Monthly Archives: April 2014

Inheriting God

Your mother may not only make you nervous, she may also make you religious.

I’ve wanted to write about this topic for a while now. With the “Heaven is for Real” movie newly released, it seems a perfect time for this discussion.

The nascent field of behavioral epigenetics suggests that your mother’s experiences—even her diet—may have an effect on your temperament and predispositions. Previously, genetic changes were thought to occur only when the fetus was developing. But discoveries over the past decade by geneticist Moshe Szyf and neurobiologist Michael Meaney show that the experience of our parents and grandparents, and those ancestors before them, may be imprinted on the genetic material that’s passed along to offspring.

For example, if your grandfather was traumatized by war as a child or by an abusive, alcoholic parent, the fear he felt may have “scarred” his DNA. Not only could he have been an anxious adult, but he could have passed on a predisposition towards anxiety. While his DNA remained unchanged, a chemical known as a “methyl group” could have attached to his genes, turning on or off certain behavioral and psychological traits.

Interesting, eh?

Szyf and Meaney’s research answers the question, “Why do two people behave differently?” What causes one to be an optimist and the other a pessimist, for example?

But it also seems that there are additional implications of these studies. What makes one person predisposed to skepticism and another blindly devout? Is the tendency to fear authority imprinted on our genes? Could grandma’s childhood stress from a punishing, puritanical God or parent be imprinted on our genes? What about memories? Is it possible that déjà vu is an ancestor’s memory?

I don’t have the answers, but this new research certainly suggests that these genetic add-ons might hold the answer to why one sibling believes and another does not. It also might help us understand why a four-year-old boy has knowledge that his mom miscarried another child before he was born.

Then again, perhaps he just overheard his parents talking.

At the very least, I suspect this research holds a key as to why some folks have tendencies to blindly believe while others seem to have skeptical natures.  I will end here, short of suggesting that the devout may also be “cured.”

What are your thoughts on the genetic possibilities of belief?

An Interview and A Challenge

Check out my interview with Parents.com Kristen Kemp. She asked some great questions, such as “What does it mean to grow up godless, and how can we teach morality to our kids?”

If you haven’t seen this article yet from FFRF, here’s an interesting “Easter Challenge for Christians” that I thought you guys might enjoy. Using the Bible, you’re asked to write down exactly what happened on the day that is now celebrated as Easter. You might want to share it with your older children so that they understand one of the many flaws of the Bible–and indeed, one of the flaws of human memory in retelling any story. If you share it with religious family this weekend, well….tread lightly and make sure you get the eating in first.

If any of you are interested and live in the area, I’ll be at this Barnes and Noble on Saturday for a book-signing.

For those of you with an extra day off this weekend, enjoy the time with family and friends!

Heaven is for Real

First, before today’s post, I wanted to let everyone know that Shanan sent this message along to us: “George is back at work!! He is healing and getting better every day, and the more he does, the better he’s feeling. He’s well on his way to full recovery. Please let your readers know, and tell them again, my family is so thankful for every contribution… whether monetary or just words of support. It has all made such a difference!”

So thank you guys for reaching out to Shanan’s family!

Now onto the post for the day….

Heaven is for real folks. I’ve seen it. This kid has seen it, too. There are some things you need to know.

Heaven is crowded. And loud. There is standing room only. If you arrive unexpectedly, you may have to wait to enter. There is not really anyone there to greet you–it’s more like opening the door to a large frat party where a handful of people boisterously holler at you and the rest carry on with their drinking and merry-making.

The truth that needs to be told is that everyone gets in. I mean everyone. It doesn’t matter what you did or did not do on planet earth. Apparently, we got the story wrong. You know what happens when people don’t write things down right away. In heaven, you’re not judged by the car you drive or how beautiful you are. Everyone is equal. Everyone is the same. There are no fancy clothes. People don’t even have faces, which makes it darn difficult to find your loved ones. (You just have to keep asking around and hope that someone knows.)

Guns are prohibited. In fact, everything is prohibited: food, alcohol, chewing gum, books, bicycles. There is no eating or drinking allowed. Subsequently, there is no defecation or urination, but there is also no fornication. Talk about booooring.

Your pets will be there, by the way. Yes it appears that animals have souls, too. Unfortunately there are no bark collars and no leashes in heaven. All you hear is barking, barking, barking. You’ll hear chickens and cows and birds, too, but the dogs are the worst because they like to be close to people. (Big mistake making them “man’s best friend.”)

You don’t get to sleep or eat or work or watch TV, so you better enjoy all that now while you can. Yeah, who would’ve thought work was enjoyable? Just spend an eternity doing nothing, and you’ll be begging for a job to do. You don’t get to play. You can’t golf or run or drive cars. So do all the playing you can before you make your final vacation plans to “paradise.”

Everyone is awake all the time. And they talk and talk and talk. If you like to talk, trust me, after a few thousand years of nonstop yakking, you’ll be begging for earplugs. Some people get bored and sing. This is not always a good as certain voices get the dogs howling. (The harp thing is complete BS. There are no musical instruments allowed either.)

I was not able to speak with the man in charge, the big guy. Word is he rarely speaks to anyone, being old and tired. I did hear the story of Adam and Eve is complete bollocks. As are most other stories we tell down here. There are no such things as angels or devils, and there are no plans for these sorts of thing.

Being that heaven is so very far out in outer space, not only is it beyond frigid, it’s also very damn dark. Heaven doesn’t have any nearby stars or planets–that’s how it’s escaped detection by the living. There are no beautiful sunrises or sunsets (what did you expect in such a remote location?). There is nothing to smell. No flowers. No cookies baking. No favorite perfumes. No new car or new baby smell. There is nothing to touch either. No warm skin. No soft blankets. Forever and ever.

Heaven is for real. See what we have to look forward to?

God Loves You. God Loves You Not.

 

We’ve all heard these ubiquitous sayings before: “God loves you unconditionally.” “He loves you so much he sent his only son to die for you.” (Wait, what? I thought we were all his sons and daughters?) “He gives his love freely.” “He will never leave you.” “He will love you eternally.”

But let’s be honest. “God” doesn’t love you. And if you’re a believer, you don’t really love God.

It’s you that you’re loving. You love a projection of yourself.

(I can hear it now: You can’t tell me how I feel!)

Right. How I feel. It’s all about the self. Those feelings humans call love—the affection, excitement, longing or desire–they’re an intangible cocktail mixed by the chemical bartender in your body. They don’t go anywhere or serve any purpose other than to motivate you to meet a need, to incite you to actions or behaviors that will preserve your body and perpetuate the faceless, voiceless genes inside.

I know. It’s all become so complicated.

The commercialization of love over the past few centuries has made the concept lucrative and even more convoluted. Think of the many businesses that thrive on love: wedding planners, jewelers, greeting card companies, florists, churches, divorce attorneys. It’s big business.

Religion is no doubt the biggest—it’s been reaping the rewards for thousands of years. It employs a god or gods, along with an entire cast of loving-inducing characters, including, but not limited to, Mary, Jesus, the Saints and guardian angels. Religion sells hope, community, comfort and, most importantly, love. God is really the only “person” who loves you unconditionally; no matter what you do or say, he loves you.

(Well, he still might send you to hell or a holding tank. Forever. Where you will be tortured. Forever. But never mind that.)

You can always count on God right? You just have to talk to him, and he listens. Well, my pillow listens, too, and responds in the same way as God.

Most people know that we cannot have a relationship with Prince Charming or Cinderella. These are imaginary people. They’re the embodiment of our wishes and hopes, our ideal selves. Relationships are only born when two conscious, breathing people have similar feelings in parallel. Does it make sense to “love” God?

Even more problematic, how would God love us as his “children”? If he were real, he’d simply be loving his own creation, not his offspring but his product. We would not be any more a part of God than a painting is a part of an artist, than Frankenstein’s monster is part of Dr. Frankenstein.

This way of looking at love may seem very dark and sinister, but it’s not. It’s nature’s genius at work. It’s how we protect and honor ourselves and our fellow man.

Understanding gives us power. From this perspective, love is not fickle or blind. We’re recognizing that what binds us is not the feeling of love but the commitments, duties and obligations we have for each other. Love is a reasonable and rational process of how we meet our own needs as well as those around us. It is not abstract; it is a feeling that inspires concrete actions. We can see and hear love. It means that we keep our word; we speak softly and kindly; we honor the commitments we make.

Love is about us, but also, not about us. We have an obligation and a duty to make the world a better place, to be our best selves and to continue to progress as a species in both our understanding of our psyches and of our place in the world.

God loves us not. But we are no better or worse for it.

Q&A

Hope you all are having a great weekend.

Sorry for this late notice, but if you’re interested in tuning in, I will be on Radio Amerika Now tonight at 10:00pm CT. There will be a Q&A about raising kids without religion. For more info, see here: http://radioamerikanow.com/?p=7667.