Since Thursday, I have been experiencing an extremely bad sciatica episode. Saturday and Sunday were the worst. It felt like someone was stabbing me with a very large knife over and over again, all day and all night.
Sometimes, I just felt tingly in my shoulder, arm, and left hand. Sometimes, my whole hand would go numb. Sometimes, just my fingertips would go numb. Other times, it felt like I had been set on fire.
To the outside observer, it just looks like I am roiling around, contorting my body, and yelling for no apparent reason.
I have been unable to sleep. Once past a certain point of exhaustion, I would nod off for a few minutes, then wake up in stabbing pain. The cycle would repeat itself again, over and over, all night.
This is apparently because I sit at a desk. I can’t imagine anything less dangerous. I haven’t been to war. I am not involved in extreme sports. I’m just sitting down.
I went to the emergency room. The doctor told me it wasn’t life threatening (which felt like an accusation), gave me a prescription for drugs, and sent me home.
The drugs made the pain go from 8-9 to 4-5. Which is good, but it doesn’t exactly leave me jumping for joy, either.
I have talked to my doctor about this before. It seems like doctors are afraid that if they operate, they might accidentally sever your spine (oops). So, they just send you to a guy that teaches you yoga instead. This isn’t a cure at all, it just makes things more manageable.
This is why chiropractors make so much money, despite tapping people with tuning forks and claiming they can cure the flu and cancer. Because the doctors can’t offer solutions.
Meanwhile, everyone seems to have their own solution they want to offer me. I know they just want to help. They don’t want to be told someone is in pain, only to respond, “Welp, that’s too bad for you”, and then have nothing.
Most of the suggestions are long-term, though. They don’t help with the immediate pain. And it seems like there’s no way to objectively test anything. Just try something at random with a 6-7 month turnaround time to see if it worked.
Many of the suggestions feel like prideful accusations. Gee, if only you wouldn’t sit at a desk all day. What were you thinking? Why the fuck don’t you walk every day? Didn’t you get the memo about sitting up straight? All you have to do is do pushups against a wall horizontally. Problem solved. My mother had this, and she sacrificed a chicken every night at midnight. We feel like that helped.
Thanks a lot. I’ll look into that.
According to Fox News, a school in North Carolina has been questioned for distributing bibles to its students:
The Gideons International had delivered several boxes of the sacred books to the school office. The staff allowed interested students to stop by and pick them up.
So, what’s the big deal, man? They’re just bibles! Maybe those people should just GET OVER IT!
Ginger Strivelli, who practices Witchcraft, a form of Paganism, said she was upset when her 12-year-old son [who did not wish to be photographed for this article] came home from North Windy Ridge intermediate school with a Bible.
According to Strivelli, the principal assured her the school would make available religious texts donated by any group. But when Strivelli showed up at the school with pagan spell books, she was turned away.
Oh… Well, those religions don’t count! We only want Christianity promoted by the school! I do not want the rights granted to MY religion granted to other people’s religion! If other people get the same rights as me, then that’s not fair!! Special rights for me and no one else!!
Is the first amendment starting to make sense to anyone now? Shouldn’t it be clear to everyone that Pagans deserve the same rights as Christians? Or are they to be considered second-class citizens because of their beliefs?
[via Ken Ham, whose nonsensical drivel isn’t even worth responding to.]
I used to work at a movie theater in Fort Smith, AR. The workload was very odd. It would be super-busy for about 20-30 minutes, and then totally dead for two hours.
On the weekends, people would cram into the lobby like sardines. There wouldn’t be an inch of physical space left anywhere. It would be very loud. They would all want something from me. And then… silence for hours.
Inside the theaters, there would be trash everywhere. It was the employees’ job to clean up this trash in between movie showings. But this was not the case at the end of the night. For the last movie showing, the theater employed janitors to come in after the employees had left for the night and clean the theaters one final time. The janitors had the whole place to themselves at night.
Some of the theater employees had been having a feud with the janitors. One night, they decided to trash the theaters as much as possible so the janitors would have to spend hours and hours cleaning it up. It would be hard to prove, since the theater was usually pretty dirty already.
They took huge garbage bags of leftover popcorn into the theaters and layered the floor with popcorn. Garbage bags from the trash receptacles were taken into the theaters and their content was thrown about haphazardly. They had a lot of fun with it. One guy took an extra-large cup of soda and threw it across the the theater. It spun in an arc like a football and exploded against the wall. I’ll never forget the sight, especially since he kept doing it over and over.
I have never in my life seen such damage.
They encouraged me to join in and throw trash and popcorn everywhere myself. I refused. They asked if I was going to tell on them, and I said “No.” So, they assigned me to lookout.
After I went home that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about how wrong it was. So, I let a couple hours pass, and then I went back to tell the janitors what had been done.
It was a strange feeling to walk into the movie theater at 3:00am. Only the janitors would be there. I had no reason to be there, so there’d be no turning back once they saw me.
After I told them, they were both royally pissed and incredibly thankful to me for telling them. I had made instant friends for life.
The next day, when I came into work, it was chaos. The janitors were there raising hell with the manager. They had the home office on the phone. I had to tell my version of events in front of the people I betrayed. And then, I had to keep working with those people for years afterwards like nothing had ever happened.
If I could do something like that every day of my life, I’d be very happy.
Despite atheism’s substantial growth the past few years, misconceptions and myths abound about what atheists actually think and believe. Are you a militant atheist? If so, here are a few examples of what Christians think of you.
I’m sure most of you realize that you often can’t trust what atheists say. After all, if there is no absolute authority, there is no basis for right or wrong (just one’s own opinion). Thus, atheists can say whatever they want—even if it is not the truth.
— Ken Ham
“Radical atheists like the British Humanist Association should apologize for Hitler. But they should not stop there. They also need to issue an apology for the 67 million innocent men, women and children murdered under Stalin, and the 77 million innocent Chinese killed by Mao. Hitler, Stalin and Mao were all driven by a radical atheism, a militant and fundamentally dogmatic brand of secular extremism. It was this anti-religious impulse that allowed them to become mass murderers.”
“When natural man embraces atheism, you often end up with a ticking time bomb. The seething anger lies just beneath the surface for many atheists. Even for those “sophisticated atheists” who are able to put up a good front for the public, their “inner workings” are usually filled with rage against God and Christians.
In that sense, atheists unwittingly help to prove the truth of Christianity by their hatred for it.”
“I assert that suicide is the only consistent action for an atheist to commit once he realizes the ultimate meaninglessness of his life in a world without a God.”
A local pastor, Ronnie Floyd, tweeted the following last week:
If you are going to influence people toward a common goal, you must have a relationship with them.
I’m sure Ronnie didn’t have atheism in mind when he said this, but I think it is right on. Arguing with people online can be quite cathartic, but what if there’s another way?
Ever notice how, whenever someone who’s vehemently opposed to homosexuality changes their mind about it, it’s always because they befriended someone who’s gay? They find they can’t reconcile the fucked up views they had with the wonderful person they’ve gotten to know. Is it possible this could work for atheists?
To explore this, I’ve started taking some of my fellow atheists to church with me on Sundays. I have tried to outline below my reasons for doing so.
Build An Open Dialogue
Ever notice how, when an atheist talks to a Christian online, the conversation turns violent and argumentative after about 10 minutes in? And 15 minutes in, the Christian resolves to stop listening and never speak to the atheist again?
When you’re in their church, it’s different. Just by being there, you show that you’re open and willing to listen to new experiences. You’re bound to be more respectful, too. Most people want respect given to them before they’re willing to give it back. This axiom holds true in this case as well. When you show believers respect, they’ll be much more likely to listen to what you have to say.
An open dialogue benefits both parties. When our two sides don’t talk to each other, or just talk past each other, the misconceptions about each other spreads and the divide between us grows. That’s how the demonization on both sides starts.
Shatter Myths and Preconceptions
This strategy does not work well online because it’s too easy to turn us off. Being challenged? Just close the page. Block the user. Delete the comment.
Pastors can’t delete you from their church audience. They may ask you to leave if you’re disruptive, but chances are they’ll be happy for the opportunity to explain to you what it is about their experience that’s so special.
I go in and listen to people. I get to know them. I build relationships with them. In this way, just by being there, I disprove the misconceptions at the beginning of this article. It becomes much harder for them to demonize me when they know me personally. I don’t even have to give any arguments to do this. I just have to be myself and be honest.
Learn what people believe
This one is probably unique to me, but I was never a Christian. Despite being interested in religion, I’m ignorant of quite a lot of the inner workings. I have not read most of the bible. So, I honestly do have quite a bit I can learn from the experience. I can learn by reading on my own, but it’s not the same. I, too, probably have misconceptions about Christians. How will I know what those are without first getting to know the people I disagree with?
Rather than reading about their beliefs in books and laughing about it at atheist meetings, I think it’s a much more honest experience to learn about it in the churches themselves. For some who’ve already experienced Christianity, this is not a relevant point. But to me, it is.
Planting Seeds of Doubt
Now, I’m not saying to compromise your beliefs. I love Hitchens’ confrontationalist attitude, and I endorse it. I think people who are offended just at having their beliefs questioned at all need to get over it. I love reading vicious takedowns of ignorant religious drivel.
I’m not for going in and pretending to be a believer. When I go to church, I tell them I’m an atheist. I also point out why I think they’re wrong, and I ask them questions I know they don’t have good answers to. No Christian ever loses their faith overnight, however. It’s a process that takes years. You can’t argue someone out of their religion. The best you can do is make them think. So, then it just becomes a question of, “How do we make them think?”
Many Christians are in an environment where they will never be challenged, and these types of people are not reading your atheist propaganda on the Internet. You may only get the opportunity to plant that seed of doubt if you also open yourself up to their experiences as well.
I spoke with Jerry DeWitt yesterday about this, and he mentioned that there are also a couple groups in Kansas City going to churches and engaging people in dialogue: The Midwest Skeptics Society and Provocateurs and Peacemakers. Interesting. Perhaps this could become a trend?
Image Credit: shelbyatwill, Caravaggio.
“Behold, happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore do not despise the chastening of the Almighty. For He bruises, but He binds up; He wounds, but His hands make whole.”
I can’t help but think that Christians are unable to place the blame where it really lies here. If there is a God, he really should be treating us better. If he’s omnipotent, he should be saving us from hardship at every opportunity. But instead, he hurts us, then says he’s sorry and that if we only hadn’t said or done that thing, he wouldn’t have to. We are told that we hurt ourselves by not obeying him.
Matt Dillahunty has compared Christian rationalizations to Battered Person Syndrome, and I think it fits here. The Wikipedia article on it lists the following beliefs and attitudes that appear in people who have suffered repeated cycles of abuse:
- The abused believes that the violence was his or her fault.
- The abused has an inability to place the responsibility for the violence elsewhere.
- The abused fears for his/her life and/or the lives of his/her children (if present).
- The abused has an irrational belief that the abuser is omnipresent and omniscient.
I think God could have stopped the Tsunami in Japan or Hurricane Katrina and relieved a lot of suffering. If God exists, he deserves to be held accountable for not stepping in and preventing human suffering. I, for one, would not worship him even if he did exist unless some serious explaining was done.
Apologetics315.com recently posted an article titled “10 Pitfalls of the Foolish Apologist”. It essentially says, “As long as Apologists are loving and nice, everything will be okay.”
Parts of the list I like (summarized by me):
- #1: Don’t talk ad nauseum (shut up and listen to your opponent).
- #4: Don’t fall for red herrings.
- #10: Practice arguing.
Parts I didn’t like:
- #3: Facts don’t matter, emotions do.
- #7 & #8: Worship God, pray, love, etc.
- #2, #5 & #6: Be humble.
- #9: Surround yourself with fellow believers, so you can be in a bubble of self-reinforced delusion.
The commenters echoed wild praise:
Awesome stuff! You hit the nail on the head with this.
Excellent! We all need reminding from time to time. God bless!
Great stuff! We have to remember that the goal is not just to win arguments but to win souls.
Great post, Brian. Very challenging!
Are you kidding? This trite nonsense has nothing to do with making sure you’re right and everything to do with reinforcing what you already believe. Even Matt Slick had a better list than this. You know what? Let me help you guys out.
5 Real Pitfalls of the Foolish Apologist
1. Not getting to know atheists.
The demonization of atheists has to stop. We are as good as anyone else. The only reason for thinking otherwise is because theists have never taken the time to get to know one.
The apologist also typically assumes that the atheist doesn’t possess the knowledge or personal experiences he does. If the believer actually ever took the time to talk and get to know any atheists ever, he’d realize that many of them were strong believers in the past and know the bible better than most people do.
Talk to people you don’t agree with. Get to know them. Challenge yourself.
2. Not understanding cognitive biases.
There are a number of pitfalls your brain can fall victim to. If you go through life basing your decisions on common sense and what sounds right, you are seriously deluding yourself. Cognitive biases can make something seem true when it’s actually false. Take the time to learn about confirmation bias, experimenter’s bias, the backfire effect, pareidolia, and the Dunning-Kruger effect. Learn about the rest of them, too. If you’re not familiar with them, you’ve probably already fallen victim to one.
Incidentally, the scientific method is the best way we know to avoid these traps.
3. Not learning the arguments against their positions.
Most of the time, when an atheist argues against a theist, the atheist knows everything the believer is going to say before the conversation even starts. When the atheist presents a counter argument, it’s usually the first time the theist has heard it. This happens constantly, and is the primary reason atheists struggle with not being arrogant.
In my opinion, this problem is directly correlated to theists surrounding themselves with other believers and shunning people who ask questions. When you are in an environment that only reinforces your own beliefs, you are not challenging yourself.
4. Not understanding logical fallacies.
Christian theology is riddled with logical fallacies, so apologists would do well to actually learn them and get good at spotting them. Better yet, try applying them to your own beliefs instead of just accusing others of them. Like cognitive biases, if you aren’t familiar with logical fallacies, you are probably committing them yourself all the time.
5. Not caring whether beliefs are true.
Apologists are often so caught up in powerful emotions that religion feeds them that they never stop and question whether it’s actually true. They assume it’s true and work to try to prove it. Never do they try to actively disprove their own beliefs.
If you talk to atheists who were formerly strong believers, they frequently state that the decline of their faith started with a decision to want to believe things that are true more than just things that made them happy. You can see this problem rampant in the Apologetics315 list: they focus on emotion and character and eschew facts and logic.
Being a smooth talker that everyone likes may grow your church following, but it won’t help you get closer to the truth. Study. Learn. Challenge yourself. Start thinking.
My youngest daughter has strep throat, and my oldest has pink eye. We went to a local walk-in clinic yesterday and acquired eye drops and Amoxicillin. We had the following conversation with the nurse practitioner that saw us:
Wife: “They’re supposed to be in school tomorrow! I can’t take another day of kids!!”
Nurse practitioner: “Well, the eye infection is probably from a virus, so antibiotics won’t really do anything. But I’ll go ahead and prescribe you some anyway, and you can just tell the school she’s already been taking it for 24 hours. That way, she can go to school. You can just cross your fingers and hope she doesn’t get sent home”.
Me: “Uh… isn’t it contagious?”
Nurse practitioner: “Well, yeah. That’s why they don’t want them in school.”
Okay, she was nice and all, but I have to ask. What the hell kind of attitude is this? How many kids have gotten sick at school from their classmates because of this? Just because the person sitting on the table can’t get any worse by going to school doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
It’s probably a good thing my wife’s family preached to the 8-year-old and not our 5-year-old. Every time my youngest girl sees a nativity scene, she goes off on a tirade worthy of PZ Myers:
“OH MY GOD, NOT BABY JESUS AGAAAINNN!!! WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH BABY JESUS??? SERIOUSLY??? WHO CARES???? I HATE BABY JESUS, WHY DON’T THEY SHUT UP ABOUT IT! EVERYWHERE I LOOK IT’S BABY JESUS THIS, BABY JESUS THAT! IT’S EVERYWHERE!”
Yeah, she’s much louder and more opinionated than her sister. And she has no idea how offensive her speech sounds to most people. She’ll just go off on this same tirade no matter where she is. Mall, restaurant, store, anywhere she sees a nativity scene. She started on it at Christmas at my mom’s house. We can’t get her to shut up once she gets started. One of these days, I’m going to be in serious trouble.
I know how this sounds, but I promise I haven’t been brainwashing her at all. We don’t talk about religion at our house. They’re out of the room when my wife and I rant about it, because they think the subject is boring. She’s just seriously tired of seeing manger scenes everywhere.
(pic taken just outside my city’s courthouse).
I’ve always tried to encourage critical thinking with my kids. I don’t want them to just accept what they’re told without thinking about it first, even if it comes from their parents. Heard this conversation not too long ago between my wife and our 8-year-old daughter:
Wife: “Don’t point, it’s rude.”
Daughter: “Why is it rude? It’s just a finger. A FINGER! I’m not hurting anybody. They’re on my hand, and I’m aiming them around. Who cares?? It makes no sense!”