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(8,170 posts)
Mon Jun 30, 2014, 07:22 AM Jun 2014

The unknown ex-pastor

Last edited Tue Jul 1, 2014, 07:18 AM - Edit history (1)

Humans of New York is a Photoblog by Brandon Stanton. In it he photographs ordinary people and, where he can talks to them. The following quote is from his conversation with an un-named ex-pastor.
"I’ve been a deep believer my whole life. 18 years as a Southern Baptist. More than 40 years as a mainline Protestant. I’m an ordained pastor. But it’s just stopped making sense to me. You see people doing terrible things in the name of religion, and you think: ‘Those people believe just as strongly as I do. They’re just as convinced as I am.’ And it just doesn’t make sense anymore. It doesn’t make sense to believe in a God that dabbles in people’s lives. If a plane crashes, and one person survives, everyone thanks God. They say: ‘God had a purpose for that person. God saved her for a reason!’ Do we not realize how cruel that is? Do we not realize how cruel it is to say that if God had a purpose for that person, he also had a purpose in killing everyone else on that plane? And a purpose in starving millions of children? A purpose in slavery and genocide? For every time you say that there’s a purpose behind one person’s success, you invalidate billions of people. You say there is a purpose to their suffering. And that’s just cruel."

Pretty much says it all.
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(49,533 posts)
1. ‘Those people believe just as strongly as I do. They’re just as convinced as I am.’
Mon Jun 30, 2014, 07:38 AM
Jun 2014

That seems to be a difficult step for many people to make. Even over in the religion group, you have otherwise intelligent believers who insist that there's no way people like Phelps or Robertson or Bush are sincere in their beliefs. Of course they don't even understand that that's exactly what right-wing believers think of them.

Oh and don't you dare bring up the cruelty of survivors thanking god. That'll get you branded an evil anti-theist bigot for sure.

I don't know how you break through such a barrier to thinking. Religion doing its job once again it seems.


(9,356 posts)
2. I heard much the same from a Muslim...
Mon Jun 30, 2014, 12:32 PM
Jun 2014

...when I lived in Egypt. Especially this part: You see people doing terrible things in the name of religion...

This was an Egyptian/Muslim woman I liked and trusted, enough that she knew I was an atheist. Once I asked if she thought non-believers could be as moral etc. as believers.

She replied "Absolutely." And told me she had quite a few ex-Muslim, non-believer friends. Then she went off on how angry she was about Islamic fundamentalists, who were doing terrible things in the name of her religion.

It was exactly the same blind spot we see in a lot of liberal Xian believers, which was interesting. "They aren't Real Muslims" etc.

This woman certainly wasn't backwards or ignorant. She had a Master's Degree and spoke several languages. Like many educated Egyptians, she moonlighted as a tour guide. Which is how I met her.

But she was also a very devout Muslim. Always wore the head-covering and uber-modest clothing. She even did the extra week of fasting after the end of Ramadan, which I'm told guarantees the believer extra merit in Paradise.

Of course, I had my own blind spot. Just couldn't understand how such a smart, educated woman could buy into one of the most regressive belief systems on Earth. Especially for women.

Example: one day we were walking around Alexandria looking at ancient tombs and stuff. A guy yelled something at her in Arabic and didn't seem too friendly. She yelled back and didn't seem very friendly herself.

I was curious and asked what the guy wanted. She said, "He asked if you were my husband." I guess that would have been a problem because she was obviously Egyptian/Muslim and I was Generic Foreign White Infidel Person. We both got a good laugh out of that, anyway. The two of us were about as likely to get romantically involved as Ron Paul and Hillary Clinton.


(110,486 posts)
3. The first outspoken atheist I ever knew was a Palestinian Arab kid in high school
Mon Jun 30, 2014, 01:37 PM
Jun 2014

and he paid the price in that sea of Southern Baptists. He was welcomed into my clique of smart and slightly dangerous misfits because easily half of us were atheists.

The slightly dangerous part is important because when he went home, he ended up in Black September. He's an old man now and if he's alive, he's probably still blowing stuff up. He's just not doing it for some god, he's doing it so he can get his grandpa's olive grove back.

However, I've found it to be a much shorter step for Muslims, their god is both unknowable and impersonal. It's not a god in a box they can take out to perform on request, unlike the utterly ridiculous notions fundy Christers have.


(18,219 posts)
4. "It just stopped making sense to me."
Mon Jun 30, 2014, 06:36 PM
Jun 2014

That is how it happened to me too, only much sooner than it did to him. If you spend any time thinking about God and the stories and the beliefs, the less it makes sense. I am glad that he spoke out, and did it so eloquently.


(16,423 posts)
5. A deeply ingrained mindset of "I am special and you are not".
Tue Jul 1, 2014, 04:08 AM
Jul 2014

You can find it in religion.

You can find it in racism.

You can find it in movies: The viewer becomes immersed into the main-character, the only person in the world that counts. The only person whose actions matter. Books can tell a story from many points of view. A movie can tell a story only from one point of view. And I think that attitude has permeated society.

You can find it in misogyny: Too many men have the attitude that they decide, that only they matter. They do something and as a consequence they are entitled to the girl. Otherwise she's a prude slut.

You can find it in self-victimization: I am special because I defend mankind against the forces of darkness. I picket abortion-clinics, I discriminate, I take care that criminals have access to guns. I do everything I consider just and right and that makes me normal in my world and special in a world consumed by sin and liberals. You don't like that I inflict harm on "bad" people? That's why I am the true victim here.


(8,170 posts)
6. Just came across a lovely example of God having a purpose for cruelty
Tue Jul 1, 2014, 05:34 AM
Jul 2014

In relation to the 3 teens kidnapped and subsequently murdered on the West Bank

From Arutz Sheva
Rabbi Kanievsky: Prayers for Murdered Teens Weren't in Vain

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, considered one of the foremost rabbinical authority in the hareidi yeshiva world, said Monday night that despite the fact that kidnapped Israeli teens Eyal Yifrah (19), Naftali Frenkel (16), and Gilad Sha'ar (16) were found murdered, the hundreds of thousands of prayers that had been recited over the past several weeks for their return were not uttered in vain. In their deaths, he said, they brought many Jews closer to G-d.

“They had a great merit to spiritually strengthen thousands of Jews,” the rabbi said. “It is a great merit for their souls.”

While full details of the circumstances of the deaths of the three teens have yet to be released, analysts said that it was probable that they had been murdered soon after the kidnapping 18 days ago. The bodies of the youths were taken to the Israel Forensic Center in Tel Aviv in order to enable officials to learn about the circumstances of their deaths, and when they were murdered.
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