The believer’s despair

Our friend AJ has tried a few times to respond to my post, though without much success, and has now begun resorting to just posting links to blog posts (authored by himself) that repeat the things he wants to hear. Since they’re largely tangential if not completely irrelevant, I’ve had to warn him that the comments aren’t for spam, link farms or other types of free publicity for Christian propaganda. But the first link he posted was rather inadvertently poignant, and I thought it might be worth a look just to see how much despair there is in conservative Christian denialism these days.

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“Liberty means not allowing freedom”—Nuns

What does liberty mean to you? Normally, we associate liberty with freedom, i.e. the absence of people telling us, “You’re not allowed to do that.” But the Little Sisters of the Poor have a definition of liberty that seems to be the exact opposite. And they’re suing the government for the right to impose this “liberty” on their employees. The NPR web site reports:

The Justice Department has argued that the nuns’ group is already exempt from providing birth control under the ACA, as long as it certifies its standing as a religious nonprofit. But the Little Sisters of the Poor, represented by the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, argues that documentation simply condones employees getting the coverage elsewhere.

“The sisters, under the new Health and Human Services mandate, are being forced by the government to either sign a form allowing a third party to provide contraceptives and abortion-causing drugs to their employees, or they’re being threatened with fines,” says Becket Fund director Kristina Arriaga.

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Free will in heaven

One religious answer to the problem of evil is the idea that sin is necessary in order to allow people to exercise their free will. Apparently, if God had created a perfect world, we would all be robots with no free will, and that would be a terrible thing.

But wait a minute. Heaven is supposed to be a perfect world. God, the angels, and all the saints are supposed to live in heaven forever. If free will requires sin in order to be free will, then the sinlessness of heaven means God, the angels, and all the saints are going to spend eternity not having any free will.

That means that for us to have free will right now is a complete waste. The only thing it contributes is to send most of God’s “beloved” children to the eternal torments of Hell. Only the elect few will make it to the realm where their free will no longer exists, and the Bible says that the saved were foreordained before the foundation of the world, so in a sense their “free” will was illusory even while they had it. That’s not much of a justification for sin, is it?

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Passing the book

One thing I’ve noticed in connection with the Duck Dynasty brouhaha is a tendency for believers to defend their anti-gay remarks by passing the book. Passing the book is a lot like passing the buck: instead of taking responsibility for the things you do and say, you pass the blame on to someone or something else. In the case of passing the book, that “something else” is the Bible.

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Hustling the Gospel

Writing for the Huffington Post, Pastor Rick Henderson explains Why There Is No Such Thing as a Good Atheist.

While it is true that there is no definitive atheistic worldview, all atheists share the same fundamental beliefs as core to their personal worldviews. While some want to state that atheism is simply a disbelief in the existence of a god, there really is more to it. Every expression of atheism necessitates at least three additional affirmations…

What follows is another one of those arguments where morality is supposed to come from God, and therefore without God there can be no good or evil, and therefore atheists can’t be “good” because they’ve denied the existence of good and evil. What’s interesting is the way Pastor Rick introduces this particular scam.

For those of you who are eager to pierce me with your wit and crush my pre-modern mind, allow me to issue a challenge. I contend that any response you make will only prove my case. Like encountering a hustler on the streets of Vegas, the deck is stacked, and the odds are not in your favor.

The atheist is talking with the pastor, but he’s being hustled, because the pastor has stacked the deck. I’ve seen believers pull this particular hustle before, but Pastor Rick is the first one to openly admit he’s using dishonest tactics to achieve his goal. But let’s lay all our cards on the table and check out his “three additional affirmations” and then see who deserves to win this particular hand.

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Paranoid

As the saying goes, it’s hard not to get paranoid when the whole world is out to get you. We sometimes make fun of believers for complaining about how persecuted they are when they’re the dominant religion in the West, with a hefty political clout and a vast media empire to match. But in a way, they have a point. The whole world is out to get them. Or at least, get their faith. Every time they turn around, something in real life is contradicting their beliefs. They’re the majority, but they can’t find security in numbers, because no matter how big they get, there’s always something bigger and more powerful opposing them.

It’s called “Reality.”

It’s no different than when you think you’re a millionaire, but the bank insists you’ve only got twenty-two dollars in your bank account. Start writing checks for thousands of dollars, and see how long it is before you start feeling persecuted by the bank (and the police, and the merchants you wrote the checks to, and so on). Believers want to make atheists the scapegoats for their paranoia, but atheists can’t do anything about it. Reality is opposing believers because believers are opposing reality, and until that conflict is resolved, the “persecution” isn’t going to get any better.

What happens when God is wrong?

Pastor Rick Warren recently appeared on Piers Morgan’s show and discussed his stand on gay marriage.

Warren claimed that he believes in equality, but admitted he cannot support same-sex marriage because, he said, “I don’t get to change what God says.”

I’ve pulled out just this one quote because I think it exemplifies one of the most fundamental and unresolvable problems with religions like Christianity. They’re based on “revealed” authority, the idea that “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it.” You never have to learn anything new or adapt to anything that changes, because nothing is allowed to change. Once God speaks, that’s the way things are and must be, always and forever after.

But what happens when God is wrong?

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Two wrongs don’t make a right?

You may have heard the moral principle that two wrongs don’t make a right, but you’ve never read it in the Bible. I was thinking of that in connection with the creation/evolution debate, and specifically in connection with the YEC argument that a merciful, loving God would never use millions of years of death and extinction to create the rich variety of life on earth.

This God, you remember, is a God who wants to “mark” baby boys as His by taking an unsterilized knife to their genitals. This is a God who would snuff out the life of every firstborn child in Egypt, down to the tiniest baby of the lowliest (non-Jewish) slave, just to make a point to Pharoah. This is a God who allegedly produced all the fossils in the ground not over the natural course of eons, but in a sudden fit of wrath that destroyed 99.9999% or more of all life on earth, even in places where there weren’t any of the men He was mad at. This is the “merciful” and “loving” God who is supposedly too nice to use evolution to produce biological diversity.

But this isn’t even the half of it, because in pointing out the above Scriptural stories, we haven’t even mentioned animal sacrifice. And that’s where “two wrongs don’t make a right” comes in.

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Public schools “terrified” of creationism

Writing for the “Communities” section of the Washington Times, one Frank Kacer asks, Why are public schools terrified of examining evolution & creation?

If evolution is true, there’s a simple way for public schools to destroy any student’s belief in creation. Simply test each theory objectively in science classes using the scientific method. Instead, irrational lawsuits, court orders and fears of anything hinting of Christianity have become the weapons of choice to prevent use of objective science.

So, what are public schools really afraid of?

One wonders exactly who Mr Kacer believes the public schools are suing. If he stopped for a moment and remembered that the public schools are the ones being sued for First Amendment violations, he’d know that it’s only the creationists in public schools who are afraid right now. And if they’re not, then the school district is going to get taken to court and ordered to obey the law.

But despite his garbled grasp of the relevant facts, I think he has the germ of a good idea. Creationism has benefited a great deal from its special, protected status as a religious account of origins. I think we should teach the controversy and let public schools teach kids exactly why Genesis is a myth. If Mr Kacer and other creationists really want a head-to-head confrontation over the scientific study of origins, let’s take them up on it. [Read more…]

American Bible Society Sends 525 ‘Poverty and Justice’ Bibles to Congress Following Government Shutdown

The Christian Post reports that a bunch of believers are trying to meddle in politics again.

Fulfilling a promise they made during the government shutdown, members of the anti-poverty coalition “Circle of Protection,” are delivering 535 “Poverty and Justice” Bibles into the hands of senators and representatives this week.

Over the course of the 16-day-long government shutdown last month, members of the 65 denominations and relief and development agencies composing the coalition, publicly read the nearly 2,100 Bible verses pertaining to poverty and justice and vowed to reinforce the Scripture’s messages to their Congressmen and women.

Goddamn liberal Christians and their goddamn liberal Bible, always trying to shove that socialist “care for widows, orphans and the poor” religion down everyone’s throat, eh? It’s just not American. And I don’t care how many thousands of Bible verses preach it. It’s downright humanism. Haven’t they heard that whoever has the gold makes the rules?