Friday, June 12, 2009

We are all strange people in a strange land.

One thing that I think is gross is when people don't wash their hands after going to the bathroom. I always want to stop them and be like "Hey buddy, back it up. Those hands have been in or around your bathing suit area and we'd all like you to clean them." Sometimes, when I'm feeling less articulate, I'm just tempted to yell "GROSS" at them.

Speaking of the bathroom. The other day I was defecating at work and I guess one of my coworkers ventured into the bathroom while I was there because when I came back to my desk there was a post-it note on my monitor that simply read, "Your shit stinks." Pretty funny.

I finished reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins yesterday. I enjoyed it though I remain unconvinced that the existence of god should be written off. If you haven't read it, Dawkins argues for god's nonexistence based on probability, saying that its highly improbable that god exists. My thought is that even if god's existence is only 10% likely and 90% unlikely, I still think it warrants a place in the discussion. Those are just percentages that I made up for the sake of it, by the way. I'm having lunch with my friend Matt in a few minutes and it was his suggestion that I read the book so I'm looking forward to discussing it with him. I think Dawkins does a highly effective job at tearing apart religion but religion's lack of validity and the existence of a god are untethered issues to me.

Just as I do every morning, today I was listening to the Bobby Bones show on the way to work. Apparently, this story, about a boy who's parents say he's a reincarnated WWII pilot, has made it onto their radar. I think the only appropriate response to that sort of thing is skepticism, but it is really interesting, when you read the story. They also talked about some preacher who was in a car accident and said he was dead for 90 minutes, which he spent surrounded by loved ones in Heaven. He wrote a book, appropriately titled 90 Minutes In Heaven (There's another book with a similar theme out called 23 Minutes In Hell which I've read a little bit of and it has all the hallmarks of a story you'd hear from a homeless man who's been in the sun for 20 years.) Amy, from the Bobby Bones show, is their resident Christian, and while I'm sure she'd probably consider herself a moderate, she does profess to believe the Bible. Her responses to the stories were skeptical and it reminded me of a story from my youth.

When I was in high school in east Texas, I worked at Journeys shoes at the mall in Longview. I had a friend that worked there with me named Andy. Andy and I both ran with crowds full of Christian musicians and artists, though he and his friends tended to come from more "charismatic" denominations. One day, Andy came into Journeys and asked when I got off, what I had planned for the evening and did I want to see some crazy shit? I got off at 6, had nothing planned and of course I wanted to see some crazy shit. He told me that, apparently, a few towns over in Liberty City, there was a revival going on. (Is it weird that we think we can schedule revival?) There were rumors that the lady who was doing the preaching was performing some impressive signs and wonders. He had heard that she bled out of her hands, gold flakes came out of her hair, and wherever she walked she left pools of oil in her footprints.

So that night Andy and I trekked over to Liberty City and found the small crowded church in the virtual middle of nowhere. It was a Pentecostal church so there was a lot of high spirited dancing and singing and a handful of people speaking in tongues (which is the weirdest thing to be around, by the way). Then the lady got up to speak and she delivered what I considered to be a pretty normal evangelical sermon. She was a good speaker but Andy and I didn't really come to see that, we came for the freak show. We watched her as intensely as we could from our seats, which were about 30 feet away, to make sure she didn't pull any funny stuff. Then she gave the invitation and held one hand high. That was when we saw it. In her upheld hand we saw a dark spot appear and it seemed to grow just a tiny bit. She noticed it and said, very casually, "Oh, the sign of the blood is coming." After some discussion, Andy and I decided that it would be OK for us to leave our seats and go investigate. We walked right up to her and she showed us her hand. I didn't see any cuts or any reason for the blood. Andy and I left probably more confused than we were when we arrived, but I think its important to note that everyone there seemed genuine (except for the people speaking in tongues, those people are liars) and genuinely nice, they never asked us to join their church or for any money. That being said, I realize that this feat is less impressive than David Blaine levitating himself on the street or David Copperfield making the Statue of Liberty disappear, and I still think skepticism is the appropriate response.

That stuff all really happened. But what I always found interesting is that when I'd share that story with people, both the faithful and the faithless have the same response. "Bullshit." The faithless are understandable but the faithful, not so much. Isn't that the kind of thing that happens all the time in the scriptures. I can assure you, it is. So why do people acccept that all the biblical miracles are not only possible but definitely happened but when I say a lady's hands were bleeding in Liberty City, TX they look at me like I just fell out of the kook tree.

I don't know why her hands were really bleeding. I do know that the world is a big weird place and that's probably why I love it so much.


  1. I went to hear the author of "90 minutes in heaven" (I think his name is Don Piper?) speak at a church here in Houston not that long ago. It was really interesting, especially from the viewpoint of a non-believer. His story is amazing, as is the fact that he can walk and move and use all his limbs when one of his arms and one leg wes completely severed from his body. (Sorry if that's too much detail..) I really wanted to hear from everyone else involved though, like the doctors who treated him. Because all he says is that God healed him.. and ok, even if that's true, he was also in the hospital for like a year, so the doctors did SOMETHING. (Maybe he outlines this in his book, I haven't actually read it).

    Where he lost me and those I was with, who ARE christian, was with his description of heaven. Angels with 4 and 6 wings and streets of gold that you could see through, and all the cheesy stereotypical things people say about it. I mean, really? I don't know. I guess I just wanted something a little more original.

  2. The bleeding hands story is easy for me to believe. I have seen first hand some "crazy shit," as you put it (mostly in my travels outside of the Western world) and some pretty "unbelievable" things have happened to me personally.

    As for Christians who don't believe that stuff, I would encourage them to get out more.

  3. Oh, and the whole bathroom thing grosses me out, as well. When I worked at my last job before I had the kids, there was a girl who was well known around the office to not wash her hands after she went to the bathroom. I saw her walk right out of the bathroom one day, stopping only to look in the mirror. When I got back to my desk, she came over and decided that since I was pregnant I needed a neck massage. Yep. Dirty bathroom hands lady gave me a neck massage. Not fun.

  4. If you enjoy thinking about the evolution/design stuff and weird faith, you should watch Expelled. Ben Stein made it and you can watch it instantly on Netflix. If nothing else, there is an interview with some head honcho in the 'evolution is the only way' camp (and I can never remember his name) who basically admits that it takes faith to believe his side too. It's a great interview. They talk a bit about Dawkins too, and maybe those conversations would mean something to you since the book is all fresh in your mind. I though Ben Stein did a good job with the movie, it's entertaining but not dumbed down. Just a thought.

  5. I don't think biologists collectively, or the entire scientific community have "head honchos"... just saying. Ben Stein is a fraud in everything he does and his movie is probably a giant biased stinking pile of crap. He's a Fox News shill and a weasel. Go watch his amazing financial advice on Fox News from a year or so ago where Washington Mutual and Bear Stearns were his top stock picks.

    Faith is believing in something in spite of logic. Understanding evolution does not require that.

  6. I use to believe in speaking in tongues and I believed that I had that "gift"...but I wasn't a liar! :)
    In my church community it was something that people talked highly of and it was considered very special - but it was also considered a "gift" that everyone could & *should* have. I grew up surrounded by it and it didn't strike me as really weird until about 2 years ago.

    Looking back now I realize that I never really had a spiritual encounter with the "Holy Spirit", that I didn't "receive the gift" from the Holy Spirit - I was at church youth camp & was in the midst of a fevered worship/prayer session. Everyone I knew had this gift and I wanted it so badly so I was praying very hard & being prayed for by others intently & I think I cracked under pressure (physical, mental & emotional) and just started babbling incoherently. That was good enough for me at the time. Even more insane was that I thought my gift was too simple, it was not as pretty as I was a little embarrassed by it and never spoke it loudly during group prayers.

    Anyway, just thought you might be interested in the personal experience of someone who did it all the time & didn't think it was weird until recently - it was just a part of my spiritual life. Or maybe you were kidding when you said those people were liars?

  7. I do want to add that my church was very big - about 5,000 people though when I was in it if someone had asked me to guess how many people I would have said around 750. They counted membership numbers I think.

    Anyway, everyone I was friends with, acquaintances with, or even just "knew of" - these are all "normal", mainstream society people. They are fashionable, funny, they go to school, etc. I just always think that when I tell people I went to a church where we spoke in tongues they picture backwoods cabins, etc. Nope - it is basically a mega church & they definitely wanted to be hip & in with whatever was happening in the world at the time.