Dear Rhett, Thoughts on your Faith Deconstruction as a Former Former-Christian

Dear Rhett (and perhaps Link also) —

I have been an Ear Biscuits listener since the podcast started, and watched GMM as a daily routine for years prior. I consider myself a mythical beast; I am one of the “spin the wheel of mythicality” outro people. I am the person which curates the “Stevie from GMM” playlist on YouTube, and have been a youtuber since 2007 and gone thru its various iterations like the stars system and annotations options.

I am also your age; I would have been in your grade and graduating class had I attended your school, and my birthdate occurred between yours and Link’s (Winter ’77). I didn’t live in/near Buies Creek, but I did go to a scout camp in Bowie Texas (pronounced the same minus, the s) which had a memorable creek. I have a tremor condition where I need to avoid using knives, which I suspect Link also has, based on a few mannerisms we share that are common to the condition. A great many memories of your era of school and college match up with mine really remarkably, and I understand perhaps more keenly than others, when you mention it was ‘a different time’ at those times. I did campus ministry things, tho not with CCC as we referred to it (also trying to avoid using ‘Crusade’) but with BSM/BSU (Baptist Student Ministry/Union).

I also grew up going to church, and believed I was a Christian for as long as I can remember; I got baptized at 8 years old, made the statements of faith in front of people, and all of the terms like ‘church home’ and going on missions, and etc, all ring familiar to me. I also believe you’re riiiiiight on the cusp of something enormously great spiritually but just not seeing it, and I hope I can at least point you in that direction, even if you’re unwilling.

I am also an arguer and rather enjoy(ed) unraveling others’ positions for them, which I think we can find brotherliness in. I feel like we could be graduating-class-mates who simply didn’t have the same ‘home room’ or matching individual classes as each other.

You mention in your follow-up podcast episodes that a lot of the responses seem dismissive that this is a very long process of deconstructing your faith which was previously so dear to you, and I don’t want likewise to seem dismissive of your lengthy journey, so I want to preface this letter as being in the spirit of, “as iron sharpens iron” and both having equal footing, and not being a situation in which one position is being spoken down upon. I just want to throw out some ideas, and feel at liberty to encounter them as you may.

Our stories are also similar in that I was also once a former-Christian, having cast aside the faith in a likewise lengthy process. It would have been very offensive to me to suggest that I hadn’t been one to begin with, as I had done bible drills, attended VBS in the summer, did the memory verses, baptized at age 8, I had made the statement of faith, was in the childrens choir from 1st thru 6th grade and got trophies for each year for sticking with it each year, and most of my friends were also Christians so I had the social shibboleths to say “yes, I really was a Christian before.”

Part of my deconstruction process however, included what I later realized was a necessary step (despite my not wanting to go down that path), of a really clicked-in realization that, if I am to fully commit to my agnostic or atheistic position, that I must also believe that since all of that is not real then therefore also I definitely must not really have been a Christian before, since there is by extension no such thing as Christians and that they’re all just fooled into it, and that I was fooled into it also.

I was “as far as anyone else could tell, myself included” a Christian, according to my understanding/standard of what made someone a Christian< -- I believed myself to be one previously, and turning from it and becoming not-one as a new identity, would necessitate also realizing with a clicked-in “I get it now” moment, that I also never was one since they can’t exist either.

I didn’t believe in the evidence supporting God’s existence, etc, and therefore by extension, I could also therefore not reliably claim to have been one either, since they themselves could not exist because the evidence for their belief system didn’t jive either.

They existed as people who believed themselves Christians, sure, but the underlying evidence for their belief is now suspect, and therefore their being-Christians is also by extension suspect, and therefore my own evidence for having been one is also suspect. I was only one, in the sens of, in context, having played the part well enough.

I did not want to return to Christ; I was not interested in being a prodigal son; I could not have returned to it, because as a point in my own deconstruction, I did finally realize that I had not even been it to return to.

I’m not saying you weren’t ever one, but the realization of the concept that “I never was one” was never something that could have clicked to me, for so long because I had all of the proof necessary to fully justify having been one, including all of the right buzzwords to say, all of the John 316’s, the Roman Roads, the dispensationalism, the post-/pre-trib yammering, calvinism, whatever.

I had all the evidence of being a Christian — in the same way that you would be able to visibly see all of the mouse ears, the ticket stubs, the word-for-word recitation of Lion King, Little Mermaid, etc songs, all of the theme park knowledge and experience including the retired Goofy-themed ride in Orlando that told about how electricity is generated, as evidence for me being a “Disney fan” and all of those experiences were real to me, but realizing that Christianity is not real by extension must include that I was never a Christian to begin with.

Think of the “Berenstein” Bears Mandela effect where people collectively have a false memory, according to evidence to suggest that was never even a thing. I could never have read a ‘Berenstein’ Bears book, if there had never been one, despite my belief that I had read one (a particular childhood memory I distinctly remember having was a classmates banter discussion about the pronunciation of Berenstein as being “steen or stine” and there would have been no discussion had it been spelled “stain”). The belief that I had been a participant of the thing, must also correspond to the evidence supporting the existence of the thing. That banter memory must also therefore be false or have false elements, but I still have that memory for some reason, so it is difficult to CLICK-IN that I never had that memory.

The cusp that I think you’re riiiiight up on, is that my newer understanding of “what it means to be a Christian” actually is compatible with most agnostic/atheism bullet points, and with science being a matter which better informs us about scripture, rather than conflicting with it.

Two things in scripture lead me to that idea: (a) what creed-style positions (virgin birth, pre-trib, etc) and what works could have the thief next to Christ held or performed, in order to be granted ‘paradise’, and (b) a reading of Galatians in a more figurative sense.

(a) The thief hanging on the cross next to Christ could not have done any works because he was literally nailed in place and couldn’t move. The only words we know, to his “credit” as being a Christian, were basically a paraphrased sentiment “think of me when you get there” and zero other information — and that’s ALL of the information we need to know about him. He had nothing whatsoever to contribute, and was not a Christian in any sense that I identified myself to be in the past to my credit as being one.

(b) If you read Galatians, Paul is basically RANTING about how the Galatians have established a kind of required-belief pattern, in order to prove you’re a Christian. In the particular Galatians case was that you must ‘accept’ Christ and also be circumcised. Paul blathers at length about how the circumcision is not needed anymore, because it’s not about proof anymore in the way that the law proved them righteous up until then; I read that at one point more figuratively as Paul being against the belief that, in order to be a Christian, you must (1) trust Christ’s merit in place of yours, AND (2) something else, like a creed of some kind.

The figurative style of reading of Galatians, spoke to me as being “what beliefs do I hold, which would fall into the category of, ‘in order to be a Christian I must trust Christ’s merit instead of mine, AND what else’, and how can I work toward removing those ‘what else’ bits.”

I have been in a long process of removing all of those what-elses from my faith-related thinking, that tag along like a cancer to faith, undetected by the immune system.

What other concepts are riding motorcycle-sidecar along with trust in Christ’s merit instead of trust in my own merit, that can be discarded as ‘required’ bits, which bog it down? What beliefs do I have that appear to be well-established buzzwords and always passed around as true, that can be eliminated, as previously being ‘just part of the faith’? Virgin birth? Bible inerrancy? Gays are evil? Abortion is wrong?

Did the thief on the cross next to Christ, need to hold a position on any of the creed-style elements popular today, or did Christ grant him paradise simply for recognition that it would be entirely Christ’s doing for getting the thief to the new place? The thief didn’t even need to believe in the resurrection. The sentiment of when you get there, regardless of whether I believe you can, or whether I think that is even possible, then think of me, is all we knew he had.

Each of those ‘you must also believe xyz’ bits to me are a cancer of faith, pretending to be part of it, but actually moreso establish ‘i deserve paradise, since I xyz’ concepts rather than it being fully Christ’s merit and zero of mine. In what ways can I moreso recognize that I am nailed up and can contribute nothing to the saving?

Is it required for a Christian to believe that Adam was a single person, rather than a generation of early humanoids, and why is it? If it is required, what was the thief on the cross next to Christ’s position on that subject, and since he didn’t have one, how did that thief gain paradise without having that position? Because it’s not necessary.

To me, therefore, I have deconstructed what it means to be a Christian to be far less membership-style and “hold xyz ‘also’ belief”, and more like the thief with no known positions on anything, incapable of contributing, and just having a single, “in the context of the story you’re saying to me, think of me when it’s accomplished” — he has no way to commit to it, no church attendance roll to sign; he can’t be baptized, he can’t kneel in a closet, had no knowledge of hell..

To me, you are becoming more and more like the thief, by throwing out all of the “required” bits, and I think that’s great. Also consider, however, ways in which science offers a clearer understanding of scriptural concepts, by challenging how it had once been interpreted. In your genetics discussion, did you encounter that males have a Y chromosome, and females have an X chromosome, therefore males are missing a “rib” in the XY vs XX sense? How would a person of Moses-era hunter/gatherer education level, have known to say something like that?

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The Best (Only?) Way #TheValleyFolk Can Recover After Firing Lee Newton

The comedy foursome called The Valleyfolk recently announced that they ended the employment of one of their members, and has ravaged the community they had delicately built up. I have loads of unanswered questions, perhaps mostly —
how did that day of the firing go down, blow-by-blow?


(image: @clownburst on instagram)

I personally do not think TVF can recover from it, as a threesome, regardless of my personal level of forgiveness about the PR nightmare it became. However, I can foresee a way for all four to recover:

1. The week following the original announcement where Lee was fired and released her own tearful video announcing it separately, have the remaining three now fire Elliot. Bear with me.

2. Have Elliot release his own video announcing the termination. Have Joe and Steve very royally botch their own announcement of that second firing.

3. The week following the second announcement, fire Steve.

4. Have Steve release his own video announcement, and have Joe royally botch yet another announcement about the firing.

5. The week following the third announcement, have Ryan (their editor) announce that Joe was fired.

6. Have Joe make his own video announcement, and have Ryan make his own video and do it right, to many cheers and jubilation.

7. Have an announcement that Ryan is now TheValleyFolk boss, and hire all 4 back, and during the hiring have Lee slip Ryan a few large bills, while wearing a big scowl at how they should have all learned their lesson.

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New #HocusPocus Facebook Prank Explained, Autumn 2019

This Halloween season, there is a Facebook prank making the rounds, which has scam potential.

People are tasked with forwarding a general message that states to the effect of, “Type the tag #hocuspocus in comments, to see if Facebook decides that you’re a witch. If successful, a green bar will appear.”

The idea is that the “green bar” will appear in place of the tag, if Facebook decides you’re a witch. However, people who don’t understand how Facebook works will play along and try it, and it will not work, because that’s not how Facebook works to begin with.

People who are in on the joke will post a green bar as an image comment, as “proof” that the trick does actually work, and people who still don’t understand will start flooding comments with attempts to make the green bar appear, which it won’t.

The scam potential is that the people who aren’t in on it, are potential scam targets because they have just outed themselves as not understanding that this won’t work in the first place, and are therefore might be gullible enough to scam otherwise if they’ll believe something as nonsensical as this prank.

Another explanation is that this is an user engagement tactic by algorithm strategists. When you comment on something, it is believed that the underlying Facebook algorithm will do 2 things: (a) recognize you as someone who comments on a post, and (b) recognize the person who posted the thing as someone who gets people to comment.

Strategists then theorize that Facebook will thenceforth increasingly show posts from that source more frequently to those people who comment so eagerly, so as to increase engagement with the platform (instead of idly scrolling past a post), and posters will post more often in order to gain more engagements per post, and their posts will increasingly be shown to people who engage with their posts, thereby increase their readership, and potentially increase their ad revenue by showing ads to those who interact so frequently with it.

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New #HocusPocus Facebook Prank Explained, Autumn 2019

This Halloween season, there is a Facebook prank making the rounds, which has scam potential.

People are tasked with forwarding a general message that states to the effect of, “Type the tag #hocuspocus in comments, to see if Facebook decides that you’re a witch. If successful, a green bar will appear.”

The idea is that the “green bar” will appear in place of the tag, if Facebook decides you’re a witch. However, people who don’t understand how Facebook works will play along and try it, and it will not work, because that’s not how Facebook works to begin with.

People who are in on the joke will post a green bar as an image comment, as “proof” that the trick does actually work, and people who still don’t understand will start flooding comments with attempts to make the green bar appear, which it won’t.

The scam potential is that the people who aren’t in on it, are potential scam targets because they have just outed themselves as not understanding that this won’t work in the first place, and are therefore might be gullible enough to scam otherwise if they’ll believe something as nonsensical as this prank.

Another explanation is that this is an user engagement tactic by algorithm strategists. When you comment on something, it is believed that the underlying Facebook algorithm will do 2 things: (a) recognize you as someone who comments on a post, and (b) recognize the person who posted the thing as someone who gets people to comment.

Strategists then theorize that Facebook will thenceforth increasingly show posts from that source more frequently to those people who comment so eagerly, so as to increase engagement with the platform (instead of idly scrolling past a post), and posters will post more often in order to gain more engagements per post, and their posts will increasingly be shown to people who engage with their posts, thereby increase their readership, and potentially increase their ad revenue by showing ads to those who interact so frequently with it.

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2019-10-05 @clownburst – Anagram Firefighters

This is a backdated entry for the @clownburst doodleblog, from its original October 2019 #Inktober attempts =)

@clownburst 2019 October 05

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2019-10-04 @clownburst – Objectification Twice

This is a backdated entry for the @clownburst doodleblog, from its original October 2019 #Inktober attempts =)

@clownburst 2019 October 04


https://www.instagram.com/p/B3OZ6aAAwLa/

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2019-10-03 @clownburst – Who Framed Rothor Rabnarok?

This is a backdated entry for the @clownburst doodleblog, from its original October 2019 #Inktober attempts =)

@clownburst 2019 October 03


https://www.instagram.com/p/B3MAFy9FuzZ/

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2019-10-02 @clownburst – Voluntarily Explode

This is a backdated entry for the @clownburst doodleblog, from its original October 2019 #Inktober attempts =)

@clownburst 2019 October 02


https://www.instagram.com/p/B3IsVVuFJFr/

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2019-10-01 @clownburst – Moon’s Haunted / Body Rockin

This is a backdated entry for the @clownburst doodleblog, from its original October 2019 #Inktober attempts =)

(2 posts in 1 day)

@clownburst 2019 October 01


https://www.instagram.com/p/B3EtFzXAAJ1/


https://www.instagram.com/p/B3F9ascFr2L/

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Petition to Change.org To Revoke Fawcett Society’s Sexist Petition #sexistdictionary

Dear Change.org: Please read the petition below, about why you should remove Fawcett Society of East London’s (FSEL) Petition, which advocates for the use of sexist words against women.

Have you ever searched online for the definition of a woman? ‘Bitch, besom, piece, bit, mare, baggage, wench, petticoat, frail, bird, bint, biddy, filly’ – these are the words which FSEL’s petition tells us are okay to use to mean the same as ‘woman’. This sexist petition must be ended.

Over a third of young women aged between 18 to 24 have been targeted by online abuse. We can take a serious step towards reducing the harm this is causing our young women and girls by looking at our language – and this starts with FSEL petition.

Right now under acceptable variations of ‘woman,’ FSEL lists the following:

Bitch, besom, piece, bit, mare, baggage, wench, petticoat, frail, bird, bint, biddy, filly.
These examples show women as sex objects, subordinate, and/or an irritation to men.

This is completely unacceptable by a reputable source like FSEL, but it’s even more worrying when you consider how much influence they have in setting norms around our language. These misogynistic methods of describing women, have become widespread because petitions like the one by FSEL, insist they must be used.

This can influence the way that women are spoken about online. Should an institution like the FSEL be allowed to portray women this way? What message does this send to young girls about their identity and expectations for the future? If we want to create an equal society, we need language fit for the 21st century that doesn’t discriminate against women. FSEL’s team are defining who women are and doing it in a very outdated manner which denigrates women.

This petition is to ask Change.org to to:

Eliminate all of FSEL’s petitions, which use these words with the intent to increase discrimination against and patronise women and/or connote men’s ownership of women.

Together, we can succeed in removing the offensive and damaging ways that FSEL wishes for women to be described with, so that more people don’t follow their lead and broaden the use of them even further. We hope you support us and join our campaign! Please sign this petition and take the first steps towards a fairer internet and a less discriminating world.

Thank you in advance!

#SexistDictionary

An Open Letter to Change.org —

I attempted to file the above counter-petition to illustrate the absurdity of FSEL’s original petition, but when reviewing the rules for submitting the counter-petition, I found that any writer of any petition is not allowed to “make things up” — but the writer of FSEL’s petition does exactly that.

The claims the original petition is making against Oxford are patently false; the writer crafts a false narrative for the dictionary’s reporting of data, and my attempted counter-petition reflects the same level of absurdity.

a : b :: c : d

a = FSEL’s interpretation about b
b = Oxford(/etc)’s actual intention of reporting listed terms
c = Divvyry’s interpretation of d
d = FSEL’s actual intention of reporting listed terms

A dictionary is like a newspaper which reports strictly the hard news on a murder without editorial: the newspaper’s report isn’t somehow saying “murder is allowed now” or “future murders must happen this way or else it’s not a real murder” — no, it is describing a prior murder, by observation of available data without inferring.

Likewise, dictionaries are not proclaiming or portraying the word “woman” as the way FSEL claims.. dictionaries are describing past uses of it, historically and by frequency of observation.

If someone were to publish a list of top 5 cities where car accidents happen, would that list inherently suggest “if you want to crash your car, do it here” or “it is more-correct to crash your car in these cities” ?

No, it is simply describing observed stats about crashes, not imposing a correctness of crashes. Likewise, a dictionary is not imposing correctness of the usages listed, but ranks their meanings in 1-2-3 order like the crash cities list, in order of most-frequently-observed ways the word has been observed used in the past.

Dictionaries report on observational data, not propose that use of a word is somehow correct. Dictionaries are descriptive, not prescriptive. The writer of the petition seems to believe that dictionaries are prescriptive, or somehow authorize or impose allowances on usage, which is a completely backwards understanding of how the dictionary is even presenting information.

In 2008, there was a big kerfuffle about how dictionaries “changed the definition” of marriage to include more ways than simply male-female pairs. The people who were outraged, believed that the role of a dictionary were to set limitations on how words are allowed to be used, and that by updating the entry, the dictionary were now “making it official” that it was acceptable to use marriage to mean differently than just male-female pairs.

However, the dictionary does not perform this role, and did not change the entry for that purpose. Dictionaries employ lexicographers, or linguistics researchers, who analyze the ways that the masses of the public use words, and those observations all go into a tally. If a way that the general public uses a word reaches a number of observations that is high enough, then that method observed becomes part of the entry, like the way a different city could unseat a previous top 5 car crash city by having more crashes that year.

The entry was adjusted to account for how many observations were tallied of how the general public uses them, not on whether it’s acceptable or valid. Therefore, the people who were outraged about the adjustment of the marriage entry, were angry because their understanding of how dictionaries even function, was flawed. FSEL’s petition is committing a similar flub, in believing that a dictionary somehow regulates or authorizes restrictions on usage, rather than simply listing the most common ways.

Imagine how a mayor of one of the top-five cities didn’t want their city listed there, so made a petition to have their city removed from the list because it made their city look bad. Likewise, the dictionary entry is reporting on statistics of usage, not making any kind of attempt to disparage anyone — it is simply reporting statistical data, and therefore cannot even remove the requested entries because it would require reshaping the entire nature of very industry that FSEL appears to misunderstands to begin with.

The whole basis of the counter-petition is based on a made-up concept with no basis in reality, and is reflective of just how baseless the original FSEL petition is in relation to Oxford’s part. The context for the petition is literally, non-figuratively, made up, which is against the rules for Change.org petitions, and money is being collected by Change.org in connection with that false petition.

The people signing the petition are against the narrative FSEL presents, because the narrative is already false, and are simply listing their name down as someone who believes the falsity of what the writer is stating, and could possibly be targeted for their ignorance about it.

I believe it is in your best interest, Change.org, to remove FSEL’s petition, refund the donations acquired as a result of it, and prevent the people who signed it from being shamed for having signed such a patently false narrative.

@Divvyry

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