Time for an agnostic president?

Stephen Cullen of Tuscon, AZ, I salute you, sir! His guest opinion article “Good Lord! Time for an agnostic president?” appearing in the Tuscon Citizen is an excellent read. He’s not just an ordinary person as he is listed as being “a certified legal assistant and received the Bronze Star for his U.S. Army service in the Vietnam War.” A portion of the article is quoted below for your enjoyment:

Where is the candidate who can charge into the political arena and forcefully proclaim that agnosticism embodies the real truth, when a candidate has to say “I don’t know”? Alas, nowhere in sight. If that candidate does show up, I suggest this speech:

My fellow Americans,

At some risk, I must inform you of my religious beliefs, because rightly or wrongly, a candidate’s faith has become a significant factor in your decision on whom to support.

I am an agnostic. I cannot believe in a Christian god, a deity personified as a kingly, old man, and so I cannot believe that Jesus Christ was the son of God. I cannot believe in any organized or unorganized religion that maintains it has “the answer.”

Over the thousands of years of human history, no indisputable, empirical evidence has ever been found to prove or disprove the existence of God or that Jesus was the son of God. So if you ask me if God exists, I don’t know. If you ask me if Jesus was the son of God, I don’t know. I don’t know whether God made man in his image. That’s implausible for me but makes sense for Christianity.

I also cannot believe the Bible is the word of God. In my opinion, man wrote the Bible as a much-needed authoritative source. How else can human beings make meaning out of their existence but to have faith in a benevolent god and glorious, everlasting afterlife?

I am just unable, with all my being, to make that “leap of faith.” I have often heard that Christianity “is the only true faith.” Does that mean the Christian faith makes more sense than others? Or do Christians really mean their God and his son have been proved to exist, so only Christianity is true? If this were so, I would be a Christian and so would all human beings.

I speak primarily of Christianity, for it is the dominant faith in our country. But we are not a “Christian nation.” We are a nation of mostly Christians. The former denotes theocracy, the latter recognizes the religion of prevalence. What I say of Christianity applies to all religions. None has proof of a god, and any religion that purports to do so is presumptuous and arrogant.

Should I become president, I will base my policies and decisions on reason, logic and truth, on what is right and wrong and just, no matter where these concepts emanated or originated. I will not base them on a consultation with a higher authority, but I will base them on reality and with the counsel of highly qualified, experienced, competent and reasonable persons of all faiths and political persuasions.

After all, my fellow Americans, we are all in this together, whether you believe in a god or not.

…so very true. What a novel idea: high qualified, experienced, competent and reasonable persons of all faiths and political persuasions. Instead of that, I’ve heard the term “loyal Bushie” way too many times in recent years.

Christmas movie suggestion

If you’re looking for some good fun to celebrate Christmas day, I have a wonderfully funny movie to suggest. If you’ve never checked it out or if it’s an old favorite, I’d suggest watching Monty Python’s Life of Brian. There is a lot of underlying truth to the comedy that demonstrates how a religion could be created by people foolishly searching for answers and someone to follow. Here is a funny clip from the movie:

Richard Dawkin’s The Virus of Faith – Hell House

If you watched the previous video I posted you might have seen the mention of Hell House at the end. I found a video that continues where it left off and shows the horror of Hell House and how the idea of Hell is used to scare children and create hate. Once again we have fellow humans fabricating fear in order to keep people in line and fearful of not believing what they believe. This is what religion is really about and I think this time of year is the perfect time to think about the false fear of Hell and its use for control.

The Virus of Faith – Children are Innocent Victims

The video below is Richard Dawkins talking about religious education and explaining why children are particularly susceptible to being infected with religious faith. I believe this is why religion remains a potent force in the world even though the actual stories of religion are as fantastic and unbelievable as any of the ancient mythologies humanity has collectively rejected. We reject those so easily now because a parent or other authority figure does not support them. Modern religions remain hard to reject because of our parents and other people of importance to us that claim a belief in these ideas.

I am an outsider of belief now who finally sees the silliness of religion. At its core it is a nonexplanation for existence and reality that masquerades as the final answer. This core also serves as a tool for religious leaders to influence and control us. I was taught a religion as a child because within the viral idea of the religions is the embedded push that it is an idea that must be passed on to our children. I am still exposed to the virus because religion also teaches that you should try to convert others to your belief even though it only serves the needs of the religion and has no bearing on your own belief. Without that viral trait, if it were to be idealized as a personal truth to keep to yourself, then I don’t believe the ideas would survive as well as it does.

Christmas Once Upon a Time

Alternet has an interesting history of Christmas in early America: Once Upon a Time the Religious Right Demonized Christmas, Even Banning Its Celebration. There’s a history of early Americans hating the holiday and banning its celebration. It also has a good rundown of some of the true origins of many of our Christmas traditions:

Several of the holiday’s most common features grow out of pre-Christian religions. The ancient Romans celebrated Saturnalia in mid-December, a time of general merriment, feasting and gift exchanges. Slaves were given time off and were even permitted to play dice games in public. During this period, many Romans decorated their homes with evergreens as a reminder that life would persevere through the dark days of winter.

Evergreen trees had long been viewed as a symbol of fertility by Pagan peoples. When winter came and most trees lost their leaves and appeared to die, the evergreen was a reminder that life would endure and that long days, warmer weather and a harvest would come again. Germans were early boosters of the Christmas tree and brought it to America. (The pious legend that Martin Luther decorated the first Christmas tree is not taken seriously by scholars.)

Candles, a necessary item during the dark winter period, were a common Saturnalia gift. Some scholars consider them a precursor to Christmas lights.

Originally celebrated on Dec. 17, the Roman Saturnalia eventually expanded to last an entire week, ending on Dec. 23.

So where did the Dec. 25 date for Christmas come from?

Many scholars believe that date came from another Roman festival, one that became popular around the middle of the third century – the feast of Sol Invictus, the unconquered sun.

During this festival, various gods related to the sun in the Roman pantheon were honored. The festival was most popular during the reign of the emperor Aurelian (270-275 A.D.), who attributed his military victories to the sun god and may have wanted to establish a solar deity as supreme in the Roman pantheon. Images of Sol Invictus remained popular and appeared on Roman coinage even during the reign of Constantine the Great (306-337 A.D.).

There is some evidence that early Christians celebrated the festival alongside Pagans, and that church leaders, seeing these practices under way, simply appropriated the date for the birth of Jesus as Christianity grew and became the dominant religion of the empire throughout the fourth and fifth centuries.

Michael Grant, the late scholar of the ancient world, noted in his 1985 book The Roman Emperors that Dec. 25 was “a bequest of the solar cult to Christianity, converted into Christmas Day.”

Legal codes laid down by the emperors Theodosius I and later Justinian made Christianity the state religion and banned Paganism. Church leaders were generally tolerant of people taking old practices and adding a Christian gloss to them. Overt worship of Pagan gods disappeared but the Dec.25 date – and many residual practices associated with the old festival – remained.

As strange as it may seem, when Religious Right legal groups go to court to battle the “War on Christmas,” they may really be defending practices historically associated with the worship not of the son of God but the sun in the sky.