Saturday, September 1, 2007

In the beginning...

There is so much that can and will be said about Mr. Friel, our illustrious WOTM Radio host, but it must all be prefaced. This entry is meant to thoroughly explain Todd's worldview so I may better explain the divisive tenets of his Christian faith.

Let me begin by saying that personal faith is something which I have no desire to combat. As a humanist, I feel like it is the right of every human to believe whatever he or she likes and to live their life accordingly. This principle does not hold when dealing with Todd and his ilk (namely Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort and their minions); they are devoted to a cause which preaches hostility, resentment of innate human nature, desire for unachievable goals and the obligation to spread their hate-filled message under the guise of concern. Those who adhere to the doctrine that is proposed by the WOTM staff are equally as frightening.

Let's think of the core beliefs of Todd's brand of Christianity (True Christianity™): The Ten Commandments. This is the set of Mosaic laws that has been the source of controversy in the courts for the last few years regarding its presence in American courthouses (among other public places). Without delving too deeply into the commandments themselves, we can plainly see that the request for them to be posted in public places is about as asinine as it would be to post excerpts from the Communist Manifesto or from the Codex Hammurabi. Actually, it would be somewhat understandable to post Hammurabi's code of ethics in courthouses because they are based on humanistic principles. The ten commandments are not.

At risk of making this entry too lengthy and difficult to read, I'd like to post and dissect the Ten Commandments as they were purportedly given to Moses (although the two sets of "the same" ten commandments that were given to Moses and the ancient Israelites are completely different between the Exodus and Deuteronomy accounts... food for thought):

First Commandment --
Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Second Commandment --
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.

Third Commandment --
Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

Fourth Commandment --
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.

Fifth Commandment --
Honour thy father and thy mother.

Sixth Commandment --
Thou shalt not kill.

Seventh Commandment --
Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Eighth Commandment --
Thou shalt not steal.

Ninth Commandment --
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Tenth Commandment --
Thou shalt not covet.

It has been said before that trying to argue theology with a moderate or liberal Christian is "like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall" which is absolutely true. For that reason, I am glad that Todd is a strict fundamentalist (although he does take many liberties in changing the connotation of scriptural passages when confronted with biblical errors and contradictions) because you can always count on him to dig his own grave. What Todd fails to realize is that a great many thoughtful unbelievers have come to their lack of belief (quite a lengthy and painful process) by actually reading the book that he uses to try to convert "the lost"... the bible! No single book in history has caused so much controversy but not for the reasons Christians would like to believe. It is not because of the supposed truth contained within the canon but because of its undeniably fictitious nature. That's not to say there aren't some accuracies in the bible (historical, geographical and otherwise) but the inaccuracies far outweigh them.

Upon inspection of Todd's chosen "spiritual weapon" (the Decalogue or Ten Commandments), we can see that it is indeed imperfect, dull and even unreliable. It demands dogmatic belief in order to render itself effective. The problem is, humans (Americans especially) rely on situational ethics; a system where no dogmatic moral or ethical code can be enacted for numerous societal reasons. Approximately six billion humans currently inhabit this planet and you could expect that number to be exponentially lower (less than 100,000?) if all Mosaic laws were enforced. Let's take a look.

Applying humanist principles (situational ethics) to nearly all of the commandments shown above will lay bare exactly how morally bankrupt they and their adherents are:

Starting with the first commandment (Thou shalt have no other gods before me.) we can see that an assumption is immediately made that, not only is there only one god, but that all humans have an intimate knowledge of said god. Going back into recorded history, we know that there have been thousands of conceived deities that were feared and worshipped, many even predating the Christian god, Yahweh (YHWH). Letting alone the ancient Nordic gods and the Greek pantheon, we know that there are currently more than 30,000 Christo-centric religions! Do they all share the same god? Seems to me, the knowledge of any deity is ambiguous at best.

The second commandment (Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.) is, for all intents and purposes, an extension of the preceding commandment. Supposedly, it is morally unlawful to worship anyone but the "one, true god" but further, it is wrong to create an image of your idea of a rival deity to worship. I don't know the relevance of this commandment other than to show exactly how jealous and megalomaniacal the described god is.

Next, we are told not to use this god's name in vain (Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.). Most fundamentalist Christians, including Todd, call this the act of blasphemy. However, the operative word in the third commandment is "name". Many different questions arise once that word pops out at us: Did god name himself or allow humans to name him? What name does he ask us to revere? Is his name truly "God" or is that merely a title like bishop or duke? Regardless of what is truly considered blasphemy, Christians must realize that the same courtesies should be extended to other, differing faiths. Todd has no qualms with calling Muslims "wrong" or mocking Allah or the prophet Muhammad; he isn't above calling Hindus misguided in their faith in a "dead god". This doesn't concern Christians, though, because... well... they don't believe in those "false gods". I believe I've made my point. Besides, doesn't it strike you as odd how the words humans speak can somehow offend a deity?

The fourth commandment (Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.) is something that has been hotly debated in many Christian circles. While most believers agree that it is important to set aside one day a week to reflect on spiritual matters (following the example god set during the first week in recorded history, the creation week), many disagree as to the extent of "remembrance" that is necessary in order to keep this law. Literalists will tell you that absolutely no work should be done on the sabbath (to include cooking meals? I guess fasting is in order.) while others may insist that working for profit is what is prohibited. Regardless of the implications of this law, it is unfeasible in modern culture. We rely on countless private citizens to keep society moving forward while believers take a day to worship: law enforcement officials, soldiers, medical professionals... even clergymen, if you want to get technical. Are you starting to see why its so frightening to many of us to have these "laws" posted at federal courthouses? Does our legal system really enforce these first four commandments? What if it did?

Commandment number five (Honour thy father and thy mother.) seems benign enough and could even be mistaken for a humanistic principle. It is not. As I stated earlier, these commandments are absolutely dogmatic and leave no room for personal value judgments; they are black and white. God wants all children (even through adulthood, we can assume) to honor their parents without any qualifiers. It is not extreme or unreasonable to suppose that many people who have found themselves parents have not been deserving of respect from their children. Kids all over the world are beaten, tortured and even raped (god should be proud) by their parents. Are children to respect and honor these monsters? According to the bible, yes. Absolute moral bankruptcy.

The sixth and most well-known commandment (Thou shalt not kill.) is one of the only humanistic principles in the entire list. It's just a shame that god breaks his own law, the one with the most dire of societal consequences, numerous times throughout the bible. Not only does he commit the act, he also condones the killing of others and even commands it. Again, there are no qualifiers in this law. It plainly states that you should not take another life. Christian Americans who are pro death penalty seem to have swept this commandment under the rug in favor of "an eye for an eye".

Next we are commanded not to "commit adultery". While I know that Christians would like to claim that this commandment supports celibacy before marriage, we have biblical examples to the contrary. It seems god wasn't too concerned about adultery in the Old Testament (he used it in order to populate the earth) due to the fact that he sets up a supplementary law for any man who decided to rape a woman. He had to go to the hassle of either marrying her, paying her father or having her stoned. Todd likes to use the "Old Covenant/Ceremonial Law vs. New Covenant/Reformed Law" argument to get rid of this pesky problem. I find it difficult to believe that god replaced more than 600 Old Testament laws but decided that ten were good enough to keep from the cutting room floor. Also, when does god recognize the marriage between two (heterosexual) people? When the vows are exchanged? When the wedding certificate is signed? When the marriage is consummated? It seems we still have way too much control over this supreme being.

I have no reservations with the eighth commandment (Thou shalt not steal.); who would? But for Christians to claim that this is a direct edict from their god is absurd. It's common sense! It's what we teach our children at the earliest age: The Golden Rule. Does god really have to tell us not to steal in the same breath that he tells us not to take another human life? It seems to be one of the pettier laws, to tell you the truth.

The ninth commandment (Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.) is naturally dogmatic in nature when situational ethics are better suited. The act of lying is not intrinsically wrong but the intent may be. Conversely, the intent may also be noble. If upon taking in a battered (and fried?) woman into your home, would you 'fess up if her attacker asked you if you were harboring her? Telling the truth in this situation would not only endanger her but would also jeopardize the safety of yourself and anyone else in the residence. Is lying wrong? It depends. Whether it is or isn't, god can't make that call; you can.

The last commandment (Thou shalt not covet.) is absolutely ludicrous. Why shouldn't you want something nice that someone else has? Isn't desire a good motivating factor? The more I think of this supposed god-inspired law, I am more and more convinced that it was kind of a last-minute entry so the ancient Israelites would have a nice, round number of laws for aesthetic purposes. I mean, the Nine Commandments just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Todd actually uses these ten laws to show callers and people he witnesses to in public that they are imperfect beings and have transgressed against an all-powerful, all-seeing, all-perfect god and that they need to repent and beg forgiveness to avoid being damned to hell by this being (who is in all other contexts referred to as loving and gracious). The more you hear him go through the list, the more comical it is which is fitting considering he used to be a professional comedian. Well, it would be funny if it weren't so frightening, I suppose.

I am going to end this (very long) entry here and post again very soon and show the false analogy Todd makes in equating god's justice with man's judicial system. He uses it so often and with so much fervor that you can't help but be taken in by it. I can show very simply how he is playing a game of semantics and drawing false parallels to achieve his ultimate goal. It's sad that I have to do this; more people should be able to see the lies on their own. But for each person he proselytizes to that gets suckered in, there is a freethinker waiting in the wings to bolster my "faith" in mankind.

Let me introduce you to my friend!

Alright, I admit it; he's not technically my friend. It would be an easy mistake for me to make because listening to a person ramble aimlessly and thoughtlessly for two solid hours each day will give you some sort of a connection, no matter how tenuous. My connection to "Mr. Mr. Todd Friel" (not a typo) is that I used to be in his shoes... except that mine were two or three sizes smaller, I don't host my own daily Christian radio talk show (nor have I ever) and I gave up my dogmatic, fundamentalist beliefs years ago. Other than that, we could be brothers (in Christ).

I can't speak authoritatively on the things that affected Todd during his formative years but I can say with some degree of certainty that he chose to follow his god, the god of the bible, based on the prevailing Christian influences around him in the Midwestern United States. Had he been born in Bucharest or Phnom Penh, he would undoubtedly not only be speaking another language but singing another theological tune. According to Todd, this has no bearing whatsoever over the legitimacy nor the accuracy of the bible and all its claims.

Now, you may be curious why I decided to devote time and attention to this man. Am I right? What could Todd Friel possibly have done to raise the hackles of this otherwise friendly atheist? I'm glad you asked:

Aside from the fact that Todd frequently spouts more contradictions that the bible itself contains, he is above all a fear monger. Todd thrives on using his righteous justification from his god to spread fear of eternal torment in a (god-created) lake of fire. I can gladly go into a long theological tirade about hell, its purpose, its derivation, location, etc. but I believe I will save that for another time. Suffice it to say, Todd thrives on instilling terror in the hearts of unbelievers; his glaring sense of moral hauteur is cloaked (poorly) behind his piety. Pitiful.

You've been introduced. Stick around for the pinata party.