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Jason Toews and fifi (the band)

fifi History 6: Everybody Should Love Each Other and Live in Peace and Harmony

NOTE: Citing my notoriously faulty memory and my tendency toward “mendacious untruth” (not my words), various fifi alumni and supporters have graciously added corrections and additions where necessary throughout this series. If there are no corrections in the article below, that must indicate that my recollections are without error.

Sensing the Approach of Nightfall,
fifi Places All Cards on the Table

hes_annette008

Turn! Turn! Turn!

After completing “Captain Kangaroo,” I got married, and so did Eric. In 1990, my son Max was born. Eric joined the military. Eric and I seemed to be drifting apart as our adult lives took shape. It was becoming more and more difficult to find time for collaboration on our silly little fifi project. In fact, after the completion of “Captain Kangaroo,” there was at least a year-long stretch during which we didn’t speak to each other at all. He moved, I moved, and we lost track of each other.

Sometime in 1990 or 1991, Eric wrote to me from Germany, where he was currently stationed. He had purchased a beautiful new guitar, he said. He had some great ideas for a new album, he said. As it happened, I had some ideas of my own. Tentatively, via hand-written letters (this was 1990; nobody had a personal computer yet) we began work on our final album.

Of course, each album we recorded had to be chosen from the list of albums we had already cited on the “Does its Duty” greatest-hits album. We chose “Everybody Should Love Each Other and Live in Peace and Harmony,” which meant that we would have to re-record “African Disequilibrium.” Since this was to be, by mutual agreement, our final album, we knew we would need to include the long-awaited Part I of “Evil Dairy Products.” We quickly decided that the rest of the album would be our “concept album.” After tossing around some not-very-interesting ideas for this proposed concept album, I pulled out a box that I had been saving for five years. This box was packed with scraps of smudged and wrinkled notebook paper, each sheet covered with the sophomoric abstract poetry we had written in high school. We read those aloud to each other, laughed ourselves sick, and picked out the “best” stanzas as the lyrics for our concept album.

Our grandiose vision necessitated additional musicians, so Eric recruited long-time friend and fifi supporter Dan Carnahan, making fifi a power trio, just like Triumph. “I’m young, I’m wild, and I’m FREE!”

In search of a new studio, closer to home and sympathetic to our unique “vision,” I walked into London Studio, right on “The Ave” in Seattle’s University District. The studio manager, Clark (“The Branimal”) Branum, seemed like a cool guy with a sense of humor… PLUS the studio was downstairs from a music store. According to Clark, we could use any equipment or instrument in the store, as long as we were recording after hours and didn’t break anything! This turned out to be completely untrue, but it sure sounded good at the time, so I scheduled a meeting with Clark to outline our recording plans.

When I came in for my meeting with Clark, I brought with me my “Recording Notebook,” which contained all of the lyrics, chord changes, hand-drawn drum patterns, lists of sound effects that were required for each song, amateurish sketches, lists of songs to use as production references, etcetera.

“This song will be a recreation of the F.A.R.T.S. concert performance at Mountlake Terrace High School, with audience members shrieking in pain as the lunch tables collapse, and the principal will be screaming through a bullhorn in the background!” I informed Clark, excitedly.

“This song starts with a radio dramatization of the Evil Dairy Products’ spaceflight and crash-landing on Earth and in the middle there’s a battle scene with laser sounds and explosions, while Captain Gouda announces their plans to mate with Earth women!” I continued, rapidly flipping through the pages of my notebook.

After a few minutes of this, Clark stopped me. “This all sounds great, Jason, but we’re not really set up to do that kind of elaborate, uh… pre-production work here. I’m gonna hook you up with a guy I know…”

Digital Pre-Production with Jay Kenney: 11/91-5/92

Thus began six months of pre-production work with Jay Kenney, in his Wallingford home. Every other week, or whenever I could afford it, I went to Jay Kenney’s house and followed him downstairs, to the back corner of his dark basement, behind the Hammond organ and Leslie tower, through a fringe curtain, to the Kenney Pre-Production Facility. I brought stacks of sound effect CDs and LPs, hand tools, easily-breakable pieces of wood, squeaky camera tripods, cassettes of fifi’s previous albums, various percussion instruments, and anything else that might help us to create the elaborate backing tracks and multitudinous sound effects we needed for the album. I programmed most of the drum tracks on a crummy old Yamaha drum machine which luckily had MIDI out capability. Once we had transferred my drum tracks into Jay’s computer, we would substitute more “professional” drum sounds, and Jay would fix any mistakes arising from my complete ignorance of music theory.

“Why is this snare on the 3?” he would ask, calmly, and I had no answer. Without comment, he would turn back to his computer screen and set about shifting the entire song one beat to the right. Or whatever. Half the time, I didn’t know exactly what he was doing. I just kept saying “no” until it sounded right, at which point I would say “oh holy shit that’s perfect!” and we would move on to the next item in my notebook.

Not only did Jay help me create and record all of the backing tracks and sound effects; he gradually became a co-writer and de facto fourth member of fifi.

“It should go like ‘DUH-duh-duh-DUH-duh-duh’ and then the church bell rings on the last iteration, and underneath that should be a military marching band snare drum like ‘ba-da-rrrap-bap-ba-da-rrrap-bap'” I would say, and Jay would do exactly that.

In May 1992, Jay and I had done all we could do in his basement. Jay off-loaded all of the digital info onto eighty (yes: EIGHTY) floppy discs, which we carefully numbered, boxed, and drove over to London Studios. While Clark monitored the process at $25 per hour, Jay loaded the floppies one by one into the studio computer, and then we played the audio out of the studio computer, in real time, and recorded it to half-inch analog tape.

Pre-Production was complete.

Well, almost. Of course, somehow the most current version of one of the songs had been lost in the transfer, which meant a return to Jay’s studio, another evening of work, and another transfer session at London. But, yeah, Pre-Production was essentially complete.

Analog Recording in London Studios with Clark Branum: 7/92-11/92

Sometime during the analog recording process, Eric and I realized that, inexplicably, this album was turning out to be really… you know: “good.” (Or at least “good” within the context of albums by fifi.) For the first time, we weren’t cutting corners or settling for “good enough” – we were actually producing the kind of album we had always envisioned. It began to dawn on us that our songs were actually funnier when they sounded more professional, when we weren’t relying simply on the cheap laughs of inept musicianship and production.

Unfortunately, this insight and newfound pride prompted us to completely toss out the work we had done on a couple songs and start from scratch. It was as if we had a child; a child that we had always loved, while also assuming that the child was mildly retarded. One day, we realized that – far from being a lovable idiot – our child might actually be a gifted sculptor (or whatever: you get the idea). Suddenly, we wanted to give that child every opportunity to shine. We deeply regretted our past inattention, vowing to become better parents.

All of which cost a lot of money, and longer hours in the studio, and only served to deepen the resentment in my little family:

Jen: No really, I did try for as long as I could to be supportive. I thought it would probably run its course, like a bad virus, and leave me with a shiny clean, new husband person, rid of his creative demons, and who would not address himself as a woman (Annette) or borrow any more of my lingerie. I was wrong.

Gamely trying to make it “fun” I joined on a few studio sessions… let me tell you – horrifying. Absolutely horrifying. The routine was this:

Get into a huge dither for days in advance, gathering tapes, lyrics, etc. Just panicking over nothing, as far as I can recall.
Get to studio, be mildly excited to be “doing something” with fifi.
Be bored for 17 hours while Eric and Jason laugh themselves silly over rotted dairy products or something.
Be pissed at all the girls who thought Jason was cute, smart, or amusing.
Beg to go home and Stop. The. fifi. Madness.

Not to be a stick in the mud, but shoot. We had a baby, we had a serious religion that I barely understood and was trying my best to believe in, and I was not yet 22. I wanted some attention from this “husband” of mine, and it was a dark day when I realized… his heart was forever to be shared with the sickly pink spectre of a poodle with blood coursing down its fangs… fifi. The bane of my marriage. The bane of my attempts to grow up. The evil temptress of my young husband’s soul.

You know what? The hell with fifi.

(insert awkward silence here)

Besides prompting us to shitcan some of our sub-par work, this dawning belief that we had an obligation to produce the BEST FIFI ALBUM EVER also led us to add more and more flavoring to the stew: I tried my hand at turntable “scratching.” Eric learned to play mandolin. We played the sound of a toy cellphone through an electric guitar pickup. We even convinced some members of the Mountlake Terrace High School Glee Club to come in and sing harmony parts.

Summer turned to Fall, and then to Winter, and the recording continued. Then Clark got in a dispute with London Studios management, and we were without a studio again. Which was actually fine, because I had gotten into a dispute with my own employers, and I now found myself out of work, living with my parents-in-law. Also, Eric was in Germany (or Panama; now I can’t remember).

Analog Recording and Mixing in Audio Logic Studios with Clark Branum and Jay Kenney: 11/92-5/93

Eventually, the situation righted itself; Clark and Jay went into business together and opened their own studio in North Seattle, named Audio Logic. I had completely lost contact with Eric, so I finished the album as my finances allowed. As Summer approached, we completed the analog mixing of “Everybody…”

Digital Mastering in 55th St Studio with Clark Branum and Guy Staley: Late 1993

But, alas… each of the separate “movements” of our epic “concept album” had been mixed separately. For the whole thing to work as envisioned, those movements had to cross-fade into each other. This necessitated a $350 night of “digital mastering” at 55th St. Studios, just off Broadway in North Seattle.

“So, did you bring the DAT for the final mix?” asked Guy, as we sat down to work.

Arrgh. A quick trip to Tower Records resolved that problem, and we continued.

When I stumbled, bleary-eyed, out of 55th St. Studios early the following morning, the album was complete. Total cost to yours truly: $4000.

Stations of the Cross

Above, I’ve given an overview of the production of fifi’s “Everybody Should Love Each Other and Live in Peace and Harmony.” Reading the above, however, may give you a distorted perspective, since I’ve intentionally skipped over a whole laundry list of bizarre occurrences and seemingly insurmountable roadblocks that plagued the project. Looking back through my notes from the time, I am quite honestly amazed; the fact that you can even listen to this album today is either a straight-up case of divine intervention, or else a staggering testament to dumb tenacity. Take your pick, though I’m leaning toward #2.

If you get an unhealthy charge out of other people’s misfortune, here’s an abbreviated list of some of the events that would have crushed the dreams of lesser men:

  • Eric was in the military, stationed in Germany, with no idea when he might return to Washington. Just when it looked like he might be coming home, Gulf War I flared up, and he was detained.
  • Although Eric was overseas, he had left his guitar at home. During his absence, Eric’s brother’s delinquent friends stole Eric’s guitar, bass, and amp… and pawned them for drug money.
  • Things began to look up when Eric bought himself a beautiful new guitar and amp in Germany. Upon his return to the States, however, he realized that the amp would only work in Europe. He finally got someone on the military base to replace the Germanic transformer with a good, old-fashioned Made-In-The-USA model, which solved the problem, as long as you could ignore the constant buzzing and occasional squealing sounds.
  • I got fired for “insubordination.” Around the same time, my car broke down. We ran up enormous credit card debt that took years to pay down. Jen and Max and I ended up living with Jen’s parents.
  • I developed a double hernia and had to undergo an operation, followed by the most painful week I have ever experienced in my life.
  • On the first day that I felt I might actually recover from the nightmarish hernia episode, I fell out of a tree and broke my back.
  • After returning to the States, Eric was living an hour away from me, in Tacoma. This not only limited the times we could write or practice together, but when Eric’s car inevitably died, it meant that Eric was stuck in Tacoma, unable to come to the studio, for several months.
  • Between paying for his car repair and other expenses, Eric was unable to pay his phone bill, which meant that I was not able to contact him for months at a time.
  • Dan’s phone was also shut off, so I couldn’t contact him, either. That didn’t matter so much, though, after…
  • Dan got thrown in jail.
  • Dan got evicted, thus completing the phone shut off/thrown in jail/evicted trifecta.
  • Eventually, Dan found a place to live, but had to pawn his only good guitar to pay his still-outstanding phone bill.
  • Eric’s wife was afflicted with a mystery ailment, forcing her to quit her job and confining her to bed for weeks at a time. Between the decreased income and the astronomical medical bills, Eric’s ability to contribute to our studio bill was understandably diminished.
  • I got a great new job… and then got fired again.
  • Eric, um… disappeared. I found out later that he had been posted to Panama, but he had not contacted me or left a forwarding address, so I’m like, um, Eric? WTF?
  • While Eric was posted to Panama, his wife moved to Alaska and divorced him.
  • Eric’s parents separated.
  • Just when it seemed that the cosmic tally of Eric’s bad luck could not possibly tolerate one more entry… Eric was involved in a horrible car accident in Panama, which left him with a totaled car, chronic back pain, and occasional seizures.

There was more, but those are the highlights.

Everybody Should Love Each Other and Live in Peace and Harmony: A Listening Guide

Evil Dairy Products, Part I – Almost certainly the most accomplished thing fifi ever recorded. The music at the beginning was dictated by me, then arranged and performed by Jay Kenney. During the opening “radio dramatization,” you can hear me and Creery and Jen, plus the voices of several friends who will no longer speak to me, offering further proof of Christopher Hitchens’ dictum that “Religion Poisons Everything.” The sound of the spaceship crashing is actually the sound of a semi truck crashing from “Terminator 2.” Much of the dialog during the battle scene was based on a scene from “The Mysterians” (if you have not seen it, do so immediately). My favorite line in the song, “Smell our stinky madness,” was courtesy of long-suffering fifi widow Jen. Eric’s guitar in this song is so good, it’s hard to believe that this is the same guy who played on “Sorry ‘Bout That.” I had to do the vocal track in two separate takes; I couldn’t switch between the two “voices” without coughing. This is one of the very few fifi songs on which I’m not embarrassed of my vocals. Every time I listen to this song, I’m flabbergasted that we pulled it off.

African Disequilibrium – I’ve already offered my apologia for this song, so I won’t do that again. I like this version of the song very much. We put an extraordinary amount of effort into all the background animal sounds; listen for the cow. While the primary drum tracks are all programmed, you can also hear some appropriate percussion that I added, and two nice samples from African field recordings that you will hear layered in at the end; they didn’t really match the timing of the other drum tracks, so we had to “play” the samples in time with the main tracks. We spent a lot of time on this song, and I think it sounds swell.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Movement 1 (The Complete, Total, Absolute, Utter Obliteration and Destruction of Everything That Is, Was, or Ever Will Be, or Ever Won’t Be, Either) – Over the spooky wind effects, you will hear sampled excerpts from earlier fifi recordings and, as a bonus, Eric speaking in German. He’s saying something like: “I am the scary pink dog” etc. The part where Eric and Dan begin singing “Up in the mountains, there is no sound…” always makes me laugh. Sublime.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Movement 2 (Woman) – The drum pattern and ambient synth sound were loosely inspired by David Sylvian’s “Backwaters” and Peter Gabriel’s “Birdy” soundtrack. The disembodied voice speaking in tongues (“Korah basandah boto botonday sateeyah”) is Robert Tilton. Pretty cool how the last snare hit kicks off Movement 3, don’t you think? That’s the digital mastering work of Guy Staley, right there.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Movement 3 (Stanley the Cat’s Colonic Phantasm) – Eric had come into possession of an electric mandolin, so we wrote a song to feature it. London Studios had some congas and one of those “vibra-slap” things which I desperately wanted to play, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to throw in all of that. This is one of the songs that we “rebooted” when we realized that it had the potential to be one of the best songs on the album. Clark Branum played the rhythm and lead guitar in the last two minutes of the song. I’m particularly happy with my percussion on this song, and Clark’s solo, and Eric’s vocals. The final backwards effect is another taste of the Staley magic.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Movement 4 (To Cudgel [One’s Brains]) – On this song, you can hear Tamara Zagurski, Traci Sheehan, and Danny Higdon, of the Mountlake Terrace High School Glee Club, gamely providing the backup vocals. I had a long-standing unrequited crush on Tamara. Sigh. Plus, she did a fantastic job on our stupid songs, and acted like she was having fun. Thanks for that, Tamara. On this song, you can also hear my lame attempts at turntablism. At approximately 1:20 into the song, there is a spot for Eric’s guitar solo, but he doesn’t appear, so we call him at home, and he plays his solo over the phone. In reality, of course, Eric’s guitar solo is simply played in the studio, but his vocals are actually recorded over the phone, calling the studio from the music store upstairs.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Movement 5 (And Now… Annette’s Anti-Anathematizational Analysis) – This song is intended to be an exaggerated recreation of the disastrous F.A.R.T.S. Benefit Concert at Mountlake Terrace. To this end, we brought our 20 closest friends into the studio to record several tracks of crowd noise, which we layered on top of some crowd sounds from a sound effects CD. Historically interesting note: As the song opens, He’s shouts “I’m Not Neil Diamond!” – a song that we played at the F.A.R.T.S. concert, but never recorded. Eric plays He’s, as well as Jerry Karnofski, the MLT principal. Throughout the song, you can hear “Jerry” chastising various honor roll members and football players for their anarchic behavior. Listen closely, and you can hear automatic weapons fire in the audience. Jay provides the faux sitar sounds and other keyboards, and Clark did an excellent job of making me sound as much as possible like Robert Plant. When the tables begin to collapse, that’s the sound of me breaking kindling and throwing 2x4s on the cement floor in Jay’s basement. “Thanks for all the toys – they’re gonna make some starving kids really happy!”

The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Movement 6 (Blind Man in a Revolving Door) – The background department store ambiance is from a sound effects CD, and the sound of the revolving door is from a squeaky camera tripod. Eric’s final wail of despair always makes me laugh. “Fire Sale in the Prosthetic Limbs department!”

The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Movement 7 (Slumbering Somnolence While Sleeping) – The delicate guitar in this song was written and played by Dan Carnahan. The melancholy fake cello is Jay. The storm sounds and thunder are from my sound effects CD (inspired by “The Song is Over”). The final “rain does seep” harmony is Jen (nice job, pal). One of my top ten favorite fifi songs.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Movement 8 (Cozy Malevolence; “Distended” Geese) – More of the “Department Store Ambiance” track from the sound effects CD, plus a Muzak track from the Capitol “Production Music” set.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Movement 9 (Soliloquy for Two People) – Does anyone else remember that “They call these cookies ‘squirrels’?” commercial? No? Just Eric and me?

The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Movement 10 (Bob Barker’s Infamous Cannibalistic Rodential Veterinarianism) – Another one of the songs that we started, then dumped and re-started, because it deserved better than our initial amateurish attempt. One of my favorite fifi tracks. The audio samples are all from a series of stereo test records I bought at stores in the University District. The “Stereophonic Sound Spectacular!” sample was later used by the trip-hop group Hooverphonic; they even named an album “Stereophonic Sound Spectacular.” Jay provided the propulsive phased synth sound, I wrote the drum track and played the socket wrench, and Eric provided the multiple guitar tracks and the “Zooropa”-inspired vocals. During the “Track the Groove” chorus, you can hear a toy cell phone held against the pickups of Eric’s guitar. Hard to believe this is the same fifi that recorded “Death Poodle.”

The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Movement 11 (An Important Message from He’s) – In my opinion, this and EDP Part I have the most excellent guitar work of the entire fifi oeuvre. This song is almost entirely the creation of Eric and Dan. I especially like the reverse reverb, which leads me to the following digression:

Linguists divide the mechanisms by which cultures develop a written language into two broad categories: Blueprint Copying and Idea Diffusion. In the case of Blueprint Copying, members of one culture receive the building blocks of a written language directly from a more linguistically-advanced culture. In the case of Idea Diffusion, the recipient culture may be aware of the fact that surrounding cultures possess written languages – may even recognize the advantages of a written language – but nobody has yet handed over a goddamn dictionary or anything useful like that, so the recipient culture is eventually forced to invent a written language of their own, from scratch.

The reverse reverb effect here is an excellent example of Idea Diffusion: This is an effect we had heard on other artists’ albums, and we were definitely aware of how fucking METAL that effect was… but we had no direct information on how to recreate it, so we had to make something up.

After much trial and error, we hit upon the following: record the guitar track, play the recorded track backward while adding a reverb effect to the output, record the result to a separate track, and then play the whole mess forward again. Which may not have been the same way Judas Priest did it, but our Mickey Mouse method sounded so perfect coming over the studio monitors that we laughed until tears streamed down our faces.

The “…and after death, the judgment” sample is from a Jerry Falwell LP I picked up in a thrift store. Dan is singing/growling the lead vocals, and Eric is doubling the vocals in the background. A perfect example of one of our songs being funnier because it almost sounds… you know, professional.

The Sound of One Hand Clapping, Movement 12 (O Heed the Exhortations of fifi, the Prescient Pooch) – The opening is inspired by the beginning of Supertramp’s “Even in the Quietest Moments.” Eric is playing the sweet lead guitar, and Dan is providing the gnarly rhythm guitar; an improvised addition that kicks the song up a notch. Jay is playing the (fake) flute, triumphant (fake) brass section, and other keyboards. Members of the much-lauded Mountlake Terrace High School Glee Club are providing the harmony vocals. On the original recording, Eric said “Come on, now!” one stanza later. When Clark and I were mixing, we both felt that this should come just before the introduction of the triumphant horns, as if Eric was summoning them into existence. Clark sampled that vocal outburst, placed it one stanza earlier, erased the original, and all was well.

VIDEO

  1. “Sorry ‘Bout That” Documentary, Part 6A
  2. “Sorry ‘Bout That” Documentary, Part 6B

AUDIO

To download any of the songs individually, just right-click on the desired track in the playlist above and select “Save link as…”

To download the entire set (including the fifi-approved, cross-faded album version of TSoOHC) in a .zip file, click here.

LYRICS

In case you’re interested (and also because Robin says she can’t understand what the hell we’re singing), the lyrics for this album can be found here.

Proceed to the next chapter in the spellbinding fifi saga.

336 Comments

  1. Comment 316… Atheism is not a belief or a moral code. I would disagree. It is a belief in unbelief. The reason I cited the atrocities I did (finally) was because they were rooted in Atheism, the lone exception being the ancient Chinese atrocities. Many have continued to expound on the cruelties and atrocities of “religion” while I have quietly waited to give the numerical facts of atheist governments and the millions they’ve killed. My point in that is when there is an absence of God/religion/faith whatever you want to call it, larger atrocities occur. Far more in the course of human history than that of religions or God followers. Again, I contend that nearly all who have done so in the so-called name of God/religion etc. have done so from a perverted teaching and not what the mainstream teachings of the religions espouse. But even including them in the “religious” atrocities committed thoughout the course of history, pale in comparison to the atrocities committed by Godless societies.

    I have enjoyed the exchange as well. Hopefully, we all walk away with a deeper respect for one another and what each other believes. I will defend your right to believe what you do all the way to the grave if need be. In most parts of the world we would not have been able to even have this conversation. Not even on the internet. It would be shut down and we would be hunted down. I know because I have a friend from my church who is a missionary in Tibet. Very scary stuff. He has been threatened with his life before and has left the country in the past. He’s been back twice and served for over 8 years. That’s more man than I am. Thanks for the vessel, Jason. Glad we were able to catch up. Glad you are doing well and have a solid woman by your side. She seems pretty cool.

    To everyone else, thanks for participating. I’ve appreciated your opinions and your ability to unabashedly express them. Don’t ever lose that. Never be luke warm. Stand for what you believe in. Others will respect you for it, just as I do, even when we don’t agree.

    In His Grip,
    James

  2. Hello Jason, good times,
    very interesting. probably a good time to stop.
    I will write up a few closing arguments and post them this weekend if you have no objections. Shame Matt couldn’t be here.
    Take care and enjoy. If work takes me out your way I will drop you a line.
    (what’s this about a new job?)

  3. You said, When Korin says that she knows the voice in her head is God because it tells her to do things that are “in God’s character”… twice you launched straight from there in to your fears about the character of my God – about genocide and terrorism that you attribute to his character – that clearly I attribute to mankind. Suggesting that somehow I (or someone like me) could be duped into participating in some mass murder campaign in the name of God by our sheer ignorance of what you see as his true character.

    To clarify, I understood Robin’s question to be Do I pray, then have some thoughts and then attribute those thoughts to God. I was saying – No, I don’t have thoughts and say they are from God, and I also don’t take credit for God’s thoughts, insight or wisdom as though it was my own. Robin’s examples were simplistic, basic and harmless.
    Perhaps that was a trap I stepped into as Jamie had suggested – but I chose to believe it was an honest question in the interest in gaining insight into another perspective.
    I don’t think it was fair play for you to use me to make a point outside the context of that question.
    enough said – I can take it. Seems you feel I have dabbled in a bit of unfair play myself – I assure you it was unintentional. (not sure you should be talking about what’s fair – on the heels of your comments)

    I do wonder if people repeatedly comment that you are focusing on the bad stuff and negativity, perhaps there is something of merit there worth looking at…

    Have a great month – safe travelling! I’ll be watching facebook for some more awesome pictures.

  4. …and I think I’m done. I’ll be out of town for a lot of this month (Coachella! Joshua Tree! Atlanta…sigh), and several household projects to complete, new job, etc.

    This conversation has definitely been edifying and enjoyable, but I think it has run its course (for me). I do thank all of you for participating, and for remaining mostly respectful. I do hope that my occasional snarkiness or dogged insistence on some or other point (I know, I can be a pain) hasn’t alienated anyone. I do love everyone here: Robin, Matt, Eric, Korin, John, Jen: I consider you all friends (and more, in the case of Robin!), and hope we remain such. Jamie, it really was nice getting to know you better, and seeing your brain in action!

    I’ll leave the comments open, so if anyone wants to post “closing arguments” – feel free to do so.

    Much love and respect!

  5. Oh, and Jamie ~ I would never deny that people kill and oppress other people for all kinds of reasons. The examples you cite prove that beyond a doubt, and we’ve actually been over this ground before; do you remember?

    John has tackled this several times before; the examples you cite don’t prove anything about “atheism.” Atheism is not a system of belief or a moral code or anything else. It is quite simply, a lack of belief in a divine being, based on the available evidence. If there was an organized belief system called “Atheism” and the members of that system were – based on the tenets of that belief system – killing and oppressing all those who chose to believe in a god, then you would have a case.

    Hitler’s ideology of Jew-hatred had several mothers. One of those was the pervasive cultural anti-Semitism, which was largely the result of centuries of slanderous teachings by the Church.

    We’re starting to repeat ourselves here…

  6. Korin, Comment 312: “Jason – that is not what I said. Please don’t take my words out of context and use them to make your own points that are not relevant to the conversation in which I was speaking.”

    My sincere apologies if I misunderstood. Here is what Robin originally asked:

    “Or is it that you pray, and then you have some thoughts – in other words you decide what to do – i.e ‘I need to let go’ or ‘I need to make a call’, and then you say,’god told me to let go or god told me to make a call.'”

    I understand Robin’s essential question to be: How do you know that the voice you are hearing is God, and not just your own mind?

    Your answer was:

    “I DON’T GIVE MYSELF THE CREDIT FOR THINGS THAT ARE OUT OF MY CHARACTER BUT WITHIN HIS. I AM USUALLY (NOT ALWAYS) QUITE CERTAIN WHAT IS COMING FROM MY MIND AND WHAT IS NOT.”

    I paraphrased your answer as follows:

    “Korin says that she knows the voice in her head is God because it tells her to do things that are ‘in God’s character'”

    …which reflects my understanding of what you said: You can distinguish between the voice of god and the voice of your own mind because the voice of god tells you to do things that are in god’s character, but not in your own. What part did I get wrong? I was not twisting your words intentionally.

    Korin, Comment 311: “I won’t talk scripture with you, because you can pull it out of context to make your point, backed up with other random citations, faster than I can circle back and research it.”

    If you don’t want to talk scripture, I understand. I agree; I’m not sure it gets us anywhere. But unless you are going to take the time to actually give me examples where I have misrepresented the meaning of a scripture by the kind of shenanigans you describe… I would ask you to leave off the accusation, and simply take responsibility for your own decision not to engage. Fair?

    Korin, Comment 311: “I was referring to character that you seem to choose not to acknowledge – His great, undying love and passion for our salvation.”

    As I have said repeatedly, the Bible contains a whole range of stuff, some lyrical and uplifting, some barbaric (and some dull as dishwater). I don’t deny that some Scriptures portray god in the way you describe. My experience in the world, my reading of history, my observation of the world around me today, does not lend credence to this kinder portrayal of god’s character, quite honestly.

    Apart from that, we’ve got millions of self-proclaimed Christians in the U.S., all talking about god in the way you describe, and conveniently glossing over or setting aside those other scriptures – the ones where god sounds like a jealous, alcoholic and abusive husband. If I’m reading your most recent comment correctly, you have done much the same. John and I, and many others like us, are merely saying, “hey, the Bible also contains all this other, wacky stuff…”

    In the class Robin teaches, when she goes over the history of racism in the U.S., she consistently gets these kinds of comments from students: “Why do you have to focus on all the bad stuff?” “I’ve got a black friend, so we can’t you stop talking about racism? You’re just being negative!” etc. They get uncomfortable and defensive when someone challenges the dominant paradigm. In the same way, when atheists start poking at the soft underbelly of Christianity, asking questions, pointing out some of the horrible things that Christianity has wrought, questioning some of the more bizarre passages in the Bible, Christians respond in much the same way: “Why do you have to be so negative?”

    Again: I don’t deny the good stuff that’s there. In my observation, in my opinion, the bad stuff far outweighs it. When you add the fact that there is absolutely no proof for the central beliefs of Christianity, and that the explanations that Christianity offers for the reality of human suffering are so lacking…

    That’s why I talk about the bad stuff.

    To answer your related question, Jamie: I actually don’t spend that much time debunking Christianity. I was raised as a Christian for 30 years. Every waking moment was suffused with that belief. Along the way, unanswered questions accumulated. When I gave some space to those questions, I found out that there actually weren’t satisfying answers to the most important ones. Brick by brick, the edifice crumbled. When the facade fell away, the flimsy superstructure that was holding it all together became visible. Most of my “atheist studies” were done while I was a Christian; when the central lies were exposed, all of the rest of the poor reasoning and misdirection was just… obvious to me.

    This is actually the most time I’ve spent discussing these issues… ever.

    It’s important to me for all the reasons I’ve already mentioned. You could just as soon ask Robin, “why is fighting racism and sexism so important to you?”

    At the same time, as you all have pointed out, many people are clearly reliant on their religion, clearly need the comfort they receive from religion. For that reason, I would never go out and try to “convert” religious people. This conversation is different; Eric threw out some well-aimed jabs, I responded, and others joined in. Nobody is being cornered at their door, nobody has to engage if they don’t want to. Plus you’re all smart and I know y’all well enough by now to know that my comments are not going to destroy your faith, so I feel free to speak my mind.

  7. Here is my question to all the atheists:

    Why do you spend so much time trying to disprove or debunk the Bible, Koran, Torah, among other things, and more importantly the existance of God? Why spend so much time studying(I’m accepting that you do) trying to disprove the very thing you don’t believe in? If it were me, I’d just go away for awhile until the subject changed because to me it would be a gigantic waste of my valuable time arguing about something I believe is ridiculous. I’d go sit by the pool with my kids and wife and hang for a bit. I’m genuinely interested to know why.

    James

  8. Korin,

    Great stuff!

    Jason,

    You said, “but realistically acknowledge that they cannot change the minds of hardcore, irrational believers who base their bigoted ignorance on what they believe they were told by a time-traveling ghost.”

    What about substituting the word “people” where you put the word “believers” and remove the words “time-traveling ghost.” I have found in my experience far more people without any particular faith that fit that mold than people of faith. Remember, I was not always a faith-based person. I had my prejudices and ideas based on how and where I was raised. Most of my prejudices were overcome by my participation in sports from a young age. In inner-city Seattle, I had many black friends in and out of sports. In eighth grade when I moved to lilly-white Brier, I brought what I learned with me. It got me through high school and well into college where most of the guys I hung with were black. They were my friends from the team. We ate, slept, traveled, went to the bathroom, did everything together. We spent more time together than we did with our girlfriends. You grow tight. And yet I wasn’t saved and saw alot of bigoted comments from them and from others on the team. Usually it was a slip about “whitey”, only to be quickly followed by, “We don’t mean you, you’re cool.” I got it. It wasn’t coming from the faithful, though. You need to stop lumping that together as if that is some sort of badge of honor and a label you can only bestow on Christians or other people of faith. Ask Robin. She’ll help you out. I read her bio on her webpage. Very impressive body of work and quite the long resume. My cudo’s to her. We need more people like her that get it, faithfilled or not.

    People are ignorant and it doesn’t just fall to one group of people the way you seem to continue to “label” and spew bigoted, Christ-o-phobic comments around. You want to lump all believers into some type of whacko-ville, kill all the infidels, rape all the women and plunder all the cities bag and I find that offensive. You don’t talk about the hospitals founded by Christians/Christian organizations (far more than secular hospitals). You don’t talk about all the charitable organization founded by faith-based organizations like World Vision and the good they do all over the world no matter if the people they help have the same beliefs or not. You fail to cite atrocities committed by atheists/agnostics etc. and the millions of innocent people they’ve slaughtered, so I will.

    The following statistics that are the result of irreligious genocide stagger the imagination.

    My source is The Guinness Book of World Records . Look up the category “Judicial” and under the subject of “Crimes: Mass Killings,” the greatest massacre ever imputed by the government of one sovereign against the government of another is 26.3 million Chinese during the regime of Mao Tse Tung between the years of 1949 and May 1965. The Walker Report published by the U.S. Senate Committee of the Judiciary in July 1971 placed the parameters of the total death toll in China since 1949 between 32 and 61.7 million people. An estimate of 63.7 million was published by Figaro magazine on November 5, 1978.

    In the U.S.S.R. the Nobel Prize winner, Alexander Solzhenitsyn estimates the loss of life from state repression and terrorism from October 1917 to December 1959 under Lenin and Stalin and Khrushchev at 66.7 million.

    The worst genocide appears to be that in Cambodia, formerly Kampuchea. According to the Khmer Rouge foreign minister, more than one third of the eight million Khmer were killed between April 17, 1975 and January 1979. One third of the entire country was put to death under the rule of Pol Pot, the founder of the Communist Party of Kampuchea. During that time towns, money and property were abolished. Economic execution by bayonet and club was introduced for such offenses as falling asleep during the day, asking too many questions, playing non-communist music, being old and feeble, being the offspring of an undesirable, or being too well educated. In fact, deaths in the Tuol Sleng interrogation center in Phnom Penh, which is the capitol of Kampuchea, reached 582 per day.

    Then in Chinese history of the thirteenth to seventeenth centuries there were three periods of wholesale massacre. The numbers of victims attributed to these events are assertions rather than reliable estimates. The figures put on the Mongolian invasion of northern China form 1210 to 1219 and from 1311 to 1340 are both on the order of 35 million people. While the number of victims of bandit leader Chang Hsien-Chung, known as the Yellow Tiger, from 1643 to 1647 in the Szechwan province has been put at 40 million people.

    China under Mao Tse Tung, 26.3 million Chinese. According the Walker Report, 63.7 million over the whole period of time of the Communist revolution in China. Solzhenitsyn says the Soviet Union put to death 66.7 million people. Kampuchea destroyed one third of their entire population of eight million Cambodians. The Chinese at two different times in medieval history, somewhere in the vicinity of 35 million and 40 million people. Make note that these deaths were the result of organizations or points of view or ideologies that had left God out of the equation. None of these involve religion. And all but the very last actually assert atheism.

    Add up ALL the deaths in the bible, all the atrocious acts of religious persecution, all the deaths brought on by wrongly attributed religious belief (Hitler, Mussolini, etc) and they pale in comparison to these numbers.

    If you were walking down a dark alley at night in the center of Los Angeles and you saw ten young men walking towards you, would you feel more comfortable if you knew that they had just come from a Bible class? Of course, the answer is certainly you would. That demonstrates that religion, and Biblical religion in particular, is a mitigator of evil in the world.
    It is true that it’s possible that religion can produce evil, and generally when we look closer at the detail it produces evil because the individual people are actually living in a rejection of the tenets of Christianity and a rejection of the God that they are supposed to be following (or any other faith for that matter – Islam…). So it can produce it, but the historical fact is that outright rejection of God and institutionalizing of atheism actually does produce evil on incredible levels. We’re talking about tens of millions of people as a result of the rejection of God.

    Please feel free to cite all of these statistics from now on. It makes a more compelling argument for God and makes atheism look more like the value-less, winner take all, I live by my own rules mentality that it is.

    Jamie

  9. When Korin says that she knows the voice in her head is God because it tells her to do things that are “in God’s character”…

    Jason – that is not what I said. Please don’t take my words out of context and use them to make your own points that are not relevant to the conversation in which I was speaking. If you are unclear about my meaning, feel free to ask me to clarify.

    Secondly, I just want to say I hear your frustration. And I find myself at least somewhat culpable in regards to your accusations. I believe I have certainly “turned off” some of my questions relating to the atrocities you (and other non-believers) have sited from the Bible. I have justified this to myself in the following ways: I cannot possible chase down each and every doubt or question at the same time, and some things are just going to have to be unanswered for a while. Many other well respected and trustworthy individuals have studied these topics at length and still some end up on one side, and some on the other – no consensus has been reached. I trust what I believe to be the character of God to be consistent and true throughout existence – this is purely based on my own experience and perspective – my faith is based on my personal experience and relationship; and so on, and so forth. From the sounds of it, nothing you haven’t heard already. These are all valid, and we apply them liberally to lots of other topics as well.
    However, I want you to know I am not ignoring the concerns or frustrations that have been honestly stated in this thread. Many of these points seem very valid to me and this may be the time for me to address these questions in greater detail. Surely if I am to be consistent and true to who I say I am, this could certainly be considered a sign from God that it is in fact time to do so. I don’t know if this will bring you gladness, or further fear, but you have inspired me to read my Bible more thoroughly, and to get back to asking difficult questions, with a honest intent of finding the truth, not simply looking to justify what I already believe (to the extent that is possible). I believe I have a church community that will fully support my honest research, but if I get kicked out – I will promptly let you know!

  10. Jamie – Thank you for the kind wishes, I will definitely keep ya posted – keep up the good fight ;)!! I’ll be checking in from time to time.

    Jason – Thank you for being thoughtful in your approach – it is appreciated deeply. Now, on to the content…
    Yes, I realize it is hard for you to swallow…I suggested as much from the get go. And I really do get it.
    So how is conscience different from my experience? Beyond conscience, there are situations where there may be several choices that are “right” in terms of conscience. But perhaps there is only one (or two) that are right for me – on my path, or purpose. Or you can choose to do the right thing, but miss some of the nuance through inexperience, lack of wisdom, insight, or awareness. I prefer to ask for God’s direction (wisdom and insight) when making decisions about my job, living situation, finances, relationships, etc… because His perspective is so much greater than my own.
    Secondly, when you say that you know it’s God talking when he urges you to do “THINGS THAT ARE OUT OF MY CHARACTER BUT WITHIN HIS”… that seems very frightening to me, because, while I know you are a thoughtful and deeply moral person, God has occasionally ordered his followers to do things like…
    Firstly, this is what I said in context (my responses are all caps): Or is it that you pray, and then you have some thoughts – in other words you decide what to do – i.e “I need to let go” or “I need to make a call”, and then you say,”god told me to let go or god told me to make a call.” I DON’T GIVE MYSELF THE CREDIT FOR THINGS THAT ARE OUT OF MY CHARACTER BUT WITHIN HIS. I AM USUALLY (NOT ALWAYS) QUITE CERTAIN WHAT IS COMING FROM MY MIND AND WHAT IS NOT. I RARELY SAY “GOD TOLD ME…”
    I was referring to character that you seem to choose not to acknowledge – His great, undying love and passion for our salvation. For example there have been times when God has specifically asked me to pray for a certain person who has been threatening me and verbally attacking me. Personally I would much prefer to pummel them into the ground – trust me, it’s true. Praying for someone you dislike so greatly is not an easy task, and certainly not in my character, but it is in His character. Obedience to these requests allows His characteristic to be built in me, and perhaps after some practice, he will not need to ask or tell me, but I will do it of my own accord. I have many other examples, if this is not adequate.
    Your fears (I believe) are unnecessary where I am concerned, as I am a sane, reasonable, thoughtful, intelligent individual, and in no present danger of being warped by power, greed or vengence. If at some future time, you find me losing my faculties, reason, or becoming morally perverse, I would hope that you would kindly confront me and insist that I get some mental help. As for sacrificing animals, luckily for me, Jesus already paid the price for my sins, so there is no longer a need for this type of sacrifice – which I am pretty sure you already know… However, I will be sacrificing a cat, and perhaps (unintentionally) defiling its body, in the name of science this quarter, so if you want to go after that, feel free. (while I am not personally killing the cat, am I not at least partly responsible for its death, by taking the anatomy class and partaking in the learning?) Honestly, I think you are being a bit wacky with your examples – surely you are not really frightened of these things – at least not where I am concerned? As for President Bush – he will have to answer to God one day, and what God may or may not have told him will be addressed at that point. As for the here and now, we have a political system in place that can and should be used in its full force to address these things. Unfortunately for us, the mega-wealthy have too much power in this country (and world) and “we the people” are too comfortable and apathetic to confront it. But let’s not blame on God or religion, what is clearly human failing. Let us rather take full responsibility for our part in it, and start by making a change there.
    I suspect the conscience is very closely related to what I’m talking about – I think this is the part of God, innate in us, that was planted from the beginning – that we know right from wrong. When conscience is missing, we see terrible things occur with humans – Ted Bundy comes to mind. Most of us have a tool set that helps us to make good and wise decisions – some of us use that tool set well, and others, well, they just tend to please self above all else (even consequence). I know there are some believers/Christians/religious people, what have you, who say “God told me” when following their conscience, or when they are doing the things they have been taught, or even when they are serving self. I don’t really buy it either. I think we would all roll our eyes simultaneously (well, at least you, Robin, Jonathan and myself) at that sort of (for the lack of a better word) weirdness. I don’t think most people who follow conscience and attribute that to “God telling them” mean any harm, or are aware of any harm they may be inflicting – but I do think this contributes to the craziness surrounding religion – the crackpots and nut jobs – the religion poisons everything idea. The people doing bad things in the name of God or religion, do not make God any less real or valid to me. People do bad things in the name of all sorts of reasons – country, family, faith, flag, school, team, club, fraternity, etc… – God is a great choice if you want to feel validated – except of course for the fact that it is not God at all, and you will have to answer for that one day. Which is one big reason why I am particularly cautious about attributing things to God, than I am not certain are His purpose.
    I won’t talk scripture with you, because you can pull it out of context to make your point, backed up with other random citations, faster than I can circle back and research it. You have clearly put much more energy into disproving the Bible, than I have put into proving it. Someone with a degree in apologetics would be better suited to have that argument with you.
    As for why God doesn’t talk to everyone…I’m really not sure, but I have my theory. I think he does talk to everyone (hence my question to you on that subject early on). Some people either choose not to hear, or simply cannot hear for some reason. Sin separates us from God – I suspect pride, selfishness, ego, fear, to name a few, block our hearing. In my experience, which is all I can really speak from, when God speaks, he is rarely telling us something easy to hear, but rather challenging us – sometimes the very basis of who we think we are. That can be a hard pill to swallow, and I think stands in the way of our “hearing”.
    Okay, that’s all I can offer you for now – I’ve got to get some work and studying done today.

  11. Jamie, Comment 305, your reasons for dismissing the Religious Tolerance website:

    “1. They can’t agree on a consensus view and are vague/use vagueness in describing what they believe.”

    Can you be more specific?

    “2. Anytime someone says there are no absolutes…. wrong! You just made an absolute statement when you said that and disqualify your argument for there being no absolutes.”

    Here’s how the item in their mission statement actually reads:

    “…the systems of truth that we have studied on the topics of morals, ethics, and religious belief are not absolute: they vary by culture, by religion, and over time.”

    They did not say there are “no absolutes.” They said that religions and other belief systems vary by culture, by religion, and over time. The meaning of that item is clear and, I would think, indisputable. You claim to have an inside track on the “correct” way to worship god… yet your beliefs directly conflict with the beliefs of other people, in other parts of the earth, and at other times.

    “3. They want to work towards a society that is “relatively” free of discrimination. What??!!!! That would imply that there is some discrimination. I want no discrimination and so does the God I serve.”

    That is a clear expression of a realistic goal, given the varying belief systems prevalent around the world. They plan to do everything in their power to decrease intolerance, but realistically acknowledge that they cannot change the minds of hardcore, irrational believers who base their bigoted ignorance on what they believe they were told by a time-traveling ghost.

    It all sounds pretty good to me… In fact, I think I’ll send ’em some money.

    Also, if you’re going to say, “You occasionally misquote the bible,” you’re going to have to give specifics. I think I’ve read all of the posts thus far, and I don’t remember an instance where you pointed out an actual misquoting of the Bible. You have certainly complained that we are interpreting the Bible incorrectly (which I take to mean “differently than it is interpreted by the leadership of my current church”), but misquoting? Them’s fightin’ words, hoss.

  12. …. took the deep breath…. although I didn’t need one. I wasn’t upset.

    You occasionally misquote the bible. You occasionally take things out of context. You occasionally attribute things to me that I didn’t say.

    By you, I mean the posters at large, not any one individual. Therefore is everything you all say untrue and in need of refutiating?

    You keep citing things “man” does… beat his wife, etc. That’s not condoned by God, man or anyone else. You only prove we are desperately flawed as humans and confirm what God says in the bible about our human condition.

    JE

  13. Admin,

    You said, “Lastly, Jamie, I would have to agree with John: you do seem to have a habit of making sort of nasty yet passive-aggressive jokes, but then bristling when someone calls you on it, or dishes it back to you. “GET OVER IT ALREADY” etc.”

    I don’t bristle when someone calls me on it. I used cap locks to show my response. I “bristle” when someone attributes things to me that I didn’t say or say by way of inuendo that I said something hidden or secretly. He gives me way too much credit. I can dish it out and take it. You of all people should know that. In the future I will go plain vanilla on you all. No funny comments, intended or otherwise. I will play it straight and just be matter of fact. If I have offended anyone, accept my apologies. There have been many offensive things others have said, yet I have given you all the grace to say those things and taken it in the spirit intended.

    You can shut this down anytime you wish if you feel the need. It’s your site. But don’t do so on my account. I’ve said far less offensive things than most in here. And henceforth, I will confine my comments and opine humorlessly….

    JE

  14. Jason,

    In response to Mr. Hodgson:

    I have been doing some research on him. He’s probably a rather likeable bloke, although he is a judge… I find some of his views to be thought provoking, but moreover I find him to be more of a philosopher of sorts, rather than as you stated a “christian”. He may well be, that is not my intent to impune him or question his beliefs/what he truly believes. I do agree with him that we should be able to and allowed to have critical discourse on the Bible. Question, disect, investigate…. it’s all good in my book. I’ll just have to look more at his viewpoint as well as read the entire article on Dawkins. Very long…. like some of our posts….

    John,

    I do check the links you all put up. I simply find that most don’t pass mustard when put to the test, as the one above I pulled apart clearly showed. When I see inconsistencies in what they think or believe or see where they purposely misquote or misuse the Bible, they get disqualified. Not because they have a different opinion than I do, but because they base what they call truth on flawed ground. Example: what you did to me above about the ignorant slut comment. I genuinely was making a funny, light-hearted attempt at humor. You took it and based an entire argument on what you read into it. I never said the things you said or thinly veiled any attempt to relegate you to the realms of bumbling dolt. And you based your entire rant on an inaccurate accounting of my intent. And so I dismissed your post of incorrect and apologized for offending. Hopefully, you have accepted it graciously.

    JE

  15. Yoiks, Jamie, take a deep breath and count to ten.

    Comment 297: “Occasionally being the key word.”

    Someone who “occasionally” beats his wife for her disobedience is still a wife-beater.

    Someone who “occasionally” slaughters entire communities because of a difference in theology is still committing genocide, even if he rescues stray puppies and donates to the United Way the other 364 days of the year.

    This is exactly my point.

    You asked why I am so focused on the nasty stuff in the Bible. Primarily because I think many Christians are in denial. If they are aware of those scriptures at all, they have compartmentalized and rationalized them into meaninglessness.

    My point from the beginning has been that the Bible offers a whole range of material… some of it lyrical and uplifting, some of it thuggish and horrifying. It reads like a book compiled from the writings of a bunch of different humans over several centuries, with varying levels of intelligence, varying knowledge of the events they write about, varying theological and social agendas.

    When Korin says that she knows the voice in her head is God because it tells her to do things that are “in God’s character”… that, frankly, worries me. Has she read the same Bible that I have? Is she aware of all the ugly threats of genocide and terrorism that have come from this god of hers? If she has read and absorbed the Bible in its entirety, how could she possibly believe that god’s “character” is consistently admirable?

    When Matt says that his Mom received solace from her faith… does he really know what this “faith” entails? If he’s talking about a faith based on what is recorded in the Bible (and she is a Christian, so he must be), I’m not sure what kind of solace she could be getting. The Bible is pretty explicit in many places that human suffering is the result of, or punishment for, sin. Read any of the Prophetic Books, Proverbs, or Revelations, if you doubt this. Of course, the Bible says lots of other things, too… This kind of solace boils down to: “well, whatever hell I’m living through is my own fault (or the fault of humanity in general, or the fault of Adam), and God has repeatedly and consistently chosen NOT to save humans from untold, unnecessary suffering… in fact, the Bible plainly states that, at least some of the time, the suffering comes DIRECTLY from god… but I know that god loves me, and eventually I might get to go to heaven! Because the Bible Told Me So!”

    What the hell kind of lame “solace” is that?

    My frustration is with “cafeteria Christians” (which I used to think was kind of a silly term, but now it totally makes sense to me) who pick out the comforting bits – hooray! we’re all going to heaven! – and conveniently ignore the ugly, murderous, and misogynist bits – hey! apparently all of the other people on earth who don’t believe in the same god as us are… going to be roasted for eternity! and the bible says women aren’t supposed to speak in church! and my gay best friend is going to hell! and on and on and on.

    Of course, besides the comforting bits and the ugly bits, there is a third category, which I like to call the “Mind-Numbingly Boring With Absolutely No Possible Sodding Relevance to My Life” Bits: begat… begat… begat… (snore)

    Lastly, Jamie, I would have to agree with John: you do seem to have a habit of making sort of nasty yet passive-aggressive jokes, but then bristling when someone calls you on it, or dishes it back to you. “GET OVER IT ALREADY” etc.

    That joke about me “sexting” you pictures of my wife was off; I should not have let it pass without comment. Your joking references re: who has bigger “balls” or “cojones” are also unwanted; kinda reeks of a high-school locker-room badgering that I don’t wish to relive. Next we’ll be calling each other faggot and dickweed, and nobody wants that.

    I’m enjoying this exchange of ideas, but I will shut it down toot-sweet if it devolves into this kind of sniping.

    Capice?

  16. John,

    You linked a site above for us to look at. I went to the site and in the first 2 bullet points, I am already finding an outright lie and distortion. Let me cut and paste for all to read:

    “But in the second creation story, (Genesis 2:7) God formed only a man: “…the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. Realizing that he needed a helper (Genesis 2:18), God marched all of the animals past Adam (Genesis 2:19-20) looking for a suitable animal. Finding none suitable, God created Eve out of one of Adam’s ribs.”

    God did not march them past Adam to find a mate, helper or any other such nonsense. He marched them past him to name them. After he finished naming them it states that it wasn’t good for him to be alone and he should have a helpmate (you can call it soul mate, wife, partner, significant other… I really don’t care what you call it). If I, or anyone else, is to put any stock into a website, they should at least be biblically accurate on the opening page. That was an outright fabrication.

    Furthermore, this is their mission/belief statement:

    “We do believe:

    In the inherent worth of every person. People are worthy of respect, support, and caring simply because they are human. Unfortunately, we have not reached a consensus on when human life, in the form of an ovum and spermatozoon, becomes a human person. On this matter, our lack of agreement mirrors that of society at large.
    In working towards a culture that is relatively free of discrimination on the basis of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, national origin, physical disability, age, etc.
    In the sanctity of the human person. We oppose the use of torture and cruel or unusual punishment including the death penalty. 1
    In the importance of democracy within religious, political and other structures.
    In the separation of church and state; and the freedoms of speech, association, and expression. 2
    That the systems of truth that we have studied on the topics of morals, ethics, and religious belief are not absolute: they vary by culture, by religion, and over time. 3
    In the generally positive influence that most religions have had on their followers and on society. 4
    In the importance of individual believers determining evil influences and policies within their chosen faith group, and strongly advocate for their correction.
    In the importance of education. We believe that people are not truly educated unless they have studied the world’s major religions and ethical systems. They need to learn of the good and bad impacts they have had on society. 5”

    Several points to make and why I don’t put any stock in this fringe group:

    1. They can’t agree on a consensus view and are vague/use vagueness in describing what they believe.

    2. Anytime someone says there are no absolutes…. wrong! You just made an absolute statement when you said that and disqualify your argument for there being no absolutes.

    3. They want to work towards a society that is “relatively” free of discrimination. What??!!!! That would imply that there is some discrimination. I want no discrimination and so does the God I serve.

    I’ll stop there. Again, cite things/sources/resources that have some merit. These people disqualified themselves right out of the gate. Fringe at best, dangerous at worst.

    JE

  17. Lady killing… seriously…. there’s alot of man killing too. Or did it not fit your neat, little argument? It is apparent you have a bent. I would say you aren’t very subjective…. or open minded.

    JE

  18. John,

    “Jamie, I understand you were making a joke when you lifted the SNL bit and called me an ignorant slut. So you get to make a joke that calls me stupid and of low morals, implying, as dan akroyd does to jane curtain that my opinions are unworthy because of who I am (ad hominem) . you also get to put me in the submissive female role as dan does by bullying jane. You get to do all of this under the guise of a joke so it’s not like you meant it only you really did.”

    GET OVER IT ALREADY! YOU ARE READING FAR TOO MUCH INTO THE COMMENT. IT WAS NOT INTENDED TO OFFEND IN THE MANNER IT APPARENTLY HAS OR SUBJEGATE YOU TO A LESSER ROLE OF AN INFERIOR THINKING BEING.

    SERIOUSLY, TAKE ME AT MY WORD. DON’T PUT THEM IN MY MOUTH.

    JE

  19. Senior Juan,

    You said,”Does the bible mention them fleeing? Do you just assume they did or did the slaughter not happen.”

    Matt 2:13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appreared to Joseph in a dream, “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to
    Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” That’s where I got it. Was that a serious question? Are you sure you’ve read it?

    Gospel of James…. Here we go again, another “phony” account that atheist like to cite. It was written circa AD 150, obviously not by the person it is attested to, Jesus’ brother James (who had long since died!) Based on the style of language used and since the writer was not aware of contemporary Jewish customs, this has been passed off as garbage long ago. Seriously, if you want to have a theological discussion, use materials that haven’t been proven to be an attempt to pollute the purity of the bible. Otherwise, just sit back and enjoy the ride. I find your citings incredulous and a half-hearted attempt to discover truth. You can do better than that, please I beg of you.

    Because this “gospel” is a proven work of fiction, you can throw out all claims about John, where he went, what he did or didn’t do. When you make these arguments, you make yourself look like you are grasping at straws. “I gotta find something… anything…” If you want to seriously discuss this stuff, cite reliable sources.

    Please don’t try to equate modern day politics and taxes to ancient practices. The analogy works that you use if you state the reason why you had to return to Seattle. The Romans ruled by greed and fear. They seized every opportunity to tax the people they ruled or punish them. It was very oppressive. Your analogy fails insomuch as the trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem was only 60 miles, a few days journey on foot, not several thousand (Seattle to Boston and back). And you are incorrect, there are many records from ancient Rome of census’ taken, how and why etc, so it is not uncommon or out of the realm of possibility as you state. You are inaccurate in your information. Much like using the Gospel of James to attempt to make a point.

    As far a OT prophecy goes, Jesus fulfilled over 300 distinct and seperate prophecy, many of which he had no direct or indirect control over. I am not going to debate OT prophecy with you. It doesn’t matter to you and you’re blinded by your antipathy towards God.

    I have several meetings this morning and so I am cutting this short, however I will return later today/tonight to give a more thorough account and answer, as well as answer some of your other questions. I will also have some pointed questions for you all as well.

    And no, John, Satan didn’t make you spell that way. It was the public school system! Oh, I err…. Perhaps that was Satan after all.

    JE

  20. hey jason, if robin wants to read up on just how the folks in the bible are to the “weaker sex” she might follow this link. or ask jamie.
    http://www.religioustolerance.org/ofe_bibl.htm

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