Answering Orlando: Conservative Christians are Right; The LGBTQ Person Does have a Choice.

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The victims of the Pulse Orlando shooting at the hands of Omar Mateen, courtesy, Human Rights Campaign, #WeAreOrlando: HRC Turns Building into Memorial to Orlando Victims

It’s the same argument–the LGBTQ person says they were born LGBTQ and the conservative religions communities say that they were not born LGBTQ; they choose to be LGBTQ.

I agree that the person who lives a different sexual lifestyle does have a choice, just as conservative Christians say. However, the conservative Christian community gets the choice fundamentally wrong.

Orlando may be the beginning of the turning point that will probably take many  more years to fully mature from “hate the sin, love the sinner,” to complete acceptance. Let’s assess the situation.

First of all, the shooter, Omar Mateen was certainly a person who, by all accounts, was a ticking time bomb. Reporting for the Daily Beast, Shane Harris, Brandy Zadrozny and Katie Zavadski wrote in their article, The Unhinged Home That Raised Orlando Killer Omar Mateen, that Mateen grew up in an abusive home. When a person is brought up to question their own self-worth, the fear generated by that abuse often shows up as anger. Julie Vitkovskaya of The Washington Post compiled the transcripts of the 911 calls from Mateen to the Orlando Police Department in an article entitled, ‘You already know what I did’: Read excerpts of the Orlando shooter’s 911 calls. In the early morning hours of June 12 at the Orlando gay bar Pulse, he claimed to be guided by, “allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi of the Islamic State.” But that claim really does not wash with Mateen’s actions leading up to the shootings and appears to be a red herring. Although he, according to Vitkovskaya, “told the negotiator to tell America to stop bombing Syria and Iraq,” his rants included lies, such as,

“There is some vehicle outside that has some bombs, just to let you know. You people are gonna get it, and I’m gonna ignite it if they try to do anything stupid.” Later in the call with the crisis negotiator, the shooter stated that he had a vest, and further described it as the kind they “used in France.” The shooter later stated, “In the next few days, you’re going to see more of this type of action going on.” (Vitkovskaya)

Within these lies might be the answers as to why Mateen chose to destroy unsuspecting lives at Pulse. Mateen could have shot up a mall, as did a group of Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab did at the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya in September of 2013, killing 63 and wounding 175. Or he could have shot up a movie theater, as James Holmes did in Aurora, CO in July, 2012, killing twelve and wounding 70 and as John Russell Howard did in Lafayette, LA in July 2015, killing two and injuring nine, then taking his own life. Instead, Mateen decided to wreak havoc on a gay nightclub–the one place where, no matter how badly the LGBTQ community member is treated and bullied during the day, that person could go to Pulse and dance and be the person that he/she or whatever in between can be. Safely, without judgement or acrimony. Omar Mateen took that away from the LGBTQ community in Orlando, including those who chose to vacation in Orlando and visit Pulse on that fateful night.

Heidi Grover of The Stranger, a Seattle publication, wrote about Pulse being such a safe place for the LGBTQ community in Orlando in her piece, Memories of Pulse Orlando. Tracey Cataldo observes that “Florida is already a really hard space to be out and to be gay and to be yourself…It was the first moment I had being out in Orlando where I was like, oh, I’m OK here—not just safe, but these people get me. Everywhere else I felt like I had to walk around defensive…” Erin Resso remarks, “I was going to Pulse when I was just coming out and just sort of exploring what that even meant and who I was. Just being around people who are like you is so fucking important. You don’t have to hide. You can actually be yourself.”

The shootings in Orlando seemed to touch a particular nerve nationwide, especially with those who have traditionally condemned those in the LGBTQ community–religious organizations in the United States.  Errin Haines Whack and Rachel Zoll of the Washington Post note conservative religious organizations response to the shootings in their article, Religious conservatives attempt balance in Orlando response, “The Rabbinical Council of America, the major association for Orthodox rabbis, decried ‘murderous attacks in the name of religion’ and said ‘no individual or group should be singled out’ the way the victims were. The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky, offered prayers and called for ‘ever greater resolve in protecting the life and dignity of every person.’ The Southern Baptist Convention, at its annual meeting this week, passed a resolution extending ‘love and compassion’ to all affected by the shooting and saying they consider the victims ‘fellow image-bearers of God and our neighbors.'”

Yet, no matter how much conservative religious leaders try to make nice with the LGBTQ community, many religious communities still has the LGBTQ community in their gun sights, so to speak.

The Human Rights Commission publishes online its Faith Positions. For Mateen’s family religion, Islam, the commission notes that inclusion for the LGBTQ community runs the gamut, because, “Islam has no central governing body, it is not possible to state clear policies regarding issues of interest to LGBTQ people.” Yet even without this central authority, “It is rare that an openly LGBTQ Muslim feels fully welcome at a mainstream mosque in the United States. Cultural norms and traditional readings of sacred texts often uphold a heteronormative binary of gender identification and sexual orientation that don’t allow for the range of identities present in today’s society.” Interestingly, “Transgender men and women are recognized and accepted in many Islamic cultures around the world. In fact, the idea of a man or woman identifying as a member of the opposite gender is more likely to be accepted than that of a man or woman expressing sexual desire for someone of their own gender.”

Judaism in the United States also runs the gamut of beliefs for and agains the LGBTQ community. Both the Reformed and Conservative movements are inclusive of the LGBTQ community. The Reform movement as early as 1977, through its “…Central Conference of American Rabbis passed a resolution that called for ‘legislation which decriminalizes homosexual acts between consenting adults, and prohibits discrimination against them as persons.’” However, the Orthodox Jewish community is much less inclusive, though, just as the Islamic religion, they also have no central governing body. Still, it is believed, “Orthodox policies related to LGBT inclusion are grounded in the Torah and subsequent rabbinic teachings, which prohibit sexual relationships between individuals of same gender, and base gender roles on birth biology. Sex between men and particularly anal intercourse is deemed a violation of biblical weight. Lesbian relations are not mentioned in the Bible and are prohibited explicitly only by later rabbinic authorities.”

For the dominate religious group in the United States, Christianity is all over the board in its relationship with the LGBTQ community. Possibly the most inclusive sect is the Unitarian Universalists Church, which believes in “the inherent worth and dignity of every person,” making the Unitarians an inclusive denomination to the LGBTQ community. In fact, the Unitarians have “conducted ‘services of union’ for same-sex couples since 1984.” in contrast, the Southern Baptist Convention published its “Resolution on a Christian Response to Homosexuality” in 1996, declaring that, “even a desire to engage in a homosexual relationship is always sinful, impure, degrading, shameful, unnatural, indecent and perverted.” The SBC tells its members, “Christians can, and should, minister to homosexuals in a kind, yet firm manner,” encouraging its members to show the member of the LGBTQ community that “Christ can work through our lives to touch those lost in a world of confusion and darkness.” The largest Christian denomination, the Roman Catholic Church, declared in a Letter in 1989, that, “Although the particular inclination of the homosexual person is not a sin, it is a more or less strong tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder.” In the Catechism, the “Homosexual persons are called to chastity.” 

No wonder those in the LGBTQ community feel they are treated as sub-human and abominations. When their own churches, families and country have called them sick, begging them and praying for them and with them to stop being themselves and start being just like “everyone” around them–no wonder the LGBTQ person feels there are few safe places for them to live their lives. The overpowering, public display of shame and hatred toward the LGBTQ person has been the prevailing narrative in this country for so very long.

What changes this narrative now as a result of Orlando? “‘This is a time to grieve, to mourn and to consider what it means to stigmatize people,’ said the Rev. Raphael Warnock of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, who supports gay marriage as a civil right. ‘Religious communities have played a particular role in … marginalizing gay and lesbian and transgender people,’” quoted Whack and Zoll. That is a powerful condemnation on religion in our communities from a religious leader. That is brave. But not a brave as an LGBTQ person.

Our religious community do not want to align itself with the vilified religion of the shooter, Omar Mateen. The presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump even says of Islam, “I think Islam hates us,” reports Theodore Schliefer of CNN, fanning the anti-Muslim dialogue that is engulfing our country.

In reality, it is still the religious community–all but the very socially progressive sects–who are trying to act as if they care for our LGBTQ community members after Orlando, while still vilifying them in their worship services and in their conferences where they set anti-LGBTQ policy in black and white.

Those religious sects, denominations and organizations who preach anti-LGBTQ rights have more in common with the Islamic faith than with human rights for all in the United States.

Orlando, is a wake-up call. Omar Mateen, was either secretly gay, bi-sexual or outwardly homophobic. He destroyed lives of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and those who loved them, not the lives of random people in movie theaters, or malls or in an elementary school. We still do not know the true motives of Omar Mateen, but his attempt to steer his motives away from homophobia and onto Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and ISIS frankly makes no logical sense.

Yes, the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer people have a choice. They can choose to live their own truth, or they can choose to ignore who they really are and let conservative, religious fanatics shame the LGBTQ person into becoming the person they are not. Trying to change the LGBTQ person is an invitation to a train wreck of a life. It happens over and over and over again in this country.

Perhaps one day the power of shame, based on religious dogma, will be overcome by the power of reality. All of our religious communities also have a choice–to stop fearing the members of the LGBTQ community. Being gay is not a disease and it is not contagious. An LGBTQ person knows they are sexually different before they even know the definition of LGBTQ.

Is it suddenly permissible to start loving members of the community you preached hate against 24 hours before a massacre? You might believe your own crap, but people with half a brain see through that ruse.

I personally have solved my problem about gay rights and religion. The intolerance of the gay community in the religious community is so abhorrent to me that it is one of the reasons why I have chosen–and it is my choice–to be an atheist. I am not fearful of anyone in the LGBTQ community. My sister is a lesbian. Her wife is my sister-in-law. I love them completely and the homophobia of so much religion cannot compete with my love for my LGBTQ family and friends. It appears that much of the United States feels this same way in the wake of a madman’s murderous rampage in Orlando.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do Guns and Jesus Mix?

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Photographed in May 2013 on I-81, near Kingsport, TN

I am at a total and complete loss. I need someone to explain to me how Jesus and Christianity and guns go together. And I mean that I am completely dumbfounded and confused. What I don’t get is–how do guns and ammo and killing people go hand in hand with Jesus? Even if I don’t believe in Jesus, I understand the ideas and concepts behind Christianity. Does this stem from God and Country? What is the draw? Really, I need to be enlightened. One of my cousins–an evangelical Christian–posed with an assault rifle on FaceBook. Another one of my cousins boasted on FaceBook that for Christmas, 2015, the top gift for Americans were guns–and she is a Southern Baptist.

Agains, whether I believe in Jesus or God or not, the concept of the New Testament is one of peace, is it not?

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Courtesy, Reboot: Christianity

Interestingly to me is how Christianity, just as life on Earth, evolves with the times. Yes, you heard me right–Christianity evolves. The Christianity of the 2nd Century Anno Domini is not the same Christianity that evolved from the 1st Century teachings of St. Paul the Apostle (Saul of Tarsus) or the Christianity of 4th Century St. Augustine of Hippo. The Protestant Reformation took the world by storm and completely changed the conversation from the Roman Catholic Church and the Byzantine Church. Jumping many centuries to today, the proliferation of mega-churches that are not connected with mainstream Protestant sects are continuing to change the atmosphere of Christianity today and make their leaders–Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes, Rick Warren–rock stars of the modern religious era.

So somewhere, somehow, the American evangelical Christian movement grabbed onto the Second Amendment and integrated it within the anti-abortion and now, anti-immigration movements. Sounds like an evolution of thought and deed to me.

I can only conclude that this is part of the Christian psyche of fear. Why else would someone purchase a gun in the United States? Hunting? Sure. Target practice? If that what gets you out of bed in the morning. But when you purchase a gun out of fear, it is because you fear that local law enforcement will not protect you so you must protect yourself. How does that have anything to do with Christianity?

Now, here in Texas, our legislation has taken yet an even more aggressive stance, allowing for open carry. In other words, you can pack heat in public. Welcome to the Wild West of 2016. In Houston, many area church leaders are appalled by the idea of their parishioners coming in with holstered weapons. See Area congregations weigh impact of guns in churches from the Houston Chronicle, January 6, 2016. But the Rev. Evan McClanahan, pastor of First Evangelical–note EVANGELICAL in the title–Lutheran Church, has no problem with his congregation members bringing guns into his service.

“I’m not pretending to speak for everyone in my congregation,” said McClanahan, “but my basic feeling is that criminals commit crime. Criminals have weapons. It wouldn’t bother me at all if church members had open carry. We don’t worship guns, don’t like them per se. But it’s a fallen world and guns are part of a fallen world.”

There it is. “Guns are part of a fallen world.” That is FEAR. You can’t have modern religion, especially evangelical religion without fear.

Yet as we have seen time and time again, those who kill are usually mentally ill. Unfortunately, the examples in the United States abound with the innocent loosing their lives from the barrel of a gun whose trigger is pulled by someone with incredibly fucked up brains. So the answer for Christians is to arm ourselves even more.

So, it’s not really guns and Christianity, it’s Christianity and fear that moves the religious to purchase guns. The non-believer will have fears, but those fears are not linked to mystical teachings or antiquated sayings and writings. If you are fearful and you are not mentally ill, or a convicted felon, then you should be able to arm yourself as per the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. It’s not my interest, but this is the way our country has EVOLVED and I see no chance for a change on gun rights. In the end, if I don’t want to live surrounded by those who have armed themselves, I need to move to another country. I know, it’s insane.

But so is fear. So is religion.

Abandoning Reason

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Dylann Roof, Courtesy, Psychology Today and FaceBook

One of my prime issues about religion is that you must abandon the laws of physics to be a part of the group. As I have blogged in the past, the very unreasonable tenets–make that impossible–of Christianity include the belief that a virgin gave birth to a man as a result of woman-to-god “contact,” miracles of healing, walking on the water, parting the sea, the smiting of non-believers by the deity and countless other impossible acts. I think that people’s spirituality can be so skewed that they need to believe in superheroes to rule their lives.

Something else even more sinister can result from such beliefs. Author, attorney and activist in the Humanist and Secular movements, David Niose has written a compelling article about such beliefs which was recently published in Psychology Today.

Niose points out the problem that arises from taking all of your beliefs and values from an antiquated religious book–and that problem is Anti-Intellectualism.

Niose presents his essay in the wake of the murder of nine innocent black church members in Charleston, SC on June 17, 2015 by the 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof. Niose argues that when a racist Neo-Nazi takes religion and a rampant gun culture to heart, the ultimate result is the killing of people that the racist believes is “beneath” him.

See the article by David Niose, Anti-intellectualism is Killing America from Psychology Today.

These arguments are not new in religion in general and Christianity in particular. White slave owners in early America used the bible to justify slavery when their own constitution exclaimed that “all men are created equal.” Well, some more than others and apparently, the more religious that man was and is, the more equal and the more that man deserves to live while those not so equal are as good as dead.

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Courtesy Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia, http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/what.htm

Anti-intellectualism gives the person a pass to not have to think, but to rely on the interpretations of the bible as given by his pastor or his local society. And in the South in the United States, that society is often anti-intellectual, highly fundamentalist, religious, conservative and racist.

For me, personally, this is an embarrassment and a failure of our educational system to break the chains of bondage to religion and deeply-seeded ideas of racism and misogyny. Anti-intellectualism is a call to return the United States to the pre-Civil Rights era and everything that the era embraced. Think of where medicine was back then, or the engineered world before the Apollo missions to the moon. Remember that women were still second class citizens and minorities were literally told to “know their place”–translation: you are not good enough to sit at deli counter with me and have a piece of pie, or use the same bathroom as I, or drink from the same fountain.

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Courtesy, Alabama Public Radio, http://apr.org/post/remembering-bloody-tuesday-tuscaloosa

Also, understand that people who continue to educate themselves will usually come up with these same conclusions, realizing that the old wives tales and biblical stories that were presented to them as undisputed facts are really just ancient attempts to explain the world. These explanations are simply no longer relevant in a world of reality and evidence.

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Anti-intellectualism makes our entire country look small and ignorant. It continues to stratify our society where the intellectuals live on the East and West coasts, with pockets of intelligence in the big cities. That leaves the South and the heartland to be steeped in ancient myths and fears which bubble up in ignorance. This ignorance took the lives of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., Tywanza Sanders, Cynthia Hurd, Sharonda Singleton, Myra Thompson, Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Ethel Lance, and 87-year-old Susie Jackson, who were slaughtered during a bible study at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC by Dylann Roof.

And I am mortified by this. Inexcusable. Anti-intellectual.

Thought for the Day…President Jimmy Carter

I know, I know, Jimmy Carter was not the best president for the United States, but I have always thought that he was a most upstanding person. This is not new news, but I find that his spiritual search often follows my searching. For him, also, the Southern Baptist stand against women caused him to question the tenets of the Convention and ultimately lead to his decision to part from the SBC. Not only does that take personal courage to leave an organization that has been pounded into your head from the beginning, but he has made these statements publicly.

I have great respect for President Carter. His revelations give me hope when he speaks out as a Christian for equality for EVERY human being, not just those who walk a very specific line and don’t deviate from these tenets.

I would also like to live openly as a non-believer, but my family members, both close and extended are Christian and many are evangelical. Because we really don’t discuss religion, everything is usually just basic conversation–nothing deep. I have relatives who are preachers, so declaring openly that I am a non-believer could make for a very long, emotional day and right now, my emotions are pretty raw. I must walk this road by myself for a while, so this blog helps me to release my emotions and deep distrust against the conservative, evangelical Christian religions that permeate the state where I live, Texas.

So, that said, I present two articles: the open letter that President Carter issued to the Southern Baptist Convention and a recent article from the Atlantic on a Q&A with President Carter. I wish him only the very, very best in his life. He is a man of convictions and a lover of equality for all people on this earth. He doesn’t just preach equality, he lives it.

Losing My Religion for Equality, by President Jimmy Carter

‘There’s an Awakening in Our Country’: A Q&A with Jimmy Carter, from The Atlantic, by John Meroney, July 13, 2015

Caitlyn Jenner + Ed Young, Houston Southern Baptist Preacher Anti-LGBT Community = Interesting Situation

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Courtesy of @EdYoung and Charisma News: https://twitter.com/EdYoung and http://www.charismanews.com/us/53984-what-happened-when-bruce-caitlyn-jenner-showed-at-pastor-ed-young-s-church

Here’s an interesting mini-blow-up in social media today. Apparently, Caitlyn Jenner attended the yearly Houston Second Baptist Church’s Christmas Pageant. The junior Ed Young tweeted (@EdYoung) this photo of the Senior Ed Young–LONGTIME Second Baptist Church Pastor–with American’s most currently most famous transgender, Jenner.

See LGBTQNation’s post: Caitlyn Jenner prays with Fervently Anti-Gay Preacher.

Whomever wrote the LBGTQNation’s article (very, very poor journalist practice, guys, to not attribute your author) is chastising Jenner for continuing “to engage in questionable behavior.” [Also, this piece is an unattributed editorial. It should really be labeled as such–as are ALL blogs, including this one.] Reading the comments on this post prove that the subject is explosive. A large group of those posting comments think that she is acting like a rich, white conservative man who should not be representing the LBGTQ community, while a few others are applauding her courage to show up in a congregation which will, on the surface, act as if she is completely welcome, but behind her back, will pray that everyone in the congregation will “love the sinner, hate the sin.”

Look, I understand this. Perhaps for the Southern Baptist, Caitlyn’s showing up to Second Baptist Church is a positive sign that she will begin to see the error of her ways and begin to fervently pray the “gay away,” or the “transgender away,” or…well, whatever (and the answers to the junior Ed Young’s tweets make this idea perfectly clear). With enough prayer and help from god, she will see that she has sinned against god and will go in for sexual-re-re-assignment surgery. On the flip side, the LGBTQ community is completely sick and tired of being bullied by the white, male conservative fundamental Christians in this country, especially the Souther Baptist Convention, and yet, on the other hand, does not want to be represented by a media-hogging celebrity.

But I see this situation differently. Whenever two people meet each other at a human level, they might, just might, begin the process of understanding each other. For the entirety of this nation’s existence under white male-dominated fundamentalist Christian rule, the LGBTQ community members have had to live lives of complete falsity, hiding in the shadows (and the closets) and playing like they are the same as everyone else, while self-destructing on the inside. The strict, Puritan roots of our ancestors have precluded that we live unquestioning lives of quiet servitude to the tenets of the church, with no variation.

What changed? I think it had to do with the complete valuation of EVERY human being. Sinclair Lewis wrote The Jungle to highlight the plight of the lowly immigrant worker. It’s message was to bring socialism to America, but instead it began the labor union movement and began the demise of the oligarchical robber baron class in the U.S.A. In the same vein, outspoken women such as Emmeline Pankhurst in Britain and Elizabeth Cady Stanton of the United States helped to bring the vote to women at the turn of the 20th Century which eventually lead to the feminist movement toward gender equality. Likewise, leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr. decided that the world of Jim Crow was completely unacceptable for his fellow Afro-Americans and became part of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. The LGBTQ community is only the most recent group in a long, long line of down-trodden people to rise up and say that enough is enough and it’s time to accept us for who we are and stop trying to change us.

The progressive Christian church has often been a part of this revolution, but the fundamentalist, evangelical side of Christianity has played its part in doing everything it can to maintain the status quo and keep second class citizens, frankly, second class. Members of our own families and friends who have decided to stop living lies and start living openly as our LGBTQ bothers and sisters are responsible for the changing attitudes towards the LBGTQ community. I shall discuss the trends in a future blog…but they can easily be found on the news and with respected groups that study social trends, such as the Pew Research Center.

The Jenner/Kardashian brand is not one of repenting of sins and sitting back and taking the criticism of who they are and what they represent. Jenner showed up at Second Baptist while filming her reality show, I Am Cait. There should be nothing surprising about this move…those who run the Jenner/Kardashian brand may appear to be lame, Valley Girls, but, I assure you, they are as media-astute as those running Fox News. I predict the Southern Baptists of Second Baptist Church in Houston will be represented as who they are–fire-and-brimstone evangelical Christian apologists who use bullying tactics to attempt to change people to be just as they are. I will also predict that it will show that Caitlyn Jenner might be Christian and white and Republican, but she will not be bullied by Ed Young. Sr., or Second Baptist Church or the Southern Baptist Convention. Only time and the producers of I Am Cait will tell.

Don’t be surprised if Caitlyn Jenner becomes a spokeswoman for LGBTQ rights and actually moves the group forward while constantly being vilified. It also will continue to expose fundamentalists, evangelical Christians as the elitists, racists homophones that they are.

Start the conversation. Educate. Question. Never Ignore.

 

My Church is Legit, Your Church is Shit…

Although I normally would take the high road when it comes to language, I could not resist this title.

I find it endlessly amusing that someone whose faith moves them to believe in miracles, virgin births and bringing dead people back alive would trash another person’s faith.

As I discussed in my blog entitled Fact versus Faith—The Virgin Mary, Christians are called upon to believe in things that, in the real world of physics and nature, simply do not occur. These events—the virgin birth (gods mating with humans to create demi-gods), directly raising bodies from the dead, unseen spiritual forces that judge humans on earth—require belief and faith to be a part of Christian communities. But then you have church leaders who actively denigrate other religions, even religions under their own umbrella. I experienced this first-hand when my Baptist friends in college told me I was going to go to hell because I was a Methodist. I discussed this topic at length in my blog entitled How the Southern Baptists Helped Me to Stop Believing.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

There are two organizations that proclaim to be religions that are truly American in origin. Mormons and Scientologists. They bring together the same type of beliefs in faith that the standard denominations, with the promises of eternal life and rewards on Earth. They just take faith and belief to a different level.

I first encountered a Mormon while in junior high school in west Texas. Her name was Janice. She and I were gangly early teenagers in that really awful, full mouth of braces, unruly hair kind of way. We were never accused of being popular and pretty. When I visited her home, she showed me the family’s stash of canned goods and freeze-dried prepared meals, enough to last seven years. Then she slowly began to explain to me about her religion. But our friendship didn’t last very long. Texas is known for its iced tea, complete refreshment on a hot day. We drank iced tea day and night, winter, spring, summer and fall, with or without sugar—my mother bought that horrible instant that was so popular in the 60s and 70s; it was abysmal, but we drank it like there was no tomorrow. One day I decided to introduce her to iced tea in the school cafeteria. She always picked lemonade. I told her that she needed to try this fabulous drink—just take a sip. You will love it. I think a couple of other friends also tried to get her interested in trying the tea. But she refused. Her faith did not allow her to drink caffeine. Moreover, she began to avoid me like the plague. On one level, I understood her response. On another level, I felt abandoned over a silly little glass of refreshment. Our friendship was over.

Mormonism has its mainstream and its evangelicals, just as do all religions. Its roots date back to Joseph Smith and 18th Century North America. It was charismatic in experiences with leaders of the organization considered prophets with direct links to their god—not unlike Old Testament prophets. There’s also that thing about Jesus Christ coming to the native Americans after his death to minister to them as told by Smith’s Golden Plates. Smith, it is said, received the plates from the Angel Moroni in 1827, then politely gave them back to the angel after translated the Golden Plates from some unknown language into the Book of Mormon. Mormonism has been brought to the forefront of politics with the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney. Before he was the Republican candidate, the GOP faithful fought within itself as to whether Mormons were Christians or not. The Mormons themselves answer this question: Mormonism: Christian, Cult or ???

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Source courtesy of Another Christian’s Blog by Travis Berry

The religion itself is fascinating and is very open about its beliefs, as opposed to groups that set themselves up with secret information, privy only to the believers. See Mormon Research Ministry.

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To get the seedier side of Mormonism, pick up Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven. Mainstream Mormons decry his tome for some factual issues and how it focuses on the most radical, evangelical leaders in their organization–especially Warren Jeffs and the FLDS. Professor Max Perry Mueller explores the questions raised by Krakauer in his essay, Mormonism and the Problem of Jon Krakauer. Suffice it to say that as SOME particular members of religious organizations become more “radicalized” in every faith and denomination, very angry people can do considerable damage with violence against those they take umbrage against its beliefs–in other words, destroy the messenger so that the message against the beliefs cannot get out to the public.

Then there’s Scientology. Created by the science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s after publishing his book, Dianetics, Scientology took off like a rocket. It is also a very wealthy and secretive organization which uses electrical monitors to “audit” the mind. Granted, as crazy as ALL religions sound to the non-believer, Scientology really does take its beliefs to the stratosphere as only a science fiction writer can do. L. Ron gets an “A” for effort and creativity. I don’t have the time, space or inclination to even begin to blog about what this group believes. Suffice it to say, the internet will be your best guide.

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And thanks to the internet, Scientology seems to be imploding. Central to the Scientology experience was that everything was kept secret. New York Times reporter and author Lawrence Wright changed all of that with the publication of his book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. Then, HBO upped the ante with its documentary based on Wright’s book, also entitled “Going Clear”.

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I would absolutely recommend watching the HBO special; it is mesmerizing to me: “Going Clear” trailer by HBO.

As Sophie Gilbert masterfully writes in The Atlantic in her article, “It’s Not Easy Being Scientology,” the group “has put a premium on controlling the flow of information—an increasingly impossible enterprise in the Internet age.” See “It’s Not Easy Being Scientology” by Sophie Gilbert. Once those crazy ideas get out, people start asking too many questions and start questioning the very premise on which the group was founded.

Sound familiar? This is what non-believers begin to do when they look at the religion in which they were brought up and begin the process of questioning everything they were taught in that religion.

An organization, religious included, can only continue to exist as long as it has believers who do not (at least outwardly) question its basic tenets. It does not matter whether the religion is basic mainstream, as the Roman Catholic Church–considered the first Christian church, or home-grown religions such as Mormonism and Scientology.

No matter if the faith-based organization has been passed on from generation to generation, or whether it sprang from the fertile American minds of its originator–Joseph Smith and L. Ron Hubbard–the organizations require you to believe in specific mystical events that could never, EVER happen in the natural or physical world.

And isn’t this the basic argument of faith? Your beliefs are right, no matter how ridiculous and impossible those beliefs are, whereas the other guys are false religions with false gods and fake legitimacy. It’s simply one way to convince the faithful to stay in that particular denomination and, for that matter, that particular congregation. If too many people begin to question the legitimacy of the faith, the preacher, the congregation or the denomination, the congregants go away and they take their money and their support with them. This is then the death of that group. And if people begin to question the basic tenets to begin with, then doubt and unbelief can easily follow.

No one wants to admit that they’ve been duped by false information and beliefs. But if those beliefs are simply impossible, then the rational person who finds faith impossible and unreasonable may never, ever rejoin the fold. They will take their spiritual nature elsewhere.