Friday, June 29, 2007

Are Christians Pagans?

Yes, I know I said I retired my blog, but someone sent me this video link. It's simply too cool to not pass along. I don't know if anyone is still checking in here, but this is definitely worth the time:

Now back to retirement...

Monday, June 25, 2007

The Parable of the Deep Dark Well

A few months ago I penned my very mediocre first post and a lot has happened. I have engaged in lots of discussions with lots of people across the belief spectrum. Some of the conversations have been great and some – not so much. It has been a fantastic experience. However, a strange thing has happened and I feel like I have a much better understanding than I did before. No, I’m not accepting Jesus Christ as my personal lord and savior (odds on that happening over 1 billion to 1). I understand that I will never change the minds of those who want to believe. For those who don’t believe, I’m merely preaching to the choir. For those in the middle, there are plenty of resources out there to help them question their god and make their own decisions. I don’t have much more to add to the discussion and I feel very much at peace.

I have learned that I don’t have to be anonymous and hide my beliefs. I proudly display a Darwin fish on the back of my truck and have received exactly one response. A nice woman stopped me a few weeks back in a parking lot and asked me a few questions about the truck. She said her husband was interested in one. We had a conversation for a few minutes and she then thanked me for my time and said, “I knew you were a reasonable person when I saw your Darwin fish.” I’ve never been flipped off or yelled at or discriminated in any way. Just one person had something to say about it and it was complimentary.

At work, I always feared discrimination amongst the very vocal Christian group. Who knows, I may be discriminated against in the future, but I don’t think I would work well with a believer. I also believe that although they are very vocal, they are a tiny minority so there is nothing to fear. I am fully out and it’s liberating!

So instead of blogging anonymously, I plan on living by example. I want people to see my relationship with my wife and children (there is a new one on the way!) and understand that it is possible to have a good family and good life without god. If they want to learn more I’ll offer. If they are not interested and want to cling to their beliefs, so be it.

That being said, I would like to close the blog with a story told to me by my dad. If anyone knows the author, I will update this post and give credit where credit is due. Until then, this is just a story told from one generation to another which I plan to share with my son when he is old enough…

There was a man who lived in America and felt that he just couldn’t grasp the meaning of life. He went to the churches and the synagogues and studied, but none of it satisfied his thirst for true knowledge. Through his studies, he learned of a great and wise guru who lived in India.

The man scraped together his savings and sought the guru. Upon arrival in India, the man relentlessly pursued the guru. His quest took him to the peaks of the Himalayas where after several months of asking, climbing, and seeking; he finally found the guru.

The man approached the guru and the guru smiled. “My son, what is it that you seek?”

“Oh wise guru, I have searched for you for so long. Please, please tell me – what is the meaning of life?”

“Life, my son, is like a deep dark well.”

The man was speechless for several moments. “Life is like a deep dark well,” he repeated blankly. For several minutes he just stood there absorbing the knowledge of what the guru told him.

Finally, he yelled back, “Life is like a deep dark well! I spent my life savings coming here; I tracked you down for months, and all you have to say is life is like a deep dark well?”

The guru look surprised as no one had ever questioned his wisdom before. He responded simply with, “You mean it’s not?”

The point of the story is that no one has the answers for us. No priests, preachers, rabbis, imams, or holy books. This life is precious and beautiful and tragically brief. We need to appreciate life for what it is and cherish the time we have here. Making life better for other people is a worthy goal, glorifying a non-existent deity and clinging to dogma and ancient writings is not.

If anyone needs to reach me, I am still at


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Mel Gibson, My Inspiration (seriously)

Way back in 2004, my wife and I got in a debate over whether or not to see “The Passion of the Christ”. I am not one to shy away from a controversial movie, so it would seem strange that I was on the side of not seeing it. My reason for not wanting to see it was I felt there was very little for me to learn by watching someone get brutally tortured and killed for a few hours.

There are some atheists who do not believe in a historical Jesus. I am not one of them. For me to believe that there was man named Jesus, that he lived in the first century, that he was a Jew, that he had a following, and that he agitated the already worked up Jewish population to a point where he was crucified doesn’t seem like much of a stretch. From what I know about history, the proceeding sentence seems credible to me. The issue I have is whether this man was the Son of God and redeemer of our sins to which I say, “Rubbish!”

Regardless of who I feel Jesus is, Mel wanted to make a biblically accurate movie of his last hours. That’s my inspiration. I would love to see movie that started with the Book of Exodus and tell the literal story as found in the Bible. Sure, everyone knows about Moses being raised by the Pharaoh and righteously fighting for a Hebrew slave. We’ve all seen “The Ten Commandments”. How many people know about how God allegedly rained manna from heaven? How many people know why the Israelites started worshiping a golden calf? Does the laymen know that God ordered the slaughter of 3,000 Jews (Exodus 32)? The genocide of the Moabites (Numbers 31)? That God punished Moses for using his staff to produce water from a rock instead of speaking to the rock even though he had used his staff in the past? All of the really truly awful, horrible things God says and does along the way?

The problem a director would have is how to maintain a consistent tone throughout the movie. Mel made “The Passion” somber and dramatic. What would we do when Moses leaves the Israelites to talk to God for 40 frickin’ days as God spells out in agonizing detail how to build the Arc? For me, it would go from somber to silly – like the scene in “Monty Python’s Holy Grail” with the Knights Who Say Ni. Just imagine Moses sitting there desperately trying to stay awake as the LORD dictates little gems like Exodus 27 (

1 And thou shalt make an altar of shittim wood, five cubits long, and five cubits broad; the altar shall be foursquare: and the height thereof shall be three cubits.
2 And thou shalt make the horns of it upon the four corners thereof: his horns shall be of the same: and thou shalt overlay it with brass.
3 And thou shalt make his pans to receive his ashes, and his shovels, and his basons, and his fleshhooks, and his firepans: all the vessels thereof thou shalt make of brass.
4 And thou shalt make for it a grate of network of brass; and upon the net shalt thou make four brasen rings in the four corners thereof.
5 And thou shalt put it under the compass of the altar beneath, that the net may be even to the midst of the altar.
6 And thou shalt make staves for the altar, staves of shittim wood, and overlay them with brass.
7 And the staves shall be put into the rings, and the staves shall be upon the two sides of the altar, to bear it.
8 Hollow with boards shalt thou make it: as it was shewed thee in the mount, so shall they make it.
9 And thou shalt make the court of the tabernacle: for the south side southward there shall be hangings for the court of fine twined linen of an hundred cubits long for one side:
10 And the twenty pillars thereof and their twenty sockets shall be of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets shall be of silver.
11 And likewise for the north side in length there shall be hangings of an hundred cubits long, and his twenty pillars and their twenty sockets of brass; the hooks of the pillars and their fillets of silver.
12 And for the breadth of the court on the west side shall be hangings of fifty cubits: their pillars ten, and their sockets ten.

The above quote is just a small sample of a section of Exodus that rambles on and on for three entire chapters. Meanwhile, while Moses is scribbling notes away like crazy in his notepad, the rest of the congregation is scared without Moe to lead them. They think he’s dead and God has left them and that’s why they start worshipping the golden calf. If the average person saw a literal interpretation of the Bible on the big screen, I believe there would be a lot more atheists.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Let's Talk About Sex

I have a friend who was raised a devout Catholic. When she was in high school, her boyfriend pressured her to have sex. She resisted, but ultimately wound up having anal sex with her boyfriend to keep her virginity intact.

I would argue that once you take it up the ass, you are no longer a virgin, but what do I know? Why, why, why would someone do this?! Because from the time she was old enough to understand English she had been told over and over again the pre-marital sex is a sin. This dogma led her to find another way to satisfy her boyfriend and her needs and try to fool God. I have said it over and over again that even if the OT/NT God could be proven to me, I still wouldn’t worship Him. However, even this atheist would think that God would not be deceived by such trickery.

Sex is one of the most powerful human urges. Unfortunately for most, religious dogma has an enormous impact on sexual behavior. In some ways, I even think that the religious rules around reproduction made a lot of sense a few millennia ago. In ancient Greece or Rome, the average life expectancy was a mere 28 years old. Getting married at 13 or 14 and reproducing right away makes a lot of sense with these kinds of odds. It’s not like our ancient ancestors were cramming for the SATs, trying to get into good schools, competing for a well-paying job, buying houses, and then having kids. They were dying at 28! They only had a few years to find a mate and start reproducing.

The emphasis on female virginity makes sense too (in a weird sort of way). If your bride was not a virgin on your wedding night, how could one be sure that if she were to get pregnant right away that the child was yours? Let’s have a show of hands from the men reading this column who really want to raise another man’s kid… That’s what I thought.

So, telling children to wait until marriage before having sex made sense. Since men don’t even go through puberty until they are 12 – 14 years old and they could be married to a woman as soon as they were even aware of their sexuality, it wasn’t really asking a whole lot. And if they made the wrong choice in mates and their wife made them miserable, they were only going to live another decade or so anyway.

Does this make sense today? Most states won’t even allow marriage under the age of eighteen. Birth control is (or should be) readily available and so are paternity tests. It takes years for a new adult to establish themselves in society. How is a 21st century is teen supposed to resist the most basic human urge for over fifteen years? Is this even healthy? I’m sure the religious folks would say they should find an imaginary friend, name their friend Jesus, and pray to Him for strength against sin. I think I have a better idea…

The Wagerist idea is to really understand what sex is. It’s a decision. Wagerists always strive to make good decisions. Sex can be unbelievably fun. It is an important part of a relationship. It comes with serious consequences including pregnancy and STDs. One in four sexually active Americans has the Herpes virus! It can make a relationship far more complicated and last longer than it should. Women (and men) are more likely to put up with abuse when in a sexual relationship.

Whether or not you have sex shouldn’t be a question of sin. There is no sin. It’s a matter of respecting your partner(s), protecting yourself, and understanding the consequences of your actions.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Deliver Us from Evil

Yesterday was a challenging day for the Wager family. Baby Wager had a minor surgery to remove his adenoids which will hopefully be beneficial to his overall health. There was a lot of crying and fussing, but that was by Mrs. Wager. Baby Wager did really well overall. Anyway, I took the day off from work to help out and Baby Wager wound up sleeping for eighteen hours following his surgery. I finally had some time to watch a movie I had laying around the house. Mrs. Wager and I decided to watch “Deliver Us from Evil”.

The movie is a documentary that covers the Catholic Church’s cover up of the pedophilia scandal. It was well done, interesting, the people who volunteered to be in the movie were definitely courageous, but overall it left me depressed. The producers lay out a reasonable case that the cover-up goes all the way to the current pope.

After spending all day thinking and worrying about our own child, I looked at my wife when the movie was over and asked her, “It was a good movie, but now that I’ve seen it, what exactly am I supposed to do with this knowledge?”

My wife answered that we need to make sure that Baby Wager has the ability to stand up to authority. It turns out, it’s not easy. See the Milgram Experiment. We are biologically programmed to listen to authority figures which is a shame that the church uses this to enslave us.

Another interesting point in the movie was the issue of clerical celibacy. One theory was that the moral absolute that priests remain celibate made all sex by priests equally bad. I may be a moral relativist but come on! A priest having an affair with an adult woman (or man for that matter) is wholly different from a priest RAPING a six month old infant (this actually happened and the priest got promoted). This absolutist mentality is causing far more harm than good. Kind of says something about the whole absolutist philosophy, huh?

Some additional fun facts from the movie:

* 10% of the seminary graduates are pedophiles

* There are 100,000 cases of clergy abuse now pending in the US

* 80% of sexual abuse cases do not get reported, therefore there have probably been 500,000 cases of abuse

* There are currently 556 priests under investigation in the Los Angeles daises alone

* The Catholic Church has paid out over $1 billion since 1950 in sexual abuse hush money. Think about where your money goes if you are a Catholic and the plate comes to you.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Moral Relativism

I have had an email conversation with a Christian at work. I’m not saying he speaks for all Christians, but his comments are remarkably similar to the comments I see elsewhere. It seems to me, from my conversations, that there is a need for absolutes amongst believers. My code of ethics won’t work, so I’m told, because it lacks moral absolutes. Guess what – life is relative!

The emails started with my challenging the notion as to why Christ had to die for us to be saved (still an absolutely bizarre notion to me). I received back a few questions that were designed to help me find God. I was asked how do we know cold without heat? Also, I was asked if I believed torturing babies was wrong.

I answered that cold and heat are actually arbitrary labels we throw onto objects. All objects have some level of heat in them and there is a universal cold limit known as Absolute Zero. Nothing can get colder than that. Liquid oxygen may be a few tenths of a degree Kelvin, but there is still some heat there. The analogy (and what is religion besides a bunch of really goofy analogies) breaks down because the measurement of temperature and labeling “hot” and “cold” is purely relative. On a hot day a 33 degree Fahrenheit beer may be called “cold”. If it were left outside and reached 80 degrees Fahrenheit, it might be called “hot”. However, the universe doesn’t really care about these labels. The beer has some measurement of heat regardless of whether it appears hot or cold to the human observer.

On to the baby killing… Of course I’m against baby killing. I don’t need a God to tell me this is wrong. I turned it around though and asked about baby starving. Is it OK to starve a baby? I’ll admit it here, I’ve starved my own child. It’s true. When he was seven weeks old and we had to switch him to formula (due to food intolerances), I was responsible for the 3AM feedings. His cries would wake me from my sleep and I would turn the monitor off so my wife could continue sleeping. Now my son, who I love more than anything, found himself awake, alone, scared, in the dark, and for all practical purposes he was starving. And what did I do? I would go to the bathroom and urinate for a minute before attending to him. I left him starving and crying and took care of my own needs before feeding him. I’m sure plenty of parents have made the same decision too. My point? Starving a baby is relative too! It’s all friggin’ relative.

However, my believer friend insisted that God is the ultimate authority and that’s why we know baby killing is wrong. I asked about Numbers 31 where Moses ordered the slaughter of all male children and non-virgin women. His response?

“Let me ask this - Is it possible that God's action in commanding Israel to wipe out the Midianites was actually a benevolent act? If the Midianites were part of Satan's plot to interfere with the coming of the promised Messiah - the one to save the world from sin, is it not a good thing that such a plot would be brought to an abrupt end? The Midianite children - is it possible that by dying early they were actually saved? The answer requires that you think outside of the earthly box and see what's going on in the spiritual realm. If you do not even accept the existence of God, how can you accept an answer involving God's plan for the world? How could you possible see how death can bring life?”

So let me get this straight, an entire group of people were possessed by Satan and they were better off being massacred because at least this way they would be saved? Sorry, the bullshit flag has to come out on this one. God is a rationalization for a massacre here. Someone decided these people had to go and then used absolutism to excuse it. Anyone who didn’t agree was told that it was part of God’s plan and we can’t question Him. Using theology this way, just about anything can be rationalized. Under relativism, we (as a tribe, family, society, individual) are asked to challenge authority. With God’s absolutism, manifest destiny and the “kill ‘em all and let God sort it out” mentality can run wild (and has).

Plenty of people claim to speak for God. Ted Haggard was once a highly respected preacher in the Evangelical community. He eventually got outed for frequenting a gay prostitute and buying meth. He eventually admitted to having a homosexual affair while preaching against the sin of the gay lifestyle. The entire time he fooled an entire religious community. He later claimed to go through a three week transformation where he is now 100% straight and seeks to help others in his position. Is there a Holy Spirit detector that we could have used on Ted while he was having a gay affair? Can we use the detector now to see if he is truly moved by the Spirit? Of course not! There is no Holy Spirit that moves us. Ted spoke for Ted just as he speaks for Ted now. I’d be willing to bet a substantial sum of money that it’s only a matter of time before he’s back to being gay.

So the options come down to relativism or absolutism. Relativism requires careful consideration and a challenge of authority. Absolutism requires blind obedience and crediting decisions with the divine. Of course, no one can really tell who is speaking for God or not, because anyone who claims to speak for God is really speaking for their own subconscious. Before I close on this subject, I’d like to give a shout out to a young reader who goes by Master Jedi Dan. I would like to point out that Obi Wan Kenobi told a young Anakin Skywalker, “Only the Sith deal in absolutes.”

Thursday, June 7, 2007

A Sin Free Life

Christianity attempts to answer the question of sin. The premise is, we are all sinners and Jesus was perfect. If we accept Jesus into our hearts, then we can be forgiven for our sins too. Hooray for Jesus! I have an alternate proposal for dealing with the question of sin, but first, let’s take a look at what the word sin means (from

sin1 noun, verb, sinned, sin•ning.
1. transgression of divine law: the sin of Adam.
2. any act regarded as such a transgression, esp. a willful or deliberate violation of some religious or moral principle.
3. any reprehensible or regrettable action, behavior, lapse, etc.; great fault or offense: It's a sin to waste time.
–verb (used without object)
4. to commit a sinful act.
5. to offend against a principle, standard, etc.
–verb (used with object)
6. to commit or perform sinfully: He sinned his crimes without compunction.
7. to bring, drive, etc., by sinning: He sinned his soul to perdition.

In Wagerism, there is no sin. The world is not split into good and evil with some acts considered bad (don’t eat pork!). No, it’s a complex system of decision making. Every decision has a consequence and there are good and bad decisions. There are laws too, some are just and some are unjust. Wagerists like to see unjust laws overturned, like the law in Washington State that prevents me from buying tequila at the supermarket and keeps the state run liquor stores closed on Sunday. Some bad decisions are completely legal. Wagerists do not look to the government to save them from themselves. Wagerists ask how the consequences of their actions will affect their community, their families, and themselves.

Wagerists might make some bad decisions along the way. When that happens, a good Wagerist will stop and reflect on the trail of decisions that led them to this point. Then after careful and deliberate thought the Wagerist will come up with a plan to start making good decisions. Very few bad decisions result in a dead end. Most will just take the Wagerist along a path they do not want to continue. If enough bad decisions are made, getting to a better path may be difficult but rarely is it impossible.

So there it is, if you want to live a life free of sin, simply throw your Bible away. Don’t let an archaic scroll tell you that eating shellfish is bad or if you have sex before marriage you have sinned. Understand that you can make your own decisions and be comfortable living with the consequences of your decisions. It’s that easy, no imaginary friends needed.