• Hello world!

    I’ve been writing all sorts of things for many years, but this is my first outing as a blogger.  Cool.  A little scary.  And to my relief, it seems I have a lot to say.  As an archaeologist, I track the wild wonders of pseudoarchaeology with wide-eyed fascination.  As a historian, I have collected messiahs for years in the way some people collect butterflies.  As a writer of f&sf, I’m alive to the joys of using fiction to approach what I want to say from unexpected angles – hence the “lateral” in “lateral truth”.   Oh yes, lots to say.

    Here’s where I’m coming from.

    My progeny call me a fundamentalist atheist, which is irritating but probably true.  I was first carried into an evangelical church at the age of ten days, and spent the next twenty years attending four to seven religious functions per week.  These included (but were not limited to) Sunday school, Sunday morning service, Sunday evening service, Wednesday prayer meeting, choir practice, assorted kiddy clubs, Young People’s, and a girls-only group with the dreadful name of the King’s Mission Belles.

    In those days, Sunday school and the morning church service ran back to back, like consecutive prison terms.  Sunday school was not too bad, enlivened as it was by flannelgraphs and action choruses.  The main service, however, involved sitting on hard pews and being very, very good for up to two hours at a stretch, while suffering through an eternity of incomprehensible sermons and interminable prayers.  Until about age six, we only had to be quiet.  After that, we were also required to be conscious.

    Fortunately, that was about when we learned to read.  Storybooks and comics were of course banned from the pews, and the church bulletin was pretty dry stuff, but nobody seemed to mind if you stuck your nose into the hymnal or the Bible for the duration.   I trawled the hymns happily, wondering why exactly the saints would want to cast down their golden crowns; or how blood could wash whiter than snow, when my experience of nosebleeds was quite different.  This was adequately entertaining, and the songs stayed with me.  Even now, where some people belt out show tunes in the shower, I will belt out the Baptist hymnal.

    But the Bible was an even better device for surviving the dreariness of sermons, because there were lots of games you could play with it.  I spent many delightful hours choosing names for future offspring, names that were humanely discarded long before any potential Hepzibahs, Jochebeds, Eleazars or Habakkuks came along.  I held competitions among the genealogical chapters, awarding one point for each “begat.”  I found as many common English words as possible using the letters in the name of each book of the Bible.  And I played the most dangerous game of all – I actually read the stories.

    What could look more innocent than a small child in a shaft of glass-stained sunshine, absorbed in the pages of the Good Book?  Actually, I was discovering with great interest all the bits that should have been X-rated for sex and violence, as well as the bits that were gorgeously written and a damned good read; and there was always the chance of stumbling on a nugget like Song of Solomon 5:4, with its reference to moving bowels.  Anyway, little by little, I began to notice that the cuddly versions of the stories handed down to us in Sunday school were curiously incomplete.

    Samson, for example, was presented as an action hero who did just fine for himself until he annoyed God by getting his hair cut.  Nobody mentioned his trick of tying firebrands to the tails of live foxes, which I thought smacked of cruelty to animals.  The Children of Israel were presented as a bunch of whining sinners who strained the patience of God and Moses with outrageous demands.  To me, their complaints seemed to be perfectly reasonable worries about food and water and getting massacred.  Jehovah came across as a horrendous bully, though Jesus sounded like a very nice person; but there were several different versions of his resurrection, and I did not see how all of them could be true at the same time.

    This was all very confusing.  And there were some stories that Sunday school avoided entirely: the near-annihilation of the tribe of Benjamin, the scandal of Tamar and Judah, the account of Zipporah’s DIY circumcision of her son’s foreskin.  We heard about David and Goliath, but not David and Bathsheba; Moses and Aaron, but not Moses and Korah.  And God not only seemed to order a great many massacres, but also made a point of including babies on His hit list.  In fact, it seemed to me that the misbehaviour of God and His appointed leaders, as recorded in God’s own infallible scripture, would have earned them at least a smacked bottom in my world.

    I did ask questions, now and then.  My parents told me gently there were some things I would understand when I was older, and some things we were not meant to understand until God explained them to us in Heaven, presumably with flannelgraphs.  This did not satisfy me, but it did temporarily shut me up.  By the age of ten, when I came to the dread realization that I was a natural-born atheist and also that I was going to hell, I was very much in the habit of keeping my questions to myself.   I understand this is not unusual in the atheist children of devout families.  More of this another day.

    Anyway, that was a longer time ago than I’d care to admit.  Since then, I’ve read a lot, written a lot, drunk much beer, dug things up in a spotty career as an archaeologist, taught things, changed diapers and wiped noses, lived as an expat in faraway places, and done many stupid things, as well as some quite clever ones.   In the course of all that, I’ve arrived at a few observations and propositions, which this blog is intended, in part, to explore.  Here are a few of them, in no particular order.

    1.  You don’t have to be crazy or stupid to believe in batshit things, though it frequently helps.

    2.  In terms of cult formation, there is little to distinguish between secular and supernatural ideologies.

    3. Human history makes more sense if you posit that most messiahs and many great men would score high on the psychopathy checklist.

    4. The “god-shaped hole” which atheists lack may actually exist in believers, and may be equally well filled by Jehovah on the one hand, or, say, Amway personal-hygiene products on the other.

    So there’s a start.  This blog will be divided between articles that display messiahs from my extensive collection, neatly skewered, to expand upon the above propositions; articles that track particularly delicious or current examples of pseudoarchaeology;  and short stories that riff on Biblical, humanist, or skeptical themes.  I am delighted to be with you.  Welcome to my blog.

    Category: Uncategorized

    Article by: Rebecca Bradley

    37 comments

    1. Congratulations on your new endeavour.

      I quite like your original four propositions and humour. I’m looking forward to your next post.

      Cheers

    2. Thanks for the fine welcome and the kind words, people! I’m very happy to be here, and in such good company.

    3. Nice post Rebecca . I can personally identify with much that you wrote about here. Maybe the biggest difference for us was we were among the exclusive brethren. And church going ,was expected to be kept up 7days a week . Unless we had a very bad flu , or something like that.

    4. Ahhh, but see. Our stories may seem similar, but I deconverted from true Christianity (Nazarene) and you just deconverted from Baptistal heresy. Ha ha. Loved your writeup.

    5. Looking forward to reading your posts! Ah, “the god shaped hole”! I remember that well from my believing days. That was one of the many scams which drew me into evangelical/fundamentalist Christianity.

    6. Welcome to the blogosphere, Rebecca.

      Don’t mind BlazeL
      Looking forward to commenting with you as I have done with John for quite some time now.

      Cheers

    7. Rebecca, looks like you have a lot of potential.

      But Loftus is not a good example to follow in the way he treats allies. Just look at his comments to other atheists who disagree.

      There is a guy named Landon Hedrick, a Ph.D,. student in Nebraska, who was trying to discuss with Loftus and Loftus just went into a rage.

      By his won admission he drinks heavily as well.

      1. A warning. Gossip and innuendo will not be tolerated here. Keep your comments relevant to the post, or do not comment at all.

    8. Very entertaining! Your “testimony” is one of the most amusing and well-written I’ve seen by an atheist, along with one I read the other day on Pharyngula, also written by a Brit raised in a hard-core evangelical family.

      I remember those hard pews from childhood, and fidgeting for games to play while placed uncomfortably on them — the pencils and the holes used to place communion cups helped, but I also essayed the Hymnal myself. Nowadays, I try whenever possible to be the preacher, or rather speaker — I’m more of the teacher type — so I don’t have to sit in those damn pews.

      I expect you’ll explain the title of your blog, before long?

      1. “Lateral Truth” reflects my departure from a milieu where the Bible, cover-to-cover, was the “Literal Truth”. Every word, up to and including the begats – but only the KJV, as that was the only translation which God had personally inspired. Sigh. I used Lateral Truth as the main title for a collection of my short stories looking sideways at certain Bible stories, and liked it well enough to recycle it here.

      1. Ah, flannelgraphs. A dying art, perhaps. I actually suspect that, these days, God would be more likely to use PowerPoint.

        Willie Dye: a classic! 😀

    9. By the age of ten, when I came to the dread realization that I was a natural-born atheist and also that I was going to hell, I was very much in the habit of keeping my questions to myself.

      I can relate! OTOH, Amway personal hygiene products are pretty good, despite the MLM stigma Amway usually suffers…

    10. Goodness me, many things to reply to. And me with my own birthday party tonight. Many thanks to you all, and I will reply tomorrow when I’ve recovered…..

    11. Great post, Rebecca. I’m glad you’ve joined us at Skeptic Blogs, and I’m really looking forward to hearing more from you.

    12. 2. In terms of cult formation, there is little to distinguish between secular and supernatural ideologies.

      I will be very interested in reading about this. I think that ideologies are all based in human psychology. for e.g belief in supernatural comes from HADD, communist-equality-of-outcome possibly comes from pathological altruism, etc.
      PS: some blogs have a comment-notification-by-email feature which I find very useful, when the comment numbers are small. Did you folks consciously decide not to have that?

      1. Yeah, cult formation and ideologies – suspiciously pervasive. I’m in general agreement with you, and will eventually be presenting some thoughts on how I think they fit together, and how they relate to the human past. But first I want to spend some time building up my case with examples from history and prehistory. Please bear with me, and I’ll look forward to your thoughts.

        You know, I think we do have that notification-by-email feature. I’m still sorting out the technical joys of blogging, however….

    13. New Atheistss, Brights, Atheims Plus…etc. Its hilarious to see atheist denominations forming and grouping into various factions.

      FTB’s, Skepticblogs, Patheos, and more!

      Kind of like the Menshevikds and Bolsheviks…it will be fun watching them jockey for position.

      I love the smell of atheists bashing each other in the morning!

      1. There isn’t any position to jockey for, and there aren’t any “denominations.” There are disagreements over things which have nothing to do with the non-existence of gods.

    14. Ooh! I love pseudoarchaeology and its intersection with modern religion. I do hope you’ll find time o take a poke at author and indefatigable self-promoter Andis Kaulins. There’s so much material to work within his books and on his Lexiline blog.

      1. Yikes, Kaulins. So many nutters, so little time, but Kaulins does have some unusual features. Thanks for the suggestion!

    15. Though I haven’t responded to all comments individually, I’d like to thank all of you for commenting, and for your kind words. FWIW, I had a fine birthday party, and am now extremely old. 😀

    16. Rebecca, I have Christians who hate me who pose as atheist commenters. I get it from both sides because I stand in the gap. Some Christians are deathly afraid of my influence who spread lies about me. Some atheists don’t like me for one reason or another. It’s a really tough place to stand.

    17. Welcome to Skeptic Blogs Rebecca. I am so happy to find there is somebody who can put some light on the world of Biblical archaeology. I have long suspected it is a world of frauds and forgery, because gullible Westerners want to use it to prove their Bible to be true. I have a friend of mine who was convinced the Exodus was true because of an archaeological find he saw in the British Museum. A single adobe brick from Egypt that happened to have no straw. Oy!!

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