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In a previous post, "Another Look at Religion" I discussed my view of religion as mythology, something that belongs in the same category as art, music, theater, poetry and literature, the purpose of which is not to “explain” but to “inspire.”  More recently, in “Letting God Out of the Box,” reflections on Frank Schaeffer’s delightful new book “Why I am an Atheist who Believes in God,” I described how for me “God” is not a “belief” but rather, a label that I use to describe my subjective personal experience.  That post generated some wonderful, lively discussion.  Thanks so much to everyone for your very thoughtful insights and questions!  You have inspired me to discuss the issue of “belief” further and to explain why I don’t normally use the word “believe” in reference to God.

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Wed Jan 14, 2015 at 10:56 PM PST

Letting God Out of the Box

by metalnun

Reflections on Frank Schaeffer’s “Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God - How to give love, create beauty and find peace.”

I wanted to write a formal “review” of this book, but initially couldn’t think of anything to say other than, “Fabulous book!  Everybody should read it.”  On second thought, while I absolutely LOVE the book, I predict that most atheists and Christians will probably hate it, and I’m not here to try to convince anybody.  The book is not a theological treatise and presents neither an argument nor an apology.  Rather, it is a personal, candid and heartfelt discussion of the author’s journey of faith, seeking to “give love, create beauty and find peace” in the face of limiting and dehumanizing dogmas.  The intimate writing style, as if we were sitting and having a conversation with the author, invites honest reflection on our own journey, and in response to that invitation, the words came pouring out!  So, I hope you will indulge me, before I return to reviewing the book.  While I am no longer an atheist and God is not per se a “belief” for me, I can very much relate to what Mr. Schaeffer has written.

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Thu Dec 04, 2014 at 05:13 PM PST

I Can't Breathe and I am Afraid

by metalnun


omg. Let me see if I comprehend this.

In America today, not only can the police kill you for being a rude young "thug," stealing a few cigars and then being rowdy, grappling with an officer, allegedly punching him in the face, trying to grab his gun, trying to run away - and then be shot to death with your hands up over 100 feet away;

also, now, apparently the police can kill you for being an unarmed 43-year-old family man suspected of selling loose cigarettes (yes, not pot, not crack, not meth, but f*ing cigarettes?!), completely nonviolent, not threatening anybody, as proven on video seen by millions of people; instead of writing a ticket, the police are allowed to throw you to the ground using an illegal chokehold while another jumps on your chest, ignoring your cries of "I can't breathe!" until you suffocate (coroner rules Homicide) -

and it is totally ok for them to do that. No charges whatsoever. Not manslaughter.  Not even "assault." Not even "using an illegal restraint method."

Did I miss something here? Why do I feel so afraid? "Serve and protect"?!

Yes, it's a "race" issue in that this sort of thing statistically is much more common if you are black. But, my fear is this: If the Grand Jury says it's totally ok for police to do it to these guys without consequences, then what is preventing them from doing it to anybody anytime they want?! The precedent has been set. Instead of being a rare fluke, a mistake, an outrage, it becomes the accepted norm.

IMO these black victims of police violence are like "canaries in a coal mine." Their deaths tell us that something is very wrong with our "justice" system and there is nothing to prevent it from spinning totally out of control and becoming a police state.  If we stay in this hole we have dug it will eventually blow up, if we don't all die of suffocation first.

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."
- Martin Niemoller


Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 08:22 PM PDT

Religion, Science and Dogmatism

by metalnun

In the wake of recent events, particularly the Supreme Court ruling that corporations owned by fundamentalist Christians can obtain a religious exemption from insurance coverage of birth control, there has been an understandable backlash against religion.  My atheist friends have been commenting, even more so than usual, that religion is the source of all human misery and must be stamped out if we are ever going to have a truly civilized, enlightened, rational society.  They perceive religion as rejecting science, oppressing women, gays and other minorities, and seeking to impose as law an archaic “morality” from a mythological book written thousands of years ago.  This perception is, again, very understandable in light of recent events involving not only Christian fundamentalists here in the U.S., but also Islamic and Hindu fundamentalists in other parts of the world.  But, what the atheists don’t seem to understand is that the fundies do not represent all religious people and in fact, we liberal and/or progressive persons of faith stand solidly on the side of secular humanism when it comes to public policy!

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Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 08:15 PM PDT

Another Look at Religion

by metalnun

Note:  When I shared this diary in July I was, to my surprise, immediately accused of "attacking atheists."  That certainly was not my intent.  If anything, I thought I was "attacking fundies" and reassuring the atheists that despite what they may have heard, liberal/progressive Christians are on their side!  I apologize that the point did not get across.  - metalnun 11/30/14


Once again I have found myself involved in discussion around an issue that keeps coming up, the same thing back and forth endlessly, so that I think it is worth addressing in my blog for future reference when and as needed.  The issue this time is religion.  My atheist friends and acquaintances often try to engage me in arguments about my alleged “Christian beliefs” which they aggressively repudiate – not realizing that, in fact, I’m on their side.

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Mon Jul 14, 2014 at 12:00 PM PDT

Women's Liberty and Bodily Sovereignty

by metalnun

The heated debate over reproductive rights in America today, in 2014, is both bizarre and frightening for a woman who grew up in the age of Women’s Liberation.  We thought these issues had been settled long ago and indeed they were, from a legal standpoint.  The Supreme Court had ruled to legalize both birth control and later, abortion on the basis of “privacy,” a right which conservatives deny exists, except when it refers to a corporate bank account or a politician’s tax return.  These rulings have been debated over and over but they nevertheless remain the law of the land.  This has not, however, prevented the anti-choice movement from finding clever ways around the law which have resulted in successfully regulating many abortion clinics out of existence as well as reducing women’s access to birth control through their health insurance.  As I watch this process, I can’t believe it is happening; it’s like a nightmare and I can’t wake up.  But it is all too real.

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Tue Jul 08, 2014 at 05:23 PM PDT

Inventing Facts by Default

by metalnun

Well, this is certainly an "interesting" development: As I have discussed in my blog and numerous posts, Hobby Lobby's "sincere belief" that the 4 birth control methods in question are "abortifacient" has no basis in scientific fact. But, the Supreme Court said "the facts are irrelevant" and ruled in H.L.'s favor based purely on their "belief." OK.

However, people uneducated in medicine are now telling me: "But, it MUST be TRUE or else why would the Supreme Court rule in their favor?!" WHY indeed?!

So once again, just to try to clear up the FACTS here - as distinguished from "beliefs" - please read this blog post. And please especially note, in paragraph 3, the link from the PRO-LIFE DOCTORS who have done the most thorough analysis of the data I have ever seen on this subject, and concluded that the drugs are NOT ABORTIFACIENT in any sense of the word, including they do NOT prevent implantation!! Again, these are PRO-LIFE OB/GYN doctors who have a serious commitment against abortion, therefore if THEY say the methods are NOT abortifacient, then I think we can believe them.

As discussed in my previous post Down The Rabbit Hole, I found it quite disorienting, to say the least, when the Supreme Court ruled that the facts in the Hobby Lobby case were "irrelevant."  What I did not anticipate was that people would then interpret the decision to mean that Hobby Lobby's argument was TRUE.  But, I guess it makes sense, right?  After all, surely the Supreme Court would not have ruled in Hobby Lobby's favor if their premise - that these medications prevent implantation - was false!  If we can't trust the Supreme Court...?!

Maybe the Justices really didn't know the facts??  Not if they read the amicus brief that was submitted by ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) which said, among other things:

there is no scientific evidence that emergency contraceptives available in the United States and approved by the FDA affect an existing pregnancy.” Instead, they prevent ovulation, so there is no egg to fertilize. That includes the longer-acting Ella: “There is no evidence that [Ella] affects implantation.
This is from in January 2014, "Will the Supreme Court Ignore the Evidence?":
The Greens may be sincere in their religious beliefs, but to the extent that their “religious beliefs” are actually scientific claims, courts should require them to provide evidence to support those claims just like any other factual question. And in this case, the Greens’ supposed religious beliefs are actually no such thing—they are sincerely held, but wrong, scientific views. And should the Supreme Court rule in their favor, it will have signaled to every subsequent litigant that science has no place in the courtroom. That should scare us all.
They did. And it does.

Mon Jul 07, 2014 at 10:22 PM PDT

Don't Spread Your Legs

by metalnun

In my previous posts (1) I have discussed the biblical, biological and ethical dimensions of the "pro-life" (i.e., anti-choice, forced-birth) debate.  Now I will address the more practical sociological concerns that affect nearly everyone on a personal level.

In the ongoing public debate around this issue there has been a recurring theme raised by the "pro-life" faction:
"If you don't want a baby, then don't spread your legs!"  The purpose of sex, they say, is reproduction, and if women don't want to be pregnant, then we shouldn't have sex.  It is that simple.

But, is it?  Let us consider the implications of this.

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One of the "interesting" aspects of the Hobby Lobby case is that it is based on the false assertion that the birth control methods in question are "abortifacient."  Apparently this is a widely held belief.  I keep reading comments to the effect that, "Hobby Lobby shouldn't have to pay for abortions," or "Hobby Lobby is fine with covering regular birth control pills, just not the abortifacient ones."  Surprisingly, SCOTUS did not even address the scientific evidence underlying this assumption, but rather, chose to accept Hobby Lobby's "belief" as being sufficient.  But, what does science tell us about the situation?

Read more here.


Wed Jul 02, 2014 at 03:09 PM PDT

Down the Rabbit Hole

by metalnun

I feel like I’m losing my mind.  Is this America in 2014?  Or, did I somehow end up in a parallel universe, like on the t.v. show “Sliders”?  I’m kind of sick and spinning.  But I have not eaten a mushroom or anything.  In fact I’m quite sober but still feel strangely disoriented.

When I blogged about the Hobby Lobby “religious objection to insurance coverage of contraception” issue back in January I carefully delineated the reasons that it made no sense, both from the standpoint of “religious principles” as well as scientific fact regarding birth control.  I also pointed out, as have many others, the implications for the ability of employers to deny all kinds of medical care based on the “religious” premise.  I thought the case was clearly absurd and I was sure the Supreme Court would agree.  Apparently I was mistaken.  Apparently the facts are irrelevant.

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Tue Mar 25, 2014 at 08:30 PM PDT

Hobby Lobby, Healthcare & Religion

by metalnun

David Green, the founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby, says he opposes insurance coverage of birth control because he believes it can "cause abortions." Furthermore, he states that his opposition is based on "Biblical principles" including the idea that human life begins at conception.  The case will go to court soon, and whether or not the judge realizes it, Mr. Green is wrong on both the medical facts about birth control, as well as the allegedly "biblical" principles involved, as I shall explain below.

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