Different, thus dangerous

According to a report on NPR, almost a dozen states have joined together to file a lawsuit seeking to protect bigotry and privilege against an onslaught of justice and equal rights for minorities.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, says the federal government has “conspired to turn workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights.”

Yes, a “massive social experiment.” Those evil government officials, with their bubbling test tubes and unstable nuclear reactors, rubbing their rubber-gloved hands together and gleefully cackling, “Let’s take a bunch of innocent, harmless people and see what happens if we mind our own business and leave them alone, MUAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!”

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For believers only

The Friendly Atheist has the story of Glyn Barrett, pastor of the “!Audacious” Church, who claims to have utterly defeated “the atheists” in a debate with “the atheist society” at Cambridge University—in only 2 minutes! The only problem is, he apparently did not merely exaggerate claims of success, but made up the debate entirely. When skeptical viewers saw the video of Pastor Barrett’s talk, they contacted the only atheist/agnostic society at Cambridge and found out no such debate ever happened.Thus far no explanation has surfaced for why the pastor said it did, and the video has been pulled from the church web site. But it did happen, and The Friendly Atheist still has a downloaded copy of the original.

It seems like a pretty clear-cut case of lying for Jesus, and the only question that remains is how on earth could Pastor Barrett possibly have expected to get away with it?

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The impact of religion

I forget what it was, but the other day I was reminded of an experience I had as a Christian, many years ago. I was listening to a preacher talk about the creation and Adam and Eve, and he mentioned almost in passing that, “God created Eve from one of Adam’s ribs, and that’s why to this day women have one more rib than men.”

Do you know, I believed that for years before it occurred to me that it might not be true. I simply never questioned it. I heard it from an authority I trusted, and I never imagined that it might not be true. Plus it reinforced my religious faith, so I had even less reason to question it at the time.

I’m not sure there’s any really profound lesson to be gleaned from my experience, but it does go to show religion’s power to misinform and keep people misled long after they’re old enough to really know better.

The name is not the problem

When I was young there were still a fair number of fundamentalist Christian churches around, and by that I mean churches that were proud to be fundamentalist and often even used the term “fundamentalist” as part of the name of their church. To them, fundamentalist meant they had abandoned the accumulated centuries of man-made traditions, and gotten back to the fundamentals of the faith. They had separated the wheat from the chaff, the gold from the ore, the essentials from the distractions. And they were proud of it.

As time went on, though, these groups became famous for other things: narrow-mindedness, judgmentalism, dogmatism, and ignorance. The term “fundamentalist” started accumulating negative connotations, and being linked to stereotypical attitudes and behaviors. Believers grew reluctant to identify themselves as fundamentalists, and wanted to be known as evangelicals instead. Evangelicals, you see, were the ones who understood what was really important about the faith. They wanted to get away from all this divisiveness and denominationalism, and go back to what was truly important about the faith.

As a young believer, I was glad I was an evangelical rather than a fundamentalist. Fundamentalism was bad. Fundamentalists did bad things and had bad attitudes. But you know what? As time went on, I realized that the evangelicals were doing the same things and promoting the same attitudes. Narrow-mindedness. Judgmentalism. Dogmatism. And a really, really proud and defiant ignorance. They weren’t called fundamentalists any more, but they were still doing the same behaviors and preaching the same attitudes, and thus acquiring the same stigma.

What I learned from that experience is that, in the long term, changing the name does no good if the underlying attitudes and behaviors don’t change with it. It happened with fundamentalism and with evangelicalism, and now it’s happening with plain old bigotry.

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Preaching to the choir

I was bored and looking for something to blog about, so I typed “apologetics” into Google, and clicked one of the ads that came up. It happened to be for an apologetics ministry named Solid Reasons, SolidReasonsAdand I gotta say, that’s a pretty slick and shiny-looking web site. I don’t know who they’ve got doing their design and coding, but I can tell you, a fancy web site like that ain’t cheap.

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Be careful what you wish for

There’s a meme going around right now that reviews a bit of political history. Remember the impeachment proceedings against Bill Clinton for sexual misconduct in the late 90’s? They were led by a Republican legislator who, at the time, was hiding a sexual affair. He was supposed to be replaced by another Republican who had to step down because he was having a sexual affair. The Republicans then elected a new Speaker of the House, who is currently under investigation because of suspicious payments he made to cover up alleged sexual molestation of boys.

The meme doesn’t explicitly call this out, but I think it’s worth mentioning that these are all men who were elected by conservative Christians trying to put God back in government. Separation of church and state isn’t some plot to try and marginalize Christians. It’s just that mingling politics and religion is a bad idea, and harms both the state and the church.

Tell, don’t ask

A while back, I came to a conclusion that seems (to me) quite profound: that religion is a live-action role-playing game, an adult version of the old “the floor is lava!” game some of us played when we were young. God, angels, demons, god-hating atheists, etc, are all non-player characters in this game, and prayer and superstition create the link between things in the real world and things as they exist in the mind of the believer. It’s degenerate play, in the sense that participants have lost the crucial ability to distinguish between the fantasy and the reality, but it’s still basically a game of pretend.

That’s kind of cool, and it explains a lot, but then I have to ask, “So what?” What good does it do us to understand this? If this is going to be more than just something that’s nice to know, we need some way to apply it to our interactions with religion. And I think one of those ways is that it tells us how we ought to discuss religion with believers.

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Faith under pressure

I’ve been an atheist for a good while now, but for the first 40-some years of my life I was an old-fashioned American Christian. It’s where I developed my original sense of what kind of place the world was, and what the difference is between right and wrong. And I think that’s why part of me is continually astonished by the continual rabid lust Christians have for persecuting people who are different in harmless ways.

It’s as though all the civil rights advances of the past 80 years have been putting the Christian faith under more and more pressure by denying them an outlet for their desire to hurt people. And now, with a black guy in the White House, and gay couples being allowed the same privileges as heterosexual couples, believers have had enough.

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10 “Unanswerable” questions #9 and #10

This should about wrap up TodayChristian’s list of “unanswerable” questions, because we can do two questions in one post. Here’s question #9.

9.       What’s your view of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris?

That’s an easy one to answer: they’re all authors, they’ve written some interesting and controversial books, and they have their flaws as well as their strengths, same as anybody else. I like some of the things they’ve written, such as The God Delusion by Dawkins, and I’ve seen some of their ad hoc writings that suggest negative traits ranging from privileged sexism to outright irrational xenophobia and Islamophobia. But that’s about it.

I’m not sure why this is on the list of “10 Unanswerable Questions.” Does TodayChristian think these three modern writers invented atheism or something? Anyway, there’s not much more to say about #9, so let’s take the last question.

TodayChristian’s last “unanswerable” question is this:

10.   If there is no God, then why does every society have a religion?

A question like that invites the counter question: If there is a God, why does ever society have more than one religion? But let’s answer the question that was asked, below the fold.

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10 “Unanswerable” questions #8

TodayChristian’s Question #8, on the list of “unanswerable” questions, is a three-fer.

8.       What about miracles? What all the people who claim to have a connection with Jesus? What about those who claim to have seen saints or angels?

The answer for all three questions is the same, and unfortunately it’s a bit harsh. The explanation for all of the above questions is that people are gullible.

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