely believed by most evangelicals I’ve ever known, I guess I wonder what good prayer can do. Speaking specifically about prayer requests, I wonder how prayer to god can be beneficial? What difference does it make?

If there’s a plan already in motion by god and your prayer isn’t in line with that plan is it ignored? If my family is in a car crash and are in the hospital on life support and it’s part of god’s plan to let them die to grow me, then my prayers for them to be healed are quite literally wasted breath. They’re heard and ignored or maybe they’re just not heard at all.

If the outcome of any prayer request is yes, maybe or no, how can you decipher what’s god and what’s blind luck or modern medicine? Praying to my son’s Curious George stuffed animal would have the same results. Some hit. Some miss. Some take more time.

Here’s a Study of the Therapeutic Effects of Intercessory Prayer in cardiac bypass patients. The study was a randomized trial of uncertainty and certainty of receiving intercessory prayer. The results are telling:

“In the 2 groups uncertain about receiving intercessory prayer, complications occurred in 52% (315/604) of patients who received intercessory prayer versus 51% (304/597) of those who did not (relative risk 1.02, 95% CI 0.92-1.15). Complications occurred in 59% (352/601) of patients certain of receiving intercessory prayer compared with the 52% (315/604) of those uncertain of receiving intercessory prayer (relative risk 1.14, 95% CI 1.02-1.28). Major events and 30-day mortality were similar across the 3 groups.”

The group that received prayers and were certain that they were receiving prayers had the worst recovery rates. How could this be? From other sources I’ve read they link it to anxiety about getting better knowing people are praying for you. A morbid take on stage fright.

Let’s not forget that these prayers for aid are going to the same god that allowed something bad to happen to you or a loved one in the first place. It’s like a boy asking his dad for an ice pack after he was slapped in the face by his father. Seems a bit masochistic to me.

People of all different faiths pray to their gods and have their prayers answered. Are all gods right? If there’s no way to judge which god better answers prayers how do we validate one god over the other? If there’s no evidence for any gods how do you test the truth of one over the other? An honest person would have to conclude that you can’t know.

It’s just that I’ve tired of hearing people tell me they’re praying for me about my unbelief. In what ways may god reveal himself that I hadn’t already prayed and begged for when I was in need most? Also, if you feel that god really has it in control and within his power then why even tell me you’re praying for me? It serves no purpose, but to make one feel better in a situation they can’t control. It feels nice to tell people you’re praying for them. It feels like something has been done to help. “I’m praying for you” sounds so much better than “hang in there.”

There’s a saying I’ve become familiar with and it sums up my feelings perfectly:

“Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer.”

Helping in tangible ways with money, time, food or some other investment in a person is and will always be more helpful than prayer ever could.