from Michael Thomas Tower — a cautiously trusting secular-minded pessimistically optimistic free-thinking atheist —

“and I have a few things on my mind.”


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RELIGION  • ATHEISM • HOMOSEXUALITY

No more Mr. “Less-than”

All my family knows I’m gay. They don’t all know I’m atheist, but they know I’ve forsaken the family’s traditional conservative Christian stance. Consequently, I am sometimes in situations where some family members make sure I know I am considered “less than” — less than good, less than right, less than moral, less than what I “should” be, less than what some supposedly supreme authority wants me to be — essentially, less than what they are. After a recent trip to do my annual family visitation, I decided those sojourns will be less frequent and of shorter duration. I’m tired of having the less-than barbs thrown at me. Sometimes it’s remarks sharply worded, sometimes it’s a clever aside or slick insinuation that leaves no room regarding intent. I’m tired of them all.

I have a wide selection of acquaintances and friends I can be around with no need to hide big parts of who I am. They don’t question my moral s, they don’t doubt my virtue. They know who I am, accept who I am, are totally comfortable with who I am. But as for family — the unit in which each of us should find our greatest acceptance and comfort — I encounter far too much, well, I would call it something that’s little more than tenuous accommodation. They say they love me, but their words don’t match their actions.

When one of them says to me, “I don’t agree with your ‘lifestyle,’ but I would never pass judgment,” they just did pass judgment.  When one of them says to me, “I don’t agree with ‘the gay thing,’ but I totally accept you,” they just told me they don’t totally accept me. Sprinkling a little sugar on a rancid pile of carrion doesn’t fool me into thinking it’s chocolate pie — not for a second.

So I’ve decided: I will no longer submit myself to those less-than situations — which means I will be seeing some family members less than I used to.

I could count on one hand the number of family members who accept me totally — and each is treasured beyond any stock of gold and diamonds I could ever have. Absolutely priceless! POSTED 7/15/2014

\A correction and an apology: The last paragraph of the article above, in which I initially claimed to have just one supportive family member, has been revised because I made an awful mistake. I got an email from a family member who read the original article and wrote, in effect asking, “But what about me?” And I was overwhelmed to realize the depth and awfulness of my mistake. I had somehow let slip from my thinking the indisputable fact that “J”  has never not supported me! He’s one for whom I have special feelings, with whom I’ve had a special bond, who will always be uniquely special in my life. I’m not in contact with him often and maybe that’s why I let this slip-of-the-mind occur — but that is not, nor does there exist, an acceptable excuse for the oversight. I don’t know how to construct an apology big enough to cover this gaffe. I love you, “J,’ with all my heart, and appreciate more than you can know all you’ve been, are, and will be.

This correction, I’m happy to say, is made to be even more inclusive than the addition of just one, for another family member recently made it clear that, while there are differences in our beliefs, the family bond must be renewed. And it has been! — in a wonderful way. POSTED 12/15/2014


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Never has inaction been declared so great a virtue as with our present-day Congress. Most of the fault lies with a large group who went in determined to prevent rather than perform — and by George they’ve succeeded. But others, with different ideals, could have done more to do some of what’s needed for our nation  than what they’ve done. They’ve sat back and let nothing happen rather than stand and march and DO. Oh, yes, there’s failure enough to go around.
    If they could read what history will write of them — and it will be written — they’d be so hideously embarrassed that they’d do differently, I think.  A lot differently.
POSTED 7/15/2014

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Religion convinces the individual to give up on one’s self — that to be of value, one must apply for validation and then be accepted and then infused by some great mystical power beyond our understanding, beyond our control, to which we are eternally accountable for every thought and action. Such witless malarkey! What great accomplishments humanity has surely lost because of this senseless surrender.

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RELIGION

An atheist survives ‘Christmas’

Religion isn’t a necessary component to the enjoyment of the year-end holiday season. There is great pleasure in the special camaraderie that envelopes friends, family and strangers. It’s wonderful to give gifts and to know that someone cares enough to give them. The dinners and companionship are delightful. It can be, and is for most, a wonderful time of the year.

Our house was, as usual, decorated — though not with angels or stars or manger scenes. My wishes for others were for “happy holidays”;  I used the word “Christmas” as little as possible, since it connotes belief I no longer possess.

An atheist shouldn’t be accused of usurping a Christian holiday in a non-Christian celebration when it was Christianity that usurped a pagan holiday in order to fabricate Christmas. Add to that the fact that Christ’s birthday (assuming he actually existed) could not have been, according to Christian scholars, anywhere near December 25.

So I had no problem at all celebrating a Christless holiday. It enabled me to focus more on what’s real and what really matters. And if anyone was offended because I wished them “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas,” that was their choice to be annoyed. I was thoroughly enjoying the holidays. POSTED 1/16/2014


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RELIGION

The ‘X’ doesn’t really take Christ out of Christmas

On my first day of graduate study in theology, we were told, “Since we will be using the word ‘Christ’ a lot, along with its many applications, get accustomed now to using ‘X’ in your note-taking as an abbreviation for Christ — as was done in the early days of Christianity.” The professor went on to explain that in ancient Greek, the word for “Christ” began with the Greek letter “chi,” which closely resembles our “X.” This abbreviation was used by early Christians, perhaps more as code than shorthand. But in that funda­mentalist conservative seminary I attended, that abbreviation was demanded of us.  So we took notes about what X said, the workings of the early Xian church, the teachings of modern-day Xianity.  And we celebrated Xmas.

Okay – I’ll admit that, as an atheist, I often write “Xmas” instead of “Christmas” as a means of avoiding religious association.  But the informed offended Christian could easily claim that, despite my lack of acceptance of his beliefs, I’ve nevertheless adhered because I’ve simply written the name in a different manner. I think they’d make a better point that way. POSTED 1/16/2014


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RELIGION

What prayer really does

Recent events reminded me of what prayer really does. First there were the repeated showings of clips on TV of Senate Chaplain Barry Black during the GOP’s shutdown of the U.S. government. In ostentatiously sonorous yet dulcet tones, he reprimanded, shamed and exhorted, in the name of his god, while obviously speaking much more to his audience than to his divine master. (It prompted me to recall Jesus’s admonishment of the Pharisees as they would “for a pretence make long prayer.”) [read entire article]


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RELIGION • POLITICS

Wealth and misguided Christians

As presented in the New Testament, Jesus (whether character of fact or fiction) grounded his teachings on rules based on the values of love, kindness and charity. What Jesus did not encourage — ever! — was being rich. Quite the opposite!  He relentlessly berated the accumulation of wealth while dauntlessly extolling the virtues of poverty. He always cast the rich as failed and doomed, the poor as honorable and worthy.
Christ’s assessment: If you have wealth, that is your total reward.
Christ’s command: If you have wealth, give it to the poor. [read entire article]


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RELIGION • POLITICS

America’s new religion?

Tea Party Republicanism may be the closest thing we’ve had to a new religion in America in some time. While its adherents would be expected to deny that it is a religion (they all cling to their own true churches), it has the basic mark of religion in that it is fueled by passion rather than reason, emotion rather than intelligence, by what’s wished for rather than what is, while declaring itself to be The Only Right Way. [read entire article]


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When the Pledge of Allegiance was saddled with that egregiously unnecessary clause back in 1954, I think some misunderstood. I swear I heard some folk the other day declaring this to be “white nation under God.”

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RELIGION • POLITICS

Evil fuels the religionist

Conservative religion teaches the disciple always to be on the lookout for that which is wrong. So the conservative religionist is fueled by sin — others’, not his. Because he’s convinced that evil pervades, evil is what he expects to find — so, of course, he does. Where others may find no wrong-doing, he will find SOMETHING to declare as evil — so he can rant about it and demand its correction. [read entire article]


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ATHEISM

The inscrutable qualities of ‘God’

If there was a god, such as that endorsed in all manner of holy writ, the world would be a perfect place populated by perfect people. Plain and simple. How could it not be? [read entire article]


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RELIGION • ATHEISM

The considerable IF of god

Though I was raised in a very conservatively religious home, we did not eschew the use of doctors. They were, I was taught, the tools of God — he freely used them to accomplish his purposes (whether those doctors had any belief in him or not). In fact, we made fun of Uncle Flemus,* the “Nazarene fanatic” (married into the family, of course) who condemned doctors as agents of Satan (until, in his old age, his own illnesses bothered him). [read entire article]

*Name changed to protect family legend


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 RELIGION • HOMOSEXUALITY

Cure for homosexuality’ admits failure … sort of

A decades-old, very well known organization held in precious respect by the religiously conservative admits their program does not work! When Alan Chambers, president of the organization, publicly stated this conclusion in June 2013, he included an apology for the damage that their program of “reparative therapy” had wreaked upon its participants during its 37 years of operation. [read entire article]


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HOMOSEXUALITY

How can I know if I’m gay?’

Over the years I have encountered many men who have said, “I think I might be gay. How can I know?” This can be a very honest question posed by a teenager or one a couple of years beyond.  When the question is asked by someone older, I tend to think: If you’re still questioning, you’re denying.

THERE IS A TEST

A simple test will reveal sexual leaning — two little questions:

The answers will reveal a man’s orientation. Maybe it works for women, too; I don’t know.


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Conservative legislators, intent on “less government,” are quick to declare “I don’t want the government telling me what I must do.” But they have no hesitancy in making laws  telling someone else what they can not do. And they are completely blind to the inane hypocrisy of it all.

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ATHEISM

Why does one turn to atheism?

My religious education, growing up in a conservatively religious home, included the awful (therefore “instructive”) stories about people turning from god and becoming atheist. Usually such turning-away was due to great tragedy, seemingly inexplicable. It was due to some profound disappointment that the individual wasn’t strong enough to overcome. An occurrence was too much to bear, and trust in god was abandoned … and what was left was godlessness and atheism, which always resulted in a life of anguish, unhappiness and failure.

If they bothered to learn the truth, those religious folk would have discovered that the acceptance of atheism is almost never the route of adversity and disappointment. [read entire article]


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POLITICS

What ‘paves the way’ for what?

Rick Santorum (a man without the ability to recognize defeat for what it is) blames the TV sit-com “Will & Grace” for the current ever-growing tendency among Americans to accept same-sex marriage. Mr. Santorum’s singling out of a show that’s been off the air for years can only attest to his ignorance of what’s on TV today. He’d have a puritanical hissy-fit if he knew the content and popularity of shows such as “Glee” and “Modern Family,” and the less popular (and now-canceled) “The New Normal” and “Smash.”

But Santorum is right: such shows have helped change Americans’ attitudes about homosexuals and their lives. [read entire article]

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ATHEISM
God’ is the great put-down

Often we hear people say, when speaking of some notable achievement, “I couldn’t have done it without God.” Or the rare survivor of a storm claiming, “If it hadn’t been for God …” (while God killed — or allowed to die — all the neighbors, but took mercy on this one).

So many people think they personally lack the power and wisdom to accomplish. They are willing  — nay, taught! — to make less of themselves in order to “praise” an imagined but demanding force. [read entire article]

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ATHEISM
Prayer works … but not because of anything ‘divine’

Even though I’m an atheist, I still pray — in a sense. But not because it draws upon the power of a divine force. It works because when we earnestly seek something that is personally attainable, we excite our own strength and belief, creating space and allowing time for possibilities that might not be there otherwise. [read entire article]

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I know it is difficult to give up the idea that human beings have a soul. But once you do, if you do, you’ll be surprised how little you’ll miss it.”

— John S. Compere, Towards the Light

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ATHEISM
If it can’t be explained, is that proof of ‘God’?

There are people who insist that the beauty, complexity and orderliness of the universe, the wonder of the human body, are all evidence that there is a God — that all of this could not possibly have been produced without an omnipotent designer and creator. In other words, if you don’t understand it, it must be God’s doing. [read entire article]

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ATHEISM
We people of faith

The terms “faith-based” and “of faith” are misplaced, disgraced euphemisms that have become as disagreeable to me as “slippery slope,” “god willing” and “You know I’m right!” from someone spouting an irrational and disagreeable diatribe [see “The heart of the conservative” following].

“Faith-based” is a phrase that’s meant to define in order to separate: a faith-based organization is one that does the work of “God”; any other organization is something less.  [read entire article]

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The real curse of The Truth, as proclaimed by those who know they know The Truth, is that it demands immediate agreement and denies any degree of debate. To question, to challenge, to examine, to reason — maybe to hesitate for even a moment — is to cast one’s self as dense, profane, perhaps treasonous: the enemy.

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RELIGION • POLITICS
The heart of the conservative

During the 2010 election period, I heard a commentator state that what really defined those calling themselves “conservative” was that they didn’t want change. This had the ring of truth to it, in my mind, but I decided to test it on my Republican friend. When I threw the idea out to him, he said, “That’s absolutely right! We were much better off in the ’50s and ’60s, and you know it!” [read entire article]

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When Benedict XVI “abdicated the throne,” one Vatican enthusiast was reported to have bemoaned the Pope’s resignation because “it diminishes the doctrine of Papal infallibility” because, he explained, when the man who is Pope is no longer Pope he will no longer be infallible. To me, that sounds  more like a comic’s raucous punch-line than a scholar’s reasoned conclusion.

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RELIGION

We hang on to what’s not good

It appears that religionists are, more and more, adhering to less and less of their prescribed ecclesiastical folderol. Rather than a steady discipleship of “Yes absolutely,” it’s increasingly “Mmm-well-yes-but.” Still, wannabe-believers hang on — because “I love the ritual” or the fellowship or the music or the feeling or this, that or the other. Fearful of stepping away altogether, they continue to clamber to the trough, desperately rooting for whatever bits of nutrient can be scavenged from the elegantly proffered buckets of swill. [read entire article]


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Why are Christians so concerned about a “war on Christmas” if they know they’re on the winning side?


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“An atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An atheist believes that deed must be done instead of prayer said. An atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanished, war eliminated.”

— Madalyn Murray O’Hair


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For hundreds of years people have been begging some god for “world peace” — which is all the proof we need to know that prayer doesn’t work.


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“I’m an atheist, but I’m very relaxed about it. I don’t preach my atheism but I have a huge amount of respect for people like Richard Dawkins who do.”

— Daniel Radcliffe


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If humanity had not the ability to reason, the entire human race would have spontaneously combusted a million years ago. Had we not the ability to express emotion, we’d have survived but we’d be wondering why.


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I don’t like housework and I’m not crazy about yard work. But cleanliness is pleasing and order is calming, especially when I know I did it.


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I’m glad I’ve got my What-Can-Be so I’m not stuck with my old What-Is.


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Religion is nothing more than proof of the power of wishing. “I wish I could get the rewards I deserve. I wish he would get the punishment he deserves.” Lacking reason or evidence that wishing works, we simply declare the hope and tell ourselves it’s true.


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Show me a life that’s been ruined by pornography and I’ll show you ten lives that have been ruined by religion.


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If a book is true just because it says that it’s true, Sears Roebuck would still be a big deal.


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Achievement is the act of gaining.
Success is the art of sharing.
Happiness is the process of discovery.


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The success of a relationship is much more likely to come because of what you know you have to share rather than what you feel you have to give up.


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Atheism is what flows in naturally when the gunk of religion is scraped out.


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Considering the danger they impose and the damage they inflict, there is little difference in the ramblings of the ignorant and the accomplishments of the evil. But the ignorant are more easily repaired, and can be before they become evil.


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The past either smoothes out and mellows, or hardens into harsh rasp. It doesn’t remain the same because it’s never what we thought it was.


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“Atheism is more than just the knowledge that gods do not exist, and that religion is either a mistake or a fraud. Atheism is an attitude, a frame of mind that looks at the world objectively, fearlessly, always trying to understand all things as a part of nature.”

Carl Sagan


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Confidence, charm and wit are admirable traits and make it easier for one to gain followers — but confidence, charm and wit are not leadership qualities. They may simply be the making of the sauce that induces you to eat the rancid meat you would otherwise never touch.


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Bad ideas, finally driven out of existence, will spring again from the furtive minds of religion.


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Religion depends on taking our most natural thoughts and our most normal needs and assigning each of them a questionable value, then balancing each of them on the rickety rail of dogma that separates presumed virtue from alleged sin.


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As long as you insist on being able to explain everything, you can be sure that much of the time you’re simply going to be totally WRONG.


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“What can be asserted without proof can be dismissed without proof.”

— Christopher Hitchens


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Thinking and feeling are two entirely different functions of the human mind, often unrelated, relying on different sources and giving dissimilar results.


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The apparent mission of the religious is to simplify that which cannot be simplified, to complicate that which needs no complication, and to correct that which has no fault.


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To view morality in black and white is to miss the beauty of the human experience and the potential of the human spirit, for it is in the color that we find humor and in the shading that we find compassion.


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Forgiveness is not a matter of forgetting. True forgiveness is to lay aside the blame and step past the pain of a deed that cannot be forgotten.


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To benefit from a pecking order, one must be a pecker.


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Disappointment is combustible trash. Hanging on to a few of those pretty well guarantees an explosion.


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The more you tell me how good you are, the more I know you doubt it.


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Extremism comes in all colors, all voices, all tones of the scale, disguised as purest truth.


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If I have any enemies, I hope it’s because they’ve chosen me and not I them.



Pithy words are best expressed by those who are full of pith.


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If the journey is a joy, the destination makes no difference. If the purpose is solely to get there, the travel can only be tedious.


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We somehow have the attitude that if someone disagrees with us in important matters, we owe him neither civility nor consideration. In fact, our treatment of him is the mark of our character.


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The love most nearly true

is the love most simply given —

    with no demands

        and only the gentlest

        of expectations.


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One of the great curses visited upon humanity is the deranged idea that only the religious can know what’s moral and ethical.


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If prejudice is a part of human nature, as I believe it must be, our hope is not to do away with it but to make it a part of our humor rather than our hatred.


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Many think that because the truth of their belief cannot be proved, that is, itself, proof of the truth of their belief.


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”There are matters in the Bible, said to be done by the express commandment of God, that are shocking to humanity and to every idea we have of moral justice.”

— Thomas Paine


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What appears to be patience may be nothing more than obstinacy in Sunday dress.


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How pleasantly surprising it is, sometimes, to discover how much we know about something we know nothing about.


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Most people with the ability to gain followers do not have the heart or cause worth following.


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An occasional mild depression is normal and acceptable. Just think of it as a prolonged sigh.


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Considering what we are prone to do with the present, the ability to see into the future would merely enable us to fuck up in advance.


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“We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.”

— Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion


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Applying organization to Christianity in order to minister to the world has been as effective as nailing bread to the table so the hungry will always have food.


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You may blame others for where you are, but you can never blame another for who you are.

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SITE UPDATED 12/15/14