Do this or you will die

If someone were to say this to you, and you replied “do what?” – what you would expect, no, demand – as a reply?

If you are going to ask someone to act as if their life depended on it, or perhaps even change their entire lifestyle, isn’t it fair that you be damn sure what you’re talking about – and even more sure about the criteria required?

When performing brain surgery, a surgeon doesn’t play ip-dip as to where to start the incision – or follow the vague direction “cut into the head”; if the operation was on me I’d like him to be a little more specific than that. A successful businessman when negotiating with traders doesn’t guess the lowest price he can go to, or rely on gut feeling; he calculates his entire margin taking into account all available factors and works out the variables. These two examples demonstrate how, in the real world, reality is uncompromising and makes certain demands on human beings, such as: specificity, accuracy, logic. Most normal people tend to demand these standards in their everyday life, whether they realise it or not. For example, we don’t cross the road without looking both ways; we don’t jump a wall without knowing what’s on the other side; we don’t drink unlabelled bottles without being reasonably sure they’re safe.

Imagine a less mundane situation, like a hostage crisis; a criminal leaves a message iterating his demands. If the demands aren’t met he will kill a room full of people in one hour. Worse, imagine that the message he left was garbled and barely decipherable; you are able to discern demands for some exact amount of money – but how much you don’t know. He wants a helicopter from a specific location – but you can’t tell where – he wants you to forward on a political statement, only he forgot to include the statement in the message. Worse still, you have no way to get back in touch with him. Imagine the frustration and panic you would feel as the minutes tick away.

Bare this in mind, and consider that earlier today I had a conversation with a fundamentalist Christian who was unable to give me a list of criteria required for approval by God, and therefore acceptance by him and survival when The End comes. Think about that… these people who preach repentance to and belief in God, who are asking you, on behalf of this God, to change your entire lifestyle and become a member of this particular belief system that has hundreds of thousands of competing systems in the world, because your life depends on it – cannot even tell you the exact requirements. I was able to dissect this person’s beliefs and assertions to the point they admitted that it wasn’t necessary to be a member of their sect, it wasn’t necessary to read the bible, and it wasn’t even necessary to believe in god… so then, what is the point of belonging to any religion? What extra “good” would I gain by being part of a faith, as opposed to being a good person but not being part of the faith? If the end came today would I die? Staggeringly, no answer was forthcoming. I was told “I don’t have the right to judge.” Which opens up another gaping contradiction in this faith: if you know what is right and wrong, how can you not evaluate something to determine whether it is good or bad? If you cannot judge right from wrong, you cannot know that you yourself are on the right track! How are these people, presumably the ones to be saved come The End, to know they not forgetting something themselves? They either don’t know what it takes, in which it makes no sense to identify yourself as part of a specific faith – i.e. this particular thing and not that, or they do know but have been brainwashed and conditioned through doubletalk and faith that it’s not acceptable to talk about or acknowledge the grim truth that is too horrific to mention yet is tacitly believed: if you are not part of this particular faith, you can’t be saved.

Of course, that would mean that “being good” isn’t enough. It’s not enough to be good or live by an objective moral code – no, you must add on all this extra stuff to it – like meeting several times a week during which point it is never clarified why you are there. You must knock door to door and talk to people about your faith, whilst never being able to specify the most basic tenets of it. Live a strict, self-effacing, and conservative lifestyle, yet not acknowledging nor identifying exactly what this lifestyle should and shouldn’t consist of. On top of all this, you want other people to do the same as you, because you believe their life depends on it!

Of course, the reason all this extra stuff is tacked onto the notion of simply “being good” is because without all that extra stuff, cults and sects and religions wouldn’t exist. After all, as this person and I managed to agree on: if just “being good” was enough to be saved, what would be the entire point of the faith? The irony was lost on them. And when I asked why all this extra stuff was necessary or whether I could have a complete list of this extra stuff, I couldn’t get an answer.

And this is the mental harmony and peace of mind that we are often told religious people have? This is the stuff that “keeps them happy”? This is what gives believers “meaning”?

As I closed in saying to this person, if you are going to hold beliefs and act on them – and integrate them fully into your life, and also ask or expect that others do the same – and insist that not only your life depends on it, but the lives of every member of the human race – it is not just reasonable, but necessary for your own intellectual honesty, respect, self-confidence, reputation and credulity, that you can back these words up. We expect it from doctors, businessmen, hell – even terrorists – so why not the loving all-powerful creator of the universe and his most privileged spokesmen on earth?

We all know the answer.

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Serena Williams is a hypocrite

I love watching tennis, especially Wimbledon, and I prefer men’s tennis to women’s…well, most of the time anyway, but I watched the women’s final all the same and after Serena Williams’ recent 2010 Wimbledon victory I was compelled to write something that’s been annoying me for some time.

I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, so I know in no small detail the tenets of the faith, the beliefs, and what it requires of its members.  Now I am as strong an atheist as you could find, so I am careless for anyone bringing any religion into disrepute, and Williams’ achievements on the tennis court are nothing short of magnificent, but her behaviour and lifestyle are totally inconsistent with anybody professing belief in the Christian God, the teachings of Jesus, and most importantly, the behaviour demanded of members of the Jehovah’s Witness sect.

From as early as I can remember watching Williams, this didn’t sit right with me.  After all, any Jehovah’s Witness can testify how strongly the need to witness is stressed.  When does Serena Williams witness?  When was the last time she went door to door?  Who was the last person Serena had a bible study with?  How many people has Serena converted to the faith?  (This article states that Serena does go door to door, “when she has time.”  Bear that in mind as we continue…)

From this official JW article:

“This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) Jehovah’s Witnesses take those words very seriously.

Serena Williams obviously doesn’t.

More from that:

“In short, this world, like a foundering ship, is about to sink! In view of those facts, would it make sense for God to bless each of his servants with material riches, or would God have other priorities for us?” … “At this critical time in human history, God’s people have an urgent work to do”

Urgent work indeed!  Like, say…buying into the Miama Dolphins group.

“The sisters saw a marketing opportunity, Kantarian said, but also a chance to extend their reach in the community.”

Which I guess is what Jesus intended when he said in John 18:36: “My kingdom is no part of this world.

(As a devout Jehovah’s Witness, Serena will of course be familiar with the New World Translation, so I will use that for quoting purposes.)

Not content being the highest earning female athlete of all time, Serena actively looks for way to increase her brand and venture in other avenues of business, such as fashion, commercials, appearing in and writing her own TV shows, and massive sponsorship deals.

But didn’t Jesus say something like:  “Stop storing up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break in and steal.”  – Matt 6:19.  Jesus was right about one thing: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.  Matt 5:21.  And: “No one can slave for two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will stick to the one and despise the other. YOU cannot slave for God and for Riches.” – Matt 6:24

Serena’s actions speak to themselves; she slaves for riches.  Perhaps in all her years of worshipping her God Jehovah (her words) at the kingdom hall, she didn’t hear the story of the young man who kept asking Jesus what he needed to do to be saved: “If you want to be perfect, go sell your belongings and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come be my follower.  When the young man heard this saying, he went away grieved, for he was holding many possessions.  But Jesus said to his disciples: “Truly I say to YOU that it will be a difficult thing for a rich man to get into the kingdom of the heavens.” – Matt 19:21-23

Just how difficult is that, Jesus?

Again I say to YOU, It is easier for a camel to get through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God.” – Matt 19:24

Thanks for clearing that up.  The point is not that she’s rich and therefore incredibly unlikely to be saved (albeit a damn good point), but that being more and more successful in her career and accumulating more and more material wealth and persistently looking for ways to market herself and increase her revenue is obviously her primary concern, and not the actions of someone who wants “to get into the kingdom of God”.

But doesn’t she, like every other Jehovah’s Witness, believe she is living in the last days of this world?  Instead of hanging onto that World Number 1 rank, or writing her own TV Show, or bringing out her own brand of lip balm, or encouraging people to join her fan club, couldn’t she use her remarkable wealth and position to further the preaching work that JWs are famous for?  Perhaps an announcement on her website, or some links to Witness eschatology material?  I guess that wouldn’t sit right with her sponsors though…

I mean, if I really believed that very soon “…there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.  In fact, unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved; but on account of the chosen ones those days will be cut short”, (Matt 24: 21-22)… I would be doing my best to avoid it, and make sure other people knew about it too!  Perhaps she just doesn’t “have the time”.

Perhaps Serena thinks it’s enough to just pay lip service to her faith, by throwing in her God amongst the list of supporting people at every tournament win; “I want to thank my god Jehovah” for example.

I guess her God might have a reaction similar to this: “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will.” – Matt 7:21.  It’s fortunate for Serena that her God is a figment of her imagination, albeit a very flimsy figment; perhaps the equivalent of a mental lucky charm.  Except of course that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in superstition nonsense like lucky charms.  Or do they…

For the 27-year-old, these quirks include bringing her shower sandals to the court, tying her shoelaces a specific way and bouncing the ball five times before her first serve and twice before her second. The three-time Wimbledon champ will even wear the same pair of socks during a tournament run. Williams is so set in her superstitions, she has chalked up major losses to not following her own routine correctly.

Men’s Fitness ranked her the 7th most superstitious athlete of all time.  Yet the Jehovah’s Witness official stance is that superstition comes from Satan.  No practicing Witness would ever wear any “lucky” object, let alone ascribe any benefit to it.

One of the most un-JW things she’s ever done is tell a lineswoman: “I swear to God I’ll fucking take the ball and shove it down your fucking throat.”  Anyone who knows anything about Witnesses knows that profanities are pretty much outlawed.  When I watched the video of her outburst I couldn’t help but remember “Happy are the mild-tempered ones, since they will inherit the earth.” – Matt 5:5.

But every time I watch Serena at tennis finals, played on weekends, I’m wondering why she isn’t at the nearest kingdom hall for the public talk and Watchtower study?  Well it’s only a meeting every now and then you might say.  Except I’ve been at meetings and huge conventions where Witnesses have been actively encouraged to forgo work and career for the sake of attending even one event.

I can’t comment on Williams’ personal life, since she refuses to be drawn on this issue as well.  All we know is that she dates.  Yet she is curiously silent on the issue of pre-marital sex.  An interview from the article above:

“I ask her if she still subscribes to the idea of not having sex before marriage.

‘I’d definitely take the fifth!’ she says, laughing uncomfortably as she asserts her right to silence.

I ask her if she’s single.

‘I don’t know. I don’t think I’m single.’

You don’t think so?

‘No.’

You’re not sure?

‘I’m sure, but … I don’t like to talk about that.’ She smiles shyly, and looks away.

And then, a little later, she bursts into a fit of laughter she immediately regrets.”

Now, a little earlier in that interview it’s claimed that both Williams’ sisters remain “devoted to their faith.”  So why is Serena skirting the issue and “taking the fifth” and giggling like a naughty girl who doesn’t want to be caught out?  I’ll tell you why:

Because the official position of JWs is that pre-marital sex or any kind of fornication is strictly forbidden.  The Oxford dictionary defines Fornication as ‘voluntary sexual intercourse between an unmarried couple.’

Flee from fornication. Every other sin that a man may commit is outside his body, but he that practices fornication is sinning against his own body” – 1 Cor 6:18

For this is what God wills, the sanctifying of YOU, that YOU abstain from fornication!” – 1 Thes 4:3

This is how Serena’s god sees people who engage in pre-marital sex:

Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, nor thieves, nor greedy persons, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit God’s kingdom.” – 1 Cor 6:9-10

Although not a JW source, this page has an exhaustive list of bible quotes regarding pre-marital sex.

So…why isn’t Serena proudly declaring her devotion to these beliefs and stating in no uncertain terms that she is staying a virgin until she gets married, since that is what her faith demands?  What does she have to hide?

Serena Williams’ speech, actions, and lifestyle speak for themselves.  To be a successful athlete and business person requires that one pursue one’s happiness and rational selfish values.  In other words, if she wasn’t so blatantly two-faced, I would really respect and admire her.  You see, everything about Serena just smacks of an ordinary person trying to make a good life for themselves; enjoying their talent; chasing glory and success.  Which I think is admirable, and moral.  Except it’s diametrically opposed to everything being a preaching self-effacing meek “poor” Jehovah’s Witness is all about.  And that is why she is a hypocrite.  She should do the honourable thing and reject all affiliation with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, since she is the worst living example of one.  But then, she might be disfellowshipped and lose her Witness friends and family.  So, like all hypocrites, Serena wants to have her cake and eat it.