In yesterday’s post, I covered how, in my time as a witch, magick would find it’s way into every single part of my life. I have another example of this from the blog of a currently practicing witch.
This guy was annoyed that people kept taking his parking spot. What to do?? Craft a magical guardian to guard your spot, of course! Here is an excerpt from the spell:
Specific Intent : To prevent other motorists parking their cars in the space immediately in front of my house
Energy/power source – all the energies from vehicles moving up and down the road
Appearance – A big traffic cone – bright orange with white stripes
Magical abilities – you can detect when an approaching driver intends to park in my place. Will expand to a size, bristling with orange spikes, which fully occupies the space, convincing the driver there is inadequate room to park.
Housing – you will be contained in crystal placed nearby
Activation – to be activated whenever my car leaves the parking space
Now, as I walk outside to unlock my car I say something like “Myspace! deploy!” and visualise him springing from the stone which is in a plantpot in the garden, cunningly hidden by a leaf. As I drive away I visualise its shape filling the space I am vacating.
And does it work? I reckon it does. Okay, there are some drivers in the street who inevitably will not be susceptible to astral traffic cones, but the instances of invasion are certainly fewer.
The reason I bring this up is to counter the claim, made by people who don’t understand my passion, that it doesn’t matter what you believe.
I used to do stuff like this every day. Every little thing that inconvenienced me would have a magical solution crafted for it. I went about my life thinking it was working, and I put a lot of time, energy, and emotion into it.
Think about how trivial this situation is and the depth of delusion involved. Does having an accurate view of your day-to-day life matter? Is that a trivial thing? What kind of life is this for someone to lead, where the majority of their thoughts involve things that aren’t real? It’s not right to avoid challenging people who walk around being deluded like this. I submit to you that the simple act of being deluded is harm.
I particularly like the bit at the end where he qualifies that it just won’t work on some people. When I read this, I want to go back to the past, slap myself on the back of the head, and give myself a copy of the Wikipedia entry on confirmation bias.
Also, to you Christians out there, don’t think you’re excluded from this. This is almost exactly like prayer. It involves the same type of goal, the same mechanism, and the same cognitive bias. Both spells and prayer will never work in a double-blind experiment because it would prevent you from ignoring the times when it doesn’t work.
I feel bad for singling this blogger out. Witches get enough crap from Christians, they sure don’t need it from me. They’re just as wrong as Christians, though, and in the exact same ways. And anyways, it makes me nostalgic.
Image credit: chris_park_uk
Some witches only wear crystals and cast the occasional spell for good fortune. They’re similar to the type of Christian who doesn’t even really think about God much in their day-to-day life. I didn’t just believe I could cast spells. I read other people’s minds. I saw and talked to spirits. I traveled to the afterlife. I invaded people’s dreams while they slept. I engaged in psychic warfare with other witches. I battled and killed demons on a daily basis.
Or at least, I thought I did. I now know it was all nonsense. At the time, though, I was 100% convinced it was real. I didn’t just believe in spirits. I saw them with my own eyes every day. Trying to tell me ghosts weren’t real would have been like telling me my own mom didn’t exist. I spoke with spirits and they spoke back to me. I would cast spells to compel people to do things, and I witnessed the spells work. People would often refuse to look me in the eyes because they were afraid if they did, I would read their thoughts. When I did read their thoughts and revealed what I had learned, they would admit I was correct. I could look at someone and physically see their aura glowing around them. I could look into their eyes and see their spirit.
This experience permeated my everyday life. I never spoke to anyone without reading their thoughts and checking their spirit type. Even if it was just the guy selling me a candy bar at the convenience store, he would get read. I would look into people’s past lives without their knowledge so I’d know how to better deal with them. I would talk to their spirit guides to try to get more information. The afterlife was my life.
After 6 years of this lifestyle, I took a Biology class in college and finally learned the scientific method. It disturbed me greatly, and I stopped actively practicing magick. My students, whom I’d been training, expressed bewilderment as to why I would turn my back on what I had learned. I couldn’t explain it to them because I didn’t understand it myself. That was in the year 2000. It took me 7 years, from 2000 to 2007, before I was able to completely unwrap myself from the psychosis I had been enthralled in.
The magick in witchcraft operates almost entirely off of visualization. For example, if you want to heal someone, you might imagine a bright white light emanating from the point of injury and growing to encompass the person. Or, if you want to protect yourself, you might imagine a great bubble shield growing and encompassing your house. The more powerfully you imagine it, the stronger the spell will be.
I found that if you stared into someone’s eyes for long enough, their face would morph into a completely different face. In this way, you could visually see who they were in their past lives. Some had been many different people, and their faces would flip past very quickly, with a pace of 2-3 different faces every second. It was a surreal experience.
I didn’t realize at the time how powerful visualization could be. I didn’t know it was possible to convince yourself that you could see people that weren’t there. When I imagined the bright white light or the bubble shields I would create, I thought they were real because I saw them with my own eyes. I didn’t realize I was just imagining it very powerfully.
As I began to slowly lose my faith, I retained my ability for powerful visualization. Sometimes, this did not go well. I wasn’t sure if my experiences were real or not. Since I wasn’t practicing my abilities anymore, I started to lose control of them.
For example, I used to think that if I killed a bug, its spirit would try to haunt me in vengeance for its death. If a bug died by my hand, I would actually see its spirit leave its carcass, grow to over 8 feet tall, and begin terrorizing me. Looking back, this seems completely stupid. But at the time, this was a daily dose of fear for me.
I was beginning to clue in at this point that it was just my imagination. With 6 years of practice, though, I couldn’t just will myself to stop seeing things. Every time I got in my car, there would be 8 foot tall wasps in the backseat ready to kill me. Whenever I got in the shower, there would be giant roaches ready to eat my head. I found myself chanting, “It’s not real, it’s not real, it’s not real” over and over again in my head.
Eventually, I got control of it and this stopped happening. As I learned about the cognitive flaws that allowed for my experiences, I slowly developed a much stronger worldview.
I later learned that many of my fellow witches, whom I’d lost contact with for years, had also become atheists. Funny how some people grow along the same paths even when they lose contact.
To all those who have shared my experiences, congratulations on making it out. And… I’m sorry for contributing to your delusions.
Top Image credit: Ryan Karolak
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.
It seems there’s a bit of fear-mongering at a recent appointment of an atheist to the Board of Education in Fayette County, Georgia:
Under the old qualifier, “some of my best friends are … (fill in the blank),” we’re not talking about your garden variety village atheism here. We are talking about in-your-face, proselytizing atheism, which seeks to banish all trace of the great monotheistic religions from every square inch of the public square.
These are not live-and-let-live, mind-your-business-and-I’ll-mind-mine true nonbelievers. No, these folks deeply believe that most of us religious folks (mainly of the Christian variety) are just simply stupid and that our stupid religion should be ridiculed as myths.
They hold in pure contempt what most of us in Fayette County consider to be holy. They reserve their highest contempt for Christians who dare to proclaim their faith.
I feel betrayed by the four sitting members of the board of education. Is this the best they could do?
Wow. It seems that America has a “religious test” for office after all.
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.
Tonight, at the Fayetteville Freethinkers meeting, I met Jerry DeWitt. Jerry is a former pastor who’s recently lost his faith. In fact, he’s a part of The Clergy Project, a secret group of current and former ministers who no longer believe in God.
Here’s his blurb on the Recovering From Religion site:
Jerry DeWitt became a non-believer after more than twenty-five years of Pentecostal ministry in his home state of Louisiana. His ministry experience begin at the early age of seventeen and included evangelizing across the United States and being the assistant pastor of two United Pentecostal churches as well as one Apostolic church. During his dilemma with doubt Jerry ultimately held the senior pastorate of two very unique congregations, one charismatic dominionist and the other non-denominational
In his Louisiana town (population 10,000), people used to used to shake his hand and ask him when he was going to run for mayor. His intended mayoral run was to be in 2014. Now, he feels sick to his stomach at the thought of having to go out to Walmart or the Post Office. As of October last year, people now know he is a nonbeliever.
Caring about the truth drove a wedge between Jerry and his faith. All Christians, at some point, will inevitably find some kind of problem in scripture. How they react to the problems they find determines their future. Some may shrug it off, preferring to be happy and ignorant. Those who care about the truth, however, could be in trouble, for they will dig in and uncover a host of other problems.
The second wedge between him and his faith was a love of people. Apparently, caring for people is a necessary component before the Problem of Evil will have an effect on you. He cited being disturbed by the babies who drowned in the Great Flood. He also mentioned that even the worst people who ever lived probably didn’t deserve to be tortured in hell for infinity.
He said as a pastor, you are personally responsible for people’s suffering. They come to you with their problems all the time, and you have to be able to explain why it’s happening to them. At some point, he explained, his love of truth and people began to make this process harder and harder. At some point, he said, the questions people asked became louder than the answers.
Anyways, I won’t spoil his talk. He’s an excellent speaker. 25 years of experience will do that to you. Maybe his talk will find its way on Youtube one of these days.
It seems that some of my tax dollars have been going towards indoctrinating children with Christianity. According Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a certain preschool in West Fork, Arkansas called “Growing God’s Kingdom” has received substantial public funds:
[…] Growing God’s Kingdom has received over $1 million in state funds since 2005, including $534,000 for the 2010-2011 school year. The taxpayer dollars came to the school through the Arkansas Better Chance for School Success program (ABC), which provided tuition for 110 of the 168 students at the school this year. The parents of only about 20 students pay full tuition, which is $135-$140 per week.
Some fun facts about this preschool:
- It is owned by a politician: Arkansas State Representative Justin Harris.
- The curriculum includes Bible stories and prayer.
- The staff handbook states that staff members must “share the love of Jesus with these children. Teach them the word of God so that can (sic) instill the word in them and they can spread the word of God to others”.
- The classroom-area maintenance requirements mandate that the “Bulletin board in the hall needs to be faith based”.
- The handbook provided to parents states:
“We ask that you not send any items with the following characters:
Pokemon, Digimon, Teletubbies, Harry Potter, Scooby-Doo, Power Puff Girls, or any other characters that may be affiliated with witches, goblins, ghost, or evil content.”
All of this came out in November of last year when the Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a complaint to DHS and the state Education Department.
Well, time has passed, and The Arkansas Department of Human Services has a new policy where they will attempt to police first amendment violations. They sent out a memo this week stating that they’re going to start enforcing it.
Highlights of the new policy:
- No religious activity during the 7 hour school day.
- All teaching must be secular.
- No public funds can be spent on anything that would be used to advocate religion.
- Annual certification and random inspections will verify that these rules are being followed.
The owner of the day care, State Representative Justin Harris, responded to this new policy on KNWA yesterday:
“The only religious instruction that we have is ten minutes per day. It’s really not even instructions. I would call it just a Bible story or story time.”
“The only thing that we’re going to concede to doing is teach the Bible story or read the Bible story after hours…We will keep our religious verses on the walls, we will continue to have what we call the Jesus rug on the wall, we’re not going to take anything down.”
Max Brantley from the Arkansas Times already refuted this all the way back in November:
Harris, and various media enablers, seem intent on claiming that — if a Bible class isn’t part of the 7.5 hours of instruction required daily in return for the almost $1 million he receives every year in public money — he can get away with it during the extended hours of the day. The case law doesn’t agree with him. The argument overlooks the embedded public dollars in his building, the light bill, the furniture, the instructional materials and the salaries of the staff teaching Bible. It also overlooks the daylong exposure Harris provides in the form of Bible verses on bulletin boards and other religious exercises done on the taxpayers’ money.
I have to agree. What is the difference between verbal religious instruction and Jesus propaganda plastered all over the walls? Either way, the message gets across to the kids. The FAQ that the state released about their new policy also explicitly states that moving bible study and prayer to before or after school hours isn’t okay:
6. May I extend the ABC day beyond 7 hours to make time
for bible study or prayer during the day?
ABC program standards apply to everything that happens during the 7-hour ABC day, including recess, lunch, and rest, and therefore apply to any religious activities that take place during the day. Even if that was not the case, any religious activity would have to be arranged in a way that could not directly or indirectly pressure a child to participate. A policy allowing a child to opt out of a religious activity does not solve the problem, because a child who decided not to participate in prayer time would be conspicuous (especially if there are no other scheduled events) and would be subject to both adult and peer pressures. “[T]he First Amendment prohibits the government from putting children in this difficult position.”
Of course, commenters on the KNWA Facebook page are crying about their religious freedom being violated. I find it really strange that Christians only seem to care about their religious freedom. They don’t care about the religious freedom of non-Christians.
For example, take these quotes from Justin Harris back in November:
Harris said Thursday that in his view, separation of church and state exists “to protect the people from tyranny, from being forced to believe a certain way and to have a certain religion.”
“That’s where I think the separation comes in. I don’t think the separation eliminates the government from having Christianity part of it,” he said.
Harris said his preschool is not exclusively for Christian children — the children it serves include some from atheist homes, he said — but it is up front with parents about its religious aspects.
“You understand that you are going to get exposed to Christianity throughout the day, or just by saying, ‘Hey, you know, Jesus loves you,’” he said.
He apparently doesn’t understand that these two statements contradict each other. When a child goes to a school and has Christianity jammed down their throat, the state is trying to force them to believe in a certain way. If they don’t believe, they are ostracized and told they are going to burn in hell. My own children, who attend public school, have had kids tell them they can’t be friends anymore because my kids don’t go to church. If it’s that bad in public schools, what do you think it would be like in a place called “Growing God’s Kingdom”? But to a typical Christian in Arkansas, it’s all about them. It’s happy fun-fun land where everyone is a Christian.
It’s all well and good for them to say they would accept kids from atheist families, but it rings a bit hollow when their own student handbook bans clothing depicting witches or other “evil things”. This strongly implies that they would not accept children from Wiccan families. What if a child came to school with a pentacle necklace? The school would surely have a problem with that, and that’s forcing people to believe in a certain way.
I wrote an article last month explaining why I find Christianity so offensive. But of course, this isn’t illegal because some people are offended by it. It’s illegal because it violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment. I applaud the state in trying to rectify this matter, but I don’t think they’ve gone far enough yet.
Update: It looks like the new policy still has to be approved. So, there’s still time to fix the issue of religious materials on the walls and bible study after hours. This article from NWAOnline clarifies:
The Arkansas Board of Education must approve the proposed rule, then it is subject to a 30-day public comment period. A public hearing will be held during that time, Webb said.
The rule then goes back to the board, then to the Legislative Council rules and regulations subcommittee for review, she said.
At the church I visited last Sunday, there were talking up their missionary work in Mexico. They also encouraged church-goers to go on mission trips themselves. The speaker explained why people should go like this:
These types of trips can be very rewarding. You may think of all the reasons why you shouldn’t do it. We all have responsibilities. But if you just feel a tiny nudge, or any inkling at all that maybe you should go, that’s God talking to you! Don’t ignore the Word of God!
It scares me to think of people figuring out life decisions based on inklings of feelings. I prefer a reasoned weighing of the pros and cons. If you just blindly go for something without thinking about it first, who knows what the consequences might be?
This also reminds me how great a revelation it was to me that my thoughts were just my thoughts and nothing more. I ascribed supernatural origins to some of my inner thoughts. I made decisions based on those thoughts. It made me happy, but it was not truth. Which is more important?
Also, to any religious folk who may be reading this, you might find this video by DarkMatter2525 interesting.
I’ve often said that the pro-life position in the abortion debate is largely fueled by religion. I had my preconceptions cemented last Sunday when the church I went to presented a sermon on abortion. Did you know that 50 million babies have been killed under this terrible law? It’s a tragedy! Everyone has been affected by it! The church needs to stand up for biblical truth!
I particularly liked the pastor’s claim that:
“18% of all abortions are late-term abortions. Now you just stop and think about that for a second.”
Oh my god that’s terrible!!! We’ve got to do something! Hey, wait a minute. Should we google that first, or just take it on faith?
Per the source, 1.4% of abortions occurred at 21 weeks or later. Does this picture look like the pastor had any clue what he was talking about? When people get their facts from the bible instead of from science, it’s no wonder their worldview becomes skewed.
Of course, laced throughout this sermon were the struts that supported the pastor’s argument: bible quotes. Including this one from Jeremiah 1:5:
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew[a] you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
And this one from Luke 1:5:
15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.
The only reason anyone could reasonably believe that life “begins at conception” is if they think that souls are real. That’s religion. The abortion debate is fueled by religion, a worldview based on faith, not facts.
The pastor then went on to present pictures similar to this:
He’d declare, “According to the law, the one on the left is a baby, but the one on the right is just a fetus. Ridiculous, huh?? Har har har! The law says it’s okay to kill a fetus and not a baby. But they’re the same thing!” He then went on to show a bunch of different pictures of third-trimester fetuses in the womb. After every picture, he would ominously declare “This is not a life!”
Sir, I have some other pictures you might be interested in:
This is not a life.
This is not a life!
Oh my god, it’s a life! Do you see the arms and little fingers!?!?!? Don’t you just want to give that clump of undifferentiated cells a big hug?
You know, I have no problem with people being against 3rd trimester abortion. I don’t even have a problem with people being against 2nd trimester abortion. But I think it’s time we stopped being dishonest and started defining our terms. Using pictures of 3rd-trimester babies to try to stop women from killing a clump of a few cells that have only been alive for a week is fundamentally dishonest. Just man up and say you think cells can have souls and your only source is the bible.
Yesterday, my atheist friends and I attended First Baptist Church of Bentonville.
This was a larger church than I had attended before (I actually sat on the 2nd floor balcony). Unlike the Pentecostal and Charismatic churches we went to before, this church did not have people yelling, cheering, waving their hands around, groveling on the floor, or talking in tongues. Most attendees appeared to be extremely bored and just sat or stood passively listening. The people that sung along to the music did so quietly to themselves. The kids at this church seemed just as bored as the kids in the other churches.
It made me wonder what people at this church are getting out of the experience. At the other churches, I could see the influence of the “holy spirit” on them. The experience clearly moved them emotionally. I couldn’t tell just by observation that people here were getting anything at all from the sermons or the music. The people we spoke to afterwards were clearly passionate about their faith, however, so perhaps some people just aren’t active in large group settings?
One mother actually took her daughter (who appeared to be around 8 years old) down to the front to be “saved”. I remain extremely skeptical that someone that young can understand all the implications of what they’re getting into.
There was a part where five couples with newborn babies were brought onstage. It seemed nice in that it was a celebration of new families and new futures, but I couldn’t tell if people were cheering the new babies or the fact that those babies would be raised with Christian values. At one point, I was sure I heard the speaker refer to the raising their kids as “ministry”. Is raising kids considered ministry? Perhaps I misheard.
Parents should really let their kids decide these things for themselves. I’m not sure how I could expect a fundamentalist Christian to not indoctrinate their kids, though. When your religion colors everything you do, how can it not affect your relationship with your kids? Maybe it’s not that easy. I think there’s some middle-ground, though. For example, the newcomer’s pamphlet referred to the church’s “Preschool Ministry” (ages 2-Kindergarten). How, exactly, does that work, ministering to 2-year-olds?
Last Saint Patrick’s Day, I had both my daughters absolutely convinced that there was a leprechaun in the house hiding their things. We would leave little notes from the leprechaun, where he’d taunt the kids and declare that they’d never catch him or get his pot of gold. I even downloaded voice modulation software and recorded a message from “The Leprechaun” himself (more taunts, of course). I burned it to a CD and put it on a table for them with a note. They were SO angry when they discovered it was a ruse.
My point is: little kids will believe anything they are told, and it’s not right to take advantage of that and just start shoving our own beliefs in their head. We need to give kids the tools to figure things out for themselves.
Other highlights, which I’ll have to expand on in later entries:
- There was a guy from Mexico who was “saved” during one of the church’s mission trips. He told his story, which I’ll write about later.
- The topic of the sermon was abortion. It was pretty over-the top. The pastor showed a picture of a 36-week-old baby in the womb and declared, “Under the law, this is a fetus”. Then he showed a picture of a newborn baby and said, “This is a baby”. Since they looked the same, it was intended to show the ridiculousness of the law in saying fetuses aren’t people. Then he talked about how bald-eagle eggs are considered eagles, and you get a fine for destroying those.
- There was a bible study class afterwards. The instructors were very nice, and it was a good opportunity to have atheists and Christians engage in healthy dialogue. I have not seen such open dialogue before. We had militant atheists talking to creationists who believed humans and dinosaurs walked the Earth at the same time, and no one got offended. I think more atheist groups should attend classes like these.