5/30/2007 View Comments
Here is my tribute to those who are Christian by name only:
You call yourself a Christian, but you *still* haven't read the Bible all the way through, even though you usually have the 'Fifteen Minutes a Day' it takes. You're conveniently avoiding the numerous vile Scriptures we atheists like to throw at you.
You call yourself a Christian, but you adhere to "selective morality" when it comes to obeying what The Word teaches. Don't you love God enough to do what He says? A good page for many examples of this is:
You call yourself a Christian, but you get in slumps where you only pray to "God" when you need something, or things are going bad.
You call yourself a Christian, but do any number of the following in relation to church:
* You're secretly happy when circumstances prevent you from going
* You sometimes can't help tuning out the sermon (because it's so "damn" boring)
* You often feel embarrassed by your fellow arms-in-the-air/crying zealots
* You get annoyed when you're requested to stand (you were obliged to get up early on a weekend; who can blame you?)
* You act like the offering plate is a hot potato when it's passed to you
* You have closed your eyes or slept during it
* You don't go at all (except on Easter and Christmas, of course!)
You call yourself a Christian, therefore you believe God will always provide, so why do you sometimes jip God of his tithe because you feel you've wasted money on something that month?
You call yourself a Christian, but you like watching Desperate Housewives just as much as the next guy.
You call yourself a Christian, but you "witness" to other people about as often as you tell them your blood type (or you're in the other extreme and all sense of being "Christ-like" goes out the window when you do).
You call yourself a Christian, therefore are against abortion by default, but what about the millions of half-children you're killing every time you whack off (to porn?).
You call yourself a Christian, so why is it that various sources say that your faith has the highest divorce rate, while atheists have the lowest of all? Ironic, don't you think?
You call yourself a Christian, so why do you give much thought to death at all? Christians don't really "die" after all, right?
I call you a hypocrite.
To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .
What is God? Where is God? Who is God?
Well, let me explain or define God. What I think God is. In my mind the only way I can describe God, is to call it a force. The ultimate force that caused everything. The prime mover.
Any other description in my mind would be dishonest. I could not live with myself if I recognized any other description or definition of God. Any other definition of God or description would be inadequate. Not big enough!
Now I find it very difficult to see that force as having a penis or a vagina, so I guess that rules out It as being male or female. Penises and vaginas are a rather recent adaptations to life here on earth anyway, making them irrelevant to whatever caused the big bang 5 or 6 billion years ago, and our universe may just be one of an infinite number of universes, and an infinite number of big bangs.
What amazes me is that Bible God is so obviously just a primitive attempt by early man to describe God in our image, and that this poorly constructed God has been the model for God for so long. It just flabbergasts me that men have been willing to accept such a poor example of humankind as their lord for even one year, much less 2000, and live in fear of him.
I mean give me a break! A supposedly omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent God who needs to have people sacrificed to him. How much more primitive can you get?
A God who cant even control one of his own angels. A God who hasn't given one shred of verifiable evidence to us his "Children" that he cares one twit about us. A God that says he is going to torture us forever and forever if we don't love him. And the list goes on throughout the virtual cartoon that is the Bible.
Of course what I'm saying is that Science has made Bible God obsolete. Science can explain everything Bible God did, better, and it is all verifiable, testable, repeatable,correctable, and adaptable.
So what does that leave us with to worship, just in case you need to worship something?
Nothing! Yes, nothing!
But you can have faith in, and trust in what is responsible for causing your existence, and everything else in the universe if you want, but in my estimation that force is so powerful that it doesn't need our prompting in order to do the right thing by us.
Whatever the right thing is, it will do automatically. That is why I quit praying to the ceiling and making myself crazy trying to tell "IT" what to do.
May the "Force" be with you!
To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .
5/28/2007 View Comments
According to some, miracles PROVE that God is real.
Maybe they're right!
What do you think?
To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .
After putting a comedy video on MySpace, having it featured, getting over 160,000 views and then having it censored and my account closed after angry Christians demanded it be removed, I see how dangerous a deluded majority can be.
You can see it at www.thesubmissivejesus.com.
I've discovered that it all boils down to brain wiring: either your brain is wired to worship magic or it isn't, either it's wired to utilize logic or it isn't, either it's analytical of myths or it isn't.
I'm sure that this is the last century for religion. Science and technology is advancing too swiftly for any primitive mindset to continue. Naturally, there will always be holdouts (some people still think the moon landing was faked), but the vast majority will smarten up as technology advances... or they will destroy themselves first and the evolutionary process will begin again.
Promo ads for "The Submissive Jesus Prayer Answering Talking Head," a novelty item created by filmmaker Mark Pirro, has been censored off the popular website, Myspace.com. The toy, which made its debut in February 2007, has been sparking controversy amongst some religious communities, and was even the topic of a Reno ABC TV Web and Email poll. Pirro has been selling a steady amount of these toys, primarily through online sites like Ebay and its own website www.thesubmissivejesus.com. However, as the toy started gaining popularity, the number of protests began to grow. Last month, Pirro's Youtube account, which had over 90 videos was closed. Reason given? Inappropriate content. The Submissive Jesus videos were less than 3% of the videos loaded, yet they all got pulled.
On March 17th, the website myspace.com put one of Pirro's Submissive Jesus ads on their front page as a featured video, attracting over 160,000 views and over 3000 comments. Many of the comments were hateful and vulgar, coming from angered 'Christians.' Many threatened to contact myspace and get the videos removed. Well yesterday, they succeeded. Pirro's videos were removed, the comments were deleted and the account was shut down. "I was stunned when I tried to log on yesterday," Pirro fumed, "I was wiped out from the myspace community, like it never existed." The Submissive Jesus website has been getting many emails from supporters expressing support and anger. One email states, "There was nothing obscene, vulgar or indecent in those videos. Who makes the decision of what stays and what goes these days?" Another email simply says, "Welcome to the future. Watch your words or you will be squashed."
Pirro has been an independent filmmaker for over 25 years. His films have always been a bit controversial; like the 1988 cult film, Curse of the Queerwolf - the story of a man who turns gay when the moon rises; and Color-Blinded, his 1998 movie about an African American woman who turns white and blonde overnight. He is currently in production on "The God Complex," a comedy re-telling of the Bible. The Submissive Jesus Prayer Answering Talking Head was originally produced as a product to be featured in the movie, but became so popular with family, crew and friends, that Pirro decided to turn it into a real toy.
Myspace has not commented.
"I plan on being very vocal about this!" Pirro says, "Myspace didn't have a problem with this video when they featured it on their front page. It was only after attention was really brought to it that they reacted. I'm urging all advocates of free speech to bombard myspace with calls, emails, etc. The mythical Jesus was silenced and resurrected in three days. It may take us a little longer, but Submissive Jesus will rise again!" Every generation needs a martyr.
To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .
5/26/2007 View Comments
This is a short clip from Stephen Hawking's Universe. The topic: Christian resistance to scientific advancement.
Bible passages that relate to Geocentrism:
Psalm 93:1, Psalm 96:10, and Chronicles 16:30 state that "the world is firmly established, it cannot be moved." Psalm 104:5 says, "[the LORD] set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved." Ecclesiastes 1:5 states that "the sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises."
Bible passaged that relate to Human Evolution:
Genesis 1:26 "And God said, Let us make man in our image..."
Genesis 2:7 "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground..."
A challenge to creationists. Forward this to people that spew garbage..., and see if they have a head on their shoulders.
Video idea from 'Octamed'
Text liberally quoted from 'Jim Arvo' @ exchristian.net, spontaneously and without permission.
To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .
5/25/2007 View Comments
Valerie Tarico, author of "The Dark Side: How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love and Truth," pointed me toward an interesting website this week. Here's a quote from that site:
A Christian Domestic Discipline marriage is one that is set up according to Biblical standards; that is, the husband is the authority in the household. The wife is submissive to her husband as is fit in the Lord and her husband loves her as himself. He has the ultimate authority in his household, but it is tempered with the knowledge that he must answer to God for his actions and decisions. He has the authority to spank his wife for punishment...
Though this seems unusual in today's United States, this kind of marriage has been practiced throughout history and is still practiced in many parts of the world today. (LINK)
That's right, it's Christian Domestic Discipline (CDD)!
And if you wonder if these people consider themselves "True Christians™," read this:
The Bible is God's inerrant Word and we will honor it as literal and valid for all time.
The wife is to submit to her husband, and the husband is to love the wife.
CDD is practiced between a man and a woman.
In CDD, the husband has authority to spank the wife. The wife does not have authority to spank her husband.
We believe the Bible gives a husband the authority to use spanking as one tool in enforcing his authority in the home with or without his wife's permission...
In all fairness, the site includes a disclaimer that since in today's world non-consensual physical abuse is against the law, it's not recommended. However, they clearly believe the Bible allows non-consensual wacks on the butt, or wherever. Oh well, paradoxical ideas like this are rife in Christendom. I suppose this is no different.
By its very nature this subject can be erotic...
Now there's the rub, or spank, as it were.
While I would agree that there is nothing wrong with two consenting adults being creative in the bedroom, I find it interesting that some Christians crave this type of adventuresome play to the point of finding a way of supporting the kink with scripture — as stated on this page:
Many Christians believe that a wife is supposed to submit to her husband. If you talk to most evangelicals they will tell you that the husband has authority over his wife and household. But if you say that a man has the right to spank his wife if needed to maintain that authority in the home, very often you've got a fight on your hands.
A man is supposed to love his wife as himself! How could he discipline her if he loves her? That is degrading to his wife! The arguments are seemingly endless.
However, up until the middle of last century, it was generally thought that a man did have the right of enforcement in his home. Could it perhaps be our culture rather than anything to do with the scripture that causes such an outcry against CDD? I think so.
Of course a man IS supposed to love his wife as himself, but that does not rule out discipline. In fact, the Bible has only good things to say about discipline.
Discipline is associated with love:
As many as I love I rebuke and chasten...Revelation 3:19
He that spareth his rod hateth his son, but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes…Proverbs 13:24
It is associated with wisdom and understanding:
The rod and reproof give wisdom… Proverbs 29:15
...but a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding... Proverbs 10:13
And it is associatd with peace and righteousness:
Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby… Hebrew 12:11
Since there is no scripture whatsoever that speaks poorly of discipline, and seeing what good things the Bible tells us come from discipline begs the question:
How can a man say he loves his wife and not discipline her when needed?
Maybe it's just me, but after seeing this, I think I might visualize a different sort of "rod" whenever I see those passages.
So what do you think all this means? Is Christianity simply returning to that old time religion? Is this a completly "new thing" inspired by the holy spook? Or is the bad old devil involved, somehow.
Or, is it just plain funny?
To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .
5/22/2007 View Comments
When I was a Christian, I was always prepared for the imminent return of Christ. Working out my salvation with “fear and trembling” was a reality for me, as I never did have any true peace regarding any future acceptance in Heaven. Still, I forged on always hoping to be found among the sheep on that fateful day when Christ would return with the martyred saints and separate his flock to the right of Him.
Christians will ask me what I am going to do or say to their Christ if one day he does return, and I am found wanting of a response as to why he should allow me access into his eternal day spa in the sky. I have no prepared response, of course, but I think that I would look Christ bravely in the eyes, and tell Him that I have no regrets. I think that I’d tell him that I lived and died with integrity intact. I think I’d bring forth my children, family, friends, and yes, even my enemies as an example of how I lived and let them speak for me. I’m confident that they’d do me proud and defend my character.
I have nothing for which I am ashamed of any longer. I am the best and the worst that humanity has to offer. I am fully human; I fall down, and I get up. I have been wounded beyond repair by my fellow man, and I have left scars on the hearts of others that can never fade. I am mother, daughter, sister, wife and friend. I approach all of my relationships and endeavors with honesty and fairness. I am not always successful. Sometimes I am downright despicable, but I suck up my pride, make amends, and try harder the next time, to be a little better than I was the day before. There is an old saying, I don’t know who it is attributed to, but it goes something like this: “I aint what I oughta be and I aint what I’m gonna be, but at least I aint what I was.” So profoundly simple is my motto.
Considering what I’ve learned of the Christ, he will hardly be impressed by my character witnesses, or my chin held high with pride. He will simply see it as wickedness and trusting in my own ability to save myself. Knowing what I do of the scriptures, He will hardly care that I served him for sixteen years, until my rational mind could no longer deny what I had found to be true after years of sincere prayer and study. Knowing Him, he will only want to hear that I believed he was the Son of God who had died as an atonement for my sins. I suppose that by that point, I will not be able to deny it, but that won’t matter to him, because it will be too late. Knowing Him as I came to, the only worthy sacrifice will be a sacrifice of praise, but I don’t think that I will be able to muster one up. I just don’t see how it will possible for me to praise him as I see him prepare to sentence so many to Hell forever. I just don’t see how I will be able to conjure up one nice thing to say about his “judgment” after all. I just don’t see how any of us can.
I know that as I examine the two crowds of people destined to their eternal homes, I might have to make a choice. I will see my fellowman, the lonely, brave heroes that chose to die rather than live in fear of God, church, or man - men and women who took the road less traveled by denying superstitious fear, and chose to live with dignity or suffer the consequences. I will see all those martyred souls who lied huddled on dungeon floors, tortured for days, until they were led away to the steak and faggot. I will observe the bowed heads of the courageous scientists who sought out the answers religion tried denying them access to, only to find them selves lying upon a rack half dead with joints out of place for their efforts. I will scan the faces of forgotten American Indians raped of their land, their wives, their children and their innocence. I will witness the tear-streaked faces of once accused witches - women and children once bound and drowned all in the name of purification. I will weep at the presence of all those thrown to the hungry lions as the Emperor looked on with pious indignation. I will hear the moans still emanating from the Jewish soil that Jesus stands upon and listen to the cries of 6 million Jews gone unheard by the Pope, the Christian church or their God.
I will not fail to examine the crowd of followers standing faithfully to Christ’s right-hand side. I will observe the devoutly serene and glowing faces of those who fought the fight and ran the race. I will look into the fiery eyes of the Christian soldiers who drove dagger and sword into the chests of their enemies, the clergymen who lived free while their victims lived on only to be haunted by the sins of the fathers. I will find among the faithful, those who valiantly went forth in the name of Yahweh slaying all that stood among the heathen nations, men, women, elderly, and babe. So too shall I come upon the patriarchs of the faith, men like Noah, the drunk, David the adulterous and vengeful king, Solomon the womanizer, Jephthath the child sacrificer, Moses the murderer, Jacob the liar, Paul the bigot…
After giving careful consideration to the billions of wicked souls who will soon be meeting a fiery fate, and the ethereal faces of those awaiting celestial reward, I think that I know what I will do…I will step to the left and take my place proudly among the heathen.
5/20/2007 View Comments
The screen is alight, and a unified choir of cheers erupting from the thousands of fans filling the stadium being pumped at high volume from the speakers in the café satiates the air. Before me is an omelette, half a fresh-baked baguette, and a quaint bowl of plain joghurt adorned with müsli and tidbits of fruit, sliced unseen five minutes ago by a Sri Lanken in an unseen kitchen. It is a Sunday afternoon in my life.
The throng of faces from those seated around me - a mob of perhaps a hundred or so - are plastered with the stares of a strange palpable vacancy. A vacuousness which is exchanged every ten minutes or so for spattered cries of disbelief, shock, ecstasy, or anger. Their collective gaze is fixed cement-like to the screen hung in the furthest corner of the café. Actually I, as well as the mob, am seated on the sunny terrace of this loveliest of cafés - a café to which my heart has been romantically stapled since I green-hornedly ran across it nine years ago at the age of twenty two as a young man in search of adventure in Europe.
At my table, a book is open, spread-eagled. I am reading "Stories Remembered", a book elucidating my own family's convoluted and humorous history beginning in the sixteen hundreds! I have been engrossed in this book for weeks, as the irresistible, oddly satisfying tales it possesses provide wonderfully detailed anecdotal snapshots of my direct, long-dead, ascendants. I am opened now to an unspecified page. Beside me, the pleasant fresh-faced waitress I only know as Roxanna, edges by clutching a pocket computer and thin stylus. An old man near the enchanting Bächle is holding his wallet in the air. Far above us, the long regal branches of an enormous old horse chestnut, branches which conclude in leaves brilliantly green and supple, apply shade to the entire throng, me, the old man, Roxanna, and even the passersby. It is difficult not to feel a sort of majesty of good fortune.
Suddenly, a ripple of concern erupts from the throng, carrying with it that timbre of the human voice which connotes that some awful spectacle may be seconds away. It is emitted by an absolute multitude of throats around me - as though their owners had just caught sight of a baby carriage slipping precariously towards a street rife with traffic. Naturally, my own instincts are aroused, and I raise my head from reading to scan the horizon for impending disaster.
But. There isn't any.
Suddenly, this cacophony of events sheds its seemingly random skin, reassembling itself into an unexpected analysis. I am holding my book, solid and heavy in my hands, staring out into the crowd, on this Sunday afternoon in my life, a bright, fantastically sun-soaked Sunday afternoon in my thirty second year on Earth and I experience the odd recognition of being an enormous outsider. A fly lands on my arm. It tickles, in the hairs. But. I shall not swat.
Why has my pulse never raced while watching televised sport? I don't know. Shouts are now being hurled at the screen by the throng. One woman rises from her chair. She screams. Prematurely. The kick has flown beyond the goal and will be fielded from the corner. It is not a scream rife with pleasure. There is the sincere dread of terrible possibility in it. No one is laughing. If this team loses (FC Freiburg), there seems every chance that many of those in this throng will carry the defeat with them, as though they had experienced some tangible loss. I deal with those afflicted by such outcomes weekly. I find them slumped in corners, nursing their shattered selves, thinking about eleven men who will never know their name.
Then I think, "Televised sports, religion - connection? Cousins? Embarrassingly close cousins? Does my lack of interest in the one have similarities with my lack of interest in the other? At all? At all, meaningfully?" It occurs to me to raise this issue in some kind of story-cum-article, and post it on the ex-Christian.net website. Cautiously, I wonder if others there have experienced moments like this. And then, I cannot resist the urge: of course, my eyes start mopping up the tenuous connections which I will later enumerate deftly in the article: sports apparel equating crucifixes on chains, the cries to beings who cannot respond, the allegiance stemming principally from geography, the assemblies with the like-minded for church-time/game-time (the throng at this café couldn't be a more quintessential example), the intellectual angle for those so inclined: delving into the precision world of player stats on par with delving into Jesus stats - who did what, when, why, and how, and how quickly and with what detail and speed can you regurgitate it?
I sigh. I let "Stories Remembered" close on my index finger like a sandwich. The analogy feels somehow too thin to return home to and spend much time trying to expand the similarities in ass-kicking detail. Presently, a self-materialized, mentally-constructed apologist of football takes an uninvited seat beside me.
He is, appropriately enough, an avuncular, translucent apparition of David Beckham. He clears his throat as he lays a warm hand on my shoulder, and, suddenly, I feel as though I have returned to that terrible day - fourteen years ago - in high school, that afternoon on which I was plucked jarringly from journalism class and ushered via Strongarm the hall monitor into the cool, sterile silence of the Vice-Principal's office.
Now, says Beckham, returning to this lovely afternoon at the café "You don't watch football because - let's be honest - you simply don't want football to be true, do you?"
There is silence following this. After patiently waiting for the attention of Roxanna, and then her standing good-naturedly beside the table as I sort through my wallet for the pink of a ten-Euro note, she refuses to accept the tip I suggest of seventy cents. Before I can protest, she has gone. Slightly crest-fallen, I lumber away from the scene of these mental gymnastics, which I have performed all in a very short time, at a table on the cobblestone terrace of my choicest of choice cafés. The sea of heads comprising the throng - the reactions of which have much on par with a school of turning fish - slowly recedes as I amble towards home. I thrust my hands into the pockets of my C&A jeans, prefaded and striped. Probably I won't write anything. Not as I imagined it all, anyway. It is very likely that the comparison between sport and religion has been done a variety of times by an absolute multitude of authors. Googling it would probably be depressing. You'd only discover just how unoriginal a concept it really is, I tell myself.
Most likely I will not wind up writing anything at all.
To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .
I find myself with this compulsion to try to use logic and reason to try to convince people they are wrong about a certain thing, but what I am beginning to understand is that when it comes down to religious beliefs at least, rational, critical thought takes back a seat to emotion every time.
Now don't get the idea that I think I am the first one to have figured this out. On the contrary, I have read about "Cognitive dissonance" in all of the best selling books, written by the biggest names in Christian Apostasy.
One best selling female author and Psychologist who is also an ex Christian fundamentalist even explained it to me this way: Some time the smartest and most gifted are the very ones who can come up with the most complex and imaginative ways to hold on to their emotional beliefs in supernatural things.
You have seen them, those brilliant graduates of theology schools, who have gone on to become pastors, and teachers and spent their lives studying every Christian Apologetic book ever written, and come here to "Ex-Christian" to witness to us.
They usually start out by attempting to impress us with their piety but quickly digress to trying to impress us with their knowledge of how all of the various phrases, bits of ancient history, and passages from a myriad of texts, collected over a period of 5000 years, got to be canonized into the k J. V.
In other words they quickly dance away from answering our questions, about HOW THEY KNOW, all about what God wants, and what God says, and quickly divert our attention to endless debate, about which Bronze age contributor to the Bible, said what, and where and when, and in the end they usually start making up their versions as they go along.
Wouldn't it be nice if one of them would just say?
Yes, it appears that I'm trapped in a self replicating mind cult, and can't get out. Please help me get out and try to face life with courage and hope, and honesty.
After living for 71 years, most of which my analytical mind has rejected all things magical and supernatural, I don't know what answer I would give them other than ask:
Do you really want to help perpetuate a mythical belief that has been responsible for so much evil down through 2000 years of mans history? Do you really want to be associated with a belief that was forced upon so many men and women by the Pope and succeeding religious tyrants of other sects of Christianity? Think about those poor souls who were given the choice of professing a belief in it before they were strangled or dismembered on the rack, or boiled in oil.
I suggest we can find a nicer gentler philosophy for living. HELP ME THINK! I'm sure it can be proven that all of the good done in then name of Christianity can and would be done anyway if we gave up the idea that the only way we can be a good person is to have faith in an imaginary dead man.
Christianity and it's sister cult Islam have a history of inflicting such unspeakable suffering on so many of our brothers and sisters, that they don't deserve to be replicated any more, and passed to another generation. They need to go away just like all the Pagan blood sacrifice religions that spawned them. They are central in great bloodletting conflicts today that threaten to end life as we know it. The God of Abraham needs to be replaced by a more sensible God. One called common sense.
To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .
5/19/2007 View Comments
A special debate between Alister McGrath, Professor of Historical Theology at Oxford University, author of "Dawkins' God" and "The Dawkins Delusion" and Peter Atkins, Professor of Chemistry at Oxford University, well-known atheist and supporter of Richard Dawkins, as seen on Channel 4's "The Trouble with Atheism".
This event was organized jointly by the University of Edinburgh Philosophy Society and The Christian Union. It was held in George Square Lecture Theatre which seats 500, however was overwhelmed by the number of people wanting to attend, over 300 people had to be turned away.
Christopher Hitchens, author of "God is Not Great," defends atheism and secularism at the 2007 LA Times Festival of Books debate which was recently broadcast on C-Span2's "Book TV" television program.
Other panelists include Zachary Karabell (author of "Peace be Upon You") and Jonathan Kirsch (author of "A History of the End of the World"). Debate moderated by Thane Rosenbaum.
The video is about an hour long.
Penn & Teller's "Bullshit - Holier Than Thou With Christopher Hitchens."
To most of the world, highly revered figures such as Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi, and the Dalai Lama are larger-than-life symbols of love, peace and charity. But how much of our perception of "sainthood" is built on hype and not facts? This clip reveals the dark side of the so-called enlightened ones and delves into why we're so susceptible to buying into their bullshit.
5/18/2007 View Comments
5/17/2007 View Comments
We all cringe a bit when we see someone get caught for doing something wrong, and they begin to throw the blame on someone else.
“Not my Fault!”
Not to pick on her in particular, but Paris Hilton was just found guilty of probation violation. What did she say? “My Publicist didn’t inform me I was not able to drive.”
“Not my Fault!”
Anyone who has small children can watch this repartee occur in almost machine-gun like precision:
“She hit me!”
“He hit me first!”
“She called me a name!”
“He made a face at me!”
“She started it!”
“He started it!”
It seems as if our natural human tendency, upon being discovered in the wrong, is to defensively determine some other person or circumstance to blame, in order to alleviate (even if just a bit) the responsibility of the action. To spread the blame. To share the fault.
I was recently struck by how Christianity is able to do this with the Sin Nature. To spread the blame, just a bit, with the fact that this is simply who they are. They can’t help it. If you get nothing else out of this blog entry, please get this:
It is not a sin nature. It is you.
If you think about it, Christianity put together a pretty smart package. For 1000 years, Judaism placed the blame squarely on the humans. The Israelites failed to follow God. God punished them. The Israelites followed God’s laws—God rewarded them. One was held (sometimes immediately) accountable for one’s own actions.
It would seem it was decided that this wasn’t working. Humans were not getting better. Humans were not getting worse. The same problems that existed 1000 years earlier, continued to exist. Tradition was perpetuation of the sameness, with no apparent end in sight. And therefore the concept of “Grace” enters Stage Right. An idea that God will pardon you upon the far simpler action of belief, rather than this constant retribution/reconciliation cycle.
In one fell swoop, one can be sanctified, justified, rectified, glorified, purified and –fied in every good way possible. Almost seems too good to be true. And it was. Because these sanctified, justified, etc. people continued to sin. Exactly as before. As Paul says in Romans 7:14-15, 17-21
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin. For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do…. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.Paul rightly sees that even after the belief, after the justification, after the salvation, the person continues to struggle with moral decisions. There is no “quick fix.” No “magic bullet.”
Notice that last verse carefully, though. “It is no longer I who do it but sin that dwells in me”
“Not my fault.”
Oh what a convenient excuse to rest the blame. The person genuinely doesn’t want to sin. Of course they end up sinning anyway. They are genuinely repentant and will to never again. Of course they blow it. What is to blame—the person? Nope—it is that insidious sin nature within.
It is not a sin nature. It is you.
The Christian can claim it is the fault of Eve. Wicked, wicked Eve. Once she bit that fruit, all humanity, including the person, was doomed to inherit a sin nature. But for Eve…it would not be there. It is not their fault. Or they can blame biology. That they were “born into sin.” It is the fault of the human condition of existing in which each person is given, through their parent’s DNA this pernicious sin nature that no amount of praying, pleading and prying will ever remove.
If they are born with it, and cannot rid it (even with God’s intervention)—how are they totally to blame? We may as well “blame” them for breathing, or having a heartbeat!
This attitude was brought forcefully to home when I read a Christian blog raising that stale, oft-repeated observation that women must dress modestly in order to quiet the sex-crazed beast found in every heterosexual male on the planet. And as I was shifting through the familiar, “We are Men and can’t help it. It is who we are. We see a belly button and go ape” (you probably know the routine better than I) all I was hearing was “It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault.
I see Christians that blame the female for what she is wearing, but not the male. “Oh, he can’t help it, the ol’ horn dog! That’s just who he is.” wink, wink. Nudge, nudge. “You shouldn’t dress like that, because the boys will think you want sex.” Nothing about the boys being the problem—they have that sin nature. Can’t help it. Not their fault.
In fact, it is almost treated as a game. That the boys will think that way regardless of what a female wears (by the by, doesn’t this say more about where the focus should be made?) so cover up as much as possible to make the “game” as hard as possible, but they will be thinking those nasty thoughts regardless. ‘Cause that’s just who they are.
“Not my fault.”
I’ll let you in on the worst kept human secret of all time. If I see a woman in a bikini, my mind will wander for a moment. However, likewise, if I see a money-stuffed wallet on the ground with no one around, my mind will wander for a moment then, too. If I hear a particular juicy piece of gossip, my wind will wander.
Each of us is constantly barraged with opportunities to make moral decisions. Do I let that car in? Do I give money to that homeless person? Do I respond to this phone call in anger? Do I take the money and run? Do I share the gossip? And yes—do I initiate contact with the woman in the bikini in hopes of being unfaithful to my wife?
There is nothing spectacular about having a moment. An instant where, as creatures that have the ability to weigh moral consequences, we think, “What if I take this farther in that direction?” It is not having a moment that makes anyone special—it is what we DO with that moment.
A problem with Christianity is that it has become so sex-conscious that while it recognizes and attempts to deal with “moments” in a variety of other fields, when it comes to sex, it fears having that moment at all! Because while that moment may be justified with greed, or slander or hate, it is never, EVER to be allowed with sex. Even the thought is wrong.
Yet men recognize that is biologically impossible. That thought comes regardless. Rather than recognize it for a moment and deal with it—Christians must determine a way by which to never have that moment.
And the easiest thing to do is cover up the female. Make it their fault. The poor male is stuck with his sin nature—not his fault. The poor male must avoid this moment—not his fault. So impose restrictions on the female and if they fail their part, then the man is one-more step removed from fault.
“Not my fault. Is the sin nature. It is her fault.”
It is high time that Christianity realizes that it IS their fault. That, as a human, they need to start taking full and total responsibility for their actions. They need not feel shame, nor honor in it. All of us have regretted a moment where we wished we hadn’t done something we did, or didn’t do something we wish we had. Stop laying excuses on some “sin nature” and start owning up to being human!
It is also high time that Christian males realize those thoughts ARE going to come, it is not a matter of fault as much as a matter of biology, and to start dealing with them appropriately, rather than attempt to quash them by placing the blame on the female. While I don’t hold the Garden of Eden story to be historical in any fashion, it sure was spot on with Adam’s response as to his own decision—blame the woman!
It is not some biological inheritance of a sin nature, like your dad giving you a propensity for heart disease or your mother giving you a propensity for breast cancer, in which you are doing the best you can with the heredity you have—this is you! You make the decisions. You take the credit. You take the blame.
Please stop telling me you couldn’t help it because of something you have no control over. You do. You chose not to. That’s O.K.—it comes with the package of being human. But start taking responsibility for yourself, rather than surrender to the inevitability of laying the blame on something you claim you have no control over.
At best that is biology. At worst—it is an excuse.
5/16/2007 View Comments
5/15/2007 View Comments
How many chickens did you have for breakfast?
At any opportunity, the righteous send letters to my local paper, lamenting the murder of children. They aren’t concerned with the high school students who are getting their limbs blown off in Iraq, or ten year olds who are being handed machine guns by warlords in Africa, or toddlers who are needlessly dying of dysentery in back rooms in Cambodia. They are talking, of course, of abortion.
At an outdoor rally at Westlake Mall in Seattle, Evangelical women took turns in front of a microphone, lamenting the babies they had murdered. They choked on tears, savored God’s forgiveness, and envisioned the day when they would come face-to-face in heaven with the people they had killed and could ask them forgiveness.
Across the street a thin line of men and women held signs. Familiar, forgettable ones said things like, “Keep Abortion Safe and Legal” or “Hands Off of My Body.” They seemed flat and superficial in the presence of the women’s painful personal stories. On another corner, a small cluster of signs expressed a different sentiment. “An Acorn is Not an Oak Tree,” read one. “A Blueprint is Not a House.” “An Egg is not a Chicken.”
The sign holders were telling the women, “You didn’t kill a person.” They were saying that a fetus is not a child, that personhood is something that emerges. It grows. It becomes. It is solidly present in the opinions of a twelve year old, delightfully emergent in the curiosity and defiance of a three year old, and sweetly latent in a newborn. But if we move back in time far enough, back to conception (the acorn stage), personhood exists merely as potential. Like the house that is conjured by a blueprint or a freshly poured foundation, it exists only in the imagination of someone who has seen the real thing – a full-fledged person or a finished home – and can picture what is possible if things move forward.
I was one of those sign holders. But as a recovering Evangelical fundamentalist, I should have known better.
Not that the signs were wrong. Personhood does come into being gradually, and it often leaves in bits. Religious traditions acknowledge this. Rituals of identity (the Catholic christening) or of covenant (the Jewish bris) often are postponed till after the neonatal days or weeks. Ancient legal codes like the one in the Bible placed monetary values on persons and various forms of sub-persons; a fetus was not a person.
These traditions and laws expressed a human intuition that is visible today in our emotional response to grief and loss. Imagine hearing that your dear elderly aunt has dementia and will soon lose the ability to talk or even eat. Now imagine hearing the same thing about your dear niece, a college student. As people age, we somehow find their infirmity less troubling. Loss of mobility, cognition, or even life seems less grievous when it strikes the nursing home crowd.
Cross cultural research on bereavement suggests that people typically experience the greatest sense of loss when a youth dies just before the child-bearing years. Biologists propose that this is because we are wired to leave a genetic legacy, a little bit of ourselves carried forward in future generations. By adolescence, parents have invested years of their lives in nurturing their offspring. All of that investment, from laundry to love, comes to naught when a young person dies without children of his or her own.
Whatever our genes may value, we are intelligent, self-conscious beings, and we embrace an intelligent and self-conscious sense of personhood independent of our reproductive prospects. We intuitively value life less at both ends because this personhood—the unique sense of ourselves as ourselves-- is first coming into being and then fading.
The pre-natal period is a part of this continuum. Is an infant less valuable as a person two days before it is born than two day after? Not by much. It is true that a sudden death two days after birth is likely to cause even greater grief than a death two days before. But this has little to do with objective substance, the value of the neonate as a latent person. Only the most rabidly dualistic defender of abortion rights would argue otherwise, and I have yet to meet such a person. Conversely, only the most rabid conceptionist would argue that destroying a beaker full of six million fertilized eggs is a crime on scale with the Holocaust. (I have met such a person; in fact, I am related to one.)
Cognitive scientists study something they call “naïve psychology.” Naïve psychology is the values and beliefs that actually govern our perceptions of other people, not the ones that we say do. As the philosopher said, “Tell me what you do, and I’ll tell you what you believe.” At the level of naïve psychology, Evangelicals, just like the rest of us, believe that the value of a fetus grows over time and that it is different than the value of a child.
Consider: Those letter writers who carry on about our “child murder” problem, don’t spend much time lamenting the sixty percent of fertilized eggs that God or nature aborts. By contrast, we might expect them to be horrified if sixty percent of American children were falling dead sometime between their third and fourth birthdays. They would stand beside the rest of us in demanding better medical research and care. We also might expect them to do something other than squawk and work the political process if millions of three year olds were being killed with state sanction. I certainly would.
Consider: Evangelicals don’t pray over old tampons and panty liners the way they pray at the funerals of deceased children. But if they really believed that fertilized eggs were people, they would. A high percentage of pregnancies self-abort before a woman even realizes she is pregnant. This means that if women are having unprotected sex their menstrual discharge frequently contains little spherical people.
Consider: Middle aged Evangelicals grieve their dead children more than they grieve their dead parents. The loss of a child is more likely to provoke a divorce or a crisis of faith than the loss of a bed-bound, demented parent.
The point I am making is this. At an emotional level, fundamentalists assign different values to different points along the life span, just like the rest of us.
So why do I say that it was a waste of time to carry the signs at that protest? Why not try to remind those tearful “murderers” of what they know unconsciously to be true? Because too much was at stake, both for them and for their Evangelical community. Here’s the bottom line: this isn’t about child development. It isn’t about biology. Unless fundamentalists want to risk their whole precarious Jenga-tower of beliefs, they cannot afford to consciously admit that personhood exists on a continuum.
Evangelical fundamentalism demands that most everything that matters be divided into tidy categories. It is a world of black and white, with no gray-tones.
There are the male roles and “complementary” female roles. An age of innocence and an age of accountability. One perfect sacred text and a bunch of dangerous fakes. God’s chosen people--the stars of His screenplay-- and millions of Hollywood extras. Heaven and hell. The saved and the damned.
In this dichotomous world, anyone who is not on the side of Yahweh is on the side of Satan. Committing adultery in your heart is as bad as committing it in a back alley at knifepoint. Someone who cheats the paper boy is slated for the same eternity as Hitler.
And sex . . . Well sex. Born-again believers are good marriage material; marrying an outsider makes a believer “unequally yoked.” Whether a sex act is beautiful or vile depends entirely on a marriage certificate. We’re all either straight or disgusting. And that first coital act magically establishes a woman’s virtue and value as an intimate partner.
In this world, all prayers of fundamentalists are answered; no others. Being “born again” trumps any other qualification for public office and being an atheist is an absolute disqualifier. The wisdom of insiders is wisdom indeed; the wisdom of outsiders is foolishness. (For some reason, this doesn’t apply to the office of cardiac surgeon or stock broker.) Money given to Christian ministries goes to God; money invested in secular mercies is a waste. In sum, the whole social, political, moral and financial structure of fundamentalism requires a dualistic world view.
Am I exaggerating? Perhaps. After all, I was nursed on dichotomies, and my own ability to think in shades of gray ought to be in question. In the real world, labels and categories tend to fall short. The tribe of Evangelicals is a fuzzy group, like most others, and a few who call themselves Evangelical are not fundamentalist at all. But if you push past the hazy liberal edge into the Evangelical heartland, you will find yourself surrounded by the kind of fundamentalism I am describing. Christian fundamentalists believe that the Bible is the literally perfect and complete revelation of God to humankind. This belief is the cracked granite from which the whole Evangelical movement flows.
One of the root problems with fundamentalism in any religion is that it abhors shades of gray. That is why fundamentalists, whether Protestant, Catholic, Jewish or Muslim cannot accept a developmental sequence in which a blastocyst is a hollow ball of cells, and a twelve year old is a person, and we can’t quite pinpoint when exactly the change happened because it was happening for twelve years straight.
This is also why unending arguments over abortion are only a small sign of a much bigger problem. The really big problem is that the fundamentalist mindset distorts a believer’s perspectives on everything from international relations to science education. Living in a world of dichotomies means that there are good countries and axes of evil. It means that the answers to important questions are static, and that any evolving body of knowledge (aka science) is suspect, especially when it has moral or social implications.
Ultimately, this mindset threatens not only our pluralistic society but also our economy. To the extent that we Americans have earned our prosperity, we’ve earned it largely because our culture values free inquiry. We follow our curiosity where it leads; and then we poke, prod and ask hard questions; and then we innovate based on whatever we discover through this messy process. The unfettered pursuit of “why” and “how” and “what if” has caused our country to flourish. But is fundamentally at odds with fundamentalism. The heart of America and the heart of Evangelical fundamentalism are at best unequally yoked and at worst hopelessly incompatible.
Around the world, groups that cling to received “truths,” whether religious or secular, tend to be economically delayed. We should not be so brash as to assume we alone can close the doors of our minds and somehow avoid this fate. Those who care about the future of American innovation should worry about the growing hunger of fundamentalists in this country for theocracy. As a bumper sticker points out, “One nation under God” is the motto of Iran.
Our stagnant battle over fetal personhood may portend a deeper more ominous stagnation. Together we face global challenges of our own making: climate change, resource depletion, and mutually destructive military capacity. We are up against questions about the future of living, breathing, self-conscious, opinionated twelve-year-olds. Unless we can find a way to challenge the growing appeal of fundamentalism, questions about emerging personhood may become obsolete.
Valerie Tarico is the author of The Dark Side: How Evangelical Teachings Corrupt Love and Truth. It is available at www.lulu.com/tarico or at online retailers. Her essays, broadcasts and podcasts can be found at www.spaces.live.com/awaypoint.
To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .
5/11/2007 View Comments
Human beings need contrast for anything to have meaning to them. The term daytime, for instance would have no significance to people unless they have experienced nighttime, heat has no meaning without the experience of cold, love without hate means nothing and similarly being right has no special meaning unless others are wrong. Invalidation of others provides the experience of being right as others are shown to be wrong promoting the accompanying feelings of superiority and “specialness”. One of the characteristics of the generally accepted view of cults is that they claim to enjoy a unique and somewhat elite position with God himself and consider themselves “special” as a result. One need only read Joseph Smith’s account of how he came to receive the Book of Mormon to acquaint oneself with the idea that his followers are in possession of more “truth” than the next religion as God has told him personally that in effect all the other religions have strayed from Him and it was basically upon Smith’s shoulders to be the messenger of correction for the benefit of the world or more precisely for those prepared to subject themselves to the truth, his version of it, at least.
Invalidation of others is the strategy employed not only by Joseph Smith and the Mormons but by most religions, major and minor the world over, and quite obviously is the only means available to create a point of difference without which a distinct following or organizational membership becomes impossible. We are all familiar with these points of difference, growing up as Catholics we were repeatedly instructed that we were in the only “true church” the head of which, was no less, than Christ’s representative on Earth and as such, was infallible, the Seventh Day Adventists’ point of difference is that they know, unlike the others that the Sabbath actually occurs on Saturday, not Sunday, the Baptists know that that’s all baloney and that being fully immersed in the baptismal waters is the pivotal spiritual issue that others fail to give adequate attention to. Then there’s the old evergreen standard of the revivalists, you “must speak in tongues” to be “saved.” Of course every successful organization relies on point of difference marketing but they usually have in addition what is known as a “unique selling proposition” which in regard to the various religions is remarkably similar, it goes something like this, “your destiny whether it be eternal life or eternal damnation is dependant on being aligned with our religion as many others are in deadly error and if the “blind lead the blind, shall not both fall in the ditch” or some other such message of doom and eternal destruction that is conveniently invented and effectively utilized. Under these interesting arrangements the Baptists for instance would know that the billions involved with Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism are certainly “not going” and they would have severe doubts about the Seventh Day Adventists, the Catholics, the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and a wide selection of some 4,000 other religions, who haven’t chosen Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Their God, they would have us believe, although the very definition of love itself, would have no hesitation in preparing eternal fire for these groups as retribution for simply choosing unwisely, and that, as a product of the mis-information or the lies of supposed mischievous evildoers. Can you just picture God reveling in the unbearable agony of those, so disposed of, not just for an hour or two, but for an eternity? Can you just imagine a loving God issuing an eternal consequence in exchange for a temporal mistake in judgment? However, I digress; the much cherished pastime of invalidating others or being “right” is not limited to other religions or denominations but can often be seen to occur between congregations of the same denomination and even between individual members of the same congregation where competition for elevation on the pecking order is the prize. The secular community aren’t deprived of the fun either as evidenced quite commonly in the “your say” columns of the daily papers where everyone, ranging from evolutionists to gay rights activists to those who question God’s lack of intervention in the Tsunami’s are quickly, if not convincingly, corrected by the bearers of divine wisdom and truth. Invalidation, although effective in the process of empire building comes complete with a string of negative side effects particularly for those who are “wrong.” Inferiority is one that comes to mind and its stable mate, superiority another. People are essentially community animals and the prospect of rejection, loss of face or threat of isolation, are natural fears, that churches notoriously seize upon on in manipulative endeavors, causing severe anxiety on a grand scale providing, in reasonably liberal doses, the fuel of fear that fires profound bitterness, anger and out and out hatred. One need not have a degree in calculus to realize that judging the “unsaved” is totally unproductive to the max in bringing about their “correction.” Of course, invalidators simply don’t think of these side effects and wonder why the “lost” aren’t gathering around in ever increasing numbers to avail themselves of the benefits of the unquestionable wisdom they possess.
The internet, as we all know, allows for the rapid exchange of information on a mind blowing scale, a fact not lost on the religious community. One of these religious groups, a self proclaimed “ministry,” going by the name of watchman.org, perform a valuable service for God in their own minds, but also provide a classic example and personification of the spiritual elitism this article refers to. Watchman act as a kind of consultant to a handful of Christian denominations including Baptists and Episcopalians who strangely enough, have doctrinal differences with each other, though, obviously reconcilable to watchman.org and to the satisfaction of the religious denominations who share the watchman bed. An almost inexhaustible list of individuals and groups appear on their website replete with observations of their error or errors and any other “dirt” that can be sourced. Naturally some of the groups exposed have proven to be quite dangerous and should be avoided like the bubonic plague, however, watchman.org although offering a brief statement of what they do believe, proffer no evidence and make no attempt to demonstrate why or how their beliefs reside on the bedrock of absolute truth, demonstrating an ignorant and arrogant presumption on their part, and obviating the question of why , they themselves, don’t appear on their own list. Watchman are not evaluating religious beliefs per se, inasmuch as they evaluate them as they compare to their own religious beliefs and so, have a conflict, we are to assume that their beliefs are true, because they present them as a given, a fait accompli without Watchman making the slightest attempt to validate them, with either convincing proof, or compelling argument. Is this not a classic case of the elitist pot, calling the supposedly errant kettle black? It's extremely easy to identify the error in someone else's religion, even indulging in rational, logical thinking to do so, to spot the error in one's own religion, however, is entirely a different matter often requiring a blatant determined refusal to utilize the rational, logical and critical thought processes in order to avoid that realization of error at the most fundamental level, where indulgence in circular reasoning becomes the preferred tactical strategy.
Invalidation of any group or individual for that matter is fundamentally impossible without a standard in place to apply as the yardstick for correct measurement or judgment. This standard, from a religious perspective is the law, laws, or commandments contained in the holy book of your choice and is used to determine if people are in the “right” or conversely in the “wrong” as measured against the particular standards of any given religion. In the case of Christian religions, very clear contradictions occur which indicate that a state of utter confusion exists in the mind of the typical Christian in regard to many beliefs, which seemingly are, more reminiscent of a vague collection of unrelated images or superstitions circulating in their minds, as opposed, to a clearly ordered, demonstration of rational, critical thought that leads to logical, plausible conclusions. The main contradiction I refer to, regards the central message of the New Testament, and that is, that Jesus died on the cross in order to redeem mankind, a free gift, forming the basis of the Christian message that you are saved by grace not by works, lest any man should “boast.” Commonly called righteousness by faith, it is the main distinction between Christianity and other religions and is preached from the pulpit on a regular basis, being, amongst other things an effective point of difference. What is not preached from the pulpit on a regular basis however are the effective implications of this “grace” doctrine because taken to it’s logical conclusion, Christians, are totally and gloriously free, as there is nothing they can do, that could add in the slightest to the perfect gift that God has given through his only begotten Son Jesus Christ. Further to that, one can then see, that Christians really don’t have to do, or be, anything at all, period, they don’t have to pretend to be “good” or “happy” they don’t have to give to the poor, they don’t have to stay in that unhappy relationship, they don’t have to rock up to church every Sunday [or Saturday] and they don’t have to pay 10% of anything to anyone, they are totally and absolutely at liberty. “If the Son of God sets you free, you are free indeed.” It also means that there’s nothing that they are capable of doing that could possibly incur an eternal spiritual consequence, and to suggest there is, constitutes an appeal to the law and calls into question the power and efficacy of the blood of Christ. Now, your average run of the mill churchgoer, accommodates diametrically opposed concepts in his or her mind on just this issue, one being that people are saved by grace alone, while simultaneously believing they must try to observe the law in their Christian walk and be “good.” What you end up with of course is a sort of unconditional love that’s performance based, a situation which I believe most churchgoers would readily identify as the current reality of church life. It appears that the escape route to freedom, the “gift of God” has been rejected by Christians who don’t quite understand, apply or believe in their own gospel of peace preferring the maintenance of a “sin consciousness” in themselves and in others, insisting on the observance of a model of behavior derived from the “law” or in other words legalism, when in actuality, according to their own teaching the “law” in effect, has been abolished.
Make no mistake grace and legalism are totally opposed and therefore one cannot appropriate a little of each and retain the integrity of either, either you walk in grace or you obey the law, as the bible explains if one observes the law at all one must observe the whole law. A full realization and understanding of the gospel of grace also makes religious leaders, in effect, redundant, and perhaps explains just why the sermons on the doctrine of grace don’t venture terribly far into a full examination of the absolute freedom and spiritual assurance, the doctrine actually implies.
Judgment, obviously is the function of legalism and uppermost in the mind of the legalist is his conception of what and who is right or wrong, the law itself being the highest priority, enjoying more status than even the people the legalist purports it “serves,” and in complete contrast to the example of God and Jesus Christ who would never have submitted to the cross were the law more important than the people. Legalism presents a distorted, imbalanced and corrupted image of God and is identified even by our friends at watchman.org as the basis of Spiritual abuse.
Your typical legalist possesses and exhibits a stunning presumption along with the bliss of supreme ignorance and insensitivity. Completely impervious to pain, other people’s at least, He is apt to judge all manner of things in a flash. Fully armed with an intimate knowledge of God’s will and it’s application to the most personal and delicate areas of another persons life, the legalist, has supreme confidence in his ability to divine good from evil, eagerly deciding what others should and shouldn’t do in an instant. Not discouraged by the fact that he’s not acquainted with all the relevant details to make an informed judgment, neither does he suffer the unreasonable inconvenience of having to consider the actual ramifications of his edicts on the lives of others. He identifies no need either to necessarily follow the lofty sounding advice offered to others when facing similar circumstances himself. The legalist lurches from stunning presumption to the depths of hypocrisy raising his own self delusion to the level of art. Anyone who’s ever been involved in a Church for any length of time knows what I’m getting at. The couple believing they had a “ministry” in the area of marriage guidance counseling suddenly parting ways after years of advising others that “God hates divorce,” or the story recounted to me by a youth leader of a small church where an older woman was found to be carrying on an affair with a boy in the youth group, a situation of grave concern and the subject of a meeting of the Elders and others in leadership including the boy’s youth leader. The suggestion by one gentleman Elder that this was indeed an untenable situation requiring the ex-communication of the offending parties was immediately challenged by the youth leader who had been observant enough to note that the Elder offering this solution was himself having an affair with another woman in the church. Of course, such tales of the goings on in Gods house are legion, with people not so much suffering the accusation of hypocrisy because they’ve failed in an area, but, because they exhibit no qualms or restraint in the dutiful ego boosting exercise of advising others how to live. The ignorance of some of these people is astounding, for they, almost immediately, following their own failures, display a disarming resilience to learning the lessons of the awry presumption of their own wisdom by climbing back onto the high moral ground of the legalist to once again assume the mantle of judge.
This excerpt from the highly respected volume of “A Course In Miracles” provides another perspective on the exercise of applying judgment, particularly "snap" judgments.
“The aim of our curriculum, unlike the goal of the world’s learning, is the recognition that judgment in the usual sense is impossible. This is not opinion but a fact. In order to judge anything rightly, one would have to be fully aware of an inconceivably wide range of things; past, present and to come. One would have to recognize in advance all the effects of his judgment on everyone and everything involved in them in any way. And one would have to be certain there is no distortion in his perception, so that his judgment would be wholly fair to everyone on whom it rests now and in the future. Who is in a position to do this? Who except in grandiose fantasies would claim this for himself? Remember how many times you thought you knew all the “facts” you needed for judgment, and how wrong you were! Is there anyone who has not had this experience? Would you know how many times you merely thought you were right, without ever realizing you were wrong? Why would you choose such an arbitrary basis for decision making? Wisdom is not judgment; it is the relinquishment of judgment.”
Another problem the legalists encounter is one of consistency in the application of judgment. As already suggested the basis of judgment rests on the law in scripture providing the means of measurement of a persons “rightness” or “wrongness.” Any churchgoer has witnessed situations where the “law” component of the scripture is appropriated for one person while another in a very similar circumstance is apportioned the “grace” component of the scriptures. Puzzling as this appears the easy and most obvious answer and I suggest the most accurate is that the personal likes, dislikes, jealousies, insecurities, envies or alternately admiration and respect for one’s perceived level of success, social standing, possessions, sporting prowess, looks, charm or sex appeal comes into play as the pivotal criteria that decides the overall acceptance or rejection of a person, but publicly justified of course under the guise of a scriptural prerogative, quite contrary to any concepts of “justice” one might reasonably expect from those committed to the “truth” or indeed to God. This inconsistency goes unrecognized to a very large extent in the average church as leaders enjoy a position of trust and as such it is assumed by congregations that they are always acting in the interests of truth, justice and the American way. It’s quite an amazing coincidence that those who seek God’s will on any given subject are thoroughly delighted to discover just how often it ends up as a perfect match of their own. In the interests of demonstration a woman I know, attending a small church wore something of a label to put it mildly as a result of what was regarded as the immoral situation of living in a de-facto relationship or “living in sin” as the lingo translates. In contrast a perceived wealthy businessman visiting the church but living under exactly the same arrangements was afforded the attention of a visiting mother Theresa with only the soles of the pastor’s shoes being visible at one stage of proceedings.
Inconsistency, not only rears it’s ugly head in matters of equitable judgment and treatment of people, it’s existence is very evident at the level of agreement on a wide range of contempory issues like the ordination of women and more recently, of “gays.” Widespread disagreement persists on matters linked to social justice, international and domestic aid, criminal justice, capital punishment, family law, industrial relations, the merits of capitalism, socialism, communism, unionism, women’s roles, men’s roles, definition of “family”, divorce, marriage and re-marriage, gambling, temperance and appropriate sexual conduct and behaviors to name but a few. On many of these issues there appears to be, no unified response or truly representative view of the Christian community on the whole which begs the question as to whether the actual existence of an identifiable, genuine, typical Christian viewpoint or actual Christian entity is anything more than a monumentous modern day myth. Not only is it unlikely that religious viewpoints will ever agree on these issues, it’s unlikely that they will ever agree or have a consistent viewpoint on the meaning and interpretation of their own scriptural writings, due to the fact that firstly everyone is different. Science has proven that human D.N.A. is almost identical, in the order of 98% plus, with the balance of 2% allowing for variables like every person on the planet possessing their own unique set of finger prints for instance. Secondly, the scriptures, sourced from the Bible or the Koran, for that matter, are so contradictory from both a literal and implied point of view that it becomes virtually impossible, if logical processes of thought are a consideration, for a human being to appropriate and accommodate a workable belief in these same conflicting scriptures, on their own, let alone share a viable perspective with someone else.
Where elitism and legalism are significant components of so called "spiritual organizations" it is impossible that anything other than abuse can be produced, whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual abuse is irrelevant, some form of abuse is the only possible outcome regardless of the existence of codes of conduct or ethics that wish to control or eliminate it's reality. As eloquently expressed in the scripture of Matthew 12:33 "Make a tree good and it's fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and it's fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by it's fruit". The "tree" of organized monotheistic religions is self evidently, man made, merely imitating true spiritually, fraud masquerading as genuine, death impersonating life.
To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .
5/10/2007 View Comments
Produced by Creative Mindworks, this comedy tour features a collection of characters based on the religious past of comedian and former Phoenix native Troy Conrad. The show’s mission: to use standup, short films, animation, improvisation, along with the help of Powerpoint to illuminate the social problems caused by blind obedience to religion. With the popularity of books like Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion, Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind Series, and Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great, religion in America is on the forefront of the National dialogue.
“Audiences ready to laugh about the insanity that irrational beliefs have caused, and YouTube has made the show more popular,” says Troy Conrad, producer of The Comedy Jesus Show. “People are slowly waking up to the idea that they can be spiritual without religion, and use beliefs for unity and not exclusion and division. Religion has always been a divider, not a uniter. Laughter gives us power over the those divisions.”
Enter the star of the show, Jesus Christ, who appears in the show to do standup briefly before improvising answers to questions written down by the audience. Jesus is here for one reason: to set the record straight about his story. “I don’t have any ‘personal relationship’ with George W. Bush” Jesus quips, “His prayers go right into my spam folder.” Jesus also informs his audience of an interplanetary contest: “There are 20 planets just like Earth. We gave each one religion and nuclear weapons to see if they could pass the test. So far, half of them are gone, but I’m pulling for Earth to do well on ‘Last Planet Standing.’ Good luck kids.”
It’s Chappelle’s Show meets Real Time meets one-person show meets... Jesus.
For more information, check out http://www.comedyjesus.com
To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .
I just watched the first episode of the PBS special, The Secret Files of the Inquisition. The second episode is on next week (5/16/07), and I highly recommend you watch it. One inquisitor, who went on to become Pope Benedict, told a Jew under interrogation, “convert or die!” These three words echoed down into villages and homes for two centuries. That’s two whole centuries. There was no escape from the power of the church since it reigned exclusively, even over the very ideas people entertained.
At the beginning of the 14th century the church was losing power because it was unwilling to change. The people did not have access to the Bible (nor was there a printed Bible). They were simply to believe what the church taught. Furthermore, the Sunday masses were done in Latin, which people couldn’t understand. So it gave rise to many ideas about religious truth, including a heretical group called “The Good Men.” Instead of addressing these disputes civilly the Church set out to stamp out heresy, violently and forcefully.
The angelic doctor Thomas Aquinas had previously argued that heresy was a "leavening influence" upon the minds of the weak, and as such, heretics should be killed. Since heretical ideas could inflict the greatest possible harm upon other human beings, it was the greatest crime of all. Heretical ideas could send people to an eternally conscious torment in hell. So logic demands that the church must get rid of this heretical leavening influence. It was indeed the greatest crime of them all, given this logic. So, “convert or die!”
Christians today say the church of the Inquisition was wrong, just like they say the Christians who justified American slavery were wrong. And that’s correct. They were wrong. But not for the reasons today’s Christians think. Today's Christians think the Christians of the past were wrong because they misinterpreted the Bible. But the truth is that these former Christians were wrong to believe the Bible in the first place. They were wrong to believe the Bible at all. Today’s Christians cherry-pick from out of the Bible what they want to believe. Today’s Christians have developed a more civilized ethical consciousness, and they read that consciousness back into the Bible rather than adopting what the plain sense and logic of the Bible dictates.
Here are some Bible verses to support the logic of killing heretics:
From Exodus 22:
You shall not permit a female sorcerer to live.
Whoever sacrifices to any god, other than the LORD alone, shall be devoted to destruction.
From Numbers 25:
2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 Thus Israel yoked itself to the Baal of Peor, and the LORD’s anger was kindled agai nst Israel. 4 The LORD said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people, and impale them in the sun before the LORD, in order that the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel.” 5 And Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you shall kill any of your people who have yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor.” 6 Just then one of the Israelites came and brought a Midianite woman into his family, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the Israelites, while they were weeping at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 7 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he got up and left the congregation. Taking a spear in his hand, 8 he went after the Israelite man into the tent, and pierced the two of them, the Israelite and the woman, through the belly.
From Deuteronomy 13:
If prophets or those who divine by dreams appear among you and promise you omens or portents, 2 and the omens or the portents declared by them take place, and they say, “Let us follow other gods” (whom you have not known) “and let us serve them,” 3 you must not heed the words of those prophets or those who divine by dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you, to know whether you indeed love the LORD your God with all your heart and soul. 4 The LORD your God you shall follow, him alone you shall fear, his commandments you shall keep, his voice you shall obey, him you shall serve, and to him you shall hold fast. 5 But those prophets or those who divine by dreams shall be put to death for having spoken treason against the LORD your God—who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery—to turn you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. 6 If anyone secretly entices you—even if it is your brother, your father’s son orb your mother’s son, or your own son or daughter, or the wife you embrace, or your most intimate friend—saying, “Let us go worship other gods,” whom neither you nor your ancestors have known, 7 any of the gods of the peoples that are around you, whether near you or far away from you, from one end of the earth to the other, 8 you must not yield to or heed any such persons. Show them no pity or compassion and do not shield them. 9 But you shall surely kill them; your own hand shall be first against them to execute them, and afterwards the hand of all the people. 10 Stone them to death for trying to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 11 Then all Israel shall hear and be afraid, and never again do any such wickedness. 12 If you hear it said about one of the towns that the LORD your God is giving you to live in, 13 that scoundrels from among you have gone out and led the inhabitants of the town astray, saying, “Let us go and worship other gods,” whom you have not known, 14 then you shall inquire and make a thorough investigation. If the charge is established that such an abhorrent thing has been done among you, 15 you shall put the inhabitants of that town to the sword, utterly destroying it and everything in it—even putting its livestock to the sword
From Deuteronomy 17:
2 If there is found among you, in one of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, and transgresses his covenant 3 by going to serve other gods and worshiping them—whether the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden— 4 and if it is reported to you or you hear of it, and you make a thorough inquiry, and the charge is proved true that such an abhorrent thing has occurred in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out to your gates that man or that woman who has committed this crime and you shall stone the man or woman to death. 20 But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak—that prophet shall die.”
How much clearer can the Bible be?
I understand how today's Christians gerrymander around the logical conclusion of these texts. They say these Bible passages don't apply under the New Covenant. But if that's so, then why wasn't God clear about this such that Aquinas and two centuries of theologians got it wrong, causing such torment and misery? Can God effectively communicate to us, or not? Doesn't he know us well enough to do so? It seems that the logic of Aquinas is impeccable, based upon these texts, or an omniscient God needs some basic lessons in communication, or, God isn't a good God.
That being said, I see no moral reason whatsoever for these texts to demand the death of heretics in the first place, even under the Old Covenant. Such commands are reprehensible, coming from an all loving God. But even if they can be justified under the Old Covenant, which they cannot, why didn't God (Jesus or the Apostles) specifically say, "Thou shalt not kill people if they don't believe the gospel (KJV)," and say it as often as needed? If that was the case, and if you were God, wouldn't YOU do the decent thing here? It just appears the Bible was written by superstitious and barbaric people that reflected their primitive notions about God, that's all. And it best explains what we see in the Bible.
“Convert or die!”
What horrible words to hear! How is this different from militant Muslims?
“Convert or die!”
The broken record I keep hearing from Christians is that I cannot presume to judge God, or that I have no objective moral stanadard to say that the church did wrong. But what I'm doing is simply taking the present day ethical notions that both Christians and skeptics have and asking why the Bible is so barbaric? I'm saying such notions show me that kind of God doesn't exist. I'm not judging God. I don't think he exists. I'm asking whether such a God exists. I'm asking whether the Bible reflects the will of a good God, and my conclusion is BASED UPON THE ETHICAL NOTIONS OF CHRISTIANS THEMSELVES. I can justify my ethical notions, but that's a separate issue. I'm asking how Christians can justify these texts in the Bible and the logic that follows, if they believe a good God exists.
5/08/2007 View Comments
5/04/2007 View Comments
My brother-in-law Tim had some interesting points to make about neurotheology, which he submitted in comments to my posted link to DagoodS’s article, Prove It!. I responded in-thread to most of what he had to say, but some comments he made presented an opportunity to discuss a topic that I believe is worth a separate post, and so here it is.
The fact that you can measure something like that [one’s spirituality, via externally observable properties in the brain] implies to me that atheists and theists should adopt a truce similar to the one Stephen Jay Gould offered between science and religion.
I’m very much in favor of this. I have no quarrel with theism, I just don’t personally hold to it. The atheist, if he is honest, cannot lay claim to a certainty of explanation in support of abiogenesis (the spontaneous transition of lifeless matter into living). There are some interesting hypotheses, to be sure, but I’m confident that we will never be able to determine how life really began.
Modern scientific inquiry may well bring us to understand how all the matter in the universe came to be: it appears that we may have done so, through the study of quantum mechanics, the veracity of which findings I cannot begin to pretend to be capable of ascertaining. If we have indeed done so, however, we are still left with the unenviable task of determining how the underlying fabric that spawned our matter was itself activated; and whether it was “started” somehow or forms some sort of perpetual motion machine.
At some point then, both atheist and theist encounter something which must be eternal in nature, existing forever before, and potentially forever after, the existence of everything of which we are currently aware. Theists presume that this something is intelligent on its own, and call it God. But we have no explanation for what started God, and, I believe, God is no more of an answer than leaving that answer blank, as it has not explained the mystery of something being eternal to any greater satisfaction than we had before we placed God in the answer space. The difference between atheism and theism (without addenda) seems very slight, then, to me, and doesn’t bother me much. I think it can be useful and interesting to debate, but I have no compulsion to convince theists that they are wrong.
But theism is not religion. The degree to which I may have a quarrel with religion is proportional to the degree to which that particular flavor of religion encourages the suspension of rational arguments based on what may be observed, in deference to faith; and the suspension of our innate moral sensitivities, in deference to what someone put down in a book. Since my abandonment of Evangelical Christianity, I have become increasingly disturbed by Bible literalism, and the actions, philosophies, sensibilities, and thinking processes of Bible literalists.
Basing one’s morality and decision-making upon the Bible is great when the book is saying, “love thy neighbor as thyself,” and proclaiming that the essence of good is to “do justly, love mercy, and walk in humility.” There are many principles that I love and admire from the Bible, and still continue to seek to apply to my life.
But using the Bible as the basis for morality is less great when it approves the wholesale slaughter of infants for the mere fact of who their parents were [1 Sam 15:2-3, & various], or of women on the basis of a test for virginity that is not even remotely reliable (that is, the absence of the flow of blood, subsequent to her first act of copulation) [Deut 22:13-21], places women under the subjugation of men, insults and discredits women as being significantly more susceptible to deception than men and unfit for giving instruction to men [1 Tim 2:12-15], and condemns consenting adults for what they may choose to do in the privacy of their own home.
Does the cannon of atheism have an equivalent to Matthew 5:16? Should you convince the Jehovah’s Witness at your door to become the next Bertrand Russel, or just take his flyer and bid him cuique suum?
Is there such thing as a canon of atheism? :)
If there were, Richard Dawkins and Samuel Harris would probably feature prominently. I have not read Harris, and I have mixed feelings regarding Dawkins; in any case, neither of them seem to be the “be and let be” types. :)
Let me say this: I would not derive any satisfaction, as many atheists of my acquaintance appear to do in “debating” with religious people, from telling the Witness how very wrong he is, and how my views are vastly superior to his. The Watchtower is a destructive cult, however, and I would be glad for any individual to escape its influence, so I am motivated thereby to attempt to debate beliefs with the open-minded (not a particularly common creature in the Watchtower, given that they apparently forbid the reading or examination of other points of view).
I’m not saying you should let others run roughshod over your beliefs in the public sphere; I’m saying it may be more personally fulfilling to be a pluralist than a polemicist.
I doubt it: the idea of pluralism—which to me means the notion that all beliefs are approximately equal in acceptability—leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Which is why I’d have some trouble being a Unitarian Universalist, though I sometimes toy with the idea of attending Unitarian services, and suspect that there may well be some such churches in which I could even be comfortable. I find the Society of Friends to be a more palatable prospect, as it is a fairly mild form of theism, and in some versions of Quakerism I could feel free to substitute a simple humanistic innate inner voice for the concept of The Guiding Light.
I don’t hate religion, and I feel no need to convince people that all religion is bad (though I do feel that most religions have some negative aspects), or that Christianity in particular is bad (but see my previous parenthetical remark). I do despise ignorance, and am very motivated to write against that. As my chief encounters with ignorance by far are in connection to my experience with particular brands of my particular former religion, that is undoubtedly where my thoughts, and my writing, is likely to center.
To monitor comments posted to this topic, use .