Wishful Thinking: Why Prophets Are Wrong About Most Everything

A couple of episodes ago, Dan and I stumbled onto something both silly and possibly quite profound. We were talking about prophets and how they get to make up anything they want with no repercussions if they’re wrong. When they get something wrong (which is most of the time), they just make shit up about how they were misunderstood, misquoted, taken out of context, or most insidious… they were talking about a spiritual event not a physical one.

In the middle of all of that, I blurted out that prophets are just wishful thinkers, and that phrasing has stuck with me. These people want something so badly—and with their prefrontal cortex playing along—they dream up a scenario in which their wants can become reality.

It worked for the Hebrew prophets of old when predicting a messiah would save them all from bondage (and later from Roman rule). The people needed physical salvation. When it didn’t come, the people just kept waiting, and when Jesus came along offering only spiritual salvation, well… fuck him! The ancient Jews needed someone to save them from the Romans, but according to the Christians, Jesus wasn’t about all of that. The old prophecies of someone to lead them all from bondage weren’t about physical bondage, Jesus just wanted to save their souls.

And when we see Jesus again, he won’t be going on about all that spiritual shit, he’ll be here to fuck some people up!

Take the case of Harold Camping. He first predicted the end of the world would happen on September 6, 1994. That date failed to bring about the end times, and so he pushed it back a few weeks to September 29. When it didn’t happen then, he admitted he must have gotten the math wrong and recalculated it to October 2. “Hey, biblical math is hard!”

Evidently so, because he’d be wrong again come May 21, 2011, and then again after his final October 21, 2011 prediction failed to come to pass.

Fun side note: TGIA pretty much owes its existence to Harold Camping. Listen to our April 14, 2018 episode for the full story.

Surely Harold wasn’t being a wishful thinker about the end of the world, right? I feel like I know the TGIA audience well enough that I don’t have to explain these things, but here it goes. Christianity is a blood cult that re-crucifies its savior every weekend. Some of them believe they are consuming the literal flesh and blood of Jesus Christ and that this is how they get into heaven. They long for their enemies to be vanquished by blood, and the best part will be seeing Jesus Christ himself returning to Earth to wipe out all of the nonbelievers, hopefully in the most bloody and vile way imaginable.

In some ways, all Harold Camping wanted was to see the fulfillment of times, and I find something about that mildly forgivable. His “good book” told him his entire life that God had a plan to destroy the planet and all life on it. You can’t blame him for wanting to see it, just like every other demented old Christian since Jesus gave them the best excuse ever.

We’re Back!

With this blog post, I hereby announce that “life” is returning to thankgodimatheist.com. The podcast itself has been up and running nonstop since we recorded our first episode over eight years ago, but sadly the website has fallen into disrepair. Dusty old blog posts about patriarchal blessings and a road trip to the South we took seven years ago were all that was keeping a broken old podcast player company.

Since starting the podcast back in the fall of 2011, Dan and I have produced an episode every week with the exception of one. We didn’t know what we were doing when we first started, and you can hear it! The audio levels were all out of whack, we yammered on way too long about things that didn’t matter, and we were probably a little too hungry for someone, anyone, to just please listen!

From the earliest weeks of the show, we were amazed that people found us, but somehow the show kept growing and growing. Now we’re jumping off into a new frontier called “trying to do just a little bit more than only recording the show we love so much.” Partially that means giving this blog a little bit of life again.

But what will that new life look like exactly? Well, things are going to start working around here again for one, and we are committing to posting regularly about stories from the podcast that need a little more exploring. Maybe that means making additional fun of some silly believer or possibly digging deeper into the numbers of some poll that’s fascinating us at the moment. We’re not entirely sure. Seemingly it’s when we don’t know what we’re doing, but commit to it anyway, that we do our best work.

Stick around.

Seven Years of Podcasting

Roughly eight years ago, Dan started talking about wanting to do a podcast. It took a while (and a couple of trial runs at different concepts) before I was convinced. So sometime early/mid November 2011, we sat down in a small recording studio at my work and gave it a shot. I remember us discussing “national hats” and can recall little more than that. I’m sure if I read through the show’s description, a few memories might be dislodged from their hiding places, but not much lives on in my active memory.

And I find that surprising… not that I can’t remember the early days of TGIA with great clarity, but because we’ve been doing this show long enough that memories from the first year aren’t easy to access. And don’t even ask me about the middle years… What a blur!

With that, however, I give you our 362nd episode: “Seven Years of TGIA”. (And for you mathy types who will say that the 364th should be our 7th anniversary: we have failed to post every single week only twice.)

TGIA episode 362

What about the “Moderate” Muslims?

In episode 153 “Islam: Take 2,” Dan and I asked the question, “Are there moderate Muslims?” In order to make the point that the teachings of Islam itself are extreme—death penalty for adultery and homosexuality—we played the following video:

One of the things that stood out to me while watching the video is how hard it would be as a Muslim to disagree with the speaker’s position. On what legitimately Muslim grounds could you make your case that a woman who commits adultery shouldn’t be stoned?

The following video from the BBC did shed some light on this question:

What do you think? Is Islam unique in its threat to liberal western values?

Free Advice: Don’t Use the Hitler Quote

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Don’t you just hate it when all you need to promote your Christian youth program is a really good quote, and the only one you can find is from Adolf Hitler? Take the quotation: “He alone, who owns the youth, gains the future.” That’s a pretty good line, and it totally makes the point you wanted to make. But there’s that whole Hitler thing…

You clearly have only two choices: You could use the quote and not attribute it, but that feels dishonest, like you’re stealing from Adolf Hitler. (Nobody cares about plagiarism when it involves Hitler, right?!) Or you could use the quote, say who said it, and hope nobody figures out that it’s THAT Adolf Hitler. But here’s where you probably feel safe–it’s not like it’s a quote about killing Jews or the superiority of the Aryan race or anything bad like that. If someone asks, be sure to point that out.

Apparently down in Alabama, a youth bible school decided to run an ad on a billboard and they found themselves in the dilemma I laid out above. The only problem is that they didn’t come up with the obvious third alternative: DON’T USE THE QUOTE. They simply decided to throw in a verse from the Bible to balance things out. What do you think? Did it work? Read the story from the local newspaper.

A Mother’s Warning

Last Friday morning my Mormon mother called me with a warning, “be careful this weekend.” I was a little taken aback so I asked for clarification. “I was painting out back and had an impression. You were involved.” I acknowledged hearing her warning and–annoyed–ended the call abruptly.

This was not the first bit of “personal revelation” my mother has directed toward me, but it was the first in a very long time. I had almost forgotten that this was a habit of hers. Growing up, mom had impressions from the “still small voice” all the time. In fact, to a casual observer the voice probably seemed large and loud.

Mom had a bumpy road toward family prophetess though. When I was around eight years old, she scraped her leg really bad on the concrete decking surrounding the swimming pool. The “Holy Ghost” had whispered to her not to go outside, and she heeded the warning until she noticed that a planter on the other side of the pool was turned the wrong way. She slipped out the back door, corrected the planter, and while backing up to admire her work, fell backwards into the pool dragging one of her legs across the sharp little rocks embedded into the concrete.

Later that day, she commented that when you fail to listen to “His” promptings the Lord steps aside letting you face the consequences of your actions. I was mesmerized, and over the next decade, I would witness her sharing premonitions about black ice, ladders, river trips, and anything else that would be of mild concern for a typical mother.

Her prophesying probably seems fairly innocent, and my rudely getting off the phone probably seems, well… rude. But her phone call on Friday stirred up old emotions, and I feel like it was violation of the unspoken terms of our almost fifteen-year truce on the topics of faith and religion. I let her tell me about the goings-on at church, and she never ever asks me when I’m going to return to the gospel (or any other crap like that). I keep details about my life to a minimum. Everything works great!

I don’t know if I have any answers about how to deal with this. In fact, I don’t even think I’m asking any questions. My f’ed up relationship with my mother (and father for that matter) is what it is. I guess what intrigues me the most about her warning and the overall effect it had on my weekend is that I did change my behavior. I was more careful. It clearly wasn’t for the reason she had hoped——that I would start trusting her faith.

I just didn’t want to die in a car accident and leave her feeling like she was right.

Frank’s Patriarchal Blessing

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Mormons have a mystical side they don’t like sharing with the world—they know how weird their secret practices make them look—but the secrets have a special power to hold on to people even years after they’ve thrown off their mormonism.

I experienced a good example of this on Wednesday when I stumbled upon my lost “patriarchal blessing.” This weirdo ritual is performed by what amounts to as a Mormon psychic—or “stake patriarch”—who is appointed to do so for his little corner of the church. This older revered man puts his hands on your head, conveys promises from “Heavenly Father” for your life, and provides enough specific sounding generalizations to convince the blessing’s recipient that the whole thing was intended just for them. The blessing is transcribed and filed away at the church offices in Salt Lake City. You get a copy of the blessing (on a very important and official looking form) in the mail a few weeks later.

Like most mission bound young Mormons, I received my patriarchal blessing a few months prior to leaving for my two-year mission. I felt incredibly special hearing God’s pronouncements for my life and worked hard to make sense of the blessing’s vaguer portions. There were promises of “sitting in counsel with the brethren” and an assurance that “a young lady [is] now being prepared for you.” Both presented its own unique mindfuck that would take years to undo. One seemed like a promise that I had the potential to attain church leadership (a great blessing and a signal of righteousness) and the other suggested to me that if I held on long enough, the whole “gay thing” might just go away.

These and other parts of the blessing loomed over me for years, but after accepting my atheism, I was able to slowly shed the control this document held over me. Through the years I have continued to set aside various relics of my religious upbringing.

At some point, I lost track of my copy of my patriarchal blessing and thought I’d never see it again. That is until I found it in a box of old credit card statements. My first reaction upon seeing it was excitement, and then I hesitated to read it. I realized though, that all these years later, I was still granting it some power.

So here you go world: Frank Feldman’s patriarchal blessing! Seeing as how Mormons don’t talk openly with outsiders about patriarchal blessings even in general, I’ve decided that I wanted to share my whole blessing for anyone who might be interested in reading it. A warning though, it’s really not that interesting.

Patriarchal Blessing p1_reduced

Patriarchal Blessing (page 1)

Patriarchal Blessing p2_reduced

Patriarchal Blessing (page 2)

Travel Itinerary for our Bible Belt Tour

Frank and Dan are hitting the road starting May 13 through May 27, and we’d love to meet as many of you along the way as possible. Please let us know if you’d like to meet up.

Mon, May 13 – en route to Dallas from Salt Lake

Tue, May 14 – DALLAS

Wed, May 15 – AUSTIN

Thu, May 16 – HOUSTON

Fri, May 17 – NEW ORLEANS

Sat, May 18 – MONTGOMERY

Sun, May 19 – ATLANTA

Mon, May 20 – MURFREESBORO, TN

Tue, May 21 – MEMPHIS

Wed, May 22 – CLARKSDALE, MS

Thu, May 23 – EUREKA SPRINGS, AR

Fri, May 24 & Sat, May 25 – MUSKOGEE COUNTY, OK

Sun, May 26 – TULSA

Mon, May 27 – TOPEKA

 

It is unlikely that these dates and stops will change, but please let us know if you think they should!