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!

Why don’t Mormons accept they’re not Christians?

The so-called "Mormon Moment" has shown that professional writers are really just a bunch of kids in a candy shop. And like a kid in a candy shop, these writers are easily distracted by whatever all of the other children are running to. Polygamy and "magic underwear" have received more than their fair share of attention. 

One argument that we need to hear more of, but haven't, is that Mormons aren't Christians. You've probably heard people say this before, and you may have even heard a half-assed explanation. In my experience, though, few people have enough familiarity with Mormon theology to clearly and succinctly explain why Mormons aren't Christians.

Why they aren't:

  • Christian believe in an infinite and singular God.
  • Mormons believe in a finite God who is one of a plurality of Gods (Elohim is the God of this creation; he resides on the planet Kolob).
  • Christians believe that Jesus is the incarnation of their singular God (hence the Trinity)
  • Mormons believe that Jesus is God's half-human offspring (hence the Godhead

Mormons assert that they believe that through Christ their sins are forgiven. This sounds about right, but upon closer examination, their version of Christ's expiation differs from their Christian brothers and sisters. Mormons don't believe that the atonement occurred in Christ's death, but earlier in the Garden of Gethsemane. The outcome is the same, but the function is different. 

I need to cool off and remind myself that this is all moot. Keep repeating to yourself, Frank, "I don't believe in any of this crap." (It's so fun, though.) I should take this moment to point out the obvious in that Mormons aren't Christians because no Mormon would ever get an awesome tattoo like the one to the right.

And here's a tip: no matter your familiarity with this topic, don't tell a Mormon that he or she isn't Christian. They're liable to scratch your eyes out. Mormons don't understand that it's not an insult, in fact it makes them a whole hell of a lot more interesting to view them as distinct from Christianity. The assertion is simply an honest understanding of Christianity and Mormonism, and that the two have a relation that more resembles the one between Christianity and Islam. Islam builds upon some aspects of Christianity, and Mormonism does the same. But protestant is where it's at in this country, so goddammit, the Mormons will throw as much of their religion away as they have to in order to get in good with the cool kids. 

Simon Critchley—commenting online for NYTimes—spells it all out in this thoughtful explanation of Mormonism. He mixes Mormon theology and Mormon cosmology into a piece about how the LDS faithful understand God and how their theology separates them from mainstream Christianity. 

And he shares a couple of doozies… 

“So, dear Simon,” my new friend concluded, “we, too, can become Gods, American Gods, no less.” He chuckled. I was astonished. 

Continue to the article at NYTimes.