Gutting Your Religion

CoexistWalking down the street today, we saw this all too familiar Coexist bumper sticker again.  Versions of it have been around since the very early 2000s.  But before I explain the title of this post, for those who don’t know, let me explain what each letter of this sticker means:

C: Islam’s Crescent Moon
O: Peace Sign
E: Male/Female symbol combined
X: Judaism’s Star of David
I:  Pagan, Wiccan symbol
S: Taoist Ying-Yang Symbol
T: Christian Cross

There are many fun variants of this bumper sticker, of course.  But all of them advocate for the very naive message of: “We should all just get along.”

I’d wager that the people who slap these stickers happily and proudly on their cars don’t realize the futility of this message.  Because, in order for religions to sincerely tolerate each other, those religions would have to severely gut their own theology — something no religion wants to do.

“Gut” in the sense that for a religion to survive, it must tell its believers or followers why it is better than or preferable to other religions.  For a religion to survive, it must also encourage its believers to preferentially pass on their own set of beliefs to their children and/or other people. How can these exclusive systems ever really get along with each other?  How could gutted versions of these faiths even survive for more than two generations? They couldn’t and can’t.  “Exclusivism” is an essential trait of religion. And yet, to have religions that really include each other, you would have to severely gut those religions’ theologies.

Question to readers: Your thoughts?


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Your Modular God: A stubborn abstraction

Modular God 4God” is just a word, not a person or a thing. It is a word that people pack with their hopes, fears and identity. “God” is the great abstraction. And God is a stubborn abstraction. People use the word “God” to capture many different functions for their lives, as illustrated in this diagram above.

So even though the corona virus is killing religious people as much as it is killing non-religious and thus challenging the Magical Health power of their god, religious people just expand other functions, like “identity” so as to preserve their abstraction, their “God”. That is why I called “God” the great stubborn abstraction.

Question to reader: So, what do you think?


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An All-Powerful Evil Bastard

Bad God


04/01/2020 · 9:00 am

Poetry: Billy Collins


This is an addition to my favorite poem anthology.

Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep A Gun In The House

The neighbors’ dog will not stop barking.
He is barking the same high, rhythmic bark
that he barks every time they leave the house.
They must switch him on on their way out.

The neighbors’ dog will not stop barking.
I close all the windows in the house
and put on a Beethoven symphony full blast
but I can still hear him muffled under the music,
barking, barking, barking,

and now I can see him sitting in the orchestra,
his head raised confidently as if Beethoven
had included a part for barking dog.

When the record finally ends he is still barking,
sitting there in the oboe section barking,
his eyes fixed on the conductor who is
entreating him with his baton

while the other musicians listen in respectful
silence to the famous barking dog solo,
that endless coda that first established
Beethoven as an innovative genius.

— by Billy Collins


Here some more Billy Collins poems:

from: The Apple That Astonished Paris (1988)

from: Nine Horses (2002)

from: The Trouble with Poetry (2005)

from: The Rain in Portugal (2016)

Here are further links:


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Permission to be Non-PC

I’ve always wanted to make one of these cards, so today, I did:



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The Afterlife: For you or for them?

Eternal LifeI wonder what percentage of religious folks embrace their religion because they fear the finality of their own life. How many embrace their faith hoping for a favorable afterlife from themselves. Most of these religious folks believe that chimps, dogs, cats, cows, birds, insects and amoebas all other animal except themselves just rot and disappear after death. They believe that unlike all other animals, human can survive death in some pleasant form if they do or believe the right things.

It is not just eternal life the entices believers. People embrace religion for various reasons, not just to secure a wonderful afterlife. Other functions that religions serve include: community connections, status, moral codes, magical blessings (such as healings, safety, or success).  But today I wondered: When people embrace afterlife promises, do they do it more in hopes of their own eternal lives, or is it that the afterlife promise they treasure most is that they don’t have to imagine their loved ones being really gone when they die?

The death of a loved one is very painful: Friends, parents, children or even, for some folks, their favorite celebrities. So, any religion which can promise you that we will see your loved ones again, offer an excellent selling point. So maybe it is the promise that we will be back together with our loved ones after death that believers value most — not just their own personal survival. Maybe most people aren’t worrying as much about their own eternal life.  Maybe they clamoring after an eternal state of playing a harp, or standing around with cocktails in hand chatting with friends and family, or floating in some eternal bliss state, or living in a wonderful heavenly retirement community or sitting in pews and praising their God forever. Maybe they just want the promise that loved ones don’t really disappear forever when they die.  Mind you, either way, the motivation is probably always selfish — “I want to see them again.” and “I want to live forever.”  But what do you think, do people embrace the eternal-afterlife idea more for their loved ones, or for themselves?

This 2013 research article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) should that religious people spend more on aggressive medical intervention at the end of life than religion-free people.  Does that mean that religious people really don’t believe they will live in eternity?  Maybe this supports that their concerns about eternity are about not wanting to think their loved ones are gone.



  • I acknowledge that there are Jewish folks who don’t believe in an afterlife. I met many of these folks when I attended a reform synagogue for a year. Some Jews don’t even believe in their own tribal god, “Yahweh”. And so there are many religious folks who hold variants of beliefs that don’t include the afterlife promise.
  • I have many posts chastising non-believers for criticizing believers for their silly beliefs, as if is those silly beliefs which are the focus of the believers.  They do not understanding that it is the other functions of religion that keeps believers belonging.


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Does your God still punishes the living?

RHEI never heard of Rachel Held Evans, but obviously Yahweh knew her well and he killed her. Or at least that with what many Evangelical Christians believe. “Yahweh” is the name of the tribal god of Christians and Jews — Muslim’s call him “Allah”. Rachel was a very popular Progressive ex-Evangelical Christian who use to believe in a nasty Yahweh, but she escaped conservative Evangelicalism and became a popular author who wrote against Trump Evangelicals, for abortion, for the LGBTQ community and against Biblical literalism. If you are religion-free, these controversies seem silly to you, but they are deadly topics for many Christians.

When I read today that Rachel Held Evans died from an allergic reaction to an antibiotic, I instantly told my honey, “The Evangelicals are going to say this is God punishing Rachel.” And sure enough, with only a little searching, this nasty evangelical site confirmed my suspicion:

At age 37, Evan’s has died as a result of severe swelling on the brain. It is appointed once a man to die, and then the judgment (Hebrews 9:27).

Rachel Held Evans was a heretic. While she was not a professional theologian or clergy person, her influential writings no doubt led many sinners astray or, at the very least, provided false assurance to those living in sin that they stood justified before God.

Going to Twitter, more holy virulence can be found:

I’ll stop there.  Like I said, since I care nothing for Christian debates nowadays, I had never heard of Rachel.  But as I read about her today, I am sure that the world lost a very, very fine thinker and writer.  As for why it happened, like other religion-free people, I just feel that shit happens because the world is dangerous. It is very sad.

So, do you believe in a higher power that punish people in this life?  I don’t.


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Painful Transformations

Everyone thinks this is beautiful and wondrous video. But to me, this guy’s metamorphosis looks like it really, really hurts. Has anyone ever interviewed that moth?

I can imagine setting this same video to real scary music so that it makes my point.

Hell, and we think that being a teenager (transforming into an adult) is painful, but this caterpillar had it much worse.  This similarities were striking: My kids gobble food the same way.

Don’t let the end-product fool you, improving and growing hurts like a son of a witch. 😉


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No Comparison

At 19 years-old, I dropped out of college for a second time, flew to Europe with the simple goal of hopefully learning to speak German beyond my High School level. I hitched around a while, joined and graduated from a language school (Goethe), but after 3 months, even though my German was better, I still felt very dissatisfied. I realized that I come to Europe to “see the world” yet I hadn’t.  Europe really didn’t feel much different from the USA — or at least not in what I wanted to experience. So with $15 in my pocket, I threw my thumb out.  Things began to really change in Turkey and 6 months later I was in India with a huge amount of dangerous, fun and fascinating stories in between. I returned to the US happy that I had made it alive and brought with me an education that dwarfed what I was to learn in college.

My son is 19 years-old now, in Engineering school and in Navy ROTC. Recently, via Skype, we reflected what I did at 19 years-old. My son, who is very curious, well read and interested in almost everything, said he had no desire to do “that sort of thing”. And upon reflection we both realized that we could not compare our desires at that age.

When I was 19 years-old, it would still be at least 30 years before teenagers would be able to explore the world through the internet. Unlike me, since my son was young, with a simple push of a button, he has been able to hear foreign languages, see all sorts of videos or movies showing other countries, other life styles. He has soared over the world with google earth and taught himself everything he wanted to know like computer programing, electronics, political science, physics, music and much much more. For me, any of that would haven taken great effort to obtain by travel and by many library trips.

My son may have touched his world much more deeply at 19 years-old than I had even after my foreign travels. On top of this, he has built robots, participated in many sports, and will be sailing on large Navy ships this summer. And heck, he even won a scholarship to Bolivia and Peru two years ago. No wonder he feels no desire to make such a fool hearty trip as I did. I am proud of my young man and have much to learn from him.


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Revelation’s 7 Churches & US Cities

7ChurchesThe Book of Revelation starts with the writer stating the he heard Jesus giving a message to 7 churches in present-day Turkey. These churches are suppose to have been founded by the Apostle John.  I was suprised to find out that many American cities (and even cities in other predominantly Christian countries) bear their names. But of the seven churches, two of them have no cities named after them:
1. Pergamum, which Revelation calls “Satan’s Throne”. OK, I can understand that one.
2. Loadicea of which the writer says, “You are lukewarm,… I am about to spit you out.” Again, sort of obvious why you wouldn’t call your town “Loadicea”.

As for those the churches whose names towns bear, we have these 5:


Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee


Alabama, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Washington.
Also found in Mexico.


Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee


Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas
Virginia, West Virginia


Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington.

Also found in: Canada, Costa Rica, Egypt, Germany, Jamaica, Liberia, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe

Since this is part of my ERB series, let me do some comparative stuff.

My home state, Ohio, has a Jerusalem, Mecca and Medina.  California and Indiana also have a Mecca.  Other interesting towns: Lebanon, Pennsylvania; Damascus, Oregon; Alexandria, Virginia; Palestine, Texas; and Morocco, Indiana.

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