READ THE BIBLE
Dale Murphy addresses how he sees religion as a danger that leads to conflicts between ethnic groups. He expresses his disillusionment of international and domestic problems created by Religion.
Religion as Gang-Warfare - Coming to a Theater Near You
by Dale Murphy (Author of "Read the Bible - It will scare the Hell out of You")
In 1981 when I was in the process of rejecting fundamentalist Christianity, I was totally alone. I knew of no one like me. Was I the only one who was “leaving the fold,” as per Ed Babinski’s book title? The only other person I was aware of who had expressed the ideas and attitudes I was feeling was Robert Ingersoll, in 1879. I heard of him by accident, as a result of a college dorm bull-session. He was dead and gone, and it appeared to me, forgotten. Was there no one who saw the problems I saw, who reasoned as I did? For me, twenty years ago there was nowhere to turn. One is the loneliest number, and 20 years ago, it was terrifying.
What a different world it is today, thanks to the Internet. And “thanks” to all of you who have contacted me with support and encouragement since the release of my book. I welcome more [firstname.lastname@example.org], and apologize for not referencing your books in mine, but I had no idea you were out there. I had no reason to look. Surviving alone for twenty years, I suppose I had gotten used to it. It was only after the book was complete, as I was compiling the references, that I thought I might do an Internet search to see if an organization I had seen in a 1986 article which I had referenced still existed: Fundamentalists Anonymous.
I probably would have continued in this live-and-let-live attitude toward Christianity had it not been for two recent events; the first personal, and the second: international. I began writing a book. After reading the book, my brother called and accused me of being guilty of the same attitude which I pointed out in my book as the root of all religious wars: Religious Exclusivity, the “We’re right and you’re wrong and something’s gotta be done about it” theme that lurks beneath the surface. He is probably right.
After hanging up the phone, excuses started coming to mind. What has changed me from a live-and-let-live guy into an anti-established-religion activist? Two events:
#1: The loss of my family to evangelical fundamentalism.
First, #2: 9-11. Perhaps a good analogy is that of inner city gangs. Most of us are not victims of gang violence, so it is easy to ignore the problem with a live-and-let-die attitude. Their worldview is so limited, their reality so distorted, that they find meaning and purpose in fighting and killing each other, protecting their territory, pride, drug business, buddies etc. As long as we aren’t caught in the crossfire, we aren’t inspired to venture into the ‘hoods to enlighten them. But if the bullets start spraying into OUR neighborhood, the live-and-let-live attitude is abandoned. In a sense, that is what happened to our world on 9-11. The Christian/Islam/Jewish gang-wars moved into our neighborhood. This situation became more than just spectator-sport for us “tolerant-types” when the World Trade Center towers fell. We felt desperate to get these warring religious gangs together for a “wakeup call.” This amounts to us saying “We’re right and you’re wrong and something’s gotta be done about it.” The insanity of the situation is compounded by the fact that these battling religions all claim the same early books of the Old Testament as their holy scriptures. It is truly tragic.
With street gangs, perhaps part of the mediation could be a trip to the airport for a flight over their neighborhoods to let them see that the areas they battle over are trivial compared to the much bigger world. That might help motivate a changed “worldview” for them. But what do we do about these religious conflicts spilling into New York City, with the aftermath affecting the whole country, from delays at the airport, to the gutting of the Bill of Rights, to dead bodies in Iraq and the post office?
The situation seems impossible with our “Christian” President saying that these problems stem only from rogue elements within some of the world’s “great religions.” How can all the religions be “great” when they keep telling each other they’re going to hell? (My own view is that rogue elements within our own government are using the age-old hatred between these religions to further their own agenda; sort of a “Let’s you and him fight” scenario. Take a look at cooperativeresearch.org, infowars.com, or the-movement.com for some very disturbing evidence.) The fact that Christians are sending missionaries to reach the Muslims and vice versa perpetuates the “We’re right and you’re wrong” syndrome. (An Egyptian roommate in college brought his turban-clad friends to try to convert me. I presume there are some Muslim missionaries over here somewhere, though maybe the Jehovah’s Witnesses have informed them that my neighborhood is their gang’s turf.) The Jews appear to be just caught in the middle of this mess, and while not out trying to convert everyone else, they end up killing a lot of people as the ancient feud treads on their territory. Of course they treaded on Muslim territory in 1917 and again in 1948 after locking arms with the “Christian nations.” What followed was a gradual westernization via McDonald’s, miniskirts, and the media, making the Moslems cringe in holy terror. “There’s battle lines being drawn, but nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.” When these incompatible religious cultures are mixed with some heavy-handed foreign policy, hatred builds. Oil and water don’t mix, and neither do oil and religion when the military gets involved. The military is perceived as representing the religion of the nation that sent it. The United States has been cast as the Great Satan by the fundamentalists on the other side of the religious tracks, whose mentality hasn’t progressed beyond the days of the Christian Crusades.
What can we do in this situation? Does anyone have any “wakeup call” ideas? I feel helpless, frustrated, angry; thus the tone of my book. The written word is out there, and has been out there, in many books, as I have only recently discovered, thanks to sites such as this. Despite that fact, these books have been for all practical purposes ignored by the battling evangelists/militants. This is not a recent phenomena. These books have been ignored for years, from Robert Ingersoll’s 1879 works to even a hundred years before that, with Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason. I had heard of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense series, and about his part in the genesis of our country, but I was not aware of the contents of The Age of Reason until I began to peruse sites such as this one.
Why? Though considered well-educated, always near the top of my class, I was oblivious to it. Those I crossed paths with in Oklahoma had never heard of it, or if they had, never mentioned it loud enough to get my attention. This information was apparently hidden from my classmates and me, perhaps accidentally, but probably intentionally, to keep from ruffling fundamentalist feathers.
Yet we had all heard of Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, The Robe, etc., no classroom required. And now everyone has heard of Mel Gibson’s Passion of Christ.
In our day and age, movies communicate; books do not. Intellectuals may be influenced by books, but unless the book is made into a movie, the masses never hear about it. Since the masses pick the President (or at least used to, before the new electronic voting machines), this is important. The President, his handlers, and Congress direct the foreign policy (or at least used to before CIA covert operations). Foreign policy determines our perception in the world, recently casting us as the Great Satan, bringing the gang warfare into our neighborhood. To change foreign policy, we must reach the masses. I think we need a movie.
A bunch of Hollywood names are noted in those celebrity atheist/agnostic lists. Does anyone out there know someone in Hollywood who would be inclined to initiate a blockbuster expose of the Bible? As a follow up to The Passion of Christ, how about The Anger of God? With a title like that, even Christians would show up, until they realize that this movie includes the rest of the story, the verses they don’t put in sermons. The Old Testament contains plenty of blood and sex and adultery, injustice, cruelty, revenge, slavery, Lord of the Rings style-war and fire-from-heaven judgement: good movie material. It could even include Indiana Jones’ Lost Ark, when God strikes down poor old Uzzah as he tries to stop it from falling off the ox cart (II Samuel 6: 3-10). A story line would be necessary so it wouldn’t turn out to be just a bloody documentary. (I still remember my daughter’s comment at age six after viewing about 15 minutes of her first documentary: “Is that it?! Is this the movie?”) The dramatic story line is what makes Left Behind, the current end-of-the-world Bible prophecy series not only palatable, but a best seller. Using verses as subscripts to document God’s starring role in all the carnage shouldn’t prove unmanageable, for there wasn’t a word of spoken English in The Passion of Christ. Despite all the protestors that would be picketing outside the theaters, with enough blood and sex it couldn’t flop. Maybe it wouldn’t match the box office receipts of the Passion of Christ, but with our passions stirred by recent events, I’m sure a significant number of us former tolerant-types would show up, in addition to all the hedonists. There are a lot of us: “According to recent surveys, 39 percent of Americans – 111 million of us – belong to no church, synagogue, mosque, or other religious institution . . . an unprecedented 14 percent of Americans tell pollsters that they are atheists, agnostics, secular humanists, or simply disinterested in religion. That’s about 40 million Americans. . .”1
What do you think? Is this doable? We need something big. Any other ideas?
Ok, that covers 9-11, my #2 reason.
What about #1: the “loss” of my family to fundamentalism?
I wrote the book with four goals in mind: 1) To explain why I wasn’t in church with my family, 2) To do something “big” so that eventually, someday, my children would read it and understand their father’s viewpoint, 3) To call attention to the bankruptcy of the fundamentalist Book and worldview while providing links to evidence for a more plausible paradigm, and 4) To “rage against the machine” that had stolen my family. Together, or in pieces, my wife and children are gone to four, five, and six church/religious functions a week. In addition, there are the Bible-oriented homeschool computer curricula and their fundamentalist-influenced school co-op. Essentially all their friends and interests are church-related. Once again, one is the loneliest number.
From page 28 of the book:
I had been intending to correct all those typos [in my 1981 “skepticism” paper] for years. For about the same amount of effort, plus a hundred bucks, I could get it published. I thought I would give it a go, and see what happens----probably nothing, based on the nature of the faith game. Faith is a demanding master. Keep the Faith! It is deemed noble, true, and virtuous to believe based on faith rather than evidence. . . . But who knows, the times, they might be a changin’, again. Perhaps the insanity of child-molesting priests and crazed Muslim militants might motivate people to cast some furtive glances through the slightly widened cracks in the wall. Maybe we can start trying to understand each other and stop trying to save each others’ souls or blow each other up. . . . Despite the odds, I feel I must speak out. I believe it is time for another picture, whether anybody wants to look at it or not. Perhaps this book could somehow serve as a catalyst to initiate a change in worldview with potentially long-term positive peaceful results. What?! Am I so bold as to think this book is the opening salvo in some great paradigm shift? Hell no! Woops. Heavens no! This book is mostly an act of frustration and rage, like the guy in that movie several years ago who called out from his radio or TV microphone for everyone to go over to the window and yell: “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” The church has stolen my kids and now my wife! And they’ve done it in good conscience thinking they were doing my little family a favor. Islamic terrorists are flying planes into our tall buildings attacking America thinking they are doing God’s will! The opiate marches on, killing, converting or mentally maiming everyone in its path. And it is all based on fallacy, as I firmly believe the remainder of this book will show. I feel like the little mouse in that cartoon: “The Last Great Act of Defiance” which circulated via office copiers a few years back, giving a hand gesture just before the enormous hawk snatched him up. It will probably do no good, but at least I didn’t roll over and take it.
“It will probably do no good.” Until a couple of weeks ago I held that attitude. Yet after a conversation with a fellow exfundy, Pat Swindall (former U.S. Congressman and Christian talk-radio show host) a realization dawned on me. We live in a different world now. He said he didn’t think he could have made it out of fundamentalism twenty years ago. The information was just too hard to find. He could have spent months in a university library and not come up with what a quick Internet search can provide in seconds today. We may be WIDELY scattered, be we need no longer be ALONE. In the case of my religious sanity, one is no longer the loneliest number. Perhaps there is hope. Hope for what? Rehabilitation of refugees from fundamentalism? Yes, that is a given. Hope to wake people up to the fallacy of their religions? I don’t know.
For twenty years, I was silent on these matters. When pressed, I would express my opinion, and occasionally loan out my skepticism paper, but for the most part, I just kept to myself. I knew the evangelical worldview couldn’t be true, but saw no reason to stick my head up only to be shot at by the evangelicals who squeezed people into one of three general categories: Either you were a Christian, a hedonist, or one of those born on the wrong side of the religious tracks who the missionaries were trying to reach. The Christians I came in contact with apparently could not conceive of someone rejecting the Bible for intellectual reasons. Those Christians now include the members of my own family.
The brother who accused me of the “I’m right and you’re wrong” attitude is still a fundamentalist. He’s not a Bible-beater. In fact, he’s a medical doctor in the Northwest. He says I should be glad they have embraced fundamentalism, for it keeps them out of the perils our youth face today. If they don’t embrace fundamentalism, what else is there to embrace: MTV, sex, drugs, rock and roll and tongue barbs? (Some of the Christian rock bands my daughter idolizes are sporting piercings now. Hey, gotta’ relate to reach those lost souls. Maybe it is no different than long hair in my generation. I think I remember hearing some men back then from “the older generation” say that seeing long hair on a boy made them sick. I guess I finally know how they felt. Hope I die before I get old; talkin’ ‘bout my generation.) This medical doctor brother of mine recommends that I ask my children to give me back their copies of my book. He reports that my 16 year old told him the portions she has read from it seem Satanic. A couple of years ago, she gave me one of those plastic placards that says “World’s Greatest Dad.” I doubt I’d receive one now. She believes I am now bordering on the Satanic thanks to the influence of her church. An email I noticed while cleaning out the sent-messages-file was from my wife to my brother noting that “50 people in the church have been praying that God will save Dale.” This was even before the release of my satanic verses. They are probably praying for an exorcism now.
Hey, “Praise the Lord,” this is all part of His glorious plan, for Jesus said: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me." [Matt. 10: 34-36].
Better not read Daddy’s book. Can’t risk being tempted to love him more than Him.
One of my brother’s daughters is preparing to go to college next year. What will his attitude be if the Moonies or Hare Krishnas or Heaven’s Gaters seduce her into their “cult” religion? He’ll be distraught, I am certain, for he views those groups as cults. To me, Christianity is a cult. Just because Christianity is mainstream, that doesn’t make it the right stream. The mainstream is a very different stream in the Middle East. That is how I feel regarding what has happened to my family: they’ve been seduced by a mainstream cult, who has them under mind control. My wife and two children are starting out on the same road I headed down 32 years ago. I spent nine years striving to further the causes of evangelical fundamentalist Christianity. I spent thousands of my father’s dollars studying theology at Oral Roberts University, then getting two geology degrees with the goal of involvement in evolution/creation research. Fortunately, following the skeptical meltdown, at least I had a degree I could make a living with. For 20 years I wandered around as a Deist until new evidence crossed my path, quite by accident. It is credible recent evidence, for life after life. I am once again filled with hope and wonder. That’s what the last chapter of my book is about. (I’d like to thank Ed and Sharon for allowing me space in this forum, despite my “unorthodox” views by agnostic/atheistic standards.)
It took me nine years to discover fundamentalism was a dead end. I want to save my kids from the confusion, heart-ache, and wasted years that I experienced. I suppose this is simply parental instinct. (I am dreading the request for megabucks from my own children to attend colleges similar to Oral Roberts. How should I respond?) If my kids were getting into drugs, I would try to warn them. If they took up black leather and started riding with the Hell’s Angels, I would feel compelled to point out the history and reputation of that organization. Those issues are black and white. The religious issue seems gray and harmless, actually beneficial, for as my brother admonishes me, it helps keep them out of the cesspools of youth. There are unintended consequences, however. Though they may avoid the cesspools of youth, they end up in the swamp of religion. In this swamp grows the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Religious Exclusivity. And from this tree come the seeds of religious wars. By perpetuating a fallacy to avoid the cesspools of childhood, we inadvertently create the whirlpools of adulthood which have once again sucked mankind down into yet another religious war. When the truth is found to be lies, all the joy within you dies.
1 Promotional brochure for the Council for Secular Humanism, quoted by Henry Morris in “The Lake of Fire” Back to Genesis article in Acts and Facts April 2004. By the way, Morris tells us “These people are all headed for Hell” along with “the billions of people who believe in false religions.” Additionally “There are also many who profess to be Christians but will eventually be sent to the lake of fire” because they “tamper with the inspired words of the Bible.” (Page B)