Something Different Saturdays

Something Different Saturday #4: All About You!

For last weeks Something Different Saturday, click here.

Today’s post is going to be all about you, the reader. First off, I want to thank everyone that has taken the time to read my blog. You have absolutely no idea how good that makes me feel and how happy I am each day to reply to your comments, whether that is here, on Twitter, Facebook, or through e-mail. Every day you remind me why writing my story is worth it and hopefully it will help others who are going through the same type of situations as I once was. Thank you!

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Secondly, we will be coming to the end of the “Journey” posts very soon. It’s been a wild ride going back through my memories and putting them down for you to read. This hasn’t always been easy, the amount of stuff that has come up over the last few weeks that I had suppressed or thought I had forgotten has been immense. Reliving some of these stories has been incredibly painful but I feel better for having gotten them out into the open. Thank you for the kindness and love you have shown me through these rough moments that I have shared.

idea.pngThird, just because the “Journey” posts will be ending does not mean that this blog is soon to be over. I have many ideas running through my mind for future series and entries. Some of those ideas are listed below:

  1. A Pentecostal Atheist Bible Study: Showing you exactly how I was taught to interpret passages and scriptures during my upbringing. (This will definitely be humorous and scary at times)
  2. A guide to the different types of Christians you might meet and what arguments work best for each.
  3. Extra-biblical Teachings: Things that I was taught to believe even though they had absolutely no biblical backing. Conspiracy theories run rampant throughout the Pentecostal faith.
  4. Crazy Christians: Entries describing some of the stranger folks that I have met throughout my life and time in the ministry who believed in very strange things outside the normal bounds of regular Christianity and Pentecostalism. (Snake Handlers, Poison Drinkers, Poo Eaters, etc…)
  5. A personal blog describing aspects of my life not touched upon by the “Journey” posts as of yet. I’ve left out quite a bit that I didn’t feel was crucial to my journey and think you might find some of that just as interesting.

These are just some of the ideas that I have had over the last few weeks.

Fourth, I want this blog to be about you. What type of things would you find interesting to read about? Are there some aspects about faith or my life that you haven’t understood and wish I would expand upon those thoughts?

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Lastly, Free-Thought Friday is your opportunity to have your voice heard. If you are interested in writing a guest entry, let me know. Either message me through here, Facebook, or Twitter and tell me you’re interested. I’ve enjoyed all the submissions I have received so far and love to share your stories.

Once again, thank you! You all have made writing this blog worth it. I cannot possibly thank you enough.

THANKS!

Something Different Saturdays

Something Different Saturday #3: Interpretation of Tongues

For last weeks post on speaking in tongues, click here.

So last week I discussed speaking in tongues, glossolalia, and so I thought I would talk today another “gift of the spirit” the interpretation of tongues.  Basically, after someone has given a message in tongues, according to scripture(At least in the Pentecostal church), someone else, or in some cases the same person, is supposed to stand and give an interpretation. This is also supposedly divinely given by god, as to what was just said in tongues. If that isn’t the most convoluted way to get a message across then I don’t know what is…

Imagine sitting in a bar with friends and all of you speak English. Yet you don’t talk to each other in English, first one guy talks in gibberish, then another friend tells you what he meant. The next round the second friend talks in gibberish and the first friend explains what he was saying. That’s basically how speaking in tongues and the interpretation of tongues works in the Pentecostal church.

Another aspect of the interpretation of tongues that I always found hilarious is that growing up, whenever someone gave an interpretation, god, speaking through the interpreter, almost always had an old English way of speaking.  I never once heard anyone interpret anything along the lines of, “Hey, people, god loves you and he wants you to keep doing what you’re doing. Good job.” Instead a “normal” interpretation would be something along the lines of this, “Oh ye my people, thine actions have been seen and thy glory has been shown to shine across the land. The lord thy god will bless thee and keep thee for the works that thou hast committed.”

Now granted, in other countries where the native language is not English, I would assume that the interpretation of tongues does not have this Old English way of speaking.  There is one reason and one reason only why the vast majority of American Pentecostals speak in this manner during interpretation, they assume god speaks like that because that is how the King James version of the bible is written. One can only assume that if the bible had been translated centuries later, in 1930’s New York ,god would then give interpretations that sound much like an Italian Mobster of that time. This began to change as the popularity of more modern interpretations of the bible began to be accepted by members of the church, however the older the congregant the more likely the message would be in old English.

One other thing that always struck me about the interpretation of tongues is that they almost never had anything of substance. Not once did I hear an interpretation where god said anything groundbreaking. It was always one of two things, to praise the church for being the best darn church in all of churchdom, or to admonish someone who the interpreter had an issue with. God seems to have a whole lot of time to do a whole lot of nothing, and in other cases god always seems to dislike the people who the interpreter disliked…isn’t that odd?

 

Something Different Saturdays

Something Different Saturday #2: Speaking in Tongues

For last weeks Something Different Saturday, click here.

“And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting.  And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” – Acts 2:2-4

Anyone who was raised in the Pentecostal setting will be able to tell you how much speaking in tongues is preached. So much so that by the time you get old enough to question things, speaking in tongues has become such a normal part of life that you never think to question it.  Speaking in tongues is seen as the evidence that someone has been filled with the holy spirit and so it is crucial to the faith of Pentecostals. So much so that some churches teach you are not even truly saved without it.

This “gift” is seen as the epitome of what god can grant you, without this gift of the spirit its taught, within the church, that no real work for god can be done.  After you have been baptized in the spirit, and have spoken in tongues, then god can reveal to you his plan for your life and help guide you to your eventual ministry.  A key aspect of most Pentecostal churches is that everyone has a ministry, and we should all seek to find out what that ministry is.

So when I began to doubt my faith I started by looking for outward explanations to the things taught within the church. Some of the first things that I looked into was the different interpretations of the gifts of the spirit within various denominations and then I looked outward to the rest of the world. It was truly shocking to find that speaking in tongues or “Glossolalia,” as it is known, is fairly well explained and understood outside the church.

So when I began to doubt my faith I started by looking for outward explanations to the things taught within the church.

Glossolalia, not to be confused with “xenolalia”(The actual speaking of different real languages), is the speaking of known sounds and syllables in a rhythmic pattern that flows together into what appears to be a completely different language. That’s it, they are known to the speaker already but put together in a different way to make it appear as if a whole new language is being spoken. If you have ever made “Baby Talk,” you have spoken in tongues.

For your pleasure I am including a clip of the hilarious, Sid Caesar, displaying glossolalia, or what was called double-talk for him.

And here is an example of Pentecostal speaking in tongues, not the similarities….try to ignore the Seinfeldian dance moves.

There is another aspect though to the gift of tongues that is different from other forms of glossolalia you may encounter in everyday life. This is how it makes you feel. Speaking in tongues during a service has usually followed songs and prayer, already in a slightly euphoric state, speaking in tongues releases chemicals that take it over the stop, you feel in complete ecstasy as these syllables and sounds flow from your mouth.  It is this aspect that gives many the assumed right to claim that this language is being directly granted by god.

However, here is the thing, I can still speak in tongues, and have done so, so many times over the years that it triggers the same chemical release in my brain almost instantly. I am taken to those same euphoric feelings of ecstasy which I experienced during my time as a minister. I’m a godless atheist today which, as far as I’m aware, would negate me from being gifted anything from god. Today I even know that I’m just talking gibberish, I understand glossolalia, and yet it still has the same effect on my body and mind.  When I do this, I feel light and warm, as if a huge ball of light has enveloped me. It is much the same feeling as might be described by someone deep in meditation.

Speaking in tongues is nothing more than self-delusion.

Speaking in tongues is nothing more than self-delusion. It is speaking sounds and syllables that you already know in an effort to reach this “godlike” state of mind. Mystics throughout the ages have been using tongues as well as other techniques to reach the same state of euphoria. Look to the Sufi Muslims and their whirling dervishes, for another example of a practice that brings about this same mindset.  Basically, what I am trying to say here, is that it is not special, it is not god granted, and if a godless atheist can still experience the results of it, I’d say you can wipe god out of the equation almost certainly. To borrow from Penn and Teller, “It’s Bullshit!”


As a humorous side not I would recommend you looking up the missionaries in the early pentecostal church who believed god had granted them xenolalia instead of glossolalia. Venturing into unknown lands to find that the language they believed they had been granted was actually nothing more than gibberish.  They were so upset that many left the faith and pentecostalism nearly died out in the early years.

Something Different Saturdays

Something Different Saturday #1: Separation of Church and State

So to take a small break from my journey, I’ve decided that on Saturdays I will write a blog about something that has been prevalent on my mind for the prior week.  In this weeks article I would like to talk about my own opinions on the Separation of church and state, both from my former theist beliefs and from my current atheist stance. So without further ado, let’s get to it.

Matt the Theist:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights” – “Thomas Jefferson “The Declaration of Independence”

As a Christian, this line from the, “Declaration of Independence,” is first and foremost in my mind. How can you deny that our founders based the US on Christian theology? It’s written right there when they mention the creator. Not only that but without the creator we wouldn’t have any rights to defend. It seemed fairly clear to me that when the founders created this nation of ours, they wanted a place to be free from government instituted faith and be free to worship God in the way the Bible intended.

The Separation of church and state doesn’t even exist since it wasn’t explicitly written into the constitution and the only thing we must guard against is the government taking over religion. On the other hand, religion taking over the government, if it is the will of the people, is not only fine but would lead us to a much more godly and good society.  The government without god infused into it, is a system that is doomed to fail. We cannot expect to receive God’s blessing if we don’t fully submit to him and create the type of government that he would accept.

According to the Bible, the government, or those in authority, play a key role in the faith. Romans 13:4 states…

                 “For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.”

So from that scripture we can see that God expects the government to dole out his justice, in punishing the evil doer and rewarding the good.  Outside of this the government should have no role in dictating how I choose to worship outside of providing a safe environment to worship. If we get Christian leaders into government positions, those who really love God, we will see the blessings of God in our economy, our families, and our foreign  policies.

How can we expect a secular government to lead us in a way that will be pleasing to God? Look at this sinful world, and all the evil that runs rampant. Women are killing their children, men and women are marrying members of the same-sex, and some states have made the right to commit suicide available to their citizens.  The fool has said in his heart that there is no god and we are a country that is obviously run by fools.

Matt the Atheist:

“Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity. What has been the effect of coercion? To make one half the world fools, and the other half hypocrites. To support roguery and error all over the earth.” – Thomas Jefferson “Notes on the State of Virginia”

I’m sorry but the separation of church and state is clearly implied by our constitution and the various writings by our founders. They did not set out to create a nation that was pleasing to god, but a nation that was pleasing to the many. The very fact that a good majority of our founders, Jefferson included, were deists, points to the secular roots that they were attempting to add to our constitution.

As the declaration mentions a creator, it is the creator of deism, a god that creates and then goes away, that granted us our rights. Even the word granted is a bit of a misnomer because without the rights to do as we please, the inhabitants in a deist universe would have no capability of living a fruitful life. The founders were not pointing to the goodness and greatness of an all-powerful god, but to the fact that we have the ability to do as we please here on Earth, so we might as well do something good.

The separation of church and state is crucial to preventing our country from becoming a christian version of a sharia controlled nation. If you want to see apostates hanging in the streets, women stoned in front of their families, and anyone who follows a non-christian faith burnt at the stake, let the separation be torn down. In this country we enjoy the freedom to pursue as well as the freedom to abstain from religion. This would not be a possibility in a nation that lacks this separation.

If we were to say that this separation does not exist, the next question would be, Which denomination gets to decide how we are to rule? If democracy is the key then I would have to assume that our nation would be run by fundamentalist evangelicals seeking to create god’s kingdom on earth. If not democracy than would it simply be whichever denomination is able to take power at any given moment. This week we are run by Catholics and so we must observe the sacraments, next week the Pentecostals take over and so each night is ended with speaking in tongues and the laying on of hands?

Lastly, not a single advance in human history has come from those who conservatively follow their faith. The freeing of slaves, women’s rights, civil rights, and gay rights were all brought about by people who bucked the system and said, “What we have believed up to this point has been wrong and we should change things up!” This type of change would not be possible in a world ran by the devoutly religious, as god’s law would be final.

We have come so far in the last few decades that to turn back now would be devastating. Which rights are you willing to give up in order to please a particular version of god? Does the woman’s right to choose go out the window? Do we strip homosexual men and women of their marriage certificates? Do we strip the rights of African-Americans and return them to the supposed “curse of ham?”

If there is anything that is sacred, or at least comes close to sacred in a secular society, the separation of church and state has to be it. As Christopher Hitchens said often, “Mr. Jefferson, build up that wall!”