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Archived Letters

Saturday, May 28, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

I Chose Deism

As someone who gave up "big C" Christianity forty years ago, I recognize some of the anger inherent in the transition, and applaud this site for giving Xs a place to unload their pent-up anguish.

What puzzles me, however, is that many of the folks here have replaced one form of negativity and absolutism with another, and thus seem to be intellectually in a not very different trap from the one they've recently escaped.

I read comments, for instance, about Mary...rather than being a virgin...having been raped by a priest - or being the daughter of Tiberius, of all things. There is no more evidence (or logic) behind statements like that then there is behind the original lie. How about this...Mary was a young Jewish girl who married a nice Jewish guy and had five or six kids; one of who was named Jesus. The birth myths only began appearing a generation or so after Jesus' execution... we needn't slander either Jesus or Mary for them.

The truth is that over a period of a half millenium or so, the life, meaning, and teachings of Jesus became grossly distorted, and as much for political reasons as theological. The point I have come to in my spiritual journey is to use schlolarship and reason to mine the gems of Jesus' life and teaching (and those in the greater bible as well) from the utter quagmire that orthodox theists, and trinitarians specifically, have created.

If I had to pigeon-hole myself today I'd probably define myself as a Deist with a strong interest in, and admiration for, the spiritual wisdom of the historical Jesus...with secular humanist leanings. Or vice-versa.

The point I'm trying to make here is this: No amount of anger, nor cussing, nor unreasoned attachment to new, negative myths is going to help anyone get beyond the damage orthodox Christianity (or Islam or Judism, etc) has done to them. The only way out is to begin a new path, a new search, toward a new fulfillment.

I chose Deism because of its emphasis on Reason and the laws of Nature that we can all observe. But there is no right nor wrong path (short of a few really weird things like human sacrifice or something equally damaging to mankind). It is the journey, no matter where it takes you, that can make you whole.

John Shuey
jshuey at shueyfamily dot org

Monday, May 23, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

turn on your blinker

All of you are a prime example of a soldier that forgot his sword, shield, and helmet at home, and when he goes to battle naked of weapons, blames the commanding officer for his helplessness.

All of you were tried just like any other human being is promised to be. All of you were sent to spiritual war and were given the tools (i.e., the Bible verses most of you admittedly grew up on) to win it. The difference is you chose to go into battle naked. Well, the enemy pierced you with a fiery dart and you’re convinced it’s God’s fault. Take accountability for your own actions—isn’t it fun being an adult?

And by the way—the icon you have on your homepage, of the cross burning in the fire, is a belief that I wish you would live long enough to, no pun intended, go up in flames. There’s no way that cross is going to burn up in the fire; and if it gets anywhere near it, you know what will happen? It’ll be refined into gold. It won’t ever burn into the ashes that you’ve allowed yourself to become. Truth will never be cremated by lies.

Light will never be put out by darkness. And you, will never know the ramifications of the hellish road you’re walking on until you’ve reached the dead end and wished you had listened to the exit signs Jesus set out for you. Do yourself a favor—turn on your blinker, and take the exit. I’ll meet you at the top of the high road.

unsigned

Saturday, May 21, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Jesus had it coming...

I'm sure my testimony will contain nothing new- born into xtian home, raised to believe in all this nonsense, got out as soon as I could, blah,blah... My real story begins after I lost my faith, when I first realized just how fucked up my head was (and still is) from all of these "teachings".

I suffer from neuroses that were all implanted by the church, and I'm having a very hard time shaking them. Even though I know sex is not "dirty" or "evil", I still have a horrible complex over it, with feelings of guilt and anger running unchecked in my head.

They have a way of de-programming people abducted by cults... is there any comparable method of deprogramming people abducted at birth?

If anyone sees this, feel free to drop me a line. I'm new online and don't really know anybody. Thanks.

bluebeard ( Booker )
blue_beard75 at yahoo dot com

Sunday, May 15, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Keep up the good work!

Hello! I stumbled across your websight and was intrigued enough to stay and read a while :)

I enjoyed reading the story about "It Is Well With My Soul" ( I certainly had never heard the 'rest of the story'), as well as your life testimony. Thank you for the 'history after the hymn'.....it was educational and enlightening! Do you happen to know the 'rest of the story' of Spaffords daughter, Bertha? I do not, but would certainly be interested in finding out. Perhaps you have sent me on my own quest :)

Your personal life history I found poignant at some places, challenging in others, directly honest and a much needed bright light shining in some dark, superficial, hidden and some 'not so hidden' corners within Christianity. I, too, have experienced some of what you have experienced...as well as questioned things (only to find few - if any- people willing to really look at my concerns and questions). I 'appreciated' (?) knowing, once again, that I am not alone in these experiences, and that no, I am not crazy :)

I do still consider myself to be a Christian, a believer in Christ. My own personal challenges are driving me to look deeper, as well. (although admittedly not as deeply as you have, quite yet:) My wrestling match is more along the lines of how as a 'church' we are really, truly representing the God we so eagerly preach to people about, not so much about the authenticity and reality of God.....that I have reconciled with, and have respectibly come to a different conclusion that yourself. I appreciate your perseverance, passion and determination to find the TRUTH, my friend! Keep up the good work!

Colleen :)

Monday, May 09, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Luther was the most visible proponent...

Thanks Dave for this wonderful website, I'm a regular lurker here :) I read some interesting posts on a DVD review site yesterday on the movie Luther. Here's the overpositive PR given for the DVD and the posts in response to it. (From http://www.dvdtimes.co.uk/content.php?contentid=57026)

Grateful Lurker

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From the PR…

Luther was the most visible proponent of the Protestant Reformation and this balanced and historically accurate film shows how Luther, played by an intense and mesmerizing Joseph Fiennes, caused a riot and uprising that changed the path of history and the world of religion irrevocably.

This dramatically gripping and visually stunning movie, depicting the first ever translation of the Bible from Latin and the beginning of the Protestant movement, has a powerhouse cast, with the charismatic Joseph Fiennes, Sir Peter Ustinov, Bruno Ganz and Alfred Molina. In his last ever screen role, 82 year old Peter Ustinov plays a hugely loveable and playful Prince Frederick the Wise, who is enchanted by the tenacity and courage of his citizen monk, Luther. Joseph Fiennes is a lean and handsome Luther, he is an intense deep thinker and a man of determined action. This role has to rival his ‘Shakespeare in Love’ as his most impressive screen work to date.

The film is an epic production that recounts one of the greatest revolutionary periods in history. Veteran British Director Eric Till has produced a rich and evocative classic that takes the viewer back to the sixteenth century. The film is an artistic showcase with extraordinary attention to historic detail, the accuracy in the costumes and settings is mesmerizing. The real life locations – including many medieval churches and castles – give the film an unbeatable sense of authenticity. The level of fidelity to the actual history is remarkable and powerful. The film captures timeless historical moments, including Luther nailing the Ninety-Five Theses to the door of Wittenberg church, the Diet of Worms (a council presided over by Emperor Charles V), the Confession of Ausburg.

This is a time when the Middle Ages gave way to revolution, when the power of one man’s convictions rocked the world. Before the reformation one didn’t ask questions, all answers came from the highly structured hierarchy of the church. But Luther was horrified by the scandals and corruption that plagued the 16th century Church. He protested at how the church was securing funds and was taking advantage of its congregations. He chose to risk his life in order to question accepted religious practice. He fought to also reveal the truth of the Bible to the people. This is the man who set the world alight by translating the New Testament from Latin in to German, so common people could have direct access to ‘The Word of God’.

The viewer can’t help but to sympathise with Luther. He is branded a heretic and is excommunicated and banned by both the Emperor and Pope Leo X under the threat of death. He faces the charge that he is tearing the church apart. He grapples repeatedly with the possibility that he is destroying rather than building God’s kingdom.

Luther is horrified when he sees his efforts to reform the church turning anarchistic, co-opted by others for political purposes. He is appalled by the popular revolution with the attendant butchery and bloodshed. Passions are set alight and the film shows townspeople burning churches, destroying relics, dragging the monks who cared for them out of their church and pummelling them. Rocks crash through stained glass windows, the blood of peasants runs on the floors of ruined churches.

Luther’s gentle heart is torn to pieces, he wanted to show men the path of truth and love, and instead surveying the carnage he agonises: “I have torn the world apart”. In the midst of the pain however, in a true life twist worthy of a Hollywood plot, Luther marries an escapee nun, Katerina (Claire Cox)!

The movie has all the elements of a blockbuster. It is also a remarkable tale of a man who transcended all the powers and principalities of this world. It is an inspiring lesson in having the courage to do the right thing.


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RESPONSES:

ElectricSheep:

The PR posted says "this balanced and historically accurate film" and "the level of fidelity to the actual history is remarkable and powerful".

Is that true or is the movie a one-sided attempt at showcasing history? As an non-religious person, I'm just getting a little tired of history being whitewashed. I don't like ignorance spreading like that, especially when faced with such PR.

Luther isn't just one of the initiators of protestantism. He had some serious (and violent) issues with Jews, prostitutes etc. Does the film cover this too? Does it go over his book "Von den Juden und ihren Lügen" ('About the Jews and their lies')? Many who have read this work of Luther's and know of his anti-semitic sentiments, have labelled him the Hitler of his century. The Nazi district-leader Julius Streicher specifically referred to Martin Luther's influence on his own anti-semitism during the Nuremburg trials.

In Luther's book "Von den Juden und ihren Lügen", he outlines his 7-step plan to persecute Jewish people. Here's a summary of these:

(1) Set fire to Synagogues and (their) schools. About this, Luther said "Und solches sol man thun, unserm Herrn und der Christenheit zu ehren damit Gott sehe, das wir Christen seien" ('And such should people do, to honour our Lord and Christianity such that God sees, that we are Christians')

(2) Destroy the houses of Jews and drive them together into a stable/shed

(3) Rob the Jews of all their religious literature, upto the last page

(4) Forbid the Jews, on pain of death, to openly pray to God

(5) Put the the Jews under house-arrest

(6) Take away from the Jews all their gold, silver and jewels (take it into custody)

(7) Make the young, strong Jews work hard

And Luther's ideas/beliefs didn't stop there. I'm going to do some literal translations from the original German here, so bear with the bad grammar:

About children with disabilities, he had this to say: "Wenn man aber von den teufelsähnlichen Kindern erzählt ... so halte ich dafür ... dass es wahre Teufel sind" ('But when people speak of the devil- lookalike children ... then that's why I think .... that they are true devils').

Adulterers and prostitutes also had a place in his, as the PR puts it, 'gentle heart'. Speaking of prositutes he said "Wenn ich Richter wäre, so wollte ich eine solche französische giftige Hure rädern und ädern lassen" ('If I were judge, then I would let such a poisonous French prostitute [undergo unpleasant torture to do with bloodletting and breaking limbs on a wheel]').

Luther on adulterers "Warum tötet man die Ehebrecher nicht?", meaning "Why don't people kill the adulterers?".

He also toyed with the idea of killing the Pope: "Der Papst ist der Teufel; könnte ich den Teufel umbringen, warum wollte ichs nicht tun?" ('The pope is the devil; were I able to kill the devil, why wouldn't I do it?').

There's a lot more, but I'll stop here. In light of all of this, I wonder whether any viewer should sympathise with Luther like the PR claims they would. The claim that "It is an inspiring lesson in having the courage to do the right thing" is rather disturbing. If that is right, I don't want to know what wrong is...

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mateo107:

not to sound insensative, because i don't agree with most of what Martin Luther stood for, but what does this really have to do with the DVD? unfortunately, while some of Luther's ideas were new and groundbreaking, some of them were the common prejudices of his day. i wouldn't expect to see a movie about Henry Ford mention his antisemitsm, since that isn't really related to his accomplishments. perhaps it's not right that society has forgotten about the dark side of Ford, Lindberg, Luther, etc., but instead maybe we should respect that Lutherans have decided to dismiss certain teachings of Luther.

~MATEO


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ElectricSheep:

Mateo,

I was referring to the DVD's PR blurb when I posted before. It seemed to imply a one-sided view of an historical figure who had a whole range of ideas, some of which seems to have been omitted from "this balanced and historically accurate film". I could be wrong, perhaps the film does cover all his writings on various topics, but the PR doesn't indicate this.

For fear of taking this discussion off topic, I still want to address some of what you've said. I can't agree with your assessment. Some of Luther's ideas may have been common prejudices of his day, but the fact that he is a man whose (religious) ideas are followed puts him in a different position from Lindberg and Ford. Ford and Lindberg were not political or religious leaders who went out to share their visions in these areas with others. Their main contributions are in different fields altogether. I've never heard of any institutions called Fordism or Lindbergism where people chose to follow their collective opinions on how society should be. I don't know much about Ford or Lindberg, but as far as I know, people don't use Ford or Lindberg as a rolemodel in this sense.

However, Luther is such a man. "That we should respect that Lutherans have decided to dismiss certains teachings of Luther" implies that they had a choice in this decision. I don't know about others, but my parents and I never learnt about Luther's more controversial views. I suspect that most people aren't informed about it either. If we had known, we might have decided to only accept part of his teachings or leave him behind altogether far earlier. The fact is, there is only one website that has an English translation of his book "Von den Juden und ihren Lügen". Unsurprisingly, it's a site that wholeheartedly accepts all his teachings: an Aryan (neo-nazi) website. Clearly there are those people who respect all of Luther's viewpoints even today. The man's complete teachings have the ability to inspire the wrong kind of ideals.

There are other historical characters who've influenced the societal choices of nations, for a time at least. Many of these have now rightly been identified as flawed (or even as monsters). We do not choose to see only their good points. On the other hand, as I recall, the film "The Downfall" was seriously opposed for its depiction of Hitler as anything but a monster. No one will make a film that only shows his 'good side' (with a PR to match) and no one will claim to follow only his 'good teachings'. Not today, and I hope not four centuries later either.

Luther's teachings have definitely been influential right up to mid last century. Nazi Julius Streicher, mentioned in the last post, was only one example, more famous because he was a ringleader. Another example: In the year 1940/41, people with disabilities who were entrusted to the evangelical institutions for the disabled in Neuendettelsau/Bayern were, with reference to Lutheran state teachings, finally handed over to the state authorities. That they were put to death, was known to those responsible. 65 years ago is not as long ago as one might think.

Luther was not only anti-semitic, he was also gravely opposed to other religious groups. According to him, if they would not submit to the church they should be handed over to the executioner. He also bore a great hatred towards Turks (inciting people to murder and rob them), etc.

My previous post still has relevance to the DVD release. Many people that are going to see this movie don't know much about the actual history of its namesake. For example, converts in developing countries will be shown this film and will accept that Luther is purely a saint-like reformer. That sets the stage, as it has in the past, for accepting many of his other philosophies (e.g. dislike/hatred of religious minorities). I expect the DVD release to at least have a backflap that indicates that this film shows only the good teachings of Luther, rather than the rosy-coloured promo seen above. Furthermore, I would think it appropriate that the DVD also has some extras (even just textual notes) on his other ideas and that these should not be considered acceptable in the present-day. It is more than just historical accuracy, it is social responsibility. (And yes, this also extends to DVD releases).

Yes, there are a lot of bad things in the church, BUT I STILL LOVE JESUS!

Yes, there are a lot of bad and sad stories to say about the church. Believe me I know them all. I've known people to cheat on their wives, some people are mean and judgemental. Yes, it is confusing to date someone in church, believe me I've been there and done that. Not only that, but I'm part middle-eastern which makes it even more diffacult for me because everybody thinks bad of me before even getting to know me. BUT EVEN WITH ALL OF THAT, I HAVE NOT GIVEN UP BECAUSE EVEN WHEN I WAS IN THE WORST MOMENT IN MY LIFE BECAUSE MY MOM WAS IN THE HOSPITAL AND I HAD NO HUMAN PERSON TO COMFORT ME, I FELT A CERTAIN PEACE IN MY HEART. WHEN I GO TO A CHURCH I KNOW THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO WILL NOT LIKE ME, OR MAYBE EVEN JUDGE ME BUT WHO CARES!!!!! I'M GOING TO WALK THRU THOSE PEARLY GATES EVEN IF IT MEANS GOING IN BY THE SKIN OF MY TEETH. THE BIBLE SAYS THE KINGDON OF HEAVEN SUFFERS VIOLENCE AND VIOLENT WILL TAKE IT BY FORCE... YES ITS EXACTLY WHAT IT MEANS. IT MEANS TO HAVE A LITTLE BACK BONE, IT MEANS SUFFERING, IT MEANS SOMETIMES BEING REJECTED, IT MEANS FALLING IN SIN AND YET GET UP AND RISE AGAIN. A RIGTEOUS MAN MAY FALL SEVEN TIMES AND THE LORD WILL MAKE HIM RISE AGAIN... THE REASON I SAY NOT TO GIVE UP IS BECAUSE WE ARE HERE ON BORROWED TIME ON THIS EARTH. THIS IS YOUR LIFE WE ARE TALKING ABOUT. YOUR SPIRIT IS 100% REAL JUST AS YOUR BODY IS 100% REAL. IF YOU DON'T LIKE YOUR CHURCH GO TO ANOTHER ONE UNTIL YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE, OR THAT YOU FEEL SPIRITUALLY EDIFIED. BECAUSE GOD WILL NEVER LIE TO YOU HE SAID HE SHALL SEND THE HOLY SPIRIT TO GUIDE YOU TO ALL TRUTH. IF YOU KEEP YOUR EYES ON GOD INSTEAD OF MAN IF YOU REALIZE YOU ARE SPECIAL AND HE DIED FOR YOU. YOU WONT GIVE UP. DONT GIVE UP EVER!!

IMPERFECT CHRISTIAN, AND YET HAVEN'T GIVEN UP
email: ZainabHassan04@yahoo.com

Sunday, May 01, 2005                                                                                       View Comments

Praying (preying?) season

I wish to ask you something and particularly to the believer who accidentally ends up here:

Can you explain to me the concept of praying? PLEASE!

I am 30, come from France and lived in the UK Including Belfast), Germany and I am now in Switzerland. I am a doctor in chemistry and received a catholic education. I was baptised only a few weeks old and did 3 the communion sacraments. I was always there more to be like most people rather than by strong conviction but the death of my grand mother when I was 15 triggered the freeing from the religious ideas. I am now strongly against the philosophy of most known religions (those I know about anyway and in particular the religions attached to a revealed book). I have recently read a good chunk of the bible (could not bring myself to read the whole thing, I was too disgusted) and did pretty much the same with the coran. Now that you have a rough idea of where my reflection is coming from, I'll start.

The roman catholic community has just been through a very important stage, the pope died and a new one was designated. This event was (too?) widely covered by European media bringing a chill done my spine regarding the influence of the Vatican and its worldwide organisation. The population, whatever their convictions could be, was repeatedly called to pray for the dying pope during the last days of his life, after his death and then praying to the new pope. I found this most indecent. I now wish to give and receive other people's ideas on the concept of praying.

The pope, head of the church, is allegedly the person the most closely connected to the catholic god. This god is, according to the bible, almighty, all-knowing and timeless. Who would have a better seat to take care of everything on Earth? But no, people are called to pray, ask for favours to the entity that sees, can and knows all to a much better extend than the poor mortal organic-based living species we are. How much pretentious do you have to be? What makes you believe that the superior being cares about you plea. Even if he does, who are prayers to think that they know better, or that they may have been overlooked by the perfect creator?

This disgusts me.

Does the pope need extra praying for their god to be influenced? Does not their god know exactly what must happen, and has he not known this for ever? The same goes for the new pope, why pray for him, for him to go in the good direction? Is he not a bit special so that their god guides him properly? I had always been revolted by sportsmen signing themselves at the beginning, during or at the end of a performance (who are they to thing they deserve special attention from their "just and loving" god (I may have to come back to that in a future testimony...) when so many people, including some far more religious and dedicated than them, suffer and die for no reason? But trying to enslave the masses by asking them to pray and submit, this goes too far.

Where is the voice of realism? I do not know and have been called intolerant, even racist when exposing this view.

Such hypocrisy...

Alex
Collombey
Switzerland
grandbarbu at yahoo dot com