On the Topic of “Sin”

The concept of “Sin” has been around for a very long time. Growing up in a Catholic household, sin was one of those things that went hand in hand with “Guilt”. These two words are largely synonymous for most Catholics. Sin is something that goes against “God’s” wishes and pisses him off. In the Catholic world, there are really two classifications of sin that any young Catholic learns at a young age. For a Catholic there are Venial sins and mortal sins.

A “Venial Sin” is a relatively slight sin that does not entail damnation of the soul. Venial sins must be reported later to the priest as soon as you can to gain forgiveness from God.

A “Mortal Sin” is a grave (no pun intended) sin that’s so severe, if you don’t confess to a priest before your death, you most likely will spend eternity in hell. Wow, sounds serious doesn’t it….

Sins are a big deal to Catholics and with this type of mindset toward “Sin” it’s no wonder most all Catholics in good standing with the church carry around huge amounts of guilt. How would it be possible to not carry guilt when from a young age Catholics are taught they are sinners who need to be forgiven by a priest first and then God?. To add insult to guilty injury, the list of Mortal sins endangering your soul just got a whole lot bigger. In the last few years, thanks to the Pope and the Vatican, the newly overhauled list of seven added several more to cope with the age of globalization.

The newly added sins are aimed at those who undermine society in far reaching ways, including by taking or dealing in drugs, polluting the environment, and engaging in “manipulative” genetic science according to a recent “The Times of London” report.

Also new to the list are pedophilia, abortion, and social injustices that cause poverty or “the excessive accumulation of wealth by a few”. These added sins join the long-standing evils of lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, anger, envy and pride as mortal sins – the gravest kind, which threaten the soul with eternal damnation unless absolved before death through confession or penitence. Supposedly, the Pope lamented the “decreasing sense of sin” in today’s “secularized world,” and falling rates of Roman Catholics going to confession, The Times reported. According to the head of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the Vatican body which oversees confessions and plenary indulgences, said after a week-long Lenten seminar for priests that surveys showed 60 % of Catholics in Italy no longer go to confession.

There is now a belief in the church that sin now has social resonance. One church official said, “You offend God not only by stealing, blaspheming or coveting your neighbor’s wife, but also by ruining the environment, carrying out morally debatable scientific experiments, or allowing genetic manipulations which alter DNA or compromise embryos.”

With this being said, is it any wonder Catholics carry around huge baggage when it comes to Sin? It appears to me, “Sin” is something created by man to control people, and get them to church to confess their sins to priests, drive up attendance to mass, increase the collection plate tally ea. week, and keep people in perpetual fear and guilt.

I’ll close this with two stories that hammer home Catholic guilt.

1) My oldest sister told me recently when she was going to Catholic school as a youngster, the nuns and priest stressed the importance of not sinning. Per her, “One sin, the kissing of boy, was considered a venial sin up to 3 seconds… The rub was, it turned to mortal sin AFTER 3 seconds… so, one 1000, two 1000, three 1000… she counted ea. time. This is why I was in the confessional every Sunday because we never stopped at 3 seconds.” She still 60+ years later remembers kissing a boy and counting during the deed so as to break away from his embrace in time to avoid sinning. Like the expectation of the category “Venial Sin”, it was almost impossible to live up to Catholic doctrine and expectations.

2) One weekend while attending mass with the family, I was looking particularly dapper standing next to my father. During the service, I evidently was rattling the coins in my pocket (out of shear boredom I suspect) when my father hauled off and slapped me across the face. His words that followed slammed home the meaning of “Sin” in my family and how closely we adhered to the church’s ordinances. My dad’s slap was followed by the simple words, “Stop showing off”. I can say with 100% confidence some 50 years later, the idea of showing off the large quantity of coinage in my pocket never crossed my mind at the time. And yet, as of this writing I still remember the guilt and pain I felt for offending my father and God in that moment.

It appears the Catholic church is seeing a decline in the number of people viewing “Sin” as something the church, (vis-à-vis God’s newly chosen) can determine. As much as the Catholic church wants to add more “Sins” to their list. I for one call bullshit on the entire concept of “Sin”.

I submit, “Sin” doesn’t exist and neither does the God who supposedly gives two shits about it. If we can remove the concept of “Sin” from our life, we can begin to live an authentic and fulfilling life free from undue guilt and anxiety. Give it a try.

Implication Costs

I’ve noted in earlier posts a book by Neil Rackham called “Spin Selling”. One significant aspect of this selling technique is the idea of Implications to Change. This post will apply this idea to changing one’s position on a belief in a god and the severity belief of Covid-19 in the United States.

The current Covid-19 pandemic looks to be very serious and worthy of concern. Here are the current stats both in the U.S. and Worldwide as of April 15, 2020 (the date of this writing).

Covid-19 statistics as of 4-15-20 at 10:45AM

In the U.S., between April 2009 and April 2010, the CDC estimates there were 60.8 million cases of H1N1 (aka: swine flu), with over 274,000 hospitalizations and nearly 12,500 deaths — that’s a mortality rate of ~ 2%. The numbers above indicate the mortality rate of Covid-19 is significantly higher than that of the H1N1 pandemic from a decade ago and sits currently at 4.2%. So, is the Covid-19 pandemic we’re experiencing a serious issue? In some ways, it depends on your mindset and the implications of believing in things without evidence.

A belief in a God is not something humans are born with. We as people are indoctrinated largely into the religion (God belief) of our parents and likely their parents, and so on. Agreeing to participate in a doctrinal religion as a child isn’t much of a choice. If you want to live in the house of your parents, the average person would go along with their religious upbringing to get along. Why rock the boat if someone is paying for your food and housing right? Most people wouldn’t even think of questioning at an early age. The implications of doing so could prove deadly if you were forced onto the streets because you denied the savior of your parents. Thus, the implications of denial at this stage are significant and often cause severe risk aversion. As someone grows older and starts a family, much of their religious upbringing often forms the type of spouse one seeks out. If Christian, I think it’s fair to say most religious people seek out other like-minded religious people for their love interests. Once this hook is set in motion and a marriage happens, it’s even harder to jettison one’s faith. Add kids to the mix and the hook is set even deeper. The larger point here is, the further down the rabbit hole of religion one goes with family, friends, social cohesion, and co-worker, the greater the implications to oneself and one’s family should they exit their belief in a Supernatural God. This is precisely the reason most people fake it to make it.

In the case of the latest Covid-19 Pandemic, there is a strange situation going on in the United States that’s eerily similar to a belief in a God. It appears there are two schools of thought when it comes to the reality of this virus. One is the thought of the Religious Right and the “Fake News” crowd. The other is reality-based as witnessed by the actual virus numbers. Across this country, the folks who lean more to the political right are touting how this latest virus is no more deadly than any other virus and how the country should get back to work. The reality-based camp on this is attempting to do the least amount of harm and suggest the social distancing is working and should continue until things truly get better and it’s safe to leave our homes and interact again with one another. There is little doubt Covid-19 is highly infectious and even those who are asymptomatic can still transfer this virus quite easily to others without knowing it.

For those on the religious right who want to open up the country again, having a different belief as to the severity of this virus is tribal. Many of them associate with family and friends who share their ideological beliefs when it come to the severity of Covid-19. Should they switch their views and espouse continued social distancing, the implications to them personally and even professionally could be jeopardized. This tribe of thinking is not easily swayed from their belief structure and highly unlikely to move from their positions.

For those viewing the Covid-19 crisis through the lens of facts, figures, reality, and espousing continued social distancing, changing one’s views to the Religious right’s position would also have possible severe social and professional implications.

So who is right and who’s wrong on this issue? Only time will tell as the death toll continues to rise. One thing for sure, the reality of the situation will present itself regardless of ones beliefs. The question truly comes down to this, how many lives are worth saving and at what cost is this reasonable? Let’s not forget the implications of changing one’s views on this as we engage in conversations with folks about the severity of the Covid-19 pandemic. We all need to be mindful of the actual costs associated with changing one’s perspectives.

Should we Always be Kind and Helpful to Others

I’ve recently had numerous conversations with some friends about the topics of being kind and helpful. Should we always be kind and helpful to others? In the strictest sense, yes, we should always be kind and helpful to others. The real question is, how best should we show kindness and helpfulness to others. This isn’t just in the words we choose to say, the silence we choose to reply, or the actions we choose to take. For the longest time, I’ve sheltered and nurtured the Gateway Belief that whenever someone needs help, it is my responsibility to help them, however explicit or veiled the request. As will be made self evident, i no longer believe this to be true.

The “Old Me”:

In the past, I’ve literally had thousand of situations present themselves where i had to make a quick decision as to the best way to be kind and helpful. Some examples are worth presenting here:

  1. Person standing on the corner begging
  2. My kids want money
  3. Anger and frustration expressed by someone over a situation at home
  4. Anger and frustration expressed by someone over a situation at work
  5. Someone challenging my lack of belief in something

Let’s address each of these head on and how the “New Me” handles this now.

  1. If a person chooses to stand on the street corner and beg for food or money, this is a personal choice on their part. I have a personal choice when I decide to either give them free stuff or not. Whether or not I feel guilty about my decision is completely up to me. If I have a Christian worldview, I may or may not harbor guilt for my decision. Feelings would largely come from how serious I take my theology and who I’ve been listening to for guidance. Some folks see it as religiously justified to stiff or judge panhandlers as lazy and ultimately stiffing them is what “God” would look down upon and expect of them. Others would view it as un-Christ like to walk away and not help people in need. For me, whether or not I help someone physically begging for food or money is a decision to be made in the moment and nothing to feel bad about. I’m not a practicing Christian or even posses a believe in anything Supernatural. For me, there is no Heavenly Dictator judging me or my decisions. I have a choice to make in helping a panhandler and I can live guilt free making a decision in this regard on my own. When i was a believer in the Supernatural I had the “Gateway Belief” I was being judged all the time by some heavenly being who was keeping records on both my thoughts and deeds. Wow, It’s truly liberating to have shed this way of thinking.
  2. When and if my kids ask for money, the old Dad in me would feel guilty if I had money to give and chose to be stingy with it. Most parents harbor some element of guilt if and when a situation like this occurs and they choose to not indulge their kids requests. My sister had a child addicted to Opioids and I can tell you, there were many a time she wanted to help her son and had to say, No I can’t help you. It wasn’t from a position of not wanting to help. Almost always these decisions are made from a position of doing the least harm to your child in the long term. As another analogy, when the brakes on my son’s car started screeching, I could have given him the money he asked for to have them fixed, or I could do what I did instead, I suggested he work with me to fix the brakes on his car. I suggested also he stand by me to learn so next time he is low on money he will think twice about a possible better alternative. Once again, my old Gateway Belief of always having to give into my kid’s needs is now superseded with a much better view of the situation from a overall best way to help approach.
  3. I’ve now been married 32 years and have had both my ups and downs in my marital relationship. One thing my wife and others in my life have done for years is apply passive aggressive tone and rhetoric to their every day life in an attempt to have me “Fix” whatever the situation is. Generally speaking, there isn’t much either electrical or mechanical I can’t fix. As such, I’m the go to guy for most of my immediate and extended family for any fixes needed. At a wedding this past weekend, my sister expressed concern that my brother, who had agreed to take our 96 year old mother home after the wedding, might be leaving later than our mother wanted to leave and that someone should talk to our brother about it and rectify this concern. The old me would have had the Gateway Belief that resolving issues like these is always my responsibility. The new me said the following to my sister: “I think the person who has this concern should venture over to our brother and express their concern” She probably thought this was extremely forward and rude and yet I now know this is likely and precisely the correct reply to a comment of this type. It’s not my responsibility to resolve others concerns unless a person makes a coherent and compelling case as to why I should give two shits about what they feel is concerning.
  4. When anger is expressed at work over a situation or viewed situation, the old me would always want to jump in and resolve whatever the issue. The new me in the work place is much like the new me in family relationships. If I don’t have a vested interest or concern as to outcome, why should I expend my thoughts and energy in resolving the problem or perceived problem? The answer is I shouldn’t.
  5. If someone challenges my personal views or lack there of, the old me would have tried to vehemently justify my position and why. This Gateway Belief is now discarded and it has truly made my life more interesting and fun. Because of my long held belief that what I think matters to others, I almost always shared stories and anecdotes to justify what I believed and why I believed it. If someone wants to believe something fervently, they have every right to do so in the ole’ U.S. of A. If someone wants my opinions, all they need to do is ask me and I’ll share my positions freely. I’m what I call an Asupernatural Atheist. As such, I have no belief in anything Supernatural or any Gods. I needn’t justify my lack of belief in something anymore than those who lack a belief in Thor or Zeus. Again, I can be kind in simply not engaging in discussions about my positions if I have concerns over how it will be handled. Saying nothing about how I feel might be the kindest thing I can do in a given situation.

All this being said, being kind can come in many forms. Being helpful is subjective and open to personal interpretation. Is it possible to be helpful by doing nothing? I believe the answer is Yes, if done kindly.

Dying with Dignity

What does dignity mean in today’s world? I believe dignity is adequately defined as “bearing, conduct, or speech indicative of self-respect “. As I look back on my life from just five years ago, and before my deconversion from Christianity, I find solace in knowing I’ve made significant progress in becoming the man I want to be. A man who stands by his convictions and makes decisions based on his own internal moral compass, not the unassailable dogma of the Catholic church. The way that I define my life has changed since my deconversion, and I hope these new-found definitions are used some day at my eulogy. I sincerely hope my rotting corpse is not subjected to someone saying, “He was a religious man and supporter of the faith.” This would be a lie and a stain on the life I’m now trying very hard to nurture. This may sound crazy, but to many, I would be viewed a heretic. If a heretic is defined as not conforming to established attitudes, doctrines, or principles, then sign me up. I am a proud heretic. If I am not true to myself, and transparent in my beliefs, then I won’t be able to die with dignity.

When my children were of impressionable ages, I was, by all outward signs, a practicing Roman Catholic because I was raised in a Catholic family and this was the only practice I knew. The Catholic church was my Gateway Belief. I was taught from a very young age the Catholic church was the oldest religion on earth and all other religions were cheap imitations: no other religious beliefs mattered because the Catholic Church the original Christian church. I do not recall a single conversation with my parents about the ills of the Catholic church, the Spanish Inquisition, or any of the other things I now find repulsive about the Catholic church. When growing up Catholic, my mind was a perpetual roller coaster ride between venial and mortal sins. According to church doctrine, even thoughts can be sinful as well. If you are not in a state of “Grace” in the Catholic Church, it’s a sin to receive Communion. Any good Catholic knows the difference between these sins and what a big deal it is to “Not” be in a state of Grace. As an ex-Catholic, and with 20/20 hindsight, I can see clearly that this antiquated way of thinking no longer plays a role in my life and I’m happier and far more fulfilled because of my choice to “Just Say No” to religion. In my opinion, it’s nearly impossible to live up to the requirements of the Catholic church. I refuse to live my life in constant fear of a made-up sin structure which determines my fate. How can I die with dignity believing in this concept?

Here’s a handy dandy chart to help you avoid Catholic sinfulness.

This is where the idea of “Catholic Guilt” comes into the picture. My dad was a very religious and spiritual man who raised eight children and instilled in us the Catholic values he deemed appropriate to live fruitful and productive lives. He was uber-Catholic, as is my 96-year-old mother to this day.  Both attended church every day when I was growing up and my mother still does. I don’t resent them for indoctrinating me in the Catholic faith.  I do however, have the option of not repeating the cycle of dependency and delusion. It might surprise you to know, I haven’t visited my father’s grave since he died over 10 years ago. Does this make me a horrible person? In my opinion, it means I’m grounded in reality. I believe my dad is no longer in his human form and has left the Earth. There is nothing there to “visit”.

So, what is the takeaway from all this you may ask?

The first law of thermodynamics, also known as Law of Conservation of Energy, states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another. However, in the case of humans, I have the hard belief that energy can be fully depleted. As I get older, I’m reminded of this every day as it’s getting harder and harder to maintain the energy to cope with life. Religious folks use this law to provide justification for a transcendence of one’s being to another plane. When I go, it will most likely be from exhaustion and a life well lived. Much like a battery, the energy within me will no longer be sufficient to run this thing called my body. I’m at complete peace with this idea. It is with confidence that I proceed until this time. Once my body is fully depleted of its energy, I have a firm belief my human energy and essence will live solely in the memories of those I leave behind.

When I die, I want my loved ones to remember how I felt about them and that they were important in my life. I want anyone I’ve ever wronged to know I’m truly sorry. I have a hard belief that my life is the only life I’ll ever live. I have a hard belief that my state after death will be what it was before I was born, i.e., nonexistence. And lastly, I want to exit Earth under my own terms.

My body will be handled in a certain way after death: likely in accordance with Catholic doctrine unless I specify otherwise. If there are any good body parts left, why shouldn’t I let them help others instead of rotting away? For me to die with dignity, I need to be dignified with all aspects of myself, including physical self. Now is the time for me to set plans in place for my demise. I don’t want any money spent on prepping my corpse for viewing, this seems utterly ridiculous to me. Why would I want beautiful flowers draping a lovely coffin?  Why would I want to be encased in cement and dropped in the ground for God’s supposed second coming? Instead, burn what’s left of me and discard the ashes back to the Earth. A recent article suggested there is a growing movement to compost the remains of humans like any other organic material.  This seems like a great idea to me as well. After my passing, I honestly won’t care whether my remains are cremated or simply composted: I’ll be dead no matter what.

When my body and mind finally give out one day from exhaustion and physical depletion, I want my actions to speak for themselves: “This man possessed both dignity and a keen sense of self-respect until the very end.” 

Gateway Tolerance

This morning, after I dropped my son off at his high school, I saw a yard sign that gave me pause. This yard sign has been in the front yard of this family’s property for over two years, but recently, the sign has taken on a new significance which I’ll reveal later.

Gateway Tolerance – Indiana

I wondered, “What possesses someone to put something like this in their front yard? What message is this guy trying to convey?”

To manufacture a metal sign such as this isn’t always inexpensive. I know the sign’s owner was retired when he had it printed. Apparently, making this sign was so important that he wanted to convey a very important message for all to see. Everyone who drives by or stops at the stoplight can clearly see this sign because the family lives on a corner lot in the center of a very small town with only one stoplight.

The first word seems benign: “Welcome” What a wonderful word. Typically this word is associated with Openness, Love, Caring, and Tolerance. It appears the owner is setting a hook to get the viewer engaged in something very important and worth reading. Welcome is a warm embrace of things to come. Its encouragement is to feel comfortable with the information to follow. Let’s see if the welcome is warranted.

Following the lovely opening word, we are slammed in the face with a statement which sets the tone for all information to come. “We the Branham’s (sic) are politically incorrect.” (not to mention grammatically incorrect, ahem, but I digress…) In today’s age, politically incorrect can have many different meanings. For me, the phrase “politically incorrect” conjures up thoughts of Bill Maher and his show of the same name. Maher’s show, which airs Friday nights, takes a comical look at the political right’s take on government. OK, so maybe the owner of this sign is a political lefty. I’m interested, so I read on.

“We say Merry Christmas, God Bless America, and in God we Trust.” Uh-oh, this sign and its owner have tipped their hand quite a bit here. “We say Merry Christmas” means they are a Christian or a Christian-tolerant person. Recently, this has become a dog-whistle for the conservatives which actually means: “We only believe in OUR God, and we reject anything that you believe.” The next slug read: “We say God Bless America.” Apparently, the sign’s owner is now conveying the message that his God shines blessings on the United States. I’m not exactly sure which God he prefers but I’m still thinking the sign owner is likely a Christian. And…the pinnacle of this trifecta: “In God we Trust.” Once again, I’m guessing the God he trusts is the Christian god and yet I’m still not sure. At this point, I’m suspecting the owner of this sign is likely not a left-leaner and is likely a right-winger trying to let people know how proud he is to be a God-fearing man of Christian values. Let’s look at the next line of this sign.

“We salute our troops and our flag.” One could infer that the sign owner is likely former military, has family who is military, or just simply loves his/her country. In and of itself, I see little wrong with a statement suggesting this sign owner loves his country. Now for the denouement.

“If this offends you……(sic)LEAVE.” Here we’ve come to the crux of the matter. The real message appears to be: “At this home, we are a God-worshiping, Troop-loving, Flag-hugging, right-wing family. If you believe what we believe, you are ‘Welcome.’ If not, we want you to LEAVE our house, our yard, our little town, and our country.” The sign clearly displays the family’s anger toward those in this country who are different from them. Recently, this story took a turn that has prompted my exploration of the sign and a search for deeper understanding.

Sadly, I’ll never get to know exactly what this sign’s owner meant because he died suddenly last week from a heart attack. The homeowner’s wife works for a family member of mine: she is extremely sweet to everyone she encounters. I’ve known this woman for years and had no idea she was married to the guy who just died. Either she agrees with the sign’s viewpoint, or she tolerated its placement in her front yard and viewed it as an appropriate message to send to all her neighbors and town visitors. I’m sad for her. I’m sad partly because this woman recently lost her husband, and also for the ideology and thinking which went into producing this yard sign.

On this site, we examine “Gateway Beliefs.” What gateway belief or beliefs would drive someone to position a sign like this in their yard so they could convey their message for all to see? In my opinion, the need to make this sign and post it came from two opposite positions: fear and pride. Somewhere it became acceptable for this family to believe people of other religions were not worthy of love and respect. Somehow their vision of America where people worship and think differently isn’t acceptable. To them, if you don’t say “Merry Christmas,” you need to LEAVE. If you don’t say “God Bless America,” you need to LEAVE. If you don’t say, “In God We Trust,” you need to LEAVE. If you are opposed to America getting involved in foreign wars and choose to protest, you need to LEAVE. In essence, if you don’t love the Christian God and buy into the Gateway Beliefs purported by the religious right in this country, you need to LEAVE.

What happened to the “melting pot”? My generation was taught that one of the things that made America the Greatest Nation on Earth is that we embraced people from all races, faiths, and lifestyles. How has this ideology been corrupted to say, “Be like us…or LEAVE”? I know there are people who claim “both sides do it” – but that is patently false. Is there hatred on both political sides? Yes, but let’s look at this a little deeper.

There appears to be a backlash among the right-wing conservatives that the left’s intolerance of their beliefs is a form of hatred. It is no secret that most people on the left embrace those who are gay, transgender, black, female, differently-abled, non-white, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, et. al. I can already feel the ruffled feathers of some conservative who may be reacting to this simply because of the words that I choose. However, what I see on the left is INCLUSION: all are “Welcome.” However, what I see in my conservative family and friends is EXCLUSION. Conservatives want to use their religion, their whiteness, their privilege as a cudgel to hate people who are different from them. To quote: “If this offends you…LEAVE.” What if this sign had said, “If you don’t believe the way we do, I’d like to buy you a cup of coffee and learn more about you!”? Wouldn’t that have been a much more loving message – one worthy of their God’s love and acceptance? No, the left’s rejection of your intolerance, exclusion, and bigotry is not hatred. It is living the values on which this country was founded, and the values of the God you claim to worship.

This morning, a video of our president hugging the American flag at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) appeared in my news feed. I have a soft belief that the patriotism shown in this picture closely mirrors the patriotism shown on this yard sign. To me, this is a childish and immature love of our country. It is the same love that a child has for “Mommy” – one that is too young to recognize that “Mommy” is a fallible human being with idiosyncrasies, quirks, and faults like any other human being. That doesn’t diminish the love between parent and child, but as the child matures to adulthood, he or she begins to recognize that “Mommy” is not the infallible super-human they once thought. There is nothing wrong with this concept of course, but it shows that we can still love and accept someone despite their inherent human flaws. Or not. In many cases, some people are too toxic and must be confronted with their issues, or the person must jettison the relationship.

The left doesn’t “hate” America. Quite the opposite. Just like the child whose love for “Mommy” matures into an adult relationship, we recognize that America is NOT perfect, and we simply want to confront these imperfections: misogyny, racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance, homophobia…on and on. As I have stated, intolerance of these faults is not hatred, but rather a desire to see our country mature into the “Welcome-ing” place we were led to believe in.

Unless this country can rid itself of entrenched beliefs based upon fear and division, it’s going be very difficult to remain a cohesive nation. If you read this and believe others are less patriotic and less deserving of freedom and love than you, I challenge you to look closely at what is driving your beliefs.

I wanted very much to stop and talk to this guy using SE. In my little
part of the world in Indiana, I actually feared approaching this
house for fear of weaponry. Even though the sign said “Welcome”
the rest of the sign sent a very different message. This is not a
sign of tolerance and understanding. This sign was placed in the
front yard to send a very clear message: “At this home we’re angry Americans who are intolerant of other’s opinions, freedom
of speech, and religion.”

“Welcome” to America, indeed.

Hot Coffee: Perspective – Facts – TRUTH!

Hot Coffee: Perspective – Facts – TRUTH!

The other day while listening to “The Thinking Atheist” podcast (hosted by Seth Andrews), I heard an incredible story about the importance of truth – and the new perspective one gains when the truth is known. By the end of the podcast, my opinion of something I thought I knew to be true had changed completely. There are clear parallels to SE in this story.

In 1992, 79-year-old Stella Liebeck bought a cup of coffee at a McDonald’s drive-thru in Albuquerque, NM and spilled it on her lap. If you were around during this time, you no doubt heard this story and the firestorm of opinions surrounding the “exorbitant” amount of money Stella was awarded for her injuries.  The media went into a frenzy and certain lobbying groups pushed for tort reform.  This woman was vilified as a money-hungry klutz who spilled her coffee for financial gain. Let’s face it, on the surface her case seems preposterous. Who doesn’t know that “Hot Coffee”, is, by definition, “Hot” and should be treated as such?  Why would anyone sue McDonald’s for making their coffee too hot?  At the time, I believed the media spin about Mrs. Liebeck and still remember many conversations I had with my conservative friends about this extremely high-profile case. However, once I learned the facts, (i.e. – the truth), I gained a different perspective about this woman and the reality of this case. 

Mrs. Liebeck, who was a passenger in her grandson’s car, was not driving when her coffee spilled, nor was the car moving. She held the cup between her knees while removing the lid to add cream and sugar when the cup tipped over and spilled the entire contents on her lap. The sweatpants she was wearing absorbed the heat of the coffee and kept it against her skin, exacerbating the injury. Mrs. Liebeck’s injuries were far from frivolous: she suffered third-degree burns and required skin grafts on her inner thighs and elsewhere.

The coffee was not just “hot,” but dangerously hot. McDonald’s corporate policy was to serve it at 180-190 degrees Fahrenheit, a temperature that could cause serious burns in seconds. Furthermore, Mrs. Liebeck’s case was far from an isolated event. McDonald’s had received more than 700 previous reports of injury from its coffee over the previous 10 years, including reports of third-degree burns, and had paid settlements in some cases.

The Jury also awarded Mrs. Liebeck $3 million in punitive damages which were ultimately reduced by more than 80 percent by the judge. McDonald’s ultimately reached a confidential settlement with Mrs. Liebeck sometime later.

At the time, one juror said, “the facts were so overwhelmingly against the company.” The jurors were able to hear all the facts — including those presented by McDonald’s — and see the extent of Mrs. Liebeck’s injuries, as opposed to the speculation that occurred in the media. Ask anyone who criticizes the case as a “frivolous lawsuit resulting in jackpot justice” if they have done the same. Do they know the facts or are they reacting to their own biased perceptions? Do they know the truth, or the truth as they believe it to be presented by others?

As SE practitioners, we often find ourselves in the unique position of introducing new evidence (i.e. – “truths”) to our Interlocutors. This evidence can be critical in helping people gain fresh perspectives about reality. Many of the people we question have firmly-entrenched beliefs that were planted during their upbringing.  Public perception can be the enemy of truth. Profound media bombardment and proximity to others with false beliefs often make the examination of one’s belief even more difficult. Our job as SE practitioners is to help others determine what is true. In doing so, we have the potential to change lives for the better. Sadly, lies, dis-information, and skewed perceptions are enemies we must meet head-on.

I’ve been practicing SE for a little over a year now, primarily with family and friends.  Recently, my 17-year-old autistic son Sean came to a belief position and couldn’t wait to tell me about it.

Two family acquaintences recently died in a horrible motorcycle accident. After hearing what happened, Sean came to a belief based on limited evidence and engaged me in a conversation which went like this:

“Dad, I think Motorcycles should be outlawed.” Instead of just saying ok and moving on, I thought about his truth claim.  To Sean, coming to this belief was simple. If you ride motorcycles, you are going to die.  Being autistic, his critical thinking skills are limited and easily fooled. With repetition and good logic, he has recently shown an interest in grasping new realities, so I thought I’d try a bit of SE with him.

“Sean, why do you think motorcycles are bad and should be outlawed?”

He replied, “I’ve heard several stories of people getting killed on motorcycles and I think they are bad and should be outlawed.”

I challenged his belief, “Do people die while driving cars?”

“Yes.”

“Should we outlaw cars?”

“No,” he said pensively. I pressed him further.

“I’m curious, is there any possible good in motorcycles?”  He thought for a moment, and then answered in the negative.  “Did you know some people say they really like the way it feels to ride on a motorcycle?  Generally, riding on a motorcycle gives people a sense of freedom. Also, many people ride motorcycles because they can go a long way on a single tank of gas.  Did you know there was many positive things about motorcycles and there are millions of people who enjoy riding them?”  Again, he replied, “No.”

There was a long, thoughtful pause in the conversation. Finally, “Dad, I think people should be more careful when they ride motorcycles.”  Another long pause. “Dad, I don’t think motorcycles should be outlawed anymore.”

In today’s world, we are all faced with increasingly deceptive AI technology, “fake news”, partisan politics, and entrenched ideologies. These often shape our perception of reality. Determining what is real is harder than ever.  We all need to be more diligent in obtaining truth and gaining perspective. For me, this is a personal challenge. 

I was once told by a pro bass fisherman, “Do you know why big fish are big? It’s because they know how to stay alive.” Long-held and false beliefs are much like these big fish, they like to stick around for a long time.  I think as SE practitioners, we need to go fishing and reel in a few whoppers.

Jettisoning your Faith – 3 Talks about the effects of powerful Gateway Beliefs

            

I was listening to a talk by Matt Dillahunty last night and he mentioned his friend Nate Phelps.  Yes, Nate is the son of Fred Phelps, the religious whack job who indoctrinated his family and convinced them God wanted them to hold signs saying things like “God Hates Fags”, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers”, etc… to win over the damned.  Sadly, these incendiary things are actually biblical.  Fred (Nate’s father) was a deeply devout Christian who took the words of the bible literally.  How Nate was able to leave and why is a fascinating story, and his strength and use of logic over his indoctrinated Gateway Beliefs is powerful.

Here’s Nate’s TedTalk >> HERE <<

Nate Phelps

Megan Phelps-Roper was raised in the same family as Nate Phelps.  She says in here talk, there was “good” which was her church and their beliefs, and there was “evil” which was other faiths and the world outside their small congregation.  Her ability to leave the cult of her upbringing and jettison her Gateway Beliefs shows the power of social media and the use of SE type reasoning.

Here is her TedTalk >> HERE <<

MeganPhelps-Roper

Dawn Smith was raised in California by parents involved in the “Jesus Movement”.  Her father was an ex hippy who started a cult called the “Assembly”.  From birth, she was indoctrinated by her father to preach the reality of Hell Fire and salvation by accepting Jesus.   When she was little, a older woman knelt in front of her and said, one day you will grow up and you will realize you can leave all this.  As she says in her talk, “Leaving a Cult can be incredibly difficult.  It can also be completely life changing.  College changed here life and helped her begin the path to Critical Thinking.

Here is her TedTalk >> HERE <<

Dawn Smith

SPIN-ing SE

Recently, I found myself thinking about Street Epistemology (SE, to its adherents) and how some of the lessons I learned in the business world dovetail neatly with SE concepts. I spent some time thinking about how selling and marketing concepts can be incorporated into the SE lexicon: expanding SE’s reach, and making SE interactions more efficient and trenchant. A concept known as SPIN (not the political type!) can change minds and alter the way SE practitioners engage with ILs (interlocutors) in a positive way.

SPIN is an acronym that stands for Situations, Problems, Implications, and Need Payoffs.  The book, “SPIN Selling”, written by Neil Rackham, describes how the best salespeople listen to their clients attentively with “Elephant Ears”, ask good questions, and in turn, sell more.  Rackham and his team of investigators interviewed and observed the best salespeople and investigated what made them successful.  According to Rackham, SPIN works when a salesperson carefully examines how they currently sell, recognizes where they are deficient, and carefully navigates the SPIN process to arrive at a sale. 

One afternoon in the office, I was engaged in a conference call with a company that was trying to identify problems they had with their business of breeding expensive puppies. My company was established to provide cloud-based monitoring for all things analog and digital.  From temperatures, switch positions, humidity, to most anything else, my company’s hardware and cloud-based software solutions could monitor, trend, analyze, and alarm as well as or better than almost anything on the market.  My product was the “Internet of Things” (IoT) before there was an official IoT. When I asked, “What is the main problem you’re hoping to resolve?  The customer responded, “Of our eight puppy delivery trucks, on average, two puppies die during every delivery trip and on each truck.  My first thought was, “This must be costing them in the pocket book and they need a solution to their problem!”  The SPIN process teaches that almost everyone, when asked questions about their problems, will respond with their implied needs.  Initial answers are typically brief and sound something like this:  I need a car, I need a haircut, I need a new girlfriend / boyfriend, etc.  Rarely, if ever, will someone respond with their explicit needs such as: I need a car because mine caught on fire and my parents won’t let me use theirs, mine is costing me too much money as it’s old and the door handle is falling off on the driver’s side, my girlfriend / boyfriend cheated on me and I found a note to their lover inside their diary, I need a haircut because I have a job interview tomorrow and I know how important nice hair is to the person who’s going to interview me because she used to be a hairstylist, and so on. To extract explicit needs, it’s important to follow the SPIN process very carefully and skillfully and put on your “Elephant Ears”.  For me to identify the true explicit needs of this company it was necessary for me to do some skillful SPIN selling. What they had given me was their implied need. They wanted to stop killing the puppies.  This is simply an outcome and not the problem itself.  To fix their problem, I needed to ask a lot of questions.   SPIN is about drilling down and listening with Elephant Ears to identify explicit needs.  People only change beliefs after they realize their explicit needs are not being met.  After many discussions about the problem, what they’d done to correct it to date, and other things about their business, I finally asked, “What’s actually killing these puppies?”  The conversation went on without my involvement on the other end of the phone for at least 10 minutes. They argued back and forth making points and counterpoints until it was agreed it was likely the temperature in the back of the trucks or an accumulation of ammonia vapor from the urine which was causing these puppies to die. I then inquired, is there anything else about delivering puppies which causes you and your team to lose sleep at night?  A conversation ensued, and someone suggested knowing where the trucks were at any time would be very helpful. (Implied Need) I probed more as to what the implications of this would be if fixed and if not fixed.  A discussion began, and the answers were: 1) this would help them predict when the puppies would arrive at their destination, or 2) it would help them with customer service. I said, “If I hear you correctly, either the high temperature, the ammonia, or a combination of both is likely killing the puppies on long trips around the country?”  Almost in unison, I heard the response on the other end say, “YES!”  I then asked, “What are the implications to the business if your business doesn’t solve this problem?”  Once again, another discussion ensued.  The responses were: 1) upwards of $600.00/puppy if it dies, 2) clean up after a dead puppy, 3) inability to deliver what was promised to their customers, 4) social media backlash and protesting if puppies keep dying, and the list went on and on.  In sales and in changing minds, it’s imperative to have the customer think on and express the implications of resolving and not resolving their explicit needs verbally.  By doing so, you can address them in the “Need Payoff” portion of the SPIN sell.  I reflected my understanding of their implications in my own words and they responded “Yes, there were, in fact, many negatives associated with not solving this problem.”  I then asked them, “What are the implications to solving this problem?”  The feedback to this question was swift and heartfelt: 1) they would all likely keep their jobs, 2) most if not all the puppies would live, 3) the company could live up to investors and public expectations, 4) social media couldn’t fault them for dead puppies, 5) the drivers could be more careful if notified of dangerous puppy conditions and pull over to ventilate the cage area – the list went on and on.  Then I went in for the (excuses the pun) kill.  I asked, “If I could monitor both the temperature and ammonia of your puppy delivery trucks while they’re traveling down the road and notify both the company and the truck driver of the situation in time for the driver to pull over and ventilate the puppy area, would this be a benefit to the company, puppy store owners, your investors, and the public?  The answer I received back was a resounding “YES!” I then asked, “If I could track each and every truck while its moving down the highways and byways of our country and display this information for you on a website, would this be of benefit?”  Once again, I could imagine the heads nodding on the other end of the phone as they said emphatically, “YES!”   

Fast forward a couple weeks, I had a purchase order and a trial under way.  All this was because of SPIN.   Anyone who’s capable of “putting on their elephant ears” and “asking good questions” could have done the exact same thing.

In my opinion, SPIN can change minds and the way SE (Street Epistemology) practitioners engage with ILs (interlocutors) in an extremely positive way. When someone says, “I have a belief in a God,” some SE practitioners follow with questions such as, “What specific God are you referring to?”  “What leads you to believe the Bible is true?” etc.  Unless the cost of making a decision is low, it is difficult to change one’s behavior or consider another alternative.  When you buy milk at the store, the decision and risk of what to buy among the available alternatives is low.  If you buy the wrong milk, say 2% instead of Skim, or 1%, it’s only a couple bucks, right? It’s not a big deal.  Low-risk decisions are evaluated more quickly and without much consideration of the alternatives.  We may not go through all the mental gymnastics of our decision or seriously consider our explicit needs for a low risk purchase or change of perspective.  We may only require our implied needs be met in this case.  If, for example, you are put in charge of buying a new phone system for your company, there is a very clear implied need for a phone system.  What about all the explicit needs therein such as the ability for conferencing, muting, interfacing with other telecom devices, forwarding to cell phones, etc? The decision here is much more complex and the implications to you and the company can be extensive.  These implications are the explicit needs which must be met before any meaningful choice of what system to purchase can be made.  As SE practitioners, if we in any way start questioning an IL’s God belief, it’s a “BIG” deal to the IL. If we enter our questioning lightly and only consider the obvious and implied issue, “This person believes in a God, why do they believe in a God?” we are missing a very important step in what should be a successful process.  I wonder how our IL’s responses would change if we asked the following questions?

  • Is it a problem for you if someone you know holds beliefs you believe are wrong and possibly dangerous to him/her self and others?
  • What is life like for people who believe in true things over false things?
  • What would be the implications of someone only believing in true things?
  • What would be the implications of someone believing in a false God?
  • What are the implications of someone having a belief (or non-belief) in a God?
  • What are the implications of believing in a God to a person’s immediate Family?
  • How would someone’s life change if they didn’t believe in a God, or Ghosts, or Karma?
  • How do you think most God-fearing families would treat their family member if they left the church?
  • How is a person’s life who doesn’t believe what you believe in X different from yours?
  • What would be the implications to you personally if you stopped believing in X?
  • How might a person approach their family if they firmly believed something others may disagree with?
  • Would it be worth it to change ones opinion if it may indirectly cause derision within oneself or others?

Lastly, after asking probing questions to expand implied needs and beliefs into explicit ones, it is imperative to ask good “Need Payoff” questions. This closes the loop on all the questioning and puts a ribbon and bow on your efforts.  Without the Need Payoff questions, the individual or IL cannot easily and mentally connect your suggested solution to the identified explicit needs / beliefs.  Some examples of Need Payoff questions might look like this:

  • If a person could find a way to believe what is true, shed themselves of what is false and keep the peace in their family, would this be a benefit?
  • If a person had more time to spend with their family on Sunday and had acquired a belief in something which fulfilled their life in a better way, would this be a benefit to them and their family?
  • If someone believes their spouse is abusive and there is a solution that can rid them painlessly of this situation, would they see any benefit in taking a chance to make a change in their life?

As you know, this site is called Gateway Beliefs.  This being the case, it’s important (in my mind) to draw a clear parallel to this point  Whenever we engage in any sort mind expanding activities as SE practitioners, we are selling critical thinking, whether we are conscious of this or not.  When SEing we’re helping people open their minds to the possibilities outside of their traditional way of thinking. It’s important we enter these conversations thoughtfully and with great care.  If we enter our conversations with a mindset believing the implied beliefs posited by our IL are their explicit need, we are selling a solution without in many ways drilling down on to our IL’s true needs. How these people will feel and the implications of changing their own minds is huge and risky.  Most beliefs have much deeper meaning to our ILs.  Our job is to blow up implied needs to explicit and help our IL’s better understand all the implications of doing nothing or doing something to fix the situation they find themselves in. I believe if SE practitioners put on their Elephant Ears and drill down with thoughtful and probing Socratic questions, they can actually expose the deep seeded and hard to draw out explicit needs and beliefs of our IL’s .  In doing this, SE practitioners can truly help our IL’s move their lives in a positive way one Socratic question at a time.

 

 

The “new” MOAB – It’s worse than the bomb

You’ve likely heard of the abbreviation MOAB before.   From a military perspective, this stands for “Massive Ordnance Air Blast”.  The other nickname for this 11-ton weapon is the “Mother of all Bombs”.  The MOAB of the U.S. military has nothing on the MOAB of religion: the new meaning I’d like to attribute to this acronym proves more powerful than its weaponized counterpart.  From this time forward, MOAB should stand for “Mother of all Beliefs”

Believing in a God is the “Mother of all Beliefs”.

At this point you’re probably asking, “Why is believing in a God the Mother of all Beliefs?”  Believing in a God comes with an incredible amount of baggage which affects nearly every believer for his or her entire life.  It’s far worse than the bomb.  A belief in God affects:

  • How you view yourself
  • How you view your family
  • How you view your friends
  • How you view your actions
  • How you vote
  • Whom you love
  • Whom you hate
  • What you do with your thoughts
  • How you feel about your thoughts
  • How you feel about your actions
  • How you interact with others
  • How you view science
  • What direction you pray and how often
  • Whether or not you believe in the supernatural
  • What you believe about science
  • What you keep
  • What you throw out
  • Your position of social issues
  • Your position on ethical issues
  • Whether to seek medical attention
  • If and when you pray
  • Whom you date
  • Whom you marry
  • How you raise your kids
  • How you view sex
  • How much you enjoy sex
  • How often you have sex
  • What positions you have sex
  • If you can masturbate without guilt
  • What you read
  • The words you use to speak
  • How you interact with others
  • What you do with your money
  • The type of people you hang out with
  • What you do with your time
  • How much guilt you carry with you during the day
  • How much guilt you carry with you into your dreams
  • How you’re judged by others
  • You’re view on Reality

I know of no other belief which required this much “Brain Time”: it’s all encompassing.  All other beliefs you may have pale by comparison and are almost always viewed through your God-lens and belief.  Think about it.  Belief in a God is infectious and truly deserving of the label “Mother of all Beliefs”.

What other belief affects people as much as the belief in a God?  I bring this up because I don’t view it as a good thing.  Sure, many good deeds are done on behalf of God and these can clearly be a positive addition to society.  However, most are done with all praise and glory to be given to a deity instead of the people doing the hard work.  Is it worth it? Sadly, the damage done by a belief in a God far exceeds the good done in his/her/its name.  A belief in a God monopolizes people’s minds and forces strict compliance.  It blurs the boundaries between religion and politics. A belief in a God greatly affects the resultant propensity shown by religious people all over the world to ignore evidence of reality.  To me, the negative downsides to religion and the belief in a God clearly outweigh all benefits religion may provide toward the positive.

Here’s a quick chart I put together to illustrate my point

As my chart clearly indicates, belief in a God appears to be far more devastating to people and the world than even the largest non-nuclear bomb ever dropped to date.

If I had done a comparison to the nuclear bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I know the number of people killed would be higher.  And yet, on balance, a belief in a God is still worse than these bombs in terms of its long term devastating effects on the world. Belief in a God (and how we should consider organized religions and their adherents) remains a greater threat both to our democracy and to our sanity.

 

Have we been duped, again ?

Lately, when contemplating my “Gateway Beliefs” and how these have effected me to this day, I felt the need to document my thoughts and answer a few questions I’ve been considering. Why did I apparently feel the need for Santa Clause in my life when I was young.  How could I have believed in a fat and jolly Santa? How does the belief in Santa bearing gifts and watching over people in their youth compare to the belief by many adults today in an all loving and powerful God interacting with their daily lives? Why have I been so gullible to myths all my life?

When I was a child, I remember coming downstairs in our family home and heading straight to the Christmas tree to see what awesome things Santa had brought me overnight.  I remember driving around the neighborhoods looking at Christmas light on years where Santa brought the gifts the night before X-mas (a story my parents concocted to accommodate family get togethers) Somehow Santa always showed up when we were out looking at X-mas lights. It astounded me how he sometimes brought me what i wanted, other years brought me something close, and on other years completely missed the mark.  I’m now 53 years old and have lived through the upbringing of my own four children.  I remember the many nights I stayed up late wrapping everything from small video games to even bicycles.  I remember taking bites out of the cookies and drinking the milk my kids laid out the night before the big day.  I remember going to church and hearing all about the birth of a God boy and how he was sent to be born, die for us, and save us all from eternal damnation. The joy on my kids faces on X-mas morning made it all worthwhile for me and my wife.  I also remember the faces on my children when I revealed who Santa really was.  “Santa is a hoax your mother and I were exposed to when we were children, and we consciously decided it was a good idea to impose this same hoax on you kids.” Ok, I didn’t actually put it this way to my kids because at the time I still had a belief in things outside of Santa which were supernatural.  Why did I do this?  What drove me to perpetuate the myth? How might I now tell my kids about things which are viewed by many as supernatural if I could do it all over again?

The reason I created this site was to examine all the “Gateway Beliefs” of my youth to see how they effect me to this day.  Hopefully, by examining my own beliefs, i can shed some light not only on how these faux beliefs have effected me over the years, but also shine a bright light on how others beliefs are effected.  I welcome any information from other cultures exemplifying similar indoctrination.

My belief in Santa Clause came crashing down when I was in early middle school.  I remember others making fun of me for still believing in Santa.  I thought at the time, “How can these people not believe in Santa, the evidence is there every Christmas?” “Why would everyone I love tell me lies and make up these outlandish stories?” “Can i ever trust my family again?”  My young mind had conjured up many many questions for my parents, family, and friends over the years.  Looking back, I was trying to wrap my brain around this mythical and evasive jolly guy who brought me awesome gifts every year like clockwork.  I clearly remember thinking and asking people:

  • How can Santa make it to every house in the world in one night?
  • How does he know when I’m sleeping?
  • He knows when I’m awake?
  • He knows when I’ve been bad or good?
  • He knows almost as much as God?
  • Why can’t anyone see him at night?
  • Why don’t I always get exactly what I want?
  • How can he eat cookies and milk all night and fit his fat ass in the chimney?
  • Is he God?

In my mind, all these questions were good ones.  Much like I do to this day, I pondered and asked good questions of those around me seeking clarification and understanding of the issues, much like those above.  The bigger question I should have been asking was, “How can I possibly believe the bizarre answers I’m receiving from my loved ones regarding these truth claims and the existence of Santa?”  They’d tell me, Santa had a sleigh with flying reindeer… he watches  you from afar…he keeps tabs on your every thought and action…he’s a very evasive person and doesn’t want you to see him … he cares about you… he loves you. he knows what you deserve… In my  mind, and in the minds of many children world wide,  Santa was possibly the best God ever and I even had visible proof.  As a child, I had good reasons to believe Santa was true.  All the available evidence supported this hypothesis.  Any argument to the contrary was easily explained away.

At the same time I’m being taught all about Santa, I’m also being told (indoctrinated) into a belief in another guy who lives a little bit further North than Santa.  He’s the real deal though….  He can and does see into everyone’s homes and he also knows your every thought and action.   Thus, he knows when I’m sleeping, when I’m awake, when I’m bad or good, he’s invisible, he died for me, he only gives me what I deserve, he listens to my prayers and adoration for him, he gives me answers every time I ask, but only on God time and only as he sees fit, because he knows what’s best and what I actually deserve.  Do you see any similarities between the beliefs for the existence of Santa and those of God?

When considering the comparison between Santa and God, i know why i was confused.  I know why I had a belief in Santa.  I know why up until recently i had a belief in an all loving and caring God.  The difference now is, I know all the bad excuses for why I can’t see God, why he doesn’t give me what i want, why he doesn’t answer my prayers, why he hasn’t shown up for the last 2,000 years, why people have different opinions as to who God is, and why he hasn’t done more to alleviate and end suffering all over the world.  It’s because, like Santa, he’s also likely a figment of our imagination.  People have been making up shit about God for two millennium.  People have had thousands of years of practice to refine and answer nearly all the questions one could possibly ask about God.  These answers were developed to fill in the gaps of our understanding so we can believe.  All these answers provide evidence of God’s existence, just like Santa.  They’re equally as dependable.  In the end, the toughest questions about God still require a way to fill the holes people can’t seem to resolve with reason.  Somewhere along the path to understanding God, someone came up with the solution and called  it Faith.  Faith fills in all the holes which can’t be filled with logic and common sense. If you don’t need evidence, then faith works for you.  If you need evidence, then religions have answers for all your questions.  There’s no need to think critically because you don’t need to with faith.  There are questions about the world we live in which we cannot answer at this time scientifically.  It’s ok to say I don’t know.  I’m ok saying I don’t know.  Is there a Santa Clause? – No, the facts prove his existence to be false, thus I no longer have a belief in Santa.  Is there a God? From what I’ve observed, the facts would indicate the likelihood of his existence is similar to the existence of Santa Clause.  I cannot say God is as much fiction as Santa, but I’m ok saying, “I don’t know”

In closing, just like Santa, I now lack a belief in a God. Based upon the preponderance of the evidence, God appears to be a figment of our cumulative imaginations.  All the stories made up to fill in the Santa plausibility gaps are very similar to the gaps made up to fill in the God gaps.  It may be time to sit down with your kids, your family and even your friends and let them in on the secret.  I want to live my life believing in as many true things and as few false things as possible.  I’m nearly sure hanging onto a belief in a God will likely not help me arrive at a happy place filled with cookies, candy canes, milk and honey or even perpetual happiness.  In the end, it likely won’t work for you either.  I think we’ve been duped, again.