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Bless you!


that's a tough nut to crack.since the evangelicalism of the right is tightly linked with manifest destiny, any loss-
china,korea,vietnam, must be seen as a religious failure or rather, to an evangelical, as a betrayal of religious birthright. and thus the search for scapegoats, the divisiveness, the search for
newer,perhaps easier conquests.

when democrats play me-too, it's a hopeless
ploy, in part because it plays into the rights negative view of human nature, which
naturally points us towards authoritarianism
and acting out.
it's no coincidence that the 3 successful
democratic politicians of the last 80 years-
fdr,jfk and bill clinton-all had strong
optimistic personas which helped to
neutralize these religious bullies.

the heart of the right's evangelicalism is arrogance, not humility-entitlement, not service. sucking up to them solves nothing.


There are a LOT of ways in which the church (in its various denominations and incarnations) has screwed up, tried to cover its tracks, and generally been afraid of people challenging it. My explanation for this: God's church on earth is comprised 100% of human beings (even in snake handling churches, where the snakes are there through no choice of their own).

So, if it's all humans, they're bound to be driven by desires and concerns other than what God would have intended. Human nature and all that. SO -- I agree with your concerns on most of these items, and I attribute them to the sad, fallen nature of humanity to get things so wrong.

That's not an excuse. Just an explanation. I try not to let my personal belief in GOD be affected by the actions of my fellow HUMANS -- since THEY'RE not the reason I'm a Christian, nor are they who I am worshipping or believing in.

And those who elect themselves as representatives of the church -- well, remember, there was no formal election, and if it came to a vote, a lot of Christians wouldn't select those people to represent "us" ("us" being, after all, a pretty diverse body with a multitude of views and approaches...

mac macgillicuddy

If, as you say, you truly no longer believe in God, then-- and you must realize this, Lance--you are not an angry Catholic. You are a guy who isn't religious but still has a lot of anger toward organized religion on the basis of...what? Can't be moral grounds. Personal preference?

And, since I'm all for freedom of speech, I hesitate to point out but will anyway that every time you declare your non-belief in public, you break (as the Irish on St. Patrick's Day would say) your poor mother's heart.

Anyway, it's ok to be angry, but you can't be an angry Catholic non-believer. That's why I think you are pulling our leg when you wave the oddly defensive non-believer banner.

For what it's worth.

Michael Bains

Liberalism---Democracy---has to be hostile to religion, if by hostile you mean resistant to attempts to use politics to advance a religious agenda.


God can only - and I think ever - be known on an individual level. It is what one believes in one's own soul. When we choose to follow dogmatically what another believes, whether through fear or wanton ignorance or sheer laziness, then we become adherents of a Politician and lose our individual ability to personally know the ineffable nature which the concept of God represents.

I am Catholic by birth. I will always be so, no matter how harshly I criticize the skirts in the Vatican. Catholicism is a cultural thing even more than it is mere religion. First I got angry at the church. Then I sought God and found It everywhere and nowhere at all. Then I stopped believing and am happier and, I believe, wiser for it. In no small part do I thank my Catholic teachers for this evolution of my person away from their screed.

This essay spoke to me in the only way I atheistically think God has always spoken to people; one human being to another.

Thanks Lance. I'll not review it, but I am gonna link and strongly recommend your words to others on my site. I do believe the ideas you've shared are valuable to people who still do have a say in the nature and virtue of their own governance.

Mike Schilling

If "Christian" means a biblical literalist who thinks that God constantly intervenes in the world to reward the righteous and punish sinners and unbelievers, then there wasn't a single Christian among the Founding Fathers.


You need a dose of Voltaire's "Philosophical Dictionary" to pick up your mood. After reading it, you will wonder how that man didn't get burned at the stake. (Hopping to England and to Switzerland when things got too hot in France is one answer).

macgillicuddy and rains are right -- you're breaking your mother's heart and Catholicism is as much cultural as religious. Left-wing/socially conscious/pacifist Catholics have been some of the bravest people on the planet over the last centuries, while their alter egos who actually run the Church have been some of the most evil, craven monsters in the history of mankind.

Voltaire was having none of it. He believed in Ethical Behavior, and according to him, the only religious groups that stressed good behavior over dogma were the Quakers and the Confucians. It's probably still true.

I hope part of your deal with your wife is that your sons get to do whatever they feel like, religiously speaking, whenever they decide. My mother left the Catholic Church when I was young, after an ignorant Irish priest told her she needed to use self-control rather than birth control after three straight Caesarean births. I was sent to a Presbyterian Sunday school which was quite sweet and stupid, and then they went Episcopalian in sort of a leftist, swinging 60's congregation. At age 11, I'd had enough and when they woke me to go to church one morning, I calmly told them that I really didn't believe in that stuff anymore and I really didn't want to get out of bed, and that was that. No arguing, recriminations, nothing. I give my parents total credit for that.

mac macgillicuddy

"God can only - and I think ever - be known on an individual level. It is what one believes in one's own soul. When we choose to follow dogmatically what another believes, whether through fear or wanton ignorance or sheer laziness, then we become adherents of a Politician and lose our individual ability to personally know the ineffable nature which the concept of God represents."

As you said, Ramen! I've always privately suspected that the problem (except where scientists and engineers--who are a breed that cannot be explained--are concerned) for people who feel alienated from any belief in God is that their God is too small.

The writer Murial Spark called it "the only problem"--the ineffable nature of the divine.

Albert Einsten (a scientist and engineer whom even scientists and engineers can't explain) hinted at the same thing when he said something to the effect that God does not play dice with the universe.

Think on the universe's implausible design as a self-monitoring, self-regulating, self-altering and expanding, infinite cell filled with patterns that are replicated on molecular as well as cosmic levels, and the "co-incidences" among species, and it's a easier to understand God's character as something other than a cranky, jealous, possibly vindictive and certainly capricious elderly judge with incipient Altzheimer's or Parkinson's disease.

That ornery and unpredictable character is as easy to get angry at as the lousy boss we've all had--especially the one who passed us over for a promotion we knew we deserved. A truly divine God is less easy to understand, but more worthy of awe.

But all of this is besides the point.


Back in the 3rd grade our class was asked what God looked like. I went to a Missouri Synod Lutheran parochial school. Well, I was always ready to talk so I raised my hand and said that the image of God I always got looked like smoke dispersing in the air or like the paint swirling off the brush when you stick it in water. I was tsked and told I was wrong… God looked like a grandfather. I don’t think God would be so unimaginative as to look like a grandfather. I think God is ultimately more simple and more complex and we are dissing him/her/it to say he looks like us even if we were supposedly made in his image… as for that one, I always thought it meant that we too would be creative like God, man would want to create… not that we “look” like HIM. So, today, I still think of God as being something dispersed around us and going on whether we believe or not and not really caring if we follow the rules or not… God is just going on. Men need the rules I guess, but God doesn’t.

mac macgillicuddy


Very complex thoughts from a third grader. Who did the tsking? The teacher, or the other kids?

I'm amazed at how many people use the passage in Genesis to justify their belief that God looks like us (if so, poor fellow!), when in fact a deconstruction of that passage reveals that it isn't so much about physical appearance as about the nature of the divine (and, presumably, of humanity's relationship to it).

Anyway, literal interpretation of the Bible's poetry has been justification for a lot of things. But that's not news.

PS-Not that we should use Lance's post to get into this, but in the gnostic gospels, Jesus describes the source from which he came, and the passage presents a very interesting image (or, as Jesus argues, the impossibility of an image) of God the father -- not remotely like that of a Grandfather.


Mac- the teacher did the tsking. I don't recall what the kids did. As for my image of God, that has been the only one that I've ever had in my head and from very early on. A very abstract black/white whispy thing... If you ask me what Jesus looks like I will picture the same Anglo-Saxonized Jesus that we all see, but God... no, I've got some other image and always have. It's the one that is truest to me since I've never seen it anywhere in any book in relation to "God".

Have you read Elaine Pagels', "The Gnostic Gospels"? I read that book a number of years ago and remember liking a lot.

As for the Bible being taken to be literal, I had an uncle who was a MS Lutheran minister who was kicked out of his church and declared a heretic for saying that God creating the world in 6 days didn't necessarily mean 6 24hr periods... that a "day" could have been a million years. Apparently they didn't appreciate that... tough crowd.

mac macgillicuddy


Your uncle's heresy makes sense to me. In the course of eternity, one "day" must be very long indeed. Which makes me wonder, when I think about how I feel about the end of a week and TGIF and all that now, how I'll feel on "Friday" once I pass over.

Uncle Merlin

Jennifer, I always thought God was two square pillow shaped clouds squared up against each other and when you died your soul (which resembled a green aorta) floated up and rested on the pillows.
Mac-mac is onto something with the gnostic texts, I feel the biggest error ( OR I should say Political Coup) the early men in skirts did was to obscure the gospel of Thomas and Mary and put Paul over them in the bible.
It now appears Paul (a roman agent named Saul from the start) died in Rome surrounded by the luxury supplied by the new church he helped to establish in Rome. Rome would now control all the new upstart believers in the "colonies", something the Imperium really needed.
Civil war was costly and very non productive since the land was already "Roman". Political Rome could never allow any surviving Apostles have any say in things.
Thomas teachings from Yeshua tell of the individual needing to find its own way to God, no church or outside influcence could ever do that for the individual.
This is definetly not the kind of rhetoric Rome wanted circulating at the time of Yeshua's departure as a Roman martyr. You can't form a strong central church if you are going about telling people they must seek God in themselves.
It appears Thomas ( Thomas may have been an amalgam) and Mary were left fending for themselves and helping those in greater need. Cut off from their legacy,the truth they tried to witness was successfuly obscured so they and their labors slipped into the dustbin of history.
I have finally learned in my 77,000 liftimes the most important thing for the individual is actually the simplest and it addesses Lance's frustration.
You MUST come to love God more than your OWN Existence. (Thats not an easy thing to do in practice)
Once you do center yourself and keep yourself there then love will be the guide for you, your heart will show the way. Love is smarter than you.
Remember - even the most corrupt know when they are doing actual wrong no matter how strong their denial. All they do is just think alittle quicker than the rest of us in order to get away with it.
Many little foxes can throw you off the path at anytime, constant vigilance is the key but it takes practice.
You have to live 77,000 times to get the hang of it.


mac macgillicuddy


I think that you are either a prophet, or pulling our collective leg! ;)


"Many little foxes can throw you off the path at anytime..."

I've never heard the Bush Administration refered to like this before.

Uncle Merlin

Well, Jennifer the Bushites, as little foxes, have learned to work togehter from time to time to make it appear they are one hoard all the time. But it's really all smoke and mirrors. They scatter under the slightest pressure.
The parable about the Tares in the Wheat do you remember that one?
It's real meaning is lost on most who read it unless you go research Tares. I have heard most ministers get it wrong over and over. And I think it is one of the most important parables in the gospels.
The Tares are a real weed that is poisonous to eat, it grows in the Levant. Tares grow where wheat grows, but Tares look exactly like Wheat.
As young plants you can't almost tell them from Wheat, but they are not Wheat.
So the meaning is beware the perfect double, it is real, maybe the enemy right under your nose, yet appear as your friend.
I love that one!


Uncle Merlin

Mac- I'm gonna keep you guessing.

Uncle Merlin

I keep thinking tonight.
On the Tares, the Navaho have a similar tradition on this thinking. In their cultural universe it is called Skinwalkers. The enemy walks in the "skin" of the familiar among the people and goes undetected until it strikes at the people.


Night Bird

Teach our children to look deeper than the surface
See the world through another's eyes
For to be blind me on yourself
Is to look but not see it
Knowing much is enough to be wise

**waving to a great writer**

Anne Laurie

Lance, growing up in a Catholic Church much like yours is one among many reasons why I don't have kids. But if it's any consolation, even at its most rigid the American Catholic Church today just can't be as soul-warping as the cult we grew up in, because the "good fathers" just don't have the weight of the whole neighborhood society behind them any more. Your sons suffer less, no matter how narrow-minded their religious teachers, if only because their father doesn't believe what the intolerant church members say, and they live in a world where "Catholic" as a part of their self-description probably comes in around tenth place (rather than second or third, as in "I'm an Irish Catholic, Tolentine parish"). For me, the great advantage of growing up Catholic -- apart from the excellent grounding in reading & history the nuns gave me -- was that having survived such full-immersion idiocy gave me a head start when I left the church and went to a secular college. When my less inoculated dorm-mates fell under the sway of lesbian Separatism, splittist Marxism, or worst of all Objectivism, I would tell them that those who survive smallpox retain a life-long immunity to cowpox!


smallpox.....cowpox-you kill me!
swish, nothing but net.

mac macgillicuddy

"growing up in a Catholic Church much like yours is one among many reasons why I don't have kids."

Wait a minute. I'm having trouble following this sillogism:

People who grew up in a Catholic church like Lance's don't have kids.

I grew up in a Catholic church like Lance's.

Ergo, I do not kids.


Anne L,

Actually, the parish I grew up in was a very progressive one. The diocese had embraced Vatican II. The nuns who taught at our school had master's degrees and Ph.D.'s in education and most of the priests were young, vital, well-adjusted men and all we altar boys looked up to them and enjoyed serving mass with them. Of course almost all of them left the priesthood within a few years. None of the horror stories people tell about the Church made any sense to me when I was young. My quarrel with the church began six years ago and it was not really over religion.


Uncle Merlin (I keep wanting to type Uncle Miltie...) I do vaguely recall the parable of the tares, but what my memory holds was that it was a judgment day scenario... good separated from the bad at harvest time and the bad was burned. I like yours better.


Jennifer, I find it so interesting that your upbringing in the Lutheran Church was so different than mine. I read some of your comments and find it hard to believe that we're talking about the same religion! I've attended many Bible study classes and also taught Sunday School for many years. My church was a member of the Lutheran Church in America (now the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America). Your was a member of the Missouri Synod. That's the difference. A BIG difference.

The LCA always taught that God's creation of the world was NOT completed in 6 literal days, but probably took place over millions of years.

We were also taught to strive to achieve our goals and to develop out talents. We were encouraged to take pride in our accomplishments, but to avoid conceit and to avoid flaunting our accomplishments in the faces of others.

The LCA has always been always quite liberal in their beliefs. Women have many roles in the church and have been ordained as ministers for years. The church welcomes gays. And although the church is pro-life and encourages women to find alternatives to abortion, it will accept abortion under many circumstances. The church practices a policy of Open Communion and welcomes all baptised Christians to partake.

Unlike many other churches, I have always found my Church doctrine very accomodating and easy to live with.


Chrys- Yes, the Missouri Synod is very, very different from the LCA. I think my parents stayed in the MS out of familial duty (we have a long history of family members in the MS), but even they left in their 70's and are much happier in a church on the other side. My uncle (the heretic) also found a happy home outside of the MS. I, frankly, just found a happy home outside of church.

Uncle Merlin

"My Uncle (the heretic)"! Jennifer I LOVE THAT!
What a description.

The Viscount

Excellent post.

Of course you realize I must take exception to this:

Graham has this in common with Richard Dawkins. He thinks the problem is religion and not human nature.

The only thing Graham has in common with Dawkins is that he is a member of the same species.

I just edited myself here, because I there is a good possiblity that once again you have planted a seed for my next post.

The Viscount


It's worse
than you think....


Missouri Synod and LCA might as well be two different churches, at different ends of town. Ask Lance -- we both lived in the heart of MS Lutheranism for a time (and it wasn't Missouri).

There's a similar branch of Presbyterianism that most Presbys wouldn't recognize. Can't remember the name.


No, you don't need to be in Missouri. I did not grow up in Missouri, just misery, as far as church-going was concerned.

There was a saying- "You could tell a German Lutheran, but you can't tell them much."

Uncle Merlin

Now they will out. Like the Ori on Stargate.

Incredible link Viscount.
This is the kind of fervor that started the crusades. There is nothing more dangerous than mis-guided fervor. It is truly the "devil's" playground.

Anyone that is telling you God is directing their every action -- is hearing voices.
And they understand nothing of the true nature of Existence.

That is their first weakness. And you can always use it to your advantage in dealing with them.

The first Sacrifice and by turns the first Covenant of God with ALL Creation was the emplacement of Free Will on All Creation.
And as such God can never interfer to control otherwise he would abrogate his covenant with Creation.

This is a truly scary idea for "them".

The gift of Free Will has stymied fundamentalist since the dawn of time and will continue to upset them long into the future.
The corollary to the above is something most people are terrified to even think of; The corollary is if Free Will is in place in the Universe then one has to come to the fact that the engine of creation here in the physical is Chaos.
Something the ancient Chinese understood at the dawn of Yin/Yang philosophy.
That ,I think, is the real terror lurking in the minds of the "new fundamentalist americans". You could liken it to being in a car going 70 MPH and you are sitting in the passenger seat and can't get to the steering wheel no matter how you try.
And this is precisely what the "political ministers" have been manipulating to co-opt power for the last several decades.
It amazes my in my travels how I always seem to find what appear to be modern humans who really don't want to think. They look for someone else to do it for them.
If you look at it from the aspect I have presented above then that laziness is really a rejection of God's gift.
To me that is real blasphemy and sin.
Running around chasing panties here and there is childs play!


Retired Catholic

I have but one disagreement with you on Evangelicals. The four gospels are built around Christ the Redeemer, redeeming us from the original sin of Adam and Eve. Adherence to genesis is actually "fundemental" to Christianity, because without the fall, there is no need for Christ in the first place No need for redemption, no reason for the Crucixion human sacrifice. No offense intended, but why would God's only begotten be willing to die for a metaphor?


"You could tell a German Lutheran, but you can't tell them much."



Building on the link the Viscount provided, here's another one about an upcoming conference the theocrats are attending.

Kevin Wolf

Really enjoyed this one and the comments. I think you were prefectly reasonable throughout this post, Lance.

I'm an ex-Catholic. I'd probably be ex-whatever if I'd been raised in some other faith. I reached a point where I thought, enough is enough. What they're saying can't be true since I see proof of that all around me everyday. It's no bother to me if that makes me a doubting Thomas. Surely we need more of those.

mac macgillicuddy

Like you, I have no faith. So I pray every day.

Uncle Merlin

MAC You crack me up!!
"I have no faith.So I pray everyday."

I'm gonna use that TODAY!!

mac macgillicuddy

It's not trademarked...YET! So go ahead, but remember, if you don't mention my name, I'll sue your ass!

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