christianity

God Bless You

How can I get people to stop saying “God bless you” after I sneeze?

I’m serious. Any suggestions?

I’m so sick of being blessed on a daily basis but society has made it rude not to say “bless you” after someone sneezes and so I get to hear it. All the time. What’s worse is I feel obligated to say, “Thank you” in response because, again, society has decided that it is rude not to.

I know that most people obviously aren’t saying it in a religious sense (anymore), more as a knee-jerk reaction to a sometimes startling bodily function, but I can’t seem to get over the religiosity of it.  Why can’t we follow the norms of non-English speaking cultures that wish health on someone when they sneeze? The Germans say, “Gesundheit” which means health, the Spanish say, “Salud” which means health and even the Irish say, “Sláinte” which means good health.  Why must we insert a reminder of god into every little thing we do?!

I know I’m not the first person to bring this annoyance up (you may remember Dane Cook’s when-you-die-nothing-happens joke) but why does it seem to go nowhere? Clearly, as shown by the joke, people are aware that atheists prefer not to be blessed, but how can we break the cycle of “god bless you”?

A quick read on Wikipedia will tell you that saying “God bless you” in response to a sneeze can be traced back to Pope Gregory I after he ordered “unending prayer” to ward off the bubonic plague. People thought that the sneeze was an early symptom and so they blessed everyone who sneezed in hopes that it would ward off the disease. Other theories suggest that we used to think that people’s souls were released from their bodies or their hearts would stop beating when they sneezed and a quick, “bless you” after the fact would help protect them from evil or encourage the heart to keep on keepin’ on. We know these fears to be ridiculous now, so why do we insist on repeating the phrase?

In my personal life, I have no problem letting people know that I don’t want to be blessed, but in my professional life, the issue is much more delicate. I have yet to come up with the proper response to my coworker, whom I know is just trying to be polite, as she blesses me after every sneeze.

Am I doomed to utter a thank you after every blessing I receive in the office or with a client while I silently resent their stupidity for using such an outdated phrase? Can I ever make it stop? Or, in the words of the famous David After Dentist, “Is this gonna be forever?”

 

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The Lord’s Army

Have you ever been to a military ceremony? I’m not just talking funerals – although, unfortunately, that is the most common event anyone not married into or born of a military family will go to – but, if you’ve ever been to a “Welcome Back ceremony” (the frustratingly long ceremony that precedes the big ol’ kiss your about to give your husband/wife/partner after he/she deployed for a year) or an awards ceremony or even a FRG meeting (which stands for Family Readiness Group and consists of mostly stereotypical military wives) you have experienced the prayer.

Ah, yes. The prayer that comes during a government-funded event by a government-funded entity. Nothing more constitutional, eh?

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While the US military is starting to do a better job at being more accepting and tolerant of their soldiers’ religion, gender identity and sexual orientation, they still seem stuck in Christianity and won’t seem to let it go. They hide behind the façade of religious tolerance by expanding the number of religions you can now state on your dog tags and by creating and allowing soldiers to wear military issued Yamakas  and other religious paraphernalia, and yet, they seem to only ever recite Christian prayers to a Christian god at any public event or even, as I am told by my husband, who served in the Army for 8 years, right before going out on a mission overseas. (As a side note, only up until recently have you been able to put “Atheist” on your dog-tags as opposed to just, “None” in the space dedicated to religious affiliation. It’s great that you can now state it, but a bummer that not only did it take a while to be able to do so, but also that it  was allowed around the same time you could state, “Jedi” as your religious affiliation as well… Seriously).

It is one thing to have a government funded military tolerant and accepting of all religions (as I think it should be) but it is quite another for that government entity to then endorse a specific religion by encouraging and leading its members in practice of it. I have been to a lot of military functions and not once has an event started or ended in a Jewish prayer recitation, a Muslim call to prayer, or a devotional Buddhist meditation. Not once.

So what is the point of doing it at all? Why not offer a moment of silence instead, in which anyone can pray or not pray to who or what they want? Or, better yet, why not just avoid the whole thing altogether and let everyone practice their religion on their own time? God forbid that happen. God forbid we forbid god!

Most people who I spoke to in the military never even thought about why they pray at these events or whether they were even OK with it. In fact, the only real reason anyone has even presented to me as to why it is done is that the majority of soldiers and their families (at least in the Army anyways) practice the Christian faith. It makes sense when you think about where, geographically, the majority of the US Army bases are located. They are all over the South and the Mid-West and typically nowhere near either an ocean or a big city (for obvious reasons). These places are known for being in the “Bible-Belt” and have sub-standard education requirements and despicable graduation rates. They breed small-mindedness and encourage ignorance. So, it makes sense that the majority of the people who spend their lives in these places would eventually, if they weren’t already, conform to the lifestyle.

I have never been for the notion or the practice that the “majority rules” and, politics aside, I don’t think that just because the majority of a country or a platoon or a company is one religion, that it should trump all others. You should either do something that pleases all and offends none (which is practically impossible to do) or just do nothing at all (again, not applicable to politics).

The point of not saying a prayer is to respect all people and their beliefs, not to suppress free speech and ideas. It baffles me how people, namely Christians, view the request to omit prayer as a persecution and not a call for respect and compassion. Don’t even get me started on the supposed “War on Christmas” conservative Christians in this country constantly complain about (if you are unfamiliar with this crazy phenomenon, let me know and I’ll enlighten you!).

The most frustrating thing about all of this is that my husband and I have to sit through a Christian prayer yet the military chooses not to practice any other aspect of the religion. Here are just a few examples:

1. Soldiers are often made to work on Sundays.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God.” Exodus 20:8-10

2. Soldiers in battle are as young as 18 years old.

“So all who were numbered of the children of Israel, by their fathers’ houses, from twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to war in Israel—” Numbers 1:45

3. According to Wikipedia, there have been 848,163 deaths in war since 1776 and 1,531,036 soldiers wounded. (source) And that’s just in America.

“When you go to war in your land against the enemy who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, and you will be remembered before the Lord your God, and you will be saved from your enemies.” Numbers 10:9

“When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the Lord your God is with you, who brought you up from the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 20:1

4. Newlywed soldiers are not excused from deployment or long-term training.

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“When a man has taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war or be charged with any business; he shall be free at home one year, and bring happiness to his wife whom he has taken.” Deuteronomy 24:5

However, when it comes to seeking guidance, they go back to the teachings of Christianity. When a soldier deploys and they have a personal issue they have two choices: 1) Talk to their boss, or 2) talk to a neutral member of their company that isn’t going to start treating them differently or holding what they discuss together against them. This neutral member, however, is the Chaplain. That’s it. Talk to your boss (yikes) or talk to the preacher. Now, if you were an atheist having trouble adjusting to your deployment and the facts of war, who would you go to for help and talk to besides your friends? Probably no one.

I’m completely against any and all endorsements of religion by the US government, whether intended or not. And I am especially against half-assing it. If you are going to endorse a religion, do it all the way. And, if you’re not, don’t even let the thought of any type of religion or religious practice come up in public events or affect others in any way. The same goes for individuals as well. If you are going to say you are a Christian or a Muslim or a Scientologist well then be one! Don’t pick and choose what parts of your chosen religion are convenient for you. And, if you do, don’t you DARE tell me or anyone else that we are in the wrong. That’s just hypocritical.

I do have to say that the ONLY time I enjoyed an Army prayer was during the “Welcome Back” ceremonies. Hundreds of horrible smelling guys (my husband was in the infantry so there were very few, if any, women attached to his units) all wearing exactly the same thing, walking in exactly the same way and standing in the exact same formation made it near impossible to spot my husband’s face in the crowd. As soon as they would announce the prayer though, all the sheep heads would bow in unison and there would be my husband’s handsome face. I could spot him in an instant and run straight into his arms when the ceremony was over. If there’s anything in the world that can get me to look forward to a prayer, that moment is it.

The Happy Atheist

One of the biggest stigmas Atheists face today (besides being devil-worshipers) is that we are cynical, loveless, empty sacks of people devoid of any true meaning in life. We are cynical and mean. We are grouchy because we have no belief in anything after life — and life sucks.  In fact, most Christians (and other religious folk) I talk to say that they feel sorry for me; that it must be hard and lonely having nothing to live for. Of course, we atheists know that this is far from the truth. Actually, most of us (myself included) found that life became much more amazing after breaking free from the shackles of religion. Once the oppressive, unrealistic expectations were taken away, I felt liberated, free and truly happy for the first time in my life. Instead of looking forward to an eternal life in paradise after death, I started living in the now and taking advantage of all the amazing things life has to offer. Time is limited and, I don’t know about you, but I would much rather live to live than live to die.

So why is it that religious people view Atheists in such a negative light (besides the obvious reasons)? If we are all so happy and carefree, how could they possibly perceive us to be angry and empty? Because of assholes like this:

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Let me explain what you are looking at here. I follow an account on Instagram that posts nothing but pictures of atheist quotes and funny atheist memes. On this particular day, however, the owner of the account posted a picture in support of gay marriage and LGBT rights, which I am not opposed to in the least. Unfortunately, there are still arrogant idiots out there that still believe they need to have a say in what goes on in a stranger’s bed and a debate ensued. The unfortunate thing about this debate is that this guy, who goes by, “theirateatheist” went on a rampage of bashing and shaming and name-calling instead of reasoning and logically arguing his point. This is merely one example of some of the fine things he had to say.

Now, I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt on two things, 1. He has already admitted via his screen name that he is irate — we were warned,  and 2. it’s practically impossible to reason with someone who still believes they should have any say in what other people do with their lives (as long as it does not negatively affect others, of course). So, I get it. I get the anger. And, frankly, he’s right — the guy he is referring to is in fact a “fucking retard”. The problem is that those on the fence about their religion and even those who aren’t, have now seen firsthand how atheists are angry, empty, hateful people. Comments like this perpetuate the stereotype.

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It’s a never-ending cycle and, the worst part is, we have done it to OURSELVES!

I propose we atheists fight the temptation and stop writing illogical, useless personal attacks on the religious and kill em’ with kindness instead. I mean, if religion has taught us anything, it has taught us that nothing recruits better than a comforting, judgement-free place full of like-minded and accepting people. If we can start showing people that atheists do in fact make better lovers, then I think we could persuade a lot more people to think twice about atheism and what life would look like without a god. We turn them away at the door before they ever even desire to peak inside when we call them names and act viciously to others. Personally, I think this world would be a much better place if there were fewer people in it that believed in a religion. The more we are able to show others how fulfilling and happy life can be as an atheist, the more people are likely to turn away from religion and, in the end, we would all end up winning.

Donating Organs to Jesus

There is a Seventh-Day Adventist church near my house on our neighborhood street corner that has a giant message board for announcements and other religious proclamations. It rarely changes and the messages are typically not worth any mention. It will announce things their Vacation Bible School dates, or advertise its food pantry giveaway (free food for the needy AFTER they attend a service and get preached at), things like that. Occasionally, it will have something hilarious on it, like the time it said that the “most honorable position is on your knees before the lord.”

I think I almost choked on my bagel on the way to work when I saw it! (I know, I shouldn’t eat while I am driving… ESPECIALLY while simultaneously reading hilarious sexual innuendos on religious property)

Either way, the other day, the Adventists decided to switch up their message to something that infuriated me probably more than it should have. It now says:

“Become an organ donor, give your heart to Jesus”

How about you become an organ donor and give your heart (or any other part of you for that matter) to SOMEONE IN NEED instead?! To be fair, I don’t believe this sign is advocating against becoming an actual organ donor, however, I would argue that the message of becoming an actual organ donor is WAAAAAAYYYYYYYY more important than the message of giving your heart to a fictional, fairytale idiot of a “savior”.

Let’s look at some statistics:

  • Nearly 120,000 men, women and children currently need lifesaving organ transplants.
  • Every 10 minutes another name is added to the national organ transplant waiting list.
  • An average of 18 people die each day from the lack of available organs for transplant.
  • In 2012, there were 14,013 Organ Donors resulting in 28,052 organ transplants.
  • 90% of Americans say they support donation, but only 30% know the essential steps to take to be a donor

Only 30% know the essential steps to take to be a donor” This statistic is remarkable to me because, literally, it is as easy as checking a box on your application for a photo ID or Driver’s License! So, wouldn’t the correct Christian thing to do in this situation be not to use a “clever” play on words in hopes of catching some poor, lost soul’s attention, but rather to take the opportunity to help your fellow human race and educate them about the shit that really matters? I mean, correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t someone who is more alive be more effective in participating in your religion and tithing than a person that is… well… dead?

There is probably nothing on this Earth that pisses me off more than how the religious people in this world have such credibility, authority and such a HUGE platform to speak on with billions of blind followers and they abuse the opportunity to talk about things that really matter in this world. Instead, they brainwash, push ridiculous agendas and cover up crimes and misconduct, all in the name of god.

It’s absolutely disgusting.

Crazy Christianity: Seventh-Day Adventist

What it’s all about:

The Seventh Day Adventist church arose out of a movement that took place back in the 1840’s led by a man named William Miller. Miller was a Baptist who self-converted to Adventist after his thorough reading of the Bible led him to discover prophecies of the coming of Christ. He focused mainly on a passage in the book of Daniel:

“Then I heard a holy one speaking; and another holy one said to that certain one who was speaking, ‘How long will the vision be, concerning the daily sacrifices and the transgression of desolation, the giving of both the sanctuary and the host to be trampled underfoot?’ And he said to me, ‘For two thousand three hundred days; then the sanctuary shall be cleansed.’” Daniel 8:13-14

Daniel 8:14 became his obsession (I added verse 13 for a little context) as he tediously calculated (via the very popular day-year principle) that 2300 days really meant 2300 years. He determined that the start date would be 457 B.C. when the decree to rebuild Jerusalem by Artaxerxes I of Persia took place. It was 1818 when Miller made the discovery, through his calculations and interpretations, that the second-coming of Christ would be in 1843. He spent the next few decades honing in on his discovery and eventually began lecturing the public on his findings in 1831. (Source) He gathered and attracted many followers (known as the Millerites) but, after the prophesied date came and went and others attempted to predict new dates based on different calendars and those dates came and went without issue, most of the Millerites fell off the bandwagon and went back to their initial religions.

chmillhpSome Millerites did stay, however. These people decided that the text did not intend to show us the exact date or year in which the coming of Christ would occur, but merely when the cleansing process would begin. These people became known as the Adventists due to their emphasis on the imminent second-coming and later, became known as the Seventh Day Adventists due to their strict observance of the Sabbath Day. The church really took off when a woman named Ellen G. White had a spiritual vision in which she realized that the church needed international expansion. She created a missionary program and “by 1945, the church reported 210,000 members in the US and Canada, and 360,000 elsewhere; the budget was $29 million and enrollment in church schools was 140,000.” (Source)

The problem was most people viewed the church as a cult due to its unorthodox belief systems (the sabbath day is now on a Saturday?!) and its strangely large amount of church leaders living by Arian doctrine. But, after the church adopted the Trinity in the early 20th Century, all was good by the protestants and it began to take an even stronger foothold. (Source)

Today, the Seventh Day Adventist church preaches mostly about how much god loves you and how safe you are in his hands. Their website says things like, “God keeps a family album-and your picture is in it. God loves you and has a plan for your life.” (source) and is constantly reassuring its readers/followers that god is always there for them. They still put a huge emphasis on the Sabbath Day with many of its followers never doing anything secular, whether for leisure or work, on Saturdays outside of church functions and gatherings (I should note that certain things like nature walks and family activities are encouraged on sabbath days). Also, the second coming of Christ is still central to the church in many ways. They teach that death is only a “peaceful pause before the resurrection” saying, “death is almost like a wintery promise of spring.”  (source) They believe (similar to the Jehovah’s Witnesses I talked about here) that when you die you are simply awaiting the return of Christ to take you home and the “millennium” of the 1,000 year reign of Christ over Earth will be a time in which all the wicked will be judged.

Some distinctive teachings include the doctrine of an investigative judgement, in which god will individually look back on all the things you have said and done in your life to determine whether or not you are worthy of being saved and continuing on to heaven.

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Also, they include foot washing in their practice of partaking in the Lord’s supper. This is supposed to symbolize the commitment to love others as Jesus loves them. (source) They only initiate the practice of taking the Lord’s supper about 4 times a year, however, and they are made to segregate themselves by gender in order to complete the ritual (although, some married couples are allowed to participate together).

Baptisms are completed with a full body dunk to symbolize “dying to self and coming alive in Jesus. Seventh-day Adventists practice full immersion baptism because by being fully buried beneath the water [they] symbolize that God’s grace fully fills [them] with His new life for the future.” (source)

Why it’s harmful to society:

Seventh Day Adventists are living in a state of constant anticipation for the coming of Christ. I would argue that living in this state would be scary and stressful, especially for children who have a limited understanding of the doctrine. Imagine growing up thinking that your death is imminent and could happen at any moment! Not that this isn’t the case with or without religion, but who in their right mind would remind their children of that? Also, wives are commanded (by the Bible, of course) to be completely submissive to their husbands, however, the church is much more lenient on things like birth control (as long as its intended use is not for abortion purposes) and even abortion if it is being considered for reasons other than birth control, convenience or gender selection.

starving_childrenAnother cause for concern is how rapidly they are spreading. Today, missionaries are reaching people in over 200 countries! As of June 2011, the church was said to have 17,214,683 members with only 7% of them residing in the United States. It is one of the fastest growing religions in the world because of its missionary efforts in developing countries (mostly in Africa and in the Central and Southern Americas). (Source) Is it just me or does it seem wrong to travel to developing countries offering much needed medical attention and food while indoctrinating the people with your religious beliefs? If I was poor, starving, sick and uneducated and someone came offering a remedy to my misfortunes while speaking about the second coming of Christ, I think I would start believing, too!

Another bummer, although not detrimental, would be the sabbath observance on Saturday as opposed to Sunday. Pretty much everything is already closed on Sundays anyway (heck, you can’t even buy a car in the state of Colorado on Sundays!) so wouldn’t it be easier to follow the strict sabbath rules? Think of all the things they are missing out on! But, I guess that isn’t really the point, now is it?

Why it’s not as bad as the others:

Seventh Day Adventists put a huge emphasis on health. Most follow strict diets, with about 35% of members adhering to vegetarianism. They abstain from all foods listed as “unclean” in the Bible as well as alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs. They are encouraged to get adequate exercise as well as plenty of rest to take care of their bodies and, because of this, research is finding that Adventists live significantly longer than most people do.

“Research funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health has shown that the average Adventist in California lives 4 to 10 years longer than the average Californian. The research, as cited by the cover story of the November 2005 issue of National Geographic, asserts that Adventists live longer because they do not smoke or drink alcohol, have a day of rest every week, and maintain a healthy, low-fat vegetarian diet that is rich in nuts and beans. The cohesiveness of Adventists’ social networks has also been put forward as an explanation of their extended lifespan.” (source)

This is a really cool side effect of a really strict doctrine in which I see nothing but good coming to society as a result. Another positive aspect of the Adventist religion is their tolerance for other religions and their firm stance on religious liberty. While some have criticized their seemingly exclusive behaviors, the church has time and time again rebutted with its beliefs that all Christians are doing their best to worship the same god. And, while they may not agree with other practices or interpretations, those religions should be granted the same respect and freedom all Adventists desire. (source)

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Crazy Christianity: Jehovah’s Witnesses

What it’s all about:

Jehovah’s Witnesses are arguably the most strict practicing Christians in today’s society. They believe themselves to be the “true” Christians and reject many popular ideas in other versions of Christianity. They do not believe in hellfire, or the inherent immortality of the soul. They believe that when you die, you are in a state of nonexistence — both physical and spiritual.

armageddonThey believe an Armageddon will occur when satan attacks Jehovah’s Witnesses and god is forced to step in and destroy all governments and those people that do not follow him. Witnesses believe that Armageddon will be triggered by the United Nations (you can’t make this stuff up…) which is represented by the scarlet-colored wild beast of the book of Revelation chapter 17 in the scriptures (source). After Armageddon, god will choose 144,000 of his most loyal, trusting Witnesses to help him lead the Earth which he will transform into a paradise similar to the Garden of Eden and they will serve on his council of government. Those that have died before the Armageddon took place will gradually be resurrected and judged based on their current actions (rather than their past deeds) for a thousand years. After that thousand years has passed, Satan will be sent to Earth one last time to test those left and “the end result will be a fully tested, glorified human race. Christ will then hand all authority back to God.” (source)

Which leads me to the next big difference between Witnesses and most other forms of Christianity: Witnesses do not believe in the trinity. They believe that God (or “Jehovah” derived from the biblical name given to God in the Tetragrammaton JHVH or YHWH) is the creator of all things, the “one true God”, and is therefore the only thing worthy of worship. Jesus, or Christ, is God’s only direct creation and the holy spirit is God’s power in the world. They also believe Satan to be a fallen angel, once perfect in the kingdom of God who now comes to Earth to mislead people and create evil and human suffering.

h2E92B97DWitnesses do not celebrate birthdays, Christmas, Easter or any other “typical” holiday as they believe them to be derived from Pagan rituals and, therefore, not properly representative of their Christian faith. They also refuse to pledge allegiance to any country, take part in any nationalistic celebration or song and vehemently refuse to serve in the military. They do this because they feel that Christianity has no nationality and one’s allegiance should only ever be to God and nothing or no one else. “They consider secular society to be morally corrupt and under the influence of Satan, and most limit their social interaction with non-Witnesses.” (source) This places them in a state of segregation from everyone else (including fellow Christians who are not Witnesses) by choice, until they are called upon to evangelize. All members are required to evangelize and each must submit a monthly log of their activity. If you do not, you can be considered inactive and eventually be “disfellowshipped” and shunned by the community — an act highly dreaded by those that faithfully follow.

Worship involves frequent church meetings on the local level as well as national/international meetings that are more like conventions . They prefer their own translation of the Bible called, New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, and are taught how to read the scriptures by a governing body composed of all men (surprise, surprise) called, The Watch Tower Society. These men create publications that are to be given as much weight as the Bible itself and are not, under any circumstances, to be re-interpreted or challenged in any way (to do so would result in their being immediately disfellowshipped). If one publication comes out as being in disagreement with a previous publication, it is said that God is gradually revealing his will to the Watch Tower Society and they can, therefore, only publish what they know, when they know it.

Why it’s harmful to society:

Jehovah’s witnesses are incredibly strict and un-wavering in their approach to a faithful life and can sometimes take it too far. I was watching a television show in which young, talented musicians were given the opportunity to be the opening act for some of the biggest artists in the music industry. One young man was selected to open for Nikki Minaj, giving him the opportunity to live out his life-long dream and potentially make a name for himself. As a part of the show, they would fly out the family members so that they could be there to share in their child’s once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with pride and support. However, this poor young man had to experience the happiest moment of his life without the approval of his mother (who happened to be a Jehovah’s Witness) as she refused to take any part in the demonic, worldly concert. She chose a distorted worldview over the happiness of her own son and as a result, he felt abandoned by her and ashamed of his dream. No parent should ever make their child feel this way.

Another thing Witnesses vehemently oppose are blood transfusions. Receiving a blood transfusion is grounds for expulsion from the religion and should always be rejected — even in life and death situations (?!?!?!). They base this belief on their interpretation of Acts 15:28-29 which states,

“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well.”

There is zero tolerance for sex outside of marriage, homosexuality, drunkenness, gambling, illegal drugs and tobacco. Witnesses must dress modestly and follow a strict patriarchal home-life in which divorce in only permitted in the case of adultery (per the Bible). Any divorce not a result of adultery (a scriptural divorce) or a legal separation due to excessive abuse or disdain for the union (“absolute endangerment of spirituality”) is considered illegal and any re-marriage considered adultery. “Marrying a non-believer, or endorsing such a union, is strongly discouraged and carries religious sanctions.” (source)

This leads me to the reason I believe the Jehovah’s Witness style of Christianity is most harmful to society: segregation. They segregate themselves and their children from the outside world and all others that are different from them. Their children are never given the opportunity to learn about the world and make decisions about it on their own which causes a great deal of intolerance and un-acceptance. I believe we become better, more fulfilled people when we are surrounded by people who are different from ourselves. I believe that is the only way we can truly learn and grow. Strip that away and we are nothing but the product of our parents and a slave to their ideals.

Believing you are living the “one and only” truth and being completely un-accepting of other beliefs is never a good thing. It’s arrogant and ignorant and when both of those traits come together it almost always spells disaster.

Why it’s not as bad as the others:

(for Violetwisp 🙂 ) Jehovah’s Witnesses are one of the only Christian religions that I know of to take the Bible and the teachings of Christ almost completely literally. They jumped in head-first and committed to the entire sha-bang. There is no scripture plucking, no hermeneutics, no personal ideologies, just one way — God’s. As much as I disagree with their worldviews and their decisions to take literally a book filled with awful, harmful things, I have to admire their commitment to a less than wonderful lifestyle all for the sake of what they believe. You will never come across a Jehovah’s Witness apologist, and I like that.

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Crazy Christianity: Christian Science

In an attempt to highlight the many, many different branches that have grown from the tree of Christianity by way of human interpretation, I have decided to start a little mini series spotlighting some of the most interesting ones. I wanted to start with Christian Science since it happens to be one of the most interesting I have come across in quite a while.

What it’s all about:

MARYBAKEREDDYThe Christian Science religion was founded in 1879 by a woman named Mary Baker Eddy. She was sickly most of her life and after suffering a fall that inflicted internal injuries in 1875 she turned to the Bible for answers about her healing. It is at that time she claimed to have come to a working understanding of pain, sickness and injury through reading the scriptures which lead to her speedy 3-day recovery. She wrote a book describing her experiences and revelations, started preaching and putting to practice her new-found healing methodologies and the church was built 4 years later.

The basic premise of Christian Science is that the immortal, material world is an illusion in which we fall victim to suffering and illness. Matter is not real; only the spiritual world is real and can be accessed through prayer. They believe that “sickness and death are illusions caused by mistaken beliefs, and that the sick should be treated by a special form of prayer intended to correct those beliefs, rather than by medicine.” (Source)

These beliefs, as you can imagine, are incredibly controversial and potentially very dangerous. In fact, “between the 1880s and 1990s the avoidance of medical care and vaccination led to the deaths of a number of adherents and their children; several parents and others were prosecuted for manslaughter or neglect, and in a few cases convicted.” (Source) The modern Christian Science church takes a different stance on healthcare today in which they do not advocate for the complete non-use of medical treatment, but instead advises its followers to pray about what option they should take and make a decision that best fits their family’s needs (which almost always leads to a decision not to utilize modern medicinal treatment).

The_First_Church_of_Christ,_Scientist,_BostonChristian Science churches do not have pastors or reverends as typical Christian churches do. Actually, Mary Baker Eddy ordained the Bible and her book, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, as the pastor of the church. There is one main church located in Boston (called the Mother Church since it was the first location) and many branches throughout the world. Each week, every church studies the exact same lesson from the Bible. They meet on Wednesdays to discuss with each other how the lesson has affected their lives and to share stories about how the lesson has healed them in some way. Then, they meet on Sundays for a church service in which that particular lesson is read aloud; there is no personal sermon given by any leader.

Ultimately, the followers of this religion believe that Jesus was able to heal people and even bring them back to life because of his closeness with and un-wavering trust in God. They believe that if they pray and develop a closeness with God as well, that they will then be able to heal themselves and others. While they know that they will never achieve the kind of closeness Jesus had to God, they believe that they can certainly approach it.

Why it’s harmful to society:

This religion requires complete trust in god to heal and prevent all illnesses which can and have lead to more than a few very avoidable deaths and/or complications. Many children suffer the consequences of not being vaccinated or actively treated for their illnesses in the appropriate ways causing their otherwise well-meaning parents to be accused of (and rightfully so) neglect.

This is one of those religions in which someone had an idea about the Bible and wrote their own supplementary text with the intention that they be read together. These authors, while most vehemently deny any parallels or comparisons between themselves and god, almost always believe that their writing is just as important as that of the Bible. I find it strange that someone with the capacity to believe the Bible to be a divine text with all of the answers one will ever need in it could also believe that some random person has the ability to write a guidebook or a partner book that describes the correct interpretation and how you should live your life accordingly.

A lot can be said for the healing powers of the mind. Many studies are being published about the affects one’s mindset can have on that person’s ability to heal and many cancer patients can attest to these seemingly miraculous cures. We already know that things like pain can be attributed almost entirely to that particular person’s idea of it which explains why some people enjoy hanging from the ceiling with hooks stuck through the skin on their backs and others can be completely crippled by a stubbed toe. However, to attribute these natural brain phenomenons to a divine deity is incredibly ignorant and dangerous. For minor illnesses and injuries I believe it is perfectly acceptable to resort to any type of treatment one feels is best for either themselves or their family, whether natural, homeopathic, divine, medicinal, etc. However, for life-threatening illnesses and injuries I believe, especially in the case of children who are unable to make medical decisions on their own, the power of healing through one’s mind (or prayer as the Christian Scientist will believe) should be used in conjunction with any and all modern remedies and solutions available; anything less is just plain irresponsible.