Thursday, August 6, 2009

What do you mean, 'Rufus Wainwright is GAY'?!?!

Ever since my deconversion, I've made it a hobby (or a habit) to challenge religion wherever I could. Sometimes I wish that I knew more about Islam or Hinduism so I could pick on those instead of just Christianity but as they say, "write what you know." Don't worry, I doubt this will be offensive at all, but for some reason it crossed my mind.

I was raised Baptist and even after I left the Baptist church at age 18, shook the dust off my feet, and vowed to not go back, I still shared a handful of theological ideas with the Baptists. At the top of the list is the idea of free will. I don't believe anyone is predestined to do anything and I don't understand how any logical person, faithful or not, could. I also don't understand denominations that baptise babies. Doesn't that cheapen the whole idea of salvation when its forced on someone who has no clue what's going on? (I'm looking at you, 16th century Spanish missionaries.) I know that no one thinks the Baptism saves the baby or anything, but still, the ritual is silly. The baby is an atheist before you pour stagnant water on its head and the baby is still an atheist after you pour stagnant water on its head. When an adult makes a well informed decision to join a faith and then wants to perform whatever ritual that faith prefers, that's one thing, but acting like your baby, who doesn't actually understand anything you say, shares your beliefs, is something else altogether.

I digress.

What I really wanted to challenge was not baby baptism but rather the idea of Calvinism and pre-destination. I've only had two friends in my life who considered themselves Calvinists and I made damn sure they knew how stupid I thought/think that was/is. Just like in any religion, there's always going to be little sects of strangeness, but I've always been surprised how this one sticks around. To me, its just one more way for people to think they've been "chosen." Here's a challenge: Find a Calvinist that believes that they are someone who was simply not chosen to go to Heaven. I really doubt you can. Part of me also thinks its a way for Christians to be lazy about evangelism, which, don't get me wrong, I'm not encouraging evangelism. But if we're all predestined for our eventual eternities, then there is little incentive to make much of a spiritual difference in the lives of those around you. All the work is already done, they're chosen or they're not, right?

The biggest problem, though, is that you can't possibly be a Calvinist and believe that god loves everyone equally. Not without some really fancy theological footwork, I'd imagine. I'm sure that in the right circles I'd hear some pretty great albeit, illogical, arguments about how it all somehow works if you just look at it from the right perspective and humbly admit that god's ways are above our ways, and who are you to question the unquestionable anyway...etc...etc...etc... I don't expect to find too many Calvinist defenders here but the simple truth is that if god loves us all equally then we simply cannot be predestined. It just doesn't work with any definition of love that I can imagine. But I guess we can go a step further and say, if god loves us, why create a hell in the first place? If you try and see religion from the eyes of a deity, I think it probably looks like a big, cruel game. I can just picture angels sitting on clouds making bets about who's going to stumble upon the "right" religion. Might make a good comedy, actually. Oh well.

If anyone is in Austin, we're doing a last minute show at Antone's tonight with Soldier Thread and Hosty Duo. Show starts at 9 and should be a good time. Leah's having to bring me my other pants to work, though. I can't be rolling up to the rock show in pleated khakis, after all.

I'm sure tonight will be fun, but early soundcheck means that I don't have time to go home and spend any real time with my girls, and by the time I drag my ragged body home, Harper will be asleep. She gave me a lot of smiles this morning, though. Perhaps she knew it'd be a while before I got anymore. I love being Harper's dad, but nothing makes my heart swell as much as watching Leah play with her. Harper loves her mom so much, its ridiculous. She's taken a liking to me, as well.


  1. Hey! I stumbled across your blog a couple days ago and feel the need to interject here since I also *used to* attend church, and I went to a nondenominational Calvinist church. Basically my pastor explained it to me like this: everyone deserves hell and is going there anyways, and if you can envision everyone falling in(nice, comforting imagery, I know) then it's like God reaching in and catching a handful. Those are the people predestined to be saved then, or it's God ''choosing you.'' They also liken it to being dead before you are saved; a dead person can't possibly reach out to be saved, so God must save them. With evangelism, you still need to witness, since maybe you are the person predestined to share the word to that one person :)Calvinists also don't believe in backsliding; they believe once you are saved, you are always saved, since Christ died for all your sins at once, the ones you committed and the ones you are going to commit. I think this belief gives you a ''lazy pass'', but my church still taught the ''love God, do what you want'' doctrine. I believed in predestination because I thought free will gave a person more control then God, theoretically. Now, since leaving the church, I do completely agree with you in the question of creating a hell at all. IF there really is an all-powerful, supposedly loving God, why would all people ''deserve to go to hell''? Why punish billions of people for two people's mistakes? It's not very logical, and it seems cruel and sadistic to believe everyone deserves that.

  2. As someone raised Catholic who spent 5 years agnostic and is now returning to non-catholic church mostly as a way to spend time with new people who are probably not murderers, I'll cover the baptism issue, mostly because my mom and I fought over this with my daughter when she was born 2 years ago for months.

    I really don't think that Catholic baptism has anything to do with the kid. Sure some will say that if you don't baptize a baby and it dies it will be unable to enter heaven because it never had a chance to choose good on its own. But Vatican II got rid of purgatory and limbo so frankly I don't know where they go now.

    Mostly, baptizing babies is so that new catholic parents can show up at church and say "People of my church! I am a catholic parent, and this is my new baby. I am vowing before God and You and this Priest that I will raise my baby in this church. She'll go to Sunday school and Catholic class with the other children, I'll try to convince her to take the holy sacraments like first communion and confirmation (which is like your baptism but with less water and more wedding symbolism) and I take great satisfaction in getting my baby's head moist because it lets you all know that I'm going to raise this child in your community."

    It's not about the baby's salvation. It's about the parent's salvation. Did you do everything in your power to raise your baby in the faith?

    At least, that's my take on it. I'm sorry if it came out very negative. I meant most of it light-heartedly.

  3. Also? You if you're into any kind of Fantasy books you should totally read the incarnations of immortality series. It's about people who get called upon to perform the western mythos functions like "Death," "Fate," "Time," and eventually Satan and God. There's 7 books total and they sort of turn all this stuff on its head. Even if you're not a fan of the story- I hated the 7th book even liking the others and loving the 1st- even the one I hated made me think wonderful thoughts about the human construction of theology. The first book, at least, is also a damn good story and examination of death.

    If you're interested, next time I make it to a show I'll lend you my copy. ^.^

  4. Vatican II removed the theology of Purgatory and Limbo??! I had no idea! That's huge.

    I myself have always wondered at the logic behind a predestination theology. I honestly don't think that it makes much sense, but I guess some people like the comfort.

    I would say that I used to take to the "once saved always saved" line of theology too, but thanks to you, Taylor, I have seriously reconsidered my position.

    Good luck at the show!

  5. I just read from Oswald Chambers on this last night. He wrote, " 'Behold, we go up to Jerusalem.' Luke 18:31 Jerusalem stands in the life of our Lord as the place where He reached the climax of His Father's will. 'I seek not Mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me.' That was the one dominating interest all through our Lord's life, and the things He met with on the way , joy or sorrow, success or failure, never deterred Him from His purpose. 'He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.'"

    "The great thing to remember is that we go up to Jerusalem to fulfill God's purpose, not our own. Naturally, our ambitions are our own; in the Christian life we have no aim of our own. There is so much said today about our decisions for Christ, our determination to be Christians, our decisions for this and that , but in the New Testament it is the aspect of God's compelling that is brought out. 'Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.'" This is probably where the idea of predestination comes from. Jesus made the first choice-to love & die for us, to invite us to live for Him forever. We make the next choice-to accept or reject His offer. Without His choice, we would have not choice to make.

    "The work we do is of no account, it is so much scaffolding compared with the big compelling of God. 'He took unto Him the twelve,' He takes us all the time."

  6. Religion is funny. So, some people have the authority to just do away with parts of their religion, and then everyone follows it? I mean I already knew this about the Vatican, but I guess knowing that they removed bits and pieces of the afterlife just makes it even funnier.

  7. on a side note, i was just telling cameron that aerosmith sucks and he said i should ask you about the time you went to see them and the cops took away your tickets. i hope those were the bad music cops. if so, job well done, sirs.

  8. They removed parts of the religion like limbo and purgatory because there is absolutely no biblical basis for them. There's a lot of christianity- especially anything concerning the afterlife- that has more of a basis in Dante's Inferno than in the bible, and just became a popular part of the church's lore without having any actual basis in the religion or teachings of catholicism.