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The Voyage of Discovery

By Carl S ~

The Lewis and Clark expedition initiated by Thomas Jefferson was known as "The Voyage of Discovery." Its members, he said, had "undaunted courage." Last week, I told my wife, a Lewis and Clark fan, that I have undaunted courage. Since she sat in my peripheral vision at the time, I don't know whether she looked skyward after I said that, but she didn't contradict me. She has spent many an hour, as I write for this site, listening to my keyboard in the background while watching TV.

She knows that I wear my "atheist" cap when I'm in public with her. I even wear it when I need to go through the entrance hall of her church in order to use the men's room. When there, I don't speak until spoken to first. It's awkward being the only free person in a building.

Last Sunday, a member we've known for years implied I should NOT be standing outside wearing my cap when church members were leaving. To which I replied, "I'm only being myself." (This must cause discomfort: If there's anything true believers find in their scriptures, it's constant admonishing NOT to be one’s "sinful" self, to keep running away from the "old man to be a new one in Christ." No. I like me the way I am; if you don't, why? I'm supposed to just PRETEND that I believe? No.) Sure, as far as I know, they’re good people. Me too.

My wife was not present when a certain conversation took place between the pastor, his wife and me. They'd heard the bad news of how I was suffering with energy sapped, as a result of Lyme disease. I told them that, "Yes, I got it from an intelligently designed deer tick." They said, "Oooh!" I mean, really, RESPECT a belief in intelligent design? That was an "explanation" before Darwin, for crissake! At least, so far, no one's threatened me with harm. Christians don't torture and kill the likes of me anymore; now they're in a fallback position of whining about being persecuted.

Anybody who is familiar with the Voyage of Discovery knows what it entailed: challenging the unknown territories, with the perils, the fears and trepidations, the responsibilities and possibly deadly mistakes, bad choices, in every step of the way. Theirs was the challenge of Nature and hostile human forces. To them were entrusted the responsibilities of reporting, and even drawing, what they had encountered. But first, they had to take that first step.

Into the world of "Don't go there" belief systems, I keep taking that first step. Maybe I and you don’t quite have undaunted courage to go forth boldly where believers fear to tread, and to excavate secrets they don't dare to know. Maybe it's just dogged persistency.

What a voyage of discoveries it is! And, thanks to those of you sharing your own voyages, I find I’m far from alone. I respect, even praise you. It does take courage to confront not only what you've been taught, but to trail blaze through your own inner confusions, in seeking answers where you're forbidden to go. Do not be deterred by those who do not share your search for facts and liberty, and would put you down. Rather, you should not feel defensive, but DEMAND respect.

the bible and other sacred scriptures are not fairy tales - but we make a mistake when we think that stories must be factually true in order to be true and truthful.Religions ARE fascinating subjects, though. Of course, they're loaded with man-made fables, fantasies, myths, superstitions, and incredibly vulgar misinformation. (When theologians and apologists start “explaining," you have to look for the "exit" sign on this insane asylum you've suddenly found yourself in.) People WILL and DO believe ANYTHING. In fact, people believe such bizarre and conflicting things concerning what they know nothing about, that it's a wonder "faith" is given ANY credence at all. (Don't take my word for it. The more you look for examples of this, the more you'll discover.)

Let's open up a can of worms, spill the beans, and throw a spotlight on the naked emperor. Let's open a discussion on the subject, "You know what you mean, but I don't know what you mean, and on second thought, I'm not sure YOU even know what you mean." We'll start with something from the Washington Post "On Faith" column, written by Christian theologian Marcus Borg. It's about explaining bible stories to children. He instructs his readers on how to distinguish between the concepts of "fact” and "truth."

Borg writes, "If and when they ask, ' Is that a true story?’ they may be asking, ‘Did that really happen?’ But you don’t have to answer that question. You can say, "I don't know if it happened that way or not, but I know this is an important and truthful story"... Of course, the bible and other sacred scriptures are not fairy tales - but we make a mistake when we think that stories must be factually true in order to be true and truthful."

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, consider what he just said. And would YOU entrust this "truth-teller” to educate your child? As an adult, ask yourself: What the g.d. hell is he talking about? (Oh, wait. You’re supposed to take what he said as true, "on faith.") Be honest. This isn't truth; it's poppycock.

Consider the "wisdom" of theological authority Karen Armstrong, who told PBS listeners: "God is not a being at all."

These two examples come from "Caught in the Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind" by Daniel Dennett and Linda La Scola. Anyone who’s been in a religion or is outside them should read it. It's a good start for the whistleblowing we all should be doing in re the clergy. Be prepared to find out that not only believers but clergy are victims. (Referring again to Jefferson: he didn't like clergy.)

Someone asked where I got my information from without the internet. Well, for one thing, it’s everywhere. For a start, find out what is the forbidden fruit to believers. You won't find Discover or New Scientist magazines, or Hitchens’ or Dawkins’ books. They're burnable anywhere near church property. I think that Jerry De Witt's book, "Hope after Faith: An Ex-Pastor's Journey from Belief to Atheism" is a must-read for everyone visiting this site. (Pay attention to the details.)

Last of all, I am concerned about the proliferation of short-attention-span media programs. Their messages come to us in sound bites and flashes of pictures. They are aimed not at thinking things through or reflection, but immediate emotional responses. They may breed a conceit that such quick bits of information are sufficient knowledge needed to make serious decisions. All of this is just too dangerously close to the familiar habit which creates the unthinking mindlessness of faith.