Before The Beginning

Day one was the day in which God creates light,
And the Earth—which came first, if my thinking is right—
Day two, we get water, both vapor and sea;
Then land, and some gardens, we get on day three;
The sun, and the moon, and the stars, on day four;
Day five we get fishes and birds by the score;
Day six we get animals, Adam, and Eve;
Day seven He rested, or so I believe.

He wrote it, of course, so he gets to be hero…
But what did God do on the day before zero? [Read more…]

“Noah” As A Stealth Climate Change Movie?

Could “Noah” be a metaphor
For global climate change?
At first, the claim is ludicrous–
At second, merely strange
The people didn’t listen,
And the global waters rose:

Replacing “God” with “Scientists”,
The story likewise goes.
Our sins will lead to flooding,
That plot, too, remains the same–
A global warming metaphor
That dare not speak its name!

It seems odd, given that more than one US congressman has cited the Noah story as proof that anthropogenic global climate change cannot possibly be happening, but the cinematographer for Noah reveals in a Daily Beast interview that the new Noah movie is actually a Global Warming Epic, a movie with a strong environmentalist, pro-science message:

That was the largest theme of the film: environmentalism. In the marketing of the film they shy away from it. I don’t know why it’s a taboo thing to say “environmentalism” cause you’re going to scare off half the population because they’ve been told “environmentalism” is a bad thing? The idea that we have to stay away from the issue because we’re going to polarize half the audience speaks to how fucking dysfunctional we are.

We also find out that Superstorm Sandy caused serious damage to the ark set, on Long Island–of course, a true global flood in the time scale of of the Noachian story would dwarf Sandy, so I guess they just don’t build arks like they used to. Or never did, or whatever.

I have not been paying attention to the reviews of Noah–indeed, this interview is the first I have heard the environmental angle spoken of.


Let’s Laugh At The Atheists (Or, Motes And Beams)

The atheist churches, where folks get together
And kinda do atheist things
Where one week you might hear a poetry reading;
The next week a music group sings
Where some discuss books, or see movies, or plays,
And agree, without god, that’s enough—
Let’s all point and laugh with derision at them,
Cos some like to do different stuff!

Some atheists want to have talks about science
While others, perhaps, find that boring
Some want to trade recipes, gardening tips,
Or some something this verse is ignoring
The range of opinions is varied and vast
Like a spectrum released by a prism
Let’s all point and laugh at their differing views
And we’ll call it an atheist schism!

A Christian’s a Christian, as everyone knows,
Cos we worship the very same Lord—
There’s maybe a difference or two in beliefs
But that’s something that’s best left ignored
Well, ok, there are thousands of differing sects—
Tens of thousands, some reckon, have grown—
But let’s laugh at the mote in the atheists’ eye
While ignoring the beam in our own

The good Catholic Christians at the Creative Minority Report (we laugh because we believe) are laughing at atheists. It’s just a brief report on the story that hit the atheist blogosphere last week about the “schism” in the new “Atheist Church”. Titled “Ha! Atheist Church Already Has a Schism!”, it begins:

This is just too funny. The first atheist Church started up a few months ago…and it already has a schism -a breakoff group that’s blasting the original atheist Church as a cult. Seriously.

I don’t know how exactly one atheist judges other atheists. “He doesn’t believe in nothingness enough!” or “Even though there aren’t any objective standards, I’m living up to them a lot better than that guy!”

So, to summarize: a gathering of atheists, the “Sunday Assembly” (note the lack of the word “church”) is termed a church by people in the media and in churches, and is then then assumed to have all of the qualities of other things that share the label “church”, whether self- or other-imposed. Like atheist invocations (who are they praising?), atheist chaplains (what god do they serve?), or atheist memorials (which god do they represent?), there is a frankly magical fascination with one definition of a word (and always the religious definition) rather than an honest understanding of the function of the action, position, or thing, which invariably is broader than the definition focused on (which, by the way, is why the dictionary includes other definitions as well).

A gathering of atheists, by definition and function, is a gathering of people who are defined by what they are not. For the most part, people continue to gather with one another when they have something in common. It is completely to be expected, then, that large groups of atheists will contain smaller groups of people who have things in common that may not be shared by other of the smaller groups. The larger group, after all, is not organized around one positively-defined belief.

On the other hand, there are (in theory) groups that are organized around a shared common belief in God. Whenever atheists must be put in their place and called the minority view that they are, “believers in God” are lumped together. So it must be the same god, don’t you think? So, large groups of believers do, in theory, share something terribly important (and especially important for the purposes of joining together as a church)… So while there is every reason to expect groups of atheists, brought together artificially, to naturally divide into mutually interested groups, groups of believers, brought together for the purpose of whatever it is their God wants them to do, should have every reason to agree on stuff (mind you, as individuals they may still disagree on anything else–there is no reason that they should have to cheer for the same football teams, or vote for the same parties, or like the same foods–but when they have gathered together for the purposes of their belief, they should be expected to agree).

The most generous number of Christian denominations I know of is roughly 41,000. Because this estimate includes nation-specific information, most international churches are counted multiple times (which sometimes matters, and sometimes does not). On the other hand, it only counts Christian sects, and Christians are only about a third of the global population. When the other Abrahamic faiths, the Indian and East Asian religions, the African and American indigenous religions, and many many more, are taken into account, we could very nearly conclude that religious people don’t agree on what God is. But let’s be generous, and just cut the number of Christian faiths by an order of magnitude. Dividing by the number of years Christianity has existed, we find that Christianity has averaged two new denominations a year… every year for nearly 2,000 years.

I’d refer the writers of the Creative Minority Report to Matthew 7:3, but my goodness, different denominations even use different versions of the bible, and I would hate to offend them…

Ken Ham Clearly Doesn’t Believe (I Hope)

So I was just out walking the cuttledogs, and it occurred to me that the whole notion of a Noah’s Ark Theme Park showed either an incredible lack of belief on the part of the planners, or a psychopathic lack of empathy.

I mean, it’s a theme park. Think Disney. But it’s built around the greatest (by percentage, at least, if not in real numbers) genocide in history (assuming, for the time being, that the planners actually believe the Noah story). Men, women, children, toddlers, babies… dogs, cats, horses, cows… bunnies, slow lorises, baby hedgehogs… all of them, bloated, stinking corpses. Family fun for everyone! (seriously, click the link–this is what the flood ride would be, were it true to the bible)

One simply cannot have a realistic picture of what the flood allegedly entailed, and believe it appropriate for a family theme park. Ham either does not believe, or lacks any shred of empathy whatsoever.

It gets worse. Remember, the ark was the centerpiece of the park, but was by no means the whole thing. There would be rides. Remember, one of the rides (I shit you not) was (again, think Disney, but on acid) a “Ten Plagues Of Egypt” theme ride! Family fun, with blisters and boils, locusts and lice, blood and death! (Again, click the link for one of my favorites–no one who believed the story would ever suggest it as a theme park ride!)

Imagine a much smaller genocide, with a much smaller fraction of the world’s population put to slaughter. Can you imagine a family-friendly Holocaust theme park? Hop on the trains, kiddies? It sickened me to write that last sentence, and yet I wrote the verses at the two links above–what’s the difference?

The difference is, I believe (I was going to write “I know”, but I’ll settle for the weaker “I believe”) that the bible’s account is false. It’s fiction. It didn’t happen. There were no real victims (well… belief in “the curse of Ham” was not victimless), so I can write about bloated bodies and plagues of locusts. It’s simple–I don’t believe. The only ones who could treat such a genocide lightly are those who don’t believe. Those for whom the flood, and the ten plagues, are nothing more than a chance to fleece those who do believe.




I do wonder, though, who would invest, and who would want such a thing built. Is everyone so mercenary? Are there any true believers who think the Ark Park is appropriate? And why?

Texas (of course) Mayor Declares 2014 “Year Of The Bible)

The Christian mayor of Flower Mound
Created a sensation—
He searched his soul, and thus felt bound
To make a proclamation:

This year, he said, would be the year
The town would find its way
Because they’ll read (he made it clear)
The bible every day

Each day, he posts a bible verse;
They study, to the letter
The world, you see, is getting worse
And this will make it better

If the godless get litigious
Then the mayor will play it tough…
Because Texas is religious,
But, it seems, not quite enough.

Yup, because Texas isn’t quite Christian enough already, the Mayor of Flower Mound has proclaimed 2014 the year of the bible. Or rather, “a” year of the bible, since he wants to do it again in 2015. They’ve got a website and everything:

The Bible consists of 66 books written by more than 40 different authors from all different walks of life over a period of 1.400 to 1,800 years. The amazing thing is that the Bible carries a perfect unity from cover to cover regarding its message and content, which speaks of its divine origin as ultimately written by God and not man.

Well, perhaps actually reading it will disabuse them of the notion that it “carries a perfect unity from cover to cover”.
Dallas News |

Hmmm… at the time I started writing this, they had a functioning comment section on their site, with all positive comments. Now?

Due to the high traffic the site has experienced, we have disabled the Comments section.

Yeah… that must be why.

100 Percent Chance Of Genocide

They were happy, oh so happy,
Gran and Grandpa’s letter read—
Cos their grandson was their shining star
(Though that was left unsaid)
When they saw him in a play, this year,
Although I thought, instead,
That the subject matter seemed a little grim

See, their church put on a musical—
It featured all the kids—
Which, of course, meant all the older folks
Would really flip their lids,
As they told, in Noah’s tale, what
God allows, and God forbids:
With the bottom line, obedience to Him. [Read more…]

“How To Share The Gospel With An Atheist”

When you’re talking to an atheist
The sort that’s kinda nice,
And you don’t know how to handle it,
Here—follow my advice:

Remember, as you’re listening:
He’s lying through his teeth—
You’ll have to translate carefully
The message underneath

He’ll often try to shock you
With the claim “there is no god”
Just assume that’s insecurity,
A flimsy, false façade.

They really want the gospel
And they really want God’s love
And they really want a heaven
And a message from above

They hate their godless lifestyles
And their shallowness and sin
When they argue with believers
They don’t really want to win

If you simply share the gospel
(Which they likely haven’t heard)
As the story of God’s love for us
They’ll show, they crave God’s Word

In short, deny their thinking,
And dismiss their shallow views…
And I hope these simple pointers
Have been something you can use.

In an annoying and condescending example of precisely how not to talk to an atheist, preacher Greg Stier shares a story:

Last week I sat next to James on a flight from St. Louis to Denver. As we talked the subject turned to spirituality and religion. I confessed that I was a preacher and he confessed he was an atheist. What unfolded on the rest of the flight was a deep, thought-provocative, laughter-laced gospel conversation.

Really, I’d love to read James’s version of this. I’ve had a few airline conversations about religion, and frankly it’s a bit of a chore (though with the right person, it can be fun). Far more interesting have been conversations that were sparked by someone’s choice of reading material, whether it was “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” or “How to Teach Physics to your Dog”. Just because atheists are willing to talk about religion, this should not be interpreted as an eagerness.

Stier has five helpful tips for sharing the gospel with atheists:

1. Don’t be shocked and do ask tons of questions.

Some atheists like to shock Christians with the fact that they don’t believe in God. This brand of atheist pulls the pin on the “there is no God” grenade and drops it in the middle of the conversation, expecting Christians to run for cover.

Don’t be phased (sic). As a matter of fact start asking questions about their atheism. Find out what they mean by atheism (some are agnostics but call themselves atheists.) Ask questions about their background. Were they raised in church? Do they have any Christian friends? Where were they educated about atheism?

I don’t expect Christians to run from cover. If I say “there is no god” (typically, I will just say “I’m an atheist”), it’s as a response to the assertion that the other person made–and if I am being that blunt, it’s because they said something deserving of bluntness.

2. Listen deeply for the real “why.”

Often atheists have a reason (other than “reason“) for becoming atheists. Listen for it. Sometimes it’s anger over losing a loved one. Other times it’s that they were hurt by the church in some way. But often there’s a “why” behind the lie they are embracing.

As opposed to the lie you are selling. Again, in my case, the “why” is the replacement of a whole lot of ignorance with a whole lot of learning. Yes, I was once a born-again Christian, and that doesn’t leave easily. Science classes (biology and psychology in particular), comparative religion classes, and the like, poked holes in the simplistic religious answers and replaced them with answers I did not have to have faith to understand.

On the other hand, there is no shortage of evidence of (some) people embracing religion because of fear, because of threat, because of loss. But I guess it doesn’t count when it goes that way.

3. Connect relationally.

Atheists are real people with real feelings. They laugh, cry, talk and connect like anyone else. I think that too many times Christians treat atheists as objects and not people.

That’s right–atheists are real people. You would never want to stereotype them or deny their very real feelings. Speaking of which…

4. Assume that, down deep inside, they do believe in God.

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who genuinely rejects the existence of God. Sure, I’ve met many who have claimed God’s existence to be a lie but I’m convinced that, down deep inside, they really do believe there’s a God.

Why do I believe that? Because Scripture makes it clear in Romans 1:18-21 that there are no real atheists,

So, connect relationally, but always remember that the image they are showing you is false.

5. Frame the gospel as a love story (that just happens to be true.)

When I shared the gospel with James I wasn’t trying to prove God’s existence I was simply sharing the story of God’s love. I said something like, “James, at the core of Christianity is a love story. Jesus put it this way, ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him will not perish but has everlasting life.’”

I could tell that James was intrigued by this view. He listened respectfully and asked thoughtful questions.

Because, I’m sure, James had never heard this message before, living as he does in a culture where only a handful of Christians exist, and they tend to keep to themselves, quietly.

My suspicion is that James was, at this point, was just a bit gobsmacked that Stier was treating him so condescendingly, and was gritting his teeth, smiling and nodding, counting the minutes until the flight ended.

Note also that James is described as respectful and polite… despite the stereotype of the grenade-dropping atheist. I can only hope that anyone reading his advice will see it for the steaming pile it is. Sadly, he’s preaching to the choir, and the only comment “love[s] the tips”.

I don’t.

It’s Not The Snake-Handling That I Disagree With…

“Our message is not ‘handle snakes, handle snakes, handle snakes,’ ” he says. “But our message is, ‘Be saved by the blood of Christ.’ We’re not a cult. We’re not freaks. We’re Christians.”

Source–NPR: Snake-Handling Preachers Open Up About ‘Takin’ Up Serpents’. (A nice, and sympathetic, portrait of a snake-handling congregation in Kentucky.)

Some people think the Son of God
Came down to earth to die
To cleanse us with His sacrifice
(He loves us all; that’s why.)
They wear a cross to show their faith—
A fishy on their car…
But dancing with a rattlesnake?
That’s gone a step too far! [Read more…]