The God Virus

GodVirus2

I have never been able to figure out why Mama—a sixty-five-year convert to Jehovah’s Witnesses—can so accurately point out the flaws of other religions and yet be so blind to her own. That is until I read The God Virus by Darrel W. Ray, Ed.D.

In this well-written, easy-to-understand book, I learned for the first time why people are unable to see to the failings of their own religion.
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Erika’s View of Faith

I received a telephone call from my granddaughter on June 4, asking me if I would like to hear a speech that she had written. She planned to present it at church the next day. I am curious if you will have the same response as I did. It reads:


What is Faith?

By Erika Waalkes, Age 15

For me, “Faith” is a very complex word. For many people this is the word they live by, and for others it is not even part of their life.

When I looked up faith in the dictionary, one of the definitions was, “any set of firmly held principles or beliefs.” This can mean so many different things. It can refer to religion, what you believe, or it can simply be how you live your life.

For me personally, I see faith as how I journey through life and my values; being a good person, helping others, and working hard to achieve my dreams. In other words, I try to live by the golden rule. Treating others how I want them to treat me. I think this is a rule everyone should live by.

Ironically, the golden rule is found in all major religions, just in different words. In Buddhism it is, “hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” In Hinduism it is, “this is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you.” And what I appreciate about these words is that growing up and going to All Souls Church, I have learned that these are powerful words of wisdom. If everyone lived by them, the world would be at peace.

For many people, their faith is dependent on their belief in a higher power than themselves. They worship and pray to this God or Gods. Living in west Michigan, I have been asked many times about my religion. Depending on who the person is, I’ll explain what I believe and what kind of church I go to. After describing my faith, I am often asked, “Do you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” I’ll say, “No, but I respect what you believe.” Normally, I’m criticized for what I believe, and the person tries to save me. I wonder why? If I respect and honor what they believe, why can’t they afford to do the same for me?
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The Ghosts from Mama’s Club

I am currently writing a sequel, The Ghosts from Mama’s Club. The book is an autobiography of my life after Bethel, and it prompts the question, “So what are these ghosts?” In my story, they are dysfunctional behavior patterns, residue from the time spent in a highly controlled religious group. These ghosts can be toxic and debilitating roadblocks to a full, happy life after leaving the Club, if they’re not identified and exorcized. They are:

  1. Prodigious amounts of misinformation acquired wittingly/unwittingly.
  2. Constant guilt due to thinking one is not pleasing God. This occurs when old religious fears are not properly cremated.
  3. The loss of cognitive thinking skills, an inability to think for oneself.
  4. An insatiable need to have other people or groups do one’s thinking.
  5. The inability to articulate well-thought-out religious/philosophical beliefs.
  6. A potentially unhealthy attraction to high-control fundamentalist groups promising God’s truth & the correct interpretation of the Bible.
  7. The inability to tolerate the insecurity of anything outside the sphere of physical science and a person’s conscious experiences.
  8. A need to control other people. (When you’re abused, you can abuse)
  9. A lack of self-control related to sex, alcohol or drugs.
  10. The inability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time.
  11. Black and white thinking, as answers were always found in the WT.
  12. Difficulty understanding that the only things a person can control are one’s beliefs about events, people, circumstances, etc.
  13. Difficulty assimilating into mainstream society due to JW phobias.
  14. Stuck on constantly blaming the organization for robbing the best years of one’s life and unable to acknowledge one’s duplicity.
  15. Obsessive time and energy spent on projects intended to topple the organization. (Expose them, yes. Toppling them isn’t going to happen as JWs fill a market niche for people in need of heavy-duty structure.)
  16. A propensity to underline in ink key points in magazines and books.
  17. Suffering persistent shunning by JW family and friends. (For many people, this is the most brutal ghost, and can be severely debilitating.)

I believe the most invasive of the ghosts is misinformation. Shedding “things a person knows that ain’t so” is a very challenging task. It requires cremating old religious fears. It may take years. But it can be done. If I were to leave the organization today, my recovery plan would include reading the following six books, in this order, and here’s why:

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What We Know About the Bible that Ain’t So – 3

This is the third and last post related to what is known by most Christians about the Bible that ain’t so. While much of this information is reported in Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus, the following facts have been well known to well-informed, objective Bible scholars for almost two hundred years:

  • We do not have the original writings of the New Testament. What we have are copies of these writings, made years later—in most cases, many years later. And none of these copies is completely accurate since the scribes who produced them inadvertently and/or intentionally changed them in places. All scribes did this.God listens to Eve
  • There are more differences among preserved manuscripts than there are words in the New Testament.
  • The twenty-seven books we call the New Testament were not gathered into one canon and considered scripture, finally and ultimately, until hundreds of years after the books themselves were first produced.
  • We do not know precisely how old the New Testament is. It could be 1,200 years; we just don’t know. But we do know that it’s not 2,000 years old as I was taught growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness.
  • The third-century church father Origen, made the following complaint about the copies of the Gospel at his disposal: “The differences among the manuscripts have become great, either through the negligence of some copyists or through the perverse audacity of others; they either neglect to check over what they have transcribed, or, in the process of checking, they make additions or deletions as they please.” [Read more...]