Is Christianity killing the GOP?

One reason why the separation of church and state is a good idea is that uniting religion and politics tends to do more harm to both than either could self-inflict on its own. Indeed, many of the early settlers in America were people who came here to escape from the Christian nations of Europe, which is why the very first amendment in the Bill of Rights contains a prohibition against government establishment of religion. But the same phenomenon applies on a smaller scale as well, and the current woes of the Republican party may be a case in point.

[Read more...]

What you are, not what you aren’t

I have to say, I’m tremendously encouraged by the emergence of a new “Atheism+” movement as the logical outgrowth of the New Atheist movement. The problem with atheism (if you’ll pardon me phrasing it in those terms) is that it’s a definition based on what you’re not, or in other words on the things you don’t do. That’s a negative beacon. Sure, it draws in people who have thought things over, and rejected superstition based on reason and evidence, but it also draws in people who disbelieve in God as part of a larger pattern of antisocial attitudes, as well as people who reject religion as a way of drawing attention to themselves.

Atheism+ is a much needed refinement of the original raw idea. It’s not enough just to disbelieve in God for whatever good or bad reasons you might have. To be part of this new movement, we need to be atheists PLUS we need to be decent people committed to making life better for ourselves and those around us. And that means breaking down all the pernicious vices by which we oppress and destroy one another: superstition, patriarchy, bigotry, sexism, racism—whatever penalizes the innocent in order to profit the privileged.

[Read more...]

The 3 proofs of Justin Martyr

I’ve gotten out of the habit of announcing it here, but over at Evangelical Realism we’re working our way through the First Apology of Justin Martyr, just to see how ancient Christianity compares with the modern version. In this week’s installment, Justin wraps up his discussion of the many parallels between the Gospels and a variety of pagan myths, and then tries to prove that these pagan precedents mean that the Gospel alone is true. If you’re a fan of the gymnastics events at the Olympics, you might enjoy watching Justin demonstrate their mental equivalent.

The apologist’s dilemma

Thanks to some articulate and well-informed comments on yesterday’s post, I now understand that there’s a lot more to it than just needing to verify your conclusions before you accept them as true. Verificationism (or at least, the strict forms of verificationism that William Lane Craig was referring to) can go so far as to say that unverifiable statements can’t even have meaning. In other words, if I can’t verify whether or not it was raining on June 12, 4BC, the proposition “It was raining on June 12, 4BC” doesn’t even mean anything. I can’t even ask whether it is true or false because there’s no way to know what those words even mean.

Ok, strict verificationism overstates its case. So far so good. The question then becomes, “So what, then?” Even granting that verificationism, or at least certain forms of strict verificationism, might have gone too far, what does that have to do with Christianity? Craig’s opening argument was that the alleged collapse of verificationism led directly to a resurgence of Christian philosophy. But why would that be the case? What is it about Christianity that benefits from such a change, and what does this mean for apologetics and natural theology?

[Read more...]

Perverted Science

Writing for the Finance section of Townhall.com (wait, the Finance section?), Mark Baisley has great hopes for the future of science.

Galileo was a true scientist.

I like Wikipedia’s description, “He displayed a peculiar ability to ignore established authorities, most notably Aristotelianism. In broader terms, his work marked another step towards the eventual separation of science from both philosophy and religion; a major development in human thought. He was often willing to change his views in accordance with observation.”

Based on recent trends in education and politics, I predict that human thought in the 21st Century will progress even further with a new separation of science, this time from politics. Three recent, unrelated publications; a video study, a book, and a movie; give me encouragement that the contemporary version of geocentricism is about to get its comeuppance.

He bases this hope on three things: a video from Focus on the Family, a book by William Dembski, and the move Expelled.

[Read more...]

Gay Marriage in the 10th century Church?

I have to confess, I’m a bit skeptical of this story about St. Serge and St. Bacchus. But it is interesting.

While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly close. Severus of Antioch in the sixth century explained that “we should not separate in speech [Serge and Bacchus] who were joined in life.” More bluntly, in the definitive 10th century Greek account of their lives, St. Serge is openly described as the “sweet companion and lover” of St. Bacchus.

In other words, it confirms what the earlier icon implies, that they were a homosexual couple who enjoyed a celebrated gay marriage. Their orientation and relationship was openly accepted by early Christian writers. Furthermore, in an image that to some modern Christian eyes might border on blasphemy, the icon has Christ himself as their pronubus, their best man overseeing their gay marriage.

I have no doubt that gay relationships go back to long before there was a Judeo-Christian faith, but I have a hard time believing that the medieval Christian Church openly accepted and celebrated such relationships, let alone elevating the couple to sainthood with Jesus as their best man. I’d expect any gay love between them to be strictly in the closet.

Mesopotamian Park

This is just idle speculation, mind you, but I was wondering the other day about time and tradition. There’s two kinds of tradition, or at least two ends of the spectrum. At the one end you have what you might call the reasonable ideas, the principles and conclusions you arrive at by looking at how things are and thinking about them and then, above all, trying them out to see how well they really work, and adjusting them as necessary to make them work better. These ideas get their strength from their adaptability and increasing accuracy over time.

At the other end of the spectrum, you have the principles and conclusions that arise, not out of a search for real-world answers and understanding, just Because I Said So—ideas that get passed from one generation to the next not because they describe how the world really is, but because I’m The Father, That’s Why. These ideas get their strength from authority and constancy.

[Read more...]